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.