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.