Today is a very special day. It is the formal beginning of my lectures on the Flower Adornment Sutra. Some twenty years ago, perhaps twenty-seven years ago, I lectured on this sutra in Taiwan. But I only completed half of the series. At that time, I based my lectures on Master Qing-Liang's commentary. Now, some twenty-seven years later I am again lecturing on this sutra. My state of mind is different. My attainment is different. I can say that at this time, in regards to the Flower Adornment that I have come to some realization.
Why am I lecturing on this sutra? Many practitioners have asked this question. Was it not sufficient to lecture on the Infinite Life Sutra? Delving deeply into one method for a long period assures us of being born into the Pure Land. This is correct. But the Flower Adornment Sutra is encompassed in the Infinite Life Sutra. The heading of chapter two in the Infinite Life Sutra is "The Virtues of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva were followed by all". Were followed by all means that, without exception, all practice the virtues of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva.
What are these virtues? Most of us would answer that they are his Ten Great Vows. This is a correct answer but not a complete one. The Great Vows are the guideline to the Flower Adornment Sutra. The Flower Adornment Sutra is the complete expanded explanation and the realization of the Ten Great Vows. Thus, we can see that all those born into the Western Pure Land, whether in the past, present or future needed to learn and practice the teachings in this Flower Adornment Sutra to accord with the virtues of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva. But, if I were to lecture in this way, I am afraid that the audience would have difficulty understanding the meaning.
To clarify further, this sutra teaches us how to live our lives in the manner of those in the Pure Land. Since we have yet to be born into the Pure Land, we can learn to live in this manner. Being able to practice in this way not only assures our birth into the Pure Land but also raises our level of birth and helps us to more quickly become non-regressive Buddhas. The Visualization Sutra explains that those who are born into the lowest level in the Pure Land must live there for twelve eons before they can see the Buddha. But, if we are able to study and learn the Flower Adornment Sutra and practice Universal Worthy Bodhisattva's way, twelve eons can become twelve days. This is the inconceivable effect.
Thus, we can see that the Flower Adornment Sutra is very important in our practice. However, the length of this sutra is overwhelming. If we are unable to attain the state of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, we will not have understood the sutra and thus we will be unable to explain it. Today, the patience of sentient beings is incomparable to those in the past. Hence, in our present Dharma Ending Age, our having this opportunity or condition to learn and practice together is truly rare. Just as the opening verse of the sutra tells us, it takes infinite eons to encounter this opportunity. When we read this verse today, we deeply feel that we are indeed fortunate to encounter this opportunity. Considering the innumerable sentient beings and the infinite time and space, it is unimaginable that we are able to encounter it. It truly is a rare and precious opportunity that every practitioner should treasure.
We would do well to learn and practice together the teachings in this sutra merging the principles, methods and states into our daily lives. Thus, we will now be able to lead lives of the Pure Land. I am not saying that when we change our surroundings our world will be like the Pure Land and our living environment will be made up of the seven gems. But, is this true? From the principle aspect, it is true. But, from the phenomenal aspect, it is not.
This sutra explains the five types of cause and effect. From the principle aspect, it is true that cause and effect are equal in nature. From the phenomenal aspect, in infinite eons, not everyone has suppressed or eradicated their afflictions and habits. It is not that the Pure Land has not appeared. Rather, our afflictions have obstructed it, making the land of purity into a land of pollution. There is equality in difference: difference in equality. Although there appear to be differences between our good fortune, feelings and our happy lives when compared to the Bodhisattvas in the Pure Land, there truly is no difference. They are the same feelings. This is true reality, not something false. From this, we learn to improve our practice and attainment. Then we will be able to attain the happiest and most fulfilling life.
This life is eternal, not divided into separate lifetimes. If it is moment after moment, then we are still mired in the cycle of reincarnation. Eternity is transcending. Eternity is infinite life. Although these lectures are given in Singapore, the reality is that with over six billion people, on this earth everyone will benefit, everyone is able to hear these Dharma talks. Through the Internet and satellites broadcasts, people around the world will be able to receive the teachings. Therefore, this truly is a rare opportunity.
How do we begin our practice? Ancient patriarchs and masters, who accorded with the Buddha's teachings, explained clearly that as ordinary beings we must have the great broad-mindedness. They did not say the great mind of Bodhisattvas, but to be an ordinary being with great broad-mindedness. If they had said the mind of Bodhisattvas, we might not have any part of it. But by saying ordinary beings, it is achievable by us. We are ordinary beings, the key is that we have yet to bring forth our great broad-mindedness. What is the great broad mind? Actually, it is the bodhi mind to help all sentient beings. How do we bring forth this mind? Through sincerity, purity, equality, awakening and compassion. Our every thought needs to accord with these qualities.
These five kinds of mind can pervade throughout the universe. This is the true Bodhi mind. It is every thought not for ourselves, but for all sentient beings throughout the universe. Every thought is of bringing them true benefits. Our every thought, word and act needs to accord with these five minds. This is the mind of great ordinary beings. The great broad-minded ordinary person is what the Infinite Life Sutra tells us that this conduct surpasses that of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva. These are not just empty words of praise but the true reality explained by Buddha Shakyamuni. This great mind and those of the Buddhas are the same. The difference between Buddhas and us is that they have eradicated their afflictions and attachment to knowledge; which also are their wandering and discriminatory thoughts and attachments. Although we have the same broad-mindedness and the same understanding, we have not yet severed our wandering and discriminating thoughts and attachments.
One who has completely severed them is a Buddha. Those who have not are ordinary beings. Buddhas have great minds; ordinary beings have great minds, too. From the aspect of the great mind, there is no difference between Buddhas and us. The only difference is in afflictions. Therefore, these beings are those who will be able to benefit from the Flower Adornment Sutra. We must generate this great mind.
Today, we can clearly see that the world is in chaos. However, when we have generated the great mind we will be unaffected, we will be unmoved by the happenings in the world. Thus, we will be able to achieve results by studying this sutra. In this world, no matter who we are, or even when others deceive us, we would do well to treat them with sincerity. Master Shan-Dao said that everything we do needs to arise from our true, sincere mind. It is correct to treat all people and objects with the utmost sincerity, respect and compassion. All Dharmas are equal. No one is superior to another.
We need to remember the valuable teachings of the Buddha. Worldly sages have also taught us to be humble and modest, to be respectful. The first thing in the Book of Rites is that we should be respectful to all. When interacting with people, matters and objects, where do we begin? From sincerity and respect. The first of the Ten Great Vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva is to respect all people and to treat everything with care. Today, our greatest problem is arrogance. If sincerity and respect do not come forth, this Bodhi mind cannot come forth. In other words, not only will we not be qualified to join in the Flower Adornment assembly, but we will not be qualified to join in any other great Mahayana teachings or Theravada teachings.
Mr. Bing-Nan Lee said, "Still controlled by our fate, we will be born, die and reincarnate as we are destined to." To tell the truth, if we cannot transcend the six realms then our cultivation in this lifetime will have been in vain. What is the reason? Lack of sincerity and respect. This is just like building a house. To respect all people and to treat everything with care is like the first floor. Without it, the building cannot be built. This is definite.
If we want to learn and practice, where do we start? We start by being sincere and respectful not only towards all good people and matters but towards all bad people and matters, as well. We should not discriminate. This is what the Buddha taught us. There may be a difference in how we say the praise but our mind and behavior should equally reflect sincerity and respect. There should be no difference. Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, patriarchs and masters cannot force us, they can only teach and guide us by clearly explaining with logic and rationale. They can only tell us of their attainment experience for us to use as a reference. We need to know how to learn and practice. As the sutras say, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can only teach us. Practice and attainment is up to us.
How do we become awakened? How do we attain? As I said, with sincerity and respect. With sincerity within respect will naturally be reflected in our appearance. Without true inner sincerity, our appearance will not reflect true respect, regardless of how good we act. Others who see us will know that our respect is false, is only an act and is not generated from the honest heart. A wise person will be able to see through this. Thus, we need to start with sincerity and respect. To respect all without discrimination. Then, in this way, we will be able to begin our learning and practice of Buddhism, to attain the state of Flower Adornment and be able to live the life of Western Pure Land, the life of all good beings. No matter what lives we are leading today or what work we perform, if our mind is pure and happy then there will be no difference between us and the beings in the Pure Land.
We can obtain this benefit now. This thoroughly accords with the three truths in the Infinite Life Sutra, "Teaching and showing the Buddha's true wisdom, knowledge and view", which is achievable by us. You may ask, what does this mean? It means that everything we do is to show all sentient beings, by setting a good example, by being a good role model and showing them the truth. "To dwell in true wisdom" ourselves. This is self-benefit. This is ultimate happiness. "Bringing true benefits to others" is liberating sentient beings, is helping sentient beings.
How do we benefit all sentient beings? By being a good role model for them to follow. When others see this, when others hears this, when others comprehend this and are touched, and are able to correct their faults and begin anew. They will be able to emulate us and learn from the Buddha's teachings in the sutras. And this is the true benefit. Tonight begins the lectures on the Flower Adornment Sutra. It is my deep-felt hope that all will be able to bring forth their bodhi mind and deeply comprehend the profound meanings within this sutra. If we are able to accomplish this, our benefits will be infinite and boundless. Thank you.
From ancient times to now, in the East and the West, every leader has needed to have the genuine support of the people in order to be successful. As the ancient Chinese have said, "One who is liked by everyone will succeed, while one who is despised by everyone will fail in his endeavors." These words are the eternal truth. No matter what we do, we cannot go against this truth.
As monks and nuns, we are engaged in social education. This is our basic responsibility. Social education is broader in scope than what is generally taught in today's schools. It also has its degrees of difficulty. Mr. Bing-Nan Lee, late teacher of Master Chin Kung said, "For a monk or nun to do his or her best in teaching Buddhism, he or she needs to understand clearly and comprehensively both worldly and the Buddha's teachings." Human interests are included in all these teachings. Buddhism particularly places great emphasis on according with the principles and the level of understanding of all sentient beings. Only by meeting people's level of understanding and interest, will we be welcomed and accepted by them. Why will people be receptive to us? Because we can bring them true benefits. This enables us to earn their trust. Thus, they will sincerely listen to our teachings.
If we want to achieve this kind of result, then we need to understand what Master Shan-Dao said, "Whatever we do, it needs to come from our sincere heart." Thus, sincerity is extremely important. Everything arises from sincerity, and is built on this foundation. Nothing arises without true sincerity. In the opening of the Flower Adornment Sutra, Buddha Shakyamuni taught us that we need to be a good role model in the social work we do when we are propagating Buddhist teachings and bringing benefits to people. We can first show people the result.
In the beginning of the sutra, we learn of the living environment of Buddha Vairocana and the wondrous adornment of the environment and the beings there. Proper is proper reward. What we are to look for? We are to see the form of his appearance. We are to see his awe-inspiring bearing. In modern words, we see his brilliance and his dignified manner. We are to see his every deed. This is proper reward. Dependant reward is to observe his living environment, working environment and his interaction with people, matters and objects. These are all considered to be dependent reward.
In order to receive the warm support and respect of the sentient beings in the nine realms, we first need to show them the result. Then we explain to them how we can practice in order to attain this result. In the beginning, we introduce the result, towards the end we explain the cause. This is the Buddha's principle in teaching sentient beings. First the result and then the cause. This way, sentient beings can give rise to and build up their belief, admiration, respect, and bring forth the heart to learn and practice the teachings. Once we read this passage in the sutra, we should know how we are to learn and practice. As the Zen patriarchs have said, "Once you have seen it and heard it, do you know how?" Do you know how? Do you? Within these questions lie a profound meaning. "Have you understood?" "Do you know how?" If we have understood and know how, then we will be the same as Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. If not, we should earnestly be diligent in our learning and practice.
Thus, we realize that if we want to do our very best in educating and helping sentient beings, we need to be a good voluntary social educator. We first need to show the result. What is it? We ourselves are images. We have been practicing Buddhism for a few years, for decades, what do we have to show? Our appearance, our body. Our appearance is our advertisement. People only see what is on the outside. As long as we have a good appearance, a good advertisement, they will have confidence in us.
But how can we bring out this good appearance? From our inner self. Our outer appearance reflects our inner self. If our outer appearance is an act, a disguise, it will not last long. Once it has failed and been exposed then all our efforts will have been in vain. Therefore, it is true that our outer appearance is a reflection from within. If we have a sincere heart, our sincere attitude will naturally be reflected on the outside. There is no need to pretend. There is no need to act or disguise ourselves. No need at all. If our mind is pure, what others will see is the form of purity revealed in our appearance. When our heart is non-discriminatory, is equal, we exhibit non-discriminatory behavior. When our heart is compassionate, we exude compassion from within.
When we understand everything around us, our inner wisdom is shown. There is no need to take lessons. So, why fake an outer appearance? What is important is in our heart. We need to first set a good example. When others see us, they will know that practicing Buddhism brings many advantages. Once they encounter us, they will believe. The thought of learning and practicing Buddhism will naturally arise. This is why we need to first demonstrate the result, then explain its cause.
We learned these principles in the opening of the Flower Adornment Sutra. As long as we are earnest in what we do, with one degree of sincerity, one degree of equality, one degree of compassion, our appearances will reflect that one degree. With ten degrees of sincerity, ten degrees of purity, ten degrees of compassion, our appearances will reflect those ten degrees.
Therefore, we need to encourage and guide people to accomplish perfectly the work of social education. In social education, Buddhism is utmost and perfect. Its scope includes all sentient beings in the nine realms. Therefore, not only is it able to influence people, animals, ghosts and spirits will be influenced by it as well. There are many examples of animals being moved. When elder Mr. Tong-Xuan Lee wanted to write a commentary on the Flower Adornment Sutra, that is a compilation of commentaries of this sutra, it moved a tiger and the tiger found a place for him to write it. Most people see tigers as fierce animals. But this tiger was willing to listen to him. Mr. Lee wanted to write a commentary and asked the tiger to help him find a place to work.
A more recent example is Master Yin-Guang. In his seventies, mosquitoes, ants and fleas, which most people dislike intensely and therefore do everything they can to exterminate them, were nowhere to be found in his living quarters. Master Yin-Guang had virtuous conduct and a sincere, pure and compassionate heart. When Master Yin-Guang moved in, the insects naturally moved out. In other words, if we are stung by mosquitoes or bitten by fleas, this is due to our lack of purity and compassion. If we have a pure and compassionate heart, insects will respect us. They will not harm us. Even small insects can be touched or moved also. Insects have spirituality. We may ask why insects are touched by us? All this is explained in the Flower Adornment Sutra.
Our every rising thought, even the smallest thought, is not detectable by us. However, some people do have a high degree of sensitivity. People such as Arhats, Pratyekabuddhas and Bodhisattvas. Although there are many levels of attainment for Bodhisattvas, the higher their level, the more refined are their sensitivities. The weakest vibration from a thought is known to them. Today, it is easier for us to understand if we say "vibrations''. Today people know that electricity has frequency, that light has waves. However, they do not know that the source of all these waves is the mind.
Our thoughts are mind waves, vibrations. All light and electric waves are generated from our mind. The mind is the origin. Thus, in the Flower Adornment Sutra, the Buddha tells us that we should contemplate that all things are created from our minds. The Buddha tells us that all the adornments in the Ten Dharma Realms are manifested from the mind and changed by our perceptions. Thus, we can see light, electric and magnetic waves change according to our perceptions.
The most original and fundamental is the mind wave. The mind wave is finer than light and magnetic waves. It is also finer than electric waves. So, it is not easily detected. Today's science and technology have developed to a point that they can probe the weakest waves of light and electricity. Whether we use a telescope or a radio telescope, these waves from hundred of millions of light years ago have traveled over a great distance and are extremely weak by the time they reach our world. Once the light waves coming from other planets reach our world, they are very, very weak. But, we are still able to detect and measure them. But our mind waves cannot be detected by any modern instruments. There is no way. Once we understand this we will no longer doubt it. Although we are unable to detect the waves, what the Buddha told us is true and logical. We do not doubt, but believe that our every rising thought and the universe are indeed one entity. The Flower Adornment Sutra explains the five kinds of cause and effect that extend throughout the universe, even the weakest casual effect. This is the true reality.
The difference between sages and ordinary beings is that sages have proper thoughts. Ordinary beings have deviated thoughts. What are proper thoughts and deviated thoughts? Proper thoughts are those that accord with the truth. Deviated thoughts are the opposite. The mind originally was true. The proper mind accords with the true mind. If our mind accords with deviated thoughts, then it is not proper, but deviated. There are no thoughts in the true mind. Having no thoughts means having no wandering thoughts or deviated thoughts. It does not mean having no proper thoughts. We need to know that it still has proper thoughts, that it clearly understands what is right.
What is proper thought? Proper thought is purity, equality and awakening. Proper thought is great compassion. Proper thought is to help and care for all sentient beings. Is this not considered a rising thought? No, it is not a rising thought. To think and not attach to thinking is proper thought. If we were to say that there is not a single thought, then that is still a deviated thought. In ignorance, there is deviated thought. Falling into ignorance, we fall into emptiness. In other words, attaching to emptiness is deviated. Attaching to existence is also deviated. Only when existence and void are interwoven is it proper thought.
Proper thought is not explainable in words. We have to realize this from matters, to understand the meanings from these words. This is known as the state beyond description and imagination. This is the state of proper thought. If we insist that the state beyond description and imagination is proper thought, this is wrong. We again fall into deviated thoughts. There is no alternative but to say that emptiness and existence exist simultaneously.
In the chapter of Ten Meditations in the Flower Adornment Sutra, Mr. Tong-Xuan Lee especially emphasized on "an instant". An instant and infinite eons are one. This is the realm of proper thoughts. The universe and this small room are one. This is correspondence. Is there actually this world and other worlds? Yes, it is the differential of cause and effect. Is there a past, present or future? Yes, it is the differential of cause and effect. But, distinction and nondiscrimination exist simultaneously. Nondiscrimination exists in distinction. Distinction exists in nondiscrimination. The non-duality of distinction and nondiscrimination. This is proper thought. It is correspondence.
Of course, this state is not one which all of us can achieve in this lifetime. But I can say it is definitely achievable. We can achieve. The question lies in us. If only we can eliminate our obstacles, then this will not be difficult. What are the obstacles? The hindrance from our afflictions and all-knowledge. The two hindrances the hindrance of afflictions are what we normally call emotions and desires: the seven emotions and the five desires, the rights and wrongs, greed, anger, ignorance and arrogance, we need to let go of these hindrances of afflictions.
What is all-knowledge hindrance? Ideas and viewpoints. Our own opinions and understanding. This is the hindrance to having all knowledge. The true mind does not have personal viewpoints, opinions and understanding. It thoroughly understands everything. It is clear on everything. This is the true wisdom, which we originally possessed, in our true nature. But unfortunately, we have turned our wisdom into ignorance. Ignorance is wisdom. Is it not terrible that we changed our innate wisdom into ignorance? How did this happen? The Surangama Sutra said very clearly that, "the formation of viewpoints is the root of ignorance".
These words from the Buddha explained this very clearly. Where does ignorance come from? From thinking that, we have knowledge and ideas. This transforms our true wisdom into ignorance. We have been too deeply deluded for innumerable lifetimes. The Buddha used skillful and expedient methods to help us uncover our innate wisdom. What method did the Buddha use? He taught us to practice meditation. What is the purpose of meditation? First, it helps us to break through the hindrance of afflictions. Then it helps us to break through the hindrance to having all-knowledge.
Once our mind is calm without a single rising thought we will no longer have the hindrance of afflictions. When we become suddenly awakened, we will break through our hindrance to having all knowledge. What is the great enlightenment? It is the breaking through of the hindrance to having all knowledge, to uncover our innate wisdom. This is all there is to it. Virtuous conduct includes practicing meditation and breaking through the two hindrances is virtuous conduct. By only partially breaking through these two hindrances, not necessarily breaking through completely, but breaking through one degree, our state of mind will be elevated one degree. If we break through two degrees, then it will change two degrees.
What will change? As I have said before, our appearance will change, our bodily constitution will change, our living environment will change. The environment changes according to our minds. These changes are what we would call eliminating karmic obstacles. It is to eliminate disasters and faults. Reducing and eradicating are changes. There are principles, methods and true results in this. If we do not understand this principle and are unable to abide and follow the teachings, then how can we succeed? This is all for today. Thank you.
All (Buddhist) teachings are based upon "conditions". The Buddha often tells us in the sutra that everything arises from conditions. This is very profound and vast. If we are able to understand and recognize this completely, then we will be able to understand the true reality. And then, we will know how to learn and practice in ways that accord with the true reality. "Conditions" are very complicated. They are infinite and boundless. From the aspect of time, they can go back to beginning-less time. Their influence also extends into the endless future. Immeasurable time and space are interwoven with the complexity of conditions; thus, all these phenomena are generated.
Although these phenomena are not actually real, the Prajna sutras clearly explain that everything arises from conditions. Conditions are empty in nature. They are unobtainable. But, they are not without phenomena. Everything that our six senses come in contact with is an illusion, which arises from conditions. The Buddha used the examples of "dreams, illusions, bubbles or shadows" in the sutras. It is not that they totally do not exist. It is not ending, ceasing or empty. If we make good use of existing conditions, then we will attain achievement in our learning and practice in a fast and truthful way. If we do not understand conditions and do not know how to use them, it will take us infinite eons to practice. If it takes this long, it is because we do not understand conditions or we have used them improperly. There will then be fewer chances for improvement and greater chances for regression.
Thus, we can see that whether we are practicing or helping others to do so, we definitely need to understand the true reality. Once we have understood, our minds will become calm and pure. The pure mind gives rise to wisdom. With wisdom, all problems can be solved. To solve all problems, means that everything we do accords with the true reality. Yesterday, when I explained the title of the sutra, I said that everything is able to accord with the "Great Vast". Our living conditions will naturally accord with the state of "Buddha and Flower Adornment". "Buddha and Flower Adornment" is the life of awakened beings. It is the state of clear-minded beings.
As Buddhist practitioners, especially as monks and nuns, when we see others, we usually advise those who have outstanding Dharma affinities. How can we develop outstanding Dharma affinities? We need to do things from the mind of sincerity. It would be outstanding for us to bring forth our good roots, merits and virtues, invoking support from Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. It would also be outstanding to accord with all sentient beings and be joyful over others' meritorious deeds. There is no reason for us not to have thriving Dharma affinities.
Worldly people are not awakened all use false sentiments. It would be wrong for us to believe that this is the true mind. Affections are the Mana Consciousness. Manas are attachments. Consciousness is the sixth thought consciousness, which is discrimination. The sixth and seventh consciousnesses are not real. Worldly people know that false affections or sentiments exist. But, if we were to ask them what they are, they could not describe them.
On the other hand, Buddhism gives us a clear and understandable answer. The Alaya Consciousness is a mixture of truth and falsehood. By having the sixth and seventh consciousness, our Alaya Consciousness exists because of one degree of illusion. If we were to part from the sixth and seventh consciousness, then our Alaya Consciousness will become pure and true without illusion. Therefore, this consciousness is a combination of truth and falsehood. The Conscious Only School said "to change perceptions to wisdom" which everyone is familiar with, is to change the sixth consciousness and the seventh consciousness.
We need to put our efforts into practice here, changing the sixth consciousness to wondrous observation and changing the seventh consciousness to the nature of equality. We can use the title in the Infinite Life Sutra to explain that once our sixth consciousness has changed, giving rise to the pure mind, the pure mind gives rise to wondrous observation. Once the seventh consciousness has changed, equality will be uncovered. These two change from the causal ground. Once the sixth and seventh consciousnesses have changed, the Alaya Consciousness will naturally change to perfect wisdom.
The word "awakening" in the full title Infinite Life Sutra means perfect wisdom. Although there are different explanations within all sutras and sastras, there is no difference in the meaning and phenomena. How can we not do things from our heart of sincerity? We need to be sincere towards others, to use our sincere minds. We do the same in handling matters. We need to be earnest and responsible towards our duties. This is to treat matters with sincerity. We also need to treat objects with sincerity. Sincerity is to cherish and value, to truly achieve thriftiness without waste. This is to be sincere towards objects.
If we can treat all people, matters and objects with sincerity, then sincerity can touch Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. It can also touch dharma protectors and benevolent spirits. And then, as the Buddha told us our request will be answered. Responses will be established. If we are not sincere then we will obtain nothing. We will have nothing. Thus, Master Shan-dao taught countless time that everything needs to be done from our true sincere mind. If we are true and sincere, we do not need to be concerned whether our dharma affinity is good or not, there is no need to be concerned or have misgivings. This would be truly wonderful.
We have seen many great patriarchs throughout history, who never sought affinities. When we seek affinities, they are false ones. Once they are exposed, people will walk away. They are not real. Only if it is generated from our self-nature, from our true sincerity, will we naturally be able to influence people, able to move animals and spirits. In his time, Buddha Shakyamuni won over the king of demons who then become his Dharma protector. The demon first came to cause trouble, but he was unable to do so. He changed his mind and became a protector instead. Even demons will come to protect us. You ask why? Sincerity can influence people. Therefore, our learning and practice need to accord with the true reality, to accord with the teachings. Only in this way can we attain true benefits.
Our study should be uninterrupted when we practice Buddhism, whether as a monk or nun or as a layperson, whether at a way place or at home,. Thus, ancient patriarchs have provided us with morning and evening ceremonies. These ceremonies were not handed down by Buddha Shakyamuni, but by the patriarchs. Why? During the Buddha's time, all students and followers knew how to be diligent and practice continuously. Their every rising thought accorded with the teachings. So, why would there be morning and evening ceremonies? But, from that time on sentient beings' root nature has worsened. Their afflictions and habits have worsened and become more severe. Thus, ancient patriarchs advocated group cultivation that was formally introduced by Masters Bai-zhang and Ma-zu.
In Buddha Shakyamuni's lifetime, group cultivation was not advocated. People only gathered in one place for lectures and discussions. It was the responsibility of each individual to be diligent in learning and practice. Therefore, there was no group cultivation. Later, as individuals developed afflictions and bad habits, practitioners became lazy and idle, which presented major obstacles to their practice. Thus, the ancient patriarchs advocated group cultivation.
The purpose of group cultivation is to depend and rely upon one another, to be wary of becoming lax in practice and to encourage and advise each other. When older practitioners see that younger ones are diligent, they will feel ashamed and will become more diligent. When younger ones see that older ones are diligent, they will become even more diligent. This is the purpose of group cultivation. In a way place, Masters Ma-zu and Bai-zhang thinking of those to come, warned that if a way place neglected group cultivation, it will surely decline. If a family or a way place run by laypeople neglects group cultivation, then it is no longer a Buddhist way place. It is a demons' way place.
We need to be clear and understand the relationship of cause and effect. The minimum for recitation sessions is the morning and evening ceremonies. Their purpose is to alert us and to remind us. This is not to say that in practicing Buddhism we only need to do our best in these two ceremonies. This would be wrong. We definitely would not achieve. The morning ceremony serves as a reminder for us. The evening ceremony serves as a means to reflect upon our errors.
To do the morning ceremony properly, according to the rules, as it says in the "Rebirth to the Pure Land Sastra", we accord with the five principles of practice. When our bodies pay respect to Buddhas, our minds will pay respect to Buddhas and we will uphold their teachings. Therefore, we recite a passage in the sutra to accept the Buddha's teachings. Following the teachings daily, dedicating the merits to the ten directions is known as the Five Mindful Practices.
Our purpose in practicing the Pure Land method is to attain purity, equality and awakening. Thus, the sutra content of our morning ceremony is the forty-eight vows of Buddha Amitabha. Of course, it would be best if we could completely recite the Infinite Life Sutra. But, this is difficult for most people to do. Thus, we have only chosen one chapter. This chapter is the most important in the sutra. We recite it daily, to conform to Buddha Amitabha's vows. Every one of the forty-eight vows serves to liberate all sentient beings. Every one of them encompasses all of the others.
As stated in the Flower Adornment Sutra, "One is many, many is one". "One is all, all is one". The meaning is essentially the same. In the evening ceremony, we have chosen chapters thirty-two through thirty-seven. These chapters serve as a reminder to reflect upon and to improve ourselves. The essence of these chapters is the Five Fundamental Precepts and the Ten Good Conducts. The meanings are profound and vast. In other words, the Five Precepts encompass all precepts. The Ten Good Conducts encompass all virtuous teachings. All are included within. By reciting daily, we will become familiar with them and will carefully consider their meanings.
Yesterday afternoon, some people came to see me and said that they had not benefited from their practice and had too many wandering thoughts. This is perfectly normal. Wanting to seek improvement is good. What would be the most effective method to sever our afflictions? Manjushri Bodhisattva said that it is to be mindful of the Buddha and chant his name. This method is very effective. We do not need to worry about the number of times we recite the Buddha's name as long as we are constantly thinking of the forty-eight vows, admiring Buddha Amitabha, emulating Buddha Amitabha, and often contemplating the teachings found in chapters thirty-two to thirty-seven. By doing so, we will know what we should and should not do. In this way, we will abide by the teachings. This is true cultivation. In this way, the morning and evening ceremonies will become part of our daily lives. There are infinite merits in these two ceremonies.
This is not to say that if we recite in the morning for Buddhas to hear, recite in the evening for Buddhas to hear, then we have done our work. This would be pointless. This is reciting with the mind of reincarnation. This will not help us to transcend the cycle of birth and death. This is misunderstanding the Buddha's actual meaning. Thus, we need to understand how to properly do the two ceremonies. To understand what kind of mindset to have, what kind of heart to have in order to accord with the teachings. This is truly making Buddhism part of our daily lives. If we fail to do this, then we will not know where to begin.
In the future, when advocating Buddhism at your way place, these two ceremonies will be of utmost importance for monks, nuns and laypeople with good fortune and virtues. We should do things from our sincere heart to move Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and all spirits to support us. Then, the way place will naturally prosper. Others and we will gain true benefits. This is something we would do well to understand. This is all for today. Thank you.
Fellow students, we have seen news reports here of disasters now occurring around the world. The frequency of these disasters has increased. The damage has become more severe. What is the actual cause of all these disasters? It is difficult for most people to understand the actual cause. The Buddha tells us in sutras that the environment changes according to our minds. He told us that the adornment of the universe manifests from our minds and changes according to our perceptions. This is true. It is the basis of all true reality.
Master Shan-dao taught us to do things from our true sincere hearts. In the lecture hall, when we study and discuss Buddhist texts, the Buddha constantly tells us about the principle of accordance. If we do not accord with the teachings, then our minds and the environment will become abnormal. Deviation from the proper path will result in many disasters and sufferings. If our minds and conduct accord with our virtuous natures, then we are following the teachings of the Great Vast as stated in the Flower Adornment Sutra. If we accord with the Great Vast, the realm of Buddha and Flower Adornment will naturally appear before us. If our minds and conduct violate the teachings of the Great Vast, then the phenomena, which appears will be terrible and even worse than those of the three lower realms. This is something we should understand and be very clear about.
True cultivators will bear the responsibility for the disasters that are happening to people in this world. They will neither shirk this responsibility nor blame others. We need to reflect upon ourselves to see whether or not we have done anything wrong that could have resulted in such bad consequences. We should not underestimate the strength of an individual. To be honest, an individual's ability is beyond our imagination. The problem lies in whether or not we have met the standard for according with the teachings. When we wish to do something, but are unable to then we are unable to change our state.
The Flower Adornment Sutra tells us of belief, understanding, practice and attainment. If we have believed, are determined to succeed and are willing to practice, then although the ways are different the meaning is all the same. If we accord with the teachings and meet a certain standard, then we would be able to change the environment at will. Whether we accord with the teachings for ourselves or for sentient beings, all will attain true benefits.
Awakened ones are able to observe the people in this world very clearly. Why? It is often said "Bystanders have a better grasp of the situation than those who are involved". We are very fortunate not to be involved, to just be bystanders. To us, there is no gain or loss in this world. Hence, we see differently from people who are involved in the situation, who are constantly affected by their own gains and losses. We see very clearly the relationship between causes, conditions and effects, and all the changes within. Therefore, we realize that in order to meet the standard in learning, although we cannot break through our attachments to self and knowledge, we need to be able to let go of fame, prestige, the temptations of our surroundings and the Five Desires.
We would do well to do everything for all sentient beings and for Buddhism. If we meet this standard, then our karmic strength and our consequences will begin to change. In Buddhism, when the changes materialize, we have attained some achievement. Therefore, practice and attainment is neither something mysterious or subtle nor is it too profound or unfathomable. In Mahayana sutras, the Buddha often said Buddhism is a teaching of equality. There is nothing unusual about it. Everyone can attain this state. In this state, everyone has uncovered the perfect complete virtue within his or her self-nature.
As more people attain this cultivation level, we will receive greater support as the Buddhas compassionately guide and help all beings. They are compassionate towards sentient beings who are suffering. Why do terrible phenomena exist even when the Buddhas are helping us? It is because at this time very few people in this region are practicing good causes. Thus, the support from the Buddhas is limited. If more people are willing to practice good causes, then the support from the Buddhas will be greater and more apparent.
f our minds were calmer and clearer and able to observe carefully, then we would see this principle, this reality. We would realize that this matter is true, not false. What the Buddha said is true. If we observe carefully, we will clearly see that this region and especially Singapore have the support from the Buddhas. This region also has the help from Mr. Bock-Guan Lee and others. They all work sincerely and selflessly, without any thoughts of fame, wealth or luxury. Thus, they receive the support from all Buddhas. They have also brought the Buddha's support to this region. Where there are true cultivators, those who are truly learning and practicing, this connection with the Buddhas is inconceivable.
The main reason for this connection is true sincerity. With sincerity, there is a response. True sincerity can resolve all obstacles can break through all barriers. Actually, it is not really breaking through. The barriers simply no longer exist. If however, we are insincere, then barriers will appear. Hence, the barriers are not real. They are illusory and are generated from our wandering and discriminatory thoughts and attachments. Sincerity is severing wandering and discriminatory thoughts and attachments. All barriers can be overcome. In other words, it is the true mind of sincerity and compassion. The true mind possesses great infinite virtues and abilities. When there are no barriers, all virtues and abilities are interwoven.
The Flower Adornment Sutra says that " One is all and all is one". Any one teaching perfectly encompasses all other teachings. These principles and the true reality are explained perfectly by the Buddha in the Flower Adornment Sutra. From this, we realize that every rising thought, word and deed pervades throughout the universe. We should not think that our thoughts do not affect matters or other beings. If we think this way, then we are wrong. There is an effect to our every rising thought, word and deed. We could also say that everything has " waves". There are light, sound, electric waves and those from magnetic fields. There are infinite kinds of waves. The rate at which they travel can be slow or fast, but they all follow our mind waves. This is because these waves are generated from our minds.
As the Sixth Patriarch of Zen, Master Hui-Neng said, "It is not the pennant or the wind that is moving, but the mind giving rise to thought". The wind and the pennant are phenomena. Why do phenomena move? This is an example of the principle that the mind moves, the mind gives rise to thoughts. The mind creates the universe. Thus, why would a thought not pervade throughout the whole universe? We have often read of these principles in sutras and heard of them in lectures but, we ourselves have not yet achieved this state. We have only heard about it. We have not seen this truth.
Observing this truth is the first level of attainment in the Flower Adornment Sutra. It is called the First Level of Dwelling Bodhisattva. If we have observed, realized and comprehended this truth, then it will come into effect. Or we could simply say that our thoughts and viewpoints change. That our perceptions of life and the universe change. Our appearances and the composition of our bodies changes. Our feelings towards our surroundings change. This is not to say that our surroundings have been transformed. Rather our feelings, viewpoints and thus, phenomena have changed.
Just achieving the abilities of the first level Bodhisattva is not enough. The Flower Adornment Sutra explains that reaching the first ground level Bodhisattva, our state begins to change. Upon reaching the levels of the Ten Dwellings, the Ten Practices and the Ten Dedications Bodhisattvas, our perceptions will change. This is the true benefit, the true effect. If we want to gain the support from Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, to reduce obstacles on our Bodhi path, to eradicate the obstacles, all we need is to have a sincere mind. If we cannot bring forth our sincere mind, then we will definitely be controlled by our karma. In this and in all of our lifetimes, we have been unable to escape the control of our karma. It restrains us. It hinders us from receiving the support from Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. If we want to quickly break away from this control and be liberated like Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, we need to practice the mind of sincerity, purity, equality, awakening and compassion.
In our daily living, we need to see through and let go. Then, we will gain freedom and accord with conditions. We can do so regardless of the strength of our karma. The sutras explain that it can be as enormous as Mt. Sumeru, as deep as the great ocean. However, we know that our karma is not real, but illusory. It manifests from the false mind. If we abandon this false mind and return to the true mind, then no matter how strong our karma is, it will be unable to hinder us. Many people are aware that they have heavy karma. Thus, they want to eliminate their karmic obstacles, but they just cannot, no matter how hard they try. Not only are they unable to eliminate karmic obstacles but they increase them daily. They do not know how to solve this, do not know that it needs to be eliminated from the root.
The underlying way is to reform our minds, to change our thinking. We need to get to the root of the problem. Otherwise, it would be difficult for us to see the results. For example, if we were to cut the leaves of a plant, they would simply grow back. Thus, regardless of the chosen school or method, a knowledgeable practitioner knows how to practice from the root. We practice from our minds. If our minds are sincere, then this will naturally be reflected in our appearance and demeanor.
We should sincerely care for all sentient beings, sincerely love, protect and help them. We live in this world for the sake of sentient beings, for the sake of Buddhism and not for ourselves. To live for all sentient beings and Buddhism. To die for all sentient beings and Buddhism. There is no self. If our thoughts are still for ourselves, then we will be unable to escape the control of our karma. We will be unable to transcend our karma, but will instead, be pulled along with it. We need to understand this truth. If we understand this and practice according to these principles, then we will definitely attain achievements in this lifetime and will not have wasted this valuable life. As Master Shan-dao taught, we are to do everything from the bottom of our hearts. Sincerity is of the utmost importance.
I hope that all of us will encourage one another and strive to practice together. We do this not for ourselves, but for a stable society and for all sentient beings. We should help sentient beings to eliminate disasters and sufferings. This is true compassion. Therefore, here today in Singapore, where conditions are so excellent, we should be especially diligent in our study and practice and abide by all rules. In this way, not only will we not disappoint ourselves but also we will not disappoint the Buddha who has taught us so compassionately. This is all for today. Thank you.
Venerable Master Shao-yuan from Korea came to visit us in Singapore. He hopes that we will be able to help propagate Buddhism in Korea. It is our responsibility to do so. From news reports over the past few years, we have seen that around the world disasters are increasing in both frequency and severity. This is something that we all are very concerned about. There are many charitable people, scientists, religious followers who all hope that these disasters can be resolved. Although we cannot eradicate all disasters, we still need to find ways to reduce or delay them. By objective observation, we can see that the goodness of a kind-hearted person who is respected by others can help to alleviate the disasters. We just cannot say how much it will help so we can only do our best and see what happens. Only Buddhism provides a thorough and clear explanation of this, as well as explaining how to eliminate these disasters.
Unfortunately today, many people have no confidence in Buddhism because they do not believe in it or accept this idea. Thus, we are unable to prevent these disasters. This is truly regrettable. We understand the true reality, but advice from those without status has little influence. While those who believe can help themselves, we are unable to help others and this too is truly regrettable.
Regardless of where we are from or where we are, as long as there are truly awakened ones who understand the true reality, we will do our best to help them. This is our unshakable duty. Both worldly teachings and those of the Buddha emphasize the importance of "conditions". I have said many times that our study and practice as well as the propagation of the Buddha's teachings depend on conditions. In the past, I lectured in Hong Kong for over ten years. However, I have not been there in the past seven years. Some people there were very concerned about me and asked me why had I not been there. I told them that I had not been invited, that conditions had ended and there was no use to go there on my own.
In Singapore, I have been propagating the Buddha's teachings for the past eleven years. Mr. Bock-Guan Lee of the Singapore Buddhist Lodge has made this possible. If it were not for him, there would have been no one here to invite me to give Dharma talks, much less to conduct training classes. As, I often say in lectures, it is even more difficult to be a Dharma protector than to be a Dharma lecturer. Therefore, the merits of a protector far exceed those of a lecturer. Many people can lecture, but there are few people to invite them to do so. Thus, in order to save this world, we need more protectors. If we have dedicated Dharma protectors as well as lecturers who have the heart to propagate the teachings, then Buddhism will flourish in our world and greatly benefit all sentient beings. However, this kind of condition is only to be encountered and cannot be sought.
In Korea, the old master is creating this condition. If conditions have indeed matured, then we will naturally give our full support and do whatever we can to help. I believe that if there is no way to resolve these disasters then people will start to think about Buddhism. In the seventies, Professor Tom Enbie, a History and Philosophy Professor from England gave a speech at an international conference held in Europe. His speech greatly influenced many people. He said that only the teachings of Confucius and Mahayana Buddhism could solve the problems of the twenty-first century. In recent years, England has included Buddhism as one of the courses in their school curriculum. I believe that this was largely due to the influence of Professor Enbie's talk. I also believe that it has been largely due to the influence of Professor Enbie that we see many Catholic Archbishops interacting so well with Buddhist monks and nuns. Surely, other countries will follow England's example.
Currently we are videotaping all of our lectures and broadcasting them in North America. Although they are in Chinese and there is a language barrier, I believe that this will eventually have a tremendous impact. The Buddha's teachings can greatly help this world and thus benefit all, regardless of nationality, race or religion. With a mind of sincerity, equality, purity and compassion, we can help all sentient beings who are in suffering.
Social education is a praiseworthy profession. For those who have the heart to become monks and nuns, regardless of why we originally did so, we need to dedicate ourselves to this task. Perhaps we had no understanding of the true meaning of Buddhism when we became a monk or a nun. But now that we are one, hopefully we will have the opportunity to come to Singapore to join this small Sangha. As we study and learn together, we should bring forth our Bodhi minds, make great vows and put our hearts and efforts into this endeavor to put others first, for the sake of the Buddha's teachings and to help sentient beings in alleviating these disasters. Then, not only in this lifetime, but also life after life, our lives will be meaningful and fulfilling. The problem is that to do this, we need to realize, to be awakened, to let go of worldly fame and wealth. We need to resist temptation, to sever our desires and to uncover our pure mind to do this well.
If we feel that we do not have enough abilities, that our knowledge is limited, or that we lack wisdom, all these are secondary. As Mr. Lee said, if we have neither financial resources nor good fortunes, Buddha Amitabha has infinite good fortune. We should seek his support. For the same reason, if we have no wisdom, no knowledge or abilities, Buddha Amitabha has perfect wisdom and can help us. But first, we ourselves need to put forth some effort. This effort is to practice the true, sincere, pure and compassionate mind. With these, we can touch Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who will in turn respond to us, to our vows. This response will be inconceivable. If we cannot put our understanding into practice, but only blindly seek help from Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, then there will be no response.
This joining of both understanding and practice is our foundation. The responses from Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are proportional to our sincerity of mind. If we have one degree of sincerity, we will receive one degree of response. If we have ten degrees of sincerity, we will receive ten degrees of response. Why did Mr. Lee receive such outstanding responses? Because of his deep sincerity. He puts all of his efforts into whatever he is doing. This is why the responses are inconceivable. We can see that it is good when ordinary beings have one or two degrees of sincerity. However, most of us have no sincerity at all. Instead, we still have afflictions, habits, greed, anger and ignorance. Instead of sincerity, we use these to seek a response.
It is impossible to obtain a response in this way. First, it does not accord with the teachings, from the principle aspect. Second, in view of the Great Vast in the "Flower Adornment Sutra", it does not accord with the forms and virtuous applications within our self-nature. And from the phenomenal aspect, in view of the forty-eight vows of Buddha Amitabha, our vows do not accord with his. It is ridiculous to seek help from the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to attain fame and wealth. The Buddhas will not respond to this kind of request.
We need to know that the sufferings of sentient beings and those of the entire world are our sufferings. Helping sentient beings and this world is truly helping ourselves. Others and we are one, not two. To say sentient beings and Buddhas are equal is incorrect. Sentient beings and Buddhas are one not two. When there is one entity, there is no equality because to say that things are equal is to say that there are two. All these are the Buddha's skillful and expedient ways to teach beings. We need to realize this. I hope that all of us will be diligent in our learning and practice. With diligence and effort, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will help us to attain good fortune and wisdom.
However, when we receive their support, we should not enjoy it by ourselves. Instead, we should dedicate our good fortunes and wisdom to all sentient beings, to achieving a stable, peaceful and prosperous world. We should regard this matter as our sole responsibility. We are here in this world exclusively for this purpose. We do not live for anything but to accomplish this. All of you students are in the prime of your lives. At this age, all of you should be very earnest and diligent. Great compassion is our driving force. Today, most people work hard to gain fame and prestige. Without them, there would be no motivation to work. On the other hand, we do not want fame. We do not want prestige. What is our driving force? The great compassionate mind. Loving-kindness for all sentient beings. The need to help all sentient beings. This is our driving force.
Although, Buddhism was transmitted from India to China, its really took hold in China. In the eleventh century, Buddhism began to decline in India. We even see that most of Buddha Shakyamuni's clan immigrated to China. Eminent Indian monks and ancient Chinese patriarchs brought Buddhist texts to China and translated them into Chinese. The largest collection of Buddhist texts is now in Chinese. The next largest collection is in Tibetan. Next in size are the Theravada texts in Pali. From this, it is logical to conclude that the motherland of Buddhism is no longer India but China.
Twenty years ago, I spoke of the need for Asians to unite and take on the duties and responsibilities in protecting world peace and to assume responsibility in helping the world to prosper. I visited Japan at that time and discussed this with members of the Japanese parliament and leaders of religious groups. I was very straightforward in telling the Japanese that although they did believe in Buddhism, they were superstitious. Although they study and discuss Buddhist texts, as the old master had said, "they have yet to comply with the teachings". They understand. They do not practice. Master Qing-Liang clearly explained in his commentary on the "Flower Adornment Sutra" that understanding without practice only serves to increase our deviated views.
Therefore, the Japanese have increased their deviated views. It was these deviated views that led them to start the war with China. Their invasion of China was a very serious mistake for it failed. On the other hand, the Mongolian invasion succeeded and resulted in the establishment of the Yuan dynasty. Likewise, the Manchu invasion resulted in the establishment of the Qing Dynasty, which ruled China for over two hundred and sixty years.
Why were the Japanese unable to do this? Because they understood Mahayana Buddhism but did not practice it. This resulted in increased deviated thoughts. They were wrong. The Chinese people are the gentlest in the world and the easiest to govern. But, the Japanese mistreated the Chinese. They failed to treat them as humans and this generated intense resistance. They were doomed to failure. They should have been like the Mongolians and Manchus, who respected, cared about and helped the Chinese to solve their problems.
Today, the Japanese economy has grown and developed. Some believe that this has been incredible and have grown arrogant. This attitude will surely result in greater failures in the future. When I spoke with them in Japan, they stood up and paid their respects to me afterwards. This is the likeable side of the Japanese people. When criticized or admonished, if they think it is reasonable and logical after listening, they feel grateful. But, being grateful is one thing. They have yet to reform and are unwilling to do so.
In Taiwan, when I lecture to a Japanese group, my manner is different from that of other Taiwanese. Their manner toward the Japanese always shows respect and flattery. This only causes some Japanese to look down on them. My manner is that of admonishment. I explain to them with logic, hoping that they will be able to turn around, hoping that they will correct their mistakes. Confucius taught that arrogance must not be cultivated. He once said, the more learned a person, the more humble he is. A person with virtues and knowledge always treats others kindly. "The Book of Rites" said it particularly well; the fundamental spirit in good manners is humility, respect for others and modesty. Understanding good manners is a fundamental teaching in Confucianism.
Not long ago, I spoke about the first of the Ten Great Vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, which is to respect all Buddhas and beings. The second vow is to praise the Buddha. We need to learn to respect others and to praise others' good deeds. If we fail to do so, then when we are wealthly, powerful or influential others will appear to yield to us, but in their minds they will resist. They will be unsettled. They will wait until our power begins to weaken, the time of our destruction.
The teaching of Mahayana Buddhism and Confucius are the true teachings for all sentient beings. When we deeply understand these principles, we need to strive diligently in our learning and practice, to whole-heartedly help all awakened people, to help those who share the same goals with us, hoping to do this job well, to bring true benefits to all sentient beings.
We are very grateful to the master from Korea. Due to the language barrier, we have had difficulty communicating fluently. I hope in the future that we can develop a closer working relationship with the hope that Mahayana Buddhism can be revived in Korea and Japan. If China, Korea and Japan could work closely together, then surely this will result in a stable, peaceful and prosperous world. This is all for today. Thank you.