Dharma Talk by Master Jun Hong Lu on 21 February 2020
Good evening, my fellow Buddhist friends, Buddhist friends from around the world, and Guan Yin Citta Dharma Door’s disciples. Today, I would like to speak about Buddhism in Plain Terms and help everyone become enlightened and see their true nature.
In this world, there are times when we do not honestly know ourselves. There are times when we know others, yet we do not know ourselves. Similarly, people can have many shortcomings yet be completely unaware of them. When others tell you of your flaws, you gradually realise, “Oh, so that is what I am like!” In reality, if you do not know yourself, you will not be able to know your karma or karmic obstacles. Hence, all who aspire to practise Buddhism must start by understanding themselves. Without knowing yourself, you will be unaware of the power you have or your ability to accomplish a particular task. What are your limits? What are you capable of achieving? Only in understanding yourself can you begin to understand others.
So, let us consider a person unaware of their abilities, with no idea of what they could achieve. How can this individual comprehend the Buddha-dharma? In other words, to be a decent person, they must learn to understand themselves truly. It is not just about how to attain Buddhahood. When it comes to considering your conduct as a human being, you should acknowledge your true self. For example, “I have so many shortcomings”, “I am so gullible”, “I have a habit of spreading rumours and gossiping.” Or maybe, before taking the time to truly understand how to go about something, you have already leaped in to do it. These are shortcomings that people typically possess.
Hence, a true Buddhist should seek to understand themselves in order to control themselves. Only after learning to control yourself can you become selfless and forget about yourself. Buddhists who are willing to endure hardships always think about others’ welfare and do everything they can to help them, just like the mother in a family who always thinks of her child and always thinks of others. A mother endures hardships, as she only has thoughts for others. This is how mothers earn the respect of others. An altruistic person already possesses a boundless state of mind. So, among your friends, if there is someone who always talks about themselves or how they feel, someone who constantly brags about themselves, then they do not have a boundless state of mind.
It is those who are able not to take themselves too seriously who can genuinely understand other sentient beings. In the past, to practise Buddhism, many people would follow a teacher. They would meditate, chant, bow and pray every day. They would ask, “Will I attain Buddhahood by doing all this?”
And their teacher would tell them, “You will not attain Buddhahood through meditation.”
“Nor will you attain Buddhahood through chanting.”
Then, they would ask the teacher, “What should I do to attain Buddhahood?”
And the teacher would inform them that the Buddha would never have thought about attaining Buddhahood himself.
This philosophy shows that we should focus on our commitment to working hard and not any resulting outcome. How do so many people become highly respected? How can a Buddhist practitioner transform themselves into a Bodhisattva? The answer is through selflessness. In neither thinking that they need to accomplish something, nor in doing things for the sake of their future, fame or gain, they forget these things.
With no perception of a self, the perception of a Buddha arises. How can a selfish person appear like a Buddha? A Buddha never had thoughts of wanting to become a Buddha. Hence, he became one. Just like a kind-hearted person never thinks of exploiting others and, in the end, becomes a highly respected individual. What is on the Buddha’s mind then? The Buddha only thinks about ways to help sentient beings. How to give more to others and how to allow everyone’s mind to fill with wisdom and Prajna. All that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas think about is how to help others have an easier life. Let us think of ourselves less every day and have more concern for others instead. We will then be ever ready for the service of others, having daily thoughts such as, “I should do a bit more for him”, “I should help her”, “I should bear that responsibility and quietly do my utmost.” Such people never brag about themselves. Gradually, through carrying out their responsibilities, they learn to be understanding, tolerant and forgiving. In practising Buddhism, they have neither desires nor greed. This is a state that is free of desires. When a person gives, without desiring anything in return, this person is a Bodhisattva in the making.
Hence, in all your endeavours, do not think about what you can do, what you want to be in the future, or what you might gain in return. Everything is like a dream or illusion and will not last long. That is why, in this world, only when you sincerely treat sentient beings with true love and show them tolerance and forgiveness with all your heart will you give all you can with a Buddha’s mindset. This will then be reciprocated with the Buddha-nature of sentient beings. The very Buddha-nature that you have awoken. Many people say, “I want to attain Buddhahood”, “I want to attain enlightenment in this lifetime”, “I want my prayers to be answered.” Sentiments such as “attaining enlightenment in this lifetime” and “I want to change myself” are, in fact, not known to the Buddha. This is because, no matter what we do, the Buddha expects nothing from us. In our conduct and endeavours, we should not allow ourselves to succumb to selfish thoughts. When you genuinely care about others and live for others, the power of your vows emerges. Many people, you might say, appear not to have power drawn from vow, when in fact, they do. But where is it? The power of vow resides within one’s mind and is not something about which to brag. Vows are the act of making significant efforts to selflessly care for others, all the while keeping these actions to yourself.
Once on the path of vow fulfilment, you realise that you must also take action in addition to having the power of vow. Only then will your spiritual cultivation be accomplished. I, therefore, take this opportunity to remind you that a Buddha neither thinks about becoming a Buddha, nor does he think that he needs to help others. But daily, he does what a Buddha does, helping sentient beings to become spiritually awakened. How could he not attain Buddhahood? If you want to be a good person, perform good deeds every day and not think about being a good person. Does this not make you a good person? And where do merit and virtue come from? They come from working and toiling in silence.
That is why, should a person be able to do away with their shortcomings, greed, hatred and ignorance, they would already be diligently cultivating on the Buddha’s path.
Usually when people learn Buddhism or pray to the Buddha, they have wants and needs. Hence, when they pray for something, stating, “I want to have that”, they become concerned with gains and losses in seeking them. No matter what we do today, let there be no associated desires. Instead, think, “I ought to be a Bodhisattva”, “I ought to learn Buddhism”, “When I dedicate myself to the well-being of others, my dedication is unconditional as I expect nothing in return. I will not succeed in my practice if I fail to think in this way.” Why is it that some people give but do not get what they want I return? It is because when they gave, they were thinking of reciprocity. When a person organically receives something in return, it is because they truly practised giving. The Buddha has never thought about gaining anything from us, but he has continuously helped us. Are these not our blessings? Is it not that when we perform meritorious deeds, the Buddha offers us blessings? This is why we must learn how to garner boundless virtues and blessings. Boundless virtues can be obtained by observing the precepts of Buddhism. If you wonder where the boundless virtues come from, they are borne from unconditional and selfless deeds. When a person selflessly helps others, they show virtue.
Hence, as Buddhists, we should be selfless, be morally upright. Help others. Think about it, when you are helping others, haven’t you also gained something? All these theories may seem empty on the surface. To cultivate a mind that is selfless and without the notion of self isn’t an easy task.
But in reality in our daily lives, many people are indeed making efforts selflessly. That’s what I often say to you that mothers are selfless. They selflessly take care of their child and their family without thinking about gaining anything in return. They just give all they can. This is selflessness. That’s why mothers are greatly respected. A common saying goes, “Mothers are the greatest”. Am I right? That’s why, when you do something selflessly, you eliminate the notion of “self”. You’d think, “nothing, I didn’t do any meritorious deed”. Just like when a person has done many good deeds. “Oh you have done so much, boundless merits and virtues”; “No, I didn’t do anything, I haven’t done anything meritorious or virtuous”. But do you have merits and virtues? Yes, you do. There is no need to blow your own horn. This is the way to conduct yourself when practising Buddhism.
Merits and virtues are in our every thought. How does your merit come about? The moment you have the thought of helping someone, you have accumulated merits “I need to help him, I need to save him, I need to assist him”. These are merits. When you actually do it, you have accumulated virtues. Due to your virtues, you contribute your time, you contribute your energy, you give up so many for the benefits of others. That means you have reached a formless state of spirituality. You do things only for others, not for yourself. That means the Way of Discipline already takes root in your mind. Do you know what’s the Way of Discipline? Discipline as in observing the precepts. Way, as in the Way of Buddhism. If a person aspires to be a Buddha, they must observe the precepts. When you are able to control your desires and you go and help others, you have mastered the Way of Discipline.
In our daily interactions, in our daily lives we have too many selfish and distracting thoughts. We have too many desires every day. All these delusional and distracting thoughts such as “I want this and I also want that”. Delusional thoughts like these show that you can’t control your thoughts and the motion of your mind. Do you know what “setting your mind in motion” means? When someone tells you something, the moment that your mind moves, this is setting your mind in motion. What are thoughts? When you see delicious food or something appealing you want them. This is when the thought arises: ”I don’t understand this”. Thoughts arise again.
Hence, when a person gives rise to thoughts, they have already taken action following their karma. Hence, the law of karma is very serious. Karma is like the shadow that never leaves us. We can’t rid ourselves of it. Hence, if our mind is impure, you’ll definitely sow the seed, and consequences will follow. That’s why people often say “What are the consequences?” Actually, you know the best – if you stole something today, the consequence is that you’ll eventually get arrested. If you bad-mouthed somebody today, the consequence is that you’ll be scolded by that person. Am I right?
You reap what you sow. If you sow the seed of wholesomeness, you’ll reap fruits of wholesomeness. If you sow the seed of purity, you’ll reap the fruit of purity. If you sow the seed of harmony, you will reap the fruit of harmony. So if you truly observe the precepts, you will attain the fruit of discipline, the fruit of discipline.
For someone who’s good at following the precepts. People will say: “Oh, you are so disciplined”; “how can you not be angry? how can you let it go so easily?”; “how is that you are always so clear-sighted, and able to let it all go so easily?”; “Why aren’t you angry even a tiny bit?”
This kind of person knows very well that today will never be the same as tomorrow and vice-versa. This is a very wise person. Is today the same as tomorrow? No, it’s not. Is tomorrow the same as next week? No, it’s not. Is next week the same as next month? No, it’s not. Is next month the same as next year? No, it’s not. Everything is subject to change. Hence, everything dwells in impermanence.
Our weakness lies in our inability to see through the reality of things. We keep digging deeper and deeper into a problem, spending all our time thinking about it. But we break our precepts whenever we give rise to thoughts. Can you name a day that you didn’t break the precepts?
While driving you see a beautiful lady, if you catch one more glimpse of her, you have broken the precepts; Today, you walked past a good-looking guy and if you catch one more glimpse of him you have broken the precepts too. As a Buddhist practitioner, if you feel that you should go and take a little bit more, you have broken the precepts again. Everything stems from the thoughts you give rise to.
Alright, this is Buddhism in Plain Terms for today. When I get the chance I will give more talks on this topic. I hope that everyone can practise Buddhism with diligence and stay undisturbed no matter what happens.
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