"When I was young, I used to think that the Way of the Buddha was nothing other than keeping the mind in absolute calm and quiet. I was always searching out dismal places and sitting there as if I was dead. I was not able to enter into any activity of life at all.
Sometimes one is tempted to think that the life of calm helps us to progress even better than one had hoped, while the life of activity does not seem to help us at all. But one who is carrying on the life of calm, at sometime has to enter the active life, with its worldly business. They may find they lose all the advantages of the powers which they had attained in their quiet place of meditation. With nothing to show for their pains living the life of calm.
You must not think that this means that you should dislike or cease from trying to carry on the discipline of the life of calm, and deliberately seek to live only the life of activity. The less one understands and knows about - the active and the calm - the more careful should one be to value them both, they are two aspects of one uniform condition. An ancient sage said;
The performance of true meditation must be still within the sphere where desires exist. From within the fires the lotus blossoms.’
If a lotus blooming in water, is brought too near to fire it immediately withers. Nevertheless, a lotus which comes to blossom within the fire has a greater and more delicious scent and is the more beautiful the nearer it is to the fire. A person leaving the calm of meditation coming out into the life of activity, will be like the lotus blossom which instantly withers when it is brought near to the fire.
A person remaining within the life of activity, is simple, complete and of one piece, they will not err to any degree. Raising up the source and origin of their own soul and mind, bringing to a final end all those roots of existence which tie us to the cycle of life and death. They are to be compared to the lotus that blossoms and becomes ever more beautiful and deliciously scented as it gets nearer to the fire. If you ask, ’How can this be?’ It is because the fire is itself the lotus and the lotus is itself the fire."
Adapted by Vidyavajra from extracts in ~ A reply to a near retainer of Lord Nabeshima of Sesshu Province by Hakuin, Part of The Embossed Tea Kettle.Published by Crompton