The Preface of Great Dharma Master Ou-I
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I bow to the Great Compassionate One, who saves all sentient beings at the end of every kalpa.
I feel that there is enormous suffering at the end of every kalpa chiefly because of the breakdown of monastic discipline. Thus, If I had to develop some method to reduce such suffering, I think that the best method would be the "Vinaya" of the Tripitaka. If the "Vinaya" exists and flourishes in the world, then the Right Dharma will survive and thrive forever. The Teaching should not be reduced to mere empty words, and only disciplined practice can assure a complete, genuine result. Due to the power of holding the discipline, one can quickly become a pure Perfect One. Due to the power of holding the discipline, one can quickly become a pure Perfect One. Due to the purity of Sila, all Buddha Lands are pure and glorious. Due to the special effects of liberation from desire and grasping, the Sravaka and the Pratyekabuddha stages are attained. Due to the power of good discipline, one can achieve rebirth in the Heaven of Ch'an besides being surpassingly happy as a human being, enjoying fame and receiving many blessings in this present lifetime. All these different fruits result from observing the monastic discipline. They appear to be "different fruits" at present, but ultimately they resolve into the One Vehicle. I vow to spread this surpassingly wonderful Dharma. I vow, also, to save and convert all sentient beings who have nothing to rely on during this long, dark night.
An Exhortation To Be Alert To The Dharma
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If your really wish to be a sincere bhiksu who successfully holds and fulfills the Discipline, then you must employ an intrepid mind to counter all thoughts of self-indulgence, remembering that time waits for no one; and a chance missed to reduce such thoughts increases the problem a hundredfold. So vow to employ your self-admonishing mind sincerely to overcome all negligent thoughts. If even one small word or pure thought can benefit oneself and others, then be careful to imprint it in your memory. Also, take a profound vow to employ your highest moral mind to reduce and cancel out your negligent mind. Finally, take a vow to follow the ancient masters, and do not seek to follow modern ways, activities and temptations. It is almost impossible to learn the Tao without taking at least one of these three vows.
If one grasps the worldly view, he cannot enter the Tao. If one is arrogant and has bad habits, he cannot seek the Tao. If one does not really understand, but says that he understands, then you cannot speak to him about the Tao. If one lives in idle comfort and is lazy, he cannot learn the Tao. If one believes in individual, separate mind, he cannot ask about the Tao. If one abandons movement and seeks stillness, he cannot cultivate the Tao. If one abandons the Teaching to investigate Ch'an, he cannot attain the Tao. If one depends on words and concepts to explain the deep meaning of the Dharma, he cannot understand the Tao. If one wishes to be hasty and searches for something easy, he cannot be enlightened by the Tao. If on separates the small from the large, he cannot be enlightened by the Tao. If one grasps at the impure, calling it pure, he cannot know the Tao. If one dislikes ordinary, simple things and, instead, has a fondness only for new, special things, he cannot tend toward the Tao. If one likes only the simple and shallow but dislikes the detailed and the profound, he cannot understand the Tao. If one carries out a task in a perfunctory manner and enjoys ease, which goes against the Discipline, he cannot practice the Tao. If one achieves a little but thinks that is sufficient, he cannot practice the Tao. If one has a little understanding but thinks that is sufficient, he cannot attain the Tao.
To attain the Tao, just transcend worldly concerns, views and temptations, To attain the Tao, just remain unassuming and open-minded. To attain the Tao, just labor sedulously. To attain the Tao, just learn-with good, close teachers-how to comprehend the Dharma intuitively and, everywhere, use the Teaching expediently to seal the Mind.
From time immemorial, both the phenomenal and the noumenal realms have been completely united, and the spiritual always remains peaceful and pure. Ideally, if one is acquainted with both ancient and modern understanding, remains intrepid, dedicates himself to spiritual progress, thinks profoundly, is completely devoid of worry, and takes a firm vow to dive deeply to the very bottom of the Dharma Ocean, then he can truly be known as the Supramundane Man.
To be a bhiksu is truly an honor and a sign of respect to the Sangha. A bhiksu has the responsibility to spread Dharma. He should transcend any worldly concerns and temptations and assume that view which is vastly different from popular custom; then he need never feel ashamed and will bear the title "Bhiksu" with a clear conscience. However, if one still retains his former, pre-monastic attitudes and views, never attempting to change or modify any of his bad habits, then the offense produced by each of his actions is criminal and can be compared to a huge mountain moving dangerously during an eruption or an earthquake. If, even once a day, the wind of karma blows away the monk's robe, then his human body becomes clothed in and bound by karma, which is just taking the path of suffering, Just one day and one night in the four heavens of four Deva Kings is equal to fifty years of human life. So, what is real or permanent? What is there to be attached to or grasped at with love in this world? If you do not yearn and earnestly try to detach yourself from it and leave it, but would rather accept the consequences of your errors and ignorance by trying to adapt yourself to the world, then your suffering, for as many kalpas as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River, will be endless. If there are any sensitive, courageous men reading my work, how can this awareness not move your hearts?!
If one has arrived at the stage of outstanding insight, then one should develop his own moral character. If one has developed his own moral character, then he should achieve surpassing learning. If one has achieved surpassing learning, then he should, at some time, write a good composition. At present, however, most learning and writing are not outgrowths and expressions of one's moral character, If one's moral character does not develop from the stage of insight, then it is a case of practice being diametrically opposed to what is preached! Alas!! People are inevitably and always moved by custom and habit, and even a wise man cannot escape. If they once experience happiness through their five senses, they then forget the reality of causes and conditions and karma for thousands of kalpas. So if one does not use the Teaching to change his feelings and emotions and does not use his Original Nature to change his bad habits, then how can he possibly open himself to or arrive at the stage of insight so that he can, ultimately, be consistent in his undertaking to create his own composition?
If one does not eliminate bad habits, there is absolutely no way to get free from the Wheel of Birth-and-Death. However, some habits that have influenced and corrupted one's nature for a very long time must first be repented of before they can be eliminated. At the same time, one should always clearly remember that the body is impermanent and that the conditions of the Saha World are false and illusory. One should also be clearly aware that it is very difficult to have birth or rebirth in a human body and that, in addition, it is most difficult to encounter the Buddhadharma in any particular incarnation. Therefore, if one is not converted and delivered in this present lifetime, he might never, even after a thousand or ten thousand kalpas, have this chance again. So, one must abandon, without hesitation, the distorted, dualistic views of right and wrong, of self and others, of the arrogant belief in an independent self; in addition, the deep attachment to and the love of desires must be abandoned. If one takes on the responsibility of the supramundane Dharma of the Tathagata and dedicates himself to the goal of progressive understanding of this Dharma-delighting in, receiving and holding it-then, day by day and month after month, his blessings and wisdom will, naturally, increase.
Nowadays, one type of person who leaves home (becomes a monk), thinking only of himself, may wish to become a Buddhist leader. Such a selfish motivation will, ultimately, be beneficial for neither himself nor the Buddhists he is connected with. Another type of person who leaves home, even though he has no desire to be in the spotlight and even though he may have every opportunity to attain Complete Enlightenment, may not care one iota about generating his Original Mind or achieving the Great Bodhi Tao, having taken many kalpas to create such a problem. Therefore, after taking his ordination, even though he guards against the desire for gain and fame with great fear and caution, he will, nevertheless, after hearing the Sutras, only be able to follow the words and concepts to explain their meaning. Also, even after investigating and learning to practice Ch'an, he will only be able to think of opportune, clever words and concepts to explain it, remaining incapable of awakening his intuitive understanding. If one has this limitation, then he should depart, live in isolation and constantly practice correct meditation. Those who depend only on the words and concepts to explain the Wonderful Dharma of the Sutras, will never comprehend it or achieve genuine, deep understanding. Finally, hovering between belief and doubt, such a person never mediates upon the Dharma in his daily life and, thus, cannot halt his grasping or eliminate his sense of suffering and impermanence.
If anyone claims, in his so-called unsurpassed learning of some Dharma, that he has surpassed the Buddhas and, all at once, appears to be delighted, like a child at play or like a new-born calf that does not fear the tiger, even calling himself a deva, he clearly cheating himself and the Buddhas. On the other hand, if someone shows proper ambition to awaken his Original Mind and follows it up with good practice but, due to karmic causes, is distracted by thoughts of fame and wealth that dissuade him from his original intention to devote himself completely to Bodhi practice, then he must watch himself most carefully and encourage himself very intensely.
However, if someone has no desire to push through the gate of fame or to crack open the lock of wealth, is said only to proclaim the Buddhadharma and benefit all sentient beings and does only good in his daily life, but still has even one iota of negligent mind in an idle or unwatchful moment, then even this iota of selfish negligence will bother him persistently for ten thousand kalpas. Furthermore, even though someone has gone through and can understand the 1,700 kung-ans, can explain the whole of the Tripitaka and the twelve divisions of the Buddhist Canon, is able to build a temple like the one at Jetavana and receives disciples like a formless Buddha, but has not yet broken the fetters of the karma of ignorance and consciousness, then all he has apparently achieved is merely a delusion through which he thoroughly deceives and cheats himself.
To respond with compassion and wisdom-this is the Bodhi Mind! After generating this Mind, one can grasp the essence of the Non-Action Discipline. However, it is necessary to examine oneself every twenty-four hours until one, responding thought after thought, attains the Buddha moment by moment. If one continues to hold even a tiny part or jot of the wrong view-this goes against the Bodhisattva Discipline.
There are three kinds of obstacles that wipe out the merit gained by discipline and that beat back, submerge and destroy faith. What are these three obstacles? The first one is anger, which can generate defilement from oneself and from others. The second one is arrogance, which can create lack of respect for the Sangha. The third one is negligence, which can promote a lack of desire to study the Wonderful Dharma. If one has any one of these three obstacles, it can lead him onto an evil path, where he will surely lose his faith.
If a person really desires to find a way to escape from the Wheel of Birth-and-Death and to attain the Supreme Bodhi, he should, first exert himself to recognize and see through any wrong views he may have recently accumulated from any teaching or through Ch'an. He should reject all views that puff him up with pride, and he must stop all his bad habits. Also, he should reject all the delusions that are fostered by life and by the desires of the body, avoid all sorts of evil and adverse circumstances and favor only those situations that foster training, discipline and benefit for his moral development. All fame and wealth, music and sexuality, fine food and clothing, presents and flattery, as well as all comfortable circumstances, should be looked upon as poisonous drugs or venomous arrows. Thus, if one holds to the illusion of the body as real, this view should be eliminated by hardship; if one has strong greed and desire, he should be disciplined by suffering; if one has false views and great arrogance, he should encounter the setback of adverse circumstances; and if one has a strong view of personal dignity, he should be modified by having to endure unbearable situations.
The most important thing, however, is to study the Buddhadharma because, without doubt, the Dharma is the most respected teacher of all the Buddhas, much less all their disciples. Even though surpassing transcendental meaning is the Dharma's real nature, it must be attained through one's own efforts. However, if you do not also depend on certain books and sutras, as if they were fingers pointing to the moon, to express the important method of genuine practice, then how can you ever come to understand the Surpassing Dharma?
Sometimes heterodox people leave home, seeking to escape from the Wheel of Birth-and-Death; but they do not understand the Right Dharma. They may wish to ascend, but they only sink. If they are careless about the Teaching and the Sutras, then, even though they are persistent and dedicate themselves to progress, they will still, finally, become demons.
There is an absurd idea that goes: "Study the Teaching and the Sutras when young and strong. Recite the Buddha's name when old and weak." An example that disproves this view is that of the Patriarch of Parsva, who was eighty years old when he left home to study the Three Tripitakas during the day and to practice Ch'an at night and succeeded. Furthermore, wouldn't it be most unfortunate for young people not to recite the name of Buddha or for old people not to study the Sutras? Isn't it most unseemly to think that the Dharma of the Tathagata can be reduced and compared to a prosperous, materialistic business that promises fame and wealth in half a lifetime!
Thus, everyone should understand that if he has heard the Dharma even once, the seed of the Tao has been sown forever. All the Mahasattvas would abandon their bodies completely to seek even half a gatha of the Dharma. He who spreads the Dharma during the present time should just rely entirely on the Patriarchs Kasyapa and Ananda, both of whom have deep compassion on all sentient beings. However, be attentive and be aware! Average people who are negligent and lazy now may have no other chance to hear the name and the words of the Wonderful dharma for as many kalpas as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River.
There are four rules to be observed when reading the Tripitaka. The first rule is to comprehend that the original purpose of speaking the Dharma of the Tathagata is to help all sentient beings to escape from the Wheel of Birth-and-Death, that it is not meant just to give pleasure to the ears and eyes, and that each and every word must be fully comprehended by one's own Mind. Correct practice should not be likened to talking about food or counting others' gems.
The second rule is that on the path of learning one should not, in the beginning, be ashamed to learn from those who appear to be one's inferiors. Thus, there is an orderly progress in studying the Teaching of the Tathagata. However, some people have little talent but are very ambitious and anxious to have sudden Enlightenment. Apropos of such people we can ask the following: If one does not have the ability to suck up a river, how, then, can he reasonable expect to swallow the whole ocean?! He must first read the "Vinaya" of the Tripitaka to understand the monastic rules of Buddha's time as well as the importance of the order of the Sangha. Also, he must read the Four Agamas and come to understand very clearly the right causes and conditions that will lead hem to his goal. Then, if one wishes to know the fundamentals of the three wonderful meditations, he should focus accurately and deeply on methods and techniques of the T'ien T'ai School to understand the Tathagata's purpose in speaking the wonderful Dharma and in skillfully teaching people by means of the four siddhanta. These four methods of teaching are the following: (1)mundane or ordinary modes of expression; (2) individual treatment, adapting the Teaching to the capacity of each hearer; (3) diagnostic treatment of their moral diseases; (4) the perfect and highest Truth. Thus after using the key of the Dharmadhatu to open all kinds of locks to the inconceivable treasures of the Sutras and the Sastras, one can then advance with irresistible force.
The third rule is to read first the Four-Division Vinaya with its verses, which is used by bhiksus; then one should read the Sanghika-Vinaya, in ten divisions, reciting its rules of fundamental discipline; next one should read the Mahisasaka-Vinaya, which details the five divisions of the Law according to that school. Also, one should read the Sarvastivada-Vinaya, which lists the disciplinary rules for moral training, and he should read other codes of behavior regulation and monastic discipline. Each of these codes of discipline and practice has been transmitted differently, and each has its full particulars, requiring careful thinking and consideration. One should not hold to just one side or view, denying the others, nor should one doubt both sides; but he should understand all sides for the deepest comprehension. Really, one should never say to himself, " It is not necessary to care about Hinayana Dharma any longer, so abandon it and study only the Supreme Vehicle." Such a view is foolish, heterodox, arrogant and evil, leading anyone holding it to stumble and fall into the deep pit of error and ignorance. Thus, one should not believe in it!
The fourth rule is to read, understand and respect the Sutras, Sastras and Vinayas of both the Mahayana and the Hinayana Schools because each word is important and each sentence expresses the Truth. What kind of Dharma each person is to receive depends on his habits, whether heavy or light, which also determine his method of salvation. Choosing words and thoughts to benefit oneself and others can be compared to the great variety of herbs found on the snowy slopes of an ordinary mountain, where just gathering some medicine to cure one's disease is enough. However, on the Treasure Mountain, where everything is valuable, one should focus on and take the Precious Mani first. This is the perfect panacea and method to cure all ills and can be examined by your hands and recognized by your eyes.
Originally, all Dharmas were brought together and were thoroughly understood, but obstacles to understanding arose due to illusion and grasping. If one finger is thought to cover a great mountain or a bubble is thought to be the great ocean, then both the mountain and the ocean are lost. Such an illusory idea or perception would not only submerge one's spirit, but also disorient the data of the six consciousnesses. People do not realize that it is not the data of the first six consciousnesses that confuse them. They do not realize that they themselves confuse themselves. This is due to the fact that each sense organ is so swift and very deluded and because the data of each consciousness are numerous and in constant, disordered, chaotic movement.
However, if one carefully analyzes the data and realizes that the data of consciousness have nothing wrong with them, that the organs of perception are not faulty and that consciousness itself never was evil, then it follows that these three things-the data, the organs and consciounsness itself-have no real host. Therefore, even if they are brought together how can there be a real Dharma? Nevertheless, from these unreal, false, illusory things, beings try to conceive, shape and grasp a real self, and they develop all sorts of discrimination which involve all sorts of liking and disliking as well as love and hate. It is similar to the effect produced when you rub your eyes and see sky flowers or shooting stars, which appear before you but which are just illusion. If you then attempt to distinguish which of these sky flowers or shooting stars is beautiful and which is ugly, which is large and which is small, you will just compound the illusion and only become more and more confused.
To counter all of this confusion, just detach yourself form the body, the mind and the world, Then transcend the worldly and be like a man who wants to take care of the whole world, but is careless of his own home. Thus, wise eyes peer everywhere and really enjoy everything.
Because the illusions of the phenomenal world interpenetrate and seize each other, people act not only according to custom but also against custom and even, at times, absolutely and completely against custom. All these actions are just illusions seizing illusions since all is transformed and affected by ignorance. However, all the transformations of the nature of ignorance are, in reality, the Dharma Nature. Because we do not understand this, we, therefore, give rise to like and dislike, to love and hate, If one has a tendency toward Supreme Bodhi, he should neither follow nor reject illusion, Rather, he should understand that illusion is identical with Dharma Nature. It is very sorrowful to be deluded during the long night, but because of this sorrow about one's deluded state, one can then take a vow to separate suffering from the nature of merit. If he can really understand, then he should take a vow to merge only happiness with the nature of merit. If one can truly hold this thought, then all kinds of adverse circumstances-even emotional disturbance-can help him generate the Bodhi Mind, Asvaghosa says the following in his famous sastra The Awakening of Faith: "When Bodhisattvas are aware of the time of the Dharma's decline and demise, they then concentrate the Bodhi Mind to protect the Right Dharma. Furthermore, some of them, aware of the suffering of sentient beings, concentrate the Bodhi Mind to save all of them."
All people think about being strong and determined and developing good moral discipline, but most of them depend on conditions outside themselves, All people understand shame, but most of them sink into evil habits. Alas!! It is so difficult to meet a good friend just because there are too many evil conditions. So if you do not try, with determination and courage, to imprint virtue permanently on your mind, how else can you help yourself?
It can be said that man's fear of the mundane is not strong enough and that his fear of the supramundane is not weak enough. If one wants to enter the tasteless Dharma, he must rid himself of all those false thoughts and strong habits he has had since beginningless time. When he gets rid of all those habits, then the nature of the tasteless will appear. When the nature of the tasteless appears, then the very tasty things of the Three Realms are just tasteless. There was once a monk who, in a dream, met a tiger. He yelled "Help!", woke himself up and observed, "If it were not a dream, I would have been taken by the tiger." Then he regretfully observed, " If I know that everything in the world is really a dream, then why isn't it possible to cry out "Alas!" or "Help!" with great alarm so that all sentient begins in the Three Realms who do not yet know the nature of the tasteless Dharma would suddenly awaken?"
There is only delusion in the world. Life is not permanent. So you should expand your field of vision, become dedicated and diligent, and understand that the body is merely suffering; also, you should not fall into the pit of idle comfort and suffer its poisonous effects. To increase your own ambition and diligence for purification, just do not follow the path of doing something only half well and against the principles; and, in addition, avoid luxury and control your desires. Furthermore, to accumulate merit, just increase your good conduct and sincerity and refrain from leading an excessively comfortable life, To lengthen your life, just desire to attain the great goal of immortality. You should meditate and contemplate with a single thought about the nature of seeing and hearing-viz., that it is originally neither within nor without nor in any other place and is neither existent not nonexistent. How can you remain confined by a false form or shape if that false form or shape entails birth and death? Thus, if you seek protection or safety from any delusory thing or idea, you cannot achieve the body of immortality because your karma and illusion, just like the shadow moving with its object from one place to another, cannot be separated from one another.
A man of outstanding talent should be aware that the body is composed of the four elements and that it is without self and void. The mind is, also, without self-nature, formless and void, but due to thinking there arises the false birth-and-death view. One should suddenly abandon the six senses and the objects of sensation and concentrate on practicing the Tao. Look to both the Vinaya and the Teaching to manifest the source of Mind-Enlightened Mind-where all things cease to be ail things but where all things are complete.
The supramundane man, who has the intention of becoming a Buddha or a patriarch, takes the Four Universal Vows and the Six Paramitas as if taking an everyday, ordinary, plain meal with the intention of benefitting himself and others. So if you are about to say even one word that will not benefit yourself and others, you should not take that step nor let that thought arise. On the other hand, to do anything which ordinarily benefits your own and others' bodies and minds and which is expedient for spreading Dharma is the highest good, and you must endeavor to do it regardless of the cost it toil and suffering. However, if you only wish to gain illusory fame or illusory wealth by your actions, you cannot possibly consider or declare that to be the Supramundane Way.
One should come to regret deeply the great events of birth and death and see as unreal all the events and things in the world, which appear to be favorable or adverse. Everything before our eyes is like smoke and clouds or bubbles-just insubstantial, passing and transient. Only by concentrating on and holding to the Discipline and by having sincere repentance and deep and abiding faith in the Three Treasures in one thought (while, at the same time, knowing birth and death as part of the Three Treasures), by looking at one's own errors and never blaming others, by following sages and holy beings and by not being pulled about or knocked off center by any current problem or failing-then and only then can faith be solid and wisdom reveal itself day after day, so that one, finally, escapes from the Wheel of Birth-and-Death forever.
When listening to the Dharma, you should employ contemplation and insight; when writing the Dharma, you should understand the meaning. If the meaning is clear, it is neither necessary to offer far-fetched explanations nor to look through a chapter of a sutra or a sastra to make quotations. It is only necessary to recite and chant sincerely; and know that when you open the sutra, it is like gazing upon the face of the Buddha and that when you close the sutra, the text can still be as clearly seen in your mind's eye as if it were open in front of you. In this manner, after one thousand times or after ten thousand times, you will never forget the sutra. After a long period of time, as you become aware that the causes and conditions are becoming deeper and deeper, them, like someone drinking water who knows for himself whether it is hot or cold, you will know my words are not false.
As people talk about birth and death, all of them feel fear and trembling, If people have little care for the problem of birth and death, then it is difficult to let go or everything to make further progress. Why is this so? Because they do not have any real understanding about the suffering of birth and death, they always like, enjoy and cling to the lives of monks and laymen in favorable circumstances; therefore, they do not have any urgent, strong reason to fear suffering in the Three Realms. There is a remedy for this. If you are able, just use the far-seeing Wisdom Eye to look at beginningless transmigration, and try to think about where you came from and where you will go after you die. Before you is the boundless void; all that went before is darkness; and even though your heart is cold, you are still fearful. However, even after depending on the Right Teaching to demonstrate complete liberation and enlightened thought and action, it can be guaranteed that out of ten people who practice five pair of them will, nevertheless, arrive at that stage where they fear that the causal ground is not real and that the eyes of the Tao are blind; or they will become involved in worldly affairs or be misled by a teacher of a heterodox, incorrect Dharma, thereby losing their human bodies ultimately even though they are now clothed in their kasayas. This is why I must sigh and lament the errors of the present era!
Even though one may have great ambition to achieve liberation on his own, he may, nevertheless, still feel the need to locate and study under a person possessing a clear mind and the highest intelligence. If one has great ambition, he should not just strive for empty fame or reputation that only has a good surface appearance. One the contrary, he must generate his Supreme Bodhi Mind and tirelessly learn all kinds of Dharma. In this Dharma-ending age, it is difficult to distinguish who is competent and who is incompetent or who is right and who is wrong among the great number of teachers available. So we must ask ourselves the following: "How is it now possible to locate a teacher with a clear mind and the highest intelligence?" Then we must answer ourselves as follows: "From this moment on, be self-supporting. Don't be concerned about Tzung or the Teaching; just be concerned about birth and death. Don't be concerned about fame and wealth; just be concerned about the Great Bodhi. Don't be concerned about the superficial aspects of life, arguing constantly about which side is right and which side is wrong. To achieve the right, just abandon the wrong!"
On the other hand, one may possess a clear mind and the highest intelligence, but he may still feel the need to locate near and study under an ambitious teacher whose original and primary purpose is to seek the Supreme Bodhi Mind and who, even though he is clear about what is right and what is wrong, does not give rise to a single thought of love or hate. One should think in the following manner: "He who is good is my teacher. He who is not good I must help to become good even though he is heavily influenced by his environment and surroundings." Thus, we should neither be too involved with those who have bad habits and evil ways, nor, at the same time, should we dislike them. This is the fundamental and most important thing!
The Dharma that teaches the termination of birth and death cannot be understood by clever ideas or be emotional reactions and mixed feelings or by negligence and lack of discipline. The primary requirement in coming to understand the Dharma is to search out your own faults and not to blame others. If you see a virtuous man, seek to emulate him. If you see an evil man, examine yourself. All kinds of Dharma can be understood by the mind, so to be clear about everything, read the Sutras, meditate, and sow only the seeds of virtue. If your eyes are not bright or if your faith is not strong and sincere, then reading the Sutras is merely the mechanical work of the mouth and the ears; and any meditation you do will cause you to fall into a deep pit. Even planting blessings in such a frame of mind will cause you to be reborn into the family of a demon. Thus, even though you engage in the activities of both blessings and wisdom and in the practices of both teaching and meditation but still continue to hold the ego-view of subject and object, then there is no doubt that you will be reborn into the family of an asura. So everyone should regard this Dharma most carefully!
If a person stands on the ground of the Precious Three and if the Supramundane appears, it is the result of good karma from numberless previous kalpas; moreover, such a person has always heard the Right Dharma. Once there was an elderly lay-Buddhist, who had cultivated blessings for fifty years, hoping to become even a lowly cook-monk at a monastery in his next lifetime so he could practice and progress without the distractions of lay-life. However, he could not realize even this humble desire due to his karma and incorrect view. Thus, we must clearly realize that life is short, that even a young person quickly becomes old and that old age leads only to death. Moreover, many people die young, and once breathing stops, they are solitary, without companions, and all the evil karma created during their lives follows them to the next reincarnation. If you know and are clear about this, then why can't you, in your own life, turn away from the delusory dreams of the world and, instead, begin to discipline yourselves, practice meditation and reach for wisdom? To wipe out your false thinking, just reach the Original Source. This is the so-called real sramana stage. Otherwise, one only appears to be a venerable member of the Sangha, who has practiced diligently for many kalpas. Therefore, if you are careless and lose your discipline for even one moment, the result will be the loss of all previous gains. This would, indeed, be a great pity!
Sometimes we observe people stealing a moment of leisure form the pressure of a heavy workload to recite poetry, practice calligraphy and to engage in other enjoyable pursuits and pastimes, but they do not take even the tiniest part of a moment to study the discipline and wisdom of the Mahayana Dharma. They may have shown some interest in poetry and calligraphy, but have never had any real interest in meditation, wisdom and the Buddhadharma. However, even though they have had or shown little or no interest, they still have in them some seeds of the Supreme Bodhi Mind.
If one desires to generate the Supreme Bodhi Mind, he should learn two things: the first is wisdom; the second is expedient compassion. To learn wisdom, it is best to read the Mahayana Sutras with deep understanding of their profound meaning and to meditate upon each word and not fall into the trap of merely chewing wood or counting others' treasure. One should become intimate with a good teacher and good friends, study with concentrated effort and never become conceited about his attainment.
To learn and develop expedient compassion, one must have deep faith in the fact that all sentient beings possess Buddha Nature and that all of them can, ultimately, become Buddha. If one observes some monk or layman doing evil, he should not be disrespectful to him, but should, on the contrary, have sympathy for him, using skillful means to teach him to understand the Dharma.
One who relies on his own practice does not show irreverence to others who do not practice. One who relies on himself to hold the Discipline and to recite the Mahayana Sutras does not slight a person who possesses little or no learning. Furthermore, if you understand some profound meaning, do not despise others who appear to be foolish and shallow. If you can develop mindfulness, do not despise others who only speak with their mouths. If you build a high mountain between yourself and others and hold within yourself feelings of victory and defeat, then, even though you work sedulously in defiance of hardships for your whole life, you will, nevertheless, only attain the asura level; and you will still be far away from the Bodhisattva Tao.
The Three Realms are like a cage in which we have only temporary enjoyment because, finally, everything is impermanent. All sentient beings live together in this cage, and they never think of leaving its confines unless, sometimes, adverse circumstances surrounding them cause thoughts of escape to arise in their minds. Apropos of this condition, the Buddha said, "The eight forms of suffering are, also , eight teachers." This is really true!
Some Buddhadharma students become discouraged and despondent because their minds are influenced by wealth and fame, so they only play with catch phrases and sayings about voidness; but few of them observe any real practice. However, if one can hold the Discipline and read the Mahayana Sutras while still living in the everyday world, then even if he does not open his Tao Eye, he will, nevertheless, still be admired and praised by all the Buddhas of the Three Periods.
You should always depend on some good conditions and circumstances to study, understand, and practice the Dharma. If you do not hold the Discipline and read the Mahayana Sutras, then how can you possibly achieve the Eye of Tao? If most Dharma teachers neglect the Vinaya and if most Ch'an masters abandon the Teachings, then who can know whether the one who is most famous may or may not, also, have the most deluded view?
When you begin to study it may not be difficult to show talent, but it may be difficult to have ambition. It may not be difficult to have ambition, but it may be difficult to develop a good, strong personal character. It may not be difficult to develop a good, strong personal character, but it may be difficult to cultivate the Wisdom Eye. Only the cultivation and achievement of the Wisdom Eye cannot be polluted by the ills of the time. Only then can a lasting good, strong personal character be developed and established. Then, when a good, strong personal character is established, ambition will be realized. Finally, when ambition is realized, the man of ability and talent can be useful.
People go as far as the tip of the branch but never arrive at the root-i.e., the Original Source. We know that the fresh flowers of a beautiful spring morning quickly fade, drop and shrivel; but the needles of the pine are always the last to fall-i.e., virtue and honesty last long. So why does a man who has some ambition abandon the Great Vehicle to follow the Small Vehicle? If one wishes to comprehend the Great Tao, it is better to perceive and concentrate on one thought only in the mind's eye-i.e., that thought without self-nature. If one does not do this, he then mistakes the four elements for his own body and the six conditioned sense data for his own mind. When false thoughts of both body and mind vanish, the Truth manifests itself. After apprehending Truth throughout all Dharmas, then one understands that all is pure and void. With no dust and no shadow, just recover Original Purity! Then the whole universe will manifest itself. However, if one's concentration on a single thought only vanishes, then all things are constantly on his mind and he falls into confusion. I fear that some originally good ambition thus fails miserably and tragically every day.
If a person who seems to be clever is ruined by his won cleverness, he will not be able to recite the name of Buddha nor to be born in the Western Pure Land. On the other hand, some seemingly foolish woman may be able to reject the suffering of this Saha World, deeply desiring and seeking a way to leave it. We should understand, in these two examples, that the clever person is really foolish and that the one who rejects the suffering of this Saha World is really very wise.
It is easy to distinguish good from evil, and you should never confuse yourself about the difference between the two. Therefore, at this point I want to urge you to believe in the Western Pure Land with great determination and to take a vow to observe the Discipline and to practice meritoriously to support the Tao. The Ch'an master Yung-Ming Yen-Shou, of the Sung Dynasty, said, "Without Ch'an but with Pure Land, everybody can practice, everybody can go. If you see Amita Buddha, there is no need to keep searching for Enlightenment." This is an accepted traditional view. You should not doubt it!
The knowledge and view of the Buddha is the same as the nature of a single thought of all sentient beings. This nature of a single thought is neither within nor without nor in the middle. It is neither controlled by the Three Periods, nor does it belong to the four-line verses. If you do not want to perceive and meditate upon it, but instead mistake the shadows of the six conditioned sense data for your own Mind, then you assume the view of sentient beings. On the other hand, if you carefully observe that view of sentient beings is neither within nor without not in the middle nor in any other place, that it does not belong to the Three Periods and that it is not found in the four-line verses, then you will realize that the view of sentient beings is the same as the view of the Buddha.
However, if you cannot directly believe, you should not give rise to any doubt. Just concentrate on reciting the mane of Buddha and observe the Discipline profoundly and carefully. If you hold to the Discipline purely and cleanly and, also, recite the name of Buddha appropriately, then belief will arise quite naturally. This is just the so-called use of different and wise expediencies to help you manifest Supreme Reality. The gatha says, "The view of sentient beings and the view of Buddha are just like the nature of water, which is the same whether it is ice or melted. The power of discipline is like the spring breezes or as bright as the day of Buddha or as strong as the sound of the Yellow River shaking both banks. So don't foolishly and madly go seeking anything outside, for Enlightenment can ever be attained only by strong man."
To get rid of all sorts of bad habits, just do not practice compassion with the three karmic hindrances. If you practice compassion with the three karmic hindrances, that will only generate the ten evils. However, if the ten evils are wiped out, then the ten virtues will appear. Only then is it possible to set up the fundamentals of the Five Vehicles and, thereafter, to seal the Dharma of Reality. Thus, every dharma and every sentient being is seen to be the Tao of Buddha. Thus is made manifest in the Bodhisattva named Never Disparaging, in the first chapter of the Lotus Sutra, who has arrived at the stage of the purification of the six sense organs and sees all dharmas and sentient beings equally and without discrimination as Buddha Nature. Once the sense organs are purified, it is not necessary to read and analyze the Sutras deeply; for if one can really practice compassion, then he will, naturally, enter the stage of the Wisdom of Buddha. On the other hand, without compassion one who increase his learning only increases his arrogance, and with more bad habits he is just more distant from the Tao. Thus, people often say that they are increasing their learning, but, in reality, they are only intensifying their egos. This is really terrible!
In learning the Tao, it is not difficult to be clever, but it is difficult to be careful. To start one's practice with urgency is not difficult, but to be persistent is difficult. To make one's own way through the world and to correct worldly people are not difficult, but it is difficult to restrain oneself. To work fast and to succeed are not difficult, but it is difficult to remain profoundly patient. To study the Doctrine with understanding is not difficult, but it is difficult to be correct and thorough in your study.
If a person can experience even a slight feeling of the tastelessness of the world, then he can experience a little bit of strength from the Buddhadharma. If he can experience, to some degree, the insecure feeling of living in the Saha World, then he can experience, to some degree, the secure feeling of rebirth in the Pure Land. In this case, only ask your own mind. It is not necessary to ask a teacher, even a teacher who urges people to experience the tastelessness of the world. Just concentrate on and practice the Dharma in order to leave this world. If the scale of a balance sinks down on one side, then the scale of the other side must rise up. This is an axiom no one can change!
All things in the world and outside of it are completed by compassion and patience but are defeated by irascibility and anger. Therefore, a gentleman cultivates his virtue with compassion and informs his feelings with patience. If virtue can be cultivated on earth and in heaven, then all things, naturally, be in peace and harmony. All bad feelings, all strange and unaccountable disasters will vanish in the bright daylight. Then, quite naturally, purify and perfection come to completeness. If one is self-supporting and depends on his good virtue and great compassion to help and convert all sentient beings, then he is regarded with admiration by everyone. However, if one harbors even a single angry thought, then all obstacles arise. Even just a little anger will create a problem to alter and destroy good intentions. Thus, a kalpa of war comes into being through an accumulation of hatred, almost destroying the world. Because people do not think and plan beforehand, we are born into a world where it is difficult, if not impossible, to avoid or wipe our violence and destruction.
Learning the good is different from learning the Tao. To learn the good merely generates the false, empty fame of the world, while to learn the Tao creates real benefit beyond the world. Learning the good only takes care of the situation before us here and now, while in learning the Tao understanding should go further-i.e., infinitely far and eternally long for as many kalpas as there are dust-motes in the universe. Really, however, infinite space and distance as well as eternal kalpas, in number as great as all the dust-motes in the universe, are right here in front of us; but the feelings of desire surrounding us cloud our awareness with ignorance, which has lasted for as many kalpas as there are dust-motes. Only the wise man directly perceives his Real Nature in an instant, which neither is born nor dies and which neither comes nor goes. How can you perceive the delusion and suffering of all sentient beings, take a Great Vow to convert all of them and yet grasp and be attached to the ideas of body and world, self and others or continue to be bound by desire? If you really cannot benefit yourself and others, don't try it! However, if you really can benefit yourself and others, then, even though you must go through fire and water, go straight ahead. This really learning the Tao and the genuine good.
One who learns the Tao should have fortitude, a gentle manner, great ambition and persistence, carefully practice holding an empty mind, speak honestly, increase his wisdom, store up his blessings and think deeply and clearly. He should serve his superiors sincerely and faithfully, be humble with his subordinates and should yield to his equals. When he is content, he should not seek luxury. When he is not successful, he should not become melancholy. It is far better to refrain from leading an excessively comfortable life than to do good deeds in order to win blessings. To discipline oneself is far better than to be repentant. One should think that his own body is full of suffering and void. He should not follow popular custom, which fosters greed for fine clothes to cover the body. He should take simple food when hungry and not be greedy for exotic tastes. He should reflect on what he has received from almsgiving and on whatever acts of merit he has performed during previous lifetimes as well as in this present lifetime. He should be aware and be careful of the karma created by body, mouth and mind every twenty-four hours. He should ask himself what is good, what is bad and what is unmentionable. With this awareness, can one digest the four offerings made to a monk-victuals, clothing, bedding and medicine-or not? Thinking in this manner, one comes to feel properly ashamed for his past selfishness; and then, after some self-examination, he can practice and become enlightened quite naturally. Thus by reducing one's bad habits, gradually the light of wisdom will appear, which is, in reality, no other than the clear Pure Mind and the view of Buddha.
If someone asserts that he is spreading Dharma as a representative of the Buddha, but does not have the Great Bodhi Mind, I do not believe him. Also, if someone asserts that he has the Great Bodhi Mind, but has no thought to respond to birth and death, I absolutely cannot believe him. Surely, if one does not forget the view of victory and defeat, he can only achieve the asura realm. If he does not forget the view of fame and wealth, he can only sow the seeds of the three evil ways and become a demon. If one grasps all the things that he has seen and heard as reality, he will be able to abandon these forms and habits only with great difficulty. He does not really understand the Dharma of Tathagata if he does not know what the causes and conditions of the four siddhanta are; and he can only achieve the lower grades of those on the road to liberation, perhaps even falling into the pit of sophistry. The higher such a person rises, the lower the Right Dharma falls. Therefore, whenever I think about this, I always feel pained and cry out in my dreams.
One who is learning the Tao should develop his moral character himself and possess experience. One cannot ever have moral character without experience, for that is just the same as being without moral character. On the other hand, if one possesses experience without developing his moral character, he cannot be independent; and that is the same as being without experience. Thus, it is clear that if one possesses both moral character and experience, he, then, will neither be limited by living in the midst of daily life nor changed by current worldly temptations, bad habits and moral failure.
If even someone as dull as Ban-T'o can understand the meaning of only a few words-such as "Shake off the dust!" -and can, thereby, attain the fruit of the sramana stage and generate the power of unhindered discourse, then how much more should one be able to do those things who already understands the meaning of the Doctrine. But, alas!! The decline and disintegration of the BuddhadharmaÉ I cannot bear to talk about it now! Everything starts to fall after it has reached its zenith; but even adversity, after reaching its extremity, is followed by felicity. The gatha says, "If intense cold strikes not to the bone, then how can plum blossoms fragrant be?" How can a man of fortitude and courage not be moved in his own heart or be ungrateful for his spirit and insight?
The decline and disintegration of the Buddhadharma does not happen in just one day. It must be understood that if the causal ground is false, then the fruit will be distorted. In these times, many people intend to study Buddhadharma, and many of them have great ambition to help and to support Buddhism, such as opening monastaries, building beautiful temples and enlisting many disciples with their bowls and staffs to surround them. One can see so many disciples staying in the cities and towns and in many other different places in or near monastaries and temples, like lesser stars encircling Polaris. However, to begin the study of Buddhadharma with ordinary or worldly things is merely taking care of or decorating the front door of Buddhism, which is the least of all attainments.
Longevity is the foundation of all blessings, and blessings are the foundation of wisdom. If one can just be alert thought after thought, that already is the brightness of wisdom and the source of blessings and longevity. Therefore, if you are one who can think frequently about death, then you will beget the Tao of Mind. If the awareness of both life and death appears right in front of us, how then can we rely on our egos? How then can we cling to the greed of the five desires? How then can we be attached to fame? If we do not rely on our egos, how can we take anything of worldly value with us? If the ego vanishes, there no longer remains the greed of the five desires, the defilements are surrendered and eliminated, love of false fame disappears and pride can be forsaken. If we know that we can take nothing of worldly value with us, then we shouldn't desperately seek for such things; and even if we already possess such things, then we should abandon all of them in order to create blessings. If we can separate ourselves from holding to the view of an individual self with its own possessions and difilements, then we can realize clearly that all sentient beings are future Buddhas. Furthermore, if we can see that all sentient beings are future Buddhas, then we can use all things as offerings to these future Buddhas. Thus, with this in mind, we naturally would not do anything whatsoever to disturb or injure these future Buddhas, and so our blessings will automatically increase, and our longevity will last eternally. On the other hand, if we cannot constantly keep these future Buddhas in mind, then we cannot constantly keep these future Buddhas in mind, then we cannot accumulate blessings and wisdom; and if we cannot accumulate blessings and wisdom, then even if, by luck, we live to be one hundred years old, we shall still, ultimately, die along with the grass and the trees.
We should never envy or admire any literature that obstructs or distracts us from the Right Dharma, nor should we ever practice bad habits-such as greed, jealousy or arrogance-that can only bring harm to us. Furthermore, just do not hold the self to be within, then the self has nothing to rely on Just do not hold others to be ourside, then others are not judged to be false. Just think about and look at your own foolishness, feel deeply ashamed at your own great pride and limited wisdom, and so seek to repent deeply.
Virtuous and kindly friends, it is very difficult to get off the Wheel of Birth-and-Death. I myself left home when I was twenty-four years old. My purpose during this cycle of birth and death was, really, not to grasp any view whatsoever, not to depend on any sort of spirit and not to desire any sort of fame or wealth. However, because I could not seclude and isolate myself, my practice was not perfect. Consequently, encouraged by some friend to achieve worldly success quickly, I have, for the last thirty years, been deluded too much by false, empty fame, so that, even today, though my hair has become white and my face wrinkled, I still have not freed myself from the Wheel of Birth-and-Death. I am deeply ashamed when I speak about it! Therefore, I dare not say I have attained anything whatsoever or call myself "Patriarch", for that would only be telling a great lie; and I really must not mislead or deceive myself.
Recently, a certain Upasaka Woo asked me to discourse specifically about delivery from the Wheel of Birth-and-Death for both monks and laymen. You might ask, however, whether I, who myself have not yet been delivered from the Wheel of Birth-and-Death, am really qualified to give a discourse to others about it. I am really qualified and can speak to others about it because we are all in this ocean of birth and death together, and I have come to understand the real and right path by which to leave or terminate the condition of birth and death. If you really want to transcend birth and death, you should do the following. Firstly, do not have any such intention in your mind. neither grasping nor thinking about it. Secondly, you should not be moved by emotion or hold any view whatsoever. Thirdly, you should not hold any thought whatsoever that is mixed with the desire for fame and wealth. Remember, if you mistake going south for going north, then the more you go forward, the further away you get from your goal. This is not only an ancient, wise saying, but also an immutable law. It is just very difficult to talk to an ignorant person, and even if you try to talk to him, making everything clear and simple, he still cannot understand. You, my virtuous friends, do you still not understand?! The Buddha said, "The chance of getting a human body in transmigration is as small as a mote of dust under your fingernail, but the chance of losing your human body is as great as the round earth." Remember, if even one outbreath does not return, then that already is the next life! One might be reborn as a lower being and, even after one thousand lifetimes and hundreds of kalpas, still might not be able to return to a human form. It is even much less easy to regain a human form for those many heterodox teachers who supposedly spread Dharma in this Dharma-ending age and who are as numerous as the grains of sand in the Ganges River. They are just the blind leading the blind and leading them all into a pit of fire.
In concluding, I would like to recall the words of Ch'an Master Yung-Ming Yen-Shou, who said "Without Ch'an but with Pure Land, everybody can practice, everybody can go; however, with Ch'an but without Pure Land, most people, in their practice, take the wrong path." The Great Dharma Master Han Shan has said, apropos of this same problem, "If Ch'an is practiced without Pure Land, not only ten out of nine persons will go wrong, but maybe even eleven will go wrong." These are true and honest words, and I sincerely hope that none of you, my virtuous friends, will ever fall out of your fight minds into this trap. To avoid this, you must, first, remember that everything in this world is impermanent. Then you should have strong faith and vow to recite the Buddha's name, seeking to be reborn in the Pure Land. After all, if you do not desire and try to gain deliverance from your bodies in this lifetime, then in which lifetime can you be delivered?
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