How can we bear to let them suffer,
and not find a way to
bring them happiness?

Bodhisattvas fear causes; living beings fear effects. It is not only living beings who cannot escape cause and effect; even the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas cannot avoid them. However, because Bodhisattvas have far-ranging vision, they avoid creating bad causes and only receive joyful rewards. Living beings, on the other hand, are very short-sighted. Seeing only what's in front of them, they often plant evil causes, and so they must often suffer the bitter retribution.

It is said, "Plant more peach and plum trees, and fewer thorn bushes." By planting more good causes, you will undoubtedly be laying out a golden future for yourself. But if you only see the present, and you engage in lots of immoral practices and plant no good causes, you will doubtlessly be preparing a thorny path to travel in the future.

What is the golden future? "Point to the distant setting sun in the West." "To the west of here, passing a hundred thousand million Buddha-lands, is a land called Ultimate Bliss."

What is the thorny future? "Hell has no gates; you bring suffering upon yourself." In the Land of Ultimate Bliss, the ground is made of gold and the pools are filled with the seven gems. Celestial music is carried by the breeze and heard everywhere, and everything goes according to your wishes. You can also see the Buddha, hear the Dharma, and quickly accomplish Buddhahood. What about the hells? Your best companions there are the Mountain of Knives, the Oil Cauldron, the Tree of Swords, and the Great Furnace.

Living beings are absolutely free to choose their own future. If you wish to be born in the West and you make a vow to that effect, you can accomplish it by vigorously reciting the names of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. If you prefer the hells, it's even easier--just do evil deeds and you'll fall into the hells for sure. But I can assure you of one thing: no one would prefer falling into the hells to being reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. That is, unless he doesn't believe in the hells and the Land of Ultimate Bliss, or he doesn't know that the hells are misery and the Pure Land is blissful.

If people have cut off their good roots or have little faith, there is no way for us to save them. But if it's a matter of not knowing, we should be compassionate. Other religions often say, "The Kingdom of Heaven is near. The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to you." We of the Buddhist faith should also forget our bodies for the sake of the Dharma, and hasten to tell our friends and relatives about the merit and virtue of reciting the Bodhisattva's name, and the benefits of the Land of Ultimate Bliss. "The Land of Ultimate Bliss belongs to living beings." If you constantly proclaim this kind of principle, you are truly a Bodhisattva with a great mind for the Way. Those who walk the same path as the Bodhisattvas will have irreversible Bodhisattvas as their companions.

Therefore, we should recite the Bodhisattva's name ourselves, and frequently urge others to recite it as well. Then we can be considered Buddhist disciples, and we can say we haven't forgotten the Four Vast Vows we made when we took refuge. It's said, "Solitary happiness is not as good as happiness shared with everyone." Since all living beings have the same Buddha-nature and are no different from us in that respect, how can we bear to let them suffer, and not find a way to bring them happiness?

"Where there's a will, there's a way." Although living beings are hard to save, we who are Buddhists must never forget to save living beings.

A talk given on the morning of June 18, 1958

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Always use precepts, samadhi, and
wisdom to alert yourself;
this will help you in your cultivation.

Every cultivator needs to have the Three Non-Outflow Studies of precepts, samadhi, and wisdom.

Precepts: Although there are the Five Precepts, the Ten Precepts, the Bodhisattva Precepts, and so on, the Five Precepts are the most fundamental. They are: do not kill, do not steal, do not engage in sexual misconduct, do not engage in false speech, and do not take intoxicants. If one can hold the precepts, one will not make transgressions.

What is samadhi? Ordinarily, samadhi refers to Dhyana (Chan) samadhi. Generally speaking, it means "unchanging." When some people cultivate, they do a lot of idle thinking. Today they practice Chan meditation, but tomorrow they hear that reciting the Buddha's name has a lot of merit and virtue, so they give up Chan and go recite the Buddha's name. Two days later they hear the merit and virtue of reciting mantras is supreme, so they stop reciting the Buddha's name and start reciting mantras instead. In general, that's how they carry on. Cultivating this Dharma-door today and that Dharma-door tomorrow, they end up achieving nothing. There are also some people who recite the Buddha's or Bodhisattva's name with the attitude of "sunning it one day and freezing it for ten." They recite today, but quit tomorrow. This is because they have no samadhi. Samadhi is extremely important in our cultivation. If we have no samadhi, we will surely have no success in cultivation. Moreover, if we do not have sufficient samadhi and we lack a firm resolve in the Way, external temptations can easily influence us and cause us to fall.

Next there is "wisdom." In the world, there are wise people and stupid people. Why is it that some people are smart and some are stupid? Of course, it involves cause and effect. All those who cultivated by reciting the Buddha's name in former lives have comparatively more wisdom in this life. But those who didn't plant good roots in the past have less wisdom than most people.

The Great Learning says,

When a person has concentration, he can be still.
When he is still, he can be at peace.
When he is at peace, he can reflect.
Upon reflection, he can obtain what he wants.

If you are in samadhi, you can produce wisdom. But if you are not concentrated, if you produce droves of scattered thoughts, if you are hasty and flighty, then how can you calmly distinguish right from wrong and understand the truth?

Precepts are rules which keep us from committing offenses. While refraining from committing offenses, we should also cultivate the Way, and the secret to cultivating the Way is samadhi power. Once you have samadhi power, you can develop wisdom, and if you can progress one step further, you can understand the Way and become a Buddha. That is why the three studies of precepts, samadhi, and wisdom are the essential requirements which all people who cultivate the Way should possess. If you do not hold the precepts, then you can create offenses and call forth karma. Lacking samadhi power, you will not be able to accomplish cultivation of the Way. You will not have any wisdom and will become dull-witted.

I exhort you all to take special note of the three studies of precepts, samadhi, and wisdom in your cultivation; always use them to alert yourself and I believe it will help you in your cultivation.

A talk given on the afternoon of June 18, 1958

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