We should understand: Don’t be obsessed about the “lesser self”. Don’t be entangled by the concept of life and death.
Think it through: you were born into this world and had no say in the matter. You have to bear and endure life on Earth whatever happens.
Finally you have to leave this world no matter what. Can you refuse to leave this world and stay?
Since such matters exist and define impermanence, they should be accepted. So you should live your life meaningfully. Devote your life to practising Buddhism and helping sentient beings. Make your life worthwhile and praiseworthy. Only if you can understand this, will you be able to attain the supreme enlightenment (anuttara-samyak-sambodhi). Once you have gained the wisdom, you will understand impermanence and karma, and you will be able to transcend impermanence and the karma. This is what I’m teaching you and I hope you can understand.
As Buddhists, we should help others believe in Buddhism. We are Buddhist practitioners, and we need to convince our family members and others to believe in Buddhism. Many mothers are quite impressive. They would start practising Buddhism first, then they persuade their children to follow suit. They persuade their husbands to practise Buddhism. They persuade their neighbours to practise Buddhism. They are very impressive and remarkable. They not only practise Buddhism themselves, but they also persuade others practise Buddhism and believe in Buddhism. They have accrued immense meritorious deeds.
What can we do to liberate ourselves? People always have their desires first and only then do they perform their prayers. Visiting the temples before we start practising Buddhism is not genuine practice of Buddhism. It is only prayer to the Buddha to have our wishes fulfilled. People leave immediately after paying their respects. They leave after saying their prayers. They leave after offering the incense. Does that make us a real Buddhist? Practising Buddhism is about practising and learning.
People are always motivated by their desires at the beginning, then they visit temples and come into contact with Buddhism. After they have some knowledge about Buddhism, they come to realise that they need to learn the right way. You need to learn about the spirit of the Buddha, the compassion of Guan Yin Bodhisattva and the great vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, then you will be able to have access to the Buddha’s wisdom.
There are so many disciples now and I’ve helped you gain access to the Buddha’s wisdom. You’ve already gained the Buddha’s wisdom and it’s very remarkable. According to the past teaching, if you can have access to the Buddha’s wisdom then you possibly can achieve some first realisation of Buddhism – Srotāpanna. However enlightenment is what matters the most.
Because of our heavy negative-karma, we are troubled by our desire. If you are free from desires, how could you have any afflictions?
You pray to Bodhisattvas because you crave for something: “I hope my family could live a better life”, “I want my children to be successful”, “I want to achieve this goal”, “I want my children to be successful in exams”. You pray because of your desires, and as you pray, the (principle and subsidiary) cause will gradually form.
If you pray to Bodhisattvas, you are sowing a good cause for your karma.
Bodhisattvas will bless you based on this cause. “Good, he is very sincere.” “He’s made a vow and is honouring his promise.” The Bodhisattvas will grant you the results. A good result means making your wish come true.
If your karmic conditions are fully mature, you’ll have affinity with Buddhas. Because of the sufficient affinities, you pray, pay respect to Buddhas, recite sutras, make vows and release captive lives. When your karmic conditions are mature, you will form affinities with Buddhas. Once you have formed such affinities with Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, you’ll pray to have your wishes fulfilled. In the beginning, you pray only for yourself.
Take a look at us practitioners – In the beginning, we all pray for ourselves initially. When we kneel in front of the Bodhisattvas, we pray for our good health, for our family’s benefits or only for our own benefits. It’s all about ourselves. Gradually your realm of thought raises higher as you make progress in your cultivation.
As I said before, when a person prays, they generally make three major wishes and other minor ones may not come true. So some people make two wishes for the benefit of themselves and leave one for the benefit of their family. They start praying for their family later. This is all about praying for the benefit of “lesser self”.
So when a person keeps praying, at the end of day, they will start praying for the well-being of others. Those who pray for the welfare of sentient beings start thinking about the “greater self”. It is a sign of wisdom.
Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are very compassionate. They allow us to go through this process to become spiritually awakened, which is to pray for our own benefits first then we learn to pray for the benefits of others. It is compassion.
Buddhas and Bodhisattvas do not wish sentient beings to suffer the consequences of karma. Bodhisattvas do not want us to endure untold sufferings. Bodhisattvas always find a way to save us and always hope that we would change, so that we don’t have to bear the retribution (consequences of karma).
How could Bodhisattvas help us avoid suffering the bad consequences? Bodhisattvas can’t stop the consequences from coming but they want you to know that you were wrong, you can repent, so that you can prevent the consequence of karma from maturing.
Let me reveal a heaven’s secret to you today. Why is that there are people who suffer karmic consequences immediately? They suffer immediate retribution. On the other hand, some people’s retribution comes later.
When you did something wrong, you found out and repented in front of Bodhisattvas, then this bad karma of wrongdoing will ripen slowly rather than ripen immediately.
Bodhisattvas are using expedient means to help us understand our mistakes and shortcomings, and repent for our evil deeds and thoughts. They are using expedient means to prevent sentient beings from committing evil deeds and harming others.
If you have harmed others, repent at once to stop this bad karma from maturing. You must never do such an evil thing ever again. Although this karma still exists, it will not break out as long as it has not ripened. If you don’t repent for your wrongdoing today and continue doing such deeds, you will soon be requited with evil (from this bad karma). Your evil deeds will soon be matured and you’ll suffer retribution.
Thus, Bodhisattvas fear ‘causes’ while sentient beings fear ‘consequences’. Bodhisattvas always think of the consequences in advance before doing anything. “This thing mustn’t be done because it might result in bad consequences.” Bodhisattvas fear creating causes. How about sentient beings? They would recklessly take actions without thinking of the consequences when they see some benefits. They have little idea about what to do when the consequences arrive. That’s why Bodhisattvas fear causes while sentient beings fear consequences. Sentient beings lack wisdom. Bodhisattvas will never do any misdeeds however small they may be.
Bodhisattvas will not commit such a wrongdoing no matter how minor a wrongdoing is. Do not take lightly the small misdeeds, thinking that they can do no harm. Bodhisattvas will never commit acts of evil. Meanwhile, Bodhisattvas do not take lightly the little acts of kindness. “This is only a small good deed, it is not a major merit, it is not worth doing.”
This is your way of thinking: ”I’m not mopping the floor. I want to either bow to Buddhas or offer fruits on the altar”, “I would do major merits only”, “I want to volunteer at major Buddhist events”. But that’s not how it works.
Do you know where merits come from? They come from the accumulation of good deeds. It could be 0.2% of merits by opening the door for others, or helping with the chair; It could be 0.5% of merits by offering others a dish or cooking for others. Carry something for others.
When others are unable to figure things out, you’d say, “Don’t worry! Let’s read ‘Buddhism in Plain Terms’ together, I have similar troubles too. Let’s sort things out together.” Some of our practitioners offer help this way when others feel troubled. They say to them, “I feel stressed, too. Let’s learn together”. In fact, they have no problems at all. It is a way to help people to learn Buddhism. At the end, the people (who needed the help) would return the favour and would even give advice in return. As you adopt this smart way to help them figure things out, they’d give you some good advice in return. Don’t you think they have straightened things out yet?
This is an excellent method. These type of practitioners have attained the Bodhisattva’s wisdom. That is extraordinary. We say that wisdom gives rise to ingenious solutions.
As time goes by, you would have accumulated great merits which we call “immeasurable merits”. Therefore, never dare to do anything evil which you consider as trivial. Never fail to do anything good which you deem as petty. We need to perform all good deeds.
Sentient beings don’t understand the law of cause and effect, that’s why they perform evil deeds. When you yell at others, speak ill of others, mistreat others or roll your eyes, you are committing negative karma, you are causing harm to other people. After committing negative karma, karmic retribution will take effect. That’s when people start to feel scared and painful. “Why does he treat me like this?”. You’ll realise how many times you have bullied him when looking back all these years. In the end, he chooses to leave you. You feel sad and painful. The pain you suffer now is the result of your own behaviour accumulated every day.
There was a true story that happened in Australia. There were two neighbours, 74-year-old and a 78-year-old, who had a quarrel over a fence between their houses. Today one of them moved the fence over to get more space, his neighbour pushed it back the next day. Then he pushed it over, the neighbour did the same, again and again. Their hatred accumulated day after day. Eventually, a fight broke out. One of them hit his neighbour with a shovel and killed the neighbour. Do you think their hostility was formed in a day?
Therefore, the accumulation of kindness is a prolonged process, so is the accumulation of evil deeds. Don’t do evil with others at will. Don’t bring harm to others. Since you fear suffering, you must not create the cause by harming others.
Many a time, when some of you are harmed by others, you would sigh, “I am speechless”. You would even lament and ask the Heavens, “Why me? Why me?”. I would like to add a few words on top, “Why did I create the cause?” “Creating the cause” is exactly the reason. If you didn’t create the cause, why would you ask the Heavens? You sow the seeds, so shall you reap.
It’s like an incurable illness which can’t be cured by a doctor. Is the doctor to blame? When an alcoholic is diagnosed with liver cancer, the doctor performs a surgery, prescribes medicine and treatments. The doctor advises the patient to quit alcohol. However the patient couldn’t resist the temptation and start drinking again. Soon, the patient’s health deteriorates and he sees the doctor again. His condition deteriorates further and eventually dies.
For this seemingly incurable illness, do you think it’s the doctor’s fault or because the patient fails to cooperate?
Today I’m teaching you Buddha-dharma and telling you to be a kind person.
I’m doing my best to educate you. If you cannot overcome your problems like greed, hatred, delusion, arrogance and suspicion. How can I possibly save you? Can you blame your Master if you make no improvement? “Yes, I am stingy, I just couldn’t get out of the blind alley”. “Yes, I am stubborn”. Think about it, it all boils down to your attitude. It is you who harms your body. It is you who harms your soul.
Many people have another shortcoming. They always question “why me?” when tragedy strikes. “What have I done to deserve this?” Isn’t it common?
Think about your previous lives and also your present life when you are undergoing suffering. How many good deeds have you done in your previous lives? How many good deeds have you done in your current life? You’ll soon understand why you suffer. If you have committed a lot of evil deeds, these evil deeds have formed into negative karma and become karmic debts. These karmic obstacles are like explosives. They will explode eventually.
We need to take control of our own life and destiny to awaken and to liberate ourselves. Be mindful of our speech, mind and conduct. Refrain from creating bad causes. When you argue with someone, that creates a cause. When you argue with your neighbour, that creates another cause. When you argue the third time, another bad cause is formed. If you keep going, you will form a negative affinity with people. These negative affinities won’t go away overnight. Eventually, they will break out and lead to disastrous outcomes. You will suffer tremendously when karmic retributions come into effect. Therefore, those who truly want to be liberated would never benefit themselves at the expense of others. You should always lend a helping hand to others. Sometimes you work hard for a bit of money, fame and self-interests. In fact, let go of these things if you can, let it be if you can, learn to compromise if you can. This is to protect our spiritual life.This is to sow a good cause.
< Master Lu: Buddhism in Plain Terms < 白话佛法共修分享