Do you think you can take over the universe
and improve it?
I do not believe it can be done.
Everything under heaven is a sacred vessel
and cannot be controlled.
Trying to control leads to ruin.
Trying to grasp, we lose.
Allow your life to unfold naturally.
Know that it too is a vessel of perfection.
Just as you breathe in and breathe out,
there is a time for being ahead
and a time for being behind;
a time for being in motion
and a time for being at rest;
a time for being vigorous
and a time for being exhausted;
a time for being safe
and a time for being in danger.
To the sage
all life is a movement toward perfection,
so what need has he
for the excessive, the extravagant, or the extreme?
Cravings and Aversions
This verse resonates loud and clear with me because it relates directly to the teachings from the Vipassana meditation course that I attended last week. One of the main teachings of the course was that all human suffering stems from two things; craving and aversion.
We crave for things that we want in our life that we think we do not already have. Of course, cravings are never satisfied because once we obtain the item we desire, we want the next bigger thing or we find that really we want something different from our original craving.
We create an aversion for things that we have in our life that we do not want or for things that are occurring in our life that we want to avoid or remove. Of course, things are happening for reasons that are out of our control and so creating an aversion is really just creating turmoil within us instead of addressing the real problem; our own acceptance of what is.
Creating cravings and aversions is our feeble attempt to control the “sacred vessels” that the Universe provides. According to the verse, this leads to ruin. By attempting to control, we create our own pain and suffering.
“All life is a movement toward perfection”
In the teachings of the Buddha, we each have many lives. Each life is a continuation of the state of mind that we created in the previous one. This means that we suffer life after life if we are attempting to control by creating additional cravings and aversions. If instead we allow the “sacred vessels” to be as they are and move with the flow of life, we are moving toward perfection; the removal of suffering. This perfection is described by the Buddha as enlightenment, which is the point where we no longer create new cravings and aversions and we have removed the ones created previously.
If we are moving towards perfection, then we have no need “for the excessive, the extravagant or the extreme”. These represent the need to cling to control by hoarding, flaunting and dominating over others.
The sage realizes that there is no need for any of these attempts at control. The Universe is already perfection so why try to improve it. Accept its “sacred vessels” and move towards being in alignment with it.
If it were not for our desire to control and our tendency to create cravings and aversions, we would see the perfection that we already are.