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.
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.