Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Training the Legs (腿功)

Frankly, hard work and perseverance are the only way to train your legs to sit comfortably for long hours in a meditative posture. I laid my foundation during my times practicing in the Tibetan Buddhism, where the sessions, especially the big events, usually lasted from 9am till 5pm, for about 8 hours non-stop. The long hours were daunting. I would think at the back of my mind, “8 long hours, will I be able to take it?” However, with strong faith and determination to do well, those 8 hours passed by quickly, and I actually did very well. But I have to agree that the initial period was really tough. So, you have to pull it through.

Based on my personal experience, the first two hours will really hurt: your legs will feel so painful that they will become completely numb and swollen. It will be followed by the blood rushing through your legs, clearing the blockage completely. Then, you will feel very comfortable and can sit there for long hours.

The time it takes to make it through vary from person to person. Some people will take 2 to 3 hours, some 3 hours, some just half an hour. Of course, I am referring to those whose legs are healthy. Those with problematic legs will face a different and more difficult situation. If your leg bone is not straight or your backbone has a little problem, then you will have a bigger problem.

For those in a healthy condition, you will have no other choice but to practice sitting in a meditative posture for long hours; it is pure hard work. The moment the blockage in your legs was about to be cleared, when the blood was about to rush through the blockage, you cannot stand up immediately or you will feel great pain in your legs and fall. But when the blockage is cleared, you will feel so comfortable that you can sit in the same posture for a long period and you just don’t feel like getting up. Sometimes you may even forget about the time. So, that period of training is critical.

It will be difficult for you to do your practice well if your legs hurt soon after you sit down. Based on my personal experience, you will need to sit there for at least 1 to 2 hours, with no problem with your legs, in order to do your practice well. If you start feeling the pain after just 15 minutes or half an hour, you will be in trouble. Usually a prayer session will last for at least one to one and a half hour, or even two hours. You can’t make it if your legs hurt so soon. So, there is no shortcut. You will need to have the determination and perseverance to succeed. Based on my personal experience, the power of blessing plays a crucial part too. When the power of blessing is strong, your legs will hurt less. Otherwise, the pain will be greater. No matter what, I think determination is the key to success.

I have gone through this process: you will only do better in your practice after you have transformed your physical body. Otherwise, you are only heading towards an aging process. If you could not do it in your 20s or 30s, how can you do it when you are much older now? You will feel worried when your body starts to ache. You could play your sports very well in the past but now your body aches soon after you start your game. You will start feeling worried and wonder if you could still continue with your practice. My personal experience told me that you can. I am 50 plus now but my body and legs feel young; my legs can do better than when I was in my 20s or 30s. My body is even softer than before; they are in a better condition now. So, if I can do it, so can you.

Our mind and body are one. When you have tamed your mind, your legs and body will become soft. On the contrary, when you have not yet tamed your mind, regardless of your age, your legs are stiff. After you have tamed your mind, regardless of your age, your body is soft. Master Nan is already in his 80s and his body is even softer than a baby’s. So, if Master Nan can do it, I believe with the great Vajrayana practices and the great blessing power, we can do it too if we practice with diligence. Otherwise, it cannot be helped; you would have missed a great opportunity.

We must put it to practice. First, we must learn to tame our mind. Although the legs are a problem, the mind is an even greater problem. I have seen many people who could sit still for long hours but their minds were running wild. If you sit there for long hours with no problems with your legs, yet your mind is restless and bored, you will start thinking about why you should be sitting there for so long and find it a painful experience. I don’t think the legs give you a big problem but the mind does. If you cannot tame your mind, your legs do not help even if they don’t give you problem. When your mind is running wild all the times, eager to travel outward to chase after the Six Phenomena (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, thought), your Six Senses (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind) are attached to the Six Phenomena: your eyes become attached to a pleasant sight, your nose becomes attached to a pleasant smell, your ears become attached to a pleasant sound, your tongue becomes attached to a pleasant taste etc. You will love the changes: you will want to eat this today, and eat that tomorrow, and eat something yet different on the following week. You want to try something new all the times. Why? Your mind is running wild!

For a practitioner, if you want to do well, you will have to bring back all the Six Senses and not let them run wild after the Six Phenomena. Quietly, you eat the same food every day, every moth and every year, yet not feeling bored but find it tasty. When you can live on very simple food and yet find it nice, you have succeeded in your practice. All things appear right before your eyes look pleasant and you will no longer seek anything new. When you still seek something new and you are still playful, your mind is not tamed yet; you are still outside the door of enlightenment. So, it is not easy to train the legs. But it will be even more difficult to train the mind after you are done with the legs. On the contrary, when you have tamed your mind, your legs will be tamed naturally. By then, you would have transformed your body and will be able to sit in a meditative posture for long hours. If I can do it, I hope you can too.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Training the Mind (调心)

Our prayer session lasted for about 2 hours tonight. I hope that you folks will go train your legs to sit comfortably in a long meditation session, before training your mind to cope. Your legs will hurt after sitting for a long time in a prayer session. The pain will affect you emotionally. So, you should learn to train your legs followed by training your mind. Your mind will travel away from the practice if it lasts too long - “Gosh! This is taking too long! My legs hurt!” When your mind travels outward, you will lose your concentration.

I hope to stretch our prayer sessions longer, to 3 or 4 hours or even 5 hours. I hope you can sit like I can, with no discomforts. I thought the session only lasted for about 5 minutes. I was sitting there very quietly, enjoying the power of blessing from the Buddhas and Bodhisatvas, completely immersed in spiritual joy and did not feel like ending the session at all. My legs did not hurt. I thought the session had yet to start. I did not feel any pain in my legs. On the contrary, I felt very comfortable and relaxed that I could have sat there till dawn. I hope you could reach this level of attainment one day.

When you have dealt with your legs, then you will have to deal with your mind. How could you tame your mind? We have to train our mind to be quiet and still. How to do so? You can achieve that through daily practices, meditations and reading books. If you just think about wanting to have fun all the times, your mind will end up being very active during your prayer session. You would be thinking about “Why has it not finished yet? It is too long! It is too painful!” And you will end up looking around, watching the person sitting next to you and thinking “Sigh! Your legs hurt too, like mine! Everyone is experiencing painful legs!” You will then find it amusing and continue to look around. You will not be able to enter the state of Samadhi.

Samadhi is one of the methods of cultivation. Even though you are able to enter Samadhi with no pain felt in your legs and no feelings arising in your mind, it is still far from enlightenment. There are many Qigong masters who can sit still throughout the night with no feelings of discomfort, but they are still kept away from the path of enlightenment. But if we can’t even sit still like the Qigong masters, then we are even worse off than they are. So, train your legs, followed by training your mind. Take care of the basics before pursuing the most supreme teachings. If you can’t even handle the basics and yet you are telling me that you want to become a Buddha, you are just too far off your target.

Master Nan mentioned in one of his books that there were some practitioners who could sit still in meditation for more than 10 to 20 days. Have they succeeded in their cultivation? He said that is not enlightenment but the wrong path. When one sits still for more than 10 to 20 days but does not know what’s going on, he is on the wrong path. Venerable Guang Qing (广钦) meditated for more than 10 to 20 days in Quan Province in the past. When Master Nan asked him about his personal experience, he found out that the latter went into a state of unconsciousness - that was not enlightenment. On the other hand, if others can sit still for 10 to 20 days and are yet on the wrong path, what about those of us who can only sit for a few hours yet complaining about the pains, who look around at others in a restless manner? How then can you cultivate? So, be pragmatic and take care of the basics. Start with the training of your legs, followed by the training of your mind. If you can’t even handle these two basics, forget about enlightenment because it is simply too far fetched!

The Five Stages of the Path (修行的阶梯)

Today I would like to talk about the title and the preface of a book written by Grand Master entitled “A Lonely Star In the Sky”. This book is very important, so there is a need for us to revisit this book.

The preface within a book allows an author to explain his reason for writing the book. In the preface of this book, Grand Master told us that he started living in seclusion due to the various reasons. Several years have gone by since then. Grand Master felt that he has become a lonely cultivator, like a lonely star in the sky. He practices everyday: walking, writing, practicing and meditating. He is a prolific writer because he writes everyday. He finds happiness in writing the books through which he could share with others his beliefs and his attainments in cultivation. When he finished his 179th book entitled “The Falling Flowers in a Dream”, he started thinking about the title of his 180th book. There is a theme in every book he wrote, one could roughly tell the theme of a book by just checking the title.

Grand Master does his physical exercises through walking. I have said this many times that the best sport for a practitioner is walking, which is the only form of physical exercise that is a perfect match for cultivation. Other sports cannot blend well with cultivation. Recently I read about the method of walking practiced by some practitioners in ancient China. In ancient China, the practitioners usually meditated for a long period of time, with some lasting days, months or even years. Their legs became weak as a result of the long sitting posture. So, they invented a sport – walking. However, they walked with their eyes closed in order to continue doing their meditation, undistracted by the surroundings. They tied the ropes around the temple, along the paths where they would walk, with bells hung on the ropes for an audible guidance. They continued to do their meditation while walking. When they finished walking, they would sit down again to do their meditation. That was a repetitive cycle. It was just unbelievable. The practitioners in the past did their walking without distractions.

Grand Master did his walking four times a day, with each session lasting about half an hour. This matches the modern healthcare concept. Modern healthcare stresses on doing physical exercises daily, but not excessive or over strenuous. Doing too much will hurt the body. Some people died during their sports because they overstretched their bodies. One just have to do it right to ensure a good blood circulation without hurting one’s health. Do everything in moderation. One should not feel tired after exercising. Grand Master suggested half an hour only for each session, not too much, just let the blood circulate well. Just four sessions in a day, with each lasting about half an hour will make up a total of two hours (morning, noon, evening and night) per day.

One day, after doing his walking, Grand Master returned to his home and stared out of the window. And he saw a lonely star in the sky. He felt that he was just like the lonely star, and he wept. He decided to go into seclusion, living alone, accompanied by a lamp, a star and a pen, where he would continue to write and share his thoughts with the rest of the sentient beings through his books. He knew well that the people will lose their way in this world of delusions. When you reach that state of being, you will realize that your children, your love and hatred are all delusions that must be let go in order to attain enlightenment. If you continue to cling onto these delusions, you will forever remain an ordinary being, forever stranded in the cyclic existence.

All these years, Grand Master has been writing down his thoughts in words, fully utilizing his time when he lived in seclusion, helping the sentient beings in silence. There is a theme in every book he wrote, and every theme relates back to cultivation. So, we should live every moment of our lives connected with cultivation, during walking, resting, sitting and lying down. When we wake up in the morning, we start doing our visualization and practice. There is a mantra for almost every action including washing, brushing, peeing, passing motion, walking, prostrating etc. We should connect every single action of ours with cultivation. This is the only way for us to liberate ourselves from the cyclic existence of birth and death, attaining enlightenment in a single lifetime. Otherwise, no way!
Grand Master said there are five stages in cultivation: Accumulation, Preliminary, Experience, Training and Realization. These are the five stages expounded by the Mind Only school of Buddhism. The different schools of Buddhism describe the different stages somewhat differently. Buddhāvatamsaka Nāma Mahāvaipulya Sūtra talked about 52 stages. If you follow the practice of Mind Only School, you must go through the Accumulation, followed by the Preliminary, followed by the Experience, followed by Training, and finally you will reach the Realization. We are actually at the Accumulation stage, or at most the Preliminary stage; many of us have not even reached the Preliminary stage. The stages of the path progress with increasing difficulty. The last three stages (Experience, Training and Realization) are the toughest. The first two stages (Accumulation and Preliminary) are far from enlightenment.

Grand Master said he was under no stress to write. He just wrote whatever came to mind. One night, he dreamt Clear Light Secret Buddha, one of the many Buddhas mentioned in the High King Sutra. The Buddha gave him a stack of notes and told him to read them. Then the Buddha asked him if he had any views. Grand Master said he had. The Buddha then told Grand Master to write his views in the book. Grand Master agreed. So, that was how the contents for the 108th book came about. It was indeed a very miraculous experience! Grand Master said his inspirations came from the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Vajra, Protectors, Dakinis and the heavenly beings.

His level of attainment is simply inconceivable. Let us then ask ourselves: “Where are we now?” Did the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Vajras, Dakinis and heavenly beings give us any inspirations? We certainly know the answer. Grand Master presented this book to all the sentient beings, wishing all to know about the Pristine Awareness. Yes, we are essentially a Buddha. But why then have we become what we are today, still suffering in this human world and stranded in an unceasing cyclic existence as an ordinary being? Grand Master hopes that the readers will find his own Pristine Awareness through reading this book.

Grand Master mentioned the five stages of the path. You can go check the Annex 3 of this book entitled “Showing An Illuminated Path” for the explanations given by Master Lian Hai on the various stages of the path expounded by the Tian Tai School, Buddhāvatamsaka Nāma Mahāvaipulya Sūtra and the Mind Only School. The Mind Only School expounded the five stages of the path: Accumulation, Preliminary, Experience, Training and Realization. The Tian Tai School expounded the six stages of the path. The Buddhāvatamsaka Nāma Mahāvaipulya Sūtra expounded the ten stages of the path, based on the attainment of a Bodhisattva but not an ordinary being though.

When Sakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment, He realized that there is a Buddha Nature in every sentient being; everyone enjoys the same opportunity for enlightenment. So, the Buddha started expounding the stages of the path, progressing from the stage of an ordinary being to becoming a Buddha. The stages of the path are presented in the five stages by the Mind Only School, in the 6 stages by the Tian Tai School etc. We need to know where we are in the stages of the path and practice with diligence to make progress.

From the preface of this book entitled “A Lonely Star in the Sky”, we know that there are many stages of the path and that they are no easy tasks. Master Nan said that most of the practitioners are actually just practicing outside the door (practicing the expedient methods); they have yet to enter the room (to learn the ultimate teachings). After one enters the room, there is still a long way to go before reaching Buddhahood. According to the Sutrayana Buddhism, one has to go through three big aeons before attaining Buddhahood. That is a long time beyond trillions of years. It is indeed a very difficult task for one to attain Buddhahood - nearly impossible! That is the reason why others did not believe in Grand Master’s attainment of Buddhahood. However, in Vajrayana Buddhism, it is possible for a practitioner to attain Buddhahood with the blessings of his teacher, principal deity and the Buddha. But it does not mean that he can skip levels. He has to complete the five stages of the path in one single lifetime.

A Sutrayanist chooses to go to the USA by road or by sea. But a Vajrayanist chooses to go by air and crossing the Pacific Ocean. It does not mean that a Vajrayanist can just board the airplane and instantaneously land in the USA without crossing the Pacific Ocean. Vajrayana Buddhism is liken to taking the airplane, which is faster but riskier because the airplane may crash. Sutrayana Budhdism is a safer means but slower. It simply means that all the stages of the path must be completed before one can attain Buddhahood. If the stages of the path have not been completed, one must continue to do so in his next life. Even Vajrayana Buddhism cannot guarantee that you will attain Buddhahood in this single lifetime. Go think about it: Where am I on the path? Practice with diligence for advancement to the next stage. This is the only way to succeed in the practice.

In the book Grand Master mentioned that after one recognizes his own Buddha Nature, he will become a Buddha. But he also mentioned that the stages of the path must be completed gradually. Does it mean that you will become a Buddha immediately after recognizing your own Buddha Nature? Or you must complete the five stages of the path before you could do so? Don’t think that it is easy to attain Buddhahood - it is in fact a very difficult task. One must start from the basics. I hope you would understand the true intent of Grand Master.


One must recognize his own Buddha Nature in order to be able to practice effectively. Is this the correct understanding? There was a saying “When one does not recognize his true mind, the practice is meaningless.” Only when one has recognized his true mind, then only will his true cultivation begin.

Acho Rinpoche:
That is correct. One starts his true cultivation after he recognizes his Buddha Nature. I am of the opinion that when one recognizes his Buddha Nature, one has attained the Experience. But after the Experience, he still has a long way to go. You will only practice truthfully and seriously after you attain the Experience. Otherwise, you are merely practicing for the accumulation of merits in the human and heavenly realms. The Training that commences after the Experience is the true cause of the ultimate attainment of Buddhahood - the Realization.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Management of Emotions (情绪处理)

I would like to talk about a Zen Buddhist Master today, Master Godwin. When I came to know about him and wished to learn more about him, I realized that he had already passed away. Master Godwin was a Hinayana practitioner born in Sri Lanka. He had a very pleasant look. He taught mainly meditation and mind training.

Master Godwin was born in 1932 and passed away at the age of 68. He lived in the same period as Master Osho who was born in 1931. Master Godwin was one year younger than Master Osho. Master Osho passed away in 1990, whereas Master Godwin passed away in 2000. Master Godwin lived 9 years longer than Master Osho in this world. Unfortunately, Master Godwin also passed away too early, like Master Osho.

I read his book entitled “Life is My Teacher” and found it great! Unfortunately, he left us too early. He had a famous line - “Life is a house. Life is my teacher.”
Master Godwin learnt from a few Hinayana teachers who were all enlightened masters. Finally, he told his student, actually, the true master is “life”. Although he had several teachers but he finally realized that life was actually his true teacher.
He founded many meditation centres around the world, with some of them built deep in the hilly places in Hong Kong. He left behind many golden teachings, some of which I will share with you tonight. Chapter 1: Why is meditation becoming popular? Chapter 2: Breathing methods. Chapter 3: Compassion, joy and abandonment. Chapter 4: A sequel to Chapter 3. Chapter 5: One-day meditation. Chapter 6: How to apply meditation in daily life. And the final chapter of the book was a Q&A session between him and his students during the seven days of retreat.

Master Godwin was an exceptional meditation teacher, who taught his students very pragmatic ways of applying the skills of meditation in their daily lives. Some students asked him about the management of negative emotions and the answers he gave were splendid.

Sometimes you will be agitated by a certain event and become very emotional, unhappy, anxious and feel like throwing your tantrum. It is very crucial for a cultivator to learn to manage his negative emotions well or they might be blown out of proportion and ruin your own cultivation. The management of relationships between husband and wife, between parents and children, between colleagues etc is crucial. The management of your emotions when meeting someone you dislike is crucial. This is life. There are many methods being suggested in the book which I find useful.
The 1st method: When you are dissatisfied, unhappy, anxious and glum, you should remember this point – “Do not be surprised!” Why? You should tell yourself, “Because I am not yet enlightened, of course I will have unhappy moments. The occasional unhappiness is expected. There is no need to feel guilty about it. Everyone has his negative emotions.”

We should know that this is an imperfect world. Mankind will never reach perfection, including our inner mind. Sakyamuni Buddha once said, “Unless we have attained enlightenment, we are just a lunatic.” In the eyes of the Buddha, everyone is a lunatic who has negative emotions. As we are a lunatics, we are unable to see the true existence of this world. We see the world through our subjective mind, and therefore we will see only the negativity of this world. You will never be able to see the true side of the story. You thought you had seen the positive side, but actually you only saw the negative side and the insanity of the world. As we see the world through our subjective mind, we will end up in a state of insanity.

We may deny such accusation and insist that we are very normal. But in the eyes of the Buddha, everyone is insane without his own realization. It is likened to the world of blinds, where everyone is blind but feels normal, because everyone else is blind, which is the norm! However, when one of them regains his vision, he will realize that everyone else is blind except him - “Only I can see when the rest cannot!”

A Buddha has Wisdom Eye, who can see the true existence of this world, but the rest only see an insane and abnormal world. So, we should not feel too bad about ourselves because the whole world is like that. Do not feel guilty about it.
The 2nd method: The negative emotions give you a learning opportunity. We should learn to manage our negative emotions, find out what they are and how to manage them.

The 3rd method: Try to learn about the negative emotions – what are they? When you harbor negative emotions, ask yourself, “What is this? Is it a thought? Is it a feeling? Is it an emotion?” We should delve deep into the origin of these negative emotions.

The 4th method: When negative emotions arise in you, make a new friend – the breathing. This is crucial! We should not be driven blindly by our negative emotions; do not feel unhappy and uneasy immediately but start focusing on your breathing. Focus your mind on your breathing and you will not be pulled away by your negative emotions into madness.

The 5th method: Understand the negative emotions. When we feel unhappy, dissatisfied and sad, we should clearly know that the negative emotions will go away soon. Let them rise, knowing very well that they will cease soon after.

Master Godwin said, when you feel unhappy, say this to your unhappiness, “Please do not go away! Please do not go away!” You are trying to tell your unhappiness that “You can’t do anything to me.” So, it will just go away soon. You will find it very strange. Why so? It will not stay even though you ask it to. It will not! Why do you think it will not stay? For things are impermanent. Things will appear and disappear - this is impermanence.

You thought you could tell it not to come or not to go, when it actually cannot be controlled by you. So, we should keep an open mind to accept this as a fact of life. The Buddha taught us that everything in this world will appear and disappear - they are just as unpredictable as the wind.

The 6th method: We will know it when the negative emotions are no longer in us. The negative emotions are impermanent. Sometimes we may end up having strange emotions or unpleasant emotions. We will not be happy forever, neither will we be unhappy forever - it alternates.

The 7th method: Treat your negative emotions like a visitor; a visitor to your inner mind. When it is a visitor, we will have to play a good host. When the visitor comes, we will treat it well. When the emotion becomes negative, how should we handle it? You can say, “How are you? Welcome!” Be friendly, “Shall we chat? May I know where you were from, and what can I learn from you?”

When you are unhappy, tell yourself, “I welcome you because this is impermanence. I know that you will leave soon. Let me learn from you. What would you like me to do?” When you have such thoughts, the negative emotions will just vanish.
When the negative emotions are about to leave, say, “See you again. Please do come again when you are free.” This is the right attitude for treating the negative emotions. Welcome it when it comes and bid it farewell when it leaves. Only then will you not be driven blindly by it.

Master Godwin said there is a very profound teaching of wisdom here. The Buddha said the visitors (negative emotions) do not truly belong to us. Why did we end up feeling mentally perturbed? Because we assumed that they belonged to us, and that is the cause of the problem. If the negative emotions do not belong to you, of course they will come and go without you having to bother. They do not belong to us, they will come and go. You will not be able to catch them and keep them. When you understand this, you will know how to deal with it.

The 8th method: We will have to treat the negative emotions like our teacher. It is like a mirror, where we can see ourselves very clearly, and see ourselves getting angry. So, thank the negative emotions - “Thank you for making me angry!” You will need to learn this method to tame your mind.

Lastly, Master Godwin said, “Mankind is imperfect. So, there will be emotions arising in our mind. As long as we understand that we are imperfect, we will become humble and will learn to accept it. If you think that you are perfect, you will become arrogant. So, we should tame the negative emotions. In fact, none of us is perfect. Only a Buddha is perfect. If you think that you are imperfect, you will be humble and learn to manage the negative emotions.”

Master Godwin taught us to learn to observe our mind in order to tame it. When the negative emotions arise, we should observe them but do not stop them, and do not do any addition or subtraction. We, humans, have a tendency to add and subtract, out of attachment. When a certain situation occurs, just observe it; this is the only way to get out of the negative emotions.

When you are good at handling your emotions, you are an accomplished cultivator, because you are not driven around blindly by your emotions. When you are driven around blindly by your emotions, you will end up fuming for a few hours, three days or even three weeks. When you could see the negative emotions, they will vanish. Then you will end up being in a state of peacefulness, unperturbed, and you will make speedy progress in your cultivation.

Altruism & Letting Go (利他与放下)

Guru Padmasambhava said, “The exceptional quality of enlightenment lies in altruism; whoever slackens in the practice of altruism will forever miss the path to enlightenment.” The whole spirit of the teaching lies in “altruism”. The most essential point of cultivation lies in benefitting others. The emphasis of cultivation is on benefitting others but not oneself.

One who works for his own benefit is far from enlightenment. If a cultivator slackens in the practice of altruism and is being indifferent to this practice, he will miss the path to enlightenment and will never be able to succeed in his cultivation.

Guru Padmasambhava summarized the teaching in only one sentence. This one sentence is the key point of cultivation. One should practice for the benefit of others, not his. One who practices for his own benefits will never attain Buddhahood.

I just got hold of the new book written by Grand Master, so I put Master Nan’s book aside for the time being. In the book, Grand Master mentioned the six dreams that he had at his Southern Hut. The three principal deities of Grand Master including Amitabha Buddha, Jade Pond Golden Mother and Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva appeared in his dreams separately. Grand Master’s principal protector, Yamantaka, also appeared in one of his dreams. His late teacher, Taoist Master Qin Zhen and one other deity also appeared in two of his dreams separately.

All six deities appeared one after another during the six days, saying the same thing to him, all advising Him to leave Seattle - leave his Southern Hut and go into seclusion. Especially Taoist Master Qin Zhen who told him very clearly, “I had already told you in the past that an enlightened person has only three options: he either disguises himself as insane and not let others know about his enlightenment, or passes away into Nirvana immediately and leaves this secular world, or goes into seclusion. There is no other option!”

However, Grand Master did not choose any of the three options: he did not go into seclusion, he did not disguise himself as insane, and he did not pass away into Nirvana. He told the world about his attainment of Buddhahood and his numerous inconceivable acts of enlightenment. As a consequence, he has to face the unceasing slanders and criticisms lashed on him by others. Finally, Grand Master has to leave Seattle because he really has no other choice.

One of the deities told him, “You can go into seclusion and still continue to help the sentient beings through your Emanation Body or Enjoyment Body. You can still go visit the various chapters worldwide by not being there personally.” Grand Master has no other choice but to leave now. Those were the six inconceivable dreams mentioned in his book.

The new book also mentioned about Venerable Guo Xian, who ordained Grand Master into his monkhood. Venerable Guo Xian entered a 3-year retreat but Grand Master wanted to do a 10-year retreat or one lasting till the end of this life. Grand Master might not return to the Seattle Lei Zang Temple or Seattle. There was one day that Grand Master told his students, “Goodbye! Goodbye!” He bade farewell to everyone including his students, his disciple-masters and his children. He gave us the impression that he might not return; a very deep impression indeed. I hope you would go read this book and learn the mentality of an enlightened master – his perseverance in cultivation and readiness to let go of the worldly concerns.

Master Nan said, “Actually, any cultivator who can truly let go of the worldly concerns will naturally have his vital energy, channels and drops flowing smoothly - his kundalini will awake automatically.” Everyone talks about letting go but none can do so. On the contrary, one’s grasping becomes even greater. Had you truly let go, your vital energy, channels and drops would have been flowing naturally and your kundalini awakened naturally, and you would have succeeded in your cultivation. Unfortunately, everyone talks about letting go but none could truly do so.

Who actually practices altruism? Who actually manages to let go? Master Nan said, “No one is able to do so. Everyone is only doing a lip service.” I hope everyone is able to put it into practice. Never mind that you are not able to do so at this stage but strive to do so within this lifetime. If you can truly do so, your attainment will be inconceivable. Otherwise, no one can help you at all.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cultivation (修行)

Cultivators in the past used to be wearing five types of ornament. First, the hear gear which represents one’s root guru, his principle deity and his vajra protector; the Three Fundamentals whom a cultivator should be mindful of. Second, the ear rings which represent abstaining from hearing as well as circulating the rumors. There is a saying: “Rumors will be stopped when reaching a wise person.” The rumors will be ‘bounced off’ by one’s ear rings and will not be circulated further through his mouth. Third, the rosary which represents the purification of the speech; not creating bad karma through speech and not scolding anyone in any way. Instead, chant the mantra and speak pure words. Fourth, the bangle which represents helping others at all times. Fifth, the belt which represents disciplines; abstaining from doing immoral actions.

Actually, if we are serious about cultivation, whether wearing those ornaments or not, we still have to do the good actions. We must abide by the precepts very closely in order to succeed in our cultivation one day. Otherwise, all efforts will go to waste. If we cultivate badly, we will end up in the Three Lower Realms (animal, hell, hungry ghost) because of the transgression of precepts.

When one has started walking the path of spiritual cultivation, he should not continue to mingle with his old acquaintances who are non-cultivators. This is not my personal opinion. This is one of the precepts in Buddhism. After being initiated into Vajrayana Buddhism, you ought to be with the Vajranists, and avoid going out with those who are not. Sakyamuni Buddha knew that when a student has been initiated into Buddhism but continue to mingle with others who are not, there would be 99% probability that he would be influenced by the rest and end up failing in his cultivation. There is a saying: “One will only become a good person after three years of hard work but could turn bad in no time.”

Mankind is weird. A person will pick up the bad habits easily immediately after being born into this world. For instance, we will naturally develop a habit of eating meat from birth, but we will have to learn through a period of time on how to become a vegetarian later. One will decide on his own on eating meat and likes it too. One has the tendency to do things that are immoral. So, it will take a long time, maybe three years, for a person to develop good habits but he could turn bad very quickly. This is a very strange phenomenon. Mankind tends to develop bad habits easily in this world of Five Defilements.

In the “Ksitigarbha’s Root Vow Sutra” , it is mentioned that the people of this world tend to create bad karma through every thought of theirs. Those who do not, will not end up in this world. Those doing good deeds will only end up in the heavenly realm or in the Western Blissful Pure Land; they will not come back to this world. Those ended up in this world are less perfect, who have the tendency of doing the wrong things such as bullying others, making money etc. for the sake of his own benefit.

Sakyamuni Buddha said, “You cannot mingle with people outside of your circle of cultivation, or you will be influenced by them.” There is a saying, “Those near the red color will end up red, and those near the black color will end up black.” When you are in a pool of black ink, you will not end up white; that is impossible. Unless you are an enlightened being who choosed to return to this world at your own will, for the purpose of helping others. If you want to help others, you will have to befriend those you wish to help, and behave like them. Otherwise, you will not be able to help them when you look alien to them. Only an enlightened being is able to join them in order to help them. If you are still struggling in your own cultivation, and you are not an enlightened being who choose your re-incarnation, you cannot do so. If you mingle with them, you will be led to downfall with certainty.

Sentient beings only talk about money, wealth, cars, shares, children, the children education and their results. They will not be talking to you about impermanence and liberation from the cyclic existence. Even the cultivators tend to talk about such worldly concerns, let alone the commoners. This is what I have been stressing – when you are together, the best topic is impermanence and Buddhism; don’t talk about anything else that is a waste of time. When I am eating my meals with others, I talk about impermanence and cultivation which are more meaningful. It is a waste of time talking about jokes and unrelated topics; we might as well not be together. So, when we are together, we must only talk about the cultivation of Buddhism but not worldly concerns. When you talk about the worldly concerns, it will only bring you to the downfall.

Don’t be deceived by what we saw. You might find your wife ugly but other women outside pretty. Let me tell you this, when you marry the pretty woman, she will also become ugly one day. When you look at the woman from afar, you will think that she looks pretty. Of course, she will only show you her best side. When you bring her home, you will see the ugly side of her; she will quarrel with you everyday. You tend to find what you do not yet possess good but you will not cherish it anymore once it is in your possession; you will continue to talk about other things that you do not yet possess. Actually what is in your possession and what is not are the same. When you manage to get hold of a woman whom you did not possess in the past, you will find her becoming irritating over time and start to have conflicts with her. This is sentient beings. Seeing it from afar, one will find the object pretty through haziness and blurriness. One will only see the ‘true color’ in a near distance.

So, we are deceived by our own eyes. But it is easier said then done. People only want to see the good side, attracted by the ‘beauty’ and enjoy the flirting. Sentient beings are driven by their lust. It is not easy for one to overcome the temptations, but he has to constantly remind himself to remain alert. That is why Sakyamuni Buddha introduced the numerous precepts to protect the cultivators, knowing very well that they will fall for the temptations. Knowing very well that there is a pitfall right in front, they will just keep walking and finally fall into the pitfall. Only when he is already at the bottom of the pitfall, he will regret, “Gosh, how on earth did I get in here?” It will be too late by then, because he is already inside the pitfall.

The precepts are very crucial. One must read them everyday. In Vajrayana Buddhism, the cultivators are required to read the precepts on the first and fifteen day of every lunar month, reminding themselves the importance of precepts. When you read the precepts everyday, you will have to watch every step of yours, telling yourself what you can and cannot do. When you are about to set your vision on something inappropriate, tell yourself “stop”! When you are about to utter an inappropriate word, tell yourself “stop”! When you are about to harbor a negative thought, tell yourself “stop”! Gradually, you will develop a true compassion in you. Finally, when you have fully united with the teachings, liken to the mixture of milk and water in a perfect union with the two totally non-distinguishable, you have succeeded in your cultivation.

It is easy to just talk about the theories, but there is hardly anyone who is able to put them into practice. I hope that all of you will take precaution of what is said and abide by the precepts closely. Sakyamuni Buddha knew that His students would fall after He left, being tempted to leave the spiritual community for worldly pleasures. He would no longer be around to guide the students. So, He said, “The precepts shall be your teacher.” That shows the importance of the precepts. I hope that you will go study the precepts and observe them closely.

Actually, the constant contemplation of impermanence is a key point of cultivation. Whoever develops the strongest sense of urgency through the observation of impermanence will be the greatest achiever; there is no other shortcut. If a person has not felt the sense of impermanence, he will not be able to develop his sense of renunciation which is key to doing good cultivation. There are just too many worldly concerns in your life that you will not be willing to do your practice multiple times a day, and you will not set your priority on practice. The constant contemplation of impermanence is very crucial for cultivation.

Mater Nan said, “Every practitioner must go through a crisis in life facing death. If a person has not experienced death, he will not be able to make it in his cultivation.” What it means is that, if you have not truly experienced death, you will not understand the imminence of death. When your relatives pass away, you will experience impermanence temporarily, but you will soon forget it when agitated by an unpleasant event and lost your composure.

We went to the hospital to visit Sister Wen today. Initially she told us that she would be discharged by Sunday but the doctor advised her to stay for one more week for further observations. Her heart is very weak. This is impermanence. Her heart can hardly function now, working abnormally in a reverse manner. She did not know the reason of her heart failure. This is impermanence. I hope you will learn from her experience. When your sense of impermanence is very strong, you will develop a strong sense of renunciation and care less about the worldly concerns. Even when you are happy, you will return to your sense of impermanence soon after. When you return to your sense of impermanence, you will practice diligently and will succeed in your cultivation easily.

The four fellow cultivators who did not turn up last night for the prayer session are here with us tonight. They remind me of impermanence. They had missed the wonderful session last nigh. Last night when I just lifted the incense to start the prayer session, a lound thunder was heard in the sky. There was a series of thunders lasting through the whole prayer session last night until the first mantra of Marici was being chanted by us. It was immediately followed by a heavy rain, lasting till the prayer session ended. We took some rain water blessed by Marici and shared it with all. The four fellow cultivators are sitting right in front of me now, isn’t this impermanence?

Contemplate on impermanence regularly and develop your sense of renunciation; this is key to making progress in your cultivation. Otherwise, you will be wasting your time.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Children (养儿育女)

In the past, most parents tend to hope that their children would take care of them when they became old. But our society has changed. The western culture has deep influence on our social values that the children today seem to be less concerned about their parents. The social value of filial piety is deteriorating one generation after another. So, I would advise the parents to learn from the Bodhisattvas, to just give but ask for nothing in return.

A great parent will just give but not ask his children for anything in return. The day will come when your children become independent and decide to leave you. By then you will not feel sorry. Otherwise, you will feel sad. It is fine for your children to come back to you, and it is also fine if they don’t. It is fine that they are filial to you, help you and give you money, but it is also fine if they don’t. We parents should develop the right mindset. If you don’t, and expect your children to pay back your kindness in return, then you will feel sorrowful. You will feel the pain when you don’t get what you expected.

Some parents worry about their son getting married because they might lose him to his wife. In the end, their children became their greatest pain. We had better learn from the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas - just give. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are very compassionate, like our kind parents: no matter how bad the children became, they welcome their return with open arms, or let them leave at their own will. The parents always love their children, expecting nothing in return. The Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas know very well that it is indeed a very formidable task to help the sentient beings realize their innate quality of enlightenment. So, like our kind parents, they unselfishly help the sentient beings, life after life, and generation after generation.

There is a saying: “One saw the Buddha right before him in the first three days of his practice. One saw the Buddha right at the end of the horizon after three months into his practice. One could not see the Buddha anymore after three years into his practice.” There are many practitioners who lose their perseverance over time, getting further and further away from the path to enlightenment, and finally completely giving up on his practice. So, on this first day of 2008, I wish all of you keeping your aspiration for enlightenment firm and strong. It is very easy for one to lose his aspiration due to the numerous temptations in the world. If you do not stay alert, you will easily lose your aspiration to enlightenment. Practice is very important. So, please practice with vigor and perseverance.

Key Teachings (修行心要)

After reading Grand Master’s book entitled “An Intimate Talk With You”, we will realize that cultivation is no easy task. Grand Master has a few million students, most of whom do not do their daily practices; there are only very few who do. I felt fortunate that I do not belong to the majority because I practice with vigor. You might be saying that you do your daily practices while walking, but it is not easy for one to do it with mindfulness while walking, resting, sitting and lying down, unless you are of high capacity.

There were many students of Sakyamuni Buddha who died without attaining enlightenment during the time of the Buddha. There was a king who spoke to the Buddha, “I don’t want to do the practice but I want to become a Buddha.” The Buddha told him, “Sure, you will become a Buddha.” And the king became a Buddha instantaneously.

“We have been practicing so hard and yet could not succeed in our cultivation. But he did not even need to do the practice and yet became a Buddha instantaneously,” many of the students felt very unhappy about it and blamed the Buddha for being bias. The Buddha explained, “No. He is of very high capacity, who only needs to be given a little advice to be fully awakened. However, he is the only person of such capacity among you. The rest of you cannot be awakened through the same method but will need to continue practicing hard on a gradual path.”

Do one session a day. At least one session a day, but if time permits, do it twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. Actually, one should do four sessions a day, like the monks: one in the morning, one at noon, one in the evening and one at night. The high capacity ones do not need to sit quietly to do their practice, instead they could do so while sweeping the floor or doing cooking in the kitchen. But there are just too few of such people.

There were many Buddhist masters in the past who attained enlightenment while sweeping the floors or drinking the tea. But even so, they would have already practiced for many years, including doing meditations and reading the sutras for many years. One day, they just attained enlightenment “suddenly” amidst meditation or sweeping. However, they did not attain enlightenment without doing their practice in the past. They did actually work hard on their practice and finally, when triggered by an opportunity of enlightenment, they became fully awakened. After they became awakened, they still need to apply their insights of enlightenment in their daily lives and in helping other sentient beings – they were actually walking the path of the Bodhisattva.

There was a student who asked Grand Master, “Why should one practice so hard? Sakyamuni Buddha only became a Buddha after practicing for 500 lives. It is simply too tough.” Grand Master said, “We should not be discouraged by the tremendous efforts required for perfecting the cultivation. Don’t bother about the 500 years. We just have to continue practicing in every life.”

The Buddha practiced as a Boddhisattva, practising the Six Perfections for 500 years. When we do our cultivation, we should not be bothered about the final attainment of enlightenment or Buddhahood. The key is to apply the teachings of the Buddha and Grand Master in our daily life. Through transforming our daily life into one that complies fully with the teachings, we will attain enlightenment eventually. When you have perfected the skills of uniting the teachings and the daily activities in one, you will attain enlightenment. As long as you are unable to unite the two as one, you will not be able to reach the state of enlightenment.

Someone asked Grand Master how long would he spend on doing the daily practice. Grand Master said, “I will need about 20 minutes to complete the whole process of visualization, chanting and dedication of merit.” Grand Master did not tell anyone that He could skip the practice. So, I think we should take it seriously and do our practice at least twice a day. Whenever we can find the opportunity to do a session, read the Heart Sutra three times, read the High King Sutra three times and end it with the dedication of merit. Or we could chant the mantra by completing the counting of 108 rosary beads for five to ten rounds, and end with the dedication of merit.

If you still give the excuse of not being able to squeeze out anytime in a day to do your practice, I think this is not an acceptable excuse. Time is made by you. If you complain that you are too busy taking care of your kids, your work, this and that, frankly, who is not? If you spend all your time on worldly matters, it will be impossible for you to attain enlightenment. Sometimes when I felt tired and did not feel like doing my practice, I would still force myself to do so. And I realized that the moment I lighted the incense, followed by doing the prostrations, I would suddenly feel re-energized and wide awake. That is the inconceivable blessing power of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. And I realized that I had done even better in that session. If you insist on doing your practice despite your lacking of time and energy, you will receive even greater blessing from the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas; they will feel happy seeing you making your best efforts in practice.

I fell sick for quite a while in the past. When I was critically ill, I thought to myself that even if I had to die, I must die while doing my practice, remaining seated in the midst of chanting the mantra. When I was so ill that I lost my strength in doing the prostration, I persisted to do my practice; I sensed the blessing of the Buddha light when I sat down to do my practice. I knew then that I would not die so soon; even if I would, I would end up being in a very good state. During my weakest moment, I still received the blessings of the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas. I felt very easy, because I knew that the Buddhas and Boddhisattvas would always be with me.

When you are very healthy and full of energy, you may be wasting your time on things that are totally unrelated to cultivation. On the contrary, when you are critically ill and yet insisted on doing the practice and cherishing every remaining moment of your life, then you are truly exceptional. Because it actually means that you have developed power in your cultivation, and that the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and the Dharma Protectors are always by your side. This kind of cultivation is meaningful. It is much better than you being healthy but wasting all your time going to the gym, working hard to loose weight and enhancing your external beauty.

I feel that one should try to make time for doing the practice and developing his power in cultivation. When you have developed your power in cultivation, you will realize that what you cared so much for in the past are actually very trivial. When you feel that the worldly concerns are no longer important to you, you will spend even more time on something more important – the practice. When you spend more time practicing, you will develop greater spiritual joy in you, and you will want to practice even more. When you want to practice more, you will let go of the worldly concerns with ease. When you let go of the worldly concerns, you will achieve good progress in your practice. This is cultivation.

Grand Master said, someone told him that he could attain enlightenment instantaneously, but that is a meaningless affair. So what if he has attained enlightenment? What does enlightenment mean? When one has attained enlightenment, he still must practice the Six Perfections and walk the Boddhisattva path in order to make his enlightenment meaningful. After reading the book, I felt deeply impressed by what Grand Master said. It is true - whether one is enlightened or not is not important; what is important is for one to do what a Boddhisattva would in this world, to benefit the rest of the sentient beings.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Offering (供养)

Sutrayana Buddhism does not clearly mention about the Eight Offerings (drinking water, cleansing water, flower, incense, lamp, perfume, food and joy). Sutrayana practitioners only practice the offering of fruits, flower, a cup of water or tea.
Vajrayana Buddhism originated from India and inherited the practice of Eight Offerings, or the offering of eight items. There is a difference between the Eight Inner Offerings and the Eight Outer Offerings. The Eight Outer Offerings are offered to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, whereas the Eight Inner Offerings are offered to one’s innate Buddha Nature. It was also documented in the Sutras that there are mudras (hand gestures) for presenting the Eight Offerings; those transmitted by the True Buddha School are more complex and richer in style.

Offering has its significance. There is also the offering of music, like the blowing of conch shell which represents the propagation of the Buddha Dharma. There is meaning in every type of offering. Vajrayana Buddhism places more emphasis on the Eight Offerings, and encourages the practice of offering.

There are other methods of offering in Vajrayana Buddhism, like the Fire Puja. We usually just burn three sticks of incense during our session as a form of offering. But the amount of incense offered in a Fire Puja ranges from a few hundreds to a few thousand sticks in one session. While it takes others a much longer time to reach that number, a Vajrayanist could do it through a single session.

Vajrayana Buddhism believes in making big offering, offering them to the spiritual beings, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, the protectors etc., seeking their blessing and increasing one’s own merit. When you have accumulated great merits, you will enjoy a smoother path to enlightenment. Otherwise, you will face many obstacles in your cultivation, such as being bogged down by the busy schedule of work, being troubled by many problems in life, facing many obstacles, being disturbed by spiritual beings etc, all such challenges will make it very tough for your cultivation.

Vajrayana Buddhism encourages the practice of Puja, the more the merrier. Puja can help us accumulate great merits in the shortest time, making it easier for us to walk the path to enlightenment by reducing the amount of obstacles. There are many challenges in the practice of Vajrayana Buddhism, and there are many practitioners who failed the tests and give up on their cultivation. So, the purpose of offering and Puja is meant to increase one’s merit, to smoothen one’s path to enlightenment.
The ultimate path to enlightenment is one comprising both the practice of wisdom and the accumulation of merit. So, the accumulation of merit is crucial in one’s cultivation. The act of offering will make our path easier and smoother. The numerous challenges can cause a practitioner to give up on his cultivation. So, the act of offering is the first practice in the Six Perfections (offering, discipline, tolerance, diligence, meditation, wisdom) and it is indeed very crucial.

Monday, November 10, 2008


There was a teacher who taught the cultivation of compassion this way: First, he advised us to think about the people we like such as our parents, spouses etc., and think about their contributions; you will feel touched and compassionate towards them. Next, you think about your friends and relatives, and their contributions, and your feeling of compassion towards them. Next, you think about the strangers, their contributions and your feeling of compassion towards them. Finally, you think about the people you dislike, who scolded and beat you, and you try to develop a sense of compassion towards them too.

But my method is different. No matter what, regardless of whom you like or dislike, you should treat everyone well. You can only succeed in your cultivation when you develop a sense of compassion equally towards everyone. The teacher starts with the people one likes, and gradually extending it to the people one dislikes. I don’t practice this way because this method is not only slow, it will not lead you to the ultimate state of enlightenment. I believe there are many people practicing this way but I find this method ineffective.

Why do I find it ineffective? When you discriminate between the “likes” and “dislikes”, you will not be able to break free from the cyclic existence (samsara). When you progress from the ones you love, to the ones you don’t, you have in fact fallen into a cyclic existence. When you discriminate between the likes and dislikes, and group them into four different groupings, then you are trapped by a differentiating mind. When you assume that there is “good” and “bad”, which are clearly antagonistic, then you will be forever be stranded in the cyclic existence. I don’t practice this way.

When I first started my practice, I killed my “self” and my “ego”. When the “ego” is killed, all things associated with the “ego” are killed too - they completely vanished. When I killed my “ego”, I no longer see the notion of “mine”. That is why I seldom mention about "my mother", "my wife" and "my son". Why? Because when you kill your “ego”, all things associated with “me” will naturally vanish. There is no “my” parents, “my” children and “my” belongings. When all things associated with “me” have vanished, you will no longer grasp the notion of “mine”.

When the notion of “I” has been eradicated, you will then enter a state of emptiness; you will feel as if you have died. This is a very critical moment that, at this juncture, bodhicitta (enlightenment mind) must now arise in you. Because when you enter this state of being, you no longer have “your” beloved parents, friends or foes. There are no longer discriminations among them when you die - your parents are no longer related to you; your son and your loved ones are no longer related to you; and your enemies are no longer related to you. When you no longer have the “most beloved one”, there will not be the “most hated one”. Such discriminations would simply vanish.

At that point, you will enter a state of emptiness, and you will realize the illusory state of your existence. There are many people resorting to committing suicide at this stage. Why? For one will feel very glum and depressed at this stage. There were many Arahats killing themselves at this point because they felt glum and empty. At the point when you feel glum, you must develop your sense of bodhicitta. When your bodhicitta is developed, you will see all sentient beings being equal - there is no longer a discrimination between whom you love and whom you don’t. You will not feel particularly attached to “your” parents, “your” sons or “your” daughters. Instead, you will see all sentient beings as equal. Only at that point you would have really reached the state of equanimity. Otherwise, your visualization of the ones you like or dislike will make you fall into a dualistic mind.

Visualization is deceiving. When a situation happens, you will be most concerned about the ones you love; when you see your children getting into trouble, you will not be too concerned about others but your kids. You can talk about the theories very well but you are just deceiving yourself by mere talking.

So, the most crucial point is to kill your own “ego”. How? First, develop the sense of impermanence. Develop a very strong sense of impermanence in you and let go of your attachments to all the worldly concerns. Think about impermanence at all times. You should not just love what is associated with you - let go of all that you like or dislike. Let go of your attachments to food and enjoyment, let go of your attachments to what you saw, let go of your attachments to all things associated with you, and develop your sense of renunciation. Only then will you be able to let go of your ego and all things associated with you. When you have completely let go of all worldly attachments, at this point, you will fully develop your bodhicitta, you will then see all sentient beings in this universe as equal. By then, you will attain the Wisdom of Equanimity. Otherwise, you are just a copycat, copying repeating after others and Sakyamuni Buddha, when you are still very much a discriminative person.

One who has attained the Wisdom of Equanimity can be recognized. However, there are only few people in this world who have attained the Wisdom of Equanimity. There are very few such people, but they are all great men - the Bodhisattvas. When one has not truly attained the Wisdom of Equanimity, he has not renounced his worldly attachments. When he simply talks about it, he is just lying. Most people are still obscured by their own lust, hatred and ignorance, to varying degrees; it is truly hard for most to let go of their worldly pursuits.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Daily Practice (修行生活化)

It is easy for a practitioner to chant the mantra and do the meditation during the prayer sessions. However, it is not easy for him to practice in his daily life, between the sessions. Actually, spiritual cultivation is not related to meditation, mantra chanting, sutra recitation and empowerment. If you do not know how to transform your mind, it will be fruitless for you to do the numerous sutra recitations, meditations and receiving empowerments for high practices.

It is mentioned in the Lotus Sutra that even if you are able to enter a state of meditation for millions of eons, as long as your mind has not been transformed (free of delusions), you will remain an ordinary man, not to mention your inability to sit still for a short meditation that lasts for only two hours. The most crucial point of cultivation is the transformation of every single thought of ours into an enlightened thought – the purification of our mind. When every single thought of yours arises for the sake of benefitting others but not yourself, you can forget about reciting the sutras or the mantras. It is that easy, but no one is able to do so.

Sometimes I tend to ask myself this question, “Should every practitioner go through a critical illness in life?” One will only let go of his worldly attachments when he is about to die. On the other hand, most people tend to just let go of their worldly attachments temporarily when they are critically ill, but returning to the same old habitual self soon after the illness is healed. So, cultivation is no easy task.
If a practitioner keeps thinking about “Why do I have to tolerate this? Why is he treating me in this way? Why should I give in?” you will never enter the path to enlightenment.

You must attain the state where there is no “I”, there is no “you”, there is “nothing”, there is “no one who is giving in” and “no one who is taking advantage”, there is “no one who is being misunderstood”, there is “no one who tolerates…” You must let go of all these worldly concerns completely in order to gain the chance of liberation from the cyclic existence. If you keep asking, “Why? Why?” you will be wasting your time chanting the mantras.

You only have to change your mindset from asking “Why?” to saying “It’s alright.” “It is fine for my boss to treat me well.” “It is also fine that my boss does not treat me well.” You must break free from an egoistic mindset in order to break free from the cyclic existence. If you are worried about your family everyday: worrying about your husband, worrying about your wife, worrying about your son, worrying about your daughter, worrying about your job, you will never be able to break free from the cyclic existence. No matter how many million recitations of mantra you have chanted in the past 20 to 30 years in your life, you will not be able to attain enlightenment. Please ponder this question. Spiritual cultivation is about eradicating one’s ego, and to have the interest of others in mind no matter what happens - this is the only way to succeed in cultivation.

Disciplines (守戒)

You do not have to be constrained by the disciplines when you are not transgressing any. However, we have made numerous mistakes in our past lives in the cyclic existence that frequent repentance is necessary. Unless you have already attained the state of enlightenment, you still have to repent your mistakes and observe the disciplines strictly.

When you have attained the state of enlightenment, you can then break free from the disciplines; you would appear as if you are a person who is not observing the disciplines but they are in fact inherent in your actions. The Crazy Monk Ji-gong (济公活佛) appeared to be breaking the rules often but, in fact, he was an enlightened Arahat who did not need not to be bound by the disciplines. Even though he appeared to be eating meat and drinking wine, he was in fact doing soul deliverance for the animals that he ate.

A person who has not attained enlightenment must observe the disciplines at all times. But he cannot accuse others for not observing the disciplines as he does not know if the other party is an enlightened being. Grand Master drives a big car and lives in a big house; some people thought that Grand Master is not an enlightened being and that he has transgressed the discipline forbidding a cultivator from enjoying the luxuries in life. They did not know that Grand Master is in fact an enlightened master. Grand Master said, “If you accuse me for transgressing the discipline just because of my driving a big car, wearing nice clothes and having a Rolex watch on my wrist, then you would also be accusing Amitabha Buddha for living in luxuries too. For the Western Pure Land is fully decorated by gold and jewels everywhere, far surpassing the luxuries in this world by a million times.

So, we should observe the disciplines. But we should not be bound by the disciplines blindly. We should observe the disciplines with flexibility and understand the true spirit of disciplines. One should not follow the disciplines blindly but should apply them accordingly in the different situations. Disciplines are very crucial that they should be observed until the day you attain enlightenment; by then you can break free.

The Vajrayana masters said: “A rabbit should not follow the snow lion in leaping across the same distance. The rabbit will not be able to make it and will fall into the deep valley.” Lion is the king of mountain; it can do a powerful leap. An enlightened master may appear to be breaking the disciplines when he is actually trying to help the sentient beings in secret, for the sake of transmitting the teachings. No matter what, disciplines are still crucial.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Impermanence (无常)

Impermanence means “ever changing”. A man is ever changing. Impermanence is expounded by Buddhism. It is a universal truth.

Mankind is attached to the notions of “permanence” and “existence”. What is the notion of “permanence”? One already has the money but wants more; one has a house but wants it bigger; one has a wife and wants her prettier. One believes only in the notion of “existence”.

If you truly believe in the notion of “impermanence”, you will not be attached to the worldly phenomena, because all things are ever changing: a beautiful person is aging constantly; money will be lost; a house will collapse; a car will break down. So, you will not be bothered too much about such things; you will not be too interested in high social status as it will fall very quickly. When you understand about the notion of impermanence, you will not be interested in such worldly pursuits.

What is the cause of attachment? Sentient beings do not understand the impermanence of the worldly phenomena and have mistaken them for being truly existing; they become attached to the phenomena which are actually transient in nature. When you understand that they do not truly exist, you will then let go of your attachment to them. When you understand that they do not truly exist, you will not want to pursue it blindly anymore. However, even when you know the theory, as long as you have not internalized the values, you will still feel inclined to grasp at those things; you will still think that you could get something out of it. One tends to cling on to physical or emotional feelings: “He treats me so well!” These are transient, temporal joy, followed swiftly by a painful experience when the situation changes.

Grand Master cited an example in his latest book entitled “Spiritual Travel in the Land of No Worries”, where Grand Master met a celestial official and asked, “Who will become the next president?” The answer was “so-and-so”. One week later, he met the same celestial official but this time, the official told Grand Master that the candidate has been replaced, because the original candidate took bribes three times. Look! That candidate just took the money from others and that cost him his presidency. This is impermanence. It was pre-arranged just last week that he would become the next president and now it became someone else, simply because he took what he did not deserve.

He gave yet another example. There was a very diligent student who did many good deeds including social services etc, but his five kids ended up being either critically ill, dead or rebellious. Grand Master could not help him. Grand Master said, “This is impermanence!” Actually, this student, in his past life, went into a partnership with five other business partners. But he killed them all and took their money. These five partners took revenge by becoming his children in this life and causing him great miseries. Finally, his house and all his belongings were burnt to ashes, and he himself was tortured badly by his illness.

Grand Master hopes that this student will survive the tests. Look, how miserable he is! He practiced with diligence and did all the good deeds, and what did he end up getting? How could he end up like that? That is “impermanence”. Grand Master knew that he committed great sins in his past life. Although he practiced well and diligently in this life, he still ended up in such a sorry state. So, when you read Grand Master’s book, you will understand the meaning of “impermanence”.

Grand Master said that one must be very careful with one’s thoughts. Harboring a single negative thought can create a bad consequence. If you think about wanting to help others, benefiting others, making offerings, observing the disciplines, doing good deeds, you will end up creating good karma. This is the universal law of cause-and-effect. Even though one cannot see the future consequences, Grand Master already told us through his spiritual travel that this world is but a cyclic existence. When one practiced diligently and yet ended up going through some bad experiences in life, one should know that it is due to his past bad karma. The bad experiences are not caused by the good practices. If you do not understand this correctly, you will fail the tests when your bad karma matures and manifests in the form of bitter experiences in life, and you will be asking, “Why so? I only ask for love, children…”
Grand Master told you that this is “impermanence”. You should let go of your attachments as early as you can while you are still healthy and strong; the earlier you let go the earlier you will achieve enlightenment; the slower you let go the slower you will achieve enlightenment. This book serves a good warning. However, I wonder how many people will do according to the teachings? Maybe one will become more alert immediately after reading the book but soon forget about it and start chasing after the “permanence” again. I hope you could go read the book and have a good appreciation of the teachings.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vajra Samadhi (金刚禅定)

The preliminary practice, main practice and final practice are crucial stages in a Vajrayana practice, particularly the preliminary practice. There are many practitioners who, after sometime, tend to forget about the importance of the preliminary practice, which is actually an important preparatory stage.

It is important for us to be mindful about practicing for the benefit of others; we practice for the sake of others. Some people thought that they will reap the benefits of doing the practice: their families will be well, their careers will be good, their health will be rosy etc. However, all these have nothing to do with the preliminary practice. Actually, the preliminary practice is aimed at benefitting others.

There are many practitioners who visualize inhaling pure energy and exhaling dark energy during their practice. The enlightened masters, on the contrary, inhale dark energy and exhale pure energy in order to benefit the sentient beings. Many enlightened masters ended up in poor health, but they expected and accepted such ordeal. The enlightened masters only thought of benefitting others.

I just read an article on a Q&A session between the students and Grand Master. I found it funny because the one asking the question did not seem to understand the preliminary practice. He asked Grand Master if he could be given the pith instruction for attaining the state of Vajra Samadhi. He asked if Grand Master could transmit the Vajra Samadhi to a few students and bring them to the Maha Double Lotus Ponds in the Western Blissful Pure Land. This is an impossible task! Grand Master was only joking. How could it be possible for you to just be given a special blessing and you could end up in the Maha Double Lotus Ponds? Finally, Grand Master said, you folks like to ask for short cuts but there is none!

Grand Master gave the analogies of 3 kinds of meditator. The first kind of meditator will find his thoughts flowing like a waterfall, with his mind wandering about non-stop. The second kind of meditator would have already practiced for at least 8 to 10 years, and his mind is likened to a sea, with its waves rising and ceasing in rhythm. However, there are small gaps between the waves, with at least a little space of emptiness in between. His thoughts will still re-appear soon after, in a repetitive cycle. Nevertheless, the meditator has at least developed a little power of stability. The third kind of meditator is likened to a still lake, with his thoughts completely ceased, and he dwells in a state of Samadhi - like a moon reflected on the surface of a lake, completely still! There is no thought. He is in a state of samadhi. When you are in such state of being, you have entered the state of Vajra Samadhi. When you are in a state of Vajra Samadhi, I don’t have to bring you to the Maha Double Lotus Ponds, because you can go there on your own; only when you are in such state of being. This is the answer given by Grand Master.

Lastly, Grand Master explained how one could enter the state of samadhi. The secret lies in our daily practices. If we offer whatever we have to others, abide by the precepts very strictly, always thinking about helping others, being indifferent to the criticisms lashed out by others on you etc, and when you have perfected all your practices of meditation, offering etc, you will, very naturally, enter the state of samadhi. When your mind is still wandering about, your mind will not be in a state of samadhi. If you claim that you are in a state of samadhi, you are just lying – that probably is not samadhi, but a Sleeping Samadhi – you are snoring!

How can one enter the state of samadhi? Maintain a very quiet mind during your daily activities by simplifying your lifestyle, purifying every thought of yours, letting go of everything around you, including your attachment to your career, the feelings of love and hatred, desires for good food etc. As long as you cling on to something, feel attached to anything that is pleasant, you will not be able to enter the state of samadhi. Be indifferent to what you hear – be it criticism or praises about you. Be indifferent to your sense of touch. When you don’t cling on to anything, you are in a state of purity: you will not be agitated by others no matter what they say about you; you will become a very humble person, always ready to learn from others; you will have no pride but will always be prepared to start from the lowest point; you will not argue with others. If you are still very fond of debates, you will not be able to break free from the cyclic existence of birth, aging, sickness and death. Instead, you will continue to cry in pain when you are in a state of critical illness.

We should be humble and always learn from others, simplify our lifestyle, and practice the Six Perfections. When all these are practiced to perfection, you will enter a state of purity, samadhi, completely void of thoughts, with great ease.
Just now I entered a state of samadhi, with my mind completely free of thoughts. When I was reciting the Heart Sutra, my mind was in a state of purity, with no anxieties at all. When your life is purified, with nothing more to ask for, you will be able to enter the state of samadhi very swiftly, and it can last for 1 to 2 hours. When the mind is still, it is like a still lake. I actually wanted to just remain in that state for 1 to 2 hours, but I was worried that you folks might come grab my bell and ring it, urging me to end my meditation. My mind was still, like the statue of a Buddha, completely still, with the thoughts completely ceased. You will need to reach this stage in order to enter the state of Samadhi.

I find Grand Master’s answers wonderful! We must perfect our skills of meditation, practice well and practice with humility. Learn any practice with humility, persevere and practice it to perfection. That is the only way to achieve great spiritual attainment in this life. Otherwise, it will be difficult.

True Happiness (真正的快乐)

Others are not our true source of happiness or sadness. We do not need the praises, love and gifts from others to make us feel happy. On the other hand, we do not need to feel sad because of the criticisms, curses, abuses and unfair treatments lashed on us by others. No need! Master Osho said, “Happiness or sadness does not come from without. Why should we be bothered about what others would do to us?”

Our happiness should come from within us. We should not rely on others to sing us praises or give us love, for our happiness. If you request others to follow your way in order to make you feel happy, or otherwise you will feel agitated when others fail to meet your expectations, then your happiness and sadness are given by others.

If you would accept the happiness given by others, you would certainly accept the sadness given by others as well. Why? Because you feel happy when others follow your way but feel sad otherwise. You will then feel unhappy when scolded by others. You will feel unhappy when others shout at you at the wrong time. You will feel unhappy when others treated you differently from your expectations. It is clear that you have many expectations, but when your expectations are not met, you will feel sad. A practitioner must know that true happiness happens right within us; it is not given by anyone else.

When happiness happens right within you, you will feel exhilarated upon seeing a falling leaf; you will feel great joy upon seeing a piece of cloud passing by the sky; you will feel thrilled when the wind breezes by your ears; the happiness that you gained far surpasses all other happiness in this world.

What is the greatest sensual pleasure in this secular world? Sexual pleasures between a man and a woman. However, such experience vanishes in a split second, followed by a downfall. If you indulge in sexual pleasures, you will fall even more swiftly. So, ultimately we should return to a simple and balanced state of being, at which point in time, you will be filled with great spiritual joy, you will live each day with joy and practice in true happiness.

Taming One’s Mind (降服自心)

When you point your finger at another person accusing his faults, you are the one who is at fault. When you point one finger at others, you are in fact pointing three other fingers at yourself - your own mistake is even greater. Why? Because most of the time when you think that it is another person’s fault, you are actually just looking at others from your own point of view, where you tend to think that it is the fault of others. “Why is that person behaving in that manner? Why is that person treating me this way?”

No one will ever think that it is his own fault – “He actually behaves in such manner because of me.” Only the great and inconceivable Buddha or Grand Master will think this way – “No matter what happens, it is due to my fault.”

When something happens and you are the first one to point your finger at others, you should really repent. Why? You pointed your finger at others out of your own dissatisfaction, negative emotions and unhappiness. However, when you point your finger at others, you are actually pointing at your own mistakes. This is a key point in practice. This is a universal truth that will never change.

Please bear this in mind, when you accuse others for being wrong – you are the one who is wrong! No matter what your argument or reasoning is, as long as you see others being in the wrong - “Why is he behaving in this way? Why did he behave differently from the past? Why is he behaving differently now?” Let me tell you this, it is your own fault. It is not the fault of others. It is your own fault. When you become emotional, harboring negative thoughts, you are in the wrong. When you loose control of your negative emotions, you will make even more mistakes, a greater fault. Why? You will start abusing others verbally with very bad words, and that will bring you to a very swift downfall. When you scold others in anger, you have indeed fallen to hell.

When you are angry, quickly count from 1 to 10. Before you reach 10, you would have pacified your negative emotions to some extent. Even a layman should learn to manage his emotions, let alone a practitioner. A practitioner must abide by the precepts. When you scold others, you are wrong. Regardless of whether the other party is right or wrong, the moment you start scolding, you are wrong. If you scold an enlightened master, then you are creating an even bigger sin; no matter what reason you give, you have made a grave mistake. An enlighten master, a Buddha, like Grand Master, no matter what he does, he has his reason that may not be comprehensible to you. If you scold him because you cannot comprehend his reason, you would be creating a very big sin that no one else could save you. Truly, no one else could save you. So, I need to remind us again that before you start scolding someone, do think it through – could it be your own fault or the fault of others? Be mindful about this important point.