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Wondrous Lotus Sutra  靜思妙蓮華




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2019.06.20

The Dharma-nature Is Unmoving, Like a Mountain

法性不動如妙高山

 

From Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s notes:

>> "The Dharma-nature is unmoving, like a mountain, yet the mountain of our Dharma-nature has been disrupted. Thus, this is likened to a mountain being moved." This means "we have entered the sea of samsara and ignorance."

>> The Dharma-nature is unmoving, like Marvelous High Mountain. What sort of force can move mountains? Only sentient beings' collective karmic forces piled up over the course of many lifetimes [can do this].

>> In the halls for teaching the Dharma and expounding the sutras, [the Buddha] turned from the provisional to reveal the true. He expounded the Sutra of Infinite Meanings' teachings about going among people. For the ordered assembly of Hearers and Bodhisattvas, all gathered at the Hall of Seven Treasures, He widely established the teachings of the path and freely expounded the wondrous Dharma.

>> "Furthermore, Ajita, suppose that people, for the sake of this sutra, visit monasteries and, whether sitting or standing, listen to and accept it for a moment. Due to these merits and virtues, when they are born again into their next life..."  [Lotus Sutra, Chapter 18 - On Taking Joy in Others' Merits and Virtues]

>> "...they will attain the finest, most wonderful elephants, horses, chariots and jeweled palanquins, and will even ride in heavenly palaces. Also, suppose that there are people who sit at places where the Dharma is taught, and that there are also people who invite others to sit and listen."  [Lotus Sutra, Chapter 18 - On Taking Joy in Others' Merits and Virtues]

>> ...they will attain the finest, most wonderful elephants, horses, chariots and jeweled palanquins, and will even ride in heavenly palaces: Elephants, horses and wondrous chariots are used by wealthy and noble people. Jeweled palanquins are devices for royalty. When heavenly beings travel, they have their palaces as their means of physical transportation.

>> Chariots and horses are vehicles for officials. Elephants and palanquins are vehicles for royalty. Heavenly palaces are vehicles for heavenly beings.

>> ...and will even ride in heavenly palaces: This describes how heavenly beings in the form realm are able to ride in their palaces back and forth across the sky.

>> Those who listen to the sutra for a moment may be focused, distracted or joyful, for mindsets differ. Thus, the merits and virtues they attain will also differ. Heavenly beings, royalty and officials also differ in terms of status.

>> Also, suppose that there are people who sit at places where the Dharma is taught, and that there are also people who invite others to sit and listen: If, in their body, mind and consciousness, they feel joy upon hearing the Dharma, they will be able to receive the Dharma's benefits. When others come, they will invite them to sit together with them to listen to the Dharma.

 

"The Dharma-nature is unmoving, like a mountain,
yet the mountain of our Dharma-nature has been disrupted.
Thus, this is likened to a mountain being moved."
This means "we have entered the sea of samsara and ignorance."

This tells us that "the Dharma-nature is unmoving, like a mountain, yet the mountain of our Dharma-nature has been disrupted." We all inherently have this Dharma[-nature]. Buddha-nature is intrinsic to us all. Our pure, intrinsic nature is forever unmoving, but now our nature has been disrupted. This is the analogy that is used for us unenlightened beings whose intrinsic Tathagata-nature has been disrupted. So, for this reason, we have entered the sea of samsara and ignorance. It is primarily our ignorance that has disrupted the mountain of our Dharma-nature. As soon as we give rise to a single thought of ignorance, this disrupts the mountain of our Dharma-nature, making it extremely hard to turn back. If we wish to turn back again, this will be a very difficult thing to do.

So, we must be very mindful as we listen to the Dharma now. How should we listen? We must take the Dharma to heart. The Dharma teaches and guides us to walk this path. As for how we should walk this path, I will make this all the more clear to you.

The Dharma-nature is unmoving, like Marvelous High Mountain. What sort of force can move mountains? Only sentient beings' collective karmic forces piled up over the course of many lifetimes [can do this].

"The Dharma-nature is unmoving, like Marvelous High Mountain. What sort of force can move mountains?" Our Dharma-nature is inherently unmoving, like Marvelous High Mountain. Our nature, our nature of True Suchness, is the universe itself, which is as pure and undefiled as Marvelous High Mountain. What sort of power could force our Marvelous High Mountain to move? This passage says that "only sentient beings' collective karmic forces" [can do this].

For sentient beings, "a deluded thought creates the Three Subtleties. External states lead to the Six Coarse Marks." We recite this verse often. A single thought of ignorance creates three kinds of subtleties. These Three Subtleties cannot be touched or seen, yet they can move Marvelous High Mountain. These are the karmic forces of sentient beings. All of our karmic forces stem from greed, anger and ignorance. We cannot see or touch them, yet they have disrupted our pure and undefiled [nature].

Our intrinsic nature, as unwavering as Marvelous High Mountain, can be disrupted by something as subtle and intricate as these three things. This all starts with a single thought. From but a single thought of ignorance, we give rise to the Three Subtleties. These Three Subtleties connect with our external world as our Five Roots connect with the Five Dusts and our mind discerns between things, disturbing our mind and disrupting our thoughts. As our sense organs [connect with] sense objects in the world, what disturbs our mind and disrupts our thoughts are the three [subtleties] of greed, anger and ignorance. These various karmic forces accumulate, creating our collective karma. This is what it is like for sentient beings. So, [this karma] "piles up over the course of many lifetimes." Everyone is the same in this way; this causes us to deviate slightly from our nature, which leads us far off course.

This is what we unenlightened beings are facing in the world today. Whether it is the state of our times or the state of our climate, we are truly experiencing what the Buddha calls "suffering." Yes, there is suffering. There is so much suffering piling up throughout the world. This is like the couple Chi Xie and Tzu Li who took the time to show me a 20-30 minute video they edited about the experiences of Tzu Chi volunteers over the past few years. There is so much suffering in this world. Whether it is man-made suffering, natural disasters caused by the imbalance of the four elements or poor people living amidst hardships year after year and so on, they recorded all these countless hardships.

I saw the images of Bodhisattvas emerging amidst every situation no matter what hardships they faced. I saw all kinds of people of different ethnicities and all the different hardships they endure, all making the same poignant cry for help. A life of suffering like this is impossible to describe no matter how much time we spend here trying to do so. [This couple] gathered the world's hardships. In such a short time, they gathered it all together. Although they might say, "This is just a 20-30 minute video we edited," if we were to discuss every scene that flashed by, every one of those images has a long story behind it. Life is so sorrowful and bitter. Is there suffering? Yes, there is. Just from watching a short 10-20 minute [video], we lamented how life is full of suffering.

As all the Tzu Chi volunteers sat there listening, everyone there was so orderly, wearing "the blue and white uniform," the "Eightfold Noble Path dress" and so on. They all had such joyful smiles on their faces. The world [of Tzu Chi] is very equal, a beautiful world full of peace, joy and equality. But we should sit down and listen to their stories. In order for their lives to be permeated by the Dharma, just to listen to the Dharma, they have to expend so much effort. Some need to travel a very long way. There are some people [in Hong Kong] who, in order to come listen to the Dharma, had to take a taxi early in the morning, which cost about 900 NTD for a single trip. Every morning as they came to listen, they had to spend 900 NTD for just a single trip. This was a huge burden.

Hoping to listen to the sutra more easily, they searched and searched until they found a closer place [to move to], but this place is very small. It sounds like it is so small [they can hardly] walk, stand or sit down there. Enough space to walk, live and rest in is a basic life necessity. Yet, their circumstances have made this impossible. They had to [make sacrifices to live closer], so they have no choice but to suffer this hardship in life so that they may listen to the Dharma more easily. To hear about how they live in these conditions just for the sake of coming to hear the Dharma is very touching. This is because they all share this single-mindedness.

Some people are very wealthy, yet they are not diligent when it comes to listening to the Dharma. Sometimes, they live right next door, just a 4-5 minute walk, but they hate getting up early. Or, when it is broadcast on TV in the morning, they need only to turn the TV on, and the Dharma will come right into their home, but they are too lazy to watch it. For some, their circumstances are good whether it comes to transportation or housing. They may even have a driver to take them around, or they drive [expensive] cars so that everyone will know when they go out that they own such [expensive] things. Yet, they still lack contentment. The Dharma is very far from their lives. Such is the nature of sentient beings.

Deep in our hearts, do we want to have greed, anger and ignorance? Or do we want faith, vows and actions? This is also a group of three words. Do we have faith? Do we have deep faith and understanding and the willingness to form aspirations? We must make great vows. The Buddha-Dharma is boundless, and we must keep seeking to fulfill our vow to listen to the Dharma. We must give it our all. Some people, due to their greedy attachments to their circumstances in life, are unable to let go of the afflictions and ignorance that bind them. "It is so early; I still want to sleep. You want me to wake up that early just to listen to a sutra lecture? I can't bear to get out of bed so early." They indulge in over-sleeping. Despite having the convenience of a car and good circumstances in life, they are just unwilling.

Others, like the ones I just mentioned, live very far away. They had to spend almost NTD 1000 daily, yet they were still willing to come listen to the sutra every day. Due to their relatively poor circumstances, they had to move to such a cramped place. I heard them say that the kitchen and bathroom are in the same room, and right next to the toilet is the place where they chop vegetables. They moved to such a small space just to make listening to the sutra more convenient. This is so touching. So, we sentient beings must be very mindful to return to this pure and undefiled mindset that seeks the Dharma.

In the halls for teaching the Dharma and expounding the sutras, [the Buddha] turned from the provisional to reveal the true. He expounded the Sutra of Infinite Meanings' teachings about going among people. For the ordered assembly of Hearers and Bodhisattvas, all gathered at the Hall of Seven Treasures, He widely established the teachings of the path and freely expounded the wondrous Dharma.

So, "In the halls for teaching the Dharma and expounding the sutras, [the Buddha] turned from the provisional to reveal the true. He expounded the Sutra of Infinite Meanings' teachings about going among people." Many causes and conditions must come together for this sutra to be taught. The sutra will not appear beside you just because you want to listen to it. The sutra is here with you because you have the causes and conditions for it. Having a place to teach the Dharma is also accomplished through [the convergence of] many causes and conditions. When [the Buddha] accomplished this, what did He do in these places? He "Turned from the provisional to reveal the true." When the Buddha was in this world, He spent 42 years teaching according to people's capabilities. During these 42 years, what most sentient beings accepted and took joy in were "the provisional" [teachings]. The Buddha expounded the Dharma according to sentient beings' capabilities. Since these were the teachings they accepted, they believed them and put them into practice. In the process of guiding people, the Buddha used the provisional teachings and skillful means. Once He got to this point, He figured that time was running out, and He looked to see whether sentient beings had grown through the provisional teachings. They still had room to grow, and they still lacked true faith and understanding deep in their hearts.

They were still unable to do this. They lacked complete understanding because there is a certain order [to the teachings]. This is just like listening to the Dharma today; there is also a certain order to this. Do the people who are first to hear the Dharma have deeper faith? Not necessarily. Do those who start listening later on have a more shallow understanding? Not necessarily. Some have just started listening, yet their faith is firm, and they hope to progress even further. There are those who have listened for very long, and yet they stagnate, stuck in place. There are many people like this who are making no progress at all.

This is because their capabilities are disparate and lack [a semblance] of order. But the Buddha had no choice but to quickly turn from the provisional to reveal the true. He could not wait any longer. For those with disparate or disordered capabilities, He could not wait for them any longer because time was running out. He quickly turned from the provisional to reveal the true and expounded the teachings of the Sutra of Infinite Meanings. First, He went among people to help them understand that sentient beings suffer many hardships. He quickly relieved them of their suffering and then expounded the Dharma for them. This is how He quickly turned [from the provisional to the true], by first saving them and then telling them [about the Dharma]. This was the method He used.

So, the Buddha began, "for the ordered assembly of Hearers and Bodhisattvas," to expound [the teachings]. So, first were the Hearers, and next were the Bodhisattvas. First was the Small Vehicle, and next was the Great Vehicle. So, the order of the Great and Small Vehicles was established like this. When the Hearers entered [the assembly], they had these seats, and the Bodhisattvas went there. So, their places had an order to them, and this is how they would arrange themselves. This was the "ordered assembly of Hearers and Bodhisattvas that [listened to] the Dharma in shifts." They knew their place; there was an order to it. This is just like when everyone comes in at certain arranged shifts, entering according to a certain order. Such are the halls for teaching the sutra; these places have an order to them.

So, everyone gathered together there. Whether they were Great or Small Vehicle practitioners, they all promptly assembled at the same time and in the same hall. They came in according to a certain order. It was according to this principle that [the Buddha] freely expounded the wondrous Dharma. This helps us all understand why the Buddha had to spend so much time teaching the Dharma; the provisional and true teachings had to be taught in this order. Time was running out, so He quickly expounded the Sutra of Infinite Meanings. The Buddha taught the Sutra of Infinite Meanings at the beginning of the Lotus Sutra. Then, He entered into Samadhi. This sutra passage is very important. This Sutra of Infinite Meanings helps everyone understand how the Bodhisattva-path must be walked.

This is just like in Indonesia. Even though Indonesia has a different religion [from us], Tzu Chi is still accepted in Indonesia by people of all levels of society. [Tzu Chi volunteers] have been able to serve every corner of Indonesia, helping so many people. They have even been able to help people in hardship despite being abused or misunderstood; they bear all this willingly. They take their time and use various methods, explaining things to them over and over again. The people in that village were suffering so much. Everyone was living in homes with leaking [roofs]. The houses were in a row, and not one of them was left intact.

They all came to listen and seemed to believe us, but they were also a bit worried. "You make it sound so good, that you want to help us for nothing in return, but when the time comes, will you give us ownership of the house?" They still had this suspicion. We built the houses for them and gave them over 300 houses. The owner of each home was made very clear to them. This house and that house and so on belongs to this person, that person and so on; we made this very clear to them.

We rebuilt the entire village. In the end, everyone praised us. "Where do you get such determination and patience to make our village so wonderful?" [Sugianto Kusuma] told everyone, "Master tells us that this path has already been paved for us. This path is the Lotus Sutra, and it has already been paved. Looking back on everything that has been done over the last few years, we have been walking the path of the Lotus Sutra this whole time." Seeing him say this, I was also comforted. It turns out he had been listening to the Dharma.

In this way, he had [not only] listened every day, he had also taken the words I said and expressed these words and phrases in very simple ways that they could accept and put into practice. In truth, [the Dharma] is very profound, so if we cannot experience it for ourselves or appreciate it, we will not understand it. He told them, "Master uses the sutra, the Lotus Sutra, to pave a path for everyone to walk on. It has been like this for decades." [Sugianto Kusuma] was actually able to understand this. He said, "When we look back on everything we have done during this time, we see that it is the path of the Lotus Sutra."

He was able to benefit these people. Once he did this, he felt at peace. Their results were also very good. Over 300 households, over 6000 people were willing to keep a bamboo bank. In the end, he believes that these villagers with so many members to each family, both adults and children, will all take joy in "the spirit of the bamboo banks." He hopes the children will save the money they used for candy and donate it instead, that the youth will save the money they usually waste on [frivolous things] and that adults and elderly people will [be frugal] in life, and so on. So, this village of over 300 households has over 6000 bamboo banks. This is incredible.

Hearing him [speak] of everything they had been through made me very happy. The rich did not belittle small donations, and [the volunteers] kept summoning the spirt of the bamboo banks to explain to everyone that it was not rich people who built the homes for them, but many loving people who chipped in bit by bit to come together and help build their homes. He patiently explained this to everyone. He truly used these loving methods; this is the wondrous Dharma. We all need to take this story to heart first.

Let us look at the previous sutra passage.

"Furthermore, Ajita, suppose that people, for the sake of this sutra, visit monasteries and, whether sitting or standing, listen to and accept it for a moment. Due to these merits and virtues, when they are born again into their next life..."

The Buddha said to Maitreya Bodhisattva, "Ajita, if there are people who, for the sake of this sutra..." It is for the sake of the Lotus Sutra that we are so diligent in listening to the Dharma. No matter how hard it is, we must go. This is the meaning of "visit monasteries." This means that wherever the Dharma is expounded, wherever there are monastics teaching it, no matter what, we must go there. So, we must "visit monasteries." No matter what the place is like, even if we arrive and there is no place to sit, we will happily stand, and we will be so reverent that even if we only hear one sentence or one verse, we will accept it joyfully. So, with this sense of joyful acceptance, there is nothing we cannot overcome.

We were just talking about the Bodhisattvas in Hong Kong. They willingly overcame their own circumstances to make listening to the sutra easier for them. Before, since they lived so far away, they had to spend so much every day [on taxi fare]. So, they chose to make listening to the sutra more convenient for themselves. To make listening to the Dharma one's main priority in life is no easy feat. So, "due to these merits and virtues" refers to the merits and virtues of listening to the Dharma. No matter what the practicalities of our lives are like, our mind must return to [our original state] as unmoving as Marvelous High Mountain, returning to our nature of True Suchness. Then, no circumstance will be able to defeat us. We must always listen to the Dharma, for only then will we be able to return to our original state. So, their diligence [in listening to] the Dharma is very touching.

Just hearing about it is so inspiring. We all feel inspired by this. This also inspires our nature of True Suchness. Their earnestness moves everyone's hearts and is even able to move Marvelous High Mountain. Furthermore, as unenlightened beings, we all can listen to the Dharma and be inspired. This shows that when one person turns their life around, this can inspire all of us, and we will also be transformed. Whenever we listen to this Dharma, even if we hear just a single word or phrase, we must maintain a reverent mindset. Whether we are sitting or standing, we must keep this reverent mindset all the same. Sitting or standing, we should always be reverent.

Continuing on, [the Buddha] says,

"...they will attain the finest, most wonderful elephants, horses, chariots and jeweled palanquins, and will even ride in heavenly palaces. Also, suppose that there are people who sit at places where the Dharma is taught, and that there are also people who invite others to sit and listen."

With the merits and virtues of reverently listening in places where the sutra is taught, when they are born again into their next life, they will "...attain the finest, most wonderful elephants, horses, chariots..."

...they will attain the finest, most wonderful elephants, horses, chariots and jeweled palanquins, and will even ride in heavenly palaces: Elephants, horses and wondrous chariots are used by wealthy and noble people. Jeweled palanquins are devices for royalty. When heavenly beings travel, they have their palaces as their means of physical transportation.

In the past, public transportation was limited. People were all dependent on animals, such as elephants or horses. In India, they seldom used oxen for transportation. They had great respect for oxen, so they used elephants and horses. They would use them to pull their carts, or they would ride them. This was all done to show off their [high] status. They had wonderful elephants and horses that they also decorated with wonderful accessories.

These truly marvelous decorations served to show off their wealth and status. A jeweled palanquin meant they were kings, ministers or royalty. This is what they used. As for heavenly beings, they "have palaces." This also represents their status.

Chariots and horses are vehicles for officials. Elephants and palanquins are vehicles for royalty. Heavenly palaces are vehicles for heavenly beings.

Whether it was an official or minister, people of high status used carts and horses. As for elephants with "palanquins," this was for royalty to ride in. Palaces are for heavenly beings to ride in. [They] "even ride in heavenly places." This represents the heavenly realm and so on.

...and will even ride in heavenly palaces: This describes how heavenly beings in the form realm are able to ride in their palaces back and forth across the sky.

For "those who listen to the sutra for a moment," they may be focused and joyful or distracted. A distracted mind is an unfocused mind. "I have this opportunity, so I will come listen." They sit there listening, but their mind is not focused; this is a distracted mind. Others rejoice. "Since you invited me, I will come." Some people come with a focused mind. Some get a ride but sit there listening with a distracted mind. Some come with those who invited them. Each person is different, thus each person's merits and virtues will also be different.

So, when it comes to the average person, do they come with a good state of mind? Do they come with a joyful mind? There are many different states of mind. The states that are being described here belong to people who listen to the Dharma in this world. Some have focused minds, some are distracted, and some come with a joyful mind. The merits and virtues they will receive in retribution are all different. Some have the same mindset as heavenly beings, one of joy and reverence. They enjoy this environment and are reverent toward the sutra and the Dharma. So, they rejoice and come joyfully. Some will express, "I also have faith in the Buddha but I am also worldly in this way." There are also people like this. Every person comes with a different mindset.

Those who listen to the sutra for a moment may be focused, distracted or joyful, for mindsets differ. Thus, the merits and virtues they attain will also differ. Heavenly beings, royalty and officials also differ in terms of status.

"Also, suppose that there are people who sit at places where the Dharma is taught, and that there are also people who invite others to sit and listen." Some people are already very sincere and have to overcome many difficulties so that they can also come to listen. They come with this kind of focused mind. When sincere people come listen to the Dharma, their Dharma-seat will not go unoccupied. They come with a very focused mind. So, "There are people who sit at places where the Dharma is taught." In this place where the Dharma is taught, we often see people like this who are willing to overcome all else and make listening to the Dharma a priority. As they listen in this place, if someone else comes in, just walking along the peripheries, and they see them, they will very earnestly invite this person, "Come, come and listen." Because they take great joy in listening and gain great insights from listening, when they see someone hesitating outside, they will mindfully encourage that person to come inside to listen.

When someone arrives and comes in but cannot find a place to sit, they will offer their seat to the newcomer. People like this willingly come and listen to the Dharma, encourage others to come listen to the Dharma and even give up their seat for others. It does not matter if they stand or sit. If there are no seats, they will stand and listen to the Dharma with a focused mind. So, "their body, mind and consciousness" connect with and experience the Dharma's benefits. "I am so happy to come to this place. I benefit greatly from listening, reaping the profound benefits of the Dharma." Everyone has a different state of mind. Those who listen to the Dharma with focused, single-minded resolve are truly very mindful.

So, as we listen and feel this joy ourselves, we hope that this joy can be shared with and felt by others as well. "Come and listen; it will surely bring you joy. When it comes to our greed, anger, delusions and various afflictions and ignorance from the past, once we hear the Buddha-Dharma, we will be able to change our state of mind. This helps us greatly in our daily lives." This is how we encourage others to listen to the sutra as we take joy in listening to it ourselves. We ourselves take great joy in listening to it, and we also invite others to come listen to the Dharma with us. Everyone who listens to the Dharma comes with a different state of mind. Everyone has their own state of mind.

Also, suppose that there are people who sit at places where the Dharma is taught, and that there are also people who invite others to sit and listen: If, in their body, mind and consciousness, they feel joy upon hearing the Dharma, they will be able to receive the Dharma's benefits. When others come, they will invite them to sit together with them to listen to the Dharma.

So, we must be earnestly mindful to engage our minds in listening to the Dharma. As we listen to the Dharma, if we listen clearly, "the path" will be right before our feet. So, "the sutra is a path, and this path is a road to walk on." Look at our Living Bodhisattvas and the path they have walked. This is just like [Sugianto Kusuma], Ah Yuan, in Indonesia. His capabilities [are so sharp]. All I said was, "The Lotus Sutra paves a path for us to walk on." He eventually came to understand this and even shared it with everyone else. "Every time we do something, we take a look back [and see] the path of the Lotus Sutra. This is how it is." Yes, we must walk the path of the Lotus Sutra in this way.

This is our Dharma-nature. Originally, it was like Marvelous High Mountain. It is just that our karmic forces have disturbed it. We must take a look back and reflect on ourselves. There are people who lost themselves in their careers in the past, [only thinking about] making money. Now, in retrospect, they have made money and have power and influence in society, so now they must quickly make use of it to help people. How can they bring peace to their lives? How can they create a stable, harmonious society? They can still be wealthy while choosing to live their lives in another way. So, in the past, they were lost amidst greed, anger and ignorance. As they look back, [they can see] the path of the Lotus Sutra that they have walked, using all kinds of methods to help people.

Dear Bodhisattvas, we all have this Dharma-nature. Do we want our karmic forces to knock us down? Or do we want to safeguard our Dharma-nature and return to our nature of True Suchness? We must always use the Dharma to determine [how to do this]. But if we [wait too long] to take action, there will not be enough time. Everyone, we must always be mindful.

 

Wondrous Lotus Sutra  靜思妙蓮華




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2019.05.28

Realize the Path and Attain Great Freedom

自度度彼悟道自在

From Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s notes:

>> "The Tathagata maintains a state of selflessness. Among His virtues, He is replete in the Eight Great Freedoms. Thus, the Buddha is called the One with Great Freedom. He freely transforms Himself and others. Today we pay our respects to the One with Great Freedom. The Buddha has realized the path and attained great freedom."

>> The Buddha: Lay practitioners take joy in their love for themselves and others as well as their freedom. Monastic practitioners of the path take joy in the realization that cyclic existence is not freedom.

>> Then, He gives rise to this thought, "I have already given sentient beings these delightful objects in accordance with their desires. But now these sentient beings have become old and feeble. They are over 80 years old now. Their hair is white, their faces wrinkled, and they will die before long."  [Lotus Sutra, Chapter 18 - On Taking Joy in Others' Merits and Virtues]

>> "'Now I must use the Buddha-Dharma to teach and guide them.' He immediately gathered these sentient beings together. He expounded and spread the Dharma to transform, teach, benefit and delight them."  [Lotus Sutra, Chapter 18 - On Taking Joy in Others' Merits and Virtues]

>> "All at once, they fulfill the path of the Srotapanna, the path of the Sakrdagamin, the path of the Anagamin and the path of the Arhat, eliminating all Leaks. Abiding deep in Samadhi, they all attain freedom. They are replete with the Eight Liberations."  [Lotus Sutra, Chapter 18 - On Taking Joy in Others' Merits and Virtues]

>> All at once, they fulfill the path of the Srotapanna: "Srotapanna" means "Stream-enterer," one who has attained the first fruit of the path and prepare to enter the stream of noble beings.

>> The path of the Sakrdagamin: This means "Once-returner." They have attained the second fruit, but will be born once again in the desire realm so that they may repay their past debts.

>> The path of the Sakrdagamin: Due to their deluded thinking in the desire realm, they must be born once again in the desire realm. Thus, they are called Once-returners. They deserve the offerings of humans and heavenly beings. They uphold the Dharma and sow fields of blessings for the world.

>> The path of the Anagamin: This means "Never-returner." They have attained the third fruit, abide in the four dhyanas and will never be born in the desire realm again.

>> The path of the Arhat: This refers to those beyond the stage of learning. They have eliminated their delusions of views and thinking and attained the fourth fruit. They have perfected the purifying practices and have nothing left to learn.

>> [They] eliminate all Leaks: They eliminate all the flawed karma from conditioned phenomena in the Three Realms. To eliminate all Leaks is to eliminate one's habitual hindrances."

>> Abiding deep in Samadhi, they all attain freedom: Abiding in the stage beyond learning, they attain all the joys of Samadhi. They are able to enter an untrammeled state; this is called freedom. In all states of meditation, they attain freedom, for they have eliminated all hindrances to Samadhi. Habitual hindrances are accumulated from Beginningless Time. Hindrances to Samadhi are acquired during cultivation.

>> They are replete with the Eight Liberations: This refers to the Eight Renunciations. We must turn from the coarse to the fine and renounce evil for good. This is known as the Eight Liberations.

>> Through giving of our wealth, we eliminate hardships in sentient beings' lives. However, the suffering of aging and illness and the suffering of cyclic existence are difficult to relieve.

 

"The Tathagata maintains a state of selflessness.

Among His virtues, He is replete in the Eight Great Freedoms.

Thus, the Buddha is called the One with Great Freedom.

He freely transforms Himself and others.

Today we pay our respects to the One with Great Freedom.

The Buddha has realized the path and attained great freedom."

We must know this. This is why we are ordinary beings and the Buddha is the Awakened One. In His enlightenment, the Buddha "maintains a state of selflessness." He is already in a state of selflessness. He took the Dharma to heart, understood all the principles in the universe and eliminated all appearances of self and others. Therefore, He is selfless. We often say that we should turn our self into "nothing" so that we are not attached to our self. We should have no attachment to self or others, should have no attachments at all. The Great Awakened One can already [see] that all appearances are empty. There is nothing that He is attached to. He has expanded the power of His love. His heart encompasses the whole universe, and He has attained great freedom. Thus, "Among His virtues, He is replete in the Eight Great Freedoms."

The Eight Great Freedoms are very profound with many details, but the Buddha used His daily living to let us see and know how to practice precepts, Samadhi and wisdom. How do we uphold precepts? How can we remain unwavering in our mindset? How do we awaken our wisdom? He teaches us through His speech and through His example. So, this is how mindful the Buddha was and how He gained the respect of everyone. "Thus, the Buddha is called the One with Great Freedom." The Buddha is not affected by external conditions. He is at ease and understands the principles of the universe like the back of His hand. He is neither deluded nor confused.

For ordinary beings nowadays, they are either lost in their own attachments and interpersonal conflicts or worry about the matters of all sentient beings in the world. These two extremes both cause afflictions, layers upon layers of afflictions. "How does this happen?" All of a sudden [we feel], "How are we to help alleviate suffering, tragedies and difficulties?" This inevitably causes a lot of worrying. Our minds are bothered; it is not until the entire matter is resolved that we can say we are at peace. Before things are completed, we always feel uneasy and not at peace. When Bodhisattvas go to save sentient beings [from suffering], it is the same for them. This is how in our practice, our mindset differs from that of the Buddha. Because the Buddha clearly understands the principles, we refer to Him as "the One with Great Freedom." The Buddha is very free.

So, "He freely transforms Himself and others." He transforms himself and does this freely. After He awakens Himself, He spreads the Dharma widely in the hopes that everyone will understand and be able to thoroughly comprehend that the principles have always existed. Everyone intrinsically possesses the Buddha-nature. We all have the possibility of returning to our intrinsic nature. This is definitely possible; it just depends on whether we are able to thoroughly understand and are willing to accept the Buddha's teachings. This depends on each individual person.

 

Everyone intrinsically has [Buddha-nature]. However, everyone is in the process of learning the Buddha-Dharma. We still have many levels to go; we cannot stop midway. Some people are at a deeper level, some not as deep. Some people just started climbing the steps from the bottom of the hill. Some people were already climbing the steps and going forward step by step. Although we have not yet reached the top, we still, step by step, continue to move toward the top; this is our goal.

If we begin to climb but midway through say that we were tired, stop in that place or decide to turn back, then there is no hope. Once we fall into ignorance, we will [be stuck in it] eternally because ignorance will cover us again and again. We must, in one go, go forward and look upward. So, if we want to obtain great freedom, with each step we must move forward and also guide others. When we can advance to the next level, the people behind can also advance to the next level with us. We must guide each other while going up. Alternatively, we can, by ourselves, go directly to the top in one go. Once we have seen the scenery at the top, then we come back down to lead others up, one by one. This is transforming ourselves and others.

Bodhisattvas practice the Bodhisattva-path. We must guide [others], one by one. This is just like Earth Treasury Bodhisattva. He wishes to stand at the bottom of the staircase and tell everyone. "Hurry, hurry! Hurry and go up!" Only when everyone has ascended has he completed his great aspiration with patience, and he will be at peace. "I will begin to go up the staircase at the very end." This shows his great strength. He already knows about this path and [has] "the mark of deep faith and understanding." He sends these people to the top of the staircase while he is free and at peace. He himself then goes forward with ease. This is a different kind of Bodhisattva.

Some Bodhisattvas work hard [on themselves] first, while some Bodhisattvas [say], "I already know the principles. I must swiftly go among people. [I can] go into hell. I am willing to go to places with the greatest suffering. I will take care of places with suffering first. When I am done taking care of this, everyone will have accepted [the Dharma] and will have been transformed." So, "Until hell is empty, I will not attain Buddhahood. Only once all have been transformed will I achieve enlightenment." This is the aspiration of Bodhisattvas. Everyone has different aspirations. The Buddha hoped to transform all Bodhisattvas and all sentient beings. Lifetime after lifetime, He continuously returned to the Saha World until the causes and conditions had matured for Him to manifest the appearance of a Buddha and say, "I have attained Buddhahood" to again transform others according to affinities. It was because of sentient beings' attachment to appearances that He had the causes and conditions here to manifest the appearance of attaining Buddhahood and transform sentient beings.

In the past, He [came to this world] lifetime after lifetime. Now that He has attained Buddhahood, has He reached [His destination]? In truth, the Buddha returns to the world again. Thus, our fundamental teacher is still Sakyamuni Buddha right now. For over 2000 years, the Buddha's Dharmakaya has not left. The Dharmakaya has not left; He comes to the world to transform others. All the same, [He] does not deviate from this power of love. "He freely transforms Himself and others."

We already know the Buddha's spirit and ideals. "Today we pay our respects to the One with Great Freedom." Every day, when we enter the Buddha Hall or the lecture hall, we must pay our respects. Wherever we go, when there are Buddha-statues, we must pay our respects. But in truth, they are just statues; the Buddha is always in our hearts. We can constantly give rise to respect to the One with Great Freedom. Thus, we must feel respect in our hearts. We understand that the Buddha attained enlightenment. After attaining enlightenment, He attained great freedom.

The Buddha: Lay practitioners take joy in their love for themselves and others as well as their freedom. Monastic practitioners of the path take joy in the realization that cyclic existence is not freedom.

When it comes to "freedom," the Buddha said this, "Lay practitioners take joy in their love for themselves and others as well as their freedom." Lay practitioners are already Buddhist practitioners; they focus their minds on learning the Buddha's teachings. This is what lay practitioners are like. Everyone has love for themselves and cherishes their own life. They develop the value of their lives, which is to love others. We should bring value to our lives. This is what it means to have love for ourselves. We should not let our lives pass by. How should we spend the days of our lives? In this world, what is our purpose for coming here? We are born into this world to help others. This is our purpose. Now that we understand the Dharma, we ought to go among people.

Why should we go among people? We love ourselves and put our lives to good use because so many sentient beings need us. Therefore, we ourselves must know that our lives are very precious. In every moment of every day, we should love ourselves out of our love for sentient beings. So, [we must] "take joy in our love for ourselves and others, as well as our freedom." We give without expectation. So, although it is very tiring, we are very willing and feel very at ease when sentient beings are saved. When they have difficulties, we try very hard to help them. When we eliminate their difficulties, we feel very free and happy. This is what it means to be a lay practitioner; we must "take joy in our love for ourselves and others as well as our freedom."

What does the Buddha say about monastics? "Monastic practitioners of the path take joy in the realization that cyclic existence is not freedom." Everyone must be "mindful of impermanence." Once we give up the lay life, we must realize the impermanence in the world. When does life start or end? We do not even know. As all of us engage in spiritual practice, we understand cyclic existence. We may not be vigilant every day and may have not earnestly eliminated our bad habitual tendencies. If we still carry the habitual tendencies of ordinary beings and have not changed them, how can we be considered spiritual practitioners? So, we must remain vigilant ourselves and comprehend the great path. When it comes to this "great path," we must know that when impermanence strikes, if we do not earnestly seize the chance to practice right now, in a moment of carelessness, we will fall into constant cyclic existence. We will have no control of our own. When we think about this, we do not feel free.

How can we allow ourselves not to be free? We have to attain freedom. Lay practitioners know to take joy in loving themselves as well as others. What about us [monastics]? We must love ourselves even more and earnestly safeguard our minds and our conduct in our daily living. When it comes to true spiritual cultivation, we have often said in the past that spiritual practitioners have nothing to practice other than eliminating habitual tendencies. How do we engage in this practice? We need to earnestly change our habits. This is what makes us truly free. If we talk about other very deep principles, we will be unable to comprehend them. If we hear them, they will only bother us. In our lives, we need to comprehend the great path and form supreme aspirations. So what is the principle of comprehending the great path? This great principle is that if we are careless, we will transmigrate through the Six Realms. We must truly mindfully seek to comprehend this.

We can never finish describing the world of ordinary beings. Still, the previous sutra passage states, "Then, He gives rise to this thought, 'I have already given sentient beings these delightful objects.'"

Then, He gives rise to this thought, "I have already given sentient beings these delightful objects in accordance with their desires. But now these sentient beings have become old and feeble. They are over 80 years old now. Their hair is white, their faces wrinkled, and they will die before long."

In previous sutra passages, the Buddha was teaching according to capabilities. In the Lotus Sutra, He had already used the parables of the burning house and the three carts. He used all sorts of methods to call everyone to get out of the dangerous burning house. So, outside [of the house], He had to provide, based on the needs of sentient beings, the objects that delight them. This [means] that He accorded with everyone's capabilities and satisfied everyone. Thus, [it says He] "gave sentient beings these delightful objects" for them to choose from. [He did so] "in accordance with their desires." He used all sorts of methods and taught according to capabilities, to fulfill what their capabilities required.

"But now these sentient beings have become old and feeble. They are over 80 years old now." We have already talked about this "80" refers to how we are acting within our Eight Consciousnesses. Some people are sharp and can accept [the teachings]. In our daily lives, what we experience every day is inseparable from the Eight Consciousnesses. Everything we experience is among the Roots, Dusts and Consciousnesses. What we do every day returns to our karmic consciousness. If our thinking deviates in even a single thought, a slight deviation will take us far off course. Our Six Consciousnesses constantly lead us to take action, to take certain actions. After we think about it and decide on our actions, if we deviate slightly, it will take us far off course, and we will again enter cyclic existence. Although we may comprehend the great path, we are still lost in cyclic existence.

Spiritual practitioners understand the great path. What is the great path? It warns sentient beings that they are in cyclic existence. We [chant] this every day but we often forget about ourselves. Lay practitioners may forget to love themselves and others. Spiritual practitioners may fail to change their habitual tendencies and only say, "I listen to the Dharma every day. I comprehend the great path." These are all very clear yet very profound principles. The great path includes [the principle of] cyclic existence in the Six Realms. We tend not to think about this.

 

Everyone has lost their sensitivity. So, we are still lost in ignorance. We are still in the midst of ignorance. A single thought of ignorance leads to volitional formation. Volitional formation leads to consciousness, which then leads to name and form. In this way, one leads to another. We cannot stop it, so we continue transmigrating. In the Six Realms, even if we are human, we still age.

Through many news reports, we notice, "Oh! Aging is suffering!" Take people in their 80s or 90s for instance. When they were young, they were like flowers, very beautiful; they were like this before. In a blink of an eye, when we compare [then and now], they were this way in this past, very fashionable and indulgent in pleasures. Now, they may be lying there. When we ask them, "Who am I? Do you know? I am talking to you; do you understand me?" They may not understand us at all or may give answers irrelevant to the question. This is suffering! Who can understand this kind of suffering? "I know, I know! Have your children come to visit you? No!"

Moreover, we also hear people in the banking industry say, "It is pitiful when people get old. Many children will force their parents to live in senior homes." Many elderly people in senior homes feel very helpless. "I really did not want to come [here]. It was my children or [other relatives] that forced me to live here." On the other hand, the people in the banks say, "People let the elders live at the senior homes. All of the stamps and [paperwork] are in these people's hands. [They come to] the bank to quickly transfer the [assets] first." Some siblings will get together for a meeting to divide up [the assets]; sometimes, they get into arguments over how to divide everything.

Why have we become human? When humans get old, "Their hair is white, their faces wrinkled, and they will die before long." The aging population problem is truly great. If we can let go, we realize that it is karma. When the karmic forces of cyclic existence come, [even if] we were very rich our whole lives and were very well off, once we are old, there is nothing we can do. There is no way to maintain our dignity in old age or our relationships with our children. When we were young, we might have been very hopeful toward and worked hard for our children. Once we are old, they may send us to senior homes. This may be our situation. How disheartening life is! Especially [when we think about] how much time old people have left in this world, "they will die before long." This is life.

The next sutra passage says,

"'Now I must use the Buddha-Dharma to teach and guide them.' He immediately gathered these sentient beings together. He expounded and spread the Dharma to transform, teach, benefit and delight them."

The Buddha [must teach] for the sake of those people. "I must teach these people according to their capabilities. I must attain Buddhahood for these people so they understand and go toward this direction. At this time, I must earnestly use the Buddha-Dharma to teach and guide [them]." He must earnestly utilize the Buddha-Dharma and turn [His teachings] toward True Dharma. So, "'Now I must use the Buddha-Dharma to teach and guide them.' He immediately gathers these sentient beings together. He expounds and spreads the Dharma to transform, teach, benefit and delight them." He must quickly turn toward the true emphasis of the path to Buddhahood.

He begins [teaching this] in the passage coming up. This passage, if we were to explain it [fully], is very detailed. It [talks about] the layers of experiences in life that spiritual practitioners have. Here it says, "All at once...." If we accept the Buddha's teaching and want to become a monastic, we must go through these layers of practice. When it comes to our hearts, how do we go about purifying them?

This is what is discussed in the next passage.

"All at once, they fulfill the path of the Srotapanna, the path of the Sakrdagamin, the path of the Anagamin and the path of the Arhat, eliminating all Leaks. Abiding deep in Samadhi, they all attain freedom. They are replete with the Eight Liberations."

 

These are [the lives] of spiritual practitioners. During the era of the Buddha, their minds were without hindrances. Every day, they were at the Buddha's side. In the morning, they went out to ask for alms. When they returned at noon, they ate, cleaned their alms bowls, listened to the Dharma and earnestly cultivated themselves to be at ease. How should they spend their time in this state of freedom and ease?

"All at once, they fulfill the path of the Srotapanna."

All at once, they fulfill the path of the Srotapanna: "Srotapanna" means. "Stream-enterer," one who has attained the first fruit of the path and prepare to enter the stream of noble beings.

When the Buddha began [to teach] and people first came to engage in spiritual practice, they reached the state of the Srotapanna. "Srotapanna" means "stream-enterer," one who has attained the [first] fruit. They have just entered [the Dharma]. Stream-enterers are those who have just entered. The pure water has only begun to cleanse their minds. They have just begun to enter the path and have yet to truly attain a thorough understanding of the Dharma. Hence, they "have attained the first fruit of the path and prepare to enter the stream of noble beings."

If they keep going like this and continue to engage in spiritual practice, in the future, they can also enter the stream of noble beings. Then they can slowly immerse themselves in the teachings of the Buddha-Dharma. These people have just entered the Buddha's door and are following Him in spiritual practice. They live peacefully and have no conflicts with people or matters. They live very simply, with three sets of robes and one alms bowl. With their bowl, they go out to ask for alms. After they return and have their food, they rest, then listen to the Dharma. [The Buddha] teaches them the Buddha-Dharma. "Do you understand?" They have just started listening to the Dharma and have just begun to enter the path. They are called "Stream-enterers."

"The path of the Sakrdagamin" is the second fruit.

The path of the Sakrdagamin: This means "Once-returner." They have attained the second fruit, but will be born once again in the desire realm so that they may repay their past debts.

[Those on] "the path of the Sakrdagamin" are called "Once-returners." They have begun to eliminate the desires of ordinary beings one by one, and no longer have these desires. They have eliminated all desires in their minds. So, gradually, their minds become free of desires. Slowly, they break away from defilements. Thus, in the end, although they already understand [the teachings] and have already attained the second fruit, they still must be born again. This is because they still need to repay their karmic debts.

This is just like Maudgalyayana. He followed the Buddha and was foremost in spiritual powers. In the end, he sat at the foot of the mountain. At the top, non-Buddhist practitioners pushed a rock, which came tumbling down. Although Maudgalyayana was foremost in spiritual powers, he still could not escape his karma. The Buddha said, "Maudgalyayana's karmic retributions are such that he experiences the retributions of many lifetimes all in a single lifespan." In past lifetimes, [Maudgalyayana] caught fish with nets. The karmic retribution for killing is very severe. Originally, he should have experienced these retributions lifetime after lifetime, over many lifetimes. However, since he engaged in spiritual practice, he was able to repay multiple lifetimes' worth of retributions in a single lifetime. Because the rock was so big, when the rock tumbled down, his whole body was crushed. I have talked about Maudgalyayana's story before. So, the path of the Sakrdagamin is the second fruit. [These people] still have to transmigrate again to experience all kinds of suffering. They must face their retributions. They need to repay their [debts].

The path of the Sakrdagamin: Due to their deluded thinking in the desire realm, they must be born once again in the desire realm. Thus, they are called Once-returners. They deserve the offerings of humans and heavenly beings. They uphold the Dharma and sow fields of blessings for the world.

[Those in] "the path of the Sakrdagamin" must experience [the suffering of] the desire realm one more time. So, [they are called] "Once-returners." Although they must be born again, because they have engaged in spiritual practice, they deserve the offerings of humans and heavenly beings. In the Buddha's era, [monastics] had to ask for alms, one household after another, and accept people's offerings. "They deserve the offerings of humans and heavenly beings. They uphold the Dharma and sow fields of blessings for the world." They accept sentient beings' offerings so that they have the opportunity to sow the fields of blessings.

So, next is "the path of the Anagamin."

The path of the Anagamin: This means "Never-returner." They have attained the third fruit, abide in the four dhyanas and will never be born in the desire realm again.

"The path of the Anagamin" is the third fruit. These people have already eliminated the karmic retributions that they had to repay, all at once. Now, they have attained the third fruit. They "abide in the four dhyanas" and no longer transmigrate. So, they now abide in the four dhyanas. They are in calm contemplation in the heaven realm, in the Four Dhyana Heavens. They "will never be born in the desire realm again." [Abiding in] the four dhyanas means that they will not return to the desire realm. This is the third fruit.

Next is "the path of the Arhat."

The path of the Arhat: This refers to those beyond the stage of learning. They have eliminated their delusions of views and thinking and attained the fourth fruit. They have perfected the purifying practices and have nothing left to learn.

When it comes to Arhats, they are beyond the stage of learning. They have listened to all the Dharma that the Buddha taught. They have attained the first, second and third fruits and have now reached the supreme fruit of the Small Vehicle. They are called "Arhats." They have practiced to benefit only themselves up to this point and are considered to have attained the fourth fruit of Arhatship. So, [they feel] there is nothing left for them to learn. They are "beyond the stage of learning." They have already learned everything that they should learn.

"They have eliminated their delusions of views and thinking." The Dharma that the Buddha teaches talks about delusions of views and thinking. All of us sentient beings still have delusions of views and thinking. Our views make us lose our direction, and with our thoughts, a slight deviation can lead us far off course. We become very deluded. "When I do this, what is wrong about it?" We are very confused. When we see others, it seems like nothing is to our liking. This is delusion. [For those in] the path of the Arhat, when it comes to "delusions of views and thinking," they have completely eliminated them. They comprehend the great path and understand the process of cyclic existence. They do not need to transmigrate because they comprehend the great path. They have eliminated all delusions; they comprehend the great path. "They have perfected the purifying practices and have nothing left to learn." They have engaged in purifying practices, so they do not need to learn anything else.

What is next is that [they] "eliminate all Leaks. They eliminate all the flawed karma from conditioned phenomena in the Three Realms. To eliminate all Leaks is to eliminate one's habitual hindrances."

[They] eliminate all Leaks: They eliminate all the flawed karma from conditioned phenomena in the Three Realms. To eliminate all Leaks is to eliminate one's habitual hindrances."

For a while, we have talked about "turning consciousness into wisdom," and "conditioned and unconditioned phenomena." For a while, we have continuously talked about this. What is conditioned phenomena? It is when there are still conditions in the interactions between people. "This and that are what I still want to do. This and that are my responsibilities." These are all conditioned. It is inevitable that good and evil and interpersonal conflicts still exist. So, these are all part of conditioned phenomena. For those that have attained the fourth fruit of Arhatship, they can "eliminate all Leaks and eliminate their habitual hindrances." When it comes to the mindset of ordinary beings and habitual nature of ordinary beings, they have eliminated them all and have no hindrances. They have attained the fourth fruit of Arhatship.

"Abiding deep in Samadhi, they all attain freedom." They can remain in calm contemplation and have no hindrances, nor do they deviate in any way. This is very difficult. However, it is because it is so difficult that it is called the fourth, or supreme, fruit. They are able to clearly understand these principles of cyclic existence. They have eliminated their hindrances, so, "abiding deep in Samadhi, they all attain freedom." They are able to enter and leave Samadhi without hindrances.

Abiding deep in Samadhi, they all attain freedom: Abiding in the stage beyond learning, they attain all the joys of Samadhi. They are able to enter an untrammeled state; this is called freedom. In all states of meditation, they attain freedom, for they have eliminated all hindrances to Samadhi. Habitual hindrances are accumulated from Beginningless Time. Hindrances to Samadhi are acquired during cultivation.

Attaining the fourth fruit of Arhatship means that "abiding in the stage beyond learning, they attain all the joys of Samadhi." They are very joyful and free. "They are able to enter an untrammeled state." They are very at ease and without hindrances. "This is called freedom." The Buddha attained enlightenment and is called the One with Great Freedom. Those who attain the fourth fruit of Arhatship are in Samadhi and only benefit themselves. They feel like they are very free.

"In all states of meditation, they attain freedom, for they have eliminated all hindrances to Samadhi." They have eliminated the hindrances to Samadhi. There are dangers with sitting in meditation. For ordinary beings, when we sit down and think, our thoughts go in [any] direction. We think about all kinds of things. If we are not careful, illusions may appear, which can be very troublesome. When the Buddha was about to attain Buddhahood, right before attaining enlightenment, there were many maras and many illusory states that appeared. When He entered Samadhi, many challenges appeared. If He had not eliminate the hindrances, these many illusions that appeared in Samadhi, if He had not been careful, He would have been led astray by hindrances and afflictions and entered the realm of the maras. Not only would He not have attained the right path, He would have fallen into the path of maras. This is very dangerous.

"Habitual hindrances are accumulated from Beginningless Time." Lifetime after lifetime, we create afflictions. These afflictions and ignorance continuously surface in our minds. So, in Samadhi, there are hindrances which "are acquired during cultivation." How should we cultivate ourselves? In our actions, we must first cultivate our minds. We must first understand the principles. If we do not cultivate our minds well, we cannot understand the principles. We will also have the hindrances of interpersonal conflicts. Sitting in meditation, it would be very hard to find the right way. It is very difficult to find the right way and also very dangerous.

"They are replete with the Eight Liberations. This refers to the Eight Renunciations."

They are replete with the Eight Liberations: This refers to the Eight Renunciations. We must turn from the coarse to the fine and renounce evil for good. This is known as the Eight Liberations.

The "Eight Liberations" means that we must eliminate ignorance and afflictions. We must eliminate them completely and "turn from the dust toward awakening." Dust refers to coarse appearances and our many severe afflictions. In our daily lives, whether we can see it or not, our minds are still [influenced by] obvious appearances. So, we must "turn from the coarse to the fine." We are all influenced by such obvious appearances and thus give rise to afflictions. We must refine our minds. What is the use in giving rise to afflictions over such obvious appearances? We should earnestly renounce them. This is called "renunciation."

We must "turn from the dust toward awakening." This dust is those coarse [objects of desire]. We used to face toward objects of desire and follow these obvious appearances in our living. Now, among interpersonal conflicts, we must turn them around and think carefully. We must look at them more thoroughly and contemplate things clearly. Our hearts must be able to accommodate all and be understanding to all. We must start from being very meticulous. We must "renounce evil for good." This is the direction we must truly put effort into returning to.

"They are replete with the Eight Liberations." If we could do this, then we would be able to be "replete with the Eight Liberations." Because we "turn from the dust toward awakening," we turn away from the eight coarse [appearances]. We renounce afflictions and turn toward the fine. Our minds must earnestly contemplate so that we do not do what is evil but [instead] promptly do what is good. We must "refrain from all evil and do all that is good." [We must] give rise to goodness not yet arisen, nurture any goodness that has already arisen, prevent evil that has not risen from arising and quickly eliminate evil that has already arisen. We must be able to carefully discern everything. This is called the Eight Liberations.

Through giving of our wealth, we eliminate hardships in sentient beings' lives. However, the suffering of aging and illness and the suffering of cyclic existence are difficult to relieve.

This is the way sentient beings are. "Through giving of our wealth, we eliminate hardships in sentient beings' lives." We have already given of ourselves to eliminate the suffering of sentient beings. But what about the suffering of aging and illness? The suffering of cyclic existence is still hard to escape. We have the ability to give without expectations. Yet, since we came to this world, when it comes to birth, aging, illness and death, we ought to accept them with ease. To accept this, we should try our best to take care of the state of our minds. We should often interact with people so that others will not say that we are becoming senile.

Because every part of us faces aging, we will become weaker in all aspects. As we become weaker, we must add to our strength. We must go among people and earnestly contemplate how, among people, we can further dedicate ourselves to do good deeds. We must utilize our physical strength and spirit to go in the right direction; we must not stop. Then, we will not become senile in our old age.

So, here it tells us, "Through giving of our wealth, we eliminate hardships in sentient beings' lives." We are already doing what it is that we should do. However, we are all like all sentient beings. We will all age, get ill and pass away. We are all transmigrating in samsara. We cannot escape it. However, we must take good care of the state of our minds. How should we take good care of our minds? We must constantly accumulate virtuous thoughts and go among and interact with virtuous people. Thus, our [mindset] will be positive and not deluded. For us who are aging, we must begin to think in this direction. We must not distance ourselves from virtuous people. We must not lose the [ability] to do good. This is the privilege of life as a human, so we should "just do it." So, everyone, please always be mindful.

 

 

 <2017.08.23> Realizing Principles through Propriety

“By practicing propriety, we return to our pure nature.”
Throughout the universe, the planets and stars follow their orbits in accord with true principles. In this natural cycle of things, there is a state of peace and harmony.
It is the same for human life. In life, if we can internalize the principles of propriety, we are abiding by the true principles. Those who live in line with the principles attain harmony in their daily lives and can help their family, society, and the world thrive with virtue.