Dear Venerable and Dharma Friends:

I would like to thank all of you for coming to this lecture on Buddhism. Our topic today is "the Buddhist Perspective on Magic and the Supernatural."
When we mention the word "magic," we immediately think of those mysterious, unusual and superhuman actions. When we face an obstacle, do we not all wish for a miracle? Maybe a Superman will appear and eliminate our problems. When someone hits or curses at us, would it not be great if we were martial arts masters? We could use one little finger to pin him to the ground. When being chased, would it not be wonderful if we could fly? We could easily escape the calamity. When someone wants to cause trouble, would it not be great if I could whisper a spell to make him immobile? When a rich person does not believe in doing good, would it not be nice if I could magically gather his money and give it to the poor and needy? Magic, to most people, is essentially the wish to be outstanding, to be powerful, and to be capable of accomplishing the impossible. Although magic can be used to punish the evil and help the needy, it can also be misused to endanger humanity. Does magic have any benefit for society? Is magic good or bad? What is the meaning of its existence? I would like to discuss the Buddhist perspective on magic and the supernatural from four aspects.


I. The Definition and Classification of Magic
According to the scriptures, magic is a supernormal, unlimited, unimaginable power attained during meditation practice. We often believe that only the Buddha, Bodhisattvas, gods or fairies have magical or supernatural power. In actuality, ghosts and demons can also have magical power. We humans have magical power, too. Magic is not limited to the unusual acts of causing rain and storms or riding on clouds. Magic is everywhere in our lives. We can recognize it if we look carefully. When we are exhausted and thirsty after a long journey, a glass of water can quench our thirst. Is that glass of water not like a magic potion? A non-swimmer sinks like a rock after falling into water despite frantic yet fruitless struggles. In comparison, a good swimmer simply makes a few easy strokes and kicks to move around like a fish. Is this not miraculous? Beginning bicyclists may grip the handles with all their might and still fall off their bicycles. The experts can let their hands go and remain securely on their fast moving bicycles. Does this not seem supernatural? We can also describe those amazing circus performances as magic. According to science, the body itself is a miracle. Tears flow when one is sad and laughter comes when one is happy. Hunger can be cured by food. Cold sensation can be alleviated by clothing. Are all these phenomena not magical? A woman's mammary glands not only secrete milk but also vary the nutrient composition and amount according to the changing needs of the baby. Once the baby stops nursing, all milk production stops automatically. Is this not amazing? Magic is not limited to tricks and sorcery; it is everywhere. The change of the four seasons, the blooming and wilting of flowers, the changing faces of the moon, the large and small sizes of the animals, are they not all expressions of magical wonders?
Magical wonders are all around us. How many types of magical powers are recorded in the Buddhist scriptures? According to the most common classification, there are six main categories. These are celestial vision, celestial hearing, the power of knowing others' minds, the power of performing miracles, the power of knowing past lives, and the power of eradicating all defilement.
A. Celestial Vision
Human eyes can only see large items. To examine small objects, we need a magnifying lens or microscope. Those with celestial vision can detect the most minute things easily. Human eyes can only see nearby objects, while distant objects appear blurred and indistinguishable. In contrast, those with celestial vision view objects far away as clearly as up close. Our human vision is bounded by the surroundings. Those with celestial vision, however, can overcome any obstruction by seeing through walls and mountains. Human eyes can only see with light. Celestial vision works even in total darkness. Human vision is limited to this world. Celestial vision extends to all realms. In short, celestial vision is free and unbounded.
B. Celestial Hearing
Human ears hear at close range. We need amplifiers and microphones to help us hear sounds from afar. Those with celestial hearing can hear sounds clearly regardless of the distance. Maudgalyayana, the foremost in supernatural power among all the Buddha's disciples, once tried to see how far the Buddha's voice could travel. With magical power, he traveled to another Buddha world trillions of light years away. There he used his celestial hearing and he could still clearly hear the Buddha's voice preaching.
We may know Chinese, but not English, Japanese, or other languages. People with linguistic talents may be able to speak multiple languages but still have limits in understanding other languages. Those with celestial hearing can understand all languages. Besides human languages, they also understand the singing of the birds and howling of animals.
C. The Power of Knowing Others' Minds
The power to know others' minds is the ability to know precisely what others are thinking. We often complain, "You just do not understand me." It is difficult to understand ourselves, not to mention trying to understand others. One with the power of knowing others' minds can see the good and evil thoughts in others' minds as if looking through a clear lens. Not a single thought can escape detection.
D. The Power of Performing Miracles
Those with the power of performing miracles can transform a single entity into infinitely many and combine the infinitely many into one. For these individuals the distance is never an issue as they can go as far as they like without difficulties. They also can go through fire, water, or travel through the ground at ease. They may choose to become invisible or reappear. The power of performing miracles allows one to transcend the limitation of space. This power allows one to even take hold of the sun and the moon, and it is the power to alter one's surroundings at will. It is the magical power to exempt the body from physical limitations.
E. The Power of Knowing Past Lives
We sometimes are so forgetful that we cannot remember yesterday's events. People with excellent memory can recall events of months or years past. Those with the power of knowing past lives can remember events from their previous lives as clearly as yesterday's events. Besides knowing about themselves, those with this power can know the sentient beings' past as well. When someone dies, those with this power also can foretell this person's future retribution from karma as well as the place of rebirth.
F. The Power of Eradicating All Defilement
Defilement is affliction. Those with the power of eradicating all defilement will no longer suffer any affliction. They will not be subjected to the cycles of birth and death, nor will they ever have to be born in this world of ignorance. The aforementioned five magical powers are not unique to Buddhist practitioners-ghosts, demons, gods and fairies may all have similar powers, yet they still cannot escape the rounds of rebirth. The five magical powers are therefore not the ultimate. Only the ultimate power of eradicating all defilement can deliver one beyond the cycles of rebirth. This power can only be attained by the Buddhist saints such as the Buddha and Arhats. This power lies beyond the reach of the unenlightened mortals or spirits.
Besides the classification of six magical powers mentioned above, the scriptures also classify magical powers based on the different levels based on how the power is acquired. From Da Sheng I Chang (The Essays on Mahayana Meanings), magical powers were divided into those attained through cultivation, meditation, casting spells, or evil spirits. According to Tsung Ching Lu (Records from the Lineage Mirror), magic can be obtained through five methods: cultivation, meditation, spells, karma, and spirits.
A. Magic through Cultivation
The ultimate magical power is attained through cultivation of the Middle Way. When one is enlightened to the truth of the Middle Way in all existence, he/she can maintain the mind without thinking or differentiation toward the myriad objects and events encountered throughout the day. One knows all phenomena in the universe, yet one is not attached. Power obtained through cultivation allows one to be totally liberated and free from the cycles of rebirth.
B. Magic through Meditation
Magical power can be obtained through meditation practices. Like the Arhats, during cultivation they can attain power through the four Dhyana states and eight mental concentration levels. They can understand the worldly phenomena and know the past and future lives.
C. Magic through Spells
Spells and potions can produce magic. This is the power of sorcerers and witches. They can call upon winds and fires. They make themselves invisible by hiding under water or in the ground, etc. This type of power is the most prone to be abused as a means to harm others.
D. Magic as the Result of Karma
As the result of their karma, some living beings may have magical power, too. Ghosts can transport themselves across physical barriers and travel rapidly over a long distance. Birds can fly in the sky and fish can live in the water. Different living beings have their unique karma, not shared by others. The result is a colorful combination of creatures with different appearances and abilities.
E. Magic of Spirits
Spirits and genies can magically absorb cosmic energies from heaven and earth. After a long period of time, these spirits can manifest in human form and play tricks on people.
Therefore, magic or supernatural power can be obtained through cultivation of the Middle Way, meditation and mental concentration, usage of spells and potions, as a result of karma, as well as other ways. Among the different magical powers, some are good while others are evil. There is also a great variation of levels. What we all should aim for is the ultimate power of eradicating all defilement through the cultivation of wisdom. Once we have attained this ultimate power of eradicating all defilement through cultivation, we will be able to go through the birth and death process without being affected by the usual associated afflictions. We will be able to dwell in the serenity of Nirvana without being attached to its comfort. We will stay away from the extremes and walk the Middle Way of Buddhahood.
II. Magic in the Social Context
Most people in our society are particularly attracted to strange and unusual phenomena. The profound, wonderful and practical teachings of the Buddha do not attract similar attention by comparison. Magic does have great drawing power for the masses because it satisfies their curiosity. What then is the relationship between magic and people's lives?
A. Magic Is Hope in Times of Trouble
There is a popular saying, "Every household has Amitabha. Every family has Kuan Yin (Avalokitesvara)." Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva is a very popular figure of devotion among the people. How did Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva enter the lives of so many people? According to "The Universal Gateway" chapter of The Lotus Sutra, when sentient beings encounter difficulties such as the seven calamities including floods, fires, violence, war, etc., Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva will protect and guide us. This Bodhisattva sometimes even points out a way for us to solve those seemingly impossible problems through our dreams. This Bodhisattva has boundless magical power and uses it to deliver sentient beings out of sufferings and calamities. Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva thus becomes the torch of hope for helpless and suffering beings.
Besides Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, Goddess Ma Tzu is also held in high esteem. Because Taiwan is an island surrounded by open sea, people have to live by the sea and endure the associated unpredictable dangers. Believed to protect people from drowning, Ma Tzu has been revered as the seafarers' guardian. Chi-Kung, regarded as a living Buddha by many, has been another popular figure of worship because he frequently used magic to solve problems for suffering people. Just like rain during prolonged drought, magic can bring people hope in a hopeless situation. People often are transfixed by magical phenomena.
Speaking of "a living Buddha," in recent times there was a Buddhist monk, Venerable Miao Shan, who was regarded by the public as "the Living Buddha of the Golden Mountain." His life had been full of unusual, colorful, and magical stories. The Abbot of Golden Mountain Temple, Venerable Tai Tzang, and he were good friends. Once a young woman contracted an unusual, intractable illness and could not swallow. Eventually she went to Golden Mountain Temple for help. Venerable Miao Shan, "the Living Buddha," asked her to open her mouth, removed some mucus, and she was miraculously cured.
On another occasion, Venerable Tai Tzang and "the Living Buddha" were both using the community bathing facility. Venerable Tai Tzang knew of "the Living Buddha's" numerous stories of curing and implored, "'Living Buddha,' with your compassion, please cure my mother's long-term stomach disease." Immediately "the Living Buddha" scooped up the bath water and said, "Here, this is a bowl of the soup of prajna (transcendental wisdom). Give it to your mother and she will be cured of all illness." Venerable Tai Tzang understandably hesitated, yet he could not openly protest. He thought to himself, "This has to be a joke. How can a person drink the used bath water from the community bathing facility?" "The Living Buddha" then said, "This is why I advise you not to come to me for illness. I have prescribed the soup of prajna, yet you treat it as used bath water. What am I supposed to do?" Therefore, he did not readily agree to treating the people's illness. Sometimes when he could not refuse a request, he would employ similarly unusual methods to help others. When he passed away in Burma in 1935, Venerable Tzu Hung had assisted in funeral arrangements. To this date, "the Living Buddha" is still remembered by many people because he could solve people's problems and bring them hope. From the above examples, we can understand that magic is not for everyday and not suitable for frequent usage. However, rare usage of magic is like emergency treatment, useful as a temporary quick fix in times of suffering.
B. Magic Is the Savior during Upheaval
There is a saying, "Unusual times require unusual methods." In times of upheavals, social chaos and wars, preaching the Buddhist teachings may not attract the needed attention to ameliorate the situation. On the other hand, magic may be employed for instantaneous impact. As with a severe illness, the patient first must be saved by emergency procedures and then followed with long-term rehabilitation and treatments.
During the period of upheaval of the Five Normandic Tribes and Sixteen States (304-439 AD), the killer generals Shi Le and Shi Hu led a murderous rebellion. Countless innocent lives were lost. Venerable Buddhacinga traveled from Central Asia hoping to convert the warring generals.
"You should be kindhearted. You should think for all the people. Do not kill these innocent people," the Master preached to the warlords.
The warlords retorted slyly, "You want us to be kindhearted. We want to see what your kind heart looks like."
"Fine. Take a close look at it," Venerable Buddhacinga replied. He drew a sword from a nearby soldier and cut his own chest open. He took out the beating heart and spoke something over a basin of clean water. A white lotus miraculously blossomed out of the water. Buddhacinga then calmly handed over his heart to the warlords and said, "This is my heart, as pure as this white lotus blossom."
Even the murderous generals had to be impressed by such bravery and power. They became the master's disciples. Buddhacinga had used magic to convert the warlords, and he had also saved millions of lives. During upheavals, magic can provide the power of a savior.
During the Tang Dynasty, a Ch'an master, Venerable Yin Feng, also had great magical power according to the legends. Once, he came across a fierce battle between two armies and tried to make peace through patient persuasion. Nobody heeded his advice. Finally he threw his staff into the sky. He then flew up and danced with his staff. The battling soldiers were so taken by the sight that they forgot to fight. An otherwise bloody battle was instantaneously stopped by the Ch'an master's magic. Since that event, people called him the Master of the Flying Staff.
The Ch'an master was very humorous and full of Ch'an surprises. One day he was lecturing on the subject of life and death. He asked his disciples, "Have you seen people die during sitting meditation?"
His disciples replied, "Certainly. One Ch'an master passed away during sitting meditation."
The Ch'an master asked, "Then, have you heard of people dying while standing?"
"Yes, we have. The family of Venerable Fu all died while working their farm. Many Pure Land practitioners can also die at will." His disciples replied.
The Ch'an master then asked, "How about seeing anyone dying while standing on his head?"
His disciples were astonished and replied, "That we have never heard of or seen before."
The Ch'an master said, "Fine. In that case, I will show you." He then stood on his head and entered Nirvana. His disciples were shocked and saddened. They hurried to make funeral arrangements and encountered a difficult problem. When they attempted to move the master's body, they found it immovable like a steel pillar. No matter how much force they used, they could not pry it off the ground. Nobody knew what to do until the arrival of the master's sister, a highly cultivated nun. She scolded, "You used magic to confuse people while alive. Do you still want to use the same trick to impress others at death? Come down now!"
Strangely, the body fell on command. The Ch'an master did not want to impress others with his magic. He did want others to see how Ch'an practitioners could treat the state of death with total control and freedom.
The above mentioned are examples showing that magic can be a great tool at times of upheaval. Some of you may think, "Great! I am going to practice hard and acquire supernatural power, too. I will be able to snatch the leaders of our enemies, and all our problems will be solved." However, there is more to it than that. When one leader falls, there will be another, and another after that. Force cannot solve problems completely. Only morality and compassion can bring everlasting peace. During the Period of the Three Kingdoms (222-265 AD), the wise prime minister Kung Ming captured and released the rebel Meng Huo seven times because he understood that people could only be won over with virtue, not with tricks or force. We need to have strong confidence in morality and compassion although the effects are not visible immediately. Morality and compassion will change bad customs and purify people's minds. Magic, no matter how powerful, can be used only in an emergency and only for temporary relief. The ultimate solutions for our problems lie only in the ordinary.
C. Magic Is an Expedient Means for Preaching
Magic is usually more readily accepted by the masses than reason. In history, highly esteemed Buddhist masters utilized magic as an expedient method of spreading the Buddhist teachings under unusual circumstances. During the East Han Dynasty under the regime of Emperor Ming, Buddhism was introduced into China. Taoists resisted and challenged the Buddhist missionaries to a public duel of magic. The Emperor facilitated and presided over this historic contest. The Emperor ordered two rows of tables to be placed in a great hall. The Buddhist scriptures and some of the Buddha's relic were placed on one row of the tables and the Taoist scriptures on the other. Taoist priests proudly arrived either by flying or materializing. Buddhist representatives, Kasyapamatanga and Dharmaraksa, slowly walked inside the hall. The crowd was betting that the monks could not beat the Taoist priests. After both sides settled into their respective seats, Taoist priests initiated the attack by using spells to incinerate the Buddhist scriptures. Nothing happened. Instead, the Buddha's relic emanated brilliant light. When the light reached the Taoist scriptures, these books instantly caught on fire and were quickly destroyed. At this point Kasyapamatanga flew up into the sky and spoke:
"A fox cannot be compared to the majestic lion;
A lamp cannot match the brilliance of the sun and the moon;
A pond cannot be as all-encompassing as the ocean;
A hill cannot be as tall and grand as a mountain.
The clouds of the Dharma cover the world,
Enabling those with seeds of goodness to spout and grow.
The manifestation of unusual magic powers,
Is but a means for delivering the ignorant throughout."
This verse means that the spirit of Buddhism is as dignified and majestic as the lion, the king of all animals. How can Taoist, fox-like, crooked tendency compare? Taoism is like an oil lamp; its wisdom cannot match that of Buddhism, brilliant as the light of the sun and the moon. A pond definitely cannot hold the vast quantity of water in a great ocean; a small hill is definitely no match for a great and tall mountain; how can Taoism compare with the superb realm of Buddhism? The auspicious clouds of the compassionate Buddhist teachings cover the world, enabling those with roots of goodness to sprout and grow the seeds of Bodhi, eventually attain the supreme fruit of the Buddhahood. Today I have used magic as an expedient means to convert ignorant living beings toward the right path. Magic is not the ultimate way.
The Taoist priests were all petrified upon hearing this verse. They tried to escape but their magic powers failed completely. Emperor Ming was impressed by the virtues and powers of Kasyapamatanga and Dharmaraksa. He then built four temples inside and three temples outside the city for nuns and monks respectively. This was the beginning of pure cultivating monks and nuns in China. Because of this magic duel, Buddhism finally planted its seed in China and it eventually grew and blossomed later. Again, although the use of magic is not the final solution, it nonetheless can be an expedient means for spreading the teachings.
III. The Cultivation and Usage of Magic
Since magic is so closely related to us, how can we attain magical power? How should we use magical power? We should appreciate the true meaning and wondrous application of magic right in our lives. For example, when we look at the beautiful flowers, green grasses, or the clear moon, our spirits naturally become uplifted and joyful. Is this not magic? When we wish to please another person, we can say a few words of praise and this person will beam with delight. If we say the wrong words, however, the other person may scold us instead. Is this not the magic of language? Human emotions, such as happiness, rage, sadness, and joy, are they not all magic?
Magic is all around us. We should learn to enjoy the delight of magic in ordinary living. When we wish to watch a television program, we push a button on the remote control and instantly the screen manifests the image for us. This image may be from far away, even a distant country via satellite transmission. Is this not celestial vision? When we pick up a telephone, we can hear voices from afar, even through the obstacles of mountains. Is modern communication not celestial hearing? Now airplanes allow us to fly like birds, reaching any destination we like. Do we not have the miraculous power of traveling anywhere? If we are watchful, we will discover that our everyday existence is magic. It is just that when we are inattentive, magic is no longer wondrous.
Magic is also in nature. For example, when dark clouds fill the sky, rain will drop from the sky. Sometimes when the sun is still shining, large raindrops fall regardless. Is this phenomenon magical? Depending on the interaction of different pressure systems, gentle breezes, wind gusts, hurricanes, even thunderstorms, hail or snow may occur. The seasons change and enable all living beings to continue their growth and maintain a harmonious ecological balance. All these changes in nature can be regarded as magic.
In our daily lives, magic is also the accumulation of experience, the expression of human wisdom, and the skillful utilization of resources. The terms printed on the Chinese calendar, such as "spring begins," "excited insects," "rain water," "autumnal equinox," "severe cold," etc., describe seasonal periods as noted through the experience of countless generations and represent a precious inheritance from our ancestors. Farmers use their years of experiences to predict weather and to decide the proper time for planting and harvesting. In our society, many experts have already warned us about population explosion, environmental pollution and energy shortage so that we may plan for the future now. How can all these people see into the future? Experience empowers them to predict the future. Experience is powerful magic.
Besides experience, a decision made through wisdom is also magic. The wise prime minister Kung Ming could predict the future accurately and devise unusual strategies to secure a stronghold for the Kingdom of Shu during the Period of the Three Kingdoms. Mr. Yang-ming Wang advocated "seeing things through one's conscience" and "using actions to accompany knowledge in predicting the future." History is full of wise individuals who see the changes of time and predict trends of the future. They are capable of making these predictions because of their wisdom. Magic is also an expression of wisdom. When we face difficulties, if we analyze the situation and devise solutions by using our wisdom, the difficulties will be resolved. Is this not magical? The accumulation of human knowledge leads to many scientific advances. This is also magic. The moon has been regarded as romantic, mysterious, beautiful, and yet out of our reach. Now with a spaceship, we have landed on the moon and have walked on its rugged surface. For anyone living before the twentieth century, would this act not be considered magic? With the many recent advances in medical technology, we now have many treatments that would be magic to our ancestors. If our skin is badly damaged, we may have a skin graft from another part of our bodies. If our kidneys or hearts fail to function, we may have a new organ transplanted from a donor. If we cannot see, we may even benefit from a cornea transplant. The success of test tube babies opens a new door for human reproduction. All these advances would be startling magic to our ancestors. We have invented cloud seeding and airplanes. Are we not calling the rains and flying freely in space now? Magic is not unique to the spirits and devas. If we use our knowledge wisely, we can create endless miracles in our worldly lives, too.
Acquiring magic is not considered difficult in Buddhism. The important question is upon what should magic be based? There are four foundations upon which magical power must rest.
A. Compassion
According to Mahaprajnaparamita Sastra, "Bodhisattvas abandon the five desires and attain the different states of meditation. Out of compassion for all beings, they acquire magical powers. They perform miracles to purify people's minds. Why? If one does not perform the extraordinary, many people cannot be impressed and saved." For their love of all beings, even when Bodhisattvas have eradicated all defilements, they do not enter into Nirvana, unlike those of the two vehicles (Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas). Bodhisattvas pledge the great Bodhi vows and acquire magic so that more living beings can be saved. Why is magic needed for emancipating people? It is because most people are ignorant, they do not cherish the truth of the ordinary, and they only pay attention to the extraordinary. Bodhisattvas have to use miracles as an expedient means to impress people. Magic is only a tool for Bodhisattvas. Buddhahood is the true goal of Bodhisattvas' practice. After all, to cultivate oneself without compassion is to follow the way of the devil. Attaining magical power without compassion is like adding a new arsenal to a ferocious creature. The resulting harm will be even greater. Examples of magic cultivation without compassion include Devadatta using magic to damage Buddhism, and the evil spirits using magic to harm innocent people. Therefore, before one starts to learn magic, one must observe the prerequisite of nurturing one's compassion. Without compassion, one should not learn magic.
B. Precepts
Magic based on the pure precepts means that practitioners must uphold these precepts. Following the precepts is one aspect of the threefold training of Buddhists. The body and mind should rest on the precepts. By accepting the precepts, we know right from wrong, what should be done and what should not be done. When we have the spirit of keeping the precepts, we will guard our actions with the precepts, we will not use magic to harm others, and we will only use magic as an expedient means to help accomplish beneficial deeds in keeping with the precepts. Therefore, when we learn magic, we must be strict in upholding the precepts. Otherwise, the resulting magic will become the destructive power of evil.
C. Patience
To have magic, one must also have the mental discipline of patience. If we do not have adequate virtue of patience, we lose control easily. When we are then empowered by magic, we may be prone to misuse magic for attacking those we dislike. By doing so, magic is nothing but another sharp weapon for suppressing others. We must learn to be patient and never use magic unless absolutely necessary. Even then, any show of magic is strictly a means for upholding righteous truth and benefiting more people.
D. The Ordinary
The Buddhist sutra states, "The ordinary is the Way." Buddhist teachings are for the purification of character and cultivation, not for the eccentric or unusual. When the mind is rested on the everyday commonness, it can last for all eternity. In contrast, magic is for the moment only. Magic cannot eliminate the binding hindrances from our fundamental defilements, nor can it lead us to ultimate liberation in life. Only through seeing the ultimate truth of teachings in our everyday lives and purifying ourselves to enjoy total liberation can we call that the true magic.
My maternal grandmother became a vegetarian and started diligent cultivation in Buddhism around age seventeen. She took care of me since my early childhood. She influenced me greatly and helped to plant the cause for me to become a monk later. I recall that as a young child I stayed with my grandmother all the time. I was always awakened by the incredible wave-crashing sounds from her stomach at night. As a curious child, I asked, "Grandma, why does your stomach make sounds?"
She replied confidently, "This is the result of cultivation."
After becoming a monk, I studied with many Buddhist masters. None of their stomachs ever made any sounds. Could these masters not be as spiritually cultivated as Grandma? Eventually as I grew up, I realized the answer. After seven or eight years, at age twenty, I returned home one summer to visit my grandmother. I saw her sitting alone under a tree. I sat next to her and asked, "Grandma! Can your stomach still make sounds?"
"Of course. How can I lose the result of my cultivation?" Grandmother replied with confidence.
I asked her pointedly, "What is the use a sound-making stomach? Can it eradicate defilement and sorrow, develop virtue and morality, and stop the rounds of rebirth?"
Grandmother was at a loss as to how to reply. Just then an airplane with a loud roaring engine flew overhead. Relentlessly, I asked further, "That airplane engine can make a much louder sound than your stomach. Tell me, how does a stomach making sound contribute to a person's life?"
After listening to my questions, grandmother was startled and confused. Silently she stood up and went inside the house. Now decades have passed. Whenever I recall grandmother's confused and disappointed expression, I feel deeply apologetic. Although her unusual skill could be considered magic, a temporary skill at best, it was nonetheless the fruit of decades of diligent cultivation. How could I have been so insensitive as to damage her confidence so? On the other hand, I believe that she would eventually appreciate my wholehearted intent on guiding her into the correct way of practice among the ordinary.
IV. The Buddhist Perspective on Magic and the Supernatural
Magic is hope in times of trouble; it is the savior during upheaval; it is an expedient means for preaching. Magic must be experienced in ordinary living. Finally, we are going to talk about the Buddhist perspective on magic and the supernatural. I will summarize it in four points as well.
A. Magic Is Not the Ultimate
According to scriptures, even though two thousand years have passed, several of the Buddha's disciples still live amongst us. Mahakyasyapa, one of the Buddha's top disciples, is guarding the Buddha's robe and in deep meditation inside Kukkutapada mountain. He is waiting for the birth of Maitreya Buddha fifty-six trillion and seven hundred million years from now. He will present the robe, which represents the correct Dharma of the previous Buddha, to Maitreya Buddha for the continuous spread of the teachings. Decades ago, there was a story about a French explorer who actually met Mahakasyapa in India.
Venerable Pindolabharadvaja is another of Buddha's disciples still living amongst us. He is one of the sixteen disciples named in The Amitabha Sutra. He has attained the holy fruit of Arhat. Why would an arhat remain here and not enter Nirvana? It is because once he showed off his magic in front of the faithful. Once when in a jubilant mood, he said to the faithful, "Do you think flying in the sky is magical? I will show you some spectacular acts."
He then jumped up into the sky and performed many miraculous acts. The faithful were all impressed and praised him without ceasing. The Buddha was very displeased upon learning of this incident. He asked the Venerable to come forth and admonished him, "My teaching uses morality to change others and compassion to save living beings. It does not use magic to impress and confuse people. You have misused magic today. As punishment, I order you to stay in this world, to work for more merits and to repent for this misbehavior before entering Nirvana."
Because the Venerable misused magic, he still has to live and suffer amongst us. Magic cannot increase our virtue or eradicate defilements. Careless use will only build more obstacles to emancipation. It is obvious that magic is not the solution for cycles of rebirth. Only practicing virtue is the sure and steady approach toward the Buddha Path.
B. Magic Cannot Mitigate the Force of Karma
The strongest force in this world is not magic. It is the force of deeds, or karma. In Chinese history, there once was an uprising and millions of people were slaughtered. There was a saying, "Rebel Huang will kill eight million. If you are in that number and it is your turn, you can never escape." The legend held that this rebel did kill eight million people before he was suppressed. Regardless of whether this story is factual or mythical, we will talk about the phrase "your number and your turn." What does it mean? It means that none can escape karma. Those citizens during that uprising shared common karma which had to be repaid with blood. Magic cannot overcome the hindrance of karma. We must reap what we have sown. There is no escape.
Once, King Virudhaka of Kosala was attacking the Buddha's motherland, Kapilavastu. Maudgalyayana, foremost in magic among the Buddha's disciples, volunteered to save the Sakya clan. The Buddha replied sadly, "Maudgalyayana, this is the Sakya clan's karma and they have not repented for it. Today they will have to pay for their deeds. Although they are my family, even my magic cannot spare them."
Maudgalyayana did not believe the Buddha's words. He flew into the city, which was completely surrounded by troops. He picked five hundred Sakya clansmen and magically put them in his almsbowl. He flew out of the city and happily came before the Buddha. He said, "Lord Buddha. Look! I have saved a group of your clansmen."
However, looking into the bowl, he was shocked. The clansmen had turned into a pool of blood. Even Maudgalyayana himself, who was renowned for his magic, could not overcome the force of karma. He could fly freely into the heaven and had ventured into hell to save his mother. Yet, he was eventually killed by a stone thrown by heretics. How can a venerable with such great magic be so easily killed by a stone? Many of the Buddha's disciples were perturbed and angry. The Buddha spoke to the disciples, "Magic cannot mitigate the force of karma. It is Maudgalyayana's karma to be killed by the stone thrown by heretics. You should not doubt the limit of magic. It is more important to diligently purify your action, speech, and thought."
There is a saying, "A boxer is killed by a fist. A swimmer drowns in water." Magic is not all powerful. One must not think that magic will make one fearless. The force of prior karma cannot be influenced by magic. If we only rely on magic, we can worsen our situation and may even lose our lives.
C. Magic Is Inferior to Virtues
Beginning students in Buddhism are most attracted to magic. When they learn about someone who has had a supernatural experience, they flock to see this person. They usually overlook the cultivation of virtue in daily living. Wisdom is only developed through deep mental concentration from meditation, and meditation success relies on upholding precepts in daily living. If all of us here are serious students of Buddhism, we must start from the foundation of morality, not magic.
Do you really think magic will make your life happier? As long as we cannot read minds, even though people may hate us and curse us, we do not know it and everything is okay. If we could read minds, then we would know that this person is totally immoral, that one is hateful, and the other one is full of devious ideas. We would feel uncomfortable among these people. Even when we wished to be spared, we would still have the information anyway. Every day would be a long day. Suppose that we were about to die tomorrow but we did not know that, then today still would be a joyful day. If we had the power of knowing the future and we found out that death awaited us in twenty years, from this day on we would live our lives anxiously under the shadow of death. If we had celestial vision and found our loved ones having an affair, we would be consumed by jealousy and life would be miserable. If we do not know, we may live happily as ever. If we had celestial hearing, we might find our most trusted friends reviling us behind our backs, and we would certainly be enraged. Without celestial hearing, we may enjoy more peace and quietness.
Magic would not necessarily make life better. Morality and virtue are the true inexhaustible treasures. Before we are accomplished in high virtue and morality, we should not have magical powers. A life of virtue is superior to that of magic.
D. Magic Cannot Surpass Emptiness
Magic is in the realm of phenomena. The prajna wisdom of Buddhism is in the realm of emptiness which is everywhere, not bounded by anything. When there is experience in life, experience is magic. When there is wisdom in life, wisdom is magic. When we have different capabilities in life, those capabilities are magic. There is the truth of emptiness in life; the truth of emptiness is also magic. The wisdom of emptiness is very profound. It is not void or annihilation as most people commonly believe. Emptiness allows existence. It is the source of all phenomena. For example, because of the empty space in this lecture hall, it can accommodate us and make this lecture series possible. When our hearts are as broad as the universe, we too can have the capacity for everything. Emptiness is the most powerful force. Magic cannot compare with its boundlessness and inexhaustibility.
Once, the Ch'an master Venerable Tao Shu settled next to a Taoist temple. The Taoist priests were very irate at his presence and used every kind of magic and tricks to scare him away. Almost all the residents were frightened away. However, the Ch'an master remained unmoving as ever. After twenty years, the Taoist priests gave up. People asked, "What magic did you use to beat those Taoist priests?"
The Ch'an master replied, "Oh, nothing. I used emptiness to beat them. Taoist priests have magic and tricks. 'Having' is being finite, being exhaustible, being bounded, being measurable. I do not have any magic. "Not having' means being infinite, being inexhaustible, being boundless, being immeasurable. Therefore, emptiness (not having) can overcome magic (having) by being broader, greater, higher, superior."
Buddhism uses emptiness as existence. It is much more powerful than magic. The wisdom of emptiness is much more advanced than magic. We will be much better off attaining the truth of emptiness than the power of magic. The truth of emptiness will be far more essential and valuable.
This concludes my lecture today. We are going to recite a scripture now. May the Triple Gem bless all of us. Until we meet again. Thanks to you all!


A Buddhist Approach to Management

Business Administration is one of the hot subjects in college curriculum all over the world nowadays. In this area, however, Buddhism has its own unique management theory and practice, which has evolved over a long period of time. As early as Sakyamuni Buddha's time, the Sangha community has had a well-developed administration system. Over time, the system endured numerous changes and evolved sophisticated methods of management and leadership. In the Avatamsaka Suttra, commenting on the "three refuges", Buddha said: "Taking refuge in the Sangha means one should make the Sanga a well-administered and harmonious community for all sentient beings." From this comment, it can be seen that Buddhist Sangha communities were organizations which excelled in managerial skills. Management: Buddha's Approach After the Buddha was enlightened, he taught the Dharma at Deer Park to his former attendants. The five bhiksus became the first Sangha group. In time the community grew into a congregation that included the seven groups of disciples, i.e., the bhiksus, the bhiksunis, the siksammanas, the sraamaneras, the sramanerikas, the upasakas, and the upasikas. Among them, about 1,250 monastics were usually at the Buddha's side. How did the Buddha manage such a huge group of people?
1. Equality under the Dharma:
The Buddha teaches that all sentient beings have Buddha nature and that all humans are inherently equal. In effect, his teaching dismantled the societal caste system prevalent in the India at that time. He states that all things arise from causes and conditions, not created by gods or God. True deliverance depends on the Four Noble Truths and The Three Dharma Seals. Buddha frequently made the following comments: "I myself am just a member of the Sangha" and "I do not govern, the Dharma governs." Buddha never considered himself "leader," rather he let the truth govern. The Sangha community was ruled by the members' respect for moral conduct. Upon admission, each member had to give up his/her previous social status, wealth, fame, and other privileges. All external classifications and differentiations were disregarded. Members differed only in stages of internal cultivation. The operation of the Sangha community was based on mutual respect and love, and sometimes on the order of seniority. Thus, the bhiksus, bhiksunis, and the others each had their own rules. When disputes arose, the "Seven Reconciliation Rules" made by the Buddha were followed to settle the conflict.
2. Decentralized leadership:
The Buddha, as the head of the Sangha community, led by his teaching and by establishing the precepts for the group. He selected knowledgeable and virtuous bhiksus and bhiksunis to be the "ins- tructing" monastics to teach the Dharma and precepts. Among them, he further selected the elders to counsel, to advise, and to monitor the progress of the monastics under their supervision.
3. Shared support and responsibility:
When the initial Sangha of the five bhiksus was formed immediately after the Buddha's enlightenment, the "Four Principles of Living" was laid down to guide them toward virtuous living: "Eat only food from alms, wear only cast-off clothing, abide only under trees, and take only discarded medicine." Further, the monastics were warned to shun eight evil possessions that were considered to be hindrances to their practice, i.e., houses and gardens, plants, grains and crops, servants and slaves, pets and animals, money and jewels, utensils and tools, and decorated beds. As the size of the Sangha community increased, and in response to the problem of the rainy season and constant requests from their benefactors, the rules were modified to allow receipt of donated clothes, food, houses, and gardens. But regardless of the summer retreat during the rainy season, and throughout ordinary daily life during the rest of the year, a communal form of living was maintained. The communal rule required that except for each monastic's own clothing and bowls, all other supplies, tools, bedding, houses, and gardens were public goods, not to be individually possessed. Repair and maintenance of equipment and tools were distributed among the members. In each of the Sangha residences, an elder was elected to lead the daily operation, teach the Dharma, maintain the code of conduct, and channel any speech and information delivered by the Buddha. Although the lifestyle changed somewhat over time, all Sangha communities still followed the basic principle of an alms system, as well as sharing support and responsibilities.
4. Mutual respect and harmony:
Guided by the Dharma, the Sangha community practices the "Six Points of Reverent Harmony" in communal living. They are: (1) doctrinal unity in views and explanations to ensure common views and understanding; (2) moral unity in observing the precepts to achieve equality for all under the rules, (3) economic unity in community of goods to effect fair distribution of economic interests, (4) mental unity in belief to provide mutual support in spiritual cultivation, (5) oral unity in speech to nurture com-passion and love, (6) bodily unity in behavior to assure nonviolence and harmonious living.
5. Communication and interaction:
Buddha periodically convened all members of the Sangha community on the eighth and fourteenth or fifteenth of each month to recite the precepts. Such gatherings provided an excellent opportunity for interaction among the members and a way of fostering shared values for productive and harmonious living.
6. Democratic governing:
The "Karma Assembly" system was the highest authority governing monastic life. The goal of the system was to promote a democratic way of life. The Karma Assembly Meetings were regularly convened on the fifteenth of each month. At these meetings, members of the Assembly reviewed any violations of the precepts that occurred during the month, determined the appropriate discipline for the offender, and decided how it would be carried out. There were two types of karma cases: (1) cases involving disputes and violations, and (2) cases not involving disputes and violations. The former dealt with disputes and disagreements among monastics or violations of precepts in which right or wrong had to be determined. The latter dealt with the appropriateness of the monastics' daily behavior and their proper guidance, or the admission of a new member into the Sangha community. The Karma Assembly provided a formal and rigorous mechanism to pro-mote fellowship, harmony, and mutual support of the Sangha community. It enabled the community to become an ideal moral society where the four all-embracing virtues of giving, affectionate speech, beneficial deeds, and teamwork were always practiced.
Management According To Buddhist Sutras In the twelve divisions of Buddhist Tripitaka, discussions related to management are everywhere. Examples from two familiar sutras are illustrated below:
1. Management Perspective from the Amitabha Sutra:
In the Amitabha Sutra, the Western Pureland of Ultimate Bliss built by the Amitabha Buddha is an exemplary model of management excellence. In the Western Pureland, there are seven levels of parapets and balustrades, seven layers of curtains and networks of precious stones, seven rows of spices trees, seven-storied pavilions decorated with seven jewels, and eight lakes filled with pure water. The air vibrates with celestial harmonies. The streets are paved with gold, silver, lapis lazuli, and crystal. The trees and flowers exude delicate fragrance and spices. All these numerous decorations and adornments make it the most beautiful land. In this wonderful land, there are no traffic accidents; all traffic moves smoothly. There are no quarrels or bickering; everyone is well behaved. There is no private ownership; there is no need, given the perfect economic system. There are no crimes or victims; everyone is absolutely safe and tries to live in peace and help each other.
The Amitabha Buddha is not only an expert in ecological management, but also an expert in human resource management. He guides the spiritual development of sentient beings, teaching them to re-cite his name with mindfulness. Everyone in this pureland is guaranteed to never recede from his/her practice. In this land of ultimate bliss, everyone is respectful, compassionate, peaceful, and joyful.
2. Management Perspective from the Lotus Sutra (Avalokitesvara's Universal Gate Chapter):
Avalokitesvara is a remarkable expert in management. He/she manages people by relieving their suffering, bestowing upon them virtues and wisdom, and satisfying all of their needs. He/she transforms himself/herself into thirty-two different identities to facilitate his/her edification of people. The Chapter of Universal Gate mentions that "Depending on what identity is most conducive to the deliverance of a sentient being, Avalokitesvara will transform himself/herself into that image to elucidate the Dharma." With his/her great compassion, he/she relieves people from suffering and brings them joy. A modern manager has to be equipped with Avalokitesvara's power of accommodating people's needs. He or she has to establish effective measures to solve problems in modern organizations. One can learn an enormous amount from Avalokitesvara dedication to "responding to whoever is desperate and wherever there's danger" and "forever delivering sentient beings from the sea of suffering."
Management in the Chinese Monastery In Chinese, the phrase "Groves of Trees" refers to a monastery where monastics live. It has the con-notation of a place where weeds do not grow and the trees are upright due to the presence of specific rules and measures. Buddhism strongly emphasizes a congenial relationship between an individual and the group. Thus, communal rules such as the "Six Points of Reverent Harmony" and the "Rules of Ethics", instituted by Chan Master Bai Zhang, existed. The management of a Chinese monastery relies on principles such as self-commitment, self-monitoring, and self-discipline. The goal is to create a congruous Sangha community so that the Dharma can dwell in this world permanently. The Chinese monastery thus placed its management emphasis on shared responsibility and a harmonious group relationship. The system can be summarized in the following four characteristics:
1. Governing by Virtue:
In the monastery, all property is publicly owned. There are rules to host visiting monastics from the ten directions. In a public monastery that is open to all, the abbot is chosen externally from renowned elders of the ten directions. In a private monastery that is not open to the public, the abbot is selected from internal elders who have distinguished themselves in virtue and knowledge.
2. Equality in Labor:
Chinese Chan monasteries rely heavily on collective farming. The principle of equal labor is strictly followed. Everyone, regardless of rank or seniority, has to participate in fieldwork. The Chan Master Bai Zhang set a perfect example when he insisted: "If I did not work today, I will not eat today."
3. Shared Responsibility:
Led by the abbot, a monastery usually divides the responsibilities and tasks among members. Everyone has his/her own duties, with each supporting the other. The personnel assignments are categorized into a dichotomy of "administrator" versus "manual or operational", internal service versus external ser-vice. The leader's sole goal is to serve the Sanga community by maintaining the harmonious order of the monastery. The Chan Monastery Rules of Proper Conduct says, "The monastery exists for its members. To edify members, the elder is elected. To mentor members, the upper-seat is designated. To uphold members, a director is chosen. The job of a kamadana is to maintain accord among members by distributing duties fairly. The job of a cook is to take care of member's food. A general affair administrative is installed to plan the operation for all members. A treasurer is assigned to handle financial matters. A clerk writes and maintains the records for members. A librarian keeps the Tripitaka safe for members. The receptionist welcomes guests of the members. An attendant is a messenger for members. A security guard watches clothes and bowls for members. A medicine specialist prepares medicine for members. A bathing-room host provides bathing services to members. The wood-collector is to wood up before the approach of winter. The fire-tender is to make sure adequate wood and charcoal for the burners, before meditation and breakfast. Alms-beggar gathers offerings from the street for members. The foremen of gardens, mills, and farms produce food for members. Maintenance workers clean the facilities for members. Housekeepers serve members." Well-defined job positions and a complete division of labor are important factors driving the success and growth of an organization.
4. Code of Communal Living:
In addition to the Buddhist precepts, Chinese Monasteries have developed a set of rules governing the daily operation of monastery life. For example, Master Dao An during the Eastern Jin Dynasty established the following three sets of rules for his followers: (1) The rules for walking meditation, sitting meditation, sutra recital, and Dharma talks, (2) The rules for practice, dining, and daily routines, and (3) The rules for task assignment, renewal of vows, and repentance. The Rules of Ethics enacted by Chan Mater Bai Zhang during the Tang Dynasty and other rules such as those in the Chan Monastery Rules of Proper Conduct are documented evidence of monastic discipline. These well-defined codes of conduct were instrumental in the development of the Sangha organizations.
Management: Fo Guang Shan's Approach
Several times, I was asked the following questions: "Fo Guang Shan has hundreds of temples and affiliated organizations all over the world. How do you lead and manage an organization of this size?" My response is always the same: "Of course, there are many ways to do it." The followings are four fundamental principles:
1. No fixed association between disciples and masters:
None of the Fo Guang Shan disciples are permanently affixed to any individual master. All the disciples belong to the whole Buddhist order. They are only differentiated by the time of entry into the Order, such as 1st generation, 2nd generation, 3rd generation and so forth. Because the disciples do not follow a certain master, there is no rivalry or competition between them.
2. No private ownership of money or funds:
No one in Fo Guang Shan is allowed to own property or accumulate savings. All the money goes to the Order. Although the members do not possess money, it does not mean that funds are not available for their support. The Order usually takes care of their food, clothes, travel, medicine, study abroad experiences, and visitations, including gifts for their parents on their home visit after shaving their head (to formally become monastic practitioners). At Fo Guang Shan, all the money belongs to the Order, not individuals, but every one enjoys comfortable sup-port under an excellent cooperative system.
3. Mandatory rotation of jobs and positions:
Following the principle that "fresh water comes only from flowing water; a rolling stone gathers no moss," Fo Gunag Shan rotates its members' jobs and positions. No one "owns" any branch temple, worship place, or affiliated enterprise. This year, one may be the abbot/abbess of a particular temple. Next year, he/she may be reassigned to another temple. There are many benefits from job rotation. Among them are opportunities for learning and growth, for interaction and networking, and for gaining additional experience.
4. Promotion and performance evaluation sys-tem:
A member of the Fo Guang Shan Order starts with the title of "Purifier," progressing through "Bachelor," "Practitioner," to "Instructor." Advancement depends solely on each individual's effort and performance in scholarship, Dharma practice, and service to the organization. Because of this orderly system, Fo Guang Shan has enjoyed a smooth and successful growth over the years.
In addition, members of the Order are trained and assigned to positions after their career orientations are evaluated and assessed. For example, members are classified into the following talents:
1.) Abbot/Director: requires the intent of the Order, loyalty, vow, and commitment. Such a person should be able to deal with both superior and subordinate in a knowledgeable, virtuous, confidence, and presentable manner. He or she should master sutra recital, ceremonial rites, and elucidation of the Dharma.
2.) Public Relations: such a person should be poised and calm with a pleasant appearance. He or she should be familiar with social customs and etiquette. The person should be sociable, empathetic, active, and positive. He or she should also understand the mission and vision of the Order very well.
3.) Educator/Literati: a person appreciates humanity and is not aggressive in pursue fame or wealth. The person should be logical, philosophical, and persuasive. He or she should think critically, understanding the educational mission and style of the abbot and the need of students, and should not be involved in conflicts of interest and or political debates. He or she should be skilled in literature review, research and analysis, and teaching and advising, and should seek to be published in professional journals.
4.) Planner: the person should be insightful, innovative, familiar with data analysis, and be able to keep confidentiality and remain in the background. He or she should know how to integrate Buddhism into ordinary knowledge and be adept in written communication and in providing staff support.
5.) Other talents such as legal expert, accounting expert, and administrative expert.
Shared vision and values are of utmost importance for an organization. The formation of shared vision and values requires a great deal of communication and coordination within the organization. Productive meetings are essential to establish a convergence of ideas and opinions. For this reason, Fo Guang Shan takes meetings very seriously. It frequently holds meetings to shape consensus and a shared vision.
Human resource management is another challenging aspect in management science. Traditionally, it receives great attention in Buddhism. I like to offer some principles regarding Humanistic Buddhism and its application to human resource management:
1.) Consider the strategic implication of the organization as a whole.
2.) Divide responsibilities with well-defined job descriptions.
3.) Know the importance of coordination.
4.) Plan the details with best intentions.
5.) Execute with full effort and determination.
6.) Report frequently and timely to inform one's supervisors.
7.) Take responsibilities and be accountable for them.
8.) Evaluate performance and follow up.
In addition, it is essential that between the superior and the subordinate there should be honest communication, mutual respect, active participation, self-motivation and evaluation with sincerity, frank-ness, and frequent consultation and coordination.
I also believe that a modern manager or leader should conduct himself/herself in the following manner:
1.) Keep smiles on the face, praises on the mouth, questions in the heart, and anger inside the stomach.
2.) Avoid hasty and harsh reactions, choose words carefully: criticism accomplishes nothing, doubt leads to disloyalty.
3.) Treat others leniently, monitor self-strictly; give credit to others, take responsibility when something is wrong.
4.) Put aside any personal gain or loss and go forward; do not be frustrated or obstinate.
5.) Understand the big picture, make peace with everyone; let communication flow freely up and down, strive for agreement.
6.) Serve others, keep your own word; look forward and plan, understand self and others.
7.) Adjust and adapt, be considerate of others; take advantage of any opportunity, make the most out of your life.
8.) Be humorous, listen attentively; study carefully, pay respect to other's opinions with a kind salutation.
A leader also needs to know how to develop, cultivate, and nurture a competent staff. He or she should be able to recruit, train, and empower talented employees. A common mistake committed by a superior is criticizing a subordinate without offering any guidance. In addition, a leader or senior executive should frequently conduct self-assessment and ask subordinates for input in decision making. "Harmony between the general and his staff" is a stabilizing force for an organization.
What kind of administrative system should be adopted by modern monasteries? My answers are: "The traditional monastery system should be integrated with modern society." "The temple should be self-sufficient economically and self-supporting financially." "Operation of enterprises compatible with Buddhism should be permitted." "The administrative core of a temple should interact closely with the surrounding community." "Effective management of human resources requires division of labor in a cooperative environment." Furthermore, "The management should try to reach ten directions and encompass past, present, and future in the decision horizon." "Give people faith, joy, hope, and skillful means." "A manager should compromise sometimes in order to make progress, and accomplish goals even with very little support." "Gain nothing but re-main joyful, put yourself into others' shoes." "Rank the Abbot's and the enterprise's priority first, your own priority second." "Consider others first, self second; Buddhism first, self second." "Respect others with sincerity, relate others with humility; live modestly but give generously; labor willingly to make others happy." "Encourage frequently, donate generously, and speak affectionately". All the above are necessary concepts and philosophies a modern manager must have to run a smooth and successful organization. How to master Buddhist Management? I believe that before one can lead, one should be led first.
The administrative system of Buddhist monasteries has evolved over a long period of time, with some unique variations exhibited in different time periods. The Sangha system originally established by the Buddha followed the principle of "respecting the elders while empowering the multitude." It gave authority to the "Karma Assembly," which has a role similar to a parliament in a democratic society. The Chinese monastery administrative system emphasizes personnel management and division of labor to maximize the productivity of human resources. Both represent excellent models of management practice. In our search for a new management science, we should enhance both systems by adapting them to the needs of our modern society.
Modern management focuses on organizational interaction and coordination. Strong group dynamics synchronize the steps of upper management and operational employees, ensuring the formation of consensus and shared values necessary to achieve the organizational mission and goals. Buddhism has emphasized group dynamics, as evidenced in the creation of The Six Points of Reverent Harmony, the Code of Communal Living, and the Bai Zhang Rules of Proper Conduct. Buddhist management relies on principles such as self-discipline, self-motivation, self-monitoring, and repentance. The management philosophy of the Fo Guang Shan Order is to give people faith, joy, hope, and skillful means.


A Discussion on Ghosts

Dear Venerables and Dharma Friends:
Tonight I am going to talk about ghosts.You must all think it is strange that in this scientifically enlightened century anyone would want to talk about ghosts. In the past, even sages avoided the subject of the supernatural if they could. Confucius never spoke about ghosts. Yet, here we are on such a dark night getting ready to discuss ghosts. That seems a little strange, does it not? At the mere mention of ghosts, frightful images instantly arise in our minds of their pale faces, their wild hair and their sharp fangs. The truth is, however, ghosts generally are not very frightening. In fact, many of them are quite cute. Ghosts are like different types of animals: some of them are as frightening as lions and tigers, while others are as cute as bunny rabbits and as gentle as little kittens.
Buddhism does not teach us to worship ghosts, but Buddhism does recognize that ghosts exist. The realm of ghosts is one of the six realms of existence among sentient beings. (The six realms are: hell, ghosts, animals, humans, heaven, asuras.)
Many people do not believe in ghosts. Some people even purposely deny the existence of ghosts. They would often say smugly, "Humbug! I do not believe in ghosts." However, just because some people deny their existence, does that mean that ghosts really do not exist? People all over the world believe in ghosts. There are stories about ghosts even in the most scientifically advanced countries. The ghost of Abraham Lincoln is said to appear sometimes in the White House. A tourist pamphlet has been published which describes the twenty-nine well-known haunted houses in the United States.
Here in Taiwan, I personally have visited two houses where ghosts are known to appear. One is a house in Chiayi. It is a beautiful modern home with a large garden, but no one dares to live there because of the ghosts. In Taipei, I visited another ghost house on Jenai Road, right near a police station. The door of the house is bolted shut and no one has lived there for years. People say ghosts often appear in the house.
We do not have to deny the existence of ghosts regardless of whether they actually exist or not. We already know there are many different kinds of creatures living along side us. Birds, fish, insects and animals of all sorts add to the beauty and variety of life here. If there are also ghosts among us, would the world not be that much more interesting? Is it not narrow-minded and arrogant of human beings to deny the existence of life forms different from themselves? People are active in the day and in the early evening. Ghosts are active only late at night. They do not interfere with us and we do not interfere with them. Is that not a convenient arrangement?
In the Twenty-five Historical Tales there is a story about a scholar named Ch'ien-li Yuan. Even though Ch'ien-li Yuan had read many books and written many poems, he still did not believe in ghosts. Late one night, a very refined and scholarly gentleman visited Yuan Ch'ien-li. The visitor was a stranger, but he spoke very well and the two men soon fell to talking about all sorts of things. Eventually, their conversation turned to the subject of ghosts. Ch'ien-li Yuan was forceful in his denial of the existence of ghosts. He said, "Humbug! I do not believe in ghosts. How can someone like you be as superstitious as fishmongers and country folks?"
Tactfully, his guest gave repeated examples to persuade Yuan that ghosts did exist, but Yuan continued to deny even the possibility of their existence. "Until I actually see one with my own eyes, I will never believe in ghosts," he said.
At this, his guest's demeanor changed dramatically. "Sages and scholars throughout the ages have believed in ghosts, but you maintain they do not exist. Well, watch this... because I am a ghost."
Suddenly the guest's face began to change into a hideous ghost face with wild hair and blazing eyes. Yuan was so frightened that he lost all color in his face and became ill. Within a year he was dead.
I do not know whether any of you believe this story or not. You can test yourselves. If a lone scholar in a white robe visits you in the middle of the night, will you dare to talk to him? What if a shy young woman with a pale face comes to your door at midnight, will you let her in?
Many people have the mistaken belief that after death, everyone turns into a ghost. Dead bodies frighten many people because they believe the ghost of the body will attach itself to them if they draw too near. When parents pass away, many Chinese have memorial services for the ghosts of the deceased. They think their deceased parents and grandparents are ghosts wandering in hell, and if they do not appease them with ceremonies and gifts, they are not fulfilling their duties as filial sons and daughters. However, is this really a respectful attitude when you think about it? Why do people not believe their ancestors may be reborn in heaven or the Pure Land instead?
Though Buddhism recognizes the existence of ghosts, Buddhism does not teach us that everyone turns into a ghost at death, nor does everyone go to hell. After death, some people may go to heaven and still others are quickly reborn as human beings. A person has to generate a lot of bad karma in this life to become a ghost after death. Therefore, how can we assume that all our deceased ancestors have become ghosts? Furthermore, the real ghosts do not always have the power to harm us, and they are not nearly as scary or as evil as is commonly believed. Let us discuss what ghosts are like.
I. The Good and Bad Ghosts and the Law of Causation
In this world, there are good people and bad people. In the world of ghosts, it is the same. There are good ghosts and bad ghosts. Even though there are bad people in this world, good people outnumber them by quite a lot. It is the same with ghosts. There are some very evil ghosts, but most ghosts are good ghosts. People, sometimes, are much worse than ghosts. Human beings sometimes will do things no ghost would ever consider doing.
In Nanyang there once was a man named Ting-po Sung. One night Sung was hurrying home when suddenly he saw a ghost. Sung acted as bravely as he could and asked, "Who are you and why are you walking so strangely?"
"I am a ghost, that is why. Now, who are you?" the figure answered.
Sung was frightened to hear the ghost's reply, and he was even more afraid to admit that he was a human being. Might not the ghost harm him if he admitted that? In a moment's inspiration, Sung decided to do what human beings do best-lie. "Oh! I am a ghost, too," he said.
"You are a ghost, too, are you? Well, where are you going?"
"I am on my way to the city," Sung replied.
"Great," the ghost said, obviously pleased to hear that. "I am on my way to the city, too. Let us walk together."
Sung had no choice but to accept the invitation. With great trepidation he fell in behind the ghost to walk to the city. After a while, when they both began to show signs of fatigue, the ghost turned and made a suggestion. "The city is still far away," he said. "Walking like this is tiring. Let us take turns carrying each other instead. That way we can still make good progress and one of us will be able to rest. What do you think about this?"
"This is a good idea," Sung said.
"Okay, I will carry you first." With that, the ghost hoisted Sung onto his back. "Wow! Are you ever heavy! How did you get so heavy?" the ghost asked.
Ghosts have no definite form and no weight. They are a kind of spirit or a kind of energy (ch'i). They can pass through walls and become invisible at will. So, to a ghost, a human being is very gross and heavy.
As soon as Sung heard the ghost's question, he made up another lie. "I am so heavy," he said, "because I died just recently."
The ghost believed Sung and they continued to travel along with the ghost carrying Sung.
After a while, they came to a river. The ghost stopped and said, "We better swim across here." With that he dove into the water and, with the grace of a cloud flying through the air, swam to the other side. When the ghost got to his feet and turned around, he saw Sung still struggling in the middle of the river, splashing the water and panting very loudly. Gradually, Sung got closer. When he reached the bank, the ghost hurried over to ask him, "Why do you make so much noise when you swim? You will scare everybody around here!"
Sung could see that the ghost was getting suspicious of him so he used his best trick and repeated his lie from before. "I just died, so I really have not learned to swim yet," he said.
The two started for town again. As they walked, Sung thought to himself, "This is a bad night for me. Here I am walking along with a ghost. I have to think of some way to get away from him!" In an innocent manner, Sung asked the ghost, "Friend, I just died, and I am not all that clear about the world of ghosts. You have much more experience than I do. Tell me, what is the most frightening thing for us ghosts? What do we most need to watch out for?"
"Human saliva," the ghost replied. "If a human being ever spits on a ghost, that ghost has had it. There is nothing he can do to save himself."
The ghost was candid with his reply. Above them the sky was slowly starting to take on a shade of silvery gray. Dawn was approaching. The two were now close to the city.
Sung waited for a chance when the ghost was not looking, and spit a large gob of spittle on the ghost's back. Immediately, the ghost began to twist and turn. Then he fell to the ground, writhing in agony before he completely disappeared. In his place stood a small mountain goat. Sung took the goat into town and sold him for a good price.
This little story displays well the cruelty and deceitfulness of human beings. Sometimes ghosts are willing to help us, but we repay them by striking them with such cruel force. It really is true that sometimes people are much worse than ghosts.
Evil ghosts capable of harming human beings do exist, but if we are moral and kind throughout our lives, they can do us no harm. There is a Chinese saying which applies well here, "If we do no evil in the day, we need not worry about evil ghosts knocking on our doors at night." The ghosts outside of us are not nearly as frightening as the ghosts inside of us.
Once there was an old monk who was just sitting down to meditate when a ghost with unkempt hair and wild eyes appeared before him, trying to disturb his peace of mind. The old monk looked at him and said, "Oh my, what is this? What a mess! Look at that hair, and those eyes! You are really in no shape to be visiting people!"
When the ghost saw that he had failed to frighten the monk and was being admonished instead, he wrenched up his face, bared his sharp teeth and stuck his long tongue far outside his mouth.
The monk only said in reply, "What is so great about that? Your face is the same as mine; it is only a little paler and your teeth are sharper and your tongue is longer. That is all."
When the ghost saw that once again he had failed to scare the old monk, he changed his appearance again. He made his eyes and his nose disappear. Then he made his hands and feet disappear. However, the monk stayed the same, behaving as if nothing special were happening.
"My, you are pitiful!" he said. "You have no eyes, nose, hands or feet. I really feel quite sorry for you!"
With this response, the ghost at last gave up trying to scare the monk and disappeared. When the old monk saw the frightful appearance of the ghost, all he felt was compassion for him for having accumulated such bad karma to be turned into a ghost. Mercy has no enemies. In the face of compassion, all perverse and evil forces melt into nothingness.
We all know that people fear ghosts, but, actually, ghosts fear people much more than we do them. When ghosts see people, they run away as far as they can. They behave the same way wild animals do when they see people: they go and hide. Ghosts never come out in the day; they always wait until nighttime. The reason is that they fear people so much they come out only when the fewest people are around. If you understand this, then the next time one of you sees a ghost, you need not panic. Ghosts exist in a different realm from us and their karma has nothing to do with ours.
The Records of Hell contains a story about a man named Te-ju Yuan who got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. In the bathroom, Yuan suddenly saw a giant ghost standing quietly in front of him. The ghost had enormous eyes and a black face. He was wearing a long white robe. The two looked steadily at each other for a while. Then, Yuan broke into a laugh and said, "People have always told me that ghosts have ugly faces. Now I can see for myself that they are right!"
When he heard Yuan say this, the ghost felt so embarrassed his ears and face turned red and he had to leave. Sometimes a ghost's sense of shame can be even more developed than a human being's. If we are clear in our minds about what constitutes good and bad, and if we always try to behave in the right way, no ghost will ever dare interfere in our lives.
There are reasons why ghosts exist. There are certain kinds of karma which cause people to become ghosts. The Buddhist Karmic Rewards Sutra gives ten reasons in all:
The body has committed evil. One has killed, or stolen, or indulged in other evil behavior.
2) The mouth has committed evil. One has repeatedly lied, slandered, or spoken with great harshness. One has indulged in idle, thoughtless talk.
3) The mind has committed evil. One's thoughts have been full of greed, hatred, ignorance or other defilements.
4) Greed. One has been greedy and grasping and not understanding of the value of giving.
5) Covetousness. One has been envious and wanted things that do not belong to oneself.
6) Fawning and jealousy. One has often been jealous of other people and thus created evil thoughts.
7) Perverse ideas. One has denied the value of morality and the difference between good and bad.
8) Attachment and not letting go. One feels strong attachment and clinging in one's mind and cannot joyfully let go.
9) Dying of starvation. People who starve to death become hungry ghosts.
10) Dying of thirst. People who die of thirst become ghosts.
One of the Buddha's greatest disciples, Mahamaudgalyayana, often traveled to hell to ask the ghosts there about their conditions and about the causes which had sent them to hell. In the Mahamaudgalyayana Sutra there is a fascinating record of one of Mahamaudgalyayana's conversation with the ghosts in hell. From their exchange, one can glean how the law of cause and effect works. At one point a ghost asked Mahamaudgalyayana, "Venerable One, here I have fallen into the ghost realm and I suffer all kinds of pain and punishment. Why does my head always hurt so much? It feels like it is about to split open!"
Mahamaudgalyayana answered him, "When you were a human being you often hit other people on their heads. For this reason you not only have become a ghost, but you also have to endure those terrible headaches."
Then another ghost begged him, "Venerable One, here I am a ghost and my life is miserable! I have to sleep out on the street because I have no home to protect me from the wind and rain. Why do I have to suffer like this day after day?"
Mahamaudgalyayana answered, "In your last human life you were very wealthy and you had a beautiful home, but you never helped others. Instead, you only made it difficult for anyone in need of shelter. Therefore, you ended up suffering, sleeping outdoors in the cold and rain now."
Then another ghost asked, "Venerable One, now that I am a ghost I still have lots of money. Yet, it is strange because I never spend any of it. I just walk around in old patched clothes all the time. Why is that?"
Mahamaudgalyayana answered him, "When you were a human being, you were often generous with others but after giving something away, you always had second thoughts for having been kind. Your generosity in that life is the cause for your having wealth now, but your wavering has made you live like a poor person."
As all the ghosts crowded around Maha-maudgalyayana to learn more from him, a sallow, emaciated ghost standing alone at the edge of the group slowly intoned in a long quavering voice, "Venerable One, here I am a ghost, but I can eat nothing! Why is that? I am so hungry that I feel dizzy all the time! Why is that?"
Mahamaudgalyayana answered, "When you were a human being you worked in the kitchen of a temple, and in that position you often stole money which had been donated for food. If a devotee gave you twenty coins, you would keep ten for yourself and use only ten to buy food for the kitchen. The result of those actions is that now you have to go hungry yourself."
"Venerable One," another ghost complained in desperation. "Now that I am a ghost, I suffer so much pain. My body hurts all the time as if it were being poked with needles and slashed with knife blades. I feel as if I am being burned in a fire. Why do I have to suffer so much?"
"When you were a human being you often caught fish and hunted animals. You killed so many creatures that you have to suffer their pains now," Mahamaudgalyayana said, answering him with great compassion.
When the ghosts at last began to fall silent and reflect on Mahamaudgalyayana's words, one of them in a halting and uncertain tone asked, "Venerable One, why have I become a ghost who is so slow at thinking? I am so stupid compared to these other ghosts who all possess quick minds. Why is that?"
"Because when you were a human being you loved to indulge yourself in alcohol. On social occasions you often encouraged people to drink alcohol and to indulge in meat, so now you are a little slow in your thinking and not as nimble as the other ghosts."
Mahamaudgalyayana patiently stayed with the ghosts until all of their questions had been answered, and then he left. From these questions and answers recorded in Buddhist sutras, we can get a pretty good idea of why some people become ghosts and what kinds of punishments fit what kinds of transgressions. Chefs and homemakers be warned! Do not take money intended for food and keep it for yourselves, or you too might become a hungry ghost one day! If you are in business, be careful what you do! Do not think you can get away with skimming a little extra for yourself or with cheating your customers. For those who slaughter for the sake of satisfying their tastes and those who indulge in intoxicating drinks, be forewarned. Do not let a moment of self-gratification cause you endless suffering and regrets.
II. Different Kinds of Ghosts and Their Appearances
How many kinds of ghosts are there and what do they look like? The Abhidharma-nyayanusara says there are three kinds of ghosts.
A. Wealthy Ghosts
Wealthy ghosts are something like wealthy human beings. They enjoy a lot of offerings and they are never in want for food or clothing. Examples of such ghosts include those honored in an ancestral shrine or those revered for their great powers and blessings.
B. Not-So-Wealthy Ghosts
These ghosts are like most people in the world. Although they receive some offerings, they are less well-off as wealthy ghosts.
C. Poor Ghosts
These ghosts are much like homeless human beggars. They have no place to live. Sometimes they eat and sometimes they do not. Their livelihood depends largely on handouts from others. For the most part, these poor ghosts wander around alone in very remote parts of the world. Only when there is a special offering made for them in the temple can they get something to eat.
The Abhidharmamahavibhasa-sastra says that there are two kinds of ghosts.
A. Ghosts with Dignity and Prominence
These ghosts are strong and tall. They wear ornate headpieces, flower garlands, and beautiful clothing. They eat delicacies and ride in carriages pulled by horses or elephants. They have servants who care for them wherever they go and they live lives full of pleasure and amusement. They are much like royal people in the human realm. The Chinese folk god, Cheng Huang Lao Ye, is this kind of ghost.
B. Ghosts Lacking in Dignity and Prominence
These ghosts have messy hair that flies all over and covers their faces. Their clothing is ragged, at best, and often they are forced to go completely naked. Their faces are pale and ugly. They carry old broken, begging bowls. They are very similar to downtrodden beggars in the human realm.
Ghosts can also be divided into the general categories of large and small ghosts. Large ghosts are about one yojana tall, based on the Indian measurement units. One yojana is approximately seven miles. Imagine that! They are huge creatures. In Chinese, they are sometimes called "big-headed" ghosts because their heads are as big as mountains. However, their long throats are as narrow as needles and, for the most part, they are unable to eat anything. For this reason, they are very weak and they have to use canes whenever they want to walk somewhere. Their hair is long and messy and dirty. In contrast, small ghosts are very tiny. They are about as big as newborn babies.
There also are beautiful ghosts and ugly ones. Beautiful ghosts are so beautiful they look like heavenly beings and are not in the least bit frightening. Ugly ghosts are remarkable especially for their runny noses and the sores all over their bodies, which constantly bleed and emit noxious pus. There are noble wealthy ghosts and lowly impoverished ones also. Noble ghosts, like the Ghost King of Great Strength, are venerated by people. Lowly ghosts are orphaned ones who wander from place to place.
Whether ghosts are wealthy or poor, beautiful or ugly, with or without dignity and prominence, large or small, they all are representative of human beings in some way, and they do not all live in hell. Have you not also seen signs of them in this world?
Zen Master Ju Man once had a friend named Wang. When Wang died, Master Ju Man held a special Dharma service chanting sutras to help him in the next rebirth. A year or so after Wang's death, Master Ju Man set out for Yangchou in Chiangsu Province. While he was on the road, Master Ju Man suddenly saw his old friend Wang standing in front of him. Master Ju Man was astonished at the sight of him and asked, "Did you not die already? How is possible that you are here now walking around?"
Wang quickly interrupted the Master. "Hush, do not talk so loudly. Come with me into the mountains and we will discuss everything in detail."
When the two at last got to a remote mountain gorge, Wang said, "Master Ju Man, let me tell you now. I am not a human being. I am a ghost. When I was a human, I never did anything bad and I often tried to help other people. In addition to that, there were all those sutras you chanted for me after I died. Now King Yama of Hell has appointed me to be an investigator for him in the human realm."
"Amazing! So, what do you do as a ghost investigator?"
"It is my job to make a detailed record of human acts of corruption, murder, theft, depravity and cruelty. I record everything I see and report all of it to King Yama. He keeps these records and makes sure that all transgressions are repaid in kind. People who murder will experience being murdered themselves. People who steal will someday have things stolen from them, and so on."
After Wang finished speaking, he reached into his clothing and pulled out a red flower to give to Master Ju Man as a token of payment for the kindness Master Ju Man had shown him when he was still a human being. When Master Ju Man saw the flower, he tried to refuse it. "I am just a monk," he said. "What do I need this flower for?"
"This flower is not like other flowers," Wang said. "If you carry it in your hand, it will allow you to tell if someone is a human being or a ghost."
"How will carrying a flower in my hand help me do that?" Master Ju Man asked.
"If you have this flower in your hand as you walk down the street, a righteous person will never look at it. Ghosts, however, will stare at the flower with great intensity. If an individual stares at the flower and then makes gestures to attract attention, then you will know that this individual is a show-off ghost. If a ghost looks at the flower and then looks at you, you will know that he is a lustful ghost. If the ghost looks at the flower and then looks at himself, then you will know that he is a greedy ghost. If a ghost looks at the flower and then starts rubbing his hands together, you will know that he is a cheating ghost."
After Master Ju Man and Wang had parted company, Master Ju Man walked into town carrying the red flower in his hand. The first person who came toward him sauntered along contentedly, never once glancing at the flower. "Good, that must be a righteous human being," Master Ju Man thought to himself.
He walked a little farther and saw a very fashionable woman dressed in beautiful clothes. She stared directly at the flower, and patted her cheek.
"Oh no, that must be a show-off ghost," Master Ju Man thought.
After a while, a man, also dressed very well, walked toward Master Ju Man. He stared at the flower, turned his eyes to Master Ju Man, and said disappointedly, "This is only an old monk."
"Oh no, he is a lustful ghost!" the Master muttered to himself, somewhat displeased.
Master Ju Man kept walking and before long another person approached him. This one stared at the flower and then at himself. "Oh no," Master Ju Man thought. "He is a greedy ghost!"
Master Ju Man turned and started down another street. Far down the street someone started staring at the flower and rubbing his hands together. "Oh no, now I have run into a cheating ghost. This flower is really powerful. Look what it is showing me!"
Master Ju Man walked some more and thought about what he had just seen. Before long, he found himself at the gate of his temple. Thinking it would be inappropriate to bring the red flower into the temple, Master Ju Man threw it on the ground behind him and started to enter the temple gate. In seconds, he heard a lot of noise and arguing going on behind him. He turned and saw that all the ghosts he had just seen in town had been following him. Now they were fighting over the flower he had thrown on the ground. At last, one of the ghosts prevailed in the fight and held the flower in his hand. As the other ghosts stopped to look at it, Master Ju Man saw that the beautiful red flower had turned into a mere bone from some dead body.
In this world, sometimes we try so hard to attain wealth, fame or power, but in the end what do we really get? Is it not just like that story? In the end, we are left holding nothing but a pile of old bones and a handful of dirt.
There is an old Buddhist saying, "Today I know nothing of tomorrow: Why should I waste my time on disputes and discords?" Therefore, we should not fight over the flowers of superficial glory and vanity in life. Rather, we should honestly and diligently work toward meaningful goals in life.
III. Where Do Ghosts Live and What Are Their Pleasures and Pains
Human beings live on the earth in the human realm. Where do ghosts live? In human life there is pleasure and pain. What gives ghosts pleasure and pain?
The Abhidharmamahavibhasa-sastra says that wealthy ghosts live in mountain valleys and gorges, on the coasts of the world's oceans, in the air, in forests or in temples where people worship them. They are like people who live in penthouses in cities or in luxurious resorts in the picturesque countryside. Poor ghosts live in remote areas near graveyards, or in piles of grass and wood, or in latrines, or in deserted areas. Poor ghosts do not have homes for themselves, but usually wander around like human beggars, completely exposed to the natural elements of wind and rain. They are mired in anguish.
Some ghosts suffer a great deal and some of them actually have quite a lot of fun. Suffering ghosts experience terrible hunger and unbearable thirst. They never have anything to eat and even if they see a river, they cannot drink from it. If ever they do lift water from a river to drink, it will instantly turn into flames in their throats. Even the most delicious food offerings are useless in relieving their perpetual hunger. If you want to help these beings, you may offer them a simple meal of fruits and vegetables in a Buddhist ceremony. Through the merits and blessings of the Buddhist sutras and mantras, the burning fire in their throats may cease, thereby allowing them to eat. Definitely do not offer them sacrifices, otherwise, you will only increase their evil karma and suffering.
The Ksitigarbha Sutra says that, of the merits in chanting sutras and making offerings for the ghosts, six out of seven parts will benefit human beings while only one in seven parts will benefit the deceased. From this we can see how important it is to use our time here while we are healthy to do as much good as we can. If we wait until we are dead and our bodies are stretched out and stiff, then it will be too late to do anything for ourselves, and other people will not be able to do us much good either.
Happy ghosts live pleasant lives full of good food and beautiful clothes. They have vehicles to take them wherever they want to go and they generally pass their time pleasantly. Happy ghosts have it pretty easy because when they were alive, they were generous towards others. They became ghosts, though, because they often regretted their generosity or felt stingy in their hearts. Even though the life of a happy ghost is more pleasant than the life of a human being, it is still much better to be a human being. These ghosts are very timid and only dare to come out late at night. They are afraid of light and never appear in the day. If they happen to come across a human being, they run and hide in dark places because they are afraid to touch people. Once we understand how afraid of us ghosts are, we will not feel the need to fear them so much.
Sometimes human beings unintentionally disturb ghosts. In Taiwan, there is a folk custom of "marrying" a dead daughter (so she will have a place on someone's ancestral shrine). There is a story about a couple who tried very hard to find someone to "marry" their daughter who had died before she was married in life. The daughter had not married in life because she did not want to, and their forcing her to do so after death only angered her and caused her more misery.
"Father, Mother," she said. "when I was alive you tried to force me to marry to carry on the family and now that I am dead and have become a ghost, you still want to force your will on me!"
Since the ghost thought this young man was good-for-nothing in wishing to "marry" a ghost, she intentionally caused her "husband" a lot of trouble. On the "wedding night," she came and hit her "husband" on the head, boxed his ears and struck him in the face. She continued to push and hit him all night long. The "bridegroom" never once caught sight of his "bride," but when the morning came, his face was swollen from being punched so often. The next day he took her name away from his family shrine and returned it to her parents.
Why do people do such ignorant things? How strange that a man would consider sleeping with a ghost and putting her name in his family shrine. What good could that ever bring? In Taiwan, some people also have the custom of burning paper representations of automobiles, houses, American dollars, television sets, refrigerators and other things so that these items will go to the ghost realm where their departed loved ones can enjoy them. (The smoke is thought to carry them to the ghost realm.)
The truth is, ghosts have five types of magical powers, and they can move around by just thinking of where they want to go. They do not need cars. If they did use cars, it would take them longer than if they had gone by their own powers. If everybody burned a paper car for their loved ones, pretty soon hell would be overloaded with automobiles. There would be traffic accidents and no one would ever get anywhere. In this human realm, home appliances are either 110 volts or 220 volts. If they do not have the right outlets in hell, our appliances will be useless there. American dollars are used almost all over the world, but do you think they will be accepted in hell, too?
Ghosts have their own ways of living and we do not need to be too concerned with them. A loved one who has passed away may have gone to heaven or been reborn as a human being. You can not be sure they have become ghosts and that their lives are full of sorrow and need. If we are going to honor our ancestors, we do not need to burn paper money for them because we will only end up with a heap of useless ash. It would be much better for everyone to donate money in the names of our ancestors. We can build schools, establish scholarship funds and do other good things in their names. In this way our ancestors can make a useful contribution to the human realm.
In Chinese literature, there is a wonderful and vivid story about ghosts. Once there was a ghost who had just left his human body. As a new ghost, he discovered that he was so inexperienced he could not find anything to eat. He was getting really hungry when he met an old ghost. The old ghost said to him, "Young fellow, why are you so skinny and why is your face so pale and gaunt?"
"I have been a ghost for quite a few days now," the new ghost replied, "but I have not yet succeeded in finding anything to eat. That is why I look so bad. My friend, you have been a ghost for a much longer time than I have. Please tell me how to get some food!"
"That is so easy," the old ghost said. "What I usually do is to play some ghost tricks and do something supernatural. That is what gets me fed!"
"So that is how you do it," the new ghost said. "Now I understand."
The new ghost was delighted with his new understanding and immediately ran to the east side of town. He entered a poor person's house where someone was grinding flour. As soon as he had the chance, the ghost stepped up to the grinding wheel and started to move it himself. When the person in the house saw that the wheel was moving all by itself, he called out in surprise, "Wow! The wheel is moving all by itself and no one is pushing it! There must be a ghost here! It must be our compassionate Buddha who sent him here to help us because we are so poor and have to work hard all the time!"
The new ghost kept pushing the grinding wheel all night long. He was made very tired by the work and his eyes began to glaze over, but when dawn came he still had not gotten anything to eat. He ran straight back to the old ghost.
"Hey, you! You told me to play some ghost tricks to make my life better," he complained angrily. "I followed your advise completely. I worked all night, yet I did not get one thing to eat!"
"Oh, you fool," the old ghost said. "The home you went to believes in Buddhism. Buddhists are not afraid of ghosts. Why should they give you anything to eat?"
"So that is how it is. I see. I will try another place tonight," the new ghost said. That night he slipped through the shadows and went to a different house on the west side of town where some people were pounding rice. He picked up the pounding stick and began pounding the rice for them. When the people saw what was happening, they were very surprised.
"Amazing! Look at that! Last night the Buddha sent a ghost to someone's home to help him grind flour, and tonight Lao Tzu has sent a ghost to help us pound rice."
The new ghost worked as hard as he could until the sky began to lighten and he heard roosters crowing. His back and arms were terribly sore and he felt tired all through his body, but still he had not been given a single thing to eat. He raced back to the old ghost, more than a little bit angry this time.
"Now, try to explain this to me. Why did they not give me anything to eat? I do not understand!"
"My young friend, those people were Taoists. Not only do they not fear ghosts, sometimes they even try to catch them!"
"Then what should I do? Do I have to go hungry day in and day out? I can hardly bear it!"
"Here is what you do," the old ghost said. "Find a house without any Buddhist statues or signs of Taoist gods. In that place, anything will be possible."
The new ghost looked all over the town until at last he found a house which had no gods and no images of the Buddha in it. Inside there was a room full of people enjoying a feast of fish, meat, vegetables and wine. When the new ghost saw their sumptuous meal, he was so tempted that he began to drool. He had to promptly think of what to do to get them to feed him. He saw a skinny little dog crouched by one of the legs of the table. The dog was wagging its tail in the hope that someone would throw him a bone. The ghost grabbed the dog and started to race around the room so it looked to the people as if the dog were flying.
"Look at that!" someone exclaimed. "How can that be? How can the dog be flying around like that? Did someone cast a spell on him?"
The whole room fell into a commotion as the dog flew around and around. Somebody suggested that they call on Jesus to help them. Another person said, "No, Jesus can help people change, but he cannot do anything when it comes to ghosts."
Someone else said, "Let us read Confucius's words out loud. Maybe he can help us!"
Another person answered, "No! Have you forgotten that Confucius refused to talk about ghosts? He told us to keep away from them! He will not be able to help us, either!"
Things went on like this with people arguing back and forth for quite some time. At last they decided to call on a spirit medium to exercise his magical power.
"This ghost is bewitched. Let us kill the dog and prepare for him a table of food complete with three types of meat and wine. That will appease him!"
The people quickly did as instructed and prepared a bounteous feast for the ghost, who enjoyed every last bite of it. "That was great!" he said when he was finished. "That was really good!" The food was so good, in fact, the new ghost never wanted to leave that house again. Every night after that he performed some new trick to get the people to make him more food. So, this is truly the way to "invite a ghost into your house."
In life, we have to be careful to always treat others with kindness and to keep ourselves well within the limits of good behavior. Definitely do not ever invite a ghost into your home. Sometimes people fall in bad company, with robbers or murderers. If you ask that kind of person to help you even once, you will have a world of trouble on your hands. You may even lose your life for it. In Taiwan, there are some really foolish customs wherein people worship ghosts, rocks, trees, and practically everything. If you follow these customs and invite all these spirits and ghosts into your home and honor them as special guests, you will be inviting disasters onto yourself. We should be careful to give our respect only to people who deserve it, to people who are honorable in their own lives. To ensure our well-being and safety, we should keep our distance from people who worship spirits and practice magic.
IV. The World of Ghosts and the Human Life
In this universe, there are respective worlds for the ten Dharma Realms (Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Pratyekabuddhas, Sravakas, and the six realms mentioned earlier). There are the Buddhas' worlds such as the world of the Eastern Pure Land of Azure Radiance and that of the Western Pure Land of Bliss. Heavenly beings have their worlds subdivided into three realms and twenty-eight heavens. We human beings have our world with the three oceans and five continents. Among human beings there are different races with different body types. Some of us are rich and some poor, some are smart and some are a little slow. Animals, too, have their worlds; some of them fly in the air, others walk on the ground and still others swim in the ocean. In the same way, the ghosts in hell have many different ways of being. Ghosts live in a world something like the one people live in. They have families, and they have to work to maintain themselves. Some of them are rich while others are poor. Their world, too, has disputes and grievances. Ghosts have many different sorts of characters; some of them are violent and cruel, but some of them are kind and good.
Ghosts and human beings actually live very close to one another. Not all ghosts live in hell. They are right here with us, to the left and right of us. You do not have to travel to hell to find ghosts because ghosts are all over the place, right here in our world. What kinds of ghosts live in our world? Look around you. Everywhere you can see people who abuse drugs, who waste themselves away in sexual indulgence, who harm others, who commit violent acts, who rob and steal and murder. Are these people not worse than ghosts? Are we not all tempted at times to be like ghosts ourselves, to withhold help when it is needed, to turn away when we see something wrong, to be suspicious, to speak badly about our friends, to be gluttonous and mean spirited when we know full well what the right thing to do is? It really is true that "human ghosts" can be much worse than the ghosts in hell.
When we think of ghosts, we usually only think of asking a monk to come to our homes and bless them, but we often do not think of blessing the "ghosts" of our world. When ghosts are blessed and delivered from suffering, we can all enjoy peace in our minds and in our dwellings. Likewise, when "human ghosts" are delivered, morality would be elevated and our society can become peaceful. How should we proceed to deliver those "human ghosts"? The Buddhist methods include taking refuge in the Triple Gem, upholding the Five Precepts, practicing the Six Paramitas (perfections), and performing the Ten Virtues. Truly taking refuge in the Triple Gem can bring deliverance as follows: taking refuge in the Buddha means never falling into the hell realm; taking refuge in the Dharma means never falling into the animal realm; taking refuge in the Sangha means never falling into the hungry ghost realm. If all of us would uphold the Five Precepts of Buddhism-no killing, no stealing, no sexual indulgence, no harsh words and no drugs or alcohol-we would all be much farther from evil. We would no longer be planting new seeds of evil that one day might cause us to be reborn in the realm of hell or to become evil ghosts.
In this modern world, evil is present all around us. If for any reason any of you ever becomes tainted by any of that evil, please come quickly to Buddhism to purify yourself. If all of us would devote ourselves to promoting social values, to supporting education, to helping others and to raising the level of society's kindness, then all "human ghosts" would soon be freed from their sufferings.
Thank everyone of you for coming tonight. I hope that by our efforts, society can be purged of ghosts and that every person will become a moral and upright human being. Instead of thinking about ghosts, people should think about the Buddha. Instead of acting like ghosts, people should discover the Buddha nature inside them. Then this human realm will become like the Pure Land and none of us will have to worry about hell anymore.


A Discussion on Perception and Understanding

Dear Venerables and Dharma Friends,
Today is the third and last day of this lecture series on Buddhism. The topic we are going to cover today is "A Discussion on Perception and Understanding."
We all have different ways of looking at things, from the way we look at chiliocosms to the way we look at life and the universe. As our vantage points are different, our perspectives also vary. Unfortunately, not all of our perspectives are true and correct. Because our original pure nature has been clouded repeatedly by worldly dusts, we can no longer perceive the world with clarity, and biased understanding inevitably results. How do we foster the right perception and understanding so that we can see life as it is? This is the important question that we are going to address today.
Twenty five hundred years ago, the Buddha achieved enlightenment on a "diamond throne" under a bodhi tree. The Buddha was awakened to the truth of the universe and human existence. After his enlightenment, his first thought was to share the truth with all beings, yet the truth the Buddha awakened to is so different from the erroneous, but accepted, norm of most people. For instance, while most people regard the five desires (wealth, beauty, fame, food, and sleep) as pleasures, the Buddha considers them the root of suffering. Whereas the Buddha sees the Buddha nature as the true reality of existence, most of us find that illusive and unreal. Even though we sentient beings rise and fall aimlessly in the sea of suffering as we course through the wheel of rebirth, we continue to refuse the compassionate deliverance the Buddha extends to us. When the enlightened Buddha thought about how difficult it would be for sentient beings to accept the truth he had realized, he contemplated the idea of entering the peaceful state of nirvana right then. Upon the pleas of heavenly devas and because of his compassion for the virtuous few, the Buddha decided to remain in this world and teach us the Dharma. We, however, have such a stubborn attachment to erroneous viewpoints that even the Buddha finds it difficult to change our minds.
There are times we run into friends who have different perspectives from us, and senseless arguments ensue. For example, some people comment to us monastics, "Oh! How regrettable that you chose to renounce the world!" Renunciation is the path to pursuing the truth of life and the universe. It is something to be celebrated. How can there be any regrets? Thus, when we look at the world, we should not just look at it from our own point of view; we should try to be in others' shoes. In this way, we can then maintain our objectivity.
Too many people approach religion with little faith and reverence. To them, religion is a means to pray for wealth and avoid misfortune; to them, religion is a tool for getting fame and fortune. Little do they realize that the true meaning of religion is in giving. Once, some devotees complained to me, "Venerable Master, I don't want to recite the name of the Buddha anymore."
"Why not?" I questioned, "you have been faithfully chanting the name of the Buddha for over twenty years. Why stop now?"
The devotee replied indignantly, "I thought that chanting the name of the Buddha would bring me good luck in business. Recently, I invested in a business with my friends, but my friends embezzled my money. The Buddha and Bodhisattvas have not protected me one bit. Why should I continue to chant the Buddha's name?"
Upon his reply, I suddenly realized that he viewed the Buddha as a deity of wealth, and paying respect to the Buddha as an insurance policy for his finances. How can such a greedy attitude be in tune with the great compassion of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas?
Other devotees complain to me, "Venerable Master! I don't want to be a vegetarian any longer. Although I have been a vegetarian for decades, I still have poor health and am in constant need of medical attention."
When the motive of becoming a vegetarian starts not out of the basis of compassion but as a means for good health and longevity, the attitude is flawed and the practice may not last. Good health comes from disciplined living, good diet, and regular exercise. Practicing vegetarianism with the Buddha's compassion of not wanting to consume the flesh and meat of other sentient beings will help with our mental health, which, over time, can improve our physical health as well. These are the causes that will lead to good health. Health has its associated causes. Religious practices also have their own set of causes and effects too. We should not confuse one with the other. Likewise, when we look at the world, the right view can help us avoid the traps of folly. What do the Buddhist teachings tell us about perception and understanding? I will cover this in the following four sections.

I. Erroneous Views
A person who lacks the right view is like a ship without a rudder, drifting aimlessly in the vast ocean with potentially disastrous results. Erroneous views can cause us to get trapped in delusions with very little chance of pulling ourselves out of the quagmire. It is of utmost importance that we maintain the right view. First, let us understand what constitutes erroneous views. According to Buddhist sutras, there are five types of erroneous views.

A. Erroneous views of the physical body
Although the body exists as a result of the four great elements (earth, water, five, and wind) and five aggregates (form, feeling, perception, mental formation, and consciousness), many people consider it real and permanent. They become attached to it and do not know how to let go of it. They do not see that the physical body is not unlike a house-even the best-built house will eventually fall apart and its tenant will have to move out. Those who hold erroneous views regarding the body consider the body real and are relentless in their pursuit of sensory pleasures. Little do they know of other dimensions beyond that of the physical body.

B. Biased Views
Biased views are one-sided and only look at one aspect of a phenomenon. For example, some people have an "eternalistic view" and believe that the world is forever here and unchanging. Others have a "nihilistic view" and believe that nothing matters after life ends. Those with a "limited view" believe that the world is bounded, while those with an "unbounded view" believe that the world has no fixed boundary. Those who hold the "identical view" believe that the body and mind are one, while those who hold the "dissimilar view" believe that the body and mind are different. Those who have the "existent view" believe that the Buddha still exists after nirvana, while those who have the "non-existent view" believe that the Buddha ceases to exist after nirvana. These views are one-sided, impartial, and incomplete; they are called "biased views."
Nihilists believe that death is final and that a person's deeds, whether good or bad, carry no consequence. In the context of such a nihilistic view, morality and ethics have very little value and are relegated behind the pursuit of enjoyment. The eternalists, on the other hand, believe in the permanent existence of human life and that humans will always be humans. They do not know that the circumstances of our rebirth are based on our karma. These biased views, regardless if they are eternalistic, nihilistic, limited, unbounded, identical or dissimilar, deviate from the Middle Way and are erroneous.

C. Corrupt Views
Corrupt views refer to those understandings that are unethical and unwholesome. Examples include disregarding one's parents, not believing in cause and effect, and being disrespectful of the Triple Gem. Corrupt views can dull our wisdom. Some people have a twisted understanding of the Law of Cause and Effect. Because the Law of Cause and Effect tells us that "the planting of melons yields melons, and the sowing of peas begets peas," some people extend the argument that if one were to swat a mosquito or a fly, then one will be reborn as a mosquito or fly; worse yet, they figure if they were to take the life of a man, they will be reborn as a man. This type of warped logic totally misrepresents the truth of cause and effect. Going back to the previous example, the act of killing sows the seed of being killed. This is what is meant by the Law of Cause and Effect, and the truth of "you reap what you sow" will never change. Misrepresentation of the truth is like taking pictures without focusing first; the pictures will come out blurred and fuzzy.
Too many people today look at religion as a stepping stone to fortune and fame. They figure that by worshipping their gods, they will have success, wealth, and position. They do not know that wealth has its respective cause and effect, and religious cultivation has its respective cause and effect. If we do not have a clear understanding of what causes will yield what effects, we will no doubt make a fool of ourselves.
There once was an ambitious young man whose goal in life was to be successful and wealthy. He heard that a nearby temple honored a very powerful deity who could answer his wish for wealth. One day early in the morning, he rode his motorcycle to the temple to make an offering and to make his wish known to the temple god. After he was finished with his business there, he got on his bike and began speeding down the highway. He was enjoying himself when, unfortunately, he smashed onto a guard railing and was killed instantly. When his father heard the tragic news, he was very upset. He rushed over to the temple, and with his finger pointing, he began to curse at the statue of the temple god, "My son has been faithfully making offerings to you. Not only have you not brought him great fortune, you failed to protect him and now he is dead. You are not a responsive god. Today, I am going to tear down your temple brick by brick."
Steaming, he rolled up his sleeves and was about to strike. The caretaker of the temple saw that things did not look good. He rushed up to reason with the father, "Sir! Please don't get upset. Yes, your son often came to pay his respects to the temple god. The temple god was moved, and he really wanted to save your son. Unfortunately, the Wild Wolf 125 motorcycle on which your son zoomed off was just too fast for the temple god's white horse. It is most tragic that your son was killed in the collision."
Because of his speeding, the young man reaped the effect of a traffic accident. We cannot shirk our responsibilities and blame the conse-quences on the gods. It is not uncommon to find such unreasonable people in society. They do not understand the meaning of cause-and-effect and blame others for their mistakes. This is ignorance and is an example of a corrupt view.

D. Egotistical Views
When one has an egotistical view, one is self-centered. To them, their way of thinking is the ultimate truth, and what everyone else says is wrong. They are stubborn and cannot tolerate anyone who disagrees with them.
Even when they know they are in the wrong, some people try to cover up their mistakes and insist on themselves being right. This egotistical attitude of passing off falsehood as truth, corruption as righteousness, and depravity as virtue is erroneous and extremely dangerous.

E. Erroneous Views of Precepts
When one has an erroneous view of precepts, it means that one clings to precepts that are inconsistent with the Dharma in the hope of gaining worldly blessings. These people are usually arrogant and self-righteous. They see themselves as a superior breed and often act differently to set themselves apart. They mislead the public, who unfortunately may fall victim to their acts and blindly worship them. There are some people who claim to be holy men because they can survive on fruit and water alone. If we reflect deeper, what is so pious about surviving on water and fruit? Fishes live in and feed on water the whole day; should we also worship them? Monkeys live in trees and survive on fruit; are they sages too? Whether a person is cultivated or not does not depend on superficial and contrived actions, but on the real reflection of the heart.
Sometime ago, the newspaper reported a woman who was in seclusion for one hundred days without food and water. The news that she came out of seclusion looking strong and robust caught the attention of the media, and some people began to worship her as a living goddess. Upon further examination, this story was full of holes. Even plants need sun and water; can a person survive without food and water? It runs totally against the laws of nature. Such behavior of holding onto erroneous precepts for publicity is called the erroneous view of precepts.
Not only do erroneous views cloud our wisdom, they can also cost us our lives and trap us in the sea of suffering. We cannot underscore the importance of this enough. How can we avoid erroneous views and cultivate the right view and understanding? This is a very important first step in our Buddhist practice. But before we answer this question, we will first briefly cover what worldly perspectives are.

II. Worldly Views
There are as many ways of looking at the world as there are creatures under the sun. Nevertheless, these myriad ways of looking at the world can be grouped into the following major categories.

A. The World Finds Pleasure in the Five Desires and the Six Dusts
Most people find happiness in materialistic pleasure of the senses and tirelessly chase after various pleasures of sight and sound. This type of pleasure, however, is not ultimate; the inner peace of the heart and mind is true happiness. There are many millionaires who have beautiful wives, great mansions, and fancy cars, but they do not know how to experience the real meaning of life within their hearts. They may possess the world, but they remain as impoverished individuals. In the world, there are many such poor, rich men.
According to the teachings in the sutras, the pleasure of the five desires (wealth, beauty, fame, food, and sleep) and the six dusts (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and idea) are unfulfilled and impure. This form of pleasure is unfulfilled because it is incomplete and flawed. It is impure because it is self-centered in nature and can give rise to distress and pain. Those who indulge in food and sexual satisfaction without self-control are not unlike moths that get themselves killed flying into lamps. They trap themselves in the depths of despair without knowing it. Worldly pleasure is like a honey-dipped sword: it may taste sweet, but it can also cause considerable pain. We should use wisdom to see through the illusive nature of material pleasures. Furthermore, we should pursue the ultimate and pure delight of the Dharma.

B. The World Finds Fulfillment in [Individual] Accomplishments and Merits
While some people are not drawn to material pleasures, they are attracted to fame and glory. Their goal in life is to leave their mark on history. There is no question that we should all strive for success and accomplishment, but we should not just stop at achievements of this world. We should not lose sight that the maintaining of a healthy mind and body, the uplifting of human character, and the understanding of the ultimate reality are much more worthwhile goals.
Many times I have heard of people saying this: Since the purpose of religion is to teach us to do good, I really have no need for religion as long as my values are sound. Actually, this is a very foolish idea. Being ethical is the basic require-ment of human beings; the completeness of human life requires more conditions and elements than just morality. Religion is not just about the attaining of individual liberation through doing good and abstaining from evil. Religion also tells us how to help others, as well as ourselves, embark on the path to happiness and bliss. This is the meaning and value of religion. Once we have the basic requirement of being an ethical individual, we should develop the religious spirit of dedicating ourselves to help all sentient beings to be free from suffering. Why do we limit ourselves to individual accomplishments? If our accomplishments are driven by the desire for individual satisfaction, then even though we make a name for ourselves in history, our accomp-lishments will not amount to anything great. We should develop our Bodhicitta and dedicate ourselves to the welfare of all beings. Then the meaning of life will attain its fullest value.

C. The World Finds Longevity in a One-Hundred-Year Lifespan
Most of us want a long life; we may wish to live to be one hundred. Medical advances have made it possible to extend the human lifespan. We have offspring to carry on the family name, which is another attempt of us to extend life. How many years does longevity entail? When someone lives to one hundred, we throw a big birthday bash and everyone celebrates. Is a span of one hundred years really that long? For someone whose desire is insatiable, one hundred years may be way too short.
A devotee once asked a Ch'an master to make a prayer for his longevity. The master asked, "How many more years do you wish to live?"
The devotee replied, "I am now sixty. I will have no regrets if I can live for another twenty years. It is such a blessing to live to eighty."
"You only want twenty more years! It will go by in no time. You can ask for more years."
The bewildered devotee asked, "Oh, I can ask for more? In that case, make it forty more years. I will live to the incredible age of one hundred!"
"Forty years, or even one hundred years, will disappear like a flash of lightning. It is all over in the blink of the eye. You should ask for much, much more."
The devotee was stupefied. Slowly, he asked, "In your opinion, should I ask for a few thousand, or maybe ten thousand years?"
"No, you should ask for an immeasurable lifespan."
Even a lifespan as long as the legendary Peng Tzwu, who lived to be eight hundred years old, is very short when compared to that of the universe. We should seek for a boundless and immeasurable life-an eternally birthless and deathless true life-and not limit ourselves to a fleeting lifespan of a few decades or a century. In reality, would life truly be wonderful if we were to live to one hundred? We can imagine for ourselves what it would be like. The children and grandchildren of a centurion are probably aged seniors in their eighties and sixties. We may even have to bear the sorrow of sending off our children and grandchildren to their graves. What happiness can we speak of then? From another perspective, longevity is the cause for more pain and sadness. With our vision failing and our health giving way in our old age, days will drag out like years if we are not grounded mentally. The value of life is not in how long we live, but how we live our lives. If we can live life to its fullest meaning, then even an instant of living is eternity.

D. The World Finds Truth in Superstitious Practices
Some people consider religion a form of superstition; what they do not realize is that it is our daily living that is full of superstitious practices. We often celebrate weddings or birthdays with a feast, slaughtering many animals just to satisfy our appetite. In the course of celebrating life, we end up taking the lives of many animals. Similarly, in the course of marking the union of two people, we end up tearing the families of many animals apart. Such acts are totally inconsistent with the theme of the celebration and run contrary to the spirit of compassion. According to Chinese custom, some people settle their arguments by going to the temple and making an oath with the decapitation of a chicken. The commitment of an oath should come from within and be reflected in our actions. How can the decapitation of a chicken bind us to our promises? Moreover, life is precious. What right do we have to take the life of another being just for our convenience. If one has to show conviction with a chicken head, I truly wonder about his or her integrity.
Some people have a dependency on their gods in the way they conduct their lives. When they face a difficult decision, they ask their gods for guidance. When they become sick, they try to heal themselves with incense ashes. When they fall into hard times, they burn paper money in the hope that their troubles will go away. Their fervency in religious practice is to be applauded, but their way of going about it blindly and indiscriminately is questionable. We should know that our faith in a religion should start from reverence and the willingness of giving and making sacrifices. Giving is not just limited to material giving. If our circumstances enable us to give, we should use our energy and resources in the area of religious cultivation and for the benefit of the community. It is only by doing good and accumulating merits that we can ensure a bountiful result in our cultivation.
The above worldly views and perception may appear to be correct, but they do not hold up to further examination. Somehow, the pervasiveness of a practice lends it credibility, and our herd mentality often drives us to follow the crowd, be it right or wrong. Actually, the reason we all buy into these worldly views is because of our unclear minds-a direct result of our ignorance clouding our pure nature. If we polish and clean our minds diligently, one day our minds will shine and we will become enlightened. Everything will become perfectly clear. In this state, we walk in the company with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and live in the total delight of freeness.

III. Levels of Perception and Understanding
The phenomena of our world vary greatly; similarly, there are many levels of perception and understanding. For example, grade school students look at the world with innocence. High school students' outlooks are youthful and romantic. The perspectives of university students are broad and deep. Levels of perception and understanding also vary with age, experience, and character.
What then are the different levels of perception and understanding? I will first use the way we address Buddhists as an illustration of the different levels of perception and understanding. I begin every speech addressing all the Buddhists in the audience as "Dharma Friends." What does the term Dharma Friends really mean? Have we Buddhists really met the criteria of this term? The term Dharma Friends means that we are friends and guardians of the Dharma and the Buddhist religion. When we do not have a correct under-standing of the term Dharma Friends, we will inevitably make many mistakes in the way we try to put it into practice.
What does the term Dharma Friends entail? Let me illustrate this with the many levels of practicing religion. There are some people who, while they are religious, fail to discern a religion from a cult. They idolize and blindly worship strange and supernatural phenomena just because these phenomena are unusual. Then, there are some people who, while they belong to an orthodox religion, practice their faith for worldly gains and blessings. They pray to their god or gods for wealth and longevity. They do not realize that the true meaning of religious faith is in giving and helping. Then there are some people who, while they are able to take the first steps of practicing the Dharma, may become attached to one master just because the master is friendly to them. What they do not realize is what the sutras have instructed us, "Follow the Dharma, not the [Dharma] teacher." To follow the Dharma is to practice the Dharma that was realized by the Buddha and is currently preached by the Sangha. The Dharma is an unchanging truth of the universe; these teachings are timeless and are as relevant today as when they were first taught by the Buddha. Only when we use the Dharma as our guide can our mind be sanctified and life become sublime. In contrast, people may change-people come and go, and people are subject to the limitation of the human body of old age, sickness, and death. Thus, building our faith on a person [alone] is like counting on the morning dew that quickly disappears under the sun; it is unreliable and will not withstand the test of time. Thus, it is just not enough for us Buddhists to support Dharma teachers; we should also support and protect the Dharma.
Even though we may have admiration and respect for a certain Dharma teacher, we should take a step further and support all the virtuous men and women who study, follow and preach the Buddhist teachings. We should extend our love to all beings. It is said in sutras that Buddhism is found within the community. The Buddha also told his disciples, "I, too, am a member of the community." A person who serves the community has Buddha in his heart and extends the life of wisdom of the Buddha. The one who supports the community and who is earnest about the delivering of all beings is indeed a true Dharma Friend, a true guardian of Buddhism.
Some Buddhists have special admiration for one master; others have special temples to which they give their fullest support. While we remain committed to [a certain] teacher and temple, we should also pay our reverence to accomplished teachers, lend our support to temples which preach the Dharma and serve the public, and give our help to monasteries that practice the Mahayana spirit of universal salvation. We Bud-dhists should expand our support for a teacher to the community, our support for a temple to the religion, our support for Theravada to Mahayana. These are the stages of religious faith to which all Buddhists should aspire.
Just as there are many levels of being guardians and friends of the Dharma, there are also many reasons that a person wants to learn about Buddhism, resulting in corresponding levels of Buddhist practice. Some beginners just wish for an improved fortune or for a bountiful and harmonious family, so they work diligently to be generous and charitable. Their rewards, however, are limited to worldly blessings in the human realm. In their cases, the foundation to practice the religion is shaky and many worldly things still have a hold on them. The progress is slow and will not come easily. This is the first level of Buddhist practice. Some people realize the super-ficial and illusive nature of worldly pleasures. They choose to renounce the household life, seek the joy of the ultimate truth, and live the full meaning of life. This is the second level of Buddhist practice. There is no question that renunciation is uplifting for one's own life and character, but one should also be concerned with the happiness and relief of suffering of all beings beyond self-liberation. Thus, in addition to renouncing the household life, one should also pledge the Mahayana bodhi spirit of propagating the Buddhist teachings and delivering all sentient beings. This is the highest form of Buddhist practice.
In Buddhism, there are five stages of cultivation, which are commonly referred to as "The Ways of the Five Vehicles." According to the order described in The Ways of the Five Vehicles, we should first learn to uphold the Five Precepts of the "human vehicle," from which we move on to the Ten Virtuous Practices of the "celestial vehicle." When we have internalized these practices, we then learn and practice the Four Noble Truths of the "sravaka vehicle" and the Twelve Links of Conditioned Genesis of the "pratyeka-buddha vehicle." Finally, we should cultivate the Six Paramitas of the "Bodhisattva vehicle," fulfilling ourselves while fulfilling the lives of others. Although sravakas and pratyeka-buddhas are enlightened beings and their culti-vation transcends the ordinary, they are most keen on self, instead of universal, salvation. It is only when we have the compassion as described in this saying "We wish for the liberation of all beings from pain, but will not seek comfort just for ourselves," when we can work for the benefit of all beings in the Bodhisattva spirit, when we can help others in a transcendental, yet worldly, way that we have reached the highest form of Buddhist realization.
As we described above, the five stages of cultivation are the vehicles of human, celestial, sravaka, pratyeka-buddha, and Bodhisattva. The Bodhisattva vehicle can be further divided into forty-one, or [according to another classification] fifty-two, stages. Just as there are stages of cultivation, the perception and understanding of the ultimate reality of each of these five vehicles is also different. The Diamond Sutra, the Heart Sutra, and the Maha Prajna Paramita Sastra also tell us that because our spiritual maturation and store of merits are different, the realization of prajna (wisdom) and sunyata (emptiness) is different at each of these stages. In the case of humans [and celestial beings], prajna is the cultivation of the correct perception and understanding. From the stages of human [and celestial being] to the stages of sravaka and pratyeka-buddha, the understanding of the truth of conditioned genesis is prajna. When one's horizon is expanded and when one has the welfare of all sentient beings in one's heart, one ventures into the realm of the Mahayana Bodhisattva. One will then see the fundamental law of the universe-the truth of emptiness. This is prajna for the stage of Bodhisattva, which Bodhisattvas apply in limitless ways to help others. The stage of Buddha is reached when we can see the reality of our pure original nature, the Buddha nature. This is the highest and most wondrous form of prajna.
There are many stages of realization, ranging from the right view, the law of conditioned genesis, the truth of sunyata, to the ultimate realization of prajna. These stages are sometimes classified as the wisdom of action, the wisdom of insight, the wisdom of equality, and the wisdom of the wondrous mirror. Regardless which classification we use, the most important aspect to remember is that the distinction of these stages is based on the way we practice in our hearts and minds, and we should not dwell upon the artificial classification we impose on them. How can we heighten the value of existence? How can we be in the Buddha's realm of great kindness and compassion? How can we venture into the Bodhisattva's sea of prajna? These are the most urgent and pressing questions that we cannot afford to delay.

IV. Perception and Understanding in Buddhism
What does Buddhism have to say regarding perception and understanding? The Buddha teaches us the right view and understanding. These are the keys in our search for the ultimate truth. Some Buddhists, when faced with problems, obstacles, or misfortune, give up their practice and lose their faith in Buddhism. They even criticize the religion and complain that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas fail to bless him. Such an attitude stems from the lack of the right perception and understanding. To have the right view and understanding is to have faith in our beliefs and not be swayed during tough times. When tested, the right view will help us to remain strong, to maintain our ground, to stand up for the benefit of the community, and to fearlessly spread the words of the truth without any reservation. The right view is to understand that in the world there is goodness and evil, that there are causes and effects, past lives and future lives, and worldly and transcendental beings. When we understand these truths, we will then know the importance of being mindful of our deeds, words, and thoughts. We know that if we are not to fall into the three suffering realms, we have to do good and refrain from evil.
Additionally, the Buddha also teaches us the Fourfold Mindfulness, the Four Rules to Observe, the Three Dharma Seals, and the Eightfold Noble Path. These practices all constitute the right view, and they are all well presented in Buddhist sutras. I will just give a brief summary in the course below.

A. The Fourfold Mindfulness
The Fourfold Mindfulness is also called The Four Areas of Mindfulness, areas where we should always anchor our mind. We should be mindful that "the body is impure," "sensations will always result in suffering," "the mind is impermanent," and "all dharmas are without a nature of their own." From suffering, sunyata, and selflessness, the Fourfold Mindfulness helps us see the truth of life and the universe.
With many of us, we usually perceive that the body is real, so we spend a lot of time and energy to nurture and adorn the body. The mindfulness that "the body is impure" helps us to break our attachment to the body, the source of our many desires. If only we can see through the illusiveness of our physical bodies, we will pursue, instead, the true and unchanging Dharma body (i.e., the body of teachings) and prajna life. Though suffering is more predominating in life than happiness, we still act out of ignorance [to pursue sensory pleasure] and in so doing create more bad karma. We fail to realize that we must find happiness in helping others. Our mind is like a waterfall; it never stops running. Notions surface and disappear as fast as they appear. When we are not mindful that "the mind is impermanent," we let our minds become adrift in the sea of rebirth with notions forming and ceasing. All phenomena of the world are impermanent; nothing is ever stationary and unchanging. If we do not know how to let go, if we are attached to the self, suffering will follow in step. If we can perceive and understand the world through the practice of the Fourfold Mindfulness, our mind and body will be forever pure and free.

B. The Four Rules to Observe
The four rules that we should observe are: "Follow the Dharma, not the teacher," "Follow the meaning, not the words," "Follow wisdom, not knowledge," and "Follow the ultimate truth, not apparent truths." We have discussed earlier the meaning of "Follow the Dharma, not the teacher." What it essentially tells us is to follow the truth of the Buddha's teachings, which is eternal and unchanging, rather than the teacher, who is impermanent and changing. "Follow the meaning, not the words," means that we should understand the true purpose of the teachings and that we should not engage in frivolous arguments or play word games. "Follow wisdom, not knowledge," tells us that we should live under the guidance of prajna wisdom rather than worldly perception and knowledge. "Follow the ultimate truth, not apparent truths," means that we should follow the ultimate truth of the universe and not blindly follow heresies just for the sake of convenience. These Four Rules to Observe are our compass in our discovery of the truth of life and the universe. They are gates to the treasures of Truth.

C. The Three Dharma Seals
The "Three Dharma Seals" is an important doctrine of Buddhism; it embodies the truth of life and the universe. The Three Dharma Seals are as follows: "All samskaras (composite things) are impermanent," "All dharmas do not have an independent self," and "Nirvana is perfect peace."
All samskaras (composite things) are impermanent: All phenomena, words, and deeds in this world are impermanent and forever changing. Life is impermanent; even the world is impermanent. All worldly phenomena and dharmas are impermanent. Only when we rid ourselves of worldly perspectives can we live in the transcendental world of true permanence.
All dharmas do not have an independent self: There is nothing in this world that is unchanging and not subject to decay. This is true of our physical bodies. Similarly, a house is nothing but a temporary place for us to use, to live, and to sleep. With time, even the best-built house will decay and break down. When the time comes, this old house of ours, which we call our bodies, will also disintegrate. Like our bodies, wealth, fame, relationships, and everything else do not last forever; sooner or later, these things will all leave us one day. Thus, if we understand that all things arise with the right conditions and that all things ceases when the right conditions no longer exist, we will not be attached to worldly phenomena for they are impermanent and without an independent self. We will rest our bodies and minds in the realm of beginninglessness and endlessness. In this way, we will savor the ultimate joy of living.
Nirvana is perfect peace: The world of nirvana is a pure and ultimately blissful world. Within nirvana, there is only peace; there is no pain or distress. Although the Buddha's thought after enlightenment was to enter the beginningless and endless realm of nirvana, [the Buddha decided to stay in this world and give us his teachings]. For those who consider the liberation from rebirth as the sole purpose of Buddhism, their perspectives are passive and detached. They do not fully understand the Buddha's teachings, for nirvana does not mean for us to distance ourselves from all beings and live in isolation from others. The Buddha rebukes such people as "rotten seeds." The ultimate realm of nirvana is the peace of non-attachment and can be described with these words: "With great wisdom, one does not cling to birth and death. With great compassion, one does not cling to nirvana." Because nirvana is the perfect balance between wisdom and compassion, those who attain nirvana can continually deliver sentient beings and never need a moment of rest.

D. The Eightfold Noble Path
The Eightfold Noble Path consists of the right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
With the right understanding, we can understand the truth described in the Four Noble Truths-the truth of suffering, the truth of the arising of suffering, the truth of cessation of suffering, and the truth of the path leading to the cessation of suffering. From the right under-standing, which is the basis of the Eightfold Noble Path, we proceed to the right thought, which helps our wisdom to grow. The right speech teaches us to be watchful of the karma of speech and to abstain from lying. The right action is to refrain from all unwholesome acts and to actively perform good deeds. The right livelihood means that we should live our lives in accordance with the Buddha's teaching. The right effort is to have the commitment and dedication to practice the path of nirvana. The right mindfulness is to use wisdom to be mindful of this Noble Path. Finally, the right concentration is to [concentrate our volition and thoughts] through meditative concentration.
In summary, this Eightfold Noble Path is a tool that can help us to refrain from what is evil and wrong; thus it is described as "noble." This practice can help us one day reach the realm of nirvana; thus it is called a "path." If we can be steadfast in our practice of the Eightfold Noble Path, we have, indeed, the right perception and understanding in its truest form.
In addition to the above, I'd like to touch on another correct perception and understanding of Buddhist practices-the Pure Land practice of being continually mindful of Amitabha Buddha. Some people may remain skeptical and ask: The chanting of the name of Amitabha Buddha is the stuff for old ladies. What can it really do? Some people would even ask incredulously: How can one be liberated from rebirth just by merely being mindful of Amitabha Buddha and chanting his name? How can the words "Amitabha Buddha" help us reach the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss and attain a boundless life? Actually, the purpose of the Pure Land practice is more than liberation from rebirth. It takes us a step further and teaches us to see the reality of existence.
Once, someone asked a master, "Can the name of 'Amitabha Buddha' yield such amazing results?"
This was a difficult question to answer, but the master had a skillful reply. He looked at the person and reprimanded him, "What an idiot!"
The person was first shocked, but then shock turned into anger. He rolled up his sleeves and clinched his fists. He asked the master angrily, "How dare you call me names!"
The master replied smilingly, "See, just the word 'idiot' has the impact of changing your state of mind. Why can't the words 'Amitabha Buddha' be just as powerful?"
Therefore, even though our lives may be hectic, we Buddhists should practice chanting the name of Amitabha Buddha. The Pure Land practice was espoused by Ch'an Master Yuen Ming Yen Shou who said, "The myriad who cultivate [this practice], the myriad will reach [the Pure Land]." Let us pray that Amitabha Buddha will help us [attain the correct perception and understanding regarding this practice and in so doing] help us find the strength to reach the Pure Land.
With the kind blessing of the Buddha and with your support and contribution, these three days of lectures have come to a successful conclusion. Here, on behalf of our staff, I would like to express our deepest appreciation. May we all cultivate merits and wisdom. May we all attain Ultimate Bliss.


A Glimpse of Chan Through the Sixth Patriarch's Platform Sutra

Dear Dharma Friends,
The topic we are going to discuss today is "A Glimpse of Ch'an through The Sixth Patriarch's Platform Sutra." With the blessings of the Buddha and the culmination of the right causes and conditions, I am very honored to be here today to discuss the Dharma with you. I am touched that each one of you took time from your busy schedule to attend the Dharma talk. I want to thank you and pray that you will be blessed in wisdom and prosperity.

I. The Sixth Patriarch and The Sixth Patriarch's Platform Sutra
A. The Person: The Sixth Patriarch was not an illiterate

Most of us Buddhists have heard of The Sixth Patriarch's Platform Sutra. We also know that The Sixth Patriarch's Platform Sutra (abbreviated as Platform Sutra hereafter) is not only an important sutra of the Ch'an school, but also for other Buddhist sects as well. Its influence goes beyond Buddhism and is regarded as a very fine piece of work in Chinese literature.
The Platform Sutra is a collection of Dharma talks given by the Sixth Patriarch of the Ch'an school of Buddhism. The Sixth Patriarch was the Venerable Hui-neng, whose life story is both fascinating and legendary. A lot of you may have read that the Sixth Patriarch was a woodcutter and an illiterate. Because of his store of merits from his previous lives and his quick grasp of the Dharma, he realized enlightenment under the guidance of the Fifth Patriarch and became a great teacher whose influence can still be felt to this day. I would, however, like to take this opportunity here to dispel the notion that the Sixth Patriarch was an illiterate. On the contrary, he was a very well read man and had profound insights into many Buddhist sutras. He was very knowledgeable of various sutras, such as the Diamond Sutra, the Vimalakirti Sutra, the Lankavatara Sutra, the Surangama Sutra, the Nirvana Sutra, the Saddharmapundarika Sutra, and the Amitabha Sutra.
The Platform Sutra tells us quite a bit about the life of the Sixth Patriarch. According to the Platform Sutra, the Sixth Patriarch became enlightened when he heard someone recite the Diamond Sutra while he was selling firewood. From the sutra, we also know that the Sixth Patriarch had a sworn brother called Liu Chih-lueh. Liu was a Buddhist and had an aunt, a bhiksuni with the Dharma name of Wuchin-tsang. She often recited the Nirvana Sutra. One day, she asked the Sixth Patriarch to explain to her the meaning of the sutra, and it was, indeed, the supposedly illiterate Sixth Patriarch who interpreted the sutra for her. From the Platform Sutra, we know that the Sixth Patriarch was a learned man. He once traveled to the Hsi-shan Cave of the Le-chang District to study with the Ch'an master Chih-yuan. He also stayed with the Ch'an master Hui-chi and listened to his Dharma talks on the Tou-t'o Sutra.
It is true that in the Platform Sutra, Hui-neng called himself an illiterate. This was just a figure of speech and reflected how humble a person Hui-neng was. Even nowadays, we may hear someone say this of himself or herself, "I am not that good in this or that area." This shows that the person is a humble person and does not mean that the person is truly ignorant. If we look at the breadth of the Sixth Patriarch's knowledge and the skillful means he used to expound the Dharma, it is clear that he was not an illiterate. Therefore, we can say with certainty that the Sixth Patriarch was not an illiterate.

B. The Time: The Sixth Patriarch lived during a prosperous period of Chinese Buddhism
Hui-neng was born during a flourishing time of Chinese Buddhism. It was during this time that the Venerable Hsuan-tsang had just returned from India. He settled in the capital city of Chang-an, where he translated the sutras he had brought back from India and established the Dharmalaksana school. Concurrently, the Vinaya master Tao-hsuan, founder of the Vinaya school, was at Chung-nan Shan teaching the Four Sections of Vinaya. Also in Chang-an was the Venerable Shan-tao (also called the Monk of Brightness). There, he spread the Dharma of the Pure Land school and taught the Dharma method of being mindful of Amitabha Buddha. It was also during this time that the imperial teacher, Fa-tsang Hsien-shou, wrote his book, A Discourse on the Avatamsaka Sutra, and spread its teachings. This was a time when many great masters lived and various schools were founded. This was, indeed, the golden age of Chinese Buddhism.
Soon after Hui-neng realized enlightenment, the Fifth Patriarch passed the lineage to Hui-neng. As the Sixth Patriarch of the Ch'an school, Hui-neng was known for the method of instantaneous realization (versus gradual realization); a method that would not rely on any spoken or written language. During this time, many prominent Ch'an masters were produced and the Ch'an school prospered. In the rich and accepting atmosphere of that time, many other schools of Buddhism were also founded. These different schools existed side by side, each of them lending an impetus to the others, thus stimulating discussions and drawing people to the religion. When Hui-neng founded the method of instantaneous realization, he attracted many learned Buddhists to come and study with him. During his tutelage and with the cross influence of other schools, the Ch'an school of Buddhism flourished and stood out above the rest, leaving an indelible mark in the history of Chinese Buddhism.

C. A Key Revelation: Contemplation is not just about sitting meditation
When we talk about Ch'an, most people automatically think of sitting meditation. Most people think that if we are to contemplate the truth, we have to do sitting meditation, just like an old monk in dhyana (deep meditative concentration). But when we take a look at the Sixth Patriarch's teachings, we will see that this is not the case at all.
Once, a government minister by the name of Hsueh-chien came to the Sixth Patriarch and asked, "In the capital city, there is a lot of people practicing contemplation. They told us that for us to contemplate and realize the truth, we have to sit and meditate. What is your opinion on this matter?"
The Sixth Patriarch replied, "The truth can only be realized in our mind. What does it have to do with sitting?" This is a very important revelation. We should know that Ch'an is not something that can be realized by one's external posture of sitting or lying down. How do you realize Ch'an? We can realize Ch'an in our daily activities such as walking, standing, sitting, or lying down. Even the gesturing of our hands, the moving of our eyebrows, or the blinking of our eyes can help us realize instantaneous enlightenment and see our own nature.
Grinding a piece of brick will not make a mirror; sitting in meditation will not make a person a Buddha. The important thing about contemplation is to see our true nature. If we can comprehend this point, we can experience the world of Ch'an.

II. An Introduction To Ch'an
A. Ch'an and our daily life
After the brief introduction of the Sixth Patriarch, I'd like to turn our discussion to Ch'an. What, then, is Ch'an?
The teachings of the Ch'an school of Buddhism do not rely on language and words. Words cannot describe Ch'an. In the past, if anyone recited the name of the Buddha in a meditation hall, he or she would be asked to rinse the mouth out for three days. If anyone spoke, with or without a reason, he or she would be given thirty strokes. This may sound very unreasonable, but if we understand the approach of Ch'an, we would think otherwise. Ch'an points directly to the mind. When we understand the mind, we will see our buddha nature and thus become enlightened. The teachings of Ch'an are passed from mind to mind, for Ch'an is beyond words. If we try to explain Ch'an, we may, at best, give a semblance of Ch'an.
Ch'an is something that cannot be spoken, yet it is something that cannot be left unspoken. Thus, the Ch'an school emphasizes the importance of passing on the light of truth from a teacher to a student. Like the passing of a baton in a relay race, the Ch'an teacher may actually give the student who has understood the true meaning of Ch'an a certain object to symbolize that the light of truth is now passed to the next generation. In other occasions, words are used to denote the passing of the light of truth.
While analysis and examination are critical skills in acquiring worldly knowledge, a few words are all that a Ch'an master needs to reveal the puzzles of the universe. Through the practice of non-discrimination, Ch'an helps us realize transcendence. Anyone who is interested in studying Ch'an not only has to be clever and bright, but more importantly, has to have a sense of humor. In the Ch'an annals, we can read about conversations and exchanges between Ch'an masters and see for ourselves the humor and subtleties of Ch'an teachings.
What I am going to discuss today is not so much about the teachings of the Ch'an school or the practice of contemplation and instantaneous realization. I just want to share with you all the joy and freedom that is available to us all if we just integrate a bit of Ch'an outlook in our everyday life.
Ch'ing-yuan Hsing-szu, one of the leading disciples of the Sixth Patriarch, once said, "Before I started the practice of contemplation, I looked at mountain and I saw mountains; I looked at rivers and I saw rivers. When I started the practice of contemplation, I looked at mountains and did not see mountains; I looked at rivers and did not see rivers. After I became enlightened through the practice of contemplation, I look at mountains and I still see mountains; I look at rivers and I still see rivers."
What he means is this: Before he started the practice of contemplation, he looked at the external world, and like each one of us would, saw mountains as mountains and rivers as rivers. After he started the practice of contemplation, he viewed the world with transcendence; he looked at mountains not as mountains and rivers not as rivers. After enlightenment, his internal world was harmonized with the external world, and he looked at the world in both a transcendental and worldly way. In this state of harmony, he looked at mountains still as mountains and rivers still as rivers. Though mountains and rivers were still mountains and rivers to him, he now looked at them with a different state of mind.
I am not asking all of you to meditate like an old monk or to become enlightened like the Sixth Patriarch. It is not important that we do not yet have the opportunity to practice in this manner. But if we can approach our lives with a bit of transcendence and seize every opportune moment to practice Ch'an, then our state of mind will be wonderfully different. This is really not as difficult as it may sound. Take the example of drinking tea. While some of us may find a certain herbal tea pleasant and fragrant, others may find the taste bitter and strong. In the area of food, while some people like hot spicy food, others may find the same food unpalatable. Because of our different preferences, the same food or drink may taste different to different of us. In the same manner, how we handle different situations often depends on our mindset. If we can integrate a bit of the Ch'an teachings into our daily lives, our state of mind will become elevated and we will look at life differently. In the next section, I'd like to share with you the unique teaching method of the Sixth Patriarch. If we can likewise catch a glimpse of what Ch'an is, our lives will be much enriched.

B. Where did you come from?
The Platform Sutra has a very interesting and entertaining description of the first meeting between the Fifth Patriarch and Hui-neng. When the Fifth Patriarch first saw Hui-neng, he asked Hui-neng, "Where did you come from?"
"I came from Ling-nan," answered Hui-neng.
The Fifth Patriarch then commented, "Ling-nan is a place for barbarians and the uncivilized. They do not have the buddha nature."
To which, Hui-neng replied, "People can be classified into northerners and southerners, but there is no such a difference in the buddha nature."
When the Fifth Patriarch heard Hui-neng's reply, he thought highly of the Sixth Patriarch and eventually passed the lineage (symbolized by his robe and bowl) to Hui-neng, who then became the Sixth Patriarch. Later, when the Sixth Patriarch started teaching the Dharma, he also asked the same question of his many disciples. I have chosen four such examples here.
Venerable Shen-hui came to visit with the Sixth Patriarch. The Sixth Patriarch asked him, "Where did you come from?" Shen-hui answered, "I did not come from anywhere." The Sixth Patriarch was very pleased with this answer.
When the Ch'an master Huai-jang of Nan-yueh met with the Sixth Patriarch, the Sixth Patriarch asked him in the same manner, "Where did you come from?" Huai-jang replied, "I came from Venerable An's place." The Sixth Patriarch then asked, "What brought you here?" Huai-jang could not answer this question. He stayed at Ts'ao-hsi for ten years and was not enlightened till he was thirty years old.
When the Ch'an master Hsing-szu of Ch'ing-yuan first came to Ts'ao-hsi, the Sixth Patriarch asked him the following, "What did you do before you came here?" Hsing-szu answered, "I did not even practice the Noble Truths." He meant he was not even attached to becoming a buddha or a patriarch, and the Sixth Patriarch was very impressed with him.
When Hui-tsung of Nan-yang, an imperial teacher of the Tang dynasty, first arrived at the temple of the Sixth Patriarch, he was also asked the same question by the Sixth Patriarch. Hui-tsung replied, "I came from nearby." The Sixth Patriarch was also delighted with his answer.
In Ch'an practice, a questioning attitude is very important, and conversations between Ch'an masters are usually in the form of questions. When the Fifth Patriarch first asked Hui-neng, "Where did you come from?" he opened up the causal conditions for Hui-neng to become his chosen disciple and the Sixth Patriarch. In his later years, the Sixth Patriarch also used the same question, "Where did you come from?" as a lightning rod for his students to see the true nature.

III. Teaching Methods of the Ch'an School
A. The Method of reflection
The Ch'an method of reflection is to answer, or reflect, a question with another question. This method can lead to quick understanding. The best way to understand how this method works is to illustrate the method with examples. Once, a group of people saw a Ch'an master spit on a buddha statue. They were repulsed and reprimanded the Ch'an master, "What is the matter with you? How can you spit on the statue of the Buddha?" The Ch'an master, who was not a bit offended, replied calmly, "Please show me a spot where the Buddha is not present? I need to spit again."
This Ch'an master had already realized the fact that "the Dharma nature permeates all space; the Dharma-body fills the whole universe." Those who reprimanded the Ch'an master thought that they had more respect for the Buddha when in fact their behavior showed that they did not truly understand the Buddha. The Dharma-body (i.e. the body of the Buddha's teachings) is present everywhere, which explains why the Ch'an master asked, "Please show me a spot where the Buddha is not present?" If you are asked this question, can you answer the question? If you cannot answer, it means that you do not yet understand the Dharma. Even to those who understand the Dharma, such a reflection can help their wisdom grow and deepen their understanding of Ch'an.
Ma-tsu Tao-yi was a student of a student of the Sixth Patriarch. Now, Tao-yi had a student named Pai-chang Huai-hai. One day, a monk asked the Ch'an master Pai-chang, "Please, what is a buddha?" Pai-chang turned the question around and asked him, "Hah! Who are you?" The meaning of his reply is this: You are a buddha. Don't you know that? Why do you need to ask someone else? One person asked, "What is a buddha?" The other replied, "Who are you?" It may look very simple, but its subtle meaning is boundless.
The Fourth Patriarch, Tao-hsin, once asked the Third Patriarch, Seng-ts'an, "What is the Dharma method for liberation?"
"Who binds you?" asked Seng-ts'an.
"Nobody binds me," answered Tao-hsin
"If nobody binds you, why do you want to be liberated?"
From this layering of questions, we see that we are not so much bound by external forces as we are bound by ourselves. There is a common Chinese saying which carries a similar meaning; it goes like this: "The world itself does not present any suffering; the ignorant bring suffering upon themselves." If we examine what causes us to ache in our everyday life, we will see that the mind is often the cause of our headaches and problems. Our mind is like a factory. A good factory manufactures quality products, while a substandard factory cranks out defective products. Likewise, healthy minds produce good thoughts, and deluded minds create trouble and affliction.
The usual mode of learning is to study hard and ask plenty of questions. In Ch'an, questions are often answered with more questions. This is the method of reflection. In the case of a person practicing Ch'an, the person may direct the question to himself. The questions asked may be in the form of "Who is reciting the name of the Buddha?" "What is the meaning of the First Patriarch coming west?" "Before I was born, who was I?" If you persist in asking yourself questions like these to the "bitter" end and concentrate your thinking on such questions, you will become enlightened one day.
The practice of contemplation is something that is totally dependent upon ourselves. In the Platform Sutra, there is an exchange between the Fifth Patriarch and the Sixth Patriarch which illustrates the importance of self-reliance. After the Sixth Patriarch was awakened to the truth, the Fifth Patriarch passed the teachings of the Dharma to him and asked him to go south to avoid persecution by those who were jealous of him because he was chosen as the Sixth Patriarch. The Fifth Patriarch said to him, "I will ferry you across the river."
The Sixth Patriarch replied, "That will not be necessary; I can do it myself."
The Fifth Patriarch again offered, "Now that you are leaving, let me send you off. I want to row you across to the other shore."
The Sixth Patriarch turned him down and said, "When I was deluded, I needed a teacher to ferry me. Now that I have realized the truth, I can ferry myself across to the other shore."
From this exchange, we can see that while our teacher is our guide in our practice, only we ourselves can realize the truth for ourselves. When we practice contemplation, we should emulate the spirit of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva and be vigilant of our own minds. This is the essence of Ch'an and the genesis of its profound teachings. Once, a young man was paying respect to Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva in a temple. He could not help but notice that in the statue of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, the Bodhisattva was holding a string of prayer beads. He asked a monk of the temple, "We use prayer beads to help us recite the name of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. Now, whose name does Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva recite?"
The monk replied, "Also Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva!"
The young man was puzzled and asked, "Why does Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva still need to recite the name of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva?"
The monk smiled and replied, "It is more reliable to depend on oneself than to depend on others."
Buddhism is a religion that puts a lot of emphasis on personal development, self-realization and self-discovery of our own pure nature. Hence, it is very important that we practice and realize the truth for ourselves. This teaching method of reflection, of answering a question with more questions, can help us open and develop our own thinking. One day, we will be able to, in a flash of insight, see the truth.

B. The method of variation
In the Ch'an school, it is quite common for a Ch'an master to vary the answer to the same question depending on the person asking the question and the person's level of spiritual maturity. A Ch'an master may answer a question by affirmation, while at other times, he or she may answer the same question by negation. Again, the best way to understand how this teaching method works is to go through some examples.
As we said earlier, the Ch'an master Ma-tsu Tao-yi was a student of a student of the Sixth Patriarch. Whenever anyone asked him what is the Dharma, he would inevitably answer, "What the mind is, what the Buddha is." This went on for a while, and finally someone asked him, "Why do you always tell people that 'What the mind is, what the Buddha is,' whenever you are asked about the Dharma?"
Ma-tsu answered, "Let me tell you, when a child cries, you have to give the child a cookie to quiet the child down."
The person asked further, "What would you do differently if the child is not crying?"
Ma-tsu replied the person, "At that time, I will say, 'No mind, no buddha.'"
At that time, a young Ch'an master by the name of Tai-mei Fa-ch'ang came to learn the Dharma from Ma-tsu. The young man asked Ma-tsu, "Please tell me what is the Dharma?" Ma-tsu also told the young man, "What the mind is, what the Buddha is." Upon hearing this, Ta-mei immediately became enlightened.
After attaining realization, Ta-mei took leave and traveled to other places to teach Ch'an Buddhism; many people became his students. Word that Ta-mei had become enlightened finally reached Ma-tsu, his teacher. Ma-tsu wondered if Ta-mei had truly understood the Dharma, so he asked one of his students to go and test Ta-mei. When the student met up with Ta-mei, he asked, "Dharma brother, what did you learn from our teacher?"
Ta-mei did not hesitate and answered, "What the mind is, what the Buddha is."
As instructed by Ma-tsu, the student told Ta-mei, "Oh! Do you know that our teacher is no longer teaching 'What the mind is, what the Buddha is'?"
Ta-mei asked, "What is he teaching now?"
The student said, "Our teacher is now teaching us 'No mind, no buddha.'"
After hearing this, Ta-mei frowned and told the student, "This old monk likes to give people a hard time. I don't really care if he is teaching 'No mind, no buddha.' I am still sticking with my teaching, 'What the mind is, what the Buddha is.'"
The student then went back to Ma-tsu and told him exactly what transpired. After his recount, Ma-tsu was very happy and said, "The plum is truly ripe now." What he meant was that Ta-mei truly understood the Dharma.
Sometimes we need affirmation to strengthen our beliefs and gain confidence. Other times, our beliefs and understanding need to be tested and challenged before we can truly understand. In this example, the Ch'an master Ta-mei was very confident of himself and refused to follow others blindly. Regardless if Ma-tsu was teaching "No mind, no buddha," he was not swayed. This kind of self-confidence, self-determination, and self-respect is very characteristic of a true Ch'an master.
A lay devotee once went to the Ch'an master Chih-tsang and asked, "Ch'an master, please tell me if there are heavens and hells?"
"Does the Triple Gem-the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha-exist?"
"Is it true that there is the Law of Cause and Effect and the six realms of existence?"
"Yes, it's true."
Regardless of what the lay devotee asked of the Ch'an master Chih-tsang, he would answer in the affirmative. The lay devotee grew skeptical and finally said something, "Ch'an master, you are wrong."
The Ch'an master Chih-tsang asked, "How so?"
The lay devotee replied, "When I went to the Ch'an master Ching-shan and asked him the same questions, he always answered, 'No, it does not exist.' When I asked him if there is such a thing as the Law of Cause and Effect, he said, 'No.' When I asked him if there are buddhas and bodhisattvas, he said, 'No.' When I asked him if there are heavens and hells, he also said, 'No.' Why is it that you tell me 'Yes' to all my questions?"
The Ch'an master Chih-tsang was not at all surprised. He asked the lay devotee, "Let me ask you, do you have a wife?"
The lay devotee was not sure where he was going with this, but he answered anyway, "Yes."
"Do you have children?"
Chih-tsang continued to ask, "Does the Ch'an master Ching-shan have a wife?"
"Does the Ch'an master Ching-shan have children?"
The Ch'an master Chih-tsang explained, "This is why the Ch'an master Ching-shan told you that the Law of Cause and Effect, heavens and hells, so on and so forth do not exist. I told you that they exist because you have a wife and children."
With the same set of questions, these two Ch'an masters gave the lay devotee very different answers. While the two sets of answers look very different on the surface, they are actually very close in meaning. Although one said that they do exist and the other said that they do not exist, the two Ch'an masters are not contradicting each other. There is only one Dharma, but we may think otherwise because we have different degrees of understanding. The "No" of Ching-shan has a very deep meaning and represents a very high state of mind. The "No" of Ching-shan is emptiness, and without emptiness, there would not be any existence.

C. The method of allusion
How does the method of allusion work? When Ch'an masters converse and discourse, they often do not answer questions directly; instead, they use metaphors or apparently unrelated subjects to make indirect references. This method works because it makes one realizes the truth on his or her own. The following are a few illustrations of how this method works.
The Ch'an master Chao-chou Ts'ung-jen was a very humorous person. He was also called the "Old Buddha of Chao-chou." Even when he was eighty, he kept on traveling and learning. Once in a playful mood, he made a bet with his student, the Ch'an master Wen-yen. He told his student, "Let us bet. We will see which one of us can debase himself the most. Whoever wins can have this biscuit here."
Wen-yen nodded and said, "All right, you can start first."
Chao-chou started off by saying, "I am a donkey."
Wen-yen immediately replied, "I am the rear end of the donkey."
Chao-chou followed up and said, "I am the excrement of the donkey."
Wen-yen was not about to give up; he said, "I am the maggot inside the excrement."
Chao-chou was stumped, so he asked Wen-yen, "What are you doing in the excrement?"
"I am cooling myself off from the summer heat!"
Chao-chou admitted defeat and gladly handed the biscuit over to Wen-yen. What this exchange is telling us is this: Like a phoenix that rises out of ashes, bodhi is realized in the midst of suffering. When our minds are pure, we see everything as pure. Our mindset can change the way we look at things; even a donkey, its buttock, stool, and a maggot can help us see the Dharma. In this example, we see that the conversations between Ch'an masters are full of Ch'an teachings and rich in meaning.
In the Ching-ch'u Temple of Wen-chou, there was a bhiksuni by the name of Hsuan-chi. She was a well-learned bhiksuni and had once traveled to Ta-jih Shan (which means hills of the great sun) to practice contemplation. Later, she went to visit with the Ch'an master Hsueh-feng (which means snow peaks). Like the Sixth Patriarch, Hsueh-feng also liked to ask his visitors this question: "Where did you come from?"
"I came from Ta-jih Shan," replied Hsuan-chi.
Hsueh-feng then asked her mockingly, "Has the sun risen yet?"
Hsuan-chi was not intimidated and answered, "If the sun had risen, the snow peak (hsueh feng) would have melted." To understand why she answered this way, we have to know the meaning of Hsueh-feng's question. When he asked her if the sun had risen, he was asking her indirectly if she had realized the truth. Hsuan-chi then told him that if she had realized the truth, she would not have traveled all this way to learn from him, Hsueh-feng.
From the way that Hsuan-chi answered his questions, he felt that though she had not realized the truth, she was an earnest student. So, he asked her, "What is your name?"
"My name is Hsuan-chi (which means a wonderful weaving machine)."
Hsueh-feng wanted to find out how much she practiced everyday, so he tested her, "How much do you weave everyday?"
Hsuan-chi replied, "I don't have a thread on me." She implied that she was completely liberated, which of course was stretching the truth a bit.
After they finished talking, Hsuan-chi stood up and took leave. As she was walking to the door, Hsueh-feng called to her from behind her, "Hey, your robe is dragging on the ground!" When Hsuan-chi heard this, she hurriedly turned around and looked. Hsueh-feng broke out in laughter and said, "And you said you don't have a single thread on you." Whether we have realized the truth or not is not something that can be faked. Using this method of allusion, Ch'an masters can assess if one is truly enlightened and liberated.
Once, a monk asked Chao-chou this question: "May I ask what is the right way to contemplate and realize the truth?"
Chao-chou got up from his seat and said, "I have to go to the washroom to relieve myself." He took a few steps, turned back and said to the monk, "You see, even a simple thing like this, I have to do on my own. No one can do it for me." With this, he was indirectly telling the monk that contemplation and realization are very personal matters that we should work out on our own. The method of allusion is indirect, yet crystal clear.
During the Tang dynasty, there was a great scholar by the name of Han Yu. He had a prejudice against Buddhism and tried to dissuade the emperor from giving a grand reception for the Buddha's relic. The emperor was not amused and demoted Han Yu to be the governor of the backwater province of Ch'ao-chou. As this area was far removed from the capital and culturally backward, there were few learned scholars with whom Han Yu could exchange ideas. Among the handful of learned scholars who lived there was the Ch'an master Ta-tien, and Han Yu decided to pay the Ch'an master a visit. It just so happened that each time Han Yu went to call on Ta-tien, the Ch'an master was not in. One day, Han Yu called on the Ch'an master again and was delighted to find the Ch'an master sitting in meditation. He was not about to give up this opportunity, so he decided to wait. After a long time, the master was still in meditation and Han Yu was growing impatient. Seeing that Han Yu did wait for a long time, Ta-tien's attendant tapped a little bell by his master's ear, and he said out loud, "First, influence through meditative concentration, then eradicate [arrogance] with wisdom." What he means is this: Master, your meditative concentration has already moved Han Yu; he is no longer arrogant and condescending. Now, please come out of meditation and teach him with your wisdom.
Han Yu was a very smart fellow and immediately understood the meaning behind the attendant's words. He smiled and said, "The Ch'an master's teaching method is truly superb. Your attendant's words have already led me to the door of Buddhism." Later, Han Yu asked the Ch'an master to be his teacher and took refuge in the Triple Gem.
Sometimes, spoken words may not be the best way to reach others. Like the Ch'an master Ta-tien, he was able to move Han Yu without uttering a single word. Even the attendant hardly said anything, yet they were able to indirectly allude to a very deep and profound teaching. The once arrogant Han Yu was so moved that he changed his ways and took refuge in the Triple Gem.
Ta-tien was a student of the Ch'an master Shih-t'ou Hsi-ch'ien, whose body is still kept at a temple in Japan to this day. The life of Shih-t'ou was very interesting and the way that he became enlightened was another illustrative example of the method of allusion. When Shih-t'ou was twelve, he had a chance meeting with the Sixth Patriarch at the temple of Ts'ao-hsi. The Sixth Patriarch took a liking to him immediately and told him, "I will take you in as my student." Shih-t'ou was very honored and became a student of the Sixth Patriarch at the tender age of twelve.
Unfortunately, the Sixth Patriarch lived only for another three years, and Shih-t'ou was only fifteen. Before the Sixth Patriarch passed away, Shih-t'ou asked the Sixth Patriarch what he should do upon his passing. The Sixth Patriarch told him, "Go to Hsing-szu." In Chinese, the name Hsing-szu is homophonic with the words "hsun szu," which means to contemplate. Thus, it was no surprise that Shih-t'ou misunderstood the dying words of the Sixth Patriarch, and he meditated everyday, Fortunately, an elder monk figured out what was happening, and the monk told Shih-t'ou, "You are mistaken. Your teacher told you to go to your Dharma brother Hsing-szu. He is now teaching the Dharma at the hills of Ching-yuan; you should go there to pay him a visit." Now that Shih-t'ou finally understood what the Sixth Patriarch wanted him to do, he immediately left for Ching-yuan. When he arrived at Ching-yuan, the Ch'an master Hsing-szu asked him, "Where did you come from?"
"I came from Ts'ao-hsi," answered Shih-t'ou, essentially telling Hsing-szu that he came from the Sixth Patriarch.
Hsing-szu asked further, "Did you attain anything there?"
"I was not missing anything even before I got there," replied Shih-t'ou. He meant that as his buddha nature was complete even before he went there, there was nothing to attain.
"If you are not in need of anything, why did you go to Ts'ao-hsi?"
Shih-t'ou went on to explain, "If I had not gone to Ts'ao-hsi, how would I know that I was not in need of anything?" In other words, if he had not gone to Ts'ao-hsi, he would not have realized that he always had the buddha nature.
As we can see from this exchange, Ch'an masters may not point out the meaning directly. This is the method of allusion.

IV. Conclusion
Today, we have touched on a few Ch'an methods-the method of reflection, the method of variation, and the method of allusion. There are many other methods, but with the limited time we have, I was not able to introduce them all to you. I'd like to conclude with several poems of the famous Chinese poet Su Tung-p'o. These poems were written at different stages of his life and reflect different levels of Ch'an understanding. The first poem here is about the very picturesque mountain range of Lu-shan and was written before Su Tung-p'o studied Ch'an.
Viewed across, a range; at an angle, peaks.
Far and near, high and low, not the same.
Not able to see real face of Lu-shan;
Precisely because one is within the hills of Lu-shan.
After Su Tung-p'o began to gain some understanding of Ch'an, he wrote another poem:
Misty rain of Lu-shan, tide of Che-chiang-
Not there, many regrets.
Once there, turns out to be empty of anything.
Misty rain of Lu-shan, tide of Che-chiang.
When his understanding of Ch'an matured, he wrote yet another poem:
All sounds of rippling creeks are broad, long tongues.
Mountains, nothing but pure bodies.
Night falls, contemplating eighty-four thousand poems.
Next day, how to explain to anyone?
Now that you have a glimpse into the wondrous teachings of the Ch'an school of Buddhism, the rest is entirely up to you. From the teachings of the Sixth Patriarch and the different Ch'an methods described here, we know that Ch'an is not taught, but is realized through oneself in one's daily.


Buddhism, Medicine, and Health

I. Introduction
Since the origin of the world, birth, aging, illness, and death have been unavoidable. Prince Siddhartha learned of this truth when he ventured beyond his palace and visited the poor area of town. Here, amidst beggars, sick people, and decrepit elders, he saw the reality of life. Immediately, a desire arose in his heart to relieve the pain and suffering of these people. Thus, he renounced his life of luxury and became a monk, hoping that through meditation and cultivation he could find solutions for the poor and ailing people.

From the beginning, the Buddha realized that just as one can suffer from physical disease, one could also suffer from an unhealthy mindset. To cure both diseases of the body and mind, the Buddha devoted his entire life to passing down the knowledge of the Tripitaka1. While the Buddha sought to cure both physical and mental illness, emphasis was placed upon the mind. He used the knowledge of the Dharma to heal the illness that arose from the three poisons: greed, anger, and ignorance. The Buddha's medicine treats disease starting from the patients' minds, curing them of the three poisons. Psychologists also treat illness by working with their patient's mental state, but this is quite different from the Buddhist practice of treating the mind. According to Buddhism, the pure and wondrous Dharma is the perfect medication for an ailing mind, as well as a sick body.

Keeping both the mind and body healthy is important, for the body is the vehicle in which we can practice the Dharma. Like all things, the mind and the body are interdependent; the health of the mind influences the health of the body, and vice versa - the health of the body influences the health of the mind. With a healthy body as a tool, we can cultivate a compassionate heart and a clear mind. With a cultivated mind, we are able to examine ourselves, clearly see the nature of our problems, and then work to resolve them. We will then be approaching the path to true health.

II. Buddhism and Medical Science
In the sutras, we can find analogies that describe the Buddha as the doctor, knowledge of the Dharma as the medicine, monastics as the nursing staff, and all people as the patients. According to this medical analogy, Buddhism is considered a medication with a broad meaning - a medication that can cure the ailments in all aspects of life. In general, but with exceptions, Western medicine functions within a much smaller framework. Western medicine typically approaches illness through physical symptoms. This approach tends to temporarily reduce the suffering and remove the symptoms for a period, but a lack of symptoms does not mean that the root cause has been identified and removed. Therefore, the complete elimination of the disease has not occurred. Buddhism offers patients not only symptomatic relief, but also spiritual guidance to ensure overall and long-lasting health.

While Western researchers have conducted massive studies on pathology, pharmacology, immunology, and anatomy, enabling them to develop more sophisticated medical techniques, scientists still doubt that religion can help explain the cause of a disease. Without validating the role of religion in disease, scientists remain quite distant from the definition of disease, its causes, and its treatments as understood from a religious perspective. According to Buddhism, it is not enough to approach to medicine in a manner that simply eradicates symptoms; the spiritual aspect of disease and its mind-based causes and remedies must be the primary consideration.

Only recently have science and religion started to communicate and blend in a manner that is beginning to narrow the gap between a scientific approach to disease and one rooted in religion. For instance, the U.S. government coordinated international conferences on "The Relationship Between Religion and Health." Also, Harvard Medical School offers a class entitled "The Essence of Medicine." Religion is gradually influencing the biological, psychological, and social medicine of Western society. Buddhism has played a significant role in uniting spirituality and medicine in the West.

In the East, religion has impacted the field of health and medicine for a much longer time. Eastern medical practitioners never doubted the role of religion in disease; the two have been integrated for thousands of years. Out of thousands of documents in the Tripitaka, a significant number contain records about Buddhist medicine. When this canon of discourses and sutras was brought to China, the most salient aspects of Indian Buddhism blended with the most highly regarded aspects of Chinese medicine. Through modifications and improvements contributed by numerous Buddhist masters from the past and present, the Chinese Buddhist medical system has evolved into the one that presently exists. In the following pages, I will elaborate further on the Buddhist understanding of illness and disease and the Buddhist approach to medicine and healing.

III. The Buddha as the Great Doctor
When the Buddha was young, he learned the science of medicine2. He became very knowledgeable about the nature and cure of diseases. According to the sutras, a famous physician named Jivaka further advanced his medical practice and mastered additional skills by learning from the Buddha and following the Buddha's instructions. Jivaka performed several remarkable surgical procedures, earning a respectable reputation in the medical field. One of his well-known operations involved the repair of an obstructed colon. Jivaka performed this surgery using a sequence of techniques similar to contemporary practices: administering anesthesia, opening the abdominal region, repairing the colon, and finally, closing the incision with stitches. Though a trained physician, Jivaka became even more competent in his mastery of medicine under the Buddha's spiritual and medical guidance.

In addition to records about the Buddha and Jivaka, numerous sutras such as The Sutra of Buddha's Diagnosis, The Sutra of the Buddha as a Great Doctor, The Sutra on Relieving Piles, The Sutra on Healing Mental Distractions of Improper Meditation, The Sutra of Healing Dental Diseases, The Sutra of Dharani for Healing All Diseases, The Sutra of Dharani for Season's Diseases, Suvarnaprabhasottama Sutra, Vinaya of the Five Categories, Vinaya of the Four Categories, Ten Recitations Vinaya, and Mahasanghavinaya, contain many other references to the Buddha's knowledge about medicine. The Buddha truly deserved to be regarded as the grand patriarch of Buddhist medicine. He was capable of curing diseases not only of the body but also of the mind, which were his specialty. Today, when a patient seeks a physician's care for a physical ailment, the physician typically only pays attention to the painful symptoms in the body, ignoring both the causes and the suffering in the mind. By not investigating and discovering the true roots of the disease, they only accomplish a fraction of real healing. They do very little to heal the patients' unhappiness, for they do not recognize and understand the true cause of the human life cycle of birth, aging, illness, and death. They do not take into account that karma and mental constructs have something to do with the origins of illness.

The Buddha's realization of what induces the perpetual cycle of rebirth and the stages of aging, illness, and death, enabled him to guide others to live with ultimate physical and mental health. The Buddha eliminated disease by going to the heart of the cause and drawing upon his knowledge of the proper remedy. In Anguttara-nikaya, the Buddha explained that an imbalance of chi3, an overabundance of phlegm, and an increase or decrease in the body's temperature could be treated with clarified butter, honey, and oil-based food respectively.

Regarding mental health, greed, anger, and ignorance are understood as the three gravest psychological diseases. The Buddha taught that greed could be cured by the contemplation of impurity, anger by the contemplation and practice of kindness, and ignorance by the contemplation of the true nature of all things and the cultivation of wisdom. These are the medications that the Buddha encouraged everyone to use in order to heal the diseases of both body and mind.

In The Sutra of Buddha's Diagnosis the Buddha explained that a doctor should progress through four steps when helping a patient. Doctors must: 1) discover the origin of the illness, 2) achieve a thorough understanding of the illness, 3) prescribe the appropriate medication to cure the illness, and 4) completely cure the illness in a manner that prevents it from reoccurring. In addition to mastering these four criteria, a good doctor should always act with a generous heart when treating patients, considering them as his or her dearest friends.

The Buddha also identified five important practices for caretakers - nurses, family members, friends, and others - to be aware of as they cared for patients. He encouraged caretakers to: 1) insure that the patients are tended to by good-hearted and skillful doctors, 2) wake up earlier and go to bed later than patients and always remain alert to the patient's needs, 3) speak to their patients in a kind and compassionate voice when they are feeling depressed or uneasy, 4) nourish the patients with the proper food in the correct amounts and intervals according to the nature of the ailment and according to the doctor's instructions, and 5) talk with skill and ease about the Dharma with the patients; instructing them in proper healthcare for the body and mind.

Lastly, the Buddha offered advice to patients in order to help them heal quickly and thoroughly. He recommended that patients: 1) be cautious and selective about the food they eat, 2) consume food at the proper intervals, 3) stay in touch with their doctors and nurses, always acting kindly and graciously towards them, 4) keep an optimistic or hopeful outlook, and 5) be kind and considerate of those who are caring for you. The Buddha believed that a cooperative effort from the doctors, caretakers, and patients yielded the best results from treatment. The Buddha was not just an average doctor; he was an exceptional doctor who had vision and insight.

IV. Medical Theories in Buddhism
According to Chinese medicine, diseases are caused by seven internal and six external elements. The internal elements are extreme levels of happiness, anger, anxiety, a ruminating mind, sadness, fear, and shock. The external elements are coldness, summer-heat, dryness, heat, dampness, and wind. The seven internal elements, also referred to as emotions, are believed to cause illness because they directly impair the healthy functioning of the five main organs of human beings. Extreme levels of either happiness or fear damage the heart, anger harms the liver, anxiety harms the lungs, a ruminating mind affects the spleen, and shock hurts the kidneys. According to Chinese medicine, a healthy and balanced emotional life is essential in maintaining one's physical health.

Various Buddhist sutras describe the causes of disease in a similar manner. For example, The Sutra of Buddha's Diagnosis mentions that there are ten causes and conditions of sickness. These reasons are: 1) sitting for too long a period without moving, 2) eating too much, 3) sadness, 4) fatigue, 5) excessive sexual desire, 6) anger, 7) postponing excrement, 8) postponing urination, 9) holding the breath, and 10) suppressing gas. Approaching the causes of disease from a slightly different angle, The Discourse of Great Equanimity and Insightful Meditation points out six origins for disease. They are described as: 1) an imbalance of the four elements (earth, water, fire, and wind), 2) irregular dietary habits, 3) incorrect meditation methods, 4) disturbances by spirits, 5) demon possession, and 6) the force of bad karma. Illness that originates from most of these origins can be cured if people improve their diet, become more aware of their bodies' natural processes, and get plenty of rest. However, the last three causes 4) - 6) are related to karma, and one must work on improving his/her character and purifying his/her mind in order to be cured. A person afflicted for the last three reasons needs to spend time in spiritual practice, repentance, and doing good deeds. Only then will his/her illness begin to go away. The Mahaprajnaparamita Sastra states that illness is caused either by internal or external causes and conditions. Still, Visuddhimagga mentions additional causes of disease, but they are too numerous to list here. All of the theories on the various causes of illness can be grouped into two main categories: A) the imbalance of the four elements and B) the presence of three poisons of greed, anger, and ignorance. The following is a detailed discussion of these two classifications.

A. The Imbalance of the Four Elements
According to Buddhism, the body is composed of four impermanent elements - earth, water, fire, and wind. Only consciousness is reborn in one of the six realms. This theory is the foundation of Indian Buddhist medical science. Chinese medicine believes the body to be comprised of a unique system of subsidiary channels that transmits vital energy (chi), blood, nutrients, and other substances through the five organs and six internal regions in one's body. When this intricate circulation system is flowing properly, the four elements stay in balance, the major organs can perform their essential functions, and the body remains healthy.

The Discourse of Condensed Equanimity and Insightful Meditation states that each of the four elements is able to cause one hundred and one diseases, with a total of four hundred and four diseases possible. Each element is connected to certain types of diseases. For instance, the earth element is related to diseases that make the body become heavy, stiff, and painful, such as arthritis; the water element afflicts the body with diarrhea, stomach aches, and difficult digestion; the fire element causes fever, constipation, and problems urinating; lastly, the wind element is related to breathing difficulties and vomiting.

The third volume of Nanhai Ji Gui Neifa Zhuan states that, "If diseases are related to the four elements, they are usually caused by overeating or overexertion." An imbalance of the four elements and the resulting illness can also occur due to a diet that is not in tune with the four seasons. When the seasons change and the temperature varies from cool to cold to warm to hot, it is important to adjust our diet in a manner that enables the body to function at its best. In The Suvarnaprabhasottama Sutra, a young man asked his father who was a doctor, "How do we cure the suffering of human beings and cure diseases that arise from the imbalance of the four elements?" The doctor responded to his son by saying, "We live our lives through four seasons of three months, or six seasons of two months in some parts of the world. Whether four or six, we must live according to the seasons, eating food that corresponds with hot and cold, warm and cool. In this way, our bodies will benefit. A good doctor is well learned in prescribing the right food and medicine to adjust the four elements and nourish a patient's body during a particular season. When the season and the food are in balance, so too will the body be in balance."

Eating a reasonable amount and adjusting what we eat according to seasonal changes are two important factors in maintaining balance among the four elements and allowing chi to circulate unimpeded through our bodies. We automatically dress differently when the seasons change in order to comfort and protect ourselves during a particular temperature change or weather conditions. If we adopt this practice and adjust our diet with the weather and seasons, we help our bodies to stay balanced and guard against disease.

B. Greed, Anger, and Ignorance

Greed, anger, and ignorance, sometimes referred to as "the three poisons," are also reasons why people are afflicted with sickness. When one is stuck in any one of these destructive mental states, one opens the door and invites disease. The Vimalakirti Sutra states, "All the diseases I have right now are derived from illusory thoughts I have had in the past … because human beings are attached to a "self", affliction and diseases have the chance to be born their bodies." When one allows oneself to be ruled by the three poisons, the psychological and physical health hazards are numerous and can be quite debilitating. The following descriptions provide insight into how greed, anger, and ignorance cause illness:

1. Greed

Greed is defined as an improper and excessive desire for something. For example, one is more likely to overeat when one is having a favorite meal. Such greed can then lead to an overly full stomach and the food will not be well digested. Or, one may like food so much that he/she eats much too frequently. This type of desire which cannot be satisfied can cause obesity, fatigue, and heart problems. Greed is never without consequences.

People can also have excessive desires for sensory experience. In The Discourse of Interpretation Great Equanimity and Insightful Meditation, it is stated that too much attachment to what we perceive through sound, smell, sight, taste, and touch can cause both psychological and physical illness. A person may cling to the experience of these five sensations, which can cause an imbalance in our rational thoughts and disturb our ability to make moral choices. Physical health problems can also arise. In the Buddhist health theory, those who are too attached to physical appearance will suffer from diseases of the liver. Those who are too attached to sounds will suffer from kidney diseases. Those who are too attached to aromas will suffer from lung diseases. Those who are too attached to taste will suffer from heart diseases; and those who are too attached to the sensation of touch will suffer from spleen diseases. Thus, when we encounter the multitude of sensations that are a natural part of daily life, it is best to maintain a balanced attitude and practice the Middle Path4. In order to maintain optimum physical and mental health, the Middle Path is also the best way to approach sleeping, eating, and exercising. When one sleeps too much, one will not have a clear mind. When one eats too much food that is high in cholesterol and sugar, one is gradually increasing the risk of poor health and could ultimately face chronic disease, such as diabetes or heart disease. In today's fast-paced society that promotes working excessively and watching hours of television, people do not exercise enough, and eventually, this has an adverse affect on their bodies. Additionally, nowadays people are constantly exposed to a noisy and stressful environment, which can cause people to become sick more easily. If one decreases one's greed and desire and approaches life with the attitude of the Middle Path, one can lead a healthier life.

2. Anger

The fourteenth volume of The Mahaprajnaparamita Sastra states that, "Anger is the most toxic emotion compared to the other two poisons; its harm far exceeds all of the other afflictions as well. Of the ninety-eight torments5, anger is the hardest one to subdue; among all psychological problems, anger is the most difficult to cure." Although anger is a psychological problem, it can also lead to severe physical consequences. For example, when aversion and anger arise in a person, the blood vessels become constricted, causing a rise in blood pressure and thus increasing the risk of heart attack.

In writing about anger, Venerable Punengsong from the Qing Dynasty tells us,

A good doctor always finds out

The cause of a sickness first.

Anger is quite harmful

To someone who is sick.

The relationship between a patient's pulse

And his illness is delicate.

With the correct prescription,

We can heal ourselves of our illness.

As doctors examine their patients to determine the cause of illness and the proper medication to prescribe, one of the most essential ingredients of treatment is pacifying the patients' emotions. Anger causes poor circulation, which can have devastating effects on the entire body. It acts as a blockade, causing the body and mind to be less receptive to treatment. When agitated emotions subside and the patient is able to experience a sense of tranquility, recuperating is both easier and quicker. Anger and hatred are particularly detrimental to the healing process, and in fact, often worsen the problem.

3. Ignorance

When one is ignorant, one is unable to understand or see things as they really are. Many of us are like this when it comes to illness. We are unable or unwilling to look at the root of the illness. Instead of pinpointing the true cause and effect that will help us to eradicate the illness, and instead of using wisdom to guide us to the proper care, we take a detour and become distracted by ineffective remedies. We sometimes look for a "quick fix," using unsubstantiated methods, unscientific therapies, and unsound doctors. Meanwhile, the illness is usually causing us both physical and psychological suffering. Using wisdom to investigate the actual cause of our illness will help us to set foot on the road to complete and long-lasting recovery.

While it is usually easy to detect the symptoms of a physical disease, we often remain ignorant of psychological diseases. They follow us like a shadow. We do not examine the constructs of our mind with wisdom and awareness, and poor psychological health follows. If we remain blind to our psychological diseases, the problems can compound and cause more severe sickness within our bodies. Modern scientists agree that anger, extreme happiness, anxiety, terror, sadness, and other emotions can impact one's physical well being. According to recent medical research, "When a person is unhappy, angry, or under pressure, his or her brain will release the hormones called adrenaline and nor-adrenaline, which can act as a toxin." In addition, if the body is influenced by extreme emotions for a long period of time, the illness induced by the emotional imbalance or stress is harder to cure. For example, a digestive disorder rooted in a prolonged emotional condition is more difficult to cure than one caused by an external factor. There is scientific evidence, not just religious theory, that emotions indeed impact the healthy functioning of the body. Therefore, it is in our best interest to cultivate awareness of our emotional condition, handle our emotions well, and not become too attached to or controlled by them.

In Buddhism, there are eighty-four thousand methods that are used to cure eighty-four thousand illnesses. For instance, the Buddha taught that to eliminate greed, one can use the contemplation of impurity. Once a person meditates on impurity, he or she will experience a decrease in desire. The Buddha taught people afflicted with anger or hatred to practice universal kindness and compassion in order to reduce their hostility. When they feel themselves becoming angry, they should become mindful of the meaning of compassion. In doing so, they will understand that getting mad is not an appropriate or helpful response. Gradually, their angry words and thoughts will dissipate.

If people are ignorant, they should contemplate cause and effect and the law of impermanence, to help them nurture the mindset of non-attachment. Nothing arises outside of dependence origination and nothing that arises will last forever; all phenomena will one-day cease to exist. Since everything behaves like dust, which comes and goes, what is the purpose of being attached to it? Realizing there is no immunization for impermanence helps to reorient our minds from ignorance to wisdom and allows us to live with greater overall health.

Master Hanshan Deqing from the Ming Dynasty said, "No one can get sick, age, die, or be born for you. This suffering, only you must bear. All bitterness and sweetness one must go through on one's own." If we can accept the inevitability of suffering and impermanence with equanimity, it is like taking a dose of the finest medicine. Thus, when we adjust our emotions, subdue our temper, and act generously toward others, we will find our way through life's problems with more ease and reduce the chance of illness. If we apply these principles of Buddhist medicine to nurture our minds and restore our bodies, generosity will emerge out of greed, compassion will emerge out of anger, wisdom will emerge out of ignorance, and health will emerge out of sickness. When we treat the poisons of the mind and act with equanimity in all circumstances, there will be harmony of body and mind and disease will be kept at bay.

V. The Medicine of Buddhism
The occurrence of a disease is closely related to one's mental health, physical health, spiritual health, behavior, habits, living environment, and even the society and culture in which one lives. Harmonizing all of these elements and engaging in specific practices can help to bring about optimum health and prevent illness. Gaining awareness about the cause of illness and conducting our lives in a manner that nourishes and maintains long-term good health can drastically improve our overall well-being. The Buddha offers us several suggestions and practices that can serve as medicine for all aspects of our lives:

Practice Healthy Dietary Habits: A Chinese idiom states, "Troubles are caused by words flowing out of the mouth; illness is caused by food going into the mouth." Using caution and moderation in what we consume is an important practice for good health. Before consuming any food, we should determine if the food is fresh, if it is thoroughly cleaned, and what would be a reasonable amount to eat. The Sutra of Buddha's Bequeath Teachings (Ch. I-chiao-ching Sutra) states, "When we eat, we should regard our food as medicine, for consuming too much or too little is not healthy. A regular and proper dose can support our bodies, cure our hunger, relieve our thirst, and prevent us from becoming ill. Like bees gathering honey, they take what they need, but they don't consume the whole flower." As Xingshi Chao states, we should adjust the type of food we eat according to the season, consuming various combinations of food in order to maintain our body's equilibrium. Our bodies are susceptible to different ailments depending on the season, and a diet conscious of this fact offers a better chance of staying healthy.

The Regulation for Chan Monastery outlined five contemplations to be mindful of when we take our meals:

I consider the effort required

To grow and prepare the food;

I am grateful for its sources.

In observing my virtue;

If impeccable in mind and heart,

I shall deserve this offering.

I shall protect my heart

From being ensnared by faults;

I shall guard myself

Particularly against greed.

To cure my weakening body,

I shall consume this food as medicine.

To tread the path

Of spiritual cultivation;

I shall accept this food

As an offering.

One should maintain a balanced diet and approach food with a gracious attitude. When our bodies are given the right amount of food, our digestive organs will function properly, and our body's metabolism will be in prime condition, thus preventing digestive diseases and other health problems. Being mindful of and grateful for the food we consume contributes to the health of our mind as well as our body.

Meditation: Our mind is constantly exploring the world around us and as a result, illusory thoughts are always arising and ceasing. Our over-active mind rarely gets a chance to rest. The constant stream of thoughts we experience can affect our ability to concentrate without interruption and can have a negative affect on our daily life. In addition to psychological health risks, one's physiology can also be adversely affected by an overwhelming amount of mental activity. The brain can cease to function properly due to our continual clutter of thoughts or an instance of severe mental excitation. For example, when one experiences a tremendous surprise, the face may appear discolored, the hands and feet become cold, and one's ability to concentrate normally will be impaired. However, if this person can take a deep breath to slow down the heartbeat and calm the emotions, the presence of tranquility will return the body to its normal state and the chance for harming any vital organs will decrease.

Through the meditative practice of breathing slowly and concentrating on the breath, one's psychological and physiological well-being can dramatically improve. In The Medicine Chan, written by a Japanese physician, three specific physical benefits derived from meditation were mentioned: 1) increased energy and a prolonged period of prime years 2) improved blood circulation, and 3) a renewed endocrine system6. Through meditation, our body achieves a greater state of balance and our breathing becomes regulated. Our mind becomes focused, clear, and organized. Desires are dissolved and improper thoughts are eliminated. When our mind is clear and focused at all times, even as we walk, sit, and sleep, we will be calm and peaceful, which eventually results in a greater degree of overall health - both mental and physical. Master Tiantai Zhizhe recognizes the significant impact that meditation can have on overall health. He commented that if meditation is practiced on a regular basis and applied to daily occurrences with wisdom, all four hundred and four illnesses can be cured.

With a mind that is free from the exhaustion and confusion of constant thoughts, we can accomplish significant things in our lives, instead of merely thinking about doing so. Through acting, instead of just thinking, one can more authentically experience each moment and ultimately encounter the truth of life.

Paying Respect to the Buddha: The benefits of paying respect to the Buddha are numerous and come in many forms, nurturing both physical and mental health. Bowing to the Buddha increases the strength and flexibility of the body. When one bows, one's neck, hands, arms, waist, and legs stretch, giving the whole body an opportunity to exercise. By stretching the body, stiffness decreases and blood circulation increases, thus reducing the chance of becoming ill.

Although bowing results in distinct physical benefits, the act of bowing and the resulting benefits have more to do with our state of mind than our physical action. Our mental presence when bowing is of utmost importance. When we bow, we should show respect and sincerity, remaining deep in concentration as a slow bow is performed. As we pay respect in this manner, we should contemplate the Buddha then expand our focus to include unlimited Buddhas in all directions. When we pay respect to unlimited Buddhas, unlimited beings are benefited. Ourselves, the Buddha - in fact all true nature is empty. However, though empty, if one bows before the Buddha with a sincere and respectful heart, an amazing spiritual experience can take place. Contemplating the truth of emptiness teaches us to reorient our self-centered way of being and realize that the notion of self is merely illusory. Bowing, therefore, is performed not only to express our deepest gratitude to the Buddha and all Buddhas, but also an effective way to eliminate our ignorance, decrease our attachment to self, dissolve the burden of karma, and cultivate our spiritual practice. As we can see, bowing is a health-giving gesture that nourishes both our body and mind.

Repentance: Confession is another practice that helps to restore and maintain our health. It is like clean water that washes away the dirt from one's heart and the dust from one's mind. A story about a Tang Master named Wuda offers us an example of how confession can be a healing agent. Master Wuda had a man killed in a previous life. Seeking revenge in future lives, the man who was killed was reborn as a sore on Master Wuda's foot. No doctor could cure the sore because it was a manifestation of Master Wuda's bad karma. After seeking guidance from an Arhat who helped him to realize his wrongdoing, Master Wuda repented with a sincere heart, cleansed his wound with pure water, and the sore disappeared. Only the heart of repentance could cure Master Wuda of his ailment. Thus, all of us should repent our mistakes and misdeeds to the Buddha and vow not to repeat the same behavior and create more bad karma. In addition, with the heart and mind of a bodhisattva, we may compassionately repent for all beings, thereby relieving their suffering as well as our own. Psychologically, repentance is believed to release impure thoughts and worrisome guilt that act like toxins in our bodies. It alleviates our mental burdens and reduces the potential for illness.

Reciting Mantras7: Mantras are powerful in curing diseases when recited with a sincere heart, deep concentration, and proper intentions. The Great Compassion Mantra and the Medicine Buddha Mantra are two such examples. When recited, each Mantra generates a tremendous amount of merit and has amazing healing and transforming effects.

Reciting the Buddha's Name: Many people are distressed by anxiety, agitation, improper desires, and delusional thought. These torments not only disturb our psychological well-being and eventually take a toll on our physical health, they also hinder our ability to perceive the truth of life and attain enlightenment. When we recite the name of the Buddha, the torment of improper and delusional thoughts will cease and our mental anguish will evaporate. The heart calms down, the mind is awakened and purified, and no greed, anger, ignorance, or other toxins will arise, thus giving us greater protection from illness and delivering us from our ignorance. Reciting the Buddha's name also helps us to reduce our bad karma, eliminating as many misdeeds as there are grains of sand in the Ganges. A Buddhist saying tells us, "Reciting the Buddha's name once can diminish one's bad karma, and bowing to the Buddha can increase one's good karma." Thus, reciting the Buddha's name is an effective practice for healing the distress of our minds and bodies, as well as benefiting our cultivation and awakening us to the truth of life.

Using the Dharma as Medicine: Our world is ailing from a broad range of modern diseases that, while not actually classified as standard medical illnesses, still cause overwhelming suffering and need to be treated. Some of these are environmental diseases, which include pollution, resource destruction, and loud noise, and societal diseases, including violence, harassment, materialism, kidnapping, and crime. There are also, educational diseases, such as the physical and emotional abuse of students and the growing lack of respect for authority, and economic diseases, such as opportunism, greed, and corruption. There also exist religious diseases, which could be explained as superstitious practices, religions that encourage harmful practices, and incorrect interpretations of religious concepts. Relationship diseases refer to infidelity, polygamy, and rape, and mental diseases include jealousy, distrust, and resentment. We may seek a doctor's help for physical illness, but the diseases listed above can only be cured by our own efforts to develop our character, cultivate our wisdom, and practice the Dharma. Buddhism can be used as a medicine to cure our minds of destructive and unhealthy thoughts, which create the conditions for all of the diseases mentioned above. A pure mind creates a pure world, and the wondrous Dharma is the perfect medicine to guide us to healthy thoughts, healthy behavior, and healthy lives.

In particular, the six paramitas8 can be used to cure six kinds of diseases in Buddhism: 1) Generosity cures greed, 2) Observing the precepts cures violation of the precepts, 3) Tolerance cures hatred, 4) Diligence cures laziness, 5) Meditation cures the frenzied mind, and 6) Prajna (wisdom) cures ignorance. The medicine of the six paramitas enables us to treat our mind and generate peace and harmony in all aspects of our lives. When we embrace the Dharma, we can resolve the conflicts in our daily life with more ease and develop a healthy mind and a gracious character.

Master Wuchih created a recipe of ingredients that can be used to turn an unhealthy mind into a healthy one. In the spirit of Master Wuchih, I created my own recipe for health:

One strand of compassionate heart,

One slice of morality

And original nature,

A pinch of cherishing good fortune,

Three portions of

Gratitude and appreciation,

A complete package of

Sincere words and actions,

One piece of observation of

Precepts and upholding the Dharma,

One piece of humility,

Ten portions of diligence and frugality,

Combine all cause and effect,

And unlimited skillful means,

Establishing affinities,

The more the better!

Topped off with all your faith,

Vows, and practice.

Use the pot called magnanimity,

Use the heart called open-mindedness,

Don't burn it!

Don't let it dry out!

Lower your hot temper by three degrees,

(Mellow out and lose in a little gentleness.)

Put into a bowl and grind into small pieces.

(Like people entering each other's hearts and cooperating with each other.)

Think everything over three times,

Give encouragement as a pill,

Each day take this medicine three times,

Drink it down with the soup of

Love and compassion,

Remember when you take the medicine,

You cannot have clarity in speaking

But a muddled being.

Or benefit yourself at the expense of others.

Ambushing others from behind,

And harboring malice within,

Using a smile to masquerade the desire

To strike,

Or speaking from both sides of your mouth,

Creating disharmony just for the heck of it,

Refrain from engaging in the seven above,

Along with no jealousy or suspicion,

Use self-discipline,

And Truth to calm the troubled heart,

If you can do this, all ills will disappear.

VI. The Contribution of Monastics to Medicine
In India, most monastics are well educated in the five sciences, especially in medicine, which they are required to study. Because knowledge of medicine is mandatory for monastics, throughout Buddhist history there are many well-known monastic physicians, medical scholars, and medical texts. For example, in the Buddhist sutras, we find countless references to and discussions about medicine. Evidence also demonstrates that Buddhism has made a significant contribution to the world of medicine not only through the development of respectable health theories and principles but also through actual practice. While by no means an exhaustive list, the following are brief accounts of Buddhist masters who have stood out in the history of Buddhist medicine.

In China, Master Buddhasimha was dedicated as the Honorable National Master of the East Gin Dynasty by Emperors Shile and Shihu. He was exceptionally skillful in reciting curative prayers and administering medicine. He tended to many patients who were paralyzed, in great pain, and were hopeless about finding a cure for their ailment. Master Buddhasimha never gave up on them, faithfully devoting his heart to caring for them as they suffered, prescribing the proper medication, and finding a lasting cure for their diseases.

Master Zhu fatiao came to China from India, and stayed in Changshan Temple most of the time. He was quite famous for his ability to cure people, and patients journeyed hundreds of miles to seek his help. After skillfully diagnosing the problem and prescribing the appropriate treatment, nearly all of his patients were restored to good health.

Master Faxi lived during the Tang Dynasty. When he resided in the capital, he assumed full responsibility for all of his patients' needs and cared for them personally, including cleaning up their excrement. He never complained about this task or considered it filthy or difficult. On the contrary, he was always enthusiastic and joyful as he tended to his patients. Both the patients and fellow monastics praised his compassionate conduct. Master Faxi not only cured patients' physical diseases, he also patiently brought them the knowledge of the Dharma to comfort them when they were feeling hopeless or in pain.

Buddhists have also been credited for contributing to the cure of leprosy, a dangerous and contagious illness that often drove people away. However, many Buddhists chose not to avoid victims of leprosy but instead worked among them to help ease their suffering and cure their debilitating illness. Many monks put forth great effort to help leprosy patients, caring for them, encouraging them, changing their bandages, draining their infected sores, and doing their laundry. These people risked their lives by performing services that most people avoided. Their tenderness touched many people.

VII. Conclusion
As we have discussed, numerous physical and mental diseases afflict us and cause great suffering. While Buddhist medical theories acknowledge and treat the devastating effects of physical diseases, they regard diseases of the mind as the most destructive to health and happiness. According to Buddhism, people suffer from disease when they:


Settle into peace of mind

Control anger

Resolve hatred

Calm a fearful heart

Dissolve sadness and worry


Cease arguing

Stop competing

Practice humility and offer tolerance to others

Recognize when quietude is appropriate

Maintain a healthy balance of chi


Endure life's difficulties

Lead a simple lifestyle

Practice proper etiquette

Cease their fear of death

Reorient erroneous perceptions

All of these diseases are caused by our rigid attachment - to an idea, belief, person, appearance, possession, emotion, status, or experience - to anything at all. If we can understand the true meaning of detachment and the true nature of emptiness and treat all illness with this awareness, we will then have the perfect, miracle medicine to remove the roots of disease. Both the body and the mind need to be taken care of, and the medicine of Buddhism is the ideal remedy. Use the Dharma to heal your mind, and the path of true health will open up for you. I wish you health and happiness!

1 The Tripitaka is the canon of Buddhist teachings, including Sutras (sermons of the Buddha), the Vinaya (precepts and rules of Buddhist discipline), and the Abhidharma (commentary on the Buddha's teachings).

2 Medicine is one of the five sciences whose study is mandatory for monastics. The other four are language, arts and mathematics, logic, and the philosophy of Buddhism.

3 According to Chinese medicine, chi is the energy or life force that circulates throughout the body; this vital power is believed to flow throughout the entire universe.

4 In practicing the Middle Path, one avoids both extremes of indulgence and asceticism.

5 Sometimes referred to as "temptations" or "afflictions," these mind-torments, e.g. greed, anger, sloth, jealousy, and many others, inhibit one from residing in true, original, pure mind.

6 System of glands that secrete hormones directly into the lymph or bloodstream.

7 Powerful spiritual practice of reciting a word, sound, or verse, used to cultivate wisdom, deepen concentration, and effect a change in consciousness.

8 Literally meaning "crossing over to the other shore," paramitas are the core virtues of the bodhisattva path.


Buddhism and Psychology

Psychology is a science that investigates the mental activities of human life. In the West, it originated from medical science, philosophy, natural science, religion, education and sociology, and extends into a myriad of other disciplines and practices. In today's society, psychology is applied to education, industry, business, health care, national defense, law, politics, sociology, science, arts and even sports. Its importance increases as time goes on.
Psychology examines the mental functions of mind and the modes of human behavior. Psychologists in the West use it to study the development of personality and the determinants of behavior. Because of its inherent limitations, Western Psychology has been only partially successful in personality transformation and improvement. Buddhism, on the other hand, understands very deeply the psychological nature of human beings and has developed some effective methods for treatment. As revealed in The Avatamsaka Sutra, "Our perception of the Three Realms arise from the mind, so do the twelve links of dependent origination; A birth and death emanate from the mind, they are extinguished when the mind is put to rest."
The analysis of mind in Buddhism is both multifaceted and sophisticated. As a spiritual practice, Buddhism contains numerous descriptions of the nature and function of the mind and instructions on how to search for, abide with and refine it. In this regard, Buddhist Psychology has a lot to offer along with Western Psychology.
How Buddhism Looks at the Mind
At first, "psychology" meant "a science which explains the psyche." Later it was expanded to "a behavioral science for studying human problems." This development is consistent with how life and the universe are viewed in Buddhism: "from the mind all phenomena arises." Buddhism interprets everything in the world as the manifestation of our mind. It investigates and analyzes human behavioral problems at the most fundamental level. From this perspective, Buddhism can be considered a fully developed system of psychology.
All the Buddha's teachings deal with the mind, as shown in the multitude of sutras and sastras. Among them, the psychological understanding spoken of by the Mind-only (Yogacara) School is closest to its counterpart in today's psychology. The Yogacara texts are used to explain Buddhist Psychology.
The Yogacara view that the mind consists of eight consciousnesses clearly indicates that it is not made of a single element, but an interactive complexity of factors. These factors are the functions of the six sensory organs of the human body (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mental function) plus the consciousness which constantly grasps the "self" (the Manas) and the Alaya consciousness (the supra- unconsciousness, referred to as the "master of the mind" in Buddhist texts) which collects and stores all karmic seeds of the mind in the ongoing cycle of birth and death of all sentient beings. To a Buddhist, the "self" at this moment reflects everything accumulated from the past. The "self" in the future depends on the actions of the present. That is, "what one receives in this life is what one had cultivated in previous lives; what one receives in a future life is what one creates in this life."
"The Three Realms are mere manifestation of mind; so are the myriad of dharmas." All phenomena in this life, and in the universe, are nothing but mirror images imprinted on our mind through the eight consciousnesses. Our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind discriminate and grasp sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and thoughts. In accordance with each individual's capacity for discernment, these images are further processed and recognized as real or unreal, and then used to construct what one believes to be "this life and the world." In reality, all things constantly change in a cycle of formation, abiding, destruction and emptiness. Our thoughts and ideas also arise, abide, change and disappear instantaneously in the cycle of birth and death. Where can one find a life or a world which truly exists without change? Everything in the universe can only be found in perceptions and interpretations!
The Alaya consciousness is like a big storehouse full of past memories of love, hatred, goodwill and animosity which we may no longer recall in this life. It perpetually influences our actions and behaviors in this life and is referred to as ignorance in Buddhism. Because of the karmic influence of this ignorance, we go through the cycle of birth and death. When the unwholesome seeds from the past mature, we become afflicted and are tempted to commit non-virtuous acts, which in turn become unwholesome seeds for the future. When the wholesome seeds from the past mature, our hearts are pure and noble, our minds are clear and intelligent and we perform virtuous deeds which become wholesome seeds again in the Alaya consciousness. In the teachings of the Mind-only School, it is said, "Seeds give rise to actions, then actions turn into new seeds." The psychological motives of all human behaviors are explained through this model.
Due to the influence of our ignorance from the past, we are prone to make judgments which result in negative feelings. Reinforced by greed and anger, our minds become confused and form incorrect views about things in the world. However, just as plants require sunshine and rain to blossom and bear fruit, similar conditions are required for the development of human behavior. Although deep in the unconscious level of the human mind lie feelings of love, hatred and positive or negative intentions, at the time when these feelings are provoked by people or things from outside surroundings, one can rely on our true mind and wisdom to avoid negative deeds from occurring and create virtuous conduct instead.
The development of our true mind and its wisdom relies on the diligent practice of upholding the precepts, developing concentration and increasing awareness and insight. This process which transforms a deluded mind into our true mind is described in Buddhism as "converting consciousness into wisdom". Consciousness carries the psychological baggage of past experiences. The wisdom emitted from our true mind is the therapy or treatment for human beings in their attempt to resolve any internal conflicts within their minds, to transcend suffering in this lifetime and to escape from the cycle of birth and death in coming lives.
The Mind-only School further classifies the psychological responses of human beings into fifty-one categories and refers to them as "the attributes of the mind." These include:
1. Five basic psychological functions: mental and physical contact, attention, feeling, identification and analysis.
2. Five deliberately created mental conditions: aspiration, comprehension, memory, concentration and wisdom.
3. Eleven wholesome psychological states: trust, diligence, humility, remorse, no greed, no hatred, no ignorance, tranquility, attentiveness, equanimity, and no harm.
4. Six root afflictions: greed, hatred, ignorance, arrogance, doubt and incorrect view.
5. Twenty unwholesome psychological states: anger, hostility, irritation, conceit, deceit, flattery, arrogance, malice, jealousy, stinginess, no remorse, no regret, no trust, laziness, insensitivity, apathy, agitation, forgetfulness, incorrect perception and heedlessness.
6. Four neutral states of mind: remorse, sleepiness, applied thought and sustained thought.
The above categorization of human psychological responses in Buddhism is rather comprehensive and sophisticated. Today's psychology researchers will gain a lot if they can study Buddhism in addition to psychology.
The Allegories of the Mind
In Buddhism, the root cause of human suffering, and other problems, is identified as the mind. It thus proposes to tap into this invaluable resource by transforming any unwholesomeness into wholesomeness. Buddhism instructs sentient beings on how to recognize the mind, calm the mind and handle the mind. The Buddha taught, in his life time, for forty-nine years. Whether his teachings were about the Four Noble Truths, the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination, the Six Paramitas, or the Four Encompassing Principles, they invariably involved mind. The mind dictates a person's behavior. If a person's mind is pure, all his/her thoughts, speech and actions, will necessarily be pure. If a person's mind is impure, what he/she hears and sees becomes impure. Therefore, it is said in one sutra, "When the mind is impure, the being is impure; when the mind is pure, the being is pure."
All the pain and suffering in this world are created by the mind. Our minds have wandered among the Six Realms in numberless lives. It seems that we are never in control. The mind always attaches to colorful external surroundings, seeking tirelessly for fame, fortune, power and love, constantly calculating and discriminating. The truth is, our mind was originally capable of embracing everything just like that of the Buddha's. It was like the sun and moon, capable of breaking through darkness. It was like fertile soil, capable of enriching the roots of virtue and growing trees of merit. It was like a bright mirror, capable of reflecting everything clearly and truthfully. It was like an ocean, full of immeasurable resources and treasures. In the Buddhist canons, the Buddha often used simple stories to describe the mind. A summary of ten of them is listed below:
1. The mind is like a monkey, difficult to control: As is said in an old proverb, "the mind resembles a monkey and the thoughts resemble horses." The mind is compared to a monkey that is hyperactive, jumping and swinging between tree limbs without any moment of rest.
2. The mind is as quick as lighting and thunder: The mind is compared to lighting, thunder, or a spark created by striking a stone. It functions so rapidly that at the moment of thought, it has traveled throughout the universe without any obstruction. For instance, when one thinks about taking a trip to Europe or America, immediately the scenery of Europe and America will surface in his/her mind, as if he/she were already present in those places.
3. The mind is like a wild deer, chasing after sensory pleasure all the time: The wild deer runs in the wilderness and becomes thirsty. To search for water, it scrambles in four directions, looking for a stream. Our mind is like this wild deer, it can hardly resist the temptation of the five sensual desires and the six sensory objects. It chases after sight, sound and other sensory pleasures all the time.
4. The mind is like a robber stealing our virtues and merits: Our body is like a village, with the five sensory organs as the five entrances, and the mind is the thief in the village who steals beneficial deeds and merits that we have laboriously accumulated, leaving us with a negative impression in other's minds and a poor life style. Confucian scholar Wang Yangming once said, "It's much easier to catch bandits hidden in the wilderness than to eradicate the thief in our mind." If we can tame the thief in our mind, making it obedient and compliant, we will become the master of our mind and capable of fostering superior virtues and merits.
5. The mind is like an enemy inflicting suffering upon us: the mind acts like our foes and enemies, aiming at creating trouble for us, causing us all kinds of pain and suffering. In one sutra, it says, "Unwholesomeness in itself is empty because it is a creation of the mind; if the mind is purified, unwholesomeness will be gone in no time." Our mind has Buddha Nature as its original quality which is pure, free and contented. But numerous delusions have caused afflictions to our body and spirit. If we can eliminate our delusions and false views, we will be able to make friends with this enemy.
6. The mind is like a servant to various irritations: The mind acts as if it is the servant of external objects, catering to and driven constantly by these objects, resulting in numerous afflictions. In another sutra, it says that our mind has three poisons, five hindrances, ten defilements, eighty- eight impediments, and eighty-four- thousand aggravations! These hindrances, obstacles, defilements and impediments are all capable of impeding our wisdom, restraining our mind and spirit and making us restless. To turn our mind from a servant into a master depends largely on how we train it.
7. The mind is like a master having the highest authority: The mind is the boss of the body. It possesses the highest authority. It leads, governs and commands everything including our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mental activities to produce sensory feelings and cognitive functions.
8. The mind is like an ever-flowing spring: Our mind is similar to running water gushing incessantly. It holds unlimited potential and contains immeasurable treasures. If we can effectively utilize our spring of wisdom, we will be free from the fear of being scarcity.
9. The mind is like an artist who paints: The Avatamsaka Sutra says, "The mind is like a master painter experienced at painting all sorts of things." Our mind is very much like a skillful painter who can draw various pictures. When one's mind is inspired by wise ones and sages, one's appearance will seem wise and enlightened. When one's mind is occupied by malice and hostility, one's appearance will look fierce and repulsive like that of a devil or ghost. In other words, "As one's mind changes, so does one's appearance."
10. The mind is like space without limit: The nature of mind is as expansive as the limitless space. It is capable of encompassing everything in the universe. In another sutra, it says, "If one wants to comprehend the enlightened state of a Buddha, one has to purify his/her mind so it becomes empty like space." Space is vast and enormous without borders or edges. Space supports everything but grasps nothing. If we want to understand the enlightened states of the Buddhas, we have to expand our mind so that it becomes limitless and boundless like the sky, friction-free and carefree like space. Then our mind will be able to embrace all things in the universe and benefit all sentient beings.
Ways to Purify the Mind
Modern medicine is very advanced. All kinds of pharmaceuticals are available. The variety of drugs corresponds to the numerous ailments modern people now have which were non-existent before. There are cancers in our physical bodies, but aren't there cancers in our minds also? Greed, anger, ignorance, arrogance and doubt are illnesses that we cannot ignore. When we have physical disorders, we treat them with medicines, intravenous injections and nu- tritional supplements. There is an old Chinese saying, " Medicine can only cure symptoms of ailments. It will not heal the real illnesses." The real illness is the illness of the mind. As a matter of fact, many physical diseases are caused by psychological factors. The most obvious examples are illnesses of the stomach and digestive system. Eighty percent of these disorders are related to emotional distress. If we can maintain a balanced and peaceful mind, many diseases will disappear.
If we have psychological disorders, what medicines will benefit our spirit? The Buddha is said to have created eighty-four-thousand instructions to remedy our eighty-four-thousand tenacious maladies. For example, if we do not eradicate our greed by upholding the precepts, our mind will follow our greed by running wild. If we do not overcome our anger by practicing meditation, our spirit will live forever in a "flame of fire" which makes perfect tranquility difficult to reach. Finally, the affliction of ignorance can only be cured by wisdom, because wisdom is capable of penetrating the darkness of ignorance, uncovering the magnificent and tranquil state of our original mind.
In addition to the major illnesses caused by the three poisons, and ignorance, there are all kinds of psychological sicknesses that need to be healed, transformed, or overcome. The following are treatments as prescribed in the Buddha's teachings:
1. A calm mind is an antidote to a busy mind: The tempo of modern life is rather fast and compacted. Most people suffer from distress caused by anxiety and insecurity. Therefore, in our daily lives, it's beneficial if we have a few minutes to practice the art of self-healing through mind calming and purification. When the "impurities" in our mind are cleansed, insight and wisdom will emerge from calmness.
2. A benevolent mind is an antidote to a malevolent mind: Our mind sometimes is like that of a "sage," but at other times like that of a "troubled one," rambling up and down, in between the positive and the negative. When the benevolent mind arises, everything goes well; when the malevolent mind arises, millions of defilements result. Therefore, we have to eradicate the unwholesome mind, and guard and keep our correct thoughts, in order to cultivate a mind of loving kindness and compassion.
3. A trusting mind is an antidote to a doubtful mind: Many mistakes and tragedies in the world are due to doubt and suspicion, for instance, suspecting the betrayal of a friend, infidelity of a spouse, or ill will of a relative. When doubt arises, it's like a restraining rope on the body, making movement almost impossible. Treatise on the Perfection of Great Wisdom (Mahaprajnaparamita Sastra) says, "The Buddha's teachings are as large as an ocean. Trust provides the only means to reach it." Building trust not only allows us to realize the truth in the Buddha's teachings, it also enables us to be more tolerant toward others, to accept the world as it is and to strengthen our belief in the Dharma.
4. A true mind is an antidote to a deluded mind: Because of an attachment to the notion of self, personal preference and judgments, ordinary people's minds are constantly discriminating and deliberating, creating countless illusions and unwarranted responses. To lead a life of truth, beauty and virtue, we have to use our mind without discrimination and duality, perceiving things as they are and treating all sentient beings as inherently equal.
5. An open mind is an antidote to a narrow mind: We need to make our mind become like an ocean capable of receiving all the water from hundreds of rivers and tributaries without changing their characteristics. Only an all-embracing mind of gratitude and forbearance can relieve us from a jealous and intolerant mind.
6. A balanced mind is an antidote to a fragmented mind: If material wealth is the only thing valued in life, we will become extremely anguished when we lose our fortune. If ordinary love is the focal point of life, we will suffer tremendously if that love relationship can no longer be maintained. Whenever there is grasping and clinging, there is differentiation and bondage. How can one be free? It's better that one react to the transient, worldly possessions and the attached illusions with an even and equitable mind. By doing that, one will become free and unperturbed at all times and in all occasions without any attachment or restriction.
7. An enduring mind is an antidote to an impermanent mind: Although Buddhism maintains that all things and phenomena, including thoughts and feelings, are impermanent and constantly changing, it also holds that when we vow to serve others and not just ourselves, the power of the vow and devotion is so immeasurable that it reaches beyond the universe. The Avatamsaka Sutra says, "As soon as one invokes the bodhicitta (the vow to attain Buddhahood), one is immediately enlightened." A Bodhisattva who has just pledged his/her vow has a mind as pure as that of the Buddha's. However, he/she has to maintain that momentum, without falling back, in order to attain perfect en- lightenment.
8. A non-attached mind is an antidote to an impulsive mind: Modern men and women fancy novelty and fads. They are curious about any new gimmick, and thus become easy targets of bizarre and eccentric scams and frauds perpetrated by con artists. Chan Buddhism states that, "A non-attached mind is the path to enlightenment." Maintaining a non-attached mind in our daily life will enable us to appreciate that, "Every day is a delightful day, every moment is an enjoyable moment."
In addition to these eight observations, we ought to cultivate a mind of patience, humility, thoughtfulness, filial piety, sincerity, honesty, innocence, purity, loving-kindness, forgiveness, joyfulness, charity, reverence, equanimity, forbearance, contrition, repentance, thankfulness, wisdom (prajna), compassion (a trait of a Bodhisattva) and enlightenment (a trait of a Buddha) to fully develop its boundless potential.
Buddhism's Contribution to Modern Psychology
Western Psychologist Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) developed the practice of psychoanalysis. He was also the first researcher who explored the role of the human unconscious in the history of Western physics. His contribution to psychology is analogous to Newton or Copernicus's contribution to science. Nevertheless, the human unconscious has been the subject of detailed and sophisticated analysis and discussion by Buddhists in the East since for over fourteen-hundred years, as evidenced by the book "Verses on the Formulation of the Eight Consciousnesses (by Venerable Master Xuanzang)".
Freud's work on the unconscious was further advanced by his well known student Karl Jung (1875-1961). Jung was very knowledgeable about Eastern philosophies and spiritual practices, such as Buddhism, Chan and Yoga. Inspired by these teachings, Jung divided the human psyche into three levels: conscious, individual unconscious and collective unconscious. The individual unconscious functions like a storage of memory, amassing a person's repressed psychological experiences and feelings. The collective unconscious, on the other hand, is the accumulation of the deep-seated archetypes inherited by human beings over many generations. This idea is very similar to the formulation of the "Alaya Consciousness" in Buddhism and is an example of the influences of Buddhism on Western Psychology.
After World War II, Humanistic Psychology developed. Advanced by Abraham Maslow (1908- 1970), it postulates that human needs can be divided into five stages. The highest stage is "self- actualization." He borrowed concepts such as "correct feeling" and "enlightenment" from Buddhism to interpret the ideal state of self- actualization. He identified this state as a living experience of spirituality and bliss, transcending time and space, object and subject. Maslow often used the Buddhist term "Nirvana" to describe this special experience. He also stated that the notions of "Selflessness" and "True Self (Buddha Nature)" can assist people in attaining self-actualization and contributing to others in society.
Another psychoanalyst, Erich Fromm (1900- 1980), had a keen interest in and deep understanding of Chan Buddhism. He spoke highly of Buddhism and its spiritual aspect characterized by "loving-kindness and compassion" and "an extreme altruism of elevating all sentient beings to bliss." He thought that altruism, in the form of sacrificing one's self for others, is the correct "medicine" for healing sickness in Western society.
As a branch of Humanistic Psychology, Transpersonal Psychology developed in the 1960s and has broadened the boundary of traditional psychology by integrating Buddhist philosophy, and other spiritual practices, with Western Psychology. It is often thought to be "the psychology of modern wisdom and creativity." This school of psychology investigates transpersonal psychic states, values and ideals, meaning of life, cares for the dying, the relationship of an individual with the whole of humankind and the relationship between an individual and nature. Meditation is included as a way of expanding one's consciousness in order to establish an integration of mind, body and spirit. Modern Western methodologies are used to explain many of today's concrete psychological problems where traditional Buddhist Psychology has often been more generalized. The scope and object of Transpersonal Psychology is very close to the concept of "oneness and coexistence" in Buddhism.
Dr. Victor Frankl (1905-1997), another advocate of Humanistic Psychology, devoted his investigation to the meaning of life and what happens at the time of one's death. He believed that human beings can create meaningful and enjoyable lives through their own efforts by probing deeply into and understanding life's essence. He further mentioned that when humans are confronted with death or suffering, if they can adjust their state of mind from the negative to the positive in reacting to these circumstances, they will experience a deeper meaning of life which brings about clarity and dignity. He developed these ideas into a system called Logotherapy.
Logotherapy can be said to be an extension of the Buddhist idea that "every perception and concept is created by the mind." The Virmalakirtinirdesa Sutra says, "If one's mind is pure, the world is experienced as pure." Buddhism stresses daily practice and training in order to transcend life and death. The scholars in Humanistic Psychology also turned their attention to the relationship between the understanding of life and death and personal spiritual liberation. In the future, it is predicted that more integration will occur between Western psychotherapy and Eastern Buddhist practices leading to liberation from suffering.
Although we live in a time of abundant resources brought about by rapid economic growth and technological advances, we are extremely lacking in spirituality. When the body and mind are squeezed and harmed by various pressures from the external environment, and we are unable to adjust or adapt to them, mental disorders usually result such as anxiety and depression.
Buddhist Psychology identifies the source of all suffering. It shows us the meaning of life and guides all sentient beings in searching the deeper powers of mind through the elimination of greed, anger and ignorance from within. Its practice, if pursued freely and diligently, prevents any occurrence or reoccurrence of psychological illness. It aids people in creating both physical and mental health so they can lead both joyful and fulfilling lives.
Since the middle of the twentieth century, much of Western Psychology has absorbed considerable wisdom from Eastern cultures, especially Buddhist philosophy and practices. Based on this, it can be stated that Buddhist Psychology represents an important and comprehensive science of mental health. By adapting to the needs of people, Buddhist Psychology, along with other modalities, will meet the demands of our time by providing solutions to human problems and an improvement in social well-being.
Venerable Master Hsing Yun
Venerable Master Hsing Yun was born in Chiangsu Province, China in 1927 and entered a monastery near Nanjing at age twelve. He was fully ordained in 1941, and is the 48th patriarch of the Linji (Rinzai) Chan School. In 1949, amid the turbulence of civil war, he went to Taiwan.
In Taiwan, he began fulfilling his long-held vow of promoting Humanistic Buddhism - a Buddhism that takes to heart spiritual practice as daily life. With an emphasis on not needing to "go some place else" to find enlightenment, we can realize our true nature in the here and now, within this precious human birth and this world. When we actualize altruism, joyfulness, and universality, we are practicing the fundamental concepts of Humanistic Buddhism. When we give faith, hope, joy, and ser- vice, we are helping all beings, as well as ourselves. For nearly a half century, Venerable Master Hsing Yun has devoted his efforts to transforming this world through the practice of Humanistic Buddhism.
He is the founder of the Fo Guang Shan International Buddhist Order, which is headquartered in Taiwan and supports temples worldwide. The Order emphasizes education and service and maintains public universities, Buddhist colleges, libraries, publishing houses, Buddhist art galleries and tea rooms, free mobile medical clinics, a children's home, a retirement home, a high school, and a television station. The Order's lay service organization, Buddha's Light International Association, also has active chapters worldwide.
Venerable Master Hsing Yun is an outspoken pro- ponent of equality among all people and religious traditions. The Order has the largest number of fe- male monastics of any Buddhist order today. By providing and supporting educational and leadership opportunities, he has worked to improve the status of women in Taiwan. He has held full ordination ceremonies for women of the Mahayana, Theravada, and Vajrayana traditions. In addition, he annually organizes conferences to bring together the various Buddhist schools and to promote dialogue between Buddhists and other major religious groups.
He is a prolific writer and has authored over one hundred books in Chinese. His writings have been translated into English and many other languages. His Life of Sakyamuni Buddha and the sixteen- volume Fo Guang Buddhist Dictionary have both won Taiwan's highest humanitarian award. His biography Handing Down the Light, Hsing Yun's Ch'an Talks, The Lion's Roar, The Hundred Sayings Series, The Humanistic Buddhism Series, and Being Good: A Guide to Buddhist Ethics are now available in English. His numerous lectures also continue to be translated into English.
Based in Taiwan, Venerable Master Hsing Yun travels widely. His insightful, engaging, and witty lectures unfailingly endear him to audiences. He reminds us that to transform our world, we must be actively engaged in it. "Community transcends the individual," he says, "and in doing so, fulfills the individual in the most complete way possible." Wherever he goes, he encourages people to unite both the local and global community into a world of complete equality, joyfulness, and perfect peace.


Building Connections: Buddhism & Architecture

Architecture as Insight Into Culture

Architecture is an art of profound creativity. The world-renown Forbidden City1 and Dung Huang Cave in China, the Agianda Cave and the Taj Mahal in India, the great Pyramids of Egypt, the Louvre in France, and the impressive Greek Parthenon; all of these architectural masterpieces represent some of the greatest artistic accomplishments. Often, the design and intention of a structure dictates the art surrounding it and contained within it. Therefore, we frequently find equally impressive paintings, sculptures, and landscaping throughout an architectural creation. One might say, therefore, that architecture is the "mother of art."

Architecture is a visual representation of culture. Through architecture, one can understand a certain culture's environment, climate, societal priorities, characteristics of the people, dynamics of human interaction, customs, religions, and living habits, as well as the relationship between these qualities. For example, the people of ancient Egypt valued eternal life, and many people devoted their entire lives to building a place for their spirit after death. Therefore, the art form of the pyramids, which functioned as elaborate tombs, was born. In China, as rivaling warlords strove for supremacy from generation to generation, internal revolts and foreign invasions were perpetual. In response to the continuous threat of danger, the Great Wall was built. Protective moats were also constructed at the outskirts of certain cities to prevent potential invaders from entering. In countries such as Greece, Italy, and Spain, rooftops are built at steep, sloping angles to prevent them from collapsing under the weight of heavy snow and rain. In an area like Egypt, where very little rain falls, flat roofs are popular.
In China, where the territory is quite expansive, northern architecture and southern architecture have their own unique specialties. In the chilly north, where the cold weather can be quite bitter, the stove bed2 has become an architectural necessity. In the comfortable south, where the weather is much warmer, the general architecture includes open pavilions, terraces, towers, and flower gardens with paths. Flowers and trees are commonly planted to provide the comfort of shade and fresh air. A traditional feature in both regions is the horizontal style of architecture, where buildings and homes sprawl flatly over rather large pieces of land. This is very different than most western architecture, which tends to be developed vertically in order to save space.
Chinese people are proud of their architectural accomplishments. The Great Wall is often called, "The World's Miracle." It is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The majestic tomb of the Qin dynasty is honored with the title of "one of the greatest ancient relics." Dung Huang Cave, with its innumerable artistic treasures, is considered a "museum on the wall." The Altar of Heaven, where emperors go to pay respect to heavenly beings and ancestors, is viewed as "one of the world's supreme architectural masterpieces."
One aspect of Chinese culture that can give us a clue as to why the country has seen so many incredible architectural feats is the tradition of emperors who constructed massive new buildings once they came into power. Each dynasty established their command in the area they preside over by building a new imperial center, such as the Forbidden City of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Also, the Chinese culture often uses architecture to preserve a historical legend, or to commemorate ancestry, a specific event, or a particular person, especially an emperor. The Qin Dynasty's3 A-fang Palace, which is the tomb for this dynasty's first emperor, is one such example. In this manner, architecture serves to record history.
Architecture and people's livelihood within a society are very closely connected. Basic necessities, such as food, clothing, accommodation, and transportation all dictate the construction of appropriate structures, and thus are intrinsically related. Residential buildings, bridges, and canals are erected to provide the daily necessities of shelter and transportation. Similarly, if no factories are built, how can clothes, food, and other daily requirements be produced? How we meet the demands of daily living is highly dependent on architectural achievements.
Architecture provides a witness to the impressions of our ancestors. With techniques
always changing and growing through accumulated experience and innovative ideas, history can be traced through advancements in architecture. From living in a tree and creating a home in a cave in the early days, to today's elaborate houses and high-rise buildings, architecture has observed the development of civilization. It is a testimony to the great changes that have taken place in history. Architecture has also recorded the movement of every generation. It serves as the visual memory for the history of our ancestors, what conditions they lived in, and what cultural changes they lived through.
The religious beliefs and spiritual traditions of a culture also cannot be separated from architecture. For example, the majority of Chinese architecture includes Buddhist temples, Buddhist stupas4, serene gardens, rock caves5, and so forth. It is rare to encounter a structure in China that isn't somehow connected to religion, and primarily, Buddhism. Therefore, Buddhism plays a very important role in the architectural field.
The History and Value of Buddhist Architecture
Birth of Buddhist Architecture
Buddhism is a religion that honors nature. Most Buddhist practitioners seek to transcend worldly, material desires, and try to develop a close kinship with nature. Especially during the time of the Buddha, disciples often lived in very simple and crude thatched houses, and were able to develop and maintain a peaceful and joyful mind. Whether dwelling in a suburban area, a forest, by the waterside, in a freezing cave, or under a tree, they were always comfortable in their living situation. However, as Buddhist disciples grew in number, it was proposed by King Bimbisara and a follower named Sudatta that a monastery be built that would allow practitioners to gather in a common place and practice in a more organized manner. After the Buddha deeply considered and then wholeheartedly agreed with this idea, he gave his assent for devotees to make donations of monasteries. As a result, the Jetavana Monastery, the Bamboo Grove, and the Mrgara-matr-prasada6 Lecture Hall were constructed. This was the beginning of Buddhist architecture in India.
In China, in 67 C.E., there was debate between Taoists and two Buddhist monks from India named Ksayapa-matanga and Gobharana. Due to this lively dialogue, the emperor's interest and belief in Buddhism was ignited. Although Taoism was quite popular at this time, the emperor accepted and honored Buddhism, ordering the construction of a monastery outside the city for Bhiksus7, and a monastery inside the city for Bhiksunis8. This was the birth of Chinese Buddhist architecture.
Types and Styles of Buddhist Architecture
Buddhist temples are often the center of cultural activities. From a modern viewpoint, temples can be compared to museums, for they contain precious and spectacular art forms, and in fact, are beautiful art forms themselves. Like art museums, they are a combination of architecture, sculpture, painting, and calligraphy. Temples offer a harmonized environment and a spiritual atmosphere that allows one to become serene and tranquil. They are valuable places for distressed persons to lay down their burdens, soothe their minds, and achieve a sense of calm.
In the early period of China, stupas were the main architectural structures being built. It was not until the Sui9 and Tang10 Dynasties that the hall [or shrine] became the focus. A stupa, sometimes referred to as a pagoda, can be considered the "high rise" of Buddhist architecture due to its tall, narrow shape that reaches toward the sky - sometimes with immense height. The concept and form of the Chinese stupa originated in India. The purpose of a stupa is to provide a place to enshrine the Buddha's relics, where people can then come and make offerings to the Buddha. Beginning with a relatively simple style, the stupa has been transformed in China, with improvements and innovations that demonstrate the country's artistic and architectural abilities. While maintaining a relatively consistent shape, stupas are constructed in a variety of sizes, proportions, colors, and creative designs. Although you can find stupas by waterfronts, in the cities, in the mountains, or in the country, they are all constructed to harmonize with and beautify the environment. The stupa is indeed one of the most popular types of architecture in China.
The Buddhist architecture of every region has its own unique character due to differing cultural and environmental factors. Close in proximity, Ceylon's architecture is similar to India's architecture. Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia also share a similar style, with structures that incorporate the use of wood into their design. Java's stupas resemble those of Tibet, which are made of stone and represent the nine-layered Mandala11. Tibet's large monasteries are typically constructed on hillsides and are similar in style to European architecture in which the buildings are connected to each other, forming a type of street-style arrangement.
Buddhist temples in China are commonly built in the emperor's palace style, categorizing them as "palace architecture." This layout is designed with symmetry in mind, with the main gate and main hall in the center, and other facilities - including the celestial beings hall, the lecture hall, the patriarch hall, and the abbot's quarters - lined up on either side. On one side a ceremonial drum is placed, and on the other, a ceremonial bell. Behind this symmetrical line of structures will be a guesthouse for lay visitors and the Yun Shui Hall for visiting monastics to reside during their stay.
The materials used in constructing the temples and associated facilities include wood and tile, with the roof tiles painted a certain color. Because wood is a difficult material to preserve over long periods of time, China has very few palace-style temples that have survived from the early ages. We are fortunate, however, that Fo Guang Temple, built out of wood during the Tang Dynasty, still stands. The main palace-style hall of Fo Guang Temple is still relatively pristine in appearance and sturdiness, and gives us a sense of the grandeur of this time. The exquisite art of the Tang Dynasty, including sculpture, paintings, and murals, is still displayed today in this surviving temple, and allows us to understand that this era was China's high point of artistic expression. This temple became a national treasure and reminds us of China's golden age of art and architecture.
Fo Guang Temple and the other temples that have persevered through the passage of time - although there are not very many - reveal the modifications of structure, decoration, and construction methods that change and evolve through different eras. They also serve as the visual, material memory of a certain age and area, helping us to study the region's architectural and cultural history. However, as mentioned above, despite the fact that China has 5,000 years of history, preserved architecture is very limited. It is not simply due to the use of wood, which is highly susceptible to fire and decay, that prevents us from having more standing temples from the early ages to study today. Other reasons exist for the rarity of remaining temples. For instance, around the 16th century, some dynasties that rose to power ordered the demolition of the previous dynasty's major architecture. Or, temples were harmed or even destroyed in various bouts of war and aggression. Regardless of the materials used in construction - wood, stone, clay, etc. - it was nearly impossible for an abundance of temples to survive due to human rivalry. Fortunately, Buddhist cave temples, which will be discussed in detail in the next session, were relatively immune to weather destruction, and for the most part they also escaped human desecration. They are well preserved and make it possible to witness traditional architecture and ancient art.
Modern Buddhist temples often imitate ancient architecture. For example, the main shrines of Taiwan's Fo Guang Shan, the United States' Hsi Lai Temple, and Australia's Nan Tien Temple are all designed based on Chinese architecture from the early ages. Many Buddhist temples today not only honor and preserve the Chinese culture, they have introduced and spread Chinese culture around the globe.
Cave Temples
In the history of Chinese Buddhist art and architecture, the most important link is the rock cave, or cave temple, and all of the art contained within. Cave temples are cavities of various sizes that are chiseled directly out of solid rock, sometimes directly on the face of sheer cliffs. Many are quite enormous. Within the rock caves, there are ornately carved statues, sculptures, and colorful paintings of the Buddha, bodhisattvas, arhats, and sutras. This artistic practice was started in 366 C.E. by a monastic named Le Zun, and continued until the 15th century. In some places, entire mountainsides are decorated with innumerable cave temples and gigantic carved statues. Among these countless cave temples, Dung Huang cave is the most famous for its impressive and grandiose mural. Other well-known caves in China include Longmen Caves in Luoyang, Yungang Caves in Datong, and the Thousand Buddhas Cave in Jinang. Yungang Cave is especially well known for its grand size.
The creation of cave temples occurred over thousands of years, spanning several dynasties, and, unlike wooden temples that suffer dilapidation from the elements, are sheltered by massive rock and therefore remain standing as remarkable and majestic testimonials to Buddhism flourishing throughout China. The magnificence and grandeur of Buddhist art within the caves has awed the world and has captured the essence and detail of the teachings for all visitors to behold. In the eyes of artists and archaeologists, this type of Buddhist architecture is especially full of life, beauty, and evidence of the transformation and evolution of Buddhist art throughout time. They are treasures that hold an important place in China's cultural, artistic, and architectural history.
The Role and Function of Buddhist Temples
In a temple, the Buddha, Dharma, and the Sangha [the Triple Gem] exist together in harmony and joy. The temple is a gathering place where followers can go to make offerings to the Buddha and learn the Buddha's precious teachings. While the temple is the grandest representation of Buddhism and a place for believers to expand their own hearts and minds, it is also the starting point for spreading the teachings and practicing compassion outside the temple walls in order to help even more people. As Buddhism gains momentum in the world, Buddhist practice will become less and less confined to temple boundaries. Though Buddhism will continue to extend beyond temple grounds and become increasingly alive out in the world, the temple will always remain an important symbol for practitioners. If there is a temple, there will always be a place where Buddhism can thrive, and the living Buddha-Dharma will be everlasting.
Temples are not only provide the teachings of the Buddha, they offer a noble and dignified atmosphere, peaceful chanting, and serene places to meditate and calm the mind for people who face long days of hard work or are struggling with problems in their lives. Upon arriving at a temple, the stunning beauty and calming sounds can purify people's minds and give them inspiration to meet life's daily challenges. When people encounter distress and helplessness, the temple is an ideal place to seek relief and inner nourishment. Whether they join a specific activity, come only to pay respect, or simply sit down and enjoy a moment of quiet in the soothing atmosphere, one can rejuvenate their energy and will to go forward and face the world. The temple can be called a refilling station for energy or a department store for life, where one can find many different services in a single place.
Temples can also be compared to schools, where one can gain knowledge and learn the Buddha's teachings. Because sound principles are both modeled and taught in temples, visiting a temple encourages people to act morally and with more self-awareness. This results in a more stable and harmonious society. Temples are also places where followers can meet new people and form a circle of support and friendship grounded in a common interest in Buddhism.
Temples are not only places of relief and respite for Buddhist practitioners, but for people of different backgrounds and faiths. Especially in the past, when temples were constructed in secluded forests, high mountains, and lakesides far from the heart of the suburban areas, temples attracted all sorts of people, even from very distant cities. Though the journey was not always convenient or quick, people were eager to get away from the noisy, fast pace of the city to enjoy the splendid and peaceful environment the temples provided. People of many different beliefs and lifestyles enjoyed the happiness and tranquility of nature through visiting temples tucked away in remote places.
The Future Direction of Buddhist Architecture: Building a Modern Temple
Buddhist architecture of the past can be roughly divided into two main components: the monastery and the living area. The monastery had a dual purpose. The first was to give people opportunities to make offerings to the Buddha and to bodhisattvas. This opportunity occurred in the Main Hall, Maitreya Bodhisattva Hall, Medicine Buddha12 Hall, Kuan Yin13 Bodhisattva Hall, and the Patriarch Hall, all of which were considered a part of the monastery. The second purpose of the monastery was to offer lay followers and monastics a place to gather and practice. This part of the monastery included the Meditation Hall, the Chanting Hall, and the Yun Shui Hall. The second main architectural feature was the living area, which included the dining hall, kitchen, guest hall, residential quarters for monastics, nursing home, and reception area.
Today, the architecture of Buddhist temples has not and should not remain confined only to the facilities mentioned above. As technology advances over time, the methods of propagating the Dharma should also be continually improved, with additional features and facilities created for this purpose. The design and layout of Buddhist architecture should be modernized in order to spread the Dharma in new ways that are appropriate to the current age. Modern temples must emphasize and address:
1. Efficient use of space.
2. Coordination between all programs, activities, and events, so that they can operate without interfering with each other.
3. Proper location for all services offered.
4. Humanitarian design that considers the special needs of people and makes all services accessible to everyone.
5. Reasonable zoning that specifies clear areas of use and separates the monastic living quarters from day-to-day activities.
6. Thorough consideration of safety.
Fo Guang Shan, in Taiwan, has activated new programs and facilities that take into consideration the needs of contemporary practitioners and that incorporate the six elements mentioned above. In addition to the architectural features listed in the description of the monastery and the living area, Fo Guang Shan offers a large conference room, a lecture hall, a repentance hall, a sutra-writing hall, an auditorium, a tearoom, a gift shop, and a spacious parking lot. The overall temple design is planned so that the facilities embody and advocate the spirit of four bodhisattvas. The architectural structure is also an imitation of the four famous mountains of Mainland China, where followers have pilgrimaged for many years, believing that the Bodhisattvas manifest themselves there. There is the Great Compassion Hall for Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, the Great Wisdom Hall for Majusri Bodhisattva, the Great Vow Hall for Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, and the Great Practice Hall for Samantabhadra Bodhisattva.
Fo Guang Shan seeks to be a place that everyone can use, and where everyone can gain knowledge, find spiritual guidance, and receive various forms of assistance. While developing new facilities, Fo Guang Shan keeps four core components in mind: culture, education, propagation of the Dharma, and compassion. In the cultural aspect, the temple has a museum of cultural artifacts, an art museum, and a special exhibition hall. To fulfill the education and Dharma propagation aspects, Fo Guang Shan has a Buddhist college and several education halls for monks, nuns, and lay followers that are complete with all of the necessary materials and features that enable this important learning to take place. For the element of compassion, the temple has many programs and services that benefit and improve the social welfare of people who have diverse needs in various stages of life. These include the Buddha's Light Retirement Home, the Ta-tzu Children's Home, the Immortality Cemetery, the Fo Guang Clinic, and a mobile hospital unit that gives medical attention to people in remote areas. These and other facilities at Fo Guang Shan provide comfort, care, and specific services for all stages of life, from birth to death.
From the architectural features mentioned above, we know that Fo Guang Shan is a modern, versatile, and multifunctional monastery. It is a temple that has responded to the needs of people and society. In the past, most temples were erected in remote areas, far away from the pulse of society. Although they frequented temples, it was often difficult or inconvenient for city-dwelling people to undertake the lengthy journey involved in visiting a temple. As life and its accompanying challenges gradually changed, temples were more frequently built in cities in order to be more easily accessible to those seeking help and refuge. In modern society, temples are no longer places just for monks and nuns; they exist for everyone. Another transformation is that temples no longer always adhere to the traditional style of architecture, but can now be found in today's high-rise buildings. In Taiwan, many temples are entered through going up an elevator of an office building, and emerging onto a floor that has been renovated into a beautiful, serene haven, replete with all the features of a more conventional temple.
The objective for future temples is to have people engaged in the varied programs and opportunities available to them, including studying in the school, gaining knowledge in the lecture room, sharing ideas in the conference room, and much more. The goal is to have people move beyond a superficial level of faith. Therefore, future developments in temple architecture should allow temples to play a more significant role in people's social, intellectual, and spiritual development. To accomplish this, the modern temple should be:
1. A place that belongs to everyone.
2. A school that offers quality education.
3. A conference center, which is conducive to open communication and the sharing of ideas.
4. A community center where people can freely interact and develop supportive friendships.
The modernization of Buddhist architecture isn't for the purpose of being fanciful or for winning the favor of the public. The ongoing additions and transformations embody the Buddha's compassion and great vow to save all sentient beings. With wisdom and loving-kindness, the Buddha altered the method of his teachings to match the special needs of the audience or the person he was addressing. In the same way, the changes in temple architecture attempt to offer the most convenient and appropriate facilities that comply with the unique needs of every era. The larger purpose behind improving temple architecture is improving people's spiritual lives, and as a result, improving the world as a whole. Based on the ruins of ancient temples that were excavated in India, it is evident that even in the early ages, temples were quite progressive for the time. These ancient temples appeared to have well designed sanitation areas, sophisticated ventilation systems, and overall structures that could be regarded as highly advanced for the era.
Today, Buddhism tries to popularize the spirit of the Buddha by following this same line of thinking, using ingenious methods and innovative ideas in their architecture in order to keep up with the times. Temples have gone from the mountains to the urban culture, from a passive and self-centered focus to actively benefiting others, and from offering very few services to being completely accommodating to the needs of a diverse population. While not compromising any of the original teachings, Buddhism adjusts and adapts to every era. In this manner, regardless of the day and age, temples can serve as places of spiritual refuge and guidance for everyone.

1 Palace of Ming Dynasty, 1368-1643 C.E., and Qing Dynasty, 1644-1911 C.E.
2 A bed directly carved out of rock and hollowed out in the bottom center where a fire is made.
3 221-207 B.C.E.
4 A Buddhist shrine, or monument, erected to house Buddhist relics and honor the deceased. Synonyms: pagoda, tower
5 Countless caves have been transformed into ornate and elaborate temples throughout India and China. They are treasures of rock carvings and paintings that display Buddhist statues, symbols, sutras, and more.
6 Sanskrit name of the donor.
7 Monk; male member of the Sangha.
8 Nun; female member of the Sangha.
9 581-618 C.E.
10 618-907 C.E.
11 Symbolic circular figure that represents the universe and the divine cosmology of various religions; used in meditation and rituals.
12 "Bhaisajyaguru" in Sanskrit.
13 "Avalokitesvara" in Sanskrit.


Conditionality: The Law of Cause and Effect

Dear Dharma Friends,
Today we are going to discuss conditionality, or the Law of Cause and Effect. When I say cause and effect, some Buddhists may conclude that this is simply a tool to goad them on to doing good. This is not entirely correct. The Law of Cause and Effect according to the Buddha's teachings is not so simplistic.
Cause gives rise to effect-this is an inherent fact of life. The teachings of cause and effect are profound and operate with unfailing precision, more accurate than even the most advanced computers. Not only can we human beings not change the workings of cause and effect, even the gods cannot alter its path. The workings of cause and effect encompass everything in the universe and are the birthing ground of all conditions-past, present, and future. The Nirvana Sutra says categorically that the effects of helpful and harmful actions follow us like a shadow. Cause and effect spans the threefold dimension of time: past, present, and future. A cause once generated will always produce its appropriate effect.

If the workings of cause and effect govern all things in the universe, then who, or what, governs cause and effect? Cause and effect is inherent in the inter-dependencies of all phenomena and the multitude of forces thereby created. This is not unlike the balancing act of building a tower of cards; when we add or remove a card, the repercussions of any one such action permeate throughout the whole system. The way cause and effect are linked is both profound and unique. When we say we human beings cannot alter the laws of nature, we are saying that we cannot alter the workings of cause and effect. The workings of cause and effect are most intricate, and unless we are fully enlightened, we cannot even come close to comprehending them in their entirety. While we may not fear death or the unknown, we should always maintain a healthy fear of the workings of cause and effect.
In Buddhism, there is a very profound saying: "Bodhisattvas fear causes, sentient beings fear effects." The difference between bodhisattvas and us is that we have different perspectives on cause and effect. Bodhisattvas refrain from creating ill causes, for they know an ill cause will bring an ill effect. Their understanding of this law is complete, and they always examine the effects of causes before they act. Sentient beings, on the other hand, are impulsive and often act without thinking through the consequences. While we do not show any fear of creating ill causes, we dread the ill effects they bear on us. Time and time again, we act out of delusion and end up paying dearly for our foolishness.
From a sociological standpoint, culture, ethics, and laws are the main forces that give society its structure. The scope of a society's laws is finite, and the ability of a culture to curtail behavior is limited. The effect of these externally imposed boundaries cannot compare to the impact that an understanding of cause and effect would have on us. If we are always mindful of cause and effect, we can use this to guide our actions. We will understand that our circumstances, be they good or bad, are our own doing. If all of us can come to this level of understanding regarding cause and effect, we will always be mindful of our thoughts and actions, and the world will be a much better place.
Regardless of whether we believe in the teachings of cause and effect, we are all subject to its workings. No one can take our place in the workings of cause and effect. This is true from the very small, inconsequential causes to the life-changing ones born of our thoughts and actions. When a little boy plays with a knife and cuts himself, even the most loving mother cannot experience the pain that child must feel. We all have to bear responsibility of our thoughts and actions; no one can stand in our place when the effects unfold.
In the first two sections of today's talk, I'd like to look at cause and effect from the standpoint of everyday living and our relationships with others. In the third section we'll look at how cause and effect play out over time. In the last section we'll look at how cause and effect can be a guide to our actions.

I. Looking at Cause and Effect in Everyday Living
The workings of cause and effect are not only confined to the arena of religious activity. Even in our everyday lives, there are infinite examples that attest to its functioning. Take the simple act of eating. We eat everyday. Why? We eat because we are hungry. Hunger is the cause, and eating is the effect. After we eat, we no longer feel hungry. In this instance, eating is the cause, and the sense of fullness is the effect. When the weather turns chilly, we put on extra layers of clothing to keep ourselves warm. One cause leads to another as inevitably as day turns into night.
Look around, some of us are born into families of wealth while others are born to more humble circumstances. We all live in different countries. Why do some of us live in prosperous places, while others live in countries that are plagued by poverty and turmoil? Some of us live long lives, while others die tragically young. This is not because there is any god playing favoritism or that life is simply unfair. All of our circumstances are due to the varying causes and conditions we have planted in the past. Depending on our past causes, we now reap their effects. Causes breed effects, and the two cannot be separated.
In Buddhist literature, there is a verse about the role conditionality plays in determining our future rebirths:
My flesh, sentient beings' flesh-
Names different, nature the same.
Of the same nature,
Taking on different forms.
Let [the animals] suffer pain and agony,
While I enjoy their sweet and tender flesh.
Without waiting for Yama to judge;
We ourselves can imagine what the consequences shall be.
For just a moment's satisfaction of our taste buds, we cause the death of many animals, taking the young from their mothers or the parents from their young. The collective karma of these killings may well be the future cause of an awful war. Additionally, the desire for ever-more exotic food has driven many species to the edge of extinction, indirectly upsetting the balance of our ecological systems. We only have one Earth and understanding that we may be reborn into this world many times yet, it is in our own interest to preserve what we have.
Though the workings of conditionality may not be immediate and transparent, we should not doubt its functioning. Causes always yield effects. It is this interlocking web of causes and effects that gives rise to all phenomena. Our actions, or karma, are stored in our alaya-vijnana and become the seeds of future results. Our circumstances, whether they are fortunate or not, are the results of previous causes: there is no element of luck involved. Here is a verse that sheds some light on our common predicament:
Longevity comes from compassion; early
death comes from acts of killing.
Dignity comes from tolerance; poverty
comes from being miserly and greedy.
Status comes from being respectful; the lack
of status comes from pride.
Muteness comes from slander; blindness
and deafness come from lack of faith.
Impaired faculties and deformities come
from violation of the precepts;
wholeness in the body is the result of
upholding the precepts.
The moral of this verse is that we determine who we are. On the one hand, we should treasure our present blessings and not take things for granted. On the other hand, we should always sow the seeds of good effects. Along the same line, Chu-tzu (an ancient Chinese philosopher) used to teach his children with this verse:
A bowl of porridge, a bowl of rice-
contemplate, they do not come easily.
A bit of silk, a piece of thread-always
appreciate how precious they are.
Plan before a storm; do not start digging a
well when thirsty.
In this world, there is no effect without a cause, and there is no cause that does not yield an effect. Additionally, there is no effect that is inappropriate for its cause, and there is no cause that will not yield its due effect. Ultimately, cause and effect are determined by us.

II. Looking at Cause and Effect in our relationships with others
Look around, we all live in different countries and varying places. I may not know you, and you may not know me. On the surface, it seems there is a lot of random unconnectedness in this world. Actually, we do all share some common causes and conditions. In the sutras, it is said that if one has the ability of looking into the past and the future, one will see the multitude of sentient beings who had been or will be our parents, siblings, or relatives in our many lifetimes.
Let me tell you a story that illustrates how related we are. Once, there was a family celebrating a wedding. The house was filled with guests: family members, relatives, and close friends. Tables spilled out onto the street, and music filled the air. Everyone was in a festive mood. It happened that a monk walked by. He stood by the door, shook his head and sighed. Some of the guests were baffled and asked him why. The monk answered with the following verse:
Cows, sheep, animals sitting at table;
Grandmother from a past life is now the bride.
Beating drum in hall: hitting grandpa's skin;
Cooking in pots the aunts.
In this verse, the monk looked at familial relationships in the context of conditionality. The bride was once the grandmother in a past life. The many family members and friends sitting at the table were cows and sheep in their previous lives. The skin of the drum was made from the skin of a cow who was once the grandfather of the mother. The animals that were being cooked in the kitchen pots were the aunts of a previous life. When we pass away, our individual cumulative karmic force determines the realm of existence into which we are reborn. While we are of the same nature, each person's delusions differ in form and severity, giving each of us a different phenomenal existence. In our infinite rebirths, we meet and part. While we may be related in one life, we may be total strangers in the next.
The Taiwanese newspapers once carried the following story. From this story, you can draw your own conclusion about how cause and effect influences the relationships we have with others. The story began with a young man who had a terrible fall while mountain climbing in Taitung. Because of the severity of the fall, he suffered a serious concussion. In order to save the young man, the medical personnel on the scene decided to call in a renowned neurologist from Taipei. Taipei is quite a distance from Taitung, and the doctor was at first most reluctant. Out of compassion, however, the doctor finally decided to make the trip. He packed his car with the necessary medical supplies and headed south. Unexpectedly half way into his drive, a middle-aged man in a leather jacket stopped the car and ordered the doctor saying, "Get out. I need the car."
The doctor immediately explained, "You don't know what you are doing. I am a doctor on an emergency call to save a patient." The hijacker did not wait for the doctor to finish and pulled him out of his car. The doctor had no choice, but to hitch a ride from strangers. When he finally arrived at the scene of the accident, many hours had passed and the young man had already died. The medic on the scene was very angry at the doctor for his tardiness and told him that he was about an hour too late. When the doctor approached the victim, he saw a middle-aged man beside the dead man crying, "My son, my son." The doctor took a look at the middle-aged man and immediately recognized him as the person who had hijacked his car earlier. He grabbed the man by his jacket and said, "It is you who caused your son to die."
The man in the leather jacket was the victim's father. In trying to get to the scene to see his son, he indirectly caused his son's death. Our relationships with others are governed by the law of cause and effect, which often works in mysterious and complicated ways. Sometimes, in trying to love our children, we unknowingly put them in harm's way. A famous scholar in ancient China, Su Ma-won, once wrote, "Save a fortune for your heirs, they may not get to enjoy it. Collect books for your heirs, they may not be able to read them. In the dark and unknown, the ultimate answer is to accumulate merit and [set a good example] for our children." This is food for thought regarding our relationships with our children.
The realm of enlightenment and buddhahood is beyond our comprehension; the workings of cause and effect are equally profound and wondrous. When we truly understand the deep meaning of cause and effect, we are in essence understanding the Dharma. Conditionality pervades all our relationships, and as such, it behooves us to treasure all our relationships. When we comprehend the meaning of cause and effect, we will not hesitate to practice love that is grounded in oneness. When we help others, we are in fact helping ourselves. This is the joy of the Dharma.

III. Looking at How Cause and Effect Play Out in the Past, Present, and Future
From the point of view of time, cause and effect spans the threefold dimension of time, linking us from the past to the present and from the present to the future. Some causes produce effects in the present life, while others produce effects in the next life, and some others still produce effects many lifetimes later. Actually, this is not hard to visualize. Take the example of growing plants. Some plants that are seeded in the spring yield fruit in the fall. This is like producing effects in the present life. Some plants take a year to bear fruit. This is like producing effects in the next life. Then there are some plants that will take years before beginning to bear fruit. This is like producing effects many lifetimes later. One Chinese proverb says, "[Not that causes] are without effects; the time just hasn't come yet." The workings of conditionality never misfire; it is just a matter of time before the effect becomes apparent.
When we observe the world around us, we may sometimes wonder if life is nothing but a series of random events. We may have heard people say, "Mrs. Chan is such a nice lady. She is a vegetarian, practices the Dharma religiously, and gives to all kinds of social causes. Unfortunately, however, she is also a most unlucky person and has experienced a lot of misfortune. This is most unfair-how come so many bad things happen to such a nice person? How can anyone believe in conditionality?" At other times, we may come across this type of comment: "That person is such a crook. You would think that he should somehow have to pay for all the horrible things he has done. But look, he is rich and powerful. People look up to him. Will he ever have to pay?" True, when we see bad things happen to good people, or vice versa, our faith may be called into question. Actually, there is nothing here that is inconsistent with the Law of Cause and Effect. Let's go back to the example of Mrs. Chan. The reason that she does not yet have a chance to enjoy any good fortune is because of her "karmic debts" from the past. Once her "karmic debts" are burned up through the process of doing good, good fortune will await her. As to those who seem to be able to forever evade the retribution of their bad actions, it is because they have stores of merit from their past. When their store of merit is consumed, then the effects of their unwholesome actions will come knocking at their doors.
Let me tell you a story that best illustrates how conditionality spans across time. Once, there was a monk who pledged to build a temple at a certain location. In ancient China, the method used to raise funds was different from that used today. Instead of asking for donations, the monk would sit, or stand, at the site of the future temple and recite sutras or preach the Dharma, hoping to move the community to action. For three months, this elderly monk sat at the locale and recited the sutras, but no one paid him any attention, except for a young boy selling hotcakes on the street for a nearby store owner. The young boy could not bear to see the elderly monk not being able to realize his vow, and compassion arose in him. He thought to himself, "This poor monk. Maybe if I give him the money from the hotcakes, I can help him realize his vow." The boy offered the money he got from selling hotcakes to the monk. When news of this boy's gallant action spread, the villagers reflected on their own nonchalance and felt embarrassed about their parsimony. By words of mouth, people came from all over to offer help to the monk. In no time, the monk collected enough money to start construction. The monk was very moved by the boy's compassion and said to him, "My little friend, your compassion today has had an enormous impact. You are a great Dharma friend to our temple. If there is anything I can do, please do not hesitate to ask." The young boy just smiled and went his way.
When the boy returned to the store, he did not have the money to give to the store owner. The owner was livid and fired the boy on the spot. With such short notice, the little boy was not able to find another job and had to beg for a living. Things went from bad to worse; not only was he poor, he came down with an infectious disease and consequently lost his eyesight. With nowhere to turn, he suddenly recalled what the monk had said to him and decided to go to the temple for help. Now, this monk had attained the ability to see into the future and knew beforehand that the little boy would come to him for help. During the night, he gathered all of his followers together and left word saying, "Tomorrow, our great patron will be here. I want you all to be ready to receive him and show him the utmost respect."
The next day, everyone got up early in the morning to clean and dust. They waited and waited, but no one of importance came to the temple. Later, the elderly monk asked the monk in charge of hospitality, "Did our great patron grace us with his presence?"
"I did not see any great patron come to the temple today."
The elderly monk asked further, "Are you telling me that no one came today?"
"No one. Oh, only a small blind beggar boy called. He insisted on coming in, but I was afraid that he would be in the way when the great patron shows up. So, I gave him a few pieces of bread and asked him to leave."
The elderly monk was flabbergasted and said, "You've made a great mistake. That little boy is our great patron. Please hurry and see if you can catch up with him and invite him back." The young monk did as he was told and quickly caught up with the little beggar boy. He invited the boy back to the temple and prepared a guest room so that the boy might stay in the temple for a while. Unfortunately, one night when the little boy went to the out-house to relieve himself, he fell into the latrine pit and drowned.
When people in the village heard what had happened to the boy, they discussed among themselves, "Look, how can we say that the Law of Cause and Effect is functioning here? Everything was going along just fine when he sold hotcakes for the storeowner. His luck took a turn for the worse ever since he gave his money to the monk to build the temple. First, he became a beggar, then he became blind. Just when he thought things were looking up, he drowned in the temple out-house. How can we believe in the Law of Cause and Effect?" Comments like this quickly reached the elderly monk. He gathered everyone together to address their concerns. He said, "Because of his past karma, this little boy had to lead three difficult lives. In this lifetime, he was faced with poverty. In his next life, he was destined to be blind, and in the third lifetime, he was destined to die an accidental death in an out-house. His compassion in helping to build the temple earned him great merit, and he was able to burn off his karmic debt in one lifetime. In this way, he did not have to suffer through two more misfortunate rebirths. He is now being reborn into one of the heavens. We are the creator of our own circumstances; cause and effect follow us like our own shadow. Due to our ignorance of the past and future, we tend to look at our turn of events out of their proper context. How can we say that our actions would not yield their corresponding effects!" After the monk had spoken, everyone was moved, and they began to see the wondrous workings of cause and effect.
In the sutras, we come across this saying: "Hundreds and thousands of kalpas may pass, but our karma does not disappear. With the right cause and conditions, we will reap its effects." What this means is that the seeds we sow with our actions, be they good or bad, will not disappear regardless of how much time has passed. Like a seed that sprouts under the right conditions, our causes will bear effects when the right conditions come to pass.
The workings of cause and effect span through the past, present, and future. Even though we are not able to see into the past or future, we can see what happens in the present. The sutras say, "If we want to know the causes we have planted in our past lives, our experiences in this life are the effects. If we want to know what our circumstances will be in the next life, just look at the causes we are planting in this life." While we may not be able to do anything about our past causes, we are in control of the present and the future. If we understand that our circumstances today are the effect of past causes, we stand a better chance of accepting our circumstances with grace. Moreover, we can chart our future by our actions today. In this way, we mollify our past causes and plant wholesome seeds for the future. We should all take charge of the present and practice the Buddha's teachings. When we plant good seeds today, we will have a bountiful harvest tomorrow. Using this analogy, the following Chinese verse can help to spur us into action today:
Every one of us knows the next year will come;
All families plant for next year's food.
Every one of us knows there is a next life;
Why don't we all plant causes for good
fortune in the next life?

IV. Looking at Cause and Effect as a Guide to Actions
Some people have misguided notions and expectations regarding conditionality. Someone who had been a vegetarian for a long time once complained to me, "There's no point in being a vegetarian. Look at me, I have been a vegetarian for over twenty years, and I am not any healthier. Since the Buddha has not been looking after me, why should I continue to be a vegetarian." I guess he became a vegetarian because he thought that the Buddha would become his personal physician and look after his health. Another person grumbled to me, "Dharma Teacher, I am going to stop reciting Amitabha's name. For years I have dutifully recited his name, yet I lost all my money in business. If Amitabha is not going to take care of me, why should I recite his name?" Ah, he recited Amitabha Buddha's name not to be reborn into the Pure Land but because he wanted Amitabha to provide him with financial insurance. All of these are unreasonable expectations of the buddhas.
We have to understand that each cause has its respective effect. If we want good health, we should exercise and maintain a calm mind. If we want to be wealthy, we should first plant the seeds of wealth by giving alms. We also need to provide the right conditions for wealth to grow by working hard, being trustworthy, and helping others whenever we can. We have to help ourselves first. We cannot simply hope for wealth by praying to the gods. If we pray to Amitabha Buddha to help us get ahead while at the same time we selfishly take advantage of others, we are essentially asking Amitabha to stoop to our level, which is most ludicrous.
Some people bring a few pieces of fruit to a temple and expect to strike a bargain with the buddhas to bless their family with fame and fortune. If this is how the world operates, will we all not want to make such a trade? Such a belief is not in accord with right view, but is characterized by greed and delusion. In this world, you cannot get something for nothing, and any religion that is worth its name would not teach its followers to be so opportunistic.
Pai Chu-yi, a scholar of the Tang dynasty once asked the Ch'an master Niao-chao to teach him the Dharma. The Ch'an master replied, "Refrain from all wrongs, practice all good."
Pai Chu-yi answered disappointedly, "Is this what the Dharma is about? It is so simple. Even a three-year-old toddler knows this!"
With joined palms, the Ch'an master answered smilingly, "Yes, a three-year-old toddler may know this, but even an eighty-year old has difficulty practicing it. It is one thing to speak of the Dharma, it is another to put it into practice."
While we instinctively know that we should do good and refrain from evil, it is very hard to put this into practice. Often, we act impulsively without thinking through the consequences of our actions. If we can truly internalize the Law of Cause and Effect, we will have a constant reminder to think before we act. Sometimes, when we see bad things happen to good people, we may begin to loose our trust in conditionality. Seeing good things happen to bad people, we end up thinking that we may be able to evade the effects of our actions. Little do we know that while we may be able to temporarily escape the laws of a society, we will never escape the effects of conditionality. The following verse gives a good reflection of the way many of us may look at the world:
Before unwholesome karma bears fruit,
The ill-doer thinks his pursuits bring happiness.
When the effects of karma ripen,
The ill-doer then realizes the destructive nature of his actions.
Before wholesome karma blossoms,
The good-doer looks at his efforts as burdensome.
When the effects unfold,
The good-doer begins to see the goodness of his actions.
If we can channel the energy we expend to perpetrate harm into wholesome actions, if we can maintain our resolve when problems arise, if we can do what is right and not what is easy, we will one day reap the fruits of our labors.
During the period of the Warring States in Chinese history, there was a general by the name of Liu Bei. On his death bed, he left these words of advice with his son: "Do not commit a wrongdoing thinking that it is only minor; do not skip doing a good deed just because it is small." The sutras explain this a step further, "Do not be lulled into thinking that a small wrongdoing does not bear any ill consequence. A trickle of water, though small, can gradually fill a large container. Do not look down on a small benevolent act, thinking that it will not yield any blessing. A blessing small like a trickle of water can accumulate into great blessings." Thus, in our daily life, we have to be mindful of our every thought and action. If we look around and observe the world, we will see how conditionality applies even to the most minute detail.
When we see others more fortunate than ourselves, we may long for their good luck and wonder why we are not equally blessed. Actually, if we understand the Law of Cause and Effect, we will realize that the circumstances we find ourselves are the product of our own mind, and luck has nothing to do with it. Not only is our mind the generator of karma, it is also the sole agent of karmic change. If we are continually vigilant of our mind and keep it focused on right thought, then even misfortune can be changed for the better. If we let our mind runs wild with ill thoughts, then whatever blessings we have cannot last.
Venerable Tzu-hang of Hsi-chu Chen, a city in China, was a well-respected monk of his time. Before he passed away, he left behind this verse which puts the interplay of our mind and our karmic conditions into perspective:
Here's a word of advice to all:
It's imperative to continually reflect on
Activities and thoughts each day.
Take stock of how much good and harm you have caused.
As long as you have peace of mind,
North, east, south, west are all good.
As long as one person remains to be ferried across,
We must not cross over ourselves.
Dharma nature is inherently empty and serene.
No cause planted is ever lost.
We reap what we sow;
No one can stand in our place.
Places of practice-like a flower in the sky,
moon in the water-
Build them, everywhere and ceaselessly.
I hope you all will do good, fostering many good conditions.
Without delay, work towards liberation for yourself and the world.
While conditionality never fails, its effect is not always instantaneous. We, however, should not let our short sightedness get in the way of our better judgement. I offer you here a verse from which we can draw a parallel lesson.
Goodness like a green pine, delusion like a flower.
Looking at it presently, [the green pine] pales in comparison.
The morning after a day of frost,
The green pine remains, but not the flower.
While a blooming flower is a feast to the eyes, it is also fragile and cannot withstand the test of weather. On the other hand, a tall pine may be plain, but it is also strong and sturdy. When a storm hits, it is the green pine that remains standing. The many choices we make everyday are like choosing between a pretty, but short-lived, flower and a plain, but sturdy, pine. How we choose is entirely up to us.
Today, we spent some time talking about cause and effect. I hope we all can internalize these teachings and realize first hand that we are responsible for who we are. When we truly understand the nature of conditionality, we will be in touch with our buddha nature, a realm of great wisdom and happiness. May your wisdom grow and may you experience the joy of the Dharma.


Different Practices, Same Path

Dear Dharma Friends,
Welcome to this three part series of Dharma talks. In the next three days, we are going to discuss the eight schools of Chinese Buddhism and the varying ways of practice emphasized by each of these schools. This is a very broad topic, and the time we have can hardly do justice. The purpose is to give an overview of each of these schools so that each of you can find one that best suits your needs. When the Buddha was alive, he purposely taught varying ways of practice because sentient beings were different in temperament and spiritual maturity. He did not, however, introduce the idea of different schools of Buddhism. Such a classification came at a much later date. After the Buddha entered parinirvana, different accomplished Dharma teachers emphasized different parts of the Dharma based on their own inclination. Because of their varying interests and practices, they each approached the Dharma from a slightly different angle. They each thought that their interpretation of the sutras best represented the Buddha's teachings and formalized their own view as a different school of Buddhism.
There are eight schools of Chinese Buddhism. Four of them emphasize the meaning of the Dharma. They are T'ien-t'ai, Hua-yen (or Avatamsaka), Fa-hsiang (or Yogachara) , and San-lun (or Madhyamika). The other four schools are weighted more towards practice. They are the Ch'an, Pure Land, Vinaya, and Mantra schools.
Each of the eight schools has its unique characteristics, and there is a verse that highlights the differences.
Mantra [school for the] rich, Ch'an poor, Pure
Land convenient.
Yogachara meticulous, Chia-hsiang emptiness.
Hua-yen classical, Vinaya discipline.
T'ien-t'ai methodic in presenting the teachings.
The first line tells us that if one wants to practice in the Mantra way, one should be fairly well off. The Mantra school has many rites and rituals. Altars have to be exquisitely decorated, and implements call for materials such as gold, silver or bronze. The array of implements is extensive, and the time required for each practice is long. The practitioner is also expected to honor his or her teacher with substantial offerings. All in all, one should have adequate time and financial resources to practice in this tradition.
Contrary to the Mantra way of practice, Ch'an followers do not have to be well to do. One does not need much material support to practice Ch'an. Many Ch'an masters live a simple life. A roof over the head and a place to meditate are all that is required. In ancient times, some Ch'an masters lived in the woods. They dressed simply and ate wild plants and fruits. While their lives might seem poor and meager, they were enriched by the joys of samadhi .
The Pure Land school of Buddhism is based on mindfulness of the Buddha. Most Pure Land followers practice their mindfulness with recitation of the name of Amitabha. Regardless of one's profession or one's circumstance, one can continually practice such mindfulness. This is why the verse describes Pure Land as convenient.
Those who are drawn to the Yogachara school are patient and meticulous. This school espouses the Mind Only philosophy. Its teachings are full of complicated names and are difficult to follow. If you are not patient enough to sort through the terminology and how one idea relates to another, then there is little chance that you will understand the meaning of the teachings.
Chia-hsiang is the founder of the San-lun school of Buddhism, and this school is also refereed to as the Chia-hsiang school. This school bases its doctrines on the Sata-sastra (The Hundred Verses, A.D. 404), the Dvadasanikaya-sastra (On the Twelve Points, A.D. 408), and the Madhyamaka-sastra (The Middle, A.D. 409). The common theme of these three sastras is the nature of emptiness and conditionality. Thus, we associate the San-lun school with the teachings on emptiness.
Chinese Buddhism generally follows the Mahayana tradition, and the best school to represent this tradition is the Hua-yen school. This is what's meant by "Hua-yen classical" in the third line of the verse. This sentiment is also echoed by Venerable Tai-hsu, a renowned monk of this century. He once said that while all eight schools of Buddhism were equally important, he himself was a follower of the Hua-yen tradition. This school is based on the Avatamsaka Sutra. Early patriarchs of the school took the teachings of the sutra and together with their personal insights formulated an accessible approach to the understanding of conditionality and dharma nature. In addition to their contributions in this area, the school also teaches various methods of contemplation as ways of practice. In due course, the teachings of the Avatamsaka Sutra became a cornerstone of Chinese Buddhism.
The second part of the third line tells us that the teachings of the Vinaya school are focused on discipline and ethics. Without personal integrity, we simply cannot mature spiritually. Once we are in control of our mind and body, then we are primed to see the truth and ready to discover the wisdom and radiance within ourselves.
Of all the schools, T'ien-t'ai is best in presenting a complete picture of all the Buddha's teachings. The founder of the school, Venerable Chih-che, was the first one to classify the teaching life of the Buddha into five periods and eight skillful means. These eight skillful means consist of four modes of teaching methods and four types of expositions of the Dharma. The four modes of teaching methods are sudden, gradual, esoteric (or secret), and varied. The four types of expositions of the Dharma are treasured (the teachings in the Tripitaka), common (the teachings common to sravakas, pratyekabuddha, and bodhisattvas), different (the teachings unique to the bodhisattva), and complete (the path to buddhahood). In a very scientific and methodical way, he organized the Tripitaka and the twelve divisions of the Mahayana canon into various sections based on the kinds of sentient beings the specific teachings were trying to reach. With explanations and comparisons he described the various kinds of practice and different stages of enlightenment. It is no wonder we say the T'ien-t'ai school is the most methodical and comprehensive in presenting the Buddha's teachings.
While each of the eight schools has their own characteristics, they all share commonalties. For one, they all flourished around the same time, during the Sui and T'ang dynasty. Their influence on Chinese culture is pervasive, and they played a key role in the prosperity of that era. That was the golden age of Chinese Buddhism. Sadly enough, the state of these schools nowadays cannot compare to that period. Some are on the decline. While others are still popular, they have yet to regain the acceptance they once enjoyed.
Which of the eight schools should we start with? To help us decide, we may take a cue from the Buddha and start with the Hua-yen school. After Prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment under the bodhi tree on that starry night, he became the fully enlightened Buddha. The Dharma that he initially addressed after enlightenment was later captured in what is now called the Avatamsaka Sutra. The chronological order of the other sutras is as follows:
Avatamsaka the first three seven-day periods.
Agamas twelve, various eight.
Twenty-two years discoursing prajna.
Lotus and Nirvana totaled eight years.
[While we speak of the various sutras, we should point out that the sutras were compiled after the Buddha entered parinirvana and were based on what his disciples, primarily Ananda, remembered of the Buddha's teachings.] The Avatamsaka Sutra covers the teachings of the first twenty-one days. Included in the Agamas are teachings that covered the next period lasting over twelve years. Various sutras such as the Amitabha Sutra, the Medicine Buddha Sutra, and the Vimilakirti Sutra span another eight years. It took the Buddha twenty-two years to teach the Dharma that is now included in the Prajna Sutra, while those included in the Lotus Sutra and Nirvana Sutra took eight. Like the Buddha who started his preaching life with the Avatamsaka Sutra, we will begin our discussion on the eight schools of Chinese Buddhism with the Hua-yen school.

The Hua-yen School and Its Practice
A. The History of the Avatamsaka Sutra
Among the vast collection of sutras, the Avatamsaka Sutra has been referred to as the sutra of all sutras. Over the span of nine discourses and seven different locations, the Buddha expounded on the teachings in this sutra. During that time, no one could completely understand the profound meaning of these teachings. Legend has it that the sutra was later hidden in the royal palace of the king of a serpent-worshipping clan in India. It took six hundred years before Nagarjuna discovered the existence of the sutra. With his extraordinary wisdom, he managed to memorize the last third of the sutra before he was discovered by the royal guards of the palace and expelled. After Nagarjuna left the palace, he wrote down what he had memorized. This is the beginning of the Avatamsaka Sutra.
In China, there are three Chinese translations of the Sanskrit original. First, there was a translation by Buddhabhadra who arrived in China in A.D. 406. His translation consists of sixty sections and is also known as the Chin translation. The second translation was completed by Siksananda during the T'ang dynasty (about A.D. 700). There are eighty sections and this version is also referred to as the T'ang translation. The last version comprises of forty sections and was translated by a man named Prajna who lived during the T'ang dynasty at about A.D. 800. Regardless of which translation, the teachings contained are similar.

B. The Hua-yen Way of Classifying the Buddha's Teachings into Three Periods

Fa-tsang Hsien-shou, the third patriarch of Hua-yen, used the analogy of the sun's movement during the day to classify the Buddha's life teachings into three periods. When day breaks and the sun rises, it first shines on the mountains. In a similar way, after the Buddha attained enlightenment, he first taught the Dharma to bodhisattvas who were ready to accept the Dharma. The sutras of this period include the Avatamsaka Sutra and the Brahmajala Sutra.
When the sun continues to rise, its light shines on other parts of the landscape. This is the second period of the Buddha's teachings. Initially, the sun's rays pierce through the mountains and shine in the valleys below. This is not unlike the Buddha trying to reach the unenlightened and practitioners of other faiths. The teachings of this period included the Three Refuges, Five Precepts, Four Noble Truths, and the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination. A representative sutra of these teachings is the Agamas. Next, the sun shines past the valleys and reaches the high plateaus. This symbolizes that some of the sentient beings were now ready to practice the bodhisattva path. The teachings directed at the audience could be found in the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment, the Vimalakirti Sutra, the Maharatnakuta Sutra, and the Lankavatara Sutra. The third and last phase of this period is midday when the sun is high above. It shines on the great plains, symbolizing the multitude of beings who were then ready to understand the Dharma. The sutras of this phase include the Diamond Sutra and the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra.
The third period is when the Buddha was about to enter parinirvana. This is similar to the time of the day when the sun is about to set. Its light permeates the whole land, symbolizing that the Buddha's teachings are for all-we all have buddha nature and the ability to become buddhas. This was the period of the teachings of the buddha-yana. This vehicle of oneness known as the buddha-yana is also called the One Vehicle, the final or complete teachings of the Buddha. These teachings are now found in the Lotus and the Nirvana Sutra.
While the Hua-yen school looks at the Buddha's teachings this way, the T'ien-t'ai school begs to differ. They believe that their own classification of the Buddha's teachings into five periods is more complete and accurate.
C. The Buddha Realm of Oneness-Complete, Seamless, and Totally Free
Of all the sutras, the teachings in the Avatamsaka Sutra are the most complete and profound. When the Buddha gave these discourses, not even all of the bodhisattvas and celestial beings present could understand. Arhats, too, were no exceptions.
Among the sutras, some such as the Diamond Sutra speak of emptiness. Others focus on the teachings of mind only existence. Some schools are proponents of sudden realization, while other schools emphasize a gradual approach. The Hua-yen school integrates all these different teachings and creates one that is seamless with them. The Avatamsaka Sutra speaks of the buddha realm, a realm which embraces all phenomena without exclusion. In this realm, there is no distinction between true reality and apparent reality, between sentient beings and buddhas. This realm is beyond all dualities. Substance is form, and form is substance. This is the realm of absolute equality. If we can experience this realm, we can expand our horizon and realize that life is endless and ceaseless. In life, we all fear death and shun poverty. But if we are in tune with the buddha realm of oneness, we are essentially free from the shackles of the dualistic world, a world where we continually jockey for wealth over poverty, life over death, or abundance over scarcity. A thorough understanding of this realm can help us not only spiritually but also in the way we function in our everyday lives.
When we move beyond duality, we will see that billions is not necessarily more, and one is not necessarily less. We all know that when we count, we start with one, but the word one can also connote immeasurable greatness. We say that we are all grounded in oneness, and all phenomena are but one reality. The one here is definitely not a small measure. All myriad things and innumerable changes stem from one reality. A grain of sand, a speck of dust, a galaxy, and even the whole universe are all embodied in this oneness or one reality. While we think of billions as an enormous amount, but implicit in this concept is a definite, bounded measure. [When we look at the world and all phenomena as one, then every thing, however minute, is an entry point to this one totality. Take the example of lifting a shirt, whether we try to lift the shirt by its sleeves or by the collar or even by a tiny little button, it is still the same shirt that is being lifted.] In a similar way, a grain of sand is not merely a grain of sand but also part and parcel of the immeasurable three thousand great chiliocosms . Let me give you another example. When we first started to give Dharma talks many years ago, all we needed was a room in the temple. As we grew, we progressively moved into larger and larger auditoriums. From a few people to a few thousand, from a small room to a huge auditorium, it is still one Dharma talk. Even if we were to expand to the rest of the world, it would still be one Dharma talk, not two, not three. The meaning of this "oneness" is deep, and we should learn to see the immeasurability of "one."
Like the dualistic concepts of one versus billions, we also instinctively think of a speck of dust as minute and space as vast. Such thinking is also biased. Within the buddha realm of oneness, big and small are not different. The following story will further illustrate this point. Once there was a scholar visiting a temple. In the temple, he saw this two-line stanza:
Sumeru contains mustard seeds;
Mustard seed embraces Sumeru
He looked at the stanza and found it ludicrous. He thought to himself, "It is one thing to say that we can find mustard seeds in Mount Sumeru, but to say that Mount Sumeru is contained in a mustard seed is quite an exaggeration." Lost in his thoughts, he muttered out loud, "How ridiculous!" A monk nearby overheard his comment and went up to ask him, "Sir, there is no contradiction in this stanza. You are a scholar, so you must have heard of the saying that if one was to have studied over ten thousand scrolls, one could write as if there was magic in the pen. Let me ask you, where do all the words go when one studies?"
The man patted his tummy and said, "It's all in here." The monk took a book and told the young man, "Please put this in your tummy." The scholar replied, "What I mean is that the learning goes in here, not the book itself."
The teachings in myriad scrolls can all be absorbed. This is how big and small can co-exist without contradiction. This is also what the Avatamsaka Sutra means when it says that the big and small embody each other. We say that the inside of the Tathagata is large enough to contain heaven and earth and that we all have buddha nature. The vastness of space is, therefore, also contained within us. It is up to us to expand the world inside of us so that we may see the vastness within us.
When we look at cities like Taipei or New York, we see that such metropolises are very congested. With limited space and a huge population, it is unrealistic for us to expect a lot of living space. If we apply the teachings of the Avatamsaka Sutra, we can expand the world inside of us and deal with the congestion with ease. When we open our mind to the buddha realm of oneness, we will see that any living space is expansive like the whole dharma realm. In this mindset, the conflict over congestion will be minimized.
In Buddhism the word "ksana" means an extremely brief moment of time. To give you an idea of how brief it is, we say, "When a youth snaps his finger, sixty-three ksanas have elapsed." Compared to our everyday measure of time, a second is about a few hundred times longer than a ksana. At the other extreme, the word "kalpa" denotes a very, very long duration. An "asamkhya kalpa" is such a long period of time that any attempts to visualize it will be difficult.
By most measure, we think of a ksana as brief and a kalpa as long. This is not necessarily true. Some insects live only for a day-born in the morning and die by nightfall. Though its life is only a day long, it is still a cycle of life. Other animals, such as tortoises or cranes, live for hundreds of years. While its life is a few hundred years long, it is also a cycle of life. A cycle of life is nothing more than a chapter in our endless cycles of rebirth. While we live and die, our buddha nature is forever present, in which context the duality of long and short loses its meaning. Yes, it is true that human life has a beginning and an end, but these changes are not lasting. The end of one's life marks the beginning of another. This continuity is like a person moving from one house to the next. Our body is like a house. When it is old and worn, we change into a new body. While the bodies may be different, we are reborn again and again. In the Avatamsaka Sutra, it is said that life itself is limitless and ceaseless.
Some people live a brief existence, but their contribution to humanity lasts a long time. Among the disciples of Kumarajiva, the great translator, was one named Venerable Seng-chao. Though he died when he was only thirty years of age, the commentaries he left behind had a tremendous impact on Buddhism. Others live for a long time, but does a long life necessarily mean a better one?
Some of you may have the experience of having a dream that seems to go on and on. In Chinese literature, there is a story about a poor student who had a dream covering a fifty-year period. This student, Lu-sheng, was on his way to the capital to take the civil servant examination. He stopped at a roadside inn for the night. The owner of the inn was just about to light a fire to start cooking. While gazing at the fire, Lu-sheng fell asleep. In his sleep, he dreamed that he traveled to another kingdom and married a beautiful wife. He became a high ranking official and had a few sons. In his dream, fame and fortune were on his side. Everything was going fine until he became ill some fifty years later. When he was dreaming of himself dying, he turned over and woke himself up. When he woke up, he realized that it was just a dream, and the innkeeper had not even finished his cooking. In dreams, time flows at a different pace.
As in dreams, time also flows at a different pace in samadhi . What may feel like a short time in samadhi is in fact many days. Once, when the renowned Venerable T'ai-hsu was meditating in the temple of P'u-t'o Shan, he could still hear the ringing of the dusk bells when he went into samadhi. When he came out of samadhi, a whole night had passed and it was just the time for the ringing of dawn bells. He thought he was in samadhi only for a short duration and that the dusk bells were still being sounded.
Time is relative. To someone who is in samadhi, time passes at warp speed. To someone who is serving a prison sentence, time slows to a crawl, and a day feels like a year. Time disappears when we are having fun, but time lingers when we are miserable. Our mindset plays a pivotal role in how we view time.
Once we begin to internalize the buddha realm of oneness, we will see that presence and absence are not all that distinct, to have and have not are not all that different. What we call filth is not filthy, and what we call clean is not pure. Stepping backwards is not falling behind and marching ahead is not advancing. This is a realm where have or have not, purity or filth, front or back, big or small, long or short are all illusive and not for real. This realm is beyond time and space. One thought spans hundreds and thousands of kalpas, and conversely, hundreds and thousands of kalpas are contained in one thought. A speck of dust is, in fact, the land of all ten directions, and the converse is also true. The buddha realm of oneness is a complete, seamless, and totally free realm where "one is all, and all is one."
Anyone who has yet to read the Avatamsaka Sutra does not know the treasures within Buddhism. This sutra can help us expand our horizon and see how profound and rich the Buddha's teachings are.
D. The Early Patriarch of Hua-yen school
The founding father of Hua-yen was Venerable Tu-shun. Born in A.D. 557 in Shan-hsi province, he became a monk at the age of eighteen and dedicated his life to the study of the Avatamsaka Sutra. He wrote the Contemplation of the Dharma Realm, in which he talked about the practice of contemplating the profound teachings of the Avatamsaka Sutra in samadhi. He was a great proponent of combining understanding and practice, and he taught his disciples the threefold contemplation of the dharma realm: "True emptiness is devoid of appearance and attribute. Truth and phenomenon are unimpeded . [The dharma realm] is everywhere." His life was peppered with many miraculous, or unexplainable, events. A blind man regained his sight after paying the venerable respect. A deaf man was also similarly cured. Once when he was traveling across a stream, the water actually stopped flowing until he had finished crossing. He was very well respected by the emperor, who conferred on him the title Venerable Ti-shun (literally the emperor's heart). He passed away in the Yi-shan Temple in A.D. 640.
The second patriarch of Hua-yen was the monk Chih-yen. Even when he was a child, he liked to build make-believe stupas out of stones and pebbles, topping them with flowers. He would pretend to be a Dharma teacher and asked his playmates to listen to him talk. After he became a monk, he devoted himself to studying the Avatamsaka Sutra. At twenty-seven, he wrote a commentary on the sutra. His written works numbered in excess of twenty. Besides being a prolific writer, he was also a great educator. He predicted his own death and passed away on the 29th day of the tenth month in Ch'ing-ch'an Temple at the age of sixty-seven.
The third patriarch of Hua-yen was Venerable Hsien-shou Fa-tsang. Fa-tsang was his dharma name, and Hsien-shou (i.e. Foremost in Virtue) was the name conferred on him by the emperor. When he was sixteen, he went to Fa-men Temple in Shan-hsi province. It was there in front of the stupa containing relics of King Asoka that he burned his finger with incense to signify his commitment to spreading the teachings of the Buddha. Later, when he had the chance to listen to Chih-yen preach the Avatamsaka Sutra, he became one of his leading disciples. His contribution to Hua-yen was immense. He helped Siksananda with his translation of the sutra. During his lifetime, he preached the sutra over thirty times. He was well versed in the Avatamsaka Sutra, the Brahmajala Sutra, and the Lankavatara Sutra. He wrote commentaries and analyses on these sutras, compiling over thirty volumes of written works. Using the Avatamsaka Sutra as a framework, he gave structure to the works of earlier patriarchs and formalized what Hua-yen represented. Because of his contribution, the Hua-yen school blossomed, and the school also became referred to as the Hsien-shou school.
The fourth patriarch was Venerable Ch'ing-liang Ch'eng-kuan (i.e. Pure-cool Clear-contemplation). He was the imperial teacher of seven emperors. Ch'ing-liang literally means refreshing and was a title conferred on him by the emperor to describe his delight upon hearing the venerable teach the Dharma. He wrote a commentary on the Avatamsaka Sutra and even held a Dharma service upon its completion. He never visited with laymen, and he always carried his three robes and one alms bowl, in strict observance of the monastic rules. Anything that could detract him from his cultivation, he kept at bay. After he became a monk, he always slept in a sitting meditation position, never lying down. Everyday he recited the Avatamsaka Sutra and was always mindful of the Buddha. His diligence in practice was what made him a great patriarch.
The fifth patriarch was Venerable Tsung-mi Kuei-feng. He was a protege of the Fourth Patriarch. Drawing on his knowledge of the Avatamsaka Sutra, he wrote a very detailed commentary on the Perfect Enlightenment Sutra. Even to this day, his work is a gold standard that others compare to.
These are the five great patriarchs of the Hua-yen school. Through their hard work and insights, Hua-yen became one of the great schools of Chinese Buddhism.
E. The Hua-yen Practice
The Hua-yen school teaches many ways of practice. One such way is the practice of the four universal vows: To save all living beings without limit, to sever all delusion without end, to learn all Dharma methods and means however numerous, and to become perfect in the supreme buddha way. Many of you have heard of these vows, and monastics have to recite these vows every morning. As familiar as we are with them, how many of us truly take them to heart? Only when we are totally committed to these vows can we resonate with the buddha realm of oneness spoken of in the Avatamsaka Sutra.
Samantabhadra Bodhisattva is often associated with the Avatamsaka Sutra. The Bodhisattva made ten vows, and they clearly show us the dedication and diligence of bodhisattvas. The ten vows are: 1) to pay respect to all buddhas; 2) to give praise to the Tathagata; 3) to give alms; 4) to be remorseful of our unwholesome ways; 5) to practice sympathetic joy; 6) to pray that the Buddha and the Dharma will always be with us; 7) to ask the Buddha to turn the Dharma wheel; 8) to continually practice the Buddha's teachings; 9) to use skillful means to influence others; and 10) to transfer all merit to sentient beings. Through these ten vows, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva shows us that the buddha realm of oneness does not discriminate between self and others, and when we help others, we help also ourselves.
Meditative contemplation is an important practice in the Hua-yen school and is a gateway to experiencing the buddha realm of oneness. Meditative contemplation in the Hua-yen school is similar to the Ch'an school meditation and involves six preparatory steps. First is the sitting posture. One can either sit in a full lotus position or a half lotus position. The full lotus position is when both feet are rested on opposite thighs like what we see in buddha statues. The half lotus position is when only one foot rests on the other thigh. Either position may take some getting used to, and in the beginning one can simply sit cross-legged. The advantage of sitting in a lotus position is that it can help us focus our mind. The position also helps our bodies to stay calm. When we are under the weather, sitting in this manner can help us regain our strength. It can also help us recharge our bodies when we are tired. Five minutes of sitting meditation is more restful than an hour of sleep. If we want our bodies to stay healthy and flexible, we should develop the habit of sitting in a lotus position when we eat.
Second, when we sit, the body should be straight, eyes looking down, and hands folded in the lap. Eyes should be slightly closed as it is easy to become distracted when they are wide open. When I was young, I was curious and inattentive, and I kept looking around when I did sitting meditation. My teacher finally gave me a good slap and directed me to focus my mind. The hands should be folded with the left hand over the right one. This arrangement of the hands is also known as the Amitabha mudra .
Third, clothing should be loose fitting and comfortable. Suits or tight-fitting skirts are not appropriate because they can restrict breathing. Before sitting meditation, one should first move the body slightly from side to side and massage the back of the head and the bottom of the feet a few times to get the blood flowing. This will help the body stay comfortable and the mind focused.
Fourth, we should pay attention to our breathing. It should not be rushed or forced. The breathing should be gentle and smooth. It should also be even so that inhalation is just as long as exhalation. Rhythmic breathing like this prepares us to calm the mind.
Now that the body is settled, the fifth step is to calm the mind. An untrained mind is like a wild monkey or untamed horse. It is easily distracted and runs in all directions. Sitting meditation is only as good as how focused our mind is. If we train our mind well, we will always stay calm regardless of whether we are alone in the woods or in the middle of a busy street. When the external environment loses its grip on the internal peace, then our wisdom will grow.
In sitting meditation, sitting is only half of the equation, and we should not lose sight of the meditation or contemplation part. This is the last, but not the least, part of sitting meditation. We can contemplate the dignified countenance of any buddha or the wisdom embedded in the words of the Avatamsaka Sutra. Contemplation is different from everyday thinking and reasoning. The key to contemplation is a calm mind. Let me illustrate this with the example of water. With turbulence, all that we can see is the ripples or waves on the water's surface. Only water that is still can reflect the world around it. When we contemplate, we should not disturb the mind. To go a step further, we should not even reason, recall, deduce, or calculate. The mind should remain still so that it is like a bright, clear mirror or a perfectly still pool of water. A bright and clear mirror reflects everything in its path. Water that is not still loses its ability to reflect what is around it. Likewise, when our mind is rippled with thoughts, it loses its ability to see the buddha realm of oneness.
Sleeping is also a form of practice in the Hua-yen school. While the body is not active in sleep, the mind is, and it is important to keep a calm mind even in sleep. Some people suffer from insomnia. Others complain of sleep that is not restful, and they wake up tired. The Hua-yen school has a practice that can calm our mind and help us get restful sleep. Sleep is an important part of the daily routine. It helps us rest our bodies so that we can function properly during the daytime.
There are a few things that we can do to ensure a good night sleep. First, use warm water to wash the feet before sleeping. This will help with circulation and is inductive to sleeping. Second, sleep on the right side of the body, like what we see in pictures and statues of the Buddha entering parinirvana. Sleeping on the back or the stomach hampers blood flow and breathing. Most of us are not used to sleeping on our side. To get used to this sleeping position, we should not move the body excessively once we lie down. Most people who have trouble falling asleep often complain of having to toss and turn in bed. They do not realize that it is precisely the tossing and turning that prevents them from falling asleep in the first place. Once we are used to this position and can keep the body still, we will fall asleep in no time. Third, contemplate a warm, gentle radiance in the distance. Some people cannot sleep with any amount of light; others want a night-light to fall asleep. A good habit is to contemplate brightness, so that when the eyes are closed, you sense radiance but do not actually see a light. If we can do this, we will not dream excessively and will not be disturbed by people's moving or talking. Also, make sure that the bedding is appropriate for the weather. While sleep is crucial to recharge our bodies, too much sleep will actually make us feel tired and lethargic.
I can speak from experience that this practice really works. People have often asked me what my secret is to my being tall. My secret is really nothing more than a good restful sleep every night. When I go to bed, I usually fall asleep in no time, even before my head hits the pillow. I am a heavy sleeper, but I can also wake up at any time I need to. Many of the things that I have learned from Buddhism are not rocket science, but I get a lot of use from them.
F. Testimonials of ancient Hua-yen masters
Throughout the history of Chinese Buddhism, there are many records of ancient masters leaving behind miraculous phenomena as testimonials to the fruit of their practice. The first example I want to share with you is Venerable Cheng-shun of the Yuan dynasty. He recited the Avatamsaka Sutra everyday and practiced the threefold contemplation of the dharma realm. Each time he entered samadhi, it was customary for him to stay in samadhi for three to five days at a stretch. People at the time also called him Hua-yen Bodhisattva. When he was dying, his disciples pleaded with him to leave them some last words of advice. He told them:
Time immemorial neither comes nor goes,
Contemplate how to use it.
Turn around and step into space.
Totally disregard all worldly conflict.
When he passed away, a resplendent dragon appeared on the memorial altar, flying amid the candle light in the temple.
The second example is about a T'ang dynasty bhiksu by the name of Cheng-hui. He renounced his household life under Venerable Fa-shun. He lived a secluded life in the woods, subsisting on wild plants and leaves. Whenever he recited the Avatamsaka Sutra, a handful of people would appear out of nowhere to listen to his recitation. They made him offerings of flowers and fruits. The flowers stayed fresh for days, and the fruits kept him nourished for a long time. When the bhiksu asked them who they were, they told him, "We are spirits of the mountain. Since you have been reciting the Avatamsaka Sutra, the whole mountain has become peaceful and tranquil. We just want to show you our respect."
The two examples above only touch on the peripheral benefits of the Hua-yen practice. When we live in accordance with the teachings of the sutra, we are in touch with buddha nature, and we are no different from the buddhas. We will see that the mind, buddha, and sentient beings are the same. Our being is without beginning or end, without coming or going, and without being born or dying. When we are able to calm the body and mind any where and any time, our wisdom will grow, and we will experience the buddha realm of oneness.
Let me conclude our discussion on the Hua-yen school with this verse:
If one wants to thoroughly understand
All buddhas of past, present, and future,
Contemplate the nature of the dharma realm-
All are creation of the mind.

The Mantra School and Its Practice
The Mantra school is also known as the Esoteric school. Actually, there is nothing esoteric about this school. All of the Buddha's teachings are open to all, and there are no hidden secrets. The word esoteric here simply refers to the use of mantras as a form of practice. Mantras, the meaning of which is not apparent, are also referred to as true words. Among the eight schools of Chinese Buddhism, this school is unique in its prevalent use of mantras. The line between the Mantra school and the other seven exegetic schools is actually not definitive. The Mantra school also studies the Buddha's teachings, and the other schools also use mantras in Dharma service. It is just a matter of emphasis. The same can be said of sutras versus mantras. Many of the sutras, such as the Medicine Sutra, the Ksitigarbha Sutra and the Lotus Sutra, have a mantra at their conclusion. Even the extremely concise Heart Sutra also ends with this mantra, "Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha." Very often, the practice of one involves the other.

A. Understanding the Practice of Reciting Mantras

The main practice of the Mantra school is the recitation of mantras. The word mantra is the English translation of the Sanskrit word dharani. A dharani contains infinite meaning, and the word has also been translated as "true word" or "absolute practice." Take the practice of reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha, pronounced as "O-mi-to-fo" in Chinese. While the words "O-mi-to-fo" refer to the Buddha's name, they are like a dharani in the sense that they, too, embody infinite significance. When we see someone, we say "O-mi-to-fo" to mean "How are you?" When we take leave, we say "O-mi-to-fo" to mean "Goodbye." When we step on someone accidentally, we say "O-mi-to-fo" to mean that we are sorry. When others give us a present, we say "O-mi-to-fo" to express our thanks. When we see someone getting hurt, we say "O-mi-to-fo" to show our sympathy. A few words, yet they embody so much meaning.
Within the Mantra school a common practice is to recite the mantra Om mani padme hum. These Sanskrit words mean "taking refuge in the mani jewel in the lotus." The recitation of mantras is not so much in the understanding of what the words mean but in focusing the mind away from deluded thoughts. While this may sound easy in theory, it is hard in practice. According to the sutras, if we can say this mantra with one-pointedness of mind, we can be free from the cycles of rebirth and be reborn in the Pure Land. The Mahayanasutra-lamkara-tika describes the merit of reciting this mantra as follows, "The Buddha wanted it to be known to all good men and women that this dharani is the wondrous original mind of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. If one sees this, one knows the way of liberation."
How well we say a mantra depends not so much on how accurately we pronounce the words but how focused we are. We need to focus our mind as we say one word after another. As long as we are mindful, it does not matter even if we say it wrong inadvertently or mispronounce some of the words. I do mean this literally, and I have a story to illustrate my point. Many years ago in a remote part of China lived an elderly woman. She wanted very much to practice Buddhism, but she lived in a very inaccessible place and had not yet had a chance to meet a teacher. One day, a lay Buddhist passed by the village, holding a string of prayer beads in his hands. As he walked, he kept up with his prayers. The elderly woman was delighted to find a Buddhist in her midst. She went up to the man and asked him how she should practice. The man was pleasantly surprised for no one had ever asked him such a question. He told the elderly woman, "I'll teach you a mantra."
The woman asked, "What mantra?"
The man replied, "Om mani padme niu." The Chinese character for hum is written very similar to the character for cow (pronounced as "niu"), and he mistakenly pronounced "hum" as "niu."
The woman was delighted that she had finally learned a way to practice. Every day she recited the mantra like the man had shown her. To keep track of how many times she had recited, she kept a pile of beans in front of her. Each time she said the mantra, she moved a bean from one side to the other. With utmost sincerity and singular focus, she said the mantra day in and day out. As time passed, her practice progressed to the point that the body, mind, and mouth were all reciting the mantra in unison. Every time she said the mantra, a bean would automatically jump from one side to the other. She did not have to move the beans at all.
Years passed. One day a mendicant monk passed through the village. The woman was ecstatic to see a monastic coming through, and as it was getting late, she invited the monk to stay for the night. When it was time for her evening practice, she began to say the mantra, "Om mani padme niu, …."The monk immediately realized that she mispronounced the mantra and corrected her on the spot. Now that the woman realized she had been mispronouncing the mantra, she wanted to correct herself. From that point on, the beans no longer jumped across the table on their own accord. In the past when there was no discrimination in her mind, she was able to say the mantra with single mindedness, so much so that even an inanimate object like a bean was moved by her sincerity. Now that she was worried about pronouncing the mantra correctly, she could no longer keep her mind focused like before, and her practice actually suffered. From this, we can see that while it is important to learn the sutras and mantras correctly, it is even more critical to focus the mind and do so with sincerity.
When we recite a mantra, we should not just recite it with our speech. We should also do so with our body and mind, or else the recitation is empty of meaning. Our hands should be in a mudra, and our mind should focus on what we are saying. To help the mind focus, it is a common practice in the Mantra school to contemplate the Sanskrit symbols of mantra words. When we recite mantras with our body, mind, and mouth, [we are in essence keeping the three doors of karma closed to delusion] and providing the conditions for our practice to grow. Reciting mantras in this manner can also help us grow in wisdom, keep our mind on right thought, mollify the effects of our unwholesome karma, attract goodness, and keep us from harm's way. In fact, when non-Buddhists hear a recitation of a mantra, a buddha seed is planted in their consciousness, which will germinate given the right conditions. On a more practical note, reciting mantras in a focused manner can help us stay calm in the face of crises and help us view our problems in perspective.
B. How to Practice Mindfulness of Mantras
There are five ways to practice mindfulness of mantras. First is the lotus method which means that the practitioner recites the mantra out loud. The recitation should be fluent, and the practitioner should pay attention to each word said. Second is the diamond method which means that the practitioner recites the mantra in silence. The mouth is closed, and the mantra is said in the mind. Although the mantra is not uttered, each word should still be clearly said in the mind. Third is the samadhi method. In this method, the practitioner first calms the mind with meditation and then contemplates the mantra words in samadhi. Fourth is the deep absorption recitation method. The practitioner first visualizes a lotus flower on top of which sits a white clam, emitting the Sanskrit sounds of the mantra. The practitioner then follows this lead to recite the mantra. Fifth is the radiance method. When the practitioner says the mantra out loud, he or she contemplates a ray of light emanating from the mouth. The ray of light symbolizes the practitioner's tutelary deity and its emergence from the mouth symbolizes that the person reciting the mantra and the tutelary deity are of one nature.
C. How to Gain Entrance into the Mantra School
Generally, when one is ready to become a Buddhist, one takes refuge in the Triple Gem of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Taking refuge is a rite in which one proclaims one's devotion to the Buddha's teachings and one's intention to walk in his path. To become a disciple of the Mantra school of Buddhism, there are six objects of refuge. In addition to taking refuge in the Triple Gem, one also takes refuge in the lama, a tutelary deity, and a dakini. The lama is the teacher and plays a pivotal role in guiding the practitioner in his or her cultivation. A tutelary deity is a special form of the Buddha with whom the practitioner has special affinity. A dakini is a deity who protects the practitioner in the seeking of the Way. The selection of the dakini should be made with caution. If not, the practitioner may select the wrong deity or inadvertently upset other deities, inviting troubles for oneself.
The Mantra school is a school of many rites and rituals, such as abhishekha , reciting mantras, doing mudras, and the selection of a dakini. The teacher plays a very important role in the learning and performing of these rites and rituals. Unless we have access to a good teacher, it is best that we practice in the exegetic tradition and use the recitation of mantras to supplement our practice.

This concludes the first part of this three-part series. Today, we have merely scratched the surface of what the Hua-yen and Mantra school represent. In the next two days, we will discuss the other six schools of Chinese Buddhism.

Dear Dharma Friends,
This is the second in a three part series. In the first part, we only had time to discuss the Hua-yen and the Mantra schools of Chinese Buddhism. Today we are going to talk about the Mantra, Vinaya, and Ch'an schools. As you may recall, there are eight schools of Chinese Buddhism, representing different ways of practice. The purpose here is to give an overview of each school so that you may find one that best suits you. The Vinaya School and Its Practice
Vinaya is a Sanskrit word, the English equivalent of which is precept or code of conduct. The focus of this school is the observance of precepts.
The sutras repeatedly say, "When precepts are observed, the Dharma lives." Like a compass, precepts guide us through the journey of life. If we do not observe traffic rules when we drive, we endanger everyone on the road. In the journey of life, if we do not observe the precepts, we put our lives at risk. Precepts can be compared to a bright light, illuminating our way in the dark. Externally, they serve as a line of defense when we are bombarded by the sights and sounds of the world. Internally, they help us see through our delusion to our bright and shining buddha nature. Precepts are like teachers, gently nudging us in the right direction. When the Blessed One was about to enter parinirvana, one of his disciples asked, "Lord Buddha, our teacher, when you are gone, whom can we look to for guidance?" The Buddha replied, "Let the precepts be your teacher." As long as we are mindful of the precepts, we will not stray too far from the path.
A. The Origin of Precepts
The precepts began with the Buddha. When his disciples failed to act in accordance with his teachings, the Buddha established rules to make clear the conduct that was expected of them. These rules gradually evolved into the precepts of today. We should not regard the precepts as restrictive to our individual behavior but as helping us increase freedom for all. In fact, it was for the welfare of the Sangha and his followers that the Buddha established precepts. They provided the Sangha with a structure to live harmoniously and a skillful means to correct ill behavior. The Buddha also used the precepts to help the bhiksus and bhiksunis assess their behavior and gain confidence in their cultivation. A peaceful Sangha was a living example of the Buddha's teachings that inspired laymen to renounce. Also, people of other faiths were drawn to the Buddha and his teachings when they saw the happiness and joy of the Sangha. Not least, the Buddha established the precepts to help later generations remember the Dharma.
It is interesting to read about the origins of many of the precepts we have today. Take the monastic precept of abstaining from meat. When the Buddha was teaching the Dharma in Varanasi, one of his bhiksus fell ill. A woman named Suvid, a devoted follower of the Buddha, came to ask after the health of the bhiksu, "How do you feel? Is there anything I can cook for you?" The bhiksu replied, "I am hungry for some meat." After taking her leave, she realized that the market was closed, and she would not be able to buy any meat to cook for the bhiksu. Not knowing what else to do, she elected to cut out a piece of her flesh instead. She had it cooked and brought it before the bhiksu. The bhiksu was unaware it was human flesh and ate the food that Suvid had prepared for him. While the bhiksu's health improved, Suvid's wound became infested with maggots and came down with high fever. As she lay in bed moaning, her husband came home and asked how she fell ill. Suvid relayed to him what had transpired and added, "I am afraid I may not live through this. Please ask the Buddha to come and accept my offering before I get worse."
When the Buddha arrived, Suvid felt renewed strength. She got up and prostrated. The Buddha, who knew what she had done, told her, "You have acted foolishly and not in accordance with my teachings. When you give alms, you should do so only if it does not cause undue suffering to yourself or others." Because of this incident, the Buddha established the rule that monastics should abstain from meat and that their asking of alms should not impose undue burden on the giver. True alms giving is when both the giver is happy to give and the receiver is happy to receive. Some Buddhists think that to demonstrate their faith, they have to donate even when they can hardly make ends meet. This is not in accordance with the Buddha's teachings. We have to live within our means and cannot forever pretend to be what we are not. When our actions are contrived, the relationship will not last. After all, it is not the size of the donation but the sincerity with which it is made that matters.
We can read more about the precepts in many of the sutras and sastras, especially in what we refer to as the four vinayas: the Sarvastivada Vinaya, Dharmagupta Vinaya, Mahisasaka Vinaya, and the Samghika Vinaya.
B. Precepts for Renunciants
In the Buddhist tradition, a man renunciant is called a bhiksu whereas a woman renunciant a bhiksuni. There are 250 precepts for bhiksus and over 300 for bhiksunis. Even sramaneras and sramanerikas, boy and girl renunicants aged between seven and twenty, observe ten precepts. Generally, we are not supposed to discuss monastic precepts with householders, so I am only going to give you a general idea of what they are.
The first section of the Vinaya Pitaka[1] contains the parajika precepts, the violation of which means expulsion from the monastic order. There are four such precepts, and they address abstaining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, and lying. It is clear why the first three are serious offenses, but the precept against lying needs further clarification. Lying here does not mean those little white lies we tell to not inconvenience others or hurt their feelings. The lying here is grave misrepresentation. It includes lying about having supernatural power or attaining the fruit of arhatship in order to attract offerings from devotees. Violation of any of these precepts is cause for expulsion.
The sanghavasesa vinaya is a group of thirteen precepts, the violation of which requires open confession before the assembly or face dismissal from the order. Such violations include sexual thought, sexual expression, willful slandering of others, and greed. Willful slandering includes the perpetuation of false and malicious rumors such as, "So-and-so venerable has a six-figure bank account." Unless you are his accountant, such idle gossip is unsubstantiated and can ruin the reputation of a monastic. Another example is a statement of this nature: "Such-and-such venerable is a real crook." Do you know this for a fact? Did you witness his crime? If it is only hearsay, it is rumor-mongering and totally irresponsible. Such utterances can cause great pain to others and are violations of the sanghavasesa vinaya. A monastic who has violated the sanghavasesa vinaya requires the approval of the assembly to continue staying in the Sangha.
The pataka vinaya is a group of precepts, the violation of which may result in the falling into the hell realms. Thirty of these precepts call for the practice of letting go, especially of material possessions. One example is the rule of only keeping the permitted number of robes and alms bowls and giving away any extras within ten days. If this rule is violated, the remedy is to immediately give away the surplus for others to use. In this way, one practices letting go, breaking loose from the grip of greed. Additionally, there are ninety precepts which address other types of conduct such as lying, the use of harsh words, and duplicity in speech. Words play a very important part in our lives, and these precepts help us to be vigilant of this "door" of karma. The precept against lying also includes the spreading of rumors, falsely pretending to know something, and not speaking up when you should. Many of us shirk our civic responsibility and look the other way when the situation does not impact us directly. This is still a form of lying and a violation of the precept.
The next group of monastic precepts is the pratidesaniya vinaya. Pratidesaniya means confession of precept violation before another person, and there are four such precepts. One concerns the asking for alms. At the time of the Buddha, many devotees would travel great distances to remote places to make offerings to bhiksus, and some were robbed along the way. Because of this, the Buddha established the rule that bhiksus should go into towns to ask for alms instead of the other way around. Any violator had to confess in front of another person and show remorse.
The duskrta precepts, of which there are a hundred, deal with monastic etiquette. Violations include putting the feet on the table while sitting, being messy in appearance, or wearing sandals into the temple. The consequences of such violations are relatively minor, and the remedy is to work continually to improve oneself.
While most of the above precepts deal with one's actions and deeds, a group of seven precepts addresses interaction with others, specifically the resolving of disagreements. Monastics are only human, and they may disagree on the interpretation of the Dharma or management of temple affairs. These precepts require those who disagree to meet, state their positions, and come to a mutual understanding. Once the disagreement is resolved, one should not rehash the argument or speak ill of others behind their backs.
C. Precepts for Householders
Next we are going to discuss the precepts applicable to householders. The most common are the Five Precepts and the Eight Precepts. The Five Precepts teach us to refrain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and the taking of intoxicants. These five precepts are very similar to the five ethical rules espoused by Confucianism. Refraining from killing is compassion, refraining from stealing is integrity, refraining from sexual misconduct is civility, refraining from lying is trustworthiness, and refraining from the taking of intoxicants is wisdom.
All five precepts actually boil down to one: refrain from violating yourself or others. Some of you may think that the Five Precepts limit your freedom. But if we look below the surface, we see that the Five Precepts promote freedom for all. To refrain from killing is to respect the lives of others; if we do not encroach upon the rights of others, we can all enjoy freedom of life. To refrain from stealing is not to infringe upon the property rights of others, then there can be freedom of wealth. To abstain from sexual misconduct is to respect the body and integrity of others, allowing all to enjoy the freedom of health and honor. To abstain from lying and false speech is not to impugn on others' reputations, and no one's name is harmed. To abstain from intoxicants and stimulants is to avoid doing mental or physical harm to ourselves, and thus keeps us from harming others as well. If a person keeps the Five Precepts, then that person's character and morality will be well grounded. If a family keeps the Five Precepts, the character and morality of its members will be in good order. If everyone in an organization, society, or nation keeps the Five Precepts, then that body will certainly enjoy stability, peace, and prosperity.
Some people may think that as long as they do not undertake the Five Precepts, they are exempt from the unwholesome karma associated with the violation of these precepts. This cannot be further from the truth. We only need to visit a prison to realize that all those incarcerated for their crimes have violated the Five Precepts in one way or another. For instance, those who have committed murder, manslaughter, or aggravated assault have violated the precept against killing. Those who are guilty of corruption, misappropriation, or robbery have violated the precept against stealing. Pornography, polygamy, rape, abduction, and prostitution are all examples of violating the precept against sexual misconduct. To engage in fraud, intimidation, and defaulting on loans is to violate the precept against lying. In addition to proscribing alcohol, the precept against intoxicants also includes heroin, cocaine, and other illegal drugs, all of which damage the mind's cognitive abilities and lead one to do unconscionable acts. If everyone upholds the Five Precepts, prisons will be empty.
The Eight Precepts comprise the Five Precepts plus three more: abstaining from perfume and cosmetics, from singing and dancing, and from sleeping in high, comfortable beds. The purpose of these three additional precepts is to practice simplicity and letting go. The Buddha introduced the Eight Precept as a skillful means to let householders have a taste of the monastic life, planting the seed of renunciation in the process. It is customary to practice the Eight Precepts on the six days of fasting and abstinence. The six days are the eighth, fourteenth, fifteenth, twenty-second, twenty-ninth, and thirtieth day of each month. There is no hard and fast rule which day to choose. You can choose any, all, or a combination of these days. You can also choose other days besides these six. In addition to observing the Eight Precepts, it is customary to abstain from food after noontime as a form of purification of the body.
D. Observing the Precepts
Why do we observe the precepts? In the section above, we have touched on the practical benefits of observing the precepts. In terms of our spiritual life, observing the precepts is the key that opens the door to spiritual maturity. According to the sutras, cultivation is a three-step process of observing the precepts, meditative concentration, and wisdom. Observing the precepts is the first step, through which we develop meditative concentration. With meditative concentration, wisdom will grow, and with wisdom we will be able to achieve liberation.
There are three levels of looking at the precepts: form, practice, and spirit. Form is the words that describe the precept. Form is empty of meaning unless we practice the precepts and incorporate them in our everyday life. Once we put the precepts into practice, we still have to go a step further and distill the spirit of the precepts. Observing the precepts is not a mechanical process of following the letter of the law. If we do not internalize the spirit of the precepts, we will only see observance as a means to curb our desire, which can be overwhelming and suffocating at times. If, however, we internalize the spirit of the precept, its observance will become natural to us. The beauty of the Dharma will flow from within us and show in our composure and demeanor. When we are not driven by impulses and desires, the mind will remain calm and meditative concentration will develop. [These three aspects of the precepts are not unlike the different elements of a piece of music. First, the notes and symbols tell us what the music is. Next we have to practice and play the music to hear how it sounds. Then there is the soul of the music, contained in the notes yet much more than the notes. Given the same musical score, different people play differently. If we only play by the score and do not become one with its soul, then it is just a collection of sounds. If we get into the spirit of the score, then we have music. It is impractical, if not impossible, to denote exactly how a score should be played; that has to come from within us. Once we are in touch with the spirit of the score, we enter a new dimension of playing. In a similar way, as we coalesce the three aspects of the precepts into one, we'll see that observance breeds meditative concentration, which leads to wisdom. These are the stepping stones to liberation.]
The Ch'an School and Its Practice
Of the eight schools of Chinese Buddhism, the Ch'an school has the greatest appeal today, especially to Westerners, and for good reasons. In the rat-race of today, we can all use the calming effect of meditative concentration. With the advent of e-mail, cell phones, and pagers, we are more wired together than ever, yet many feel isolated and unconnected. Some are so used to the hectic pace of the era that the thought of a relaxing vacation seems boring and uneventful. The excitement of the senses has become so heightened that the inability to concentrate, reflected in such disorders as "attention deficit disorder," is on the rise. Given this backdrop, Ch'an is indeed a good medicine for the people of today.
Ch'an was introduced into China by Bodhidharma in CE[2] 520. Ch'an is the abbreviated form of the Chinese transliteration of the Sanskrit term dhyana which means quiet contemplation. From Bodhidharma to his successor Hui-k'o to Hui-neng, the Sixth Patriarch, Ch'an gained in popularity and became one of the main schools of Chinese Buddhism. Its influence is not limited to the religious arena, but also extends to philosophy and Chinese culture. Its impact on the Chinese psyche is still being felt today. While other schools such as Hua-yen, T'ien-t'ai, Yogachara, and San-lun all enjoyed their days of glory at one point or another, they had all faded into the sunset for one reason or another. In some cases, the teachings were too rigorous for the general public, and in other cases, it was because of the lack of strong successors. Of the eight schools, Ch'an and Pure Land continually adjust to the times, and they remain popular even today.
A. The Main Tenet of Ch'an
The chief object of Ch'an is to "illumine the mind and see our true nature." To see our true nature is to know ourselves absent of delusion. It seems sad and ludicrous that we do not know who we are. When we are happy, the whole world looks bright and cheerful; when we are sad, even a pretty thing like a flower looks droopy and colorless. When we are angry, nothing pleases us, but when we feel good, we can put up with much more. Sometimes we even catch ourselves thinking, "I wish I didn't feel that way," as if we cannot control how we feel. Which is the real self, the happy one or the sad one? If we say that the self is a combination of them, we are really saying that the self is an indeterminate entity that changes at the mercy of circumstances. If so, we are washing our hands of our own actions, a premise which taken to the extreme means chaos and disorder. If we do not know ourselves, we become slaves of circumstances, trapped in the cycle of rebirth. The practice of Ch'an helps us look within, to see our true nature and discover the tranquility that is available to all.
How do we illumine the mind and see our true nature? How do we rediscover our "original face[3]"? The most important step to enlightenment is to let go of selfhood and discrimination. When we give up the dualities of self and others, the phenomenal and the transcendental, we suddenly reach the core of Ch'an. I will explain this with a story. Once, a merchant on his way to a distant land had to cross a mountain range whose trails were winding and narrow. Letting his eyes wander, he lost his footing and fell into a ravine. Instinctively he grabbed an old, dried vine on the hillside. As he dangled in the air clutching the vine with both hands, he saw the compassionate Buddha standing on the road above him. He immediately called out, "Lord Buddha, please help me."
The Blessed One replied, "For me to help, you have to do as I tell you."
Without hesitation, the man said, "Of course, I'll do exactly what you say."
"Good. Then you have to let go of the vine."
The man could not believe his ears. He thought he would surely fall to his death if he was to let go of the vine. Despite the repeated urging of the Buddha, the man would not let go. There was not much that the Buddha could do to help him.
This is, of course, a story of symbolism. The Buddha is the Dharma, and the vine represents selfhood. For us to accept the Dharma we have to first let go of the attachment to selfhood. Like the vine in the story, selfhood gives us a false sense of security and prevents us from gaining true liberation. Letting go of the vine also symbolizes the need for taking an extra step, or making a quantum leap, beyond what we are comfortable with. To make this extra step, there is an element of trust or what we refer to as faith in religion. As we will soon see, the Ch'an practices of living, questioning, and sitting meditation help us let go of the attachment to selfhood and lay a firm foundation for our beliefs.
B. The Ch'an Practice
While the object of worldly knowledge is understanding, the practice of Ch'an seeks direct experience. Reasoning alone is not enough to see the beautiful truth of Ch'an. When we read some of the exchanges between Ch'an masters, we are likely to be baffled. The exchanges may seem contradictory and devoid of common sense, but they are rich in Ch'an flavor. We can experience Ch'an through living, questioning, and meditating.
1. Ch'an is Living
One can practice Ch'an in every aspect of daily life, whether drinking a cup of tea or waiting for a train. Let me illustrate what I mean with the following episode. During the T'ang dynasty, Lung-t'uan Ch'ung-hsin renounced his household life under the tutelage of the Ch'an master T'ien-huang Tao-wu. For a few years he did all kinds of menial work and had yet to hear his teacher speak about the Dharma. One day he decided to speak up. He asked his teacher, "Teacher, I have been here several years and have not yet heard you speak about the Dharma. Please be so kind as to teach me the Way."
His teacher replied, "Since you have been here, there is not a day that I did not speak to you about the Dharma."
This really confused Ch'ung-hsin. He asked further, "Excuse my ignorance for not taking note. How did you show me the Way?"
"When you bring me tea, I drink. When you serve me rice, I eat. When you venerate me, I acknowledge your respect. I have never failed to show you the Way." When Ch'ung-hsin heard his teacher's explanation, he was instantly enlightened.
When Ch'an was first introduced into China, the Chinese wisely adapted the Indian method of meditative concentration to their pragmatic way of life and infused such concentration into everyday living. There were good reasons for the change. The purpose of sitting meditation is to calm the mind and reflect on our true nature. But if we separate meditating from living, we risk dwelling too much on abstract, philosophical questions and lose touch with reality. Also, prolonged sitting meditation induces drowsiness and muscle atrophy. To ensure that practitioners did not run into such pitfalls, the Fourth Patriarch of the Ch'an school pronounced that walking, living, sitting, and reclining were all full of Ch'an. Later, the Ch'an master Pei-chang promoted a self-reliant lifestyle that integrated Ch'an with farming. He was true to his maxim: "A day without work is a day without food." Through the movement of the hands in the field to the pumping of the heart while doing manual labor, he awakened the true nature within and lived the truth of Ch'an.
Ch'an is not experienced only in sitting meditation but is present everywhere and anytime. Even simple gestures like lifting the hand or winking the eye can be full of Ch'an. When we go about our activities with the serenity of sitting meditation, then we are practicing Ch'an in the midst of life. Living Ch'an is discovering the wonder of the universe through the most insignificant activity, seeing greatness in the ordinary, and making the profound accessible. We do not have to seek out opportunities to practice Ch'an. Every aspect of life is material for Ch'an, and there are many examples in the Ch'an annals that point to this fact.
Ti-tzang K'ui-ch'en, a well known Ch'an master of the T'ang dynasty, was working in the field when a traveling monk passed by. The Ch'an master asked the monk, "Where are you from?"
The monk replied, "I came from the south."
At that time, the southern part of China was a mecca for the practice of Ch'an, so K'ui-ch'en asked further, "How's the Ch'an school doing there?"
"Ch'an is very popular, and it is the talk of the place."
The Ch'an master said, "That's not bad, but it does not compare with our farming practice. We grow rice and provide food for all."
The monk thought it strange that a Ch'an master would put such mundane activity as farming above reading the sutras and doing meditation. He asked, "Ch'an Master, how does farming help you free yourself from the three realms of existence? How do you intend to ferry sentient beings across the sea of suffering?"
The Ch'an master knew exactly where he was coming from, and he drove the point home with his reply, "What is this thing you call the three realms of existence?" What the Ch'an master meant was that while he lived in the three realms of existence, he was not trapped within it. While he ate and slept like everyone, he was not bound by these acts. The Ch'an master went about his life without attachment. His was a life of complete freedom, a realm that those who looked outside themselves for enlightenment could not comprehend.
The Sixth Patriarch says in the Platform Sutra, "The Dharma lives within the world. Enlightenment cannot be attained outside of living." We need not look far to feel the presence of the Dharma; it is everywhere. The Ch'an school capitalizes on this and teaches us that living is the birthing ground of enlightenment. Why, then, do most of us fail to become enlightened through the rhythm of our daily lives? The problem lies in how we approach our daily life, and it is up to us to see the connection between living and enlightenment. I have a kung-an which helps me explain. The renowned Ch'an master Ch'ao-chou once practiced Ch'an with the Ch'an master N'ien-chuan. There he was assigned to cook meals for temple residents. One day, while everyone was watering plants in the garden, they heard Ch'ao-chou crying in the kitchen, "Fire! Fire!" Everyone dropped everything and rushed to the kitchen to see what happened. When they arrived, they saw the kitchen door locked shut with Ch'ao-chou inside. Fearing for his safety, they asked him to stand away from the door so that they could break down the door and put out the fire, but Ch'ao-chou would not cooperate. As they were wondering what to do, N'ien-chuan arrived and handed Ch'ao-chou a key through the window. Only then did Ch'ao-chou open the door and let others in to put out the fire. In this kung-an, Ch'ao-chou showed us that the fire of delusion cannot be extinguished through external acts such as the watering of plants but only through our innate ability of internal introspection. Only when we approach our daily life with internal peace of mind can we realize how living is Ch'an and attain enlightenment through our daily activities. Throughout history, there were many Ch'an masters who attained enlightenment through the most ordinary activity.
2. Ch'an is Questioning
Most of us look to religion to answer some of the most basic questions in life or to help us through personal crises. Many religions demand a certain amount of faith, and Buddhism is no different. Intellect alone cannot help us see the transcendental, and we do need faith to make the switch between the phenomenal and the transcendental. Unlike other religions, Buddhism makes a distinction between blind faith and reasoned faith, and it encourages us to ask questions so that our faith is well grounded. It is important that we discern the kind of teachings that will lead to freedom and not follow any teachings blindly, for blind faith may very well cause our demise.
Many discoveries arise from questions about some of the taken-for-granted phenomena around us. Most of us have heard that Newton discovered the laws of gravity after being struck on the head by a falling apple. Watt invented the steam engine because he investigated the reason for the bubbling force of steam. It was the haunting images of the suffering of old age, sickness, and dying that made Prince Siddhartha question the cause of suffering and realize the path to the cessation of suffering. Healthy questioning drives discoveries and inventions. Truth withstands the test of questioning, and questioning is a way to realize the truth for ourselves. It is the ability to question that put us on a higher plane in the animal kingdom. There is an old Chinese saying that to learn is to question the obvious. The effect of questioning is like the striking of a bell-the bigger the force, the louder the sound. The deeper we dig, the more complete the answer. In Buddhism, there is this saying, "Great doubt engenders great realization, little doubt little realization. With no doubt, there will be no realization." The Ch'an school encourages questioning. Through the use of kung-an[4] and hua-tou[5], Ch'an masters stimulate our innate ability to question and discover.
The form of questions and answers used by Ch'an masters is different from what we normally think of as questions and answers. Many of the exchanges seem illogical and outrageous. They are often accompanied by shock tactics like screaming and slapping. The dialogues are used to provoke us to examine the accepted modes of thinking while the slapping jolts us into letting go of our habitual clinging to selfhood. When used appropriately, these treatments can help us shed the layers of delusion that have been concealing our pure, original nature.
Once a traveling monk asked the Ch'an master Ma-tsu Tao-yi, "Why did Bodhidharma journey from the west?" Ma-tsu gestured the monk to come closer and without any warning slapped his face saying, "Six ears hear differently." In this exchange, the monk asked the Ch'an master what special teachings Bodhidharma brought from India. To which the Ch'an master replied that the Dharma could only be accessed through direct experience and not by simply hearing someone speak about it. The Ch'an master used the example of how three people in the same discussion would walk away with a different understanding. Because the monk failed to understand something so transparent, he deserved a slap in the face.
Another time, when the Ch'an master Yao-shan Wei-yen was meditating, a traveling monk passed by and asked, "You are sitting here all alone. What are you contemplating?"
The Ch'an master replied, "Contemplating about no contemplation."
The monk pressed further, "How do you contemplate about no contemplation?"
"Non-contemplation," the Ch'an master answered, right to the point.
On the surface, this exchange does not make sense, yet it does. What the Ch'an master means is this: While Ch'an is not something that can be described with words, we have to rely on words (i.e. contemplation) to get to the transcendental truth of Ch'an. Though we rely on words, we have to go beyond the limitation of words (i.e. non-contemplation) before we can access the gem of Ch'an.
For many years Lin-chi Yi-hsuan was a student of the Ch'an master Huang-po, but he dared not ask his teacher about the Dharma. On the urging of the head monk, he gathered up his courage one day and asked his teacher, "Ch'an Master, why did Bodhidharma journey from the west?" Before he could finish his question, his teacher gave him a good whack. Lin-chi was scared out of his wits and did not say another word. But his question remained unanswered, so on the encouragement of the head monk, he approached his teacher again with trepidation. Three times he asked the question, and three times he was whacked. Lin-chi thought his teacher did not like him and decided to leave. Huang-po knew how he felt and said, "Why don't you go to the Ch'an master Tai-yu and be his student?"
When Lin-chi arrived at Tai-yu's house, Tai-yu asked, "Aren't you practicing Ch'an under Huang-po? Why are you here?"
"I was not meant to be his student. Every time I asked him about the Dharma, he hit me." Lin-chi then recounted what happened.
After Tai-yu heard the whole story, he sighed and said, "Huang-po is most compassionate. He hit you for your own good." These words seemed to have cleared the clouds in the mind of Lin-chi, who broke out in laughter and said, "Ha! Ha! Huang-po was telling me that the teachings serve not that many purposes[6]."
Tai-yu got up and grabbed Lin-chi by his collar. He wanted Lin-chi to go back to his teacher for confirmation, so he told him in no uncertain terms, "Hurry back to your teacher." Lin-chi raised his fist and struck Tai-yu three times, saying, "I am on my way." Tai-yu acknowledged the blows with laughter.
When Lin-chi returned to Huang-po, he told his teacher outright, "Teacher, I am enlightened." After Lin-chi finished, Huang-po was about to hit him again, but Lin-chi beat him to it and struck him instead. Not only was Huang-po not angry, he could not have been happier. Lin-chi did not let up and gave Huang-po a kick.
On the surface, the behavior of Huang-po the teacher and Lin-chi the student was cruel and unacceptable. Actually, all the hitting was done with love. When Huang-po first hit his student, he was telling him that there was no point discussing why Bodhidharma came to China, for the Dharma could not be learned from listening to others talk about it. When Lin-chi struck his teacher, he was telling him he now realized that the Dharma could only be accessed through practice and direct experience.
From these examples, we see that questioning is an important part of the Ch'an practice. Very often, the answer seems irrelevant and may even come in the form of hits and blows. The irrelevance and the chaos are, in fact, tools to shatter our delusion so that we may see our true nature.
3. Ch'an is sitting meditation
Sitting meditation is a practice that is also used by the other schools. It was already popular when the Buddha was alive. After the Buddha renounced his household life, he practiced meditation for six years, eventually breaking through to enlightenment under the bodhi tree one starry night. In the deepest meditative absorption, the Buddha realized the truth of conditionality and became the fully enlightened one. Sitting meditation is paramount in unlocking our true nature.
Bodhidharma introduced sitting meditation to China. After Bodhidharma arrived in China, he sat meditating before a wall for nine years. The Sung dynasty Ch'an master T'ien-tung Ju-ching was of the opinion that sitting meditation could be one's sole practice. Among his students was the Japanese Ch'an master Tao-yuan who introduced the concept to his people on his return to his homeland. Because of the insights of these Ch'an masters, sitting meditation soon became an indispensable tool of the Ch'an school to look within oneself to see one's true nature.
The benefits of a calm mind are not confined to the religious arena. Staying calm also helps us get through life, especially in moments of crisis. A calm mind is like calm water-you can see into it. We often read in newspapers how accident victims credit their survival to staying calm. In Buddhist literature, there is a humorous story about the practical benefits of sitting meditation. Once there was a tofu peddler delivering tofu to a temple. It just so happened that the temple Ch'an masters were doing sitting meditation. Their concentration so intrigued him that he wanted to try, so he asked if he could sit with them. He settled himself in the meditation hall and began to focus his mind. After the first session of meditation, he was quite amused and said, "I now recall that the Lee family has yet to pay me for the tofu I sold them five years ago." If the peddler was able to sharpen his mental acuity just after one session of meditation, can you imagine the wisdom that deep meditative absorption can uncover?
The initial benefit of sitting meditation is feeling relaxed and supple. As we progress, our mind grows more focused, becoming oblivious to the presence of the body and the world that surrounds us. In this state, the way to enlightenment becomes crystal clear. When the waves of a lake are stilled, we can see the reflection of the moon in the water. When the distractions in our mind are calmed, our buddha nature becomes apparent.
C. How To Practice Sitting Meditation
Sitting meditation is a state of mind, and as such it is impossible to describe the experience. The best way to find out about it is to try it. For experienced practitioners, the external environment has little bearing, and they can do sitting meditation anywhere. Beginners, though, should pick a quiet room for best results. The lighting in the room should not be too bright for it can irritate the eyes; it should not be too dim either for we may feel lethargic and sleepy. While the room should be well ventilated, it should not be drafty and meditators should not sit in the path of a direct draft. To create the right ambience, we can decorate the room with a buddha statue and burn incense. In addition to these housekeeping tips, there are a few other things to pay attention to. It is not a good idea to do sitting meditation with a full stomach when the body is busy with the digestive process and feels sluggish. It is best to eat moderately and wait an hour after a meal. Clothing should be loose and not restrictive for that can hinder the circulation.
Sitting meditation involves three major steps: calming the body, the breath, and the mind. To calm the body, we do sitting mediation in the lotus position, either a full lotus or half lotus. The full lotus is sitting with each foot resting on the opposite thigh, as in buddha statues. The half lotus is when only one foot rests on the other thigh. Either position may take getting used to, and in the beginning one can simply sit cross-legged. Lotus position is best because it anchors the body, like the roots of a tree securing it in place. It also facilitates calming the mind, a must to enter samadhi[7]. After the body is settled in the lotus position, the hands should be folded in the lap with the left hand over the right and the two thumbs slightly touching. The arms should be kept snug to the body. This hand arrangement can help blood circulation between the left and right sides of the body. While sitting, the back should be straight, but not stiff. This helps stretch the chest and abdomen and provides ample room for the internal organs. The shoulders should be straight, not folded, and the neck kept close to the collar. If we do this correctly, the ears and arms form a straight line. We should also make sure the chin is tucked and the mouth closed, with the tip of the tongue slightly touching the roof of the mouth. To make sure we do not fall asleep, the eyes, especially in the case of beginners, should be slightly opened and focused on a spot a foot or two ahead.
Next, we calm the breathing. The most common practice is to count the breaths, in groups of ten. The idea is to calm the breath, from one that is rushed and erratic to one that is gentle and effortless. When the body and breath are tranquil, we focus on calming the mind. The mind is wild like an untrained horse. But without calming the mind, the sitting meditation is for naught. We can focus the mind by contemplating the thirty-two good marks of the Buddha, a kung-an, a hua-tou, or by reciting a buddha's name or a mantra. As long as we focus the mind, which one we choose is of personal preference.
Contemplation is not thinking and definitely different from not-thinking. To contemplate, we should let go of any preconceived notions of the world and focus on the subject at hand. We can look at sitting meditation as a catharsis to rid ourselves of all discriminations and motives, giving our true nature the chance to surface. It is as if someone who was lost suddenly finds himself safely home again. In deep meditation, there is no distinction of self, the Buddha, or nirvana. There is only tranquility and the feeling of liberation.
This is a cursory introduction to the Ch'an school. Ch'an is not something that can be described in words, but something to be experienced. We can experience Ch'an in every aspect of our daily life, whether putting on our clothes, dealing with people, or managing one's business. I'll leave you with this Ch'an kung-an to illustrate the importance of direct experience.
The Ch'an master Chi-hsieng was a well-read man. In his many travels, he was once a student of the Ch'an master Lin-yu, who asked him, "I know you are a very learned man and have an answer for everything. Let me ask you: What was your original face before you were born?"
Chi-hsieng was stumped, and he could not find the answer in any book. He humbly asked his teacher, "Venerable, please be so kind as to enlighten me on this question."
Lin-yu answered, "If I tell you the answer, you will not possess the answer or have learned anything. In fact, you'll be angry with me for telling you." In frustration, Chi-hsieng burned all his books and left his teacher. He traveled to Nanyeung and contemplated the question before the grave of Huei-chung, the ancestral imperial teacher. One day while sweeping the yard, he heard the "ping" of a stone hitting bamboo. Suddenly, he felt a freedom he had never known. All his questions were answered. He washed himself and set up an altar in the direction of his teacher, saying, "Teacher, you are most compassionate. Had you told me the answer that day, I would not be feeling this joy today."
As we conclude this discussion, I hope you will all find the answer to your questions. Thank you.

1. The Vinaya Pitaka is the second main division of the Buddhist canon.
2. CE stands for Common Era.
3. In Ch'an, our true nature is referred to as the original face.
4. "Public cases" in Ch'an records.
5. A word or sentence used as a tool for cultivation in Ch'an.
6. Hung-pei was telling Lin-chi that the purpose of all teachings was to help us to become enlightened. Lin-chi should not become distracted with what other teachers were teaching.
7. Samadhi means deep meditative absorption.

Dear Dharma Friends,
This is the last of our three-part discussion on the eight schools of Chinese Buddhism. So far we have covered the Hua-yen, Mantra, Vinaya, and Ch'an schools. Today we will discuss the remaining four schools: Yogachara, San-lun, Pure Land, and T'ien-t'ai.
The Yogachara School and Its Practice
The Yogachara school is also called the Mind-Only school. Its main teachings help us understand the mind, dissecting it into eight levels of consciousness. What is consciousness? It is the root of life. When we die, our body perishes, but our consciousness lives on as it courses through the cycles of rebirth. It may take on many forms, be it a celestial being, a human, or an animal. Regardless of the form, it is still the same consciousness. In order to obtain a human rebirth, we should have at least observed the precepts. If we practice meditative concentration, we may be reborn as a celestial being or reborn in Amitabha's Pure Land. Through a detailed analysis of the mind, the Yogachara school also teaches us how to transform consciousness into wisdom, thereby liberating ourselves from the cycle of rebirth. Our consciousness is such an integral part of who we are that it behooves us to understand it well.
A. The Founding Father of the Yogachara School
Many of us have heard of Hsuan-tsang, the great monk of the T'ang dynasty who journeyed to India to bring the Buddhist sutras back to China. He was born to a Chen family in C.E. 600 in Honan and became a monk when he was still an adolescent. He studied many Buddhist texts such as the Nirvana Sutra, Abhidharma, Mahayana-samparigragha Sastra, Satyasiddhi Sastra, and Abhidharma-kosa Sastra. While studying these Buddhist texts, Hsuan-tsang realized there were other sutras and sastras that were not available in China. Of those that they had, the Buddhist community could not agree on the interpretation. He vowed to journey to India to study the original texts and to bring back those that were missing.
He set out from Ch'ang-an, the capital, some time between 627 to 629. After many perils and life-threatening situations, he crossed the deserts and mountains of Central Asia and arrived in India in 633. He stayed in India for over ten years. During this time, he visited and studied in many parts of India including the famous monastic university at Nalanda. It was in Nalanda that he studied Yoga and became well versed in many of the Yogachara texts such as the Vibhasa Sastra. His insights into the Yogachara teachings were legendary and earned him the titles of Mahayanadeva and Moksadeva. Shortly before he was about to return to China, he wrote down his interpretation of the Yogachara teachings and hung them outside his door with a note that he would be much indebted to anyone who could point out any flaws in his understanding. No one came forward, for the Indians had tremendous respect for him. In 645, he arrived back home to Ch'ang-an with 657 works, many of which were key works of the Yogachara school such as the Vidyamatrasiddhi-tridasakarika Sastra, Vidyamatrasiddhi-vimsakakarika Sastra, Mahayana-samparigragha Sastra, Vidyamatrasiddhi Sastra, and Yogacaryabhumi Sastra. For the next twenty years, Hsuan-tsang dedicated his life to teaching and translating. He translated seventy-six texts, or a total of 1,347 sections. Because of his unwavering dedication, Hsuan-tsang wrote a new chapter in Chinese Buddhism, laying the cornerstone of the Yogachara school.
B. The Key teachings of the Yogachara School
The Yogachara school is also known as the Mind-Only school. It is so called because of its specific focus on the different forms, or levels, of consciousness and its tenet that the mind can change all things. The Yogachara school speaks of eight kinds of consciousness. Consciousness here refers to the functions of cognition, perception, and discrimination. The first five of the eight consciousnesses consist of the five senses: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touch. The sixth consciousness is called mano-vijnana, the mental sense or intellect. The seventh is called klista-mano-vijnana, the discriminating and constructive sense. The eighth is the alaya-vijnana, the storehouse of all "seeds" of consciousness.
It is easy to see the cognitive and discriminating aspects of the first five consciousnesses. Our eyes tell us the shape and color of a given object. They also enable us to see if a person is a man or a woman, old or young, tall or short. Our ears help us recognize different sounds or how a person's voice differs from another's. With our ears, we can tell if a sound is loud or soft, if a piece of music Western or Chinese. Similarly, our nose tells us how something smells, our tongue tells us about tastes, and our sense of touch lets us know if something is smooth or coarse. In short, our five senses are the results of our sensory organs taking in the external stimuli of form, sound, odor, taste, and texture.
While the first five consciousnesses require the presence of a stimulus to function, the sixth consciousness does not. The sixth consciousness is the arising of mental objects and is also called mind-consciousness. The mano-vijnana can be triggered by something concrete or imaginary, visible or invisible. The sixth consciousness can pertain to a happening in the present, an event in the past, or even an imagination of a future event. It can even compare or draw conclusions about phantom phenomena such as horned rabbits or winged horses. As we can see from the above, the sphere of influence of the sixth consciousness is much larger than that of our senses. In fact, even the abilities to dream or to attain immovable concentration in meditation are functions of the mind consciousness.
The seventh consciousness, klista-mano-vijnana, is very subtle and hard to detect. Unlike the other six types of consciousness which operate intermittently, this consciousness functions continuously. While the sixth consciousness pertains to the arising of mental objects, the seventh consciousness pontificates, calculates, and discriminates. Because of discrimination, it mistakes the eighth consciousness as self, becoming attached to the ego and believing in the permanence of self. This delusion about selfhood causes us to act foolishly, creating unwholesome karma in the process. It is precisely this discrimination that ties us to the cycle of birth and death.
The eighth consciousness is also called the alaya-vijnana or storehouse consciousness. It is the foundation of all the other seven consciousnesses. When we say that all phenomena are creations of the mind, we are saying that all phenomena are manifestations of the seeds that have been collected in this consciousness since beginingless time. The alaya-vijnana holds both the potential for enlightenment and samsara. Through the discriminations and attachments of the seventh consciousness, the seeds within the alaya-vijnana are given the conditions to grow, giving rise to new karmic actions and planting new seeds in the alaya-vijnana. This cycle is repeated again and again for aeons, giving rise to a continual unfolding of phenomena. Not only is our body and emotional make-up the creation of our consciousness, even the continents, stars, suns, moons, and the universe are also products of the alaya-vijnana. If we can only realize that all phenomena are empty in nature and are manifestations of the storehouse consciousness, we would let go of all discrimination and attachment. When we are no longer swept away by external sense data, we are on our way out of the cycles of rebirth, back to the pure, serene realm of nirvana.
Many of us may find it hard to accept that something as concrete as the external world is the product of something that is as fluid as consciousness. This is not as inconceivable as it seems at first. Take the example of dreaming. While our dreams may seem ludicrous when we are awake, they are very real to us when we are in the dream state. Sometimes our dreams become so vivid that we even sleepwalk.
There is a very interesting story regarding how great the force of our consciousness can be. It involves the great translator, Kumarajiva. When he was a young boy, he often accompanied his mother to the temple. During one of these visits he saw a bronze bell shaped like a hat. Being young and mischievous, he decided to wear it on his head. Since he looked at the bell as a hat, he was not thinking how heavy it was, and he put the bell on his head without much effort. When his mother saw what he did, she reprimanded him, "Nonsense. This is a bronze bell. How can you wear it on your head." As soon as Kumarajiva heard it was made of bronze, he became aware of its weight and could hardly hold his head up.
The way we look at the world is dependent on our state of mind. Take the example of a fish swimming in a river. An artist may look at it as a source of inspiration. A botanist may look at it as a member of a species or as a cog in the wheel of the food cycle. A fisherman may look at a fish and sees his next dinner. A shrimp in the water may look at it as a predator. The same fish, yet it evokes different responses in different beings. The same is true of the environment. A full moon on a clear night may seem romantic to people in love, but it can be a source of nuisance to a burglar trying to break into someone's house. We say, "Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder." The same person can look attractive to some but repulsive to others. Because of discrimination, we develop attachments or aversions, tying us to the cycle of rebirths. The Yogachara school teaches us that the dualities of the world are products of our consciousness, and when we can transform consciousness into wisdom, we are in the company of buddhas and bodhisattvas.
C. The Yogachara Practice
In order to understand the Yogachara teachings of how everything in the universe is a creation of the mind, we have to practice non-discrimination, thereby transforming consciousness into wisdom. Consciousness is the root of life, while wisdom is the nature of buddhahood. The Yogachara school teaches us that the first five forms of consciousness can be transformed into the wisdom of excellence, the sixth consciousness into the wisdom of profound contemplation, the seventh consciousness into the wisdom of equanimity, and the eighth consciousness into the great reflective wisdom.
Our habitual tendency to discriminate has been with us so long that if we are to practice non-discrimination, we have to first cultivate these four nurturing factors: good causes, virtuous friends, reasoned faith, and devotion. Cause begets effect. For us to understand the Yogachara teachings of "mind-only," we have to plant good causes by listening to and practicing the Dharma. Additionally, we should surround ourselves with people who have the same aspirations as we do. Those who can teach us a thing or two, we should learn from them. Our friends have a lot of influence on us, and we can give each other mutual support in our spiritual journey. The journey is arduous, for Buddhism is not just a matter of understanding the teachings but also of putting them into practice. For this reason, Buddhism stresses that we should not blindly accept the teachings without first assessing their truthfulness. Only when our faith is built on right understanding can it withstands testing. The strength that reasoned faith engenders is enormous and helps us progress in our spiritual journey. The teachings of the Yogachara school are so counter-intuitive that reasoned faith is an important element of the practice, for we cannot succeed if we give up in the face of ridicule. Additionally, we should devote ourselves to the spreading of the Dharma. When we immerse ourselves in Dharma work, our conviction is strengthened and our understanding is enhanced. In this way, we benefit ourselves and provide others with the opportunity to learn the Dharma.
There are five stages in the Yogachara practice. First is the preparatory stage. When we prepare for a long trip, we have to plan ahead and make sure that we have the necessary provisions for the trip. Likewise, when we embark on a spiritual journey, we have to rely on our awakened bodhicitta for nourishment. To do this, we should accumulate merit by giving alms and helping others, and observe the bodhisattva way by practicing the four all-embracing virtues , the four universal vows , and the six paramitas . Second is the stage of continuing diligence. This is the stage of practicing endurance, patience, and tolerance. As we see in the saying "strike while the iron is hot," it is important that we do not slack off after the first stage but finish what we have started out to do. Third is the stage of the apprehension of truth when the practitioner sees the true nature of "suchness." The fourth stage is the stage of contemplation. With wisdom grown out of contemplation, the practitioner severs all discrimination and roots out all delusion. From the emptiness of self and all dharmas, one sees into the truth of "mind-only." The fifth and final stage is the complete comprehension of truth or the stage of buddhahood. This is the stage where suffering is "turned around" and becomes nirvana, where the hindrance of knowledge is "turned around" and becomes transcendental bodhi. This is the stage of complete liberation.
We have only scratched the surface of the Yogachara school teachings. The main emphasis of the Yogachara school is on understanding consciousness and transforming it into wisdom. Consciousness binds us to the wheel of rebirth, while wisdom sees the emptiness of consciousness, thereby freeing us from rebirth. To do this, we need the four nurturing factors to help us progress along the five stages of realization. Though the teachings of the Yogachara school are difficult to understand and may not appeal to all, if one follows its practice methodically, he or she may one day transform everyday consciousness into transcendental wisdom.
The San-lun School and Its Practice
San-lun is the English transliteration of two Chinese characters meaning "three sastras." As the name suggests, the school is founded on three sastras, namely, the Madhyamaka Sastra, Dvadasanikaya Sastra, and Sata Sastra. The main emphasis of the school is on seeing reality through an understanding of emptiness and conditionality.
A. The Early Patriarchs of the San-lun School
The San-lun school is often associated with two names, Kumarajiva and Chia-hsiang. Since it was the great translator Kumarajiva who originally translated the key three sastras of the school, many think of him as the founding father of the school. Another key figure of the school was Venerable Chia-hsiang, its Sixth Patriarch. He lived during the later part of the Sui dynasty and became a monk under Venerable Fa-lang when he was only seven. During those chaotic years, he found sanctuary in the Chia-hsiang temple and people began to refer him as Venerable Chia-hsiang. He was instrumental in popularizing the teachings of San-lun, which is why the school is also referred to as the Chia-hsiang school. The recognition is well deserved, for he gave over one hundred discourses on the three sastras. He was also an authority on the Lotus Sutra and composed more than forty texts.
B. The Key Teachings of the San-lun School
The main object of the San-lun school is to shatter delusion and reveal reality. To do this, the school emphasizes a thorough understanding of emptiness and conditionality. The teachings of emptiness spoken of here do not deny the existence of the phenomenal world, only that all phenomena are empty of self nature. When most people hear the word emptiness, they think of nothingness. To them, emptiness and existence are as different as night and day, and they preclude each other. The teachings of San-lun dispel such mistaken notions. Actually, what we call existence is not as permanent and unchanging as it may seem, and emptiness is not the same as nothingness. According to the San-lun school, emptiness is the birthing ground of existence. Without emptiness, there cannot be existence, and there are many examples in our everyday living that attest to this. If we did not have the empty space of an auditorium, we would not be able to hold today's talk. The empty cavity of our nose makes breathing possible. Without the empty spaces in the mouth, ears, and pores, life will not be possible.
What we call existence is really the culmination of various causes and conditions. It is not the ultimate, but only apparent, reality. Let's say I have a shirt in my hand, and I ask you all if the shirt is real. You will no doubt say it is. Actually, what we call a shirt is only a name for a piece of cloth that is cut and sewn in a certain way. Some of you may then think that the true nature of the shirt is cloth. If we continue to dig further, we will see that the cloth is really cotton, which is nothing but the culmination of various elements including cotton seeds, soil, sunlight, air, water, and manpower. It is only when all the necessary elements are present that cotton seeds grow into cotton, which can be spun into cloth and sewn into a shirt. A shirt, therefore, does not have a substantial nature of its own because its existence is interdependent on myriad factors. A shirt does not become a shirt on its own accord, and it does not independently cease to exist. Because its arising and ceasing are dependent on other factors, we say that the shirt is empty of self nature. The same is true of all phenomena. The arising and ceasing of all phenomena is nothing but the temporary substitution of one phenomena for another-nothing is really created or destroyed. This is why it says in the Heart Sutra, "Such are the characteristics of the emptiness of all dharmas: neither arising nor ceasing, not defiled nor pure, nothing is added or taken away." While we say that all phenomena are empty of self nature, they do exist in reliance of various causes and conditions. Thus, when we look at the phenomenal world, we speak of conditionality, but when we investigate the reality of all things, we speak of emptiness. Conditionality and emptiness are the two sides of a coin. They are simultaneously present in all phenomena, without impeding each other.
It is one thing to see how existence arises from emptiness, it is another to put it into practice. Most people think that more is better than less. They may want a fancier car, more grandchildren, a nicer house, or simply a bigger bank account. How does one find happiness within emptiness? Most people look at us monastics and feel sorry for us. They feel that in renouncing the lay life, we have given up the possibility of owning a home or having a family of our own. True, we do not have a home of our own, yet we feel at home everywhere we go. We do not have children of our own, yet we have students and devotees who are like our sons and daughters. If we are not narrow in defining what constitutes happiness, then life is rich with possibilities.
C. How to Contemplate Emptiness
We can understand emptiness by contemplating the emptiness of self and the emptiness of all phenomenon. The best way to contemplate the emptiness of self is to contemplate the different aspects of self: the body, senses, mind, and its environment. Thus, there are four such contemplations. First is the contemplation of the body as impure and utterly filthy. After all, our body is simply a collection of processes, producing by-products and wastes like mucous, urine, or stool, which we deem unclean once they are passed out of the body. Second is the contemplation of [discriminative] sensation as the root cause of suffering. Third is the contemplation of the mind as impermanent, merely one thought after another. Fourth is the contemplation of all things as being interdependent and without a nature of their own. These contemplations can help us let go of our attachment to self and gradually realize the emptiness of self.
How should we contemplate the emptiness of phenomena? First, we need the right understanding of what emptiness means. When we say all phenomena are empty, we do not mean there is nothing, only that phenomena are conditioned. In fact, the Sixth Patriarch of the Ch'an school once exclaimed that the intrinsic nature of all phenomena is neither created nor destroyed. After right understanding, we need to practice letting go of our attachments to the phenomena of this world. Only when we practice can we stay true to our beliefs and not become swayed by the sights and sounds of this world. Out of this serenity of the mind, wisdom grows and helps us to better see into the emptiness of all phenomena. Practice leads to serenity, which fosters wisdom. Wisdom, in turn, makes practice easier until it becomes instinctive. When our contemplation of emptiness reaches a certain stage, we will see that we even have to let go of our attachment to emptiness. This is the tranquility of nirvana.
The Pure Land School and Its Practice
The Pure Land school was first established by Hui-yuan of the Chin dynasty. Like the Ch'an school, its influence on the Chinese culture runs deep and wide. Its practice is simple and very suitable to the hectic lifestyles of the twenty-first century. This school is very popular among Chinese Buddhists.
A. Teachings of the Pure Land School
The teachings of the Pure Land school are based on three sutras and one sastra: the Sukhavati-vyuha Sutra, Amitayus Sutra, Amitabha Sutra, and Pure Land Sastra. The teachings of this school differ from the other schools in one key aspect. Instead of directly seeking enlightenment, one seeks to be reborn in the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha where one continues to practice until buddhahood is reached. As such, the Pure Land teachings place more emphasis on the borrowed strength of Amitabha Buddha than on self-reliance that is characteristic of the Ch'an and other schools. According to the sacred texts of the school, while Amitabha was practicing to become a buddha, he was sympathetic to how difficult it is for us in the saha world to gain enlightenment, and he made forty-eight great vows to help all sentient beings cross the sea of suffering. With the merit of his vows, Amitabha manifests the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss, a land of meritorious beings and conditions that are most suited for seeing the Way. Amitabha also proclaims categorically that anyone who contemplates his name with one-pointedness of mind, be it for one day, two days, or even just ten times, will be reborn by transformation into a lotus flower in the land of Ultimate Bliss even though he or she may still be burdened with karma. Once one reaches the Pure Land, one does not regress back into the cycle of rebirth and continues to practice until full enlightenment.
B. The Pure Land Practice
While the Pure Land practice of reciting Amitabha's name is simple to understand, it is not so simple to perfect. The sutras tell us that to achieve one-pointedness of mind, we have to resonate with the compassion embedded in Amitabha's great vows through the three criteria of faith, will, and practice. To have faith is to have unwavering belief and total concentration when we recite his name. Will is total commitment to the cause of seeking rebirth in the Pure Land and not being swayed by the distractions of this world. Practice means conducting ourselves in concert with the great compassion of Amitabha Buddha. The Amitayus Sutra describes practice as follows:
1. Be filial to your parents, be respectful of your teachers and elders, be compassionate and abstain from killing, and be willing to practice benevolence.
2. Take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, observe the precepts, and maintain mental and physical well-being.
3. Develop our bodhicitta, believe in the law of cause and effect, take the Mahayana teachings to heart, and encourage others to do the same.
[On the surface, the practice of reciting Amitabha's name appears to be a superstitious practice, suitable only for the older generation. If we look deeper, however, we will understand the beauty of this seemingly simple practice. When we are mindful of Amitabha or recite his name with one-pointedness of mind, we are essentially practicing mindfulness of the three doors of karma-body, speech, and thought. When we hold the prayer beads in our hands, we make sure that our body is not engaging in unwholesome acts. When we recite the name of Amitabha, our speech is put to good use. When we recite with mindfulness, we calm the mind and practice meditative concentration.]
Throughout the history of Chinese Buddhism, there are many testimonials of people who practiced the Pure Land School of Buddhism and were reborn into the Pure Land. One such example is a blacksmith by the name of Huang. He integrated his practice with his work. Every time he raised his heavy hammer to strike a piece of iron, he recited Amitabha's name. A few years went by, and he was never lax in his practice. One day, while forging iron he uttered out loud, "Ding-dong, ding-dong, iron is smelted into steel. The time has come, to the west I go." With his hammer still in one hand, he passed away and was reborn in the Western Paradise .
The beauty of the Pure Land practice is its simplicity and the fact that it can be practiced everywhere and anytime. We can participate in group recitations in the temple and draw upon the combined strength of the whole group to help us focus. We can also recite individually. Which one we choose really depends on our own situation. We can recite while we are folding laundry or stirring a batch of batter for baking. When we ride the train, we can synchronize the roar of the engine with our recitation. When we have to wait for someone, recitation can help calm our nerves, pass the time, and be understanding of why the person is late.
C. How Should We Recite Amitabha's Name
There are many ways to recite Amitabha's name. If we think of the splendor of Amitabha's Pure Land and the bliss that is available to those reborn there, we will naturally recite with joyfulness in our heart. On the other hand, if we think of the many sorrows that we have had, or will have, in the cycles of rebirth, we will call out to Amitabha with the sorrow of a homeless orphan calling out for help. Throughout our many rebirths, we have bobbed up and down in the sea of suffering, sometimes in the form of humans, other times in the form of animals or hungry ghosts. The sense of helplessness in this long, dark journey is, indeed, frightening. It is only natural that we call out to the compassion of Amitabha.
We should recite Amitabha's name without attachment. After all, the world and the body are empty in nature and are only composites of the four great elements and five aggregates . Our recitation is our own private conversation with Amitabha. When we open ourselves to Amitabha without attachment, we will experience his presence everywhere. This may sound like poetic exaggeration, but I can attest to this from my own experience. It happened in 1954 when I was attending a week-long Dharma service in Ilan during which we recited Amitabha's name all seven days. When I brushed my teeth, my teeth seemingly clattered his name. When I ate, the food seemed to be calling out his name to me. Even in my sleep, I was very much aware of all that were happening. The week went by in no time. From that point on, I firmly believe that the practice of saying Amitabha's name without attachment can help us realize all phenomena and the Buddha are one. In this realm of oneness, the limitations of time and space lose their meaning, and I feel a complete sense of freedom.
It is also important that we say Amitabha's name in earnest and with total dedication. Through the strength of his vow of compassion for all sentient beings, Amitabha manifested the Pure Land. When we say his name in earnest, we draw upon this strength. When I was fifteen and became a monk, part of the ordination ceremony was the burning of incense on the crown of the head. Because of my young age, the mark left an indentation on my crown and damaged part of the nerves in my brain. My memory really suffered, and I had trouble with my school work. Finally one of the teachers suggested that I ask Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva for help. Every night I would go into the temple to plead with the Bodhisattva for help. After half a month or so, my memory became almost photographic. When we are sincere in our recitations, we open ourselves up to the compassion of the buddhas and bodhisattvas, and we can become receptive to the realm of transcendental possibilities.
While most people associate the Pure Land practice with recitation of Amitabha's name, it should be emphasized that this Dharma method is built upon the awakening of our bodhi mind, together with faith, will, and the practice of compassion. When these elements are present, we will resonate with Amitabha's compassion and be reborn in his Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss.
The T'ien-t'ai School and Its Practice
The Buddha started his forty plus years of teaching with the Avatamsaka Sutra and closed it with the Lotus Sutra. We will end our series on the eight schools of Chinese Buddhism with the T'ien-t'ai school that is based on the Lotus Sutra.
A. The Founding Father of T'ien-t'ai
T'ien-t'ai means heavenly terrace and is the name of a mountain in the Chekiang area, south-west of Ningpo. The founder of the school was Venerable Chih-che (C.E. 538-597). Studying under Hui-ssu of Hunan, he was greatly influenced by his teachings and found in the Lotus Sutra the real interpretation of the Mahayana teachings. One day when he was reciting the part in the Lotus Sutra which says, "Right diligence is the meaning of true offering," all his confusion disappeared. He was an articulate and eloquent speaker. During one of his teachings on the Lotus Sutra, he spent three month expounding on the Chinese word "miao," which means wondrous and profound. Concerned that people were focused on understanding but not practice, he first went to T'ien-t'ai in 575 and started a school that balanced both. The school flourished during the T'ang dynasty and became the foundation of the important Tendai Buddhist sect in Japan. His written works on the text of the Lotus Sutra, its interpretation, and the practice of meditation became the three principal texts of the school. In 597, he passed away at T'ien-t'ai, and the school he established became known as the T'ien-t'ai school.
B. Understanding and Practice
T'ien-t'ai prides itself as the school that balances both understanding and practice. It maintains that absolute reality and the phenomenal world are one and that the truth of all phenomena can be unlocked by means of meditation. Among the eight schools of Chinese Buddhism, the Yogachara, San-lun, and Hua-yen schools place heavy emphasis on understanding, while the Ch'an, Vinaya, Pure Land, and Mantra schools are weighted towards practice. T'ien-t'ai avoids either bias and likens both as the wings of a bird, equally indispensable.
T'ien-t'ai has a very methodical approach to understanding the Buddha's teachings. It classifies the teachings into five periods and eight skillful means. Chih-che's exposition on the text of the Lotus Sutra as well as his commentary on its meaning are excellent references for all Dharma teachers and scholars. In terms of practice, this school encourages its students to meditate on its two main teachings: embracing the three thousands worlds with all its forms of existence in one thought and seeing emptiness, existence, and absolute reality simultaneously in all phenomena. It is no wonder that many credit this school as most inclusive in its approach.
C. The Teachings of T'ien-t'ai
The main object of its teachings is to understand the profound truth of the Middle Way. Chih-che approached this issue from two very different angles-seeing existence in emptiness and seeing emptiness in existence. Emptiness and existence do not preclude each other. Existence is manifested because of emptiness, and emptiness is revealed in existence. This intertwining of existence and emptiness is what T'ien-t'ai referred to as absolute reality.
One of the main teachings of T'ien-t'ai is the seamless harmony of the three realms, namely, emptiness, existence, and absolute reality. Emptiness refers to the fact that all dharmas are empty in nature and cannot exist independent of others. While this is the case, dharmas arise given the right cause and conditions. This arising is what gives rise to existence. Absolute reality is the middle way that recognizes the interrelation of the two and avoids both extremes of emptiness and existence. These three realms co-exist in total harmony, each embracing the other two.
The other main teaching of this school says that the mind embodies all dharmas of the three thousand chiliocosms. Some of you may ask how is this possible? Well, when we are compassionate towards others' suffering and want to help, we are no different from the buddhas or bodhisattvas. When we are at ease with the world and see beauty in all existence, we experience the joys of celestial beings. When we succumb to sensual pleasures and become enslaved to them, we behave like hungry ghosts. When we are angry with others or bitter about our misfortunes, we are in hell. When we act foolishly, we are deluded like animals. The mind is capable of beholding any of these realms, and how we choose to act is entirely up to us.
D. The Practices of T'ien-t'ai
The main practice of T'ien-t'ai is the seeing of absolute reality through meditation. In T'ien-t'ai, the term meditation is made up of two Chinese characters "chih-kuan." Chih means to cease and kuan means to contemplate. Ceasing is silencing the active mind of all delusion, while contemplating is seeing with clarity. Ceasing is passive and is the same as meditative concentration. Contemplating is active and is the same as wisdom. Wisdom comes from stillness, and stillness precedes wisdom. Ceasing is like the calming of waves on the water's surface, while contemplating is seeing into it. Ceasing and contemplating, or concentration and wisdom, are the two wheels of a cart; they are equally important in our spiritual journey.
How do we practice ceasing and contemplating? T'ien-t'ai proposes three approaches. First is a gradual practice, starting from the elementary to the advanced. It begins with taking refuge in the Triple Gem and observing the precepts, then moving onto meditative concentration, the path of no outflow , the bodhisattva path of compassion, and finally seeing absolute reality without any bias for either emptiness or existence. Second is a more fluid approach, without any fixed formulation of where to start or what should come next. The premise of this method is that we are all different in temperament and spiritual maturity. While there is no set course, the crux of this method is the counting of breaths to still the mind and then moving on to contemplation. The third one is referred to as the complete and immediate approach and represents the crowning achievement of Chih-che. In this practice, one stills the mind with one of the four samadhi practices , which we will soon discuss, and then contemplates absolute reality until the three realms of emptiness, existence, and absolute reality are seen at one and the same time. This method is so called because it is the path for attaining immediate enlightenment. It differs from the previous two because it emphasizes the importance of both the contemplation and direct experience of absolute reality.
Another important practice of the T'ien-t'ai school is the attainment of samadhi, of which there are four kinds. The first one is called continuous-sitting samadhi. In this practice, one goes into seclusion for a period of ninety days to sit continuously and contemplate absolute reality. The single-mindedness that can be achieved in this process is quite remarkable. At the end of the seclusion, one hopes to achieve equanimity and so realizes that the transcendental and the phenomenal are one and the same.
The second one is called continuous-walking samadhi. This is similar to the first one except that sitting is replaced with walking. One circumambulates a room or a buddha statue, and when tired, one holds onto a rope hanging from the ceiling for support. Sitting and reclining are not allowed. This practice is both physically and mentally demanding. One of the monastics in Fo Guang Shan, Taiwan, practiced this kind of samadhi twice. In his case, he walked three times a day, starting with three hours each time and gradually building it up to seven hours in one stretch. After half a month or so, he felt the room cold as an ice-box. Upon my suggestion, he burned incense to the buddhas and bodhisattvas so that he could be strong. After the incense was lit, the whole room felt warm and smelled wonderful. After a while, he felt as if he had been hammered and all his orifices and pores were clogged. The discomfort was hard to bear. This method is sometimes referred to as the pratyutpanna samadhi, named after the sutra in which this was discussed. If one can endure the demands of this practice, the spiritual progress made can be immense. Many have visions of buddhas, and for this reason, this practice is also called vision-of-the-buddhas samadhi.
The third kind of samadhi is called half-walking half-sitting samadhi. As the name suggests, this practice employs a mixture of walking and sitting. The duration can be either seven days or twenty-one days long and can be done individually or with others. The last kind of samadhi is called not-sitting not-walking samadhi. This kind of samadhi is practiced in the course of our daily lives and does not involve walking or sitting as the calming vehicle. As such, it can be practiced everywhere and anytime. Of the four kinds of samadhi practices, this one is most suited to the hectic pace of modern life.
In addition to these meditative techniques, one can also calm the mind with mindfulness of the Lotus Sutra. Some simply recite or copy the sutra; others venerate each word. Like the Pure Land practice of reciting Amitabha's name, T'ien-t'ai also has a practice that involves reciting the name of the sutra. There are many testimonials about transcendental experiences from such practices. When Hui-ssu, Chih-che's teacher, first started studying the sutra, he could not understand the teachings and was saddened by his lack of wisdom. He was, however, very resolute and began to venerate the sutra repeatedly. His sincerity moved heaven and earth. One night, he dreamed of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, the patron of the sutra, appearing before him riding an elephant. From that day on, his wisdom grew tremendously, and he was able to understand the sutra.
When the Buddha first discoursed the Lotus Sutra, a million human and celestial beings came and assembled. This gathering is now referred to as the Vulture Peak Assembly. The teachings were profound, and five thousand people left mid-way because they could not understand the teachings. I am very moved that over the last three days of this talk on the eight schools of Chinese Buddhism, all of you stayed to the very end. I hope you all have gleaned some use out of these three days and found a school that appeals to you. Thank you.


Food for Thought: Ten of Life's Common Concerns

Dear Dharma Friends,
I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak with you about some of life's common questions and concerns. I have structured the discussion in terms of ten topics.
1. Wealth and Poverty
Many of us have wondered why some people are blessed with wealth while others are always struggling to make ends meet. Some people are like magnets for wealth. Their homes are beautiful like those showcased in interior decoration magazines; their biggest problem of the day is which car they should drive or where they should go to have lunch. At the other end of the spectrum, some people toil their whole lives and still cannot afford a home of their own. Why is there such a disparity? What exactly is poverty? What do we mean by wealth?
Cause begets effect. How much wealth we have depends on a combination of how hard we work and our past karma. Wealth is not something that is bestowed by the gods. It is the fruit of past generosity. While alms giving is the seed of wealth, hard work is the condition that nurtures the seed to fruition. We cannot change the past, but we can definitely change the future by our present actions.
The amount of money that one has does not determine one's happiness. True, the rich may not have to worry about where the next meal is coming from, but they can be burdened by social engagements and wearied judging others' ulterior motives. The poor are not troubled by such problems. As long as they have their dignity and self-esteem, they can stand tall and be proud. In the phenomenal world, everything is subject to impermanence. Wealth and poverty are no exceptions. Wealth can disappear, and people can go from rags to riches. Wealth cannot solve all problems, and our happiness is dependent more on how we feel about ourselves than how much money we have in our bank accounts.
The Buddha shows us by example how we should look at our wealth. He was just as happy with a simple robe as he was with a royal garment. He enjoyed the food that he collected from his alms rounds as much as the food that was offered to him when he was the guest of honor. He could sleep under a tree and yet was equally at ease in a royal palace. Sometimes he lived in solitude, and at other times he lived in the company of his followers and bhiksus. The Buddha was always at ease with his circumstances. The distinctions of rich and poor, coarse and fine, or fame and rejection had no bearing on his inner peace.
The great contemporary monk, Hung-yi, also led a life of equanimity. He never complained about anything. He lived a simple life of little want and great contentment. Whether it is a worn-out handkerchief, a simple plate of pickled vegetable, or a spartan bed, he was equally appreciative. Most of us look at a life of subsistence as a burden, but Hung-yi truly enjoyed what he had. One day, the famous scholar Hsia Mien-tsun visited him while he was finishing his lunch of rice and pickled vegetables. The venerable showed such delight that Hsia Mien-tsun exclaimed, "Only someone wise like the venerable can truly relish such simplicity."
I want to share with you this parable. Once there was a wealthy businessman who lived in a penthouse with a breath-taking view of the city. He had a childhood friend who was poor but happy. This friend had a loving wife who adored him and greatly appreciated his hard work to provide for the family. The tycoon was a successful business man and had to spend many evenings away from home socializing and finalizing business deals. He was quite enviable of his friend's simple lifestyle and thought to himself, "What is the point of having all this money if I cannot enjoy it? My friend may be poor, but he is having a grand old time with his wife. Sometimes I wish my life could be more like his."
One day, someone told him, "If you want to be more like your friend, just give some of your money to him." He was tickled with the suggestion and decided to give his poor friend two hundred thousand dollars, a small fraction of what he had. The poor couple was ecstatic. They thought the money was the best thing that could happen to them. When night fell, they began to worry about how to safeguard their newfound wealth. Should they put it in the drawer? Someone might steal it. How about under the mattress? That did not sound like such a good hiding place. Worried about their fortune, they hardly got a wink of sleep that night. After a few days, they began to argue how to best use the money. The wife wanted to do one thing, while the husband wanted to do something different. Their fights almost destroyed their marriage. Upon reflection, they realized that all their problems started when they were given the money. They decided to return the money to their tycoon friend instead.
This is, of course, a parable, but there is a valuable lesson here. Money can solve many problems, but it can also create many new ones. One of Confucius' students, Yen Hwei, was said to have lived a life consisting of "a bowl of rice, a gourdful of drink, and an abode on a humble lane. Many could not tolerate such subsistence, yet Hwei would not change his life of joy a bit." One of the Buddha's disciples, Mahakasyapa, practiced a life of poverty and often spent his nights by tombstones without much of a thought. It is one thing to be poor in a monetary sense, it is quite another to be lacking spiritually. The store of treasure within our hearts and minds is inexhaustible, and it is up to us to mine this internal wealth. If we know how to apply the treasure within, we are wealthy in the truest sense of the word.
2. Gain and Loss
Throughout our lives, we are continually faced with gain and loss. When we win an argument, we feel invincible. When we face setbacks in our careers, we feel dejected and miserable. In every situation, there are many factors that are outside our control, and things do not always turn out to our satisfaction. In a certain way, life is like a see-saw that goes up and down. While it is easy to say that we should not be carried away in times of triumph or become overwhelmed in times of defeat, there are few of us who can truly live accordingly.
The Sixth Patriarch of the Ch'an school of Buddhism once said, "When there is no particular dharma[1] to be attained, then myriad dharmas are possible." If you reflect upon the ups and downs in your career, are they really as critical as you had once thought? Our life spans no many than a handful of decades. What do we really gain? What have we really lost? Fame and fortune are as permanent as a midnight dream or an autumn frost. It is often said, "We came into this world empty-handed, and we will leave empty-handed." If we can look beyond the here and now, we may wonder what is the purpose of all the gains and losses. Regarding life's gain or loss, the Heart Sutra says it well:
No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, or mind.
No form, sound, smell, taste, touch, or dharma.
No realm of the eye.
Even no realm of consciousness.
No ignorance and no ending of ignorance.
When we can move beyond the sense data of form, sound, smell, taste, touch, and dharma, then we can see into emptiness and realize there is nothing to be attained. We often measure ourselves in tangible terms, but what we call success-fame, wealth, or beauty-are hardly absolute. These so-called successes are only pertinent when placed in context. It is only when we see the world in dualities that we experience gain or loss. In the world of emptiness, there is no gain or loss to be had. When we understand this, we are better equipped to deal with the ups and downs of life.
Looking at the world in terms of dualities is an over-simplification. There is no phenomenon that is absolutely good or bad. Let me give you a personal example. I really enjoyed listening to monastic chanting when I was a young child. So when I joined the monastic order, I was quite disappointed to find out that I did not have the natural ability to chant. Chanting was a very important part of monastic duties then. Many of my peers were given special recognition because of their chanting ability. I felt I was not living up to the requirements of being a monk. Upon further reflection, I became convinced that there were other ways I could contribute. I could help others through my writing. I began to write articles and publish books. The proceeds from my work helped me buy the land upon which Fo Guang Shan now stands. As long as we apply ourselves, we need not judge our strengths and weaknesses as good or bad.
If we understand emptiness, we also understand the law of conditionality. All phenomena manifest because of causes and conditions. Take the example of good fortune. Good fortune is the effect from the cause of alms giving and compassion. Just as easily as good fortune can knock on our door, it can also disappear when the right causes and conditions cease to exist. If we understand the teachings of emptiness and conditionality, we will take the coming and going of good fortune in a less personal manner. Only when we think that good fortune is due to us do we become attached to it and suffer unnecessarily. The same is true of sickness, old age, and death. When we ground ourselves in emptiness and conditionality, we will not be swayed by our circumstances.
3. Repentance
When I talk to retired military men, I often feel a sense of conflict in them. Some of them have said to me, "When I was in the military, I killed my enemies without mercy. Now when I think back on what I have done, I wish things had been different." We are only human, and we are bound to make mistakes. The important thing is to be repentant of our mistakes. There is a Buddhist saying that captures the power of repentance well, "Lay down the slaying knife; immediately become a buddha."
Through repentance we are "washed clean" of our mistakes. When our clothes are dirty, we wash them to get rid of the dirt. When our bodies are filthy, a bath helps us feel clean again. When children do something wrong, we want them to be honest with their mistakes and make amends. Likewise, when we make mistakes, we have to be remorseful. This following gatha is often recited in repentance services to help us repent our wrongs:
All the wrongs I have committed in the past
Arise from beginningless greed, hatred, and delusion.
What I have committed with my body, speech, and thought,
All these I now repent.
In this age of laying blame, we like to think of our mistakes as the result of irresistible temptations, moments of mental weakness, the effect of growing up in a dysfunctional family, or the demands of making ends meet. The Buddha teaches us that our unwholesome karma is the result of greed, hatred, and delusion from time without beginning. Being born in this day and age does not help either. Modern life is so hectic that civility is a rare commodity. Many people have a short fuse, and obscenity is on the rise. [When television shows have names like "Greed," it is no wonder that ethics and morality are not high on people's agenda.]
What is repentance? How should we repent? The sutras give us some guidelines. First, we have to be honest about our mistakes and be determined not to repeat them. It is not enough to admit our wrongs privately; we need to openly confess to the Buddha or someone who can guide us. We should also be willing to accept the consequences of our actions. Second, we should sincerely ask the buddhas and bodhisattvas for strength so that we do not make the same mistakes again. Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva exudes compassion and helps those who repent their unwholesome karma. The Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva Sutra[2] says, "When someone bound and shackled, regardless of their guilt or innocence, recites the name of Avalokitesvara, the shackles will break open. He will become free." A field that is not cultivated will not yield a harvest. If the field is then tilled and fertilized, crops will grow and weeds will not take root. In a similar way, someone who is mindful of the buddhas and bodhisattvas will be able to forestall the conditions for the ripening of unwholesome karma.
Amitabha Buddha provides us with an expedient means to be reborn in his pure land even though we may be burdened with karma. Through the compassion of Amitabha, which acts like a large vessel, we are ferried to the other shore. This is analogous to how a boulder, which on its own will sink to the bottom of the sea, can be easily ferried across if put on a ship. When we die, we will not be able to take anything with us, that is except our karma. Only if we are mindful of Amitabha can we delay the effect of our unwholesome karma and reach the other shore.
On one level of understanding, our unwholesome karma is created by our body, speech, and thought. If we investigate this a bit further, we come to see that even unwholesome karma is empty without a self-nature. In repentance, we see into the emptiness of unwholesome karma, and the original lustre of our pure nature is restored. The sutras say:
When defilements arise, clarify deluded mind.
When delusion ceases, defilement also dies.
Delusions cleared, defilements disappear-both are completely empty.
This is called true repentance.
As we can see from this stanza, repentance here has a different dimension than the normal use of the word. Repentance is more than feeling sorry for what we have done. Repentance also involves clarifying deluded thought. When we see the emptiness of our delusion, we also see the emptiness of unwholesome karma. In so doing, we see things as they truly are. Hell is "recognized[3]" as heaven, affliction is recognized as bodhi, defilement is recognized as purity, and our world is recognized as a pure land.
In addition to repentance, we also have to vow to do good. The four universal vows are like signposts to a pure land:
To aid all living beings without limit,
To sever all delusion without end,
To master all Dharma methods and means however numerous,
To realize the supreme buddha way.
4. Headaches and Heartaches
We all have our share of headaches and heartaches. Physically, we all have to face aging, sickness, and death. Mentally, we have to deal with problems arising from greed, hatred, and delusion. The Chinese have a saying which aptly describes our predicament, "Heaven and hell sometimes end; the threads of sorrow continue forever." Our affliction is as deep as the dark, blue sea and is as dense as the trees in the wild. Our affliction is also the driving force that propels us from one rebirth to another.
Our afflictions, however numerous and varied, all stem from one cause-the attachment to self. Because of this attachment, we look at the world from a singular viewpoint and create many problems for ourselves in the process. The three poisons of greed, hatred, and delusion all originate from this attachment. To root out all our headaches and heartaches, we have to do so at the source. In other words, we have to sever the attachment to self and break loose from the grip of the three poisons. Wang Yang-ming, a famous Confucian scholar of the Ming dynasty, once said, "To catch the bandit in the hills is easy, to arrest the thief in ourselves is tough." Fortunately, the Buddha teaches us what we should do. "Work diligently on discipline, meditative concentration, and wisdom; extinguish the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion." Because of our attachment to self from time without beginning, we have developed a deep-rooted habit to focus on ourselves. The discipline of observing the precepts helps us refrain from violating others' rights. It is a good counter-measure against greed. Meditative concentration helps us stay centered when facing hostility. Staying calm can also help us carefully assess a difficult situation and make the right decision. Meditative concentration breeds wisdom so that we can see through our delusion. The wisdom we speak of here is transcendental wisdom and is not the same as worldly knowledge. The wisdom here is the understanding of emptiness and the law of conditionality. Wisdom guides our actions so that we do not end up habitually reacting to our emotions.
Many of us have heard of the saying, "Do no evil, speak no evil, and hear no evil." This is a good start. When we are vigilant of the three doors of karma[4], we are removing the conditions for the three poisons to grow. Our senses can be very troublesome things. Because of our sensory discriminations, we develop preferences and aversions, many of them quite arbitrary and meaningless. Instead of looking for affirmation of who we are from outside of ourselves, we should look within ourselves. In this way, we see that a lot of our sorrows are quite self-inflicted and unnecessary.
My maternal grandmother was a very religious woman. She began her life-long vegetarian practice when she was seventeen, the same time she began her practice of reciting Amitabha's name. She was a very compassionate woman and had a lot of influence on me joining the Sangha. She had three sons with families of their own, but unfortunately all their children died very young around three or four years of age. My grandmother was never bitter about the misfortune, and not because she did not feel the loss. She was a Buddhist in the truest sense of the word. She realized that when there is birth, there is also death, and we reap what we sow. The birth of her grandchildren was the culmination of causes and conditions; their departure, too, was the result of conditionality. The human life span is not that long to begin with, and we should not excessively grieve over the loss of our loved ones. Many of us choose to believe in the law of conditionality when things are going well for us but would question its validity when tragedy strikes. My grandmother truly knew how to put sorrows into perspective. She was an inspiration to me in my own handling of headaches and heartaches.
5. How to handle the demands of life?
In this day and age of cell phones and beepers, we often see people talking on the cell phone while walking. Life is so jam packed with deadlines and schedules that every second counts. It is easy for us to forget why we busied ourselves. Some people say it is a blessing to be busy and feel needed, but we have to be careful that we are preoccupied for the right reasons. Some people only focus on themselves and cannot give others the time of day. Others give their jobs their all and neglect their own family.
There is an art to managing time. We have to apportion our time so that we know how to balance the demands of material and spiritual needs. We have to look out for ourselves, yet we should also have others' well-being in mind. We must work for the present as well as for the future. If we can strike a balance in all these areas, then we are managing our time well.
The United States is a country for young people. Society moves at a rapid pace, and unable to keep up, elderly people often withdraw. What kind of life can we expect when we get old? While there is hardly enough time to do everything when we are young, the opposite is true when old age sets in. My suggestion is that we all should develop the habit of reading when we are still young. Then when we are less mobile, we can always sit back with a good book. We have to keep the mind young by keeping it busy and engaged. When our eyes are tired, we can recite Amitabha's name. When we are mindful of Amitabha, he will always be in our hearts.
Actually, we do not have to wait until we are old to start reciting Amitabha's name. It is a practice that is applicable to the old and the young. When we are busy, we can recite Amitabha's name to calm our minds. Amitabha stands for "infinite light" and "infinite life," a good anchor in the ups and downs of life.
6. How do we find peace?
We all have to deal with heart-wrenching problems sooner or later in life. What keeps us going in times like this is the hope that things will all work out and look better in the future. In Buddhism, hope is powered by two forces. The first force comes from the strength of vows. A good example is Samantabhadra Bodhisattva's ten great vows: 1) to pay respect to all buddhas; 2) to give praise to the Tathagata; 3) to give alms; 4) to be remorseful of unwholesome ways; 5) to practice sympathetic joy; 6) to pray that the Buddha and the Dharma will always be with us; 7) to ask the Buddha to turn the Dharma wheel; 8) to continually practice the Buddha's teachings; 9) to use skillful means to influence others; and 10) to transfer all merit to sentient beings. Vows have immeasurable strength because they embody hope not only for the one who vows but for all sentient beings as well. The merit from vows also facilitates good causes and conditions to help us carry through with our vows.
The second force comes from the support and guidance of the Triple Gem: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. When we are young, we depend on our parents for all our needs. When we grow up and live on our own, we expand our support circle to include trusted friends as well. Some people also like to seek help from deities, but they do not realize that the heavenly realm is still within the six realms of existence and deities are still subject to the wheel of rebirth. When their life spans are exhausted, deities age and become helpless, too. In this world of impermanence, the Buddha teaches us to seek support, or take refuge, in the Triple Gem. The Buddha, the fully enlightened one, shines on us like a light, helping us see our way. His teachings, or the Dharma, are like corrective lenses that help us see through our delusion and so understand the truth about life and the universe. They are the tracks on a railroad, keeping us on course so that we may reach our destination. The Sangha is the body of individuals who have renounced the household life and are committed to practicing the Dharma. Even though they may not have realized enlightenment, they are our teachers. It is said in the sutras that we are the sick, the Buddha is the skillful doctor, the Dharma represents medicine, and the monastics of the Sangha are caring nurses.
The Way to Buddhahood says:
People seeking refuge everywhere,
Seeking refuge in all the ten directions,
Finally realize that the ultimate place of refuge
Is to be found in the most auspicious Three Treasures.
Friends may come and go, but the Triple Gem is always ready to extend a helping hand. The compassion of the Triple Gem together with the strength from pledging vows form a bedrock for our mental well-being.
7. Separation
Parting is such sweet sorrow. Separation from our loved ones is one of the eight sufferings we all have to endure. The Way to Buddhahood says, "Those with fame and high status can fall. Those who are together may be scattered." There is nothing more heart-warming than a happy family enjoying each others' company, sharing the good times as well as the bad. But children grow up and will eventually move out from under their parents' wings. Sickness and death can also take our loved ones from us. Moreover, in this day and age of disposable everything, it seems that the family structure is also looked at in the same way. Spouses turn on one other; siblings treat each other as total strangers.
We all should treasure our relationships with our family and friends. Without the necessary causes and conditions, we would not have been brought together. While we treasure our relationships, we should not become attached to them either. We need to let go when our children grow up and leave us. There are a few things we can do to help us cope with separation when it becomes a reality. We should have a variety of interests to keep us busy so that we do not have to measure our happiness by how often our children visit. When our relationship with our children changes, we can build new relationships, too. If we have our own individual support circle, then we are less inclined to be demanding of our children's time and attention. Last but not least, we should find happiness within ourselves and not in external elements.
What happens when our loved ones die and leave us forever? Let me share this account from the sutra with you. During the time of the Buddha, there was an elderly woman with an only son. She loved her son dearly and had always hoped that he would look after her when she became old and dependent. Unfortunately, her son fell ill one day and died shortly thereafter. The woman was beside herself with anguish. Grief-stricken, she carried the body to where the Buddha was staying in the hope that he could bring her son back to life. The Blessed One took pity on her and said, "If you want me to bring your son back to life, there is a way. You have to first bring me a small mustard seed, and not just any mustard seed. This mustard seed must come from a house which has not known death." The mother thought that she could turn back time. With hope, she went from house to house, trying to find one where no one had died. Everywhere she went, someone in the family had once passed away. She searched in vain and finally, after knocking on all the doors, went back to the Buddha and told him what happened. The Buddha gently explained, "From time immemorial, man has lived and died. Such is the law of nature. You should not be overwrought with your son's death." The elderly woman was enlightened.
When there is life, there is also death; when there is union, there is also separation. We should treasure our relationships while they last and let go of them when separation becomes inevitable.
8. Handling Wealth
Some people look at wealth as the ultimate measure of success and the solution for all problems. Our wealth, regardless of its size, will not last forever. In fact, the Buddha once said that our wealth does not belong to us but to five masters. The five masters are flood, fire, theft, corrupt government, and prodigal sons. Floods and fires can destroy in an instant what took years to build. We often read in newspapers how scam artists target older people and cheat them out of their life savings. Government policies and war can change the landscape of wealth, while spendthrift children can squander a fortune, however large. While we say, "This is mine," or "I possess this," the relationship we have with our wealth is actually much more tenuous.
We came into this world empty-handed, and we will leave the world the same way. The sutras say, "We cannot take anything with us; only karma shadows us everywhere." While this may sound obvious, many of us do not necessarily take it to heart. We think that while we may not take our wealth to our graves, we can still leave it behind for our children. Unfortunately, the process of divvying up the inheritance is a common cause of rifts between once loving siblings. In fact, the bigger the inheritance, the more bitter the feud. We think we can plan for our children's future, but life can throw us many curves. We should not be consumed with providing for the next generation; the best thing we can do for our children is to give them a sound education and teach them right from wrong.
The important question regarding wealth is not how much we have, but what we do with what we have. Wealth by itself does not have any ethical value. It is up to us to put it to good use, such as helping the poor and spreading the Dharma. Many philanthropists set up scholarships to help needy children through college. It is their way to give a little back to the world.
9. Sickness
Whether we are rich or poor, young or old, we all get sick. Even a simple illness like the flu can keep us in bed for a few days. While it may be an inconvenience, we can all deal with it. The true test of our inner strength is when we face debilitating sickness. I remember about fifty years ago when I was in my twenties, I came down with a serious case of rheumatism. I was so ill that I could not walk. As I lay on the bed, even small movements could cause excruciating pain. When I finally saw a doctor, he told me that my rheumatism was a very severe case, and they might have to amputate my legs. When I heard the prognosis, I did not feel sorry for myself. I thought, "I have already dedicated my life to spreading the Dharma. If I were to lose my legs and could not travel, I would have more time to read and write. I could continue my work through my writings." I was not afraid of how I might see myself or what others would think of me, and so I was not bothered by the possibility of having to lose my legs.
[When Norman Cousins[5] was diagnosed with a crippling illness in 1964, he did not give up hope. Instead, he looked at life in a whole new light and treated himself with "laugh therapy." He went on to live a healthy life until the late 1990s.] Helen Keller was both blind and deaf. She was not deterred by her handicap and became an inspiration of our time. Very often, we are handicapped not so much by our physical ailments but by our mental morose.
How do we not feel hopeless when we are faced with life-altering sickness and change? Let me offer three suggestions. First, we need to remain positive even when we are sick. We all handle stress differently. Some people complain about even the slightest pain while others can endure a lot more. It is important that we do not let the body dictate how the mind feels. When the mind is not focused on the pain, the body will in turn feel better. Second, we should approach health in a holistic way and not become totally reliant on medication. While modern medicine has made many advances, it still has its limits. Some people would run to the doctor for the latest in drug therapy at the first sign of illness. As a result, some antibiotics have been so overly prescribed that they have begun to lose their effectiveness. In addition to medical intervention, we also need to examine our way of life to see if we are eating right and exercising enough. Third, we need to be at ease with our circumstances. While we try our best to take care of our sickness, it is equally important to be at ease with sickness itself. After all, sickness is an inevitable part of life. We all have to face it, but we need not succumb to it.
10. Life and Death
Life is not forever. While we all know that death follows life, I'd like to add that life also follows death. Death marks the end of one life and the beginning of another. Many of us do not have the slightest idea regarding the age-old questions: From where does life come? To where does death lead? While we are alive, we take life for granted. Most of us are preoccupied with making a living, but we do not think much about life itself. However little we understand about life, we understand death even less.
How should we look at life and death? The Buddha teaches us that life is without beginning and without end. Life is the culmination of causes and conditions, and as such, it is continually changing. Like the water in a fast running river, it is never the same water. As soon as some water flows away, more comes to take its place. This impermanence is an inherent characteristic of the phenomenal world. Look around us. We go through birth, aging, and death. Likewise, the inanimate world is marked with becoming, existing, and ceasing. The sutras say: "Mount Sumeru[6] may be huge and tall, yet it will disappear one day. Despite the great depths of the sea, it will become dry when its time is up. Though the sun and moon shine bright, they will cease to exist before long. The great earth may be strong and holds all there is, but when the fire of karma burns at the end of the kalpa, it , too, cannot escape impermanence." When we see this truth, we will no longer fear death and rebirth. We will understand that death and rebirth is like moving from one house to the next.
The Buddha has shown us many ways of dealing with life and death. The Pure Land practice of mindfulness of Amitabha Buddha is a direct and suitable method for many of us, but it is by no means the only method. When the great master Tzu-hang was alive, he had one disciple with the Dharma name of Lu-hang. He was a retired military man and liked the simplicity of the Pure Land practice. He repeatedly pleaded with his teacher to recite Amitabha's name with him so that he might be reborn in Amitabha's pure land. One day when he again approached his teacher on this matter, the master said, "You really want to be reborn in Amitabha's pure land. Good, let's go." He then sat down and passed away. When the other students realized their teacher was not breathing, they all blamed Lu-hang for causing their teacher's death. After half an hour of commotion, the venerable gradually began to breathe again. He then remarked, "We are free to choose which school we want to practice." It is not important which school of Buddhism we follow, as long as we practice.
Today, I have shared with you my thoughts on some of the common concerns that we all have. I hope you find the discussion useful. What is important is not how many of the Buddha's teachings we understand, but how well we practice what we do know in our everyday situations.

[1] The word "dharma" here with the lower case "d" means phenomenon.
[2] The Sanskrit name of the sutra is Samantamukhaparivatro namavalokitesvara-vikurvana-nirdesa.
[3] Recognized, rather than transformed, is used here because nothing is really changed.
[4] The three doors of karma are speech, actions, and thought.
[5] Author of Anatomy of an Illness.
[6] In Indian culture, it is believed that Mount Sumeru is the central mountain of every world.


Living the Dharma

Dear Dharma Friends,
I want to thank you all for coming here in this heat. Yesterday, we discussed the relevance of Buddhism to the space, time, and relationship elements of our everyday life. Today, we will see what the Dharma says regarding the material, social, and spiritual aspects of living.

I. What Does the Dharma Say Regarding the Material Side of Living
A. The material side of living according to the Amitabha Sutra
To most people, Buddhism is a religion that talks about emptiness and spiritual living. Some even close their minds to the religion because they are afraid that if they become a Buddhist, they have to give up their nice clothes and comfortable homes. They figure that if they have to give up all comforts to become a
Buddhist, they should not bother. Actually, Buddhist practice takes on various forms, and undue emphasis on abstinence, without understanding the deeper significance of it, will only serve to drive people away. In fact, if we read the Amitabha Sutra, we will see that Buddhism and material comfort are not mutually exclusive.
The Amitabha Sutra is a well-known sutra of the Pure Land school of Buddhism, and in it there are detailed descriptions of Amitabha's pure land of ultimate bliss. It is a place of grandeur. The ground is paved with gold, and dwellings are built of seven kinds of gems. Even the railings and trees that surround the land radiate with beauty. The ponds are made of seven kinds of precious stones, and the water that fills these ponds has eight excellent qualities. In the world of ultimate bliss, those who need clothing will be clothed; those who need food will be fed. For transportation, people fly freely from one place to the next. The elevated standard of living in Amitabha's pure land of ultimate bliss is beyond our imagination.
From the Amitabha Sutra, we learn that Buddhism is not just about suffering. In fact, the Pure Land school of Buddhism points out how we can be reborn into the world of ultimate bliss, a land of unparalleled happiness. As far as suffering is concerned, there is no question that Buddhism speaks of suffering; this is merely stating the facts of life. Buddhism also goes a step further and teaches us how suffering can be a form of practice. It does not, however, equate suffering with practice or state that we all have to go through pain to achieve liberation.
In regards to how we should manage our material wants and needs, Buddhism does not suggest that we have to unduly deprive ourselves. While a life of extreme self-mortification is spiritless and dull, Buddhism also stresses that we should not be self-indulgent in our material wants and needs. Desires can easily become insatiable. Once we have a comfortable house, we also want to drive a fancy car; now that we all have television sets, we long for central air-conditioning. From one desire to another, we can become enslaved to the material world, at the expense of our spiritual development. Thus, Buddhism does not endorse either a life of self-mortification or that of self-indulgence. While the Amitabha Sutra speaks of inconceivable comfort in the pure land, the environment is purely a means for furthering the practice of the Dharma and attaining buddhahood. When the Diamond Sutra says, "Let intentions arise without any clingings," it tells us that we need not give up everything; instead, it stresses the practice of the Middle Way. The Buddha teaches us to avoid the extremes of self-mortification as well as that of self-indulgence.

B. The material side of living according to the teachings of the Five Vehicles
In Buddhism, we talk about five modes or vehicles of practice. The five vehicles are human, celestial, sravaka, pratyekabuddha, and bodhisattva vehicles. These five vehicles represent various stages of spiritual development. The human and celestial vehicles are for lay Buddhists and focus on worldly matters. The sravaka and pratyekabuddha vehicles, on the other hand, are for those who have renounced the household life and focus on spiritual matters. Practice for sravakas and pratyekabuddhas, such as vegetarianism and asceticism, may not be appropriate to those in the human and celestial vehicle stage of spiritual development.
In Buddhist literature, we often see the term "awakening of the heart." There are actually three types of "awakening of the heart." The first one is the awakening of our heart to spiritual development; this awakening will lead to blessings in the human and celestial realms. The second one is the awakening of the heart to renunciation, which will lead to blessings in the sravaka and pratyekabuddha realms. The third one is the awakening of our bodhicitta, which will lead to progress on the bodhisattva path. Blessings in the human and celestial realms can include wealth and fame; they are not necessarily deadly poisons that we all should shun. They should, however, be pursued in an ethical manner, and they should be used to better mankind. Within these parameters, the pursuit of wealth and fame is not inconsistent with the Buddha's teachings.
We all have different characters and personalities. Some people are very cool towards wealth and fame, and they do not hesitate giving them up in the pursuit of truth. Their dispositions are very much akin to those of sravakas and pratyekabuddhas, and they may one day renounce the household life. We all have to know ourselves. If we do not have the right disposition, even if we were to tonsure our heads and join the monastics, in our hearts we would still not be able to truly renounce the household life. Thus, it is unreasonable for some Dharma teachers to expect lay Buddhists to let go of their families, wealth, and fame. As Dharma teachers, we should teach the Dharma according to the spiritual maturity of the audience. If not, we will give people a biased picture of the Buddha's teachings.

C. The material side of living according to the Diamond Sutra
Our life in this world cannot be separated from the four basic necessities of life, namely, clothing, food, shelter, and the means to get from place to place. Even the Buddha, the fully enlightened one, was no different. While we share the same needs as the Buddha, these needs took on a different meaning in the case of the Buddha. The Diamond Sutra says, "At mealtime, the Blessed One put on his robe, took the alms bowl, and entered the city of Sravasti. Having begged for alms in due order, he returned to his place. After his meal, he put away his robe and alms bowl, washed his feet, and sat in a cross-legged posture…" This opening of the Diamond Sutra describes a typical day of the Blessed One. On the surface, there is nothing unusual about his daily routine. If we, however, look deeper, we will see that the way the Buddha carried out these activities is actually a skillful means to teach us how to conduct our daily lives.
Putting on the robe and taking up the alms bowl signifies the observance of precepts. Entering the city of Sravasti to beg for alms is an illustration of generosity-both on the part of those who gave alms as well as on the part of the Buddha teaching them the Dharma. To beg for alms in due order exemplifies patience, for the Buddha begged for alms in an orderly fashion, from house to house and not according to personal preference. Regardless of the condition of the food received, the Buddha consumed the food with thankfulness. This is patience, too. Taking his meal, putting away his robe and alms bowl, and washing his feet reflects the paramita of diligence. Sitting in a cross-legged position corresponds to the paramita of meditative concentration. Through his daily activities, the Buddha showed us that the Dharma is present in each of the four basic necessities of life. In this way, the Buddha integrated the Six Paramitas in his daily life.
During the Tang dynasty, there was a Ch'an master named Chiu-chou. Once when someone asked him to explain the Dharma, Chiu-chou replied, "Go and eat." On another occasion of being asked to explain the Dharma, he said, "Go and wash dishes." When a third person asked the Ch'an master to show him the wondrous teachings of Ch'an, Chiu-chou told him, "Go and sweep the floor." Eating, washing dishes, or sweeping the floor are trivial daily activities that we all have experienced. So, where is the Dharma? The Dharma is in our everyday life. Most people do not understand this. They neglect the way they conduct their lives and the Dharma that surrounds them; instead, they purposefully travel afar to seek the truth. During the course of Ch'an history, there were many masters who became enlightened while eating, cleaning up, or tilling the soil. There are yet other Ch'an masters who became enlightened listening to the wind blowing against bamboos or the cries of a nearby child. In our pursuit of truth, while it is important that we study the sutras and learn from virtuous teachers, it is equally important that we do not ignore our everyday life. If we are mindful in our daily activities of putting on our clothes, eating, sleeping, and getting from place to place, we will come to realize that the Dharma is everywhere.
How do we see the Dharma in the four basic necessities of life? First, let's talk about clothing. Most people put a lot of emphasis in the way they look. Just go to any department store, and you will be dazzled by the vast varieties of clothing available for sale. Clothes come in different colors, materials, and styles. Regardless of how much we spend on our wardrobe, it only makes us look good on the outside and does not change the inside whatsoever. Expensive clothing cannot mask one's internal delusions. One, who is compassionate, commands respects regardless of how one is dressed. Buddhism places emphasis on inner cultivation and teaches us to adorn ourselves with grace and elegance. Our internal beauty is like a wild orchid which emanates fragrance for miles.
As far as food is concerned, the Buddha points out that our physical body is only the coming together of the four great elements and is without independent nature. While our physical body is empty in nature, we do need to take care of it, for without it we will not be able to practice. Once we understand that our body is empty in nature, we will consume food for the purpose of keeping our body healthy and not for indulging our senses. For this reason, the Buddha instructed his disciples not to spend time in preparing meals; instead, they should get the food they need for the day through their alms rounds.
Venerable Hung-yi of the Vinaya school had an excellent attitude in the way he looked at food. One day, a Mr. Hsiao Mieh-tsun, a well-known educator of that time, saw the venerable eating his dinner. His dinner was most simple and consisted of a single dish of pickled vegetable. He felt sorry for the venerable and asked, "Don't you think that the pickled vegetable is a bit too salty?" To this, the venerable replied, "A salty taste has its own appeal." After dinner, the venerable poured himself a glass of water to drink. With his eyebrows knit, Mr. Hsiao asked, "Why not drink a cup of tea? Plain water is so bland." The venerable smiled and replied, "Yes, plain water is bland, but its blandness has its own special taste, too." The way the venerable viewed his food revealed not only that he had truly integrated the Dharma into his daily life, but also how joyous a life full of Ch'an can be.
Now, let's talk about what our view should be regarding accommodation. Some people live in palatial estates, while others crowd in small apartments. There is an old Chinese saying regarding our true needs, "A full meal during the day; a bed to sleep in for the night." If we discern the difference between what we need and what we want, we will see that our basic requirements are quite minimal. Regardless of whether we live in a penthouse or a small apartment, all that we need for the night is a mere three by six foot space.
The founding father of the Ming dynasty, Chu Yuan-chang, once spent a period as a novice monk before he became emperor. One night, when he returned late to the temple, its doors were locked. He had no choice but to sleep on the ground outside the temple. While lying down, he looked up at the starry sky and had an inspiration, which he captured in this poem:
Sky as canopy, earth as blanket.
Sun, moon, stars accompany me to sleep.
Nighttime, dare not stretch my legs;
Fear of misstepping and shattering sky at bottom of sea.
Whether we live in a big or small house is not important. What matters is how big our hearts are. Someone who is ungiving and discontent will always find fault with his or her circumstance, even if he or she lives in a nice, grand house. If we apply the Buddha's teachings to our daily life, then regardless of how we live, where we are, and what we are doing, we will still find happiness within ourselves. The Venerable Tzu Hang once wrote, "When one finds peace within oneself, north, east, south, west are all good." With such a mindset, we feel at home wherever we are.
Our mind also influences how we look at the various modes of transportation. Before the advent of the automobile, people used to marvel at the speed of a bicycle compared to that of walking. Now that the automobile is commonplace, we look at bicycles and think how slow they are. On the other hand, traveling by car does not come close to the speed we can achieve with air travel. [Even in the case of air travel, we notice its speed mainly at take-off and landing. Once we reach a steady cruising speed, we are hardly aware of the speed at which we are traveling. Our mindset plays a significant role in determining what we perceive as fast or slow. It seems that whenever we have to rush somewhere, we inevitably hit all the red lights.] So, what is the fastest mode of transportation? Believe it or not, it is our heart and mind. The Amitabha Sutra says, "To the west, a hundred thousand million buddha-lands away, there is a world called Ultimate Bliss." How can we possibly travel to a place as far away as a hundred thousand million buddha-lands away? To this question, the Amitabha Sutra answers, "In an instant of absorption, one can be reborn in the World of Ultimate Bliss." From this, we see that the wondrous workings of our heart and mind are beyond our comprehension.
The Dharma teaches us that what we need and what we want are two very different things. When we are in charge of our mind, we will not let our indulgence in clothing, food, shelter, and transportation run circles around us. When we apply the Buddha's teachings to all aspects of daily life, we'll find happiness within ourselves.

II. What Does the Dharma Say Regarding the Social Side of Living
A. The social side of living according to the Four Great All-embracing Virtues
If we want to understand what the Dharma teaches us about getting along with others, we have to first understand the four great all-embracing virtues. The Buddha teaches that to get along well with others, we have to first build good rapport, and the four virtues are tools to that end. The four virtues are: giving, speaking with affection, conducting oneself for the benefit of others, and adapting oneself to others. Some of you may say: I do not have any money, or I do not know how to teach the Dharma, how do I practice giving? How do I build good rapport with others? Actually, we do not need to have great wealth or exceptional skills to practice the virtue of giving. When you meet someone on the road, give the person a nod or a smile. This is giving. When we show concern for others or when we give compliments, we are practicing giving, too. Even simple gestures like saying "Good morning," or "How are you?" are giving. These are acts of kindness which do not cost anything and which we are all capable of performing.
We can even practice giving without having anything to give. As long as we are supportive of those who give, we are practicing giving, too. When others show us a nice gesture, we should acknowledge the gesture with happiness in our heart. When others give alms, we should be supportive and happy for the alms-giver. This may not be as easy as it sounds. Some people have the bad habit of second-guessing others' motives when they see others doing good. When others are nice to them, they criticize them as trying to kiss-up. When they see others give to charity, they chide them as living beyond their means. These individuals see the worst of others and refuse to give, in any sense of the word.
In addition to giving, the other three virtues are speaking with affection, conducting oneself for the benefit of others, and adapting oneself to others. To practice the second virtue regarding amiable speech, we should compliment rather than reprehend, encourage rather than criticize, use loving words rather than scathing remarks. The third virtue, conducting oneself for the benefit of others, is about doing your best to help others. As long as we use love to help others, our efforts are never wasted. The fourth virtue, adapting oneself to others, tells us to put ourselves in others' shoes. If we talk bits and bytes with an artist, he or she may not be interested. We should see others' point of view and understand where they are coming from. When we are sincere with others, everything will just fall into place.

B. The social side of living according to the Six Points of Reverent Harmony
We can learn a lot about keeping peace in social living from the six points of reverent harmony that the monastic Sangha observes. Sangha is a Sanskrit word which can be interpreted on many different levels. In its widest interpretation, it refers to all those who have the common purpose of following the Buddha Dharma. The six points of harmony, or unity, in Buddhist monastic life are: doctrinal unity in views, economic unity in communal use of goods, moral unity in observing precepts, mental unity in faith, verbal unity through chanting, and bodily unity in acts of worship.
1. Harmony in views: In the monastic Sangha, monks and nuns share a common view of the Dharma, the guiding principle for all they do. Similarly, a society has a better chance to prosper when its people share common political views. If we look at the different nations of the world, we'll notice that there is a lot more common ground in prosperous nations than in those which are less prosperous.
2. Harmony in economics: In the monastic Sangha, all renunciants live an equally simple life and have equal access to the communal property. In the secular world, a society is inherently unstable if there is too much of a disparity between the haves and the have-nots. Thus, those who are well off should help those who are less fortunate. Those who are able should help those who are not.
3. Harmony in morality: In the monastic Sangha, all share the same moral code. In society, everyone should be equal in they eyes of the law. No one should be above the law. When the law is equally applied to all, people will have respect for the law and will try to live within it.
4. Harmony in outlook: In the monastic Sangha, all share the common purpose of spiritual development. In society, when we have concern for others' well being, we accept others and would not be envious of others' success or critical of others' shortcomings. With harmony in outlook, every place is a pure land.
5. Harmony in speech: In the monastic Sangha, monks and nuns come together through chanting. This verbal unity gives much harmony to their community. In society, words, if not used properly, can be the cause of many misunderstandings. We should be sincere, yet tactful, so as not to cause unnecessary conflict.
6. Harmony in deeds: In the monastic Sangha, monks and nuns bodily observe the same rites and rituals. In society, our actions can be used to help each other and foster respect in the world. In this way, we can peacefully co-exist in the community.
These six points of harmony are as applicable to lay people as they are to monastics. When we integrate the Buddha's teachings into daily life, then the true beauty of life is revealed to us.

C. The social side of living according to the roles of the Four Varga
It is common to classify Buddhists into one of the four varga or groups: male monastics, female monastics, male laity, female laity. Regardless of whether we are male or female, monastics or not, we all can play a contributing role in the spreading of the Dharma. Each of us, like a cog in a wheel, is a part of the overall picture. We should not say one group, or one person, is more important than the other. Let's take the example of a temple. While monastics have renowned their household lives, they can do so primarily through the effort and support of many lay people. Additionally, in this modern day and age, there are many ways that lay people can also be effective in teaching the Dharma.
Take a look at the five fingers of the hand. They are all different in length. Without these differences, we will not have the dexterity that we take for granted. Each finger by itself cannot exert much force. But if we combine the force of the five fingers, say into a fist, we can really pack a punch. Likewise, all of us Buddhists should stand together. From one temple to another, from monastics to laity, we should embrace each other whole-heartedly. Regardless of whether we are of the Ch'an school, Pure Land school, or Tantric school, we are all followers of the Buddha and as such deserve mutual respect. As long as we are supporting the purpose of the Sangha, it does not matter what color our skin is. Under the umbrella of Buddhism, we all share a common teacher, the Buddha. With equanimity, we all should support each other in our common goal of spreading the Dharma.
[In the secular world, we see that the differentiation between us versus them is the cause of many conflicts and wars. The Holocaust is one of the ugliest examples of such differentiation. Likewise, in the Balkans, the atrocity of ethnic cleansing remains the cause of many mass-scale tragedies. Instead of rejecting those who are different from us, we should learn to embrace them. The peace and harmony that ensues from mutual respect and acceptance makes the initial efforts all worthwhile. Instead of accentuating our differences, we should highlight our similarities. After all, it is because we share similar causes and conditions that we were reborn in this world at this time. We should treasure the similar conditions that bring us together as neighbors, friends, and fellow inhabitants of Mother Earth.
While we may look or act differently, we are fundamentally alike. Hui-neng (who later became the Sixth Patriarch of the Ch'an school) says it well when he speaks of our ultimate similarity in his first encounter with the Fifth Patriarch of the Ch'an school. Hui-neng was a woodcutter before he joined the monastics. When Hui-neng first met the Fifth Patriarch, he told the Patriarch that he had traveled a long way to learn the Buddha' teachings. The Patriarch asked him, "Where do you come from?"
"I come from Ling-nan," answered Hui-neng.
The Fifth Patriarch wanted to test him further, "Ling-nan is a place of barbarians and uncivilized people. They do not have buddha-nature."
To which Hui-neng replied, "People can be classified as northerners or southerners, but there is no such difference in buddha-nature."
When we go beyond our external differences, we are all the same and have the same buddha-nature. When we remember that we are all of the same nature, then we will see there is no reason why we cannot live together in harmony.]

III. What Does the Dharma Say Regarding the Spiritual Side of Living
A. Spiritual life as laid out in the Eightfold Noble Path
In addition to our material needs, we all have a spiritual need for mental well being. We all have a desire to know ourselves. What does the Buddha teach regarding spiritual needs? In this regard, the Buddha teaches the Eightfold Noble Path, which is the most comprehensive set of teachings regarding spiritual development. The Path is not unlike a roadmap for the journey of life. Without this roadmap, we may feel confused, or even over-whelmed, by the twists and turns we encounter. Only when we have the roadmap in hand can we have an idea of where we have been or where we are going.
What are the aspects of the Eightfold Noble Path? They are: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. Of these eight practices, right understanding precedes the others and serves as the foundation. The word "right" in here does not have the same connotation of right or wrong. Right understanding can also be translated as full or wholesome understanding. Right understanding entails the internalization of the reality of rebirth, karma and its effects, as well as the nature of wholesome or unwholesome actions, speech, and thought. Having right understanding is like having the appropriate settings when taking pictures with a manual camera. If the focal length and aperture of the lens are not set correctly, then the pictures will come out blurred. If we do not have right understanding, then we will not be able to see the truth regarding worldly phenomena or the workings of life and the universe.
We all say, "I feel that…..," or "I believe that …..," or "My opinion is ….." We all differ in the way we see things, for our assessment of the world is colored by our past experiences and karma. We all have our own individual biases; only a fully enlightened buddha continually sees things as they truly are. The Buddha teaches us that right understanding is to see the truth of all things, to comprehend worldly phenomena as they are, to see things in their true state, and to experience for ourselves the essence of the Dharma. Having right understanding means seeing the workings of the Law of Cause and Effect. This understanding helps us to be at ease with the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
Some Buddhists are lacking in right understanding regarding life and the universe. They may say, "I have been chanting the name of Amitabha Buddha for years. The longer I chant, the poorer I get." They do not understand that chanting Amitabha's name is to help them to be reborn into his pure land of ultimate bliss and not to come into worldly riches. Amitabha Buddha is not our personal financial manager; he is not a dispenser of wealth. Wealth is the effect from the cause of giving alms. We have no one to credit nor blame for our circumstances except ourselves. Others may say, "I have been an vegetarian for years, but my health has been going downhill." If we have problems with our health, we should seek medical attention. Good health does not mean just eating healthily; we have to exercise, too. We turn to the Buddha and his teachings to gain right understanding and not so that someone or some god will take care of us. Buddhism is about giving, not taking.

B. The spiritual side of living as exemplified by cultivated monks and everyday heroes
Throughout the history of Chinese Buddhism, there were, and still are, many cultivated monks who had shown, by their actions, the depth of their convictions. Venerable Hsin-hsing of the Sui dynasty once made his home on the steep face of a mountain. When he was asked why he chose such an inconvenient spot to live, he answered that he was needed there. The road adjacent to where he lived was so narrow that there was not enough room for two carts to pass each other. Everyday, after his morning devotions, he would proceed to the road to help those who were stuck, because of opposing traffic, to back up their carts. In this way, he ground his mental well being and happiness in helping others.
The Ch'an master Pai-chang of the Tang dynasty believed in the value of work. He would say, "A day without work is a day without food." Everyday he would work before eating. In his later years when his health was failing, he still insisted on working everyday. His disciples could not bear to see him labor, so they hid all his tools. When the master could not find his tools to start his day's work, he actually refused to eat for that day. Seeing his conviction, his disciples had no choice but to hand him back his tools. The master found joy through work.
[We do not have to look deep into history to find people who have strong convictions in doing what they believe is the right thing to do. There are many modern day heroes that we can learn from. The Los Angeles Times once reported on a factory worker from Detroit who worked overtime and scrimped so that he could donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to various colleges and universities. Often, we read about witnesses of accidents who risked their lives to help those who were hurt. While these people may not be Buddhists, their actions resonate with the Buddha's teachings. The common link about heroes is their ability to put the welfare of others ahead of their own. Their actions are not guided by personal gain or loss, but by peace of mind.]

C. The spiritual life according to our spiritual maturity
Like the common saying, "Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder," we should know that the emotions we call happiness and sorrow are not absolute and distinct. The same can be said of what we call difficult or easy, have and have-not, and even life and death.
A lay devotee once went to the Ch'an master Chih-tsang and asked, "Ch'an master, please tell me. Do heavens and hells exist?"
"Yes, they do."
"Does the Triple Gem-the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha-exist?"
"Is the Law of Cause and Effect true? Is it true there are six realms of existence?"
"Yes, both are true."
Regardless of what the lay devotee asked of the Ch'an master Chih-tsang, he would answer in the affirmative. He grew skeptical and finally said, "Ch'an master, you are wrong."
The Ch'an master Chih-tsang asked, "How so?"
The man replied, "When I went to the Ch'an master Ching-shan and asked him the same questions, he always answered in the negative. Why is it that you answer affirmatively to all my questions?"
Chih-tsang was not at all surprised. He asked the lay devotee, "Let me ask you, do you have a wife?"
The lay devotee was not sure where the Ch'an master was going with this, but he answered anyway, "Yes."
"Do you have children?"
"Do you own any property?"
Chih-tsang switched tone and asked, "Does the Ch'an master Ching-shan have a wife?"
"Does the Ch'an master Ching-shan have children?"
"Does the Ch'an master Ching-shan own any property?"
The Ch'an master Chih-tsang slowly explained, "Do you see? When Ching-shan speaks of 'non-existence,' he was speaking from his own enlightened point of view. When I answered in the affirmative, I was speaking from your worldly point of view." The lay devotee finally was able to understand.
Most of us see a big divide between happiness and sorrow, the good times and bad moments. Thus, we try to avoid what we view as painful and are drawn to what we view as pleasurable. We jump for joy at our moments of glory and wallow in pain when in our agony of defeat. If we see that all phenomena are the culmination of causes and conditions, without any independent nature of their own, then we will be at ease with our circumstances.
This concludes our speech today. I hope I have succeeded in making the Dharma more relevant and accessible to you. Some people believe that to be profound, something has to be incomprehensible. This is not the case at all. The Dharma is something we all can understand and use. The Dharma is a guiding light which can help us to better evaluate the material, social, and ...


Looking Ahead: A guide for Young Buddhists

Dear Venerables and Dharma Friends:
I am delighted to meet all of you and am honored to be part of this lecture on "Looking Ahead: A Guide for Young Buddhists." As this topic is very broad, I am going to approach it from two different vantage points. I will first talk about what young people can expect from Buddhism. Then I will discuss about what Buddhism expects from young people.

I. What Young People Can Expect from Buddhism
In our world where changes can happen in the blink of an eye, where the life of an individual pulsates in the mighty torrent of the universe, the first thing we want to examine urgently is the question concerning our future, namely, an outlook for future development. Young people who dedicate themselves to
Buddhism earnestly hope that the future of Buddhism is bright. When the future of Buddhism radiates with promise, young Buddhists will feel that life is full of hope and meaning, and will have a true sense of peace. Let us look at the future of Buddhism from the following differing angles and varying points of view:
1. The changes and developments in the world
2. The evolution and changes in history
3. The changes and developments in society
4. The changes and developments in religion
5. The changes and developments in everyday living
6. The changes and developments within Buddhism itself

A. A look at the future of Buddhism from changes and developments in the world
According to Buddhist teachings, the world in which we are living now is called the "saha world." "Saha world" means the world of suffering. Duhkha is the Sanskrit term for suffering. It can obscure the pure Buddha Nature within us, thus it is called a "cover" or "hindrance"; it twines and twists in our hearts like a heavy rope, thus it is called a "knot"; it drives us into the thick of ignorance (avidya) as we are caught in the wheel of transmigration (samsara), thus it is called "pursuer"; it confuses us and makes us lose sight of our true nature, thus it is called "illusion" (moha). In addition to the above, terms such as "fire," "poisonous arrow," "tiger and wolf," and "trap" have been used as similes for suffering. What kinds of suffering do we have in this saha world? We suffer when our wishes are not fulfilled. We suffer because of discordance in our personal relationships of love, hate, separation, and togetherness. We suffer because of natural disasters caused by wind, rain, fire, and earthquakes. We suffer physically because of sickness, aging, and death; we suffer psychologically because of greed, anger, and delusions. These sufferings are boundless, immeasurable, and endless.
Even though we live in such a saha world, we are not completely without happiness. But happiness is very limited compared to the suffering we must undergo. When newborns are delivered, their first utterance is a wail. It is as if they already know that life is full of suffering.
Buddhism is not a religion that requires people to be like withered logs or cold ashes. It does not call for us to sit precariously on the edge of our seats talking seriously all the time about the various kinds of suffering of this world. Buddhism is a happy religion which promotes supreme peace and happiness for everyone. If Buddhism is a happy religion, why is there such an emphasis on the suffering of life? It is because if we do not know suffering, we will not understand happiness. Without suffering, there is no impetus for us to take the initiative to learn about the Buddhist way. Suffering is what motivates us to cultivate the Buddhist path.
This saha world of ours can gradually develop into a heavenly world. In Buddhism, when we talk about heaven, we mean the twenty-eight heavens contained within the three realms (Triloka). These are the six heavens of the realm of desire (Kamadhatu), the eighteen heavens contained within the realm of form (Rupadhatu), and the four heavens contained within the formless realm (Arupadhatu). Celestial beings lead markedly different lives from us in the saha world, and their life spans are very long. We can use the life span of celestial beings in the Caturmaharaja heaven as an example. Among all the heavens, the heaven of Caturmaharaja is the closest to our saha world. One day and one night in this world are equivalent to fifty human years. The life span of beings in this world is five hundred celestial years, which is equivalent to nine million human years. In other words, if we can be reborn into the Caturmaharaja heaven one level above our saha world, we can live to nine million human years. We will not find that "life rarely reaches seventy," or find the eight-hundred-year life of P'eng Tsu such a rarity. If we can be reborn in the heavens of the formless realm, then our life span will be eighty thousand major kalpas long. This is such an incredibly long time that it is beyond our imagination. It cannot be described in words.
Other than longevity, the blissful life in these heavens is very remarkable. For example, when these celestial beings need to clothe themselves, clothing will manifest at once; if they want to eat, food will appear immediately. All wishes and desires are satisfied. Moreover, their physique, abode, and the serenity they attain through meditation are also remarkable. Considering the conditions of our present world, many of us are approaching the standards of this heavenly life. We have air conditioning during hot summers and central heating during cold winters. When we go to work or travel to far-off places, airplanes can take us back and forth with fantastic speed if we find the speed of automobiles and trains too slow. We have all kinds of delicious food and delicacies to satisfy our appetite. Radio broadcasts in the United States can be heard in Taiwan instantly. When we switch on the television, ball games or boxing matches magically appear in our homes. We really can have many of our wishes and wants fulfilled. Thus, materially, this world of ours is gradually developing into a heavenly wonderland.
Although the conditions in this saha world can change from suffering to happiness and the happiness of heaven is boundless, such happiness is not ultimate. After all, even a life of nine million years or eighty thousand kalpas is only a limited life span. As our saha world continues to develop, if people can start believing in the Buddha and reciting the Buddha's name, then this world can gradually become the World of Ultimate Bliss. Unlike the heavenly worlds, this World of Ultimate Bliss is a land of purity, where sensual desires are not required for the continuation of life. It is a vast and wonderful place where aging, change, decay, and destruction do not exist. The ground of this Pure Land is covered with seven kinds of precious natural stones. It is a world free of the perils of high mountains, oceans, seas, rivers, canyons, and the like. The weather there is just right all the time. There are no seasons such as spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Houses are made out of seven kinds of precious stones. The water there has eight wonderful qualities and is sweet like nectar. Many kinds of precious lotus flowers are everywhere. When one steps on the carpet of flowers, a four-inch deep indentation is imprinted which quickly springs back when one walks across. As people who live in this Pure Land are reborn from lotus flowers, there is no gender difference. They do not have any financial worries since food is everywhere. No one hoards any food because whenever they want to eat, they feel full and contented right away. This wonderful Pure Land has many types of delightful musical instruments playing the sounds of the Dharma. It also has hundreds and thousands of different kinds of shining lights, making it a magnificent and brilliant place.
From this, we can see that this World of Ultimate Bliss is much more supreme and wondrous than heaven. Why are more and more people in Taiwan reciting the Buddha's name? Because they want to change this human world into a Pure Land. A Buddhist saying states, "When one's mind is pure, the land will be pure." Therefore, we must not consider this idea as mere imagination or a fairy tale. According to the sutra, this blissful land is ten thousand million Buddha-realms away from us; one Buddha-realm is 3,000 great chiliocosms or universes. This means that the distance between our saha world and the blissful Pure Land is ten thousand millions of 3,000 great chiliocosms. This astronomical figure can really scare off people. However, the sutras also tell us that when we leave our human world, we can be reborn into this World of Ultimate Bliss within a moment of thought. Today, it still takes American astronauts several days to land on the moon, which is over two hundred thousand miles away from Earth; Nevertheless, it just takes us a moment of thought to arrive in the Pure Land, which is ten thousand million Buddha realms away. This is because the Pure Land is not a scientific or material world: it is a world of faith. When more people start to recite the name of the Buddha, our world will gradually become a Pure Land.
As the Pure Land of our world continues to evolve, it will eventually develop into the "Lotus-world" (The Pure Land of Vairocana). In this Lotus-world, 3,000 great chiliocosms can be contained within a tiny speck of dust. You may recall what is stated in the sutra concerning Indra's famous net. As the radiance of the pearls on the net reflects each other, the whole universe is seen in them. The radiance shines through heaven and earth. Time and space all merge together. There is no distinction between mind and matter. The Buddha-realms from the ten directions and all the specks of dust in the universe all revolve around each other in mutual interdependence. In such a world of infinity where everything is interconnected perfectly, everything is being spread across the three dimensions and the ten directions. There is no inside nor outside, no past nor present, no shortages nor deficiencies of any sort. Such a world transcends the perspective of time and space and eliminates the boundary of emptiness versus existence. The concept of possession and nonpossession has been eliminated. If the ideal of the Lotus-world were fulfilled, we could dwell in such a world without worrying whether we were rich or poor; we would feel happy and contented. Not only would delicious food taste exquisite, coarse meals would also be equally appealing. Similarly, both praise and insult would sound like pleasant melodies.
In the Lotus-world, regardless of whether it is a blade of grass or a tree, a person or an object, there is no difference between one or many or between pure or impure. If we keep practicing Buddhism diligently, the stage of perfect equanimity will not be difficult for us to reach. Today, a lot of people feel that the end of the world is coming soon. This trend of thought is even popular among many intellectuals. I think this is an overly pessimistic and irresponsible type of mentality. If we Buddhists vow to be compassionate and to put Buddhism into practice, then our world will not only become a heaven, it will also turn into a Pure Land. The Lotus-world may even materialize right here in this world of ours.

B. A look at the future of Buddhism from theevolution and changes in history
The pre-historic time is called the era of divine power. During this time, people's intellect was not yet very well developed. Their lives were very simple. They ate raw meat and lived in caves. They were overwhelmed by varying kinds of natural forces, especially destructive phenomena like wind, flood, thunder, rain, and fire. When faced with these seemingly inescapable and incomprehensible external forces, they were filled with terror. Thus, they imagined that there must be some kind or many kinds of forceful and invisible things that were controlling their fate and punishing the human race. They asked for forgiveness through various rites of sacrifice and worship. This brought about the era of divine power, in which many gods were being worshipped. In the eyes of primitive people, when thunder roared and lightning flashed across the sky, they believed that the god of thunder was angry. When strong gusts blew, the god of wind was showing off his power. Pouring rain and flooding were warnings from the god of rain. Moreover, the sun, moon, mountains, rivers, streams, seas, stars, clouds, smoke, and the like were all manifestations of the respective gods. Today in Taiwan, even a big tree can be considered a god. Rocks and land can also be called a god. Thus, we can see that this kind of "divine power" idea is not limited to primitive people. Primitive people believed that anything that was unknown to them must be divine. Even the creation of everything and the formation of the universe were done by the will of the gods; the gods were the most supreme.
Later on, the era of divine power slowly evolved into the era of monarchical power. As the mode of life gradually changed from familial to tribal living, a person who was more intelligent and more able would rise above the rest of the people to unite all the tribes and thus become an emperor. The emperor was the most powerful man of his land. With his absolute power, "when the emperor ordered the death of his officers, his officers had to oblige." Surprisingly, this era continued for several thousand years.
Gradually, people began to realize that there was something wrong with this kind of monarchical power. Thus, they began to revolt and promote people power. With the change of time, everyone is able to enjoy certain rights. The barrier between the ruler and the ruled was broken. From then on, people's affairs were managed by the people themselves. For example, in the Republic of China, we practice the Three Principles of the People: Nationalism, Democracy, and Livelihood. Public servants are chosen by the people through elections, during which the able and virtuous are selected. Freedom of choice is respected because everything is determined in accordance with the rights of the people.
This modern era of people power gives people a lot of freedom and rights, and it protects the welfare of people. Is this the ultimate? Is it possible that this is the extent of people's ideals? Many of today's intellects believe that the era of people power will gradually evolve into the era of "life power." Life includes all kinds of living beings. In the future, all living beings will have an equal right to existence. This will include human beings of all types of family backgrounds, looks, character, intelligence and physical make-up, people who are rich or poor, pretty or ugly, strong or weak, wise or foolish. The right of existence will even extend to all kinds of animals, reptiles and insects. Today, more and more civilized countries are already establishing laws to protect animals, and many nations have created wildlife protection areas. In Taiwan, we have an animal protection day. A lot of people protest against cruelty towards animals because all animals are living creatures. From the material point of view, we are all made up of bones, flesh and skin. If we send animal hair, skin, bone, and flesh to the laboratory and have them analyzed, we will find out that they are all made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, calcium, iron, and other chemical elements. From the mental point of view, although the feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and knowledge of all animals are not as developed as that of human beings, their perception of pain and happiness is obvious. From the higher animals, such as human beings, to the lower animals, such as ants and insects, the same drive for survival and dread of death is exhibited. We all wish to escape pain and seek happiness. As the era of people power continues to evolve, we will no doubt enter into an era of "life power," an era promoted by the Buddha when he said, "All living beings have the Buddha Nature."

C. A look at the future of Buddhism from the changes and developments in society
From developments in the world and in history, we will now discuss developments in society. The first type of society formed in early civilization is called nomadic society. In order to sustain their lives, nomadic peoples moved around to places where there were naturally occurring water and grass for their herds. Gradually, they settled down and developed into an agricultural society. Through their knowledge of farming, they lived on the plants and food they grew. After the industrial revolution, the structure of society changed rapidly. All existing perspectives and values were challenged. In an industrial society, people continuously look externally in their pursuit of material knowledge. The material world is the object of inspection, research, experimentation, and utilization. This materialistic outlook not only colors our knowledge of the material world but also corrupts our knowledge of the spiritual realm. Confusion in knowledge leads to corruption in morals. The industrial era allowed people to have comfortable life materially, but it also gave people a strong desire for material goods. Furthermore, the situation is exacerbated because the boundary of self versus others is not erased and the relationship between the mind and the material world is not harmonious. Not only will advancement in technology and improvements in material availability fail to bring about freedom and equality between people and in the way we interact with the material world, materialism will create conflict, pitting people against people and people against the material world. For example, on one hand, the invention of the nuclear bomb has the effect of preventing military invasion; on the other hand, it has created distrust between all the highly developed countries in the world. We can say that the industrial development of society has only enriched the material aspect of life. The growth of our spiritual life and the raising of our moral standards must wait for the arrival of "the ethical society."
With skyscrapers springing up everywhere and pleasant entertainment abounding, our society is gradually becoming more prosperous. However, people's minds are becoming more corrupt and deluded. The development of society is in direct proportion to the number of people thirsting for a balanced inner life. Material life cannot provide us with permanent peace; only Truth itself is forever. For example, the United States is a highly industrialized country, but her people need religious belief more than ever before. They desperately need spiritual cultivation in their daily lives. For some, they even feel that the Catholic and Protestant services and prayers are not enough. Allow me to use the ordination at Fo Guang Shan in 1977 as an example. We had a doctor of psychology, a master of linguistics, and two professors; they journeyed thousands of miles from America to come to Taiwan to be ordained as Buddhist monks and nuns. Recently, many Tibetan, Japanese, and Chinese (Taiwanese) monks and nuns have gone to Europe and America to propagate the Buddhist teachings. There, the spreading of Buddhism is taking root at a very fast rate. In some places Buddhism is still in the process of germination, but in other places, Buddhism has already inspired an enthusiastic response. In America alone, many universities have organized Buddhist study groups, meditation classes, talks, and discussions on Buddhism. Harvard University has a Department of Buddhism and a meditation hall. In Britain, the students of Oxford, Cambridge, and London University have organized very active Buddhist clubs. Because of the industrial development of society, people will gradually recognize religious or spiritual cultivation as a necessity of life. Thus, from a sociological point of view, the future of Buddhism is bright and full of hope.

D. A look at the future of Buddhism from the changes and developments in religion
Religion is as old as human existence. In the early days, people believed in the "religion of nature." As we mentioned earlier, these primitive people did not understand the changes of nature, so they worshipped all natural phenomena as gods. They worshipped the moon, the sun, the rain, the thunder, the sky, and the ground. We could even say that there was really no aspect of nature they did not worship or believe as gods. The religion of nature slowly evolved to become the religion of deities and spirits. Supernatural events were believed to be the manifestation of deities and spirits. Village legends would proclaim that so-and-so had become immortal, or so-and-so had become a god worthy of worship. Later on, the religion of deities and spirits gradually evolved into a religion of hero-worship. A person who had performed great feats among the people would be chosen as an object of worship. People adored him, considered him a hero and worshipped him as a god. Today, the religion of hero-worship is very popular in Taiwan. Nevertheless, it is my belief that this will gradually develop into the "religion of Truth."
As the quality of education improves, people's intellect also grows. Thus, there is more of a need for people to believe in a religion that corresponds to the truth. The religion of truth does not talk about "god power," which makes people lose their senses and abilities for self-realization. This religion of truth is not based on blind belief due to a fear of nature, nor is it a religion that only worships people for certain heroic acts. A religion of truth must face all the problems of our universe and life. It should be able to solve people's inner conflicts and develop their characters. It should allow people to attain the state of Nirvana, the state without the pain of birth and death. Buddhism is a spiritual path that meets the requirements of such a religion of truth.
Buddhism is a belief system based on wisdom. It is not based on superstition. Buddhism says that all living beings have the Buddha Nature, and all have the potential of becoming Buddha. The Buddha Nature contains everything; it is fundamentally pure. It was not born and it will not die. All things and phenomena are formed due to the combination of all the right causes and conditions (hetupratyaya). They do not have any self-nature as all are manifestations of the mind, changed by consciousness. The purpose of believing in Buddhism is to attain supreme enlightenment; this is wisdom developed to the highest level and life evolved to the perfect state. We are full of confidence in the future development of Buddhism.

E. A look at the future of Buddhism from changes and developments in everyday living
Within Buddhism, the earliest Buddhist lifestyle was that of mendicancy. Every day, monks would go out to beg for alms. They ate only once a day. After begging for alms, they would settle down under trees to practice their cultivation. In the founding days of Buddhism, the Buddha and his followers all begged for alms to meet their basic needs. When Buddhism spread east to China, the differences in the structure of society and lifestyle were such that begging for alms was no longer suitable. Thus, "farming Ch'an" gradually became a way of life for the monks. "Farming Ch'an" made the monks or nuns self-reliant, since they farmed and practiced at the same time. Ch'an Master Pai Chang Huai Hai was famous for his statement that, "A day without work is a day without food." Master T'ai Hsu suggested that the monks do "working Ch'an." He believed that since farming did not hamper Ch'an practice, the physical labor of working could coexist with Ch'an practice as well. Therefore, both farming Ch'an and working Ch'an gradually developed into a life of communal cultivation.
In a life of communal cultivation, one who renounces secular life to lead a life of practice does not necessarily have to live in the forest to meditate, or to provide for oneself through farming. One can join a community by being in a monastery where all are equal, all help each other, and all advance in their spiritual cultivation through their harmonious communal efforts. In the past this kind of communal cultivation took place only in the monasteries. Now many other settings also offer this kind of communal cultivation to lay Buddhist practitioners, such as Buddhist recitation groups and lay Buddhist groups. As this communal cultivation continues to develop, what will it lead to? It will lead to a life of liberation. If we encourage each other, study and discuss with each other, and stimulate each other to delve deeply into Buddhism, we can truly live in liberation.
To lead a life of liberation means to truly understand and sincerely appreciate that all phenomena are impermanent (anitya) and empty of a separate self-nature. It is the ability to free oneself from the shackles of life's suffering, and thereby attaining the peace, happiness, and freeness of both the mind and the body. From the realization of egolessness, one can naturally give up the desire to possess. From the understanding that all phenomena arise out of conditioned genesis and are empty in nature, one will be free from any dependencies and be able to transcend the deluded state of grasping and clinging. When we live with such realization and understanding, then it does not matter whether we are wealthy or not. Of course, financial wealth can give us much convenience, but we can be equally at ease without it. The richness found within oneself is much more important than the possession of wealth. Being in a high position is certainly glorious, but being in a humble position or just being an average citizen is also acceptable and will not damage our self-respect in the very least. After all, we know that the Buddha Nature within us is equal to all Buddhas. Being healthy all the time is certainly fortunate, but being sick to the point of debilitating or dying is not necessarily dreadful. In the eyes of one who is liberated, birth, aging, sickness, and death are like water bubbles. Even when bubbles burst, the nature of the water is still quiet and peaceful as usual. Although our physical body still undergoes birth, aging, sickness, and death, these are only phenomenal changes; there are no birth, aging, sickness or death in our true Buddha Nature. If we can understand that "death" is only the death of the physical body, the death of phenomena, we can then realize that our Buddha Nature does not have the differentiation of birth and death. Let us use gold as an example. You can mold gold into earrings, bracelets, and rings, but these things are not gold itself. The nature of gold does not change.
If we can come to realize our true Buddha Nature through cultivation, then it does not matter whether we live or die, whether we have or have not, or whether we come or go. There is no difference between life and death. Possession and non-possession are the same; coming and going are one. We then live a completely free and liberated life. In our times, as people's wisdom begins to blossom, we will soon realize the importance of Buddhist cultivation and we can soon live a liberated life. Therefore, as communal cultivation continues to develop, we will be able to live free, happy, and liberated lives.

F. A look at the future of Buddhism based on changes and developments within Buddhism itself
The Buddha appeared in this saha world for one main cause, namely, to establish Buddhism here to guide all beings, enabling all to awaken and enter the way of Buddhahood. Thus, Buddhism is based on human well-being and is often referred to as "people-vehicle Buddhism." After the enlightenment of the Buddha around 2,500 years ago, Theravada Buddhism became popular in India. During the reign of King Asoka, Buddhism spread south to Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, and Indonesia, where Theravada Buddhism is still being practiced in those lands. In contrast, Mahayana (Great Vehicle) Buddhism is now mainly practiced in China, Japan, Korea, and Tibet.
When Buddhism was introduced into China during the Han Dynasty, Mahayana Buddhism prevailed. However, while Mahayana doctrines were being taught at that time, the actual spirit and strength of Mahayana was lacking. Later on, many eminent monks came forward to preach Mahayana Buddhism. Thus, the doctrines of the Mahayana School had a very lively development in China. In mainland China, there are four very famous sites: P'u-t'o Shan is said to be Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva's sacred place of practice; Chiu-hua Shan is Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's sacred place of practice; O-mei Shan is Samantabhadra Bodhisattva's sacred place of practice; and Wu-t'ai Shan is Manjusri Bodhisattva's sacred place of practice. These four Bodhisattvas are Mahayana Bodhisattvas. Bodhisattva ideals emphasize Buddhist practice for lay people. In fact, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, Manjusri Bodhisattva, and Samantabhadra Bodhisattva all appear as lay practitioners-only Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva appears as a monk. Thus, Mahayana Buddhism is the Buddhism that should be practiced by lay Buddhists.
The purpose of the practice of Buddhism is to clear our minds to see our Buddha Nature, to know the truth about the universe and life, to be freed from the bondage of birth, death, and affliction, and to attain the ultimate freedom and equanimity. Not only do we want to attain all these goals for ourselves, we also want the same for all humans and animals. Unenlightened people are ignorant about the truth of the universe and life. They are attached to desires and clinging and in so doing revolve in the cycle of life and death. People who practice Buddhism just for their own salvation view the three realms as prisons and people as their enemies. Once they renounce the world to become monks or nuns, they do not think of re-entering it again. On the other hand, Bodhisattvas who have the spirit of the Great Vehicle, realize that both the ego and all phenomena are non-existent. They cultivate the great wisdom without being attached to life and death. They cultivate the great compassion without being attached to nirvana. With both wisdom and compassion, they reach for the supreme way of the Buddhas and, at the same time, deliver all sentient beings. The wisdom and compassion of Bodhisattvas is most supreme. It is through helping others that the nature of wisdom and compassion is realized and the state of wholeness is actualized. Wisdom without compassion is only deranged cleverness, and compassion without wisdom is only mundane emotion. The spirit of the Bodhisattva is that he looks upon all beings sympathetically and treats them as parts of himself. This spirit allows wise people to become knowledgeable, kind people to have love, the brave to do good deeds, and thus allows all sentient beings to rely on each other and exist harmoniously.
In the past, Buddhism in Mainland China was presided over by the Sangha, while the devotees played a supportive role. People who wanted to renounce secular life to enter the door of Buddhism had to be prepared to give up all worldly concerns and abandon this mundane world. This practice is in accordance with Theravada Buddhism. However, it is also very important for practitioners to develop the mind of the Great Vehicle. If all devotees had come and had joined in with the Buddhist movement to propagate Buddhism in the spirit of the four Bodhisattvas, then Chinese Buddhism would have been much further along than it is today. Today in Taiwan, there are many university students and young people who are well educated and have high ideals. Not only do they embrace Buddhism, they also want to put compassion into practice by devoting themselves to Buddhism. If more young people will come and join us in this compassion movement, and tirelessly use wisdom and kindness to influence others, the future world will become a world of "Buddha Vehicle Buddhism."
Some people have said that if Chinese Buddhism were to decline, Buddhism would then be reintroduced from the West. This suggestion might not be correct, for we have begun to see a new Buddhist revival slowly happening. Now we can see Buddhism beginning to take root again in our society. This is the era when we all learn to conduct our affairs with the mind of the Buddha, to deliver the multitudes with the spirit of the Buddha, and to set our moral standards based on the example of the Buddha. In the future, I hope that all sentient beings will develop the wisdom and virtue of the Buddha. As we look ahead, all sentient beings will become Buddhas in the future.
I have just discussed what young Buddhists can expect from Buddhism. We must have faith and hope about the future of Buddhism. When we devote ourselves to such a religion of Truth, and toil over our cultivation, we may be reassured that all our hopes will come true in the future. We can all see that the world in the future can be a Lotus-world as described by the Buddha. Our society in the future is a society that places equal emphasis on both work and cultivation. The Buddhism in the future is a religion that permeates truth throughout the world, nurturing the human race. The type of living in the future is an enlightened and liberated one. The world in the future is the most ideal and harmonious world; this is the world of "Buddha Vehicle."

II. What Buddhism Expects from Young People
In the first section, we have just discussed what young people can expect from Buddhism. In this section, we will discuss what Buddhism expects from young people. Buddhism was originally a religion for the young but somehow was mistaken for a religion belonging to the elderly. For example, some people will use "Wait till I am old" as an excuse for not learning Buddhism now. They seem to think that Buddhism is a religion that only belongs to the aged and that one cannot become a Buddhist unless one's hair has all turned gray and all one's teeth begin to give way. Because sutras are chanted for the benefit of the dead, some people begin to believe that Buddhism is a religion for the dead. All these are misunderstandings. We can often see in Buddhist paintings that Sakyamuni Buddha, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, Manjusri Bodhisattva, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, and Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva are portrayed as young people. Buddhism is a religion for the young.
Sakyamuni Buddha was thirty-one when he was enlightened. According to our standard, thirty-one is a very young age. Master Hsuan Tsang was the greatest man in the history of Chinese culture. He was only twenty-six when he decided to go to India to bring many Buddhist scriptures back to China. With his youthful, compassionate aspiration and bravery, he enriched Chinese Buddhism and left countless cultural treasures for later generations. In the voluminous Buddhist scriptures and history, the glorious deeds of many young Buddhists have been recorded. Sumati is one such example. Although she was just a young girl, Manjusri, a person of high virtue and prestige, had to bow to her. Also, as stated in the Lotus Sutra, the dragon girl was only eight when she attained Buddhahood in the Immaculate World of the south. Thus age does not make any difference. Buddhism does not look down upon young people, nor does it discriminate against women.
In the fourth century, there was a very well-respected monk named Seng Chao. He was one of the four great disciples of Kumarajiva. Although he passed away at the tender age of thirty-one, he left behind many great works. In particular, the treatise that was named after him has left an indelible print on Buddhist and Chinese culture. During the course of history, Buddhism has nurtured and molded many young people who in return have devoted themselves to the progress and prosperity of Buddhism. Sudhana was the most famous character in the Avatamsaka Sutra. He was a humble little boy who called on fifty-three wise sages and Bodhisattvas in order to seek the right way and to discuss with them the state of mind of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Everywhere he went, he was received respectfully. Thus, we can see that Buddhism is certainly not just a religion for the aged; it is also a religion for the young.
We cannot deny the fact that the preaching methods used in some temples may be ill-suited for the public. In encouraging lay devotees to develop their mind, we should emphasize cultivation practices in the home setting. But some Dharma Masters, because they themselves have renounced, tend to expect their lay believers to become vegetarians, to renounce, and to observe the precepts of bhiksus and bhiksunis. This has created a communication gap between the teachers and the audience. In addition to this, the unrest of the country and society in recent years has also been detrimental to Buddhism. Consequently, since the end of the Ming Dynasty, the progress of Buddhism has been stalled. The disturbance caused by the T'ai-ping Rebellion during the Ch'ing Dynasty also delivered devastating effects to Buddhism. The recent blows Buddhism encountered in Mainland China is a major set back. Buddhism is still going through difficult times there. After this series of turmoil, it is no wonder that much of the work of Buddhism has not been carried out according to the original ideals. With manpower and talents also falling short of the heydays of Buddhism during the T'ang and Sung dynasties, Chinese Buddhism is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. Living in such an era, young Buddhists should work to glorify the real Buddhist spirit and restore the ideals of Buddhism. We have to firmly establish Buddhism as a religion for the young. In order to make this a reality, it becomes necessary to talk about what Buddhism expects from young people and what young people must do to become pillars of Buddhism. With this in mind, I would like to offer the following suggestions.

A. Purify ourselves with precepts and the Dharma.
If we young Buddhists want to deliver others as well as ourselves and to become the backbone of Buddhism, we must be compassionate and be ready to strive for the ideals of life. We must develop self-awareness and have will power. The foundation of all these attributes comes from self-purification with the Buddhist precepts and the Dharma. If we do not purify ourselves, how can we purify society and other people? Thus, the priority for young Buddhists who want to better themselves is to observe the precepts and to practice the Dharma. Collectively speaking, there are certainly many precepts. Ordained monastics observe their respective precepts while lay devotees observe precepts for those living the household lives. Among the precepts for lay devotees, there are several types: the Five Precepts, the Eight Precepts, and the Bodhisattva Precepts. All of us should at least observe the following Five Precepts, which are the basis for most of the other precepts.
1. Abstain from killing.
2. Abstain from stealing.
3. Abstain from sexual misconduct.
4. Abstain from false speech.
5. Abstain from taking intoxicants.
If we want to have a harmonious and happy society, we all should observe the Five Precepts. The basis of the Five Precepts is "do not do to others what you do not want others to do to you." Today, many Buddhist believers want to have a long life, yet they take the lives of the innocent. They want to be rich, yet they steal and take bribes. They want to have a harmonious family, yet they upset the peace of others' families. They want to have a good name for themselves, yet they speak falsely of others. They want to be wise, yet they engage in foolish acts without reflecting upon themselves.
Thus, if we young Buddhists want to stand tall, to revive what seems to be hopeless, to emanate brilliant radiance to benefit all sentient beings, we need to observe the precepts as the basis of our behavior. A Chinese proverb says, "One who wishes to climb high has to start low; one who wishes to journey far-away has to start from nearby." If we do not act according to the principles of Buddhism and do not observe the Five Precepts, we will not benefit from the Buddhist teachings at all. We can visit the jails and observe for ourselves. We will find that incarcerated prisoners have lost their freedom because they have violated one or more of the Five Precepts. For example, homicide and assault are violations of the precept of abstaining from killing. Bribery, stealing, and robbery are violations of the precept of abstaining from stealing. Those who disrupt the harmony of others' families, undermine public morality, engage in polygamy, and commit sexual assaults have violated the precepts of abstaining from sexual misconduct. Those who are dishonest, renege on their promises, or write bad checks have violated the precept of abstaining from lying. Also, the smoking of opium and marijuana, the sniffing of glue, the illicit injection of narcotic analgesic, and the use of intoxicants are violations of the precept of abstaining from the use of intoxicants. From these examples, we can see that the prisoners have lost their freedom because of their own misconduct. Our society does not tolerate people who disregard the Five Precepts and violate the rights of others. I feel that today's Buddhist youths should be enthusiastic and lively; more importantly, they should follow the rules of life and closely observe the precepts.
Some people say that with all these lively Buddhist youths, we can organize a Buddhist choir to beautify our lives and inject some liveliness into Buddhism. It is true that we need to encourage the popularization of Buddhist music and chanting. Others suggest that traveling can expand our horizon and help us to relax. Indeed, many Buddhist pilgrimages have been organized. However, most importantly, Buddhism also expects Buddhist youths to take a deeper look into the sutras and sastras, to follow the precepts and the Dharma and to use what the Buddha taught as the basis of one's own faith. If Buddhist youths want to waken the people of our time, if we want to bring a breath of fresh air to Buddhism, first we have to be humble and prepare ourselves. We have to study diligently and extensively in order to help others toward the right view. We can be in a position to do good to the society only when we are familiar with various skills and technologies. We can be enlightened and help others to become enlightened only if we are perfectly clear about the meaning of the Four Noble Truths, the Twelvefold Chain of Causation, the Six Paramitas and the various methods of practice.

B. Attract and convert all sentient beings by benefiting them and providing them with happiness.
For Buddhist youths, just observing the precepts, understanding the Dharma and purifying one's self is not enough. The spirit of Buddhism is not only to save ourselves, we have to save others as well. Not only do we benefit ourselves, we have to benefit others. We must attract and convert all sentient beings by benefiting them and providing them with happiness. If we cannot be of value to others, our existence in this world is meaningless. Thus, ever since I started propagating the Dharma, I have been following the teaching of Master T'ai Hsu. I emphasize the preaching of the original spirit of Buddhism and pay special attention to the preaching of humanistic and living Buddhism. Buddhism is not a religion of empty talk. We have to start by improving people's lives. We should not aim too high and forget about the fundamentals; we have to be realistic. We should not think that just talking about truth is enough; we should strive to benefit others and provide them with peace and happiness.
How can we benefit others? How can we bring peace and happiness to others? The establishment of orphanages, senior citizen homes, schools, hospitals, Buddhist museums, libraries, cultural centers, celebration parties, Sunday schools, language classes, and all sorts of social activities such as performing wedding and funeral services are all beneficial to the general public. From now on, in addition to building monasteries and performing Dharma services, Buddhism will also follow what the Buddha taught in bringing a new lifestyle to people. I believe this is our responsibility. Today's Buddhist youths should have the inspiration and stamina to work for the benefit of all sentient beings and to bring joy to them. The load is heavy, and the road is long and winding. If we do not take the responsibility, who will?

C. Secure ourselves in meditative concentration and wisdom.
In the chaotic world of today, a lot of people often feel uncertain and anxious. The most vexing problem is not knowing where to settle one's body and mind. For example, some people work at a job they do not like, yet they feel bored if they do not work. They cannot possibly watch television the whole day. Gambling, playing, eating, and wandering around all the time can also lead to feelings of emptiness and hopelessness. Thus, settling our body and mind is of utmost importance. In Buddhism, repeating the name of the Buddha can ease our body and mind. Ch'an meditation is also a good method of relaxing ourselves. The former helps us to focus our mind on the Buddha's name, while the latter helps us to use true wisdom to dwell in the pure state. Of course, before we can reach meditative concentration we have to go through a stage of basic training. It is not unlike one having to learn to swim before becoming a lifeguard. After we have trained our body and mind and are experienced in meditation, we will be able to feel the boundless joy of Ch'an. We will be able to practice Ch'an not only while sitting, but also when eating our meals, doing our jobs, or sleeping. There is a Chinese saying which states, "The moon outside the window is the same as usual, it is the plum blossoms that make the difference." When we young Buddhists have an understanding of meditation, then regardless of whether we are walking, standing, sitting, or reclining, or whether studying or practicing, we can feel the beauty of life and be at ease with ourselves.
After cultivating our meditative concentration, we still have to further secure ourselves through wisdom. For example, if a person decides to read a chapter of a book each day, he or she would have read 365 chapters in a year; that would be 3,650 chapters in ten years! The cumulative result is indeed staggering. After we have gained wisdom, we will look at the world and at life differently from before. We will begin to understand why the Buddha said that all living creatures have the Buddha Nature. If we look at this world with our "wisdom eye," we can see the light of truth. But the wisdom we talk about in Buddhism is different from intellectual wisdom. After all, worldly wisdom is mostly concerned with the differentiation and discrimination of our consciousness, while the wisdom of Buddhism aims to reveal our original nature and to help us destroy all illusions.
Buddhism is like a tall mountain. When we climb up, we can see through all worldly phenomena. Buddhism is also like an ocean. If we understand it, our wisdom is vast and boundless.
I hope every one of us can purify and strengthen ourselves through the precepts and the Dharma, universally help and deliver all living beings through providing others benefits and happiness, and transcend ourselves through meditative concentration and wisdom. As the Chinese saying reminds us, "If we want to broaden our line of vision to see a thousand miles away, then go up a little higher!" It is my sincere hope that we all work together to better ourselves. May the Triple Gem bless you all. Thank you.



Dear Dharma Friends,
Today we are going to discuss nirvana. What is nirvana? While we often hear references to how wonderful and joyous the state of nirvana is, most of us do not have the slightest inkling of what nirvana truly is. Some people even mistake nirvana as a euphemism for death. Some ascetics consider nirvana as simply annihilation or dissolution. They say, "The termination of the physical body and the exhaustion of one's merit is the state of nirvana." The Sautrantika school also looks at nirvana as the dissolution of the five aggregates. One particular Theravada text says, "Nirvana is the complete exhaustion of the aggregates, like a fire that is burnt out or winds that are stilled." These views of nirvana are one-sided and perhaps even misleading; in actuality, nirvana and annihilation are as different as day and night.
We have all read at one time or another the story of Prince Siddhartha meditating under the bodhi tree. Deep in meditation, he gazed up at the starry sky, and in a flash of insight he saw the true nature of things and became a fully enlightened Buddha.
This awakening to the truths of life and the universe is what we call nirvana. He saw through the duality of me versus them, transcended the limitation of time and space, and entered into the boundless realm of dharmakaya.
Why should we be concerned with nirvana? If we pause and take stock of our lives, we'll see that human existence is limited in terms of both time and space. Life spans no more than a few decades, and the body extends no more than a few feet tall. Nirvana frees us from such limitations and allows us to break out of our shell of delusion. In nirvana, life permeates all space, "traverses the three realms of existence and spans the ten directions." In nirvana, life pulsates through all time, "extends from antiquity to the present without change, lives through myriad kalpas and is forever new." In such a state, "the mind encompasses the entirety of the universe, traversing realms as numerous as there are grains of sand." When we see that self and the material world resonate in harmony and when we understand self and other as one, then there is no impulse to jealousy and no room for hatred or discrimination. To put it simply, by rediscovering our original nature, we dwell in nirvana and are once more able to see through the duality of subject versus object or the limitation of time and space.
Though human language and the human brain are limited and hardly conducive to understanding nirvana, we should, nevertheless, give it a try. In the following few pages, we'll first start off with an overview of nirvana, then we'll talk about in what it is grounded, how it can be realized, and finally what the realm of nirvana is like.

I. An Overview of Nirvana
The word nirvana and the "cessation of suffering" of the Four Noble Truths are one and the same. Cessation of suffering does not mean the annihilation of suffering; it means becoming free from the suffering brought on by the deluded belief in duality and discrimination. It also refers to the ensuing state of bliss, harmony, and being at ease with the world around us.
A. Defining Nirvana
There are two ways to define nirvana: by negation and by affirmation. We can also develop a sense for nirvana from looking at how it is explained in the sutras.
1. Defining nirvana by negation-The Dharma-skandha-pada defines nirvana by means of forty-three ways of negation. It speaks of nirvana as being, "without form, without limit, without outflow, without beginning, without attachment, without end, without arising, without clinging …." The Catuhsatya-nirdesa defines nirvana using sixty-six forms of negation, such as, "without decay, without loss, without equal, without obstacles, without want, unparalleled, immeasurable, without affliction ….."
2. Defining nirvana by affirmation-The Dharma-skandha-pada also describes nirvana by means of fifty ways of affirmation, such as, "absolute reality, the other shore, being wondrous, serene, permanent, secure, ultimate, hard to come by….." The Catuhsatya-nirdesa uses forty-six forms of affirmation to characterize nirvana, such as, "liberation, transcending all, unparalleled, most perfect, pure, ultimate, the truth, suchness …."
3. Other depictions of nirvana-In the sutras, the following approaches have been used to explain nirvana:
" The Mahaparinirvana Sutra equals nirvana with buddha nature.
" The Avatamsaka Sutra calls nirvana the inherent nature of all dharmas.
" The Lotus Sutra equals nirvana with buddhahood.
" The Prajnaparamita Sutra explains nirvana as the wisdom that knows what reasoning cannot know, the wisdom that sees the nature of all things.
" The Surangama Sutra explains nirvana as the "end of all reasoning and the quieting of all disturbances."
" The Vimalakirti Sutra calls nirvana "the path of non-duality of the ten stages of mind development."
" The Srimala-devi-simhanada Sutra describes nirvana as the Tathagatagarbha (the birthing ground of all phenomena) or the pure, original nature.
" The Ch'an school of Buddhism calls nirvana original face.
While all these descriptions may be different, the meaning is still the same. What they are all essentially saying is that nirvana is "our pure, original nature and our true, original being." The Buddha, through his teachings, shows us the way to become free of delusions and attain nirvana by rediscovering our true nature.
B. Understanding Nirvana
In more concrete terms, the Agamas give us four ways to gauge our progress towards realizing nirvana.
1. Nirvana is sweeping clean the mind of greed.
2. Nirvana is sweeping clean the mind of hatred.
3. Nirvana is sweeping clean the mind of ignorance, delusion, and erroneous views.
4. Nirvana is sweeping clean the mind of affliction.
Take a minute and rate yourself for each of these criteria. Be honest with yourself. How do you fare? If you fall short of even your own standards, perhaps you should double your efforts wherever there is room for improvement.
The Vibhasa Sastra gives a similar explanation of nirvana. It describes nirvana as "the eradication of all sorrow, the extinguishing of the three fires, the severing of the attachment to the three notions, and the disassociation from all realms of rebirth." The three fires are greed, hatred, and delusion. The three notions are the notion of life and death, the notion of nirvana, and the notion of non-discrimination. As unenlightened beings, we all tend to endow these constructs with a sense of substantiality which keeps us from nirvana. Having the notion of nirvana keeps us from nirvana, even the attachment to non-discrimination is discrimination in itself.
When Venerable Huang-tsang returned to China from India, he translated the term nirvana as "complete and serene." Complete means encompassing all there is, and serene refers to the state of being unagitated and unperturbed.
We often hear people talk about the impermanence of life, but it is within this very impermanence of life that we find the unchanging nature of nirvana. We also hear Buddhists talk about suffering in this world and nirvana as the ultimate happiness. When we say all sufferings are rooted in the concept of self, we are referring to the usual connotation of self as a permanent and separate unit of identity that exists independently of others. When we speak of nirvana as the ultimate happiness, we are still talking about a self which feels this happiness. The self in the context of nirvana is the true self and is different from the day to day connotation of self that we talked about earlier. This self is grounded in oneness and in total harmony with all causes and conditions.
C. Characteristics of Nirvana
In addition to defining and understanding the meaning of nirvana, we can also develop a better appreciation for this state of being through some of the analogies that have been used to characterize nirvana.
1. Comparing nirvana to a lotus blossom-In Buddhist literature, there are many references to lotus blossoms, especially in depicting purity and altruism. The lotus starts to grow in the muck and mire at the bottom of a pool; it passes through the water and blossoms in the clean air, untainted by the mud. Nirvana grows out of the trials and tribulations of life, yet remains untainted by them.
2. Comparing nirvana to water-Like water, nirvana extinguishes the fires of delusion. Just as water quenches our physical thirst, the realization of nirvana puts out the thirst of desire.
3. Comparing nirvana to an antidote-Nirvana is a sanctuary for the weary. Like an antidote, nirvana neutralizes the poison of delusion.
4. Comparing nirvana to an ocean-The ocean accepts all water regardless of its source. The ocean knows no discrimination. Nirvana is a state of equanimity, without preference or aversion. Just as we could never measure fully the amount of water in the oceans, we could never fully describe the realm of nirvana.
5. Comparing nirvana to food-Food keeps us alive and healthy. Those who have attained nirvana are free from the cycles of birth and death. In nirvana, one is beyond the limitations of human life. Just as food relieves us of our hunger, the realization of nirvana frees us from the suffering of affliction.
6. Comparing nirvana to space-When we speak of space, there is no talk of arising, subsisting, changing, or passing away. The same is true of nirvana. Once nirvana is realized, one can never fall away from it. The realm of nirvana is boundless. It is not be found at any one place, yet it is everywhere. It is not dependent on any one thing, yet it is the foundation of all things. In nirvana, one dwells in the midst of all phenomena and is in harmony with the universe.
7. Comparing nirvana to a priceless gem-Like a priceless gem, nirvana is radiant and appeals to all.
8. Comparing nirvana to a mountain peak-The steadfastness of nirvana can be compared to a tall mountain peak, standing high up in the sky, unfazed by the elements of weather. Nirvana stands tall, beyond the reach of all afflictions.
D. Various Kinds of Nirvana
The Yogachara school of Buddhism speaks of four kinds of nirvana: nirvana of pure original nature, nirvana with remainder, nirvana without remainder, and nirvana of non-abiding.
The nirvana of pure original nature is the seeing of dharmakaya (body of truth), the true nature of all phenomena. While delusion may temporarily cloud our seeing the dharmakaya, its integrity is never compromised. Dharmakaya has countless wondrous aspects and encompasses all things. It is not the same as all dharmas, yet it is no different. Dharmakaya is our pure, original nature. If we look inside of ourselves, we all can see dharmakaya.
Nirvana with remainder is attained when one is still alive. In this case, the word remainder refers to the effects of karma. The term "with remainder" means that while no new karma is being created, the effects of past karma have not been entirely extinguished. Because of the presence of the physical body, one still feels the various effects of hunger, temperature, sickness, and aging. In nirvana with remainder, one still has to eat when hungry or rest when tired. Even though the body continues to go through sickness, old age, and death, the mind is no longer enslaved by these processes. Regardless of one's circumstances, one can still go on with life in a calm, collected way. This is what is meant by nirvana with remainder. Even today, there are some living examples of people who have attained this kind of nirvana. Mahakasyapa, one of the Buddha's great disciples, is such an example. From the time when the Buddha was alive some twenty-five hundred years ago, Mahakasyapa is said to be still alive in this world today. According to one of the sutras that prophesized the coming of Maitreya, the Buddha had instructed Mahakasyapa to remain in this world and be the custodian of his robes and alms bowl until the time Maitreya Bodhisattva becomes the next buddha of this world some 67 billion years from now. Pindola, the Long-Brow Arhat, is another example of one who has attained nirvana with remainder. The Buddha has also asked him to stay on in this world to teach the Dharma to sentient beings after his own passing. In my readings, I have come across three references to him making an appearance to help the people of this world.
The state of nirvana without remainder, or parinirvana, is reached when all effects of karma are completely worked out, and the physical body is nothing but a thing of the past. Without the creation of new karma, there is no coming together of the five aggregates and no new birth results. In this state, one's true nature is "dissolved" in all phenomena and becomes one with the universe. Just as sugar dissolves in water without a trace, its presence, though not visible, is indisputable. This total harmony is summed up in the saying, "Time from antiquity to the present is nothing apart from the present thought. The boundless land that separates you and me is nothing more than the tip of a down feather."
In the Agamas, there is a story about a Brahmacari with the divine eye. He could look at someone and see the person's past lives. When he looked at a heap of human bones, he could accurately surmise who the person was and when the person died. One day, the Buddha pointed to a heap of human bones and asked him if he knew whom they belonged to. He looked intently at the bones, but had no clue whose they were. The Buddha then explained to the Brahmacari, "That person has entered nirvana. His being is now beyond time and space. He is free of life and death. He is now one with phenomenon and noumenon. He now spans all ten directions and pervades all dharma realms. This is why you cannot discern who he was." From this, we can see that one who has attained nirvana without remainder is totally free of the burdens of a physical body.
Nirvana of non-abiding is also known as mahanirvana or anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. Of those who have attained mahanirvana, the sutras say, "Out of wisdom, one is no longer attached to life and death. Out of compassion, one is no longer attached to nirvana." They see through the emptiness of the cycle of rebirth and continually reappear in this world to guide sentient beings through the sea of suffering. They have everything, yet they do not call anything their own. They are always active helping sentient beings, yet they are always at peace. They are not attached to any one way and can skillfully employ all means.
From the discussion of these various kinds of nirvana, we can see that one does not have to wait until the end of one's life to enter nirvana. When Prince Siddhartha became a fully enlightened buddha under the bodhi tree, he entered the realm of nirvana with remainder. When the Buddha passed away at the age of eighty between two sala trees, he entered nirvana without remainder. During the forty plus years when the Buddha traveled far and wide to teach the Dharma to all those with a willing ear, he lived a life free of attachment. This kind of life that is purposeful yet without fixation on purpose is free and at ease. This is the realm of nirvana of non-abiding.

II. In What Is Nirvana Grounded?
We generally say we live in this world or we live in this or that house, but can we really say where does one dwell in nirvana? According to the sutras, it is said that those who have entered parinirvana become one with emptiness. Some of you may find this frightening and think that emptiness means extinction or annihilation. You need not be afraid for emptiness here does not mean annihilation. Emptiness pervades all space and is ever present in all things. In nirvana, one is grounded in emptiness-without any home yet at home everywhere.
A Tang emperor, Shun-tzuang, once asked the Ch'an master Fu-kuang Ru-mang the whereabouts of the Buddha after he has entered parinirvana. The emperor asked:
"From where did the Buddha come?
After nirvana, to where did the Buddha go?
Since we say the Buddha is ever present in this world,
Where is the Buddha now?"
The Ch'an master replied:
"From truth the Buddha came.
After nirvana, to truth the Buddha went.
The dharmakaya fills all space;
Lives always in undeluded minds.
With-thought restores to without-thought;
Attachment returns to non-attachment.
[The Buddha] arrives for the sake of sentient beings;
Leaves for the sake of sentient beings.
Clear and pure like the ocean;
Profound and ever present.
The wise should contemplate,
And have no doubt."
The emperor, still doubting, asked further:
"The Buddha, born in a palace,
Died and entered nirvana, between two trees.
Taught in this world for forty-nine years;
Yet pronounced that he did not speak of any Dharma.
Mountains, rivers, and vast oceans,
The sky, earth, sun, and moon,
There will be a time when they will cease.
Who can say that they are not subject to birth and death?
I still have some questions;
Wise one, please explain."
In trying to use worldly logic and reasoning to understand nirvana, the emperor failed to fathom how the dharmakaya can be ever present. The Ch'an master again explained:
"The nature of Buddha is truth.
The deluded do not understand.
The dharmakaya is like space;
Has no birth nor death.
With the right conditions,
Buddha appeared in this world;
When the right conditions passed,
Buddha entered nirvana.
Reaching sentient beings everywhere,
[Buddha] is like the moon in the water.
Not permanent and yet not intermittent;
No birth and no death.
Lives, yet is never born;
Enters nirvana, yet has not ceased.
When mind sees emptiness,
There is no Dharma to speak of."
Like space, the dharmakaya of the Buddha is totally complete, without arising or ceasing. As a man in this world, he was bounded by the processes of birth, old age, sickness, and death, but the dharmakaya of the Buddha is without arising or ceasing. The historical Buddha came out of suchness to teach us the Dharma and the path of liberation from the cycle of rebirth. When the cause and conditions came to pass, the Buddha returned to the truth from which he came. Dharmakaya thus come and thus go-nothing is added or taken away. Without attachment, the true nature of Tathagata is forever whole. Nirvana is a realm that is free of attachment. If one has any attachment whatsoever, one cannot realize the realm of nirvana.
In Chinese Buddhist history, there is a story of a highly cultivated Ch'an master by the name of Chin Pi-feng. According to the story, he almost fell back in his cultivation because of a single attachment. He could let go of all his desires except his love for his jade alms bowl. Each time before he entered samadhi, he had to make sure that his alms bowl had been carefully put away before being able to rest his mind.
One day, as his life span was coming to an end, King Yama dispatched several of his messengers to claim the master's life. Since the Ch'an master could foresee his death, he entered into deep samadhi. The underworld messengers could do nothing but to wait for him to come out of his meditation. After waiting for a few days, they came up with a plan. Knowing that the Ch'an master treasured his alms bowl dearly, they sought out the bowl and began to bang it about with all their might. When the Ch'an master heard the racket, he immediately came out of his samadhi to try save his bowl from breaking. When Yama's henchmen saw their chance, they clapped their hands and said, "Good, you now have to come with us." When the Ch'an master realized that his resolve was about to be tested, he took up the jade bowl and threw it onto the ground, smashing it to pieces. He then re-enter samadhi, leaving this verse behind as he did so:
For one to claim the life of Chin Pi-feng,
Chains must first able to
bind the vastness of space.
If space can be shackled,
Then you can come to claim me,
Chin Pi-feng.
At that very moment, he entered nirvana. From this, we can see that to enter nirvana, one must let go of every shred of attachment and delusion. When we are not caught up in worldly phenomena, then we are at peace in all circumstances.
While we say that we have to let go of all attachment to enter nirvana, this does not mean we have to become uncaring and indifferent or that we have to sever all relationships with others, for nirvana cannot be attained outside of everyday living. In the Diamond Sutra, it says, "Let intentions arise without any attachment." How do we lead a worldly life that is without attachment? Let me discuss this question with the following four points.
1. At ease in every encounter-The Sixth Patriarch of the Ch'an school, Hui-neng, exemplifies this type of living. After he received the robe and alms bowl as a symbol of the passing of lineage from the Fifth Patriarch, he went into hiding from those who wanted to challenge his legitimacy. For fifteen years, he lived among a group of hunters. Each day he would go with the hunters to hunt. Whenever he saw animals being caught in the traps set by the hunters, he would secretly try to free the trapped animals. Whenever he had a chance, he would speak to the hunters about the importance of compassion. When they came back from a hunt to cook their kill, he would go into the woods to find edible leaves and plants to garnish their common meal. He was often teased for avoiding the meat and eating only the vegetable side dishes. Fifteen years may seem a long time, but Hui-neng was not at all bothered by the wait, for he had already realized nirvana and lived in peaceful freeness. Though he was not able to formally teach the Dharma, he made use of every opportunity to teach in whatever way he could. Though he did not observe the precepts as strictly as he would have liked, he found peace in observing the precepts in whatever way he could.
2. At peace with all circumstances-From the Diamond Sutra, we can see how the Buddha, after attaining nirvana with remainder, lived a life that was peaceful and serene. The sutra begins, "At mealtime, the Blessed One put on his robes, took his alms bowl and entered the city of Sravasti. Having begged for alms there in due order, he returned to where he was staying. Having taken his meal, he put away his robe and alms bowl, washed his feet, and sat in a cross-legged posture ...." On the surface, these are the trivia of life, but if we look deeper, we can see how the Buddha is at peace with every aspect of life. The fully enlightened one does not denigrate the demands of life. Even though he attained nirvana, he still needed to eat and sleep, and he did so without attachment.
3. Find tranquility in buddha nature-Nirvana is a state when one sees through the emptiness of all phenomena. As such, those who have entered nirvana will not be perturbed by the trials and tribulations of life for they can see them as impermanent and empty in nature. They look at life with equanimity, without becoming attached to or developing aversion for any one aspect of life. In nirvana, they find tranquility in buddha nature. "When the mind is pure, the land is pure." They make a pure land even in the midst of the sea of suffering. In the Vimalakirti Sutra, Vimalakirti "lived a layman's life, but was unattached to the three realms of existence; lived with a wife, but always practiced pure living." The life he lived was indeed a life without attachment.
4. Teach the Dharma as the occasion arises-After Prince Siddhartha entered enlightenment, he did not simply enter into a blissful nirvana without remainder, rather he entered nirvana with remainder and choose to stay among the sufferings of samsara, traveling throughout India to teach the Dharma. In nirvana, one does not think solely of one's own liberation from suffering, but works tirelessly to help others free themselves. Many who have entered nirvana re-appear in this world to teach the Dharma to others. Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva is an excellent example of one who acts selflessly. Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva once said, "As long as one being remains in hell, I vow not to become a buddha."
Many people have preconceived notions that a life of cultivation means a life of solitude and meditation, maintaining a wall of indifference between the practitioner and others. Such a notion is totally inconsistent with the many examples shown by the Buddha in the way he led his life. Living a life in nirvana means being at ease with all encounters, at peace with all circumstances, finding tranquility in buddha nature, and teaching the Dharma as the occasion arises.

III The Path to Nirvana
Before committing ourselves to working towards nirvana, how can we know that there is even such a thing as nirvana? This is, indeed, a very difficult question to answer. It is like someone asking, "How much water is there in the ocean? How many sea creatures dwell there in?" Such questions are beyond the scope of everyday reason. Similarly, worldly human language is not capable of fully describing the wonder of nirvana, for nirvana transcends all worldly phenomena.
Though we cannot accurately describe nirvana, we can, through the Buddha's teachings, gradually realize it for ourselves. In fact, it is said in the sutras, "If one wishes to experience the buddha-realm, one's mind must be pure like space." While we cannot "experience" nirvana through our sensory organs, we cannot categorically deny its existence. Though the human eye does not see microscopic organisms such as germs and bacteria, we, nonetheless, accept what scientists say about them at face value. Scientists are experts in these areas, and we defer to their judgement in these matters. Likewise, while we ourselves have not experienced nirvana, we can learn from those who have that it does exist.
Nirvana is not to be found in any one place or at any one time. In this sense, nirvana is like fire. Fire is not something that exists in and of itself. It is created when two flints are rubbed together or when we strike a match. When prajna and compassion shine through delusion, nirvana will present itself, and we will see first hand that nirvana does exist.
How can we enter nirvana? Let me offer three suggestions.
1. It is said in the sutras that if we diligently practice according to the precepts, we can all attain nirvana one day. The precepts are like our eyes. With our eyes, we can see regardless of where we are; with the guidance of the precepts, we can experience nirvana regardless of the circumstances we may find ourselves.
2. The Buddha teaches that to reach enlightenment, we must continually contemplate on the Three Dharma Seals: All samskaras (forms and actions of this world) are impermanent, all dharmas do not have a substantial self, and nirvana is perfect peace. When we truly understand the emptiness of all phenomena, we will see things as they are without attachment or aversion for them. When we are free of all clinging, then any agitation we may feel is calmed. If we can accept what life brings with equanimity, then we have reached the tranquil and serene state of nirvana.
3. To experience nirvana, we must ground our body and mind in the three roots of learning: precepts, concentration, and wisdom. We should use the four all-embracing virtues of giving, amiable speech, conduct beneficial to others, and cooperation as skillful means to teach the Dharma. Additionally, we should integrate the six paramitas into every aspect of our daily lives so that we may remain vigilant of our minds and continually open our eyes to our own delusions.
When we hear how others have entered nirvana, we may feel that we do not measure up. This defeatist attitude is also a form of fixation and is an erroneous view. The Buddha teaches us that with diligent effort we all can become enlightened. In fact, we need to know that entering nirvana has nothing to do with how old we are, how smart we are, or how long we have practiced.
We learn from the sutras that people of any age can enter nirvana. Subhadra, the last convert of the Buddha, was one hundred and twenty when he realized nirvana. At the other end of the spectrum, Sramanera Kunti, a disciple of Sariputra, was only seven when he realized nirvana. Whether we can enter nirvana or not depends on our spiritual maturity and not on our chronological age.
From the sutras, we learn that the realization of nirvana is independent of how smart we are, but hinges upon whether or not we can discover our innate buddha nature. This discovery process does not call for a certain level of education or intellectual capacity. Among the Buddha's disciples, the wise Sariputra as well as the slow Ksudrapanthaka attained nirvana. When we vow to embark on the path to buddhahood, we should have confidence that nirvana is ultimately within our reach. As long as we are totally committed to practicing the Dharma, we will one day see through our delusions and attain buddhahood.
Realizing nirvana is also independent of how long we have practiced. The sincerity of practice is a much more important factor. Among the five men that the Buddha expounded the Dharma to soon after he attained enlightenment, Kaundinya attained nirvana only after a few days. Ksudrapanthaka, who was slow in learning, realized nirvana after twenty days of diligent effort. Upali attained nirvana while shaving the Buddha's hair. As to Ananda, he had the responsibility of attending to the Buddha, and this kept him from attaining enlightenment until after the Buddha had already entered parinirvana.
From the many examples of those who have attained nirvana, we can see that the realization of nirvana is independent of external factors or circumstances. The Avatamsaka Sutra emphasizes that nirvana is attained through the riddance of internal delusions and not through the culmination of external factors.

IV. The Realm of Nirvana
Nirvana is the total liberation from suffering. Those who have realized nirvana experience unparalleled joy that flows from within. Even the way enlightened ones carry themselves reflects the internal serenity. Simply by being in their presence, others can also share in this limitless happiness. From the sutras, we learn that when Maudgalyayana saw the recently enlightened Sariputra, he was awe-struck by his radiance and bearing. He asked, "Sariputra, you look exceptionally radiant-pure like a freshly bloomed lotus, dignified like the warm sun, and peaceful like a gentle breeze. Have you found the way out of the cycle of rebirth?" Sariputra smiled gently and nodded his head.
Many years later when Sariputra entered parinirvana, his student Kunti was grief-stricken. With tears flowing and nose running, he took his teacher's heap of bones and went to see the Buddha. The Blessed One consoled him saying, "Now that your teacher has entered parinirvana, do you think the merit from his cultivation has also disappeared with his passing?"
Kunti replied, "No."
"That's right. While your teacher is now free of all suffering, his merit lives forever. There is no cause to cry."
When Kunti heard this, he immediately understood what the Buddha was teaching him. He looked at living and dying in a totally different light. What is important is not the physical body, for the body represents the accumulation of karma and as such lives and dies. What is important is the being of enlightenment, causeless and timeless, lighting up the darkness that envelopes deluded sentient beings.
The sutras also speak of the fearless state of nirvana. There was once a bhiksuni who was bitten by a poisonous snake while meditating in a cave. When her disciples saw what happened, their first reaction was to go seek medical help. The bhiksuni told them calmly, "There is no need to go seek help. The poison has now spread all over my body. Could you please go and ask Sariputra to come here so that I might talk with him before I pass away?"
When Sariputra arrived, he was very surprised to find the bhiksuni looking as well as ever. He said, "You seem to be full of health, not at all like someone who is about to die. Are you sure you were bitten by a poisonous snake?"
The bhiksuni replied, "I have been contemplating emptiness and have found peace in nirvana. The snake can only harm my body, but it cannot disturb the serenity of nirvana."
The Avadanas speak of nirvana as the ultimate happiness. But for those who cannot comprehend the meaning of nirvana, they thought that the bliss of nirvana comes from the suppression of all desires. This is a grave misunderstanding, as illustrated by the exchange between King Milinda and the monk Nagasena. The king asked, "The Buddha teaches that for us to realize nirvana, we must let go of sensory pleasures. This is very hard to do and causes me great pain. What is the point of realizing nirvana if it takes all the joy out of living?"
Nagasena replied, "It is incorrect to equate nirvana with the 'pain' of abstention. When the Buddha teaches us to refrain from indulgence, it is only a means to an end. When one wants to learn a skill, one has to first 'painfully' practice the basics of that skill before one can excel in it."
Nirvana is the total liberation from suffering. When we let go of all attachment and aversion, we live in harmony with all that is conditioned and in so doing calm the agitation that comes with desire. The realm of nirvana is without arising, without abiding, without attachment to the phenomenal self, and without blemish.
In nirvana, there is no arising and consequently no ceasing and no impermanence. Not only is there no arising of worldly phenomena, there is also no arising concerning the notion of nirvana itself. It is the realm of the absolute truth of the Middle Way, without the duality of self versus environment or purity versus delusion. The following story illustrates how we often make something arises out of nothing. Once there was a merchant pulling a cart of merchandise to the market. On the way, his cart fell into a ditch, and he was unable to pull the cart out no matter how hard he tried. A passer-by offered to help, and between the two of them, they managed to put the cart back on the road. The passer-by asked the merchant, "Now that I have helped you pull the cart out of the ditch, how are you going to thank me?"
The merchant replied, "There is 'nothing' I can give you to show you my gratitude."
"Good, give me this 'nothing'," said the passer-by.
The merchant was in a quandary and said, "How can I give you 'nothing'?"
"I am sure you can find this 'nothing' to give me." From the word "nothing," the notion of something arises in the passer-by.
As the realm of nirvana is without arising, it follows that it is also without abiding, even about the notion of nirvana. In nirvana, one does not abide in anything for one's being is now in the entirety of the universe, in all dharma-realms, in buddha nature, in the vastness of space, as well as in the purity of one's heart and mind.
In nirvana, there is no attachment to the phenomenal self. To realize nirvana, one must first see through that this being we call self is nothing but the accumulation of karma and as such is impermanent and does not exist independent of others. Once we are rid of this fixation we have about ourselves, then we can experience the great liberation of selflessness. From selflessness, we can then find our true self. This true self is our timeless buddha nature. From the sutras, we learn of a certain exchange between the Buddha and a skeptic who wanted to test the Buddha. The skeptic asked, "Blessed One, I like everything you have said so far except for the part about selflessness. It is too frightening a concept for me to accept." The Buddha replied, "But within selflessness, you will find a true self." The true self that the Buddha referred to here is of course our buddha nature. When we realize our own buddha nature, we are stripped of the delusion of seeing the physical body as permanent and independently existing. When we see buddha nature as our true self, we are like a piece of gold that regains its luster after purification.
Nirvana is without blemish and is most wondrous and perfect. The serenity and joy that are experienced in nirvana are not something that can be described in words. Having said this, it is also something that we all can experience, and it is available to us at all times. Once there was a bhiksu who was meditating when a practitioner of a different tradition passed by. He asked the bhiksu, "Are you sitting here cultivating for happiness in your next life?" The bhiksu replied, "No, I am cultivating happiness for this life, right here and now." From this, we can see that nirvana is not something that can only be experienced after death. The instant we extinguish the fires of delusion is the instant we experience nirvana.

Today, we have touched on many aspects of nirvana. I hope the discussion today has planted the thought of realizing nirvana in you. Nirvana is not something that we only concern ourselves with when we are old and weak. It is something that we should pursue right now. May you all find the wondrous and lasting joy of nirvana.


On Becoming a Bodhisattva

Dear Dharma Friends,
I want to thank the Buddha for his compassion; with his blessing, we are now in the third day of this Dharma lecture series. In the last two days, we have looked at what it means to be a Buddha and what it means to be an arhat, respectively. Today, we will discuss the meaning of being a bodhisattva and introduce you to the bodhisattva spirit of self-awakening through the awakening of others. Before we start, I'd like to clear up some of the misconceptions about bodhisattvas.
Often, when we talk about bodhisattvas, we immediately think of the clay or wooden statues that we pay our respects to in temples, or we conjure up images of paintings or sculptures we have seen of these enlightened individuals. To most people, we think of bodhisattvas as deities who have many supernatural powers and are mystical, beyond our range of vision. We think of bodhisattvas as beings who have the Midas touch, are able to command the wind and rain, and can bestow wealth upon us. Actually, bodhisattvas are not
deities that sit above us or beyond our comprehension; the bodhisattva's presence is not distant, but right here in the midst of us. Bodhisattvas are not idols to whom we make our offerings and pay our respects. A true bodhisattva is to be found among us, for a true bodhisattva is someone who is rich in compassion and is most earnest in delivering all sentient being within the six realms of existence.
[Throughout history, there were many examples of men and women who truly lived in the spirit of a bodhisattva.] Take the example of Master Ou-I of the Ming Dynasty. He was one of the four renowned masters of that time and was known for his strict observance of the precepts. Although he was a well-cultivated bhiksu and a key figure in Chinese Buddhism, he did not regard himself as a bhiksu; instead, he called himself a bodhisattva. Of more recent times, there is the example of Master T'ai Hsu, who was known for his compassion and his dedication to revitalizing Chinese Buddhism. He once said this of himself: "A bhiksu I am not, nor have I become a Buddha; instead, I hope, to be called a bodhisattva." From this, we can see that it is more acceptable to call someone a bodhisattva than to address someone as a bhiksu. There is also the contemporary example of Master Tzu-Hang, who vowed that, as a testimonial to his attainment, his physical body would not perish after his passing. When he was alive, he liked to be addressed as a bodhisattva. After his passing, his body, indeed, did not perish, and it is still kept at His-chi for people to pay their respects to. To honor his wish, he is called the "Tzu-Hang Bodhisattva," which means he is a bodhisattva of compassion and can ferry us across the sea of suffering.
From the above examples, we can see that we can all become bodhisattvas as long as we have the commitment to "seek the Buddha Way and deliver all beings." In fact, we describe anyone who has made such a commitment a "bodhisattva with initial determination." Among lay Buddhists, we call elder lay Buddhists "senior bodhisattvas," and those who are new to the religion "bodhisattvas with new resolve." Lay Buddhists also address each other as "so-and-so bodhi-sattva." Thus, the term "bodhisattva" is not limited to enlightened individuals whose statues we see in temples; in fact, we address all those who are determined to embark on the Buddha path as bodhisattvas.
Master T'ai Hsu once said, "A truly cultivated person is, in fact, a Buddha." What this means is that, to reach the perfection of a Buddha, one must first start cultivation as a person. In fact, the Buddhist teachings of the human vehicle are as applicable to us as they are to bodhisattvas. With determination, any one of us can become a bodhisattva. Mencius once made a similar observation: "As [honorable] as Emperor Shwuen was, as [great] as Yu was, any determined person is, too." Of course, there are many stages of bodhisattva development. There are the ten stages of faith, the ten stages of prajna, the ten lines of activities for the universal welfare of others, the ten transfers of merits, and the attainment of ten merits. These stages constitute the first fifty of the fifty-two stages of a bodhisattva toward Buddhahood. Following these fifty stages is the attainment of enlightenment. Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva and Manjusri Bodhisattva are examples of this stage. The development of a bodhisattva is not unlike our educational system. Though students in elementary school, middle school, and college are all called students, they do differ in the level of knowledge acquired. Our goal is to make a certain amount of progress in our development as a bodhisattva. But then, how do we move ourselves through the bodhisattva stages?

I. The Bodhisattva Character-Selflessness and Compassion
In our previous lectures, we have mentioned that the development of religious faith calls for a religious disposition. By the same token, a key element of why the Buddha became a fully enlightened individual is because of his compassion, love, and kindness for all beings. Similarly, what makes an arhat an arhat is his inclination for the peace of nirvana as he shuns worldly existence. As we are all different in character and disposition-some of us are friendly and generous, while others are distant and reclusive-it is good to know what kinds of persons are most inclined to becoming a bodhisattva. To answer this, one should first understand the character of a bodhisattva. Two words best describe the character of a bodhisattva-selflessness and compassion. Self-lessness and compassion work hand in hand: with the sense of selflessness comes the sensibility of compassion, and out of the spirit of compassion arises the wisdom of selflessness.
Let us first understand the embedded meaning of the word "bodhisattva." This is a Sanskrit word made up of two parts. The first part "bodhi" means enlightenment, while the second part "sattva" refers to any sentient being. Thus, if we analyze the term "bodhisattva," it embodies "enlightenment and sentience," and it means "a sentient being with the mind for the truth." There are two aspects to the term "enlightenment and sentience." First, it speaks of the commitment and dedication to seek enlightenment, in other words, efforts for one's own use in the attainment of ultimate wisdom. Thus, we also describe a bodhisattva as one who seeks the path. Second, the term "enlightenment and sentience" speaks of the devotion to bringing enlightenment to all sentient beings, in other words, efforts for the benefit of all. This is the manifestation of compassion, and it explains why we also describe a bodhisattva as one who delivers sentient beings. Thus, we can see that a bodhisattva embodies, on the one hand, the arhat-spirit of transcending the world and seeking the ultimate truth and, on the other hand, the Buddha-compassion and zeal of wanting to deliver all sentient beings. Indeed, a bodhisattva is one who "seeks the Buddha Way and delivers all beings," an enlightening practitioner who finds fulfillment in the fulfillment of others.
When we think of bodhisattvas, we inevitably think of their kindness and compassion. Like arhats, bodhisattvas strive to practice liberation. Unlike arhats, bodhisattvas are rich in their great kindness and compassion. When bodhisattvas witness our suffering, their flames of compassion are ignited, and they vow to help us free ourselves from suffering. This is in contrast with arhats, who develop a dislike for worldly existence when they see through the conflicts of the world and the suffering of rebirth. Arhats, hence, are keen on attaining salvation and entering nirvana. In Buddhist literature, we liken bodhisattvas to "great vehicles" that can ferry sentient beings across the sea of suffering, while arhats are often described as "small vehicles" that are available solely for their own personal use. While the goals of bodhisattvas and arhats are similar, they differ in their approach. The difference lies in the compassion of bodhisattvas, which gives bodhisattvas their empathy toward others' pain. Compassion is, indeed, the source of energy that provides bodhisattvas with the strength to practice the Mahayana spirit of attaining fulfillment for oneself through the fulfillment of others.
What, then, is compassion? The sutras describe compassion as the foundation of the Dharma. It is out of compassion that the Buddha preached the Dharma for more than forty years, gave more than forty thousand Dharma talks, and left us the numerous teachings of the Tripitaka. From this we can see the enormous significance of compassion! There are two aspects of compassion: loving tenderness and sympathy. Loving tenderness refers to the sharing of joy (heavenly joy, meditative joy, and the joy of nirvana) and sympathy refers to the removal of pain (the indescribable pain of being reborn in the three suffering realms of animals, hungry ghosts, and hell). With great loving tenderness, bodhisattvas heal us of our sicknesses; with great sympathy, bodhisattvas understand our pain. This form of great compassion is markedly different from and is a step beyond the loving and caring emotions with which we are familiar. The spirit of compassion is much deeper in meaning and much more embracing in capacity. The compassion that bodhisattvas have for us sentient beings can be described as a mix of the stern fatherly love and the tender motherly love that our parents have for us, always available and willing to sacrifice themselves for our welfare. The great kindness and compassion of bodhisattvas can be compared to the warmth of the sun that is available to all without discrimination; their compassion is limitless, as they tend to all our pleas without reservation. With great wisdom and compassion, bodhisattvas tailor their help to our varying situations as they guide us across the sea of suffering. The best example of a bodhisattva is, of course, the Great Compassionate Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, whose compassion and kindness is universally known. With great compassion, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva made the twelve great vows of helping all sentient beings cross the sea of suffering. When we call to Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva for help and guidance, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva manifests in different forms to help us regardless of where we are. Based on the situation and need, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva has manifested as a celestial being, as a woman, and as a young boy. Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva has been seen carrying a fish basket, riding a dragon, living among bamboo groves, and holding a willow tree branch. In fact, we often use the term "the thirty-two manifestations of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva" to describe the many manifestations of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva coming to our aid during our times of crises. This very ability to manifest in differing forms depending on the situation is, in fact, a direct result of the Bodhisattva's great and selfless compassion.
Taking this a step further, the other side of compassion is selflessness. In the hearts and minds of bodhisattvas, there is no self, just us sentient beings. Regardless of what we need-be it money, property, or even his or her life-bodhisattvas willingly give to us without reservation. In the Jataka Sutra, a sutra about the previous lives of the Buddha, there is a story about a time when the Buddha was cultivating to be a bodhisattva. In this particular life, the Buddha was also born as a prince. One day, when he was out traveling in the woods with two of his brothers, he saw below a cliff a mother tiger that had just given birth to seven baby cubs. Because of over-exertion, the mother tiger became so weak that her life was hanging in the balance. In the meantime, the baby cubs were all crying to be nursed. When the prince saw how pitiful the situation was, his compassion arose in him, and he decided to sacrifice his life to save the life of the mother tiger. He distracted his two brothers and jumped down to where the mother tiger was so that he might offer himself as a meal for the mother tiger. The mother tiger was, however, so weakened that she did not even have the strength to feed on him. Anxious to save the tigress, he used a sharp blade of bamboo bark to severe his own throat. With the blood gushing out, and disregarding his own pain, the prince slowly crawled to the side of the mother tiger so that she could drink his own blood. In giving up his own life, he was able to save the life of the mother tiger and her cubs. In the Jataka Sutra, there is another record about another lifetime of the Buddha when he was a king. The king loved his subjects and was very generous to his people. He established posts throughout his land to provide relief to whoever needed them. There was even an incident when trying to save the life of a pigeon, he cut a piece of his flesh to feed a hawk.
Compassion allowed this prince to forget his own fears and give up his own life for the sake of others. With compassion, bodhisattvas perform many selfless acts for us sentient beings. Because of the rich compassion that bodhisattvas have for us sentient beings, bodhisattvas are very forgiving of our folly and mistakes. They are so willing to make sacrifices without any regard for themselves that they reach the point of selflessness. Without regrets and fear, bodhisattvas practice their great compassion, just like the saying, "For the sake of sentient beings, [I am] willing to part with anything." The Lotus Sutra says, "With the strength of great compassion, [bodhisattvas] deliver all suffering sentient beings." Bodhi-sattvas, who have gone through numerous kalpas of cultivation, have already severed all delusions and attained pure living. Accordingly, they could have entered the peaceful realm of nirvana, but out of compassion for sentient beings, they decide to stay within the wheel of rebirth to guide us through the sea of suffering. They show us Dharma methods, turn the Dharma wheel, and even pledge to be reborn in the three suffering realms to help the suffering beings of these realms. When Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva saw sentient beings suffering in the karmic flames of hell, he made the determination that, "If I do not enter the gate of hell, who will?" So, he pledged, "I vow not to enter into Buddhahood until all hells are empty." What it means is that he, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, will defer his attainment of Buddhahood as long as there is one single being suffering in hell.
From the above, we can see that compassion is the underlying cause for one to become a bodhisattva. Compassion gives bodhisattvas strength to help us through the sea of suffering; it is the foundation of the Mahayana spirit. Compassion germinates from the wisdom of selflessness, and is incredibly powerful and strong. If we can all just have a little bit of the "bodhisattva character," our world will be a much better place; conflicts will diminish and harmony will flourish!

II. The Bodhisattva Perspective-Prajna and Sunyata
In the section above, we discussed that compassion is the distinguishing characteristic of bodhisattvas. What I want to emphasize in this section is that in addition to compassion, bodhisattvas are also very accomplished in the area of prajna (wisdom). When compassion is integrated with prajna, it will not be applied blindly without distinguishing what is right from what is wrong. This is the compassion that bodhisattvas have for us sentient beings. Take for instance, if we share our generosity with one who is a compulsive gambler, we are doing him more harm than good. Thus, only when compassion is mixed with prajna will it help others to do good. We should not confuse compassion with the blind parental love that can spoil a child, or with trifling acts of permissiveness that can encourage ill behavior. Compassion is like our two legs that make us mobile, and prajna is like our two eyes that help us tell the true from the false. Thus, for us to embark on the path of bodhisattvas, compassion and prajna have to complement each other.
What, then, is prajna? Prajna is the wisdom that allows us to see through worldly differences, such as capable versus inept, physical versus mental, or self versus others. Prajna is the "non-discriminating mind," where the clinging to the discriminating notion of self and other objects is absent. In other words, prajna allows us to understand sunyata (emptiness), that self and the universe are mutually interdependent, and all sentient beings and self are one. From a worldly viewpoint, our world is full of differences such as tallness and shortness, poverty and wealth, filth and purity, or ignorance and intelligence. From the viewpoint of prajna, however, all these differences in phenomena do not exist in an absolute sense; they are nothing but the result of varying causes and conditions. All phenomena of the universe-be it physical or mental, be it self or others-do not exist on their own, but as a result of a combination of many factors. This is the Dharma-realm of oneness. In this state of mind, all differences are equal; truth and phenomena are integrated.
Bodhisattvas live in this realm of prajna. Thus, bodhisattvas do not look at sentient beings as apart from themselves. Sentient beings are their hearts and minds, and their hearts and minds are sentient beings. Our joys and sorrows are, in fact, their joys and sorrows. Our journeys in the wheel of rebirth are their journeys, too. When we get sick, bodhisattvas also become sick. When we act in a deluded way, bodhisattvas also feel our pain. Because of their "non-discriminating minds," bodhisattvas see sentient beings as themselves. They continually and tirelessly manifest in our world to help us become clear of our own delusions and cleansed of our own karma. In so doing, they reach the state of mind of "purifying the world with great compassion," in which everything becomes possible. With the great wisdom of the non-discriminating mind, bodhisattvas attain the ultimate bodhi (enlightenment) and masterfully lead sentient beings onto the path of enlightenment. With pure and great compassion, bodhisattvas work diligently and effectively to free sentient beings from their ignorance. Great wisdom is self-benefiting as it enables bodhisattvas to strive for the state of ultimate bodhi; great compassion benefits others as it motivates bodhisattvas to stay within the wheel of rebirth to help others cross the sea of suffering. To benefit oneself is to benefit others, and vice versa, to benefit others is to benefit oneself. Striving for enlightenment is the same as being willing to stay within the wheel of rebirth to help others, and vice versa, to stay within the wheel of rebirth to help others is the same as to strive for enlightenment. The eyes of prajna and the feet of compassion complement each other, and neither one can be lacking. Prajna and compassion are the [two sides of a coin]. There are two, yet there is one; there is one, yet there are two. [Prajna and compassion]-this is the core of the bodhisattva principle.
When bodhisattvas cultivate the prajna of emptiness, they give it their all, are deeply devoted, and will not hesitate to give up their lives as part of their cultivation. In the Tripitaka of the Southern Tradition, there is a record about one of the previous lives of the Buddha. This was during the time when Dipankara Buddha was alive in the world. Sakyamuni Buddha was then a Brahman by the name of Sumedha. He was very kind and eager to learn about the Dharma. He often paid his respects to the Triple Gem (i.e. the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha). One day, Sumedha learned that Dipankara Buddha was coming to preach in his village. He was delighted and was determined not to miss this opportunity of listening to the Dharma. He thought to himself: The road leading to this remote village is bumpy and treacherous. How can I let the feet of a holy person like Dipankara Buddha walk on such a filthy path? With this in mind, he took off his clothes and used them to cover the road that the Buddha had to use. He also prostrated on the ground and let his hair down for Dipankara Buddha and his many arhat disciples to walk upon. With indescribable joy, he welcomed Buddha Dipankara. When he lifted his head and saw the majestic and august look of Buddha Dipankara, his heart was full of admiration and he said, "In heaven above and on earth below, nothing can compare to the Buddha. Within the worlds of ten directions, there is also no comparison. I have seen all in this world, nothing is as great as the Buddha." At that moment, he vowed to help all sentient beings cross the sea of suffering, and that he may attain the same right effect (i.e. enlightenment) as Dipankara Buddha. It is because of his diligence and effort in learning the Dharma that Sumedha attained Buddhahood nine kalpas before that of Maitreya Bodhisattva. The Astasahasrika-prajnaparamita Sutra (Sutra of Eight Thousand Verses of Prajna) recorded the touching story of Always-Weeping Bodhisattva. The gist of the story is that Always-Weeping Bodhisattva was often saddened by how difficult it was to meet a virtuous and knowledgeable teacher. He often worried about not being able to listen to the Dharma and thus not being able to grow in prajna. This distress often brought tears to his eyes, which was why people referred to him as Always-Weeping Bodhisattva, or they called him Always-Mournful Bodhisattva. In earnest, he traveled far and wide to find the right teacher that could teach him what he did not know. Once, he learned that about five hundred yojanas to the east was a city called the City of Fragrance. There lived a cultivated and accomplished teacher, called Dharmauttara Bodhisattva. Delightfully, Always-Weeping Bodhisattva was determined to travel there to listen to the Dharma. He also decided to sell himself as a servant so that he could use the money to offer to Dharmauttara Bodhisattva. On the road, he kept asking passers-by if they were willing to pay for him as a servant. There were no takers, however, until a big burly man appeared. This burly man offered to buy one of his body parts or organs to be used as a sacrifice. Always-Weeping Bodhisattva, determined to seek the Dharma, did not hesitate to cut off one of his arms to sell to the burly man. This story soon reached the daughter of a rich local merchant, and she was touched. She then prepared five hundred carts of precious gems and followed Always-Weeping to the City of Fragrance. Afterwards, when Always-Weeping heard Dharmauttara Bodhisattva teaching "Suchness never goes and never comes; the nature of emptiness is, in fact, suchness," he instantly became enlightened. He entered into deep meditative concentration and traveled freely in the sea of prajna.
From the earnestness shown by Sumedha and Always-Weeping Bodhisattva in their search of the Dharma, we can see how precious prajna and the understanding of sunyata is. The Mahaprajna-paramita Sutra says, "Prajna paramita is the mother of all bodhisattvas and mahasattvas; it is the source of the Dharma." On the path to becoming a bodhisattva, the cultivation of prajna is of utmost importance. It can be compared to the nourishment of a mother's milk helping an infant grow. Likewise, it is with the rich nutrients of the Dharma that bodhisattvas gradually grow and mature in their spiritual development. As they cultivate the prajna of sunyata, they began to lose the dullness of delusion until they finally reached the pure original state of the mind of emptiness. In this state, they can truly taste the meaning of emptiness-without any notion of a self, any notion of others, any notion of living beings, and any notion of lifespan. Thus, when compassion is combined with prajna, our compassion will not cling to any notion of living beings or phenomena. This compassion, which is void of the notion of self and others, can be described as "Great compassion without any conditions, and great kindness as we all are one." This is why sutras often describe prajna paramita as the mother of the Buddhas of the past, present, and future.
In all Buddha lands, there live many bodhisattvas helping Buddhas deliver sentient beings. Some are known for their compassion, while others are known for their prajna. Among the many bodhisattvas, we are most familiar with those bodhisattvas who are often portrayed flanking Buddhas. In the saha world, Manjusri Bodhisattva and Samantabhadra Bodhisattva are known to assist Sakyamuni Buddha. In the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss, Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva and Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva accompany Amitabha Buddha to welcome sentient beings into the Pure Land. The Pure Land of Azure Radiance has Sunlight Bodhisattva and Moonlight Bodhisattva. Of these bodhisattvas, Manjusri, Mahasthamaprapta, and Sunlight are known for their prajna. They may be depicted as riding a fierce lion traveling and preaching the Dharma, or using the light of wisdom to pierce through the darkness of delusion, or holding the sun-wheel to shower us with light. Regardless of how they are portrayed, they all carry with them the sword of prajna, with which they sever all afflictions and delusions.
With great wisdom, bodhisattvas see through the emptiness of the five aggregates and thoroughly understand all phenomena as empty. As they gain insight into the truth, they live according to the truth and do not harbor any clinging or attachment. Out of compassion for sentient beings, they cannot bear to forsake us, [but vow to help us cross the sea of suffering]. In order to live up to their vows, they often manifest themselves in our world and travel within the three realms to try to reach us. Even though they know that all phenomena are empty, there is no such thing as a self that can be delivered, and there are no living beings to be delivered, they still wholeheartedly go about delivering all sentient beings. There is a Chinese poem that aptly captures this spirit.
Establish places to teach the Dharma
knowing they are only reflections of the moon on water.
Hold Dharma activities knowing they are nothing more than flowers in the sky.
Subdue the evil army knowing it exists only in the mirror.
Seek Buddahood knowing it is empty like a dream.
In summary, bodhisattvas use their great wisdom to practice their great compassion; they use their great kindness to complete their great wisdom. When both prajna and compassion are fully integrated and can be employed at will, then we have attained the ultimate bodhi. With this bodhi, we can be worldly yet transcendental, transcendental yet worldly.

III. The Bodhisattva Spirit-Perseverance and Diligence
In our modern society, speed is everything. In trying to achieve ever-increasing speed, we have airplanes, space shuttles, telegrams, pressure cookers, and instant noodles. As we strive to have greater speed in everything, we still have to admit that there is no short cut to building a person's character, and a tree cannot grow to its full height in one day. There is a saying which goes like this: "The nurturing of trees takes decades; the nurturing of humanity is measured in centuries." Certain things just cannot be hurried. If we want to be an expert in anything, we have to spend at least three to five years in that field. The path to being a bodhisattva is just the same-there is no short cut to it. It takes years, lives, and even kalpas of cultivation for one to become a bodhisattva. In the Olympics, the marathon race is the event that can best bring out one's perseverance and stamina. To put it simply, the bodhisattva path of delivering sentient beings and seeking Buddhahood is analogous to that of a marathon race. The sutras tell us that for bodhisattvas to become Buddhas, they have to cultivate for three great asamkhya kalpas and practice all kinds of Dharma methods. After this, they still have to go through a hundred kalpas until they have accumulated all kinds of bodhi seeds and attained the majestic look of thirty-two marks of excellence and eighty notable physical characteristics. In other words, the journey through the path of truth must be taken a step at a time. Bodhisattvas must be steadfast in their patience and endurance, working on their progression without any lapse. Only with the test of time can enlightenment be attained. Thus, the bodhisattva spirit is characterized by persev-erance, patience, endurance, and diligence.
How does the bodhisattvas' spirit of perseverance and diligence come about? It comes from the development of their bodhicitta. The Bodhisattva-bhumi Sutra says, "When all those who belong to the family of bodhisattvas pledge their bodhicitta and practice with right effort and diligence, they can promptly attain enlight-enment." Bodhicitta is the seed of Buddhahood; it is the rich soil in which we can cultivate the pure Dharma. Bodhicitta can wash away all afflictions and can eradicate the delusion of sentient beings. Bodhicitta is like a soft comfortable bed in which bodhisattvas can cradle the weary bodies of sentient beings. With bodhicitta, bodhisattvas are not intimidated by the long and arduous journey of Buddhahood; they can distance themselves from the three realms and dwell in the Dharma-sea of Truth. Bodhicitta is the dedication of bodhisattvas in not giving up on sentient beings as they frequent the sea of suffering to become willing vessels to ferry sentient beings across. This spirit of perseverance and diligence is the manifestation of bodhicitta. All in all, the development of bodhicitta also marks the beginning of all great vows. Bodhicitta is the foundation of all bodhi paths and the guiding light of compassion. Without bodhicitta, bodhisattvas will not be able to look beyond our transgressions and work for our betterment. The Avatamsaka Sutra says, "The cultivation of Dharma without bodhicitta is evil." Thus, if we want to cultivate the Mahayana bodhi path, we must first pledge our bodhicitta. [The arhat Sudhana found this out in a roundabout way.] After he traveled about learning from fifty-three virtuous teachers, he met Maitreya Bodhisattva who told him that he must first pledged his bodhicitta. Maitreya Bodhisattva also told him that once he pledged his bodhicitta, all Buddhas would guide him and show him the way of the Mahayana compassion, a path that even sravakas and pratyekabuddhas had yet to reach. From this advice that Maitreya Bodhisattva gave to Sudhana, we can see the significance of pledging our bodhicitta.
Given that bodhicitta is so important, what exactly is our bodhicitta? Simply put, our bodhicitta is our commitment to "seek the Buddha Way and deliver all beings." This is such an important subject that the Graduate School of Chinese Buddhism at Fo Guang Shan always includes the study of An Inspiration to Pledge Our Bodhicitta in its introductory session for new students. This piece was written by Master Sheng-An of the Ch'ing Dynasty, the Ninth Patriarch of the Lotus School of Buddhism. We can see that many people today shun work for comfort and moral values are on the wane. We hope this article and its theme of reminding us to be mindful of the ten causes and conditions can help us discover our bodhicitta. To be mindful of the ten causes and conditions is to be grateful to the Buddhas, grateful for our parents, grateful for our teachers and elders, grateful for our benefactors, grateful for all sentient beings, mindful of the suffering of life and death, respectful of our hearts and minds, remorseful of our transgressions, mindful to be reborn into the Pure Land, and hopeful that the Dharma will stay with us for a long time to come. In the sutras and sastras about bodhicitta, we are told that for us to be bodhisattvas, we have to discover our bodhicitta by contemplating all Buddhas, observing the sufferings of the physical body, being compassionate toward all sentient beings, and seeking the holy fruit [of enlightenment]. To contemplate all Buddhas is to emulate all Buddhas, to be a great person, to have great courage, to be willing to sacrifice our wealth and even our lives, and to seek enlightenment. To observe the suffering of the physical body is to understand that the four great elements and the five aggregates are illusive like dreams, illusions, bubbles, and shadows. To be compassionate toward sentient beings is to be compassionate toward the ignorance of sentient beings, who act in delusion without even realizing it, and thus to become determined to deliver all sentient beings. If we can do this, we have discovered our bodhicitta.
The greatness of bodhisattvas, their perseverance, and their diligence are not what most of us can live up to. Bodhisattvas, however, are not almighty and are not divine. Buddhas are not gods, and the same is true of bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas are individual beings like you and me; the difference is that they have discovered their bodhicitta and can persevere with diligence. The sutras speak of one incident when the Buddha was preaching to a group of people. Most of the people listening accepted and received the Dharma with great joy. There was one individual who was most distracted and could not pay attention to the pure and wondrous Dharma. The Buddha used his supernatural power and spoke most eloquently, most patiently, and most compassionately. Even then, this person stubbornly refused to accept the Dharma. The sutras, therefore, tell us that there are three things that the Buddha finds himself helpless in doing: nullifying karmic forces, delivering those without affinity and necessary conditions and delivering all sentient beings without remainder. Although Buddhas and bodhisattvas understand that they cannot deliver the countless number of sentient beings and cannot deliver those without affinity, [the enormity of their goal is matched by] their bodhicitta which is just as immense and boundless. Thus, they still strive incessantly to achieve the impossible and continue to toil tirelessly to finish an endless task. Their bodhicitta is like a running stream from the thawed snow pack of the Himalayas-always flowing. When the conditions are ripe, they will melt away our long frozen spirit.
In the Lotus Sutra, there is a bodhisattva called Never-Disparaging Bodhisattva who practiced patience and tolerance. With joined palms and utmost respect, he would greet everyone he met saying, "I dare not be disrespectful of you for you are a future Buddha." Now, some of these people practiced another religion and were not too happy to be so greeted. Not only did they not return the civility, they even cursed at him, threw stones at him, or waved a club at him. As Never-Disparaging Bodhisattva did not want to escalate the situation, he would back away respectfully while still muttering to himself, "I dare not be disrespectful of you for you are a future Buddha." From this, we can see that in the eyes of bodhisattvas, we are all future Buddhas who are presently blinded by our delusion, like a precious gem which has temporarily lost its luster after falling into the mud. Countless kalpas after countless kalpas, bodhisattvas pledge their bodhicitta and practice their great compassion. With unparalleled patience and never-ceasing respect, they wake us up to help us discover our own pure nature. Amitabha Buddha is a perfect example of this kind of spirit. In one his previous lives, he was Dharmakara Bodhisattva cultivating to become a Buddha. It was during this lifetime that he vowed the forty-eight great vows, the strength of which manifests the majestic Pure Land. Dharmakara Bodhisattva vowed that if there is just one being within his Pure Land that has not discovered his or her bodhicitta, he himself will not attain Buddhahood. Thus, the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss is [reserved] for bodhisattvas who practice continuously without regress and aim to achieve Buddhahood in one lifetime.
In conclusion, there is no short cut to the bodhisattva spirit. It starts with the initiation of one's bodhicitta and manifests in continual perseverance and never-ceasing diligence. The initiation of the bodhicitta marks one's trans-formation from the ordinary to the transcendental and is the first step on the path of Buddhahood.

IV. The Bodhisattva Practice-Methodical and Eternal
Buddhism has been both described as a philosophy and a religion. Why so? The Buddhist teachings are profound and have given us much insightful edification regarding various phenomena of life and the universe. It also differs from other religions in the sense that it allows room for one to have questions regarding the teachings. In these respects, Buddhism is very much like a philosophy. Although Buddhism is very logical, it does not stop with theoretical pursuits alone. It puts a heavy emphasis on practice; thus, it is also described as a religion. The Buddha himself is a perfect example of one who values the importance of practice. After he attained enlightenment, he gave us this important teaching: "Abstain from all evils and practice all goodness. The purification of the mind is what Buddhism is about." With this, he left explicit directions for us sentient beings to purify our minds through the practice of virtues and morals. When non-Buddhists posed him purely philosophical questions, the Buddha would remain silent and not answer them. The so-called "fourteen difficult questions" fit into this category. These purely philosophical questions are word games and do not pertain to the liberation from suffering or to our everyday lives. From these episodes, we can see that the Buddha places a lot of emphasis and significance on practice. Buddhism is a religion that highlights cultivation; it is also a philosophy that deals with life. Specifically, the Mahayana bodhisattva path is founded on putting the fundamental spirit of the Buddha into practice.
How, then, do we practice the Mahayana bodhisattva path? We should go about it methodically like a student going through the educational system. The "school of bodhisattvas" is not unlike the educational system that starts from kindergarten, to elementary school, to high school, to college, and onto graduate school. The Mahayana bodhisattva path can also be understood in terms of stages: the stage of sentient beings whose life is characterized by sufferings; the stage of arhats who are free from the wheel of rebirth; the stage of enlightened bodhisattvas who have severed afflictions and ill habits; and the stage of Buddhahood or ultimate enlightenment. Even the stage of bodhisattvas can be further subdivided into very many stages depending on the level of practice.
The Mahayana bodhisattva practice is characterized by the thirty-seven conditions (or practices) that guide us to Buddhahood. They are: the four subjects of contemplation; the four proper lines of exertion; the four steps toward supernatural power; the five spiritual faculties, their five powers; the seven degrees of enlightenment; and the Noble Eightfold Path. These conditions can cure all bad habits and strengthen our practice. They can severe delusions and help us live in accordance to the Dharma-body (i.e., the body of teachings). They are also nourishment for the journey on the bodhisattva path. These thirty-seven conditions originated from the beginning of Buddhism, always serving as critical elements of one's practice. In fact, even those bodhisattvas who have attained the ten merits continue to practice these conditions. In addition to these thirty-seven conditions, bodhisattvas also practice the four great all-embracing virtues: giving alms, speaking with affection, conducting oneself for the benefit of others, and adapting oneself to others to lead them to the truth. The giving of alms can be further classified into the giving of money and material goods, the giving of the Dharma, and the giving of fearlessness. Giving should be practiced with the threefold emptiness of giving. It means that when giving one should not have any idea of an "I" as the giver, nor of an individual who receives the gift, nor of things being given. When we give without the notion of "I" as the giver, we are letting go of the notion of self. When we give without the notion of a receiver, we are letting go of the notion of dualities. When we give without the notion of how much we are giving or the thought of recompense, we are letting go of the notion of phenomena. This is true giving. Speaking with affection is to speak with compassion and to let our warmth and concern for others come through. The Lotus Sutra praises Nagakanya, the daughter of the sea dragon king, with these words: "With compassion, she thinks of all sentient beings as her own children." Affectionate speech can be compared to the nice warm words of a loving mother. It can dissolve conflicts and turn tyranny into loving kindness. The meaning of affectionate speech is captured with the saying, "Wondrous fragrance flows from the mouth of one who speaks without hatred." To conduct oneself for the benefit of others is a very important virtue and means that we engage in activities that benefit all sentient beings, [that lead them to the truth]. In fact, the earlier two virtues of giving and speaking with affection are supporting activities of this one virtue. As long as our activities benefit sentient beings, it does not matter how grand or how insignificant our activities are. During the Warring Period of China, there was a famous general by the name of Liu-Bei who gave us this very insightful advice on his deathbed. He said, "Do not commit a wrong doing, however minor; do not miss doing a good deed, however small." The Buddha once helped his blind disciple, Aniruddha, to mend his clothes. From this, we can see that if we do not start with small acts of virtue, there is no way for us to achieve greatness. Even the Buddha-the fully enlightened one-did not pass up this small act of kindness of mending clothes for his disciple! If we should not pass up the opportunity of doing the smallest of good deeds, we definitely should not miss the opportunity to engage in activities that can benefit all sentient beings. Last, the virtue of adapting oneself to others to lead them to the truth means that we should put ourselves in others' shoes so that we can teach according to their perspectives. The thirty-two manifestations of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva is a perfect example of how to adapt the teachings to the person and circumstance. For those who are greedy, we teach them to contemplate the unwholesome aspects of the human body. For those who are full of anger, we teach them to contemplate compassion. When we talk with farmers, we converse about farming; with housewives, we talk about housework. This is no different from the Confucian teaching method of directing your teaching to the audience. All in all, practicing these four great all-embracing virtues of leading sentient beings to the truth is a very important cultivation for bodhisattvas.
In addition to what we discussed above, the six paramitas and the ten paramitas are also key elements to becoming a bodhisattva. The six paramitas are the six ways of leading sentient beings to the shore of nirvana. Within these six paramitas, the three paramitas of giving, observing the precepts, and exercising patience benefit others and are tools for the accumulation of merits and blessings. The other three paramitas of diligence, meditative concentration, and prajna benefit oneself and are nourishment for wisdom. Thus, the practice of the six paramitas brings us both blessings and wisdom. It is also a wondrous way to understand and to be in touch with the Dharma. Regarding the paramita of giving, we have already discussed the subject in the above paragraph. What we want to emphasize here is that when we give, we should not be concerned about recognition. When we truly give in this spirit, we can experience what Lao Tze had said many years ago, "The more you give, the more you have. The more of yourself you give to others, the more of yourself there is." What this means is that the more we give, the more we have, and that we will not be short of anything. Regarding the observation of precepts, it can help us arrest our inclination to do wrong and mollify the karma of our past wrongdoings. Regardless of which precept we are observing, the importance lies in the intention. If our exterior behavior is only a facade and a cover-up of our ill intentions inside, then we are not living in accordance to the precepts. On the other hand, if our intentions are good, then we are observing the precepts even if we have to bend the rules a little to suit the situation. When the Sixth Patriarch of the Ch'an School of Buddhism was in hiding in the woods, he lived among hunters and ate with them. Under this situation, he could only eat vegetables that had already been cooked with meat, but he was no less cultivated. Thus, when we observe the precepts, we have to observe them consistently in our minds and behaviors, continually at all times, and persistently under all circumstances. In observing the precepts, one may initially feel restricted and practice with trepidation. With the passing of time, the practice becomes instinctive and one feels at ease with the practice; this is observing the precepts in the highest form. Next, the paramita of patience and tolerance is a cure for hatred and a tool for resting the body and mind. When we are patient and tolerant, we can dissolve away conflicts. Many such examples can be found in the Agama Sutra. There was a very famous general in Chinese history by the name of Han Sin. He was known to be able to endure insults. Before he became famous, he was humiliated by a bully who made fun of him by making him crawl between his legs. Han Sin swallowed his pride and did accordingly. His tolerance was [not a sign of weakness] but a key factor in his becoming a famous general later on. In fact, one cannot underscore enough the strength that one can derive from patience and endurance. In addition to the three paramitas of giving, observing the precepts, and being patient and tolerant, bodhisattvas also work diligently. When they are steadfast in their practice and refuse to give up, they experience meditative concentration from which they will attain prajna. At this point, the reach of bodhi is within sight.
The ten paramitas is the six paramitas mentioned above together with adaptability, vows, force of purpose, and knowledge. Adaptability is a skill that bodhisattvas employ to teach sentient beings so that the teaching is suited to the occasion and hearer. Vows refer to the vows that bodhisattvas pledged when they first embarked on the path of Buddhahood. Examples include the ten great vows of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, the twelve great vows of Medicine Buddha, the twelve great vows of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, the eighteen great vows of Manjusri Bodhisattva, and the forty-eight great vows of Dharmakara Bodhisattva. Another example is the four universal vows of a Buddha or bodhisattva: "To save all living beings without limit; to put an end to all passions and delusions however numerous; to study and learn all methods and means without end; and to become perfect in the supreme Buddha-law." The pledging of vows is what gives bodhisattvas the force of purpose and knowledge to fulfill the Mahayana bodhisattva way.
Over the course of three great asamkhya kalpas, bodhisattvas practice the thirty-seven conditions leading to Buddhahood, the four great all-embracing virtues, the six paramitas, and the ten paramitas. With practice, bodhisattvas gradually transcend the ordinary and join the ranks of the enlightened. The bodhisattva path is a long road that cannot be finished instantaneously. To traverse this road, one must do it methodically, persistently, and consistently. Only then can one move from one stage to the next and experience the taste of eternal joy at each stage.
Today, we have covered a lot about what it means to be a bodhisattva. We have used concrete examples as well as abstract logic. We hope that we have made the subject matter understandable so that everyone here can be motivated to put it into practice. From the discussion we have today, we can see that to become a bodhisattva is not exactly insurmountable nor is it exactly easy. One point about which we can be certain, though: we all can become bodhisattvas! If we nurture our compassion, initiate our bodhicitta, practice the spirit of perseverance and selflessness, then we are bodhisattvas.
Last, I'd like to bless you all to receive the nurturing of the bodhisattvas' sweet dew of compassion and that we can all attain enlightenment without delay. We pray for the blessing of the Triple Gem so that we may be safe and happy.


On Emotions, Economics, and Ethics

This is the third and last part of the series regarding the relevance of Buddhism to daily living. I think this is a very important topic. There are many Buddhists, both within the monastics and among the laity, who look at Buddhism as something that is apart from everyday life. Though the time I have today will hardly do justice to this topic, I want to do my part to elucidate the relationship between Buddhism and all of us. Today, I'd like to focus on the three E's of living: emotions, economics, and ethics.

I. Healthy Emotions
Our emotions play a very important part in our everyday life. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that the Buddha's teachings disapprove of emotions. This is far from the truth. Buddhism does not encourage people to shed their emotions, but teaches us how to lead a healthy emotional life.
How do we ensure that our emotional states remain healthy? In this regard, the Buddha teaches us to use compassion to channel our emotions and to use wisdom to guide the unbridled forces of our emotions. While we often think of the Buddha as the fully enlightened one, we should not forget that he was also a most affectionate and loving human being.
We have many different kinds of emotions. The kinds of emotions that exist between a husband and a wife are different from those between a father and son, between siblings, or between friends. Emotion is the glue that binds relationships together, which in turn forms the basis of society. None of us can live in an emotional vacuum. Our ability to feel gives us a lot of pleasure as well as many headaches. As important as our emotional well being is, we need to know how to manage it; if not, countless problems will arise. I'd like to suggest the following three points on how to nurture our emotions.

A. Transform the desire to possess into the joy of giving
Our affection for those we love often depends on how they relate to us, and as such, our affection for others is often egocentric in nature. When we love someone, we feel we have a special claim on him or her. In Chinese literature, the desire to possess exclusively those we love is often compared to the intolerance of the human eye. Eyes are very sensitive and reject even the tiniest grain of sand. Likewise in love, we have the tendency to reject even the smallest encroachments on our relationships. This desire is almost instinctive; even a three-year-old toddler can be possessive of his or her mom. True love, however, is not about possession, but about giving. Relationships that are built on the desire to possess are doomed to failure, for sooner or later the urge to possess will degenerate into jealousy or become an insatiable demand for more and more of the other person.
Let me clarify what I mean with the following experience I had. Among the devotees of a particular temple was a lady whose husband was a very successful businessman. One day she found out, to her dismay, that her husband had a mistress. Feeling betrayed, she became angry and began to ignore her husband. She stopped talking to her husband, and whatever conversations they had inevitably ended up in a fight. Sensing her hostility, the husband became even more reluctant to spend time at home. The marriage seemed to be beyond salvation.
One day, she came to me and tearfully told me her situation. She wanted me to counsel her as to what she should do. I told her, "I know of a way to win his heart back, but I am not sure if you are willing to give it a try."
"I will do whatever you tell me to. Please."
I explained to her, "First of all, you have to pretend that nothing has happened. If you confront your husband directly, it will only drive him farther away from you. Second, when your husband comes home from work, I want you to really try to understand where he is coming from. When he realizes that he can also find warmth and love at home, he himself will come to the conclusion that there is no need for him to have an affair. Only love can win back love."
The wife did exactly as I instructed her. Before long, her husband did come around. As it turned out, she was also partly responsible for the problems in their marriage. She was once a demanding and nagging wife. Her overbearing personality gave her husband an excuse to look for "happiness" outside of home. After my conversation with her, her husband sensed a genuine change in her and once more felt loved in his own home. One day, he asked his wife, "What changed you? You seem like a different person." When she told him of our conversation, he was very thankful that her religion had played a role in saving their marriage, and he, too, began to visit the temple regularly.
This may be just one anecdote, and it may not be the panacea for all marital problems. It does, however, help to illustrate the fact that hatred cannot win love. Only when there is open willingness to give does love have a chance to flourish. When a rift develops between a couple, if just one party is willing to give a little extra, there is hope. If both parties refuse to give, even a small squabble may spiral out of control. In a relationship, the desire to control the other party will only serve to snuff out the life of a relationship. Giving is the best nutrient for relationships to grow. Relationships that are grounded in giving are also trusting and happy ones.

B. Love without being bound by love
Most people think that Buddhism teaches us to be empty of emotions when, in fact, it teaches us not to be trapped in the limitations of emotions. In many temples, we can see a two-line stanza, which goes like this:
Mind not tea in temples being bland;
Monastic relationships not as intense as those between laity.
What this stanza is saying is that while monastics view relationships much cooler than do people in the secular world, they are no less sincere.
During the Tang dynasty, there was a monk called Venerable Ts'ung-chien. He came from the city of Nan-yang and became a monk in his middle years, after he had married and had a son. For twenty years after joining the monastics, he did not visit his family even once. One day, while he was working in the temple garden, a young man came up to him and asked, "Reverend monk, please tell me where I can find Venerable Ts'ung-chien."
Ts'ung-chien was taken by surprise and asked the young man in return, "Why are you looking for him?"
The young man replied, "The venerable is my father. I have not seen him for twenty years; I just want to pay him a visit."
Pointing to a distant corner in the garden, Ts'ung-chien told the young man, "You can find your father over there," and hurried away. When the young man walked over to where Ts'ung-chien had pointed, he could not find his father. By the time he discovered that the venerable he had been speaking to was, in fact, his own father, Ts'ung-chien had already disappeared without a trace.
On the surface, it appeared that Ts'ung-chien was a cold and emotionless man. In reality, he did not acknowledge his own son because he was afraid that his love he had for his son would make him lose his resolve to practice the Dharma for the sake of all beings. He loved his son dearly, but not in an outward or conventional way.
The famous venerable Hung-yi was also married before he joined the Sangha. He, too, refused to meet with his wife when she came to visit. We cannot, because of this, call the venerable a heartless man. The venerable was most compassionate. He did not confine his love to his own family, but gave his love to all sentient beings. He gave himself to those who needed his help, and his teaching of the Dharma gave many people hope and direction. His contributions to the spreading of the Dharma were immense and definitely not the conduct of an unloving man.
[Different monastic orders have different rules regarding the relationships between the monastics and their respective families. In the Fo Guang Shan order, candidates who wish to join the order are required to first seek the permission of their parents. Even after joining the order, monastics continue to visit with their families. When the mother of Venerable Tzu Jung was sick and dying, it was Tzu Jung, one of eleven children, who took care of her mother in her final months. Thus, while monastics may not express their love for their families in conventional ways, they do not love their families any less.
When we love, we should avoid being limited to the narrow definition of love. In the secular world, we call someone who is dedicated to his or her work ambitious or hard working. In a similar way, monastics are people who are dedicated to their work. Great achievements are often associated with an enormous amount of personal sacrifice. Very often we hear of people who have reached certain heights in their profession attributing their success to a supporting spouse who encourages them to concentrate on their career. To put it in another way, they are allowed to concentrate on their work without being bogged down by the burdens of a possessive love. Along the same vein, the Buddha teaches us to love and yet remain free so that we may spread the emotional wealth we have for a few to all sentient beings.]

C. Ground love in oneness
For most of us, we focus our love on those we take a liking to. When we first meet someone, we usually size up whether we have an affinity for the person or not. With someone that we have a good rapport with, we can spend hours in conversation. With those whom we don't have much in common with, even a short conversation is often punctuated by moments of "awkward silence," and good intentions are often misread. While it is easy to be kind and friendly to those we like, the Buddha teaches us to "cultivate our kindness without conditions and ground our compassion in oneness." Compassion should know no discrimination, and we should be kind to friends and foes alike.
Some parents shower their children with attention and hope that their love will be reciprocated during their twilight years. Unfortunately, often after they have given their children their all, they find their children deserting them in their moments of need. When we concentrate our emotional wealth on a few, the potential for hurt is magnified. At the other end of the spectrum, some people have given academic scholarships to poor deserving students without thinking much about it, only to be pleasantly surprised to learn of the amount of indebtedness these students feel towards their donors. This is what is meant by the old Chinese saying, "Flowers cultivated with care do not bloom; willows planted without much thought give great shade." We should not limit our love only to our circle of family and friends; instead, we should extend our embrace to all. We should learn from Amitabha Buddha who is always there to answer everyone's pleas, without discrimination.
[During World War II, many Europeans risked their lives to provide safe haven for Jews they hardly knew. Oskar Shindler of the movie Shindler's List is one example that quickly comes to mind. At about the same time and on the other side of the world, John Rabe, a German in Nanking, also put his life in considerable danger to provide a sanctuary for the Chinese who lived in Nanking during those dark days when the Japanese army was indiscriminately killing the masses. Of his effort, he wrote that his actions had nothing to do with heroics, for the need was so obvious.
Both men's actions embody the bodhisattva spirit. Their love and kindness was not limited only to their families and friends. Their lives touched many they hardly knew. This is truly what we call compassion that is grounded in oneness.]

II. Prudent Economics
While emotions play a major role in our lives, economics is no less important. In American vernacular, there is a saying which playfully captures the powerful influence money has on people; it goes like this, "People mumble; money talks." Unfortunately for some of us, the temptation of money may cause us to compromise our moral integrity. Money problems have caused many rifts between once loving siblings. We often read about family feuds that develop due to conflicts regarding the divvying up of inheritances. How do we manage our finances prudently? I want to offer three areas for further thought.

A. Acquiring wealth
While most of us wish for a comfortable life, not all of us will come into riches. Due to the Law of Cause and Effect, only those who have planted the karmic seeds of wealth are blessed with wealth. According to the law of karma, the blessing of wealth is earned, not bestowed. Even if one were to be handed millions of dollars, one would not be able to enjoy the riches unless the karmic seeds of wealth had been sown. There is a Chinese folk tale which serves to illustrate this point. Once, there was a beggar who bought himself a lottery ticket. It turned out his ticket had the winning numbers. When he found out that his ticket was the winning ticket, he was happy beyond words. In those days, there was a waiting period of half a month before the prize could be claimed. Since he lived on the street and had nowhere to safeguard his ticket, he hid it in his "begging stick." During the next few days, he could not stop dreaming about what he would buy with the prize money. A car? A house? Expensive furniture? He wanted them all. One day, as he dreamt of how he would now be able to get married, settle down, and may even be able to take his family abroad to travel, he found he had walked all the way up to the pier. As he stood on the pier watching the waves at sea, he could hardly wait any longer to claim his prize money. He looked at his stick and was disgusted with what it symbolized. He took the stick, held it over his head, and used all his might to throw it out to the sea. As he watched the waves carrying the stick out to sea, he let out all his anger pent-up from being poor by screaming, "From now on, I am going to be a rich man. I won't need you anymore." Only when it was finally time to claim his prize did he remember he had hidden his ticket in the stick that he had thrown into the sea. The beggar went crazy. His dream of becoming a rich man was so close, yet so far.
How do we plant the karmic seeds of wealth? Let me tell you a story from the sutras. Katyayana, noted for his talents in debate and persuasion, was one of the disciples of the Buddha. One day, while he was out on his alms round, he saw a poor old lady. He went up to her and asked, "I am here for alms, can you please be so kind as to give me some food?"
The old lady knitted her brow and replied, "I don't even have enough to eat; what can I give you?"
"You said you were poor. Why don't you give me your poverty?"
The old lady could not believe her ears. She asked, "What? How can I give you my poverty? Who wants it?"
"Give it to me. I want it," Katyayana answered.
"How, then, do I give it to you?"
Katyayana explained, "You give alms. When you give alms, you are planting the karmic seeds of wealth."
We cannot simply wish for wealth. The Buddha teaches that if we wish for wealth, we should plant the karmic seeds of wealth by giving alms. Previously, we discussed how giving alms is not just about the giving of money or material goods. When we give our time, our love, or our compassion, we are also giving alms. Thus, we all have the ability and means to plant the karmic seeds of wealth.
In addition to planting the karmic seeds of wealth by giving alms, the Buddha also teaches us to pursue wealth in an ethical manner. The Agamas speaks of an incident which illustrates that wealth acquired unethically is as poisonous as a venomous snake. One day, when the Buddha and Ananda were out on their alms round, they came across a piece of gold on the road. Pointing to the gold piece, the Buddha said, "Ananda, look. There is a venomous snake over there." Looking in the direction of the gold, Ananda replied, "Yes, Lord Buddha, I see. That indeed is a snake." The Buddha nodded, and the two then continued on their alms round.
It so happened that a father and his son were working in a nearby field. When they overheard the Buddha's conversation with Ananda, they were curious and decided to see the snake for themselves. When they got to where the Buddha and Ananda were standing earlier, they were pleasantly surprised to see, not a snake, but a gold piece. The father was ecstatic and said to his son, "This is no snake. The Buddha must have been mistaken. This is a piece of gold." He then picked up the gold and took it home with him.
Now the piece of gold actually belonged to the king. A thief had broken into the treasury earlier and had dropped this gold piece on the road as he made his escape. When the king found the missing gold in the farmer's possession, he arrested the farmer assuming that he was the thief who had stolen it. It was then that the farmer finally understood that when wealth is not pursued in an ethical manner, it is like a poisonous snake.
In the Noble Eightfold Path, the Buddha teaches us about right livelihood. The Buddha teaches that we should earn our living in an ethical manner. We should not engage in businesses that involve gambling or the buying and selling of intoxicants, living beings, or guns. Additionally, we should not make our living by means of fortune-telling, palm-reading, or the reading of feng-shui. These activities are not consistent with the observation of the precepts and fly in the face of the teachings of conditioned arising.
The Venerable Yin-k'wang showed us through his actions the importance of acquiring wealth in an ethical manner. For many years, he lived in P'wu-t'wuo Shan. During the Japanese invasion, one of his disciples invited him to come to Hong Kong to spread the Dharma. This student was a very successful businessman and wanted to offer a country house to the venerable for use as his residence. Though the venerable felt that the cause and conditions were ripe for him to leave P'wu-t'wuo Shan, he was reluctant to accept his student's invitation because he found out that he had made his fortune selling liquor. He declined the offer and told his student, "If you really want me to accept your offer, you have to stop selling liquor. The sale of liquor does not constitute right livelihood and is not consistent with the teachings of the Noble Eightfold Path. Therefore, I will not accept your offer."
Thus, if we plant the karmic seeds of wealth by giving alms and if we pursue our wealth in an ethical manner, the road to riches is well within our reach.

B. Using Wealth
While Buddhism teaches us not to be attached to the material world, it does not condemn the material world. Some people believe that one must be poor to be considered a cultivated or spiritual person. This is not true at all. Wealth by itself does not have any ethical value. It is the immoral pursuit of wealth, as well as its ill use, that gives wealth its bad name. Money, if used properly, can be applied to the betterment of mankind. While it is true that money can be compared to a poisonous snake, it is equally true that it is a resource that we can use to spread the Dharma. If we want to continually encourage new generations to engage in the work of spreading the Dharma, we need to provide good education for the young. We need to set up schools. This takes money. We need to hire teachers; this also takes money. With adequate resources, we can even set up scholarships to provide educational opportunities for those who are unable to afford their education on their own. Only with continual education can we ensure that the Buddha's teachings continue to shine in future generations. Thus, whether money is a poison or a tool entirely depends on for how it is used.
[The Wall Street Journal once carried a story about a "modern day bodhisattva" who used his wealth not for his own enjoyment but for the education of the young. This was a story about a surgeon, Dr. Joe McKibben, who donated twelve million dollars to the College of the Ozarks, a college known for offering its 1,500 mostly low-income students a tuition free education in return for their labor. Some of you may think, "Well, surgeons make a lot of money. It is no skin off his back to make such a donation." What makes the story so touching is the personal sacrifices that Dr. McKibben had made throughout the years to amass his wealth. Though he was a surgeon and could live anywhere, he chose to live in a one-bedroom apartment in a modest neighborhood. He was a frugal man and would sometimes pick through the trash his neighbors threw out so that he might get some more use out of their discarded items. Taking his friend out to lunch meant going to a discount store and buying a two-for-one submarine sandwich. He would only drink water with his meals because he thought that ordering soft drinks was too wasteful. He was blessed with good fortune, and his investments yielded wonderful returns. The doctor was never married and when he died, he left the majority of his assets to helping deserving students. Dr. McKibben gave us an inspiring example of how to use wealth prudently.]
In the sutras, the Buddha gives us some guidelines on how to manage our monetary assets. Our income can be skillfully used in a handful of ways. First, to provide security for our parents; second, to provide a comfortable living to our spouse and children; third, to expand our earning potential; fourth, to provide for rainy days, and fifth, to give alms to help those in need. We can portion our wealth for these five purposes as follows: two-tenths, four-tenths, two-tenths, one tenth, and one tenth respectively. These are guidelines only. It is up to each of us to decide what is appropriate for our circumstances.

C. Measuring Wealth
There are many ways to measure wealth. Some people measure wealth by how many material possessions they have. I look at wealth differently. I remember how destitute I was when I first arrived in Taiwan, after fleeing China during the tumultuous years of World War II. All I had were the clogs on my feet and a few pieces of essential clothing. As I went from temple to temple looking for a permanent home, I was faced with rejection time and time again. During the war years, all the temples were hardly able to take care of their own residents, and they were most reluctant to accept a new monk into their ranks. There were days that I went without food. Finally, I arrived at a temple in the province of Hsinchu. The abbot of the temple, Venerable Miao-kuo, was compassionate and took me in. I was very grateful and was willing to pitch in in whatever ways I could. In addition to teaching, I was also responsible for fetching water from the well for all to use. Everyday, I had to fetch hundreds of pails of water, and I did it most willingly.
Even though I did not possess many things, I felt most fortunate and content. When I went to the market before the break of dawn to buy vegetables for the day, the stars in the sky kept me company. Flowers and trees were there for me to enjoy. Roads were there for me to travel. I also had the opportunity to meet people from different walks of life. Though I possessed nothing, I had all the wealth the universe could offer me.
If we measure wealth by how many material things we own, we will not feel content and satisfied. Desire is a bottomless pit. Regardless of how much we own, if we do not have inner peace, we will always desire more. [Desire is often a game of relative wants and not absolute needs. It wasn't that long ago when only the very rich could afford conveniences such as automobiles, books, and running water that we all now take for granted. If we were alive at the turn of the century, we would have thought that if we were to own a car, or if we were able to read whatever books we wanted, or if we could have had running water, we would not be in want of anything else. Now, when most of us are blessed with these modern day conveniences, we want more.] It is ironic that we look outside of ourselves in our pursuit of wealth when the greatest wealth of all-our buddha nature-is right within us.

III. Ethical Living
The last topic that I want to cover in this series is about ethical living. This is also the most important subject. I hope that in the journey of life, we all lead our lives ethically. What do I mean by ethical living? Let me try to explain with the following three points.

A. Practice the Buddha's teachings
Once we understand the Buddha's teachings, we need to put them into practice and experience them for ourselves. Understanding the teachings without practice renders them meaningless. The Buddha teaches us to be compassionate, but some Buddhists maintain their jealous and hateful ways. The Buddha teaches us to give alms, but some Buddhists still cannot practice giving with grace and joy in their hearts. The Buddha teaches us to practice right livelihood, but some Buddhists choose to ignore this teaching.
When the Buddha was alive, there was an elder by the name of Sudatta. He was a most generous man and took the Buddha's teachings to heart. He was often referred to as Anathapindada, which literally means one who gives to widows and orphans. He wanted to construct a monastery and invite the Buddha to preach in his hometown, but the land he had in mind was owned by Prince Jeta. He wanted to buy the land from the prince and even agreed to pave the land with gold in order to convince the prince of his determination to convert the land into a sanctuary for the spreading of the Dharma. This was the story behind the origin of the Jetavana Monastery, a place where the Buddha often stayed when preaching the Dharma up in the northern areas of ancient India. Sudatta offers a good example of one who practices what one believes in.
Sudatta wanted his whole family to live in accordance with the Buddha's teachings, but one of his daughters-in-law was an arrogant woman. She was beautiful, but conceited. Because of her beauty, she was quite haughty and was often disrespectful and condescending to her family and friends. Sudatta tried to show her the error of her ways on many occasions, but he met with little success. In frustration, he went to the Buddha for help. The Buddha then sat down with Sudatta's daughter-in-law and explained the Dharma to her. She was deeply moved by the Buddha's teachings and decided to change her ways. She vowed to observe the precepts and to live in accordance with the Dharma.
Vimalakirti is another excellent example of one who lives and practices the teachings. He led a householder's life, but maintained pure living. He was very wealthy, but he was not attached to material riches. Vimalakirti is someone that we all should strive to emulate.
We do not have to look far for more of these examples. Take the original owners of this vihara in which we are gathered today. This premise belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Tsao Yung-te. They could have very well used this property for their own enjoyment, but they offered us this place so that we all may have an opportunity to hear the Dharma. Earlier in the day, they were here busily moving furniture and setting the place up. This is their way of putting the Dharma into practice, and each one of us has to find our own individual way of incorporating the Dharma into our everyday lives.

B. Put others ahead of oneself
According to the Mahayana teachings, the bodhisattva spirit teaches us to put others ahead of oneself. The bodhisattva motto is one of "wishing all sentient beings to be free of suffering and not seeking enjoyment for oneself." When Amitabha Buddha was still a bodhisattva cultivating towards buddhahood, he made his forty-eight great vows so that we may all be reborn into the World of Ultimate Bliss. Similarly, the compassion of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva is summed up by his famous words, "As long as there is any being in hell, I vow not to become a buddha." The altruistic spirit of putting the welfare of others ahead of oneself is plainly there for us to see.
In life, there are four categories of activities. First, activities that benefit others but not ourselves; second, activities that benefit ourselves but not others; third, activities that benefit neither others nor ourselves; fourth, activities that benefit others as well as ourselves. The first kind of activity that benefits others but not ourselves is most altruistic, and most people chose to avoid it. In the Jataka Tales, we read of various incidents of how the Buddha, in his previous lives, put others ahead of himself. Once, in trying to save the life of a pigeon, he cut a piece of his flesh to feed a hungry hawk. In another lifetime, he offered himself as food to a starving mother tigress so that she might have the strength to nurse her newborn cubs. The second kind of activity that benefits ourselves but not others is most prevalent, for we are so accustomed to thinking of our own welfare. How many times have we cut in line because we are in a hurry? Many of us dispose of toxic chemicals by just pouring them into a storm drain, killing all kinds of fish in the sea. Even simple acts like making a lot of noise and disturbing the peace are also reflections on our subconscious tendency to think of ourselves over others. The third kind of activity that benefits neither others nor ourselves is the most foolish, but many of us do this all the time without even being aware of it. The smoking of cigarettes harms our health and in the long run only benefits the cigarette companies. While the fourth kind of activity that benefits others as well as ourselves seems an obvious choice of action, many of us still choose to act otherwise. Let me share with you two stories of how we can benefit others as well as ourselves.
Once there was a very poor man who had nothing but a penny. He took his penny to the store trying to buy a piece of bread for his aging mother at home. But when he arrived at the store, the storekeeper took one look at the penny and refused to sell him anything, for his penny was actually counterfeit. The poor man was heart-broken and at a loss for what to do. Just then, a soldier passed by and asked what was troubling him. When the soldier found out what happened, compassion arose in him, and he gave the poor man a real penny in exchange for the counterfeit one. He put the fake coin in his pocket and continued on his way to report to duty.
Later, while serving on the front lines, he was hit by a bullet. Stunned by the impact, the soldier fell to the ground, but soon realized that, miraculously, he had not been hurt. As he felt over his body to make sure he was not dreaming, he pulled out the counterfeit coin from his pocket. The coin, with a huge indentation in the middle, had taken the bullet for him and saved his life. His compassionate act of saving the poor man also saved himself. [Because of our short-sightedness, when we do not see immediate benefits for ourselves, we often choose not to do the right thing. In this way we short-change ourselves without even realizing it.]
There once was a virtuous Indian king named Sarvada, He was most compassionate and always ready to help those in need. His reputation for kindness spread far and wide. In the neighboring country was a family of Brahmans. The father of the family had just passed away, leaving behind the mother, a daughter, and a young boy. Without the father, the family fell on hard times, and the mother decided to send her son to King Sarvada to seek his help.
At that time, King Sarvada's country was under attack by the greedy, tyrannical ruler of a nearby kingdom. While the king's imperial court was all worried about the impending attack, the king was amazingly calm and went about his day as if nothing was going on. The next day, the tyrant's army arrived outside the city gates and proceeded to march right into the city, without any opposition. It turned out that King Sarvada had decided to give up his kingdom so that the lives of his people would not be lost in bloodshed. Earlier in the night, the king had slipped outside his palace and left behind his imperial seal for the tyrant with words pleading the tyrant to spare the lives of his people.
The tyrant was also a suspicious man. He feared that the king might some day return to take revenge. In order to secure his place as the new king, he let it be known that there would be a huge reward for anyone who could bring him the head of the now exiled king.
The exiled king traveled all night securing a safe distance between himself and the tyrant now sitting on the throne. While fleeing, the king ran into the young Brahman boy who had lost his father, and the two exchanged stories. The king took pity on the young boy and promised to help him in whatever way he could. The boy looked the king over and wondered how the king, who had nothing with him, could really help him. The king guessed the boy's thoughts and told him, "The tyrant may have my kingdom, but still I may be able to help you. He has promised a huge reward to anyone who brings him my head. So, if you kill me now, you can go and collect the reward." The young boy had no intention of killing the king, so the king told the boy to tie him up and take him back to the tyrant. The young boy thought this was a good compromise and did as the king suggested.
When the boy brought the king back to the city, the people were all saddened to see Sarvada all tied up. News of the return of the king soon reached the tyrant, who ordered Sarvada to be brought before him. When the imperial court saw the state of Sarvada, they were overcome with grief. Their cries were so full of sadness that even the tyrant was moved to ask, "What are you all crying about?"
"Your Majesty, we ask for your forgiveness. We cry because we are so moved by the generous heart before us. First, he gave up his kingdom to spare the lives of his people. Now, he came back to give up his life so that he may help this young boy. He was once a king, but he did not mind being treated like a criminal. We are all moved by his kindness and benevolence."
When the tyrant heard this, he began to see why his people loved Sarvada so much. He went up to Sarvada, untied him, and handed him back his imperial seal. He told Sarvada, "I have your land, but it is obvious that I can never have the hearts of your people. I may as well return your land back to you."
In this way, the king got his kingdom back. In helping his people and the young boy, the king also helped himself. While we may not be able to reach the high standard of acting for the benefit of others without benefiting ourselves, we should at least move our sights a bit further and put others ahead of ourselves. In this way, we will end up helping others as well as ourselves.

C. Follow through our intentions
While it may be hard enough to be clear of what our goals should be, it is many times harder to have the stamina to complete what we set out to do. Once, a monk, who had achieved arhatship, was traveling with his student. Carrying the bags on his shoulder and respectfully walking behind his teacher, the student suddenly thought of how he would like one day to teach the Dharma to all sentient beings. The monk read his student's thoughts and was embarrassed that he himself never had such a grand desire to help all sentient beings. Thereupon, he asked the student to hand him the bags and he himself walked behind the student. The student just scratched his head and did what he was told. While walking in front of his teacher, the student had another thought, "Sentient beings are not easy to change, and the work of teaching the Dharma is arduous. I should just work on my own enlightenment." When the monk read the student's mind once again, he told his student, "Take my bags and walk behind me." The student had no idea what this was all about, but did what he was told anyway. From this story, we see that while good intentions are to be applauded, they alone are not enough. We need to follow through with our intentions.
Sariputra, one of the ten noted disciples of the Buddha, gives us an example of carrying through one's intentions. In one of his previous lifetimes, he was dedicated to practicing the bodhisattva path and the precept of giving. He vowed that not only would he willingly give his property and possessions to others, he would also not hesitate to give his body and life to those who were in need. The enormity of the vow shook the heavens and the earth, and a celestial being decided to test his conviction.
The celestial being transformed himself into a young man and placed himself on the path that Sariputra would pass along. When he saw Sariputra coming in the distance, he began crying loudly. Sariputra went up to comfort the young man and asked, "Young man, why are you crying?"
"Don't ask; there is nothing you can do to help. My mother came down with a deadly illness, and to cure her of her disease, I would need one of the eyes of a monk. There is no way I can find a living eyeball, let alone that of a monk. I am afraid my mother will die."
Sariputra thought to himself, "I have two eyes. Even if I give him one, I would still be able to see." So, he said to the young man, "Don't despair. I am a monk and I am most willing to give you one of my eyes. I have vowed to practice the bodhisattva path and give alms. In a way, you are helping me to actualize my vow. Please take one of my eyes."
The young man refused to remove the eyeball himself and told Sariputra that if he was truly sincere about his offer, he should pull the eyeball out himself. Sariputra thought that was reasonable, so he gritted his teeth and pulled his left eyeball out. The young man took the eyeball and yelled, "Who told you to pull the left eyeball out? The medicine calls for an eyeball from the right eye." At this time, Sariputra could only blame himself for not asking the right questions. Since he had vowed to practice giving alms, even the giving of his body, he decided to fulfill the young man's request. With determination, he took a deep breath, pulled out his right eyeball, and handed it to the young man. The young man took the right eyeball, gave it a sniff, and tossed it to the ground. He cursed, "What kind of monk are you? The eyeball smells so putrid; how can I use it for my mother's medicine!" The young man even put his foot on the eyeball and crushed it.
Sariputra might have been blind, but he could clearly hear what was happening. He let out a sigh and thought to himself, "The delusions of sentient beings are indeed hard to remove, and the bodhisattva path is not easy to travel. Maybe I should first work on my own enlightenment." At that moment, many celestial beings appeared in the sky and said to Sariputra, "Monk, please do not despair. The young man you talked to just now was here to test your resolve. You should not give up your practice of the bodhisattva path and alms giving so readily." When Sariputra heard this, he was embarrassed that he had doubted and once again affirmed his resolve. Eventually, after sixty kalpas, he became one of the ten noted disciples of the Buddha and attained enlightenment.
The path to buddhahood is a long one. During the journey, we are bound to face obstacles, and it behooves us not to give up easily. If we do, it is just like sowing seeds without bothering to give them water and fertilizer. Without nurture and the test of time, the chance of a plant blooming and bearing fruit is minimal at best. Thus, if we are to complete the goal we set out to do, we should be willing to do the "impossible" task and walk the "impossible" walk. We have to keep in mind that understanding and practice are equally important. If we continually put the Buddha's teachings into practice, one day we will discover that the Dharma and we are one.
I have to thank you all for coming here these three days to listen to this series of talks on the relevance of Buddhism to everyday living. First, we talked about how our perspectives will change When We See Clearly, then we discussed how we can practice the Dharma by Living the Dharma, and today we touched On Emotions, Economics, and Ethics-the three most basic issues of life. I hope you all can find some personal application from the few discussions we have had. My hope is you all can blend Buddhism into living and mix the art of living into Buddhism. I wish you all good health and Dharma joy.