Tips for Maintaining Balance in Daily Life
Spoken by Supreme Master Ching Hai, three-day retreat in Hong Kong, April 1 ~ 4, 1994 (Originally in Chinese) Videotape No. 413
Foreword: For those highly enlightened Saints who thoroughly understand the game of creation,a reclusive life in the remote mountains,far from the mundane world, is one of happiness and freedom from care and worry.However, these Saints often choose to remain in the dreary world to help and set real-life examples for sentient beings.Thus, we are sometimes blessed to gain a glimpse of Their lives, of Their elevated words and deeds. By observing their actions, we can learn how an advanced spiritual practitioner applies the great wisdom of the universe in the secular world.
Truly, we have to devote more time to spiritual practice while in this world, but we should also try to make our lives more comfortable and fun. Recently, I converted a cave that had served as a cow pen into a cozy living room. I cleaned it up, and then covered the ground with a few straw mats and a carpet -- all very inexpensive materials. An ordinary carpet costs little, and it makes you feel snug and warm. Then, with a few cushions, you can meditate there. This is not a luxury. We can make any place beautiful as long as we know how to decorate it. That cave was dark, dry and dirty, and had originally been used for rearing cattle. But it was converted into a beautiful place; that is a way to balance your life.
If we act as a teacher instructing people about the Truth from morning till night, and do not find balance in life, our brains will complain. For me, this kind of work is an excellent hobby. (Master and audience laugh.) An attendant once said to me, “Master, You've overworked Yourself and gone without sleep the last few days. You must be exhausted. Why are You spending the whole night on building that fireplace?” So I told her, “You don't understand. If I didn't do this, I might go mad!” (Master and audience laugh.) This is a way to find equilibrium in life.
With Her own hands, Master builds a fireplace with cement and pieces of slate collected from a nearby stream,
giving the cave a brand new appearance overnight.
The attendant had thought that Master would be physically exhausted after working day in and day out, and should spend the next seventy-two hours in bed to make up for lost sleep. But I said, “Doing these things gives me a respite. I can't stay in bed the whole day and night. This is a break for me for it brings a change into my life.” When I do the work that I like, it means I'm resting. Otherwise, I'd be devoting all my time to making others happy, and leaving none to pursue my own interests. The two are different.
Although I work to make you, others, refugees and needy people happy, and I too am very happy, it's in response to requests and circumstances. I have no control over the work, nor do I have any say in the matter. For example, when someone asks for two kilos of rice, I have to bring them to him. In this kind of situation, I can't act as I wish for it's done to meet the requests of sentient beings. This is different from being your own master and making your own plans and designs to suit yourself.
So I still have to find a balance in my life. Otherwise, my mind will be unhappy. It's not I or the soul that's unhappy, but the mind. It will not be accustomed to it. So I told the attendant, “This is the way I rest. You don't have to worry.” She thought that I had already worked quite a few days and nights at a stretch. Besides traveling overseas to deliver lectures, I had rushed to help the refugees in the Philippines. So why did I stay up the whole night building a fireplace in a cave when I was so tired? She felt pity for me. (Master and audience laugh.) I said, “No, that's the way I rest. Otherwise, I can't go on.” Then I asked her, “If you were required to sit the whole day without doing anything, not even your laundry, and food were brought before you, would you be able to stand it?” She said, “No, I wouldn't.” Of course not; she would still want to wash her own clothes and handle some of her own personal matters.
I'm no different. I can't devote all of my time to others, without having some interests of my own. When it's something that interests me, I can go without sleep at night and use my time as I like. In this way, you won't be affected because I save the day for you. I am here whenever you need me. Should any emergency arise, or any urgent papers arrive, I can deal with them immediately. I only make use of the intervals between events, or do my own work while waiting or by sacrificing my sleep. At those times when I do not have specific public-interest work to do or documents to read, I do my own personal work in order to maintain mental balance.
Master converts an abandoned cave into a fairy-like living room
with Her ingenious and artistic hands.
Don't ask me why I'm attached to these material things. No, it's not attachment! I have built things at centers in a number of countries. But I do not live in any of those places. These designs and creative works are all left there and not reserved for me. Of course, things like the paintings that I have drawn, I can take with me. But I don't really take them with me; rather, I send them to the Miaoli Center for the residents to keep in a special room so they won’t be damaged, and copies can be made for everyone to appreciate. If I carry those paintings around with me, I can't take good care of them because I'm always tied down by other things. I'm only responsible for painting them. After taking a few looks at them, I leave them in the care of the residents. I can't look at my own paintings for long so sometimes I miss them. When I was abroad previously, sometimes I would think of returning to Formosa to take a look at those paintings. (Master laughs.) But those were just passing thoughts; getting to look at them or not doesn't really matter. So even though painting is my hobby, it's you who get the benefits. You can collect my paintings; whereas I myself can't collect anything.
But unlike the paintings, the artwork in the cave cannot be moved to Formosa for the residents to preserve. (Master and audience laugh.) Some things can be moved, and others can't. Those that are stationary are left in their original place for everyone to appreciate. I create these things not for the sake of possession or preservation, but to fulfill my desire to create. Sometimes it's a form of relaxation. It's the same with all my hobbies; they're only for maintaining balance in my life so I am able to continue to serve all people. Thus I converted the cave not because I liked it, and I won't be staying here long. Besides, I can't transport it anywhere I go.
While practicing diligently in this world, if you do not also try to find balance in life or enjoy a little of the colorful world, then once you go up to Heaven, you might think, “Why is it that after following Master in spiritual practice, I have no idea what the mortal world is like?” Then, you may blame me, and quietly and secretly run back down here. You can't hold me responsible then. (Master and audience laugh.)