Master Lu: Buddhism In Plain Terms

Master Lu | Buddhism in Plain Terms | Chapter 3 | The Meaning of Life Expounded by Buddhism

We must act like an exemplar and refrain from acting immorally. What defines an exemplary person? To put it simply, an exemplary person is someone who is willing to take a loss. 

What about someone who is morally-debased? The morally-debased are constantly thinking of how to take advantage of others. The Master hopes that all his disciples can practise self-discipline at all times and ask themselves whether they are an exemplary person or a morally-debased person. You must repent and reflect on the things you did wrong in the past.

How does somebody become ignorant? Ignorance stems from one’s failure to reflect upon themselves. Everyone should practise self-reflection when they return home each day, asking themselves, “What have I done wrong today? What have others done for me?” These days, everybody brags about how many good deeds they have done and how many people they have helped but have never pondered the mistakes they committed.

Bodhisattvas have no attachments to worldly affairs; they only pay attention only to their own cultivation. Why is this so?  Those who understand themselves are able to enlighten sentient beings.

‘Having no attachments to worldly affairs’ means not observing or being aware of other things. ‘Paying attention only to their own cultivation’ means that they are introspective, focusing on enlightening themselves. You might ask, “focusing on only one’s own enlightenment without caring about others, isn’t that the practice of Theravada Buddhism?” If you thought that this was the case, then you are wrong.

Those who understand themselves do so with their feelings. In fact, they are enlightening all sentient beings. Human beings are an entity; each person’s body comes from the same primeval soul. Try to bring awareness to your feelings using your primeval soul, then what you actually feel is feeling all the sentient beings in this world. If you can sense whether or not you are doing the right thing, you are feeling sentient beings. Hence the notion ‘to have great compassion is to regard ourselves as being one with all.’

“What is the most honourable thing in life?” 

Please bear this in mind: The most honourable thing in life is, even when faced with hypocrisy and injustice from other people, you are still able to maintain kindness towards them. If you find out that the other party is a hypocrite or an unrighteous person, yet you’re still able to extend your warmth to them with a smile, then you are a Bodhisattva.

How many of you can do this?  Learn to be tolerant of others, as they have not started their spiritual practice; they are just ordinary people. However, you are a practitioner. You know your ‘self’ is just a false self. Therefore, don’t take the ‘self’ as being real. How can we earn respect from others? It is through our cultivation in both our speech and behaviour. That is why we call it ‘cultivation of the mind and behaviour’. It encompasses our speech and actions, including the behaviour of our minds.

A person’s life only becomes meaningful when it’s connected with the lives of others. With them, there is you. With you, there is me. With me, there is them. This is a circle. Without interpersonal relationships connecting us all, one cannot survive in this world. For example, if a person is intolerant of others, has no friends, doesn’t get along with their parents, children and friends, and doesn’t contact anybody, then what’s the meaning of their existence in this world?

We are a community of shared life. From a metaphysical point of view, human beings are from a primeval community. Since the beginning of time, we have been together. Thus, we should help and care for each other.  If you see somebody’s shortcomings and point them out for their own sake, you do not have to worry that they will misunderstand you. In fact, everything in the world is closely related to all living phenomena.

In other words, everything in this world has its meaning and purpose. We human beings have sentiments, just as vegetables also have the elements for them to grow. For example, watermelons grow to be consumed and help you quench your thirst.  Similarly, vegetables grow to be consumed by you and provide you with nutrients. Do you think plants have no life? Their being consumed adds meaning to their lives.

Therefore, we human beings and everything in this world have meaning and purpose. Take note, do not waste food. Wasting food amounts to wasting life! Wasting food will diminish blessings! Many wealthy people are very generous when practising the act of giving, but frugal when they spend money on themselves. This is not stinginess, but rather them cherishing their blessings. They know such blessings are hard to come by.

An enlightened person will not be worried in times of hardship. Whatever circumstances they encounter, they act in accordance with karmic conditions; they are not bothered by gains or losses. Their mind remains steady, neither increasing nor decreasing. While conforming with the Way, they turn themselves from an ordinary person into a sage. This very mind is Buddha.

An enlightened person will not be worried in times of hardship. An enlightened person will not be worried when they encounter trials and tribulations. This is because they have realized the truth; suffering is inevitable in life. People come to this world to suffer. They know that suffering is natural, and it’s something they ought to endure. As such, there is no cause for worry, they will accept the hardship willingly. On the other hand, those who are still worried has not yet awakened.

We have to act in accordance with karmic conditions and adopt the best approach to perfect those conditions. Those who have attachments are not able to do so. Regardless of the circumstances, Buddhist practitioners need to keep their minds steady, neither increasing nor decreasing.

Increasing means that you take matters seriously, while on the other hand, decreasing means that that you don’t take them seriously. When you take something seriously, you put a lot of pressure on yourself. When you choose not to, then you become indifferent. A true practitioner would have even the agents of the Underworld to conform to their karmic conditions.

These practitioners turn themselves from an ordinary person into a sage. An ordinary person has endless worries and insatiable desires.  We all know that Confucius is a sage; he passed down Chinese culture from generation to generation. The main characteristic of a sage is their forgiving nature. In fact, forgiving others is the beginning of cultivating compassion. How could you be compassionate if you are unable to forgive?

If you are unforgiving towards others, you will eventually develop a hatred for them.  When you hate someone, you lose compassion. This very mind is Buddha. This phrase encompasses a myriad of phenomena. It means that your mind should not be swayed by various states. If you possess a Buddha’s mind, then you are a Buddha. If you possess a demon’s mind, then you are a demon.

We respect our faith. How are we to maintain our faith? The answer is to respect it. Respect comes not from other people but from yourself. You have to respect your own faith. If you don’t believe that you can succeed, how would you ever be able to do so? How could a person succeed in practising Buddhism if they do not have confidence? A person who is easily swayed by what others say will achieve nothing in the end.

As an individual, our abilities are limited. That’s why, for any individual to attain any progress in their spiritual development, they must focus on practising one Buddhist practice for the rest of their lives. If they attempt to learn all Buddhist practices, they are bound to fail. Worse, there’s a possibility that they may go astray and become demons. Therefore, it is imperative that we respect our faith and resolve to diligently practise Buddhism.

The expedient (skill-in-means) is the ultimate. By expedience, we are not referring to convenience, as is often thought. It is a method. An expedient method enables you to adapt your approach to a particular situation.

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