The Vajra Strikes:
A Collection of Q & A’s with the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Q: How do we improve our relationships with people, especially not having others talk behind our backs at the workplace?
A: If you didn’t do anything bad, then the person who talks behind your back is wrong. But if you did do something bad so that it’s a juicy topic for gossip, then the more they talk about you, the better.
Q: The number of calamities in the world is on the rise. How do we eradicate them to help others and ourselves?
A: There would be no calamities if we were to not get mad, not fight, and not cheat and not hurt each other.
Q: I often feel so uneasy that I’m restless whether sitting or standing. What should I do about it?
A: You should recite the Great Compassion Mantra, Guanshiyin Bodhisattva’s name, and not lie.
Q: Buddhism says, “Fixed karma means that it can’t be changed.” Will we definitely face the corresponding retribution for the unwholesome karma that we’ve committed?
A: Even though it is said that fixed karma can’t be changed, offenses can be eradicated if aided by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in samadhi. However, we must be extremely repentant, sincere, full of faith, and willing to change courageously. As the saying goes,
Anger and resentment can create happiness;
The dead can return to life.
If you think these words are false,
You should know that Buddhas never lie.
Serious offenses vanish the moment we repent. No matter how large our karmic debt, we could eradicate disasters and illnesses to befall us by setting our minds on enlightenment, regarding the Triple Jewel with great faith, and accumulating enough merit and virtue to make up for our mistakes.
Q: Why are there poor people?
A: Poor people do not have blessings in this life because in their previous lives they did not do good deeds to earn merit and virtue, they did not sow any roots of goodness, they always tried to take advantage of others, and they fretted over their gains and losses.
Q: Can we become enlightened though we eat meat?
A: Anyone with a mouth so large as to be able to swallow a whole pig, lamb, or cow in one gulp can become enlightened. Except for those with such a big mouth, no one is guaranteed enlightenment.
Q: By praying, we already develop inner spiritual energy that could benefit all things. So do we still need to do good deeds on the outside?
A: Cultivation should be about a balance between developing inner merit and outward results. When we’re doing external merit, we are not attached to the attainment of such merit. We can help ourselves by cultivating virtue within, purifying our thoughts, and lessening our desires. If we can stop being greedy, we will be helping others.
Q: 1. Can Buddhas and Bodhisattvas shoulder living beings’ obstructive karma? 2. How can we tell who is really a good teacher?
A: 1. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have the power to acquit us of our crimes if we are willing to change. It is wrong to not reform but rely solely on the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for taking on our karma. 2. To know whether someone is truly a good teacher, just watch and see if he is into fighting, being greedy, and being selfish. Does he say things out of convenience, lying but claiming that he is being expedient? It doesn’t make sense to call this kind of a person a wise advisor.
Q: Why do we doze off?
A: We doze off because we don’t have enough energy, probably from the lack of sleep. We doze off because we can’t sleep at night: men are thinking about women, women are thinking about men, and left-home people are thinking about food. This is nothing; it’s very simple.
Q: How do we eliminate the three poisons of greed, anger and delusion?
A: Left-home people are eliminating greed, anger and delusion every day. How can you eliminate greed, anger, and delusion at once without even leaving home? If you really want to do it, you should learn from Mr. Pang by throwing all your valuables into the ocean. Can you do it?
Q: Single people can do that, but it’s impossible for people with a family. How are we helping others by throwing our valuables into the ocean?
A: You are skeptical about Mr. Pang’s enlightenment. He became enlightened because he was the dumbest person. You are way too smart.
Q: How can we be free of anger that comes from ignorance?
A: One must cultivate the practice of the paramita of patience and never get upset. This is the key: we become wiser by not getting upset.
Q: Why would people improve if it were not for greed? Why would people persist if it were not for deluded attachments? Why would people be strong if it were not for the force from their anger?
A: Don’t get confused. To pick ourselves up when we’re down is not greed; that is hard work. Delusion includes getting angry and doing stupid things such as playing the lottery, prostituting, and gambling.