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Cao Xuân Kiên
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Not What It Seems
When an unlearned untrained person sees people getting rich by fishing, hunting, conning, cheating he may easily think that these people get a great life by doing bad deeds. He may not know that what deeds these people do and what life they get are different issues. A person gets a good life even though he does bad deeds because of his good karma from previous life. Not everyone who do bad deeds will succeed. When you see a person doing bad deeds and from such deeds becoming successful and happy, do not think that doing bad deeds lead to achieving greater things. Also, do not believe in immediate karma when you see a person who does bad deeds and gets punished soon after - though that may help you get the correct idea. Worse is when you see a person doing bad deeds but does not get punished; and that gives you reason to think that the law of causal-effect karma does not exist.
If you have learned and trained, you do not form wrong thoughts facing this paradox. For example, when you see a truest Buddhist practitioner, a very nice, honest follower who has always done the right things, devotedly purify his thinking and actions - but still has a terrible suffering life; you do not become confused or doubtful that practising Buddhism is fruitless; because everything has its place. It is different in the lay world, when people see bad people getting rich and happy by doing bad things, they easily form misconception and their judgement is adversely affected. That is the foggy mesmerizing illusion of the lay world.
We may not know it but we are being affected by this same foggy mesmerizing illusion everyday. For example, we may suspect that achieving a lot of Buddhist knowledge only leads to hardship and inconvenience, and it is much easier to relax, stop training, and have a more tolerable life. This kind of thinking may not harm us now, but in the long run it will.
When you look at a successful rich family, with their lavish lifestyle, travelling anywhere, anytime, you may think of the Vietnamese proverb "the fish inside the trap is petrified, the fish outside tries to get in". We do not know to what extent these rich people have to deal with the many issues of their lives - night after night. All we see are their expensive cars, their luxurious lifestyle, their frequent holiday travels, their expensive household items, ... Only they know what kinds of troubles they have to deal with. A person with such massive wealth will have a commensurate massive scope of business stress. If that is a person you care for you must worry for him. Just a few usual worries: keeping the marriage smooth, watching over their spoilt 15 year old son or daughter for fear of delinquency. The business of the world is that of mesmerising illusions ... It is not what it seems.
Buddha the Exalted One knew about all the complexities and the consequent misunderstandings in the world, the so-called illusions of the world. He knew it was due to our tendency to be mesmerized by appearance. A practitioner must have absolute faith in foundation of Dhamma, here it means Kammapatha (The Ten Meritorious Deeds) and Four Immeasurables. Above all, it is about training to achieve wisdom through Dhamma. Do not give in to the illusions of the world, don't allow outer appearance to blur our vision.
In his teachings, Buddha taught us followers that our hearts are like a saucepan over a fierce fire, always burning with eagerness and energy. When it is extremely hot, any drop of water going into it will evaporate immediately. When it is cool, it can keep anything that gets in, cockroaches and rats included. But when it is hot, not even a drop of water can be kept. So, sharpness, eagerness and energy in our hearts are always good. Though they may make us suffer a bit but that suffering bit is only temporary.
A monk during the time of the Buddha was sitting in meditation when it got very hot during the day. He felt discouraged and wanted to stop. But then he thought: "The fire in hell would be billions times much worse than this heat, if I can't handle this sunny heat, then when I go to hell, and there I will suffer a billions times worse heat!"
In Vietnam if you sit next to burning hay on a hot 40°C day it would be horrible. It would be mush worse in hell. Up here you have some blue sky, some light breezes and some oxygen. Down there, there are only heat and suffocation, black smoke in all directions, and no way out ...