Venerable Master Hsing Yun

How heavy is the baggage of life? Besides the physical bags and luggage that we carry around everywhere we go, there are also many types of mental, cultural, life and sentimental baggage that we shoulder. Life is certainly full of trials and tribulations as we are hard pressed to haul our baggage around from our youth to our old age.

When others treat us very well in our relationships, they become baggage for us in terms of emotions and sentiments. If they are unkind to us, we are burdened with negative feelings and rejection. In our family, basic groceries and utilities are our economic baggage.

The right and wrong between self and others, as well as the benevolence and badness of people, can easily become baggage in our constant ethical battles. Our greed, anger, ignorance and worries are often the baggage of our spirit.

In addition to the unavoidable burdens of making a living, people frequently seek more cultural baggage to carry with them. For instance, when building a new home, some people want to verify the “feng shui” of the site, or in opening a new business, they seek the best hour to do so. They are all adding unnecessary weight to their burden. Moreover, some people create extra mental loads for themselves because of a few words somebody says or a gesture somebody makes. There are already so many burdens in life that we have to deal with: our health and physical body, our responsibility to our family, our contributions to society and our love for our country. Life is certainly tough, and in carrying so many burdens of the world, how can we live in ease?

“having” is baggage, so is “not having.”

People enjoy carrying burdens around because, though there are troubles within every load, there is also some joy and laughter. For instance, children are sweet burdens for parents to shoulder. When people help others solve their problems, there are always some not so pleasant burdens attached.

Buddhism teaches us how to deal with baggage. When we need to use it, we pick it up, and when we do not need it anymore, we just put it down. We should learn to pick up things when appropriate, and let them go as necessary. On the other hand, if we do not pick things up when we should, we fail to use them properly and, when we continue to carry a load instead of letting go and living in ease, we will really feel burdened.

We can look to Monk Budai’s philosophy as a reference when we conduct ourselves and handle affairs in life. He could “Carry all in his big belly, carrying everything there is in the world.” He told us to “Laugh all the time, laughing away all the sorrow there is since time!” He often said, “What ease there is in putting down the bag we have carried while walking and sitting!” If we can really let go of the baggage of big and small burdens in life, we can truly live in such ease and peace!