Contentment : True Enlightenment

Japan Adventures ( 6 ) : Only to be Contented

Ryoanji-GardenBuddha.gifWhen you visit Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto, you will see an ordinary-looking yet thought-provoking ‘Tsukubai’, which is a water basin made of stone, for retrieving water for brewing tea. Yes, it’s a Zen temple – where mindful tea-making and drinking is a spiritual practice. Inscribed on this particular Tsukubai are four words in Chinese – 吾唯足知 – which means ‘I learn only to be contented’. (As translated in the temple’s brochure.) Those who know Chinese can see how these four characters are playfully placed on the basin. 20081014-3 As the brochure explains, ‘He who learns to be contented is spiritually rich, while one who does not learn to be contented is spiritually poor even if he is materially wealthy.’ This is related to the Buddha’s teaching in the Dhammapada that ‘Contentment is the greatest wealth’ – a simple but profound truth. Does this only pertain to material wealth? Not necessarily… as we shall see. I used to wonder how contentment can lead to enlightenment. If we are already contented with being unenlightened, wouldn’t we not ever progress towards enlightenment? Then it struck me that true contentment only arises when we mindfully and sincerely know we are doing our best in each moment for what we should, from moment to moment. If not, there would always be some regret or dissatisfaction in the background, even if not readily discerned… in other words, discontentment. As such, even though enlightened Bodhisattvas are actively using the best of skilful means to help many beings, they rest in the bliss of contentment at the same time. Yes, contentment is not to be mistaken as complacency. Contentment can be dynamic too. Peace can be in action too. When you wish to be truly content, you must learn to be enlightened too. Zen is not just having a casual cuppa tea!

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