Buddhadharma And Life Achievement


  • Buddhadharma and Life Achievement

             Hello, everyone! Buddhadharma and life achievement is a big topic. Typically, people’s first impression of Buddhadharma is that it avoids life achievement, fame, and fortune. What impresses us most is the idea of de-emphasizing or avoiding the earthly trappings of money, sex, fame, and fortune. So, this topic brings me a deep sense of pressure that compels me to contemplate.  I’ve pondered about this topic over the past two days. What kind of achievement can Buddhadharma bring us?

     

    Ordinary Life Achievement

                Throughout the history of India and China, and the history of Buddhism, many great Buddhist practitioners achieved enlightenment: freedom from suffering and the attainment of happiness. However, success in the mundane world is rarely mentioned. Very rarely. This makes me think about it further. We need to redefine life achievement. I once had a chat with an old lady. I asked her, “You’re now over 70. Are you satisfied with your life?”

               She said, “I’m very satisfied with my life.”

               I asked, “Would you please be more specific?”

               She said, “I gave all my love to my kids. When I saw them growing up in a healthy manner, all full of love and compassion, I felt that my efforts were not wasted. Now my children are grown. The older ones have their own careers and are quite successful. The younger ones are in college. They all have good characters and ethics. And I am still healthy.”

             So, she felt that her life was worthwhile. “I brought up a few good children. I have a sense of achievement.” When she said so, she felt very happy. To the general audience, this type of life achievement is nothing unusual. When I look at this world — delight, anger, sorrow, and happiness, the ups and downs of life, the troubles and challenges, disease and poverty, they all impact and assault one’s life. Many people fall ill before getting old; some are even in despair. When I think about this, I remember how great my parents were.

    When they faced a challenge that even I sometimes found tough, despite their lack of decent education, poor economic conditions, and poor living environment, they dealt with it better than I would have. They were stronger, firmer, more compassionate than me. Despite being ordinary, simple people, they showed their greatness in the midst of their impoverished lives. Their lives were extraordinary. You can find parents like mine everywhere in the world. From a typical point of view, this is nothing remarkable. It doesn’t seem worthwhile to write a book or make a movie to promote their greatness and compassion because many parents are like this. Many lives are like this. But can this be considered achievement and fulfilment in life? I think so. This is great achievement in life. Today, friends of all ages who are watching online all over the world, please think about this topic as well. Typically, many young people worry about their future. Some do well at school; they have good grades. Others don’t do so well; they worry even more about their future.

    Think about my parents, whose overall quality of life was not great. Even they could have led a good life. Of course, their life wasn’t easy. All friends who have the opportunity to listen to me may be much luckier. You needn’t worry about your future. To many, young people in particular, a life like this is nothing special. People think, my parents were like this and so were my grandparents. Not a big deal. But I think it is very remarkable. My parent’s lives were great. Truly wonderful. It was in this ordinary life that selflessness, fearlessness, strength, and even greatness were manifested. I divide life achievement into three categories: ordinary, heroic, and enlightened. This is my own opinion. The kind of life my parents had happens everywhere in the world. Most parents are similar. This kind of life is great, but it is within reach of any ordinary person.

     

    Heroic and Creative Life Achievement

    Working hard and persevering, one can achieve such a life without great career achievement. I’d like to call the lives of ordinary people, such as my parents, ordinary life achievement. This is the first category. Of the three categories, we’ve all known the first. The second category is called heroic life achievement. It can also be named “creative life achievement”. The two terms together will be “heroic and creative life achievement”. Who do you think falls into this category? The pioneers and creators. I’m not familiar with the histories of foreign countries, but the great emperors in Chinese history fall into the second category, such as Qin Shi-Huang, Liu Bang, and Li Shi-Min, all of whom founded dynasties. The definition of a hero is not fixed. We have historical pioneers, dream achievers, great emperors, and great scientists.

    In Chinese history, inventions included the seismograph, which was quite accurate in predicting earthquakes, and the astroscope, which is also called the armillary sphere. The armillary sphere is used for astronomical observation. It tells farmers when to sow and harvest and guides us through the seasons. In terms of medical treatment, it tells people what medicine should be used in each season; it also tells people which acupoints should be targeted at different times of the day and in different seasons. The inventors’ wisdom has benefited countless people. One of the greatest and most well-known emperors in Chinese history, Qin Shi-Huang (259BC-210BC), conquered dozens of kingdoms and unified China, driven by a single thought. It is true that he used military power, but no peaceful solutions were possible. He stopped the small kingdoms from constantly fighting with each other; he standardized Chinese culture, including the writing system, astronomical time, medicine, and the system of measurement.

    I think emperors in Chinese history, scientists, scholars, artists, and all types of pioneers are heroic figures. Of course, there are heroes in modern history. There are heroes in every era; the times make the man. For example, Abraham Lincoln was a great pioneer. During his time, slavery was rampant and slaves were badly treated. Lincoln advocated that all people are created equal, which Buddhism advocates, too: All people are equal, every life should be respected, loved, and protected. At that time, American society and laws deemed black people inferior to white. Lincoln put forth the notion that people are equal, and that everyone has the right to vote. The vote a black person casts carries the same weight as a white person’s vote. Lincoln was a pioneer who changed American history; his achievement was outstanding.

     

    An Enlightened Life Achievement

    Now let me roughly define the third category of life achievement. I believe the definition is beyond most people because it was me who came up with it. Those in the third category are enlightened people who have transcended worldliness and have gained holiness. They lead all sentient beings to walk a path of illumination. They extend their love to a country, or even the whole world, thinking of and acting for all sentient beings. They are the enlightened ones. Buddha Sakyamuni and Jesus Christ are such people. For now, let’s not discuss what gods or spirits they stand for. The lives of both Sakyamuni and Jesus were destined to be sacred. This is because they think of and act for all sentient beings. They are very well known. In fact, there are such people in every era. There may be one in a million or one in ten million. They are rare. From the perspective of Buddhist philosophy, almost everyone can reach an enlightened state of life.

    Enlightenment can transform an ordinary person, a person who lacks skills and confidence, into someone extraordinary and famous. Such a person may change or create the world and shoulder sufferings and stress for others. The world is abundant with such Buddhists. That is the true essence of the Buddha’s teachings. The Buddha says, “If I can attain Buddhahood, all sentient beings can. If I can gain enlightenment and be free from suffering, so can all sentient beings if they follow and practice Buddhadharma diligently and sincerely.” In the Buddhist community, I’ve noticed that some practitioners used to live in misery and had no confidence or ability to deal with afflictions in life. However, after learning Buddhadharma for a few years, they were totally transformed. It is like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, a chicken transforming into a phoenix, or a goldfish turning into a dragon. Their genes seem to have undergone a dramatic change.

    That is, they became extremely intelligent. I know quite a few such people. For example, when I was a little kid, I knew a boy aged 16 or 17 who had a severe stammer and was very shy. His behavior was somewhat autistic. When he spoke to a person, be it a male or a female, he flushed. He hardly had a social life, so he stayed at home most of the time. Fortunately, he had a nice master. When I saw him a few years later, he was teaching Buddhadharma in front of several hundred followers. He was eloquent, calm, natural, and elegant. He was amazing. Buddhadharma is practical in its approach to transforming people. The Buddha does not say that he is a deity and ordinary people will forever remain human. Instead, he advocates that if he can attain enlightenment, so can ordinary people. If you act according to his teachings, you will be able to change yourself.

    People who have reached enlightenment fall into the third category, which is the hardest to enter among the three. Not everyone is able to reach it within a short span of time. Some may think the enlightenment concept isn’t special. That’s okay. You can just take it as a joke. But today you, out of countless sentient beings, have the opportunity to listen to my talk; that’s truly karmic connection. Don’t worry. It is not the same as typical relationship connections. Karmic connections are hard to put into words. To explain it using cause and effect: Your ancestors, your parents, must have done some good deeds, must have saved or helped people. Then you have the opportunity to learn the philosophical concept of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, which is your fortune and blessing. Since you have heard my teaching, in no time, you, a caterpillar, may turn into a beautiful butterfly. This is the third category. Then, what is the difference between ordinary, heroic, and enlightened life achievement?

     

    Difference Between These Life Achievements

     We can think about it in this way: As noted in the scientific record, a fast horse can cover a distance of 500 km in a day and another 400 km at night. An ordinary horse would be exhausted after traveling 40 km, right? Its heart would pound, and it would feel sore all over. However, the fast horse is good at running. It is fine to run 500 km in a day, and after a good dinner, another 400 km at night. That is, it can run 900 km in 24 hours. It is amazing. It can even pass a slow flying plane. It is phenomenal. Are there fundamental differences between the two types of horses? If we administer a physiological test, we will  find the faster one has stronger bones. It is stronger physically and mentally; it has better endurance, a bigger heart, more tolerance, and more perseverance. Anything else? Please remind me of more differences. The fast horse may have longer legs. The slow horse with short legs would have to run harder. Even so, it can cover only a short distance in a day, and is dead tired afterward. That is, the overall quality of the fast horse is much higher than that of the ordinary one. In human terms, this would be a difference in capability and power. Is that right? (Yes.)

    There is a difference in capability. A heroic person differs from an ordinary person in patience, physical strength, intelligence, endurance, flexibility, cooperative spirit, thinking power, and other qualities that I fail to name at the moment. The bigger the difference, the bigger the gap in life achievement. The more developed the aforementioned qualities, the higher one’s life achievement. Once, a person bought a lottery ticket. Being short of money, he only spent two dollars. But, all of a sudden, he won a million and became a millionaire. Before he won the lottery, he had to borrow money to make ends meet. Then he hit the jackpot. His luck caused it to happen. But what are the usual consequences of winning a lottery? I did some research and found out that one-third of winners experience tragedies such as heart attacks, sudden death, nervous breakdowns, and strokes. Why does this happen? Lack of capacity. Too much blood flow in the vessel. The amount of blood is beyond the capacity of the vessel.

    After winning, you would be overexcited for days, if not longer. As a result, severe high blood pressure can develop, which leads to a stroke. There is another consequence, which is related to mental capacity. Blood vessels are physiological, but mental capacity is important, too. Wow, all of a sudden you have a lot of money. “How should I spend it? I want to spend it all!” Thoughts have tremendous impact on our mental health. All of a sudden, someone wins a lottery. A pauper becomes rich; a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. It, however, fails to adapt to the new life and becomes a mentally ill butterfly. For sure, it flies blindly; it mistakes a bee for a friend and is severely stung. So, if you want to have life achievement, you must be strong in all the qualities. Otherwise, a good circumstance may lead you to misfortune. If we examine people of different states of mind, we will notice they vary in capacity.

     

    How Are These Qualities Acquired?

    Of course, some qualities are innate. But, more importantly, you can acquire these qualities. You can create a new self by learning and trying hard. If you can combine the innate and acquired qualities, that would be even better. According to my experience, and what the Buddha teaches, I think everyone can uplift themselves from an ordinary life to a heroic life or at least a noble life, in which they can realize greater accomplishments. The Buddha summarizes causality in a few words. He also mentions that one will definitely change. Please remember that. Those who know his words, please say them with me. “To know the causes in the past lives, look at what you experience now. To know the consequences in future lives, look at what you do now.” If you think these are just Buddhist idioms, you are wrong. You give name tags to terms and philosophical concepts. It is wrong to judge based on your definition. It is actually a philosophical and ethical theory; it has hierarchies. It is truth of gradual progress.

    A cause must lead to an effect. Is your fate predestined? Part of it is, but it can be altered. Examples of predestination include if you were born human, you will not become a dog, or if you were born a boy, you will not become a girl. Now, let’s get back to my key topic: postnatal acquisition. We can do nothing about what we’re born with. My young friends, you were born with how you look, which cannot be altered. However, we can change our capabilities; that is, we can acquire more knowledge, and knowledge of good, in particular. Listening to me, being a person not very young, you may feel this is an ancient concept. Knowledge of Good benefits oneself, one’s family, and the general public. What is knowledge of bad? It includes things such as theft, murder, robbery, arson, fraud, war, and harming people in any way. Such things are all bad. Again, the knowledge that benefits oneself, one’s family, and the general public is called Knowledge of Good.

    You should acquire more knowledge of Good. Lest we didn’t understand, the wise Buddha tells us specifically that we should acquire as much Knowledge of Good as possible. How do we gain such knowledge? We should draw close to a source. For example, if you know an old gentleman who is kind-hearted, knowledgeable, and skillful, you should often go to visit him, help him with his chores, and ask him for advice. You must be respectful to him and give him gifts. Giving gifts shows your respect. This kind and wise person will see that you’re a good young person and will impart his beneficial knowledge. According to the law of cause and effect, one’s fate can be altered. Start to learn.

    Of course, your intention precedes your action. While you’re listening to me, you’ve made a decision. Okay, from tomorrow on, I will study, and I will not get up late. If you act as planned, your success is partially achieved. Please remember that once you start to do what you desire, your success is already half achieved, and you will succeed, for sure. In addition, don’t feel bothered, tired, or repulsed when facing fatigue, troubles, and pain on your path. For example, if you want to live in a very pretty, tall building, you need to carry bricks, transport sand, mix the sand, gravel and cement, and carry pillars in order to build it. It is very tiring. But don’t think of it as tiring and annoying. Instead, face the process happily as it is a rare opportunity in life.

    When you do something, even  when it seems very annoying, you should treat it as a special experience and do it joyfully. The thing that you think is unpleasant or annoying today may help you realize great achievement in the future. After a few years, or a decade, you may see your past affliction is actually a source of joy. It has brought you good luck. Without the past affliction, you wouldn’t have today’s achievement. Face everything in your life with gratitude and respect, as you do when facing God or Buddha. Don’t be bothered by things in your life. You may feel this state of mind is too high and too hard to reach. It is good enough to hear it for now. No matter how much or how little you understand, you begin to be aware of a new state of mind. This awareness will help you, my young friends — you will naturally use it to deal with your problems. This is very good.

    So, once we are aware, we will begin to change. Let me say it again. Don’t be troubled by troubles. When we experience things that bother us, we must be alert. Use a peaceful mind and a grateful mind to face afflictions, then you can solve problems with ease. Most afflictions are actually non-existent. They are created by a lack of tolerance and composure. They are from your mind. I believe many people’s afflictions come into being in this way. Many other afflictions are created because we blindly blame the other party, instead of attentively listening to their good intentions. We just blindly project our troubled mind onto a person we probably don’t like, which only makes us more and more afflicted. In addition, the afflicted heart makes interpersonal relationships worse. People should completely open up to each other, hand in hand, but people’s hearts are partitioned; their hands are protected by layers of gloves.

    As a result, people become more and more alienated; more tension arises. Actually, such tension arises for no real reason. Like many stocks, the afflictions and alienation are bubbles, but are not seen through as easily. One’s afflictions and the alienation between people are created in the mind. Your afflictions are caused by your lack of compassion and tolerance; or because you don’t listen attentively. Thus, afflictions and misunderstandings occur. So, we need to be broadminded and have more endurance. We should start with small steps to cultivate endurance, keep jogging, or doing some other physical exercise, or engaging in another healthy activity.

    If you don’t, your endurance may not be good. So, to change yourself, one step is to form this good habit: Be responsible for what you do and what you think. Keep your promise. No officials, parents, or even Buddhas can monitor you every day. Keep your promise; accumulate credit for yourself. Once you promise something, you must do it. If you promise to meditate from 10pm to 2am tonight, make sure you don’t go to bed until you see it through. If you fail and say, “Okay, I will do it tomorrow,” you will never be able to do it. Your master or a teacher asks you to jog for 20 minutes today, but you only jog for 10 minutes; the day after tomorrow, 8 minutes; a week later, you stop jogging. Your jogging plan dies prematurely. I don’t think you have perseverance.

    You’ve formed a habit of irresponsibility. You are not responsible for yourself because you’ve never formed the habit. Do you have credit? No, you don’t. A person with no credit may have made 10,000 promises in their lifetime, but hasn’t achieved a single one. Such a life is definitely not of high achievement. You probably have a very ordinary life or even a miserable life. But this can be altered. You reap what you sow, which is a philosophical concept. Generally speaking, a heroic life is also an enlightened life. Why do I add “enlightened”? Because the heroic one of great achievement understands the Way and has credit and perseverance.

    One must stick to many positive habits and actions. When one acquires knowledge, studies philosophical concepts, and learns specific methods of obtaining various skills, he must have both perseverance and insight. One who understands the Way is creative and lives a wonderful life. Everyone can paint, but one who understands the Way can turn an ordinary scene into a vivid, joyful, and wonderful picture. To understand the Way is to persevere. Many Chinese people like noodles. Do you know how the best noodles are made? By repeatedly rolling and kneading the wheat flour dough. For now, let’s put aside the vegetables, seasonings, and sauce. To make the most delicious noodles, the dough must be repeatedly rolled and kneaded. You roll the dough with best wishes and joy. You wish happiness for those who will eat your noodles. Your wishes plus strength, skills, and timing make the noodles delicious.

     

    With Perseverance and Joy, Keep Practicing

    So, when we cultivate a good deed, we must do it repeatedly. Only in this way can we savor the beauty that ordinary people can’t. So, it is important to persevere. Perseverance alone though is not enough. If you have perseverance only, you don’t become one with what you do. Thus, you don’t have the wonderful feeling of ease. So, in addition to perseverance, you also need to do things with joy, become one with the things you do. Only in doing so can you understand the Way. Let’s take meditation practice as an example. With purity, ease, and a kind thought, you close your eyes and meditate for an hour. You are motionless, and your action doesn’t involve many thoughts.

    But from this very simple action, one can have an inconceivable, wonderful feeling. After an hour, normally your fatigue from the day seems to disappear. The affliction, depression, and misery you’ve had in the past few days are all released and gone. If you ask me how they are released, I don’t know. They are just automatically released by this pure and simple action. Or when you are sick, the process of practicing meditation rids you of illness. So, we should learn to taste the seemingly boring things, cultivate confidence and patience. Acquiring knowledge and skills can seem unchallenging and boring. But you must meet everything with joy, become one with all you do. Only in this way can you be joyful, at ease, and gain understanding power and inspiration.

    Once you gain them, you will have a new value system. You will gain various qualities such as endurance, thinking power, patience, tolerance, physical strength, or even some unexpected power. It is like our genes undergoing transformation, and our race being changed: a caterpillar becoming a butterfly or a carp jumping over the dragon’s gate. Once a small fish successfully jumps over the very challenging dragon’s gate, it is no longer a fish; it is transformed into a dragon. Is this possible? Every Buddhist practitioner can make it if he or she works hard. That is, you can be transformed from an ordinary life to a heroic and enlightened life. After you know the Way, build up capabilities and access inspiration, which is an inexplicable state, you will become outstanding. If you do business, you will be an excellent businessman. I’ve met quite a few business people. I find that many very successful people have reached a spiritual state that is far beyond our imagination.

    Many of them are no different from a philosopher. Others are like Buddhist practitioners, who might have been dharma masters in their past lives, but become businessmen. They adhere to the life philosophy of great compassion. They care about much more than just making money. Many entrepreneurs who are in a high spiritual state do their business not for their own good but to create jobs for other people. Some entrepreneurs contribute all they’ve made, as well as their wisdom, to society. They donate all their profits. It depends on how high your state of mind is. So, those in this spiritual state, with this understanding of the Way, and the resulting intention, will live a heroic and enlightened life. However, some people don’t make it.

    Normally, it is karma that leads to inadequate endurance and wisdom. Thus, some can’t achieve what they expect. Some may have the right intention but they are not firm enough. During the day, he wants to be enlightened and heroic, but at night, he may think, “Can I really make it? My parents are ordinary. Can I really become successful?” He doubts himself; in addition, he doesn’t take enough action. Therefore, he will never achieve what he hopes. The intention is real; the reason for failure is the intention is not firm enough. It must be firm. Then you gain energy.

     

    My Personal Achievement

    What do I think is achievement? This reminds me of twenty years ago when I was in my twenties. At that time, I realized what achievement is. I used the word success. Guess what my definition of success is. If you can figure it out, please type it on the forum right now. My definition of success is: I was young and had a simple mind. I thought, “To be alive is to succeed.” I’ve told this idea to many people. Once someone asked me, “Master, what if you die one day?” I said, “To die is to be free.” No matter what, I’m always the best and the most successful. Does it sound like a low standard: To be alive is to succeed? Every listener right now is alive. Please raise your hand if you are dead. I figure I cannot see any hand here. I can’t see you even if you raise your hands. What does “to be alive is to succeed” really mean? It means as long as I’m alive, I must work hard. I must not fail; I must be successful. So, I must be my best self, and I must not idle away my day. I’m a mundane person, too. But I make sure that I don’t get up late. This is a rule I’ve set for myself.

    Once I wake up in the morning, I will not go back to sleep. Over the years, I’ve formed a habit that no matter how early I wake up, I will not go back to sleep; I will either meditate or work. Why do I do this? Because I don’t want to form a habit of being lazy. All books about successful people make it clear that achievement comes from diligence. Success comes only to an industrious person. Diligence is a magical key to success. I follow this guidance. I hope the children who like me will do so as well. Be diligent; don’t sleep in. Try to keep your promises. Occasionally, an emergency may stop you from keeping a promise, which is understandable. When dealing with people, you should be a person of your word. Your promise should be as firm as a nail hammered into a wall. Keep your promises. Doing so develops our endurance and patience.

    How did I develop mine? For example, when I was first learning to meditate, I was very tired. As a beginner, after sitting for about half an hour, my legs became numb. See if you have a similar experience. All children should give it a try. The numbness became soreness after another ten minutes. After another half an hour, it became sharp pain. Though meditating was a simple action, it was unbearable for beginners. It was so painful that my entire body was shaking and sweating. Wearing a single layer in wintertime, I was sweating a lot, not because I was hot, but because it hurt. With such pain, can you still continue? Without any meditation experience, who can sit for an hour? I’m sure you will feel the pain. Your nerves send signals of pain to your brain; thus, it feels unbearable. You loosen your legs, don’t you? I didn’t. I tormented myself; I prepared a one-inch-wide strap and tied up my legs with it. Legs loosen if they feel pain, so I tied them up to train myself. How did I endure the pain? By trying to forget it. How to forget the unbearable pain? By chanting Buddhas’ names and mantras. I’d forget the pain while chanting.

    After I sat for over two hours, when I opened my eyes, my legs wouldn’t hurt anymore. After sitting for a while, many people can’t move when they stand up. How come? Their legs fall asleep. For me, however, after two-and-a-half hours, I could get up and walk right away; I could even dance and do martial arts. I would be truly at ease. The pain at the beginning was real, but it is illusionary, too. If you can endure this ordeal, your resolve and endurance will naturally accumulate, just like depositing money in a bank. Every dollar counts. Frequent deposits accumulate. Today you deposit $5, and tomorrow $10. In 10 years, how much will there be? There may be half a million or a million. Hard work pays off. So, we need to practice and accumulate strength, stamina, resolve, wisdom, tolerance, compassion, and joy, all of which combine to form our charisma. By practicing hard, you will experience this wondrous feeling and joy you’ve never had before.

    A few masters described meditative joy. It is rejoicing in dharma. It consists of a number of states, which are inexplicable. I can only call it a state of great freedom: wondrous, relaxing, and flowing gracefully, like that of the Bodhisattva of Great Freedom. People can only see a picture or statue of him, lifeless and stiff. In fact, he experiences an extreme wonder which surpasses all human joy. Once you attain this joy, you’re inspired and know the Way. Your brain will be transformed. The caterpillar brain will become that of a butterfly or phoenix. The transformation happens in stages. In terms of percentage, the brain is transformed gradually, ten percent, 20 percent, then 50 percent. This endurance training brings us many benefits. Take jogging as an example: After half an hour, trainees are breathless and take a rest. I am also breathless, but after a short pause, I continue my training.

    My master told me that, for my age, practicing Energy Bagua for 40 minutes would be considered good. But I walked for two-and-a-half hours. When I practiced Energy Bagua, I was so tired that I kept shaking and shivering. But I kept on walking. The best way to keep on is to walk with a smile. I was thinking: “I must hold my arms in position.” Finally I couldn’t hold them anymore. I felt paralyzed until I thought: “Guanyin Bodhisattva is watching and leading me, so I will simply follow her. I let go of Kung fu, strength, and verbal charms, and walked freely; eventually, I didn’t feel tired at all. Some friends may worry that walking this way doesn’t strengthen Kung fu power. On the contrary, the Kung fu power may be even better and stronger; hands become soft, and we keep fit. This training develops our stamina, physical and mental strength, and tolerance. It doesn’t just develop one specific ability; rather, multiple capabilities are cultivated in the same way that chemical compounds keep combining, compounding over and over, to create new matter.

     

    Higher Goal, Higher Achievement

    All the capabilities that are developed are beyond our imagination and expectation. The development of the different capabilities brings us many benefits. The higher your state of mind is, the more benefits you will obtain. Some may ask me, “Can you be more specific? I also want to live a heroic or even an enlightened life. Attaining enlightenment isn’t easy, and only people with great capacities like Sakyamuni can achieve it. I’m afraid I can’t achieve it. Aren’t I aiming too high?” Let’s take doing business, for example. You should aim to be better than Ka-shing Li, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett. But you will not outperform them. That doesn’t matter. Daring to dream is all you need. A few years ago I ran into someone I knew in childhood. I learned that he had become a very successful businessman who was earning a lot of money. He said he had properties in Shanghai, Beijing, and Guanzhou.

    He rented buildings and units to tenants. He was a prominent landlord, and said he had made all the money himself. I knew him when he was young. More than a decade ago, he told me that he wanted to surpass Ka-shing Li, the richest Hong Kong businessman, and become the wealthiest person in Asia. After he said this, he acted in earnest. As far as I know, he isn’t as wealthy as Ka-shing Li. However, he has way more money than when I knew him years ago. When he initially had the dream, he was very poor. When he was about 30, he was penniless. But he had the dream and worked hard. He is now in his forties and has made at least tens of millions of US dollars, though he hasn’t surpassed Ka-shing Li. I guess now he probably knows that the gap between them is hundreds of millions of US dollars. But compared to when he first made up his mind to surpass Ka-shing Li, this businessman is a very rich man. Do you think he is a successful person? Yes, he is. I think so, too.

    If he hadn’t had such a high and ambitious goal, richer than his next-door neighbor who owned a motorcycle, then he would have been satisfied with being able to buy a car. After he reached that goal, he wouldn’t have had further motivation. He might have ended up richer than his next-door neighbor, but poorer than the neighbors 200 meters away. So, once a great goal is set, it doesn’t matter whether this goal is realized or not; what matters is the process by which one has achieved a more enriching, perfect life. In my opinion, if you really have such strong qualities and motivation, you can set a greater goal.

    Take construction, for example. My father was a construction worker. If your goal is to build an ordinary one-story house, you must prepare your construction materials during the planning stage.

    You only need to prepare the land and construction materials for a one-story house, because that’s your goal, right? Let’s say: five beams, eight pillars, 100,000 bricks, 20 bags of cement, and two truckloads of sand would be enough. If my goal is to build a 60-story building, I still need to prepare, but this time I must prepare big. It is not easy, but you get started by thinking of what you need for a structure of that size. You may need 60,000 beams, 800 tons of cement, 50 boatloads of sand, and 10 million bricks. Your mind and behavior aim at this goal; whether you succeed in constructing a 60-story building or not, one thing is for sure: It will be taller than a one-story house. You may end up with a 10-story one or a 30-story building, which is obviously much taller than an ordinary one-story house. You now have a completely different life achievement.

     

    Face Afflictions With Gratitude, Joy, and Calm

    That’s why I remind you that when facing everything in life, including afflictions, you need to face it with gratitude and quietude. Your achievement arises from one thought. In the process of experiencing everything, and in the process of learning every piece of knowledge, you achieve your most ambitious goal. Your happiness doesn’t come from achieving the goal, but from the process of realizing it. Starting from the moment this one thought arises, with compassion, you begin feeling the whole process of achievement. It is better to be a bit more ambitious. Therefore, I can conclude that, from a broad perspective, aspirations determine achievement; aspirations create wisdom, motivation, and even knowledge. Charisma arises in the process of realizing aspirations. You also realize your life value in this process. Your life value is moldable.

    You can be an ordinary person who can’t afford a house even after working for a lifetime. The lower the job one does, the poorer his life condition. This is a reality. Very few Chinese construction workers can afford a decent house. A house builder can’t afford a house; a tailor has no good clothes to wear. A professional driver never enjoys his own car because he’s always driving other people around. Driving for others is not fun; it is providing a service for others. However, if you have a far greater life goal, your life is more valuable, and you get immense comfort and joy. Your life is not wasted; you bring honor to your ancestors. Your relatives and parents are proud of you, and they feel happy talking about you. If you want to live such a life, follow my teachings and think further.

    So, my young friends, you need to reconsider your life goals, so as to live better. Setting a greater life goal is by no means a bad thing; it is a good thing. By doing so, you leave abundant space for yourself whether you succeed or fail. The concept of success is just a thought in your mind. In a wrestling contest, A put B down on the ground; A said he won because B was put down. When A was just about to show his joy, a miserable thing unexpectedly happened. When B was on the ground, he kicked A violently. A lay on his stomach for a while. Did the first fallen man fail or the second? We may say they both failed, or neither of them did. So, falling down the first time does not mean failure; nor does falling down the tenth time.

    Experience all these with joy. If you do not want to fail, do not plunge into a trap. If we have time in the future, we will  discuss how to balance the ups and downs properly. Today, we focus on Buddhadharma and life achievement. People who have a great life goal have a few characteristics. Since you want to achieve success, you have a great life goal. Let’s take building a small house and a tall building for example. Normally, one has to consider the space. For example, how are the nearby houses structured, and does the size of my building fit with the surrounding buildings? One has to consider the style of the era when building a house. For instance, during the Qing Dynasty three-story houses were rarely seen.

    Only princes could live in such houses. First, people in the Qing Dynasty couldn’t build a 60-story building. Second, if a building was three stories or more, the builder might be persecuted or the building confiscated. So, people who aimed big had to consider time and space. In the present, when we plan big, we have to do the same. To build a building, we must consider the appreciation of its value in 10 years, and make sure that the design will remain desirable. Will it remain loved and practical? So, for a person aiming big, the breadth of space and crossing of time in his thinking are beyond the imagination of many ordinary people. A person of great vow and thought is first a sower, not a reaper. I plant trees today in order to shade future generations or shade myself when I’m old.

     

    Transcend Time-Space and Think Big

    An ordinary person only thinks to cut a tree and use it to make a stool, table, or firewood. Thus, their perspective on time is very different. An ordinary person only makes himself look good for today leaving his home in a mess. A well-mannered person does differently. He schedules different basic necessities in a nice order. His behavior shows his logical thinking and self-regulated state. A great aspirant will be more tolerant and, therefore, will not be trapped in trouble. His once afflicted mind becomes calm, and he has clarity and wisdom. He can see through to the truth and is not easily afflicted anymore because he sees the joy behind afflictions. Therefore, the concept of transcending space, time, and obstacles is of utmost importance. Unfortunately, there aren’t any textbooks that expound on this.

    The Buddhist scriptures explain it, but they are hard for us to understand. Whether you want to be an ordinary person, or a liberated and enlightened person, or a heroic person, I want to remind you: Do not be narrow-minded and petty, don’t argue about trivial things, and don’t be jealous. If one is tangled up in these trifles, he cannot achieve great things; he will be penny wise and pound foolish. You could gain enlightenment; you could be a person of potential energy, and you’ve got my teaching and influence. However, if you are too petty, if you are narrow-minded, and, especially, if you care too much about your own gains and losses, be they mental, emotional or financial, you will be tangled by trivial afflictions. Afflictions will become like jungle vines to you; you will be bound firmly, unable to get free. If you don’t free yourself from the tangle, what kind of person will you become? You will become an easily bothered, ordinary person.

    Actually, you will be even lower than an ordinary person. So, I hope you are never petty. If you are, your mediocre intelligence, your body, and your limited knowledge will be restricted by trivial matters that you think are important. If this is so, you’re doomed to be one of the ordinary people. You will not achieve anything in life. Instead, you’re a failure at raising kids, in keeping good family relationships, in having a career, and in making money. To use a term in traditional Chinese, you’re a person lacking good fortune and blessings. Such a person often calculates his personal gains and losses. I hope all who are connected with me can lead a life full of comfort, joy, and achievement. Only when you have gained some achievement and have reached a certain spiritual state can you be happy. Living in dire poverty daily, one can hardly be happy. This is because poverty threatens your survival. If you’re always short of food, how can you be happy? In winter’s freezing weather, when everyone wears leather boots and padded coats, you can’t be happy clad only in a shirt.

    I read a report that stated that although people in a certain place who were very poor were also extremely happy. I don’t think the reporter did a thorough examination. He thought the people were happy because they sang while they worked. He didn’t realize they had been ordered to do so, so as to synchronize their movements, the way dancers are synchronized by music. It was not out of joy. I remember in the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), there was a great general, Han Xin, who helped Emperor Liu Bang take power. Even at a young age, he was very wise and capable. But his family was very poor. The family had many children but little income. They often ran out of food. But he acquired a lot of knowledge, in particular, military knowledge.

    For the great general, military knowledge is not about the use of strong external power, such as physical power or Kung fu. It is about the use of wisdom. Han Xin integrated his wisdom into military strategies. We know that in order to realize his great aspiration, he had to do things he didn’t want to do. In his youth, he was poor. Soon after he left his hometown, he was starving. He encountered a mischievous youth, who was probably stronger than him. The young guy said, “I have a bowl of noodles here. If you want to eat them, you need to crawl between my legs like a dog.” Han Xin didn’t blow up; he responded simply. He didn’t even need to put effort into using his wisdom. “This is nothing. Sure I will crawl between your legs. Only if I remain alive, can I realize my aspirations in life.”

     

    A Bright Future Awaits You

    So, our young people shouldn’t assume they are not capable. They may be able to do everything. As far as knowledge is concerned, I believe every youth can acquire all kinds of knowledge and skills. You all have a promising future. It is just that an opportunity worthy of your effort hasn’t yet arisen for you. It is not that hard to get such an opportunity. You will get it if you “follow the vine to get the melon.” There used to be a car advertisement which is an adaptation of a Chinese idiom: “The car will find its way round the hill when it gets there. Where there is a way, there is our car.” This advertisement came out 10 or 20 years ago. I think It is a good one. It reminds people of the brand in a catchy way. I think I should present these words to all of you: “You will find your way round the hill when you get there.”

    Looking at a mountain from afar, you may worry it will block your way.

    But when you arrive at its foot, you find there is a way leading through the mountain. The mountain is not an obstacle. You will find your way round the hill when you get there. Where there is a way, there are your achievements and your great aspirations in life. So, there is no need to worry about your future job. As long as we keep observing, studying, and listening in daily life, we all can acquire a lot of knowledge. People, like my parents and most Chinese people of the previous generation, were not very well educated, but they had decent lives. Life was not easy for them, but they built their life path on their own. Those of you who are posting messages about feeling worried have at least completed high school, right? I didn’t even attend a middle school. But this doesn’t stop me from being who I am. Though life is hard, I must be strong and remain alive, for as my mom told me, “A living dog is better than a dead lion.” So, I’ve been strong and remained alive until now. Many young people ask me, “Your life is really hard, isn’t it?” That’s right, it is. But I like the hard life. If I get my necessities easily, I don’t feel comfortable. I’m used to difficult challenges.

    So, I tend to think that difficulties are nothing; I’m not scared of them. With this firm belief, I can deal with all sorts of difficulties. If everything is smooth for years, you will feel bored. So, don’t be scared of afflictions and obstacles that might come in the future. If you are, It is like worrying that the sky might fall down. So, I hope you young people open up your hearts. Your anxieties and fears are created in the mind for no reason. Don’t worry. You will find your way round the hill when you get there. There is always a way leading us to our great ideals in life. So, work hard on what you’re supposed to study now. Open up your heart. There are boundless ways to acquire knowledge. When you’re at university, you may learn from a janitor’s speech, behavior, and state of mind. It is all knowledge.

    Don’t assume that your professors are the only source of real knowledge. Everything is knowledge. Mountains, rivers, plains, birds, flowers, freezing weather, happiness, anger, sorrow, and joy are all sources of knowledge. Nature is a living book; life is also a book. From these books, we can acquire lots of very practical knowledge. So, don’t be concerned about your future. On the other hand, if you’re concerned about it, what preparation are you doing for it? When I was little, my master asked me to go to very scary woods to learn Kung fu from him at 2 am. I was really scared because I was weak and not very brave. Since I had fear, I took some precautions. At the time, I feared I might encounter bad people or ghosts, so I took a stick to gather my courage. I held the stick tight and was watchful when I was walking. I always felt someone was following me. I was always on tenterhooks, which helped me become more observant and defensive. I armed myself with a stick in my hand, two stones in a pocket, and a helmet on my head. It sounds really funny, but I wanted to take some precautions.

    My friends, if you are concerned about your future, about not having love, or a job, what are you doing to address your concerns? If you fear you will not have a job, shouldn’t you learn more skills? If you blindly fear and do nothing, you will eventually be exhausted, scared to death, or starved to death. In addition, you will be afflicted ‘til death because you will not even find love. So, if you’re concerned about your future, you should arm yourself; you should have the ability to free yourself from worries. If you blindly worry and do nothing, you will eventually be as miserable as you fear. If you don’t want to be afflicted by worries in the future, I think you should acquire some skills. No one was born with skills. Of course, people have some normal skills, such as learning to stand up and walk. A puppy or a piglet is cute, but will always be confined to all fours. This is one of the differences between humans and animals. You are a human being. Why not become a noble human being? Don’t say you will become a heroic person.

    Even as an ordinary person, you need to have the ability to survive, protect yourself, respect your elders, raise your children, etc. This may sound too stressful to you. Not at all. Things will be okay if you get started and be aware. I suggest you learn a trade. Now let me say something about my father. He was a bricklayer, a very ordinary person. He had the skill of laying bricks, building walls and houses. The skill sounds simple. Right? But he fed many mouths in the family. He had to take care of his parents and his children. The worst thing is to learn nothing. Not even having the intention to learn. That is completely wrong. Nowadays, men and women are equal. Therefore, all young people, male and female, should shoulder the family responsibilities and duties. Respect your parents and ancestors. In the future, you will provide for your children and even your grandchildren. Young ladies, do not think you will marry a man, and he will be the cornerstone of the family.

    In fact, both men and women are equal. Why do you expect others to provide for you? Equality means equal contribution; equal contribution means equal gain. Then you can have an equal sense of happiness and success. Your charm doesn’t lie in your beautiful appearance alone. I think the greatest charm is your capability; knowledge and capability create true motivation. That’s why those good for nothing, ill-informed people on the Internet who gain respect only by their beautiful faces and bodies are called “flower vases,” which is really unattractive. A true vase can hold a duster at least; but what are those people good for? Only for display? Of course, you have another function: having children to carry on the family line. Doing only this is not okay, since It is only an animal instinct.  

    You should make full use of your wisdom, be you male or female. Since both men and women are equal, if a lady hopes to be respected by her husband, her family, and people in the community, she should fulfill her responsibilities and duties. Whether you’re a man or a woman, you have big responsibilities and duties to shoulder. Ladies, what capabilities do you have to make yourselves happier, more at ease, and more confident? You need knowledge and skills. They make your beauty more charming or make you charming forever. Capability creates charm; capability makes an ugly-looking person handsome and wonderful. So, capability determines your achievement, level of happiness, ease in life, and your life quality and taste.

    Therefore, only with achievement can you reduce afflictions; only with achievement can we pay attention to the wellbeing of our body and mind. Thus, I hope you form good habits that help you achieve success in life; cultivate good habits and make it a positive cycle that leads you to a more beautiful and successful life. Especially young people: My friends, your future is immeasurable. Everyone has worries. But I think dreaming is way better than worrying; then you carry out your dreams. To get started, just learn, learn, and learn again. Strive again. Cultivate good habits: Do not be lazy, do not lie, and do not cheat. Acquire any skill and knowledge that you deem useful. Skills and knowledge will be of great use in future. I wish all of you a perfect life. Thank you. I will talk about more topics in depth next time. Thank you.