Effort: My Father Walking to the Other Shore

When I started meditation I was very determined. So, when I was sitting in meditation I was giving all I had. After some time I noticed that there was something not in balance. So I started to check: Maybe I'm putting in too much effort. Maybe I should fine-tune my effort. We call that checking mind. Tha's a big mistake. But how can we avoid this checking mind? Once, my father told me a story. When he was a kid he lived on the coast of Belgium. Of course the sea is very dangerous for children. There he learned a very effective way to avoid any risk: just don't swim! And indeed, he never got in danger. Later, he fell in love with my mother and they decided to go to the Italian coast. So they spent a good time at the beach. And the sea was so inviting, the water was so calm. So he used a big inner tube and went into the sea.

He closed his eyes and started to doze off. He was in heaven. After a while he opened his eyes and noticed that the beach was very far away. He started to swim back to the beach, but there was a strong current. No matter how much he tried he only got farther and farther away from land.

Now heaven was far away. He got really worried and started to wave his arms and shout for help. After a while somebody swam out to meet him. This man tried to pull my father back to the beach, but it just wasn't possible. Now both of them started waving their arms: Hey! Help us! Soon they saw another man approaching very fast. Right away, he said, Don't worry, I'm into competitive swimming. I will get you back. But no matter how hard he tried, the current was too strong. So he said, You are too heavy. I will swim back to the beach and get help. But after some time he was back, completely exhausted. Luckily my father had this very big inner tube to help these two men, so that they could rest a bit. Again, the three of them started to shout for help. This time, it was the lifeguard who jumped in the water. When he arrived, he said, Guys, you are swimming in the wrong direction! Just follow me. They swam about ten meters to the right, and then—big surprise—they could stand on their feet! The current had made a sandbar, so they could simply walk back to the beach.

Our mind is always making something, and then we enter the ocean of suffering. So we want to go back to the shore. And if we see somebody who is about to drown, naturally we want to help. We all have this direction. Everybody in this story has a clear direction and understands his job. Sometimes, just relax. Sometimes, ask for help. Sometimes, help others. From moment to moment, just do it. That is correct practice. That is correct effort. We call it try-mind.

In this story, everybody has this try-mind. Everybody trains in the paramita of effort, and also generosity, ethics or precepts, perseverance and unmoving mind or meditation. This does not happen by accident. We all have something precious in our heart: How can I help you? This is what drives us on this path.

However, even if our direction is OK, we still have a problem. We make I, and as a result we perceive the ocean as suffering. Within this I-view, we cannot see clearly and we think that the other shore is far away. Then it is impossible to see that the way out of suffering is nearby. No matter how much effort we put forth, we cannot reach the other shore. The paramitas, which are an expression of our true self, are blinded by our ignorance, by our small I. Only when our wisdom sword cuts through the wall of I-my-me, then the sandbank appears clearly.

This I is created by our thinking. So, only cut off your thinking and return to before thinking. Then you can see clearly and walk the bodhisattva path on the sandbar, transcending the ocean of suffering. This is called the perfection of the six paramitas.