The Keys To Buddhist Practice
The Keys to Buddhist Practice
Intense Meditation Brings Blissful Experiences
Let’s have a chat. A question for you: You have been practicing for a few days, be it doing Greater Illumination or chanting a mantra to the Buddha, has this caused anyone’s loss of voice? Anyone of you? (No.)
Usually not. From my experience, I can chant for half a year nonstop without losing my voice. Some students I taught could keep chanting for a month without losing their voice. After chanting for three days one may feel sweet and moist in the mouth. Do you? (Yes.)
Yes. You may have been waking up with discomfort in your mouth; a bitter, astringent feeling is caused by fatigue and afflictions. After meditating and chanting, you feel comfort in the mouth upon waking, and you feel sweetness. What does this mean? It means your body has been purified. Then some may wonder: How come my illness is still there though I feel sweetness in my mouth? That is normal, too. Recovery isn’t as easy as falling ill. But our body’s energy has been refreshed. The illness has been there for a long time, so it’s not easy to eliminate it. But after such feeling arises from practice, your body, which used to be like a piece of decaying wood soaked in a stinky ditch, is now immersed in reviving nectar, which may bring new life in the form of sprouts and green leaves. In the past, your body lay in a ditch without any positive energy; what it brought you was nothing but illness, afflictions, and death. What you feel now is a sense of being refreshed and cleansed. You’ve been brought nectar and vitality, the inconceivable life-force. So we have many wonderful experiences such as sweet comfort in the mouth upon waking. In the past, upon waking, you felt sleep-deprived and tired. Now upon waking, you feel very relaxed, right? (Yes.)
Yes, you do. We practice for several hours a day. An ordinary person couldn’t bear that. Does it cause tiredness? You may feel tired the first three days. If you continue practicing for a week, you may not even want to go home because you feel such ease. What is ultimate bliss? You’ve found the feeling of freedom and happiness. You are spiritually happy without any pressure from your livelihood. All these various afflictions disappear. Not only mentally free, you also feel free and relaxed physically. Many people don’t want to come out of this wondrous state of practice. I had the same feeling in the past – reluctance to step out of the practice. Some are beginners, while others have practiced for a while, but you had neither a good environment nor a proper procedure to follow.
So this intensive training is a great chance for you to practice intensively and progress rapidly. You’ll get the best experiences and the most benefits in this setting. You can swiftly uplift yourselves in the safest way. Let’s put aside Buddhism for now, which is as profound as the ocean. Let’s focus on meditation, which is also very abstruse and has many schools. Many people want to achieve enlightenment and obtain the Way, but in the process of practice, without a teacher’s consistent guide, some may deviate from the right path. But if you practice my method and follow my path, whether I am present or not, you won’t deviate. So I hope my disciples and practitioners follow my methods of visualizing, chanting, and practice.
In general, there should be no problem as long as you don’t have extreme attachment. Regarding practice, I’d like to remind you of the following: First, be sincere. In front of the Buddha, bodhisattvas, and your master, you must be sincere. Only being so can you receive the most blessing, protection, and guidance for your overall progress in practice. It’s like a toddler learning to walk, he may fall or even hurt himself badly without an adult’s supervision. Meditation can make one enter a Zen state. It is a special method and theory, as it is dynamic inside and static outside, or more static inside; it’s inconceivable and inexplicable. Whatever your meditative thought is, it may not manifest itself externally. But does this unseen, unheard behavior affect our physical or even our mental health? Experience shows the effect of meditation is tremendous. You don’t see external movement, but only one sitting or standing quietly. In fact, this outwardly motionless posture has a tremendous effect on us.
Sincerity and Right Aspiration
With a right practice method, being wise and having countless virtues and merits, the Buddha attained enlightenment after seven or eight years of practice. This is what meditation brings to life. If we practice hard, have a right method, right aspirations and intention, and be diligent, undeterred by difficulties, we can also become enlightened. Only by being sincere can you receive the most blessings and protection, and the correct guidance in your practice. The next key point is the right aspiration. Whether you want health or enlightenment, those are the right aspirations. In practice, there’re certain aspirations that seem right but may lead to wrong results. For example, “I must get the Divine eye.” Or hearing others’ stories, one may say, “I must obtain mind reading power or I must gain inspiration or I must get a specific dharma power.” Once you are attached to certain skills, or dharma power, or just overly attached to something, you may end up deviating from the Way.
The deviation can result from wrongdoing, such as indulging in one’s greed. Greed has many manifestations and can occur at any moment. We can hardly guard against it. Due to its integration into our life, health, and physical and mental feelings, most of the time we are unaware of it. For example, someone may like apple trees, while others crave branded handbags, jewelry, and expensive watches. The person loves an apple tree says, “Wow, what a beautiful tree. Seeing it, I don’t want to leave. When no one is around, I’ll dig it up and take it home.” This doesn’t sound like pursuing luxury. But even his desire for simple things that don’t belong to him is greed. If you desire strongly for famous brands, the priciest car, a better house, etc., it’s definitely greed. Another thing to watch out for: Practicing to avenge.
One of the most famous Tibetan novels about Buddhist practitioners is Milarepa. When Milarepa was very young, his family was rich. His dad made lots of money and was richer than their relatives. Unfortunately, his dad died in midlife. As Milarepa was too young, his dad entrusted him and his mother to their relatives, including his dad’s brothers and brothers-in-law. “My kid is too little; my wife, a woman, can’t take care of the family business, “I have to ask you for help. In return, take whatever you need for now. But when my son grows up, please return my possessions to him.” They said, “Don’t worry. Your business is in our hands. We’ll take care of it all.” Relieved, Milarepa’s father died. Or maybe not relieved, I guess. After his death, those relatives changed.
Everyone is greedy for money. They came up with every possible excuse to divide his family’s wealth turning a rich family into a poor one. His mom was badly treated. When Milarepa was a teenager, she took action. She was celebrating her son’s 16th birthday, which marked his adulthood and meant he could legally inherit his father’s fortune. His mom was smart and made many delicious dishes to charm their relatives. After everyone was full, she said to them, “My son is now grown, so would you please return our possessions? My husband arranged for this to happen and you promised him.” The relatives flew into a rage, even beating Milarepa’s mother. How could they return the possessions? Milarepa was furious and wanted to fight with so many of his relatives, but he was just 16; even 10 years older he wouldn’t have stood a chance. They beat up Milarepa. Given everything they had done to him and his mother, he harbored hatred.
He was filled with hatred and anger and vowed to take revenge. If it had happened inland, he’d have been motivated to go to Shaolin Temple to learn Kung fu for revenge. But there was no Shaolin Temple in Tibet. Milarepa’s mom said, “I’ve heard in some places, people know sorcery. Go learn some sorcery, and then take revenge.” They believed in magic. Through practice and a master’s empowerment, one could be more powerful than other people with boundless superpowers. Milarepa’s mother sent him away, “Go learn some skills.” They had known where to find the powerful master. Off he went. It wasn’t easy; he walked a long way with a gift and found the master. His sincerity moved the master, a non-Buddhist with no belief in compassion.
He knew Tibetan black magic or sorcery that Milarepa had indeed wanted. He learned some special superpowers. Then he returned home to take revenge. He used his power on a hill near his home. It was a sunny day, he demanded dark clouds to come and thunder and lightning to strike his village. Most of his relatives were killed; about two-thirds were struck by lightning, were buried under collapsed houses, or burned to death in the resulting fires. His mom was very happy as she had lived in hatred, which is understandable. Anyone in that situation would be angry. Those relatives took her possessions, bullied and beat them; so it was natural. So, she was very happy with the revenge. “It must be my son that did it,” she said. “Great. Strike them to death.” Her anger was released. This story of Milarepa is about taking revenge. Some revenge is due to humiliation and torture while with others, it is greed. For example, your neighbor becomes rich. In the past you visited each other. You were comfortable because both of you were very poor. One day, your neighbor becomes rich, but you still have to ride an old bike because you can’t afford a new one. Suddenly, your neighbor buys a showy car.
Would you be angry about this? Many of our Bodhi practitioners wouldn’t. Instead, they’d say: “Wow, it’s wonderful. You are fortunate to have your own car. I must keep working hard!” But most people don’t think this way. Instead, they may begin to wonder if the neighbor really bought the car. If they did, well, bad news! The neighbors can’t sleep well. People may want to smash the car. Some may even want to hurt the owner. Some seemingly mild-tempered women may use an awl to puncture the tires. Such revengeful behavior isn’t caused by hatred. What is the cause? Jealousy! Jealousy also results in hatred and harm. So if we want to eradicate craving and jealousy, both originating from greed, we have to appease them gradually. As you’re listening to me today, you may tell yourself, “If my neighbor buys a car, I’m sure I won’t be angry.” You can think so now. But one day, say, two months from now, your neighbor buys a car, and you feel angry and jealous.
You wonder why master’s teachings don’t work. I heard his teaching, why am I still angry? My blood pressure spikes and the vein in my temple twitches. “What’s wrong with me?” You may want to grab a knife or an awl to relieve your anger. Your past tolerance came from the fact that nothing had really triggered you. You’re compassionate and calm, but when things trigger you, you can’t stand it. Why is this? Because you don’t understand the truth. If we understand the truth, we’ll let go of our jealousy, revenge, and hatred.
Causality Is Natural Laws
What causes one to suffer so much? The Buddha told us the answer clearly. Present suffering is caused by past actions. For example, someone is suffering from inflammation in the mouth and acne. What’s the cause? They’ve been eating much dry stuff like fried food and nuts without liquids, in addition to an irregular life schedule.
We can understand this, right? If that’s true, fortune works the same way. You remain poor because you haven’t accumulated enough virtues. Sometimes when this is told to an unreasonable person, he’ll say, “Are you saying I’m short of virtues?” He’ll bicker with you. If you say yes, it’ll make him lose face. If you say no, you’re being untruthful. So just tell him directly, “You’re short of virtues.” Then what to do? Store merits. Accumulate merits and do good deeds. That is, create and store merits. So, if you don’t know how to replenish them and keep causing more harm, you are creating karmic debt and even more in debt, short of merits. Do you want to pass your suffering and poverty to future generations? We know we don’t want to. Then what shall we do? Good luck is due to good deeds. It’s also due to a person’s hard work. He’s observant about the market. He is smarter, more capable, industrious, and knowledgeable. Lastly, he’s blessed with more merits and virtues. He is more fortunate.
Accept this and your fire of ignorance will be extinguished naturally. I believe you all understand this. Your relatives or classmates become high officials or wealthy, but you’re not jealous because they reap these benefits by doing good deeds. If you want to be the same, work hard. I once chatted with a man about a Chinese champion sprint hurdler who had even been mentioned in Canadian newspapers. The guy I was talking with said, “He became a champion just by running.” “Yes, it’s nothing glorious. You want to get the glory, but you are not a champion. It’s only running, not a big deal.” Of course, this guy didn’t run. He was heavy, lazy to move. The only thing he moved was his eyes. He didn’t even bother to move his hands. “No fun,” he thought. It is no fun to stay idle like him.
So we should praise others’ hard work and achievements, their wealth, glory, power, beautiful cars, big houses, prettier clothes, and better schools and education for their kids. It’s a virtuous cycle; it’s a good thing, so we should praise and learn from it. Besides luck, in fact, many personal qualities, such as diligence, kindness, and mental acuity, also play a role in their success. Of course, there are many knacks for succeeding in business. In The Buddhist Robes, I mentioned some money-making concepts.
They’re simple principles, yet those who understand them may be inspired to make big money. Those really wanting to make big money wish their business kept running. Is that right? They need to keep their old customers. But how? Say, one buys a jacket from you, but when he tries it on at home all the buttons pop off, as if the person possessed Kung Fu power. In truth, the sewing quality isn’t that good. When they raise their arms, the seams fall apart. Then what happens? When they have to squat to pick up the buttons, the seams in the pants rip. If the tailor had used better material, costing no more than two dollars extra, it wouldn’t be much trouble. However, he’d rather make it fragile. He can save a little money on material, but does he garner any regular clients? No. You’ve made a bit of money from them, but still they’ll curse you now and for the next two generations by saying, “Here is the grandson whose grandparents’ shoddy jacket caused me embarrassment.” Your next three generations will be cursed. People who are adept at cursing might research your family history.
They’ll curse your forefathers and descendants all the way through 50 generations. You would have no way to escape from it. Such swearing is cursing, which has power. One may hurt his lower back simply because of sneezing, but why? Someone may be cursing him because of his bad deed in the past. It may be that he butchered a pig, piercing its lower back with a knife. What we experience today, be it suffering, happiness, poverty, or wealth, is all caused by what we did in the past. We must remember this causality. Causality is not a Buddhist law, but that of Nature. To make sure we understand this law, Buddha told us in direct and plain words, which are eight Chinese characters. “You reap what you sow.” All of us know this. Yes, “you reap what you sow.” If you plant thorny bushes, you hurt others as well as yourself. Right? If you plant ingot, you’ll become rich; others too if you share some with them. It’s good, isn’t it? (Yes.) Those unmeritorious may think, “I plant ingot and become rich. Why should I help others become rich?” It is very simple if you think about it. For example, if there’s a slum next to your luxurious house, I don’t think you can survive three years.
On the day you become rich, you should get your will ready, for disasters will come at any moment. Right? Who won’t want to kill you? You may want to kill your neighbour just because he buys a car. When one is very rich, but others can’t even afford food, he won’t have any rest. Why is a society with a huge gap between rich and poor often in turmoil? Because hatred is fostered. After learning Buddhism, we should better understand that when you’re well, those around you are well too. Only in this way, can you possess real well-being.
If you’re safe and your neighbors are good people, you can live a peaceful life. I know little about the situation in China being abroad for more than 10 years. Changes may have occurred after China opened its doors to the outside world. In other countries, residential areas are clearly divided. For example, in a very cheap area, I don’t mean countryside, but a city, in most cases, the roads aren’t in good condition; the houses are small and old. Some people living in such an area spit, litter, or even take swearing as singing. All these can be found.
In a higher priced area, many people are neatly dressed, polite, and smiling. The houses are satisfactory. There are not many trees on the street. In an upscale area, the houses are bigger and more beautiful. When people meet on the street, they greet each other. In the poor area, windows and doors are all barred to stop thieves. In the upscale area, you don’t see barred windows and doors. You don’t see any because there aren’t any thieves. Why? Are residents in this area well-educated? Yes, but that’s only one factor. Another factor is that all residents have money, food, and cars. There’s no point to steal or commit crimes when you have money and cars. Yes, only when everyone around you is well off can you feel safe. That’s why the Buddha told us to have unconditional love for all, which we call great compassion. For example, parental love is compassion. In the phrase “great compassion”, the Chinese character “big” occurs twice; It means “infinitely broad” and “selfless.” When each of us is rich, we have safety. When each of us is well-mannered, we can have peace in society. When we all have food to eat, there is less violence.
Once we understand this, in doing things, we’ll practice Buddhadharma; for instance, we, the well-fed, should take care of those that are poorer. This will benefit you and the whole society. So, the Buddha taught us to have great compassion and Universal love. This definitely benefits both society and the individual.
Be Fair and Reverent to All Things in the Universe
In Western countries, most residential areas are pretty nice. First, the residents are relatively civilized due to their material wealth. Second, morality plays an important role. “Sunday” means “worship day” in Chinese. Why is it called “worship day”? Because many people go to church to worship on Sunday. This is how the word evolves. Believers of Western religions such as Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox all go to church. People worship on Sundays, thus it’s called “worship day”. On that day, they pray to their God saying, “This week I did two bad deeds. Please forgive me.” This is confession. Confession is when one is sorry for his sins and promises not to do it again. Great! Next week he’ll care. If he had sworn, he’ll take care not do it again. They also advocate great compassion and Universal love. So, morality is very important. Loving oneself is not enough; we need to love others.
Our understanding of life is: You’re created by Heaven, thus, are its essence. You have your particular purpose, responsibilities, and power, so we shouldn’t belittle anyone. All things in the world complement each other. We human beings on Earth eat and use things from Nature, right? Fruits grow on trees; vegetables, grasses and grains grow in the earth. So all things in the world are integrated and connected. As for human beings, some are smarter, some simple and honest, some stronger, and some very weak, yet everyone has his strengths. In old China, people who were confused about their destiny would go to a blind fortune-teller. He couldn’t see physically, but could see the future. Isn’t that amazing? Every person and everything has its role. A blind person may have a job such as fortune-telling or bone massage.
How does he see? He uses his mind to see the world. Without seeing you, his vision won’t be blocked by your make-up and luxurious clothes. Using his technique and inspiration, his vision may be more accurate. A non-blind fortune-teller may think, “Wow, this person is well-dressed. He must be very rich. But he may be a thief wearing the just-stolen clothes.” The mind is distracted by appearances, and may be inaccurate. So the blind can be the most precise fortune-tellers. This reminds me: at the entrance to courthouses in the U.S. or Canada, a stone goddess’ eyes are blindfolded with a piece of cloth. She carries a balanced scale symbolizing justice and court. When you see it, you know this is a court. It is a bit similar to a blind fortune-teller.
If we ever have to go to court, we’d like to have a blindfolded judge. This exemplifies that human beings in this world complement each other. Some kids may seem mentally disabled. When one thinks, expresses, and works in what is deemed a “normal” way, one is considered to be smart. Yet, some tend to make “abnormal” speech; They don’t speak when they should, but rather when they’re not supposed to. But those speaking illogically, sounding abnormal, are often the most inspirational. I’ve found this law. I didn’t do it deliberately, nor have time to do so. When I was young, I often listened to seniors chatting.
When a person becomes old, they can experience a mental decline; however, an unexpected comment may express the will of Heaven. Also, those who we think are simple or mentally disabled may say something unexpected or do something at a certain moment, which may actually carry a message, a Heavenly secret. We shouldn’t slander or bully those seemingly weaker people. They may be representing the spirit of Heaven and Earth. Never belittle any creature. This applies to human beings, animals, and plants. All should be treated fairly and respectfully.
Let Go of Greed and Attachment
Now let’s come back to the topic of our practice. If we want to practice well, we shouldn’t crave attaining a certain power. Don’t be greedy. Just chant and do as instructed by the master while having great aspirations. What are they? Enlightenment, achievement, health, and happiness. That’s it. If you have a toothache, you might pray, “Buddha’s light hurry into my teeth.” However, likely the more you practice, the more pain. Your mind power will block the channel, making the healing energy inaccessible. Awaken your great compassion; treat everything in the world with fairness and respect. I mentioned the way to keep healthy is basically keeping your body balanced. We know that both excessive and insufficient energy can cause illness. Then what is health? It is neither strong nor weak. This reminds me of some words in The Heart Sutra: “Sariputra, neither up nor down, neither left nor right, neither birth nor death.” There’s actually a similar message there. What does Sariputra refer to? In what state is the bodhisattva perceiving ease or freedom? He has no thinking, no judgment, and no personal preference.
That’s the deep consciousness of a meditative state. The blind can’t see beautiful colors or the brand and style of your clothing. There’s a fairness in their perception. We don’t judge it good or bad, happy or sad, or whether I like this sound or not. This deep meditative state allows us to break our discriminating mind and achieve a fundamental balance: neither up nor down, neither left nor right. Only with a mind of fairness and ease can one achieve great peace. Therefore, the Heart Sutra begins with “Bodhisattva of Perceiving Ease”. Why Bodhisattva of Perceiving Ease? Not Guanyin, Manjushri, or Maitreya, but Bodhisattva of Perceiving Ease? Because he lets go of all: attachment, judgment, feeling, analysis, and comparison.
Only after letting go of everything can one gain immense equanimity, great ease and freedom, which together result in great wisdom. When you look at your life from this spiritual perspective, it’s like watching another’s life story. It’s like a movie where a mantis is attempting to catch a cicada in summer. When the mantis catches the cicada, an oriole perched behind the mantis silently opens its mouth, thinking: “You eat it and I will eat you.” At this moment, you are the audience, but many people are either the mantis, the cicada, or the oriole. What’s behind the oriole? An owl is gazing from behind. Being in the meditative state of great ease and freedom, you’ll look at life as if watching a movie. All your greed, hatred, comparison, even disappointment, boredom, and luxuriousness, will disappear. They’re all unreal.
Let’s analyze the mantis’ state of mind when catching the cicada.
Waving his claws he thinks, “Ah, you’re still singing. I’ll chop and eat you soon.” Before eating it, the mantis imagines how the legs and back taste. He doesn’t realize an oriole is behind him and thinking about his prey. After this mantis eats the cicada, “I wonder how the flavors will blend?” After eating the meat, he’ll stew the bones for soup. Each of them dreams beautifully about the taste of their prey. In fact, they are all both dreams and nightmares. Once greed arises, a creature will eventually be destroyed by greed. If he had known the result, why would he have bothered? He would have been better off if he hadn’t done it. If you see through these, you can obtain the most primordial, purified freedom. No distinction. “Sariputra, there’s no arising, ceasing, defilement, or purity.” This is what the Buddhist scripture says.
No arising is no arising of greed, distinction, hatred, and even a craving for enlightenment. Only when nothing arises can you gain ultimate freedom. At that time, seeing the world is like watching other people’s stories or movies. After all thoughts cease, all the stories that are meant to happen will appear in certain worlds of yours. After two people had a fight, one said, “He called me bad names, so I beat him.” The beaten one said, “Since he beat me, I burned his house.” The judge convicted him of arson, then life imprisonment or the death penalty. When he finally realized his stupidity, it was too late. He had simply sought trouble; he was the one who provoked the dispute. I think the Buddha warns us of something. He is giving us a hint. Can we control certain disasters, difficulties, suffering, and happiness? If the mantis meets the cicada and says, “He has his life, why would I eat him? If we shake hands, we may become friends or even relatives.” How wonderful it is!
They can get together to drink tea, chat, make friends, play badminton, and climb a mountain. That would be nice. They’d be good company for each other. The Buddha is well-intentioned and uses various methods to inspire us to understand this law. Once you understand this law, do you want to be greedy anymore? No. No attachment, emptiness, or letting go. Without attachment, there’s nothing to let go. If you’re a born arhat, and one says, “Un-tie and take off.” You, the arhat, replies, “I don’t have much on. What do you want me to unfasten and take off? I have a naked, purified and free body. What do I unfasten?” The Buddha wants people to return to this original and free state.
Now, in our real life, do we need to work? Yes, we do, but don’t be greedy; don’t be scared if you lose something, since life has its own laws about where principles and energy accumulate. Today’s loss means more and better gains in future. That you lost everything means you really do not have the capacity to bear them. Let’s say you try for a job, but no one hires you. Maybe, because wherever you were hired, you didn’t work conscientiously. You did what you were not supposed to, but not what you were supposed to. Eventually you got a job, but instead of completing your tasks, you stole things. Wrongdoings. You ended up being fired, penalized, or even arrested. This deserves our deliberate reflection and savouring. Think about our lives up to now. If you are 35 or older, you should reflect on the many stupid things you’ve done. Despite their efforts, many people have gained nothing. Some made a lot of money, but it was all squandered.
Some people worked really hard and took infinite pains to make money, but they became addicted to gambling. By gambling at a casino for just one night, a person can lose their life savings. In the U. S., I met a young guy everyone acclaimed as very smart. He was less than 30 years old, very intelligent. His father left him a large sum of money. He ran a big company in the States; its annual profit reached $10 million. However, he lived a very simple life. He wore patched shoes, an old Shanghai watch left by his dad, which had sweat seeped in. He lived a very simple life, but did something extremely absurd. He went to Las Vegas every three months. I told him, “You work really hard for the casino.” He asked me for some words of advice; I wrote and stuck the words on his car: You’re very loyal. “What do you mean?” he asked. “You’re loyal to the casino.” He was truly thrifty on food and always ate at the cheapest restaurant. He was properly brought up. I’m not sure whether his actions were due to his karma or his greed.
He wanted to make more money, but he happened to lose money. He boasted to his parents in 10 years he’d earn more than what his parents had earned in 30 years. He had then lost money due to carelessness. He wanted to get the money back. So he began going to the casino. At first, he won $2,000. Then he lost $200,000. How long did it take? Just seven hours in one night and $200,000 was gone. Later he told me this story. Once he finished a section, I applauded. He said, “I’m so mad at myself, I’m crying. Why are you applauding?” “Your tears.” Since you realize your wrongdoing, you will stop gambling. He said, “No way. I have to earn it back. I’m smart, and I’ve studied the cards.” You can thoroughly study those cards, but not the gamblers. Right? Well, he is a fool. Like him, every one of us has done something stupid. Maybe you didn’t gamble, but many of your actions were no wiser than his.
This is especially so for those who regard themselves as smart. They may be smart in trifling matters but foolish in important ones. It often goes this way. So, to achieve a better practice on dharma power, ability and awakening, one must have no greed, attachment, distinction, comparison, or even the idea of rapid enlightenment – none of these thoughts. One can go further. There used to be a practitioner who was very pleased with his practice. “Master, look at me. I’m beaming.” I said, “I don’t see anything.” “But I feel it.” Don’t be fooled. It’s actually a flashlight that’s flashing behind you. “But I saw a beam of yellow light flashing past my body. Wasn’t it Buddha light?” Not at all. It was a flashlight. You were fooled. It wasn’t Buddha light. Even if you did see light, it wasn’t necessarily Buddha light. Right?
The Monk Pig, in Journey to the West, gave off light. So did the fox demoness. It means nothing. Flashlights and candles give off light too. Don’t they? Another practitioner, over a decade ago, was sitting against the wall of an apartment building, facing the sun. Someone said, “The master is here. Get up.” “Oh, great! Master, look. Red light was glowing in front of my eyes.” All of you face the sun and close your eyes. You’ll certainly see red light. It’s all because of your eyelids. If you wear sunglasses, you’ll see black. This shows we are too attached to our own feelings and perspectives. Some may wish their Divine eye to open or else. But the more you’re attached to dharma power, the more likely you’ll lose or miss. If you talk more than you act, it won’t do. You need to calm down. So, in classical Buddhist Sutras, the Buddha told us: no panic, no excitement, no attachment, no giving up.
You have nothing to take off with nothing on. You have nothing to lose if you don’t have greed from which loss arises. What are gains? Gains arise from giving. This law is very special. In fact, it is a law of Nature that is inexplicable. Without attachment, when practicing you are joyful and at ease. You feel nothing but you and the Buddha. The Buddha is my master and my god. Our respect, worship, and chanting are interaction between us and the Buddha. When you chant and practice, you should not have any idea of gaining something. “Buddha, I don’t have money. Please give me some;” or “Buddha, I don’t have a girlfriend, please find me one.” It won’t work. Don’t think of gaining something. In fact, the more purified and at ease you are, and the more you praise, the more you will get.
Your attachment may become your obstacles. Receiving the energy of the Buddha’s great compassion will make you feel peaceful and equitable. Thus, in Buddhism and meditation, there’s a state called emptiness. It’s neither up nor down, neither left nor right, neither this side nor that side, neither arising nor ceasing. This is the state of emptiness. The Buddha gave it several names: Sariputra or Perceiving Ease. This state is extremely important for you to achieve ultimate enlightenment. Its importance was mentioned in the last part of the Heart Sutra; the Buddha said all Buddhas of the past, present, and future had attained enlightenment by this method. No greed will enable you to attain ultimate purity and wisdom. If you’re greedy, you won’t get either one. Keep your mind pure and at ease. Be happy for and praise others. Connecting with Buddha results in wisdom and freedom.
This is part of the Heart Sutra which has its absoluteness and limitations as well. When Buddha spread the dharma, he went beyond the Heart Sutra. As I mentioned just now, the Buddha said in the Lotus Sutra one can achieve ultimate accomplishment through respect and offering. There’s a story: The dragon girl presented a pearl to the Buddha. You see, there’re no six perfections here. No discipline, tolerance, vigorous effort, meditation, wisdom, and giving; none of them were mentioned. She just presented an invaluable pearl; she became a Buddha immediately. It’s incredible! As I tell you about this, it’s also intriguing and amazing to me. Even if we practice hard, be kind and do good deeds, it’s very hard to achieve it. But she got it with sincerity alone. So on the path to accomplishment, there are many inconceivable methods, such as having equanimity and equity, as well as others.
In summary, among them, there’s an amazing method with various names. To put it in simple terms, it is deep reverence for the Buddha and your master. Only in this way can you obtain the ultimate truth. Many people tend to indulge in the state of emptiness. Emptiness isn’t the goal of our practice, but enlightenment is. What to do after enlightenment? Free sentient beings from suffering. When Sakyamuni Buddha was alive, he taught his disciples in this way. Many of his early disciples self-practiced. His trained disciples reached a void and were at a loss. Later, the Buddha taught to enlighten oneself first and then others; freeing self and others from suffering; illuminating self and then others. One lamp lights up a hundred others. It’s freeing sentient beings from suffering with compassion.
With this, we come up with another method: with great compassion in your heart, worship and chant before the Buddha; by so doing, you’ll become enlightened. Your deep reverence for the Buddha and for your master will also lead you to perfect, ultimate achievement. Great compassion alone can help you obtain achievement. Even making a golden statue of Buddha or building a Buddha Hall can help you achieve ultimate accomplishment. In the process of manifesting as a human being, the Buddha experienced the diversity of Buddhadharma. It’s inconceivable for its diversity. One may achieve perfection, unaware of how. I used to tell many long-time disciples the story of stone-eating. Those who have heard it, please raise your hands. Many of you have. The person eating stones seems like a dummy, but he achieved perfection with sincerity. He always acted according to his master’s instructions. It turned out his master was teasing him. He was hoodwinking him, as he used to forget what he was told anyway.
So he was instructed to chant a simple mantra. He chanted every day and eventually succeeded. He was told to eat stones, and he did. He did not know how to take care of his master. When the master was out, he asked what he’d eat while he was away. He was a bit simple-minded, but he followed all the master’s instructions. The master angrily replied, “What will you eat? Eat stones.” After the master left, the student really did eat stones, as instructed. When the master was back, he cooked a plate of stones for the master. The master said, “This is humiliating! You’re serving stones to annoy me.” The disciple said, “You told me to eat stones. So I did.” He ate them as happily, as if he were eating potatoes. Sometimes sincerity really works. So, having sincerity and deep reverence is the most reliable path to success and perfection, wisdom and accomplishment.
So, when we chant, worship the Buddha and practice Greater Illumination, we must make connections with Buddha. Only by doing so can we attain enlightenment. Try to experience this state, the state of pure sincerity. When you find you’re distracted, you should refocus immediately and return to the state of utmost sincerity and reverence. With your utmost sincerity, one Buddha name chant or mantra is better than 10,000. How come some practitioners make faster progress than others? Some methods help practitioners achieve quickly while others are ineffective and may even experience a negative result.
First, the methods differ. Second, state of mind plays an important role. Aspirations, a right intention, and deep reverence are extremely important. With these, we certainly won’t ever doubt. The master instructed me to eat stones, but I doubt him. Whenever the master says something, people ask, “Do you really mean it?” Say, when I’m asked what I’d like to eat for dinner, I say, “one steamed bun”. The cook will say, “Master, are you sure you want to eat this for dinner?” Or “Master, what would you like for breakfast?” “Bread.” “Really?” If we’re always doubtful, can we achieve ultimate accomplishment? Yes, you can, in 3,000 years. You won’t achieve it until humans are extinct. You’ll then become a stone monkey. In research, you ask questions.
When practicing, you’d better be a “fool”. Besides enlightenment, is being a fool of any use in life? Yes. I’d like to recommend an American movie produced over 10 years ago. It’s called Forrest Gump. I hope you watch it several times. It’s about a slow-witted person who achieved success. Although it is a fictional story, it has inspired countless people. The company in the story was actually founded due to this movie. The movie’s protagonist is a mentally slow man called Forrest Gump. He and his army buddy are both a bit slow-witted. His friend’s family sells shrimp. His friend talks of nothing but shrimp. Being slow-witted, he had nothing else to share. Later, they became good friends. They decided to co-start a shrimp business, but the friend was killed by a bomb in the Vietnam War. After Forrest retired from the army, he wanted to carry out their wish.
How did this slow-witted person do it? Even if he had to borrow money he carried on his promise to his friend, so he set up a shrimping team. He bought a boat, but caught nothing. However, he persevered, and, eventually, his company developed into the biggest seafood company in the States. He also did many other things. His success was due to his sincerity and honesty. Being down-to-earth is the simplest philosophy of life. He was also a table tennis champion. As he was slow-witted, his coach said, “You only need to gaze at the ball.” Forrest did as instructed and was very accurate in hitting the ball. Although he had few playing skills, he made it. His story is inspiring. In the States, I visited the company mentioned in the movie.
I mean the shrimp restaurant Forrest and his friend founded. Three years ago, in the States, there were over 80 franchises of the original shrimp restaurant. Even a fictional story can become reality, due to sincerity and perseverance. It has inspired many people. This movie has saved many entrepreneurs from committing suicide. It inspires them to do better business. It’s amazing that the business in the movie became a real enterprise. Many truths about success are actually very simple and straightforward. Sincerity and loyalty are the keys to success. Immense respect combined with single-minded sincerity is an extraordinary method by which to obtain perfection and accomplishment. According to the Buddha, there are many methods. Just now I mentioned several key points for your reference. It is not easy for us to practice together.
An Insightful Person Can Achieve Lasting Success
According to Buddha’s law of causality, we’re destined to get together. Ten years ago, you started to learn from me; now, you’re still here. For newcomers, no matter what, or regardless of your state of mind, it’s destiny that has brought us together. One day you may become enlightened, or become a great entrepreneur or an outstanding person in some way. We have some kids here today. There aren’t many, though. In our centers abroad, there are many kids coming to learn meditation. Many of them are top students. They’re excellent at reading, sports, art, logical thinking, and creativity. Sometimes what a 15-year-old studies is beyond what many 50-year-olds could grasp. It’s incredible.
So what inspirations do Buddhism and meditation bring us? They are unpredictable and inconceivable. I think that I’ve finished. I’m expecting your applause. You get it right away. You all have excellent ability to comprehend. You are so sincere and amazed by my lecture that you forget to applaud. When I’m in my best state during an evening practice, I applaud for myself. Well done. It startles people. I remember when I was young, I sometimes came to realize something and I would burst out laughing. My mom would ask, “What are you laughing at?” It has ever since become my habit. When one figures something out, it’s actually an awakening bursting open like popcorn. I enjoyed the sound inaudible to other people. My mom would say, “What are you laughing at? You’re not in trouble, are you?”
“Please don’t giggle like that. People might think you’re mentally abnormal.” How can they understand me? One laugh makes you 10 years younger. This is my joy.
How can someone else know what I’m laughing at? Let them laugh. Never mind. They may be more foolish. All these sound like jokes, but contain much philosophical truth. It’s in fact very practical. Some say I just want to recover my health. Others want to be smarter or luckier. “What I hope for has nothing to do with enlightenment. What is the use of enlightenment?” Enlightenment benefits us in all aspects. It’s better than understanding. Understanding is to open a small hole. Enlightenment is to open Heaven. Do you understand? Right, you have understanding power.
Now you applaud at the right time. Well done. Understanding is like making a small hole in the blockages. Then comes a bit of comprehension. It is like an acupuncture point. Enlightenment is like your view was blocked being in a cave; now the mountain is removed and blown up; nothing blocks your view. An enlightened person will recover from illness and become healthy, become rich from poverty and turn failure to success. Do you want to attain enlightenment? (Yes!)
To show me their understanding power, some raised their hands to clap. The harder you clap, the more enlightened you are. Right? Yes, indeed. Only those with understanding power can achieve lasting success. Accidental success may be followed by failure. So long-lasting success and victory are a true blessing. The Buddha told us the comprehensive nature of time and space. Things grow big from small. I mentioned if the rich are surrounded by the poor, they feel unsafe. A rich person may become a dead person in no time. Then how to live well? To give. After you’ve earned money, give a certain percentage to the poor.
The wealthy here, would you please share your money with us? If you’re indecisive now or haven’t much money with you, never mind. In fact, it’s truth. I knew some businessmen 30 years ago. Their forefathers were Jews. They have a motto. I don’t remember the exact words. The main idea is if you become rich, you must share. Does this mean if I make a million dollars, I should give away all of it? No. People who made money for the first time usually contributed 90 percent to God or senior citizens, and then to the poor and the disabled. The path for future success is paved. Then they contributed 15-30 percent of their later income to the poor. They were really enthusiastic about giving. They put up posters on which the contribution date, time, and location were indicated. They wished all were as fortunate as they were. The locals then knew which people had made money. They’d go to them to pick up some pocket money. The rich prepared this pocket money: pennies, coins, and bills.
They hired a driver to throw the money. The poor would go out to pick it up. No one felt ashamed as everyone took the “luck” money, including the rich. It’s called spreading the wealth. But what’s its real meaning? Removing disasters. If you give away your money like this, will the local poor people hate you? They don’t. Instead they say, he’s a generous friend. They’ll come to protect you. Thus people there get along well with each other. The poor and the rich are on good terms. When meeting each other, they’re very courteous. They get along really well. None of the poor working for the rich man want to kidnap or murder him. These truths we can apply to our lives. Last year, when I was lecturing in Busan, I said that Buddhadharma, first of all, is a way of living. The Buddha teaches us the way of living, and then of freedom from suffering. If you want to live well, be broad-minded and transcend the small self – the self-occupied space – transcend space and time in your thinking and action. This way, you can be perfect, reap long-term benefits, and obtain all the best, fortune, auspiciousness, longevity, and health.