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Rinzai 74

Followers of the Way, do not trust yourselves to a companion that is only a phantom and a dream (the body). Sooner or later, it will return to impermanence. What means of deliverance can you find in this world? Leading your life eating a spoonful of rice and sewing tattered clothes, you should see a good teacher without losing time in chasing after pleasures. Time is precious, and the moments are fleeting. On the material plane you are obstructed by earth, water, fire and air; on the mental plane you are pressured by the four conditions of all compounded forms, birth, being, change, and extinction.

Commentary:

‘Do not trust yourselves to a companion that is only a phantom and a dream (the body)’ means that we should not be attached to our physical bodies, seeing them as our true ‘I’. ‘Sooner or later, it will return to impermanence’ means that your physical body will perish soon’. ‘Leading your life eating a spoonful of rice and sewing tattered clothes, you should see a good teacher without losing time chasing after pleasures’ means that we should live a simple and frugal life without craving for rich food and expensive clothing and practise under a good master’s teaching.

‘You are obstructed by earth, water, fire and air’ means that death is coming closer to us as the bond of the elements of our physical bodies; earth, water, fire and air, is loosening with time. ‘You are pressured by the four conditions of all compounded forms, birth, being, change, and extinction’ is, as an added explanation, implying that we cannot escape the yoke of birth, living, ageing and death. In other words, every moment death keeps nearing us, and what is worse, no one knows when we will encounter it because it never asks anyone’s permission. Therefore, we should practise hard without wasting precious and fleeting time on worldly pleasures.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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