Loss and Gain
The relationship between loss and gain is often talked about in the world of cultivation as well as among ordinary people. What attitude should we cultivators adopt towards loss and gain? It is different from that of ordinary people. What ordinary people want is personal interests, how to lead a good and comfortable life. But we cultivators are different. On the contrary, we would not seek what ordinary people want. Moreover, what we achieve is something desired but unachievable by ordinary people, unless they should cultivate.
As for the loss we generally refer to, it is not loss in a rather limited sense. When somebody speaks of loss, he considers it to be giving some money, helping others who are in trouble and offering a bit of food to beggars. It is also a kind of giving up and a kind of loss. But it is only, on this question that he cares little about money or material benefits. Caring little about money, of course, is an aspect, and a comparatively principal aspect. However, the loss we are talking about is not in such a limited sense. When we are in the course of cultivation, there are too many attachments one should give up as a cultivator, such as show-off, jealousy, competition and complacency. A great number of attachments have to be given up. The loss we are talking about is in a broad sense, that is, in the course of cultivation one should give up all his attachments and various desires belonging to ordinary people.
Perhaps somebody is considering: Now that we are practising among ordinary people, won't we be like Buddhist monks or nuns when we give up everything? It seems impossible to give up everything. Our cultivation way, as far as the portion cultivating among ordinary people is concerned, requires one to cultivate in ordinary society and keep himself the same as ordinary people to the maximum. It by no means requires you to lose material interests indeed. No matter what a high ranking official you are and how much wealth you have, the key to the question is whether you can give up the attachment.
Our school is directly aimed at human nature. Whether personal interests and person to person conflicts can be cared little about and treated lightly or not is the crux of the matter. To cultivate in the temple and in deep mountain forests is to completely cut you off from ordinary human society and force you to give up the hearts of ordinary people. It keeps you away from material interests, and therefore makes you give them up. A cultivator among ordinary people does not go that way but he is required to care little about them just in the life-style of ordinary people. It is certainly very difficult but it is the crux of our school. That is why the loss we are talking about is in a broad sense other than in a rather limited one. People talk about doing something good and giving alms. Then just look at those beggars in the street nowadays: Some of them are professional, who may have more money than you do. We must focus on something big instead of taking care of something smaller. Cultivation is aboveboard and should concentrate on something large in mind. In the course of loss, what we really have lost is something not good.
One usually regards all that he pursues as good things. But in fact, looking from the high level, all of them are to satisfy his vested interests in being an ordinary person. As stated in Buddhism, it is merely a couple of decades whether you have more money or a higher official position. At birth we bring nothing, at death we take away nothing. Why is cultivation energy so precious? Only because it directly grows on your Yuanshen (True Spirit), so it can be brought at birth and taken away at death. Besides, it determines your attainment status, therefore it is hard to cultivate. That is to say, what you have given up are bad things so that you may return to the origin and go back to the truth. What would you achieve? That is the rise of your attainment level and at last you will complete the true achievement and reach the consummation. It solves the essential problem. Of course, we want to give up various desires belonging to ordinary people and reach the standard of being a real cultivator, which is not easy to achieve and should be carried out gradually. Now you hear I said doing it gradually and you say the teacher has told me to do it gradually and then I will do it gradually. That is not allowed! You should set strict demands on yourself though we allow you to improve yourself gradually. If you achieved all at once today, you would be a Buddha today. So it is unrealistic. You will be able to do this gradually.
What we lose in essence is something bad. What is it? It is karma, which goes along with various attachments of humans. For instance, ordinary people have various bad thoughts and will incur this black substance, karma, by doing something bad for his personal interests. This is directly related to our minds. In order to remove this bad substance you should first turn your minds around.