CONTENTS - SEPTEMBER
1. The Bodhi Mirror: Everything Is A Test
Bhikshuni Heng Juan
2. The Bodhi Stand: A Young Student
3. Bodhi Field: On Motherís Going Home
4. Buddhist Terminology - The Six Desire Heavens
5. Sutra of the Month: The Sutra in Forty-two Sections Spoken by the Buddha
6. Focus on Education: Studentsí Corner
7. Venerable Masterís Dharma Rain: Treasured Words on Cultivation
8. Special Section: Buddhism and Psychology
9. Special Section: Not Dwelling In A Single State, Be Free And At Ease
10. Special Section: Inspiring The Wisdom In Our Own Nature
11. Special Section: A Happy Life
12. Ten Thousand Buddhas Column
13. Vegetables for a Long Life: Getting Healthy Through Eating
14. News from the Dharma Realm: The Ullambana Festival
15. News from the Dharma Realm: The Great Compassion And Earth Treasury Dharma Assembly
THE BODHI MIRROR:
EVERYTHING IS A TEST
Bhikshuni Heng Juan
Before I left the home-life, I often cultivated at a Buddhist Association in Butterworth, Malaysia. One day, a friend mentioned something about a Dharma Master in the United States who strictly upheld the precepts, was pure and lofty in his practice, had high virtue and was greatly respected. I felt that this must be a good knowing advisor. Therefore, I came from afar to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. After meeting the Venerable Master, I was moved by the Masterís kindness, compassion and sympathy for living beings. Thus, I decided to leave the home-life under the Master.
On the path of cultivation, one is bound to encounter tests. Over a year after I left the home-life, my spine was attacked by tubercle bacillus and one of the vertebras became infected and rotten. An operation was required to remove the rotten segment, cut a piece of rib bone to fill the space and secure the spinal column on both sides with steel locks. This kind of spinal bone transplant surgery often damages the central nervous system. However, without the surgery I would become paralysed within a year. There are usually many post-surgery effects. Even though this operation was tremendously risky, I had faith. I believed the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and the Master would aid me.
I was hospitalised for one month before the surgery took place. The doctors insisted that I remain in bed and not get up, fearing that I might become paralysed if I wasnít careful in moving about. During this period, I mindfully recited Guanyin Bodhisattvaís name and the Great Compassion Mantra. With the help of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, the surgery went smoothly. I got up from bed five days after the surgery, and I left the hospital in eight days. The success of the surgery and my speedy recovery surprised the doctors and nurses. They asked me why I didnít get dizzy walking around, after having been bedridden for so long. I believe this is just the inconceivable wonder of the Buddha-dharma!
When I returned to the City to recuperate, I found that the surgery had affected my memory, vision, strength, etc. For three years, I couldnít cultivate with the assembly, nor help out with any work and this pained my heart. Early last year, my situation greatly improved. What made me happiest was that I could cultivate, study and work with the assembly. After this ordeal, I realised that life is truly suffering. Earnest cultivation is the only real thing. Itís said, "Donít wait until youíre old to start cultivating, for in most of the lonely graves there are young people". I believe, if we follow the Master to cultivate with utmost sincerity and earnestly, weíll surely fulfill our vows to end birth and death, leave suffering and attain bliss.
THE BODHI STAND
A YOUNG STUDENT
When Wayne Chen was a sixth grader in Taiwan, he represented Nan Men Primary School upon the Presidentís invitation to visit the President and tour the Presidentís Office on Childrenís Day. As his parents are disciples of the Venerable Master Hua, he came to study at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas at the age of fourteen with his sister and has been here for five years.
He is currently a student of excellent character and on scholarship at Developing Virtue High School. He remembers that when he was new at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, he had a hard time adjusting to its monastic regulations. Over the years, he has adapted to life in the dormitory, which resembles a small blasting furnace. He has learned to be both independent and obedient. With his leadership skill and outstanding character, he influences his peers to take care of one another. He is also concerned and patient in attending to the daily needs of his juniors.
Wayne is keen in basketball and soccer. He organised a basketball team which entered competition with other schools. As a team leader he is never discouraged by failure, and this year his basketball team emerged as the champion. When he is not engaged in school activities, he volunteers at the Ukiah Hospital, the Mendocino Red Cross Society and other public welfare organisations. He is preparing to major in medicine in college, minor in Chinese literature or Eastern philosophy, and do research on the ways in which Buddhism and science validate one another.
He expressed earnestly that having studied in such a wholesome environment as the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, the greatest benefit he has received has been learning to have a proper outlook on life. He has found the purpose of life and the way to be a noble person. This is more important than studying at a famous university or having a good job.
Finally, Wayne concluded, "I have benefitted greatly from the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. In the future, how shall I pass this benefit on to others? This is what I must work hard on".
BODHI FIELD: ON MOTHERíS GOING HOME
Shouchang Monastery, Nanfeng County, Jiangxi Province, China
By Shi Yan-Cheng
My mother, Wang Feng-Xiu, who held the five precepts and whose Dharma name was De Xun, was born between 9.00 - 11.00 a.m. on the 18th of the second lunar month in 1903 at Guzhu in Nangfeng County. Because her family was destitute, she was sold to the Wangís as a servant. Her name was changed to Ruyi (As You Wish) and her surname to Wang; her original surname is not known. At twenty-two, she was married to my father (aged 42) as a concubine.
On the first day of the first lunar month in 1938, she became a lifelong vegetarian and started to recite the Buddhaís name. At first she believed in the Xiantian (Ancient Heaven) religion. She took refuge with the Triple Jewel under Dharma Master Huai Kun at this temple. In November she received the precepts from Guang Rong, a visiting Dharma Master lecturing at our temple. In July of 1946, she came with me to Changqing Monastery, where I had left the home-life, to cultivate as a layperson.
In February of 1968, I was arrested and imprisoned on a false charge. As I was taken away, Mother saw me to the door, smiling as if nothing were happening and just kept saying, "Take good care of yourself". In October of 1979, I was declared innocent and released. Returning to the temple, I saw the walls had caved in and the eaves had collapsed. Mother, by then seventy-seven, was still in front of her room, hoeing and fertilising the vegetable patch she had cleared by herself, where the door to the Buddha Hall had been. Seeing me again after twelve years, Mother was very affectionate, but didnít let fall a single tear of joy or sadness.
Six years ago, she could walk without a cane, thread a needle under the light without wearing glasses, and hear even tiny sounds. In recent years, however, her steps gradually faltered and her hearing was no longer sharp. Since last fall, she could not even see her food. Yet, Mother always looked merry, not worried about aging and simply letting things take their course.
On the third day of the first lunar month this year, she stayed in bed and stopped eating. On the 17th, her eyes no longer opened and her breath was slight. Her lips were moving, but no sound could be heard. At 2.00 a.m. on the 18th, she seemed to have phlegm in her throat, and her pulse faded. At 9.00 a.m. her pulse seemed to stop. At 3.00 p.m. her pulse faded again. At 9.00 p.m. she asked for a drink and a soup of longan with red ginseng was served under the doctorís advice. At 2.00 a.m. on the 19th, her throat seemed to have phlegm, but when I went close to her, I couldnít hear any sound of phlegm. When I called "Mother" three times, her eyes opened slightly and then closed, her mouth opened twice, and she passed away peacefully. It was 2.15 a.m. on the 19th of the first lunar month, and she was ninety-two eyes old.
By dawn her body had cooled, but the crown of the head was still warm because Dharma Master Jie Hui was coming from Yangzhou to conduct a ceremony, we waited sixteen hours till 8.00 p.m. before bathing her and changing her clothes. Her hands and feet were still soft and her face was smiling.
Since there was no Hall of Rebirth, an altar was set up in her room. As it was difficult to move the coffin upstairs, her body was put in full lotus posture on a bamboo chair. For seven days, in a 2.5m x 7m room, about twenty people recited the Buddhaís name around her day and night. The temperature in the room was high, but her body didnít rot. On the 25th, while putting her in the coffin to send to the crematorium, I uncovered her body and saw that she still looked alive. Without touching her skin, one would never have known that she was dead. This was because Mother deeply believed that Amitabha Buddha would come to take her and she would be reborn in his land. When my father passed away in 1938, she had been over-emotional and a psychic led her into thinking she was possessed and suffering and after effect. Sometimes she would talk to herself. Nevertheless, since she never forgot to recite the Buddhaís name, she obtained an efficacious rebirth.
For more than ten years after 1966, although the temple was torn down and the food supply was cut off, Mother persisted in living in the two rooms and kitchen that remained, eating vegetables or wild herbs and unwilling to leave the temple or eat meat. Itís worth mentioning that twelve years earlier, Mother would often use hoe or a sickle knife to strike the wooden fish. After she moved to Shouchang Monastery, she always wore a rosary around her neck and fingered it as she recited the Buddhaís name.
A mourning verse says,
Beating the mallet and holding the beads,
you constantly recited the Buddhaís name,
Wishing that you and I would both attain the proper fruition,
And be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
The temple was ruined and your food was cut off,
yet you never left the place.
Accepting both the sweet and the bitter,
your sincere heart was hardly swayed.
And so you obtained peace like this.
Another verse says,
I bow my head to those who have heard this;
May all bring forth the mind for Bodhi.
With faith and vows, let us constantly recite the Buddhaís name
So we can be born together in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
Written in 1994 in the eastern room of the Tripitaka Building at Shouchang Monastery, Nanfeng County
BODHI FIELD: A FIRSTHAND EXPERIENCE WITH FIRE-BREATHING DOGS
By Terri Nicholson
Volcanoes are manifestations of hell on earth and many hell-beings dwell there
My husband Alan and I have been disciples of the Venerable Master for over 25 years. This particular incident occurred in 1985 when our daughter, Marcelle, had just turned three years old. She has lived her entire life at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and took refuge with the Master at four months of age. Before she was born the Master named her Wonderful Flower.
At the end of the summer of 1985 our family went to Mount Lassen National Park to spend some time with Alanís brother. Mount Lassen is an inactive volcano, which last erupted in 1916. There are, however, still steaming pits and boiling mud in the park as well as caves created by the last volcano eruptions. Americans consider it a fascinating and unusual place to visit and are completely unaware that it is dangerous in any way. Unfortunately, at that time, my husband and I were equally ignorant.
From the time we arrived at the park we felt uncomfortable, mainly because a great deal of hunting and fishing was going on. At the lodge where we originally planned to stay, there was a pond where you could pick your own fish for lunch and penned deer whose mothers had been hunted and killed. Because we felt so uncomfortable, we decided to stay outside of the park. Marcelle was particularly ill at ease and asked several times to go home to see the Master and hear the Sutra lecture. Since weíd already made plans with Alanís brother, we stayed anyway. The rest of the week was uneventful except for a trip into one of the caves in the park where Marcelle became extremely frightened and upset.
For several months after we returned home, Marcelle complained of nightmares of wolves chasing and biting her. We encouraged her to recite Guanyinís name, but, at the time, did not realise how serious the problem was. In the beginning of January, soon after her fourth birthday, Marcelle woke up early one morning screaming in pain and saying that her legs hurt. Later that day she seemed fine, but the pain in her leg continued. After a few days we took her to the doctor, who assumed it was some sort of virus. As her symptoms grew more painful and severe, we became increasingly alarmed. The pain became so severe that she was unable to sit up or walk. We planned to meet the doctor at the hospital but as we were getting ready to go, Marcelle began insist that she wanted Shifu (the Master). The assembly was eating lunch with the Master and so we stopped to see him on the way to the hospital. Strangely, though Marcelle had asked to see him, as soon as we drew near she cried that she wanted to leave. The Master told us, "A karmic obstacle has come". When we explained that we were on our way to see the doctor, the Master replied, "They wonít find anything" and they didnít.
Blood tests were done and two doctors, a pediatrician and an orthopedist examined her and could find nothing. They finally diagnosed it as a viral inflammation of the joints, but Marcelle was not in pain while we were there.
That afternoon we received a call from the office of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas explaining that some sort of being had attached itself to Marcelle and was making her ill. We were instructed to recite Guanyinís name and the Great Compassion Mantra. However, Marcelleís condition worsened and she was in a great deal of pain. Normally a sweet-natured child, she would develop a vicious temper and refused to cooperate in reciting at all. The only thing that calmed her was listening to a tape of the Master reciting Earth Treasury Bodhisattvaís name.
Meanwhile the Master had gone to Vancouver. We became so alarmed at her worsening condition that we called there and asked for advice. The Master sternly exhorted us to recite more sincerely. He also said that Marcelle absolutely must not lose her temper and must recite Guanyinís name. With the help of friends we thought up every expedient device we could to help her. We gave her prizes for reciting, made books with her about getting better by reciting Guanyinís name and star charts to help her not get angry. She insisted that we add, "not growling" to the chart, which later gained more significance. When the Mater returned to the City, he came directly to our house to see Marcelle. After a long time he explained that volcanoes are manifestations of hell on earth and that many hell-beings dwell there. (He first asked where we had taken her recently). Residing at Mount Lassen was a fire-breathing dog and his retinue. These dogs are born inside the mountain in the lava and thrive on fire and anger. They have extremely cantankerous natures. When we visited Mount Lassen, the leader was attracted to Marcelleís purity as a young disciple of the Master and wished to make her part of his retinue. (This involved making her sick by biting her so that she was near death). The Master said heíd convinced the leader to let her go, but that others in the retinue hadnít all agreed, so we had to continue to recite diligently. I cannot describe the pain we felt when we realised that we had "led her into the lionís den" and brought all this suffering upon her and trouble to the Master in our ignorance. We continued to recite and bow the Great Compassion Repentance and very gradually Marcelleís pain began to lessen and she was able to recite more. She would wake up screaming in pain, but if we could get her to recite Guanyinís name even for a few minutes she would fall into a more peaceful sleep.
I was moved also by Marcelleís young friends who lived at the City and who came each day to see her. Each gave her a gift of something they held precious and stayed to play by her bedside so she wouldnít be alone. They would also sit and recite Guanyinís name and try to get her to recite as well. Soon the pain went away completely and she was able to sit up and move around, though she was still unable to walk. The Master told us not to worry, that she would walk eventually.
Soon afterwards, Alan and I made a meal offering to the Sangha. At the beginning of the meal offering ceremony, Marcelle could walk only very awkwardly, but by the end of the meal she was walking around and playing with her friends. In the next few months Marcelle came down with an extremely high fever several times and I became frightened that she would get sick again. The Master compassionately explained that, yes, she had bumped into the fire-breathing dog again but that I shouldnít worry. If she got sick again he would help her get well, and so the three of us are eternally indebted to the Master for his great compassion not only in allowing us to bring up our child in this pure Way-place, but also in rescuing her from the jaws of death.
THE SIX DESIRE HEAVENS
Lecture by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Edited by the International Translation Institute
The Six Desire Heavens are also called the Heavens of the Desire Realm. The Desire Realm, Form Realm and Formless Realm are the Triple Realm. We are now encompassed in the Heaven of the Four Kings, one of the Six Desire Heavens.
The first heaven is the Heaven of the Four Kings. It is the heaven which we can see directly, ruled by four great heavenly kings. It is located halfway up Mount Sumeru. The lifespan of the gods there are five hundred years, with one day and night in that heaven equaling fifty years in the human realm.
The second heaven is the Trayastrimsha Heaven. Trayastrimsha is Sanskrit and translates as Heaven of the Thirty-three. What does this mean? Lord Shakra, who dwells in the centre, is known as Indra in the Shurangama Mantra. Heís known as God to the Catholics and Christians, as the Jade Emperor to the Chinese, and as the Lord on High in the Book of History. There are eight heavens to the east, west, south and north. Four times eight make thirty-two heavens altogether.
The third heaven is the Suyama Heaven. Suyama is Sanskrit and means "time division". These gods are extremely happy all the time and sing songs from morning to night. What do they sing? "Merrily indeed! Merrily indeed! Iím tremendously happy!"
The fourth heaven is the Tushita Heaven. Tushita translates as joyful contentment. The beings there are delighted and satisfied at all times, free of worries and afflictions all day long. Itís also called the "heaven of fulfillment" because the beings are satisfied and constantly happy, without cares or afflictions.
The fifth heaven is the Heaven of Delight by Transformation (Nirmanarati). These gods can transform happiness. The clothing and food they desire appear as soon as they think about them. Having mastered such transformations, they are extremely happy.
The sixth heaven is the Heaven of Self-mastery through the Transformation of Othersí Pleasure. "Transformation of Othersí Pleasure" means those being donít have any joy of their own, so they usurp the happiness of other heavens. Why do they do this? Simply because they are unreasonable, like bandits in the world who rob othersí money and possessions, not caring whether they live or die. Many demons and their retinues dwell in this heaven.
The gods in the Six Desire Heavens still have the three desires for food, lust and sleep, so they are still in the Desire Realm. Just as in this world, there are marriages between males and females. Although the heavens are blissful, after the godsí heavenly blessings are used up, they must still undergo transmigration.
SUTRA OF THE MONTH: THE SUTRA IN FORTY-TWO SECTIONS SPOKEN BY THE BUDDHA
According to the historical record, Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han Dynasty heard that there was a great Sage in the west, and there were inconceivable responses in China when this Sage was born and when he passed into quiescence. The Emperor sent Cai Yin, Qin Jing, Wang Zun and fifteen other people westwards to seek the Dharma. The Venerable Kashyapa Matanga and Gobharana were therefore invited to Loyang, bringing this Sutra and the Buddhaís image on a white horse. Under imperial command, White Horse Monastery was built and this Sutra was translated. This was how Buddhism was first propagated to China. The Sutra in Forty-two Sections Spoken by the Buddha is the first important Sutra brought from India.
This Sutra was not spoken in a particular Dharma Assembly. After the Buddha had entered Nirvana, his disciples compiled this record of some of the Buddhaís most salient words. The recurrent theme of this anthology is problem of severing desire and emotional love. It progresses from the small to the great, from the shallow to the profound, reflecting the total progression of the Buddhaís lectures. Starting out with the Small Vehicle of the Srotaapanna, Sakridagamin, Anagamin and Arhat, it expresses the concept that "thoughts are originally empty" and emphasises the "contemplation of the true and the false" and the "attainment of the Way through non-attachment". Furthermore, it explains the essential meaning of the Middle Way, thus arriving at the absolute truth of the Great Vehicle which is completely real, characterised by unmoving suchness and of one substance in movement and stillness.
The wording of this Sutra is simple, concise and easy to recite, while its principles are infinitely broad and profound. All Buddhists should frequently recite this Sutra for it can serve as a stepping-stone in cultivation.
FOCUS ON EDUATION: WHERE DOES THE CHILDRENíS PROBLEM LIE?
A Dharma Talk by the Venerable Master Hua at the City of Dharma Realm on May 29th, 1994
Transcribed by Tong Jiao
The childrenís problem does not lie with the children. Where does it lie then? It lies with the families.
People are very selfish. They only care for their own families. After getting married for two and a half days, not even three, they get divorced and then marry again. As a result of the high divorce rate and many broken families, we have problem children. If the families didnít break up, then parents could take good care of their children. They wouldnít be busy making money outside and leaving the children to take care of themselves. Since parents give birth to children and raise them, but cannot teach them, children encounter a lot of problems. Therefore, the problem is not with the children. When children encounter problems, itís already too late!
If we want to solve the childrenís problem, then we must start with the family. That is, both the father and mother should take the responsibility of educating their children. You cannot say, "To give them freedom means to let them do whatever they want!" If you donít discipline them, then "Those who draw near rouge turn red; those who draw near ink turn black", and "Those dyed in blue become blue; those dyed in yellow become yellow". Children are influenced by their environment. If you allow them to develop freely without any guidance and discipline, they may develop inclinations for killing, arson, smuggling and drug peddling. Thatís the problem with free development. Free development is acceptable within certain limits. We shouldnít let children have their own way completely. Under the laws of this country, as soon as parents try to discipline their children, the children can report them to the police and have them arrested and imprisoned.
I believe that since parents gave birth to their children, they wouldnít be willing to abuse them. Even if they were to discipline them a little, they would do it with discretion. It shouldnít be the case that parents donít even dare to touch their own children, or scold them. That would certainly spoil the children. If you donít trim the branches that grow from a tree, the tree will only be good for firewood. However, if you trim the tree well, then the tree will be able to hold great weight for tens of thousands of years and even suitable for making pillars. Therefore, we should teach our children with care.
FOCUS ON EDUCATION: STUDENTSí CORNER
For the Venerable Masterís Compassionate Reflection:
Last night when the Venerable Master unexpectedly asked me, "Howís your study of the Avatamsaka Sutra coming?" a hundred feelings arose at once, and I didnít know what to say. I remember how excited I was when I finished reading the Sutra for the first time. The principles in the Avatamsaka Sutra are simply too true. Itís an inconceivably wonderful Sutra. From that time on, whether Iím bowing to the Buddha or the Venerable Master, or listening to the Sutra lecture, my heart is filled with gratitude. Iím grateful for the Buddhaís compassion and the Venerable Masterís tireless lecturing on Sutras and speaking of Dharma.
Although Iíve only taken refuge with the Venerable Master for three years, I realise that for several decades, he has been promoting education and the translation of Sutras, establishing Way-places and turning the great Dharma Wheel, in order to liberate confused living beings from the sea of birth and death. In the process, the Master has often been slandered by deviant demons and non-Buddhists, and has even been misunderstood by his own disciples. Yet he continues to propagate the proper Dharma, in the spirit of "With great kindness and compassion rescue everyone. Spare neither blood nor sweat and never pause to rest". (Editorís Note: This is from the poem White Universe composed by the Venerable Master). The Patriarchsí Mind Dharma is transmitted in a continuing lineage. To slander the Venerable Master is to slander Shakyamuni Buddha, Burning Lamp Buddha and all the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions and three periods of time. Itís said, "If one doesnít wish to fall into the Unintermittent Hell, then one shouldnít slander the Thus Come Oneís proper Dharma Wheel". I always tell people that the Venerable Master has deep insights and unparalleled wisdom in handling affairs. We should never use our common mind to try to fathom the states of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
For over ten years, the Venerable Master has frequently invited good knowing advisors from various places to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas for his disciples to meet and learn from. Although I donít have the wisdom and virtue of the Youth Good Wealth, how fortunate I am to have had the opportunity to learn from good knowing advisors from different places. The Venerable Masterís painstaking effort brings tears of shame to my eyes. I hope the Buddhas of the Ten Directions will emit great light, to enable all the virtuous people in the world to gather at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, and work hard for the propagation of Buddhism and the proper Dharma so that the light of dawn will appear in this dark Dharma Ending Age.
You might count every thought, numerous as atoms in all lands.
You might drink entirely the mighty oceans deep,
You might measure all of space or harness fast the wind,
But no one could every finish praising the virtues of the Buddha.
Foolish disciple Alex Lo bows in respect June 23rd, 1994
VENERABLE MASTERíS DHARMA RAIN:
QUOTATIONS OF THE VENERABLE MASTER HUA
Treasured Words on Cultivation
For cultivators to be able to cultivate the Way, they must have the resolve which is independent and fearless, and the determination which is resolute.
"Cultivation" is not something one can be sloppy about. With even a bit of sloppiness, one will not succeed. Deviate by the slightest bit and the outcome could be a difference of a thousand miles.
When you have faults and do not correct them, then the "faults" forever exist. However, is you can change and reform, the offenses will be eradicated and disappear.
If you have offenses and do not repent of them and reform, but instead try to cover them up, concealing your mistakes so that other people will not see or know about them, then you donít know how to reproach yourself and you have no sense of repentance.
If you donít repent, then when the offenses come back to you, they will be like small stream flowing into the great sea; gradually the small faults will become great faults, small offenses will become great offenses and light karmic obstructions will become heavy obstructions.
If you can repent and reform, and understand your own mistakes, then youíll be able to untie the knot of offense karma. Your offenses will be extinguished and will disappear. The analogy of a sick person can be used. After the sick person breaks out in a sweat, heíll gradually recover from his illness.
BUDDHISM AND PSYCHOLOGY
All States and all the Myriad Phenomena are produced from the mind
A Dharma Talk by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Editorís Note: The Buddhist Association of the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) invited the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua to give a lecture on "Buddhism and Psychology" on April 9th, 1994. That day the Venerable Master brought his disciples, Bhikshus Heng Sure and Heng Der and Bhikshuni Heng Jhuang and Sharamanerika Heng Syun. Following the tradition, each disciple gave a talk, and then the Venerable Master lectured. The Dharma Talks of the Venerable Master and his disciples are presented in the following pages. Master Heng Sureís talk will be presented in the next issue.
What is Buddhism?
We all want to understand the teachings of Buddhism. In order to do that, we must first understand the Buddha. In his past lives, the Buddha cultivated blessings and wisdom for three asamkhyeyas (an infinite number) of eons and planted the causes for his hallmarks and features for a hundred eons. After a long, long time of cultivating various practices, he became a Buddha.
The word Buddha is Sanskrit, but in Chinese it sounds like the words "not big". So the Buddha isnít bigger than people. Nor is he smaller than people. Neither big nor small, thatís the Buddha. Not big means he doesnít have any arrogance. Not small means he doesnít have an inferiority complex. He doesnít give up on himself or think that heís not worth anything. He doesnít have that kind of attitude. He is neither loftier than living beings, nor is he lower than living beings. Thatís why heís called a Buddha.
Whatís the meaning of Buddha? We study the Buddha, believe in the Buddha and recite the Buddhaís name, but we donít know what the word Buddha means. Isnít this regrettable?
Buddha includes three meanings: one who is self-enlightened, one who enlightens others and one who is perfect in enlightened conduct. He has completed these three kinds of enlightenment. He himself is enlightened, and he has taught living beings to become enlightened. When he has perfected his own enlightenment and the enlightenment of others, thatís called the perfection of enlightened conduct. So he has realised Buddha-hood. The Buddha is perfect in the three enlightenments, and replete with the myriad virtues. One who is self-enlightened belongs to the Two Vehicles, while one who enlightens others is walking the Bodhisattva Way. One who is perfect in enlightened conduct has perfected both self-enlightenment and the enlightenment of others and is a Buddha replete with the myriad virtues.
He certifies to the Wisdom of the Great Perfect Mirror, the Wisdom of Equal Nature, the Wisdom of Wonderful Contemplation and the Wisdom of Accomplishment. The Buddha has perfected the three kinds of enlightenment and also has the four kinds of wisdom. He has great wisdom and completely understands all worldly and transcendental Dharmas; thus he is called the Buddha.
After he became a Buddha, he wanted everyone to become a Buddha, so he spoke the teachings. The Buddhaís teachings include the Three Treasuries and Twelve Divisions. The Three Treasuries are the Sutras, the Vinaya and the Shastras. The Twelve Divisions are prose, verses, predictions, interjections, unrequested teachings, causes and conditions, analogies, past lives, lives of disciples, extensive teachings, previously inexistent teachings and commentarial literature. The Twelve Divisions are not different Sutras. Every Sutra includes these Twelve Divisions. In studying Buddhism, we must study the Sutras. The Sutras are a path to Buddhahood. If we want to become Buddhas, we must follow the path of cultivation. So thatís why the Buddha spoke the Sutras, which make up the Buddhist teachings.
What is psychology?
Psychology, the study of the mind is infinite and inexhaustible. It is neither excessive nor deficient. The mind encompasses all of space and pervades the worlds as many as grains of sands. Thatís the function of the mind. However, we must realise that the mindís function is both vast and subtle, and we must first examine and study its minute aspects. If we donít understand the minute aspects, we wonít be able to understand the vast and subtle principles. Therefore, we must understand that the mental state creates a karmic response. Whatever mental state you have, you receive that kind of retribution. If you plant a good cause, youíll receive a good fruition. If you plant a bad cause, youíll get a bad result.
What is a good cause? Itís a good thought. If you have a bad thought, thatís a bad cause. The ancients described the Chinese character "mind" like this:
Three dots like a constellation,
A hook like the crescent moon.
Those with fur arise from this,
And Buddhas come from it, too.
The Chinese character for "mind" consists of three dots and a hook. The three dots are spread out like stars while the hook looks like the crescent moon. "Those with fur arise from this". When you plant an evil cause you get an evil retribution. When you become a Buddha, it also starts with the mind. So we talk about giving rise to delusion, creating karma and undergoing retribution. With one thought of ignorance, we commit all kinds of karma. With one thought of wisdom, we can eradicate all kinds of karma. Itís all a function of the mind. Thatís why the ancients said, "Those with fur arise from this, and Buddha come from it, too". It all comes from the mind. So in the Flower Adornment Sutra, it says,
If you want to understand
All the Buddhas of the past, present and future,
Contemplate the nature of the Dharma Realm;
Everything is made from the mind alone.
All states and all the myriad phenomena are produced from the mind. When the mind is born, all Dharmas come into being. When the mind dies, all Dharmas are extinguished.
The ancients also said,
My mind is laughable. It is dull and untaught.
It doesnít recognise or know anything and has no thought or cognition.
If people ask what it can do, it has no ability.
This is saying that our mind is very funny; itís an ignorant and foolish thing which doesnít know much of anything. If people ask what we can do, we donít know how to do anything. It is said,
If you can cultivate to the point of great stupidity,
that is true cleverness.
If you can learn to be like a fool, then that is truly rare.
If you can be without knowledge and thought, then at that point, the path of language is cut off, and the place of the mindís activities is gone. "You want to speak, but there are no words. You want to think, but there are no thoughts". At this point, you have no mark of self, others, living beings or lifespan. You have swept away all Dharmas and left behind all appearances. The good news is about to come, and you will see your original face, the scenery of your hometown.
But people all use their smart bugs. They think they can do what they canít, and think they know what they really donít know. Theyíre always trying to be talented and outstanding, but actually, they just fall behind but if you can seek within yourself and break through your ignorance and reveal your Dharma-nature, then you have accomplished what a great hero should do.
Speaking of the mind, if we can be without a mind, then we are in accord with the Way. What mind should we be without? The human mind, the mind of living beings. Then only the Buddha mind is left. As itís said, "When the human mind dies, the mind for the Way comes forth". If you want to have the mind for the Way, you must learn to take losses and not try to gain advantages. You must learn to be stupid. Donít be as clever as a ghost.
If you restrain it, it stays;
If you let it go, then it disappears.
It comes and goes at any time;
I donít know where itís going.
Our mind comes and goes at any time. You donít realise when it has delusive thoughts. It wonít tell you in advance but the delusive thoughts just appear and you donít know it when the thought goes, either. So the mind comes and goes at any time. The time isnít fixed. Where does it go? What delusive thoughts does it have? You donít know but if you can purify the mind and reduce your desires, and always restrain it, so it wonít act crazy like a wild horse galloping everywhere, or monkey jumping all around, thatís called, "If you restrain it, it stays". If you donít guard it and restrain it, if you let it go and set it loose, then it runs off. It can travel everywhere without having to spend any money. Thatís why itís said, "If you let it go, then it disappears".
"It comes and goes at any time. I donít know where itís going". This is how our mind works. We ought to diligently cultivate precepts, Samadhi and wisdom, and put an end to greed, anger and stupidity. The precepts tell us to "do no evil and practice all good". Precepts allow pure thoughts to arise and defiled thoughts to disappear. Thatís called extinguishing greed, anger and stupidity. Samadhi means not being scattered. You donít let your mind run off everywhere. Samadhi power means being "thus, thus, unmoving, clear and constantly bright". So in cultivation, we must have Samadhi power. Then we can open our wisdom. Precepts produce Samadhi and Samadhi activates wisdom. So this is to "diligently cultivate Precepts, Samadhi and wisdom and put an end to greed, anger and stupidity". We must extinguish our thoughts of contention, greed, seeking, selfishness, self-benefit and dishonesty. Donít let them take over. If you can vigorously cultivate Precepts, Samadhi and wisdom and extinguish greed, anger and stupidity and you donít contend, arenít greedy, donít seek outside, arenít selfish, donít benefit yourself and donít lie, then youíve taken the first step in Buddhism, which none of us should neglect.
The ancients had a good saying:
If you donít seek the Great Way to leave the path of confusion,
Then even though you are endowed with great talents,
you cannot be considered a hero.
A hundred years is but a spark.
Life is like a bubble in the water.
Cast away wife and wealth for they are not yours.
Your offenses follow after you. Itís hard to fool yourself.
Ask yourself, can gold and silver piled as high as mountains buy off impermanence?
"If you donít seek the Great Way to leave the path of confusion", if you donít seek the Great Way of cultivation in order to escape the sea of suffering, "then even though you are endowed with great talents, you cannot be considered a hero". Youíve wasted your wisdom and talents. Youíve been lax and you havenít cherished your intelligence, talent and wisdom. Is this how a great hero would act?
"A hundred years is but a spark". The poet Li Bai said, "Heaven and earth are an inn for the myriad things. Time is a traveller passing through a hundred generations". This fleeting life is but a dream. If you donít cultivate the Way, what meaning is there? A hundred years of time passes like a flash of lightning. "Life is like a bubble in the water". All the events and experiences of your life are like bubbles, disappearing just like that.
"Cast away wife and wealth for they are not yours". Your wife and valuables must be left behind at death. You canít bring anything with you. "Your offenses follow after you. Itís hard to fool yourself". All the good and bad karma youíve created will follow you. You have no way to fool yourself. Both your good karma and your evil karma go with you. Thus, it is said, "You canít take anything with you; only your karma goes with you".
"Ask yourself, can gold and silver piled as high as mountains buy off impermanence?" No matter how much gold, silver and valuables you have, can you bribe the Ghost of Impermanence so that he wonít come for you? No, itís impossible. When you die, nothing goes with you, none of your wealth; only your karma follows you. If you can recite the Buddhaís name and be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, thatís a good way to go.
SPECIAL SECTION: NOT DWELLING IN A SINGLE STATE, BE FREE AND AT EASE
Master Heng Der
All living beings hope for peace and happiness; none of them like to encounter suffering and have afflictions. Then what should one do to leave suffering and attain bliss? The Buddha-dharma is the best and most wonderful medicine. The Buddha spoke all Dharmas for all the different thoughts of the living beings -- for their false thoughts and attachments, which are the cause for afflictions and suffering. If we can do a good job of learning the Buddha-dharma, we can cure these various mental states.
There is a well-known verse in Buddhism:
If one wants to know
The Buddhas of the three periods of time,
One should contemplate the nature of the Dharma Realm;
Everything is made from the mind alone.
The reason we become Buddhas, people or animals or fall into the hells, is entirely because of the mind. If we can use the mind well, then we will ascend. When we ascend to the utmost, we become Buddhas.
If we donít know how to use the mind, then we may do stupid things, make mistakes in cause and effect, and incur all kinds of suffering, or even fall into the hells and be unable to get out for measureless kalpas (eons). Should we want to extinguish these sufferings and afflictions, we should regulate our minds and develop proper knowledge and views. If our knowledge and views are deviant and evil, then the karma we create will be bad karma and we will receive all kinds of suffering and harassment. There is a verse which teaches us how to handle our minds:
Originally pure and clean, it dwells in the state of happiness.
Due to false thoughts and attachments, afflictions thus arise.
Afflictions basically donít exist, but we bring them on ourselves.
Not dwelling in a single state, be free and at ease.
As long as we practice according to this verse in our daily lives, we will naturally leave suffering and attain bliss. Buddha-dharma stresses practice. If one just studies all the terminology of Buddhism, one is just counting the Buddhaís treasures. No true benefit will be attained. Therefore, in the process of learning the Buddha-dharma, we must understand how to apply it so that we will genuinely obtain the benefit of learning Buddhism.
SPECIAL SECTION: INSPIRING THE WISDOM IN OUR OWN NATURE
Master Heng Jhuang
All of science, all the developments and new technologies of todayís society have been made to satisfy peopleís needs. The reason Buddhism has appeared in this world is also because of living beings.
Psychology was developed for the purpose of curing peopleís mental and physical sicknesses. By the same token, the Buddhaís teachings are meant to cure the sicknesses of the mind and body. After two thousand and five hundred years, today we are still studying the teachings left by the Buddha. It has not changed through time and space. Modern day science has new discoveries and changes each year but not Buddhism; it still stands straight and tall in this world, not moving, only waiting for us to discover it, to develop it and to use it to truly inspire the wisdom in our own nature.
In addition, there is a very important concept in the Buddha-dharma, which is the belief in "cause and effect". Where do people come from? Each person has certain habits which form his character. Having such a character, he will do certain things. These things all have causes because of the cause an effect or result is produced. The result leaves a certain track and you can follow it to understand why a person has such an attitude, such behaviour and such a character. We may not necessarily have been humans in every one of our previous lives because we are still transmigrating in the six paths. We are human in this life, but perhaps in the preceding life we were pigs, dogs, sheep or hungry ghosts. Itís not for sure. Since we became human and came to this world from different places, we still carry our former habits and faults with us. Therefore, we have all different kinds of behaviour. Once you understand this, you will know how to get along with people and how to aid those who are in need of help.
Before the Buddha accomplished the Way, he underwent various ordeals and difficult practices and as a result was able to bring forth great kindness and compassion, and rescue all living beings who need help. In learning psychology, we must also have this spirit so that we will be able to make the correct decisions when helping people, and not end up making mistakes and causing harm.
SPECIAL SECTION: A HAPPY LIFE
Master Heng Syun
In this world, no one can escape the operation of cause and effect because it is a law of the universe. If we have thoughts of helping others, of rejoicing in and complying with othersí meritorious and virtuous deeds, it will bring a sweet reward. However, if we give rise to thoughts of jealousy, obstructiveness and affliction or simply are unwilling to see others earn merit and virtue, then it the future the retribution we receive will be bitter.
Buddhism says, "The success and failure of all endeavours depends not only on our hard work but also on the coming together of causes and conditions". If we could understand this principle, then when we encounter favourable situations, we continue to strive forward, and when we meet adversity, we become even more vigorous, understand the causes and conditions and advance. If we fail despite the effort we put in, and as a result, gave rise to thoughts of retreating, that would not be the right attitude for learning Buddhism.
In our daily life, every one of us can actually buy a happy life every day without having to spend a single penny. We should open up our minds, and try our best to ascend a level higher. In so practicing, we may not see any concrete achievement in one day, two days, or even a year or two. However, if we know that this is a good principle which can enable us to leave suffering and attain bliss and end birth and death, then why donít we go ahead and act upon it? We should do it. We should work hard and have a patient attitude so that we will have some accomplishment. Therefore, we must use this mind well. It is said, "Everything is made from the mind". We should apply our minds to the good aspects of things and gradually put the principles into practice.
The Buddha-dharma tells us that the path of ending birth and death is to be true and honest, and not to try to be different and fanciful, and not to have thoughts of pursuing fame and benefit. If we use our minds well and earnestly put the Buddha-dharma in practice, then we will not have wasted our effort in coming to learn Buddhism today.
TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS COLUMN
Q: Every time before and after the Venerable Master gives a Dharma talk, he makes five bows. What is the meaning of that?
A: Thereís no real meaning. Itís because when I was little, I was a very naughty boy. I liked to fight and wanted to be a knight-errant, drawing my sword to settle injustice wherever I went. I didnít fear death and wasnít afraid of guns or knives. I was ready to give up my life, fighting from the front village to the back village and from the back village to the front village, unconcerned that I was making enemies everywhere. I was really stubborn and never gave in. I caused my parents much grief and worry, and was extremely unfilial. Later, as I sought a way to become immortal, I went around visiting cultivators. Some advised me to leave the home-life, others told me to become a Taoist. I heard about Filial Son Wang, who had practiced filial piety and attained the Way, and I also wanted to be obedient as a way to be filial. I was twelve before I realised that I should be a very good child.
From then on, without being taught, Iíd bow to my parents and confess my wrongs everyday. I arranged my parentsí bed in the evening and inquired after their health in the morning, warmed their beds in the winter and fanned them in the summer. I also learned to be patient, not to return blows when beaten, not to talk back when scolded and to slowly change my bad habits. I also felt I owed an apology to all living beings and I wished to bow to everyone, starting with Heaven, Earth, the national leader, my parents and teachers, Sages, worthies, heroes, patriots, filial sons, upright husbands and virtuous wives Ö and even very bad people, very foolish people. I bowed to all bad people, hoping theyíd reform and turn over a new leaf. The wind, rain, frost and snow didnít stop me from bowing to all living beings. Every morning I bowed over eight hundred and thirty times, and every night I also bowed over eight hundred and thirty times. Later, since the bowing was taking a lot of time, and in the modern scientific era everything is condensed, I followed the times and condensed the number of bows to five.
The first bow is to pay homage to all Buddhas in the ten directions and three periods of time. The second bow is to pay homage to the Dharma spoken by all Buddhas in the ten directions and three periods of time. The third bow is to pay homage to all the worthies, Sages and common members of the Sangha in the ten directions and three periods of time. The fourth bow is to pay homage to all living beings in the Dharma Realm. The fifth bow is to all the Pratimoksha (Precepts) spoken by the Buddhas in the ten directions and three periods of time. Each of the five bows pervades the ten directions.
VEGETABLES FOR A LONG LIFE:
GETTING HEALTHY THROUGH EATHING
By The Nutritionist
I had a physical check-up two years after switching to a vegetarian diet. The anemia I suffered from for years disappeared without any medication. Huang Xueling, a Buddhist friend from Malaysia, said, "After I had been a vegetarian for over a year, I found that my chronic anemia completely disappeared. I didnít make any special nutritional adjustments. I just ate plain food!" All the boarding students in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas eat vegetarian food. Every one of them looks healthy. They look healthier than many children on meat-based diets. These actual cases indicate that people on vegetarian diets run no risk of malnutrition, and are, on the contrary, much healthier than those on meat diets. Recently, biologists have conducted research to determine the factors which postpone the aging process, and have discovered that a vegetarian diet is one of the secrets.
The elder Bhikshu Dharmawara from Burma, who has visited the City several times, is a good example. He is already one hundred and six years old. He is a centenarian, but he walks barefoot in the chilly springtime. When he speaks, his voice resonates with energy. He is in much better health than most seniors. Recently, when elder Bhikshu Dharmawara accepted the invitation to attend the Three-Fold Ordination at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, his attendant provided a list of the food that he most frequently eats, as given below:
Grains: whole wheat bread, multi-grain cereal
Vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, mushroom, lettuce
Fruits: almonds, avocado, banana, kiwi, lemon
Drinks: soy milk, fresh orange juice
The elder Bhikshu does not eat any food prepared with oil, salt and sugar. His diet is simple and plain. However, it contains plenty of vitamins and minerals. This list is obviously suitable for people of all ages. Older people certainly need calcium. However, this elder Bhikshu is very smart in selecting soy milk instead of cowís milk. Although cowís milk is high in calcium content, its high protein causes a great amount of calcium to be depleted through urine. Therefore, it is not the best source of calcium. Vegetarian friends, why not try making your own list modelling the one above!
NEWS FROM THE DHARMA REALM:
THE ULLAMBANA FESTIVAL
By Zhu Meng-Hua
The annual Ullambana Festival was celebrated on August 21st (July 15th on the lunar calendar) at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
In the morning, Dharma Masters led the assembly in sincerely reciting the Chapter on the Conduct and Vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, The Buddha Speaks the Ullambana Sutra, and the True Words for Repaying Parentsí Kindness: bowing at every third step all the way from the front gate to the Buddha Hall; and bowing to the Buddhas in an adorned ceremony. During the vegetarian luncheon, several Dharma Masters gave Instructional Talks advising people to be filial to their parents, and explaining the meaning, and the merit and virtue of making offerings to the Sangha. In the afternoon, a liberating life ceremony was held. The transference of merit and virtue at the Rebirth Hall concluded the Festival.
"Ullambana" is a Sanskrit word meaning, "to liberate those hanging upside down". In Chinese, the term is yu lan pen, and pen means basin, referring to the basins of offerings. This festival originated with the Venerable Maudgalyayana, the Buddhaís disciple who was foremost in spiritual penetrations. When Maudgalyayanaís mother was still alive, she didnít believe in the Triple Jewel. She was stingy and unwilling to give. She also loved to eat fish, shrimp, crabs and their eggs. She killed countless lives, thus creating much evil karma. At death, she fell into the hells, became a hungry ghost and underwent unintermittent suffering. Maudgalyayana used his spiritual penetrations to bring food to his mother in hell, but it turned into burning coals in her mouth and she couldnít eat it. Her suffering was indescribably great.
The Buddha compassionately told Maudgalyayana that only the merit and virtue of making a vegetarian meal offering to the Sangha of the Ten Directions could save his mother from the suffering of the hells. Since July 15th of the lunar calendar was the end of the Sanghaís summer retreat, and the Day of the Buddhaís Rejoicing, this day was chosen for making offerings to the Sangha of the Ten Directions. The merit of this offering can rescue oneís parents and close relatives in past lives from suffering in the three paths, and enable oneís present parents to live long lives free from worries.
Our parents underwent great hardship to bring us up. Their kindness is as high as the sky and as deep as the sea. As children we can hardly repay one ten-thousandth of their boundless kindness. In the Buddha Speaks the Ullambana Sutra, the Buddha has taught us an expedient method, telling us to diligently cultivate good Dharmas while we have the chance, to make offerings and transfer the merit as best as we can. Then our parents in every life will be saved. This is the greatest of all filial deeds.
The filial mind is the mind of the Buddha; filial conduct is the conduct of the Buddha. Buddhists should not only be filial to their elders and caring towards their juniors at home, they should also be in harmony with people when they are away from home. If everyone can practice filial piety, then this world will be peaceful, safe and happy. This is the true meaning of celebrating the Ullambana Festival.
NEWS FROM THE DHARMA REALM: THE GREAT COMPASSION AND EARTH TREASURY DHARMA ASSEMBLY
By Zhao Shan
Although the civil war has temporarily ceased in the African nation of Luanda, the exceptionally high casualty rate is virtually unprecedented in human history. The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas set up a rebirth plaque particularly for those killed during the war, and held a Great Compassion and Earth Treasury Dharma Assembly from August 1st - 7th. During the seven days, the Sutra of Earth Treasury Bodhisattvaís Past Vows was recited once a day and the Great Compassion Mantra was recited for four and a half hours every day. The merit and virtue of these recitations were dedicated to the souls of those killed, in the hope that they would soon leave suffering and attain bliss, be reborn in good path, and eventually become Buddhas.