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The great way of the Buddha and the patriarchs involves the highest form of exertion, which goes on unceasingly in cycles from the first dawning of religious truth, through the test of discipline and practice, to awakening and nirvana. It is sustained exertion proceeding without lapse from cycle to cycle. Accordingly, it is exertion that is neither self-imposed nor imposed by others but free and uncoerced. The merit of this exertion upholds me and upholds others. The truth is that the benefits of one's own struggles and sustained exertions are shared by all beings in the ten directions. Others may not be aware of this, and we may not realize it ourselves, but it is so. It is through the sustained exertions of the Buddhas and patriarchs that our own exertions are made possible, that we are able to reach the high road of Truth. In exactly the same way it is through our own exertions that the exertions of the Buddhas are made possible and that the Buddhas attain the high road of Truth.
This exertion too sustains the the sun, moon, and the stars; it sustains the earth and sky, body and mind, object and subject, the four elements and five skandhas.
The merits of these exertions are sometimes disclosed, and thus arises the dawn of religious consciousness, which is then tested in practice. Sometimes, however, these merits lie hidden and are neither seen nor heard nor realized. Yet hidden though they may be, they are still available because they suffer no diminution or restriction, whether they are visible or invisible, tangible or intangible.
At this moment a flower blossoms, a leaf falls&emdashit is a manifestation of sustained exertion. A mirror is brightened, a mirror is broken&emdashit is a manifestation of sustained exertion. Everything is exertion. To attempt to avoid exertion is an impossible evasion because the attempt itself is exertion. This sustained exertion is not something that people of the world naturally love or desire; yet, it is the last refuge of all.
From: "To Know Yourself" by Albert Low, Tuttle Publishing, 1997.