Old Path White Clouds--by Thich Nhat Hanh
Pippala Leaf (excerpts)
In the past, Siddhartha had looked for ways to vanquish fear, anger, and greed, but the methods he had used had not borne fruit because they were only attempts to suppress such feelings and emotions. Siddhartha now understood that their cause was ignorance, and that when one was liberated from ignorance, mental obscurations would vanish of their own, like shadows fleeing before the rising sun. Siddhartha’s insight was the fruit of his deep concentration.
He smiled, and looked at a pippala leaf imprinted against the blue sky, its tail blowing back and forth as if calling him. Looking deeply at the leaf, he saw clearly the presence of the sun and stars – without the sun, without light and warmth, the leaf could not exist. This was like this, because that was like that. He also saw in the leaf the presence of clouds – without clouds there could be no rain, and without rain the leaf could not be. He saw the earth, time, space and mind – all were present in the leaf. In fact, at that very moment, the entire universe existed in that leaf. The reality of the leaf was a wondrous miracle.
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Impermanence and emptiness of self are the very conditions necessary for life. Without impermanence and emptiness of self, nothing could grow or develop. If a grain of rice did not have the nature of impermanence and emptiness of self, it could not grow into a rice plant. If clouds were not empty of self and impermanent, they could not transform into rain. Without an impermanent, non-self nature, a child could never grow into an adult. ‘Thus’… ‘to accept life means to accept impermanence and emptiness of self. The source of suffering is a false belief in permanence and the existence of separate selves…. If one penetrates into the empty nature of all things, one will transcend all mental barriers, and be liberated from the cycle of suffering.
Reprinted from Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha (1991)
by Thich Nhat Hanh
with permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, California.,