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PRACTICING TAO AT HOME
|Many times people ask how to practice Tao.
At first when we hear the terminology "practice Tao", we may
feel it is something very different from our daily lives and something
very serious. We may feel that Tao is only for special people and that
it is not for everyone of us. But it is. Practicing Tao at home is for
everyone since Tao is everywhere, and it is with us at every moment. Our
thoughts, spoken words, and behaviors are all related to Tao.
We all know Tao is the truth, Buddha's mind. It is the original character that God gave to every one of us when we came to this earth. It is a merciful heart and a forgiving mind; it is a pure and glorious perfect mind, not a selfish mind. The so-called practice of Tao is to find our way back to this original heart and mind. The practice of Tao in our daily lives requires that we use our original minds to weigh whatever thoughts, words, or actions we might have.
We can start to practice Tao at home from the moment we open our eyes in the morning. We see the faces of our family at home. Traditional extended families may have parents or grandparents living with them. Most families include a husband and wife, and children living together. Home is a natural starting point to practice Tao with these family members.
Long ago in Japan during the Magi Period, there was a young man named Atzuyuki. At a young age, Atzuyuki lost his father and was raised by his widowed mother. When Atzuyuki grew up, he met an intelligent and educated young woman named Atzuko who was from a well-to-do family. They married and their relationship was very harmonious. Unfortunately, there was a plague during this time and Atzuyuki, the husband, died suddenly, leaving behind his kind mother and loving young wife. While the young wife grieved, the mother became very upset because she felt that her son had died at the peak of his life before she was able to reap the rewards of her efforts raising her son. The mother started to complain against God to all who would listen because she felt that nothing was right. She even began to complain about her daughter-in-law and no matter what Atzuko did she was always wrong. To make matters worse, as each day passed, she began to speak to and treat Atzuko very poorly.
To the young Atzuko, the future was bleak. In that period of time, remarrying was not
|encouraged in that society. But to this young, pretty, and
intelligent widow, remarriage was not an impossible option. Atzuko, however,
felt that since she had married, she would do what a married woman should
do. She used the original heart that God had given her to guide her daily
life. Although she faced a difficult and unreasonable mother-in-law, she
would still behave like a proper daughter-in-law. The contrast was strong
between the two women. The townspeople could see what a terrible situation
in which Atzuko had found herself and they began to feel sorry for her,
calling Atzuko's mother-in-law "ghost mother-in-law" behind
her back. It happened that the mother-in-law accidentally found out that
she was not being called by her proper name, but by the name "ghost
mother-in-law." Instead of expressing outrage to this new nickname,
she started to contemplate why people were calling her this name and tried
to search for an explanation. Before her son had died, people were kind
to her, but now they were calling her names behind her back. If people
contemplate long and hard enough they will be able to find out where they
went wrong. She regretted how she had treated her daughter-in-law but
was unsure if Atzuko was mad at her. When she went home she asked Atzuko
to come forward and requested her to compose a poem entitled 'Ghost mother-in-law'.
Atzuko was a very intelligent young woman and knew immediately that she
was being tested. She therefore wrote this poem:
"Compared to Buddha's heart,
Hers could even be better
The townspeople do not know that,
And call her
When the mother-in-law read the poem, she knew that Atzuko was not angry with her. In turn, she embraced her daughter-in-law and began to cry. From then on, the mother-in-law completely changed her behavior and the two of them lived happily together. When the mother-in-law died, the Emperor Magi recruited Atzuko to become the head overseer of all the court ladies.
Even in a difficult environment, Atzuko used her original heart and mind to direct her duties. Her life story is an example of how one can practice Tao. No matter if we are rich or poor, a mother-in-law or daughter-in-law, or a husband or wife, we all have our positions and duties. We all have right obligations and we need to use Buddha's mind to fulfill these. This change cannot be done overnight, but we can walk, step by step, towards this direction and we shall find our way back to our original character.