February 14, 1973, Wednesday evening
On Travel Adventures
Ven. Master Hua
[Editor's note: The Master is recounting a trip to New Yourk that he and six other monastics from Gold Mountain Monastery had just made. See "On the Karmic Retribution of Hunger" on page 194 for earlier comments on this trip.]
Our flight to Canada was delayed one hour, and then we had to wait two hours on our return flight. The people who had come to pick up us at the New York airport ended up waiting over two hours. It’s said, “Those who have to travel are people with scanty blessings.” Some people like to travel; I, however, don’t find it so enjoyable.
On Friday, the resident Dharma Master at Great Enlightenment Monastery invited us for a vegetarian meal. He got fourteen monastics together - including three nuns - and some laypeople. That was a pleasant gathering, and we also got enough to eat, which pleased Guo Hu.
Another day, we went to Mahayana Temple , where we also had lunch. But this time some problems occurred at lunch. Maybe we ate too much, or maybe it was just a matter of not being used to the kind of food, but Guo Pu got a bad stomach from it and couldn’t even manage to walk.
Prior to that visit to Mahayana Temple , one Dharma Master there challenged us, “I heard that one of you oversees the weather, so see to it that it does not rain or snow.”
We were invited to Mahayana Temple for Saturday. So on Friday I gave the order to Guo Hu, “Make sure that it doesn’t snow on Saturday. If it snows, you will have to kneel for 49 days as a penalty.”
Basically Guo Hu did not want to display his spiritual powers, but he had no choice when he received that order. It turned out that it did not snow or rain on Saturday. A few miles away from the road on which we were traveling, there was a heavy snowfall. But no snow fell on the road we used. So you see? Guo Hu really does have some spiritual powers!
After lunch at Mahayana Temple , we went back to Great Enlightenment Monastery. The next day, Sunday, we paid a visit to the Eberles - the family of Guo Zhao [Editor’s note: a laywomen and one of the three people who completed the 98-day meditation session at the Buddhist Lecture Hall]. She and her family welcomed us very warmly. * They were very sincere. They have very kind faces. They treated us to some Spanish cuisine, and we ate our fill. We stayed overnight there.
On Monday, we took a plane to San Diego . On Tuesday, we gave a lecture in San Diego , and today we are back in San Francisco. In other places, we are always in a furnace and feel very uncomfortable. And so it’s nice to come back to the icebox where it is clear and cool.
*[Editor’s note: The questions and answers at Eberles were so interesting, they are summarized here:
Mr. Eberle: When someone is reborn, would he necessarily be reborn on this earth? Might he be reborn in another world-system?
Master: That is not at all certain. It depends on causes and circumstances. It’s said: One goes where one has affinities, depending on which way the winds of karma blow.
Young man: Is it necessary to do good deeds and thereby acquire a greater propensity so as to better continue the quest for Buddhahood? Or should one try to transcend the creation of karma?
Master: Before one becomes a Buddha, one must act in terms of worldly karma and one must do good. It is only after one becomes a Buddha that one transcends involvement with karma. Therefore, one should always do what is wholesome.
Mr. Eberle: How does one know one has become a Buddha? Who decides?
Master: When you become a Buddha, you will certainly know it. Furthermore, all the Buddhas of the ten directions will come and verify your accomplishment. We can use the example of graduation from a University. A number of professors have to have passed you for that to happen.
Young man: Is awareness of Buddhahood like samÁdhi? What is the relationship between nirvana and realization of Buddhahood?
Master: SamÁdhi is skill that comes with cultivation. Nirvana is entered after realizing Buddhahood. At that time all effort becomes tranquil; all virtue is complete.
When one becomes a Buddha, three types of enlightenment are perfected once one has succeeded in doing all the many practices…
Another person: How many Buddhas are there?
Master: There are as many Buddhas as there are living beings. In some religions it is believed that there is only one god who is eternal and perfect, and that no other living being can be that god. Only god can be god and living beings have to be living beings. It is a dictatorial divinity.
According to Buddha’s teaching, on the other hand, all living beings can become Buddhas. They only need to cultivate, work hard, and follow the teachings of their practice and they can all realize Buddhahood. Everyone has a share.
In many religions, there is only one god and people have no share in being God. No other being can become God, no matter who he is. God is the ‘only one.’ Which leads one to wonder why he requires people’s belief, since he’s eternal—’perfect unto himself.’ Wouldn’t it be sufficient that he was the one and only god?
Buddha, however, is not the only Buddha. Everyone has to potential to be a Buddha. If you cultivate, you can become a Buddha; if you don’t cultivate, you won’t. So the Buddha said, ‘All living beings have the Buddha-nature; all can become Buddhas.’ It is only necessary to break through ignorance and to put an end to afflictions so not a trace remains. Then you can all become Buddhas. The Buddha is neither solitary nor dictatorial. That is why the number of Buddhas is the same as the number of living beings.
If there were no living beings, it would not necessarily mean there were no Buddhas, however. That is because the Buddhas could transformationally manifest many more living beings in the world. Living beings are transformed by Buddhas and Buddhahood can be realized by living beings. Is that not democratic, egalitarian, magnanimous, and unselfish? It is only to be feared you won’t cultivate. If you want to cultivate, you can become a Buddha. Therefore, in Buddhism no one says, ‘You can’t become me. I am a solitary Buddha. I am a dictatorial Buddha.’ There is no such principle.
The Buddhadharma take the entire Dharma Realm as its scope; consequently it includes all other teachings. It is not that the Buddhadharma is superior to all other religions, it’s scope is just bigger. Other religions are not inferior, their scope is just smaller. The Buddhadharma is the total substance, like, for example, this table. Other religions are like a square foot or just a corner of this table, whereas Buddhism encompasses the entire expanse of the table. That is why Buddhist should not criticize other religions—for all of them teach people to do good. But some principles are ultimate and some are not.
The difference is that Buddhism teaches principles that are ultimate, thorough, and complete. Other religions’ principles are less clear, sometimes even confusing, so that they seem to be right and yet aren’t. Sometimes their explanations are incomprehensible. Some say, “You must just believe, you must not question; you must just believe, you must not doubt; you must just believe, you must not disbelieve.”
Some say, “If you believe in me you can go to heaven, even if you don’t cultivate. I, the almighty god, will escort you to heave to enjoy bliss. But when you get there, you can’t be me, for I am the only god. You can just be my people. I am going to be the only god forever and ever and you have no way to become god. If you believe in me, the only god, then you can commit offenses and still go to heaven. But if you don’t believe in me, then even if you do good, you will go to hell.” In fact there is no such truth as that in the entire world, and I believe heaven is certainly not that way either.
Young man: Jesus said that only through him could one enter the kingdom of heaven. What did he mean by that? Was it an egotistical statement?
Master: Not just that statement was egotistical, but inherent in the entire doctrine of that religion is a condescending attitude toward other religions, which are views as the work of the devil and so forth. What he said, anybody could say. I could say, ‘Jesus, unless you go my way, you can never get to heaven.’ Also you must remember that the masses he spoke to were largely uneducated—uninformed—easily led. The events that took place in the past might not be so readily accepted today.
Another person: Is that really the way it was?
Master: It might have been that way and it might not have been. We are investigating a question; it is not our intention to slander Jesus.
Question: Was Jesus himself any form of enlightened being?
Master: One could say he was a Bodhisattva. Bodhisattvas dare to say anything and will do anything—even kill—and there is no offense, because they can bring beings back to life again. They are like magicians who make things appear and disappear, disappear and reappear. People who lack deep understanding are like children who see everything the magician does as magical, for they do not understand the tricks he employs.
Elder Master Zhi exemplifies this principle. Buddhist are vegetarian, but Master Zhi ate fish and pigeons. Every day he had two pigeons for lunch. One day his cook could bear it no longer and decided to taste the birds, thinking they must be indeed delicacies. He lopped off a wing and ate it. Since he served the birds minced, he figured Master Zhi would never miss the wing. But when the Master had finished his meal that day, he called the cook out and asked who had been stealing his pigeon meat. The cook denied everything, whereupon Master Zhi opened his mouth and a whole pigeon flew out, followed by another which hopped and flopped about on the ground—because it was missing one wing. “If you didn’t eat it,” challenged the Master“where did it go?”
Young man: Is it really fair for Jesus to have performed tricks? Was he just out to cheat people?
Master: Not only did he cheat people at that time, he cheated them before he was born and he cheated them after he died. What I mean is, the principles he taught were unclear. The beliefs that time were largely polytheistic—people believed in all kinds of spirits. Perhaps it was that Jesus analyzed the situation, felt that things had gone to an extreme, and attempted to provide a solution. Embracing a monotheistic concept, he proposed that people should not believe in other gods or spirits, but just worship one. Perhaps that’s how the idea of a ‘solitary’ god got started.
Mrs. Eberle: Would such manipulation be appropriate on the part of a Bodhisattva?
Master: Things had gone to an extreme and Jesus was trying to rescue people. But in attempting to correct the situation, he overcompensated and set up another extreme. He failed to establish the Middle Way . He was not alone in doing that—that is the failing of religions in general.
Mr. Eberle: All religions require belief. Does Buddhism require belief in anything?
Master: Buddhism teaches about cause and effect. If you plant a certain cause, you will reap a certain effect. If you plant causes to become Jewish, you will reap that effect. If you plant causes to become Catholic, you will reap that effect. Buddhist causes yield Buddhist effects, and so forth.
Things are a result of causes and conditions coming together. Therefore, the Buddha does not expound a principle that tends in just one direction, but expresses infinite principles that do not hinder one another and do not hinder the principles of other religions either. Rather, the principles of Buddhism completely include and explicate the principles of other religions, which are all contained within it.
And finally, you should not believe a word of the principles I have been expressing! Are you tired?
Answers: Not tired, but cold.
Master: The reason you are cold is that my explanations have not been warm.
One of the listeners: They have been heart-warming, but not foot-warming.
Master: Then dispense with your feet and just retain your heart.]
Timely Teachings, page 379 - 386