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Let Go Of Your Idle Thoughts

A famous Zenist, Mu-go-koku-shi, is said to have replied to
every questioner, saying: "Let go of your idle thoughts."

A Brahmin, having troubled himself a long while with reference to the
problem of life and of the world, went out to call on Shakya Muni
that he might be instructed by the Master. He got some beautiful
flowers to offer them as a present to the Muni, and proceeded to the
place where He was addressing his disciples and believers. No sooner
had he come in sight of the Master than he read in his mien the
struggles going on within him. "Let go of that," said the Muni to
the Brahmin, who was going to offer the flowers in both his hands.
He dropped on the ground the flowers in his right hand, but still
holding those in his left. "Let go of that," demanded the Master,
and the Brahmin dropped the flowers in his left hand rather
reluctantly. "Let go of that, I say," the Muni commanded again; but
the Brahmin, having nothing to let go of, asked: "What shall I let go
of, Reverend Sir? I have nothing in my hands, you know." "Let go of
that, you have neither in your right nor in your left band, but in
the middle." Upon these words of the Muni a light came into the
sufferer's mind, and he went home satisfied and in joy. "Not
to attach to all things is Dhyana," writes an ancient Zenist, "and if
you understand this, going out, staying in, sitting, and lying are in
Dhyana." Therefore allow not your mind to be a receptacle for the
dust of society, or the ashes of life, or rags and waste paper of the
world. You bear too much burden upon your shoulders with which you
have nothing to do.

'Sutra on the Brahmacarin Black-family,' translated into
Chinese by K' Khien, of the Wu dynasty (A.D. 222-280).

Learn the lesson of forgetfulness, and forget all that troubles you,
deprives you of sound sleep, and writes wrinkles on your forehead.
Wang Yang Ming, at the age of seventeen or so, is said to have
forgotten the day 'on which he was to be married to a handsome young
lady, daughter of a man of high position. It was the afternoon of
the very day on which their nuptials had to be held that he went out
to take a walk. Without any definite purpose he went into a temple
in the neighbourhood, and there he found a recluse apparently very
old with white hair, but young in countenance like a child. The man
was sitting absorbed in Meditation. There was something extremely
calm and serene in that old man's look and bearing that attracted the
young scholar's attention. Questioning him as to his name, age, and
birthplace, Wang found that the venerable man had enjoyed a life so
extraordinarily long that he forgot his name and age, but that he had
youthful energy so abundantly that be could talk with a voice
sounding as a large bell. Being asked by Wang the secret of
longevity, the man replied: "There is no secret in it; I merely kept
my mind calm and peaceful." Further, he explained the method of
Meditation according to Taoism and Buddhism. Thereupon Wang sat face
to face with the old man and began to practise Meditation, utterly
forgetful of his bride and nuptial ceremony. The sun began to cast
his slanting rays on the wall of the temple, and they sat motionless;
twilight came over them, and night wrapped them with her sable
shroud, and they sat as still as two marble statues; midnight, dawn,
at last the morning sun rose to find them still in their reverie.
The father of the bride, who had started a search during the night,
found to his surprise the bridegroom absorbed in Meditation on the
following day.


It was at the age of forty-seven that Wang gained a great victory
over the rebel army, and wrote to a friend saying: "It is so easy to
gain a victory over the rebels fortifying themselves among the
mountains, yet it is not so with those rebels living in our
mind." Tsai Kiun Mu (Sai-kun-bo) is said to have had an
exceedingly long and beautiful beard, and when asked by the Emperor,
who received him in audience, whether he should sleep with his beard
on the comforters or beneath them, be could not answer, since he had
never known how he did. Being distracted by this question, he went
home and tried to find out how he had been used to manage his beard
in bed. First he put his beard on the comforters and vainly tried to
sleep; then he put it beneath the comforters and thought it all
right. Nevertheless, he was all the more disturbed by it. So then,
putting on the comforters, now putting it beneath them, he tried to
sleep all night long, but in vain. You must therefore forget your
mental beard that annoys you all the time.


Men of longevity never carried troubles to their beds. It is a
well-known fact that Zui-o (Shi-ga) enjoyed robust health at
the age of over one hundred years. One day, being asked whether
there is any secret of longevity, he replied affirmatively, and said
to the questioner: "Keep your mind and body pure for two weeks,
abstaining from any sort of impurity, then I shall tell you of the
secret." The man did as was prescribed, and came again to be
instructed in the secret. Zui-o said: "Now I might tell you, but be
cautious to keep yourself pure another week so as to qualify yourself
to learn the secret." When that week was over the old man said: "Now
I might tell you, but will you be so careful as to keep yourself pure
three days more in order to qualify yourself to receive the secret?"
The man did as he was ordered, and requested the instruction.
Thereupon Zui-o took the man to his private room and softly
whispered, with his mouth close to the ear of the man: "Keep the
secret I tell you now, even at the cost of your life. It is
this-don't be passionate. That is all."

This famous old man died in A.D. 1730.


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