The Bicycle


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The Bicycle

Back then in Long Thành, Vietnam, in my temple there was a Buddhist, a secularised monk. He had only one simple dream and he would work many jobs, do many small chores to find money to buy bicycle spare parts. Back then living conditions were very tough. He would go and buy chains, axis, frame, spokes, tyres, tubes, handle bar, pedals, ... one by one. With each purchase he felt very happy. Sometimes he got a French part, sometimes Italian, Japanese, Italian chain, Japanese axis, French handle bar etc. Some he collected for free or cheap and he stacked them all in his yard. Everyday he would take each of them out to clean and polish. He was very keen and hardworking on the project. What was it all for?

He only wished to have a decent bicycle to trave long distance and up the hills. In that time it was difficult to travel by coaches, which often used coal as fuel, and hot coal bits would fall off all over the road. They often packed people like sardines in those coaches and you would be squeezed between the travelling fish sellers and the smell was unbearable. Nothing was more pleasurable and sitting on the saddle of a bicycle and easily getting up the hills, like the hill number 47, on the way to Long Thành, out to Bà Rịa. You could stop whenever you wanted and go whenever you wanted, easy and free. From Long Thành to Saigon is about 50km. A decent bicycle would do 15km/hr and get you there in around 3 hours. That was his dream, that was all. With that dream as the main driving force he worked tirelessly and with such vigour and focus.

It is the same in practising Buddhism. If you are not aware and not fearing of aging, of death, of sickness, of decadence, of birth-death samsara cycle you are very likely to live a lazy, aimless life. In his discourses, the Buddha used the word paralokabhayadassāvi which means a person who has thoughts and concerns about his next reincarnation life. If you live simply to make sure that you eat well and wear good clothes and by the time your death comes you just let it flow in whatever directions it takes. That is a very irresponsible way of living.


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