Excerpt from a Dharma Talk by Thich Nhat Hanh, June 11, 2009.
I prefer the term right diligence rather than right effort. Making efforts can make you tired, but when you are diligent, you don’t need to be tired.
I don’t want intensive practice, I want regular practice, diligent practice. There are those of us who practice very intensively for a few weeks and then after that abandon the practice. But there are those of us who practice regularly, not intensive but continuously, that will bring good results. That is why I prefer the word diligence.
Why do you continue to do it? Because I like it. That is a good answer. Because I enjoy doing that. That applies to the practice. If you don’t enjoy the practice you have to make an effort, you get tired, and finally you abandon the practice.
You continue to do it because you like it. It is not because you have to do it. Why did you practice sitting meditation. The best answer is: because I like it. Why do you practice walking meditation? Because I like it. . . .
That is true diligence, right diligence. We know that right diligence brings well-being. The practices of mindful walking, mindful breathing, smiling, bring well-being, happiness.
The Buddha after his enlightenment continued to practice. So practicing is not to become a Buddha. The Buddha is already a Buddha, why does he have to practice? Because he likes it. He likes breathing like that, he likes walking like that, he likes sitting like that, he likes eating like that, because it brings him well being, not because he wants to become a buddha.
So when you ask the Buddha: Dear Buddha, why do you continue to practice sitting meditation, walking meditation, because you are already a Buddha. Because I like it, not because I want to become a Buddha. So that is the best answer: Because I like it.
But there are those of us who do not practice right diligence. They are very diligent, but their diligence is wrong diligence. Wrong diligence can bring ill-being. They are caught in their work. They become workaholic. They don’t have time to take care of themselves. They don’t have time to take care of their beloved ones. They are sucked into the work. They are caught in their work. They cannot leave their computer.
[Someone like that is] always reading the Wall Street Journal instead of looking at his children. At breakfast, instead of looking and smiling at his children, he holds the Wall Street Journal and hides himself from his family. He is totally caught and sucked into his work. He is very diligent. He wants success as a businessman. He always thinks of the value of his stocks. He goes up and down with his stocks. He is very diligent, but that is not right diligence.
He is working so hard. He is making a lot of effort. He is very diligent in his work. But there is no happiness.