Two days ago Tamar and I visited the beautiful Nan Hua Buddhist temple on the way to Witbank, South Africa. It was a breathtaking experience and we ended up doing a bit of meditation there (it is free of charge though a donation is always welcome to help them). While inside the temple I picked up a print-out of advice by the Buddhist Master Hsing Yun related to the power of listening which really struck a chord with me. I’m sharing it in case you’ll find it as inspiring as we did and hopefully it will make it on your 2018 resolutions lists 🙂
Think, Speak, Listen, Act
By the Venerable Master Hsing Yun
If we want to succeed in life there are four words we need to pay attention to: think, speak, listen and act.
People cannot be without ideas and cannot stop thinking. We think, ‘I want to be a good person, a rich person, a good son/daughter or a good wife/husband.’ We think about owning a house and having good food and clothing. Some of us aspire to the ideals of being a leader, a virtuous individual or an important person. Ideals are the causes of reality and reality is the result of ideals. Without a cause how can there be a result?
Thinking alone is not enough. We need to speak out and make our thoughts known. For instance, we may want to drink tea, eat, get a ride, study or find a job. We have to tell people what we want or can do. Otherwise they will have no idea. Babies cannot talk so they cry when they want milk. Dogs wag their tails or bark to express themselves. If we are seeking the best care from our parents, support from our friends, love from lovers or attention from our bosses we must speak out. Of course we cannot just say anything: what we say should be well put, fair and substantial.
In addition to speaking out, it is important to know how to listen. A young man wanted to learn public speaking. The tuition fee was $10 per hour for such a course. However, when he met his teacher the first time, he started to talk nonstop about how important it was to know how to speak well. After he finished talking, his teacher asked him for $20. His teacher said to him: “I only teach others how to speak, but for you, I also have to teach you how not to speak and how to listen, so your fee is double”.
Knowing how to listen is the biggest lesson in life. We have to listen well, completely and carefully. In addition we must listen for the message in between the words and its moral implications. Parents often blame their children for not listening well. Teachers complain about young people refusing to listen because the latter often only hear 20 or 30% of what has been said. They easily get the opposite message, mistaking east for west. We should also be careful not to take anything out of context and not to misunderstand a sentence thoroughly, and act on it as appropriate.
Some people tend to be arrogant. They are deluded in thinking, talk without really speaking, look without seeing and hear without listening. Naturally, it is difficult for them to “act”. When we see others doing well in everything they do, it may appear very easy. In reality, a person’s success needs certain conditions. Boy and girl scouts do a good turn daily. Having the courage to do what is right is a good turn. Likewise, believing in the Buddha or paying respect to him is not as good as practicing the teachings of the Buddha. Giving others assistance and service is also doing a good turn.
Thinking well, knowing how to speak, listening attentively and acting benevolently are the four qualities we should have in life because they are critical for success.
(from ‘Between Ignorance and Enlightenment VI – Tending Life’s Garden – page 75″)