Protecting the Inner Environment
Ven. Master Hsuan Hua
The Buddha-lands chapter of the Vimalakirti Sutra says, ―As the mind is purified, the Buddha-land is purified.‖ The chapter on Praises in the Suyama Heaven Palace in the Avatamsaka Sutra says, ―The mind is like a skillful painter who can depict all the worlds from it the five aggregates arise, and all dharmas are created by it.‖ Also from the Avatamsaka Sutra, the chapter on the Coming into Being of Worlds says, ―Defiled and turbid beings are fettered by fearsome karma and delusion. By their thoughts, the oceans of worlds are completely polluted. When numberless beings make the resolve for bodhi, their thoughts cause the oceans of worlds to abide in eons of constant purity.‖ Further, the first roll of Shurangama Sutra says, ―Your mind is able to understand everything.‖ From this, we know that the Buddhadharma teaches that changing the environment starts with changing our minds.
Instructions from the Venerable Master on Protecting the Inner Environment
People should model themselves after the earth. The earth produces the myriad things: animals, plants, etc. The earth, on the other hand, models itself after heaven. It is said, ―Heaven covers me from above while the earth sustains me from below.‖ Recently a section of ozone over the Arctic Circle was destroyed and the whole area has experienced incredible heat. That is a case in point of humans destroying the ecological equilibrium and the protective function of heaven and earth.
Heaven, in turn, models itself after nature. Here, ―nature‖ means the intrinsic truth that underlies all phenomena. As the eternal life-force, it neither increases nor decreases. You could call it the Buddha-nature, which is found equally and pervasively in all living beings. It is not the case that Buddhas are intrinsically higher than living beings. Rather, it is a question of whether living beings can
liberate themselves and others. The Buddha has returned to his original nature; living beings cannot see their original wisdom due to desire and so are not able to reflect on and be aware of that. The ultimate way to save the environment is to return to a state of purity and truth, and not engage in fighting, greed, selfishness, avarice and deceit. Even the air of our world has been polluted. How did the air become polluted? Some people say it is because of the fumes from the atomic bomb, the hydrogen bomb, cars, and the light and heavy industries. That‘s right! It is like this. However, the most important reason is still because our minds are too polluted. We are too deeply polluted within, so the air outside is also not fresh.
The Buddhist sutras often mention great earthquakes. Why do earthquakes happen? Earthquakes can also be called ―human-quakes,‖ because humans and earthquakes are related. When people quake, the earth also quakes; when people are quiet, the earth is also quiet. The seven emotions (i.e. joy, angry, grief, fear, love, loathing and desire) and six desires cause the earth to quake and tremble. When it quakes inside, it also quakes outside. When there is movement inside, there is also movement outside. Whatever is inside also appears outside. Therefore, inside and outside are
closely related and interconnected. When our minds aren・t clean, the entire universe and the Dharma Realm is polluted. If our minds are pure, the pollution in the air would also disappear. When our minds are impure, we also ruin the entire world. So what is most essential now is to purify our minds. When we have purified our minds, everything is pure! If we have fewer false thoughts in our minds, this world will also be more peaceful. If we do not have so many wars in our mind, there will not be wars in the world. Everything is made by the mind alone, and all that is in the world came about from the thoughts and minds of living beings. So all those who take refuge with me, whether you are monastics or laypeople, if you have faith in me, you should try to change your bad habits and clean out your trash cans ・ sweep away all of your hatred, resentment, affliction, anger, and annoyance! This way, the people of the Dharma-ending Age, with the aid of your light, can keep going for another period of time. This world will end sooner or later. However, if there are people who truly cultivate, there will be more righteous energy, which means less demonic energy; more power from the Buddha, which means less demonic power. This is a definite principle! Don・t take what I say casually; this is critical for the issues of the present.
As it is said, ―When the mind is purified, the Buddha-land is purified.‖If our minds are
pure, the world outside also becomes pure. How do we purify our inner environment, and how do we purify our minds? We can see from the teachings of the Buddha and from good and wise advisors that it comes from practicing the principles of ―not fighting, not being greedy, not seeking, not being selfish, not pursuing personal advantage, and not lying‖ in our daily lives.
Not fighting: Not having thoughts of fighting and stubbornness in our minds, and not comparing ourselves or fighting with anybody. If we do not have so many wars going on in our minds, there will not be wars in the world. If there are no wars in the world, weapons to kill do not appear, and the world will not come to an end.
Not being greedy: Not being greedy for material enjoyment – eating well, dressing well, living in nice places. With contentment and few desires, we cherish natural resources and make a habit of frugality; this is being environmentally friendly. From living more simply, naturally, and freely, we will be healthier, happier, and more whole. Further, we should not be greedy for benefit, for more, for reputation; we should be true in every thought, word, and action.
Not seeking: Not seeking outside. Not taking anything that should not be ours. To not seek for anything is to be truly happy, and it brings stability and peace to our self-nature. If humanity continues to move forward the way it did in the 20th century, endlessly chasing newer, faster, and more comfortable things in our consumerist society, the world may not last for our children and grandchildren to see the next century.
Not being selfish: Why is the world in such bad condition? It is because people are too selfish. People are selfish when it comes to social status, fame, power, and money. In short, everything is so because of selfishness. We who live in this world should help each other, support each other, and practice the Bodhisattva spirit in forgetting ourselves and helping those in need.
Not pursuing personal advantage: Do not use dishonorable, illegal, or harmful means to benefit ourselves. If we are caring towards others, we will not destroy the greater environment for selfish interests.
Not lying: In doing everything we should be trustworthy, honest, and never deceptive. That way there will not be any unnecessary difficulties.
Many people who come to CTTB feel that it is a pure land that is peaceful and close to nature. Here the animals are not the only ones that are blessed – the flowers, grass and trees are as well. Everyone here has a compassionate heart and treats everything as his or her equal. This is because we review the Six Guidelines every day in CTTB. Residents recite together in our morning and evening ceremonies: ―Ask yourself, do I fight? Ask yourself, am I greedy? Ask yourself, do I seek? Ask yourself, am I selfish? Ask yourself, do I pursue personal them and hold them in our mind, we are purifying our inner environment, so it is natural that the outside environment will also not be polluted. So at CTTB this kind of environmental protection happens every day, and that is why we are able to enjoy an environmentally friendly way of life. As the Buddha said, ―Everything in this world, from the mountains, rivers, land, and buildings, down to thorny brambles, poisonous grasses, soil, wood, sand, and rocks, is made from the mind alone.‖ Since we know that it is all made from the mind, why don‘t we sweep out the garbage in our minds? From our own actions and attitudes, we can inspire those around us to protect the earth, starting with our food, clothing, housing, transportation, education, and entertainment, to practice a green lifestyle as well as purify our inner environment. If everyone could live a little more simply and frugally that would make a tremendous difference in protecting the environment. When we make an effort to help protect the environment, that also helps to improve our own quality of life, and we can all live more safely and happily in this world.