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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.