Living for nothing

There’s a lovely saying of Tranxu, a great Chinese sage, that I took the trouble to learn by heart. It goes like this: When the archer shoots for no particular prize, he has all his skills; when he shoots to win a brass buckle, he is already nervous; when he shoots for a gold prize, he goes blind, sees two targets, and is out of his mind. His skill has not changed, but the prize…

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The way the world is

We’re always bothered by the problem of evil. There’s a powerful story about a little boy walking along the bank of a river. He sees a crocodile who is trapped in a net. The crocodile says, “Would you have pity on me and release me? I may look ugly, but it isn’t my fault, you know. I was made this way. But whatever my external appearance, I have a mother’s heart. I came this morning…

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The real human tragedy

Life is a banquet and the tragedy is that most people are starving to death. That’s what I’m really talking about. There’s a story about some people who were adrift on a raft off the coast of Brazil perishing from thirst. It turned out that the river streaming out to the sea was flowing with such force that its fresh water extended out a couple of miles, reaching the raft. The reality was that the…

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Get over yourself

Imagine you are in a situation or with a person that you find unpleasant and that you would ordinarily avoid. Now try this: Observe how your brain instinctively becomes active, insisting that you avoid this person or situation or try to change them or it. If you stay on there and refuse to change the situation, observe how the brain insists that you experience irritation or anxiety or guilt or some other negative emotion. Now…

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Heart broken

A young man came to complain that his girlfriend had let him down, that she had played false. What are you complaining about? I said. Did you expect any better? Expect the worst, you’re dealing with selfish people. You’re the fool — you glorified her, didn’t you? You thought she was a princess, you thought people were nice. They’re not! They’re asleep like you. They seek their own self-interest, exactly like you. Can you imagine…

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