Time : Saturday 2pm-4.25pm
Platform : ZOOM Cloud Meeting
Topic of Discussion : Ten Signs You may have Deviated from the Right Path
On 25 July 2020, Guan Yin Citta, Singapore held yet another online Buddhism in Plain Terms (BIPT) Group Study (in English).
Do you have greed, hatred, ignorance, pride and doubts?
Do you have biased views?
Do you have a disarrayed mind?
These are some of the ten signs that you may have deviated from the right path explored during the session and how to right oneself. Through multimedia learning, such as meaningful videos, eye-catching visuals and engaging stories, participants examined their Buddhist practice thus far. Indeed, as shared by many during the session, it is far too easy for one to deviate from the right path, and also much too hard for one to ‘ownself check ownself’. Hence, having a system of checks and balances from fellow Buddhist practitioners can help guide us, making group study sessions such as this an integral part of spiritual cultivation that goes beyond intellectual knowledge.
As Master Lu said, ‘to truly understand the Dharma is to comprehend the teaching in one’s heart and be able to apply the Dharma in one’s life’. Indeed, many Buddhist practitioners participated actively during the study, asking and sharing thought-provoking responses, displaying an earnest attitude towards learning on the right path. Participants were thus filled with dharma bliss from the informative session.
Let us now look at some comments from participants:
“This English Buddhism in Plain Terms Group Study shares practical tips in our path along spiritual cultivation. Appreciate Buddhist friends who share well translated discourses by Master Lu for us to grasp the meaning of these teachings in greater depth and sometimes even giving me impactful insights. The occasional use of Singlish to break complex concepts down into plain terms is engaging and enhances my understanding even more!”
📚 Join us in our next session!!
Please contact Loh SX (96978356) / Woan Yi SX (82182248) for more information.
⏰ Date and time:
Saturday 1 August 2020
Please click here to download the Summary Slides shared during the Group Study:
Buddhism in Plain Terms – Episode 14 (Audio Recording)
TOPIC: TEN SIGNS YOU MAY HAVE DEVIATED FROM THE RIGHT PATH
1 Practise while harbouring Greed and Always looking for returns
To have greed on the Path of spiritual practice is the main cause for deviation. In the past, it is referred to as “Practice with Greed”. Every day when you kowtow to Bodhisattva, you go “Oh! Bodhisattva! You have to bless me! Hurry up! Bless me! I want things to get better, stat! my family, etc. etc”. This is greed – your mind is always hoping for returns from your practice. Those of you here today, with this mentality, please note that this is one type of deviation from the Right Path.
2 Practise while harbouring hatred and always demeaning others
Practise Buddhism while harbouring hatred and always demeaning others. If you still have hatred in your heart, do you think you will make it in your Buddhism practice? If your cultivation is subpar, you are likely to scold others.
For example, “Why are you so lousy? Why are you so unenlightened?”You feel that you are excellent in your Buddhism studies, and that you are perfect in your cultivation. So, you hate it whenever you see the negativity in others.
3 Practise with Ignorance, Superstition and holds on to Blind Faith
There are those who are ignorant, superstitious and hold on to blind faith. In the past, there are many people who were so ignorant that they claimed that eating incense ashes is good for certain diseases.
There are also others who are ignorant enough to seek help from witches, claiming that they are great deities. These mediums go dancing around and singing away in your house while placing objects here and there. Isn’t this superstitious? You are so gullible! Have you not any wisdom?
You are a Buddhist and you have the Buddha in your heart. Even for the things I say, you should be able to tell the right from the wrong.
Today, if I tell you to just blindly follow what I say, I am not a good master. A good master is a master who inspires your inherent Buddha-nature. If what I said is recognized as good to you, you will know that you have been inspired and you have discovered your Buddha-nature.
It’s not about blind obedience. In Buddhism there is a phrase “To rely on the teachings, not the person who delivers it”. No matter how reputable a person is, if what he says is wrong, then it is deemed wrong, and vice-versa.
That is what it means by relying on the teachings and not the person who teaches you. If you are not sure if what I tell you is right or wrong, then if I said, what I just said are the words of the Buddha in those days, do you think it is right or wrong? Do you understand now?
If you are not sure if what I tell you is right or wrong, then if I said, what I just said are the words of the Buddha in those days, do you think it is right or wrong? Do you understand now?
4 Practise with Pride, did not take refuge in the teachings
If you practise Buddhism with pride, do you think you will take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha?
If you are arrogant, prideful, thinking that you are well-cultivated and you look down on others, do you think you can receive the essence of the teachings?
Let me quote you a simple example, if you are not convinced that others will help you, would you understand them? You will certainly not.
5 Practise in doubt and full of uncertainties
Is the teaching correct? Is the Buddha’s teaching useful? Will it be able to help us? You are filled with uncertainties, worries, and doubts.
6 Practise with biased views; attached to either the notion of existence or nothingness
Another type of deviation from the Right Path is biased views and attached to either the notion of existence or nothingness, seeing things from only a single perspective and not the entire picture. That is, to look at things unilaterally. The person is either attached to the view about the existence of something or being self-righteous by saying “I didn’t see it hence, there’s no such thing.
Both having a partial view and a common frame of reference are considered as biased view.You are either insisting that something is as such or something is not as such. You are only seeing one side of the coin and your prejudice will ultimately lead you to evil views.
I often like to quote examples. Your boss who already has preconceived ideas about the kind of person you are, will often have biased opinions about you. Even if it’s obvious, the mistake was made by others. He will insist that it must have something to do with you. This is a typical example of how a biased view can turn into an evil view which leads to an unrighteous view.
The Buddha teaches us to take the middle-path. We should avoid the two extremes of practical life and not be biased.
Do not think, “Wow! This person is so perfect” or “That person is so terrible”. When you hear such remarks by someone, remember these are the people with biased views. Hence, you should not listen to them. Think about it, here he is describing how perfect this person is and how bad that person is. Is it possible that a person can be absolutely flawless or completely flawed that he has nothing but negative traits? One should take the middle-path in one’s view, and avoid being biased.
7 Practise with a Disarray mind, fail to find the right spiritual abode
Your mind is in a state of disarray; you are uncertain who you should learn from, and your learning is haphazard, you learn a little here and a little there. You are interested to try out all the dharma methods. How much wisdom can you gain? Life is short, there is no way you can learn all the available methods. When you learn in such a haphazard way, you will not find the right fit to your spiritual foundation. Therefore, you fail to find the suitable spiritual abode. You have no idea who you should learn from.
8 Practise without Discipline, failed to be diligent
There are some who adopt a casual approach to their Buddhism practice. When they feel like it, they will do it, otherwise, they just lay off. They will perform recitation only when they can find some free time otherwise, they will just forget about it.
They do not regard Buddhism practice as extremely important. They are not disciplined and fail to be diligent.
9 Practise with sheer Stubbornness and Wrong Focus
There are some who are as stubborn as a mule and they have the wrong focus in their spiritual cultivation. Just like the dog you threw a brick at. Instead of going after the person who threw the brick, it goes after the brick instead. Isn’t that foolish?
10 Practise to Gain Intellectual Understanding; “To buy a wooden box and return the pearl inside”
Some people study Buddhism purely for the purpose of doing research, they have no interest in gaining understanding at all. Their study is entirely academic, and they have no intention to transform the knowledge into wisdom. They can be very attached to the learning, but never get down to understanding its benefits.
What I have just covered are the signs of deviation from the Path that all of you should be wary of.
Master Jun Hong Lu’s related discourses (cross references):
< 1 Practise while harbouring Greed and Always looking for returns >
< Overcome Greed in Practice with Contentment >
Master Jun Hong Lu’s Public Talk, Singapore -18 May 2018
Master Jun Hong Lu: “There comes a stage where we realise that giving is just as fulfilling as receiving. The joy of helping sentient beings is more powerful than we could have possibly imagined. After all, the greatest wealth is contentment! The desires of humans are insatiable, it is only through giving that we are able to ascend to nobility and be truly content.
< Overcome Greed in Practice with a PositiveMental Attitude >
Master Jun Hong Lu’s Public Talk, Melbourne, Australia – 8 Dec 2019
The Buddha teaches us “It is not the man who has too little but the man who craves more that is poor”; Their desires render them “Psychologically Impoverished” (心理的贫穷).
A greedy person can be rich yet feels poor while a contented person can be poor yet feels abundant. This tells us that, we can be poor but at the same time, we can feel abundance in our heart. Consequently, for some whose family is rich, they may feel miserable on the inside. It is all about one’s mental attitude.(心态的问题)
< Overcome Greed in Practice, Cultivate Altruism >
Master Jun Hong Lu’s Public Talk, Hong Kong,21 June 2015
Nowadays, people tune you out when you try to give them advice. They are only concerned about their vested interest in all arrangements and as a result spiritual purification is forsaken. It is very important for one to be far-sighted and not to seek Buddhism for self-interest prayers(为自己所求). Do not forget that the Bodhisattva is most altruistic (菩萨是无私的).
Hence, if you are always preoccupied with your own selfish desires, looking forward to receiving but never giving, it is difficult to gain resonance with Bodhisattva (菩萨很难给你们感应). And, when your prayers are not answered, you immediately retreat (退转).
Just like a child who does not put in his best effort in his studies, and expects his teacher to give him good grades. Once the grades are not satisfactory, he refuses to go to school.
Buddhist practitioners should understand that our daily effort in spiritual cultivation is the seed that we sow and when we enjoy the karmic reward one day, that is because we are reaping the fruit from the effort we made.
< 2 Practise while harbouring hatred and always demeaning others >
< Overcome Hatred in Practice with with a Mind of Equality >
Master Jun Hong Lu’s Public Talk, KL,Malaysia, 14 Dec 2015
Once there was a monk who was very assured about his knowledge and intelligence, and wished to associate himself only with other intellectuals. He would often be impatient towards his fellow monks who were confused and less eloquent. In fact, he would even lose his temper at times and assert that their minds were just like pigs when they show lack of understanding.
One day, he went into the jungle to collectfirewood. On his way back, he stopped by a stream and became good friends with a playful monkey that frequented the stream. The monk wanted to wash his face, but he had left his towel hanging some distance away. He was too tired to retrieve it and so he pointed at the direction of the towel and asked the monkey to fetch it.
The monkey was very pleased and brought a piece of firewood over to the monk. The monk was very amused, and asked for the towel again. The monkey brought another piece of firewood, amusing the monk greatly. After that, the monk thought he should try something else.He threw a rock this time and asked the monkey to fetch it.
The monkey scampered over and brought yet another piece of firewood back; this time with a proud expression on its face. The monk found this hilarious, and related his experience to the abbot upon his return.
The abbot was curious, and he asked, “Tell me,why do you lose your temper at other disciples when they do not understand your teachings but feel amused at the monkey when it didn‘t understand your instructions?”
The abbot replied, “Should? Firstly, the understanding of everyone is different. It may be a strength to have greater powers of comprehension, but how can you blame those who are lacking in this aspect? Even if the level of comprehensive power is the same, the external conditions of two individuals will certainly differ, from their environment to the masters they meet. Who are you to say that they should or should not be able to understand you.”
With that, the young monk lowered his head in silence. The abbot continued,
“You have not learnt to see things from a Buddhist lens, neither have you considered others using your Buddha nature.”
“Think about it, these two parties are similar in being unable to understand you, why is your treatment of them so different?”
Losing your temper at other disciples but being amused by the monkey. They are actually the same, what is different is how your mind perceives them.
If the Buddha saw the mistakes of the disciples, will Buddhas and Bodhisattvas be angry?
Of course not. This is because the wisdom of Buddha is all encompassing.
< 3 Practise with Ignorance, Superstition and holds on to Blind Faith >
You are a Buddhist and you have the Buddha in your heart (自己本身心中有佛). Even for the things I say, you should be able to tell the right from the wrong. Today, if I tell you to just blindly follow what I say, I am not a good master. A good master is a master who inspires your inherent Buddha-nature (启发你们内心的佛性本性). If what I said is recognized as good to you, you will know that you have been inspired and you have discovered your Buddha-nature.
It’s not about blind obedience (盲从). In Buddhism there is a phrase “To rely on the teachings, not the person who delivers it” (依法不依人). No matter how reputable a person is, if what he says is wrong, then it is deemed wrong, and vice-versa.
< 4 Practise with Pride, did not take refuge in the teachings >
< Overcome Pride in practice through Feeling Ashamed >
FEELING ASHAMED OF ONESELF HELPS ELIMINATE PRIDE
Caller: Is it true that if we often feel ashamed(惭愧), it will counter the pride (贡高我慢) in us? For example, feeling, sorry for not doing well in our spiritual cultivation, or in helping others and lacking in wisdom. By feeling this way, it will prevent us from getting arrogant (我慢心). Is that right?
Master Jun Hong Lu: That’s for sure. If you often feel that you are lacking in many ways, then you will start to feel ashamed of yourself. With this, you will not be able to find any reason to be arrogant.
< Overcome Pride in practice by Taking Refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha >
Master Lu’s Ninth Discourse to Disciple (5)
Question: May I know what does it mean by “Take Refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha”(皈依佛法僧)?
Answer: The ascetics Take Refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The Buddha (佛)means Shakyamuni Buddha; Dharma means the teachings of the Dharma (法) and Sangha(僧) means the monastic community of bhikkhu and bhikkunis.
But what about us, the laities (在家居士) in Guan Yin Citta? How do we Take Refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha?
We have to have Buddha in our heart, the Dharma in our action and the Sangha in our discipline (佛在心中，法在行中，僧在戒中). As Buddhists, we should hold the precept as the foundation, that is the foundation of Buddhism.Though we are laities, but our discipline is just like the monastics.
< Overcome Pride in practice by Taking Refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha >
Buddhism in Plain Terms Vol. 7 Chapter 25 (An Excerpt)
We need to understand that we need to take refuge in ourselves (自己皈依自己). Unless and until we take the Buddha’s teachings in our heart and to truly reap its benefit, it will only remain as something external to us.
We have to apply the Buddha’s teachings to accomplish our spiritual quest (用佛的法来成就自己), that is to uncover the innate Buddha-nature in us (让自己的心佛出现).
What is innate Buddha-nature? It is our original Buddha-nature. Let me explain this plainly – to take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is to take refuge in our own Buddha-nature.(佛法僧三皈依就是皈依你们自己身上的佛性)
< Overcome Pride in practice through cultivating a Mind of Equality >
wenda20130621 24:17 (an excerpt)
HOW TO OVERCOME ARROGANCE (去除我慢心)
Caller: There are times when we can’t seem to practise equality (产生不平等心) and there are other times when we can be prideful (我慢心). These negative feelings are experienced by Buddhist practitioners too. For e.g. for those who have been practising for some time, they may look down on some new practitioners. How can we eliminate such negative mentality?
Master Jun Hong Lu: One needs to cultivate a Mind of Equality (要有平等心) in order to eliminate one’s arrogance. Without the Mind of Equality as preached in Buddhism, arrogance cannot be eliminated. What is a Mind of Equality? It is to see that everyone is a Buddha. A Buddhist practitioner should regard all elders as their parents, the juniors as their children or grandchildren. In this way, you will uncover your Mind of Equality.
When you see yourself as above the rest, it is because you do not have the Mind of Equality and compassion of the Bodhisattva. From a deeper perspective, a person who looks down on others will experience ‘leakage’ of meritorious blessing (功德有漏). In other words, only those who are sub-par in their Buddhism practice are arrogant(学佛没有学好才会高傲).
One who is haughty and arrogant (贡高我慢), is not a Bodhisattva. A true bodhisattva should not be prideful. He should treat all beings as equal and well.
Caller: I noticed that many people who are very well-cultivated are very humble.
Master Jun Hong Lu: That’s right. We must learn from the wheat. The taller it grows, the lower its head will drop; learn to be like the sea, though your mind is vast but you remain at the lowest point.
< 5 Practise in doubt and full of uncertainties >
< Overcoming Doubt in practice with ‘Pure Faith’ >
Buddhism in Plain Terms Vol. 1 Chapter 42 (An Excerpt)
Spiritual power (功力) is derived from one’s “pure faith” (净信). We need to have absolute faith and sincerely believe in Guan Yin Bodhisattva without a single doubt. When you fully believe in a certain matter you will derive a powerful force. (强有力的力量)
For example, when a person falls ill, if he believes, “Guan Yin Bodhisattva will definitely save me. She will not let me die”.
As long as there is this power, Bodhisattva will save him. With this power of faith, even the cancer in him can be defeated. It is as if a kind of miraculous power is being generated to battle against the illness.
< 6 Practise with biased views; attached to either the notion of existence or nothingness >
Buddhism in Plain Terms Episode 14 (audio recording – an excerpt)
Another type of deviation from the Right Path is biased views and attached to either the notion of existence or nothingness, seeing things from only a single perspective and not the entire picture.
You are only seeing one side of the coin and your prejudice will ultimately lead you to evil views. (边见到后来会恶见)
The Buddha teaches us to take the middle-path(中观中道). We should avoid the two extremes of practical life and not be biased.
< 7 Practise with a Disarray mind, fail to find the right spiritual abode >
< Overcome Disarray Mind in practice through being Single-minded >
BUDDHISM STUDIES IS NOT ABOUT BROAD-BASED LEARNING
Question: Some fellow Buddhist friends advised me to broaden my study and recommended me to study more on those great scriptures. My question is, am I qualified to read those works by the senior monks? Or should I practise to a certain level before I do that, for example, a year or two later?
Answer: Why do you need a master? Why do you need to follow a Dharma Door? There are 84,000 Dharma Doors, all of which are good and that is why. I respect all of them. The same with a university, it has over two hundred subjects, all of which are good.
Why Buddhism stressed on the importance of being ‘Single-minded in one’s practice’ (一门精进)?
Let me quote you a simple example, If a kid wants to be a writer today, a mathematician tomorrow, and a physicist the day after tomorrow. If he were to read all the books there is, don’t you think it will affect his actual grasping of the knowledge he is supposed to go for?
Without a doubt all the works of the senior monks are good, but the problem is, do you have the wisdom to comprehend them? Are you practising their dharma method?
Isn’t ‘Buddhism in Plain Terms’ profound dharma? I have turned the profound dharma into simple theories to teach all of you. Doing so does not make “Buddhism in Plain Terms”lowly or to be considered as basic Dharma… They are all good as they teach people to be kind. Different methods can help different people! Since you are under my wing now, make sure that you study well.
< 8 Practise without Discipline, failed to be diligent >
< Overcome Indiscipline in practice with Diligence >
Buddhism in Plain Terms Vol. 9, Chapter 42 (An Excerpt)
How do you practise diligence? It is the consistent mindfulness to practise (念念在行). That is, every single thought is geared towards spiritual cultivation (每一个念头都是在修行), every single thought is kind.
You have utmost diligence in your practice. It also means forcing yourself out of bed in the morning, even if you don’t want to!
“I am going to bite the bullet, perform chanting and transform my own destiny.” A person who has consistent mindfulness to practise will never degenerate (念念在行的人，才不会堕落).
< 9 Practise with sheer Stubbornness and Wrong Focus >
< Overcome Wrong Focus in practice with the Right Focus >
Master Jun Hong Lu’s World Buddhist Fellowship Meeting,Malaysia, 29 Dec 2018
Do Not Mistake The Finger Pointing At The Moon For The Moon
One evening, the Buddha was walking through the woods as usual. When he reached a small river, he suddenly heard voices of people arguing. It turned out a few young Bhikkhus were having a heated discussion under a big tree by the beach.
They were so engrossed in their discussion that they did not notice the Buddha’s presence and continued to argue. “I find that the Contemplation of Impurity (白骨观) is still the most important teaching of the Buddha”, said one of the Bhikkhu.
“No, no!” said a well-mannered Bhikkhu: “You probably don‘t know, “Anapanasati” (安般之法). This method on mindfulness of breathing was taught by the Buddha to Rahula personally! We are talking about Rahula, the Buddha’s very own son! Surely this is the most supreme, effective and the quickest method of practice!”
The Buddha was both amused and saddened to see his disciples taking his teachings as research theories. He walked over to them. The Bhikkhus leapt to their feet when they saw the Buddha. After the Bhikkhus paid their respect, the Buddha smiled and signalled for them to sit down.
He said, “I overheard your discussion unintentionally. You have to understand thatwhat I teach you is the way to experience the truth (是体验真理的方法); it is NOT the truth itself (而不是真理本身), nor is it a kind intellectual knowledge.” (不是一种学问)
After saying this, the Buddha pointed to the distant moon in the sky with his finger and asked, “Can you see the moon in the sky?”
“My teaching is like the finger that is pointing at the moon. It is because of the finger that you can see the moon. If you get caught up in thinking the finger is the moon and you start to scrutinize every detail of the fingers, its size, length, colour, etc. you will never be able to find the moon”
The Buddha paused for a moment, he then patted the shoulder of the Bhikkhu who said that the best method was Anapanasati and said, “There are various kinds of cultivation methods. There is no one that is more superior than the other. What matters most is that it suits you.”
For example, for those who are lustful, they should practise Contemplation of Impurity (白骨观). As for those with scattered thoughts and are deluded, they should practise Anapanasati (数息观) (Mindfulness of Breathing).
< 10 Practise to Gain Intellectual Understanding; “To buy a wooden box and return the pearl inside” >
< Buddhism teachings – DO NOT stop at Research, Practice! >
Buddhism in Plain Terms Ep. 56 (An Excerpt)
In the Buddhist scriptures, it is said that, “though it is crucial for one “to interpret” the teachings, what’s more important is the cultivation of one’s behaviour”. (“解”道紧要但是我们修的行为更重要).
Dharma is hard to come by and the chance to be born a human is rare. Even though we have such a good opportunity to be a human, it is only for a limited time (佛法难闻，人身难得，既得人身，又有几载). Those who fail to let go will definitely suffer. Therefore, Buddhist practitioners should seize the opportunity to study the teachings and cultivate their minds.
There are many Buddhist practitioners who are good in reciting the scriptures and their understanding of the Buddha’s teachings are superb. However, their behaviour is not close to that of a human; All that they learned, they failed to put into practice. In the end all their efforts in cultivation comes to nothing.
Therefore, the Dharma teaches the unity of knowledge and action (知行合一) (i.e., the congruence of one’s knowledge and actions).
To truly understand the Dharma is to comprehend the teachings in one’s heart (真正理解佛法是在内心之中) and be able to apply the Dharma in one’s life –
THIS IS THE TRUE UNDERSTANDING OF SPIRITUAL CULTIVATION. (修行之解)