When you wake up every morning, the first thought in your mind should be a “blessing” to yourself, wishing yourself a beautiful morning. As you wash your face, brush your teeth, and comb your hair, if there is a mirror in front of you, give yourself the most beautiful, gentle and splendid smile, wishing yourself a wonderful day. In the evening, do the same. As you prepare for bed, give yourself a beautiful, gentle, and splendid smile, with gratitude to yourself for having lived a wonderful day. Before you go to bed, wish yourself a sweet dream or a sound sleep. Throughout the day, do not forget to bless yourself and give yourself beautiful, gentle, and splendid smiles. Let your entire day be filled with joy and beauty.
As a matter of fact, everyone can live a beautiful day like this. Many people cannot because they let unpleasant events or emotions bother them, making themselves feel unhappy and miserable. They blame themselves for their own unhappiness, or they blame ‘God’ and the external.
In studying Buddhism, we remind ourselves to wake up and enlighten our mind and to become aware of how we make ourselves unhappy and miserable. When we look at what is happening, seeing clearly what goes through our mind and realizing the causes and conditions of our unhappiness can illuminate the way for us to be free and liberated from suffering.
Our suffering comes from our desires and dissatisfactions. We suffer because of the endless cycles of joining of causes and conditions. When the Buddha says “Life is suffering”, he is not rejecting human life but is seeing life as it really is. He is pointing out the reality of life to help us see it clearly. Not only does he help us to see the world of myriad phenomena as it is, but he also helps us to discover the root cause of our suffering. By doing so, he enables us to bring confusion to an end so that we can stop our endless pursuit in a false reality, which makes the mind unhappy and therefore creates further suffering that continues on and on in the cycles of existence.
What is more important is that, after pointing out these truths, the Buddha taught us how to gradually end suffering by following Right View, Right Conduct, Right Livelihood, and Right Meditation and practice. By doing this, we can completely end all kinds of suffering and reach the state of true happiness, thus fulfilling the true purpose of human life.
Suffering is due to desires and dissatisfaction and hoping that the pursuit of something external can quench our inner thirst. However, desires are endless, and the material world has its limits. No matter how hard you try to be satisfied, the effort will be empty and vain, and so your seeking and pursuing will have no end. Such a vicious cycle only makes the mind fall into misery and unable to help itself.
We have to see that the empty feeling of mind is caused by attachment to strong desires which nothing external can fill. This attachment is due to ignorance and confusion about the internal and external world. We must know that the fundamental cause of all suffering is ignorance and confusion. If we wish to eliminate the empty feelings, we must begin with recognizing our ignorance and seeing the true reality of everything, internal and external. When we can break through this false reality, we can then eliminate ignorance and reach liberation.
The true reality of the internal world and the external world is impermanence, and there is no self which is eternal or has an unchanging substance. Therefore, we cannot take the concept of “self” as real and act as if the self is the center of the universe. We need to deal with our body and mind according to the law of impermanence and non-self. Only then will we not be so strongly attached to the body and mind and to the external world of phenomena. When we walk away from confusion and ignorance and not attach to anything, the suffering will naturally be extinguished. There will be no arising of unhappiness. This is true happiness.
Chan practice is the path toward such true happiness. Through the concentration of the mind on an object, there is nothing that cannot be accomplished. With wisdom through realizing impermanence and non-self, there is no suffering that cannot be eliminated.
Therefore, when you are awakened through Chan practice and have the direct experience of rue reality, every day is a good day. Every day of your life is filled with blessings, and you can live each day with beauty and joy. Before you reach this state of awakening or enlightenment, let yourself live each day as if it is a good day.
Let us give blessings to ourselves from morning to evening, facing our life with a beautiful, gentle, and splendid smile. Let us also give smiles to people around us as well as to all sentient beings.
Every day is indeed a good day. Human life is actually wonderful, and life is truly beautiful. Because you know it is so, naturally the smile on your face will be splendid and graceful.
(2008/11/26 written at 磐若岩, Malaysia, during a Chan retreat. Published in Chinese in the book 《日日好日》”Every Day is a Good Day” by Dharma Drum Publications.)