Archive for August, 2007


Some Recorded Sayings of the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

From Spring Day Lotuses
(Chwun-er Lyan-hwa)
Edited by Tu Sying-jr and
Jang Gwo-fu
Chinese Edition printed by
Wisdom Source Publishing, Kao-Hsiung, 1995.
Translation by
Bhikshu Dharmamitra

One: The Road of Cultivation

In cultivating one must be "free of any
particular motives in one’s actions." Don’t have thoughts
of greed. Don’t be thinking, "I’d like to have it be this
way or that way. I’d like to become enlightened. I’d like to
get spiritual powers." How could it be so rapid as this?
Take the seeds and plant them down in the soil. Then it’s necessary
to wait for them to slowly grow forth. When the time arrives,
then they will naturally ripen.
In cultivating, one must look upon it as one’s
basic responsibility. It’s not necessary to be greedy. After
a time then one’s merit will naturally become perfectly full
and the result of bodhi will be able to be perfected. Originally,
it may have been that one should have experienced success, but
because of excessive greed, on the contrary, one’s unable to
even chew it all. When one eats it’s necessary to eat one bite
at a time. If one takes a whole bowl of rice and stuffs all of
it in one’s mouth, jamming it into one’s mouth so that there’s
no space in there at all, you tell us, how are you going to eat
it? When you go to chew it, you won’t even be able to move your
mouth! How much the less would you be able to swallow it down.
Eating is the simplest of similes. This is what’s meant by, "When
one’s too greedy, one bites off more than he can chew."
People who cultivate the Way need first off
to not be selfish. This matter isn’t one which should be undertaken
solely for the sake of insuring one’s own security, but rather
it should be out of the need to benefit the entire world. It’s
necessary to let go of one’s self. It’s not that one thinks,
"In this respect and in that respect I’m really incomparably
great!" Rather one must act out of concern for preserving
the larger state of affairs.
In every single moment, people who cultivate
the Way should take the problem of birth and death and hang it
right at the level of their eyebrows. In every single moment,
one must always be motivated to put an end to birth and gain
liberation from death.
In every single movement and in every single
action the beings of the Saha world act entirely out of greed,
entirely out of hatred or entirely out of stupidity. In the methods
typical of the world they use greed, hatred and stupidity as
they go on about cultivating their conduct. Now in taking up
the methods for transcending the world, they still use greed,
hatred and stupidity as they go on about cultivating their conduct.
In cultivating they become greedily attached to becoming enlightened.
They sit in dhyana meditation for two and a half days and figure
that they ought to become enlightened then. They cultivate a
dharma for two and a half days and figure that they ought to
have gotten spiritual powers. They recite the Buddha’s name for
two and a half days and then figure that they should gain the
mindfulness-of-the-buddha samadhi! You just take a look at how
huge a mind of greed is involved in this. These are all manifestations
of the ghost of the greedy mind.
In cultivating the Way, if one is unable to
change one’s faults, then this is just the same as not cultivating
the Way at all. In studying the Buddha Dharma, if one is unable
to realize one’s own faults and the necessity of change them,
then this is just the same as not studying the Buddha Dharma
at all. In this connection, there is the so-called, "Having
gone through fifty years one then realizes the forty-nine years
of faults." If one realizes the points where one has been
wrong in what one has practiced and done in the past, anyone
who experiences this kind of feeling is a person who possesses
wisdom. The road of the future is full of an immeasurable amount
of brightness. If on the other hand one does not realize where
one has been wrong in the past, this person will remain confused
for the rest of his life. One who seeks after an empty reputation
is just being confused by the dust of the sense objects. People
of this sort are so very pitiable!
Those who leave the home life and cultivate
the Way must make vows. The making of vows constitutes the vigorous
cultivation of the Way. The making of vows serves to alert one
to change the bad and bring in the good. If one cultivates the
Way and yet does not make vows, then this is the same as a fruit
tree bringing forth blossoms and yet producing no fruit. This
just doesn’t happen. If one has already made vows, then it is
best that one make them over again once every day. It is on account
of refreshing the old that one realizes the new. One then succeeds
in remembering the vows which one has made and in remembering
what endeavors one should be engaged in. Then one won’t be able
to make vows which are only empty vows. One won’t be able to
cheat oneself while also cheating others. And one won’t be able
to take those vows which one has made and just forget them.
We people are all of the opinion that we are
engaged in doing good works. But in reality, it is not certain
that they really are good works. Why is this. It is because the
seed is not pure. If you employ greedy thoughts in your doing
of good works, this is what’s known as a case of the seeds being
impure. If you use a mind which takes pleasure in supremacy over
others in the doing of good works, this too is a case of the
seeds being impure. Then what is one to do? One just needs to
be "free of any particular motives in one’s actions."
Whatever we are doing, it’s just our basic responsibility. Don’t
engage in externally-directed seeking. Don’t have anything which
you are seeking to get out of it.
When one has false thinking, what should one
do? One just needs to sweep it clean. What method should one
use? Just use the cultivation of dhyana absorption. The meditative
skill employed in cultivating dhyana absorption is able to cleanse
and purify one of false thinking. When one cultivates dhyana
absorption, it is necessary to use vigor and patience as aids.
Afterwards one also uses giving and the upholding of precepts
as aids. Thus one is able to bring one’s mission to completion.
Once one has completed a repentance, one must
make a vow: "As for all of those things which have gone
before it shall be just as if I died yesterday. As for all those
things which shall come afterwards, it shall be as if I was just
born today." Afterwards one must absolutely not transgress
again. If one acts accordingly, then one will be able to cause
his offense karma to melt away.
When one is cultivating one must direct one’s
thoughts to this problem of birth and death. One should take
whichever demons one encounters as Dharma protectors. They have
come for the sake of assisting you in cultivating the Way. If
someone scolds you or hits you, he is helping you cultivate the
Way. If there is someone who speaks about your rights and wrongs
or gives you trouble, he too is helping you cultivate the Way.
To sum it up, if something comes which goes against you, just
take it by going along with it. In every case just take them
to be friends who are simply helping you in your cultivation
of the Way. In such a case, then as for afflictions, there just
aren’t any. If there are no afflictions, then one gives birth
to wisdom. If one has genuine and correct wisdom, at such a time
all of the demons are left with no way of coming and rattling
your mind.
A person who cultivates the Way is just as
pure as one’s eyes are clean. They are unable to accept the entry
of even a single grain of sand. If one’s eyes have gotten even
a single grain of sand in them then one will definitely be uncomfortable
and one will do whatever is necessary to find a way to get it
out again. Otherwise, neither one’s body or mind will have any
peace. Cultivating the way is also just this very same sort of
situation. What precisely is this grain of sand? It is just thoughts
imbued with desire. If one has thoughts which are characterized
by desire, then in every situation a transformation occurs. Originally
one was pure. When one comes to have a thought associated with
the mind of desire then it generates a chemical action whereby
the water [of the mind] which was previously pure becomes polluted.
Then not only is one unable to benefit others, on the contrary,
one harms even oneself.

The primary aim in cultivating the Way is
that it be for the sake of putting and end to birth and becoming
liberated from death. It is not for the sake of seeking a response
that one cultivates the Way. One must certainly remember. One
cannot have anything which one is seeking for in one’s cultivation
of the Way. If it is done for the sake of seeking some success
or if it is done for the sake of seeking a response, that is
among great mistakes an especially grave mistake.
When the ancients studied it was because they
wanted to understand principles, to clearly understand the path-principles
important to being a person. [They wished to understand] how
to refrain from any form of bad and how to uphold the practice
of the many kinds of good. They studied filial piety, brotherly
respect, loyalty, trustworthiness, propriety, righteousness,
humility, and a sense of shame. Those who pursue studies in this
present era all do it for the sake of fame and profit. The "ming-li"
which means "to understand principle" and the "ming-li"
which means fame and profit" are about the same in sound,
but in their implementation they are complete opposites and are
separated by one hundred and eight thousand miles. Those who
study for the sake of fame and profit are just figuring that
if they study some particular subject then they’ll be able to
make lots of money. For instance, if one plans to study medicine
or perhaps the sciences, they can always make lots of money.
But they never think, "I’m going to follow this course of
study because in the future I want to be able to contribute to
the good fortune and blessings of humankind." If one takes
up the study of medicine it ought to be in order to rescue the
world and save people so that one can benefit others while also
benefitting oneself.
Patience is the most important. It serves
to tell you to endure situations which you don’t wish to endure.
For instance, I may not want to undergo a scolding, but still
there are those people who scold me and so in every case I should
delight in it. Or perhaps I don’t want to undergo a beating,
but still, there are those people who beat me, and so I should
just delight even more in that. Or perhaps I don’t want to be
killed by someone. One’s life is considered very valuable. But
nonetheless there are those who want to kill me. [And so one
should think], "This is an opportunity for me to completely
escape the karmic obstacles of this entire lifetime. Such a person
is my genuine and proper good and wise friend." So, each
of you! In studying the Buddha Dharma one must turn things upside
down as he studies. In cultivating the Way one must also turn
things upside down as he cultivates. How is it that one turns
things upside down? It’s just that whatever thing you don’t want,
it’s just that very thing which you must come to want. However,
as for those things which you don’t want, it’s not that you are
supposed to pass them on to others.
As for the very most genuine of techniques
for cultivation, there is a three-fold secret formula:

The first is truth. One is unable to be false.
No matter what endeavor it is, in every case one must do what
is true.

The second is sincerity. One is the most ultimately
respectful and the most ultimately reverential. One is very sincerely
earnest. One is not lazy and one is not careless.

The third is constancy. One is constant and
unchanging. One is constant [and thus] far-reaching and non-neglectful.

In every single action, every single movement,
every single word, and every single step one must possess these
three minds of truth, sincerity and constancy. If one maintains
these three types of mind in everything one does then in the
future, one will definitely be able to have success.
One should do more meritorious works. Whatever
endeavor stands to be of benefit for beings, one exhausts ones
strength in the doing of it. This constitutes the cultivation
of blessings. The recitation of sutras, the investigation of
the sutras, the so-called "deeply entering into the treasury
of sutras and the developing of wisdom like the sea,"—
This constitutes the cultivation of wisdom. Blessings and wisdom
come forth from intentionally cultivating them. If one does not
intentionally cultivate them, then one will never possess either
blessings or wisdom.
The thing that cultivators of the Way most
fear is having afflictions. Hence we say, "Afflictions are
endless. I vow to cut them off." For those who cultivate
the cutting off of afflictions is an urgent and obligatory responsibility.
No matter what state of mind comes up, one does not generate
afflictions. If one acts accordingly then one possesses the power
of meditative stabilization. If one does not generate afflictions
then one will have fewer selfish desires. Selfish desires find
their source in afflictions. And so one brings forth ignorance
and then one experiences a kind of pathological pain. Now not
having afflictions is certainly not just a case of not having
anyone come along and make trouble for you so that as a result
of that you have no afflictions. Rather it is a matter of even
if someone comes and stirs up confusion for you even to the point
of running into you or striking you, you still don’t generate
afflictions. In this case then one truly possesses the power
of meditative stabilization.
As for the precepts, at root there is just
one. It is simply not being selfish. If people possess a selfish
mind then they are able to transgress against the precepts. If
one does not have a selfish mind, then one will be unable to
transgress against the precepts. By the same principle, if a
person possesses a selfish mind then he is able to commit crimes.
If one does not have a selfish mind then he will be unable to
commit crimes.
The precepts constitute the very life of a
person who cultivates. If one transgresses against the precepts,
then it is just the same as having one’s life cut off. It’s every
bit as mournful a situation as that. When the World Honored One
was about to enter nirvana, he told the Venerable Ananda, "Take
the precepts as you master." From this one can prove the
extremely important nature of the precepts.
Most people are of the opinion that a person’s
fate has a fixed arrangement. This is illustrated by the saying,
"When one’s fate only allows for eight feet, it’s difficult
to seek for ten." Not bad! However, this is only spoken
with reference to ordinary people. If one is a cultivator of
the Way, then one doesn’t fall into this sort of fate. Those
who cultivate the Way shouldn’t be consulting The Book of
. That’s something which is used by the normal run
of common person. Those who cultivate the Way are even able to
put and end to birth and death, how much the more so are they
able to deal with other forms of "fate." There even
more able to leap over such things. So, don’t pay any attention
to those things.

Part Two: Vowing to Study Buddhism
What’s meant by Buddha Dharma? The Buddha
Dharma is just the dharma of the world. However, it consists
of those dharmas which people of the world don’t wish to put
into practice. People of the world are busy here and preoccupied
there. They bound around and bustle about. The most obvious point
about them is that there is nothing that they do which isn’t
a function of selfishness. It’s all done for the sake of ensuring
the security of their very own life, valuables and possessions.
The Buddha Dharma on the other hand is greatly public and devoid
of selfishness. It is something engaged in for the sake of benefitting
other people. When studying the Buddha Dharma, one should be
focusing one’s thoughts on the welfare of others in one’s every
movement and every action. One should view one’s self as an insignificant
matter. One should relinquish oneself for the sake of others.
One should avoid causing others to generate afflictions. It is
this which is the Dharma of the Buddha.
Why is it that the Buddha wishes to cross
over beings to liberation? It is because the way he looks at
it, "If it is a man, then they are all my fathers. If it
is a woman, then they are all my mothers." His fathers and
mothers all abide in the wheel of the six destinies where they
undergo suffering. So no matter what else happens he is always
motivated by the necessity of crossing over beings to liberation,
hoping that his fathers and mothers will be able to leave behind
suffering and achieve happiness.
The Buddha is one who possesses great wisdom.
We, on the other hand, possess great stupidity. Therefore, we
should study the Buddha. We should study the great wisdom of
the Buddha. We should take the mind of the Buddha s our own mind.
We should take the vows of the Buddha as our own vows. In every
moment we should be studying and practicing the four immeasurable
minds of loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and even-mindedness.
In every moment we should be cultivating the Dharma gateway of
"being able to endure that which is difficult to endure
and being able to practice that which is difficult to practice."
When we study the Buddha Dharma we shouldn’t
be drawn to lofty and profound places as the focus of our study.
This is what is meant by, "The ordinary mind is the Way.
The straight mind is the place for cultivating the Way."
Use a straight mind in cultivating.
Those who study Buddhism should cause Buddhism
to grow and spread and become more brilliantly great each day
rather than causing it to deteriorate and grow more decadent
with each passing day. How does one make it grow and spread and
become illustriously great? First of all one must nurture those
of excellent character. One must establish a good foundation.
If one establishes a good foundation, then when one constructs
a tall building it won’t be able to fall over. In a multi-story
building with an endless number of levels built one atop the
other, there is not a single one of them which is not constructed
on the basis of a solid and stable foundation. In the sphere
of cultivation and nurturance the creating of a good foundation
is just that foremost necessity of esteeming character as important
while establishing oneself in virtue.
No matter whether one is discussing the great
vehicle, the lesser vehicle, or the Buddha vehicle, at the outset
they all instruct people to get rid of bad habits and character
faults, to get rid of ignorance and afflictions, and to get rid
of greed, hatred and stupidity. If you are able to get rid of
all character faults, then you are able to naturally harmonize
with the meaning of the sutras. It’s only if you fail to get
rid of character faults that you will never be able to clearly
understand the meanin of the sutras.
Everyone should bring forth a genuine mind
in practicing mindfulness of the buddha. When one recites a single
phrase of in mindfulness of the buddha then in space there appears
a single ray of light. If one is able to earnestly and extremely
sincerely engage in mindfulness of the buddha, this light then
universally illuminates the worlds of the trichiliocosm, causing
the atmosphere throughout the worlds of the great trichiliocosm
to transform and become auspicous so that the atmosphere of defilement,
violent temperaments and disasters becomes changed.
Every day we are mindful of Observer of the
World’s Sounds Bodhisattva (a.k.a.: Avalokiteshvara, Gwan-yin),
but what is the meaning of Observer of the World’s Sounds Bodhisattva?
As for "Observation," it refers to his observing and
investigating all of the sounds of the world. "Observing"
also means "looking," but this is not a case of looking
outwardly but rather is a case of looking into the minds of beings.
When we practice mindfulness of Observer of
the World’s Sounds Bodhisattva, one should not allow one’s head
to droop as one recites. One should raise up the head as a manifestation
of a kind of heroicly vigorous spirit. One shouldn’t be manifesting
a gloomy and deflated appearance.
If you wish to study Buddhism, you must have
a kind of heroic vigor. You should be like a tiger leaping down
off of a tall mountain ridge and [pounce on] your karmic obstacles
and devour them.
You must remember! You must remember! The
very first step in studying Buddhism is that you definitely must
cultivate patience. Even if someone is really about to kill you,
you still shouldn’t give rise to an angry thought.
For people who study Buddhism, it’s essential
that "Genuinely recognize your own mistakes. Don’t discuss
the wrongs of others. Their wrongs are just my own wrongs. [To
realize that] one is of the same substance is the great compassion."
Those who study Buddhism should ask themselves,
"When I practice giving, is it out of a desire to get a
reputation or is it out of a wish to help others? When I uphold
the precepts, or cultivate patience, vigor, dhyana absorption
or wisdom, is it out of a desire to show off to others or is
it on account of a genuine mind of cultivation? When one cultivates
it’s not a matter of putting on a mask. It’s not a question of
creating a fake appearance especially so other’s can see it.
In cultivating the Way, one relies entirely on one’s own application
of spiritual skilfulness. When one contributes a single measure
of spiritual skilfulness then one gets a single measure of results.
If one brings forth a single measure of sincerity of mind then
one will have a single measure of spiritual response. In absolutely
everything, one must be genuine and must not be false. No matter
what, don’t cheat yourself and cheat others as well.
When one studies Buddhism one should be willing
to take a loss more often. Great Master Yung-jya has stated:
"I contemplate harsh words. These are a form of merit. Through
doing this one becomes my good and wise friend. One doesn’t because
of slander make distinctions between enemies and intimates. How
would that manifest the power of loving-kindness arising from
the patience associated with the cognition of the unproduced?"
If somebody scolds you, this helps you become
better, so it should be that "whether it’s agreeable or
disagreeable one is always vigorous; whether it’s blame or praise,
it doesn’t move the mind." Don’t let it be that on account
of slander one gives rise to thoughts of deep resentment. It
should be the case that whether it’s an adversary or an intimate,
they are viewed equally. They are beheld with a single gaze and
treated with an identical measure of humanity. Otherwise, how
could this be a demonstration of the power of kindness and compassion
arising from the Dharma patience associated with the cognition
of the unproduced?
Why is it that
when we apply effort [in a particular type of spiritual cultivation]
we still don’t achieve success? This is because the habitual
karmic propensities which we have accumulated across the course
of an incalculable number of aeons have become too deep. Hence,
when we decide in our minds that we want to walk along the road
of bodhi, in fact we paradoxically don’t wan’t to move on ahead.
There’s still always this thought to turn back. One should realize
that when habitual propensities are heavy and karmic obstacles
are deep, one should then be even more resolute about putting
down one’s false thinking. And this is really not a difficult
thing to do. It only requires that one just forget about oneself.
Then there will be no more false thinking.
When one cultivates
the Dharma gateway of mindfulness-of-the-buddha, then one must
continue on in every moment in reciting this single phrase of
"Namo Amitabha Buddha," and not have any point when
one ceases. When one is awake, he recites it, and when one is
asleep, he recites it. The illustrious six-syllable name continues
on such that even if one tries to hold it back, one can’t hold
it back, and even if one tries to break it off, it can’t be broken
off, and even if one uses a sword to chop it off, it can’t be
chopped off. Its power is even more solid than a diamond. You
have absolutely no method whereby you are able to destroy this
single phrase of "Namo Amitabha Buddha." This then
is referred to as "the mindfulness-of-the-buddha samadhi."
When one is reciting the buddha’s name, then this is the way
it is. When one is reciting sutras, then this is also the way
it is. And when one is reciting mantras, this is the way it is
as well.
Once when the
Buddha was in the world he grasped up a bit of earth and asked
his disciples, saying, "What would you say? Is the amount
of earth in my hand of greater volume or is it that the amount
of earth in the entire world is of greater volume?"

The disciples
said, "Obviously, the amount of earth in the entire world
is of greater volume whereas the amount of earth in the World
Honored One’s hand is much less."

The Buddha
then said, "Those beings who have succeeded in getting a
human body are like the amount of earth in my hand. Those beings
who have lost the human body are like the amount of earth in
the entire world." Those who have lost their human rebirth
are comparable to the amount of earth in this immense world.
This gateway
of the dhyana lineage points directly to a person’s mind. It
is the Dharma gateway of seeing one’s nature and realizing buddhahood.
It is also the sudden teaching. The sudden teaching is perfected
through diligent cultivation of the gradual teaching. This is
what is referred to in the saying, "As for the noumenon,
it is something to which one can suddenly become awakened. As
for the [specific] phenomena, it is essential to engage in gradual
cultivation." Now, as we walk, stand, sit and lie down,
this is just gradual cultivation.

Just wait until
one day when one has reached a genuinely clear understanding
and then suddenly awakens. This is precisely what is meant by
"sudden." "Sudden" is not something which
is apart from that which is "gradual." And it is the
"gradual" which serves to assist the "sudden."
As for most cultivators, whichever dharma they specialize in
cultivating, then they say of that dharma that it is the best.
It is number one. If it wasn’t seen as "number one"
then one wouldn’t be able to delight in it and wouldn’t be able
to take it up and cultivate it. If you succeed in reaching a
genuine understanding, then you will realize that all dharmas
are the Buddha Dharma and that none of them can actually be gotten
at. Then one finds that there is nothing which one can get attached
Sudden enlightenment
is just the result of one’s normal application of effort in cultivation
finally reaching the point where one succeeds in making it effective.
Then one is able to suddenly have a breakthrough which brings
a clear understanding. If one doesn’t ordinarily engage in the
application of effort in cultivation, then it will be impossible
to experience a sudden awakening.

This is similar
to the situation after a child is born. Every day he undergoes
a sort of slow transforming influence. Then when the time comes
he is able to speak. When he speaks his first sentence, then
this is like experiencing an awakening. When the time comes,
he is able to walk. When he takes that very first step, that
too is like experiencing an awakening. How is it that he is able
to take that very first step? It is because every day he watches
adults walking around. It is by undergoing the slow transformative
influence inherent in this environment that he naturally becomes
able to walk.

Our application
of effort in cultivation is just like this. One applies effort
today. One applies effort tomorrow. One applies effort both coming
and going and then one’s application of effort reaches the point
where it becomes effective. Then not a single thought arises.
There is not any false thinking. And so one is then able to experience
an awakening.
A fault which
we have developed is delighting in the praise of others. We enjoy
being highly esteemed. If somebody offers even a single sentence
of praise then we feel blown about, dazed and confused. How do
you achieve buddhahood? One doesn’t know how oneself and what’s
more one’s gotten all befuddled. If one is able to uphold the
precepts and cultivate meditative stabilization, then one will
have some wisdom and will then be able to reach that point where
"Whether it’s slander or good reputation, it doesn’t move
the mind." No matter who slanders you, there’s no displeasure
in the mind. If somebody praises you, there’s no delight in the
mind. The fact of the matter is that praise and blame are a kind
of worldly wind. This is what is referred to in the saying, "The
eight winds blow but do not move me."

What are the
eight winds? They are praise, blame, suffering, bliss, gain,
loss, slander, and good reputation. If it happens that when one
is blown by the eight winds one’s mind is shaken, then that’s
a case of your foundation not having been well laid. What is
it that we refer to as the foundation? It’s just virtuous conduct.
If one’s virtuous conduct is insufficient then one’s anger is
very great and one’s ignorance is extremely heavy. If one possesses
virtuous conduct then there is no anger at all and ignorance
has been transformed. It’s been transformed into wisdom. Therefore,
when we cultivate it’s necessary to nurture virtuous conduct.
Whoever is
able to conquer the six sense faculties, six sense objects and
six consciousnesses so that these eighteen sense realms are prevented
from rebelling, it’s he who is a bodhisattva. Whoever is able
to clean up his own emotional sentiments so that there is nothing
trashy about them, it’s he who is a bodhisattva. A bodhisattva
doesn’t tend towards crying and laughter. At all times and in
all places he is sovereignly independent. He is unrestrained
and unfettered, is not hung up, is unobstructed, undistressed,
and unafflicted. He [doesn’t perceive things as] either produced
or destroyed, either defiled or immaculate, or as either increased
or decreased. Those who study Buddhism should apply their efforts
in this area.
We must create
a land of ultimate bliss. How do we create it? First, we must
do without the seven emotions. What are the seven emotions? They
are joy, anger, grief, fear, love, aversion and desire. Take
these seven kinds of sentiments and overcome them so that they
are prevented from rebelling. At this time the mind becomes peaceful
and free of concerns. There are no anguishing experiences whatsoever.
Why is it that one experiences anguish? It’s simply because the
mind is not at peace. If there is no form of suffering whatsoever
and one thus only experiences the many varieties of bliss, then
this is a land of ultimate bliss here within the human realm.
When one cultivates
mindfulness-of-the-buddha, this just amounts to sending a telegram
to the Land of Ultimate Bliss. When one recites the Buddha’s
name once, then this is sending a single telegram. When one recites
the Buddha’s name twice, then this amounts to sending two telegrams.
Every day one sends telegrams to Amitabha Buddha.

Amitabha Buddha
in the Land of Ultimate Bliss also possesses a telegraph and
he also possesses a receiver. What precisely are the receiver
and telegraph? They are just the lotuses in the seven-jewelled
pools. When you recite the Buddha’s name one time, then the lotus
grows a little bigger. When your every thought is focused on
Amitabha Buddha, then the lotus becomes as big as a cart wheel.

When you come
to reside in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss then your single
noumenous buddha nature, your single noumenous genuine nature,
is drawn to the lotus blossom wherein you are reborn through
transformation. Hence it is said, "I vow to be reborn in
the Western Pure Land where the nine grades of lotuses will serve
as my parents. When the blossoom opens, I shall see the Buddha
and awaken to the unproduced. The non-retreating bodhisattvas
will then become my companions."
When we have
faith in the Buddha, this is able to cause us to achieve [genuine]
permanency, bliss, self and purity, an ultimate type of bliss.
Because of this we should have faith in the Buddha. But this
is certainly not to say that one need only have faith and that
then that alone will do. One must also rely on the Dharma and
cultivate on that basis. If one only has faith and yet does not
cultivate, then this is just like talking about food [without
eating any] and like counting [someone else’s] jewels [without
obtaining any oneself]. It has absolutely no benefits for one’s
own person at all. Therefore the ancients said, "As for
the Way, that’s something which one must travel along. If one
does not travel along it, then what’s the point of even having
a Way? As for virtue, that’s something which one must cultivate.
If one fails to cultivate, then where is the virtue to come from?"
Therefore we should personally practice this and genuinely enact
it. One should take the two words "birth" and "death"
and hang them right between one’s eyebrows and take the two words
"Way" and "virtue" and place them beneath
one’s feet.

Why is it that
we say that one should take the two words "Way" and
"virtue" and place them beneath one’s feet? It is because
[the concepts represented by] the two words "Way" and
"virtue" constitute the foundation of what it is to
be a person. They are just like the roots possessed by a tree.
If we possess the Way and virtue, then we are able to succeed
in standing upon on our own two feet. As for the opposite situation:
If we have no foundation beneath our feet, then there is no place
on which we may stand and so it is a matter of "whether
advancing or retreating, there are only ravines." One is
unable to have anything which one may accomplish. If we are able
to take the two words "genuine" and "enactment"
[and implement them] then one’s individual character can become
established and then one will naturally be able to successfully
accomplish everything else.
Three: Planting [the Seeds of] Bodhi

Karma is extremely
equitable in its dealing out of punishments. Whether one falls
or does not fall is on account of the degree to which one makes
distinctions under the influence of the passions. As for that
sort of person who only recognizes the existence of emotions
and does not recognize the existence of wisdom,— in the future
he will certainly fall into the three wretched destinies. This
is a matter about which there cannot be the slightest doubt.
Whichever sort of mind you maintain, you’ll go on to precisely
that corresponding destiny.
Whatever you
just can’t see through and just can’t put down, that’s a matter
of karmic obstacles. They obstruct you so that you are unable
to ascend. They may even obstruct you so much that you can’t
emerge from the three realms. Wherever one encounters a situation
and then generates a kind of attachment to it, that’s just a
matter of emotions. Seeing a situation and then developing an
attachment,— this is the function of emotions.
What is ignorance?
Stated simply, it’s just darkness. One isn’t clear about anything.
Because one is not clear about true principle, one locks up the
mind so that one is unable to experience (lit. "open up")
an awakening.
It is because
beings possess a discriminating mind that there exist good and
evil, beautiful and ugly, right and wrong, black and white, and
all sorts of problems. Therefore the Buddha adapts to the minds
of beings and thus he manifests many kinds of bodies and causes
beings to be able to see the body of the Buddha. This is what
is referred to in the saying, "There are the waters in a
thousand rivers and the moons [reflected] in a thousand rivers.
For ten-thousand miles there are no clouds and for ten-thousand
miles the heavens extend." The Buddha adapts to the different
types [of beings] and transformationally manifests bodies accordingly.
What is it
that determines the right Dharma’s continuing to dwell in the
world? If you earnestly and honestly go on about your cultivation,
if you do not become enamored of an empty reputation and false
benefits, and if you do not develop a desire for offerings,—
this amounts to the right Dharma continuing to dwell in the world.
What is the
bodhi mind? I have a very simple analogy. When one hasn’t yet
brought forth the bodhi mind, it’s like [in bread-making] when
one has flour but hasn’t yet added the yeast. After that day
when one has brought forth the bodhi mind it’s like adding in
yeast. After a while the dough is able to grow large. If one
were to ask what it is that the bodhi mind looks like, originally
it has no shape and has no appearance. It’s just the Way of enlightenment.
"Enlightenment" means "awakening." It’s just
understanding clearly. It’s just clearly understanding the principles
of the Way. It’s not just clearly understanding alone. One still
must cultivate this Way as well.

Then again
one can use a jeweled stupa as an analogy for the bodhi mind.
Now as for this jeweled stupa, no matter how high it is and no
matter how big it is, it’s essential to begin construction at
the ground. The ground is just our mind ground. One must construct
this jeweled stupa beginning from the ground and then cause it
to grow taller with each succeeding level. The establishment
of the bodhi mind also begins from the level of the mind ground.
The more one brings it forth, the bigger it becomes. The more
one brings it forth, the more lofty it becomes. Originally, there’s
just a little bit. It’s very small. But then gradually, it swells
up and becomes large. When one’s meritorious qualities become
perfected, then at the very last one is able to achieve buddhahood.
The mental
situation of so-called "sovereign independence" is
one in which there are no persons, there is no self, there are
no beings and there is no one who possesses a lifespan. Now where
is it that there is this "sovereign independence"?
In what place is one sovereignly independent? And in what place
is one not sovereignly independent? It’s just at the station
of the sage (i.e. arya) that one is able to become sovereignly
independent. At the station of the common person one is not sovereignly
Stupid people don’t
realize the severity of cause and effect and so they casually
commit errors in cause-and-effect even to the point where they
do not believe in cause-and-effect and argue that there is no
such thing as cause-and-effect. People who possess a measure
of wisdom realize the severity of the retributional response
involved in cause-and-effect. And so they are fearful about making
errors in cause-and-effect. No matter what endeavor one is about
to do, "Contemplate it thrice and then proceed."
The ancients said,
"The errors of the superior man are like an eclipse of the
sun or moon. Everyone sees them. If he immediately changes them,
then people all look up to him." When a superior man has
committed a transgression, its just the same as when there is
an eclipse of the sun or an eclipse of the moon. Everybody is
able to see it. If he is able to immediately change it, then
everyone will respect him and look up to him with admiration.
As for intelligent
people, when they have committed an transgression, they are certain
to change their ways. As for stupid people, when they have committed
a transgression, they do not change their ways.
The three kinds
of disasters are divided into greater and lesser categories.
The greater three disasters are just conflagrations, floods and
winds. The lesser three disasters are military attack, famine
and plague. The causes for the three greater disasters are as
follows: It is because people possess minds afflicted with greed
that there arise conflagrational disasters. It is because people
possess minds afflicted with hatred that there arise flood disasters.
And it is because people have minds afflicted with stupidity
that there arise wind disasters. Thus the three disasters arise
on account of the three poisons. We all have minds afflicted
with the three poisons of greed, hatred and stupidity. These
types of mind become greater with each passing day. When they
reach a particular level then they manifest in the form of an
approaching disaster.
The dharmas
of the world are analogous to a huge net which entraps everyone.
Those who love fame become trapped by the net of fame. Those
who are greedy for wealth become tied up by the net of wealth.
Those who are enchanted by sex become bound up by the net of
sexual desire. In short, people are ruled by the nets of the
five desires of wealth, sex, fame, food and sleep to the point
where they are turned totally upside down. They become so tightly
tied up by them that they can’t even draw a breath. One can only
pity most people, for they haven’t even come to a clear understanding
of the situation. Although they are bound up by the net, they
still don’t even realize it and so aren’t the least bit aware
of it. Although those who have clearly understood it at least
realize it, they still have no way to escape from it. They only
helplessly utter a few more sighs, that’s all.
Four: All Beings Are [Potential] Buddhas

The Buddha
has said, "All beings possess the nature of enlightenability.
Every one of them can become a buddha." Everyone has the
right to become a buddha. Whether or not they believe in the
Buddha, in the future, they can still achieve buddhahood. One
may verify from this that Buddhism is not an autocratic religion,
but rather is a democratic religion.
I unite all
of the religions together into a single family. And so I refer
to Buddhism as "the beings teaching." Because nobody
is able to escape outside of empty space and the Dharma realm,
everyone is a "being." And so Buddhism therefore is
the teaching studied by beings.

I’ve also taken
Buddhism and changed it into "the people’s teaching."
This is because everyone has the right to become a buddha. It
only requires that one develop a singular focus in one’s cultivation.
Then one will finally be able to become a buddha.

I’ve also taken
Buddhism and changed its name to "the teaching of the mind."
This is because everyone has a mind. Cultivation involves getting
rid of the false mind and retaining the true mind. Those who
possess a false mind are common people. Those who possess the
true mind are buddhas.
The bodhisattvas
take benefitting beings as the point of departure. They don’t
take benefitting oneself as the primary topic. It is precisely
this which defines the spirit of a bodhisattva.
From the onset
of history onward Buddhism has never started a war. This is because
in the moral code of Buddhism the very first prohibition is that
one not kill. Not only must one refrain from killing people,
but one must also refrain from killing other beings as well.
What’s more it is also necessary to liberate beings and protect
the safety of beings. Therefore there have never been [Buddhist]
As for all
of the sufferings of beings, I take them all on as my own. As
for all of the happinesses of the present life, I take them all
and transfer them to all beings.
Most cases
where there are terrible diseases such as malaria, cancer and
so forth are all cases where there are ghosts involved which
drive them along, causing a person’s five organs to become imbalanced
and causing the four elements to become unregulated. These are
all cases of the ghost of karmic obstacles stirring up trouble.
Because people have karmic obstacles rooted in previous existences,
when the time comes, ghosts show up and demand repayment.

It may also
be because a particular person is deficient in yang energy or
because the yin has become abundant and thus the yang has deteriorated.
Then the ghosts are able to take advantage of the situation.
If you are able to always remain without afflictions and cause
wisdom to manifest then ghosts have no cracks through which they
can enter.

But one need
only generate a single thought characterized by lust or ignorance
and then the ghosts find it easy to drill their way in. Extrapolating
from this example one can see that the eighty-four thousand sorts
of diseases all involve a kind of previous cause and later effect,
even to the point that when a mosquito bites you, a bee stings
you, or you encounter any other such situation, they all involve
the mutual interaction of causes and effects.

If people understand
this principle then they won’t dare to involve themselves in
even the smallest wrong deed. Even a single mistake requires
that one undergo a corresponding retribution. This is especially
the case for those who have taken up the cultivation of the six
perfections and myriad practices and who therefore have to be
even more resolute in taking a stand on genuine ground. One cannot
even engage in the slightest degree of falseness. This is what
is meant by "If the causal ground is not genuine then the
effect becomes distorted."
In this world,
no matter whether it’s a good situation or a bad situation, they
all serve to teach people to wake up. Good situations just serve
to teach you to awaken and become aware of those things which
are good. The bad situations just serve to teach you to awaken
to and become aware of those things which are bad.
We should be
just like a lamp which comes in and illuminates the room inside
our own minds. When one possesses the power of contemplative
illumination then one is able to produce the capacity for action
inherent in the ultimate cause of the buddha nature.
You should
open up your own eyes and correct your thought processes. Just
take a look: As for those people who commit crimes in the world,
they are actually all brought on by a selfish mind.
As for the
greatest enmity in all the world, none surpasses that which arises
from the killing of beings. Thus it is said, "When one kills
a person one pays with his life. When one owes a debt he has
to repay the money." If you kill someone’s father or brother,
people will certainly kill your own fathers and brothers. This
sort of cruel slaughter of each other never comes to an end.
It can happen that because one has killed too much the retribution
comes extremely swiftly. This is what is meant by "receiving
present retribution in the present life."
Why is it that
people of the present era develop all of these strange and bizarre
diseases? To put it in a single statement, it comes from the
killing of beings. If you kill beings, then being will come and
demand that you repay the debt with your life. These sorts of
strange disorders are such that a physician’s hands are tied
and he has no useful strategy. What can one do about something
like that? This is something with respect to which one must employ
a genuine mind of repentance and proceed to change one’s faults
and renew oneself. One should perform more merit of the sort
which benefits beings. Then one will be able to melt away the
karma manifesting from previous existences.
The key to
the good and bad in the world resides with the family. If the
education provided by the family is good, then the road ahead
for its sons and daughters is bright. If the education provided
by the family is not good, then the road ahead for its sons and
daughters is one of darkness. Although one can’t generalize from
this to all situations, still, in most cases this is more or
less how it works. So for those who are fathers or mothers, in
every single word and in every single action, in everything one
does and with every move, one must be extremely careful. One
cannot be casual about this.
There is someone who
asked me, "Ultimately, is there such a thing as the hells
or not?" I’ll tell you, right when people are alive, they
are in the hells. You just look: Most people are full of afflictions,
fighting and disputing. There is no rest from it. There is no
stopping to it. Isn’t this just being in the hells? What kind
of meaning does this sort of human life have? What’s more, there
are floods, tornadoes, wars and human calamities which also are
hells within the human realm. And again, consider the terrible
diseases which tie up the body so that one suffers so much that
one can’t describe it. When cancer develops, one may hurt so
much that he does not even wish to live anymore. Is this not
just the hells?

But people still don’t
see through it and they still can’t put it down. They still can’t
let go. They remain greedily attached and what’s more they entertain
no thoughts of loving-kindness or compassion. When they see a
benefit for themselves, they forget about any principle, even
going to the point of committing arson and engaging in theft.
But at the very end, they still remain on the wheel [of birth-and-death]
where they continue to turn about without any prospect of a time
when it will come to a halt.


listening beyond words

Listening Beyond Words

Ajahn Chah

Really, the teachings of the Buddha all make sense.
Things you wouldn’t imagine really are so. It’s strange. At first
I didn’t have any faith in sitting in meditation. I thought, what
value could that possibly have? Then there was walking meditation
– I walked from one tree to another, back and forth, back and forth,
and I got tired of it and thought, ”What am I walking for? Just
walking back and forth doesn’t have any purpose.” That’s how I thought.
But in fact walking meditation has a lot of value. Sitting to practice
samādhi has a lot of value. But the temperaments of
some people make them confused about walking or sitting meditation.

We can’t meditate in only one posture. There are four postures for
humans: standing, walking, sitting and lying down. The teachings speak
about making the postures consistent and equal. You might get the
idea from this that it means you should stand, walk, sit and lie down
for the same number of hours in each posture. When you hear such a
teaching, you can’t figure out what it really means, because it’s
talking in the way of Dhamma, not in the ordinary sense. ”OK,
I’ll sit for two hours, stand for two hours and then lie down for
two hours” You probably think like this. That’s what I did. I tried
to practice in this way, but it didn’t work out.

It’s because of not listening in the right way, merely listening to
the words. ‘Making the postures even’ refers to the mind, nothing
else. It means making the mind bright and clear so that wisdom arises,
so that there is knowledge of whatever is happening in all postures
and situations. Whatever the posture, you know phenomena and states
of mind for what they are, meaning that they are impermanent, unsatisfactory
and not your self. The mind remains established in this awareness
at all times and in all postures. When the mind feels attraction,
when it feels aversion, you don’t lose the path, but you know these
conditions for what they are. Your awareness is steady and continuous,
and you are letting go steadily and continuously. You are not fooled
by good conditions. You aren’t fooled by bad conditions. You remain
on the straight path. This can be called ‘making the postures even.’
It refers to the internal, not the external; it is talking about mind.

If we do make the postures even with the mind, then when we are praised,
it is just so much. If we are slandered, it is just so much. We don’t
go up or down with them but remain steady. Why is this? Because we
see the danger in these things. We see equal danger in praise and
in criticism; this is called making the postures even. We have this
inner awareness, whether we are looking at internal or external phenomena.

In the ordinary way of experiencing things, when something good appears,
we have a positive reaction, and when something bad appears, we have
a negative reaction.

Like this, the postures are not even. If they are even, we always
have awareness. We will know when we are grasping at good and grasping
at bad – this is better. Even though we can’t yet let go, we are
aware of these states continuously. Being continuously aware of ourselves
and our attachments, we will come to see that such grasping is not
the path. We know but can’t let go: that’s 50 percent. Though we can’t
let go, we do understand that letting go of these things will bring
peace. We see the danger in the things we like and dislike. We see
the danger in praise and blame. This awareness is continuous.

So whether we are being praised or criticized, we are continuously
aware. For worldly people, when they are criticized and slandered,
they can’t bear it; it hurts their hearts. When they are praised,
they are pleased and excited. This is what is natural in the world.
But for those who are practicing, when there is praise, they know
there is danger. When there is blame, they know the danger. They know
that being attached to either of these brings ill results. They are
all harmful if we grasp at them and give them meaning.

When we have this kind of awareness, we know phenomena as they occur.
We know that if we form attachments to phenomena, there really will
be suffering. If we are not aware, then grasping at what we conceive
of as good or bad, suffering is born. When we pay attention, we see
this grasping; we see how we catch hold of the good and the bad and
how this causes suffering. So at first we are grasping hold of things
and with awareness seeing the fault in that. How is that? It’s because
we grasp tightly and experience suffering. Then we will start to seek
a way to let go and be free. ”What should I do to be free?”
we ponder.

Buddhist teaching says not to have grasping attachment, not to hold
tightly to things. We don’t understand this fully. The point is to
hold, but not tightly. For example, I see this object in front of
me. I am curious to know what it is, so I pick it up and look: it’s
a flashlight. Now I can put it down. That’s holding but not tightly.
If we are told not to hold to anything at all, then what can we do?
We will think we shouldn’t practice sitting or walking meditation.
So at first we have to hold without tight attachment. You can say
this is tanhā, but it will become pāramī.
For instance, you came here to Wat Pah Pong; before you did that,
you had to have the desire to come. With no desire, you wouldn’t have
come. We can say you came with desire; it’s like holding. Then you
will return; that’s like not grasping. Just like having some uncertainty
about what this object is, then picking it up, seeing it’s a flashlight
and putting it down. This is holding but not grasping, or to speak
more simply, knowing and letting go. Picking up to look, knowing and
letting go – knowing and putting down. Things may be said to be good
or bad, but you merely know them and let them go. You are aware of
all good and bad phenomena and you are letting go of them. You don’t
grasp them with ignorance. You grasp them with wisdom and put them

In this way the postures can be even and consistent. It means the
mind is able. The mind has awareness and wisdom is born. When the
mind has wisdom, then what could there be beyond that? It picks things
up but there is no harm. It is not grasping tightly, but knowing and
letting go. Hearing a sound, we will know, ”The world says this
is good,” and we let go of it. The world may say, ”This is bad,”
but we let go. We know good and evil. Someone who doesn’t know good
and evil attaches to good and evil and suffers as a result. Someone
with knowledge doesn’t have this attachment.

Let’s consider: For what purpose are we living? What do we want from
our work? We are living in this world; for what purpose are we living?
We do our work; what do we want to get from our work? In the worldly
way, people do their work because they want certain things and this
is what they consider logical. But the Buddha’s teaching goes a step
beyond this. It says, do your work without desiring anything. In the
world, you do this to get that; you do that to get this; you are always
doing something in order to get something as a result. That’s the
way of worldly folk. The Buddha says, work for the sake of work without
wanting anything.

Whenever we work with the desire for something, we suffer. Check this

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