In that we have encountered Buddha and heard the Dharma today, we are indebted for the loving-kindness evinced by the ceaseless practice of each and every Buddha and Ancestor. Had the Buddhas and Ancestors not directly Transmitted the Dharma to us, how could It possibly have reached us in the present? We should repay our indebtedness for even a single line of verse, and we should repay our indebtedness for even a single Teaching. How much more should we repay our immeasurable indebtedness for the unsurpassed great Dharma of the Treasure House of the Eye of the True Teaching! All day long, we should desire to give up our own lives, which have been as innumerable as the sands of the Ganges. In generation after generation, we should bow in deepest respect and make alms offerings to the bodies that we have abandoned for the sake of the Dharma. Together with all the celestial beings, dragons, and divine spirits, we should venerate and esteem these bodies, for they are something to protect and praise, because the principle of gratitude underlying this veneration is indispensable.
The practice of the Brahmans who buy and sell skulls has long been reported in India. They have deeply revered the numerous, meritorious virtues of the skulls and bones of those who have hearkened to the Dharma. Now, if we do not give up our own lives for the sake of the Way, we will not attain the meritorious virtue of having heard the Teaching. If we hearken to the Dharma without giving a thought for life and limb, that hearing of the Dharma will fully ripen, and this skull of ours will be revered. The skull that we have not yet given up for the sake of the Way will one day be tossed in some vacant field and left to bleach in the sun. Who then will bow out of respect for it? Who would buy or sell it as a relic? We surely would look back upon our attitude and spirit of today with regret.
There was once a demon who angrily reduced his former bones to dust, and there was a celestial being who bowed in respect to his former bones. When we think ahead to a time when, no matter what, we will be transformed into dust, those of us who had no attachments to craving in our present life will feel sympathy for others in the future. And this feeling of sympathy that is aroused may well be akin to the tears of an onlooker. Fortunately, by using our present skull—which will ultimately turn to dust and which people may well look upon with disgust—we can ceaselessly practice the True Teaching of the Buddha. For this reason, do not fear suffering from the cold, for suffering from the cold has yet to destroy anyone, nor has it ever destroyed the Way. Do not fear training, for not training is what destroys a person and what destroys the Way. Do not fear the heat of summer, for the heat of summer has yet to destroy anyone, nor has it ever destroyed the Way. Not training can well destroy both a person and the Way. The accepting of barley and the choosing of bracken, which involved both monks and laity, are excellent examples of this. We should not copy hellish creatures and beasts by seeking for blood or seeking for milk. Simply, ceaseless practice all day long is precisely what the everyday practice of Buddhas is.