A doctor who has seen a lot of people’s death once said “Most people express words of regret when confronted with their death.” Do you happen to know what kind of regret people express at their death bed? When one patient asked the doctor to do something to save his life, saying “I don’t want to die yet,” the doctor asked him the reason why he wanted to live on. The patient found himself at a loss for words. The doctor concluded that what many people regret the most is that they had not given serious thought to why they wanted to live. We Shinran followers, who have become aware of the purpose that we have to achieve in this lifetime, are really happy. We are alive now but the next lecture might be our last one. Let us listen to Buddhism seriously, casting aside the mind that we can listen next time, too.
As the youth standing in the archery ground faced the target with a pair of arrows, the grizzled old master beside him said bluntly, “You’re still a beginner. Make it one.” To hold two arrows was customary. Why should he, a beginner, use only one? The advice made no sense.
Despite his misgivings, the youth obediently cast one arrow aside. Then the thought struck him, “Now I have only one.” He focused all his mind on it, and successfully hit the target. The onlookers erupted in applause, surprised to see one so inexperienced perform so well. Still, the archer puzzled over the advice he had been given. Finally he sought out the master and asked him for an explanation.
“It’s simple,” said the old man with a twinkle. “Knowing you have a second arrow to fall back on prevents you from focusing on the first. Your guard goes down. Unless you are prepared to stake all on a single arrow, you could have dozens and it wouldn’t be enough.”
The idea that “if this doesn’t work, I can always try again next time” interferes with concentration. It keeps us from devoting ourselves heart and soul to the task at hand, the way the medieval French philosopher Guillaume Budé (1467–1540) devoted himself to his studies. He left all the household affairs to his wife and did nothing but study. Even when the houseboy ran in and cried, “The house next door is on fire! Hurry, you must escape!” Budé never looked up. He said only, “My wife takes care of everything. Go talk to her.”
It sounds ridiculous—and yet to be able to immerse oneself so wholeheartedly in a pursuit is admirable. To be absorbed in one thing to the exclusion of all else, focused solely on the goal, makes any task achievable.
(From the book, Something You Forgot Along the Way)
Satoshi Hasegawa, Missionary
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #32 | 2013, Satoshi’s Book Club
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