Never feel it's too late to pursue a dream

From:Voice of Longquan     Author:Voice of Longquan     Time:2016-06-23 13:13:00
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Fa-hsien's success in accomplishing his ideal regardless of age and weakness indicates that it is never too late to pursue a dream.

To dream of big things is often thought the prerogative of young people, yet this is not always true. Irrespective of age, dreaming big belongs to anyone eager to create a brilliant life.  

In the Chinese history, Xuanzang, a well-known great master, left Chang’an alone for India, at the age of 30, to go on a pilgrimage for Buddhist scriptures. Two hundred and thirty years before his journey, a sixty-year-old monk also set out on the road to India from Chang’an. The old monk was named Fa-hsien. He lived during the East Jin Dynasty.  

If we call Xuanzang’s expedition a magnificent feat, then Fa-hsien’s one should be called a miracle. His journey indicates that the truly decisive factor in accomplishing a great work is the aspiration to set a goal and achieve it with unremitting efforts. Other external factors are also necessary but not decisive.

The young have a healthy physique, full of energy, but a mind lacking in experience and maturity of judgement. In old age, one becomes wise through experience but at the expense of a decline in health and vigor. This is the natural process of human life, and regrets are unavoidable. However, all these were not a big deal in the eyes of Fa-hsien.           

Going to India for Buddhist scriptures was one of Fa-hsien’s great ideals, while to the people around him it was rather like a fantasy because there was no way to convince people he had to make the trip by himself. Presumably before his departure there must be some kind-hearted people trying earnestly to persuade him to give up his crazy idea before it was too late. After all, he was old and weak, and furthermore, trudging thousands of miles on such an arduous and treacherous route would be too much for anyone. Also, others younger than him could go in his place. But, still, Fa-hsien insisted on going.           

Any idea that is born prior to action is a dream. However Fa-hsien’s firm belief in his dream was different from youthful fanaticism. “Fanaticism” makes people with insufficient experience and wisdom behave rashly. All too often, such rashness and naivete, confronted with reality, ends in defeat. Fa-hsien was fully aware of the difficulties of the journey and the enormous price he would have to pay. After days and nights of careful consideration of the pros-and-cons, gradually his thoughts became clear and systematic. This was how his dream became a realizable ideal, with a list of applicable concrete steps he could take as long as he persisted.                        

To make his dream a reality, age and weakness were not Fa-hsien’s biggest obstacles. The great obstacle was the fact that he had to give up the fortune and fame he had achieved over the last 60 years, in order to head for a strange foreign land to start a new undertaking from scratch. If he had still been young, he could have taken the challenge, just like Xuanzang, who had nothing to worry about, because if he failed in India he had plenty of time to make a new start. As one ages, attitudes and actions change from being on the offense to being on the defense. What do the old defend against? They defend their past achievements. Once obsessed with the past, they become more conservative and fussy, impeding any further progress.                    

By casting away all his past achievements, Fa-hsien not only made the trip to India, but also mastered Sanskrit and collected and transcribed voluminous scriptures. He was over 70 when he returned to China. Among the 10 people travelling along with him, only Fa-hsien fulfilled a long-cherished dream. The legendary story of his survival from near death was recorded in a work entitled “Travelling in the Buddhistic Kingdoms”. Fa-hsien’s story represents not only a tremendous historic and cultural gem, but also, or even more, a magnificent monument of the human dream.

Editor: Allison
Tags: dream, Fa-hsien, aspiration, unremitting efforts

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