“I am going home! My fields and gardens are choked with weeds. Why should I not return? My mind has been my body's slave; how sad and lamentable! I realize that the past is gone, but I can certainly rectify what is to come. I have not actually strayed too far from the path. I have awakened to today's rights and yesterday's wrongs.”
These sentences were spoken by Mr. Wuliu (Tao Yuanming). But I don't know whether at the time he spoke these words he had truly enlightened to their meaning, because, when regarded in the light of the Buddhadharma, these sentences tally with the ultimate principle.
What does “I am going home” mean? We know that the self-nature of the Dharma body comes forth from the constantly tranquil light of the Buddhas of the ten directions. The sutras say, “All living beings have the Buddha nature.” Our basic nature is not different from, not distinct from, the Buddha. If it were not this way, then it would not be said that“all have the Buddha nature.” Now we are unable to understand and become enlightened to our self-nature because we are defiled and scattered by the five desires and the wearisome dust of the Saha world. We turn our backs on enlightenment and join with the dust. Therefore we cannot awaken to our own minds and recognize our own basic natures.
But we certainly should not continue to be so submerged and upside-down. We should return to our source: we should turn our backs on the dust and unite with enlightenment. Therefore, the words “going home” remind us to return to our original face, to our original home. Also, perhaps, the words “going home” can mean we rely on the strength of a Buddha or Bodhisattva; by means of the merit of reciting that Buddha's or Bodhisattva's name, we can be born in the Pure Land.
After one has awakened to one's own nature and been born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, one makes great vows of one's own to launch the ship of compassion and come back to the Saha world to rescue living beings. This is what is meant by “coming back again.” In the line, “My fields and gardens are choked with weeds,” what do the “fields and gardens” refer to? “Fields” refer to the field of the mind. The principle here is very obvious. We often use the phrase “suddenly clear away the underbrush” to refer to the gaining of new insight. If we do not cultivate the mind well, our minds become a thicket of scattered thoughts, just as fields and gardens become overgrown with grass and weeds if not tended. These scattered thoughts choke the good field of the mind. As long as you have not “cleared away the underbrush” you cannot return to the source or understand your mind and see your nature.
“Why should I not return? ” This sentence is a gentle remonstration by the Buddhas and sages of the ten directions. They say, “How pitiful and foolish living beings are! Why don't they hurry up and turn their heads around to see the other shore?”
“My mind has been my body's slave.” This means that living beings are attached to an environment composed of the six defiling objects─the objects of the senses─and cannot awaken to their own minds. So they are continually being turned by defiling objects; they race about feeding themselves and are intent upon making a profit up to the moment that their bodies give out. We undergo numerous sufferings as we toss and turn in the bitter sea of birth and death. Myriad agonies well up, and the suffering is unspeakable. This is also what is meant by “how sad and lamentable!”
Is it the case that we living beings are beyond salvation? Is it the case that we must wallow in the deep abyss of the turning wheel of the six paths forever? Absolutely not! Although we made mistakes in the past, there is still hope for the future. You should know that you“can certainly rectify what is to come.”
In the future, we absolutely will not turn our backs on enlightenment and join with the dust, as we did in the past. Nor will we let our minds be a slave to our bodies. Everything we did in the past, such as not believing in cause and effect, not cultivating diligently, and creating the karma of killing and other offenses, was wrong. Now today, we are in this session reciting the Bodhisattva's name. This is what is right. So we should “awaken to today's rights and yesterday's wrongs.” We should carefully protect what is good and immediately and firmly reform of what is bad. An ancient author said, “An inch of time is worth an inch of gold.” Actually, in the eyes of a cultivator, an inch of time is worth an inch of life. For every moment that passes it is just as if our life is shortened by an inch.
This day is already passed,
and life is consequently shorter.
Everyone should diligently cultivate,
as if trying to save his very head.
If we wish to change our errors and tend towards the good, we should do so quicky! We “have not actually strayed too far from the path”; we can still reform. The Land of Ultimate Bliss is within sight! We only need persist in our vigor, and we can certainly “go home.”