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The Grandson marries the Grandmother?

The Buddha said, ‘Ananda, I allow the Bhikshus to eat five types of pure meat. The meat is transformed by me and they are lifeless. The lands of the Brahmin are hot and wet. The earth composes mostly of sand and stone and it is difficult to grow grass and vegetables. With my great spiritual power of compassion meat is transformed and you can taste the flesh.’

In this paragraph the Buddha talked about killing which includes meat eating. The Buddha had made the prediction that in the Dharma Ending Age many so called good teachers advise people to eat meat. They say that eating meat is the attainment of the Bodhi Path. They say by eating meat helps us to maintain a healthy body to practise the bodhisattva path. The Buddha knows that in the Dharma Ending Age there are many such deviant living beings who hold on to this evil views. That is why the Buddha needs to clarify this way of thinking. In this sutra, the Buddha clearly stated his views on meat eating. The Buddha said, ‘I allow the bhikshus to eat five types of pure meat. 1. Do not see the killing. 2. Do not hear the screams of the animals. 3. Have no suspicion that the animals are killed for me 4. The animals die naturally. 5. The remainder flesh eaten by birds. With the fulfilment of these five causes and conditions, it means that the bhikshus obtain the meat without creating the causes and conditions of killing, that the bhikshus are not connected to the animals’ death. And the hidden meaning is that the meat is the Buddha’s spiritual transformation. It is not a life form. Why did the Buddha use his spiritual power to transform the meat? The Buddha said in the lands of the Brahmin, which refers to India, the climate was hot and wet, with lots of rain. The atmosphere is wet and damp. Moreover, the land is covered with stones and sands which are unsuitable for the growth of vegetables. In this situation, if the Buddha does not allow the bhikshus to eat the five types of meat, the bhikshus would find it difficult to sustain their life. So with this mind of great compassion the Buddha transformed the five types of meat for bhikshus to eat. But nowadays people say since the Buddha allows bhikshus to eat the five pure meats so we can eat meat too. Great Master Venerable OuYi pointed out this problem and gave the following explanation, ‘People argue that if the Buddha does not allow us to eat meat, why does not he transform some vegetables so that there would be no misunderstanding in future?’ The Venerable explained, ‘When the Buddha entered the world, there should not be all kinds of strange happenings. Everything should be as normal and proper. If before the birth of the Buddha, there was no vegetable in India. When the Buddha was born, all the vegetables appeared. After his entrance into Nirvana all the vegetables disappeared. The people would feel very strange. And in the Buddha’s teaching he does not encourage such strange phenomena. The Buddha enters the world and he will not change the false appearance of the world. As it is stated in the Vajra Sutra, ‘A bodhisattva contemplates all dharma as empty yet he does not deny the false appearance.’ The Buddha has to act in accord with the causes and conditions of living beings.

After the Buddha had explained the five pure meats he continued to say,

‘It is a wrong interpretation that after the Buddha has entered Nirvana the living beings eat the meat and called themselves the Sakya’s disciples. All of you should know this, “For the meat eaters, even though they seem to attain the Samadhi, that their mind seems to open up, they are still called the great rakshasa. At their death bed they will surely fall into the great seas of birth and death. They are not the Buddha disciples. For such people there is no ending in killing each other, there is no ending in swallowing one another other and there is no ending in eating each other, how could they leave the triple realms?” ’

Now the Buddha has already entered Nirvana and there is no more five pure meat. So where to get the five pure meats to eat? And living beings say they are eating the five pure meats. How can we call such people the Buddha disciples who cultivate the Sagely Noble Path?

Why does the Buddha say people who eat meat are not the Buddha disciples? He says a cultivator who always eats meat even if he seems go attain some clarity in mind which means he has wide learning in the Dharma, he seems to be replete with some knowledge and views, he seems to have some kinds of Samadhi, the merits and virtues of concentration yet he is known as a big rakshasa. In the precept books, the Buddha seldom uses such harsh description on his disciples. For example in the bodhisattva precepts, a man knows the precepts yet he is transgressing the precepts. The harsh word the Buddha used to describe him is a deluded man, that he is not different from the animals, not different from the wood and stone. He has no proper judgement and decision. But in this Sutra the Buddha says such a man is a rakshasa, a rakshasa who has wide learning, a rakshasa who dwells in meditation. This is a big rakshasa. Such a man will sink into the suffering seas of birth and death. Upon his death, he will fall down into the three evil paths, the realms of ghosts and spirits. The first grade becomes the Great strength ghost King, the second grade is the flying rakshasa while the lowest grade the ground walking rakshasa. As he has already destroyed his Bodhi good roots he is not a Buddha disciple. Even though he still bows to the Buddha daily, recites the mantra but he has already destroyed his Bodhi good roots. This man who eats meat, who swallows flesh does not have the opportunity to put to extinction the cause and effect of retribution. As he continues to eat meat, he owes living beings the debts of killing. How can he leave the triple realm? When will he finish paying back these debts?

The Buddha continued to say, ‘You should teach people who cultivate the Samadhi to abstain from killing in the next step. This is known as the Thus Come One, the past Buddha World Honoured One second resolute, pure and clear instruction.’

Here is the conclusion of the Buddha asking the Honoured One Ananda to pass down this proper instruction to the future generations. Those who learn the Great Vehicle Samadhi should sever killing in the second step of cultivation as stated in the Shurangama Sutra, one must first sever the mind of sexual desire and secondly the mind of killing. Why does the Buddha call the meat eater a great rakshasa? In the Brahman Net Sutra it states clearly, ‘A man who eats meat severs his seed of Buddha nature. He loses the great kindness and compassion. All the living beings see him will leave him.’ At first you are a man with a mind of kindness and compassion. But when you eat meat every day, your kindness and compassion will gradually disappear. Some people say, ‘The meat and the wine just pass through my intestine but the Buddha is sitting in my mind.’ This kind of saying is nonsensical. This is because when you eat the meat and drink the wine, the rakshasa is sitting in your mind. What is meant by the destruction of the mind of great kindness and compassion? In the teaching of consciousness only, it states that our body and mind are closely inter-related. The mind will influence the body and the body will affect the mind. In the Shastra of the Mirror Sect, Venerable Master Yong Ming told us a story.

He said, ‘When the Buddha was in the world, there was a group of bhikshus who cultivated diligently in the mountain forests. Many of them attained the four types of fruitions Sotapanna, Sakadagami, Anagami and Arahant after cultivating for three months during the Rain retreat. The monkeys in the forest witnessed that the bhikshus were sitting in meditation diligently cultivating the path. They were very happy and they offered them beautiful flowers and sweet fruits. After attaining the Sagely Path the bhikshus left and travelled on. The deviant cultivators came to the same place and found that it was a quiet place. So they settled down to practise. The monkeys saw the new comers and offered flowers and fruits too. But the monkeys found that these people were practising differently. Comparatively the bhikshus were sitting upright and looked very serene. While the new cultivators were standing on one foot, others were lying down and performed many kinds of actions. The monkeys got angry on seeing this and they forced the deviant practisers to sit down properly, to cross the legs and forced them to place the palms in the Dharma Realm Meditative Seal. At first the deviant practisers tried to fight back but they could not overcome such a big group of monkeys and decided to sit in meditation. And they found this method is truly good as many of them attained the first dhyana, the second, third and fourth dhyana. So Great Master Yong Ming said in the Mirror Sect Shastra, that our body will affect our mind. When the deviant cultivators were practising on their own at the beginning stage, none of them attained dhyana as their mind was scattered in confusion. So when we eat meat, this belongs to the bodily actions. But our five skandhas of body and mind are all inter-related. The body will affect the mind while the mind will affect the body.  As we know when we learn the Shramanera awesome deportment, our posture will affect the calmness of our mind. When we conduct ourselves properly, the mind will be calm and still. That is why the Buddha criticized those meat-eaters.

In the next paragraph the Buddha gave the instructions on the problems of meat eating. The Buddha gave the following analogy, ‘if a man does not stop killing and he continues to practise the meditation, he resembles the man who screams loudly and covers up both his ears with his hands, expecting others not to hear his screams. This is known as trying to to cover up one’s faults yet his faults are most prominent.’

In the Shurangama Sutra it is said that if a man does not sever the mind of killing which means he continues to eat meat, wear and use other parts of the animals. When he continues to cultivate the great vehicle Samadhi, it is as though he covers up his ears, screams loudly and he expects others not to hear his voice. He wishes to cover up his faults and his faults are much clearly seen by others. It is impossible for him to leave the triple realm.

‘A pure bhikshu or a bodhisattva will not even step on the grass when he walks on the wild path, what is more for him to pulls up the grass? So how can he with a mind of great compassion eat the meat and drink the blood of living beings?’

Here the Buddha says that a bhikshu who upholds the pure precepts or a pure bodhisattva while walking in the small path in the remote area will not even step on the wild grass. A Buddha disciple will take care of the grass also. It is impossible for him to use his hand to pull up the growing grass. So how could a Buddha disciple who cultivates the mind of great compassion eat the flesh and drink the blood of living beings?

The Buddha continues to say, ‘If a bhikshu does not wear the silky materials and silk products in the east, the leathery and fur products on this land, partaking the dairy products such as milk and cheese, such a bhikshu is truly liberated from the world. He is here to pay all his past debts and he will no longer roam in the triple realms. Why is this so? If one eats and wears the products of the animals, one is creating an affinity with them. Just like a man who eats the various types of grains from the ground, his feet are able to leave the ground.’

The Buddha instructed us that if we wish to sever killing, we have to put a stop to three types of causes and conditions. A bhikshu who cultivates meditation should not wear, use or eat the animals products. In the east refers to China. China produces all kinds of silk, such as the plain silk, the fine silk, silk products such as the silk blankets, silk handkerchief and lastly the mixture of silk with other raw materials. The production of silk involves heavy killing. The next thing we have to stop killing is the use of fur and leather products. For examples the shoes which are make from leather, the clothes which are made from animal skin, fur and feathers. The last one the Buddha mentions is the dairy products. The first stage of milk is directly from the animals. After processing they become the cheese and fine cheese. According to Venerable Great Master Ou Yi’s explanation, the heaviest killing involves the process of silk making. The use of silk product is prohibited in both the great and small vehicles teaching. The use of leathers, furs are not allowed in the great vehicle. In the small vehicle conditions are set for limited usage. This is medium killing. Cheese and milk are allowed to use only in the case of serious illness in both the small and great vehicles. A bhikshu who does not eat, wear or use the animal products are considered having attained genuine liberation. In this life he is able to pay the debts of killing and he does not create new karma of killing. He will no longer roam in the triple realms. Why does the Buddha say this? It is because if we use their products, we are creating new affinities with them. The use of the animal products, the eating of their flesh is to create the karmic bonds with these animals. We will be unable to detach ourselves from the karmic strength. The animals will one day be born in the family, to be sons or daughters to clear this debt of killing.

The Buddha gives the analogy of a man who eats the grains planted on the ground and he is unable to leave this earth. He said once the heavenly beings from the Heaven of Light and Sound in the beginning of kalpas flew to the earth with their spiritual power. When they landed on the earth they found that the earth was covered with layers of rich and delicious food. They enjoyed eating the food so much, that their feet were attached to the ground and they lost their spiritual power to fly back to the heaven. They ate the food from the land and created the affinity with the land. As such they could no longer fly back. So when we eat the products of animals, we will have no means to leave them. When the living beings transmigrate in the six paths, we will just have to follow them in transmigration!

The Buddha concluded, ‘We should abstain the eating and use of animal products so that our body and mind will be detached from the affinities with them. I pronounce such a man is truly liberated.’

 We who desire to leave the triple realms should pay attention to this teaching. We must be able to know the activities of this body, and the activities in our mind.  A man who practises this way will be easy to leave the triple gem.

The Buddha concluded, ‘If you speak as what I have spoken, this is known as the teaching of the Buddha. If you do not speak as what I have spoken, this is known as the teaching of the Mara.’

If we speak as what is mentioned above, this is the proper dharma eyes store of the Buddha. If we go against the meaning as mentioned above, this is the evil views and knowledge of the Mara. In our study of the precept a question was put forward on the abstention in the use of the wool. The Buddha forbids us to use wool even though it does not involve the killing of goats. If we create affinities with them it will hinder us from leaving the triple realm.

Once upon a time, a Zen Master was walking to an ancient village. He saw a family busy preparing for a wedding ceremony. After seeing this, he said the following verses,

‘Living beings in the Saha World are full of sufferings,

The grandson marries the grandmother,

The cows and goats are sitting around the table,

Six kinds of closed relatives are boiled in the pot.’

In the world of transmigration, living beings are suffering continually. In the past before the grandmother passed away, she could not let go of her grandson. So she came back to be his wife to take care of him. The goats and cows they had eaten were their relatives now, who came to attend the wedding feast. The six types of relatives who had eaten the flesh of animals were born as animals, slaughtered and cooked in the pot. This is the karmic retribution of killing in the process of transmigration.

Venerable Master pointed out the importance of being a vegetarian besides reciting the Buddha name is based on the teaching in the Shurangama Sutra. A pure land cultivator wishes that he will have no obstruction at his dead bed. Just like a man who wishes to jump from one place to another, it is best for him to carry very little luggage so that it will not hinder him when he is to leave the triple realm. This means we must try our best to lighten our karma before we die. The safest way is to practise in accord with the Buddha’s teaching, to abstain from killing. The Buddha says he is a genuine disciple who has attained liberation. 

Dharma talk by Venerable Master Shi Jing Jie on The Shurangama Sutra

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The Supremacy of the Buddha and the Sangha

Once I heard of a donor who would send his friend to the temple to invite the Sangha to attend the offerings of food and drinks at his house. He would only make offerings to the old monks, leaving behind the young monks. When it was the turn for the young sramanera to receive offerings they were turned down by the friend. The sramanera asked, ‘Why did not you invite us to attend the offerings?’ The friend answered, ‘It is not my idea. It is the donor’s order.’

 And he said in verses,

‘The Elders are replete with virtues,

Their hair is white and their face covers with wrinkles.

The eyebrows are slander and they have only a few teeth.

Their back is hunch and their limbs are slow in movement.

The donor likes such appearances.

And he dislikes the young novices.’

At that time all the novices in the temple are Arahants. Just like a man who has angered the lion by hitting its waists and veins, the novices said, ‘The donor is unwise, without wisdom. He does not like virtues as he is greedy for the elderly only.’

The novices said in verses,

‘What is meant by an Elder?

It is unnecessary to have white hair,

Wrinkles and toothless,

Yet he is deluded and unwise.

What is more important is that he is the fields of blessings.

Who has eradicated and put to extinctions all evils.

A man who practises the Pure Brahman Conduct

Is known as an Elder

When we face slanders and praises

We do not give rise to a mind of increase of decrease.

But if we let the donor fall into sinful act

For giving rise to a mind of increase or decrease

Besides his slanderous remarks on the fields of blessings of the Sangha

We should quickly go to teach him a lesson

So that he will give rise to proper faith,

That he will not fall into the evil paths’

So the sramanera transformed themselves into old monks using their power of spiritual penetration. They had white hair, wrinkles and long eye-brows and were toothless. They held on to the walking sticks in the hunch posture. Slowly they walked shakingly to the donor’s house. On seeing them, the donor was very glad. He burnt the incense and spread the wonderful flowers. He quickly invited them to take a seat. After sitting down for a while, the sramanera transformed back to be the young looking novices. The donor was most surprised to witness such transformation.  He was wondering if they had taken the heavenly sweet dews that their skins were so young and pliant.

At that time one sramanera said, ‘I am not a yaksha, neither am I a rakshasa. As I found that the donor only made offerings to the elderly monks, paying no attention to the novices, this is very wrong. Your attitude in giving rise to a mind of high and low concerning the blessings of the Sangha is wrong. That is why we transformed ourselves so that you would change for the better.’

And he said the following verse, ‘Take the analogy of a mosquito which wishes to fathom the bottom of the great ocean with its eyes. There is no one in the world who can fathom the merits and virtues of the multitude of Sangha. All the people cannot measure the merits and virtues of the Sangha, what is more for you alone to judge the Sangha?’

The Sramanera continued to say, ‘Now you should not compare the merits of the Sangha just by differentiating their forms and age. A man who seeks the dharma does not contemplate the forms. He will only see their wisdom. A young novice can be small but he could have severed all the afflicted knots of leakage. He has certified to the sagely path. While an old monk who is heedless is considered young. What you have done is wrong. If you wish to touch the bottom of the sea with your fingers, this is an impossible task. It is the same with you. It is impossible for you to judge the fields of blessings of the Sangha, to determine the high and low of their cultivation with your limited knowledge. Haven’t you heard of the sutra of not slighting the four things, namely a prince, a snake, a fire and a sramanera? The World Honoured One also gave the analogy of an ambra fruit. Some are ripe outside but not inside while others are ripe internally yet the external flesh is still unripe. Do not measure and compare the goodness and faults of a man before you. In one thought a man is able to attain the path. Indeed you have now committed a great mistake. If you have any doubts you can ask now. From now onwards you should not give rise to a mind of differentiation on the fields of blessings of the Sangha.’

He again said in verses,

‘No one is able to measure the seas of merits and virtues of Sangha.

Even the Buddha gives rise to great joy and respect

When he praises the Sangha using a hundred gatha

What is more with others people

Who do not praise them?

The Sangha is the expansive fields of wholesome blessings.

Planting a tiny seed in this field a man reaps abundant benefits.

The harmony assembly of Sakya Buddha

Is known as the third Jewel

In the multitude, do not compare them just by looking at their face.

Do not judge them by their race and clans, awesome deportments or eloquence.

It is impossible to fathom their internal virtues.

On looking at them you should give rise to respect

He may be young and small but he is replete with wisdom and high virtues.

You do not know the practice in their mind

And you just look down on them.

Take the analogy of a great forest,

The campaka(fragrant flowers) are mixed with the eranda (smelly wood)

All the trees are different

But altogether they are known as the forest.

In the Sangha there are the young one and the elderly

But you must not give rise to differentiation.

Kasyapa desired to leave the home life

So he renounced all his valuable clothes.

When he took out the cheapest outfits

They still amounted to ten million in gold.

It is the same with the Sangha

When we refer to the fields of blessings of the multitude

Even when we make an offering to the monk with the least practice,

We still reap the blessings after we change our body ten million times.

Take the analogy of the great sea

It will not keep the dead corpses.

It is the same with the seas of Sangha,

Those who transgress the precepts are not tolerated.

For a mundane member of the Sangha

Who only upholds a few precepts

We are able to obtain great rewards and great blessings

If we are respectful to him besides making offerings

So we should make offerings to the Sangha

With a mind of equanimity

Without considering their age,

We should not give rise to a mind of differentiation.’

On hearing this, the donor was most shameful and he bowed down in obeisance to the novices to seek repentance. He said, ‘I am a common deluded man and I have make many mistakes. Please forgive me. I have some doubts and I hope the Venerable would explain for me.’

He said in verses, ‘You are a man with great wisdom. You should be able to clear my nets of doubts. If I do not ask you, I am considered a stupid man.’

At that time the sramanera answered, ‘You can put forward your questions and I will answer.’

The donor asked, ‘Great Virtuous One, having great respect and faith in the Buddha and the Sangha, which one of them is considered the highest in supremacy?’

The Sramanera asked, ‘Don’t you know about the Triple Jewel?’

The donor said, ‘Even though I know there is the Triple Jewel, I wonder if there is one which is the most supreme among them?’

The Sramanera answered, ‘I do not see any increase or decrease in the Buddha and the Sangha.’

And he said the following verses,

‘The Brahmin with a great surname

People called him Duluoze

He slandered the Buddha,

Then he praised the Buddha,

But the Buddha was not moved by his words.

He offered food to the Thus Come One.

As the Thus Come One did not accept the offerings

No one in the Triple realm can digest this food.

When the food was thrown into the water,

It burnt into thick smoke and fire immediately.

When Gotami made an offering of clothes to the Buddha

The Buddha asked her to offer to the Sangha.

Because of such causes and conditions

The Triple Gem is equal with no differences.’

On hearing this, the donor asked, ‘if there is no difference in the Buddha and the Sangha, why did he put the food into the water, not offering it to the Sangha?’

The Sramanera answered, ‘The Buddha is not being stingy with the food. He did this because he wished to reveal the virtuous strength of the Sangha. Why is this so? The Buddha contemplated, “No one in the triple gem has the ability to digest it.” When it is placed it in the water, fire and smoke burnt fiercely. When Gotami made the offerings of clothes, the Buddha ordered to give to the Sangha. The Sangha accepted them without any changes. So you should know that the Sangha is endowed with great virtues and they are well known. The Buddha and the Sangha are not different.’

At that time the donor said, ‘From now onwards, I will be respectful towards the sangha, may they be young or old. I will not give rise to a mind of differentiation.’

The sramanera said, ‘If you can practise in this way, you will soon see the Path of Truth.’

He continued to say in gatha,

‘The practice of wide learning and upholding of precepts,

The practice of concentration and wisdom

Bring one to the Three Vehicles

Just like the Xintou River that flows into the great sea

All these sages and worthies

Dwell in the great seas of Sangha.

Just like the snowy mountains

It is replete with the wonderful medicinal herbs.

And it also resemble the good fields

Where all the seeds are grown

All the sages and worthies

Are found in the Sangha’

After saying the verses, he said, ‘Dear donor, haven’t you heard of the three surnames, namely Anilutou, Nanti and Jin Pi Luo? The ghostly spirits Great General once said to the Buddha,

‘World Honoured One, in the world, all the heavenly beings, the humans, the ghosts, the Brahman who are mindful of these three surnames will surely obtain benefits, calm and bliss.’

Even three monks from the Sangha are able to bestow blessings upon living beings. What is more the great multitude?

He said in gatha,

‘With only three men it is not known as the Sangha,

Yet those who are mindful of them will obtain benefits.

Just as the ghostly general has said,

This cannot be known as the mindfulness of Sangha,

Yet they are able to bestow great benefits for others,

What is more if we are mindful of the Sangha?

So you should know this,

All the merits and virtues, all the wholesome deeds

Arise from the Sangha.

Take the analogy of a great Dragon who arranges for the rain,

Only the great seas are able to contain it.

This is the same for the Sangha

Who has the ability to receive the rain of Great Dharma

So you should know this

You should be mindful of the Sangha wholeheartedly.

This is because the Sangha is the assembly of all wholesomeness.

They are the great multitudes who have attained liberation.

The Sangha resembles the courageous army

Which is able to destroy the Mara,

And the hateful enemy

So the multitude of Sangha,

Is the forest of supreme wisdom.

All the wholesome conducts are to be found in it.

They are on the paths of liberation of the three vehicles

They are our most supreme friends and companies.’

On hearing the gatha of the sramanera, the donor was most happy.

And he attained the fruit of Sotapanna.

Chapter 4 – Virtues are the fields of blessings, not the age or strength – The Great Adornment Shastra Sutra by Asvaghosa Bodhisattva.

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Good Roots Versus Blessings

The first false thought that brings forth our transmigration in the six paths. To put a halt to this transmigration we need to uphold the precepts.

Taking precepts on the point of view of leaving the world to attain the sagely path. We study at the angle of seeing through the false and returning to the Genuine. We will discuss in accord with the table set by Venerable Master HongYi.

In the first paragraph, the Master said, ‘The consciousness body of living beings is originally pure. It is originally at ease. It is originally in equanimity.’

Explanation: The original face of our mind is originally free from dust and defilement. Dust and defilement refer to our afflictions. Even though we are often afflicted, but we must know afflictions are not our original face. Afflictions come into being because of the arising of causes and conditions. Afflictions arise later from the mind. They only come in later. Our mind is originally at ease because our mind nature is originally replete with all kinds of spiritual power. Our mind originally has the ability to accomplish the three bodies, the four wisdoms, the five eyes, the six spiritual penetrations and all kinds of dharanis. Our mind is originally in equanimity because it does not have the thoughts of contradictions. It is originally free from the mark of self and others, love and hatred, getting and renouncing. So the mind is originally pure, at ease and in equanimity.

But the unfortunate circumstances arise out of our ignorance.

‘Because of false thoughts, it is transformed into afflictions.

Because of false thoughts, it is transformed into knots of karma and

Because of false thoughts, it is transformed into birth and death.’

These are the causes and conditions for a mundane man to transmigrate in the six paths. The first cause and condition is our false thought. It means the false arising of one thought. This concept is clearly stated in the ‘Shastra of Arising of Faith in the Great Vehicle’ by Asvaghosa. According to the Shastra our original mind is a pure genuine thus. This genuine thus is the dharma realm of equanimity. It is a realm of non-dualism. In this non-duality there is no opposition of the mark of a self and the mark of others. It gives the concept of the embodiment of life-forms as a whole. But unfortunately the Genuine Thus does not hold on to its self-nature, it gives rise to one false thought. The problem is our mind does not have the habit to dwell in the realm of equanimity. Preferably we like to look for things outside our mind, chasing after the false conditions. We feel that it is good to seek for things outside this mind. We wish and hope to seek for things and issues other than this peaceful equanimity. When this one false thought arises, we fall into the thinking mind of contrast.  We fall into dualism of self and others. We give in to a thinking mind of inequality. This type of thinking in a contrasting manner is the beginning of false thoughts. We begin to create all kinds of false thoughts in our mind in succession. With all these false thoughts, greed, hatred, delusion and other afflictions begin to flourish. With these afflictions, they bring us to create the karma. The heavier the afflictions, the heavier the karmic force. From the karmic strength, the retribution of birth and death comes forth.

In the Shurangama Sutra, it is stated that we have three kinds of force that dwell continually in our mind.

  1. The afflictions arise continually. From the time of no beginning until now, our afflictions never come to a stop. They keep on arising in our mind. They appear like a relay competition, one comes after another.
  2. The karmic force arises continually. They will not come to a stop also. We create one karma follows by another karma continually.
  3. The continuity of our rewards and retribution. Our birth and death will not come to a halt. In the sutra it is thus stated, ‘the seas of birth and death’. Just imagine we are standing in the ocean, surrounded by water and we will be unable to see the shores.

In the Shurangama Sutra, it is thus stated, ‘The continuity of our afflictions, the continuity of karmic forces and the continuity of our rewards  and retributive bodies are based on the foundation of a continual flow of false thoughts.’ As long as our ways of thinking are based on inequality, that they are not put to extinction, we will be impossible to subdue our afflictions, to decrease the karmic strength and to liberate ourselves from birth and death. So to stop the flow of the false thought is an important task for us. False thoughts arise because we still have desires, wishes. Until here we are talking about the roots, the source of pain and worries of a mundane man.

So our cultivation is to subdue the false thoughts. They are the sources of our illness. Below the Buddha shows us three ways to cure our sicknesses. The Buddha says,

‘If we desire to return to our origin, the pure mind, we must make the following three vows.

  1. We vow to sever all evils. This is the precept of rules of deportment to counteract all evils.
  2. We vow to cultivate all goodness. This is the precept of gathering in all wholesomeness.
  3. We vow to cross over all living beings. This is the precept of gathering in all living beings.’

Here the Buddha teaches how to cure the wrong thinking in our mind, the wrong hopes and wishes. We must follow and act in accord with the three gatherings of pure precepts set by the Buddha.

So the most important thing we must do when we take the precepts is to make these vows. Without these vows we will be unable to obtain the precept body.

All the causes and conditions should arise from our mind. It would be futile if we just act with our mouth and body, with no sincerity in the mind. The precept body is obtained if you truly bring forth the vows wishing for the hopes and best changes in our life. Even though we have committed a lot of evils, we vow we will put the evils to extinction one day. Even though we are lacking in goodness, we will try our best to cultivate them. Thirdly we hope that we will be able to help all living beings one day.

With the vows we will start to cultivate the three conducts:

  1. The vow to sever all evils is the cultivation of renouncing all defilements.
  2. The vow to cultivate all goodness is the cultivation of all expedients. The cultivation of the six paramitas is to cultivate the expedients.
  3. The vow to cross over all living beings is to cultivate kindness and compassion.  This is to cultivate the four ways of gathering in living beings, namely giving, kind words, beneficial acts and working side by side with living beings.

Until now we have spoken of the causes for taking the precepts. We make the three vows and accomplish the three types of precept body and also accomplish the three types of conduct. This is the appearance, the mark of taking precepts.

The fruits of taking the precepts are as follows:

  1. When we vow to sever all evils, we return to the origin of purity. We break down the hindrances of afflictions and certify to be the Dharma Body Buddha.
  2. When we vow to cultivate all goodness, we return to the origin of self –ease. We break down the karmic hindrances and certify to be the Reward Body Buddha.
  3. When we vow to cross over all living beings, we return to the original mind of equanimity. We break down the hindrances of retribution and certify to be the Transformation Buddha.

The Buddha sets the rules of precepts, teaches us to make the vows and enables the merits and virtues to arise in us.

A man who upholds the precept must differentiate the meanings of blessings and good roots. Certain good deeds comprise of blessings. But the upholding of Buddha precepts comprises the blessings and good roots. When a Buddhist upholds the precepts he can go up the heaven. A deviant practiser upholds the precept can also go to the heaven. But the difference is a deviant practiser who goes up to enjoy the heavenly bliss come back to the human realm as his usual self without any changes. His precepts only bring him the blessing, not the good roots. But a Buddhist who upholds the Buddha precepts is different. He makes the vows in his mind to sever all evil, do all good deeds and cross over all living beings. He will have the good roots in addition to blessings. The precepts enable him to give rise to an alert mind. When he encounters an external state, a wholesome dharma or a wholesome karma arises in his mind. Even after enjoying the blessings he still has the good roots, to be alert of his actions, to avoid evil deeds and to do good deeds for the benefit of all living beings. A blessing is a dharma of birth and extinction but good roots will continue to flourish, it will not become extinct. So even though he has finished enjoying his blessings in the heaven, his good roots remain, he is alert of his actions in the future life. The good roots enable him to meet with the Triple Gem easily, and to take the three refuges and precepts willingly. So we should know that when we receive the Buddha precepts, the precept body appears in our mind and accomplishes the supreme good roots. We will be replete with the ability to be alert in our undertakings, thoughts and words. This is the difference of having only the blessings.

Dharma talk by Venerable Master Jing Jie from the Jinglv Buddhist College in Taiwan

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Do you know the rewards and retributions of Giving?

A man who gives without suspicion, who understands giving will bring upon one the corresponding rewards will have his evil views and ignorance broken down.

A man who does not uphold the precepts obtains the money and wealth by beating up people and living beings, whipping them, putting them into jails and wrongly accusing them of bad deeds, torturing and lashing them with stick and weapons and uses the money to give to others will be born as elephants, cows and horses and suffers the heavy burden of carrying goods and gets beaten up. Their legs are nailed with iron hooves. These animals are reared by people who provide them food and shelters. They are valued by people as a mean of transportation.

An evil man with an angry and crooked mind may give to others also. Such a man will be born as a dragon which lives in the seven jewel palaces enjoying wonderful food and beautiful companions.  

An arrogant man who gives to others with a hateful mind will fall into path of golden bird garuda. It is born with a as you wish pearl as adornment and it leads an easy life. It enjoys all kinds of facilities as it desires and it is able to transform himself into myriad forms to fulfil all kinds of tasks.

A great officer misuses his position and power to collect taxes from his people without acting in accord with the rules of the country. He uses this money to give to others will be born as a kumbhara ghost in the realm of ghosts and spirits. He has the ability to perform different transformation of the five dusts for self-enjoyment.

A man who enjoys drinking wine and yet he is able to give to others will be born as the ground yaksa who enjoys all kinds of happiness, music, food and drinks.

A man who is stubborn and powerful is able to give to others transportation such as the carriages and horses will fall down to become the space yaksa which is strong. It can travel as fast as the wind.

A man who is jealous and yet he is able to give to others the good shelters, bedding equipment, clothes, food and drinks will be born as the flying yaksa which enjoys all kinds of amusement, and obtains all necessities.

When a man gives to others and cultivates the blessings and virtues and he is not attached to the dharma of doing will be born among the Four Heavenly Kings heaven.

A man who gives to others beside making offerings to his parents, his uncles, brothers and sisters without giving rise to anger, hatred and arguments, who does not like to see people arguing and fighting will be born in the Trayastrimsa heaven, Yama heaven, Tushita heaven, Bliss transforming at ease heaven and the heaven of Ease in Transforming Others’ bliss.

A man who gives to others without defilements, who despises the worldly realm to seek Nirvana Bliss will become Arahant and Pratyeka Buddha.

A man who gives for the sake of the Buddha Path, for the sake of living beings is a bodhisattva.

The Buddha gives all kinds of valuables, money and things when they first bring forth the Bodhi resolve. They may offer flowers, incense, clothes, poplar twigs and other things to living beings.

Moreover a man who gives food and drinks to others will obtain strength, a good form which others love to behold, and a long lifespan.

A man who gives clothing to others will obtain a mind replete with shame. He is born awesome, virtuous and upright. He is calm and blissful in body and mind.

 A man who gives away the houses and shelters will naturally obtain all kinds of seven jewels palaces and enjoy a life with abundant five desires. He is born with no hunger and no thirst as he is provided with all kinds of delicious drinks.

A man who provides the benefits of bridges, vehicles and foot wears for others is born with all kinds of transportation such as carriages and horses.

A man who gives others the garden and forests will be born rich and honoured. He becomes the reliance of others and he is born adorned and upright with a blissful mind free from worries.

An extract and translation of the teaching in the Shastra of Crossing Over with Great Wisdom

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Men can be born from the eggs, dampness, transformation or wombs

  1. In the Shastra of Crossing with Great Wisdom, pg. 301 there is a description of the four types of birth of human beings.
  2. Human beings born from eggs.

During the time of the Buddha, there was a lady who was known as Visakha. She was famous for building the Mother of the Deer Lecture Hall for the Buddha and Sangha with the money collected by selling her wedding dress which came to the amount of nine billion dollars. Later she was pregnant and gave birth to 32 sons who entered the world in the forms of eggs. All of them were endowed with great strength.Human beings born from dampness

3. Human beings born from dampness

For example the prostitute Anluopoli gave birth to the Wheel Turning Sage King from a sarcoma on the summit of her head. The King was also known as the King born from the summit.

4. Human beings born from transformation

For example, once the Buddha was travelling with the four assemblies of disciples. Among the bhikshuni Aluopo was born from transformation from the ground. Besides at the beginning of the first formation of the kalpa all human beings were born from transformation. Human beings who were born from transformation grew up to be adult immediately after the birth.

5. Human beings born from the wombs refer to all the common people.

6. The Birth of the Brahman Heavenly King

At the end of the burning kalpa, everything returned to emptiness. Because of the causes and conditions of living beings’ blessings and virtues, winds blew from the ten directions struck and hit against one another and a great torrential water was formed. On the water there was a thousand heads man who had two thousand hands and legs. His name was Vishnu. From the belly button there grew up a thousand petals golden Jewel lotus which shone forth to such a great extend just as though ten thousands suns were shining all at once. On top of the lotus a man was sitting in meditation in full lotus posture. This man was enveloped in immeasurable bright lights and he was the Brahman Heavenly King. From the Mind of the Brahman Heavenly King eight sons were born. The eight sons would later give birth to all the people in the heaven and earth. As the Brahman Heavenly King has severed all afflictions of sexual desire and anger, so a man who cultivates the pure conduct of dhyana to sever sexual desire and hatred is known as practising the Brahman Path.

7. People in the heavens and hells are born from transformation while the hungry ghosts are born either from the wombs or transformation.

(An extract of the teaching in the Shastra of Crossing Over with Great Wisdom –Book 1- by Nagarjuna Bodhisattva)

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Can I have some food for my foetus?

During the Later Wei, the north and south Dynasty there was a Ling Jiu Temple in Shanxi Wu Tai Shan. According to the yearly custom, in the early spring the temple would organize a free vegetarian food giving equally to all those who came, without considering their status, position or clan, laymen or sangha, in order to create affinity with the Buddha. This is known as giving in equanimity. The aim is to benefit self and others, to cultivate a mind of equanimity. As such it became a tradition of the temple to conduct the giving of food with the involvement of the Buddha’s seven groups of disciples.

One day came a poor woman in rags. She was pregnant. She brought along her two children and a dog followed closely behind her. She did not have any money and she cut down her hair and said to the old Abbot of the temple, ‘I can only offer my hair as offerings to the Triple gem. Please be kind to accept it.’ The old Abbot agreed and kept her hair. He asked, ‘Donor, where are you from?’ The poor lady answered, ‘I come from the place where I come.’ The Abbot was shocked to listen to such an answer. Before he had a chance to question further, the lady said, ‘I need to travel fast. Can I have some food first?’

As it was still early and not the time to distribute food, the Abbot out of compassion decided to give her the food. The Abbot Venerable Fa Yin entered the kitchen and took out three bowls of food. So the lady ate the food together with her two children. After eating she said to the Abbot, ‘I have a dog. Can it have some food also?’ The Abbot listened and nodded. He went in again and gave the dog the food. When the dog was eating, the lady asked again, ‘Venerable Master, I am pregnant. Can I have some food for my baby also?’

On listening to this, the Abbot was quite angry and he scolded, ‘You come here to beg for food and I have granted your wishes. Aren’t you over greedy, begging food for the baby who is still unborn? It is very bad of you to be so greedy, to get attached to the delicious food.’ On listening to the scolding, the poor lady said the following verses,

‘The bitter gourd is bitter even at the root,

The sweet melon is sweet even at the pedicle.

I am not attached to anything in the Triple Realms,

Yet I am despised by the Venerable Master.’

After saying this she jumped up into the air and transformed into Manjushri Bodhisattva. The dog was his green lion seat and the two children the attendants.

And in the cloud, the Bodhisattva spoke the following verses,

‘Living beings learn the mind of equanimity

But their mind fluctuates along with the waves of the myriad states.

The hundreds of bony corpses are all discarded

When will they ever discard the feeling of love and hatred?’

At that time those who attended the food giving festival were more than a few thousands. They personally witnessed the appearance of Manjushri Bodhisattva. On listening to his teaching, they were very touched and cried. All of them bowed down on the ground and begged the Bodhisattva to show the way, ‘Greatly Honoured One, please be kind to show us the Dharma door of Equanimity so that we will be able to practise accordingly!’

From the empty space the following verses were heard,

‘Maintain a mind just like the great earth,

A mind which resembles the water, the fire or the wind,

They are not two different things, in a mind with no differentiation,

Ultimately they are like the empty space.’

The great earth does not comment when living beings are walking on it. It gives its free support to all, may they be men or women, good or bad, clever or stupid, rich or poor, a bodhisattva or a mundane man. The great earth equally supports all without differentiation, with no likes or dislikes. The earth, water, fire and wind seem to be different but basically their origin is the same, with no differentiation just like the empty space.

The Abbot was truly regretful and he held on to a knife wishing to dig out his eyes, crying that he had the eyes but he could not see the sage. He had been praying to the Bodhisattva every day to bestow upon him great wisdom. And when the real bodhisattva came before him, he could not recognize him and he scolded him. He was most remorseful. He was stopped by those around him, saying that there were many ways to seek repentance and it was unnecessary to dig out the eyes. He decided to build a pagoda as offering to the hair offered by the Bodhisattva to seek repentance. In the Ming Dynasty, the first year of Wanli, Yuan Guang Dharma Master was the Abbot and he repaired the Jewel Hair Pagoda of Manjushri Bodhisattva. He dug out a few bundles of hair which were golden in colour. And when he looked further the hair seemed to transform into a variety of colours. Everyone who sees it has a different view.

Manjushri Bodhisattva is a manifestation of great wisdom. Great wisdom arises from a mind that dwells in stillness, a mind that does not attach to duality. It is free from emotional upheavals.

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The time of Giving, the time of Dispute

A man who sees the Truth is not disturbed nor cheated by the heavenly Mara or the deviant practisers.

That is why we should try to seek all kinds of expedients to see the Truth.

Once I heard of a man by the name Svara who was extremely stingy. Shariputra and other disciples often went to his house and they knew well of his attachment to all personal belongings. Hence they spoke the following verses,

‘The evil paths are as deep as the ocean,

A mind of confusion is like the turbid water.

He is swept away by the flow of stinginess,

When people beg for things he says he has nothing.

Jealousy resembles the great river,

Evil views are the myriads fish and turtles.

All these can be found everywhere.

Those who sink into them will float on forever.

Now we should pull up his roots of stinginess,

So that he will accomplish the reward of giving.

The World Honoured One is full of compassion

He is the fearless son of the Sakya

He will relieve those who sink into sufferings and danger.

We should try to help them too

To relieve them of sufferings’

At that time the Honoured One Maha Kasyapa woke up early in the morning, put on the robes and carried his alms-bowl, walking towards the house of Svara. He praised the benefits of giving to the Elder Svara. On hearing this, the elder was quite unhappy, just as though his heart was pierced by an arrow. He said to Kasyapa, “Did anyone invite you here? Or are you on the alms-rounds?’ Kasyapa answered, “I often beg for food.” The elder answered, “If you are begging for food, you should know the time and do not be late.”

Listen to this Kasyapa walked away. So in this way Shariputra, Maugalyayana and all the great disciples took turns to go to his house and he refused to give them any food. At that time, the World Honoured One also went to his house. He said to Svana, ‘Now you should practise the five great giving.’ On hearing this, Svana was greatly afflicted. He thought, ‘I do not feel like giving any little things and here he is telling about the five great giving. In the Thus Come One Dharma, is there no other teaching? All the disciples teach me to give. And now even the World Honoured One is teaching me to give!’

After thinking in this manner, he said to the Buddha, ‘World Honoured One, I can’t even give little things away, what is the point of talking about the five great giving!’

The Buddha told the Elder, ‘Not killing is known as a great giving. Together with no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no false speech and no partaking of wine are known as the five great giving.’

On hearing this he was extremely happy. He was thinking this way, ‘I do not have to give anything away and yet I am known as carrying out the great giving! What good reason can I give if I do not practise them?’

After thinking thus he joyfully gave rise to great respect and faith towards the World Honoured One. He said, ‘The Buddha is the great Hero who subdues all, this is very true indeed. If it is not for the Buddha, who else can teach in this way? How can there be people who are disrespectful towards him or go against him?’

And he spoke in Gatha,

‘No one in the world is comparable to the World Honoured One,

His eloquence and knowledge are incomparable in the world.

The World Honoured One knows the correct time to speak,

With his wonderfully subtle Brahman sounds and words.

Whatever he says will not be empty

All who hear him will attain fruitions.’

After saying the Gathas, he was very pleased with the Buddha and he entered his storeroom to take out two carpets, wishing to make offerings to the Buddha. Then he hesitated, thinking, ‘Too many, I think I will just give one carpet.’ Again he was thinking, ‘One carpet is too few. I should offer two carpets.’

The Buddha knew of his thoughts and said in Gathas

‘The time of giving, the time of dispute,

When these two arise together

You lose the two virtues,

You are just a lowly commoner.

The time of giving, the time of dispute,

They are just the same,

They are only conditions for doing things.’

At the time Svara heard the Gatha he knew that the Buddha had read his mind. He was very happy and in this great joy his stinginess was broken down. He caught hold of the carpets and presented them to the Buddha. The Buddha knew that he was truly joyful and spoke the Dharma for him. Svara’s 20 billion roots of the views of a self were uprooted and he attained the fruition of Sotapanna. 

At that time the World Honoured one stood up and went back to his dwelling. Svara happily sent the Buddha back and on returning to his house he was filled with gratefulness.

At that time the Mara saw that Svara was so glad and he thought, ‘I will now go to Svara’s place to destroy his wholesome mind.’

After thinking thus, the Mara transformed himself into the body of the Buddha with the 32 hallmarks, the 80 subtle adornments and went to Svara’s house.

He said the Gathas, ‘My body resembles the golden mountain and my perfect light is most brilliant. I can transform myself all at ease. When I take a step it resembles the step of the elephant king. I enter the door of Svara’s house, just like the sun enters the white cloud. No one will be tired of seeing me as my illumination resembles the hundreds of thousands suns.’

At that time the light shone on Svara’s house and he was very surprised, thinking who that can be? And he spoke in Gathas,

‘He resembles the heap of melted gold in my house. He is like the sun which arises from the ground. His illumination is many times of the usual light.’

After saying the Gathas, Svara was extremely glad. He felt just as though his body was sprinkled with the sweet dews and he said, ‘I have great blessings. The Buddha comes to my house again today. It is not surprised to see him coming again. Why is this so? The Thus Come One, the World Honoured takes upon himself the duty to teach living beings with his mind of kindness and compassion.’

He then said the following Gathas,

The head resembles the manada fruit,

His skin shines like the pure genuine gold.

The white hair mark shines between the two eyebrows,

And his eyes are pure, elongated and broad,

Just like the bloom of the green lotus.

In the supreme subduing state he dwells in still Samadhi,

In fearlessness he walks serenely.

His countenance is most supreme, unique and wonderfully subtle,

The round light fully occupies one yojana in distance.

In this state of adornment

He declares bravely

Now I am really the Buddha.’

At that time the Mara fully utilized his power to adorn himself. He talked to Svara,

‘Before this I said that the sufferings of the five skandhas arise from our habits. I said that the cultivation of the Eight fold Noble Path is able to put the five skandhas into extinction. This is the evil teaching.’

On hearing this, Svara was very suspicious. He was thinking, ‘This man looks like the Buddha but what he says are wrong. Is this a dream? Or is it because of my confused mind? Listening to his speech I find that he is quite greedy and jealous. What evil man is this who transforms himself into a Buddha? It is just as though a black poisonous snake is dwelling among the flowers. Thinking about this I have no doubt this must be the Mara. It is like a man who sells needles go to the household of needle maker. He said he wanted to sell the needles. Oh Mara, you should listen to what the Buddha disciple will say.’

He said in Gatha,

‘The goose uses its wings to winnow Mount Sumeru,

It can still manage to move it.

But if you wish the one who has seen the Truth

To be swayed by your words

This is something impossible.

You can delude my fresh eyes

But you cannot cheat my Dharma eyes.

As the Buddha knows about this matter

He teaches in this way.

The fresh eyes is weak and lowly

As it cannot differentiate the genuine from the fake

Those who obtain the Dharma eyes

They are indeed seeing the Honoured Muni.

I attain the Pure Dharma Eyes

I see the one who has put afflictions to extinction.

So I will never follow your words.

You are just wasting your time here

But you will not see any suspicion or confusion here

Now I clearly know it is you

You are the evil Mara papiyan

A man who has truly see the Four Noble Truths

Is steadfast in mind, unwavering.

Just like colouring the money with gold

Trying to cheat the gold expertise

This matter is not easy to accomplish.

Outwardly you reveal the golden marks,

But inwardly you are just copper.

This resembles the cover up of a donkey with a tiger skin.

Your form and colour bring delusion to the fresh eyes

But when you start talking I know you are not genuine.

It is like the coldness in fire

The wind that appears to remain still and permanent.

Even if the sun is to turn dark

The moon can produce the heat

You are unable to move

Those who have seen the Truth

Even if the grass, the trees and tiles and stones,

The deers, the animal hunters,

Are transformed into Buddha images

My mind will still be firm

There will be no changes, nor hesitation.

What is more you are only a Mara?

Trying to delude me?’

Svara scolded the Mara papiyan severely, using all kinds of analogies.

Just like a brave and healthy man who enters the war front to beat up the weak ones.

At that time the Mara was frightened and he travelled back to the heaven in a rush.

It is like the place of the Lion King, the elephant comes and leaves immediately. So it is the same with papiyan. At the dwelling of the one who sees the Truth, all the Maras do not dare to stay long.

A translation of the work of Asvaghosa Bodhisattva, chapter 48 of the Great Adornment Shastra Sutra—Those who see the Truth are not cheated or wavered by the Heavenly Mara or the deviant practisers.

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Sufferings Exist, But No Sufferer is to be found

Virtuous Lady asked the Buddha, ‘If ignorance is not found internally, nor found externally, and is without internal or external, that it does not come from the previous life to this life, nor does it travel from this life to the next life, and it does not possess a genuine nature, why does the Buddha say that ignorance will condition one’s intention and even the accumulation of sufferings.’

The World Honoured One said,

‘Let us take the analogy of a tree. If it is without roots, how can there be the sprouting of stems, nodes, branches, leaves, flowers and leaves?’

The Buddha said,

‘Even though all the dharma is empty of appearance,

A mundane man with no knowledge

Who is lacking in wisdom

Gives rise to all kinds of afflictions.

With the causes and conditions of afflictions

He commits the karma with his body, his mouth and mind.

With the causes and conditions of karmas

A future body is awaiting him.

With the causes and conditions of a body,

He experiences bliss and undergoes sufferings.

But among this

No real afflictions are committed.

Also no karma of the body, the mouth and mind is found.

And,

No one really undergoes sufferings and experiences bliss.

Let us take the analogy of a magician who creates all kinds of happenings.

What do you think?

The illusion which is created by him,

Does it exist internally?

(No)

Does it exist externally?

(No)

In the illusion which is created by him, is there a man who is born or become extinct?

(No)

Is there a dharma which is truly created by the magician?

(No)

Do you really see and listen to the musical performance by the magician?

(I did see the performance, I hear the music.)

The Buddha asked, ‘If the illusion is empty, fake and unreal, why is there a musical performance in this illusion?’

The Lady answered, ‘World Honoured One, this is only the illusive appearance of an illusion. Even though it is without a root, a foundation, it can be seen and heard.’

The Buddha said,

‘It is the same with ignorance.

Even though it does not exist internally,

Neither does it exist externally,

Nor does it exist internally and externally,

That it does not come from the past life to this life,

Or travel from this life to the future life.

Besides it is without a genuine nature,

No one is born

And no one becomes extinct.

Yet because of the causes and conditions of ignorance,

All kinds of intentions arise

And even the accumulation of all sufferings.

If the illusion comes to a halt,

The creation of illusion will also cease to exist.

This is the same with ignorance.

When there is no more ignorance,

There is no more intention, no arising of thoughts,

And there is no more accumulation of all sufferings.’ 

An extract of the Virtuous Lady Sutra – the Buddha’s answers to Lady Virtuous Questions

From the Shastra of Crossing Over with Great Wisdom by the Bodhisattva Nagarjuna

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The first door to merits and virtues

One hundred years after the Buddha had entered Nirvana, there was a bhikshu by the name Upananda who was an Arahant replete with the six spiritual penetrations, a Great Teacher in the world. At that time there lived a 120 year-old bhikshuni who had met with the Buddha when she was young. The Honoured One Upananda sent his disciple to ask for permission to see her as he was curious about the Buddha and wished to ask her about the Buddha‘s awesome deportment and appearance.  

On hearing this, the bhikshuni wished to test him out. She filled up a bowl to the brim with sesame oil. Then she placed it behind the door.

The Great Teacher Upananda came and opened the door carefully. A bit of oil was spilt on the floor. After taking the seat he asked the bhikshuni the countenance of the Buddha and matters concerning the World Honoured One.

The old bhikshuni answered, ‘I saw Him when I was very young, when the Buddha visited our village. The villagers shouted that the Buddha was coming and quickly I went out with them. I bowed down in obeisance on seeing the Buddha Light and the golden pin on my hair fell on the ground. In the darkness of the forest I finally found my hair pin in the illumination of the Buddha Light. Later I left home to become a bhikshuni.’

Upananda asked, ‘When the Buddha was in the world may I know how the bhikshus conducting themselves? What’s about their rules of etiquette, the awesome deportment?’

The old bhikshuni answered, ‘At that time there were the six groups of bhikshus who were shameless, lowly and evil. But their awesome deportment, their ways of conducting themselves in accord with the Dharma were much better than you today.’

Upananda asked, ‘How do you know this?’

The bhikshuni answered, ‘The six groups of bhikshus on opening the door will not have the oil spilt on the floor. Even though they are lowly and evil, they conduct themselves in accord with the etiquette of bhikshus. They paid great attention to their daily conduct while they were walking, standing, sitting and lying down. They will not forget the rules in the daily deportments’

The bhikshuni continued to say, ‘Even though you are a great Arahant with the six spiritual penetrations, your conduct is incomparable to them.’

Upananda was most ashamed on hearing this.

That is why the teaching of conducting oneself with mindfulness, cautious and respect is the appearance of a good man. As it was taught in the Dharma,

‘Take the analogy of a man who joins the gang of thieves.

If he is careless he will be killed by the thieves.

Most people are enveloped in a mind of confusion

And they act like drunkards, like crazy men.

When a man subdues his mind

So that it is wholesome, with respect and caution,

This is the first door to merits and virtues.

When he continues to gather in his mind and attains concentration

Genuine wisdom will arise in him.

When genuine wisdom is obtained,

He will attain liberation.

All sufferings are put to extinction when he is liberated.

All these merits and virtues arise

From a mind which is mindful in the present moment’

Written by Nargajuna Bodhisattva in the Shastra of Crossing Over with Great Wisdom-The appearance of a good man, a wholesome, cautious and respectful mind.

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The King Who brings his Gem along at the Deathbed

Once I have heard of a man who stayed in the Lion Country found a Mani Gem which was as big as a man’s knee. The subtly wonderful pearl was rarely seen in the world. He presented it to the King.

The King looked at the pearl and said the following Gatha,

‘In the past all the Kings accumulated all kinds of gems and jewels

For the sake of good name and fame

In the gatherings of guests,

He would show off his jewels.

At the deathbed, his throne was renounced.

 His jewels were left behind

And he had to go alone.

What followed him was his good and evil karma

That he had no way to renounce.

Just like a bee that makes the honey,

It cannot enjoy the honey as it is taken away by people.

It is the same with money and jewels.

They will not follow us as they belong to others.

In the past these Kings were cheated by the jewels.

They accumulated the jewels

That would leave them finally,

And become others’ property.

None of them would follow them.

Now I will do something,

To make sure that the jewel will follow me!

Only in the Buddha fields of blessing,

That I will create all kinds of merits and virtues

That will follow me to the future life.

The wholesome reward will not become extinct

It will not decay.

I will have to leave everything behind

On my deathbed,

My palace, my love ones,

The Great officers, the Generals

Sadly they will send me

To my tomb

Then they will return home.

All my elephants, horses, vehicles,

All my precious things and jewel store,

My citizens, the magnificent city wall

The happy hours in the wonderful gardens

Will no longer be enjoyed

When I die alone,

None will follow me.’

After he had spoken the Gatha the King went to the Buddha Pagoda and hung the pearl on top of the pagoda. The pearl shone like a big star. It shone forth just like the sun shine. The King’s palace was brightly illuminated. The pearl’s bright illumination was doubled that of the common pearls and its brightness stayed on day after day. But one day, the bright illumination was gone and the King was wondering what had happened. He sent his men to check on the pearl. On arrival at the pagoda, the pearl was gone while the ground was dirty with patches of bloodstain. The officers followed the bloodstain and came to Katadha forest. On arriving they saw the thief was running among the trees. He was injured when he climbed up the pagoda as he fell on his buttocks. The officer caught him and sent him to see the King. At first the King was quite angry. But on seeing his wounds, kindness arose in him. Kindly he said to the thief, ‘It is very stupid of you to steal the Buddha’s pearl! In future you will surely fall into the hell.’

The King spoke in Gatha,

‘It is really strange, true stupidity

Without wisdom you dare to commit great evils.

Just like a man who is afraid to be beaten up with a stick

Yet he returns to face the harm of being chopped up.

You do not want to suffer poverty

Yet you dare to give rise to this crazy mind of delusion,

As you cannot even withstand the suffering of poverty

You end up in the hell to undergo the acute tortures

For a long time to come’

At that time one officer heard the Gatha and he said to the King, ‘True indeed, Your Highness. It is just as Your Highness has spoken.’ 

He said in verses,

‘The pagoda is the dwelling of the Jewel in Men.

A deluded man dares to steal from it.

For such a man

He will be unable to encounter the Triple Gem

Even immeasurable kalpas have passed by.

In the past there was a man

Who had great faith in the Triple Gem

He presented the suman flowers on his ears

As offerings to the Buddha pagoda

Throughout hundreds of billions kalpas

He experienced the extreme bliss of man and god

The pagoda of the World Honoured One of the Ten Strength

If one were to steal the jewels from it, for self-enjoyment,

With such karmic causes and conditions,

One will sink deeply into the hell’

And another officer said in anger,

‘For such a stupid man his sins is clearly seen. What is the point scolding him? We should just punish him.’

The King said to the officer, ‘Do not talk like this. He is already a dead man. What is the point of killing a dead man? Take the analogy of a man who falls on the ground. We should instead help him to stand up.’

At that time the King spoke in Gatha.

‘This man has committed wrong deeds.

We should quickly help him.

I will give him my wealth and jewels,

So that he can repent and cultivate blessings.

By doing so, he will be free

From the future disaster which is awaiting him

I will give him the money

So that he will make offerings to the Buddha.

If he does not turn his mind towards the Buddha

His sins and offences will not become extinct

Just like a man who falls on the ground

We should help him to stand up there and then

The sins he has committed because of wrong actions towards the Buddha

Will be put to extinction because of his sincere repentance before the Buddha’

At that time the King immediately gave him money and taught him to plant merits and blessings before the Buddha.

The thief was then thinking this way, ‘Now if this King is not a subdued man in the learning of the Dharma, I would surely be executed in accord with my offence. Now the King could tolerate and forgive my offence. Indeed he is a great man who forgives my heavy sins. Sakyamuni the Thus Come One is truly a rare man. He is able to subdue and transform the King who upholds the deviant views to do such a thing.’

After speaking, he returned to the pagoda. Respectfully he bowed in repentance towards the temple. He put his palms together and took refuge in the Buddha, saying,

‘The Greatly Compassionate World Honoured One

You are the genuine reliever of the worldly realm.

Even though the Buddha has entered Nirvana

You are able to bestow upon me my life.

That is why you are known as the Genuine Reliever of the world.

Your name is pervasively known in the all the worlds,

And presently you have bestowed upon me my life.

That is why the name Genuine Reliever is not falsely applied.’

Then he spoke in Gatha,

‘The worldly realm called Him the Genuine Reliever,

This is true to His name, not a fake one

Now I am saved by Him

And I know the genuine meaning of Genuine Reliever.

This world is burning

With lots of steaming afflictions

The kind and compassionate cooling moon

Illumines and eradicates the heated afflictions and sufferings.

When the Thus Come One was in the world

He saved and relieved the head of the elders

In the remote wilderness, the dwelling of ghosts and spirits

Such a matter is not difficult.

And now after His Nirvana,

His Dharma relieves those who are in danger, in suffering.

And He enables me to leave sufferings,

This is truly a difficult matter.

The worldly artist with his creativity

Created the image just in accord with the Sagely Mind

In the picture the Buddha raises His right hand

Revealing the appearance of comforting and consoling,

The terrified man on seeing His image

Will have his terror eradicated.

What is more when the Buddha was dwelling in the world?

He must have helped so many people!

Now I encounter great suffering, great disaster,

The Buddha image helps to release me from danger and sufferings.’

Written by Asvaghosa Bodhisattva in the Great Adornment Shastra Sutra – Chapter 4- The listener of the Dharma Teaching obtains great benefit. His wisdom is enhanced and his mind is subdued.The Great Benefits of Listening to the Dharma which increase and broaden our wisdom, which help to subdue the mind.

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The genuine Dharma Teachers or the Fake ones?

In the Dharma Ending Age, all kinds of people teach the Dharma and call themselves the Dharma Master. In the Shurangama Sutra, It is thus stated, ‘The deviant teachers who teach the dharma are as many as the Ganges Sands.

Do we have the wisdom eyes to differentiate them if they are genuine or fake?

Nagarjuna Bodhisattva gave the following descriptions of Dharma Teachers in the Shastra of Crossing Over with Great Wisdom.

‘With profound learning, wise eloquence he is able to speak cleverly,

He is able to speak the Dharma, to transform the mind of living beings.

But he himself does not act in accordance with what he has spoken, his conduct is improper,

He resembles the thunder in the cloud whence no rain will fall.’

‘With wide learning, much listening, he is endowed with great wisdom.

But alas he is unable to speak eloquently, as he is lacking in expediency.

He is unable to reveal, to bring forth the Dharma Jewel Store

He resembles the small rain with no thunder.’

‘He does not learn expansively, his knowledge is limited and no wisdom is to be found in him.

He cannot speak the Dharma for others, besides he does not have good conduct.

Such a lowly Dharma Master is not shameful of himself

He resembles a small cloud without thunder, with no rain.’

‘Learning expansively, his wisdom is profound and he speaks eloquently.

He resembles the Great thundering cloud whence torrential rain is poured in abundance.

The Great General of the Dharma upholds the Dharma Banner,

He illumines the Buddha Dharma clearly with his store of wisdom.

He upholds the Dharma by reciting them,

Pervasively the Dharma is proclaimed, the Dharma Bell is rung.

Just like the ship in the great ocean he is able to cross over the many,

He also resembles the bees’ King who gathers in the various tastes.

His teaching is in accord with what the Buddha has spoken, he abides by the meaning of the Buddha.

He helps the Buddha to clarify the Dharma, to cross over all living beings.

It is really difficult to meet with such a Dharma Master!’

A Great Dharma Master is the one with great kindness and compassion who takes pity on all suffering beings.  He does not seek for any self-benefits or personal gain. The Dharma is propounded not for the sake of getting clothes, food, fame and power. The Dharma teaching is given from a kind mind, a pure mind, a mind of great compassion as he has attained the Patience of No Birth.

Written by Nargarjuna Bodhisattva in the Shastra of Crossing Over with Great Wisdom

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Giving with Pure Faith

A Brahmin King was very jealous of the Buddha. One day the Buddha went to his city. The King was afraid his people would be influenced by the Buddha and they would neglect him. So he gave the following order:

‘Those who offer food and drinks to the Buddha and who listen to his teaching will be fined 500 gold coins.’

When the Buddha arrived at the city he asked Ananda to go on the begging rounds. All the doors are closed except for an old servant who opened the door, carrying a broken bowl with some smelly overnight soup, preparing to throw it away. She saw the Buddha walking past carrying a bowl in his hands. She witnessed the most adorned features of the Buddha, with the golden hued body, the red fleshy usnisa on the top of his head, the white bright light shining forth between his eye-brows and his body was enveloped in a shining glow. But there was nothing in the bowl.

The old woman was thus thinking,

‘Such a spiritual being should be eating the food prepared from a big kitchen. Now he lowers himself to beg for food with a bowl. I am sure this is because of his great kindness and compassion towards all living beings.’

 The old servant was endowed with pure faith. But she did not have any good food to offer and she said to the Buddha with a mind full of shame and regrets,

‘I am so sorry but I can only offer this. I hope the Buddha will be kind to accept my sincere offerings.’

The Buddha accepted her offering as he knew of her genuine respect and pure faith.

The Buddha smiled and from his mouth five coloured rays were emitted, illumining the sky and earth pervasively. The lights entered into the white mark between the eye brows.

Ananda asked about the causes and conditions for this auspiciousness.

The Buddha said, ‘As this old lady has made offerings to the Buddha she will enjoy the blessings and bliss in the human and heavenly realms for 15 kalpas. She will not fall into the evil paths. Moreover she will be born as a man to leave the home life to cultivate the path. She will accomplish the fruition of Pratyeka Buddha.’

A Brahmin who stood by one side said,

‘You belong to the clan of the sun, the surname of Kshatriya,

The prince of Suddhodana

For the sake of getting food

You are speaking falsely.

How could this smelly food be able to reap abundant rewards?’

At that time the Buddha revealed his long and broad tongue which managed to cover his face and reach the edge of the hair.

The Buddha asked, ‘What is it written in your sutra on a man who possesses this kind of tongue? Will he tell lies?’

The Brahmin answered, ‘If a man’s tongue is able to reach his nose he will not tell lies. But I give this comment because I do not understand why a small offering could bring upon one such a great reward.’

The Buddha asked, ‘Have you ever witness any special rare occurrence in the world?’

The Brahmin, ‘Yes. Once I was walking with another Brahmin and we saw a gigantic nyagrodha tree. The shade of the tree reaches out to such a great extent, providing shade for 500 merchants, their 500 vehicles and there is still space unoccupied.’

The Buddha asked, ‘What is the size of the seed for this tree?’

The Brahmin said, ‘It is only one third of the mustard seed.’

The Buddha asked, ‘Who will believe in you?’

The Brahmin answered, ‘I see this with my own eyes.’

The Buddha answered, ‘I also personally see that this old lady’s giving with pure faith will reap this great reward.’

The Brahmin understood the teaching of the Buddha and he made obeisance to the Buddha seeking repentance. He put up his hands, shouted loudly, ‘Come out all of you! The door of sweet dews is opened now!’

The citizens decided to give 500 gold coins to the King before they go to make offerings to the Buddha.

The King saw this and he was very touched. Finally he decided to take refuge in the Buddha together with his citizens.

An extract from the Shastra of Crossing Over with Great Wisdom by Nagarjuna Bodhisattva

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Testing the Genuine Gold


Visvakarman asked Sakra Indra, ‘Why are you so sad?’

Sakra Indra answered, ‘I am looking for a man of all wisdom but I can’t find one.’

Visvakarman said that there was a Bodhisattva Mahasattva who had cultivated the six paramita fully and he would soon become a Buddha.

Sakra Indra said,

‘Bodhisattvas who bring forth the great mind, fish eggs and the flowers of amalaka trees,

These three matters are abundant at the causal ground.

But very rare indeed to find them accomplish fruitions.’

Visvakarman answered, ‘King Shibi from the Yousina Clan upholds the precepts diligently. He is greatly kind and compassionate. He is replete with concentration and wisdom and he will surely accomplish the Buddhahood.’

Sakra Indra said, ‘We can test his sincerity. You are the pigeon and I will be the eagle.’

And Sakra Indra continued to say, ‘It is not that I am evil minded. Just like a piece of genuine gold. It should be tested out. With this test we will know if the bodhisattva is firm in resolution.’

Visvakarman transformed himself into a red eyes and red feet pigeon while Sakra Indra transformed into an eagle, chasing after the pigeon.

The pigeon hid itself under the King’s armpit. Its body was shivering, the eyes blinking and its cries were cut short by heavy breathing.

At that time, many people witnessed this incident and they proclaimed,

‘The King is greatly humane and kind. He loves to protect all beings. Look at this little pigeon. It takes refuge in the King just as though it is going home. This is the mark of a Bodhisattva. Surely he will attain Buddhahood soon!’

The eagle was standing on the tree trunk and it shouted at King Shibi,

‘Give me back my pigeon! It belongs to me!’

The King said, ‘I have it first, not you. I have brought forth the vows that I will give my protection to all living beings!’

The eagle said, ‘Saving all living beings? Ain’t I one of the living beings? Why are you not taking pity on me? Why are you taking away my food for today?’

The King said, ‘I have vowed to protect all living beings who take refuge in me. What kind of food do you need?’

The eagle answered, ‘I need fresh, warm meat.’

The King said, ‘This is a problem. What am I supposed to do in order not to kill one animal to protect another?’

The King considered this factor and made a firm decision, ‘This flesh on my body undergoes sickness, old age and death. It will soon be rotten and stinking. I will give him my flesh as he has asked for it.’

He shouted at his men to bring him a knife and started to cut the flesh on his buttock by himself. The eagle suggested that the flesh should be weighed so that the weight of the King’s flesh is equivalent to the pigeon. Sakra Indra exercised his spiritual power so that the flesh of the King was always lighter than the pigeon. The King finally cut away all the flesh on his body and yet it was still lighter than the pigeon. He decided to climb on the weighing machine. But as he was too weak to climb he asked his close officer to help him. His close officer tried to cover him with cloth, hoping to hide him from the public, saying, ‘The King is in this condition! What is there to see anymore?’

King Shibi said, ‘Do not cover me up. Let them see me!’ And he spoke the verses,

‘The heavenly being, the asuras, all of you come and see me!

I have brought forth a great mind, the unsurpassed resolution

To seek the Buddha Path

Whoever wished to seek the Buddha Path

Should tolerate this great suffering

If one is not firm in resolution

He should let go of his vows.’

With his hands full of blood the bodhisattva tried to climb on to the weighing machine. With an unmoving mind, he wished to replace the pigeon with his whole body.

As he was too weak with all his flesh gone, with all the tendons and veins severed, he tried again to climb up but in vain.

He scolded himself, ‘You should be firm about this. Do not fall into unconsciousness. All the living beings fall into the seas of worries and sufferings. Only you alone have made this vow to save them. Why are you so heedless? This is only a very minor suffering comparing to the hellish sufferings! In comparison, this pain is less than one fraction upon sixteen fractions of the torture in the hell. With my wisdom, diligence, precepts, concentration I still suffer like this! What is more so with the suffering living beings in the hell with no wisdom!’

 The Bodhisattva wholeheartedly wished to take over the place of the little bird and he sought the help around him to help him to stand up.

At that time the various heavenly dragon kings, the Asuras, the spirits and ghosts, the citizens praised together and they said,

‘For the sake of a small bird

He sacrifices himself.

This is truly a rare matter.’

At that time the heavens and the great earth shook in six ways.

The great seas were roaring with waves, the dried up trees sprouted into flowers, the fragrant rain and precious flowers were rained down from the sky. The celestial ladies sang in praise of the Bodhisattva, ‘He will surely attain Buddhahood.’

All the spiritual beings at the four directions praised that he was a genuine bodhisattva, that he would surely attain Buddhahood.

The eagle said to the pigeon, ‘On the ground of kindness and compassion, the tree of all wisdom sprouts forth. We should make offerings to him. We should not bring him afflictions.’

Visvakarman said to Sakra Indra, ‘You possess the spiritual power to help the King so that his body will return to its normal states.’

Sakra Indra said, ‘He does not need my help. This King has brought forth the vows. He is endowed with a great mind, bliss and he does not care about his body. By doing so, he is able to touch the mind of all so that they will seek the Buddha Path.’

Sakra Indra asked the King, ‘Cutting away your flesh is truly painful. Are you afflicted over this?’

The King answered, ‘I am glad to do this. My mind is neither afflicted nor sunken.’

Sakra Indra asked, ‘Who will believe that your mind is not sunken?’

The Bodhisattva made the genuine vows, ‘I cut my flesh, the blood flows out continually but I am not afflicted by this. My mind is wholesome, not falling unconscious as I single-mindedly seek the Buddha Path. With this genuineness my body will resume the former appearance.’

He got back his body. The humans and heavenly beings who witnessed this were very happy. They praised thus, ‘We have not seen such happenings before. This is a great Bodhisattva who will surely attain Buddhahood. We should single-mindedly make offerings to him.’

An extract from the Shastra of Crossing Over with Great Wisdom by Nagarjuna Bodhisattva



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The Sakya Clan’s mountains of arrogance topple today

In the past I heard of the Buddha who crossed over the Uruvilva Kasyapa brothers with a retinue of a thousand people. As their afflictions were severed their hair and beard fell down by themselves. Together they followed the World Honoured One to Kapilavastu, just the same as mentioned expansively in the Buddha Original Conduct. The King Suddhodana was transformed by the Buddha and his mind was subdued. The Sakya Clan were arrogant because of their honoured clan name. The Buddha, Bhagavan was most adorned with the adorned body that no one would get tired of seeing him. His body was replete with virtuous features, yet he was neither fat nor thin. The Brahmins had been practising ascetics for a long time and they looked haggard, thin and weak. Even though they are adorned with virtues, they looked extremely ugly. It is most unsuitable for them to follow the Buddha to travel around. King Suddhodana was thus thinking, ‘If the men from the Sakya Clan can leave the home life, they will look matching with the Buddha.’ After thinking thus, he ordered to beat the drum and made the following announcement, ‘It is ordered that every Sakya family sends a man to leave the home life.’ The Sakya families followed the King’s order and a boy was sent to leave the home life under the Buddha.

At that time Upali was shaving the heads and beard for the Sakya men and he was extremely unhappy, weeping silently. The Sakya men asked him, ‘Why are you crying?’ Upali answered, ‘Now that all of you are leaving the home life, how am I going to earn a living?’ On hearing this, the Sakya men who were leaving home took off the adornments, necklaces and clothes and put them into a heap before him, saying, ‘All these will be enough for you to use the whole life.’ On hearing this Upali was greatly saddened and he gave rise to a deserting mind. He said, ‘Now that all of you distaste the adornment on your body that you decide to give them away. For what use is it for me to keep them?’

He spoke in Gatha,

‘These men from the Sakya clan

Leaving behind all their valuables and jewels

Just as though they are throwing away the broom for sweeping the dung,

The grass and the leaves

They have renounced the loving attachment

Why do I give rise to greed?

If I were to take this Jewel heap

My mind will surely get attached to them.

I will think they are mine.

This is a great disaster.

The Sakya men renounce the great disaster.

If I were to take the disaster upon me

I am committing a great fault.

For example someone has vomited.

A dog comes by and devours the vomit.

If I were to keep what they have thrown away

I am not better than that dog.

I am afraid of this jewel heap now!

Just the same as leaving the four poisons

My wholesome roots germinate inwardly,

That I do not wish to take the jewel heap upon me,

I decide to leave them now.

I will go to the dwelling of the World Honoured One,

To seek the Dharma of leaving home’

After saying the above Gatha, Upali continued to say,

‘On seeing others getting the Supreme Dharma

I too give rise to a mind to seek for it.

May I in this body,

Be able to carry out the most supreme matter just like them.

I now wish to leave the home life,

I should diligently carry out the expedients.’

At that time Upali was thinking this way, ‘I have decided to leave the home life now. I should seek for it diligently. The thousand Brahmins have already left the home life before the Buddha. The 500 Kshatriya of the Sakya Clan have also left the home life. The Brahmins and the Kshatriyas are the honoured clans. But I am a lowly shundra. Moreover, I am an inferior worker. I am not sure if I were allowed to leave the home life among those supreme ones? Now what kind of power do I have in order to leave the home life among them?’

Upali said the verses,

‘The Kshatriya Name is pure and clean,

The Brahmins are well versed in great learning.

Their births resemble the Mani Jewels

Now they are all gathered here.

I am of the shundra birth

How am I going to take part?

As I resemble a piece of broken iron

That dwells among the genuine gold.

The Buddha, the Bhagavan

I heard that He is of the Highest Wisdom

Now I will go and see Him,

He takes pity on all living beings.

Should only the pure ones leave the home life or even the impure ones?

Should I leave the home life or not leaving?

All the deviant multitudes

Do not know the dwelling of liberation

Only the ones who have put the afflictions to extinction

Will know about liberation’

After speaking the verses, Upali went to the dwelling of the World Honoured One. He knelt down with the right knee on the ground, placed his palms together and spoke in verses,

‘Among the four castes, will all be able to leave the home life?

Will we be able to attain the bliss of Nirvana, the liberation?

Good indeed is the Saviour of the world

He pervasively bestows great compassion to all in a mind of equanimity.

Please take pity on me,

Will I be able to leave the home life?’

At that time the World Honoured One knew the subdued state of mind of Upali. His good roots had ripened and he was able to be transformed. So he raised his adorned right hand and touched the head of Upali and answered, ‘I grant you the wish to leave the home life. The deviant teachers will keep the secret dharma to themselves and they will not show it to their disciples. But the Thus Come One is unlike them. He is greatly compassionate and treats everyone equally. He does not take sides in all clans as he propounds the dharma equally to all. He reveals the most supreme path to all to relieve them of sufferings. Just like a merchant who sells things without choosing if the buyers are honoured or lowly. This is the same in the Buddha Dharma. He does not choose the poor, the rich, the clans and surname.’

The Buddha spoke the following Gatha,

‘Any man who is thirsty will have his thirst quench after drinking the pure water,

Any man who holds a bright lamp will be able to clear away all darkness

The dharma of All Wisdom is shared equally by all,

Any man who cultivates the path will surely understand the most supreme wonderful meaning.

Take the analogy of eating the rock honey,

The honoured people, the lowly ones on eating the honey will have their sickness cured.

May they be the Kshatriya or the Brahmin.

The Buddha Dharma will pervasively benefit all

So that the three realms of existence will come to an end

All the surnames are equal with no difference.

Just like the three types of medicine

They are used to cure the sickness of wind, cold and heat.

The medicines do not choose and pick

To whom they should cure, the clans, the surnames, the honoured or the inferior,

It is the same with the Dharma medicine.

It is able to cure the illness of greed, hatred and delusion.

The four castes are equally cured.

The highest caste and the lowest caste are the same.

And it also resembles the fire which can burn down things.

Without considering the fuel are good or bad wood.

The poisonous insects are also like the fire

They will bite the honoured and the lowly

It also resembles the water

The water will wash away the filth of the four castes.

All the clans and races will pervasively be freed from sorrows.

After crossing the border of pain and tortures’

At that time the World Honoured One resembled the clear and cloudless sky. He said in a deep and resonant voice which resembled the thunder roar. He resembles the Great Dragon King or even the Bull King. He pronounced the Kalavinka Sound. He resembles the Bees’ King, the Human King. His voice sounded like the heavenly music. He asked Upali in a deep and profound Brahman voice, ‘Do you wish to leave the home life?’ Upali was so glad to hear this question. He placed the palms together and answered happily, ‘I wish to leave the home life!’ The Buddha said, ‘Here is the good Bhikshu Upali! From now onwards you cultivate the Brahman Conduct diligently here.’ On hearing this announcement, Upali’s hair and beard drop by themselves with his body don in sashes. He looked most awesome and adorned. His six roots were in the Samadhi of stillness, just like an old Bhikshu.’

The 500 Sakya men also carried out Jnapticaturtha Karman (the cultivator asks for permission to leave the home life and the Sangha are asked three times to grant their permission) and took the Bhikshu Full Precepts.

The Buddha said, ‘Now I am going to use an expedience to eradicate the arrogance of the Sakya Clan.’

At that time the World Honoured One said to the Sakya clan, ‘All of you should now bow in respect to the old bhikshus, the Elder Ajnata Kaundinya, Asvajit Bhikshu and others in sequence until the bhikshu Upali who is sitting at the last seat.’

The leader of the Sakya men was Raja Shixian. At that time the Sakya men showed respect to the Buddha teaching by making obeisance at the feet of the bhikshus until they came to Upali. When they saw the feet were different they looked up and saw Upali. The Sakya men were very surprised, just as if the torrential water current had hit hard on the cliff and the water threw back. They said, ‘We are the clan of the sun, the Kshatriya, from the honoured surname. We are respected by the world. Why should we pay respect to this lowly man from the inferior caste? He is our servant, a barber? We should go back to talk about this matter with the Buddha, the World Honoured One.’

They asked the Buddha, ‘World Honoured One! Are we supposed to bow to Upali also?’

The Buddha answered, ‘Now I am conducting this dharma in order to sever the dwelling of arrogance.’

The Sakya men said to the Buddha, ‘But he belongs to the Shundra!’  

The Buddha told them, ‘Everything is impermanent. The clan and race are also not fixed. The taste of impermanence applies to all, even the clans. What is the difference then?’

At that time the Sakya men said again to the Buddha, ‘World Honoured One! The clan qualifies to shave the heads only comes from the clan of sun.’

The Buddha told the Sakya men, ‘Everything in the world is like a dream, an illusion. What are the differences in clans and castes?’

The Sakya men said to the Buddha, ‘World Honoured One! This is a servant. We are the Master.’

The Buddha answered, ‘All in the world are the servants and slaves of love and desire. They have not attain liberation in birth and death. It is the same for the honoured men and also the lowly men. You should put down your arrogance.’

At that time the Sakya men were so adorned and supremely unique just like the blossom of wonderful flowers. They placed their palms together and said to the Buddha suspiciously with hesitation, ‘Are you sure that we should bow at the feet of Upali?’

The Buddha told the Sakya men, ‘I am not the only one who teaches this dharma. The dharma of leaving home life for all the Buddha is the same.’

 At that time the Sakya men heard the Buddha repeating the dharma of leaving home and they stood stagnant like a tree without wind.

Together they voiced their sorrows, ‘Why are we going against the instructions of the Buddha? We should follow His advice.’

The ancient wise man said, ‘The Thus Come One first crossed over Upali because He wished to subdue the arrogance of the Sakya Clan.’

The Sakya men renounced their mind of arrogance so as to act in accord with the dharma of leaving home. It is also because they are setting good examples for the future royals who wish to leave the home life. 

The roots of arrogance of the Badha, the Sakya and others were uprooted then. They bowed respectfully at the feet of Upali. While they were making obeisance, the great earth, the city walls, the mountains of great forests, the rivers and seas were quaking in rumbling vibrations.

The heavenly beings sang aloud, ‘The Sakya Clan’s mountains of arrogance topple today.’

And they sang the Gatha,

‘Great indeed it is to renounce arrogance

On clans, form, strength and wealth

This is in accord with the Buddha Teaching

Just like a tree which sways in accord with the wind.

The clan of the sun, the Kshatriya surname

Made obeisance to Upali

To renounce the mind of arrogance

Their roots dwell in the Samadhi of extinction

All these great supreme men

Are true to their words with no fawning, no faking

They are replete with blessings, benefits and the various virtues

As numerous as the bamboo forests

The famous and honoured Brahmins,

The royals of Kshatriyas

And all these virtuous assemblies

Enter the Dharma of Sakyamuni

Adorned the multitude of Sagely Assemblies

They resemble the stars around the moon

Standing magnificently in array in the space

Good indeed is the bright illumination of Dharma

The great seas of the Thus Come One,

The most supreme water of merits and virtues

Is fully filled to the brims

The seas are the refuge of all the rivers

All the supreme wisdom in the world

Will all take refuge in the Buddha Dharma.

The human and heavenly realms are fully filled up

And suffering is the path that leads one to leave samsara

The Thus Come One is good in differentiating

When he speaks the Dharma to put arrogance into extinction

His Disciples are of one taste

Just like the seas are of one taste

What are the causes and conditions for me to talk about this matter?

It is because the Buddha Dharma is taught in the world to sever the mind of arrogance.

Written by Asvaghosa Bodhisattva in the Great Adornment Shastra Sutra, Chapter 47

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Sambhogakaya

Upholding The Wise Penetration at Great Ease Wonderful Seas Bodhisattva asked the Buddha,

‘World Honoured One, how many kinds of Buddha bodies are there?’

The Buddha answered, ‘Good Man! Briefly speaking there are three types of body.

  1. The Reward Body
  2. Transformation Body  which is the body of response
  3. The Genuine body which refers to the Dharma Body’

The Bodhisattva asked again,

‘What is meant by the Body of Rewards, the Body of Response and the Genuine Body?

The Buddha answered, ‘For example, as I have revealed to you today the Pure Buddha Lands of all the Thus Come One, those who have attained the Path presently, those who will attain the Path in future are the Buddha in their Reward Body.’

(So we know that all the Buddha who attains Buddhahood in the Pure Lands presently and in future are the Buddha in their Body of Rewards.)

Again the Buddha gave the answer on the Body of Response,

‘Good Men! For instance the present Thus Come One of Taking the Strides of Bravery, the Thus Come One whom the Mara is afraid of, the Thus Come One of Great Kindness and all the Thus Come One who attain Buddhahood in the turbid worlds presently and in future, who reveal the descending from the Tushita Heaven into the world and even until the spreading and upholding of the Proper Dharma,   the Dharma of the Image Age, the Dharma Ending Age, you should know that these are the Buddha work in their transformation body, the Body of Response.’

(The eight marks of the Buddha of Response are explained by Asvaghosa in the Great Vehicle Shastra of bringing forth the Faith by the Bodhisattva Asvaghosa

  1. Descending from Tushita Heaven – The Bodhisattva stayed in the Tushita Heaven. The age of heavenly beings in that heaven is 4,000 years. When the time was ripe, he rode on a white elephant and descended to the world.

2. Entering the Womb – The Bodhisattva rode on an white elephant and entered the womb from the left upper arm of Lady Maya.

3. Dwelling in the Womb – The Bodhisattva carried out the daily activities of walking, standing, sitting and lying down in the mother’s womb. He spoke the dharma for the various heavenly beings six times a day.

4. Leaving the Womb – On the 8th day of the fourth month He was born from the right upper arm of his mother in Lumbini Garden.

5. Leaving Home – At the age of 19 (some version says 25), after contemplating the impermanence of the world, He left the palace to cultivate the Path in the mountain.

6. Accomplishing the Path – The Bodhisattva attained Enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree after undergoing six years of ascetic practices.

7. Turning the Dharma Wheel – The Bodhisattva pervasively turned the Dharma Wheel and taught the beings in the heaven and human realms for 50 years after His attainment of Buddhahood

8. Entering Nirvana – At the age of 80 the Bodhisattva revealed the entrance into Nirvana under two Sala Trees. )

The Buddha gave the answer on the Genuine Body. He said,

‘The genuine body of the Buddha is the genuine Dharma Body. It is without a form, cannot be revealed, with no attachment, cannot be seen. No speech is given. There is no dwelling place, no mark and no rewards nor retribution. It is not born nor become extinct. No analogy can be shown to describe it. This is the inconceivable body of the Thus Come One. It is the Dharma Body, the Body of Wisdom, the Incomparable Body with no Equivalent, Vairocana Body, the Body of Empty Space, the Body with No Severance, the Indestructible Body, the Limitless Body, A Truly Genuine Body, not a Fake Body and a Body which is indescribable using analogies. This is the Genuine Body.’

(That is why a mundane man and a cultivator of the small vehicle who are born in the Pure Land is born Buddha Land to see the Buddha in the Reward Body.)

According to Shan Dao Great Master, he said, ‘They are born by relying on the Buddha Great Vows which create a very strong affinity. The Great Vows enable all the Five Vehicles to enter the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha.

Some people asked, ‘If a mundane man, a small vehicle man can be born there, for what reason the Vasubandhu Bodhisattva said in his Shastra of Pure Land that the women, those with impaired roots and the small vehicles will not be born?’

 The answer is that the women, those with impaired roots will be transformed into the body of a man replete with full roots. Those of the small vehicles who vow to be born in the Pure Land will attain the position of non-retreating. They will bring forth the mind of a Bodhisattva to advance to Buddhahood.

Extract from the 2nd volume of the Great Vehicle Same Nature Sutra

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When an Eagle forgets its Ability to Fly

It is thus stated in the Shurangama Sutra,                   

You only have to abstain from following the sound or silence, the contact and separation, stability or a change, clearance or stoppage, birth and extinction, brightness and darkness, these twelve worldly phenomenal in our six roots. When one root is subdued in this way it manages to extract itself from the attachment to the corresponding dust, it will return to the genuine mind ground. The original brightness is released and it shines out from within. The other five roots will fully be liberated and freed from the attachment to the corresponding dusts.’

In the Shurangama Sutra the Buddha teaches us to return to our genuine mind nature when we leave the false thoughts behind. At that time the six roots namely the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind will be interchangeable in functions.

Firstly we will discuss the leaving of false thoughts and uprooting them fully. Leaving the false thought refers to our self-illumination in the causes and conditions for the arising of false thoughts. Uprooting them fully refers to pulling up the hindrances of the five skandhas namely the forms, feeling, thinking, intention and consciousness that dwell in the six roots.

We begin to contemplate the six roots as often as possible. The Buddha teaches us to start by not following the sounds and silence. According to Venerable Master Ou Yi, the main practice in Shurangama Sutra is based on the two words, ‘not following’ which means not acting in accordance. By relying on the strength of our cultivation of staying still and contemplating we have the strength to choose not to follow the exterior movement of dust. For example the root of ears is not turned by the phenomenal of sounds and silence. The root of body does not follow and is not turned by the phenomenal of contact and separation. And even the root of eyes does not follow and is not turned by the phenomenal of brightness and darkness. It means when the six roots are in contact with the six dusts, we give rise to the mindfulness. In this manner the six roots slowly liberate themselves from the bondage of the six dusts. When this happens, what kind of merits and virtues will we attain? The Buddha said that when one root is uprooted, it turns inwards and frees itself from the attachment to the corresponding dust. We begin by taking good care of one door and do not allow the thieves (namely forms, sounds, fragrance, tastes, touch and dharma) to carry out their activities. We subdue the five obstacles of skandhas in the six roots by taking notes of any arising of thoughts and not to follow them. This is known as liberating oneself from external attachment to the dusts and subduing oneself internally so as not to follow the false thoughts. Every root consists of five skandhas. There are five layers of five skandhas. The external layer is the coarse skandhas of forms. So we have to free ourselves from this external form skandhas. Form skandhas refer to sound and silence, contact and separation, brightness and darkness all these worldly phenomenal. We take care of our doors so that our six roots are not stuck in these twelve phenomenal. When we are stuck in the six dusts, there is no way for us to leave birth and death.

When the mind can reach the one genuine state of non-duality our original brightness will be revealed fully. Finally in this bright illumination, the other five attachments are also uprooted. Perfect liberation is attained. When our bright and genuine mind origin is revealed the obstructions in the other five roots are uprooted. We are fully liberated. As stated in the Shurangama Sutra,

‘When one root returns to its origin, the six roots are liberated.’

According Venerable Master Ou Yi, the words ‘not following’ is the key word of practice in the Shurangama Sutra. This is because once our six roots start to look externally they will surely get stuck in the dusts. So a cultivator must always be alert. Of course it does not mean that we should not come into contact with the six dusts. In fact it is impossible for us not to look at things the whole life, not to hear anything the whole life. It only means when the sounds are heard, when a form is seen, they are followed by our immediate contemplation to see their illusive existence, and to let go of them.

The Buddha said,

Contemplate all phenomenal as fake at its origin. Contemplate that the innate nature is originally genuine.’

By relying on this contemplation we let go of the phenomenal of birth and death. We rely on the genuine noumena nature. This is what is meant by renouncing the consciousness to use the roots. It means not to get stuck to the six dusts. We only study and contemplate the six roots and apply the theory of ‘not following’ the dust.  

Venerable Ou Yi raised the word perfect in the practice of uprooting and perfect liberation. In the Shurangama Samadhi, the word perfect is applied in the instantaneous dharma door. It is thus stated, ‘The perfection of one is the perfection of all cultivations. The severance of one dharma is the severance of all dharma. The accomplishment of one is the accomplishment of all.’

 In the Shurangama Dharma door, the merits and virtues are all obtained once we manage to accomplish and perfect one dharma door. The merits and virtues of other dharma door which are interconnected with the one dharma door will be revealed.

The main aim in Shurangama dharma door is to be alert of one’s mind and its states. The moment the six roots come into the contact with the six dusts, his attention is already there. The cultivator has to take care so that he does not follow the dusts, the external states. Finally he is able to liberate one root and accomplish the perfect penetration of the six roots. This is the meaning of perfect. This is the cause and effect in the practice of Shurangama Sutra.

The next paragraph is the teaching on going back to genuineness and accomplishing the interchangeable functions of six roots. When the mind returns to its origin of our genuine mind nature, the six roots will have the merits and virtues of inter-changeable functions.

It is thus stated in the Shurangama Sutra,

 ‘Our knowledge and views do not have their foundation on the arising of the six dusts. We clearly understand that our roots will not follow the dusts. We act in accord with the arising of the wisdom. By relying on the contemplation of the root, the innate brightness illumines. As such the six roots are able to function interchangeably.’

A man who does not cultivate the way leads a life relying on the six dusts. His six roots face the six dusts and activities arise. And when he does not pay attention to the dusts, he will simply fall into false thoughts. A cultivator of the way does not rely on the dusts to activate his six roots. He activates the six roots by using wisdom and contemplation. When a cultivator gradually leaves the six dusts, he does not rely on the external sound and silence, contact and separation, brightness and darkness and other appearances to activate his innate mind in order to know, to differentiate. It means that he clearly acts in accord with the wisdom of his roots.

Next the Buddha list out six cultivators who lead a life of wisdom.

Ananda, don’t you know that in this assembly that Aniruddha is able to see without eyes, that the Naga King Upananda can hear without ears, that the Lady Ganga spirit can smell without nose, that Gaufanboti (which means chewing like cows) is able to know the taste without using the tongue, that the spirit Sunyata feels the bodily touch without a body? The light of the Buddha shines on him and temporarily he has the feeling of bodily touch. As he has the quality of wind, he is without a body originally. Those who attain the Samadhi of perfect extinction obtain the stillness of knowing and hearing. An example is the Maha Kasyapa who has put to extinction the thinking root and he perfectly understands and knows everything with clarity without using the thinking mind.’

The Honoured One Aniruddha first left the homelife and he would fall asleep whenever the Buddha was teaching. The Buddha scolded him for being lazy and he was greatly ashamed of himself. He cultivated seven days and seven nights continually without sleeping and finally he lost his eye-sights. The Buddha taught him the Vajra Samadhi of Blissful Sight in Bright Illumination. After he had practised successfully he managed to attain half a head of heavenly eyes. He can use the front part of his head to see clearly the three thousand great thousand worlds just like looking at an Amalaka fruit in his hand. The back part of his head cannot see. Anyway he does not see things with his eyes. He used his head, the body to see everything. So we should know the six roots can be used inter changeably in the seas of mind nature.

The dragon Upananda was born deaf in accord with his past karma. Instead of hearing with ears he used the horns on his head to listen to sounds. He was a mundane man and the Honoured One Aniruddha was a sage.

The Lady Ganga Spirit was also known as the Ganges River spiritual lady. She did not use her nose to smell. Instead she used her eyes. She was also a mundane lady.

Gaufan Boti is translated as the cow’s chewing. He tasted the food without using his tongue. These are merits of virtues accomplished by them for cultivating the Shurangama Samadhi.

The Spirit Sunyata can feel the bodily touch without a body. Sunyata means empty space. He does not have a body yet he can feel the contact dharma of bliss and sufferings. Because of past karma he did not possess a body. He felt very bad about this. The Buddha knew of his sufferings, emitted light to shine on him. With this bestowment from the Buddha he was able to feel the existence of a body.

The sound hearers of stillness who have arrived at the Samadhi of ultimate extinction refer to the sages who have attained the third fruition and above. When they enter the Samadhi of ultimate extinction, the feeling in the five consciousness also become extinct. The thinking in the six mind consciousness is also put to extinction. The seven Mana consciousness, the skandhas of intention, the defiled thinking mind is also put to extinction. There is no more feeling and thinking. A section of the intention skandhas also becomes extinct. For example like the sage Maha Kasyapa who has put the mind root to extinction forever. Even though the six mind consciousness is put to extinction he is still able to know all the dharma without thinking. The Buddha gave these six examples to show us that the interchangeable function of the six roots. The six roots of a mundane man are in accord with their karmic strength while the six roots of a sage function relying on his cultivation of the path.  

Talking about the interchangeable function of the six roots, Venerable Master Ou Yi gave an example of empty space. Empty space is without hindrances. But if we put in six containers, the empty space is divided into six portions. If we remove the containers, the empty space is just empty. So from the time of no beginning we do not need the six roots to carry out the functions of our mind. It is because the six roots are born from causes and conditions. The problem arises when we are ignorant and in the darkness of ignorance we seek for external affinities. The eyes chase after the dust of forms and after a long time the eyes are stuck in the dusts and cannot function without the dusts. This is the same for our ears, nose and the other roots. To free our attachment to dust, we have to disentangle our eyes from the forms dust. When our eyes are no longer attached to the dust, we will be able to bring our mind home. We will attain the inter-changeable functions of six roots. This is the same as take away the six containers the empty space will be with no hindrances.                                                                                                                                                                    

The Buddha said in the Shurangama Sutra,

‘Ananda, presently when your six roots are uprooted from the six dusts perfectly, the internal bright light will shine forth. The six roots on our body and also the external worlds and their various transformations will be dissolved, just as though the ice cubes dissolve in hot soup. In one thought the mind is transformed into the Unsurpassed Knowledge of Enlightenment.’

In this paragraph the cultivator who is replete with right mindfulness will gradually train himself to leave the six dusts. The bright light of our self-nature shines forth. The reward body and the external worlds are with leakages. When the six roots pull themselves from the external dust, our body and mind of the five skandhas, the external world of mountain, rivers and great earth, the transformation phenomenal of birth and death will dissolve just as though the ice encounters the hot soup. They are dissolved and transformed into the Unsurpassed Knowledge of Enlightenment.

Take the analogy of a piece of ice which is hard and full of hindrances. Once the ice is transformed into water, it flows freely with no obstacles. We say we use our eyes to see. How about the Buddha? What does he do with his eyes? He also uses his eyes to see. The only different is when a mundane man sees, he faces layers of obstacles. The Buddha uses the eyes to see but there is no obstacle for him. Why is this so? It is because the Buddha knows how to contemplate with the light of innate wisdom. That the six roots are transformed from the hard ice cubes into the soft and pliant water. The function is different but the origin is the same. They undergo a transformation. So even though we accomplish the sagely path, the six roots are still the six roots. The difference is that the six roots now are in accord with the Unsurpassed Knowledge of Enlightenment. The six roots now are not in accord with afflictions. So here we are taught that the body of falsehood is originally genuine, that afflictions are Bodhi, in the light of wisdom.

Below the Buddha points out that the matters before him to prove that the functions of the six roots can actually be interchangeable

‘Ananda, just like the worldly people, they concentrate their sight of seeing on the eyes. If they are asked to close their eyes quickly, they will see darkness before them. The six roots in darkness cannot differentiate the head from the foot. But if he uses his hands to go one round on the body externally, even though he cannot see, he still can differentiate the head from the feet. This is because the knowing faculty is the same.’

The Buddha told us that it was not only a sage who would know this knowing faculty. Even a mundane man could understand as he gave the above teaching. For example, Ananda, in this world there is a man who concentrates his eye-sight on his eyes. Because of our past false thoughts, we habitually use the eyes to see. Just like walking on the grass for some time, a small path appears. This is the same when we use eyes to see and it becomes a habit. If he were to close his eyes suddenly he would be impossible to see another man who was standing in front of him. He would only see total darkness. But in total darkness, if he were to use his hand to touch the man from the head to the feet, he would be able to differentiate clearly the head, the body and the feet even though he cannot see his face. His knowing faculty is the same. The knowing faculty in hands contact and the knowing faculty in eyes contact is the same. It means that when the six roots are looking outside, every root functions independently, differently. But if we let go of the attachment to the six dusts, the innate knowing nature will be activated. Even the hands can take the place of eyes. For examples some blind men have very good listening power. By listening to the foot- steps, he can differentiate clearly who is coming.

Below the Buddha taught us the virtues of cultivation to open up the virtues of our innate nature.  

‘We have been used to the condition of having light in order to see.

As such we are unable to see in darkness.

When the cultivator opens up his internal brightness of self-nature there is no need for him to see using lights.

Then all the darkness will not hinder us from seeing.

When the roots and dusts disappear,

How can the brightness of the wonderful enlightened nature not perfectly accomplished by us?’

Most of us see by relying on the cause of having light. But a cultivator of the path is not hindered by external darkness. For him the light of self-nature shines forth, the roots and dusts will no longer hinder him. His fundamental brightness will be in accordance with the Unsurpassed Bodhi. The main point is the roots and dusts are no longer in existence. He first subdues his six roots so that they do not chase after the dusts of form. Now he does not rely on external lights to see. Instead he uses the light of the genuine mind to see things. The main points of Shurangama Sutra tries to point out the causes and condition of birth and death and also our innate merits and virtues which are not lost, which exist forever. Because of our one thought of past illusion our six roots start to look outside. The eyes are stuck in the dusts of form and the ears are stuck in the dust of sound. It is the same for the other roots. Our big oceans of genuine mind become only a bubble.

Let us study the analogy of an eagle. The eagle was brought up by a hunter when he reared it together with little chickens. The eagle thought that it was a bigger chicken. Every day he ran here and there with the chickens and forgot about its flying ability with the wings. The hunter felt the eagle should be trained to fly. He brought it to a cliff and threw it down. Before touching the ground, the eagle suddenly stretched out its wings and flew up. His hidden ability is released.

We are the same. We are used to see with eyes, to hear with our ears. Finally the merits and virtues of our six roots are all locked up. What the Buddha wishes to tell us is that there are plenty of jewels in our six roots. But because of our habitual tendency to look outwards, our three bodies, four wisdom, five eyes and six spiritual penetration and all kind of paramitas are unable to function. We are like the eagle that forgets its ability to fly. The Buddha teaches us not to look for external things. He asks us to look inside, to turn the light inwards with right mindfulness. When the light of the self-nature is released, it will have various wonderful functions and all kinds of paramita.

Venerable Master Shi Jing Jie’s teaching on the Shurangama Sutra

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

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Four kinds of Eating to survive as taught by the Buddha

The Buddha said, ‘Ananda, all the living beings will live on eating wholesome food, will die when they take the poison. Living beings who wish to attain Samadhi should sever five kinds of spicy vegetables.’ In the triple realms the twelve kinds of living beings are unable to live freely on their own. They have to rely on food to survive. The causes and conditions for the World Honoured One to raise this topic was when He met with a natural deviant path practiser who was an ascetic who ate meagrely. So the Buddha told him all living beings need food to survive. The deviant practiser answered, ‘This is just common sense. Everyone knows about it. It is unnecessary for you to tell us this.’

The Buddha questioned him, ‘So do you know how many kinds of eating are there?’ The deviant practiser said he did not know. The Buddha then told him the four kinds of eating, namely sectional eating, eating by contacting or smelling, eating by thinking and eating in the presence of consciousness.’

Sectional eating refers to a change or decay in food which is eaten by us. The food undergoes transformation in the body after it is bitten, chewed, swallowed and digested in the body before it is absorbed. The sectional eating is a common practice among humans and animals.

Eating by contacting or smelling is practised by the living beings in the ghost realms. They have to come into contact with the food and absorb its essence. They suck the essence of the food to nourish their body. That is why the food we use to offer to the spirits and ghosts decay faster as the essence was sucked by them.

The taking of food by thinking as explained by Venerable Master Ou Yi carries the meaning of having hopes. For example a positive minded man is often healthier. For him, besides eating, he has the extra energy from the thinking food which helps to nourish his body. A negative minded man is lacking in this thinking food when he looks at thing from the negative angle. For example, during the time of famine, a little boy looks at a bag of sand hanging on the ceiling and he thought that was the rice. With this hope in mind, he was able to survive seven days without eating as there was high hope in him to eat the rice. Another example was Cao Cao, a Chinese warlord in Eastern Han who brought his army to a place where no well water was found. He said, ‘Do not worry. We walk on and we will come to a plum forest. The plums there are big and sour. We can eat them.’ On listening to this his soldiers were full of hope, wishing to taste the watery plums and their thirst was greatly decreased. Of course there was no plum forest in front. But with the hope in mind, they manage to survive by thinking about plums to nourish their body. The thinking food mostly occurs to the heavenly beings in the form realms. They enjoy the bliss of Samadhi as food. This is called the thinking food.

Fourthly is obtaining nutrition from the consciousness. Consciousness has the mark of attaching. For example in the hell, in the no form realm living beings who have no section food, no contact food and no thinking food live on by relying on the eighth consciousness. As long as the eighth consciousness stays, there is the existence of life forms.

So the Buddha said all living beings rely on these four ways of eating to survive. The transformation of our life is closely related to food. The food that we eat also affects our body, mind and the world that we dwell. When we eat wholesome food, we live on. When we take poisonous food, we will die. So if we wish to accomplish Samadhi, to enhance our mind with the strength of cessation and contemplation we have to stop eating five kinds of pungent  vegetables namely onions, garlic, scallions, chives and leeks which will hinder the practice of Samadhi. The transformation of our mind is also related to the food and drinks we partake. By taking the five pungent vegetables they disturb the inner peace. In the Shurangama Sutra, it is stated, ‘The mind will be agitating with greedy desire if we cook and eat the five pungent vegetables. If we eat them raw, we are easily angered.’ So the five pungent vegetable have a harmful and poisonous effect on our life of wisdom, our dharma body. The five pungent spices strengthen the evil force in our mind. Secondly, they encourage an increase in external evil energy.

In the Shurangama Sutra it is stated, ‘In this world a man who eats the pungent spices may be well-versed in the Sutras of the twelve canons, the celestial beings in the ten directions despise his foul smell and they will stay far away from him. The hungry ghosts will use their tongue to lick the remains of pungent smell and kiss his lips after he has eaten them. He is often surrounded by ghosts as such his blessings and virtues decrease day by day and nothing beneficial will increase in him.’ As the Chinese saying goes, ‘Stay closed to the red, you become red. Stay closed to the black you are black.’

More frightening things are behind. It is thus stated in the Shurangama Sutra, ‘This man who eats the five pungent spices cultivates the Samadhi but the bodhisattva and celestial beings, the good spirits in the ten directions do not come to protect him. The great strength Mara finds a chance to come near him and reveals the Buddha form body and speaks the Dharma for him. He praises the goodness of desire, anger and delusion. As the Mara knows he is able to teach the Great Vehicle Sutra he is taught to transgress the precepts. In this way his right views and right knowledge are destroyed when the Mara suggests that a Bodhisattva does not abide by minor precepts of Sound Hearers. This is teaching him to transgress the precepts. The Mara praises that the practice of greed, hatred and delusion is known as cultivating precepts, Samadhi and wisdom.

This cultivator does not know that a bodhisattva of the Great Vehicle who contemplates the emptiness of self and dharma does not deny the causes and conditions for the false appearance to arise. A bodhisattva contemplates all dharma as empty but he does not deny the differences in causes and conditions, the differences in rewards and retributions. He does not deny the existence of false appearance and he dwells in the view of the middle path. The Great Strength Mara came to talk about the views of severance, the view of extinction to destroy his practice of precepts, his right views. At the death bed he becomes the retinue of the Mara. After he has finished enjoying the blessings of Mara, he fell into the uninterrupted hell. All this happens because he eats the five pungent vegetables and stays with the ghosts. He is misled by the ghosts and becomes the retinues of the Mara King. The middle grade Mara are the Mara Citizens and the lower grade are the Mara Lady. The merits and virtues he cultivates in this life are transformed into the blessings with leakage, the karma of Mara. When his blessings are fully utilized, he drops into the uninterrupted hell straight away. Ananda! A cultivator of Bodhi will sever the five pungent vegetables forever. This is known as the first enhancing sequence in cultivation.’ If you study the sutra on the great cessation and contemplation or the small cessation and contemplation, there is this teaching.  ‘When you wish to cultivate and nurture right mindfulness, you need to take care of what you eat.’

So you may wonder why must we take care of our food when we wish to cultivate Samadhi, what is their connection? According to the Sutra and Shastra, there is this point of view, ‘When the root is pure and bright, the consciousness is pure.’ That is when your form body which comprises of the six roots are especially pure and in stillness, your mind will be especially bright and pure. When you like to eat fried crispy food, very sweet food, spicy hot food, your body will be agitating. Your body is in darkness and your mind consciousness is also in darkness.The clarity in our mind does not act by itself. It relies on the six roots. So when the six roots are agitating, the mind will also be affected. In this Sutra it talks about food and drinks and the Buddha lists out three types of food that should be abstained. Firstly we must not eat the flesh of living beings. Secondly we must not take wine and lastly we should not take pungent vegetables. Once you eat them, our good roots will be destroyed. These three abstinence are known as eradicating the helping causes. The food we eat are the helping factors to create causes and conditions to commit offences.

A dharma teaching by Venerable Master Shi Jing Jie on four ways of eating by all living beings. 

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When mental formation is at the speed of light

Most cultivators are not grateful when they practise the precepts. They forget how difficult it is to encounter the teaching of Buddha precepts. Instead they give rise to afflictions, thinking of all the difficulties and inconveniences involved. And this makes them unhappy.

Most of us are more concern with personal gain when we compare the precepts with our habitual actions. We think that we are at a loss. We do not know that by comparing to the Buddha nature all the abstentions such as not holding money, sleep four hours and eat only once a day are just a minor matter. It is because we are so used to follow our old habits, always try to get personal gain, try to accord with our way of thinking. In fact what we need to do is to let go, to act in accord with the pure precepts. Our thoughts should go around the merits and virtues we will obtain when we uphold the precepts. By doing so, we will have right mindfulness. Why do people have different way of thinking in cultivation? This is because some stress on personal benefits, others think of the merits they will obtain from cultivation. As such their merits become bigger, more genuine. If we follow our habitual thinking, new afflictions will arise. And when we want to change our habits, there are certain parts of bad habits we are unwilling to let go. They even give rise to contradiction to prohibit us from further advancement in the dharma. So these are the two faces of cultivation. One knows the correct way of cultivation and another does not know.

Many cultivators fall into the false perception of worldly phenomena (such as sleeping 4 hours a day, eat once a day, do not touch money) when they forget about the genuine truth, that all the dharma is empty ultimately. As such they give rise to suspicion. The emptiness of all dharma marks is the genuine dharma mark. Once we know the emptiness of all dharma, we will know that our body, our feeling, our food and drinks, our universe, all the external things, matters and people are the reflection of our mind, the mind of ignorance. Even our thinking is also ignorance. We do not know the things we see, including the food and drinks are only false appearance originally. We think food and drinks are necessities in life. We do not know food and drinks are illusory and the need of them is false feeling. We do not know even our body is a false illusion. We think it is something very real. As such we cannot let go of our body and our needs. Instead we become very calculative on the quality, the quantity of the daily necessities we obtain. If they do not match our desire we get afflicted. Take a look at the heavenly beings. They just give rise to the thought of drinking and eating, the food will be in their mouth. Without chewing the food they will feel full. It is not the food that brings us the fragrance. It is our illusion which gives rise to all kinds of differentiation. Some people cease eating for ten days or twenty days, drinking only plain water and are still very strong and healthy. From here we know the desire for food depends on our way of thinking. That is why we have to try to understand the Buddha’s teaching on the emptiness of all dharma marks even though we have not certified to the genuine mark of all dharma. If we understand the genuine mark, then we will know that our body, food and drinks, our way of thinking, and even the proper thinking are all ignorance.

In Shurangama Sutra it is stated, ‘Attaching to the knowledge on what we know and what we see is the foundation of ignorance.’

Whatever that we are thinking, whatever that we know, what we see, what is in contact with us are our ignorance, not right mindfulness. They are the roots of birth and death. That is why the Buddha told us if we have not certified to the fourth fruition of Arahant, we cannot trust our mind. But a mundane man has the habitual tendency to believe in himself. He believes in his thinking, he believes in his feeling, he believes in his decisions. As such he cannot advance on the path. Another type of man can advance in the dharma because he has let go believing in oneself. In this juncture, we can see the same cultivation brings different results. The same conditions give rise to different responses. This is because our understanding of the problems has an influence on our decision. We can find the source of our illness when we base our cultivation by looking from the point of genuine mark. Our self-nature is pure originally. It does not increase nor decrease. It does not come nor go. Hence from the genuine mark there is no problem on food and drinks, no problem on money and no problem on sleeps. It is originally pure.

Then why do we have the problems on the marks of people and living being? This is because in our mind of differentiation we give rise to all kinds of habitual actions. We differentiate this is a man, a woman and all kinds of living beings. So we should know the mind of differentiation is itself ignorance. With every differentiation our ignorance gets from bad to worse. Our ignorance will not become lighter day by day.

For example a man is sitting in meditation in a room. Someone enters and closes the door noisily. The sound may not be too loud but for a meditator it sounds so disturbing. In the first thought, not much thinking is done. He thinks, ‘The door is opened.’ The second thought, ‘You are disturbing me.’ In the third and fourth thought, he thinks, ‘You have destroyed my cultivation.’ So he got angry. The anger does not come from the first thought. The first thought is a very light differentiation. The second thought has greater differentiation. Every thought that follows gets heavier in afflictions. Finally he cannot even sit in meditation. He stands up and starts to quarrel with the man who enters. He argued, ‘Didn’t you see me sitting in meditation?’ Sometimes people do not know he is sitting in meditation. But he will not forgive because his mind is afflicted. He will find all kinds of excuses to quarrel. He said, ‘Didn’t you not seeing me outside? If I were not outside, you should know I am in the room! Ok. Got people or no people, can’t you open the door softly? It is so rude of you!’ And he will continue with all kinds of abusive words to show his anger.

So we know that in a differentiating mind, false thoughts arise unceasingly. They get heavier in every thought arising. Why do we have birth and death? It comes from this one thought of differentiation. The first differentiating thought follows by the second differentiating thought are the transmigration of birth and death. With an increase in a mind of differentiation, our ignorance gets more solid, one layer after another layer. Every layer of ignorance accumulates and finally we reach a state that we are uncontrollable of ourselves. It is like this window. Outside is very bright. If the window is covered with one layer of paper, we still can see some light. With the cover of second layer of paper, we still see a little light. In this way with the addition of the third layer of paper until 100 layers, the whole room will be completely dark. What is this darkness? It is ignorance. Even the layers of papers are also ignorance. We know our mind is originally clean and pure. But why does it turn dark in ignorance now? It is because we keep on giving rise to thoughts. We differentiate this and that continually. What is meant by the arising of thoughts? All the abstention in precepts which is set by the Buddha is to counteract the mind of differentiation. When the mind of differentiation gets heavier, there are matters on money, sleeps, food and drinks. It means the reward body and the corresponding environment appear. When there is the mark of people, there a corresponding state of living.

So we must know a small matter is not a minor one. A big issue is also not big. The high mountain is the accumulation of one dust mote. Walking a thousand miles starts from taking the first step. It means that our ignorance gets heavier by the arising of every thought. So every thought increases the solidity of ignorance, every thought is a birth and death. So how do we free ourselves from the bondage of birth and death? We have to take care of every thought. There is no big or small matter. Mundane man does not see the genuine mark of all matters and they differentiate there is the big issue, small matter. Actually there is no big and small. So if we wish to cultivate the path, we must know where to start. We should start by observing our every thought. When we know the causes for the arising of ignorance, we will be able to see our habits clearly. We will have a clearer understanding of the reason for the abstention from taking money, eating only once a day, sleeping four hours per day even though they are against our habitual practices. We are afflicted because we do not want to let go of our habits. But with true understanding, we will be willing to let go of our attachment to food, sleep and money, when the pure mind starts to resume its position.

When we see our affliction, is it something bad? No, it is not a bad matter. Some people say, ‘When I have enough sleep, when I can eat three times a day, hold the money I do not have much afflictions.’ Why does he feel this way? At that time why cannot he see his afflictions? It is because in this smooth state the speed of affliction is too fast. He has no ability to see it properly. He has no time to see. He is unable to contemplate properly. So he cannot feel his afflictions. Let us look at the following analogy. If a car is travelling at a speed faster than our eye sight, we can only see it like a passing smoke. We cannot truly see the whole car. When the car starts to slow down, we can gradually see that it is a black car. When the speed gradually decreases we see the shape of the car. When it stops, we can know its brand, where it is made. This is also the same with our afflictions and habits. When we find satisfaction in our desire, the speed of our affliction is too fast. Satisfaction is the high speed. The more satisfactory we are, the higher the speed of our false thoughts. At that speed we are unable to contemplate ourselves properly. So when we abide by the precepts, the speed of our false thoughts is decreasing. When the speed decreases, we gradually see our afflictions. We realize we have so many afflictions. Just like a mirror on the wall, we suddenly see our faults. Before this the speed could be ten thousand times per minute. Now it decreases to 100 times per minute. Then we will be able to see for ourselves our bad habits, our faults. Even though we still have many bad habits, defects, but the speed of false thoughts is decreasing. They are not in the same category before this realization. There are people who do not understand this happening. He sighed, ‘Oh, my bad habits and faults come back.’ He does not know that when we see our faults, bad habits and defects, the false thoughts is at a decreasing speed. In cultivation this is a very important point.

In the five skandhas, this is the skandhas of mental formation, the intention. The intention is travelling at high speed. The intention is at the speed of light. That is why we have to practise meditation. We have to recite the Buddha’s name. The aim is to catch hold of this skandhas of intention. We want to stop this skandhas of intention, so that it will gradually decrease in speed. When we clear away one bad habit the time for the false thoughts to slow down will be enhanced. When we abide by one precept, the speed of false intention will decrease by one precept. When we abide by two, three and more precepts, the speed of the skandhas intention will slow down correspondingly. Why are there nearly 350 precepts in the Bhiskshuni precepts? The aim is to slow down this intention skandhas so that the cultivator will be able to take a good look at her mind. It means that she will be able to eradicate her ignorance gradually.

Most of us have studied the Amitabha Sutra. In the sutra it is stated, ‘If a cultivator is able to recite Amitabha Buddha for a day, two days, three days, four days, five days, six days, seven days, he will be received by the Buddha at his death bed.’ And in the pure land sect there is this verse that a man who is able to uphold the Buddha’s name ten times, he will attain a rebirth. It is not that you recite ten times the Buddha’s name at the death bed. It means in seven days, you can only have ten false thoughts. You use the ten Buddha recitation to overcome the ten false thoughts. You will be sure of a rebirth. What is the meaning here? It means the speed of false thoughts is decreased. It means it is decreased until in one day and one night you only have ten false thoughts. If you can maintain seven days, you will be sure of a rebirth. If you only have two false thoughts, your chance of rebirth is greatly increased. If there are only two false thoughts, you need to recite two times to subdue them. Ten Buddha recitations will subdue the ten false thoughts. Then if you only have one false thought, you need only one Buddha recitation to overcome the false thought. It means no problem for rebirth. We who recite the Buddha’s name should aim to reach this point. The Buddha said one recitation of Amitabha Buddha eradicates offences as many as Ganges Sand is based on this explanation. It is because he has only one false thought to subdue. If no more false thought, it means the whole mind is Amitabha Buddha. When we understand this point, all the problems of wanting money, food and drinks and lots of sleep are the hindrances in cultivation. But if we have some wisdom, the hindrances are also the roots for us to be liberated from birth and death. The lotus are grown from the mud but not tainted by it. In cultivation the arising of afflictions is considered good. It helps us to overcome adversities. We should give rise to joy. And we learn how to face them with a positive attitude. We learn that all dharma is empty. Basically it is only false appearance. It depends on how we treat it. A positive way of treating afflictions brings positive results. All the adversities will help a cultivator to achieve higher level of practice. We will not be confused by afflictions. It is a good start and we will be able to transform them. Negative thinking will bring negative results. Remember in the Vajra Sutra how King Koli chopped away the four limbs of the Buddha when he was cultivating the path. In a way the tortures helped him to achieve Buddhahood faster as the pure mind of the Buddha was able to transform all adversities. Finally he attained enlightenment. For mundane people like us, people say a few bad words we are irritated. Someone accidentally step on us we will be screaming. So this is the difference between a sage and a common man. A Sage knows how to make good use of his mind. A mundane man just falls into greed, hatred and delusion.

When we know all external states are false, illusory, there is nothing for us to get attached to, no point to waste time on differentiating them. When we know the emptiness of all marks, there are no self, no others, no living beings, no time span. Everything is helping us towards the path of enlightenment. A mundane man attaches himself to the marks and he never treats things as empty. Every day he differentiates only the issues on you, me and others.  Even after leaving homes, he only thinks of his benefits, his needs, his feeling because he cannot see the emptiness of all phenomena. So he is all afflicted. This is the function of ignorance. A sage sees through the marks as emptiness, he is not affected by them.

In the past, the Buddha asked one disciple if he could go to propagate the Buddha Dharma at a distant village. He said he could go. The Buddha asked, ‘If people were to scold you, what will you do?’ He answered, ‘They only scold me, not hitting me.’ The Buddha asked, ‘If they were to beat you up, what will you be doing?’ He answered, ‘It is alright. At least they did not kill me.’ The Buddha, ‘What if they were to kill you?’ He answered, ‘Then I just entered Nirvana.’ The Buddha said, ‘Good man, you can go.’ This is not to show patience. This is the revelation of the emptiness of all dharma. Every situation is helping him to accomplish the path. If we use our thinking mind to understand the dharma, we will say this monk has great patience. But the real reason is the Venerable has seen through everything as empty, not real and let go of them. This is the true understanding of the Buddha Dharma. If not we study the dharma and use the worldly way to explain it, it becomes the worldly attachment to self, others, people and a span of time which will in turns bring lots of affliction.    

Dharma teaching by Dai Bei Temple Abbot Venerable Master Miao Xiang to the Bhikshunis in Dao Yuan temple, Liao Ning, China

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To be born in the Household of the Buddha

Every Buddhist desires that he will be cared for and protected by the Buddha. This passage in the Flower Adornment Sutra teaches us the way. May all living beings leave sufferings in the light of the Buddha.

Faith enables one to be replete with clear and sharp roots.

When the strength of faith is firm and solid, it is indestructible.

All the source of afflictions is forever put to extinction with the endowment of faith.

With faith one will be directed towards the merits and virtues of Buddha.

With faith one is not attached to external states.

One will stay away from disaster and have no difficulties.

Faith enables one to far-surpass all roads of Mara.

The Unsurpassed Path of Liberation is revealed.

Faith is the non-decaying seed of merits and virtues.

Faith enables the growth of the Bodhi tree

Faith enhances and increases the most supreme wisdom,

Faith is able to reveal all the Buddha.

As such I speak on the sequence in the practice of the Dharma.

To be rejoiced in faith is the most supreme, the most difficult practice.

It resembles the wish fulfilling wonderful pearly jewel,

That exists in the worldly realm.

If we truly have faith in the Buddha,

We will surely abide by the dwelling of upholding the precepts.

If we often abide by the dwelling of upholding the precepts,

We will fully be replete with merits and virtues.

The upholding of precepts opens up the root base of Bodhi.

By upholding the precepts we are cultivating the ground of merits and virtues diligently.

We will always learn and act in accord with the precepts,

All the Thus Come One will rejoice and praise us.

When a man has good faith in all the Buddha,

He will definitely accumulate and make great offerings to the Buddha.

When he is able to accumulate the great offerings,

He will believe in the inconceivable Buddha.

When a man has good faith in the Dharma,

He will enjoy listening to the Dharma without getting tired.

If he learns the Dharma untiringly,

He will believe that the Dharma is inconceivable.

If he has good faith in the Pure Sangha

He will obtain the faith of no retreating.

When his faith is in non-retrogression

The strength of his faith is immovable.

When he obtains the immovable strength in faith

He will obtain the pure, bright and sharp roots.

When his roots are pure, bright and sharp,

He will be able to stay away from the evil friends and teachers.

If he stays away from the evil friends and teachers,

He will get closed to the good knowing advisers.

If he can learn from the good knowing advisers,

He will be able to cultivate the great and expansive goodness.

When he is able to cultivate the great and expansive wholesomeness,

He is accomplishing the strength of great causes.

When a man accomplishes the strength of great causes,

He will obtain the most supreme, unwavering understanding.

When a man obtains the supreme and unhesitating understanding

He will be well protected and mindful of by all the Buddha.

When a man is cared for and protected by all the Buddha,

He will surely bring forth the Bodhi Mind.

When a man is able to bring forth the Bodhi Mind

He will be able to cultivate the merits and virtues of the Buddha.

When a man cultivates the merits and virtues of the Buddha diligently,

He will be born in the household of the Buddha.

When he is born in the household of the Buddha,

He will be able good at practising the expedients skills in means.

When he is good at cultivating the expedients skills in means,

He will rejoice in faith and his mind is purified.

When his mind is pure with the bliss of good faith

He will obtain the most supreme mind of great enhancement.

When the supreme mind of great enhancement is attained,

He will always cultivate the paramitas.

When he often cultivates the paramitas,

He is replete with the Mahayana.

When he is replete with the Mahayana,

He will be able to make offering to the Buddha in accord with the Dharma.

When he is able to make offerings to the Buddha in accord with the Dharma,

He is able to be mindful of the Buddha with an immovable mind.

When he is able to be mindful of the Buddha with a steadfast mind,

He will often see the immeasurable Buddha.

When he often sees the immeasurable Buddha,

He will witness the Thus Come One’s body dwelling permanently.

If he sees the permanent dwelling body of the Thus Come One,

He will know that the Dharma will never become extinct.

When he knows that the Dharma will not become extinct,

He will obtain the eloquence in speech with no obstruction.

When he is eloquent in speech with no obstacles,

He is able to teach and reveal the limitless Dharma.

When he is able to teach and propound the limitless Dharma,

He will be endowed with kindness and compassion to teach the living beings.

When he is able to transform living beings with kindness and compassion,

His mind of Great Compassion is firm and solid.

When he obtains the firm and solid mind of Great Compassion,

He will rejoice in all the deep and profound Dharma.

When he is able to rejoice in the deep and profound Dharma,

He will be able to leave behind all the defects of conditioned dharma.

When he is able to renounce all the faults of conditioned dharma,

He will surely stay apart from being proud, arrogant and heedlessness.

When he is able to leave all arrogance, pride and heedlessness,

He is qualified to benefit all living beings.

If he is able to benefit all living beings,

He will not feel tired dwelling long in birth and death.

When he is able to dwell in birth and death untiringly,

He will be replete with the unsurpassed bravery and courage with no comparison.

Flower Adornment Sutra Roll 14

An extract of the Sutra in chapter 12 on Foremost in Worthiness

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Once the beats of the drum come to a halt

In the misty red dust,

In the ceaseless splashing white foam of breaking waves,

Patience, a soft and pleasant disposition is the best prescription.

Leading a life in accord with conditions wherever we are,

Spending the whole life with gratitude

Be satisfied with whatever that we have.

Do not be self- conceited, trying to cover one’s mistakes

Do not spread others’ misconduct.

Be heedful when we have to entertain others,

Take care of our mouth

So that we will have no regrets

While carrying out our duty,

Be patient and always give our cooperation when necessary.

As usual a stiff crossbow will break easily,

And very often we can find a crack on a sharp steel knife

Disaster befalls us all because of our heedless tongue

Misfortune comes because of a mind of cruelty.

Do not argue who is right and who is wrong,

Do not fight just to win.

It is unnecessary for us to argue the rights and wrongs of one another

All because in this world lots of defects and flaws are to be found

And it is impossible to escape impermanence

In this illusive form

There is no harm done if others were to take advantage of us.

We are willing to take a few steps back and let them be the winner.

In spring we have just witnessed the green willow

And soon the autumn winds blow,

The yellow chrysanthemum are seen everywhere.

Success and glory is only a dream in the third watch of the night.

Wealth and honor resemble the icy snow in September

Who can really take over our old age, sickness and death?

We have to taste all the sweet, the sour, the bitter and the spicy,

All by ourselves

When a man is good at planning, manipulating

People say he is so clever

Yet the heaven is very fair,

As it has its decision.

Displaying exaggerated flattery

Drowning in a crooked mindset with greed and anger

Bring us the suffering in the hell.

A fair, rightful and straight mind is itself the heaven.

 A musk deer dies early because of its fragrance,

A cocoon has a short life because of its silk.

A prescription of a powdery herb nurtures the essence, levelling the stomach.

Two kinds of old mellow soups retain the harmony of one another.

Before closing the eyes we have wasted lots of energy scheming and seeking.

With the eyes closed we leave with hands holding to nothing.

From morning till night we live in chaos,

Attending to the sad events, happy events of separation, reunion

Day in and day out we are trapped busily over the business of long life, short life, poverty or having abundance.

Never should we try to fight and win a situation to show our ability,

Even living for a hundred years, it is still a show business.

Once the beats of the drum come to a halt,

We do not know where our hometown will be.

–a song of Awakening by Venerable Great Master Han Shan

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Merits and Virtues of making Offerings

Moreover, once I have heard of a merchant by the name Jiabazha who stayed in the Boluoyuluo village in the Country Zhucha Sila. He built a way place for the Sangha. It is called the Jiabazha temple even until today. He was the son of an elder and the family was very rich. Later, the family lost its glory when they became poor after spending all the money. His relatives and friends looked down on him and ill-treated him just as though he was an animal. He was greatly afflicted and left the village sadly. He travelled with other merchant friends to China and managed to earn a lot of money. With his wealth he bought a lot of jewellery and travelled back to his hometown.

At that time the relatives and friends heard of his success and every one of them prepared the food and drinks, fragrance and flowers. They stood by the roadside with a music band playing wonderful music to welcome him. At that time Jiabazha put on some simple clothing walking in front of his friends. He was a middle age man now and his relatives and friends could not recognize him as he left the village at a young age, poor and lowly. So, on seeing him they asked,
‘Where is our relative Jiabazha?’

He pointed at the back and said, ‘He is still at the back.’

His relatives walked quickly to the back and asked for him. His friends answered,

‘The one walking in front is Jiabazha.’

The relatives walked back to him and asked, ‘So you are called Jiabazha. Why did you say you are still at the back?’

He answered, ‘The name Jiabazha is not this body. The Jiabazha you all are looking for is in the luggage on top of the camels and donkeys among my merchant friends. Why do I say this? All the while you have been looking down on this body of mine. In the past none of you want to talk to me. Now you are here to welcome me because you have heard of my wealth, my jewels. That is why I said I am on the back of the animals.’

The relatives said confusedly, ‘We cannot understand what you are talking.’

Jiabazha answered, ‘When I was poor, I talked to you all and none of you bother to answer my questions. Now that I am rich you all bring along the offerings to welcome me. I know you all come for money, not for my body. That is why I speak this analogy.’

Let us take the analogy of the World Honoured One. When Jiabazha obtained the richness, his relatives and friends came to welcome him with all kinds of offerings. It is the same for the Buddha. When He has accomplished Buddhahood, the men, gods, spirits, ghosts and all the dragon kings come to make all kinds of offerings. They do not make offerings to me. They are making offerings to the merits and virtues for accomplishing Buddhahood.

The Buddha said,

‘Before I accomplish Buddhahood, when I am lacking in merits and virtues, all the living beings do not speak to me, what is more to make offerings to me?’

That is why we should know that the merits and virtues of making offerings are not making offerings to me. So even the Buddha obtains the offerings made by the men, gods and others, there is no increase or decrease in his mind. It is because the Buddha is good in contemplation.

‘The men, the gods, the asuras

The Yaksa, the Gandharvas

And the multitudes of such living beings

Also make all kinds of offerings pervasively.

The Buddha does not give rise to a happy mind.

Because He is good at contemplation.

The merits and virtues of all these offerings

Do not arise by making offering to me

It is just like Jiabazha

He told his relatives

That he is at the back.

This is the same analogy. 

Chapter 89-The Great Adornment Shastra Sutra-We should know the merits and virtues of making offerings

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Fighting for Oneself

It is not easy to notice our arrogance.

If we do not uproot our arrogance, we cannot put a stop to transmigration. Arrogance resembles the high and lofty mountains which look down on all mundane things, people. He feels arrogant as he sees everything is under his feet. He is the highest, the most important person. This is how the Sutra describe the feeling of arrogance,

‘Arrogance is a room of self which is fully covered up on four sides.

It consists and stores up his views and loving emotions.’

When a cultivator gives rise to arrogance, it means on his path of cultivation there is a mountain which is big and high. This mind of arrogance closes him up from four sides. He is enveloped in his own views and love.

Moreover, this mountain is very solid and heavy. He feels that he is very important. He holds on to these views,

‘I have more merits and virtues than you.

I am very clever. I can do things faster. I can do many things.’

He often orders people around in a harsh voice as he thinks they are stupid and incomparable to him.

He says, ‘No, no this is not the way to do things. You do not know how to do this.’

He feels that even the grass is not as tall as he is. People are incomparable to him.

Over a minor matter, he brings himself up high in the air, feeling very good and important.

In the Shurangama Sutra it is thus stated, ‘On top of knowledge and views, we add in our knowhow is the root of ignorance.’

Whatever that he thinks are based on his knowhow, not the Truth.

This is the root of ignorance.

When a man holds on to his knowhow, his view, his knowledge, he gets angry easily. So the view is the element of fire. This is the root of ignorance.

Secondly in this room there is the store of love. All forms of loving attachment, especially the love between a woman and a man. Love belongs to the element of water. At first it is a small flow of water. Later it grows and become a big river which flows into the ocean of love. The water has the ability to flow down. So a lot of water brings one down into the lower realms of existence.

In our cultivation, if we give rise to arrogance, we are unable to travel on. We will be hindered. That is why the worldly teaching that stresses on knowledge, skills and talents encourage people to fight to be number one. This is a wrong teaching as it brings on more afflictions. The Buddha does not teach this way as he says all living beings are equal. Even if you are very talented, it is because of the good karma you have planted and you should make use of your talents to help the world, not to be indulged in your talents, thinking you are number one. You should be more humble in order to benefit the world. This is the genuine teaching as there is no affliction. So we can see the wrong teaching is darkness and the genuine teaching is the sun. The Buddha Dharma helps us to clear the ignorance of darkness in our mind.

What is meant by knowledge and views?

Whatever that we know, that we can see and hear are the knowledge and views. They include whatever that we cannot see and cannot hear.

Indeed every thought in our mind is called the knowledge and views. The root of ignorance is because of grasps to these thoughts.

When there is knowledge and view, there is differentiation. When there is differentiation, there is love and hatred. Things that you like you wish to get it. Things that you dislike you want to discard them.

This is the same for love. When we see someone we like and we start to differentiate and follow only our thoughts and feeling, not acting in accordance with the truth. Finally this love water gets deep, strong and powerful. By then how are we going to walk across it?

So in the Shurangama Sutra, it states clearly that the views and knowledge which belongs to the element of fire becomes water because of the frictions of two fires. When water arises from fire, it means the falling into transmigration.

So how are we going to save ourselves from this great river of love, the root of transmigration?

To destroy the knowledge and views, we have to observe our every thought and not to follow it.

In every thought there is no anger, no love and no delusion. This is the way to get rid of arrogance.

Without arrogance, self is put to extinction.

Another analogy of arrogance is the pit of arrogance. It is deep and frightening.

For instance when we want to win, when we feel that we are better than others and we wish to topple others, we do not realize that we are already in the pit of arrogance.

With this mind to topple others and sometimes we lose the game, we will fall into the pit of despair.

We are in the pit because of our fighting mind, the mind of winning and aggressiveness.

Arrogance is very frightening. We learners of the Buddha Path must learn to be humble even if we are very talented, rich and well educated. We should learn from the ripe golden rice grains with its stalk bending low when they are ripe and can be harvested. The grains are able to benefit mankind.

Arrogance is a mind of afflictions. In the Abhidharma pitaka, it is said that arrogance is raising one’s mind when we confront other people. To be proud is the dharma of defilement when one feels one is the best. In these cases the cultivator will be unable to listen to others. He will act according to his desires. He will not take others’ words and advice into consideration. He will not be bothered about others’ feeling. In the Sangha he will not bother if his acts will affect the propagation of the Buddha Dharma. He will not take the Sangha’s benefit into consideration. He just does whatever that he likes. His arrogance pushes and chases him into the deep pit and he does not know it as he still feels quite at ease in his freedom. This is because he does not put high importance in the precepts. His life is more important than precepts. Such arrogant people take the Buddha Dharma as only the knowledge and view, not a practice to better himself towards the Buddha Path, to transform his bad habits and temperament.

In the Sutra of Great Gathering, it is thus stated,

‘Destroying the mountain of arrogance,

The tree of birth and death is pulled up.’

When the roots of birth and death are pulled up from the soil, one attains liberation.

When the mind is free from the arising of thoughts, views and love are uprooted.

Only the Buddha Dharma teaches us how to uproot the roots of arrogance. All worldly dharma encourage us to be indulged in self and arrogance. That is why most worldly people fall into the seas of afflictions, holding stubbornly to their views, their love.

Dharma Teaching on the Sramanera Precepts by Venerable Shi Miao Xiang Dharma Master, the Abbot of Da Bei Shi, Liaoning, China

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All the Buddha standing before You

How to get all the Buddha to stand before you? This is an interesting Dharma propounded by the Buddha.

Chapter on Enquiring

In this chapter on Practices, the Buddha told Batuohe, ‘A Bodhisattva who desires to attain Samadhi swiftly should bring forth the Great Faith and cultivate in accord with the Dharma. He will surely obtain the Samadhi.’

‘Do not harbour the slightest doubts and thoughts, as tiny as a fraction of a strand of hair.

This dharma of mind concentration is known as the Bodhisattva who far-surpasses all practices:

“Bring forth one thought, believe in this dharma, follow what you have heard and be mindful of the directions.

Just maintain one thought, sever all other thoughts, stand firmly in this faith and do not be suspicious.

Practise diligently, do not be heedless, do not give rise to thoughts and do not think of having or not having.

Do not think about advancing, do not think about retreating, do not think about the front and do not think about the back.

Do not think about left, do not think about right, do not think about none and do not think about having.

Do not think about far, do not think about near, do not think about pain and do not think about itchiness.

Do not think about sufferings, do not think about bliss, do not think about birth and do not think about old age.

Do not think about sickness, do not think about death, do not think about life and do not think about lifespan.

Do not think about poverty, do not think about wealth, do not think about superior and do not think about inferior.

Do not think about forms, do not think about desires, do not think about small and do not think about big.

Do not think about long, do not think about short, do not think about handsome and do not think about ugliness.

Do not think about evil, do not think about wholesome, do not think about anger and do not think about happiness.

Do not think about sitting, do not think about arising, do not think about walking and do not think about stopping.

Do not think about the Sutra, do not think about the Dharma, do not think about right and do not think about wrong.

Do not think about renouncing, do not think about getting, do not think about thinking and do not think about consciousness.

Do not think about severance, do not think about attachment, do not think about emptiness and do not think about solidity.

Do not think about light, do not think about heavy, do not think about difficult and do not think about easy.

Do not think about deep, do not think about shallow, do not think about expansive and do not think about narrow.

Do not think about father, do not think about mother, do not think about wife and do not think about sons.

Do not think about closely related, do not think about distantly related, do not think about hatred and do not think about love.

Do not think about getting, do not think about losing, do not think about accomplishing and do not think about failures.

Do not think about purity, do not think about turbidity, severe all thoughts, maintain one thought for a period of time.

The mind is not confused, the mind is always diligent. Do not count the years and do not get tired day by day.

Maintain this one thought and do not cease to be mindful of it. Except for the time to sleep, sharpen your mind.

Always dwell alone and do not get involved in many gatherings. Leave the evil men and stay closed with the good friends.

Associate with the Good Knowing Advisers and see them just the same as the Buddha.

Abide and grasp at your resolution and maintain a soft and pliant appearance.

Contemplate in equanimity when you look at everything around you.

Stay away from you hometown and do not get closed to your relatives.

Abandon love and desires, tread the pure path. Practise the dharma of no-deeds and sever all desires.

Leave behind all confused thoughts and cultivate the Samadhi.

Learn the wisdom of sutras and words in the way of Dhyana Concentration.

Eradicate the three filths and discard the six entrances.

Sever all sexual contact and renounce all that you love.

Do not be greedy for money, do not hoard the wealth. Control your diet and be satisfied with what you have. Do not get attached to tastes.

Be careful! Do not kill living beings for meat and flesh.

Putting on your clothes in accord with the dharma and do not wear many decorations.

Do not joke playfully, do not be arrogant, do not be proud and do not look down on others.

If you teach the Sutra, teach in accord with the Dharma.

Clearly see that the origin of this body is like an illusion.

Do not be influenced by the skandhas of feeling, do not enter the states.

The Skandhas resemble the thieves and the four elements resemble the snakes.

They are impermanent, they are dream like.

If you try to find the owner of impermanent, it does not exist.

The gatherings of causes and conditions, the dispersion of causes and conditions,

You should clearly know this,

That nothing really exists.

Enhance your mind with kindness and compassion when you confront all.  (People, things and situations)

Give to the poor, relieve those in sufferings.

This is the Practice of a Bodhisattva in Samadhi.

It is the most important wisdom as it far-surpasses all practices.

Those who practise in accord with this Dharma teaching,

All the Buddha in the ten directions will stand before them.”

Introductory Notes on Pratyutpanna Buddha Sammukhavasthita Samadhi Sutra:

In the year 179, the second year of Guang- he during the Eastern Han Dynasty, Pratyutpanna Buddha Sammukhavasthita Samadhi Sutra was translated by The Tripitaka Dharma Master Zhiloujiaqian.  It was the earliest Pure Land Sutra which was first translated in China during the Later Han Dynasty. Pratyutpanna carries the meaning the present moment. The sutra is known as the Samadhi Sutra of standing before the Buddha presently. It is also known as the Samadhi Sutra of all the Present Buddha in the Ten Directions standing Before One. It is also known as the Present Samadhi Sutra or the Present Concentration Sutra.

This sutra teaches the connection of walking meditation and the mindfulness of the Buddha in other Buddha Land. In the meditation the cultivator is able to see the Buddha in the ten directions personally and receive their teaching. By reciting Amitabha Buddha, one is able to see immeasurable Buddha. The cultivator personally sees the Buddha in the ten directions. He reflects and contemplates his self-nature. He understands that all the Buddha is the illusory appearance in one’s mind and hence he will finally certify to the nature of emptiness.

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Yasodhara- the Non-human wife

At one time the World Honoured One was invited by the King Suddhodana to attend an offering at the palace where his former wife Yasodhara was staying. After eating the Buddha stood up and took leave. Yasodhara ran up to the second floor to have a better look at the World Honoured One from afar. As her feeling was all mixed up, she jumped down from the balcony. With the strength of the Buddha’s great kindness, Yasodhara was not hurt as the earth suddenly became soft and tender. The bhikshus who witnessed this asked the Buddha,

‘World Honoured One, for what reason the Princess is willing to sacrifice her life for you?’

 The Buddha answered, ‘Not only in this life that she renounces her life. In the past, she also chose to die for me. Long ago in the city of Sarnath, there was a king by the name Brahmandana. One day he went hunting in the jungle. Suddenly his horse became uncontrollable and ran wildly into a deep forest. The king was shocked and tired. He took a rest and suddenly he heard someone singing from afar. He saw a pair of non-human couple who were playing the lute and singing happily together. He was envious of their joy. On top of that he gave rise to greed when he saw the wife who looked so sweet and beautiful. The king took out a poisonous arrow and shot at her husband who died instantly. The king wished to take the wife back to his palace but she said, ‘I will not leave my husband alone here. I will leave when he is properly cremated.’

So the king built a fire to burn the corpse. When the fire was burning fiercely the non-human wife jumped into the fire and sacrificed her life for the love of her beloved husband.

The King Brahmandana witnessed the sacrifice of a virtuous woman and he said the following gatha:

‘For the sake of getting other’s wife,

I killed her husband.

The wife is willing to die for her husband,

Now the woman is dead, what do I get?

My sins are most heavy

The sufferings awaiting me are acute,

All because

 I have taken the lives of a loving couple.’

And in this life, Prince Siddharta also married the Princess Yasodhara after winning the six skills set by her father, the King Wholesome View. The six skills are 1. Languages and Arts 2. Mathematics  3. Jumping and throwing 4. Archery 5. Swords Martial Art 6. Horse Riding

The Prince Siddhartha was well educated in these various fields. He knew many types of languages and was good in art. His mathematics was the highest as he could even count every drop of water in the four great oceans. He was a good horse rider and skilful in sword fighting, jumping and throwing. In the event of Archery he had to fight against Devadatta who was also skilful in bows and arrows. For the prince the bows and arrow they used were only child play. Even the heavy bows and arrows used by the King Wholesome View were still too childish. He demanded the best bows and arrows and finally they took down the bows and arrows which were handed down by the King High Marks Lion Cheeks. The Bows and Arrows were so heavy that no one in the Sakya Clan was able to use them. As such they were treated as the sacred objects which were well kept in the Ancestors Hall. When Prince Siddhartha stretched out the bow and released the arrow it flew up high into the empty space and could not be found anymore. The King Wholesome View at first enjoyed the company of the Prince and now this feeling had been transformed into total respect and admiration.  So he decided to let his daughter Yasodhara marry Prince Siddhartha. After the marriage, the Prince Siddhartha composed the following poems:

‘The disasters of love and desires are too many,

Sufferings and afflictions arise because of them.

The palace is full of happiness and bliss,

But I stay there just as though facing the army of great enemy.

I will go alone into the deep forest,

I could then dwell in deep Samadhi.’

Many people misunderstood the Prince for taking Princess Yasodhara as the wife just because of her beauty. He did see her inner beauty. When the Prince left her to cultivate ascetics in the forest, Princess Yasodhara also brought forth the following vows,

‘From today onwards,

Until the day I see the Prince

I will not sleep on that high and lofty bed.

I will not bathe in scented water,

I will not put on any decoration on my body,

Nor will I polish it.

I will not put on any cosmetics.

I will not wear jewels and beautiful clothes,

No diamonds will be put on me.

I will not wear perfume, fragrant powder

I will not decorate myself with scented flowers and necklaces.

My tongue will not taste delicious food,

I will not eat any tasty food nor drink the wine.

My hair will not be decorated.

Even though I stay in the palace

I will lead an ascetic life just like living in the forest.’

The Prince stayed in the forests for six years doing the ascetics practices and his wife Princess Yasodhara also practises six years of ascetics in the palace.

It was just as she had vowed, ‘Together we will shave our hair, together we will cultivate diligently.’

Even though she stayed in the palace, her faith for the Great Sage’s is unmovable. Her practices were in accord with the practices of the Great Sage. Princess Yasodhara really lives up to the requirements to become the Retinues of a Bodhisattva:

  1. She is young, adorned and she is not proud of her beauty. She is always kind and treats all living beings just like her only son.
  2. She often gives generously.
  3. Even in the dreams she does not harbour evil thoughts.
  4. She is not proud of her wisdom thinking she is better than others.
  5. She is very humble.
  6. She is not attached to tasty food.
  7. She adorns herself with a remorseful and repentant mind, not harbouring any jealousy.
  8. She will not harm others, not speaking falsely or fawningly.
  9. She will not take refuge in the deviant teachers and their teachings.
  10. Her mind is in accord with the Genuine Truth.
  11. She is pure in body, mouth and mind.
  12. She stays away from over sleeping or drowsiness.
  13. All the things she does are good things.
  14. She will not follow and act in accord with her own thinking mind.
  15. She will always act in accord with good conduct.
  16. She treats her father and mother – law like her parents.
  17. She loves those around her like loving herself.
  18. She sleeps after the husband has gone to sleep.
  19. She wakes up before her husband.
  20. She deeply penetrates all kinds of meanings and principles.

notes: non human men is one type of the eight fold division of heavenly dragon. They are also known as kinnara, kijnara, celestial musician and suspicious spirits. They look like human beings but with a horn on their heads.

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Words and sounds are not Real

A Bodhisattva knows that all Dharma is like echoes.

‘When we want to talk,

There is a wind known as Udana

It touches the belly button and travels upward.

This wind touches seven places,

Our neck, gum, teeth, lips

Tongue, pharynx (throat) and chest

Among them sound and words are produced.

Stupid men do not know about this,

In their delusion they get afflicted

And anger arises.

Among them there is a wise man,

He is not deluded.

In accord with the appearance of all kinds of situations,

Straight, crooked, bending and stretching,

Going and coming,

He uses words and sounds to describe them.

Yet no doer is to be found.

Is not it a matter of illusion?

It resembles a puppet, a robot,

Or an apparition in a dream

I am suffocated by the heated air,

Is it real or just an illusion?

Who really knows this matter?

This bony man with the bondage of tendon and tissues,

Is able to produce sounds and words,

It resembles

The throwing of melted gold

Into the water.’

By Nagarjuna Bodhisattva—An extraction from the Shastra of Crossing Over with Great Wisdom

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The Seeds that bear Eternal Fruits

In the past the World Honoured One was staying in Magadha, in a Brahman village by the name Aijianale. During the sowing season, a farmer Poluodou Pozhe had already got ready 500 plough and yoke to do the sowing. One morning, the World Honourd One put on his clothes, carried the alms-bowl and sashes and came to the field where Poludou Pozhe was working. At that time, the farmer was distributing the food. The World Honoured One walked to the place where food was distributed and stood by one side. The farmer Poluodou Pozhe saw the World Honoured One standing there begging for food, he looked and Him and said,

‘Oh, Sramana! I plough the fields, I sow the seedlings, and after ploughing and sowing, I will have food to eat. Sramana! You should plough the fields, you should sow the seeds. After ploughing and sowing, you will have food to eat.’

World Honoured One answered, ‘Oh, Brahman! I plough the fields, I sow the seeds. After ploughing and sowing, I also have food to eat.’

The farmer said, ‘But we do not see the World Honoured One Gautama’s yoke, coulter, plowshare, spurs and cow.’

World Honoured One repeated what he had said, ‘Oh, Brahman! I plough the fields, I sow the seed. After ploughing and sowing, I also have food to eat.’

The farmer said, ‘You call yourself a farmer. But we have not seen you farming. Please tell us about matters on farming so that we know how you do the farming.’

The Buddha said,

‘Faith is the seedlings,  

Ascetic practices are the rain water.

Wisdom is my plough and yoke,

Humility my plough -handle.

Thoughts are my yokes,

My mind and mindfulness are my plowshare and spurs.

 I control my body,

I am careful with my speech.

I control the taking of food and drinks.

True speech is my machete,

Being resilient is my liberation.

Diligence is my cow which carries the yoke,

That brings one to liberation.

It keeps on going forward

And it will never turn back.

It will arrive at a place

Where there is no more sadness.

If one cultivates this way,

It will bear the Eternal fruits.

Those who cultivate in this way will be able

To free themselves

From all sufferings.’

On hearing this the Brahman farmer Poluodou Pozhe took out a big gold bowl and filled it to the brim with milk porridge. He gave it to the World Honoured One,

‘World Honoured One Gautama, please eat the milk porridge! The World Honoured One is a farmer. This is because the World Honoured One Gautama’s farming will bear the Eternal fruits.’

‘The food which is obtained by reciting the Gatha should not be eaten by me. Oh, Brahman! It is improper for a wise one to do this. All the Buddha will not eat the food which is obtained by the recitation of Gatha. Oh, Brahman! As long as the Proper Dharma dwells in the world, this is the guideline.’   

‘For a Great Celestial Being who has put afflictions to still extinction, who have renounced all bad habits, you should provide another type of food and drinks. This is because he is the Ground of Blessings for those who desire to seek merits and virtues.’

‘So, Gautama, to whom should I give away this milk porridge?’

‘Oh,Brahman, in the spiritual worlds, in the worlds of Mara and Brahman Heavens, among the Sramana, brahmans, spirits and people, I do not see any one who can drink and digest this milk porridge, except the Thus Come One, or the Thus Come One’s disciples. So Brahman! You may pour the milk porridge on a plain ground with no grass, or water with no life forms.’

So, the farmer Poluodou Pozhe poured the milk porridge into the water with no life forms. The milk porridge entered the water and produced the burning sound, and thick smoke arose from it. It looked like the plough which was under the hot sun for the whole day and when it was placed into water, it produced the burning sound and thick smoke arose. This is the same for the milk porridge which produced the burning sound and thick smoke. The farmer Poluodou Pozhe was most frightened on witnessing this as he sweated with pores bristling, hair all standing on ends. He walked to the Buddha and bowed at His feet.

He said, ‘Most wonderful, Gautama! Most wonderful, Gautama! Just like a man who holds on to something which is going to topple and makes it upright again, to reveal what is covered up, to point the road to those who lose the path, to hold the lighted lamp up in darkness, so that all with eyes can see. The World Honoured One Gautama uses all kinds of methods to teach the Dharma. I want to take refuge in the World Honoured One Gautama, to take refuge in the Dharma, to take refuge in the Sangha Assembly. I want to leave the home life before the World Honoured One Gautama. I want to be replete with the full precepts.’

So, the farmer Poluodou Pozhe really left the home life before the Buddha. He took the full precepts before the Buddha. After that the Venerable Poluodou Pozhe stayed alone to practise the Dharma, dwelt in deep concentration and cultivated diligently. Not long after that he was replete with great wisdom and in this life he attained the highest Brahman Conduct. This is the ultimate aim for all Good Men who leave the home life properly. He witnessed that he was living in still extinction and had perfected the Brahman Conduct. This was the only duty he should do. There was no other thing for him to do in this world. So in this way the Venerable Poluodou Pozhe became an Aranhant.

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What can a man do to save himself?

When the Buddha was dwelling in the world, there were these merchants who earned their money by cheating and bullying the people. Some of them became so rich and they planned to carry their jewels to another place by boat to make more money. They brought along their servants, maids and even the slaves to serve them on this journey. They spent their time eating meat, drinking wines and listening to music and songs. They were dreaming to earn a lot of money on this trip. Suddenly in the great sea, dark cloud gathered and a storm broke out. The boat was shaking violently, travelling up and down along with the gigantic waves. All the people on board were crying and screaming as they felt the boat might capsize. On this boat there was a servant who had already taken the Three Refuges and the Five Precepts. He was honest and pious in his practice of the Buddha Dharma. In this chaotic situation he was calm and unmoving. He knew it was a terrible storm. If the boat were to capsize many people would be drowned. So he bent his knees on the deck and started to recite the Three Refuges of the Great Vehicle,

‘I take refuge in the Buddha. I wish that all the living beings will understand the great path and bring forth the Unsurpassed Bodhi Mind.

I take refuge in the Dharma. I wish that all living beings will enter the profound Dharma Store and be endowed with sea-like wisdom.

I take refuge in the Sangha. I wish that all living beings will have no obstruction in guiding and teaching the great assembly.’

He continued with the five precepts,

‘I, the disciple of the Buddha by this name …..will abstain from killing throughout my life. I the disciple of the Buddha will abstain from stealing throughout my life. I the disciple of the Buddha will abstain from sexual misconduct throughout my life. I the disciple of the Buddha will abstain from false speech throughout my life. I the disciple of the Buddha will abstain from partaking intoxicants throughout my life.’

While he was kneeling there making all these vows, he advised those around him to join him if they had some faith in the Buddha. Instead, they scolded him.

‘You are very funny! The boat is sinking now and what are you doing there, saying all these nonsense? Do something positive to save this boat, please.’

But he continued to recite the Three Refuges, the Five Precepts piously. Strange enough, the storm subsided and the sea was calm again. The danger was over and the servant stood up and returned to do his chores.

The other merchants were still feeling giddy. The captain of the boat lied on his bed, feeling horrible. And when he fell asleep he saw an old man in white travelled towards him, walking on the surface of the water, with tiny waves flowing around his toes. He had white hair, white moustache and his body was enveloped in a pool of white light. He walked closed to the window and stared at the captain. Calmly he said,

‘So your boat cannot move and it gets stuck here?’

The captain said, ‘Yes, what to do? Who are you?’

The old man said,

‘Your boat cannot move all because of that young man, that servant on the boat.’

After saying that, he turned and left.

The captain woke up and told his merchant friends about his dream. By then, everyone on the boat knew who that servant was. He was supposed to leave the boat. Even the servant heard about the dream and he consoled them,

‘Do not worry. If it is because of me that the boat stays stagnant here, then I will leave. Just give me some bamboo and rope. I will leave on the raft with a paddle.’

Some expressed their unwillingness to let him go but at the same time, they were preparing for him the bamboo sticks and rope already. The servant tied up a small raft and with the paddle in his hands he jumped into the sea, waving good bye to them as he paddled his way to the shore.

That night a thunder storm broke out. Thousands and millions of white fish, black fish and peculiar sea monsters, small and big appeared around the boat when they pushed at the boat until it was overturned. All the people on board were drowned.

These people had committed lots of killing and evil karmas in harming living beings. With their shared karma they had to die together except the servant who was not in their group. Even though he was unable to save others with his practice of the precept, at least he was able to save himself.

By upholding the Five Precepts we are able to maintain a human body. In addition if we are able to cultivate the ten wholesome deeds we will be born in the heaven. If we are able to cultivate the Six Paramitas, we will be in the realm of Bodhisattvas.

A man who upholds the precepts will always be in accord with the dharma of purity, the dharma of no doing. What is meant by the dharma of no doing? Wherever he goes, he does not find faults with others, he does not do or say things to confuse others, he does not get himself all entangled with others, he does not purposely create an issue of arguments, he does not try to please people with his words and actions, trying to seek some self-benefits. Such a man will gradually live in peace, with a calm mind, a mind of wisdom. These are the consequences for a cultivator who abides by the rules of precepts. But if he often transgresses the precepts or does not abide by the precepts, the effect will be witnessed by him also. For example, his mind is in havoc. Even a minor matter will anger him. And even if he tries to sit in meditation, he will find pain here and there, the whole body aching and sweating. His mind is in agitation.

A wise man should listen to the teaching of the Buddha and abide by his precepts so as to leave sufferings.

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He is You!

Complaints and hatred arises when our mind is not calm.

Why is it not calm?

It is because of other people.

Where do these people come from?

They are here because of me.

When there is the feeling of I there is selfishness.

Selfishness and I is the same thing.

When the thought of I arises, selfishness follows closely behind.

When we are selfish, there will be many complaints and hatred.

Why is this so?

It is all because of this I.

We use our six roots to contemplate the six dusts.

We realize this body is me.

The mind that is thinking is me.

The eyes that can see belong to me.

I can look at things.

Whatever that is outside me is others,

The external states

Because of the existence of external states,

And because of the solid feeling of I

Consciousness arises.

 As long as the six roots keep on get in touch with the six dusts,

 Absorbing the six dusts, the six roots will become very active.

The six consciousness aware and function satisfactorily.

The feeling of “I” is gets stronger and stronger,

That it cannot even contain the sky.

It cannot tolerate any one,

It can only live alone.

The problem is other people do not simply disappear.

What to do?

When other people just touch us accidentally,

We get angry.

 We do not bother to listen to any excuses which are given by them.

This happens to a cultivator too.

He says, ‘I do not like to hear his talk.

I don’t like his coughing,

I don’t like his footsteps.

One thing that makes me really happy is

While others are working, I don’t have to do anything.

While eating, it is the best if I can have all the delicacies.’

Hoarding this type of mentality,

Complaints and hatred erupts.

Because of the continual expansion of this ‘I’

And the absorption of the six dusts

The sun is the sun the moon is the moon,

The space, space

My body is me

Is it right to think this way?

Why is there the existence of me?

Some say that because there is the external state.

What are these external states?

Once a thought arises, all the external states arise.

That is why the Buddha says,

‘You do not know your mind.

 External states including the mountains, rivers, the great earth

The sun, the moon and all the stars

They are things in your mind.’

They are basically illusive states.

But we insist they are real.

That is why we become so angry, full of grudges and resentments

Thinking there are these hateful people!

With the attachment to a self, the expansion of I,

We become so unhappy.

The self and unhappiness come at the same time

We put the blame on the existence of external states.

We forgot the unhappiness and the external states arise from our mind.

That is why we are cheated by our mind.

We say, ‘This is a terrible man.

That man has many bad habits.

His snoring is sickening.

That man says dirty words.

This man talks nicely.’

 And all kinds of good and evil opinions we propound.

They come forth from the movement of the mind,

The changes in the mind

All the external states appear because of the arising of thoughts in the mind.

Where on earth can we find the REAL external states?

They are the revelation of the self.

In fact all the external states are the revelation of faults in our mind.

But we make a mistake, thinking that other people’s states enter, interfering our way of life.

Indeed, we have committed the greatest mistake.

Thinking the external states are other people.

I am I, he is he

With this type of reasoning, we are afflicted.

These complaints of good and bad

Are the consequences when there is a ‘me’,

This feeling of ‘Me’ will naturally bring on all kinds of changes.

That is why the Buddha says all the states arise from the mind.

Why are we angry?

It is because the seed of anger is with us all the time.

Once a state arises, not to our liking our seed of anger explodes

Let us take the analogy of a piece of bread.

When we are hungry, it tastes so delicious.

Once we are full, the bread will lose its attraction.

In this way, the feeling for a piece of bread also undergo all kinds of transformation

In accord with the change of time, the change of place and the change of the need of people

The Buddha says, ‘All dharma has the mark of emptiness.’

The problem with us is we do not realize the empty mark of all dharma, the emptiness in all matters.

Originally nothing real can be found.

But why do we find it so real, why do we feel so real?

This is known as our solid false thoughts.

But we do not believe it is empty.

We insist it is real.

Because we remember clearly how he talks,

We remember his face.

We can even hear his voice!

He is so real, we insist.

We do not know,

He is you.

Other than you there is no one else.

It’s because originally all dharma is empty of marks.

You argue, ‘No, no, you are not right.You say one is me, two are also me.   How can there be so many people in me?’

 In fact, you do not know, living beings as many as Ganges Sands are you.

 We do not recognize this Truth.

 We only realize that the small one is me, the big one not me.

 Our mind is too shallow to admit this, to shoulder this Truth.

 We get caught in this attachment, ‘I was born a minor being. I have just  started practising a little Dharma,

 So, my conclusion: this cannot me.’

 We are like the beggar. When our father the rich Landlord tells us all the property belongs to us

  We are shocked.

  We answer, ‘It can’t be me. I am a beggar. I beg for food every day.’

  This is the state we are in.

  But when we get in touch with the Landlord for some time

  We gradually recognize our father

  We are this beggar.

  We finally admit that is our property.

  When the Buddha gives us the property,

  We do not recognize our inheritance.

  We are like the son who left the home to become a beggar.

  Now our father the Landlord takes us home, and we stay together.

  Gradually we will inherit his property.

  Our problem is we are being half-witted, witless.

  Hence all kinds of illusion appear.

  The Zen sect says, ‘Dwelling in the present moment.’

  What is this dwelling in the present moment?

  It means:

  At the present moment you must recognize you yourself.

  At the present moment you must take over the responsibility.

  Our problem is that we do not dare to take over the responsibility.

 We say, ‘No way! This property can’t be mine!’

‘Don’t joke please. The good one is not mine. How can I have such a big property? I am just a mundane man, just left the home life. They belong to others. It could be my Master’s. He shares a little with me.’

That is why the Buddha knows we do not have the courage to accept the Truth.

It’s because we are so use to running after the false self.

That is why we are always fighting against oneself.

When we hear people talking, we do not know it is we who are talking.

When we hear people snoring, we do not know it is we who are snoring.

We do not recognize this revelation of our karmic strength.

When the karma appears before us, we give rise to all kinds of differentiation.

We are angry.

And we say it is others’ fault. They make me angry.

We complain, ‘They disturb my cultivation. They make me unhappy.’

Even my happiness is bestowed by others!

We do not realize complains and hatred arise from our mind.

Why don’t we see this?

In fact no one can make you angry.

The seed of anger is in our mind.

It sprouts when it encounters a state.

We make a mistake, feeling that it is he who makes me angry.

The external state is only the revelation of our karmic force.

The supporting condition arises, the states arise.

We cannot recognize this Truth

So we become so angry.

Just like a mundane man who hits his right hand with his left hand.

We are like this. We are continually cheated by our karma.

We become unhappy, fighting by one-self.

If we see an external state next time,

Turn around and contemplate it as we ourselves.

We know, ‘I am angry now.’

We will be able to catch it on the spot. We know it is the mind that gets angry.It does not have any connections with others.

Externally there is no mark of a man, no mark of a self, no mark of living beings, no mark of a length of time.

All these do not exist.

Who are we to complain? It is no body’s business.

It is our solid false thought that makes us feel as though they exist, and we become unhappy.

This is the Buddha Dharma

It is different from the worldly dharma.

If you recognize this Truth,

You would have managed to break down your anger.

The conditions for anger to arise are as follows:

‘The external states bring about my anger. These people make me angry. Their existence affects me.’

By thinking in this manner, our anger can even explode the sky.

When you calm down, you will know all these excuses do not exist.

In the Heart Sutra, isn’t the Buddha says clearly,

‘A bodhisattva who practises the deep and profound Prajna Paramita illumines the five skandhas as empty and crosses over all kinds of suffering and disaster,Shariputra. …….In emptiness, there is no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, nobody and no mind, no colours, no sounds, no fragrance, no tastes, no touch and  no dharma, and ……’

Our problem is we only memorise the Sutra without knowing how to put it into practice in daily life!

—Dharma Teaching by Venerable Master Shi Miao Xiang, the Abbot of Da Bei Templein Liao Ning, China

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Soft and Pliant

The practice of the dharma is to subdue our mind so that it is soft and pliant. The main difference in a sage and a mundane man can be seen in the following situations.

  1. With a soft and pliant mind, we treat the respect of others, their sincere offerings, their angry disposition, their scolding and blows as equal with no differences.
  2. With a soft and pliant mind, we look at jewellery, tiles and stones as equal.
  3. An Arahant is not tainted by defiled desires. He is not angry in adversities and not deluded in confused situations as he wisely takes good care of his six emotions.

A mundane man is unable to take good care of his six emotions because he has not severed his mind of desires, anger, delusion, arrogance and suspicion. He resembles a bad wild horse which is difficult to rein. His mind is neither soft nor pliant.

On the great earth, an Arahant resembles an elephant which is replete with the greatest strength.

‘A cleverly subdued Elephant King is able to breakdown a great army when it travels into them without any fear. It is not afraid of knives and sticks. It is not frightened of fire or water. It enters the army without retreating even if death is awaiting it.’

So with the practice of concentration, wisdom arises in an Arahant. He is able to subdue the army of Mara, the thieves of afflictions. He is not frightened of hitting, scolding, old age and death.

An Arahant is described as a powerful dragon which dwells in the great ocean.

‘Take the analogy of a Great Dragon King. When it comes out from the great ocean, it creates a big cloud that pervasively covers the empty space. In the striking of lightning, the illumination lights up the great earth. The rain pours in torrential, moisturizing all life forms on earth.’

In the great ocean of meditation and wisdom, an Arahant arises from the ocean and creates a cloud of kindness and compassion.He reveals the great illumination to cross over those who have affinities with him with all kinds of transformation. He speaks the genuine dharma to moisturize the mind of his disciples so that their wholesome roots will flourish.

Why does the Buddha say that when the defilement of desire leaves us, our mind is liberated?

All our afflictions can be categorized into love and views.

It is because love is a great force which binds up our mind. With the severance of loving desire, the residue afflictions are severed too. For instance, when we say that the King arrives, we know that he is followed by the generals, the soldiers. Or when we hold on to one corner of the handkerchief, the other corners will follow. It is the same for the defilement of loving desire.

The afflictions of love cover up our mind. The afflictions of views cover up our wisdom.

When loving desire is renounced, the afflictions of love will leave too. The liberation of mind is attained.

In the same way when ignorance is renounced, the afflictions of views will leave too. The liberation of wisdom is attained.

When the mind is liberated, the wisdom of liberation is attained, an Arahant will arrive at the position of no-retreating.

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Are you free from the bondage of Mara?

All kinds of attachment to the worldly realm are known as the Mara matters. In the Shastra of Crossing over with Great Wisdom, the following explanations are given:

The first kind of Mara matters refer to our playful jokes, playful words, singing and dancing, looking at people evilly. These activities arise from a mind of greed.

Secondly, the Mara matters involved the tying up of living being, beating them in questioning, poking them, cutting them up, chopping them and torturing them cruelly. All these arise from an angry mind.

Thirdly, self -mortification such as burning the bodyor lying on ice, starving, pulling off one’s hair, entering the fire, cliffjumping or jumping into an abyss. All of these actions arise from a deluded mind.

The four types of Maras refer to

  1. The Mara of afflictions
  2. The Mara of skandhas
  3. The Mara of death
  4. The Heavenly Mara from the Heaven of Ease in transforming others’ bliss

  All the desires, bondages are known as the Mara.

A cultivator who arrives at the practice of the Bodhisattva Path will be able to break down the Mara of Affliction.

A cultivator who attains the Dharma Nature Body will break down the Mara of Skandhas.

A cultivator who attains the path and the Dharma Nature Body will break down the Mara of death.

A cultivator who often dwells in a single-minded state, who has no attachment or who arrives at the Unmoving Samadhi will see through the Heavenly Mara from the Heaven of Ease in transforming others’ bliss.

In the Mixed Stores Sutra, the Buddha explains in details on the Mara of desire.

A question was put forward to the Buddha, ‘What is meant by Mara?’

The Buddha answered, ‘He is able to rob you of your wisdom life. He breaks down you merits and virtues in cultivating the path so that you will have no more goodness.’

And the Buddha spoke in verses to explain the armies of the Mara. He said to the Mara King,

‘Desire is your first army.

Worries and anxiety the second army,

The third army is hunger and thirst,

The fourth army is loving desire.

Sleeping is your fifth army

And terror and fear the sixth army.

The seventh army is suspicion

While the poisonous content the eighth army.

The ninth army is money and benefits,

And the attachment to false names and fame.

The tenth army is arrogance

Who loves to slight on others.

These are your armies.

All the worldly men,

And all the heavenly beings

Are unable to destroy them

I equip myself with the arrow of wisdom

Cultivating concentration and the wisdom strength

I am able to destroy your Mara armies.

Just the way a broken vase is unable to hold any water.

I single-minded cultivate wisdom,

So as to cross over all living beings

My disciples are hardworking and diligent

Even though you do not wish to let go of them

They are able to arrive at a state

Which is unattainable by you.’

On listening to this, the Mara King was filled with worries and anxieties. He left quickly. His retinues also subside and disappear.