THE PERFECT STRENGTH
Now he who is patient will seek for strength, for in strength lies Enlightenment. Without strength there is no righteous work, as without the wind there is no motion. And what is strength? Vigour in well-doing. What is its contrary called? Faintness, clinging to base things, despair, self-contempt. From inaction, delight in pleasure, slumber, and eagerness for repose springs a spirit that feels no horror at the miseries of life, and from this arises faintness. Pursued by the Passions, those fishers, thou hast come into the net of Birth, and knowest thou not that this selfsame day thou hast fallen into the jaws of Death? Seest thou not thy comrades smitten down one after the other? and withal thou fallest into slumber like a bullock in the butcher’s hands. Watched by the Death-god, thy ways hemmed in on every side, how canst thou find delight in food, how canst thou sleep and love? Wait a little while, until Death shall have gathered his instruments, and he will come swiftly upon thee; then it will be an ill time for thee to cast off thy faintness, and what wilt thou do?
“This work untouched, this begun, this standing half-done and lo! Death has suddenly fallen upon me! Alas, I am undone! “Such will be thy thoughts, whilst thou lookest upon thy despairing kinsmen with their eyes swollen and red with tears in the passion of their grief, and upon the faces of the Death-god’s messengers, whilst thou liest racked by the memory of thy sins, hearing the noises of hell, altogether overwhelmed and oh, what wilt thou do?
It is well for thee to think fearfully of thyself here as of a living fish, much more so for the sinner to dread the fierce anguish of hell. Thou art burnt if warm water touch thee, tender creature that thou art; and when thou doest damnable sins, how canst thou sit thus comfortably? O wretched soul, that longest for reward unearned by striving, thou that art so tender and much afflicted, thou immortal, thou art devoured by Death, and undone! Thou hast found the ship of manhood; then sail in it across the broad river of sorrow. Fool, this is no time for slumber; it will be hard to find the ship again. How cant thou forsake the noble delight in the Law, which brings an endless course of comforts, and find pleasure in wantonness, mirth, and other like sources of sorrow? The spirit that knows not despair, the troops of the Army, devoted heed, self-submission, equal esteem of self and others, and regard of others in place of self (are the supports of strength).
Let me not despair that the Enlightenment will come to me; for the Blessed One, the speaker of truth, has revealed this truth, that they who by force of striving have gained hard-won supreme Enlightenment have been erstwhile gnats, gadflies, flies, and worms. Now I am a man by birth, able to know good and evil: why shall I not win the Enlightenment by following the rule of the All-knowing? If I am afraid when I think that I must give my hand or foot, it is because in my heedlessness I confound things of great and of small weight. I may be cleft, pierced, burnt, split open many and many a time for countless millions of aeons, and never win the Enlightenment.
But this pain that wins me the Enlightenment is of brief term; it is like the pain of cutting out a buried arrow to heal its smart. All physicians restore health by painful courses; then to undo much suffering let us bear a little. But even this fitting course the Great Physician has not enjoined upon us; he heals them that are grievously sick by tender treatment. At first our Lord ordains gifts only of herbs and the like, and then in due course brings men at last to surrender even their own flesh. When there comes to man the spirit that looks upon his flesh as no more than herbs, what hardship is it for him to surrender his flesh and bone? He is not hurt, for he has cast off sin, nor sad, for knowledge is his; for distress comes in the mind from false imaginations, and in the body from sin. The body is made happy by righteous works, the spirit by knowledge; what can vex the compassionate one who remains in embodied life only for the welfare of others? Annulling his former sins, amassing oceans of righteousness, by the power of his Thought of Enlightenment he travels more swiftly than the Disciples. Having thus in the Thought of Enlightenment a chariot that removes all vexation and weariness, travelling from happiness to happiness, who that is wise will despair?
To accomplish the welfare of his fellow-creatures he has an Army, the troops of which are, Love of Right, Constancy, Joy, and Abandonment. The Love of Right he will frame from the fear of suffering and from pondering upon merits. When he has uprooted his foes, he will strive for increase of vigour by means of his armies, which are the love of right, pride, joy, abandonment, devoted heed, and self-submission. Countless are the faults in myself and my fellows that. I shall have to destroy, and hundreds of thousands of aeons must pass ere even one of these fade away. But I find not in myself the least morsel of vigour to set myself to undo these faults; I am doomed to boundless anguish, and why does my bosom not burst? Many are the virtues in myself and my fellows that must be gained, and hundreds of thousands of aeons will scarce be enough for the practice of even one of them. But I have never practised the least morsel of virtue; to no purpose has been spent the birth so hardly and marvellously won. The joy of the great festivals in worship of the Lord has not been mine; I have done no honour to the Law, nor fulfilled the desire of the poor; I have not given security to them that are in fear, nor happiness to the afflicted; I have been only a vexation of my mother’s womb, to work sorrow. Because of old I departed from the love of right, I am now in this evil plight; who would forsake the love of right? This love the Saint has proclaimed to be the root of all righteous works; and its root is the constant meditation upon the fruit that grows from deeds. Manifold are the pains, the sorrows, the terrors, and the disappointments that arise to sinners. Whithersoever the desire of the righteous turns, it is greeted with happy issue, because of their merits; and whithersoever turns the sinner’s yearning for pleasure, it is smitten with swords of pain, because of his sins. They that are godly of works enter the wombs of broad, sweet-smelling, cool lotus-blossoms; their lustrous forms grow nurtured by the Conqueror’s sweet melody; then they issue in comely beauty from the lotus-flowers awakened by the sunbeams of the Holy One, and are horn as Sons of the Blessed in the presence of the Blessed. As to them that are ungodly of works, shrieking in anguish, they are flayed of their whole skin by the Death-god’s henchmen, their bodies bathed with copper molten in the fire, their flesh cut oft in gobbets by hundreds of blows from flaming swords and pikes, and they fall again and again upon beds of red-hot iron. Then let the love of righteousness be with you, and be heedful thus to foster it.
In setting his hand to a work one should foster pride, according to the rule of the Vajra-dhvaja Sūtra. When he has first considered the sum of circumstances, he will either begin it, or not begin it; for it is better not to begin at all than to leave undone what has been begun. For this practice will last even into other births, and from such sin will arise abounding sorrow; and not only is the present work not accomplished, but likewise others that might be done in the same time come not to pass. In respect of three things may pride be borne man’s works, his temptations, and his power. The pride of works lies in the thought “for me alone is the task.” This world, enslaved by passion, is powerless to accomplish its own weal; then I must do it for them, for I am not impotent like them, Shall another do a lowly task while. I am standing by? If I in my pride will not do it, better it is that my pride perish. The very crow becomes a Garuda when he lights upon a dead lizard; if my spirit is feeble, the least occasion of sin will overcome me. To him who is palsied by a faint heart occasions of sin come abundantly; but he who has a noble pride ever alert is unconquerable even by great temptations. Then with firm spirit I will undo the occasions of undoing; if I should be conquered by them, my ambition to conquer the threefold world would be a jest. I will conquer all; none shall conquer me. This is the pride that I will bear, for I am the son of the Conqueror-Lions. Creatures who are overcome by arrogance bear the title of misery, not of pride; he that is proud falls not into the power of the foe, but they are slaves to the foe Arrogance. Through arrogance they are brought into evil estate, and even in human birth lose their joys, eating the bread of others, slaves, fools, uncomely, wasted away; despised on all sides are the wretches stiff in arrogance; if they are ranked with the proud, say, who are the miserable? Proud, victorious, heroic are they who set their pride on conquest of the foe Arrogance, who overthrow him in all his might, and freely show to the world the fruit of their conquest. Surrounded by the troop of the Passions, a man should become a thousand times prouder, and be as unconquerable to their hordes as a lion to flocks of deer. Even in great stress the eye is unconscious of the sense of taste; and so into whatever straits he may come, he will not fall into the power of the Passions. He will utterly give himself over to whatever task arrives, greedy for the work, insatiate of spirit, like one who lusts for the delight issuing from his sport. Every work is done for the sake of happiness, whether the happiness come or no; but how can he whose happiness is work itself be happy in doing no work? Desires, like honey on the edge of a razor’s blade, bring no contentment in life; but what satiety can there be from the divine draughts of righteous deeds, that are blessed and sweet in their issue? Then when one work is brought to an end, he will plunge into another, as the elephant, vexed by the heat of midday, plunges straightway into the lake that he finds.
But when his strength fails, he will withdraw from his work; and if it be happily ended, he will leave it, in eagerness for morn and more tasks. He will guard himself against the blows of the Passions, and deal stout blows against the Passions, as though fighting with the sword against a skilful foe. As one in fear swiftly takes up again a fallen sword, so he will take up the fallen sword of remembrance, bethinking himself of hell. As poison that has reached the blood spreads through the body, so the sin that finds a weak spot spreads through the spirit. A man carrying a bowl full of oil, surrounded by soldiers with drawn swords, in fear of death if he should trip, will walk heedfully ; and so it is with him that is under the vow. Then when slumber and faintness fall upon him, he will strive against them as speedily as one springs up when a serpent is creeping into his lap. Whenever he is caught unawares, he will be sorely grieved, and consider what he should do that it may not befall hire again. For the sake of this he will desire godly company or tasks to come in his way, that his remembrance may be exorcised in these conditions. Remembering the Sermon on Heedfulness, he will hold himself in readiness, so that even before a task comes to him he is prepared to turn to every course. As the seed of the cotton-tree is swayed at the coming and going of the wind, so will he be obedient to his resolution; and thus divine power is gained.