The difference between an enlightened being and an unenlightened being is not the change of the external. It is the fundamental change of the mind in the operations of the arising and ceasing of causes and conditions. It is the qualitative change or transformation of the mind from that of vexation to that of flowing with natural courses of causes and conditions.
When the mind of the enlightened sees the world, it sees everything as pure and beautiful, because the fundamentally changed mind is pure and beautiful. For practitioners who are not yet enlightened or for those who do not practice, because their mind is still vexed, even though they aspire to develop a mind of purity and beauty, this is only an idea or imaging. It does not become a reality.
From an unenlightened mind to an enlightened mind, it is not that things on the surface are different. True practitioners fundamentally change their attitude toward all phenomena, so they can still go about freely in the world, like handling a cleaver with skillfulness and ease. Those who do not practice are unable to do so because their mind is still polluted, and they find obstacles or impediments everywhere they are. Their lives thus appear to be filled with various forms of pain and suffering. If they do not admit or know that they are unenlightened but erroneously believe that they are enlightened or live their life as if they were enlightened, it creates more trouble for them.
However, it is a different story if one longs for an enlightened state of mind, takes refuge in those who are awakened and wise, and learns from them. The difference is in the attitude of the mind. The former is arrogance on top of arrogance, in which one does not know they are not enlightened; the latter is awareness that one is unenlightened, but they look in the right direction and try to follow good examples. It is inevitable for those who are deeply arrogant to stay stagnant or regress in their practice. Those who aspire to continuously practice will move forward towards purity of the mind.
To an enlightened mind, all of tho is just “play”. Enlightened beings live happily among people and play along in the “game”. They also help others in the “game” when the situation is “right” and awaken sentient beings through various aspects of life, sometimes in the form of art.
Therefore, enlightened ones do not leave the world; they “play” in it. In ordinary ways in real life, they accomplish the work of helping sentient beings. Since the mind state of enlightenment is in all aspects of life, it is said, “Chan is everywhere at all times.”
(2005/3/30 written at Ipoh, Malaysia. Published in the book 《閒事心頭》 by YBAM Buddhist Digest Publication Board.)