Master Lu: Buddhism In Plain Terms (Book)

Master Lu | Buddhism in Plain Terms | Volume 3 Chapter 2 | Genuine Practice is the Essence of Spiritual State, Treat Karmic Force as a Contributory Factor

05/06/2024 |    

Next, let me explain the importance of pursuing the Buddha nature, perceiving the Buddha nature, and witnessing the Buddha nature. Buddha nature involves seeing the Buddha’s inherent nature. First, you pursue it, then you are able to see it, and finally, you witness it. Here’s a somewhat imperfect analogy: it’s like pursuing a romantic relationship. Initially, you hear about a girl’s kind nature, then call her to meet up — that’s the pursuit. When you see her and she’s genuinely kind, that’s perceiving. Later, when you’re in a relationship and receive her help and feel happy in this relationship, that’s witnessing it.

Now, let’s talk about having merit and virtue versus not having it. People often say that doing something brings “boundless merit and virtue.” I’ve told you before, what does it mean to have merit and virtue? If you say you have merit and virtue, then you don’t. But if you believe you don’t have merit and virtue, that’s when you actually do. Being praised with “Oh, what boundless merit and virtue!” can be pleasing. But once you feel pleased, the merit and virtue are gone. Having merit and virtue means not having it, and not having merit and virtue means having it. I want to remind you: Merit and virtue shouldn’t be mentioned casually; true things shouldn’t be overly discussed. Respecting your Master and the Buddha-dharma the Master taught and diligently practising it — these are actions that bring merit and virtue.

Life is essentially suffering. Birth marks the beginning of suffering. The first sound a person makes in this world is a cry. Human life is founded on suffering. Our existence in this world is marked by hardship. Take, for instance, even a pimple on the face can cause discomfort. Soldiers standing at attention feel unbearable itch and sweat on their backs, unable to move — isn’t that suffering? Nowadays, street performers pose as living statues at many tourist spots, remaining motionless for small tips — isn’t that hardship too? What job doesn’t involve some form of suffering? Where in this world is there no suffering? Life is about separation and loss. Our existence is essentially empty. Suffering equates to emptiness and impermanence. This world is empty when you arrive and empty when you leave. All the hardships endured lead to emptiness. Everything is impermanent and nothing lasts forever.

Life is a cycle of birth, aging, illness, and death. For instance, a person is born, then ages, falls ill, and eventually dies, leading to rebirth. Everything essentially alternates in this cycle. Today you are born, tomorrow you age, then fall ill, and in a few days, you pass away. After death, you go to the Underworld and are reborn as another person, starting a new cycle of rebirth. Life is a constant rotation of these cycles. So, don’t think being born as a human means you can enjoy life without worries. In fact, it marks the beginning of troubles and suffering, and nothing in this world is permanent.

Today, I want to share a simple yet profound principle with you, known as “finding joy in suffering.” This is a state of genuine cultivation. Genuine cultivation means sincerely cultivating the mind. How can we transform suffering into joy? By desiring less, we can purify our minds and be content with our fate, asking for nothing more. When a person reduces their desires, their mind attains purity, and understanding the concept of contentment brings less suffering. In reality, when we pray for a better career, health, or family life, we are using our accumulated merit and virtue. Praying for these things can diminish merit and virtue. While we recite Buddhist scripture and the Little Houses, we are also paying off our karmic debts. Using our merit and virtue to pray for worldly wealth and blessings is unwise and leads to the loss of merit and virtue. Moreover, praying for wealth using merit and virtue doesn’t necessarily lead to riches, as wealth is determined by past deeds.

There’s a principle in the universe between Heaven and Earth. What is it? Let me explain it in simple terms: When a person endures hardship, their karmic forces transform, and their karmic obstacles are eliminated. Enduring hardship can dissolve our karmic debts. This is why I encourage you to transform suffering into joy. When your karmic debts are cleared, aren’t you happier? The more hardship one endures, the quicker their karmic debts are resolved. Once the karmic debts are cleared, blessings naturally come. Thus, there’s a saying, “After hardship comes happiness.” Why fear hardship? Coming into this world means to endure hardship. What’s wrong with enduring a little hardship every day? Many people can’t bear it, which shows a lack of concentration. If a person could endure more hardships while actively doing good deeds, their prayers to the Bodhisattvas would be very effective. I came to this world with a mission and am also cultivating my mind here. By helping others, I am also helping myself. Many people, while saving others or sharing the Dharma, are also learning and progressing themselves.

When people are enjoying their blessings, they are essentially using up their accumulated good fortune. Once these blessings are exhausted, especially if they haven’t endured hardships, done good deeds, or worse, if they have committed misdeeds (negative karma), misfortune and disaster will follow. Remember, enduring hardship actually transforms your mind. Only through suffering do people start to think about changing their destiny and seeking the protection of the Bodhisattvas. Transforming your mind equates to transforming your karma. Turn all the sufferings in life into joy. There’s a saying, “There is joy within suffering, and this joy is boundless.” Finding joy in suffering is a high state of being. Suffering is the cause of joy, and joy is the result of suffering. For example, work may be hard, but when you receive your salary, you feel joy because that money can pay the mortgage or fund a vacation. It’s the suffering (the cause) we endure that lead us to pray for the Bodhisattvas’ blessings, and once the prayers are fulfilled, we feel joy, and the result is realised.

Buddhist practice involves both principle and phenomenon. Principle is about learning the theory of Buddhism. On the other hand, phenomenon is about your mind. It involves applying it in practice, a state of genuine cultivation. We are currently learning the theory, but how do we manifest it in action? How do we embody it in spreading the Dharma and saving others? It’s crucial to harmonise principle and phenomenon, meaning our thoughts and actions should be consistent, and our hearts and words should be aligned. Those who cultivate their minds should ensure their thoughts, words, and actions are unified. Put simply, our words and actions must match. The integration of words and hearts is vital.

The Dharma Door I’m teaching you isn’t just theoretical; it’s about correcting the universe within your own heart. Everyone has a universe within them, akin to the expressions “harbouring great ambitions” or “having a global perspective.” I’m teaching you to cultivate the universe within your own heart, to become someone brave enough to step out into the world. Yesterday, a person who called into my radio program wanted to make a vow, but he asked, “What if I can’t fulfill it after making the vow?” Such people lack a solid foundation for making vows. If you vow with the belief that “I will certainly fulfill it,” then you should make a vow. Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva vowed, “I shall never attain Buddhahood until Hell is emptied.” Is Hell empty now? Yet, it’s his great vow that has enabled many to be reborn. He sincerely made this vow, and he attained Buddhahood. When you make a vow, you must think, “I must act in this way, I must save people,” and genuinely do it. Not being able to achieve the goal is another matter. However, if you act earnestly, then you are a Bodhisattva.

I once said, “As long as I live, even if it’s just for one more day, I am determined to spread Buddhism and awaken all those in the world who have affinity with Buddhism.” This is my vow. Do you dare to make such a declaration in front of Guan Yin Bodhisattva every day? I say to Guan Yin Bodhisattva every day, “I want to guide and awaken all those in the world who have affinity with Buddhism.” I am willing to dedicate my life to spreading the Dharma. The greater the vow, the greater the merit and virtue received; the greater the vow, the greater the response. Do you know how I have acquired such great Dharma power? It is the result of my merit and virtue. The more people I save and the greater my vow, the more my Dharma power and merit and virtue grow proportionally.

Cultivating one’s mind means to cultivate the universe within oneself. If you haven’t gone through genuine cultivation and validation – meaning if you haven’t actually cultivated your heart and verified the results of this cultivation – and yet you feel you have succeeded, then you are still confined to the “theory,” limited to the theory in words, without practical implementation.

Those who practise the Dharma Door without cultivating their minds are unknowingly becoming more attached and falling into the demonic path. For example, someone might say, “This person can see things now, and that person can see spiritual entities too, so I want to be able to see them as well.” There are two kinds of teachings: the Buddha-dharma and demonic teachings. When you practise the teachings, are you able to discern whether it’s the Buddha-dharma or demonic teachings? If you don’t reach the Buddha-dharma, doesn’t that mean you are practising demonic teachings? Likewise, practising demonic teachings surely means you won’t attain the Buddha-dharma. The difference between the righteous and the demonic is very slight, just like a clock that doesn’t keep accurate time is not a good clock. Therefore, one must cultivate the mind and not just practise the teachings.

Not yet reaching the ultimate. If you have not reached the ultimate in cultivating your mind – meaning you haven’t cultivated to the true and ultimate essence – your mind has already deviated, even lost. What you need to find is your lost mind, otherwise you’ll be eternally wandering through the cycle of rebirth within the six realms of existence. Why is it that a person can become so infatuated with another? Because it’s a kind of obsession. Being a little lost may be okay, but excessive infatuation leads to complete obsession, and then you can’t find your true self. I urge you not to let your mind wander and lose your mind.

In essence, cultivating the mind is more important than practising the teachings. Practising the teachings is superficial. For example, eloquently discussing Buddhism, judging different practices, visiting various temples, and offering incense are all external. If you don’t cultivate your mind and understand the fundamental principles of being a good person, can you truly grasp the teachings? I would rather you focus on cultivating your minds than merely performing superficial acts for show. Practising the teachings is less important than cultivating the mind because all phenomena are created by the mind. Everything in the Human Realm, the so-called worldly matters (dharma), are all products of the mind. What you think, the world becomes. For instance, some people might anticipate criticism prior to a meeting. As soon as they enter the room and see others’ faces, they feel targeted. Everything in the world is a projection of your thoughts. If you think your business will do well, it often does. Some people constantly move things around in their house to improve Feng Shui but still feel unsatisfied, not realising the importance of reciting Buddhist scriptures and adjusting their mindset to resolve these issues. The state of a person’s mind is crucial. There’s a saying, “Fortunate people dwell in fortunate places.” Even if you live in a place with great Feng Shui, it’s futile if your mind is not in the right place. The mind is the dharma, and the dharma is the mind.

Those who practise teachings often seek to demonstrate various spiritual feats. However, displaying such feats is not necessarily a good thing. Only the innate, unsurpassed Dharma of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is the true teaching, transcending the Three Realms and not confined by the Five Elements. Those who try to learn these high concepts without the necessary foundation risk straying into demonic paths. It’s like a high school student trying to understand a doctoral course; they might attempt it, but ultimately, it’s misguided. In the end, it all comes down to a single thought: a pure mind. Calm your mind, and you will find that nothing else matters.

Achieving success in cultivating the mind hinges entirely on one’s nature. Those with a kind nature can truly cultivate themselves; those with a malicious nature may end up cultivating distorted traits. Why do some people, despite cultivating kindness, still exhibit evil? The key lies in the mind. Those cultivating their minds must use their mind to harness goodness and restrain evil, observing their conscience with the wisdom of Buddha. To observe is to scrutinise your conscience, asking yourself if you are performing good deeds or engaging in evil, or if you are filled with fear and so on. Examine your Buddha nature in light of Buddha’s teachings. Regularly reflect: Is the consciousness of the Bodhisattvas present in what I’ve learned? Is this consciousness present in my actions today?

Consciousness is thought. If you believe that your actions today are good—“My actions today contribute to cultivating my mind and performing meritorious deeds.”—then you possess the consciousness of a Bodhisattva, known as Buddha-consciousness. Be aware of the state of your mind; it is always active in everything you do. Human consciousness controls the physical body. Remember, the consciousness of Buddha is always present in your mind. By mastering control over your consciousness, mental activities, and emotions—that is, regulating and harnessing your mind—you can then purify and transform your mind. Transforming means gradually removing your negative qualities. Everyone has their inner demons, just as everyone has cancerous cells. Only by overcoming these inner demons can you truly attain Buddhahood.