Renunciation of Desires

The Essentials of Buddhist Meditation
By Shramana Zhiyi (Chih-i)
– (538-597 ce)

Chapter 2:  B : [Scriptural Citations]

The dharma of renouncing desire as treated above is drawn from the discussion in the Mahayana Treatise.

It additionally states, “Alas! These beings! They are constantly harassed by the five desires and yet they continue to pursue them incessantly.

“As for these five types of desire, gaining their objects results in their becoming even more intense.

“They are like fire which, when stoked with more firewood, burns ever brighter.

“The five desires yield no happiness. [When one pursues them], one is comparable to a dog gnawing away at a dried-up bone.

“The five desires proliferate contention, just as birds skirmish over carrion.

“The five desires scorch a person, just as one is burned when carrying a torch into the wind.

“The five desires bring harm to a person, just as when one treads upon a poisonous snake.

“Like bounty gained in a dream, the five desires have nothing real about them.

“[The pleasure arising from] the five desires does not endure long. It is borrowed only for a moment and is like a spark struck from a stone.

“The wise also consider them to be like enemies or thieves. The worldly person is foolish and deluded, is covetously attached to the five desires, won’t relinquish them even in the face of death, and later undergoes immeasurable suffering and aggravation as a result.

“This dharma of the five desires is something people have in common with animals.”

All beings typically act under the direction of the five desires and thus become slaves to the desires. On account of this, having become covered over by desires, they are prone to fall into the three lower realms.

[One should reflect]: “If, even as I cultivate dhyāna meditation, I revert to being obstructed and covered over by them, then I am a great thief. I must urgently distance myself from them.”

As stated in verses from the Dhyana Sutra:

That birth and death are not cut off
Is on account of desire and fondness for its flavor.
As when nursing a grudge all the way to the grave, One endures in vain all manner of bitter suffering.

The smell of the body is like that of a corpse.
Impurities stream forth from its nine apertures.
Just as worms in an outhouse delight in the feces,
So too does the foolish man delight in the body.

The one who is wise should contemplate the body,
And not lust after the tainted pleasures of the world.
To be without burdens and to have nothing desired—
This is what qualifies as true nirvana.

It’s just as described by the Buddhas themselves:
Practicing with one mind and singular intention,
While counting the breath in dhyana absorption—
It is this which is the practice of the dhutas
(ascetic practices).

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