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.