Most of the Dharma talks included in this collection were given at Bodhi
Monastery on Saturdays to the Chinese-American and American community.
These talks were then transcribed and edited for the Bodhi Monastery
newsletter to be read by the Monastery’s extended Dharma community. The
shortest lecture at the beginning of this collection was given at the end of a
ten-day Vipassana retreat. Two of the lectures were formal lectures given in
Taiwanand therefore have a slightly different tone.
Ven. Jen-chun, in traditional Chinese style, bases his talks on a series of
stanzas. He writes his stanzas on scraps of paper and then breaks down each
stanza by line and explains its meaning in the lecture. In order to convey
the meaning clearly in English and depending on the need of the individual
essay, the stanzas were sometimes used in their entirety, at other times used
as subtitles and subheads, or also folded hidden in the text.
We would like to acknowledge the main translators of Ven. Jen-chun’s lectures:
Ven. Zhi-han (Rev. Antony), Fie (Faye) Chang, Ken Chen, and Yu-Jung
Avis who participated tirelessly in translating Ven. Jen-chun’s lectures on a
weekly basis from 2001 through 2005, sometimes for just a scant few
English-speaking listeners among the patient Chinese-speaking community.
Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi and Ming Yee Wang reviewed the manuscript for content
and commented on it. A number of Ven. Jen-chun’s American students
helped to polish the transcription. The vast majority of his translated lectures,
though recorded, have not yet been transcribed or edited.
Buddhist Association of theUnited States,New York,USA
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Otherwise, all rights reserved.
Dispel All Pretenses
Dispel all pretenses and smile
In a composed and tranquil manner.
Be respectful, wholesome, and sincere
As if the Buddha were standing before you.
Our pretenses are an expression of the ego-self. Thus, if we are true
practitioners of the Dharma, we must dispel all our pretenses, the false
masks of the ego-self. The ego-self is the iron fist at the gateway of the
mind, the protective fortress of the “I.” So we must utilize our time effectively
to sever our notion of self. When you can subdue and eradicate the
self, then you will be able to face all people with wholesome joy. You will
be able to look at everyone with the most sincere mind of Dharma, smile
at them warmly, and welcome them in a very composed way.
A true practitioner of the Dharma must understand that the Buddha is
one who has attained Buddhahood and that ordinary people are all
potential Buddhas. So under all circumstances, we should look upon all
people as if we are facing the Buddha. We should look upon all Buddhas
as if we are seeing all people. Thereby, we see the Buddha and all people
equanimously and equally. If we were to look down at other people with
a conceited mind, that would be like looking down on all the Buddhas —
a serious transgression indeed. If we look upon all people as if we were
seeing the Buddha before us, we will always respect and revere everyone
with the purest and most wholesome mind.
When our Buddha Shakyamuni first attained Buddhahood, he said that
nothing can be achieved without respect. This means that if we do not
extend sincere respect to others, we cannot realize any great achievement.
The Buddha respected all the Buddhas as well as all people. Why? Because
he truly understood that while his Dharma-body came from all the
Buddhas, his form-body came from all sentient beings.
The wave of compassion surges like the sea,
Purification comes by severing the “I.”
Thus, the bodhi task is firm and wide,
Ever bolder, without obstruction.
All the Buddhas and the great bodhisattvas are the manifestation of
great compassion and great wisdom. As practitioners of the bodhisattva
path, we should develop a mind of compassion as vast as the great
ocean. We also need the wisdom to eradicate and purify ourselves by
severing the “I.” Thus, we must learn the great wisdom and great compassion
of all the great bodhisattvas.
The word “bodhi” is short for bodhi-mind, the aspiration for
enlightenment. This is the great vow of a bodhisattva, which combines
great wisdom with great compassion. A person who has generated the
bodhi-mind is always young, firm, and strong in spirit. Such a person
will never regress. In their mind they can embrace and reach out to all
sentient beings. They are unobstructed in learning the Dharma and thus
can eradicate the “I,” the unreal notion of self.
Distinguish clearly between the old and the new,
Distinguish things to be abandoned and nurtured.
Distinguish clearly what it means to sink and what to generate,
Distinguish clearly between the defiled and the pure.
In this verse, “the old” refers to old habitual ways, the ways of defilement.
An old way, for instance, is not being able to firmly uphold the five
precepts; the new way is to firmly uphold the five precepts. If you can
clearly distinguish between the old ways and the new, you can proceed
to eradicate defiled qualities and nurture the pure, undefiled path.
“To sink” means to fall down to the lower realms; “to generate” means
to promote, to be upright and diligent. If we can clearly distinguish what
should be eradicated and what should be nurtured, then we will no longer
fall down. In countless lifetimes to come, we will always be able to take
the initiative and make the resolve to walk this path to Buddhahood.
Thereby we will eradicate all defilements and acquire all purity.
These verses of advice clearly show the concise essence of Dharma
practice. The Dharma is the highest and purest kind of culture, the most
perfect civilization. A true practitioner of the Dharma must learn from
this culture of wisdom how to eradicate the self, the false “I,” and then
learn to manifest in body, speech, and mind the purity and perfection of
that ultimate civilization. Thus, one will become the most righteous and
luminous kind of person. You will always walk the path and promote
the path for countless lifetimes to come. Our lives can become the
Dharma-body of the Dharma, the manifestation of all the Buddhas. So,
as I always encourage myself, I urge you all to remember to make that
vow in life after life: to live in the Dharma and thereby be a bodily
manifestation of Dharma.
(A talk given at the close of a ten-day Vipassana retreat
held at Bodhi Monastery in June 2003.)
The Basis for
Compassion and Wisdom
Throughout history we have seen many examples of people who were
willing “to walk through fire and water” to uphold justice, to preserve
the integrity of their religion, and to protect their country. These are very
difficult tasks. The fire fighters who were involved with the rescue missions
following the 9/11 terrorist attacks were examples of those who “walk
through fire.” They went right through the fire to fight the fire, even
though they knew they might die. They did this because it was their
responsibility. When one is willing to go through fire and water, one
demonstrates compassion and resolve in action.
A focus of wisdom is openness. “Openness” means that there’s nothing
covert; our heart and mind are clearly displayed for others to see; we are
willing to “show our cards.” Such openness and enthusiasm require true
wisdom. True wisdom illuminates: it puts our physical and mental conduct
under the spotlight so that everyone knows what’s on our mind. We will
then have the courage and vigor to put our moral beliefs into action.
The wisdom of Dharma is the most excellent. The teaching of the
Buddha is most worthy of our respect. We revere the words of the
Buddha — the Teacher of the plain and simple truth. We aspire to truly
understand the Dharma.
Compassion means the ability to place everyone else above ourselves.
Even the Buddha, the most lofty of all, upheld the notion of equality. Our
willingness to endure our own pain and suffering will enable us to provide
others with protection and safety.
Buddhism often speaks of having great aspiration and resolve.
“Aspiration and resolve” means determination. We apply this firmness to
everything we do — true firmness arises only if we are never deceitful —
and with such purity of all our actions, we do what should be done and
refrain from doing what shouldn’t be done.
When an ordinary person’s own determination gradually becomes
pure, he/she begins to see the greatness of the great bodhisattvas. Great
bodhisattvas are great because of their extraordinary qualities, the qualities
that stem from their great resolve. They do what others hesitate to do;
they take up what others fear to undertake. They consider such difficult
deeds as their own responsibility, which they must never shirk.
Though we all have a heart and a pair of eyes, they are often blind.
They are blinded by the delusion of self. Therefore, the single most
important aim in practicing Buddhism is to eliminate the fallacy of self.
We should first understand that a “true self” does not exist; there is only
a “conditioned self” — this entity that we call “self” is only a temporary
conditional existence. If we understand the nature of this conditioned
self, we can make good use of the conventional entity “self.” Through
the conditioned self, we resolve to create a bright future. With such wisdom,
we will be able to break through our delusion of self.
We walk around as if we are wearing a blindfold over our eyes and a
veil over our hearts and minds. If we understand this, we should apply
wisdom to remove the blindfold and pull off the veil. Then we will be
able to truly care for others and extend to them our loving-kindness.
There are two elements of loving-kindness. The first element is rational
differentiation — knowing and choosing right from wrong; the second is
forbearance of the truth, holding back on personal liberation in order to
help others. If we understand the true meaning of loving-kindness, we
can truly devote ourselves and truly promote and spread morality
What does it mean to “open and broaden”? We should first recognize
that we cannot exist in this world independently. We exist through our
connections with innumerable supporting conditions, both human and
material. Therefore, we need to devote ourselves to the public welfare
and open the valve of our hearts to broaden the capacity of our minds.
How do we open our hearts and broaden our minds? First we make a
determination to purify our actions by removing the blindfolds, by not
being controlled by the delusion of self. Gradually our deeds become
righteous and our resolve solidifies. The luminous and virtuous quality
will eventually manifest itself, enabling us to break through the blindfold
of self and sustain our practice. Over time, our wisdom will gradually gain
in strength, and the capacity of our mind will be further enlarged.
Human beings have two treasures besides the Triple Gem (the Buddha,
the Dharma, and the Sangha) — time and space. (N.B. The word space in
Chinese also means empty.) When we spend time on worthy causes, we
cultivate an upright character and we are free from the disdain of others.
Without integrity, wealth and lofty social position do not make us useful
The doctrine of emptiness teaches us not to cling to the two extreme
wrong views of eternalism and annihilationism. When we understand
the true nature of self and are free from any false view of self, there would
be no adverse effect (the delusion) in the activities of “self,” and we will
gradually achieve purity in our physical and mental conduct.
The word “discourse” in Chinese (li) also means the ultimate principle
or guideline. What kind of principle is considered the ultimate guideline?
The principle refers to the ultimate truth — the truth that can withstand
the scrutiny of the most rigorous logic. Once we penetrate this ultimate
truth, we are “victorious” because from then on our actions will always
reflect the principle, namely, the truth. If we can then clearly explicate
this principle, we can transform and inspire others.
Everyone should share the responsibility to spread the Dharma.
Whether you are a lay person or a monastic, you need to spend time
studying the Dharma, so that you will be able to give discourses. Do not
think it is another person’s responsibility. Do not simply enjoy the benefit
of the Dharma. Do not be lazy and waste your time. Don’t waste your
life as a human being.
We should have respect at all times. Having respect is more than paying
lip service. We demonstrate respect in all our actions. Once we can hold
respect in our minds at all times, it naturally flows out through all our
activities. All moral actions, whether mundane or supramundane, will
then be born from respect.
What difference does it make to have a sense of respect? Without a
sense of respect, we are without sincerity. An insincere person follows the
flow of samsara, from life to life, like a leaf drifting on flowing water. If
we apply respect, we can reach a relaxed state of mind because the mind
will be free from the control of our ego. Any pressure that we normally
feel in life will not affect us, and our mind will be calm and strong.
Whether you are a monastic or lay person, if you are a pure follower
of the Buddha, you will be able to win respect wherever you go and you
will face a path that is clear and wide. If you can have this open mind,
you will not have any selfishness in your mind and everything you do,
you do for others; wherever you go, others will want to make a connection
with you. Once you are able to make connections with everyone,
you will be able to make connections with all the Buddhas. That is the
great effectiveness of respect.
We should look to the Buddha to learn how to show respect. The
Buddha Shakyamuni not only paid respect and showed reverence to all
the Buddhas of the past, he also showed respect to all sentient beings in
the past, present, and future. This is the true essence of Buddhism. This
is the difference between it and other worldly religions.
You should apply the same kind of reverence and respect to everybody
surrounding you. With this kind of universal reverence, you will not lose
your temper. Not only should you show respect to good people, you
should also show respect to bad people because whatever these people
did that makes them bad is only temporary. You should apply this attitude
of equality to everyone and then you will have no anger or aversion.
Your mind will then be calm, pure, and steady.
What kind of person was the Buddha? He was one who always placed
others before himself. He never had one thought of craving for himself.
Because he possessed this kind of mentality, he was able to dedicate
everything he had to everybody else. If you are able to follow the example
set by the Buddha, you will have no craving and greed. With non-greed,
your behavior will show integrity and wherever you go, you will exude
purity and integrity in your actions. (A discourse given at Bodhi Monastery, March 13, 2004)
the Natural World
Today my talk will revolve around four natural phenomena: the sun,
space, the ocean, and the mountain peaks. If we are inspired by these
four great phenomena of the natural world, we can make the great
resolve to acquire the right view that functions effectively within the
world and the penetrating vision that transcends the world.
The Sun. “With high spirits, welcome the glorious morning
sun. With the light shining through the dark shadows, our eyes open
wide and see clearly.” When we get up early in the morning, we feel a
pure energy running through us, invigorating us and filling us with
vitality. Most of us have dark shadows or blind spots either within us or
around us. Therefore, if we can see the sunlight of the Dharma, we will
be able to rise up from the dark places in our life and obtain a clear, open
vision of everything.
“The Buddha, Offspring of the Sun, awakened and transcended the
world.” The Buddha Shakyamuni, like all the other Buddhas, was called
the “Offspring of the Sun.” If we can learn from the “Offspring of the
Sun,” we will be able to transcend mundane, worldly affairs. Like the
sun, the Buddha was so bright that he could shine through everything.
His enlightenment goes beyond the mundane world and can enlighten
everyone. However, though the Buddha was the Offspring of the Sun,
born into the so-called Solar Race, he was not the least bit arrogant or
conceited. He always had the most humble attitude.
In the Mahayana scriptures, the Buddha is described as the foremost
in brilliance. This means that he is the foremost in conduct. His conduct
is most majestic and sublime. There are no inconsistencies between the
Buddha’s mental conduct and his bodily and verbal conduct. His mental
conduct is most pure. His appearance is most pure. His physical appearance,
all his bodily features, manifest his pure state of mind. So he is able to
devote his entire life to all sentient beings, and he has the greatest
aspiration, the greatest resolve to work for the benefit of everybody. His
virtue is the greatest, for it does not center around the self. Because he
was able to abandon the self, the ego, he was able to devote himself to
delivering all sentient beings from suffering.
“Learn transcendence; with backbones straight, we offer ourselves to
the world and obliterate the danger of defilements.” Whether we are
monastics or lay persons, we should learn from the Buddha. With this
kind of spirit to deliver yourself, when you follow the spirit of the
Buddha, you will be able to return to the world and devote yourself
purely to the benefit of all sentient beings. All your actions, speech, and
mental activities will be consistent with this spirit, and you will be able
to totally remove all the terrors of the world.
Space. “Space is a grand opening that is endlessly vast.” The
space that we are familiar with is only a small portion of space in its
entirety. The greatest space of the world is boundless, vast beyond
“With steady footsteps, he marches straightforward into the state of
the foremost in meaning.” What is “the state of the foremost in meaning”?
It is the state of all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Their attainment
is permanent and not subject to change. Because it is permanent and not
subject to change, for them there is no birth, aging, illness, and death.
What does this mean? If people maintain the five precepts well, they will
be reborn in heaven. Such a rebirth, however, is tainted. One day, they
will lose their merit and fall down from heaven. In contrast, the attainment
of the Buddhas and great bodhisattvas is taintless. They have true
brightness, true liberation, and true excellence. They never fall away from
their realization of truth. Because such attainment is not subject to
change, it transcends the mundane, transcends all phenomena tied up
with birth, aging, illness, and death. The great parinirvana attained by
the Buddha and the bodhisattvas is not subject to birth, not subject
to aging, not subject to illness and death. Therefore, it is called the
“taintless attainment.” It will never again be touched by affliction and
suffering. The Buddha Shakyamuni realized such truth and the truth he
realized is so universally true in the world today that we say it is without
birth, aging, illness, or death.
“Only when the ground has frozen over and the air is chilling cold can
the seed germinate in the barren field.” Venerable Master Yin-shun once
said that we must have the spirit of a person who is willing to spread the
seed in the most barren climate, in chilling cold and on frozen ground.
We need such a spirit to spread the seed of the Dharma wherever we are.
Why is that? If we vow to practice the bodhisattva way among people of
good predispositions and under favorable conditions, then when we meet
such conditions we will feel satisfied and not want to move forward.
When the situation is bad, we will feel frustrated and want to give up
the practice. So the seed of the Buddha’s Dharma needs to be spread no
matter what kind of climate we are in, no matter what our conditions
might be. Whether the climate is extremely cold or extremely hot, we
must unrelentingly spread the Buddha’s Dharma.
“With resilience, we take up our responsibility with humility, humbled
by our own inadequacies.” We Buddhist followers need to accept
responsibility for spreading the Buddha’s Dharma both by our own
practice and by benefiting others. We need to arouse a great sense of
shame and moral dread so that we will not waste our lives. I am warning
you here, everyone: if you waste your time, you will never be able to see
the Buddha. As I have said again and again, we need to make the great
resolve to wholeheartedly devote ourselves to the practice of the six
paramitas in order to deliver the sentient beings of the six realms from
suffering. Please pay careful attention to this.
Ocean. “The vast ocean seen from the shore — how spectacular
the view!” If we come to a seashore or a great body of water, we can
appreciate the spectacular view and all the varieties presented by the
view of the ocean.
“Without selection or bias, the ocean provides food and transport for all.”
It provides all human beings with all kinds of nutrition and sustenance.
Great products, including fish, come from the ocean. The ocean also
provides the connection between civilizations. When civilizations first
needed to communicate with each other, the ocean provided the best
channel of traffic, which facilitated communication between civilizations.
Human beings were able to create culture and civilization, but the ocean
provided the means of communication. Therefore, we should learn
from the ocean to become the great medium of different civilizations
and different cultures.
The ocean is extremely vast. It does not discriminate against people.
Whether you are Caucasian, African American, or South Asian, or
East Asian, the ocean is not concerned. For the great ocean, everybody
“The great Dharma, so wonderful and extensive, is also an ocean. It
liberates universally, without distinction or bias.” So we often refer to
the “OceanofDharma.” Why is the Dharma referred to as an ocean? It
is because the Dharma is spectacular and most pure. It is just like a lotus
flower, whose every part — from its roots to its leaves — is useful and
beneficial to others. Because the lotus flower is without any clinging, it
can completely devote itself to benefit others.
The Buddha’s Dharma teaches us to be level-headed — not impeding
our own practice or that of others. Hence it is vast and deep, like the
great void. It is this virtue that brings deliverance to everyone rather
than to a select few.
All Buddhas and bodhisattvas deliver sentient beings from suffering
without discrimination. They do not pick just a select few and deliver
them but not others. Such a sense of equality is like a square whose four
sides are all equal. The Buddhas and bodhisattvas will deliver sentient
beings equally, like the sides of a square, without any boundaries, without
Mountain. “High and solemn beneath the sky, the mountain
towers above a store of wealth. Likewise, the virtues and merits abound
in a bodhisattva’s mind.” An ancient Chinese saying teaches us that if
we learn to be like an ocean and a mountain, we will be able to store all
wealth. Just as a mountain has the greatest wealth stored inside, so the
mind of a bodhisattva is a store of excellent qualities. A bodhisattva’s
mind is as vast as a mountain and also stores all the wealth under the
great blue sky.
“As firm as Mount Diamond, as equally indestructible, it benefits
beings with wholesome deeds throughout endless eons.” When there are
earthquakes, some mountains break down and can even be brought to
ground-level. However, a mountain of diamond cannot be broken. The
excellent qualities of the bodhisattva are similar. No matter what kind of
affliction people try to inflict upon the bodhisattva, nothing can diminish
his excellent qualities. Not even Mara can distract him from his mission.
It is the landmark. Through an extremely long period of time, throughout
extremely vast space, a bodhisattva is able to establish the landmark, the
symbol of true virtue, to guide and benefit all sentient beings.
In closing, I encourage you to have the qualities of the sun, the sky,
an ocean, and a mountain. (A discourse given at Bodhi Monastery, January 10, 2004)
One who accomplishes greatness
changes the fate of the world.
The word “greatness” in the Buddhadharma means something different
from ordinary greatness. Ordinary greatness is a relative greatness, being
greater than things of the same kind. The term “greatness” in the Buddha
Dharma refers to absolute greatness. Many doctrines are included in the
world-transcending teaching of Buddhism, and that is why we say that
greatness means a large amount. Greatness also implies depth. Because
of its depth, the Buddha’s teaching is difficult not only for ordinary people
to comprehend, but also for Buddhist followers. It challenges them as
well to understand its truth.
Greatness also means perfection – perfection in the sense that nothing
is missing or deficient. The term “perfection” in Buddhism refers to the
enlightenment of a Buddha as well as that of a bodhisattva. No matter
what period of history we might be living in, no matter what place in the
world we might occupy, the truth of perfection realized by enlightenment
always remains valid. It cannot be disproved by any great philosopher
or thinker. The perfect enlightenment of the Buddha can dispel all illusions.
It cannot be broken by anything.
To accomplish greatness is to become a great vessel of the Dharma.
Those who can accomplish greatness, those who can become great
Dharma vessels, are those who can learn greatness, vastness, and depth;
they are those who can learn to excel. If one can accomplish this kind
of greatness, one will be able to turn around the fate of the world. The
fate of the world today is terrible because the world is filled with terrorists,
with violence, with suffering. In order to become a limitless vessel of
Buddhadharma, one has to possess great wisdom and great compassion.
With great wisdom, one comprehends the truth of non-self and does not
cling to anything. With great compassion, one will be able to devote
oneself to eliminating the suffering of all sentient beings and be able to
turn around the fate of the world.
Level 1: Internally he establishes great moral integrity.
As Buddhist followers, we do not believe that the mind is the
only element of the world, but we do believe that the mind plays an
instrumental role in creating the conditions that determine the quality
of our lives. If you can understand the importance of the mind, you will
be able to build up character; you will have a sturdy backbone. A
Buddhist follower does not consider as important what ordinary people
pursue. They seek more important goals. Having a sturdy backbone
means that you will be tenacious. You will be able to withstand any
kind of distraction: to stand in midstream, to withstand the current, and
to move in the other direction.
Level 2: Externally, he sustains a great atmosphere of viability.
If internally a person has true great moral integrity, then he will have a
character that is totally different from that of ordinary people. He will be
able to pass the external test, which means that when he is experiencing
many problems, he will be able to maintain a great atmosphere of viability
to present the spirit of the Buddhadharma to the world.
Level 3: He opens up internally and externally to a great capacity.
This means that if internally a person can build up great character and
moral integrity, and externally has great tenacity, this person will have
limitless capacity. Unlike an ordinary person, whose capacity is limited,
a person such as this will be able to transcend all, to receive all, and to
transform all. If one is able to do this, one will reach the beginning of
Level 4: Everywhere he goes, he exerts great influence.
Thus, whether you are a monastic person or a householder, you will be
able to exert a great influence stemming from your great aspiration.
There is a word in Chinese that represents the point of maturity, the
boiling point, for something that has been brewing. This word represents
the ability to truly develop and demonstrate one’s great aspiration.
One who is able to exert great influence creates
opportunity and fortunes for the suffering world.
The word “able” is very important in Buddhism. For example, when we
receive the five precepts, we are asked, “Are you able to keep the five
precepts?” and we answer, “Yes, I am able.” However, most of the time,
when ordinary people say that they are able, they are referring to a limited
ability; they are not talking about a limitless ability. Thus, if we are able
to keep the five precepts and perform the ten good deeds to perfection,
then we will be able to do what others cannot do. This is the true
meaning of “being able.”
If we want to be able to exert great influence, to create opportunities
and fortune for the world, we need to understand that we are currently
facing an age in which there is a general explosion of all defilements.
Therefore, if a person can create and exert true influence, and make the
most sincere resolve, he will be able to pass through the test of great
calamities. He will be able to cultivate the aspiration of great deeds and
then be able to create new opportunities and great fortunes for the world.
In Chinese, the word “opportunity” is translated as organic, which is
defined as operating according to Buddhadharma without being hindered
by defilements. If one cannot operate organically, one will not be able to
operate with a deliberate mind. One operating organically will be able
to develop his karmic roots with utmost sincerity, as well as help others
to develop their karmic roots with utmost sincerity.
In order for a person to turn around the fortunes of the world, he needs
to pay special attention to time. Time is very precious. Two thousand
years ago inChina, there was an emperor of the Xia Dynasty who
solved the irrigation problem of theYangzeRiver. He was famous for
never wasting time and thus it is said that he spent 365 days outside of
his house, never returning home. Even when he was traveling, if he
passed by his home, he did not go in because for him every moment was
precious; he did not want to waste time. We need to learn from this
emperor to pay attention to precious time. Not even one moment should
be wasted. Drinking, wandering the streets, and conducting immoral
deeds are all a waste of time. If one wastes time like this, one will not
make any contribution to the world. A wasteful person has no value and
is not qualified to be a human being because he has wasted his life.
According to the law of karma, a wasteful person will fall to a lower
realm of rebirth.
Use time and space
to accomplish greatness.
One should treasure precious time so that the passing
of each thought is very clear.
When we are mindful of the passing of time, we can make good use
of it. Although it is difficult to be mindful of every single thought, if a
person is truly sincere in practicing the Buddhadharma, he would be
alarmed if he did not pay attention to a passing thought, and would
immediately start to be mindful and pay attention to the next thought.
When one is able to begin practicing such clear mindfulness, from one
thought to the next, the Buddhadharma will become a mirror for oneself.
The Buddhadharma will be able to reflect everything internally, and
externally one will be able to clearly see through the mirror of Dharma
without being muddled.
When one is able to thoroughly observe the meaning of emptiness,
one will be able to reach purity wherever one goes.
One needs to respect the deep meaning of emptiness because if one is
able to thoroughly understand the true meaning of it, one will have purity
wherever one goes. Purity means nonattachment. If a person is without
attachment, he will be able to pass through every kind of obstruction and
can transform and change everything.
If one can make good use of time, one will be able to
develop space or emptiness to guide this age.
If one is able to use time precisely, one will be able to broadly develop
space and to grow or extend one day at a time. One will be guided by
the wisdom of emptiness and then be able to guide the world. Therefore,
whether you are a monastic person or a householder, if you are not able
to grasp time, you will gradually be left behind. You will then be left
without a stand and whatever you do or whatever you say, no one will
pay attention to you or want to be close to you.
One realizes the meaning of emptiness and inspired by this age,
one will frequently practice the doctrine of emptiness.
If we are able to verify both existence and emptiness, then we will
be able to rejoice in what others fear. What are people afraid of? Most
people fear death. If one truly understands the wisdom of emptiness, one
will be able to gladly devote oneself and will rejoice in the devotion of
life. One will then be able to realize the meanings of nonattachment and
nonobstruction within emptiness and be able to inspire and guide the
world. How is this accomplished? If you are a householder, do not be
attached to your physical or mental being, or to your families. If you are
a monastic person, do not be attached to the monastery you live in. If
you can truly practice in this way, then you will be able to truly practice
nonattachment and nonobstruction.
In closing, my great wish for you is that you will be able to become a
great world-transcending vessel of the Dharma. (A discourse given at Bodhi Monastery on May 15th, 2004.)
In Buddhism we talk about Sunyata (Emptiness). This talk of Sunyata is
essentially trying to tell us to widen our eyes, sharpen our vision, and
open our hearts, so that we can gain freedom.
Understanding this fundamental meaning of Sunyata, we will be able
to thoroughly examine countless phenomena of the universe: heaven,
the earth, and all the phenomena between them.
All the Buddhas are called the Great Enlightened Ones. They have
thoroughly awakened to everything. What is it that they have realized,
what have they been enlightened to? They have seen that all things,
transcendent and mundane, arise through dependent origination.
Defiled dependent origination gives rise to defiled worlds. Pure dependent
origination will create a transcendent world.
If we observe and examine them, we will see that all phenomena,
regardless of what they are, arise due to the coming together of all sorts
of causes and conditions. Today, for example, we are all gathered here
to have lunch. This is one kind of dependent origination based upon the
coming together of various causes and conditions. Under these good
causes and conditions, we have also come to listen to the Dharma.
Therefore, we can say that through “conditioned” dependent origination
we are entering the “unconditioned” world of dependent origination.
It takes someone with wisdom to see this. An ignorant person, one
who is deluded and arrogant, who has a false sense of dignity, won’t
be able to see the dependent origination of phenomena. What is this
false sense of dignity to which I refer? And what creates it? It is created
by our notion of a self. Then what is the meaning of self? It is the subtle
consciousness in our mind that inserts into every thought, at every
moment, the notion, “this is me,” “this is I.” Without ceasing, it investigates
and attaches to everything around us the idea “this is me” and
“this is also me.”
This attachment to the ego-self is created by this notion of a self, by
the thought that one is real, that one has a true substance, a permanent
substance. Being persistently attached to oneself as having a true substance,
one will develop this sense of wanting to control. When one has
access to great power, one will come into conflict with other people and
will want to get things from them — all because of this “face” — this
false sense of dignity. One against another, they will come into conflict
and will harm and even kill each other because of this notion of a
true essence. For someone who understands Buddhism, the Chinese
character for “I” or “self” is quite relevant. It is a combination of two
characters that depict a hand holding a sword. This signifies that
because of their attachment to an “I”, to a “self,” humans end up killing
The Buddha is known as the King of Sunyata. After he realized great
enlightenment, he saw that most ordinary people are attached to a self,
to an essence, and take that essence to be an ego-self. Most sentient
beings still living in ignorance always think that there is an ego-self, a
self-essence. After his enlightenment, the Buddha realized that there
was no such thing. He then generated this great compassion to explain
to all the world that life and all phenomena are dependently arisen.
There is no true substance to anything. Everything is due to the coming
together of causes and conditions.
Two kinds of Emptiness interpenetrate, able to free. There are many
aspects to Sunyata or Emptiness, but the most important two are: the
Sunyata of selflessness and the ultimate Sunyata. Most people are
attached to a self-essence, to a substance. Because of that attachment,
when they interact with each other, problems arise. Through observation
and analysis, the Buddha realized there is no true substance, no self-arisen,
self-existing substance. This is Sunyata of selflessness.
All sorts of conditions are needed to sustain our lives. For example,
because we have to eat, we need to go shopping and we need people to
cook. So where is that self-existing, independent self? There is no such
thing. If we were to open our minds a little and look beyond the farthest
horizons, we still could not find a true substance, whether mundane or
transcendent. Here we must be careful, however. Buddhism is not saying
that nothing exists. Actually, everything is established due to this
understanding of non-substantiality.
With brutish face and aggressive attitude, showing prominent
supremacy and might. Many people do not understand the Sunyata of
selflessness. Because of that they ride on emotional roller coasters.
When they become emotional, sometimes their face will turn threatening,
brutish, and they will become aggressive, wanting to threaten others.
This is a demonstration of the supremacy and might of self.
Understanding ultimate Sunyata — true emptiness — we will no longer
allow the ego-self to get out of control.
The Buddha told us that regardless of whether it is mundane or
transcendent, there is no such thing as a true substance, no truly existent
phenomena. And all problems arise due to that attachment to a true
substance, a true essence, to true phenomena, to the thought that I am
a true body, a true essence, and because I have a true essence, I can
command and control everything; everything must be under my control
and everyone must be under my command and listen to me. And due
to this notion of an essence, of true phenomena, human beings come
in conflict with one another and the result is unbearable suffering.
Entrapped within space, one falls into darkness — old ways and
appearance. As human beings, we need “space,” a place to dwell. We
live at home or we live in a monastery. If you think that this space that
you are living in is yours and yours alone, that “I” is real, then you are
wrong. And if you’re living in this space and yet you do not make good
use of it, then you will fall into darkness. Perhaps in your next rebirth
you will be reborn in a lower realm and will have an ugly, unpleasant
Transcend the era joyfully and brilliantly, voice and face renewed.
Those most successful in the practice of the Dharma are the Buddhas, the
bodhisattvas, and the arahants. These are the noble ones who have
transcended the world; the truth that they have realized is not confined
to time. It is all-pervasive through time and space. Even though Buddha
Shakyamuni entered parinirvana over 2,000 years ago, his teachings are
still living and are always showing up with this brand new face and
Understanding Sunyata, one will be able to face everything and
examine everything and see the illusory nature of all phenomena.
Understanding that everything arises due to dependent origination, the
mind-gates will open up. If our mind-gate opens up, we will no longer be
hindered in mind and obstructed in our vision. We will not be like those
who fear the cycle of birth and death and just seek immediate liberation.
Someone who is unobstructed can see those unlimited, superb states that
other people cannot see.
What is meant by an unlimited, superb person? 1) Superb person: free of
evil. This is a superb person who can see through his or her own defilements.
Such a person is free from unwholesomeness. 2) Superb Dharma: free from
attachment. This is someone who is no longer controlled by emotions,
someone who is free from attachments. 3) Superb state: free from worry.
Those who dwell in such a superb state no longer harm themselves and
will no longer be harmed by their own defilements — they will be free
from worry. (A discourse given at Bodhi Monastery on February 1st, 2003.)
“Becoming a Luminous Exemplar of the Dharma”
Having great shame, subdue the self with utmost
determination and astuteness.
Instantly control the mind of conceit, instantly
illuminate the Dharma.
Use great compassion to uplift people, act with utmost courage.
By deep aspiration and a great pledge,
profoundly manifest the Buddha.
Don’t let the ego-self conquer body and mind.
Liberate oneself from body and mind, and see the Buddha’s mind.
When the Buddha’s mind is clearly seen,
one’s own mind becomes luminous and peaceful.
Deeply practice the Buddha path, deeply understanding cessation.
Have no wealth for private ends, no sense of privacy,
no selfish ambition.
Develop a mind that has no limits, no ceiling, no time frame.
Firmly practice these six no’s and generate
the Samantabhadra vow.
With wisdom steadfast, compassion gentle, stand erect
as an exemplar of Dharma.
Appreciate merits, revere wisdom, wisdom transfers merits.
Accumulate wisdom, utilize merits, merit helps wisdom.
(A lecture to the monks at Ganlun Buddhist Academy,
Jiu-Hua Shan, the Sacred Mountain of Kshitigarbha Bodhisattva,
China – October 26, 2002)
Having great shame, subdue the self with utmost
determination and astuteness.
Instantly control the mind of conceit, instantly illuminate the Dharma.
Use great compassion to uplift people, act with utmost courage.
By deep aspiration and a great pledge, profoundly manifest the Buddha.
Buddhism needs the Sangha to propagate the Dharma. That is how the
Dharma can be transmitted to the world. As monastic practitioners you
have this responsibility to train yourselves to make yourselves worthy
exemplars of the Dharma.
To fulfill this responsibility, at the outset of our training we must
maintain two attitudes. The first is a great sense of shame and moral
dread; the other is great compassion.
The sense of shame and moral dread counteract the two most
fundamental defilements, greed and ignorance. The sense of shame
counteracts greed or craving; moral dread counteracts ignorance. These
two defilements are the root causes for sentient beings to transmigrate
in samsara, the round of birth and death. If you have a great sense of
shame, you will be able to cut off greed or craving. If you have a great
sense of moral dread, you will be able to cut off ignorance.
How do the sense of shame and moral dread counteract the two root
defilements? When we learn the Dharma, we encounter the right principle
of non-self. The grasping of a self underlies all the defilements.
When we give rise to the notion of self, at the same time we give rise
to craving, ignorance, conceit, arrogance, and all the other related
defilements. By arousing a great sense of shame and moral dread, we
can eradicate the underlying root of all defilements: the idea of a self. To
accomplish this, however, isn’t easy. One needs both strong determination
and astuteness. When these two are conjoined, the combination of
determination and astuteness enables one to subdue the self and the
defilements that spring from it.
Most people view the self as their fortress, “the fortress of ego.” For
example, they think, “I can live in ‘my own home’ or ‘my own
monastery.’ That is the fortress of my self, the fortress to which I can
always turn for protection.” This way of thinking is seriously mistaken.
To practice Buddhism properly we need to break through the fortress of
the self. Then we will be able to see everything clearly with the eye of
the Dharma. Thus, whether one is a monastic or a lay person, one needs
great determination and astuteness to destroy the fortress of the self. To
make this one’s aim is to take the first step in truly practicing the
Dharma. But if one does not attempt to destroy the fortress of the self,
no matter how much Dharma you have learned, you will only be
scratching the surface.
Now what are the measures that must be employed to destroy the
fortress of the self? The first is to instantly subdue the mind of conceit.
The minds of human beings tend to be very conceited. Some lay people,
with only a smattering of worldly knowledge, think they are know-it-alls.
Some monks who have acquired a little knowledge of Dharma become
puffed up and think they are real Dharma masters. Thus, thinking highly
of themselves, they become obsessed by conceit. But one who thinks
highly of himself cannot lift himself up. If you think highly of yourself, you
will eventually fall down and won’t be able to get up. A true practitioner
must instantly crush the mind of conceit the moment it arises. If you can
put down the ego-self and enter into harmony with the Dharma, then
everywhere and at any time, even in lives to come, you will be able to
exert a great and positive influence.
Now as ordinary people we cannot expect to achieve instantaneous
enlightenment. These days, many people talk about “instant enlightenment
and realization of Buddhahood” or “instant enlightenment and seeing
the true nature.” It isn’t so easy. The “instantaneous practice” that I speak
about means to instantly subdue the conceit of self in every thought that
arises in the mind. “Instantly” means “immediately,” without giving the
conceit of self any scope to grow and thrive.
What is the second measure needed to destroy the self? It is to
“instantly illuminate the Dharma,” that is, to shine through dharmas
(phenomena) and to shine the light of the Dharma. In the phrase “to shine
through dharmas,” the word “dharma” refers to the five aggregates: form,
feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness. These are
the mundane dharmas or phenomena of birth and death. In the sutras it
is said, “When dharmas arise, suffering arises. When dharmas cease, suffering
ceases.” That is, when the phenomena of the five aggregates arise,
all suffering arises. Likewise, when the phenomena of the five aggregates
cease, all suffering ceases. These five aggregates must be understood with
the wisdom of the Dharma, as impermanent and devoid of any self. This is
illuminating the mundane dharmas, the phenomena of birth and death.
The phrase “to illuminate the Dharma” also means to shine the light of
the Dharma. This refers to the transcendental Dharma: the unsurpassed
Dharma, the Dharma of non-self, the Dharma of Nirvana.
Thus the two measures needed to destroy the fortress of the self are:
to instantaneously subdue the mind of conceit, and to illuminate the
right Dharma by understanding impermanence, non-self, and Nirvana.
When, with a great sense of shame and moral dread, one subdues the
self, great compassion can arise within. What is great compassion? It is
the wish to uplift people from suffering and delusion. Most people are
confused and deluded. We must help to lift them out from their confusion
and suffering. However, it isn’t easy to exercise such a skill. To equip
oneself to truly and effectively uplift others, in everyday life one must
persistently learn and practice the wisdom and compassion of the
Buddhas and bodhisattvas. At the outset, one must deepen and strengthen
one’s aspiration. We should learn from the bodhisattva Kshitigarbha,
who has made the great and vast vow, “I will not attain Buddhahood until
the hells are empty.” By making such a resolution, we will be making a
vast pledge, a pledge that will function like a whip to fortify and sharpen
As we persist in such practices over a long time, we will eventually
come to see in a profound way what makes the Buddha the Enlightened
One. The Buddha had the wisdom to eradicate the self and the great
compassion to devote himself fully to the welfare of all. Through strong
aspirations and great pledges, we will be able to profoundly manifest the
Buddha in all our actions and thoughts.
Don’t let the ego-self conquer body and mind.
Liberate oneself from body and mind, and see the Buddha’s mind.
When the Buddha’s mind is clearly seen, one’s own mind becomes
luminous and peaceful.
Deeply practice the Buddha path, deeply understanding cessation.
As human beings, we all have a notion of self, and because of that the
self never departs from our thoughts, from our body and mind. If one has
a great sense of shame and moral dread together with great compassion,
one will know how much misery the idea of self brings about. Therefore
one should not allow the self to conquer one’s body and mind. If we can
eradicate the self from its dwelling place in our body and mind, we will be
able to see the mind of the Buddha. As ordinary human beings, we cannot
see such depth and vastness. To get even a glimpse of it, we must cultivate
and purify ourselves. Thus in the sutras and commentaries it is said: “If
one wishes to know the sphere of the Buddha’s realization, one must purify
one’s thoughts to make them as pure as empty space.” That is, one must
purify one’s scattered thoughts to make them as pure as empty space. Then
one will gradually come to see the mind of the Buddha. When one can
clearly see the Buddha’s mind, one’s own mind will be at peace.
To “clearly see the mind of the Buddha” means to see that there is no
true self. Understanding this, you will not allow the “self” to play tricks
on you. The more clearly you see, the more your mind will be at peace.
What is “being clear” and “being at peace”? Under all circumstances,
favorable or adverse, one maintains a high degree of alertness. One is
not attached to favorable circumstances; under adverse circumstances,
one remains fearless, even when one’s life is at stake. One can look
death squarely in the face without blinking. To achieve such a state
requires that in our everyday life we learn the wisdom and compassion
of the Buddha. Understanding clearly and being at peace, one will be
able to subdue the self and won’t be trapped by the self. One will truly
be walking the Buddha’s path.
What is the Buddha’s path? It is the bodhi-mind, the mind of
Nirvana. To walk on the Buddha’s path is to follow the path of the
Great Enlightened One, the one who attained the Great Nirvana, the
one who has reached ultimate liberation. Through great enlightenment,
one sees all phenomena with pure luminosity. From the perspective of
departing from all defilements, the Buddha saw the ultimate truth: the
non-arising and non-ceasing of all phenomena. Through complete cessation,
he achieved total peace of mind. This complete cessation does
not mean that everything is extinguished. It is the cessation of all
defilements and habitual tendencies. After achieving cessation, an
Enlightened One begins a new life, a life of selfless service to benefit
As practitioners, we must understand impermanence. Impermanence is
the gateway to emptiness.
Thus to understand emptiness, we must start with an understanding of
impermanence. Emptiness, in turn, is the gateway to non-birth. By
understanding emptiness, you will not be attached to life. In other words,
you will transcend the two extremes and all dualities. In this way, you
will be able to enter non-birth. Non-birth is the gateway to Buddhahood.
Understanding non-birth, one will no longer be attached to life, one will
no longer be afflicted by the miseries of life. One can learn and practice
the Dharma in the cycle of birth and death and enter the path to
Have no wealth for private ends, no sense of privacy,
no selfish ambition.
Develop a mind that has no limits, no ceiling, no time frame.
Firmly practice these six no’s and generate the Samantabhadra vow.
With wisdom steadfast, compassion gentle, stand erect as
an exemplar of Dharma.
As monastics, we should not have personal wealth, a sense of privacy,
or selfish ambitions. Sentient beings in the desire realm are principally
motivated by desire or greed. That is why the set of “three poisons”
begins with greed. When greed is mentioned, hatred and delusion, the
other two poisons, are also implied. If we look at the misery in the world,
we can see that so much of it stems from uncontrolled desire.
Therefore, as practitioners of Dharma, we must renounce and depart
from all kinds of desires. First there is the desire for the five attractive
sense objects: delightful forms, sounds, scents, tastes, and tactile objects.
Then there is the desire for wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep. The
desire for wealth and the other objects captivates people’s minds and
keeps them tied to the cycle of birth and death. Once people have wealth,
they then indulge in carnal pleasures, the variety of sexual pleasures.
Then they want fame. If one runs after name and fame, one won’t be
able to shed light on the true Dharma. Someone who can truly shed light
on the true Dharma won’t be interested in fame. Even if a skillful
expounder of the Dharma acquires fame, he won’t be attached to it but
will regard it with indifference. Such people will always learn the
Dharma with a great sense of shame and moral dread, and thus they
can’t be trapped by fame.*
Nowadays people are constantly concerned with nutrition. To be concerned
with healthy food is good, but one should not be intent on delicious
food or on eating exorbitantly. In the affluent countries often a
single person consumes the resources of thousands. The wealthy person
might spend prodigiously on food and drink, while millions of others go
to bed hungry and have difficulty finding a single nourishing meal.
When one overindulges in the former four desires, one tends to sleep
as much as one can. This is because one exhausts oneself pursuing the
objects of the other four desires and thus needs more sleep.
Some people even need to sleep ten hours! Truly speaking, a real practitioner
of Dharma should need only four or five hours of sleep a night.
As young monastics, you might need six hours of sleep, which is all
right. If, however, one overindulges in sleep, one will become ignorant.
People who spend many hours sleeping are just wasting time. They never
think of using their time to learn the Dharma. Lay Buddhist practitioners
naturally find it hard to avoid pursuing wealth, sex, fame, food, and
sleep, but as monastics you should develop a high degree of alertness
regarding these five desires.
The point to begin tackling these five desires is the desire for food. Some
monastics might be indifferent to wealth, but when it comes to food, they
won’t budge an inch. Thus we must be alert regarding this desire. One who
understands the art of living will not be indulgent in eating, especially
when presented with delicious dishes. When they are half full, they will
put down their fork or chopsticks. These people will never have digestive
problems. If you eat something delicious, and you want more and more,
eventually you will have health problems. People with digestive problems
often tend to be moody. Because they have a lot of residue in their bodies,
it is difficult for them to feel at peace. One with a good digestive system
will have more stable moods. This is the real art of living.
In brief, monastics should not be indulgent in food. However, the
abbot or administrator of the monastery should realize that providing
sufficient nutrition for the resident monks is an important matter and
should ensure that all the monks receive enough food to keep them in
We must further generate “a mind that has no limits,” an infinite mind.
Take as an example the bodhisattva Kshitigarbha, who has vowed not to
attain Buddhahood until the hells are empty: that is an example of the
infinite mind, the mind that knows no limits.
When we learn wisdom and generate compassion, we must diligently
exert ourselves to learn as extensively and profoundly as possible: we
should not set any bounds to our learning. That is, we should have no
ceiling but should strive ever higher.
Also, we should not confine ourselves to any specific time frame. We
must not have any notion of the day we are to attain Buddhahood. As
long as the method we are practicing is correct, we should just exert
ourselves wholeheartedly. From the perspective of “the Dharma common
to the Three Vehicles” [that is, the teachings common to practitioners of
the paths of sravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas], the fulfillment
of the path to Buddhahood is said to require three incalculable aeons
(asankheyya). However, from the Mahayana perspective, it should be said
that it takes infinite and endless incalculable aeons. There is no such
concept as that of “three incalculable aeons.” A true bodhisattva who has
generated the great Bodhi mind has no notion of an end to learning the
Dharma. If one were to set a limit, then that would be characteristic of
the mindset of a sravaka or pratyekabuddha. Of course, we must have
the utmost respect for the sravakas and pratyekabuddhas, even though
we adopt a different approach to the path from theirs.
Thus we must resolve to practice the “six no’s”: no accumulation of
* In Chinese, both fame and light are represented by the word ‘ming’, which is pronounced
the same in both cases though depicted by different ideograms.
wealth for private purposes, no sense of privacy, no selfish ambitions, no
limits to our vows, no ceiling to our practice, and no time frame for our
attainment. With this foundation, one should learn the way of
Samantabhadra. Here, “the way of Samantabhadra” doesn’t necessarily
refer to the bodhisattva of that name. What then is Samantabhadra?
“Samanta” means universal or extensive, and “bhadra” means goodness.
Thus, whether you are a monastic or a lay person, having generated the
bodhi-mind, you should extensively establish wholesome roots and
generate wholesome energy. You must exert yourself unsparingly in
regard to everything that is good and wholesome. To do so is to follow
the way of Samantabhadra.
As Mahayana practitioners, we should know that the practice of the
Great Vehicle has two aspects, wisdom and compassion. What is wisdom?
Wisdom is firmness. Wisdom creates the firmest character, the most
steadfast and unwavering character. Under all circumstances, such wisdom
is able to see through all affairs. Because of one’s wisdom, one will never
succumb to the defilements even at the cost of one’s life.
The ability to subdue defilements: that is steadfastness.
Without steadfastness, one cannot acquire wisdom. Someone who is
steadfast will be capable of upholding the Buddhadharma within the
cycle of birth and death. He is able to live amidst people with defilements
and devote himself wholeheartedly to the good of all, even to the point of
being ready to sacrifice his own body and life. Of course, we are not yet
at that stage, but we have to realize that such a stage exists. A person
like this can penetrate through the self and will never lower his head
in homage to the self. One with wisdom must have this quality of
steadfastness to shoulder all burdens.
Now what is compassion? Compassion is gentleness. In order to win
over sentient beings, one must be gentle and harmonious. In this way,
one will be able to touch people’s hearts, to move them and transform
them with one’s virtuous actions.
In addition to the wisdom that makes one steadfast and enables one
to persistently learn; in addition to the compassion that gives one the
gentleness needed to deliver others, one also needs morality. Morality is
established by observing the precepts. In the sutras it is said that the
Buddhas, the World Honored Ones, avoid all evil. How do they avoid all
evil? It is by means of their pure moral conduct, their strict upholding of
the pure precepts. That enables them to avoid all afflictions. Thus one
must uphold the precepts to the utmost degree of purity.
In this way, as a monastic, no matter where you go, you will be a
luminous exemplar of Dharma, setting a noble example to others. A
“luminous exemplar” is one who brings light wherever he goes.
Wherever one goes, luminosity follows one. Wherever one goes, that
is a “way place,” a place where the path prevails.* For practical purposes,
naturally one needs an actual dwelling place. You can’t just float around
in the air without a dwelling. But one should always remember that the
real “way place” is invisible. It is wherever one is practicing in accordance
with the path. Then, wherever one goes, without any pretense or outward
display, one will be manifesting the Dharma. Wherever one goes, people
will be able to see what the Buddha’s Dharma is truly about. That is the
real meaning of “way place.”
Granted that a visible place to practice is necessary, if such a “way
place” is only a “place” but doesn’t have “the way” – that is, if it lacks
the practice of the path – it is no different from any ordinary place where
people gather. It cannot be designated a “way place,” a place of the path.
If there is a place where the way prevails, and one practices diligently in
such a place, then when one’s learning and practice reach maturity, one
will manifest the way everywhere one goes, even if one is alone. One’s
body will manifest the way through one’s actions. One’s speech will
manifest the way through one’s words. One’s mind will always accord with
the way in its thoughts. A person like this is truly a luminous exemplar
of the Dharma.
Appreciate merits, revere wisdom, wisdom transfers merits.
Accumulate wisdom, utilize merits, merit helps wisdom.
To conclude, I have two further points to share with you. First, as
practitioners, we must appreciate our merits. Most worldly people are
concerned with the fruits of merit, but it is clear that all of us already
have sufficient merit. Why do I say that? Because we in no way lack
enough food to eat, a place to dwell, and articles to use in daily life. This
indicates that we have sufficient merit. However, we must appreciate our
* In Chinese Buddhism, a monastery is referred to idiomatically as a “way place.” The
master’s point here is that a real “way place” is constituted by the practice of the path
and not by the physical structure of a monastery.
merits, that is, we must appreciate every grain of rice we receive, every
drop of water we draw, and not waste anything. Some people leave food
over in their bowls when they come to the end of their meal. This is
wastefulness, disregard for one’s merits.
The Buddha was very attentive when he ate. He did not waste a single
grain of rice or a drop of water. There is a Chinese saying, “Every grain
of rice on our plate is a drop of the farmer’s sweat.” The rice on our plate
is a direct product of the farmer’s hard work. If, at the end of our meal,
we leave rice over in our bowls, aren’t we wasting the blood and sweat
of the farmer? That would be committing a great offense.
Thus we must appreciate our merits, and we must start with our food
habits and our usage of water. Do not be wasteful!
At the same time, we must revere wisdom. One with wisdom does not
waste merits. While having merits, he does not indulge in the merits. We
should transfer the merits to all suffering, unfortunate sentient beings.
Do not disregard merits. What we must do is accumulate the wisdom
needed to better utilize our merits. In this way, the merits can help the
growth of wisdom.
To sum up: Wisdom is like electricity, and merit is like water. It is
said that nowadays what people in the world need most is water and
electricity. Without these two, everything would be at a standstill. As
monastics, wisdom is our electricity and merit is our water. If we can
accumulate wisdom and appreciate our merits, in lifetime after lifetime
we will be able to live within the sphere of wisdom and the ocean of
merits. Thus we will be able to generate the bodhi-mind and progress in
our practice of the bodhisattva path
(Text of a talk given at the World Buddhist Forum, Hangzhou, China,
April 14, 2006. Translated from the Chinese original by Ven. Xin-xing.)
A modern disciple of the Buddha should generate the great bodhi-mind
without delay and everywhere develop the practice of the bodhi-mind.
The Buddha Shakyamuni says: “With the mind tainted, beings are
tainted; with the mind purified, beings are purified.” Whether a being
is tainted or purified is closely connected with the being’s mind.
Therefore, in the practice of the Buddhadharma, “to purify one’s mind”
is of the first importance.
The main point for the Mahayana practitioner is to generate the great
bodhi-mind and to develop the great bodhi practice. Internally, one
should spare no efforts to subdue the mischievous and confining ways
of the ego. Externally, one should pay attention to the difficulties and
needs of sentient beings as well as to their oppression, giving these matters
careful consideration. Actively and sincerely, one should dedicate oneself
to protect humankind. One should not lose touch with the multitudes
of people and keep aloof from them. Rather, one should be “an uninvited
friend” of the people. The bodhisattva always lives in an emancipating,
open, and unobstructed mental state. Therefore, he associates with all
people harmoniously and sincerely, and becomes a most trustworthy
companion and Dharma friend. He offers the most sincere and substantial
friendship. The longer this kind of friendship lasts, the mellower it
grows; it becomes as well blended as glue and varnish are closely bound
together. However one dilutes it, one cannot separate it or make it thinner.
Embracing both restrained compassion and profound wisdom, the
Mahayana practitioner associates with everyone without any misunderstanding,
because he is very friendly with everyone.
Thus, we can see that the bodhisattva’s merit and virtue in the practice,
whether for himself or for others, are so mature and successful that people
are ready to recognize him as a person who has generated the bodhi-mind
for all sentient beings. Whatever he does, he does for the sake of everyone,
not just for himself. Therefore, people think he is the one person to
seek when they are in urgent need, and people cannot go without him.
Through the inspiring power of non-self and their boundless virtue in
attracting followers, all the bodhisattvas generate the bodhi-mind and
exert themselves to practice in this way.
The inner cultivation and external development of the Mahayana
practitioner are both based upon his generation of the bodhi-mind. It is
a calming down and clearing away. It is also a thoroughgoing revolution
and innovation. The Mahayana practitioner controls equally the
defilements together with their residual impressions. He practices so
hard as to completely abandon them and purify them to the utmost.
The bodhisattva takes responsibility with a genuine feeling and with
the virtue of equanimity. Concurrently operating with compassion and
wisdom, he gives real substance to what he does and strengthens his
virtue until it becomes incomparable.
To achieve and maintain virtuous conduct of body, speech, and mind,
the bodhisattva develops the practice in a purified and strengthened
way. As his purity and strength progress to increasingly higher levels,
the bodhisattva marches toward the three awakenings* inter-relatedly
both through and thoroughly. He often goes back and forth skillfully
with the three roots.** In this way, the bodhi-mind is transformed into
a dynamic, energetic power and an illuminating guidemark. Internally,
the bodhisattva is never so weak as to collapse, and externally he does
not drift aimlessly through life. Since he is able to do this, the bodhi-mind
becomes a daily spiritual practice. Facing all phenomena in the eternity
of time and vastness of space, the bodhisattva thoroughly sees through
them all, and his behavior is utterly straightforward — so straightforward
that he is neither detached nor attached. He invariably cures himself and
makes others stand erect; he is willing to sacrifice his life and yet uses
his life to take responsibility for the Dharma. He guides the clinging
consciousness, transforming it into the spontaneously illuminating wisdom.
Whatever he faces and does is righteous, and he is able to face the
Buddha and the multitude of people. He never separates himself from the
Buddha even for a single thought-moment. The living Buddha constantly
manifests in his thoughts, so alive that the bodhisattva can see him and
hear the Dharma. By hearing the Dharma, he looks at all sentient
beings with a fresh view. He lives amidst the multitude alive and
relaxed, transformed from the tainted to the taintless. It is thus that the
completely enlightened Buddha took root and laid the foundation
when he was a bodhisattva, practicing in a pure way for a long time,
ever-alive, completely alive, ultimately alive.
From this perspective, being alive — absolutely alive — is not only
what ordinary people yearn for, but also what the bodhisattva aspires
for when he generates the bodhi-mind. We can see that the inspiring
connotations of the word “alive” are so thick and deep! This world of
human beings is so alive in sound and color, so vivid with light and
heat. This comes from the power of human beings in creativity and
invention. To put it in terms of dependent origination and the influence
of karma: this world is neither beginningless nor without any cause,
but rather, it exists through the common karma of living beings. Karma,
briefly, is the totality of all the activities of living beings. It is all the
accumulated limitless vitality, which can be classified into two classes:
defiled and purified. When the defiled power is stronger than the pure
power, the human being’s dispositions and the society’s inclinations
deteriorate and stagnate. When the pure is stronger than the defiled,
the human being’s dispositions and the society’s inclinations improve
and become fresh. Therefore, Buddhism especially emphasizes the
transformation of defilement into purity.
Considering the latent wholesome and pure nature of the human
being, we can see that, among all living beings, human beings stand out
by their ability to transform the unwholesome into the wholesome. For
this reason, Buddhism stresses the difficulty of being born as a human
being. So, if one truly understands the value of the human state, one will
positively resolve to progress towards the wholesome. One practices the
wholesome by putting an end to the unwholesome and bringing forth
the wholesome. Practicing continually for a long time, the accumulated
* The “three awakenings” are self-awakening, awakening of others, and awakening
** The “three roots” are non-greed, non-hatred, and non-delusion.
power of wholesome virtue becomes pervasive and profound. In this
way, one’s human nature becomes firm and solid; one’s facial expression
becomes generous and peaceful. When associating with others, one will
be respectful and auspicious. A human being’s special characteristics
include “right view” and “right action” in communicating with others
and in helping others. Guided by wisdom and nurtured by reason, one
applies this right view and right action to boundless human beings without
making any distinctions between oneself and others. A person’s nature
and talent are totally endowed with a perspective on the world. With
this view, one is inspired by an all-embracing heart for the world; one
dedicates oneself to the world; one vows to relieve the suffering of the
world and to make the world prosperous. Welling up and filled with great
enthusiasm, one becomes a mellow-tempered person.
Here, I sincerely invite all honorable friends to generate the great
bodhi-mind, to undertake the bodhisattva practice at any time. From the
mental disposition of great bodhi-mind, give your best, develop virtue,
and emit the light of wisdom. Please generate the great bodhi-mind
without delay, illuminate and guide all the people of the world. Out of
this world of suffering, as soon as possible build a pure magnificent
world of enlightenment.
I would like to use this opportunity to express my appreciation for my
mother country’s administrative officers’ great and profound sincerity in
their reverence for the Dharma, and in protecting the Dharma.
I offer four verses to conclude my talk. Please kindly correct any
errors of mine.
When one goes in front of others, one does not fall down with fright.
When one follows others in procession, one does not become
tired and fall away.
Living amongst the people, one lives for the people.
The more one lives for the people, the happier one becomes.
Using time carefully and correctly,
one turns to brightness and breaks through the darkness.
Acting within this space with purity and pervasion,
one turns to morality and transcends suffering.
Search for the profound culture and deep wisdom!
Expand civilization and make reason all-pervasive!
Let the customs and morals of the people become so excellent, broad,
and deep as to go beyond the measure of national boundaries!
People all over the world praise and hope for the world commonwealth.
The one who is best liked and most respected by the people
is great yet not pretentious.
He promotes harmony and happiness, and puts peace into practice.
He serves the people’s welfare and becomes an example for the world.
(Lectures given at Bodhi Monastery on May 3rd and 10th, 2003.)
Great Change, Thorough Change, and Immediate Change!
Eliminate the old ways in every thought and renew at every moment.
The changes of the floating worldlings
lead to rebirth in lower realms;
thus going back and forth in the sea of existence,
they are oppressed by clusters of suffering.
Those who have not severed their defilements are considered
worldlings. These worldlings are always changing, floating up and
down, drifting here and there, due to emotional bonds and defilements.
Emotional bondage nurtures the cycle of life and death and induces
future existence. Regardless of whether you are a lay person or monastic,
if you have not severed your cravings and other emotional attachments,
you will have to face the cycle of existence over and over. People are
bound, however, not only by their emotional bonds, but also by their
attachments to view and opinions, especially to those built upon faulty
concepts. These conceptual attachments hinder the mind. For most people,
their biggest conceptual attachment is their view of a self, the notion of
a self, a very serious matter.
Great change stems from the “two” (vows and actions)
and transcends all dualities.
Being able to transcend all dualities,
one is able to eradicate them.
1) Vows that are not self-serving will certainly serve people. In
order to achieve true change, one must make the great pledge and vow
to serve all people and the world.
2) Actions that emulate those of the Buddha will not deviate from
the Dharma. One must acquire all the pure virtues, which in essence
are reflected in our actions. All the Buddhas have attained
Buddhahood through the Dharma and we must emulate and learn
from the ancient Buddhas by acquiring all the virtues through the
Dharma. Here, I would like to explain a little more about the Dharma:
What is the Dharma?
The thorough analysis and penetration of phenomena;
the experience and revelation of body and mind.
When Buddhism speaks of the Dharma, it is referring to all phenomena
around us and it does not depart from our body and mind. The
Buddha has thoroughly explained that we cannot look at ourselves as
being permanent. Many people see themselves as being permanent and
are trapped by their worldly afflictions. Regardless of the time period in
history, we must understand that everything is undergoing constant
change. Nothing stays still. If we observe our bodies and minds, we will
see that there is no real self. After thorough examination, the Buddha
concluded that there is no true self to which we can become attached.
He expounded what is binding us in order to break through our notion
of a self and to penetrate our attachment to this life and death.
How can we come to understand the Dharma? In the practice of
Buddhism, if we do not possess good literary skills, we cannot learn the
Dharma. One must understand the words in order to delve into the
Dharma and thereby manifest the culture and civilization.
What is culture? Having true culture is being able to purify the fire
The Buddha showed kindness toward the floating worldlings
by liberating them from the clusters of suffering.
The Buddha illustrated the changes and immediately made changes,
thus the three “towards” are affirmed.
Sentient beings are always drifting about in the six realms of
rebirth, drifting about in an ocean where they encounter innumerable
kinds of sufferings and oppression; so often they come to rebirth in
the three lower realms. The Buddha appeared in our world because he
saw that sentient beings were floating in an ocean of suffering and he
expounded the Dharma in order to alleviate their limitless suffering.
The Buddha expounded the Dharma to sentient beings to help them
to thoroughly, persistently, and perpetually change. What is the method
of such change? It can be summed up with these three decisive objectives,
the three “towards”: toward wholesomeness, toward an upward direction,
and toward the ultimate.
1) Toward wholesomeness. When Buddhism talks about wholesomeness,
the essential element is having a sense of shame and moral
dread. Wholesome roots are mental factors infused with a sense of shame
and moral dread. Once infusion becomes perpetual and habitual, the
wholesome roots become firm. Through constant practice infused with a
sense of shame and moral dread, habits are formed, and these habits can
affirm and solidify one’s wholesome roots so that they are solid and
2) Toward an upward direction. After one knows how to practice
wholesome deeds, one can continually move upwards. This means that
if one is to move in an upward direction, one must be able to move
up and down freely, without obstruction. One must be able to stand
on the summit of a mountain to see the Dharma ocean clearly and
unwaveringly, thereby acquiring wisdom. With that wisdom, one is
able to observe and contemplate the depths of the Dharma ocean. One
must learn from the Buddha above and then care for sentient beings
3) Toward the ultimate. With the the other two “towards” as a
foundation one is able to march straight toward equanimity, perfection,
and ultimate attainment.
To this, the Chan master replied, “Do no evil, do all good.”
Governor Bai said, “Even a three year old could say these two verses.”
The Chan master then said, “Although a three year old is able to
say these verses, an eighty year old man cannot practice it.”
After this incident, Governor Bai had even more respect and
appreciation for the Bird’s Nest Chan master.
There’s a saying from a Chinese poem that literally means: “When
one’s belly contains books and poetry, one’s spirit and deportment will
have splendor.” In this context books and poetry refers to culture in
totality. In other words, when one is well learned and knowledgeable,
then that person’s spirit and deportment will be very brilliant and solid.
In essence, in order to deliver to highly intellectual people, one cannot
be without wisdom and virtue. I encourage all monastics and lay likewise
to delve into the Tripitaka, the three facets of the Buddha Dharma.
Ordinary people, worldlings, are usually attached to themselves
or the notion of others and due to differences in their views all sorts
of unseemly conflicts arise in their relationships with others. People
become attached to their own views as right, and they look down at
the views of others as wrong. From this difference of views, conflicts
and disputes arise. We start with verbal fights and then move on to
physical fighting, and eventually the result is battles and wars.
Thorough change counteracts equally;
one is able to see the “two” indifferently.
With the two “withouts”, quiescence manifests;
thus it is said to be intrinsically pure.
Equally counteracting delusion, defilements, and habits. The term
“delusion” refers to the afflictions and defilements that relate to habitual
tendencies. Sravaka practitioners want to be free from defilements,
and thus, in their practice, do not pay much attention to their habitual
of the three defilements, or the three poisons from within. The person
who accomplishes this will be as refreshing as the moonlight.
What is civilization? It is being able to uphold the precepts purely.
The Patimokkha (disciplinary code) is the precept of liberation and
embracing and helping sentient beings. One who has the Patimokkha
will be just like the sun and will shine radiantly and brightly upon us.
How do we come to acquire the Dharma? One must perpetually
and persistently try to remember the Dharma and then utilize and apply
it, thereby gaining its strength. In order to acquire the Dharma, one
must enter into the words in order to understand it.
When it comes to worldly knowledge, one must be able to delve
into the words in order to understand and acquire the knowledge of the
world. For example, over fifty years ago inChina, there was a very
prominent scholar by the name of Hu-Shi. Although he did not want
to be involved in politics, the Chinese government asked him to be
ambassador to theUnited Statesduring the final Japanese war. He was
very knowledgeable and fluent in English. After several meetings with
President Roosevelt, he actually gained his confidence. In fact,
President Roosevelt told his secretary that if other people needed to
meet with him, they had to make appointments, but Hu-Shi could meet
with him at any time. This was because President Roosevelt was
inspired by Hu-Shi.
Another example also occurred inChinaregarding Governor Bai, a
great poet and statesman, who later became the governor of Hung Tso,
China. In Hung Tso there also lived a famous, peculiar Chan master. He
did not dwell in a monastery, but in a little shed that he built high in
a big old pine tree in front of the monastery. Hence, he was known as
the Bird’s Nest Chan master.
At one time, Governor Bai asked the Chan master, “Isn’t it very
dangerous living in that shed high up in the pine tree?”
The Chan master replied, “I am carefree. What kind of danger am
I in? I think you are in greater danger than me.” He continued,
“Wouldn’t you consider it dangerous that just as the union of wood and
fire burns, the defiled consciousness does not cease to burn? Aren’t you
in more danger than me?”
Governor Bai understood and agreed, startled by the Chan master’s
statements. He then asked the Chan master, “What is the essence of
Buddhism? What is the essence of the Dharma?”
decide to realize quiescence so that they themselves can be liberated
from their sufferings. Bodhisattvas, however, are different. They
understand that birth and death are not disorderly and confused. They
can dwell in disorder and confusion, yet they are not themselves disorderly
and confused. Bodhisattvas can counteract and subdue their core
defilements to the degree that they can actually generate the mind
that is able to liberate sentient beings.
In the ocean of birth and death the bodhisattva is able to liberate and
transport sentient beings from this shore to the ultimate shore of bliss and
happiness. The bodhisattva liberates and saves many sentient beings who
have attachments to the self and everything that pertains to the self.
Unlike ordinary sentient beings, the bodhisattva is not troubled or trapped
by any affliction and is thus able to liberate them unceasingly.
Profound understanding that all phenomena
are just combinations of conventional designations
enables true investigation into
the essential emptiness of all phenomena.
The Chinese character for conventional designation also has the
meaning “to use.” One can use conventional designations for practical
purposes because all phenomena are due to the combination of necessary
conditions. Human beings, for example, cannot exist without the union
of their parents. Through examination and investigation, we come to
understand that all phenomena have no decisive shape or form. It is
because they lack a decisive nature that all phenomena are said to be
empty of essence. Having realized this, we understand all phenomenon
to be just conventional designations.
How can we change? As we evolve, we pervasively penetrate and
remove all entanglements and bondages. Through understanding such
conventional designations, we can pervasively penetrate everything.
With wisdom, we will be able to see internally through everything and
pacify our minds. We will be able to dissolve all kinds of defilements
and rid ourselves of all those afflictions in the past. Externally, in our
communication with others, we will be able to eradicate all afflictions
and remove all entanglements.
tendencies. Bodhisattvas, on the other hand, are different. They address
both the defilements and the habitual tendencies equally, trying to control
and prevent their core defilements from arising, and at the same
time, trying to subdue their related habitual tendencies. A practitioner
must be able to counteract both defilements and habitual tendencies
equally and see the “two,” all sentient beings and Buddhas, with an
Seeing sentient beings and all Buddhas indifferently. Ordinary
people revere and pay respect to the Buddha. This, of course, is good.
However, when they see other people, they tend to criticize them, look
down on them, and even feel disgusted with them. This is not being
equanimous. One should realize that the Buddha is a real-life Buddha
and all human beings are future Buddhas. Therefore, under the right
conditions, all sentient beings have the potential to attain Buddhahood.
If one looks down on other people, who are unrealized Buddhas and
have the potential to become Buddhas, one is then actually looking
down on the Buddha himself. For this reason, someone who truly wants
to see the Buddha must be able to respect the Buddha as well as all
human beings. This is the meaning of equanimity in respect.
Such teachings are the same and undifferentiated for anyone,
whether he or she is ‘high’ (Tathagata) or ‘low’ (sentient beings). The
two “withouts” refer to “without high” and “without low.” According to
the Buddhadharma, the truth that the Buddha has realized pervades all
time and space. There is no high or low. In the minds of ordinary people,
there is a difference between high and low. When someone is high in
attainments or otherwise, then we like him. If someone else is inferior
to us, then we might dislike him. One who has realized the Truth will
understand that there is no such thing as high or low. It is just like the
morning sun pervasively shining on the whole earth. The sun will not
selectively shine on only some areas. It shines on all areas equally. This
is similar to the Truth as realized by the Buddha. There is no differentiation
between high or low sentient beings.
Birth and death is not disorderly and confused. Nirvana is not
quiescence. The above phrase is from the Avatamsaka Sutra. Ordinary
people are often disorderly and confused. There are some who see
other people suffering and in such disorder and confusion that they
The body, not attached to the ego-self,
is able to generate the mind.
The hands will only give wealth,
able to harmonize with people.
Is there a true self? Most ordinary people have a notion of a true
self and think that they are real and independent from everything else.
If you had a real and true self you could not die, and if you were independent
you could actually survive on your own. But in fact this is not possible.
A true practitioner of Buddhism understands that there is no such
thing as a true, substantial, independent self. Many people show their
sense of self through their grasping of wealth. A Buddhist should
reverse this grasping, making offerings to all sentient beings with a
pure mind. Of course, lay people must continue to care for their families
and offer things according to their ability, but beyond what we need
for ourselves, we should try to offer as much as possible to all sentient
beings. In this way, we can begin to gather inner strength.
Thoroughly counteract unwholesome causes
and uproot the notion of a self;
beyond, pervasively share all wholesome effects
and cultivate the body and mind.
The concept of a self is the root cause of all transgressions and
defilements. Therefore, if you are able to counteract the self, you will
be able to counteract all defilements and transgressions that arise from
the notion of the self. We must pervasively generate the mind towards
all sentient beings and then try to nurture all wholesome effects by
planting wholesome causes in order to cultivate the body and mind. We
must cultivate in such a way that we are not attached to this body and mind
having a substantial self. Then we can truly generate the bodhi-mind.
Suspend the “three changes”
in front of every thought
and use it to lash and prompt
a sense of concern about danger in you.
As human beings, we must learn to change. If we do not change,
other people will not respect us. One will not even be able to respect oneself.
Therefore, we must be able to suspend the three changes — great
Happy to change, awakening change,
joyous, startling change.
Joyful change dissolves cruelty,
thus advance towards dharmic change.
There are four kinds of change: emotional change, existential
change, dharmic change, and sunyata change. Ordinary people are subjected
to emotional change and existential change. “Emotional change” occurs
when ordinary people’s feelings and emotions fluctuate. “Existential
change” refers to changes in the sense of their belongings or possessions
that they believe to be real. The truth, as expounded by Buddhism, is
that to be able to truly change we must understand and eradicate both
emotional change and existential change.
We must acquire the good quality of wanting to change for the
better — in an upward direction and toward the wholesome. When we
do so, a joyous, startling change occurs. First it occurs in ourselves.
Then, when others see us changing for the better, a sense of joy arises
in them and they want to learn from us. Knowing that we have internally
changed for the better, we will be filled with Dharma joy.
Dharmic change increases strength,
immediate change becomes frequent;
one is able to show one’s capabilities,
pervading space and time.
Someone who truly has Dharma joy can truly and thoroughly
change. That internal joy will soften the mind and make one more compassionate.
Therefore, all cruelty and violence of the mind will dissolve,
and each day one will thoroughly change and progress toward the
Truth. Many people cannot change because they are always confused,
unaware of what is taking place around them. When one is able to
change and immerse oneself in truth and luminosity, one’s strength will
unceasingly increase. One will then be able to immediately change. We
must be aware that once change gains momentum, we can acquire more
power; hence one will “show one’s capabilities.” We will then be able to
persistently change throughout space and time. In Chinese “capability”
literally means “body and hands.” Thus we say next:
With unobstructed vision,
one is without fear and hindrances.
Realize quiescence, emerge from quiescence,
When most people see emptiness or existence, they become attached.
We must not become attached to either one. In this way, we will be able
to depart from all fear and hindrances. A sravaka practitioner is in a hurry
to realize and enter Nirvana. Although the bodhisattva has a similar
realization of Nirvana, he is able to emerge from quiescence with a wish
to learn from all the Buddhas. He is then able to liberate all sentient
beings. In this way, he always marches forward.
change, thorough change, and immediate change — in front of our every
thought. This will enable us “to lash and prompt a sense of concern
about danger” within ourselves. By suspending the three changes in
front of every thought, you alert yourself to the problems or dangers that
may arise. This has two benefits. First, you will not become lax, for you
will be anxious about the uncertainties of the future. Secondly, you can
anticipate problems that might arise in your country or community and
thereby subdue them or eradicate them before they wreak havoc.
Diligently exert oneself day and night
and promote the four “do nots.”
Be eager to eliminate the old ways,
fiercely renewing oneself at every moment.
The Chinese character that renders “day and night” means “whole
night” and “whole morning,” which equals one whole day. One should
diligently exert oneself throughout the whole day in promoting the four
1) Do not wait. One must act immediately, without hesitating.
2) Do not be lax. One should diligently do what one must
3) Do not expect appreciation. When you perform a good act,
you should not expect others to appreciate your efforts.
4) Do not owe. It is your duty to serve others.
We must have this aspiration to eliminate the old ways, fiercely renewing
one’s determination at every moment.
The great youthfulness of emptiness starts
after one has severed all views.
Views eradicated, wisdom perfected,
all without exception is seen.
How do we eliminate the old ways? When Buddhism discusses
emptiness, or sunyata, it proposes that all existence is established through
emptiness. Until we have severed all our erroneous views, emptiness cannot
generate its utmost “youthfulness.” Therefore, we must sever all erroneous
views in order for the youthfulness of emptiness to manifest. Once all
erroneous views have been eradicated, wisdom will be perfected. Thus
one will be able to see all mundane and transcendent dharmas.
*** *** ***
About the Author
VENERABLE MASTER JEN-CHUN has written extensively
on the Buddhadharma and lectured
throughout theUnited Statesand many other
countries. Born inJiangsu Province,China, in
1919, he embraced the monastic life at age 7 under
the guidance of Ven. Master Chuan-dao. At age 20
he entered the BuddhistacademyofTian-Ning
Temple. Thereafter he studied at the Ming-Nan
BuddhistAcademy, beginning his teaching career
after graduation. In 1949, he moved to Hong
Kong where he met Ven. Master Yin-shun and
became his disciple. He then moved with Master Yin-shun toTaiwanwhere
he taught at theFu-yanBuddhistAcademy.
In 1973, Master Jen-chun was invited by the Buddhist Association of the
United States (BAUS) to be the abbot of theGreatEnlightenmentTemple
in The Bronx,New York City. He also became Chairman of BAUS. For the
past 20 years, he has led a simple life inNew Jersey, teaching numerous
Through his influence, the Yin Shun Foundation was created to translate
Master Yin-shun’s works into English. In response to his followers’ urging
to pass on his great learning, he founded Bodhi Monastery in 2000 with
Yin Shun Foundation help. His purpose in founding Bodhi Monastery is to
present Buddhism in its original essence, aiming to promote the practice of
Buddhism as an integral whole rather than to focus on the teachings of a
particular Buddhist sect or branch.
great bodhi mind
A collection of dharma talks
BY VENERABLE MASTER JEN–CHUN
The Buddhist Association of the United States
3070 Albany Crescent
Bronx, NY 10463
January 2008 6,000 Copies For Free Distribution
Source: for pdf file click here