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.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Look Inward (向内看 )

Actually, the issues do not exist externally but within you. When your inner mind is pure, you will see a pure world externally. On the contrary, when your inner mind is defiled, you will see a defiled world externally. It is liken to a person wearing a pair of tinted glasses, when the tint is yellow, he will see all things in the external world appeared yellowish. Actually, it is you who are wearing a pair of glasses tinted with your own lust, hatred, ignorance, ego and suspicion, that you saw the shortcomings of others without realizing your own problems.

As long as you continue to find faults in others, you are actually the one at fault. Do not find fault in others for you will not be able to free yourself from the cyclic existence. If you remain egoistic and short-tempered, you will jump high, scold and humiliate others madly when your problem is being pointed out by others; that clearly demonstrates the sense of hatred in you. So, I think it is very important for us to look inward for self reflection.

A cultivator should practice the teachings of Compassion and Emptiness. Although the quality of both Compassion and Emptiness exists in us, it is obscured by our own karmic obscurations accumulated since time immemorial. That is the reason for one not being able to free himself from the cyclic existence. If you continue to find faults in others and accuse others of being wrong, but never do self reflection and realize your own mistakes, it only reflects your own problems. So, I hope you will remember this point: we must learn and practice with humility.

No one dares to claim that he has read the vast collection of Buddhist scriptures (三藏十二部). What had been recorded is only a small fraction of the Buddha’s teachings; Sakyamuni Buddha actually had much more to say. So, please learn with humility. Do not get agitated and scold others when others try to give you constructive feedback. That is not the right behavior of a cultivator. A cultivator is a humble person. When others point out your mistakes, you should thank them instead. If a master or a spiritual guide point out your mistakes, you ought to be even humbler but not get angry. If I pointed out your ego, you become angry and scold me from head to toe, you are just a commoner. Frankly, you don’t even understand the basic teachings of Buddhism. So, be a true cultivator and observe the precepts strictly, if you want to make it in your cultivation. Do not just pretend to be a cultivator when your inner world is completely dark. I hope you will heed my advice.