Just like a person who has never smoked all his life, when others try to get him to smoke, he will naturally refuse. On the contrary, if you often crave for a cigarette or you’re an occasional smoker who smokes now and then, as soon as someone offers you a cigarette, you will immediately accept it. When we are selfless, heaven and earth becomes vast, and no evil forces are able to penetrate from the outside.
As Buddhist practitioners, we should actively practice composure. What is composure? No matter what sufferings and tragedy we are faced with, we need to remain calm. Do not be confused and troubled by what you see. In other words, what you see today may not be real. When others tell you, “This is good and that is bad”, even if you see it with your own eyes, it may not be real. Instead, you should use the wisdom in you to discern the true meaning of this matter.
For example, someone told you about some wrong doings of your mum and dad, then you went back home and saw your dad, and thought “Gosh, why did he do such things?” And you were wondering,”Why did dad do that?” Others were saying, “Gee, your dad is picking up rubbish that others threw away outside, because your family is poor.” When you returned home and you saw your dad taking out what he had collected, then you were disgusted. “Dad, why did you humiliate me like this?” “Why did you go scavenging outside?” “Others saw you and it was so disgraceful.” In reality, the father was being frugal. He thought of salvaging some recyclables for sale, so there will a bit more money to support you. The love of a father and a mother is limitless. What we see with our eyes may not be the truth. The evil we see may not be true either. Thus, Bodhisattvas want us to use our wisdom to comprehend what you are doing today.
I wish to tell you that, no matter what happens, it is through composure that wisdom arises. If you are able to keep your composure today, you will have wisdom. Failing which, you won’t have wisdom whatsoever. Buddhist practitioners should have fearless spirit. What is fearless spirit? It’s the willingness to give our time, our effort and money, no matter how meagre it is. It also includes the giving of dharma and wealth, as well as the giving of fearlessness. It is through these that we shall understand the spirit that propels us in our propagation of the dharma and to instil the kindness in our mind.
This is something you should know. Many parents have made a lot of sacrifices for us, especially when we were little. Just like me now, as your Master, thinking about how I could give more to my disciples. Unfortunately, many of them don’t even feel it. Just like many of you, since young, your parents have been making so many sacrifices for you, but you don’t even feel it. Only after practising Buddhism you understand that it’s not easy being parents.
In practising Buddhism it is important not to be swayed by external circumstances. No matter what other people say, you must remain sincere and resolute. Our mind should not be swayed by the changes in the external circumstances. Many people are gullible. At this moment, they are nice to a person, but the next moment, they give that person the cold shoulder, just because others say something bad about the person. You decide not to be kind to that person anymore. This will cause hurt to that person. Just because someone says something, you change your attitude.
Therefore, I hope that you will change your mindset. Whenever something bad happens, it’s difficult for ordinary people to control themselves and avoid their predestined disaster. As for us Buddhist practitioners, no matter what we are faced with, we should have the firm conviction that Guan Yin Bodhisattva will protect and bless us with Her compassion. We are good people, we are kind-hearted people, Bodhisattva will surely protect and bless us. We are willing to work for the benefit of sentient beings. We will definitely be able to ward off calamities and troubles. We have the Three Golden Buddhist Practices with us and the compassion to help other sentient beings. Through this, we are able to have the inner peace within us.
We should learn to contemplate the mind. To contemplate means to perceive with equanimity. Just how Guan Yin Bodhisattva perceives the world. To contemplate the mind is to pay attention, observe and reflect on the inner workings of our own mind. ”Am I a kind person? Or am I an evil person?” Be mindful and keep an eye on yourself for all the things you do. Do not let yourself be tempted by gains, that may instantly make you forget what compassion means. Just as fame makes one forget about morality.
Never let your inner mind be moved by external circumstances. This is the motto I live by. Regardless of how many temptations are out there, you must be free of desires. To follow nature is to act in accordance with conditions, keep your mind as calm as water. No matter what happens, water will continue to flow. A heart free of desires is as still as water.
Let there be serenity in us regardless of whom we deal with. Be composed. At times, there may be grievances, hate or envy. These are the toxins engendered from the body. We need to manage and control them. When you let loose your guard, these toxins begin to invade your body. Instead, if you draw on the positive energy in your mind, these toxins will not able to attack your body. When you allow jealousy, hatred and worries to engulf you, you become another person. Therefore you should learn to tune your body, mind and mood. To practice patience and the Paramita (The Perfection). All things shall come to pass like the fleeting clouds, like the footprints in the sand. When you walk along the beach, you leave behind your footprints. But when you look back, the waves have washed them away. Hence, we have to be broad-minded in life, wash away the toxins in us with wisdom everyday. Do not allow these toxins to pollute our soul. Allow the compassion of Guan Yin Bodhisattva to save our souls everyday, so that our souls will remain pure.
You must know, to become a disciple of a master doesn’t mean worshipping the master. It is to revere the great compassion and wisdom of the Buddha’s path. The Bodhisattva wants you to observe the precepts. We also need to understand that practising Buddhism needs to exercise self-respect: “I need to change myself, I can’t allow myself to continue to be decadent like before, I mustn’t give up on myself.” If you want to gain respect from others, you need to have self-respect first. As a Buddhist practitioner, you need to leave yourself some space. Do not deviate from the right path, be sure to walk with your head held high. You have a master now, you’d better follow the master and march ahead. It’s because everything in this world is unobtainable. The truth of the universe will never change, that is suffering, emptiness and impermanence.
I often tell you, worldly vexations are akin to what the Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng said: “Bodhi is originally without any tree, the bright mirror is also not a stand; Originally there is not a single thing; where can the dust alight?”. We humans are intrinsically empty by nature. We come to this world with a mind devoid of anything. It’s the natural phenomena that arise later which fill our mind.
If your mind is filled with good thoughts, you will have a good mindset. Conversely, you will have a bad state of mind. “The bright mirror” here means your mind is like a mirror. Every day, I hope all of you will take out this mirror, to illuminate and see the emptiness of the Five Aggregates, to reflect upon the kindness, compassion and all the good qualities. This is how you instil the compassion and kindness in you. You will have these good qualities. On the contrary, if all you see is dust today, then your mind will be covered with dust. If your mind is originally clean and pure, how could there be any dust?
For example, your colleagues were arguing in the office, you didn’t pay much attention to them, because you are not a nosy person, no way that you are going to worry about what happened. No way you would let yourself be dragged into such tussles of self-interests. That’s why I said, “There is no place for dust to collect”.
You should gradually learn not to take too personally what others say. As Buddhist practitioners, there is Buddha in our heart. All worldly things are like dreams and bubbles; like the dew or a flash of lightning. Hence, guard your mind, and always be ready to help others. Do not take offence at what others say. Do not distort the truth.
Some people are selective in performing the act of giving, and they are also selective in their praise. They will praise those they like while throwing mean words at those they detest. They are the ones who are full of distracting thoughts and enmity. “Do not hate evildoers” is about harbouring no hatred nor anger towards bad people. For the bad people, don’t discern them or have feelings.
The compassion of Guan Yin Bodhisattva goes as far as feeling the suffering of others: ”Even if you are an evil person, I’d still want to save you”. “If you are a bad person as far as my ability allows, I’d still like to help you”.
In this world, there are many people, while helping others, they are also helping themselves, and that’s how they become the carefree ones in this world. As Buddhist practitioners, there are many under the influence of their prejudice, who think negatively of others. While holding on to their prejudice, they believe they are pondering and convinced that they are saving the world. They even believe that their theory is comprehensible to others.
Take a look around, there are many people who can’t speak clearly. When they talk to others they speak very quickly. Yet they think they speak very well. But at the end of their speech the other party often gazed at them in confusion, ”I don’t understand”. But if you ask the one who was speaking, they would think what they said was very clear. This is due to the differences in human consciousness.
I hope all Buddhist practitioners will always see hope and light. To be carefree and be able to transcend reality. If you often think: “Things will definitely get better in the future, I will improve further in the future and everything will only get better”. If you always think along this line, then in reality, you have surpassed yourself through practising Buddhism. This is what we call ‘transcendental dharma’. Take a look at Buddhist monks. They leave home because they have transcended themselves, as well as the worldly afflictions of fame and wealth. There is nothing that they want . They have renounced everything. Hence, they gain equanimity and peace of mind.
Buddhist practitioners should learn to forgive others. No matter how bad a person is or how they have hurt you or harmed you through others, you have to learn to let it go. Only then can you be truly happy. If you live in jealousy and hatred, your life will be in a downward spiral as your hatred grows. This is because in this world, let me tell you the truth in reality, we live in a world of sufferings. If you wish to be free from sufferings forever, the one and only way is to transcend the human world. Otherwise, in this human realm, there will only be sufferings for you.
People say cultivating the mind goes hand in hand with moral cultivation. What kind of cultivation ?
There are four kinds of cultivations. Let me tell you what they are today.
Firstly, to endure, we have to be able to endure everything in life and to be able to get over it. As often mentioned in the traditional Chinese culture: “A moment’s patience is worth a hundred days’ suffering”. If you can exercise patience that very moment, after a few months, probably other people might not try to settle a score with you. Conversely, if you appear to have the upper hand over others, you scold them. Perhaps you manage to “save face” momentarily, but most likely the others might bear grudges against you in their heart, which may bring you future disaster. Again, “A moment’s patience is worth a hundred days’ suffering”. A person is able to exercise endurance, he is a wise person. Endurance is not a sign of cowardice.
The second moral cultivation is to be able to see through the nature of things. Someone may have hurt you today, if you are able to see through it:
“He did it unintentionally, I should forgive him” or “Though he was intentional, it might be my karma and was indebted to him in my past life”, or “I have only myself to blame for not getting this thing done in this lifetime, I sowed this seed of karma since a long time ago”.
So learn to calm down and see through the world of mortals, just as we learn to see through the things we did when we were young, which will never come back. Having seen through and come to terms with the reality of life you are still able to remain passionate about life, and love the life you are living.
I need to make use of this illusory life to practise true cultivation, and to carry out the role of Bodhisattvas in this human realm. I come to this world not to be troubled by vexations, neither have I come to bear the sufferings. I am here to liberate myself and to help others. With this mentality, you are able to “see through” the real nature of things.
Thirdly, to be able to “Take-on (responsibility)”. It means to conduct yourself responsibly. I always tell my disciples that it is all right to make mistakes. One who admits his mistakes is a person of integrity. It’s a character favoured by Bodhisattvas. One who is capable of admitting one’s mistakes is a courageous person. There is no need to evade or tell lies. The person who acknowledges their mistakes would win the appreciation from others. ”With regard to this matter, since I have given my word, I am responsible for it”. “Today, I made a mistake, I need to apologise for it”. You face life straight up and you are able to rectify whatever wrong you have done. However, if you are thinking of covering it up by lying and breaking the precepts, you are destroying your integrity.
Fourthly, be able to “Let-go”. What is there to let-go? It is not as simple as owning an item and letting it go afterwards. It is not about letting-go an item such as a refrigerator which you were contending with someone. You thought, “This thing is great!” but then you tell yourself “Let it go!”. It is about letting go of your prejudice if you have a few issues with a person, you should learn to let it go. “I don’t wish to see this person, because he has treated me badly”, “I can’t take it, I can’t stand the sight of him”. But can you let it all go?
From now on, could you focus on the good side of this person instead? Maybe they are also changing. Like many of our staff here, you may not like this person every time you see them but think about it under my guidance. They are gradually changing, you should see that they have changed for the better, then you begin to see their good qualities. They are making an effort to change. They are gradually cultivating fine qualities. At this time, you need to change your perception too. You should let go of your prejudice. Erase those memories that hurt you before. Learn to forget. Learn to set it aside. Disregard the shortcoming of others. Forget about the harm they have inflicted upon you and you will be the biggest beneficiary as a result. Look beyond the shortcomings of others. Forget the harm they have done to you. In the end, you will be the biggest beneficiary, Instead, if you cling on to the past you will be unable to leave those vexations and melancholy behind.
You must also learn to reconcile. I knew a businessman who went bankrupt. Then he travelled to a place far away. People asked him to come back: “There are many of us here who can help you”. He said, “I won’t return if I cannot bounce back”. “If I fail to make a fortune, I won’t come back.” In the end, he died where he was.
This demonstrates refusal to accept the fate and stubbornness of human beings. Just because you were once rich, it doesn’t mean that you will be wealthy forever. If only this person knew what impermanence was. He probably would not lose his life just like that. Therefore it is important to know that we need to let go of our desires and live a plain and simple life. A mind free of desires is as still as water. It is important for us to learn this, only then can we gradually achieve transcendence.
As humans, firstly, we should avoid any karmic offence. Secondly, repent at once when you have committed karmic offences. The advice you received from others may give you a new lease on life at times. Therefore you are indeed blessed if you are receptive to criticism and advice. Today, if you are still ignorant about how this world works, the fact that it is filled with sufferings, then, you shall sink deeper and deeper into such sufferings.
Lastly, let me touch on the Four Sufferings of human beings.
The first suffering is the inability to see the reality. We are blind to the true nature of things. In fact, all these conflicts and complex interpersonal relationships entail invisible wounds. What do we mean by invisible wounds? They will leave unseen scars on you after you have a row with someone. You might say: “Hey, I am cool about it” “We were just joking, forget it”. But it would still leave behind unseen and hidden anguish. Hence, we must learn, no matter what happens, we must learn to take things easy and to understand that when there are disputes and conflicts, you will suffer from its after-effect. That’s why a wise person seeks tranquillity.
The second suffering is our reluctance to part with what we possess. There are many people who can’t bear to part with what they once owned including fame, fortune and honour. They let their past glories remain etched in their memories. “You should have seen me in those years”. This is a kind of vanity. Your reluctance to let go makes you sink deeper into frustration, and you get more and more dispirited. This is what we call “to immerse yourself in your past glories.” You are unable to put the past behind you. Your reluctance to let go of your past glories and fortune will even have adverse effects on your health.
The third one is being unable to accept defeat. This is a problem with many people but why is that so? With each defeat we encounter, our feelings get hurt, we feel our entire life is a failure. In fact, as long as you manage to pick yourself up again after you fall, you haven’t really fallen. Meanwhile, true failure is that you refuse to or you’re unable to pick yourself up after you fall. Then that is a real defeat.
The fourth suffering is not being able to let go. We can’t let go of the people and things already in the distant memory. We used to have many good friends, knowing many good people, and have lifetime memories. Just as we reminisce about our maternal grandparents, grandparents, parents. When we fail to let go of these memories, it causes us more sufferings. Therefore, we need to learn to let go. By letting it go, you are able to stay out of trouble. On the other hand, those who can’t let go will always be embroiled in worldly concerns.
A Buddhist practitioner, a wise person ought to know how to eliminate all our mental obstructions and free our mind from all concern. “Because the mind is free of hindrances, it is fearless”. We must understand, with wisdom we will surely be able to overcome the many worldly vexations. Buddhist practitioners will always be able to see the future and its prospects. They will always see the light. This is our wisdom. When you see difficulties, troubles, sadness and jealousy, then your mind is filled with negative energy which cannot be effaced for a long time. This causes you to live a miserable life.
Therefore, a person who is able to eliminate sufferings and countless troubles in life will possess the wisdom to strive and the power of endurance. He will know what is meant by observing the precepts, as such, he is able to walk out of the darkness into the light.
This is the end of my talk for “Buddhism in Plain Terms” today. Thank you everyone.< Master Lu: Buddhism in Plain Terms < 白话佛法共修分享