2. The covering of hatred. This refers to one's temper. Of temper it's said:
Firewood gathered in a thousand days
Can be completely burned up by a single match.
The "single match" points to our tempers. You may accumulate a thousand days' worth of merit and virtue, but if you lose your temper once, you burn up all that merit and virtue.
A spark from the fire of our nature
Burns up a forest of merit and virtue.
That's why hatred is so bad. But even though hatred is so terrible, I can tell you that it still has its good points. If you can hate things this way: "Why don't I cultivate?" "Why can't I control my temper?" "Why can't I kill the poisonous dragon within me?" could you say hating that way is not good? That kind of hatred is not bad! That's part of the skill of subduing yourself and returning to propriety. That's called the skill of practicing self-control. If you can make hatred work that way, it's not bad.
3. The covering of sleep. Sleep can also be very bad or very good. If you sleep too much, it's very bad. It causes you to become like a pig. You lose your intelligence. Too much sleep will make you stupid. So you wonder, "Is it all right not to sleep, then?" No, it's not all right not to sleep. When you sleep, your fatigue goes away. You feel rested, and so in that way sleep is not bad. You must not sleep too much. If you are greedy for too much, then anything becomes bad. If you use just the right amount, then anything can be good. For instance, if a person doesn't eat, then his stomach will have a battle with him. It will growl and ask, "Why haven't you fed me?" It will roar like thunder. If you don't eat enough you'll have a thunder storm in your stomach from hunger. If you eat too much, you'll get a tornado in your stomach, and you'll have to go to the bathroom one-knows-not-how-many dozens of times. It will be like mountains crashing together, the earth ripping open, and the waters of the sea flowing forth nonstop. Basically eating is a good thing, but if you eat too much it becomes a bad thing. If you don't eat at all, then that won't work either. That's how it is with sleeping, too. You should sleep, but not too much. If you don't sleep properly, it becomes a covering. If you sleep correctly, the covering will be removed. You will chase out the covering so that it is entirely gone.
4.The covering of restlessness. A person who is restless can't sit still and can't stand still and doesn't know what to do with himself.
5.The covering of doubt and delusions. "Delusions" refers to coarse delusions, subtle delusions, delusions as fine as dust and sand, and delusions of ignorance. If you give rise to doubt and delusions when cultivating the Way, it becomes a kind of covering. For instance, regarding the Dharma that the Dharma Master speaks, you think, "Everything the Dharma Master explains is expedient Dharma. It's unverifiable. Speaking the Dharma is like that—it won't stand the test." That's a kind of doubt. "He tells us to reproach the five desires, but I see that he hasn't reproached them. He tells us to chase out the five coverings, but the Dharma Master himself is so greedy. He hasn't chased his own out, and yet he's telling me to chase mine out. Well, I won't do it." Those are doubts. Reproach the five desires! Chase out the five coverings! Regulate carefully the five matters! The five matters are things you have to do every day.
The Five Matters
1. Regulating one's intake of food. Have you ever gone without eating for a day? You say, "I've gone without food for several days." That's when you were a starving refugee in Hong Kong, fleeing from the Japanese. At that time in Hong Kong, everyone was trying to escape the Japanese air raid and many people went without food for several days. Some people even starved to death. Regulating your intake of food means not eating too much, and not eating too little. It doesn't mean that you decide to stop eating altogether and fast for a week, but then on the sixth day you find that you can't take it any more, and so you eat—a lot. You eat so much that your stomach can't contain it, and the food has to move out. The "Relocation Bureau" is incredibly busy, day and night. That's from not knowing how to regulate your intake of food. It's not necessary to fast, but you also don't want to be unrestrained and eat too much.
To be continued