Destroy Attachment to Self and Attachment to Dharmas
Ven. Master Hsuan Hua
is the attachment to self? It’s the attachment to an “I”. We say:
“This is my body; those things are mine.” In general,
everything pertains to “I”; we put the “I” out in front. Because there
is a self but no others, the three minds aren’t ended and the four
appearances aren’t empty.
three minds are
of the past, present, and future; the four appearances are those of self,
others, living beings, and a life span.
do we know when the attachment to self is destroyed? We can tell from our
daily activities, whether we are moving or still, awake or sleeping. In all
our actions, are we thinking of ourselves or others? Are we concerned about
the Way-place? If we think of only
ourselves, which is the philosophy of the Small Vehicle—to benefit oneself
without benefiting others.
Buddha compared such people to withered sprouts and spoiled seeds. Why?
Because people who think like this are very small-minded and egocentric. They
are concerned only with being good themselves, and don’t care whether other
people are good or bad. That’s called:
don’t care about others.
Amitabha, every man for himself.”
the objective of the Small Vehicle. Therefore, they perceive the Three Realms
as a burning house, and birth and death as an enemy. They end their own birth
and death, but don’t care about living beings’ birth and death.
you are concerned about others, you think of benefiting them. Not only do you
want to liberate yourself, you want all living beings to be liberated.
That’s the way a Bodhisattva thinks. Benefiting others and forgetting about
yourself is what the
we truly care about the monastery, we should support and protect it in every
respect, without any ulterior motives or any wish for fame or profit. That is
truly protecting the monastery.
day, we should reflect and see whether we spend more time thinking about
ourselves, about other people, or about the monastery. Through this kind of
reflection, we will know whether we’ve broken the attachment to self. This
is a very simple explanation.
a deeper level, we should daily observe to see whether we are afraid of taking
a loss, or afraid of not gaining any advantages. If we have such thoughts, we
should change them; if we don’t, we should avoid them. We should further ask
ourselves whether we are able to endure insults. If people scold me and beat
me for no reason at all, can I take it? Will
I lose my temper or have thoughts of revenge? If
so, then the attachment to self has not been broken. If not, then the
self-attachment has been destroyed. Think seriously for a moment: Where do all
problems and afflictions come from? They arise from the attachment to self
acting up. If the attachment to self is not destroyed, the attachment to
dharmas won’t be destroyed either. Small Vehicle cultivators have broken the
attachment to self, but not the attachment to dharmas. Only Bodhisattvas can
extinguish both attachment to self and attachment to dharmas.
breaking the attachment to self, we must work on breaking the attachment to
dharmas. What is meant by “attachment to dharmas”? It
means not understanding that the dharmas of the five skandhas (form,
feeling, thinking, formations, and consciousness) are brought into being by
causes and conditions, and getting attached to the idea that they are real. If
we can end all attachment to dharmas, we will experience perfect
interpenetration without obstruction, and arrive at the state of being at ease
in all situations. When we have emptied both self and dharmas, we can be
considered true cultivators. True cultivators never calculate on their own
behalf, no matter what the situation. They are ever ready to give themselves
up for others, and would never hesitate to do what is right. Their actions are
public-spirited and unselfish, proper and unbiased.
Buddha spoke the Three Treasuries and Twelve Divisions all for the sake of
teaching people to break their attachments. However, we just don’t want to
follow the Buddha’s instructions. Instead, we want to be rebels in Buddhism,
always attaching to our ego. The marks of self, others, living beings, and a
life span are not empty for us. We cling to these four marks and can’t bear
to part with them. We can’t understand that the three minds are
the mind of the past cannot be attained, nor can the mind of the present or
the mind of the future. Why not? Well, the past has already gone by, so where
are you going to find it? The “present” never stops changing. When you
say, “This is the present,” it has already become the past. So the present
doesn’t exist, and the mind of the present cannot be attained. The mind of
the future is unattainable as well, because future hasn’t arrived yet. Since
it isn’t here yet, why talk about it?
Vajra Sutra says, “There is no mark of self, no mark of others, no
mark of living beings, and no mark of a life span.” It also says, “The
mind of the past cannot be attained, the mind of the present cannot be
attained, and the mind of the future cannot be attained.” Everyone can read
these lines of the Sutra, but no one remembers them. I hope all of you will
apply some effort on these lines. When you have emptied the Four Marks and
ended the Three Minds, you’ll be true cultivators.
talk given on February 15, 1984
from “Venerable Master Hua’s Talks on Dharma” Volume 10