In the order of governing the world, from the emperor down to the common people, each person who has an occupation carries out his own function. Being unsuitable for a position is called “disorganization of the world.” When the manner of governing is in accordance with the will of heaven, the world is at peace and the people are at ease. That is why the emperor rises at one o’clock in the morning and starts the work of governing the world. It is not an easy thing. This is the case with the buddha-dharma too, only the functions and the activities to carry out are different. In the case of the emperor, he personally performs the duties of governing with all his intelligence, considering the precedents from previous ages, while seeking ministers endowed with virtue and ability. When his way of governing is in accordance with the will of heaven it is called a “well-governed world.” If the emperor is negligent in his duties, he goes against the will of heaven, the world becomes disorderly and the people suffer.
The emperor, nobility, high officials, senior officials, common officials, and common people are all in charge of some respective function. A person who executes his duties can be called humane. If someone goes against his duties, he will receive punishment from heaven because he has caused disorder in heaven.
Therefore, students of the buddha-dharma, even though you have left home and parted from the secular world you should not want to spend an easy life. You should not waste time even for a moment. Although in the beginning it may seem profitable, later on it will be the cause of evil influences. Following the way of monks (who have left home), you should fulfill your duties and throw yourself into your practice. In governing the secular world, even if one pursues the precedents, rules, or examples of former rulers, sometimes one has to follow the examples of one’s contemporaries since there is no certain way which has been handed down by the ancient sages or other great people. For the children of the Buddha, however, there are definite precedents and scriptural teachings. There are also teachers who have received the transmission of such traditions. We are capable of reflection. In each action of moving, standing, sitting, and lying down, if we think of the precedents and follow our predecessors in our practice, there is no reason to fail in attaining the Way. In the secular world people wish to be in harmony with the will of heaven. Buddhist practitioners wish to be in harmony with the will of Buddha. The tasks are the same but the result (for the Buddhist) is superior. For great peace and joy (Nirvana) which is never lost once attained depends only upon having the aspiration to make this phantom-like body follow the will of Buddha in this lifetime. Nevertheless, the Buddha’s teachings never encourage making our body suffer meaninglessly. If you follow the demeanor and behavior prescribed in the precepts, your body will be at ease, your behavior will be appropriate, and you will not disturb other people. Therefore abandon bodily pleasures caused by egocentric views and thoroughly follow the Buddha’s precepts.
(Shobogenzo Zuimonki, Book 2 Chapter 23)