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inspiration

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courage to continue  

Faith directs you to the path; courage will give you the energy to continue.

During my time in Korea, I heard many stories about respected monks and nuns, and how hard they practiced. I was always inspired by these tales. There was a story of a monk who worked all day and meditated all night, for months on end. Many tried to join him but very few could follow his example. Master Kusan himself told us of a time when he felt he had to practice very hard in order to help a dying friend. He had promised his friend that in his stead he would become awakened within forty-five days. For the final two weeks, he meditated on tiptoe because he was afraid he would fall asleep and not attain awakening. On another occasion, I visited some nuns who were doing a three·year silent retreat. I was so impressed by their dedication and lightness; they managed to joke and make me laugh in the midst of their deep silence.

All these meditators were inspired by their own great courage. Nobody had forced them to do what they were doing. They were just so determined, so convinced of the merits of meditation, and with such faith in their own buddha—nature, that they gave the practice all they had.

reflect For you who live in the West, in a busy modern world, what does it mean to have courage in meditation?

You require courage to face your mental and emotional habits. It is easy to say that you do not have the time to meditate, that maybe you will do it tomorrow when you are less busy or at the weekend when you are less tired. You need the courage to meditate now, in this unrepeatable moment, whether tired or busy, sad or happy.

When you meditate, it is essential to have the courage to concentrate and enquire. As you sit quietly, doing nothing, you will very quickly be caught up in day-dreams, fantasies or worries. Courage bolsters your  determination, reminds you to straighten your back and reaffirms your intention to be aware, to be awake, to be present. It enables you to break out of a dull or lazy state of mind and to resist tempting thoughts.

going beyond your habits and patterns

photo
Stephen Batchelor

Going beyond the way of living that is easiest for you requires a great deal of courage. When meditation is difficult, courage gives you the motivation to persevere.

Master Kusan used to say that sometimes meditation is as easy as pushing a boat on ice, but at other times as difficult as dragging to a well a cow who does not want to drink. You need the courage to enquire, to question your habits, to step into the unknown. One of the paradoxes of meditation is that faith and enquiry are equally important. Faith alone can make you narrow—minded; enquiry alone can make you agitated. The practice of one helps and supports the
practice of the other.