|Buddhism A to Z
Song of Enlightenment with the
Commentary of Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua
Greed, Hatred, and Stupidity Obstruct
Cultivation of the Way
Three Steps One Bow
Songs for Awakening
Sitting in Meditation: Enduring a Beating
by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Sitting in meditation is called in Chinese,"striking up a sit" ( ) The name alone implies havingto endure a beating. Well, who beats who? You beat yourself. "In what way does one beat oneself," you wonder. When most people begin to meditate, they don't go about it in an honest way. They lean to the right, or they lean to the left, or they slump over and fall asleep. In general, they cannot sit still. But it is right at that point that one needs to be in control one needs to sit still. Basically, your mind doesn't want to enter a state of concentration, but you force it to calm down and that's like "beating" it. The secret is to pull your mind back every time it tries to run out, and this requires effort, which at times is as painful as being beaten. Therefore, the very first requisite for sitting in Chan is to endure suffering.This kind of suffering is not so incredible to endure; it's simply being able to take the pain that wells upin your back and legs. And so, the term "striking up a sit" implies an activity that is not a lot of fun; however, if you do not sit, then you will never get any good results.
If it had not endured bone-chilling cold,
How could the plum blossom emit such sweet fragrance?
In America, everyone talks about freedom. Children are allowed to follow their own whims,and none bothers to discipline or guide them. This is a flagrant misunderstanding of freedom. If you do not discipline children in their formative years, they will grow up to be very unruly. Of course, there will be some children who develop in a wholesome way; however, those who fall and flow along with corruption will be in the majority, to the point that those young people will take drugs, kill, set fires,and do all manner of evil, stopping at nothing. All this comes from misunderstanding and abusing freedom.
Some parents, having brought children into the world, don't raise them properly. This is like allowing a young tree to develop branches that stick out in every direction and failing to prune and train the tree. In the future, such a tree will only be fit for firewood and will have no other use. However, if you prune the branches and shape the tree right from the start of its development, then eventually, when the tree matures, it will have a straight and tall trunk and will be fine material for beams and columns.Therefore, having had children, parents must raise them in the proper way and guide them on the right path. Otherwise, they have not fulfilled their responsibility as parents.
The same principle holds true when sitting in Chan. We each have a young child within us - our minds. These minds of ours are very juvenile and, immature. Suddenly they soar up to heaven, suddenly they plummet down to the earth. Suddenly they want to be good; suddenly they want to be bad. Sitting in Chan means using effort right at this place, when you aren't thinking about good and you aren't thinking about evil, right then and there you can pull back your crazy and wild thoughts.
How do you pull back those crazy and wildg thoughts? By following the Six Rules:
1. No fighting. Although it's almost impossible for most people to not have any thoughts of fighting, nonetheless, you need to decrease those thoughts to the best of your ability.
2. No greed. You shouldn't be greedy for wealth or beautiful form. If you pursue those greedy desires, you will never wake up.
3. No seeking. Do not seek outside of yourself, running after things that do not belong to you.
4. No selfishness. The source of all troubles is selfishness, egocentricity. If people aren't selfish, then everything will be peaceful. Wars and disasters will come to a complete stop. Cultivators should not have minds of selfishness. Although you cannot completely get rid of your selfish thoughts overnight, still, you want to try your best to cast themt out.
5. No seeking for personal advantage. Someone wonders, "Isn't sitting in Chan for the purpose of benefiting oneself?" You could say that it is for the purpose of benefiting oneself, but it's also for the purpose of benefiting others. If you can act as a good model, then you will be able to influence others to do good. You should think in this way,"Why is the world a mess?" It is because I myself haven't become good. If I myself become good, then everyone else will become good.
6. No dishonesty. At all times, you want to be honest and true. You don't want to lie to others or to yourself. You don't want to cheat others or cheat yourself.
Those Six Rules are the basic criterion for sitting in meditation. You should have a clear under-standing of them before you begin to sit. One could never finish discussing the benefits of sitting in meditation. However, the same is true of the difficulties of sitting. This is because all things exist in pairs. For every situation, there is always the other side of the coin. What do I mean? Say, for instance, in the daytime you go out to work and through your work you are able to benefit yourself and others. At night you retire to sleep and then you are oblivious to everything. The advantages of sitting in meditation can be compared to your working in the daytime, during which time you are able to benefit yourself and others. The disadvantages of sitting can be compared to people's sleeping at night,during which time they are incapable of doing anything else. Even if one dreams of being engaged in a lot of activity, it doesn't count, because it's only happening in a dream.
Our Hearts Cannot Be Unhappy For A Single Day
Ven. Master Hsuan Hua
All good and Wise Advisors, Happy New Year! Like Professor Tsu, I would like to wish all of you a Happy Chinese New Year in advance! We say, "Happy New Year!" Should we be happy in the old year? We ought to b e happy year after year, month after month, day after day, and moment after moment. Why should we be happy? Happiness does not mean we eat some delicious food and feel happy. Nor does it mean we wear nice clothes, and that makes us happy. Nor is it that we buy a fancy car, or live in a fine house, and that makes us happy.
How should we be happy? In our own natures, we should always be content. As it is said, "Knowing contentment, one is always happy. Able to be patient, one is naturally at peace." We should always be content. In every moment and at all times, we ought to be content. We human beings have more wisdom and more spiritual awareness than animals. We surpass them in every respect. For that reason, we should be content. If we are content, we will be happy and without afflictions. So not only should we be happy when celebrating the new year, we should be happy and free of afflictions all the time. That way, we can "cultivate the ground of the mind and nurture the sky of the nature." If you can make the ground of your mind bright, and the sky of your nature bright, this brightness is the brightness of the Buddha. Why havenỖt we manifested this brightness? ItỖs because we have not truly been able to "cultivate the ground of the mind and nurture the sky of the nature." Therefore, according to Buddhism, if you can be happy all the time, just this is cultivation,
In Vegetable Root Discourses, it says, " With the brilliant wind and unclouded moon, the grass and trees are delighted." At this time, there is a gentle breeze, a clear moon, and few clouds. The grass and trees all thrive and flourish, feeling very joyful. What about "the furious rain and strong wind"? If heaven gets angry, it rains heavily. The falling rain symbolizes heavenỖs tears; heaven is feeling sad. The strong wind refers to a hurricane. When a hurricane blows in, not to mention people, even the birds and beasts are distressed and unhappy. So it says, "With the brilliant wind and unclouded moon, the grass and trees are delighted. With the furious rain and strong wind, the birds and beasts are woeful." Therefore heaven and earth cannot exist for a day without harmony. A personỖs heart cannot be for a moment without happiness. If there are rainstorms and gusty winds, then heaven and earth are not in harmony. "Heaven and earth cannot exist for a day without harmony." There should always be a gentle breeze and an auspicious energy.
"A personỖs heart cannot be for a moment without happiness." In our hearts, we should be happy and joyous all the time. We should be like Maitreya Bodhisattva, who never becomes afflicted, no matter how people treat him. He said, "The Old Fool wears a patched cloak." I am a dumb old man who doesnỖt know anything. The clothes I wear are patched up rags. "He fills his belly with tasteless food." " It is all right if I can get full with simple meals," he says. So he often pats his big belly and says, "See how full I am!" "He mends his clothes to keep out the cold." When my clothes are torn, I mend them. "And lets the myriad things go by." When things come up, he responds; when things are gone, he is still. He handles the myriad things according to their conditions. "If some one scolds the Old FoolẦ" If someone scolds him, "You old freak!" "The Old Fool just says, "Fine!" This old fool will just say, " Good, good. ItỖs great that youỖre scolding me." "If some one beats the Old Fool, he falls down and goes to sleep." If someone beats me, I lie there and take the beating, as if I was asleep. "If someone spits on his face, he lets it dry be itself." If you spit saliva on my face, I let it dry by itself. I wonỖt wipe it off. How is it? "That way, he saves his strength, and you donỖtỖ get afflicted." I save the energy of having to wipe it off. When you see that I do not react or try to spit back at you, You donỖt be afflicted either. "This kind of Paramita is the jewel within the wonderful." Ordinary people do not know how to apply this Paramita, this way to get to the other shore. This is the wonderful of the wonderful, the treasure of the treasure. "If you know this news, why worry about not realizing the Way?" If you know this principle, how could you not accomplish the Way? You will surely accomplish the Way!
Guanyin Bodhisattva Our Brother
There's a Guanshiyin Bodhisattva inside the mind of every living being. Every day we recite Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's name. But what does "Guanshiyin Bodhisattva" mean? "Guan" means "to contemplate", to contemplate all the sounds in the world. To contemplate also means to look. But it doesn't mean looking at things outside; it means looking into the minds of living beings. It's looking to see which living being is free of random thoughts. Once those thoughts are gone and the mind is empty, then one can become enlightened. Therefore, a line of verse states: "People have gathered from the ten directions to study the unconditioned." All of the good men and good women who've come together in this assembly from the ten directions are cultivating "unconditioned dharmas." Reciting the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva is also an unconditioned dharma. Being unconditioned means "there is nothing done and yet there is nothing left undone." This unconditioned dharma is a method for helping us get rid of random thoughts.
When you recite "Namo Guanshiyin Bodhisattva" Guanshiyin Bodhisattva is also mindful of you; there is a mutual mindfulness. It is like when you are thinking about your family members and they are also thinking about you. From limitless eons in the past Guanshiyin Bodhisattva and we have been relatives in Dharma. When did this time begin? What time am I talking about? I'm talking about a time that began with Amitabha Buddha. Amitabha Buddha is the Teaching Host in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss. He is Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's teacher and Guanshiyin Bodhisattva helps Amitabha Buddha to propagate the Pure Land Dharma door. We are the Dharma brothers of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva. Guanyin Bodhisattva is the elder brother of all living beings who have not yet been born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. We living beings are his younger siblings. If I explain it this way, then we become very close relatives. So we are mindful of our brother, and our brother also keeps us in mind. We are Guanyin Bodhisattva's younger brothers, and Guanyin Bodhisattva is our elder brother.
Someone is saying. "How can Guanshiyin Bodhisattva be my elder brother? Doesn't that make me too exalted?" Not only does Guanyin Bodhisattva regard us as his younger brothers he treats all living beings as his younger brothers. Otherwise why would he listen to our sounds and come rescue us from our suffering'? When we living beings get ourselves into trouble, why would Guanshiyin Bodhisattva want to help us out? It's because he sees that all living beings are just the same as his own hands and feet, his own flesh and bones. For this reason, Guanyin Bodhisattva fears neither trouble nor difficulty, and comes to rescue all the living beings who are suffering here in this Saha World. Therefore, none of us should forget our Dharma brother. When we mindfully recite "Namo Guanshiyin Bodhisattva " one time, Guanyin Bodhisattva is also mindful of us.
When we call out to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, we're calling our elder brother. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva then calls out to his younger brothers who are future Bodhisattvas and future Buddhas. If we can regard Guanshiyin Bodhisattva in this way, we'll be even more sincere. We should recite the name of our Dharma brother as sincerely as we can. Don't miss this chance! But as we recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, we shouldn't let our heads droop down. We should lift our heads up and recite with courageous, heroic vigor. Don't appear listless or apathetic. When Guanshiyin Bodhisattva sees our spirit, he'll say to us, "Quickly take my hand!" Then he'll take us toward the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss.
Someone else may be idly thinking, "Why is Guanshiyin Bodhisattva looking, looking, looking all day long? And why am I not allowed to look at anything at all?" You should know that your looking and Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's looking aren't the same. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva looks inside, but you look outside. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva looks at his own nature. He has every living being on his radar screen. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva knows all the idle thoughts that living beings are indulging in. Guanshiyin is always looking at his inner radar. Therefore, the things he looks at and the things you took at are not the same. Because some living beings are far away from him, even a thousand hands and a thousand eyes are not enough. He wants to look at limitless numbers of living beings, but he cannot see them all. For this reason he "reverses the light to reflect within." He turns his hearing back and listens to his own nature. He looks at the living beings of his self nature. He wants to know the pain and suffering they are experiencing, then he goes to save those living beings. On the other hand you are looking outside, forgetting all about your inherent wisdom. That's why I said your looking and his looking are different.
Someone else is having another random thought. "Dharma Master, I don't believe what you're saying at all. Why not? You say we're the brothers of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, but Guanshiyin Bodhisattva is a sage, while we're common mortals. How could common mortals be brothers of a sage? This is very illogical, and I don't buy it." Okay, you may disbelieve as you choose. Your point is well taken. However, your principle expresses the viewpoint of an ordinary person. Because you haven't deeply penetrated the treasury of Sutras, your wisdom isn't as deep as the sea.
The Flower Adornment Sutra says: "The Bodhisattva has this thought: From time without beginning to the present, all living beings and I have been brothers. We have been fathers and mothers to each other. We have been sisters to each other. We have been husbands and wives to each other."' You told me you didn't believe; that's simply because you don't understand the truths in the Flower Adornment Sutra.
Not only does the Bodhisattva see living beings in that way but even the Buddha contemplates living beings and knows that all men were his fathers in the past, and all women were his mothers. Since the Buddha sees living beings as his fathers and mothers, that is why I said Guanyin Bodhisattva sees living beings as his brothers and sisters. How could this principle be unreasonable? You don't believe simply because you don't have this kind of wisdom and knowledge. Or it may be that you don't have enough experience. That's why you're so ignorant and skeptical.
Why does the Buddha want to rescue living beings'? Because he can see that, "All men have been my father, and all women have been my mother." His fathers and mothers are suffering in the six destinies of rebirth. So he wants to rescue living beings at all costs and help his parents escape suffering and attain bliss.
Every day we recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva and bow to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, but when Guanshiyin Bodhisattva appears in person before us, we don't recognize him. That's why I say we living beings are extremely pitiable. What do I mean that if Guanshiyin Bodhisattva appeared in person before us, we wouldn't recognize him? It's our big test. When we recite Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's name, we should learn to be like him. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva possesses great kindness, great compassion, great vows, and great strength. When we recite his name, we should also learn to have his great kindness, great compassion, great vows and great strength. No matter who mistreats us, our minds must remain calm.
No matter who curses at us, we should endure it. No matter who hits us, we should bear it. Even if someone were to kill us, we should also bear it patiently, and recognize it as our rightful due. Why should we see it as our due? Because if we hadn't scolded others in the past, others wouldn't curse at us now. If we hadn't hit someone in the past, he certainly wouldn't come to beat us now. Why would someone want to curse at us, hit us, or kill us? Because in the past, when we were stupid and ignorant, we cursed at him, beat him, or killed him. So in this present life, the same situation has happened to us, and we should repay the debts that we accrued in the past. In the past out of ignorance, we didn't make good our debts. Now that we understand we should honestly acknowledge the unpaid debts. Once our debts are paid, we can see Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, and we can truly count as one of Guanshiyin Bodhisattvas Dharma relatives.
When we are reciting Guanyin Bodhisattva's name, we shouldn't criticize other people as soon as we meet them. If we're always looking at the faults of others, it proves that our own suffering hasn't come to an end. We haven't pulled up the roots of suffering. So all of us must clearly recognize the situations that occur. We must thoroughly understand the Dharma. People who study the Buddhadharma have to be able to use the Buddhadharma. If we cannot use it then no matter how long we cultivate, the Buddhadharma merely remains Buddhadharma, and we are simply us. But if we know how to use it, then we can become one with it; we become indivisibly united with the Buddhadharma.
Patience is of utmost importance; you must endure the things that you ordinarily find unendurable. For instance, maybe you don't want to put up with a scolding, but if someone scolds you, you should be happy about it. Perhaps you don't want to be beaten, but if someone beats you, you should be even happier. Perhaps you don't wish to die, because life is very precious. However, if someone wants to kill you, you should think, "This death can deliver me from the karmic obstacles of this life. He is truly my wise teacher." So all of you should appreciate the Buddhadharma from the opposite side; learn to flip it over. Cultivating the Way is, in fact cultivating from the reverse. How do we flip it over? It is simply a matter of learning to like what you dislike. You shouldn't, however pass on to other peoples the things that you don't like.
If you're like ordinary people who cannot see through or renounce things, if you have not emptied out attachments to self and to dharmas. And if you have the marks of self, others, living beings, and a life span, then you'll have lots of trouble. If you can step back and consider things calmly, then no matter what happens, you'll always be able to put things in perspective and take them in stride. As we study Buddhism, we shouldn't go looking for its truths in lofty and profound places. There is a saying, "The ordinary mind is the Way; the straight mind is the place of cultivation." We should have a straightforward attitude as we cultivate the Way.
As we recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva we shouldn't cling to greedy. Don't say, "I hope that by reciting Guanyin Bodhisattva's name, I can strike it rich.' That's impossible! You might get rich if you don't have any greed, but as soon as you become greedy you won't attain any wealth. Also, there's no need to publicize the fact that you're reciting Guanyin Bodhisattva's name. Don't say to others, "I'm better than you, because I joined a Guanyin Recitation Session at such and such a place, and you didn't." Don't have such vain thoughts. Don't crave fame or benefits and don't be greedy for luxuries or pleasure.
Recite Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's name with an ordinary attitude. Don't scheme or hope for rewards. Don't be like the people who recite the Bodhisattva s name while thinking, "I don't have a son yet. I hope Guanyin Bodhisattva will bring me a son." Other people seek daughters. Some boys recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva hoping to attract a pretty girlfriend. Some girls seek a boyfriend. That's not allowed! When we recite Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's name we should sweep away all such dirty thoughts. Purge thoughts of greed, anger, and stupidity. For example, we should pay no attention to whether the clothes we wear are pretty or not. If they protect us from the cold, that's enough. We shouldn't view our daily food like a gourmet who loves delicacies. If you have such vain thoughts then you haven't recited Guanyin Bodhisattva name with a true mind. If you held Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's name with a true mind, how could you possibly care about eating tasty food or wearing pretty clothes? You should've forgotten all that long ago. The only way to become one with Guanshiyin Bodhisattva is to forget everything else.
There's a Guanshiyin Bodhisattva inside the mind of every living being. As we recite and recollect Guanyin Bodhisattva, we're simply recollecting the Guanyin Bodhisattva inside our minds. Someone may say "I'm looking inside for my mind; why can't I find it? "
If you truly have no mind, then you don't need to recite Guanyin Bodhisattva's name because just that is Guanyin Bodhisattva. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva doesn't have a mind. He doesn't indulge in any idle thoughts and he is totally free of greed, hatred, and stupidity. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva doesn't think, "Today I'll wear some pretty clothes eat some delicious food? Or enjoy some special offerings. He has no attachments and seeks nothing whatsoever. What he does is rescue living beings. He wants all living beings to leave suffering attain bliss end their birth and death and accomplish Buddhahood, yet he seeks nothing from living beings. He hopes that living beings will be able to truly understand the Buddhadharma and become free of greed, anger and stupidity.
As we recite Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's name, we shouldn't be indulging in idle thoughts all day long. We shouldn't say, "I didn't eat anything at all this morning, and tonight there won't be any tea to drink. This is too much suffering! I can't take it. I'm going to run away!" Someone who cultivates with that attitude is worthless.
Education starts from the Womb
Instructional Talk by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Good and Wise Advisors, today we are gathered in this large hall to discuss the question of education. Because education is each and every person's foundation, if we neglect this fundamental question, we are abandoning the root to grasp at branch-tips, thus discarding what is near to seek for what is far away.
From birth onwards, what a person sees and hears shapes that person's behavior. Hence there is the saying: "If near vermilion, one turns red; if near ink, one turns black. Stained with green, one turns green; stained with yellow, one turns yellow." To a greater extent, it can be said that the question of education does not just begin at the time one is born. While one is still inside one's mother's womb, one is already receiving an education. Prenatal influence is such that, if the mother is quite learned, it will predispose her infant to be very intelligent and academically inclined, or if the mother is constantly losing her temper during pregnancy, the baby she gives birth to will surely have a fiery temper. Suppose the expectant mother is exceptionally stubborn and not receptive to anyone's advice, then her baby will be born very stubborn and intransigent, headstrong and not open to suggestions. That is why fetal education is very important.
Women are the mothers of the country's citizens, the foundation of the nation. All women should know how to educate their children, and it should start from the womb. While women are pregnant, they should not contend, they should not be greedy, and they should not engage in vain quests. They ought to reduce selfishness and pursuit of self-benefit, and should not tell lies. If the expectant mother is dishonest, gets into fights, gives way to greed or seeking, and if she is selfish and pursues personal advantages, it will predispose the infant to have the same tendencies. Then her child will not become a good citizen in society. Therefore, parents-to-be should pay particular attention to fetal education.
Once the child is born, it is essential for the parents to serve as exemplary role models. As parents, you should not quarrel or fight, should not be selfish or scheme for self-benefit, should not be greedy, seek or be dishonest. Children learn by mimicry. They imitate what they see. If your behavior is improper, the children will learn the same behavior from you. For example, children gradually learn to talk by imitating adults talking. They are easily influenced. Consequently, parents should not simply rear their children but fail to educate them. To rear your children is to help the country have additional citizens. But if you cannot provide your children with a proper education, you are not fulfilling your responsibility to your country or to society. If you fail to teach your children well and they become problem youths, even to the point of becoming a menace to society, then you, as their parents, are to blame.
Parents should give top priority to teaching their children, and not put earning money and running after fame and profit in first place. They should consider educating their children as of primary importance. Well-educated children are far more valuable than all the money you could earn, because they will grow up knowing how to conduct themselves properly as human beings, and how to have self-respect. Hence, educating children during their pre-school years is the sole responsibility of the parents.
Once the children are in school, their teachers should be fine personal role models for their pupils, inspiring them to develop good moral character and virtue. Students should first learn about filiality toward their parents and respect for their elders. The elementary schools at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas try their utmost to instill the principle of filial respect in their young pupils' minds. The teachers encourage their students to do the household chores for their parents and to accord with their parents' wishes. That is why the parents of young students at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas are very satisfied with the results they see at home.
Teachers should consider educating talented people of the world their "Mandate from Heaven," and take upon themselves the truly great job of providing education through voluntary service. They have the children of the people in their hands, and it is their responsibility to teach those children to become wholesome individuals who do not smoke, drink, take drugs or engage in promiscuous behavior. That is where they should focus their efforts.
The basic cause of the world's demise
Venerable Master Hua's talk on August 22, 1993 in Burlingame
We disciples of the Buddha must not crave new experiences, nor be overly curious and always seeking for the unusual and the unobtainable. The ancients said,
"The ordinary, every-day mind is the Way."
They also said that,
"People follow the Earth, the Earth follows Heaven, Heaven follows the Way, the Way follows Nature."
Anything done in a forced manner will not bring a response with the Way. Therefore, no matter what we do, it is better to let things take their own course, and not be artificial and pretentious. Some people may have been studying Buddhism all their lives, but their greed is greater than anyone else's. I don't know what kind of Buddhism they have been learning. As Buddhists, at all times and places, and no matter what we do, we should let events take their own course, and not be contrived or artificial. We must not be greedy or contentious. We shouldn't always be seeking things while we study Buddhism. Neither must we be selfish, not after self-benefit. Above all, we must not lie. If we can avoid telling lies, we are planting down the roots of sincerity.
Those of you who have parents at home should show them filial respect. Families where siblings dwell together must live in harmony, and not fight among yourselves. Once you start to quarrel, the family looses its atmosphere of warmth and happiness. Look around us : families in every country of the world are falling apart ! Families split up and go their separate ways, people no longer get along peacefully and happily. The ancients said,
"Man and woman together form the fundamental relationship among humans."
We should however, be satisfied with our family and not be discontented; otherwise, you will quarrel every day. A family like this, although it exists, lacks an atmosphere of warmth and happiness. This feeling of kinship and joy does not permit us to be discontented. In some families, people feel always dissatisfied, and discontent with each other. They ask, "Why was I born into such a family !" There is an atmosphere of enmity at home. Then people blame others for their problems, until finally the husband and wife get a divorce. In this way the situation becomes :
"fathers don't resemble fathers, and sons don't act like sons; wives do not act like wives any longer."
There is no peace in the home then, not even for a single moment. The family fights day and night. The marriage of people who don't share the same mind or the same resolve will soon fall apart. Do you realize how many people are getting divorced these days ? There are many more of them than married people. Divorce itself is bad enough, but the consequences of divorce are destroying every country in the world. The source of the destruction of the world lies in disharmony between married couples, which brings about all of the disasters that we experience.
Why do these natural disasters and calamities occur ? Simply because there are too many divorces filling the world. A divorce breaks up the family and the children who come from these families can easily become "troubled adolescents." These youngsters lack a mother and father at home, and thus they have no way to learn to become productive and stable in society. Children with single parents or without parents are pervasive now in the world.
Such children grow up unrestrained, and because there in no way to teach them properly, they learn to kill people, destroy property, take drugs and act out their every selfish desire. In this way, the nation can no longer resemble a nation, and the world is no longer like a world. After you investigate the cause of this phenomenon, you will see that it is because married couples don't know how to manage their family business and think only of getting divorced when problems arise.
Natural disaster and calamities, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, fires, epidemic plaques, and wars will start to occur more and more frequently. Furthermore, countless numbers of people will drown or be injured in airplane crashes, train collisions, and shipwrecks. The cause for all these calamities is divorce between couples. Once people get divorce Yin and Yang in the world fall into disorder. Then nothing goes smoothly any longer, and the world gets out of shape.
So if we want to understand what turned the world bad, we have to investigate its source. We have to search for the place where it went wrong. The answer is the disharmony among married couples. We failed to respect each other and forgot all about the proper courtesy between husband and wife. People these days talk about freedom, but the more we demand liberation, the farther our behavior strays from the standards for humans. It gets to the point, where people are no better than animals. Therefore, the age has gone bad. All of you must clearly understand this point ! It shouldn't be the case that after you study Buddhism for several tens of years or for all your life, you still can't find the root cause for the corruption of this world.
When the relationship between husband and wife goes wrong, seen from above, it's due to a lack of filial respect for parents. Because of quarreling and fighting, we are unable to truly be filial to our parents or steadfast in service to our country. Seen from below, the children that come from quarreling families all become troubled adolescents. The damage brought on above leads to damage in the next generation, so the problem is interrelated.
All you Buddhists, to really understand where the world goes bad, you should know that externally, things turn bad first between husband and wife. Internally, the problem begins with our bad minds. If the minds of people are rotten, then the outside environment grows abnormal, and does not accord with the rules. You can take a look around wherever you go to see if this is true - if a family is out of order and full of conflict, the society won't be peaceful, and the country will not bring forth any talented people or people of worth.
Does anyone have a comment ? I don't know whether you feel that what I said makes any sense or not ?
Dharma talks in Europe
In 1990, the Fifth International Delegation of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association and the Dharma Realm Buddhist University made its first European tour to propagate the Buddhadharma. The delegation returned to the United States at the end of October 1990, after a month-long tour, which included visits to England, Belgium, Poland, and France. Wherever the delegation went its members sincerely and straightforwardly explained the true principles of Buddhism.
In order to perpetuate the heritage of the BuddhaỖs wisdom and cause the Proper Dharma to last long in the world, the Venerable Master Hua advocated to his European audiences that the northern and southern traditions of Buddhism unite and draw in other religions as well. He exhorted people to pay attention to the problems of education, for it is only by reforming education that we can hope to save the world and its people. For the sake of carrying on the BuddhaỖs work, he invited aspiring translators to come to the International Institute for the Translation of Buddhist Texts at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and cooperate in translating the entire Tripitaka (Buddhist canon) into all the worldỖs languages. That would enable the Buddhadharma to nourish peopleỖs minds and draw in all beings.
The Venerable MasterỖs vast and deeply compassionate vows, his lofty virtue, and his extensive practices won the respect of people wherever he went. The Master observed peopleỖs needs and dispositions and taught them accordingly. This volume, Dharma Talks in Europe, is a compilation of the more than twenty talks and lectures that he gave in Europe.
Propagation of the Buddhadharma is EveryoneỖs Responsibility
A talk given on October 6, 1990
At the Amaravati Buddhist Centre in England
Wherever I go, itỖs the same as being at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. There isnỖt any difference. ThatỖs because we are of the same substance as the Dharma Realm. I am extremely happy to have the rare opportunity to come here today. The Buddha spoke all Dharmas in response to the needs and potentials of living beings. Therefore, whether we are of the northern or the southern tradition, we should bring forth the Bodhi resolve to help living beings end birth and death, leave suffering, and attain happiness. Everyone should understand the genuine teachings of the Buddha. We shouldnỖt say, "We represent orthodox Buddhism and you donỖt." If we inflict harm upon ourselves like that, itỖs of no benefit to Buddhism. We want to establish communication between the northern and southern traditions of Buddhism, causing them to unite and merge into one. The southern tradition shouldn't keep going south, and the northern tradition shouldnỖt keep going north. Everyone should meet in the middle, because northern and southern Buddhists are all disciples of the Buddha. It shouldnỖt be that you do your thing, and we do ours, so that the strength of Buddhism gets dispersed into different sects.
When I first left the home life, I looked into why it was that although the doctrines of Buddhism are so perfect and complete, there are so few people in the world who study them? What was the reason for this?
After looking into it, I discovered that it was because the Buddhist scriptures have not yet been translated into the languages of every nation. That is why Buddhism has not become widespread in the world. We have not done like the Catholics and Protestants, who have translated the Bible into every language, so that the people of all nations can understand it as soon as they read it. And so when I left the home-life, I vowed that although I did not know any foreign languages, I wanted to see the Buddhist scriptures translated into every language. Up to this day my vow has not completely been fulfilled, but I am continuing to walk in this direction. If there are people who share the same wish, no matter what country you come from, I hope you will stand together with us and work with us to accomplish this important project.
For this reason the International Institute for the Translation of Buddhist Texts has been founded in Burlingame, south of San Francisco, to carry out the translation work. Whether you are Buddhist of the northern or southern tradition, I hope that everyone can cooperate to translate the Buddhist scriptures into the worldỖs languages. This is a very important task. We should not cause schisms among ourselves--thatỖs only a waste of time and energy, and totally useless. When the Buddha was teaching living beings, he spoke Dharma for forty-nine years and expounded the Sutras in over three hundred assemblies. The people he taught, such as Mahamaudgalyayana, Shariputra, and Mahakashyapa, were the followers of other religions. They originally believed in other religions, but they all came to take refuge in Buddhism. So why canỖt we Buddhists be tolerant of one another and encourage each other to make progress? Why do we stop halfway down the road in order to denounce and criticize each other instead? DoesnỖt that amount to harming our own brothers?
Even though I am someone who doesnỖt understand any foreign languages, I dare to sponsor the translation of the Buddhist canon into all the languages of the world. This very idea of mine has already made the Buddhas happy. If someone like me who doesnỖt know foreign languages wants to do this, then how much the more should those who do know foreign languages apply themselves to this work with serious and diligent effort.
Of course our personal cultivation is extremely important as well. If we can cultivate and attain the Way, we can naturally be of great help to Buddhism. But still, it will only be a temporary contribution. If we can translate the Buddhist canon into the languages of the world, so that the Buddhadharma can enter every personỖs heart, this will be a lasting accomplishment. The propagation of the Buddhadharma is a very important mission, but translating the Buddhist canon is of even greater significance in the propagation of the Buddhadharma.
[EditorỖs note: In October 1990, during the Venerable MasterỖs first Dharma tour in Europe, about fifty people from Poland took refuge with the Master and became Buddhists. Afterwards they formed a group to translate Buddhist Sutras with commentaries into Polish. So far they have translated and published the Venerable MasterỖs commentary on the Earth Store Sutra. They are currently working on the MasterỖs commentary of the Shurangama Sutra.]
Rising Early and Retiring Late, For Whom Are We Busy?
By Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
From morning till night, we should bow to the Buddhas and recite the Buddhas' names to eradicate our obstructions from offenses, and we should be busy for the sake of the Dharma.
Rising up early in the morning, going to bed
at night, for whom are we busy?
Living beings are hard to save: it's pretty sad.
Confused by the wearisome dust,
their natures are upside-down.
Boxing their ears and commanding them directly,
there is still no way to teach them.
Getting up early in the morning and going to bed late at night, many people are busy all day doing all kinds of work. For the sake of whom? In the last analysis, is the person busy for the sake of himself? Is he busy for your sake? Or is he busy for the sake of others? I believe that a lot of people can't come up with a satisfactory answer to this question; even to the point that some people make a point of flippantly saying "busy doin' nothin'."
Ha! That's strange. But indeed, there are people who do things without really knowing why. For example, some people spend every waking moment intent upon their business, almost to the point of perpetual insomnia. This is being busy from morning till night for the sake of money. And so it is with scholarship, farming, laboring, business: if we want any accomplishment, then we can't do as we please or be our own boss, but instead we must get up early and retire late. As a passage from the Book of Odes says,
The cock has already crowed!
The morn is already full!
Oh, that's not the cock that's crowed
It's just the buzzing of a fly.
In ordinary language, we could paraphrase the poem, "It seems that the cock has already crowed. Is it morning already? Oh! That wasn't the cock crowing, it was just the sound of a fly buzzing." This is describing one of the virtuous and wise emperors of old. As an emperor, he didn't sleep easily at night. The whole night long, he thought of nothing but the dawn, when he could get on with the day's business. In his anxiety for the night to pass, he rested so fitfully that he started at the sound of a buzzing fly and mistook it for the cock's crow. This is an instance of [the saying] "The masses will put their trust in him." If there is a humane ruler who is worthy and intelligent, the populace will be able to put away their weapons, let their horses out to the pasture, and live in peace. However, the emperor himself must rise early and retire late, working for the prosperity of the people. How can he not do that?
We who cultivate the Way should also be busy from morning till night, not for the sake of profit, nor for the sake of fame, but for the sake of the Dharma. We should "Serve the Buddhas without laxness in the morning and evening." We should get up early in the morning and go to bed late at night, and every day bow to the Buddhas and recite sutras to display our devotion and sincerity as Buddhist disciples. It should not be that we say the right things but our hearts are false. It should not be that we can talk but not practise.
When we bow to the Buddhas, we should concentrate single-mindedly and show respect with our bodies. Bowing to the Buddhas can eradicate obstructions which result from offenses. It is said, "To bow before the Buddhas can eradicate offenses as numerous as the grains of sand in the Ganges." It is a good thing offenses are formless. If they were solid objects they would fill up worlds as numerous as the Ganges' sands. Therefore, from morning till night, we should bow to the Buddhas and recite the Buddhas' names to eradicate our obstructions from offenses, and we should be busy for the sake of the Dharma.
But living beings' dispositions are extremely difficult to fathom. For instance, if they like to eat sweets and you give them something sour, it makes them unhappy. But on the other hand, if you give sweet things to people who like to eat sour things, then they get upset. That's the way they all are. If you don't understand each individual's disposition, you will have no way to save people. Only the Buddha's wisdom is sufficient to be familiar with living beings' basic natures, and because of that the Buddha can offer teaching that is appropriate to each one. He constantly travels and roams about, accepting toil and suffering in order to save living beings. But even that doesn't suffice to move living beings. They still will not accept the teachings of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. So it is said, "Living beings are hard to save: it's pretty sad." Sad means deep regard to the point of grief. Because living beings are so stupid and upside-down, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas constantly give rise to hearts of great compassion on their behalf.
Why are living beings so hard to save? "Confused by the wearisome dust, their natures are upside-down." That's one answer. Because throughout limitless eons, living beings have become deeply stained by the six defiling objects, the six dusts, they constantly bob around in the sea of suffering, sinking, thrashing, totally upside-down. They take suffering for bliss and the false for the true. Thus people of today become so caught up in "Fashion" that even when the current styles are unattractive and may lead to undesirable reactions, they still compete to stay in fashion. People don't know that the sea of suffering is boundless, but a turn of the head is the other shore. Take military weapons for instance: not only do people fail to get rid of them, they seek to break their own records. Great effort is exerted as they seek to invent new weapons for killing people "the more outrageous the better." If that isn't upside-down, what is?
In order to put an end to living beings' upside-downness, sages and wise advisors earnestly admonish us and repeat their exhortations over and over in order to guide us pitiful creatures. They are like elders who pull on the ears of their youngsters and admonish them directly. But living beings ignore those messages as if they hadn't even heard them, to the point that they employ thousands of methods and hundreds of schemes to hide away their offenses so their teachers and elders won't find out about them. This is truly a case of [the saying] "Boxing their ears and commanding them directly, there is still no way to teach them."
Ah! The talent living beings have for committing offenses is truly endless! Even the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas feel it is hard to save us pitiful creatures. What a sad situation!
The minds and natures of living beings are originally clear and bright, but they've been covered over by countless obstructions from offenses and idle thoughts.
By nature, living beings like happiness and loathe suffering. But because of their stupidity, living beings do not know how to attain the bliss they crave and to leave the suffering they dislike. Therefore, although they always say they are "pursuing happiness," unfortunately they only receive more and more suffering.
Bodhisattvas are kind and compassionate beings who have already become enlightened. They understand the way to leave suffering and attain bliss. Seeing all the pitiful, afflicted living beings, the greatly compassionate Bodhisattvas vow to listen to their sounds and save them from suffering. And so living beings are not totally without hope. If we sincerely recite the great name of Guanyin Bodhisattva, he will save us with his limitless Dharma-power, and enable us to leave suffering and attain bliss. This kind of bliss is the ultimate bliss of the Western Land. By reciting the Bodhisattva's great name, not only can we transcend all the pain and suffering of this world, we can also be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, see the Buddha when our flower opens, and attain the pure and ultimate happiness of permanence, bliss, true self, and purity.
It is said that by reciting the Bodhisattva's name, we can leave suffering and understand our own mind and nature. Is it really that easy? Skeptical and dull living beings might ask that. But the Bodhisattvas are determined to give living beings a bargain, which is the reason they spoke this expedient Dharma-door. Nevertheless, some living beings are still unaware of this supreme bargain. What a pity! Some people say, "I believe that reciting the Bodhisattva's name can dissolve offenses and eradicate suffering, but how can it cause us to understand the mind and see the nature?" A few days ago I used the analogy of making phone calls. Now I will give a simpler analogy.
Suppose a person is blindfolded so that he only sees total darkness. When he tries to walk, he keeps bumping into the walls until he's bruised and terribly sore. However, it doesn't occur to him to take off the blindfold. Luckily, he meets a kind person who sees his miserable state and removes the blindfold for him. Now he can see, and he won't hurt himself by bumping into the walls anymore.
The same principle holds in reciting the Bodhisattva's name. We living beings are like the blindfolded person. He isn't really blind; his eyes are merely covered by a piece of cloth. Likewise, we living beings haven't lost our mind and nature. They are originally clear and bright, but they have been covered over by countless obstructions from offenses and idle thoughts. The Bodhisattva is like the kind person, for he removes the karmic obstructions covering our inherent bright nature, allowing us to return to the source and regain our original face.
We cannot fail to recite the Bodhisattva's name or it would be like the blind man refusing to be helped by others. Bumping into the wall is a small matter, but if he can't see where he's going and he walks into an abyss, his life is certainly in danger.
There are plenty of offenses which we may be tempted to commit in this world, and if we are not careful, we could fall into the abyss of offenses and lose our human body. We may not return for ten thousand eons, and we will regret it for ages. Laypeople! Quickly accept the Bodhisattva's exhortations and recite the Bodhisattva's great name constantly so the Bodhisattva can soon save us from the bitter sea of birth and death!
Asking the Bodhisattva to Disinfect the Planet
Why are we holding a session to recite the name of Earth Treasury Bodhisattva? It's because there are too many disasters in the world now. We want to ask Earth Treasury Bodhisattva, based on the power of his past vows, to dispel all the calamities.
What Earth Treasury Bodhisattva values most is the practice of filiality, because he was filial and compliant to his parents in life after life. But it wasn't easy - he perfected this practice by undergoing many ordeals and hardships. When his parents did not believe in the Triple Jewel, he would respect and comply with their wishes, while using various skillful and expedient Dharma-doors to lead them to have faith in the Triple Jewel. Everywhere he goes, he practices the Bodhisattva path but never gets attached to appearances. That is, he doesn't get attached to the merit of his deeds. He doesn't praise his own virtuous conduct. Even when he saves living beings, he says that the living beings saved themselves; he doesn't want living beings to thank him or bow to him.
Among the ranks of Bodhisattvas, he doesn't feel that he is more eminent than the other Bodhisattvas. He doesn't entertain the idea that his vows are bigger, or that his kindness and compassion are vaster, or that his spiritual powers are greater. No matter what he says or does, he doesn't make a big deal out of it, because he feels he is just carrying out his duty. He doesn't dwell on his own merit. For that reason, all living beings are moved to praise him. and the Buddha himself lauds him. The Buddha does not casually praise a person: he only praises those who are worthy of it. Since Earth Treasury Bodhisattva does not dwell on or advertise his own merit and virtue, he can obtain a response in the Way. Such a response comes naturally: he doesn't use any special method to obtain it. In our own cultivation, we should imitate the spirit of Earth Treasury Bodhisattva and his boundless vow:
As long as the hells are not empty.
I vow not to become a Buddha.
Only when all living beings have been saved
will I accomplish Bodhi.
Every year. we hold the session for the sake of dispelling the poisons in space and in the world. The atmosphere is now very polluted, and there is a poisonous energy brewing in the universe which can't be dispelled. We can only sincerely ask the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to shine their light and cause the invisible but lethal toxic energy to disappear. Therefore all the activities at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas have a direct impact on the state of peace or danger in the world. If the people in this Bodhimanda are not sincere, the world will be in even greater danger!
Mankind has committed too many offenses, and does not have the power to evade the retribution. Today, on the birthday of Earth Treasury Bodhisattva, everyone is reciting the name of Earth Treasury Bodhisattva in unison, hoping the Bodhisattva will be compassionate and cause the world to be peaceful. The possibility of such a response depends on our sincerity. One person's strength is not enough; the entire assembly's strength is required. It is said,
"The unity of purpose is like a strong fortress."
With united strength and wisdom, let us pray for world peace together.
Nowadays, people all have the feeling that the world is not at peace, and is in fact in imminent peril. Therefore, all the temples are praying for world peace now. It was the Buddhist Lecture Hall and Gold Mountain Monastery that started it. and then the temples in Hong Kong and Taiwan followed suit. This confirms that the world is on the brink of disaster, and we must pray for peace. The Bodhimanda that is truly praying for world peace is the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. That's because whenever we hold any Dharma event, we don't hope that a great Dhanna-protector will come and give us a large donation. Every year when the time comes, we just organize the Dharma event without making a lot of commotion. We conduct the affair as usual, whether or not there is a sponsor. because we see it as our obligation and don't expect any reward for doing it. Our only hope is that the Buddha's light will aid us and purge the world of poisonous energy. We hope Guanyin Bodhisattva will anoint our crowns with sweet dew, dispel the disasters and illnesses of living beings, and cancel their sins and increase their blessings. We also hope Earth Treasury Bodhisattva. with the great strength of his vows, will enable living beings to leave suffering and attain bliss, and eradicate all calamity and peril. Reciting the names of Guanyin Bodhisattva and Earth Treasury Bodhisattva is a way to disinfect the world without the use of pesticides or chemical sprays. Rather, sweet dew and Dharma-water are used to dispel the poisonous energy in the world. For each bit that is dispelled, the world obtains a bit of peace. When all the poisonous energy has been purged from the world, living beings will be blessed and mankind will be lucky indeed!
A talk given on September 4, 1982 during an Earth Treasury Recitation Session at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
Good and Evil Are Not Beyond a Single Thought
Ven. Master Hsuan Hua
"Do no evil deeds; practice all good deeds; purify your own mind: this is what all Buddhas teach." This is the truth of Buddhism. The world is a mess because, although everyone understands the above statement, nobody puts it into practice.
In this mediation retreat, we are engaged in reforming our evil ways. This is a perfect chance to turn over a new leaf and start anew. A single thought of evil can cause gales, deluges, and tragic disasters. Yet if every person in the world could uphold the Five Precepts and practice the Ten Good Deeds, the world would enjoy seasonal rains and gentle winds, and all nations and their citizens would be at peace. To put it simply, if everyone from the national leaders down to the ordinary citizens could observe the Five Precepts and practice Ten Good Deeds, they would surely be blessed with ample clothing and sufficient food, and their lives would be satisfying and happy. But any country whose people break the Five Precepts and violate the Ten Good Deeds will, beyond a shadow of a doubt, be full of broken families and civil strife; it will be a poor and weak nation whose citizens suffer deprivation and hardship.
Investigating Chan is simply a process of refraining from killing, stealing, lustful, conduct, lying, and using intoxicants. In the meditation hall, we concentrate our minds on the investigation: raising a question, then letting it go. We busily ask the question "Who?" And look into it all times, putting a stop to all other thoughts. Doing this is nothing less than holding the Five Precepts and putting into practice the Ten Good Deeds. Thus, as soon as we sit down in the meditation hall, we are replete with the Five Precepts and the Ten Good Deeds. For this reason we must not waste time on useless idle thoughts. We should instead seize the time and ask, "Who is mindful of the Buddha?"
During your meditation, you should work hard and advance with determination. Reflect inwardly; seek your true self. Ask yourself, "How many evil thoughts have I created? How many good thoughts? How many idle thoughts have I let arise?" Take an inventory.
Bring forth the good thoughts that have not yet arisen;
Increase the good thoughts that have already arisen.
Suppress the evil thoughts that have not yet emerged;
Wipe out all the evil thoughts that have already occurred.
This is the foundation of a beginnerỖs career in cultivation.
The world faces imminent destruction because peoplesỖ evil thoughts outnumber their good thoughts. A thought of goodness increases the proper energy in the world; a thought of evil increases the worldỖs bad energy. We want to transform bad energy into auspicious, peaceful energy. Bad energy refers to noxious, toxic energy. Each thought of greed increases the harmful energy in the universe. Each thought of hatred increases the harmful energy in the universe. Each thought of stupidity increases the harmful energy in the universe. If we do things using greed, hatred, and stupidity, then the world will be a murky, dark place, and disasters will occur. If we use Precepts, Concentration, and Wisdom to solve our problems, then heaven and earth will be pure and peaceful. ThatỖs why itỖs said that whenever evil people prevail, calamities will abound. Whenever good people prevail, good fortune will abound. In general, both disasters and good fortune are made by people.
The ancients had a saying that goes, "Good and evil are two different roads; you cultivate the one or commit the other as you walk." People who cultivate goodness can leave the Triple Realms; evil doers can fall into the Three Evil Destinies. Both good and evil lie with a single thought. Wisdom is the occurrence of good thoughts; stupidity is the occurrence of evil thoughts.
All things in the world are constantly expounding the Dharma. Some things expound wholesome dharma, while others expound unwholesome dharma. Some things speak of the deviant knowledge and views of heretics and cultists; other things speak of the proper knowledge and views of the Ultimate Meaning of the Middle Way. In other words, those that speak wholesome dharma teach people to see through things, to let them go, to become free. Those that speak unwholesome dharma teach people to preserve their illusions and cling tightly to them. They do not allow people to get free. Why are people muddled and disoriented? ItỖs simply because theyỖre attached and unable to let go of things. An ancient verse reads,
How many of the great heroes from times past
Are lying in the mud beneath the mountains.
So think it over carefully, all of you, and take a good look: of all the people in the world, who can avoid entering the gate of death? Our lives are spent in seeking good reputations; but after we die, where does a good name go? We long for a powerful political office; but after we die, that position vanishes. Everything returns to the void.
The First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty of China built the Great Wall to protect his descendants, so that they could continue as emperors for many generations. Unluckily for him, the rule passed only into the next generation, when his son Hu Hai lasted a mere three years as emperor before being murdered by Zhao Gao, the Prime Minister. WouldnỖt you call this a waste of effort?
From ancient to modern times, from East to West, people who strike it rich or who occupy high status, for the most part, run through their lives in confusion, striving for name and gain and creating huge karmic obstacles in the process. But when they die, they go empty-handed to pay a visit to King Yama, Lord of the Underworld.
When we look at it from this perspective, it compels us to work hard here in our Chan meditation. We must not be lax, nor can we be careless, or else we will miss our chance, and our regrets will come too late. ItỖs said, "An instant of time is an instant of life." Someone may suggest, "Wait until I make a name for myself and get some success, and then I can put it all down and concentrate on cultivating the Way." Unfortunately, time does not wait for people; by then it will be too late.
Whether you practice Chan meditation or recite the BuddhaỖs name, what matters is that you get serious about your cultivation: then any method can lead you out through the gate of birth and death. Then, when you approach your end, your body will suffer no sickness, your mind will not be fettered by craving, youỖll be as if in Chan samadhi, and youỖll go off to rebirth with a smile. ThatỖs called taking charge of your own birth and death!
For Hundreds of Thousands of Years, The Stew in The Pot Has Boiled Up A Resentment Very Hard To Level
Ven. Master Hsuan Hua
In the world today, there are too many who take life and too few people who save lives. Everyone knows only how to kill. Everyone has neglected to liberate life. When you kill someone, he will want to kill you back. This mutual revenge lead to the cycle of rebirth in the world of the five turbidities. When will this cycle of mutual vengeance ever come to an end? The ancients have said, "For hundreds of thousands of years, the stew in the pot has boiled up a resentment very hard to level. If you want to know why there are calamities and wars in the world, just listen to the sounds from a slaughterhouse at midnight." We should base our lives on the words of Confucius: "When I see those who are alive, I do not wish to see them die. When I hear their sounds, I cannot bear to eat their flesh. Therefore, a gentleman does not go near the kitchen." For hundreds of thousands of years until now, thereỖs been a pot of stew. YouỖre eaten from the pot of stew and so have I. This stew is a meat broth. It contains a resentment which is deeper than the sea, which is very hard to level. ItỖs not easy to subdue these feelings of enmity. Do you want to know why there are wars, floods, fires, and epidemics in the world? What is the reason for the suffering, killing, and bloodshed brought on by wars? Why do people seek each other out to take revenge? Because there has been too much killing. If you donỖt understand, just go near by the slaughterhouse and listen to the sounds that come from there at midnightỞthe pigs calling out, the lambs crying, the cows wailing... They are all there pleading, "Please spare our lives, Mister! Please spare our lives, Elder! Please spare our lives Buddha!" But we pretend we donỖt see or hear them crying out, and we go ahead and kill them without second thought. As soon as we kill them, the one thought of hatred that those cows, sheep, and pigs give rise to will lead them to seek revenge in the future. This lead to disaters such as world wars and all kinds of accidental deaths. These all result from the taking of life.
However, even such retribution is not enough. Now the most devastating things are cancer and all kinds of strange diseases. Why have these appeared? Because people have eaten too much meat. Nowadays, the air is polluted, the earth is polluted, and the water is also polluted. This polluted air, polluted earth, and polluted water have produced a toxic substance, and when animals eat food which contains this kind of toxin, the poisonous energy passes into their system. Although it may just stay in their bodies and not take effect, if we eat the meat of these animals, the poison will pass into our bodies and cause us to develop all sorts of strange and incurable diseases.
These diseases which are hard to cure do not happen by chance. Behind them, there is a ghost with a grievance who wants the personỖs life in payment. So now I see a lot of little ghosts everywhere, trying to make people pay with their lives or causing them to suffer various strange diseases. These little ghost were fetuses who were aborted before they had a chance to develop into complete human beings, so they are very ruthless. They may rupture peopleỖs hearts, or injury their livers, kidneys, or gall bladders. They destroy your five organs so that you have to die whether you want to or not. Why are they so malicious? Because you killed them first, and now they want to take revenge. Diseases caused by vengeful ghosts cannot be cured no matter what kind of doctor, Chinese or Western, you see. All you can do is take your meals and wait for death. After you take your last breath, itỖs your turn to seek revenge. What IỖm telling you is the most genuine Sutra!
If I say more, people may not want to listen. However, I have a fault which is that IỖm willing to say something regardless of whether or not people want to hear it. IỖm especially willing to say the things that people donỖt want to hear. So those of you who have come here should prepare yourselves psychologically. You should tell yourself, "I donỖt want to listen, but IỖll be patient for a little while and see what he has to say." What do I want to say? I want to explain the character ( ) for ỔmeatỖ in Chinese. This character ( ) has the element ( ) Ổmouth,Ỗ but the bottom line is left out, meaning that the mouth is open! Why is the mouth open? To eat people! So, "In the character for Ổmeat,Ỗ there are two people." There is a character ( ) ỔpersonỖ inside and another ( ) ỔpersonỖ outside. This show that meat is inseparable from people. However, people should not be inseparably attached to meat. This represents a person who is eating the meat and a person who is being eaten. One personỖs head is sticking out of the mouth, and the other person is inside the mouth. But since the mouth is not closed, that person may fall out. When he fall out, he may become a person again. When he becomes a person again, he will go and eat the person who was eating meat. They mutually devour each other. So, there are two people in the character for ỔmeatỖ, and "The one inside is covering the one outside." The person inside and the person outside are bound up in this relationship. "Living beings eat the flesh of people." Since itỖs people eating people, might that person be my friend? I donỖt know. Could it be my relative? DonỖt know. Could it be my father, mother, or ancestor? DonỖt know. This "not knowing" presents a lot of problems, so it would be best it everyone didnỖt eat meat.
Aside from not eating meat, thereỖs another essential secret to preventing sickness. What is it? Not losing oneỖs temper. If you donỖt have a temper, then your karmic creditors who want to take revenge by making you sick will have a hard time finding you. But as soon as you get mad, thereỖs a hole for the ghost to get in. Once the ghost finds its way in, your illness becomes more and more severe. If you want to be healthy, long-lived, and free from illness, the secret is not to eat meat, not to lose your temper, and not to smoke or drink. These are all ways to stay healthy. You shouldnỖt ruin your body and bring all sorts of illness on yourself. If you do, then youỖll have to find a doctor and pay him money, and still he might not be able to cure you. IsnỖt that a lot of trouble?
When the Foundation is Established,
the Way Comes Forth
Ven. Master Hsuan Hua
Confucius once said, "When there are three people walking, my teacher is bound to be among them. I select their good points and follow them. I take their bad points and change them in myself." From these words, we know that Confucius was a devoted scholar who was one ofa kind. He was also a great educator who was in a class by himself. He was also a great statesman without equal. From these words, we also know that Confucius was humble and not careless. He never became conceited and arrogant. Why do I say this? Because he said that if there were three people, then he would have two teachers: one would be a teacher for him to emulate, and the other would be a teacher he wouldnỖt want to emulate. This is to select the good and follow it: If someone has good points, I will learn from him. If he has bad points, I will change them in myself and not imitate him. Those who are good can be our models, and we can emulate them. Those who are not good can be an example of what we should avoid. So if we can take this principle as our motto in being people, we will be at ease wherever we are. The ancients had this kind of humble and courteous virtue. Thus, it is not without reason that later generations have honored them as sages.
Someone also said, "All people are my teachers." Everyone is my teacher. "I am a teacher for all people." I am also everyoneỖs teacher. Everyone is my professor, and I am also everyoneỖs professor. We learn from each other and rub off on each other. "I always teach myself." I constantly act as my own teacher. Every day, we should briefly reflect on what we have done that day. "Were the things that I did today appropriate? Were they reasonable? Did I do anything unreasonable?" We should frequently examine ourselves. Thus Zengzi said, "I daily examine myself on three pointsỞ whether, in transacting business for others, I may have been not faithful; whether, in intercourse with friends, I may have been not sincere; whether I may have not mastered and practiced the instructions of my teacher."
Zengzi said of himself that he was not a very intelligent person. So the Classic of Filiality (Xiaojing) says, "Zhongni (Confucius) was seated and Zengzi was attending upon him. The Master said, "The ancient kings had the highest virtue and the essentials of the Way. If these are used among the people, they will dwell in harmony and no resentment will arise between the ruler and his subjects. Did you know this?" Zengzi rose from his seat and said, "Seng is not smart. How could he know this?"Ỗ He stood up and respectfully said to his Teacher, Confucius, "I, Seng, am very dull witted. IỖm not able to know about the highest virtue and the essentials of the Way of the ancient kings." If the people can use this, then they will be in harmony and there will be no enmity between the government and the people. This is the great Dharma for governing a nation, cultivating oneself, and regulating the family. Zeng seng said he was not intelligent enough to understand it. Then Confucius said, "We received our body, hair, and skin from our parents and dare not harm them. This is the beginning of filiality.
The Analects say, "A superior person attends to the foundation. Once the foundation is established, the Way comes forth. Are not filiality and fraternal respect the foundation of a person?" A superior person studies the fundamental principles. He devotes his attention to the fundamental principles. "Once the foundation is established, the Way comes forth." When the foundation is established, then the roots will be deep and strong, and the leaves and branches will flourish. The coming forth of the Way is also the coming forth of the root, the establishing of the foundation. "Are not filiality and fraternal respect the foundation of a person?" We must trace back to the source and know what we should pay attention to in our human life. What are the roots that people should seek? Filiality and fraternal respect. We should be filial to our parents and respectful to our elders. This is the most important human obligation. The most important matter is not finishing our studies and making a lot of money. We must fulfill our obligation of filiality and fraternal respectỞthis is our top priority. If we are not filial to our parents, then we are said to have forgotten our roots. People who forget their roots basically donỖt understand what is means to be human. Therefore, our foremost human obligation is to be filial to our parents.
In the West, in English there isnỖt a very obvious explanation of what it means to be filial to oneỖs parents. Being filial to parents means repaying their kindness, the fundamental kindness which ought to be repaid. Our bodies were given to us by our parents. Therefore, we must protect our bodies, making sure that our thoughts are wholesome, our bodies are healthy, our ideas are healthy, our conduct is healthy, and we are healthy all-around. We cannot harm our bodies. That means we cannot use our bodies, given by our parents, to do things that break the law or go against the rules of etiquette. We have to follow the rules, do things in the proper way, and be true and honest people.
What is the human foundation? It is humaneness, righteousness, the Way, virtue, loyalty, and filiality. From the time of our birth, the concept of filial piety should be instilled in each of us and we should pay attention to it. If you can be filial, Lord God will be pleased. If you can be filial, the Bodhisattvas will be pleased. If you can be filial, the Buddhas will be pleased. If you can be filial, your parents wonỖt get mad at you for sure. If you can be filial, you certainly wonỖt compete for advantages against your brothers and sisters. Filial piety is the spirit of heaven and earth and the human foundation.
We should be loyal to our country. To be loyal to the country, we have to be public-spirited and unselfish, perfectly fair and just. We should cherish and protect our own country and not think about invading other countries in thought after thought. If we only protect our own country, then we are being loyal. If we invade other countries, then we are not being loyal. Why is this? If you invade another country, you have to use the lives and wealth of your own country to fight, make war, and kill others. There is a saying, "If war is waged over a piece of land, the slaughtered will fill the wilds. If war is waged over a city, the slaughtered will fill the city." If you fight over land, the ground will be covered with corpses. If you attack a city and massacre the people inside it, the city will be filled with the dead. This is known as "using the countryỖs resources to devour peopleỖs flesh." ItỖs the same as eating people! "Death is insufficient punishment for this crime." Ah! This is a capital crime. If you commit this capital crime, you are not being loyal to your own country, and you are not being wise in your dealings with other countries.
We should always maintain a kind and compassionate attitude and cherish all people. We ought to be benevolent towards everyone. We should take stock of what we do. We should do fewer things to benefit ourselves and not do anything that harms others. We have to develop and expand the qualities of humaneness, righteousness, the Way, virtue, loyalty, and filialityỞthese are the basic requirements for being a person. We should establish this human foundation. Once we do that, we will be healthy all our lives. WeỖll be healthy in body and happy in spirit. It wonỖt be the case that weỖre worried and afflicted to the point that our hair turns white, our eyes grow blurry, and our ears go deaf. It wonỖt be that even when itỖs all over, we still donỖt wake up, weỖre still as puzzled as ever, having spent our entire lives in muddled confusion.
Zero: The Bright Store of Your Own Nature
Ven. Master Hsuan Hua
Living beings are born without a beginning, and die without an end. Without beginning and without end, they transmigrate, revolving in birth and death. Living beings revolve and turn in this beginningless and endless transmigration like dust motes: suddenly up in the heavens, suddenly down on the earth. Just as suddenly they are born as hungry ghosts, or humans, or animals, or hell-dwellers, or asuras. Ah! There is no time at which it all begins, and no time when it ends. It is only when you realize the fruition and become a Buddha that you stop transmigrating in birth and death. Before you become a Buddha, you keep revolving in transmigration. It is said, "Even Bodhisattvas get confused after having gone through rebirth; even Arhats become muddled after having dwelt in the womb." Even if you are a great knight of the Dharma body manifesting in this world, sometimes you may be confused by the current of birth and death and not know how to stop it.
Our birth and death, being born and dying, dying and being born again, is birth and death on a great scale. We also have birth and death on a small scale. There is the day we are born. Although we are born, we will have to die. The day of our death is already set the day we are born. Therefore, our life is birth and death on a great scale. Each passing year brings the death of that year. Thus if we are born one day, we will have to die one day, because once there is birth, there is death. If there is no birth, then there is no death.
As to the "beginningless," most people explain it as there being no beginning and no end. It refers to time without beginning; it started at a kalpa in the beginningless past, and goes to a kalpa in the endless future. What is without a beginning anyway? And what is without an end? This refers to something we all recognize; in English it is called zero, and in Chinese it is called O (ling). This O has no beginning and no end. It is the Absolute, without beginning or end. The beginningless is just the O. If you cut this O open, it becomes a "-" (the Chinese character for ỔoneỖ). This is the beginning. Once there is a one, there is also a two: when you add one to one, that is two. Adding another one makes three, and adding more ones makes four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. From ten, a hundred is produced, and a hundred brings forth a thousand, a thousand transforms into ten thousand, ten thousand further transforms into one hundred thousand, one million, ten million, and a thousand million, up to infinity. That is the beginning of numbers.
In our modern scientific era, we can use rockets to launch satellites into space. The satellite revolves in its orbit in space without stop. That is a beginning. With the help of numerical calculations, we are able to send rockets into space. That is the function of a beginning; itỖs a kind of mathematical transformation. Then is there an end? We donỖt know yet when the end will come. The end corresponds to the stage of emptiness in the four stages of formation, dwelling, decay, and emptiness in the kalpa (eon) of formation is a beginning. Formation lasts for twenty small kalpas. Then there is dwelling for twenty small kalpas, decay for twenty small kalpas, and emptiness for twenty small kalpas. One could say that this is a beginning and an end.
Where would you say all these living beings that have appeared since beginningless kalpas come from? LetỖs investigate. Take human beings, for example. Did man exist before woman or woman before man? If you say man appeared before woman, then without a woman how could there be any men? If you say woman appeared before man, then without a man how could there be any women? This is the "beginningless"Ởwe donỖt know where it started. Chickens are another example. Would you say the chicken came before the egg, or the egg before the chicken? For beginningless kalpas there were no chickens. Then how did one come into existence? We may say it was born from an egg. Well, if there were no chickens, how could there be eggs? Our investigation cannot provide a clear understanding of this principle; it comes from the beginningless. People also came from the beginningless, from the O.
This O is beginningless and endless; it has neither inside nor outside; it is neither big nor small. In its minutest aspect, the O equals a dust mote. If we expand it, it is equal to the Dharma Realm. To the ends of the empty space, throughout the Dharma Realm, nothing is beyond this O. If the empty space throughout the Dharma Realm is smashed into dust motes, not a single mote is apart from this O. Therefore, the O is the source of the myriad births and transformations. It is the principle of true emptiness and wonderful existence without beginning or end. When this O is expanded, it becomes empty space, the Dharma Realm. That is true emptiness. When it is shrunk, it becomes a dust mote. Though a dust mote is tiny, it is wonderful existence. Therefore, beginningless kalpas have no beginning. This O is true emptiness, and it is wonderful existence. All of you, think about this! If you can understand this principle, you understand the true Dharma. If you canỖt understand this principle, youỖre still a confused person, having no real wisdom.
If you have attained enlightenment, this O is great bright wisdom. If you havenỖt attained enlightenment, then itỖs ignorance. Ignorance is just the O, and great bright wisdom is also the O. Thus the O is beginningless and endless; it has neither inside nor outside; it is neither big nor small. ItỖs so big thereỖs nothing outside of it, nothing is bigger. When you draw this O, you can make it as big as possible, or as small as possible. Therefore, it is so big thereỖs nothing outside it, and so small thereỖs nothing inside it. Its bigness transforms into the pure and clean fundamental source, the wonderful true nature. Its smallness and hiddenness is the single initial thought of your ignorance. This is how I explain "beginningless."
Transmigrating in birth and death is the O. The so-called transmigration in the six paths is just revolving within the O. Before this circle is broken, living beings are born and die, die and are born again, revolving in the O for countless great kalpas. This is called eternally revolving in birth and death. DonỖt you think this word "eternally" is horrifying? It is! You keep turning Ổround and Ổround in transmigration. Why do you revolve eternally? Because your thoughts are produced and extinguished one after another. When you give rise to one defiled thought, you become an animal, or a hungry ghost, or fall into the hells. If you incline toward purity, you may be born a human or an asura, or ascend to the heavens. All this transmigration is caused by your mind. Because our mind has created the corresponding karma, we receive the retribution of transmigration. Such karma does not start when we receive the retribution. In reality, you had lots of false thoughts in the past. With false thoughts about the heavens, you are born in the heavens; with false thoughts about asuras, you are born an asura; with false thoughts of being human, you are born a human; with false thoughts of animals, you are born an animal; with false thoughts of hungry ghosts, you are born a hungry ghost; with false thoughts of hells, you fall into the hells. If you always create offenses, you fall into the three evil paths; if you always establish wholesome merit and virtue, you ascend to the three good paths. This is just a general explanation. If I were to explain this in detail, I wouldnỖt be able to finish to the end of time. In short, this world is created from living beingsỖ false thoughts. If no one had any false thoughts, then this world would be empty.
Living beings donỖt understand this Dharma of the real appearance of true emptiness, the Dharma of the real appearance of true suchness, the Dharma of true emptiness and wonderful existence. All of these are called actual Dharma. The Dharma of true emptiness and wonderful existence is just the O mentioned above. The great heaven and earth are produced from the O; so is this vast world, the numerous living beings, and all other things. Because the O does not fall into the category of numbers, it is not within numbers. It is beyond numbers or reckoning. It has no beginning or end, no inside or outside, no big or small. "When released, it fills the six directions. When rolled up, it retreats and hides away in a secret place." The actual Dharma is just this Dharma of true emptiness and wonderful existence. True emptiness is not empty. Why? Because it contains wonderful existence. Wonderful existence does not exist. Why? Because it encompasses true emptiness. It is said, "True emptiness does not obstruct wonderful existence; wonderful existence does not hinder true emptiness." This principle resolves the question of whether the man came first or the woman came first. It also resolves the question of whether the chicken came first or the egg. The O can solve all problems. Why? Because the O is true emptiness. From it, wonderful existence and the myriad things manifest. Yet this wonderful existence is not separate from true emptiness. Without having attained the Dharma of the mind-seal of the Buddhas you cannot understand this state. If you understand the mind-to-mind-seal Dharma-door of the Buddhas, you will understand this Dharma. Therefore, it is said, "The actual Dharma is not understood."
Living beings are forever adding a head on top of a head, or seeking outside, and donỖt know that they should reflect upon themselves. This true Dharma is inherent in the self-nature, it abides constantly and originally in the self-nature. One doesnỖt need to seek outside for it. If you go outside to try to find it, you can spend eighty thousand great kalpas and you still wonỖt be able to find it. However, if you can return the light and look within, itỖs there instantly. It is said, "The sea of suffering is boundless, but a turn of the head is the other shore." That is to say, when you seek outside, just that is the boundless sea of suffering; when you reflect within and work on your self-nature, just that is the other shore you find upon turning your head.
We people are all upside down. From morning to night we pursue false conditions, follow the six sense organs and the six defiling objects, and do not understand the actual Dharma. In the eternal still light, the Buddhas enter samadhi in full lotus posture. They come to this world in their samadhi. Why? Because they see how truly pathetic we foolish living beings are, forgetting the real and clinging to the false. We donỖt know how to turn from delusion and return to enlightenment, how to turn from the false and return to the real, how to use the false to facilitate the cultivation of the real, and how to reflect upon ourselves. We are truly pathetic. Therefore, in their samadhi, all the Buddhas give rise to a greatly compassionate mind and come to this world to point out our confusion. However, we seek false conditions and donỖt recognize this actual Dharma. The more the Buddha speaks Dharma to us, the more we keep retreating. The Buddha shakes his head in frustration; he is at a loss. What can we do if the Buddha is at a loss? Well, you can turn around. When you do so, the Buddha will come face to face with you, to teach and transform you. Therefore, it is said, "Thus all Buddhas appear in the world."
This actual Dharma cannot be destroyed by any externalist ways. If you understand the actual Dharma, you know it encompasses everything throughout empty space and the Dharma Realm. Buddhas, demons, heavenly demons, and externalist ways are all included in this true Dharma; nothing is outside the Dharma Realm. Therefore, even the heavenly demons and those of externalist ways should follow and accord with the proper Dharma. Why? Because they are unable to destroy it. The proper Dharma cannot be destroyed by anyone. If one were able to destroy it, it wouldnỖt be the actual Dharma. The actual Dharma is indestructible.
The great brightness of self-mastery is just this O. When you have perfected your cultivation, the great bright store will manifest the great awesome spiritual power of self-mastery will appear. This great bright store pervades empty space and the Dharma Realm. Thus the Buddha comes to universally guide all living beings in this world through the Dharma-doors of leaving birth and death, of reflecting upon oneself, and of returning to the source. Your great bright wisdom can shatter ignorance and reveal the inherent Dharma nature. If you donỖt believe what I say, just go ahead and try it out. When the time is ripe, you wonỖt be able to disbelieve it. YouỖll believe it even if you donỖt want to. Because thatỖs the way it is. How can you not believe? This great bright store is originally your own, itỖs not given to you by other people, nor is it given to you by the Buddhas. It is inherently yours.
Although our time in the world will be over in the blink of an eye, no one is ready to put it all down. People are attached to this and that, and feel that everything in this world is real. And so they scheme and plot for fame and profit, fighting and doing muddled things that go against their conscience for the sake of these two things. In the end, those who sought fame die in their quest for fame; those who chased after profit die in their pursuit of profit. All their lives they fought and competed in their confused desire for fame and profit. Why? Because they didn't recognize the three poisons of greed, hatred, and stupidity. These three are more lethal than ordinary poisons. Ordinary poisons harm the body, but not the mind. These three poisons harm both the body and the mind. They make people go insane. On a small scale, they destroy families; on a larger scale, they can ruin the country and even the world. And so these three poisons are the common enemy of all humankind.
Why do murder, arson, rape, and robbery occcur in the world? Because of people's greed, hatred, and stupidity. The three poisons at work cause people to be insatiably greedy. If they cannot obtain what they want, they feel hatred. In a minor case, the hatred remains hidden in their minds. In a more serious case, their hatred may lead them to start a fight or even a war. When that happens, the world naturally wonỖt be safe or peaceful.
On the other hand, if people's minds are pure and undefiled and everyone behaves in a kind and compassionate manner, "treating all elders as their own parents, and treating all children as their own children," the world will naturally be peaceful and free of wars.
To resolve the world's problems at a fundamental level, we must deal with the three poisons; we have to think of a way to cause people not to be greedy, hateful, or stupid. How can this be done? The only way is to get them to believe in Buddhism. In Buddhism the objective is to "diligently cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom; and extinguish greed, hatred, and stupidity." This is the fundamental solution. If people hold the five precepts, they will not be greedy. If they have samadhi, they will be free of hatred. If they are wise, they can break through stupidity. The three poisons are like a contagious disease, and the three studies (precepts, samadhi, and wisdom) work like a wonder drug that can swiftly bring a cure.
If all people study Buddhism, they will all be free of the three poisons, and then the problems of the world will be solved. However, this wonỖt happen easily. Why not? Because modern people do not think the way the ancients did, and because ethics and virtue have been forgotten. People cheat each other and try to get what they want by hook or by crook. They only care about profit, not about being fair and honest. For example, greedy merchants cheat their customers by diluting their liquor with water. There's an old Chinese saying, "Hanging out a sheep's head, but selling dog meat." The merchants of old took pride in selling genuine goods at honest prices; they didn't cheat children or old ladies. But modern merchants are not so ethical. They charge sky-high prices and then haggle with buyers. Neither side is honest. Honest vendors put out a sign saying "fixed prices" to avoid the trouble of haggling. Why do people cheat? Simply because they are greedy for profit.
Even the honest farmer has been influenced by the businessman and is no longer honest. Farmers use chemical fertilizers on their grains and fruit trees and feed their livestock and poultry with growth-stimulating chemically manufactured feeds, slowly poisoning the consumers of their products. Such conduct amounts to harming human life for the sake of profit, and should be prohibited by law. And yet these people are free to do as they please; the lack of laws actually encourages them. The crime of making money with no concern for human life is ten times greater than that of diluting liquor with water. The number of cancer cases is growing every day due to these unethical businessmen and farmers. People who have woken up to this fact have been advocating organically grown and unprocessed natural foods.
Gluttonous people, however, have ignored their appeals. They continue to consume huge quantities of meat and fish, filling their stomachs with them. What they are really doing is ingesting a time bomb. When the bomb goes off, their blood vessels will rupture and they will have a stroke or even die. Although there are many examples of this, no one takes heed.
From this we can see how unspeakably harmful greed, hatred, and stupidity are. Not only are worldly people the victims of these three poisons, even cultivators, if they are not careful, can be fooled and harmed by them. That's why I say that greed, hatred, and stupidity can obstruct cultivation of the Way. Right when you obtain a little bit of skill in samadhi, the fire of ignorance will burn it up. How can you be free of the fire of ignorance? Cultivate the Dharma-door of the paramita of patience; never lose your temper. This is very important. If you don't lose your temper, you will develop wisdom. The light of that wisdom will shine through the darkness of stupidity. Without dark thoughts, your conduct will be great, bright, and proper.
How should you cultivate? First of all, you have to uphold the precepts. If you can uphold the precepts, you will develop samadhi, and samadhi gives rise to wisdom. When you are replete with the three studies of precepts, samadhi, and wisdom, the three poisons of greed, hatred, and stupidity will spontaneously disappear.
To Repent and Reform Means to Change Our Faults and Turn Over a New Leaf
--By Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
If one is truly repentant, it can certainly be worked out.
of the Buddhas is tremendous, and yet the karma of living beings is equal
to it. Thus living beings are said to be "weighed down by karma and
confusing emotions," whereas the Buddhas "have ended their karma and
emptied their emotions." So the difference between a sage and a commoner
lies in whether one can end karma and empty out emotions. Another saying
Enlightened, one is a Buddha. Confused, one is a living being.
Since living beings turn their backs on enlightenment and unite with defilement, being turned by the wearisome defilement of the five desires, their karmic obstacles become deeper and deeper. On the other hand, the Buddhas can transcend the sordid defilements of the five desires and avoid creating additional karma. Because living beings have such heavy karma, one who wishes to become a Buddha and realize the Way must first repent of his karmic offenses. If one hopes to become a Buddha without being repentant, it's like cooking sand and hoping to get rice. You can cook for as many eons as there are sands in the Ganges River, but you'll never succeed.
"Repentance" means repenting of past errors, feeling a great sense of shame and remorse for the transgressions we made in the past. "Reform" means turning away from future errors, resolving to turn over a new leaf, and never making those mistakes again. This is just what the layman Yuan Liaofan said,
Regard everything in the past as if you died yesterday. Regard everything in the future as if you were born today.
If we don't repent with diligence, then the karma from the offenses we committed will make us fall, and who knows when and where we will stop. All Buddhists should remember that when they first took refuge, they stated their full name and then repeated by saying the following:
From time without beginning until the present life,I have slandered the Triple Jewel, been an icchantika, Slandered the Great Vehicle Sutras, Cut off the study of Prajna, Killed my father and mother, Shed the Buddha's blood, Defiled the Sangharama, Ruined the pure conduct of others. Burned and wrecked stupas and temples, Stolen the property of the Sangha, Held deviant views, denied cause and effect, Been intimate with evil friends, Turned away from good teachers . . .
Now to refresh everyone's memory. I will very briefly explain this passage of repentance for everyone.
From eons without beginning, up to today, the karma from the offenses we have committed cannot be reckoned. First of all, we have slandered the Triple Jewel: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Among these, the offense of slandering the Sangha is the gravest, because the members of the Sangha represent the Buddha in propagating and transmitting the Buddhadharma. Therefore, one is not allowed to eradicate the offense of slandering the Sangha through repentance. What is an "icchantika"? It's a Sanskrit word which means "incomplete faith" and "lacking good roots." If you try to speak the Dharma to these people, they don't want to listen. They may even tell you straight out, "I don't believe it." Wouldn't you say they've cut off all their good roots?
"Slandered the Great Vehicle Sutras" means, for instance, saying that the principles in the Buddhist Sutras are false, that the Great Vehicle Sutras were spoken by demon kings, and so forth. This sort of offense cannot be pardoned through repentance. "Prajna" is also Sanskrit and means "wisdom." There are three kinds of Prajna: Real Mark Prajna, Contemplative Prajna, and Literary Prajna. If you don't study any kind of Prajna, you will be stupid. The retribution of stupidity is that you will fall into the destiny of animals.
"Killed my father and mother" also includes the offenses of killing an Arhat and killing a sage. One example is Devadatta killing a Fourth Stage Arhat.
Next, "shedding the Buddha's blood" is also an offense for which repentance is not accepted. Many people wrongly think this offense only means actually cutting the Buddha's body with a knife when the Buddha was in the world. In fact, after the Buddha entered Nirvana, damaging Buddha images in any way also counts as this kind of offense. This includes peeling the gold paint off the Buddha images, ruining Buddha images, and so forth. Although this does not harm the Buddha physically, it is equivalent to cutting the Buddha's body with a knife. "Defiling the Sangharama" means profaning the pure temple. An example would be if married couples living on temple grounds engage in indecent activities, eat meat, kill living creatures, and so on. "Ruining the pure conduct of others" means inducing left-home people who were pure and undefiled to break the precepts. Repentance is not allowed for this either.
"Burning and wrecking stupas and temples" means setting fire to and damaging Buddhist temples, just as Feng Yuxiang set fire to White Horse Monastery and Shaolin Monastery in the past. "Stealing the property of the Sangha" means using improper methods to seize the wealth and property of the permanent dwelling. The people who do that all hold deviant knowledge and views. They think they are right, and they insist that there is no cause and effect. Acting rebelliously, they stop at no evil. There's nothing they won't do. How can they not fall?
Finally, we'll talk about "being intimate with evil friends, and turning away from good teachers." In Confucianism, evil friends are called "harmful friends." For example, we should not associate with tramps, gangsters, and so forth, because they are considered evil friends. Some people associate with such harmful friends and gradually stray onto the wrong road themselves. Refusing to listen to their teachers' exhortations, they will do all kinds of evil. They can't tell the difference between right and wrong, and they act in upside-down ways. Wouldn't you say they are pitiful?
offenses mentioned above are all extremely serious, yet very easy to
commit. If one has unfortunately committed them already, what should be
done? Don't be dishearted, because "Offenses may fill the skies. Repent,
and they disappear." Offenses have no shape or form, and if one is truly
Repentant, it can certainly be worked out. No one should give up on
himself and be resigned to falling!
The Seven Emotions
If the seven emotions of happiness, anger, grief, fear, love, hate, and desire are applied inappropriately, they can bring harm. When they are applied appropriately, even though there is no harm, there is also no great benefit. Cultivators should be able to control these seven kinds of emotion. They should not deal with things at an emotional level, nor compromise the Buddhadharma because of emotional attachments.
When there are no stirrings of happiness, anger, grief, or joy, the mind is in a state of equilibrium. When those feelings have been stirred, and they act in their due degree (neither too little nor too much), there ensues a state of harmony. This equilibrium is the great root (the basis) of all things in the world, and this harmony is the universal path which they all should pursue. Therefore cultivators should know how to apply the seven emotions appropriately and in moderation.
There are also ten kinds of harm that come from lack of moderation. If cultivators do not know these, they will encounter problems.
In our lives we should decide upon our principles and practice according to them.
The Buddhadharma is Completly Fair
The Buddhadharma is very subtle and wonderful. When you are inside the Buddhadharma, you can't detect any advantage, and when you are outside the Buddhadhamia, you don't feel any disadvantage. But in Buddhism, the retribution you receive for each share of merit and each share of offense you create will not be off by a hairsbreadth. In Buddhism, there is also the greatest freedom and the greatest equality. It is not despotic or biased in the least.
Why is it said to be equal? It's because if any living being, whether it's a hungry ghost, hell-being, evil spirit, ferocious beast, wicked person, or bad person, brings forth the resolve to cultivate, then "a turn of the head is the other shore," and that being can become a Buddha. Buddhists are unlike extemalists who advocate that bad or wicked people are eternally bad and beyond redemption, and that ferocious tigers and evil beasts, being wild by nature, cannot be saved.
During the Ming dynasty, there was the Great Master Lianchi who accepted a tiger as his disciple. This tiger disciple accompanied him around and protected him. As tigers are known to be vicious beasts, everyone was terrified upon seeing it. Thereupon Great Master Lianchi told the tiger to walk backwards instead of forward. When the tiger did this, the people felt assured that it was tame, and they were no longer afraid of it. The tiger went everywhere to raise funds for the Great Master. People all crowded in to make offerings when they saw this good tiger coming. So it is said that tigers can also take reftuge with the Triple Jewel, protect the Buddhadharma and become Buddhas.
Buddhism gives people the greatest freedom, because in Buddhism, people are only exhorted to practice good deeds and abstain from evil deeds. If you do evil, you yourself must suffer the retribution. But Buddhism doesn't force people to do good, and would not say, "If you don't listen, and you keep making bad karma, I'll build a prison and lock you up in it." That's because everything is made from the mind alone. The heavens and the hells are created based on people's thoughts and the force of their karma. Thus the Buddhadharma teaches people to "Abstain from all evil and offer up all good conduct," and explains the law of cause and effect, which never misses by even a hairsbreadth. It teaches people to recognize the truth and transcend the cycle of birth and death.
Songs for Awakening
Bhikshu Heng Sure
I walked into Tathagatha Monastery cafeteria one Saturday noon during a Buddha's birthday celebration. A loudspeaker blared the drumbeat and jingling chords of some rock'n roll tune I'd never heard before. My ears reeled, my body unconsciously responded in an organic "first thought'' reflex. I felt invaded, defiled. The pulsing music hit my mind like drops of ink on a white sheet. It was the first and only time I heard "Songs for Awakening.'' The words may have Dharma-inspired, but the back-alley rhythm of the bass and drums turned the pure Way-place briefly into a Saturday afternoon sock hop at the YMCA. The song echoed in my mind for weeks. It would rise just at the gate of stillness and set the warm embers on fire once more. Samanhi power for beginners is hard-earned and easily lost. The experience was a good advisor in reverse: I saw clearly that I have a deep lingering attachment to the dust of sounds. Having no genuine samadhi, my ears are still cocked for the sounds of drums, guitars, flutes, and female voices. I used to listen to these for hours on end. The Way-place is a hospital, a refuge for ears scared by worldly sounds. Proper Dharma purifies the ears with the Buddha' s voice of sweetdew. To met rock' n roll in the monastery dining hall shocked me back into old grooves I want very much to forget...
Looked at a TIME magazine clipping last month for the first time in six years. Felt like I'd ripped the petals off a delicate wildflower in my mind. The reverberations from reading the articles, and scanning the ads and photos trashed my concentration for weeks after. Why? Real samanhi takes time to mature and to gain strength. The slightest mote of worldly dust before one' s samadhi power is solid is all it takes to mar the mirror of the mind.
With one thought unproduced,
the entire substance manifests.
When the six organs suddenly move,
you've covered by clouds.
Read a piece on Scientology in the TIME clipping and recalled old friends who'd gotten tangled in web of that curious religion. Emotions flooded my mind. Looked at the faces in the photos next to the text and began reflexively to analyze them in terms of physiognomy, a parlor trick I haven't played for years. Fortune-telling used to amuse friends but it's a deviant livelihood for a Bhikshu. All the same, the old habit energy responded at a glance. Pointed out my observations to Heng Ch'au. He warned me of my error but the words were already in the air. The tongue moves quick as a snake and gossip is an offense!
HENG SURE, June 18, 1978
Sunday"SONG OF THE DHARMA-DOCTOR"
I. I thought I would a doctor be,
foremost in all the land.
I would eradicate disease,
with skillful healing hands.
I saw a lot of suffering
and began to wonder why,
We worry so about our health,
when in the end we die.
(Repeat last line)
II. I asked the question high
and I asked the question low:
Where do we really come from?
At death, where do we go?
A man said, "Buddha answered that
3000 years ago.
Go ask the Dharma-doctor
for what you want to know."
(Repeat last line)
III. I found the Buddhist temple
and a monk with merry eyes.
Why do we get sick? I asked him;
why do people die?
"Everything's impermanent," he said,
"I think you'll find that
birth and death's the big disease.
It all comes from the mind."
IV. "It's evil thoughts that hurt," he said,
"It's what you say and do.
It's called the karmic law.
What you send out comes back to you.
As is the seed, so is the fruit;
like cause so is effect.
And when you break the rules,
you hang a rope around your neck.
V. If you kill and steal and lust,
if you drink and lie,
You'll get reborn again
until your karma's purified.
When the bag of bones gives out,
your suffering's not done,
Until your karmic debts are paid,
you'll get another one.
VI. Even though your spirit leaves this
fragile bag of skin,
Until you purge the poisons three,
you'll get reborn again.
How can you stop your evil ways
and do what's good instead?
"Just put an end to poisons three," the Dharma-doctor said.
VII. "The poisons three are greed and anger,
Greed for wealth and sex and fame
and food and sleep," said he.
With Five Desires unsatisfied our angry
And stupidly we break the rules -
all sickness begins here.
VIII. Living beings are upside-down,
our habits hard to break.
The Doctor gives us medicine,
which we forget to take.
The Buddha tells us many times,
we walk a dead-end road.
We nod and say "I understand,"
But that's the way we go.
IX. The Buddha left three medicines
for living beings to take.
Precepts heal the mind of greed,
samadhi conquers hate.
Wisdom is the perfect herb
to cure stupidity.
That's the Buddhadharma's way,
to end the poisons three.
X. Precepts are the rules,
a shield to guard our energy.
Samadhi means to fix the mind.
Wisdom sets you free.
So keep the rules and fix the mind,
When all your karma's purified,
you've ended birth and death.
XI. Buddhadharma is a tonic. Medicine superb.
It's like a panacea, like a cure-all healing herb.
It gives us wisdom and compassion, for all living things.
That's the state of perfect health, the Buddhadharma brings.
XII. The Buddha is the Healing King
with cures for all our ills.
But he doesn't sell us potions
and he doesn't send us bills.
His medicine is Dharma.
It's not on the drugstore shelf.
The Dharma-doctor shows us how,
and then says "heal yourself."
XIII. Well since that day I met the monk,
my whole new life began.
I used to want to heal the body,
now I've changed my plan.
I'm going to cultivate the Way
and leave desire behind.
I'm going to cure the poisons three,
inside of my own mind.
Heng Sure, November 1, 1978
Out in the boondocks once again, contemplating the power of Way-virtue. In Chinese, it's two words "tao" and "te" sometimes translated as "the Way and its power" or "the Way and its attributes." Way-virtue is called "the only force that can cut without harming." Sages with fully-developed Way-virtue can effortlessly harmonize heaven and earth and wordlessly inspire people to change for the better.
North of Santa Cruz the traces of civilization grow thin and gradually fall away. Sprout fields, ocean coast and empty cliffs replace the shopping plazas, bus routes, traffic lights and power poles of the town. Cities discipline and order the countryside as cultivating Way-virtue regulates the body and corrects the mind.
When barbarian tribes entered ancient China's capital cities, they met for the first time streets, walls, market squares, written words, and Imperial rulers. The vast harmony of a great civilization moved the Huns, the Tartars, the Mongols, each in turn to forsake their nomadic tribes and to adopt Chinese styles. The virtues of well-ordered society ultimately conquered and pacified the invaders without force or conflict of arms.
Good Advisors with Way-virtue transform people like exposure to Chang An subdued the barbarians. A sage generates a natural power and a bright light that compels admiration and a wish to imitate his conduct.
A young man made an offering of tomatoes and bread yesterday. Heng Ch'au placed the three tomatoes on the al-tar while the man watched wordlessly through the open door. His eyes swept the Sutra rack, the Dharma instruments, the incense burner. Then he saw the Master's photograph. His face changed, his eyes widened.
"Who's that?" he asked with a gulp.
"The Venerable Abbot of Gold Mountain Monastery,"replied Heng Ch'au.
"Oh! Is he your teacher?"
His eyes glued fast to the picture. His entire world stopped; the Master's image completely captured his attention. Without reserve, the man drank in the photograph, looking at it first this way, then that way. No words were needed; we understood, and shared the experience of standing before true Way-virtue: a mixture of shame, respect, and joy. Shame for our personal shortcomings, respect for the power of Way-virtue, and joy to gaze upon a superior person.
The Buddha is the worldỖs greatly powerful Lord,
Pefect in all merit and virtue.
He brings all Bodhisattvas to dwell here
And teaches them to become supreme heroes.
Ten Dwellings Chapter
House of Mirrors
Heng Ch'au, November 2, 1978
Buddhalands are not distinguishable,
They are not longed for or loved;
Only according to living beings thoughts,
Do divisions appear to view, and
Therefore, in the world, all that is seen is different.
Bodhisattvas Ask for Clarification Chapter,
We all look at the same reality, but no two people see exactly the same things. Divisions and differences appear not because of eyes, rather because of thoughts. Our minds filter and censor, distort and ignore according to our bias and bent. Psychologists call it "selective perception": the tendency to see what we prefer and to disregard the rest.
On the mundane level, a thought of fear at night turns a harmless rope into a poisonous snake. On the religious plane, a thought of doubt blinds one to the spiritual beings that surround us on all sides and fill up empty space. We only see the rocks, trees, mountains and dirt where other people see Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, devas, lotus flowers, and the seven precious gems. Some people see only one god, others see infinite gods, and still others see no god and nothing holy whatsoever. To one person the Buddha is merely a gilded icon from Asia; to another, the Buddha is the potential for perfect wisdom that lies buried within his own bosom.
Why so many differences? Karma. It's as if we live in a house of mirrors, some concave, some convex, others bent, tinted, twisted, and warped. Karma works the same way on our minds, shaping and bending them according to the words, thoughts and deeds we have committed with mouth, mind, and body. The worlds we inhabit and everything we see is conditioned by our karmic web. Karma is like a mirror and all that is seen and known is a reflection from our minds.
It's just like a pure, bright mirror:
Depending on what object stand before it
The different images each appear; and
The nature of karma is the same.
Bodhisattvas Ask for Clarification Chapter,
Also in the "Flower Store World" Chapter it says:
From the power of living beings karma
Are produced many lands...
The mundane dharmas of the world are thus:
The many kinds of views are each one different.
All the discord among religions, all the fighting among people and nations arise from the illusory differences we see darkly, through our crooked mirrors. If we could simply wipe away the accumulated dirt and straighten out our hearts, the everything we beheld would be pure and adorned, just like the Buddhas see it.
Within each and every thought
Are created mesureless countries,
And because of the Buddha's awesome spiritual power,
All is seen as pure, without defilement.
Flower Store World System