Buddhism as an Education

The path to Enlightenment



Namo Amitabha




Although there is an uncountable number of methods, their objectives are the same. As is often said, "all roads lead to Rome" and "all methods are the same". Pure Land practitioners should never criticize or slander Zen, Tibetan or any other schools. Why? Because their objectives are the same as ours, they simply follow different methods. This is similar to our taking a bus while others chose to walk. We cannot say that they are wrong when all roads lead to the same destination. They have the freedom to choose their way.

When You Attain the One,
All Things Are Done

Any person who understands the Zero can
cultivate and realize the fruition.

All dharmas arise from conditions;
All dharmas cease with conditions.
Our Buddha, the great Shramana,
Always speaks in this way.

All dharmas arise from causes and conditions, and also cease because of causes and conditions. This is the principle of rebirth, and it is also the principle that "When something reaches an extreme, it will turn around. When misfortune reaches an extreme, prosperity comes." This is also true of all dual dharmas in the world.

"Dual dharmas": when good reaches an extreme, it becomes bad. When something becomes bad to the extreme, it becomes good. For instance, at birth we are good, but by the time of death, we are bad. Coming into being, dwelling, change, and extinction: after some-thing comes into being, it dwells, then undergoes change, and finally ceases to be. Birth, aging, sickness, and death follow the same principle. After we are born, we gradually grow old, and in old age we contract sicknesses. Sickness then brings about death. These are all conditions. Everyone undergoes birth and is glad to be born; everyone must die, but everyone fears death. If you are neither glad to be born nor afraid to die, you have samadhi power. Why do people fear ghosts? Because ghosts are grotesque and frightening, menacing and capable of killing people. Fear of ghosts is a form of the fear of death. If you didnít fear death, you wouldnít fear anything. You wouldnít be afraid of ghosts, spirits, goblins, demons, monsters, or anything at all. If you are afraid of something, you cannot be proper. You can attain proper samadhi and reception only if you have no fear. A person who possesses samadhi power has the attitude:

Even if I meet with a knifeís point,
I am always completely tranquil.
If I am given a poisonous drug,
I am still totally at ease.

The meaning is, if someone were to slice my head off with a knife, I wouldnít mind too much. I wouldnít be moved. Why not? Because Iíve already put an end to birth and deathó"Everything is done, and there is no more rebirth." When you attain the One, all things are done.

However, attaining the One is not enough. You must find a way to get back to the origin and turn it into a Zero. The Zero is an ineffably wonderful principle. Any person who understands the Zero can cultivate and realize the fruition. How can you understand the Zero? You must first understand the One. "When you attain the One, all things are done." It is beyond the marks of speech, words, and conditions of the mind. Sweep away all dharmas, and separate from all marks. "Not a single dharma exists; all dharmas are empty." If you want to attain this kind of state and realize this principle, you must first attain the One. You shouldnít think the One is so simple.

When heaven attains the One,
it becomes clear;
When earth attains the One,
it becomes peaceful;
When a person attains the One,
he becomes a sage.

Why is heaven able to shelter the myriad creatures and things? Because it has attained the One. Why is earth able to nurture the myriad things? Because it has attained the One. If the earth lost the One, there would be landslides, earthquakes, tidal waves, and all kinds of disasters. Wherever the One is lost, there will be incessant calamities. If the One is not lost, the earth will be peaceful and secure.

When a person attains the One, he becomes a sage. If a person really attains the One, he will escape rebirth, realize sagehood, and open up his wisdom. When people have lost the One, they undergo rebirth in the six paths, and suffer all kinds of afflictions and ignorance. The eighty-four thousand afflictions all come about because you have lost the One. If you attain the One, then afflictions will turn into Bodhi and birth and death will become Nirvana; itís as easy as turning over your hand, not difficult at all. So why havenít you been able turn afflictions into Bodhi, and birth and death into Nirvana? Itís because youíve lost the One, and youíve gone to two, three,..., ten. From ten you go to limitless powers of ten, and hundreds of thousands of afflictions come up. Thus the One is very important. But once you lose the One, itís not easy to regain it. And going from the One back to the origin, to Zero, is even more difficult.

Hereís another simple analogy. When is it called the One? When is it called the Zero? During the period from ages one to fourteen for girls and ages one to sixteen for boys, the One is not yet lost. When is it the Zero? From the time of conception until birth is the stage of the Zero, because there are no random thoughts, afflictions, greed, anger, or stupidity. But once you learn to eat, greed for food arises when youíre hungry; and then greed, anger, and stupidity all start to occur. But at this point you still havenít lost the One. This is the start of your life as a person, and the Zero has become the One. The One is still very complete, and it is the beginning of everything. When you experience the changes of people and things, more things are added on top of the One, so it becomes two; two becomes three; three becomes four,...and it keeps increasing. The more it increases, the heavier the burden gets, and the stupider you become.

The nature is the Zero, and the Zero is the nature. The Zero and the nature have nothing to them at all:

Originally thereís not a single thing;
Where can the dust alight?

We want to cultivate until we become as simple-minded as a newborn baby. Our mind should be empty, like a childís. We should return to youth in our old age. However, that doesnít mean you should start drinking motherís milk again. Rather, it means you should cast out all thoughts of greed, anger, stupidity, pride, and doubt. Thatís called "going back to the root and returning to the source." Your thoughts and outlook are like a childís: innocent and pure, without the slightest bit of laziness, greed for advantages, or criticism of otherís faults. At that point, "Originally thereís not a single thing; where can the dust alight?"

If we can understand this principle and cultivate, then we can truly become enlightened. Why do we listen to lectures on the sutras? Because we want to return to the origin. Why do we cultivate? Because we want to get back to the source, and clean up all the miscellaneous garbage, so that we donít spend all our time on the question of self and others. When someone talks badly of us, we get upset and cannot bear it. If someone were to touch even one hair on our bodies, the pain would sear our hearts. And even if we could benefit the world by pulling out one hair, we wouldnít do it. With such selfishness, we wonít be able to cultivate.

A cultivator should not have the mark of self, the mark of others, the mark of living beings, or the mark of a life span. Not having the mark of self doesnít mean that when itís time to work, you make everyone else work. Not having the mark of others doesnít mean when itís time to eat, you say, "I have no mark of others, so itís no problem if I eat more." You may not have the mark of others, but other people do have the mark of others. Or perhaps when you are fighting, you claim to have no mark of living beings, or when you eat meat, you say you have no mark of a life span. Thatís wrong. Those are all improper ways of thinking. Whatís the right way?

  1. Have no mark of self: Donít be arrogant, and donít scheme for your own benefit.
  2. Have no mark of others: Donít impede or obstruct other people. If something does not benefit others, donít do it.
  3. Have no mark of living beings: Regard all creatures as being of the same substance.
  4. Have no mark of a life span: Everyone has the right to live. Donít take the lives of other people or other beings.

So in cultivation, we should never seek anything for ourselves or scheme for our own benefit. We should always try to think on behalf of others.

A talk given at noon on December 5, 1982
at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, California

 


Namo Amitabha

Lifeís most awesome event is death, and death comes to all without regard to wealth, beauty, intelligence or fame. Death is inevitable, but how you dieóterrified and confused, or with confidence and spiritual masteryóis within your control.
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