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.