「法爾如是」及它的解釋（右）“The Dharma is Just This Way” (fa er ru shi 法爾如是 in Chinese) and its explanations. (Right)
Title: Hair is Just This Way, the Dharma is Just This Way
Confucius said he was unconfused at forty, but I am well past forty by several years and still have many questions in life. For instance, why is it that every day I find myself sweeping away fallen black hair, while the white hair on my head continues to increase without fail? The gradual thinning of these “three thousand strands of worry” should be a good thing, shouldn’t it? However, my graying hair seems to still frazzle me. Just thinking about it, I chuckled. These “three thousand strands of worry” are truly living up to their name.
The term “midlife crisis” implies that at the midpoint of life, individuals tend to reflect on the first half of their lives, giving rise to emotions like contentment, regret, dissatisfaction, and bewilderment. If I had the opportunity to inquire about this doubt with Venerable Master Hsing Yun, the founding master of Fo Guang Shan, how would he respond?
In truth, I found the answer in one of his One-Stroke Calligraphy pieces. I believe he would respond, “The Dharma is Just This Way” (fa er ru shi 法爾如是 in Chinese).
Venerable Master explained “The Dharma is Just This Way” on the program “A Human World Replete with the Buddha Dharma” (with Chinese and English subtitles). He said this term is quite common in Buddhist teachings but is less frequently used in everyday society. It is actually quite straightforward, signifying that all truths and principles are just as they are, with no exceptions. Everything, be it a cause, an effect, or anything else, has its reasons and nothing happens without causes.
This is my afterthoughts; the character fa 法 can mean Dharma in Buddhism, but also refers to phenomena. Extending from this, it represents that everything should be as it is, and one should be able to fully accept it without resisting the various changes in life, without harboring judgment towards favorable or unfavorable circumstances, but instead facing them with equanimity.
Why does Venerable Master’s saying “The Dharma is Just This Way” inspire me to accept the teachings? It’s relatively easy to embrace it in favorable circumstances, but what about in adversity? How many people can truly achieve that?
Venerable Master had a challenging life, growing up in mainland China without his father, experiencing the Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese Civil War, and even sleeping among corpses while escaping. His life was marked by countless close encounters with death. Upon coming to Taiwan, he faced the strict martial law and the political climate of the White Terror era, where he was imprisoned and narrowly escaped execution.
Furthermore, Venerable Master once said that he considered his life as “befriending illness.” At age of 70, when his eyesight deteriorated and he could no longer read books or newspapers, he thought of the readers, friends, and organizations that often asked for his autographs and writings. Despite his visual impairment, he decided to write words for them. Unable to see clearly, he could only gauge the spacing between characters in his mind and write with a single stroke, which he called “One-Stroke Calligraphy.” Venerable Master humbly described his less-than-perfect calligraphy by saying, “Don’t look at my words; look at my heart.”
Where is the heart? I particularly appreciate a passage written by Venerable Ru Chang, the director of Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum. She writes, “Where is the heart? As Venerable Master explained, ‘Within words, there is the universe, yet within the heart, there is nothing.’ If there is nothing, how can we see? The wisdom underlying this is worth pondering.”
“One-Stroke Calligraphy,” also known as “Calligraphy After Illness,” originated in 2016 when Venerable Master underwent brain surgery. During his recovery, he continuously wrote his calligraphy and dedicated the charitable proceeds to the scholarship fund for talented but financially challenged young students.
After learning about Venerable Master’s life and the origin of “One-Stroke Calligraphy,” when I read that he summarized his life as “born in suffering, raised in adversity, but joyful throughout,” the word “joyful” deeply moved me. When I heard him say “The Dharma is Just This Way,” I was equally touched.
Now, when I sweep my fallen black hair every day, I try not to complain. Instead, I accept it with equanimity, thinking, “Hair is just this way, and the Dharma is just this way!”