Sunday, December 27, 2009

Non-Sectarianism (不分教派 )

I have not come across any Buddhist precept that forbids anyone in a particular school of Buddhism from accepting the empowerments, blessings or lineage transmissions from other schools of Buddhism. At least, to my knowledge, I have not come across any such precepts.

Due to our past karmic connections, we will have more opportunities to interact with friends from Tibetan Buddhism in future. So, we need to understand it clearly and develop the right attitude towards dealing with such situations in future, to avoid the unnecessary confusions and hindrances, paving a smoother path ahead.

I think we cannot stop the development of events due to our past karmic connections. Dharma Sister Chan joked about it by saying that maybe we should quickly learn the Tibetan language, in order to communicate with our Tibetan friends more effectively. I think it makes sense. I don’t mind telling all of you that, every one of us here had been a Tibetan in our past life. So, every one of us here has a strong karmic connection with Tibetan Buddhism too. We had practiced Tibetan Buddhism diligently in our past life. So too is Grand Master who also had a strong karmic connection with Tibetan Buddhism in his past life.

We are merely going back to our past and re-establishing the spiritual relations. I hope you will welcome our Tibetan friends with joy. Open up our mind and welcome them, and help them within our means. This is walking the Path of a Bodhisattva. Why not? To me, I opened up my mind to anyone. I will remain steadfast in upholding the important precepts, the rest are trivial matters that do not bother me at all. I don’t think it is wrong in making a connection with other schools of Buddhism.

All schools of Buddhism belong to the same family. The splits should not even have happened in the first place. Who was the one causing the splits? It was only an act of man. When a person becomes strongly sectarian and thinks only highly of his own group, this is no longer Buddhism but a different religion. For instance, assuming that you are a Nyingma and you think that only Nyingma is the right school but others are not, and you disallow others in your group to visit other schools of Buddhism, or otherwise accusing them for transgressing the precepts and breaching the Dharma, then I think you have already deviated from the teachings of Buddhism, and that you have developed a wrong view of sectarianism.

Buddhism is accommodating, open and advocates equality. All schools of Buddhism are equal. Grand Master advocates equality all the time. No matter which group you belong to, do not be discriminative of other schools. We should treat the different schools with equality, and welcome all the Rinpoches, Lamas and practitioners from the different schools.

There is only one Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism) and He belongs to all schools of Buddhism. His heart mantra is “Om A Hum. Becha Guru Padma Siddhi Hum.” It is being chanted by the True Buddha School and Sakya in the same way. Guru Rinpoche will confer his blessings to a Nyingma, a Kagyu and practitioners from other schools of Buddhism in the same manner. He will not just bless the True Buddha School and ignore the Kagyu. That is impossible! Guru Rinpoche is non-sectarian. If He had a differentiating mind, He would not be Guru Rinpoche!
It will be best if you could learn from Bodhisattva Respectful-of-All who was mentioned in the Lotus Sutra. He treated everyone as a Buddha or Bodhisattva, and he was ready to accept blessings from anyone he met. However, the sentient beings tend to be discriminative, exclusive and egoistic. As long as you have such negative mindsets, you will never break free from the cyclic existence. It is crucial for a practitioner to develop the right view, particularly the Madhyamika (Middle Way) - keep an open mind and do not be discriminative.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Purity of Mind (意念清净)

Dharma Brother Shao:

I would like to share with you what I recently read from a website related to Master Nan Huai Jin (南怀瑾).

The story dated back in the Ming Dynasty in China. There was a Zen Master who was also a great scholar and a young and beautiful lady who was very skilled at poems. When the lady wanted to take refuge in the Zen Master, the latter said to the former, “So, you want to take refuge in me – good! I shall confer you the precepts. But I want to ask you first whether you did transgress any precepts in the past? You have to be frank and tell me all your transgressions. First, the three types of sins committed through actions which are killing, stealing and sexual misconduct. So, did you kill?”

You’ve got to know that the ladies in ancient China did not have to work in the kitchen, so they never had to kill the pigs, chickens or fish personally. The Zen Master asked if the lady had killed in the past. The lady pondered for awhile and answered, “I did, for I once asked my maid to remove the bugs on the flowers and hit a butterfly with a fan held in her hand.”

She reported on such trivial misconducts long kept in her mind. Such misconducts are made even by the heavenly beings in the lower realm of the Form Realm.

“Did you steal?” the Zen Master asked again. She said, “I did, for I ever asked my maid to plug the flowers hanging on some trees belonging to others, and I listened quietly to the music produced from a flute played by a neighbor next door.”

“Did you commit any sexual misconduct,” asked the Zen Master. She said, “I did, for I made up my face in front of the mirror and I sew a pair of mandarin ducks on my dress.” That was a mere reflection of motives in her mind! However, to her, it was no different from committing an action.

“Did you lie,” asked the Zen Master. She said, “I did, for I think I was from the Blissful Ground in my past life and that I am skilled in debates.”

The scholars and Buddhists tend to make the same mistake because we tend to think that we are as rhetoric as the great Vimalakirti (维摩居士). The Blissful Ground is the First Ground of Bodhisattvahood. A First Ground Bodhisattva is very skilled in his writing. So, she admitted transgressing the precept of indecent speech. One who writes beautiful poems and essays will easily make such mistakes, for beautiful writings are often indecent speeches. I share the same mistakes with her.

“Did you make any divisive speech,” asked the Zen Master. She said, “I did, for I criticized the works written by others.”

We must be very careful about examining our own mind. A scholar who turns to Buddhism will lose his courage in writing, lest falling into the pitfall of divisive speech.

He asked, “Did you say bad words?” This includes the use of vulgar languages and cursing of others. She said, “I did, for I scolded the east wind for making the flowers fall from the trees.” Look, blaming others is also a transgression of precept.

“Did you create three types of karma in your mind? Did you succumb to your lust,” asked the Zen Master. She said, “I did, for I have collected 1000 books and I planted a garden full of flowers.” We are so alike – I like to read books and I have bought more than 1000 books, and I still want to buy more; such action is driven by lust.

“Did you succumb to your sense of hatred,” asked the Zen Master. She said, “I did, for I was mad at a lady scholar for her bad poem belittling the virtues of women.”

“Did you succumb to your ignorance,” asked the Zen Master. She said, “I did, for I traded my pearls for jades for my ornaments” Trading the current ornaments for a better ones, not satisfied with a one carat diamond but wanting a three carat diamond are examples of one’s succumbing to his lust.

“Fine,” finally the Zen Master said, “now that you have confessed all your past transgressions, do not make such mistakes in future anymore.” Thus, he conferred her the precepts.

So, I thought we should be more alert about our mental transgressions, after reading this story.

Acho Rinpoche:

What Dharma Brother Shao has just shared with us was no different from what is being said in the Ksitigarbha Sutra that, every single thought arising in us is a transgression of precept. If you are not upholding the precepts well but let your negative propensity turns awry, you will transgress the precepts. It will be hard for you to even keep a human body in your next life; most people will tend to fall into the Three Lower Realms instead. So, upholding the precepts is a key practice.

It is rather unusual for one to kill another person with knife or to deceive others. However, one can easily commit small transgressions. Do not belittle such transgressions that seem to be trivial, they will gradually snowball and lead one going astray finally. So, keeping a pure mind at all times is very crucial. Your progress in spiritual cultivation is reflected by the purity of your thoughts. I hope you would keep your mind pure at all times, do not let it go astray.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Disciplines (修行要守戒)

Disciplines are important to both the ordained folks and layman Buddhists. You might not know that once you start practicing the Dharma, regardless of Tibetan or True Buddha Tantras, you have immediately come under the watchful eye of the spiritual world. Every action, speech and thought of yours will be watched closely by the spiritual world.

Disciplines are very important. When you aspire to the attainment of Buddhahood, someone will be watching you in order to prevent you from falling. You are aware of what you do, whether right or wrong, for you cannot deceive yourself. Both the practice and disciplines are of equal importance. When you have accomplished your practice, you will naturally behave well, by then the situation will be different. Otherwise, you must be cautious about your actions at all times. Once you make a mistake, you will face the bad consequence immediately, and you will fall. Once fallen, it will be difficult for you to regain a human life in your next rebirth.
You will no doubt accumulate merits from the recitation of sutras or chanting of mantras. However, such merits cannot free you from the cyclic existence. If you don’t understand the notion of emptiness and the true meaning of practice, you will end up accumulating only merits and be reborn as a wealthy man, and fall. The practice is important. Knowing the right objective of the practice is even more so. It is very important to learn the right teachings to avoid practicing the wrong way. If you practice the wrong way, you will fall, and then you will not be able to regain a human life.

I have repeated this many times that most of the people in the world today will find it extremely difficult to be reborn as human beings in their next lives. Instead, they will very likely fall into the animal realm and be reborn as chickens, dogs, worms, snakes, birds etc. If you want to keep a human body, you must abide by the Five Precepts (no stealing, no killing, no lying, no sexual misconduct, no reckless drinking of alcohol). However, how many people can abide by the Five Precepts? So, you see, the world has become what it is today - constantly plagued by the numerous problems including the financial crisis; for most people do not uphold their disciplines. People fought over money out of lust, hatred and ignorance. So, the world is plagued by the numerous problems. Australia is hit by big forest fires because of a long dry spell etc. Such phenomena occurred because mankind fails to cultivate their mind. Instead, they create negative karma all the time. The world has plunged into a big chaos, with terrifying news reported daily in the newspaper; for mankind has failed to cultivate their mind.

Spiritual practice is very important. I hope you would guard your mind and do not let it go awry. You will know it when you have accomplished your mind training. All your worldly possessions will vanish at the blink of an eye including your family, career, money etc. They will vanish in no time. What is more important is the cultivation of our mind. When you have accomplished your mind training, you will have the ability to help the world and the universe, you will then find your life meaningful. Otherwise you are just wasting your time, and you will not know what you will become in your next life. So, please observe the disciplines closely.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Recognition of Buddha Nature (密教的见性)

Grand Master keeps talking about recognizing one’s true mind and seeing one’s true nature for years, for it leads to the ultimate accomplishment of spiritual cultivation. Finally, Grand Master talked about “egoless”, “no matter”, “no fixation” which are all crucial teachings. We need to let go of ego-grasping– the notion of “I”. For once you are attached to the notion of “I”, you subject yourself to the unceasing mental afflictions generated by the notions of “I” and “mine”.
Earlier, I just read the important teachings given by Guru Padmasambhava to His consort, Yeshe Tsogyal, “As long as you are still attached to the love and affection in this world, you will fall into the Three Lower Realms.” Around 8pm just now, Dharma Sister Ling sent me a SMS, “My husband has something to attend to, I need to stay at home to look after my boy. I will give tonight’s prayer a miss.” That reminded me of the teaching of Guru Padmasambhava, “If a practitioner is more concerned about his family matters than spiritual cultivation, he will fall into the Three Lower Realms, for he does not consider spiritual cultivation being the top priority above all else. He ought to view spiritual cultivation being more important than all other worldly concerns.” Such was the teaching He gave to Yeshe Tsogyal.
In the end, Dharma Sister Ling turned up for the prayer, and that really touched me, for she did consider the spiritual cultivation more important than her family and son. Had she chosen not to turn up for the prayer because of her familial concern, there would be nothing more that I could do about it.

Grand Master said there are many who recognized their true mind, for they could understand His teachings. However, after recognizing your own mind, how then will you be able to see your true nature? What does it mean for one to see his true nature in Vajrayana? According to Grand Mater, it means opening up your Five Chakras (energy centers in the body) i.e. crown, throat, heart, navel and base. This is considered the 2nd Level of Empowerment. When the Five Chakras opened up, the eight-petal lotus at your heart chakra will open up, with a radiant blue syllable “hum” (in Sanskrit) appearing above the lotus. Above the syllable “hum”, there is a blue light. When you see this blue light, you will see it forever – you have thus seen your true nature i.e. your Buddha Nature. When you have recognized your mind and seen your true nature, you will perpetually see this blue light henceforth. This blue light will keep rising upward, finally leaving your crown chakra, and you have attained Buddhahood.

Grand Master has described the process of the attainment of Buddhahood in Vajrayana. This is a pith instruction for Vajrayana practice. How does one attain Buddhahood? That’s the way! What do you think? Is it difficult? Let me tell you this – it is very difficult! It will require you to open up the Three Channels and Five Chakras in your body, and transport your Buddha nature upward, passing the crown chakra, for the practice to be fully accomplished. If you are not able to do so, you will just wait for Grand Master to come and bring you to the Western Blissful Pure Land and continue your practice there. When you are ready, come back to the human world to continue your practice, and start from scratch.

We need to understand that, most of the times, Grand Master only talked about the expedient methods which are not the ultimate teaching. The ultimate teaching is one that stresses on the recognition of one’s true mind and the seeing of one’s true nature, which is the true accomplishment. However, it is difficult for one to delve deep into the ultimate teaching. The pith instruction is inconceivable and most worthy. Since we are endowed with a precious human body and given such valuable teaching, we ought to cherish the opportunities by internalizing the practices and not waste our human body. If we have a precious human body but use it to create negative karmas, succumbing to our lust, hatred and ignorance, throwing our tantrums when agitated, accusing others for mistreating us etc, the door to hell will flung open to us, and we will fall. I don’t think that is worth it. We must cherish our precious human body and reflect on putting it to good use.

Guru Padmasambhava told Yeshe Tsogyal, “A practitioner should ponder on impermanence during the three periods in the day and night respectively.” The constant reflection on impermanence is crucial to helping you generate a sense of renunciation.
Renunciation will push you to practice the Tantras diligently. Through your diligence of practice, you will be able to break free from the cyclic existence. And you will walk the path of a Bodhisattva by helping other sentient beings, bringing them along to the state of enlightenment; I find this a meaningful way of doing the practice. We should not waste our time in this human world and end up being stranded in the cyclic existence full of sufferings – it is just not worth it!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Great Aspirations of Samanthabadra (普贤行願品)

I feel that the The Great Aspirations of Samanthabadra is important – it is a demonstration of the actualization of aspirations to enlightenment by Bodhisattva Samanthabadra. One must actualize his aspirations to enlightenment. Sakyamuni Buddha said that one can only attain Buddhahood after he actualizes The Great Aspirations of Samanthabadra; there is no other method for attaining Buddhahood. So, please read it and, more importantly, actualize it. The wisdom of the Buddha is inherent in The Great Aspirations of Samanthabadra. Lord Buddha already told you the way to enlightenment is rooted in the The Great Aspirations of Samanthabadra.

Zen Buddhism stresses on the notion of emptiness. However, Zen Buddhism does not delve on the aspirations to enlightenment (bodhicitta), the lack of which could easily lead one plunging into void. None of the Zen masters talked about Bodhisattva Samanthabadra or His aspirations. They only discussed the elimination of attachments. Actually, after you have eliminated all your attachments, you still must actualize The Great Aspirations of Samanthabadra, without which you will never attain Buddhahood. This is the importance of The Great Aspirations of Samanthabadra.

If you still can’t eliminate all your attachments, at least you still have The Great Aspirations of Samanthabadra to count on. As long as you apply the The Great Aspirations of Samanthabadra in your daily lives, you will be able to break free even though you have not attained full enlightenment yet, for the strengths of enlightenment of a Buddha has already been fully incorporated into it.

Patrul Rinpoche was an enlightened master. He wrote a treatise entitled “The Preliminary Teachings of Dzogchen: The Teachings of Master Samanthabadra”. This treatise is based upon The Great Aspirations of Samanthabadra, telling you its importance. The book touches on the Kusari Practice (古萨里法) which has in fact incorporated some of the teachings of The Great Aspirations of Samanthabadra. The Kusari Practice primarily stresses on the elimination of the Four Evils. The poor yogis who are practicing deep in the forests have nothing to offer. So, they could only offer their bodies. The offering of one’s body will yield the greatest merits. Assuming the offering of horses and elephants, liken to the offerings of cars, money and worldly possessions today, would yield 100% of merits, the offering of your wife and children would yield 1000% fold of merits. However, you would yield 100,000% fold of merits when you offer your body, for we cherish our life and body most. The Kusari Practice is about offering your body. Our patriarchs taught us that it is not about subduing the evils without but our evil mind within. When you are able to subdue your evil mind within, you have accomplished the practice.

You must have heard the story of Milarepa fighting the evils. He exhausted all the tantras and mantras he had learnt to subdue the evils in vain. Finally, he realized that he should subdue his own mind instead. When you realize the equanimity between you and the evil, the latter will vanish. Instead, it will become your protector. According to the Kusari Practice, we are not to kill, fight, chase away, suppress or eliminate the external evil, but to eliminate the internal evil mind in us. You will attain enlightenment after eliminating the evil in you.

Majila (玛吉拉尊者) said, “A sick man is handed over to the devil. The giver is sent into the custody of the foe. A hundred recitations for protection are inferior to a single recitation of offering oneself as a meal. Such is my teaching.” There is a very crucial point made here –you will achieve very little if you are afraid of being harmed by the evil and turn to the dharma protector for protection. You will achieve little if you pray to 100 deities for protecting you from being eaten by the devils. However, you would accumulate enormous merits if you would offer your body as meal to 100 devils.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Three Key Teachings (修行的三大理念)

Today is the 15th day of the lunar month. Our group practice for the first 15 days of the first lunar month has come to a perfect closure. In Tibetan Buddhism, the first 15 days of the first lunar month is very crucial, especially to the Gelugpas who would usually celebrate this period with a big ceremony. During the time of Master Tshongkapa (the founder of Gelug), he would usually do great offerings and lots of meritorious acts during this period. The merits accumulated during this period from doing meritorious acts are simply enormous. It is as great as the 15th day of the fourth lunar month.

In the past, no matter how busy I was on this day, I would just take leave and spend the whole day with Master Da Xiong, doing a full day retreat from morning till night. Retreats are important in helping a practitioner achieve very speedy spiritual advancement. That explains why some practitioners choose to go into a forest retreat in order to focus on his cultivation fully, staying away from the worldly activities.

Dharma Brother Liang informed me around 8pm via SMS that he could not attend the prayer session tonight, for he had to work overtime. I replied that it was a pity that he could not join us for the prayer. Luckily I do not need to work today. If I had to work today, I would have told my boss that “Sorry! I can’t come to office today because I have a very important thing to attend to.” I usually did not have to work on such important days, thanks to the blessing of the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas. If it clashes with my work, I will put my work aside and do the prayers because of the importance of doing prayers on this day.

Dharma Sister Ling also called me on the phone around 7pm, telling me that her boss wanted her to attend a dinner and therefore she could not come for the prayer session. I told her, “What a coincidence!” Ling said, “It does not really matter because all days are the same.” I told her, “Today is different, for it is particularly important. All the past generations of masters told us that today is particularly important, so we should listen to their advice. Since today is so important, we did a longer prayer in order to generate greater merits that will help to smoothen our spiritual paths ahead.

Dharma Sister De shared with us her dream just now. She dreamt of taking some precious gems and religious items out of a cave. It was a good dream. I used to have many such dreams during the initial stage of my cultivation, taking lots of precious items, entering the dragon palace where the dragon king offered me pearls, jeweled vases, gems and delicious food. In my opinion, when you dream of obtaining precious items, it shows that your cultivation has started bearing fruits.
Now I want to explain clearly the 3 principle teachings expounded by Master Tshongkapa.

First, renunciation. No matter what, you must develop your sense of renunciation, without which you will not be able to accomplish your practice in this life. Renunciation means turning away from all worldly concerns and turning towards spiritual cultivation.

Second, bodhicitta. Without which you will not be able to accomplish your practice and free yourself from the cyclic existence of birth and death. Bodhicitta is crucial. Every practitioner must gradually develop his aspiration to help others during his course of cultivation. In all circumstances, one must take care of the interest of others first, leaving his own to the last. For instance, when you have obtained something, who would come to your mind first for it to be given – your child, or your parents? If that is your decision, you have not aspired to bodhicitta because you have given the priority to your family members. Bodhicitta means giving it to others not related to you. If you give it to someone related to you, you have not aspired to bodhicitta. On the contrary, you should consider giving the priority to others. Of course you can consider giving the priority to those related to you, but you ought to give the priority to others but not yourself. Does it mean that you have accomplished your practice by having developed both your sense of renunciation and bodhicitta? The answer is - not yet.

Third, Madhyamika (Middle Way). If you lack the understanding of the Madhyamika, you will never accomplish your practice. The Madhyamika is crucial in guiding the actualization of your bodhicitta in a correct way. So, before you develop your full understanding of the Madhyamika, you will not be able to accomplish your practice. I hope that you would learn the Madhyamika as part of your practice. Learn the Madhyamika expounded by Master Tshongkapa well.

These are the key points of cultivation. Of course, I cannot expect all of you to be able to accomplish fully what I said. But for those who are very serious about the practice, who strive to free themselves from the cyclic existence of the Six Realms, you should practice seriously. As long as you are stranded in the Six Realms of Existence, you will certainly be prone to falling into the Three Lower Realms (hell, hungry ghost, animal). When you have fallen into the lower realms, it will be very difficult for you to rise again to the higher human realm. So, cherish your present human life and practice well while you still can.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Spiritual Guide(修行要依止善知识)

Venerable Yan Pei was a very famous Buddhist monk of the Mahayana School. He wrote many books on Buddhism. I just read one of the articles that he wrote entitled “How to befriend a spiritual guide”. The topic seems insignificant but there are some very good points mentioned.

Anyone who aspires to practice Buddhism must befriend a spiritual guide, for the teachings of the Buddha are too broad that you will not be able to just learn them completely on your own. There are some people who think that they do not need a teacher - “I can just read the sutras on my own and I can still attain enlightenment.” However, it is in fact nearly impossible for one to do so. Of course, there are exceptions, but they are extremely rare in this world. Almost 100% of the practitioners must learn from a spiritual guide.

A spiritual guide may not be a Buddha, a Bodhisattva or your teacher. He can be anyone who could guide you along the path to enlightenment, who is already ahead of you on the path. They would have read many sutras and applied the teachings in their practice. As they are already ahead of you on the path, they already learnt what should and should not be done. They could teach you and guide you on the path to enlightenment. They can therefore be called the “spiritual guides”.

A spiritual guide is very crucial in the practice of Buddhism. One should befriend the spiritual guides and learn from them in order to accomplish his practice. In the practice of Tibetan Buddhism, a spiritual guide is even more important - a practitioner must find his root teacher and learn from him for the rest of his life; he can then be assured of his success in cultivation.

Venerable Yan Pei asked, “Why are there so many practitioners around us and yet so few have attained enlightenment?” Because most of the practitioners, when they befriend their spiritual guides, fail to truly learn from the latter; a practitioner could make mistakes out of his own lust, hatred and ignorance that prevented him from learning.

There are a few key points on befriending a spiritual guide: faith, reverence and humility. First, a practitioner must have faith in his spiritual guide. Second, a practitioner must revere his spiritual guide. If you do not befriend your spiritual guide and do not revere him, you will get nothing out of it. Third, you must learn with humility from your spiritual guide.

Buddhism teaches us to reflect inward to realize our own shortcomings and negative propensities, and do not point our fingers at others. A good spiritual guide will point out your problems; if he does not do so, he is not a good spiritual guide. If you want to accomplish your practice, you must reflect inward and practice “The Eight Stanzas of Mind Training”. If you keep criticizing others of their shortcomings, you will fall into the evil path. I certainly have my shortcomings too, so I am still learning to improve myself all the time.

The key point of practice is the training of our own mind – reflect inward and watch our mind, do not look outward for the mistakes of others.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Samaya Bond (三昧耶戒)

Grand Master mentioned an Australian master in his book entitled “Vision Beyond A Thousand Miles” (千里之外的看见). This was an exceptional master who was diligent in his practice and a long time practitioner. Grand Master conferred him the title of a vajra master and gave him the name for his chapter. He printed many sutras, especially the “The Root Vows of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha Sutra”. Later, he built a big temple in Melbourne and was ordained as a monk. He taught Buddhism and helped many. He suddenly died at a very young age, causing many to feel a great sense of loss.

Some students asked Grand Master why did he end up dying so young? Grand Master said that he had broken his Samaya Bond. What is Samaya Bond? It is a spiritual bond between a disciple and his root guru, principle deity and dharma protector. It is a precept that cannot be transgressed. One who does not uphold the Samaya Bond will not succeed in all his practices. Especially so for a Vajrayanist who should never break the bond for there is no one who can help you if you have, including the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

But Grand Master continued to say that had he been willing to chant Grand Master’s heart mantra once, or recite the name of the Buddha or the name of Grand Master once, or just give Grand Master a call, Grand Master would have been able to help him. However, he was unwilling to do so. Maybe he had heard too much negative criticisms about Grand Master in the past that he decided to leave the True Buddha School. He had stopped believing in Grand Master and therefore broken his Samaya Bond, and he ended up losing his life too.

How inconceivable is the practice of Vajrayana! I feel that the most important thing about spiritual practice is to avoid transgressing the precepts. We must uphold the precepts carefully, especially the Samaya Bond. We should maintain the purity of our practice, for “heaven is watching over what men are doing.” The heavenly beings are watching us all the times. Every action and every thought of ours are being monitored closely by someone above – giving us marks. "Good deed – good!" "Bad deed –let’s record it and sort it out one by one." This is the reason why we, the practitioners, must abide by the precepts very closely and practice the purity of our action, speech and mind.

You know well that I have never thrown my tantrum and I have never pointed my finger at others or scolded anyone. Why? Because I do not wish to create bad karma, for I understand the inconceivable power of karma. An evil thought, the moment it is harbored, has created a bad karma. That is something which I will never dare doing. You can criticize me, scold me, spit at me, slash me, hurt me etc – it does not matter to me. “Forget it…forget it… ” I will do what the Tolerance Deity (one of the past re-incarnations of Sakyamuni Buddha) did – just keep silent. I will not retort for I do not wish to and dare not create a negative karma. So, if you want to succeed in your practice, you must maintain the purity of your action, speech and mind. Reflect inward – this is a key practice.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Ten Great Aspirations of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra (普贤十大行願)

I feel that the aspiration to enlightenment is key to spiritual cultivation. The Aspirations of Samantabhadra represents the true practice of the path to enlightenment demonstrated by Sakyamuni Buddha. Both the aspiration and its actualization are an integral part of spiritual cultivation. Without aspiration, you lack the will to reach enlightenment for the sake of helping the sentient beings, and you will therefore never attain enlightenment.

First, you must aspire to reach enlightenment. Next, you must actualize your aspiration. This is the spirit of the Ten Great Aspirations of Samantabhadra. The Ten Great Aspirations of Samantabhadra are well known among the Buddhists. The Ten Great Aspirations are also known as the Ten Great Kings of Vow or The Oceanic Vows of Samantabhadra. These Ten Great Aspirations are a common quality found in all the practitioners who aspire to attain Buddhahood; there is no Buddha who lacks any one of the Ten Aspirations. Only when one has perfected the practice of the Ten Aspirations, he would attain Buddhahood. So, I wish that you would bear in mind the Ten Great Aspirations of Samantabhadra from today onwards and apply them in your practice.

The Ten Great Aspirations of
Bodhisattva Samantabhadra

1. Revere the Buddhas
As a student of the Buddha, we must revere all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

2. Sing praises of the Buddhas
We should try our best to sing praises of the Buddhas, informing the rest of the sentient beings of the inconceivable merits of the Buddhas.

3. Make offerings
We should practice offering widely, including helping those in need.

4. Repent
We have committed bad karmas during our numerous reincarnations in the Six Realms of Existence. No matter what, we must repent all our past mistakes. There is no one who is born a Buddha - no one! So, we must repent our past mistakes. Repentance is a key practice.

5. Rejoice in Virtuos Actions
The merit generated from rejoicing in virtuos actions done by others is tremendous. It sounds easy but hard to practice. Why? It is easy to sing praises of others when they did a good deed, for you don’t need to even spend a single penny to do so; it is that easy! However, man is stingy and does not easily rejoice in the good deeds of others. Instead, he will feel jealous about the accomplishment of others in their cultivation or mundane tasks, and he will feel jealous about the good looks of others etc. Because of the jealousy in man, rejoice becomes a difficult task. Rejoice is a very important meritorious act. We must eradicate the jealousy in us and celebrate the success of others. It is an easy task but most people could not do it; this is the biggest hurdle in our cultivation.

6. Turn the Wheel of Dharma
When there is a Buddha in our era, we should request Him to give the teachings. The world is lit with hopes when a Buddha is here giving the teachings. When there is no Buddha living in this world, this world will fall into the darkness of hell.

7. Praying for the Longevity of the Buddha
When you recognize an enlightened Buddha among us, you should request Him to stay in this world perpetually. When the Three Realms (Desire, Form and Formless Realms) are deprived of a Buddha, you could imagine how sad it is. So, we must request the Buddha to stay in this world perpetually to help and guide the sentient beings.

8. Learn from the Buddha
You must learn from the Buddha the teachings of enlightenment. The worldly teachings are no other than lust, hatred, ignorance, love, enmity, passion and worry, which are the root cause of your perpetual cyclic existence in the Six Realms of Existence. So, you must learn from the Buddha the teachings of enlightenment. What should you learn from the Buddha? Learn from the Buddha the Three Perfect Teachings i.e. disciplines, meditation and wisdom. Disciplines or precepts are crucial. Abide by all the precepts and do not transgress any of them. I have repeated many times that one should not transgress the precepts, no matter how small it seems. Do all meritorious acts, no matter how small they seem. Sometimes, you might come across someone and you would happily greet him, “Good morning! Om Mani Padme Hum.” It will make the other party feel happy. This is a small meritorious act that should be done.
On the contrary, do not do any bad deed no matter how insignificant it seems. For instance, when you are feeling bad, you might give others an unfriendly glance, or show others a mean look. Such bad acts, no matter how small it seems, should be avoided. An insignificant bad act may roll like a snow ball, becoming bigger gradually, and you will end up creating a big negative karma.

9. Be accommodating
Try to be accommodating to others, helping to fulfill their wishes. Try to look at things from a more accommodating perspective, think positively, and avoid thinking negatively. No matter what happens, do not just look at it from a negative perspective, “He did it, targeting me!” No! No matter what he did, even if he did it with such motive, we the cultivators, should not harbor such mentality and think negatively. Instead, we should act compassionately and embrace him with a magnanimous heart.

10. Dedicate the merits
We should dedicate all the good merits generated from our meritorious acts and the cultivation of the Buddha Dharma, to all the sentient beings in the universe, wishing them well and happy – ending their cyclic existence and sufferings.

In summary, the Ten Great Aspirations of Samantabhadra are very crucial. All the Buddhas in the universe, of the past, present and future attain Buddhahood only after accomplishing the Ten Great Aspirations of Samantabhadra. There is no Buddha who has missed out any of the ten aspirations. We must therefore follow the Ten Great Aspirations of Samantabhadra, and actualize them in our practice.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

X-Tour: Tibetan Highland in Sichuan, China. '2009

End 2008, during our tour in New Zealand, Celestial Master Zhang personally descended in New Zealand, extending His invitation to us to visit Sichuan, asking me to bless the pitiful sentient beings there and free them from their collective karma. On 12 May 2008, Sichuan experienced a disastrous earth quake – Wen Chuan Earth Quake (8 richter scale).

Early 2009, the relationship between Beijing and H.H Dalai Lama has degraded further. When my enthronement ceremony at Horthan Monastery in Qinghai looked set to be delayed further, Danzen Daji Rinpoche from the Gelong Monastery in Shiqu, Sichuan, invited me to the opening ceremony of his newly restored monastery. So, again, 22 of us set off for the tour in a hurry. From 17 to 29 Jul 2009, we created a new chapter in our X-traordinary Tours by visiting the Tibetan Highland of Sichuan/Qinghai.

When we were planning the tour with our friend in Chengdu, Zen (our tour guide of our Chengdu Tour in 2006), a Dharma Sister of ours, who was an epidemic specialist from our neighboring country, sent us an email advising us to cancel our plan. Reason being, the world was facing a H1N1 pandemic. People worldwide was worried and felt lost. Kan asked me for my opinion. I told her, every X-traordinary Tour was full of challenges but they were all finally resolved through the blessings of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and the Dharma Protectors.

Zhou, a Dharma Sister from Shandong, China, decided to join us in the last minute. She had to take a different flight, Air China, as our flight, SilkAir, was already fully booked. She arrived in Chengdu 12 hours before we did.

When our flight was approaching Chengdu, I took my rosary out and started praying to Grand Master, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, invoking their blessing for Chengdu. At the time, Dharma Brother Hong from Australia who was on the same flight, ‘saw’ Jade Pond Golden Mother and Acho Rinpoche descended from space, blessing Sichuan by showering the rain of nectar, cleansing Sichuan. They were surrounded by many female deities who were showering flowers around them. Later, our flight pierced through the layers of rain clouds, finally landing safely at the Chengdu Airport.

When I just stepped out of the airport, I felt the cool and refreshing air outdoors after the rain, gently caressing my face. Zhou came to the airport to meet us. She told me that she just found out that Chengdu had already suffered from draught for several months, with a high temperature of 32ºC. It was hot and humid. However, just 2 hours ago, there was suddenly a heavy downpour which lowered the temperature to 22ºC. It happened just like other X-traordinary Tours - the weather would just change unexpectedly. This time, Zhou had her first hand experience in witnessing a sudden change of weather. She had earlier changed to a pair of shorts before coming to the airport in view of the hot weather.

So, the 22 of us ended up walking pass Mount Qing Chen, Dan Ba Stone Houses, Jia Ju Tibetan Villages, Natural Garden, Dao Fu Residential Houses, Unishya White Stupa, Mani Piles, Vast Grassland, Origin of Yellow River, Sacred Qing Hai Lake, Taer Monastery etc. The whole journey spanned over 2,000 km in distance. We also stayed at high altitude in the Highland City of Shi Qu, at 4,200m above sea level, and crossing over a 4,824m point above sea level at Mount Ba Ye Ge La. This time, high altitude syndromes such as panting, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, fever etc became one of the main themes of our tour.

The most unbelievable story happened on Dharma Sister Bing. She was the last to join due to some earlier work commitment issues. And our itinerary kept changing all the time. When our coach finally entered Xie Wu, a town in Qing Hai Province, we stopped by a small restaurant for lunch. Bing came forward and asked me if she lived here in her past life because every street and house in the town looked so familiar to her! Although she had never set foot in Qinghai, this place kept appearing in her dreams. Although the house had been renovated, it remained vivid in her memory. With my blessing, she found her great grandson from her past life, Sonam Lama, a Buddhist monk of the Sakya. The touching moments of a reunion crossing over two different lifetimes could only be truly felt and understood by the individuals involved. Bing knew that the reunion was being arranged by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, or she would not have such paranormal experience. “Although I had never set foot in Qinghai, Qinghai came to me in my dream every night… This was my most favorite song entitled Dreaming of Qinghai Every Night. The lyrics of this song kept ringing in my mind…..

The most interesting character of this tour was A Peng. He was my school mate in my secondary school. We reunited sometime back at our alumni. He came to know about our plan for the tour and he wanted to join us. In Tian Quan, there was a landslide blocking our road ahead. So, we decided to just stop somewhere nearby for our dinner, while waiting for the road to be cleared. We took pictures around the area and caught the images of the amazing round lights filling the sky on our cameras - the Mandala Lights. At first, A Peng did not manage to capture those lights with his expensive camera when others did. He was very curious about such a phenomenon. Later he told me, “Don’t be superstitious! Those are just reflections from the dusts in the sky.” I only smiled to him and continued to walk into the small restaurant nearby. Strangely, the “dusts” miraculously disappeared after I stepped into the restaurant. A Peng asked me to go out of the shop for photo taking again. This time, the “dusts” reappeared. So, the “dusts” seemed to be spiritual. The “dusts” seemed to be surrounding me during the whole photo taking session. After studying it for a long time, A Peng finally came to me and said, “A Leng, I’m sorry! I think those are not dusts but an unbelievable paranormal phenomenon.” At a later stage when we reached the Dzogchen Monastery, one of the six main monasteries of the Nyingma, A Peng captured more of such Mandala Lights with his camera. He finally firmly believed that those are not “dusts”. Another Dharma Brother Jin even captured the Mandala Lights in motion in Ganzhi Town, in broad daylight.

Jin also joined us for the first time. He was a disciple of Venerable Jing Kong. He read a few of our books on X-traordinary Tours but was doubtful about the stories. He had been to Tibet, Qinghai Lake, Taer Monastery, the Silk Road, the Vast Grassland in the past. But he found those places too commercialized and was losing his interest in travelling. However, this time, he found this tour truly memorable. He shared his feelings with many people after the tour, “This tour was truly unusual! Every thing that I saw, heard and felt during the tour will change the rest of my life!” Besides, he also saw the changes in A Peng, Zen and Ben - changes in their outlook of life and finding their long lost childhood innocence.

Ben was the assistant to Zen. He was not very close to us at the beginning of the tour but we became closer each day. Soon after, he even started sharing our books on the Paranormal Tours with almost everyone he met during the tour. Due to his good efforts, a female waitress at a restaurant where we had our lunch near Qinghai Lake came to me for blessing; and Shi, our tour guide at Taer Monastery, came to me for blessing by asking me to touch her head.

How unusual was it? How inconceivable was it? How did one change from a non-believer to a strong believer? How did one change spiritually and physically? It was the blessing of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and the Dharma Protectors. It had nothing to do with Acho! May I ask you, the x-traorinary readers, to join us, a group of True Buddha practitioners, for this X-traordinary Tour of Tibetan Highland in Sichuan!

Lotu Robe (Acho)
6 Aug 2009

More pictures:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Garbage Truck (垃圾卡车)

H shared a story with the rest:
A car suddenly came from nowhere, nearly clashing with a taxi on the road. The driver of the car did not apologize to the taxi driver, instead he scolded the latter. But the taxi driver merely gave a friendly smile and waved to the car driver. The passenger in the taxi questioned the driver, “The car driver was at fault. Why did you treat him that way?” The taxi driver answered, “ Beware of garbage truck! A garbage truck refers to a person who is overwhelmed by his negative emotions, who is ready to throw them onto others. If you quarrel with him, you will end up being another garbage truck.”

Acho Rinpoche:

None of us wants to be a garbage truck. However, our true nature was obscured by lust, hatred and ignorance during our many rounds of re-incarnations in our past life.

In Grand Master’s book entitled “A Transcendental Book” (通天之书), he mentioned that he went to hell one day and the Hell Lord showed him a few doors. Through one of the doors, he saw the remaining 15 Large Lotuses out of the original 18. 3 of them already withered. For the 3 Large Lotus Bodhisattvas lost their way in the secular world, fallen prey to the worldly temptations and ended up in hell.

From this story in the book, we could tell that even for the Bodhisattvas who were suppose to come save the sentient beings, they could end up being defiled by the latter instead. They ended up collecting the emotional garbage, and finally fell. They might not have realized their falling, although it was clear to the those around them. When a person collected too much emotional garbage, it will become noticeable to others around him. But the person himself will not notice his own problem because he would always think that he was right and tend to be defensive; he will not accept any advice from others.

When you have collected too much emotional garbage, your behavior will become weird and noticeable to others. How do you tell if you have collected too much emotional garbage? When you become unhappy, dissatisfied, argumental and always insist on your own points of view, those are signs of falling. But you will never notice it! So, a practitioner must learn to be humble.

Grand Master also mentioned in his book that many people thought that they did very well in their cultivation and achieved good spiritual responses, but they had actually ended up enlarging their ego and stop listening to the advice of others. Grand Master said such people did not achieve a true spiritual response, although they too claimed to be able to dream of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and even see them while awake. Unfortunately, they have actually fallen due to their lack of humility.

A practitioner must be humble and never think high of himself. It will be easier for him to pass the tests with such mentality. There are just too many temptations in the world today. I wish that you would practice well and surpass the realm of evil - finally savoring the fruits of enlightenment.

Zen Buddhism (禅)

Has anyone of you attained enlightenment after reading Grand Master’s new book entitled “The Secrets of a Flower-holding Hand”? Many tend to think too highly of Zen. Actually it is not as profound as you thought. Grand Master has been trying to tell you in words repeatedly that it is, in fact, very easy. Zen is about breaking free from your conceptual mind. When you mention “existence”, it will say otherwise - “emptiness”. When you break free from your conceptual mind, you will then be able to recognize your true existence. However, it must be handled with care in order to avoid falling into the wrong side of nihilism.

Zen is not nihilism. If you fall into the pitfall of nihilism, you will tend to even eliminate the law of cause and effect. So, when you read Grand Master’s writings on Zen, you should avoid falling into the pitfall of nihilism. When you thought that there was no Buddha, no man, no you, no me, no cause and effect... then you would have been mistaken that you could commit any bad karma. When you thought that there was no you, no me, no cause and effect, you would have been mistaken that you could rob and steal from others and there would be no consequences. So, one must be very careful when learning Zen, for one could easily fall into the pitfall of nihilism. Zen wants you to break free from your conceptual mind. However, when you completely break free from your conceptual mind, it is not done yet. Next, you must develop your sense of bodhicitta.

Grand Master has, in fact, already revealed the true identity of Zen. So, do not think too complicated. However, many were confused by the Zen parables. Actually, you can ignore all the Zen parables. The Zen patriarchs seemed to be contradicting themselves from time to time, but actually they were just trying to tell you one point – break free from your conceptual mind. When you cling on to the notion of “existence”, they would mention the notion of “emptiness”, and they would further eliminate the notion of “emptiness”. When you break free from your conceptual mind, you will then be able to recognize your true existence (pristine awareness).
Read the Zen parables carefully. Do not end up falling into nihilism. Handle it carefully and do not end up being a nihilist. The biggest challenge with Zen is that it lacks the stages of the path. As there is no clear stage of the path, one will feel lost and do not know where to start. Similarly, Grand Master said, his True Buddha Zen does not have a traceable path.

I am of the opinion that a practice with the stages of the path clearly laid out is safer. The “Eight Stanzas of Mind Training” is still the key practice. You should start with the “Eight Stanzas of Mind Training” instead. If you do it wrongly with Zen, you will fall into “lip-serviced Zen”, “crazy Zen”, “nihilistic Zen” which are far from the true enlightenment.

Some Zen masters like to resort to actions like knocking on the floor, pointing a finger at the sky etc to help the students understand the teachings. However, they may still be plagued by anxieties when faced with the many challenges in life. The wisdom of Zen is indeed inconceivable. However, as it lacks the stages of the path, it will be difficult for one to learn the practice in a structured way. So, the “Eight Stanzas of Mind Training” is therefore a more important and safer practice.

Practice (修行)

Mind-training is a key practice. According to the “Eight Verses of Mind Training” which I often referred to, we should reflect on our own shortcomings but not those of others. When you reflect on the shortcomings of others, you will never succeed in your practice. The more you reflect on the shortcomings of others, the more shortcomings you will see in others. If you reflect on the shortcomings of your teacher and if he happens to be an enlightened master, the more you criticize him, the faster you will fall. So, do not criticize others of their shortcomings. It is most crucial to reflect on our own shortcomings, which is the only way to succeed in your practice.

Reflect on the merits of others but reflect on the shortcomings of our own. A teacher nearest to us is always right! Do not look too far away because you might think that a teacher far away seems better, but you have no opportunity to follow him closely. Assuming you have the opportunity to follow another teacher closely, you will still continue to find faults in that teacher. Do not look afar, just look at our own shortcomings.

Mind-training is the most important practice. When you have accomplished your mind training, you will see amber in a stone. Asanga went into a 12-year retreat, longing to meet Bodhisattva Maitreya one day. Finally, when he came across a sick dog with half its body infested by maggots, he felt strongly for the poor dog and decided to help remove the maggots by licking them away without hurting them too. The very moment he fully developed his great sense of compassion, Bodhisattva Maitreya appeared before his eyes. Upon seeing Bodhisattva Maitreya, Asanga was so touched that he cried.

He asked Bodhisattva Maitreya why had He not appeared before him in the past during his long retreat. Bodhisattva Maitreya said, “It was not true that I did not appear before you. But it was your own lust, hatred and ignorance that blinded your vision. I had always been around you without you knowing. When you have fully developed your sense of compassion, you can see me. This story tells us the importance of mind-training.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reflect on Our Own Shortcomings (只看自己的缺点)

Venerable Ying-guang (印光大师) talked about teachings which are familiar to all of us. The only problem is - none of us apply the teachings. Venerable Ying-guang advised every cultivator to just reflect on his own shortcomings but not those of others. Reflect inward and see one’s shortcomings and make amends. Do not look at the shortcomings of others and talk about it all the times. Reflecting on the shortcomings of others will not help you in your cultivation.

Venerable Ying-guang advised us to recite the name of Amitabha Buddha incessantly throughout our daily activities during walking, sitting, resting and sleeping. Another word, regardless of what you do, be it sleeping, waking, walking, working etc, you should recite the name of Amitabha Buddha incessantly . Then you will not be free to start watching others and count their mistakes.

We should not emphasize on the weakness but the strengths of others. We should sing praises of others. We should reflect on our own shortcomings but see the strengths in others. We should not sing our own praises but of others. We should see others as no different from the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and that everyone is indeed a Buddha or a Bodhisattva. In the Lotus Sutra, Bodhisattva Respectful-of-All(常不轻菩萨) prostrated to everyone he met for he regarded everyone as a Buddha or Bodhisattva. He considered only himself a commoner. So, sing praises of others, and just look at their strengths. If you could apply the teachings, you will certainly be able to break free from the cyclic existence, and be reborn in the Western Blissful Pure Land.

When I finished reading the discourses given by Venerable Ying-guang, I realized that these are just teachings that we frequently said. Grand Master, Amitabha Budha and Guru Padmasambhava all gave similar teachings which are found in the sutras too. Just that we are unable to put them into practice. Everyone sees the shortcomings of others but not his own. Everyone tends to criticize others but not himself. Not only did we not chant the name of Amitabha Buddha incessantly, we waste our time creating negative karma without realizing it.

The moment you think that you are the greatest, the highest and the best, you will often end up paying more attention on the shortcomings of others. You will tend to think that others are lousy and “they are wrong”. When that happens, you will not get anywhere in your cultivation in your present and future lifetimes – you will just remain stranded in the cyclic existence.

If you want to do well in your cultivation, you must follow the teachings of Venerable Ying-guang, although he had yet to go deeper into the teachings. What he had taught is more than enough for you to learn at this stage. Of course, had he gone deeper into the teachings, he would have shared more profound teachings for the benefit of the sentient beings.

Master Nan’s new book entitled “The Preliminary Teachings on Zen and Life Science” is a compilation of his conversations with some Buddhist monks. Cultivation is not a simple affair. These Buddhist monks had practiced for many years, some of whom were even abbots of their own monasteries. Most of them would have already practiced for more than 8 to 10 years, but they still needed guidance on the many challenges they faced in cultivation. So, they came to Master Nan, seeking his advice, and the latter shared his views with them. Master Nan was straight-talking, pointing out the mistakes of the Buddhist monks in their cultivations and gave them his advice. In fact, Master Nan went even deeper into the teachings than Venerable Ying-guang.

Please ask yourselves, are you on par with these Buddhist monks in your spiritual attainment? You would certainly know the answer that you are lagging behind by a great distance. Master Nan has very high expectations of a cultivator. Even the Buddhist monks may not be able to meet his expectations, so you must work harder. If you are truly serious about doing your cultivation, I would still like to suggest that you train your mind, which is the key practice.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Spiritual Cultivation (皈依之后如何修行)

I have several lineages, with True Buddha School being one of them. I took refuge in the Sakya, Kagyu and finally Nyingma. I am now a Rinpoche in the Nyingma. Grand Master took refuge in Kagyu, Nyingma, Gelug and Sakya too; these are the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Many of the Vajrayana patriarchs took refuge in several schools of Buddhism. If you are still young and you are of high capacity, you can take refuge in several lineages. You could accomplish your cultivation within a single lineage or within many lineages. You could also accomplish your cultivation within a single lineage, but later expand into other lineages, and finally attain enlightenment too.

The numerous teachings of the Buddha (Dharma) are common in nature, they are not mutually exclusive. If you accept one teaching and reject another, you are practicing wrongly. The Dharma is very pervasive. It is only a matter of which teaching suits you best. You could have practiced in a certain school of Buddhism in your previous life, so you would develop a natural fondness for the teachings in this school in the present lifetime - you are not a beginner. You had been connected with the Dharma in your past lives, so you would end up being reconnected with the Dharma in this lifetime. Eventually, you will accomplish the teachings you are fond of. When you have attained enlightenment, you will then realize that, actually, all teachings are similar in nature. If you are able to accomplish one teaching, you would be able to accomplish the rest of the teachings too.

So, what’s next after taking refuge? Your attitude towards cultivation will matter most. You could end up having a few thousand lineages but it is useless if you do not do the practice. If you did not take refuge but yet do your practice, you could still attain enlightenment. Sakyamuni Buddha attained Buddhahood due to His rigorous practice. He took refuge in teachers who were on the Outer Path because there was no Buddha present during His time. Finally, He took refuge in His own Buddha Nature and attained enlightenment.

Grand Master mentioned in his books that eventually, it is about taking refuge in one’s own Buddha Nature. One attains Buddhahood when he takes refuge in his own Buddha Nature, but not taking refuge in an external source of refuge. An external source of refuge is only an expedient method. Eventually, you will have to take refuge in your own Buddha Nature, which is the highest form of refuge.
You will also need to practice the Four Aspirations: 1) the Aspiration to help the numerous sentient beings attain enlightenment; 2) the Aspiration to end one’s unceasing mental afflictions; 3) the Aspiration to learn the numerous teachings; 4) the Aspiration to attain the most supreme enlightenment.

After taking refuge in the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha), you should aspire to help other sentient beings to attain enlightenment too (bodhicitta). Before attaining Buddhahood, you will certainly have the numerous mental afflictions, so you should aspire to put an end to all mental afflictions.
The teachings of the Buddha are numerous. You should not learn one to the exclusion of other teachings, but learn all of them including the Mahayana, Hinayana, Sutrayana and Vajrayana, and aspire to attain Buddhahood.

Next, you should do your daily practice, at least once a day. Actually, there should be four practices in a day: morning, afternoon, evening and before sleep. During these four periods, you should visualize the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, intertwining your daily life with cultivation to prevent your mind being distracted by the worldly concerns.

We are layman Buddhists and we need to work, so doing it four times a day is a challenge. Of course it will be great if you could do so. Grand Master said we must practice once a day, but my view is that we should at least do it twice a day: once in the morning and once at night. On Saturdays and Sundays when we do not need to work, we can practice even more - three to four times a day.

Besides doing the seated meditation, the daily walking meditation is necessary too. You should spend some time on doing the walking meditation as it merges spiritual practice and physical exercise in one session. You could walk and chant the name of the Buddha or any mantra simultaneously. After the walking meditation, read some books related to cultivation – learn the numerous teachings of the Dharma. There are many sutras expounding the wisdom of the Buddha. Unless you can find an enlightened teacher who will expound the teachings to you personally on a daily basis, you will have to learn the wisdom of the Buddha on your own too, from the sutras. So, practice daily, do walking meditation, read books on Buddhism, and purify your own mind. When you free yourself from all mental afflictions and attain enlightenment, you can start helping others.

Cultivation is not limited to just this lifetime. It will span across numerous lifetimes. If you do not cultivate, you will end up being perpetually stranded in the Six Realms of Existence. If you cultivate slightly better, you may come back in your next life as a human being. If you fail in your cultivation, you will end up being born as snake, cat, dog etc., and you could only be reborn as a human after cleansing your negative karma.

The Six Realms of Existence is full of sufferings. The human world has more sufferings than happiness: birth, schooling, falling in love, worrying about children, aging, falling sick – these are largely painful experiences, with little happiness in between. Happiness, if any, lasts only briefly, before it turns into suffering again. Only cultivation can free you from sufferings and help you attain true happiness. Only cultivation can free you from mental afflictions and help you end your cyclic existence. Does it mean that you do not return to this world after attaining enlightenment? No. You will come back then from the Buddha Land to help the sentient beings in this world.

After taking refuge, you will need to “put the teachings into practice”. These are words found in the last page of every sutra. Of course, prior to these words, there is always a line that reads “Everyone rejoiced at the teachings”. Everyone rejoiced at the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha, completely trusting the words of the Buddha, and resolved to put them into practice. If you do not put the teachings into practice, you will not get anywhere. Ananda was a good example. He was the student who stayed with Sakyamuni Buddha the longest time and heard the most teachings, but he did not attain enlightenment when Sakyamuni Buddha passed away into Nirvana, for Ananda did not put into practice the teachings of the Buddha.

After Sakyamuni Buddha passed away into Nirvana, the rest of the Arahats were led by Kasyapa to work on the compilation of all the teachings given by the Buddha. Although Ananda heard the most teachings, he was not invited to join the group because he had not attained the Arahatship. Ananda was then forced to practice hard and eventually attained Arahatship too. After which, he used his supernatural power to enter the cave shut before him, joining the rest of the Arahats who were working inside the cave on the compilation of teachings. So, if you trust the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha and Grand Master, and put them into practice, you will attain enlightenment too.

Master Nan Huai Jin also mentioned putting into practice the teachings in his book entitled “Zen and Life Science”. Master Nan is a layman Buddhist of over 90 years old. He has a wife and children. There are many ordained monks, abbots and professors who wanted to become his students. But he rejected them. They were not allowed to call him ‘teacher’. He said, “I told you folks long time ago but none of you listened. It is pointless for you to call me teacher but not doing what I teach. You do not put into practice the teachings!”

He cited an exampled, “In the past, I used to have a student by the name of Miao Kan, who was the abbot of Southern Pu Tuo Monastery. He was being held in high regards. He constructed a meditation hall that cost several tens of thousands in US dollars. Others thought that I was the one who did it but it was actually built by him. I had no money!” When the hall was completed, Venerable Miao Kan invited Master Nan over to conduct a 7-day Zen retreat. It was a retreat to allow the participants to practice the teachings under the close supervision of Master Nan, with the objective to achieving the greatest outcome within the shortest time. There were 200 people registered for the retreat but the actual turnout was 700. Master Nan was frightened. He was not sure if the two-storey building could take the excessive load. If the hall collapsed, it would kill the rest of the people on the lower floor. He was very worried about the overloading issue during the time. It was fortunate that a disaster did not occur.

Later, Venerable Miao Kan, who was already 80 years old then, came to him again. Master Nan asked him, “Why did you come to me?” Venerable Miao Kan said, “Teacher, I would like to invite you to conduct another Zen retreat at my monastery.” Master Nan told him, “Let’s not talk about this. You must return immediately to your place and forget about the rest. Go practice diligently and chant the name of the Buddha.” Venerable Miao Kan left immediately after receiving the instruction. He followed the teachings of his teacher.

After returning to his temple, Venerable Miao Kan fell ill. Zhao Pu Chu, the former Chairman of the Buddhist Association of China, sent Venerable Miao Kan to Beijing for treatment by plane. But Master Nan clearly knew that Venerable Miao Kan’s sickness was not curable, so he called the latter and instructed him to return to his temple. The student of Venerable Miao Kan conveyed the message of Master Nan to his teacher. At the time, Venerable Miao Kan was already lying in his sick bed, unable to talk. But he decided to return to his temple immediately. So, you see, this is “putting into practice the teachings”. Master Nan said Venerable Miao Kan did just what his teacher taught.

Venerable Miao Kan could no longer speak before his death. Master Nan instructed his student to hold the phone near Venerable Miao Kan and asked if the latter could hear. Venerable Miao Kan moved his hand slightly to indicate that he could. Master Nan told him to remain mindful, chant the name of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, and follow the Bodhisattva who would lead the way to the Buddha Land. Venerable Miao Kan noted the advice by moving his finger slightly. Finally, he was reborn in the Western Blissful Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha.

Master Nan has several thousands of students, but only Venerable Miao Kan put into practice what his teacher taught. No matter what Master Nan said, he would follow without a second word. “Go back to your temple now!” So he went. “Resign from your abbot position. Resigned from all the positions you hold - the titles are useless and deceptive.” He did just that. “Do not stay in Beijing. Go back to your temple and chant the name of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara with mindfulness.” He listened to his teacher’s advice.

It is easier said than done. It is indeed difficult to ask you to put into practice the teachings and chant the name of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara with mindfulness while you are still alive and kicking. You are only concerned about the worldly matters: job, career, money, livelihood, children, family and comments by others etc. You are concerned about all worldly matters, how would you be able to put into practice the teachings and attain mindfulness? Let go of all the worldly concerns when you are still alive and kicking!

Master Nan also mentioned about the two stages of cultivation in his book: Development Stage and Completion Stage. The Development Stage is necessary e.g. offering of incense, prostrations, recitation of sutras, chanting of mantra, abiding by the precepts, doing good deeds, walking the path of the Bodhisattva etc. All these are actions to be done during the Development Stage. Are they necessary? Master Nan said, “Absolutely! Must do!” But will it guarantee you the Buddhahood after doing all these? No! For they belonged to the Development Stage. You will finally need to enter the Completion Stage where there is no Buddha, no mantra, just emptiness, and non-emptiness.

The Completion Stage is being expounded by Grand Master in his recent books when he talked about Zen. These few books are very important. Although they are very profound and not easily understood, you should still try to read them. These books talk about the Completion Stage, breaking away from what was taught in the Development Stage, leading one to the ultimate enlightenment. However, before one reaches the Completion Stage, one must first complete the Development Stage, making a steady progress from one stage to the next.

Can one enter the Completion Stage by skipping the Development Stage? Yes, if one is of high capacity. However, people of such quality are very rare. Even Sakyamuni Buddha had to start from the Development Stage: abide by the precepts, practice with diligence and austerity etc. So, we should start from the lower stage and gradually advance to the higher stage. When you have reached the higher stage, you may let go of what you learned at the lower stage. Actually, the higher stage and the lower stage are not mutually exclusive. Do not be surprised by Sakyamuni Buddha when he talked about “existence” at the initial stage, but “emptiness” at the later stage. Actually, He was trying to tell us that the Development Stage is the initial stage, whereas the Completion Stage is the higher stage.

The Development Stage will lead you to the state of Heaven, at its highest point of attainment. In his books, Grand Master lamented that the many schools of Buddhism are competing to build the biggest institute, the biggest hospital, the biggest temple, the biggest this and that… He said, such actions will undoubtedly generate merits, but they are confined to the Development Stage. If you do well, you will become a great king in the heavenly realm but you will not attain Buddhahood. The teachings in the Development Stage must be relinquished when one reaches the Completion Stage.

Grand Master mentioned about Venerable Sheng-yen too in his book. Venerable Sheng-yen was a renowned Zen master who built the huge Dharma Drum Monastery. He had many students, in tens of thousands. He was adept in Zen Buddhism and Sutrayana Buddhism. He was already 80 plus years old. A kidney patient with both his kidneys damaged, he had to do frequent dialysis. But he said, “My body is sick but my mind is not.” Grand Master commended him for saying so because that was a saying befitting an enlightened Zen master.

Later, Venerable Sheng-yen told others that he did not want to die immediately because he had yet to build a Buddhist university that would benefit many people. Grand Master was very surprised to hear that and he realized then that Venerable Sheng-yen actually had not truly attained enlightenment yet. An enlightened master will not say such words. Building a Buddhist university is a meritorious act in the Development Stage. Having it done or not is actually immaterial - the Completion Stage does not talk about such things.

I read the entire book written by Grand Master and kept thinking to myself, “Grand Master is so long-winded!” Sometimes, Grand Master would even scold in harsh words out of frustration because the readers did not seem to get it after so many repetitions. I felt that Grand Master was already being too explicit; he did not need to do so and yet repeat himself too much. I felt like giving Grand Master some advice in return, ha ha! But on second thought, I realized that I was actually scolding myself for I have been repeating myself to you folks and you don’t seem to get it either. That really pissed me off! Frankly, I had also told you everything that repetition has become unnecessary. It only requires you to put into practice the teachings.

In my opinion, it will be useless if you recognize your own Buddha Nature and yet do not put into practice the teachings. The recognition of one’s own Buddha Nature will first happen on a theoretical level. Eventually, you must truly walk the path to enlightenment. If you do not walk the path, you will continue to succumb to your mental afflictions despite your theoretical enlightenment. Knowing is one thing, doing it is another. So, putting into practice the teachings is the most crucial point of the teachings.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Instantaneous Liberation (当下解脱)

I dreamt of Acho Rinpoche recently. I was standing before a big ocean when I heard Acho Rinpoche calling me. He said to me, “Let’s swim across the ocean.” I hesitated because I did not bring my swimming gear. The sea was very deep – how was I going to cross it over? I hesitated and could not make up my mind. Then I saw Acho Rinpoche plunged right into the sea, so I had no choice but to follow suite. He swam in front, with me following behind. While swimming, I felt a sense of tranquility. Then I saw beautiful corals and fish swimming nearby. And suddenly I saw a fish getting too close to me that I was afraid of hurting it and so I told it to move away. Finally, I reached the other shore with Acho Rinpoche. When I woke up from my dream, I had a realization: Life resembles an ocean of sufferings. In order to cross this ocean of sufferings and reach the other shore of freedom, we will have to let go of our attachments to the numerous things in life. If you are worried too much, you will never make it to the other shore but remain starnded forever at where you are now. ─ Dharma Brother Ren

A Discourse by Acho Rinpoche

What we can tell from the dream of Dharma Brother Ren is that we have to be prepared, for time is running out. You have been practicing for many years, so you should not wander without a sense of direction and not letting go of your attachments to the numerous worldly concerns. When the time comes, you are not given any choice - you cannot bargain that you still have many unfinihsed tasks...

Let me tell you this, you will still have many tasks undone by the time you face death - the work can never be finished. Some people may want to bargain that his house loan has not been fully paid yet, and his daughter is still young and needs to be taken care of… Such concerns were already there since the beginning of mankind. Every 50 or 100 years, those talking about it died before they finihsed talking. 50 years later, his kids grew up and repeat the same talks: blah…blah…blah. And they too died before they finished talking. Another 50 years, 100 years… These issues had never been resolved since the beginning of mankind. People just keep talking, “Wait till I’m done...” Wait till you are done - you would have already repeated your reincarnations umpteen times; you would have continued to struggle in the ocean of sufferings and be reborn umpteen times in the Six Realms of Existence; you will never make it to liberation!

What I wish to tell you is that, take Dharma Brother Ren’s dream for example, when you are told to swim, just swim! No need to keep looking for this and that reasons. None of the reason matters! Often, in my dreams, I would just go, without even having my clothes on. Let go of your clothes, let go of all things, just go! Why hesitate? There is nothing to hesitate about! Don’t wait further! There is no time for you to wait further. If you think about waiting, you will continue to wait for a few hundred years more, a few thousand years more, you will continue to wait, wait, wait… I’m not sure how many lifetimes have you been waiting ever since?

The key point is about “now”! Instantly, you should liberate yourself and let go of your worldly concerns. Do not feel attached to the past – it is already over, it will not return! Do not feel attached to the future – it has not come, and you will not know what the future will hold! Grand Master said in the past that something more threatening than SARS might appear in the world that could wipe out mankind by the millions! You would not know if you or your family would end up being one of the victims. So, let the past pass and do not dwell on it because it is useless to do so; do not dwell on the future either because the future has yet to come.

Liberate yourself now - do not dwell on the past, do not blame others, for these are useless tasks. Reflect and train your own mind, for your own mental afflictions came from you alone. You created your own mental afflictions, not me. Your feeling of anger is completely meaningless. The key point is “reflection”. Do not look outward and criticize others. Instead, look inward into your own mental faculty and change your own behaviors. Look after your own mental faculty well and let go of all your worldly attachments. You will then be able to liberate yourself from the sufferings –this is the only important thing that matters. I hope you will contemplate the meaning of his dream and learn to free yourself from the endless cycle of birth and death.

Are You Ready? (准备好了吗?)

Dharma Sister M (a cancer patient) asked me just now on how she should prepare for her own departure. Her question prompted me to ask everyone here – are you ready? Are you prepared for your own departure? This is a very real issue. The ultimate aim of a spiritual cultivation is to prepare us for our final moment; the rest are irrelevant.

I told her, “If you do not mind, we could help you during your final moment by delivering your soul and bidding you farewell.” I mean, if, by then, all of you are still around… I am speaking the truth. Although she might be prepared, the rest of you might not. She might not be the one who would depart first though. If all of you truly understand the teachings of the Buddha – there is really no guarantee on who would depart first. Now that you saw others ready to go when we are not, who knows – we might end up being the one going first.

Sakyamuni Buddha taught for so many years, but what He truly wanted to tell us was that – every one of us will have to depart one day, anytime. No one knows when his final moment will come. Now we might be thinking about helping her during her final moment, but we might end up being the one going first instead.

A cultivator must always remember one point: No one knows who will go first. So, be prepared – purify our mental faculty, speech and actions, recite the name of the Buddha single-mindedly. Otherwise, we will be wasting this lifetime.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Eight Stanzas of Mind-Training (修心八颂)

The Eight Stanzas of Mind-Training is crucial. The most fundamental practice in Vajrayana is actually The Eight Stanzas of Mind-Training. If you cannot perfect the practice of the The Eight Stanzas of Mind-Training, you will not succeed in the highest practices like the Great Perfection (Dzogchen), Kalacakra etc. The Eight Stanzas of Mind-Training is the core of spiritual practice.

The Eight Stanzas of Mind-Training is a common practice in all the Vajrayana schools. To me, the 1st level, 2nd level, 3rd level, 4th level and Dzogchen empowerments, and all other Zen parables can be put aside. Zen parables only talk about emptiness, which cannot lead one to the ultimate enlightenment. Only when one has perfected his mind-training can he achieve the ultimate enlightenment. So, I feel that The Eight Stanzas of Mind-Training is the basis for all spiritual practices.

The Eight Stanzas of

By Langri Thangpa

1st Stanza
I shall view all sentient beings as more superior than the Wish-fulfilling Gems. I shall help them and cherish them always.

2nd Stanza
Regardless of my companionship, I shall always consider myself being lower than others. I shall aspire to benefit others from the depth of my heart, and forever revere others as being more superior than me.

3rd Stanza
I shall be mindful of my own mental activities and actions, and nip my negative thought in the bud at the very moment it appears in my mind, to avoid harming others and myself.

4th Stanza
Sentient beings who are ill-natured are, in fact, suffering in great pains. I shall view them as the Precious Gems, and cherish them always.

5th Stanza
When one scolds and humiliates me out of his jealousy, I will accept all the failures and losses, and let him have the victory.

6th Stanza
Although I helped someone in the past and wished him the best, he hurt me in return. Nevertheless, I shall still view him as a good spiritual guide.

7th Stanza
I wish to benefit all mother-like sentient beings directly or in-directly, and I wish to quietly take over their sufferings.

8th Stanza
I wish that all my actions will not be tainted by the Eight Worldly Concerns. I shall discern the illusory nature of all phenomena through great wisdom, and be liberated from all attachments.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Let Go of Ego Grasping (放下我执)

Dharma Sister Hua remembered the fine details of her dream. Her dream is a reflection of her strong ego grasping, and her clinging to her husband. So, as she was so concerned about her husband, she kept searching for him in her dreams. Let me tell you this, I had never thought about my wife and son in my dreams. We will have to cultivate till we break free from our sense of ego, even in our dreams, that there is nothing related to “me”, there is no wife of “mine”, child of “mine”, parents of "mine" and relatives of "mine" etc. When you have reached that level of attainment, you will stand a chance to succeed in your cultivation. If you continue to search for your spouses in your dreams, I think you are still very weak in your cultivation. You have to let go of all these relationships, otherwise they will continue to appear in your dreams frequently.

If your ego grasping is still very strong, you will still be very concerned about your name, your existence, your feelings and how others treat you. If you still insist that others must treat you in a certain way or you will feel offended, and end up harboring all the ill thoughts and succumbing to your negative emotions, then I think it will be very difficult for you to reach enlightenment in this lifetime.

Letting go of ego grasping is very crucial. The first lesson of cultivation is to let go of our ego grasping. I hope that you will learn to let go of your ego grasping, letting go of all things related to “I” and “mine”, only then you will stand a chance of setting yourself free from the cyclic existence. Let go of all things that are related to “I” and “mine”, including my body, my feelings, my possessions – let them go! Only then the seed of bodhicitta will grow in you.

I feel that we should, after so many years of cultivation, let go of our ego grasping. Otherwise, we will not be able to culminate the seed of bodhicitta in us. If bodhicitta does not grow within you, you will continue to be perturbed by all things related to “I” and “mine”; your cultivation will be fruitless. Despite your diligence in practicing the recitations, chanting, meditations, they are just useless activities. I hope all of you will take this seriously and learn to let go of ego grasping. First, let go of ego grasping, let go of the so-called pride, let go of all things related to “I” and “mine”, then you will get closer to enlightenment.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Purity of Mind (清净)

We must be very careful with our mental activities. The mental strength of a Vajrayana practitioner can be enormous; it could affect the beings living in both the spiritual world and the human world, as both worlds actually co-exist within the same realm. A practitioner must constantly purify his own mind, speech and action, or he will get himself into trouble. Our thoughts can bring the spiritual beings to us: the Buddhas will come when you think of the Buddhas; the gods will come when you think of the gods; and the dark forces will come when you think of the dark forces. Their response is swift.

The Vajrayana trainings can produce strong mental power, especially when you chant the mantras and exert your mental strength, you can invoke the party that you are thinking of, especially the spiritual beings. So, we must be very careful with our mental activities.

Each time when I said I would go somewhere, the spiritual beings in that place would immediately come to me. For instance, when I was about to go somewhere to perform “soul deliverance”, the spiritual beings would know of my intent almost immediately. An advanced cultivator should be even more cautious about his thoughts. Be cautious of your mental activities and make sure that they are pure at all times.
When your mind is defiled, you will fall into the Three Lower Realms. So, the purity of your mind, speech and action is very crucial. Ultimately, you should be able to give up your own life and all your possessions, yet you will continue to maintain the purity of your mind, speech and action. Never harbor negative thoughts, no matter how ill others treat you, maintain the purity of your mind at all times. When your mind is defiled, your thoughts will be defiled, and you will fall. Do not end up in the Three Lower Realms when others end up being a Buddha.

Why did some followers of Sakyamuni Buddha become the Bodhisattvas and Arahats? For they had succeeded in purifying their own minds. If you choose to cover up your impurities with all sorts of reason and accuse others for being in the wrong, you are actually the one who is wrong. You should only accuse yourself for being wrong but never point your finger at others.

Let me repeat this, maintaining the purity of one’s mind, speech and action is very crucial in the spiritual cultivation. A practitioner must purify his mind, speech and action everyday, at all times. One must quickly realize the impurity of his mental activities and repent immediately - this is the only way to free oneself from the cyclic existence.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Impermanence (人生无常)

Dharma Sister Bing dreamt of my passing away. She felt sad and regret of losing a spiritual guide. She repented and regretted for not cherishing the presence of a spiritual guide. This dream tells us that life is impermanent. I have been stressing that 50 year-old is considered long life to a Tibetan. Tibetans’ lives are shorter due to the harsh living condition at high altitude. Master Tzonkapa nearly passed away when he was 58 year-old. His life was extended after the numerous longevity rites being performed for him. He passed away when he was 64 year-old. The 16th Karmapa passed away when he was 58 year-old. There were simply too many people passing away around 50 year-old. To me, 56 year-old is longevity. I cherish every single day, and I don’t think about tomorrow.

My attitude towards life is to cherish every single day and live in spiritual bliss. I will just accept what the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas give me each day, and I cherish the opportunity to live yet one more day, practice one more day, help one more sentient being and bring more happiness to others. I dedicate all my merits to the sentient beings. I do not worry about whether I will get up tomorrow morning. If my life ends now, I will be born again to help the sentient beings in future.

So, we should live in spiritual bliss everyday and transform all negative emotions into positive ones. Do not be perturbed by our negative emotions. Be prepared for the last moment. I hope that you will take this away and learn to cultivate your right thought every single moment. Cultivate your bodhicitta and contemplate the true meaning of emptiness. Do not think negatively. We should think about the impermanence of life everyday; there is not enough time, do not waste our time. Om Mani Padme Hum.

Signs of Spiritual Advancement (修行进步的现象)

We live in a troubled era created by a very huge collective karma of sentient beings. The sufferings of the sentient beings in this era are tremendous and they will trigger our inner sense of compassion. But most of the time, such compassion is lacking of wisdom. Compassion which is lacking of wisdom is not the true compassion. The compassion of the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas is beyond our comprehension. Most of the time, we end up with our own misinterpretations of what compassion is, when it is not.

I feel that the most crucial point about spiritual cultivation is the cleansing of our lust, hatred and ignorance. Cultivation is about self reflection. Ask ourselves, “What did I do when such thing happened in the past?” “How has my attitude changed over the years?” If we mellow into a more tolerant attitude towards a similar event over the years, and could finally laugh it off completely, we know that we have improved in our spiritual cultivation. Those are the signs of diminishing lust, hatred and ignorance in us.

Before you became a cultivator, you might be easily agitated by a very trivial matter. After you cultivated for a period, you might realize that suddenly you don’t seem to feel perturbed by the same matter anymore, although you might still feel a little agitation, you could finally just drop the matter. When you drop the matter, you have in fact improved in your cultivation. Next, when the same matter happens again, you will just not be bothered and don’t feel like commenting anymore as it seems too trivial to you now. When you are emotionally not affected at all, you have made further advancement in your cultivation. Finally, all things will appear trivial to you that you are no longer affected by them in anyway. These are the signs of spiritual advancement. When you are finally ready, you can then help the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in carrying out the enlightened activities of helping other sentient beings. Om Mani Padme Hum.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Freedom (自由)

There was a general who kept his pet parrot in a cage. Everyday the parrot kept screaming, “I want freedom! I want freedom!” A soldier felt sorry for the parrot and so he decided to free the bird one night. He opened the door of the cage to free the parrot. To his surprise, the parrot chose to remain in the cage. It continued to scream “I want freedom! I want freedom!” The soldier decided to take the parrot out from the cage and let it fly away. He was finally satisfied and went to bed. On the following day, he found out that the parrot had returned to the cage and it continued to scream, “I want freedom! I want freedom!”

I have always been advising you folks to go read books, because I want you to think about the teachings you learn from the books and apply them in your practice. There are many answers awaiting your own discovery. It is useless for me to tell you the answers. So what if I tell you about the Western Blissful Pure Land? You will continue to doubt what I said, for you have been so used to living in a cage! There is everything in the cage: food, shower, warmth, everything. You have been staying in a cage far too long that you simply cannot imagine what it is like outside the cage – you are too afraid of leaving your cage. Although you have been told that the world outside is free, you are still feeling afraid. So, you continue to yell, “I want freedom!” but you will not dare leave your cage, leaving your comfort zone.

Birds could be stranded in a cage for the rest of their life, so too are you stranded in the Six Realms for eons. You are just too comfortable. When you are a child, you have your parents protecting you, loving you and giving you all you need. When you are an adult, you have a family and a spouse who takes care of you when you are sick and shares your problems. When you are old, you have your children taking care of you. You are just too comfortable with what you have. You are just like a bird, living in a cage for your whole life; you have never experienced the world outside the cage, so you will be afraid of leaving. You will choose to remain in the cage and scream “I want freedom! I want freedom!” You would rather remain in the Three Realms and grumble everyday, grumbling to your spouse, your kids and your parents. You will merely complain in this world that “I want freedom! I want freedom!” But when you are actually given the freedom, you will feel too afraid to leave the world that you are familiar with behind. So, you will remain in this cage forever – this cage is the Six Realms of Cyclic Existence.

How is the world outside the cage? You will never be able to imagine how it is, no matter how hard I try to describe it to you, for you must experience it yourself. Birds ought to fly in the sky freely because the sky belongs to the birds. They should not be confined to such a small space in a cage. Similarly, the universe belongs to us but unfortunately we are too contended remaining in the cage of the Three Realms. Actually we all agree that a cage offers no freedom.

Sakyamuni Buddha told us that the world is full of sufferings. Whether you know it or not, the world is full of sufferings. But often you do not think that those are sufferings, instead you view them as fun and lovable. Sakyamuni Buddha told us that those things that you thought were fun and lovable do not last, they will be followed immediately by immeasurable pains. The problems of birth, aging, sickness and death are more than what you can deal with; no matter what you end up getting, you are just not able to solve these problems.

Dharma Sister Bik thought it was fun to join the kids in their rope skipping game, but she ended up hurting her leg. What does it tell you? You are old now! This is one of the problems in this world. There are numerous other problems: you have no big house, you have no sports car, you have no promotion, you have no appreciative bosses, and you just can’t get what you want… So, Sakyamuni Buddha told us that this world is, in fact, an ocean of sufferings.

Master Nan Huai Jin said that we pay to suffer when we go for a sauna bath. It is hot in the room and the massaging actually hurts. Somehow we enjoy such sufferings. There are numerous other problems in this world such as sickness, cancer, rebellious kids etc. But who among us can let go? None. Everyone clings to the cage, like the bird, and yell, “What a pain! What a pain! I want freedom!”

Grand Master has already told us about the most supreme teachings of enlightenment. But how many of us dare go out? None. Because no one knows what is the world out there. Everyone is afraid of loosing his current possessions, “If I let go of this and take that, what if that turns out to be not what I had wanted?” So, everyone clings to the cage firmly and continues to create his karma, and continue to live in the Three Realms of Cyclic Existence. What a pity!

This is indeed an interesting story. How many people are willing to let go of what they have in this world? Leave the cage and seek his freedom and happiness in the sky? None. So, you will continue to remain in this world then, and continue to live in the cyclic existence. What else can the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas do? They can’t do anything. The decision is yours to remain in the cage or to leave the cage. The decision does not lie with me, nor Grand Master or the patriarchs; it lies in you.