Cabinet Making, by Trevor Leggett

Drop-front secretary © The Metropolitan Museum of ArtIn the inner training, we can think of our actions as preparing and fitting together hundreds of pieces to make an elaborate cabinet, which symbolises the central purpose of a directed life. They have to be carefully shaped and fitted together, then they make a beautiful cabinet. We often do not realise clearly that all our actions are of the same nature: they are bits for the ‘cabinet’ which is being made. One piece is as important as the other; some are bigger, some are smaller, but they are all important.

But what we tend to do is to paint each piece, as we take it up, with likes and dislikes, hopes and fears, so that some bits we do not like to touch, some bits we stickily hang on to, some bits we are reluctant to use at all. If we have done this, when they are put together the whole thing is a motley display of clashing colours. Instead of that, if we don’t paint our actions with likes and dislikes or hopes and fears, then the natural grain of the wood has its own beauty. The grain of the action, without the paint of likes and dislikes, when it is planed and shaped and polished, shows its own beauty. There is an inner beauty.

So we should avoid painting our actions with personal like and dislike, and if we have inadvertently allowed some of them to become painted we should sandpaper the paint off by meditation and detachment. Then as the cabinet begins to take shape, it begins to have a subdued glow as it is polished day after day, month after month, year after year. It shows a sort of lustre and gives a quiet radiance to the whole room where it stands.

Life can be like that. If it has been put together without the different actions being coloured and painted with likes and dislikes or hopes and fears and if they have been carefully fitted together, then when it is polished by meditation it begins to shine with a sort of lustre. With furniture the old pieces are prized more and more and the older it gets, the more valuable it is. A good life which has been well lived, well put together and polished, the older it is, the more valuable it is to the world.

Read more articles by Trevor Leggett here.

© 2000 Trevor Leggett



Categories: Beginners, Buddhism, Buddhist meditation, Chan / Seon / Zen, Trevor Leggett

Tags: , , ,

1 reply

  1. Great post thankyou. When we understand the responsibility we have in life and the ripple effect our actions have towards the whole, it reminds us that each decision we have is important.
    Karen

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