2019.08.26 The Fragrances of Precepts, Samadhi and Wisdom 戒定慧香 遍十法界

Wondrous Lotus Sutra  靜思妙蓮華




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2019.08.26

The Fragrances of Precepts, Samadhi and Wisdom

戒定慧香遍十法界

 

From Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s notes:

>> The fragrances of precepts, Samadhi and wisdom pervade the Ten Dharma-realms. The incense is now lit, spreading throughout the ten directions. This is like when the flowers of the king of heavenly trees open and unfold, and their fragrance naturally spreads both downwind and upwind. As it spreads throughout the Bodhi-path, the fragrance of the path is the same way.

>> "In turn like this, all the way to the Brahma realm and up to the summit of existence, they will smell all heavenly beings' bodily fragrances. Furthermore, they will also smell all the incense burned by all heavenly beings."   [Lotus Sutra, Chapter 19 - On Dharma Masters' Merits and Virtues]

>> "Moreover, regarding the fragrance of Hearers, the fragrance of Pratyekabuddhas, the fragrance of Bodhisattvas and the bodily fragrances of all Buddhas, they will be able to smell them all from afar and know where they are."   [Lotus Sutra, Chapter 19 - On Dharma Masters' Merits and Virtues]

>> Moreover, regarding the fragrance of Hearers, the fragrance of Pratyekabuddhas...: They sustain the fragrances of the path of the Four Noble Truths and the 12 Links of Cyclic Existence.

>> The root of the afflictions of greed, anger and delusion is ignorance, which leads to volitional formation, consciousness, name and form, the six entrances, contact, feeling, craving, grasping, becoming, birth, old age and death. [These 12 Links] encompass [all of our] delusions throughout the Three Periods, [as well as] the karma we create, the rebirths we suffer and all of our karmic causes and effects. We repeat this cycle, again and again, without end.

>> The fragrance of Bodhisattvas and the bodily fragrances of all Buddhas: By actualizing the Six Paramitas in all actions, they accumulate merits and virtues, which have a wondrous fragrance. This is the fragrance of the Bodhi-fruit of ultimate liberation.

>> They will be able to smell them all from afar and know where they are: Although they are in the human realm, they will smell the fragrance of the path from afar. Whether they are far or near, they will be able to smell all [these fragrances]. Despite currently residing in the human realm, they will be able to determine the retributions of noble or unenlightened beings based on their karmic conditions and [smell] the fragrance of heavenly beings as they take joy in accumulating virtues and the fragrance of practicing the Four Noble Truths. So, [they will] "smell them all from afar."

 

The fragrances of precepts, Samadhi and wisdom
pervade the Ten Dharma-realms.
The incense is now lit,
spreading throughout the ten directions.
This is like when the flowers of the king of heavenly trees
open and unfold,
and their fragrance naturally spreads
both downwind and upwind.
As it spreads throughout the Bodhi-path,
the fragrance of the path is the same way.

We must still be mindful. "The fragrances of precepts, Samadhi and wisdom pervade the Ten Dharma-realms." I hope everyone will keep listening [to what I teach] and understand [the Dharma] more mindfully. For several days, we have been continually talking about how we must all take the Dharma to heart very deeply. As for "the precepts," our bodies, minds and lives must never depart from them. As we practice what is in our hearts, the precepts constantly remind us to be vigilant in all matters.

Upholding the precepts guards against wrongs and stops evils; we must always prevent [evil]. If something is not right, we must not do it. We cannot think evil [thoughts] either. When thoughts of evil arise, we must stop them immediately. We cannot have thoughts of evil or [engage in] evil deeds. Similarly, when handling matters, in whatever things we do, we must first be cautious [and consider], are we about to do something that is wrong? If so, we must prevent ourselves [from] doing it. If we suddenly do it out of carelessness, we must immediately stop; this is upholding the precepts. The precepts help us guard against wrongs and stop evils. They must be present in our thoughts and actions. So, lately, I have been saying this to everyone about precepts and Samadhi. We must steady our minds.

Why do we waver back and forth as we learn the Buddha's teachings? I often say that to learn the Buddha's teachings is to learn from the Buddha's heart and take the Buddha's heart as our own. Since we are learning the Buddha's teachings, we must traverse the Bodhisattva-path. However, we must follow [it] for an extremely long time, lifetime after lifetime. As the Buddha said, He never stopped. He spent lifetime after lifetime in the Saha World. This is what the Buddha resolved to do, to come and go in the Saha World and to go among people to transform sentient beings. This requires determination. Our minds must be without evil thoughts or indolence, and we must advance forward with steadfastness and determination, without retreating. This is [how we uphold] the precepts, Samadhi and wisdom.

In this world, our minds are not steady. When we form aspirations, we are willing to act, but we lack patience. That mindset of upholding our mission and following the path [eventually] becomes lax. Our ability to prevent [wrongs] is insufficient, and the temptations of external states entice us away. When we are tempted away, it is not easy to return to this state of mind. Thus, we need the precepts, as well as Samadhi. We must be very determined. If we are able to forever [uphold] the precepts and Samadhi, naturally our minds will not waver. We will be diligent in our practice and slowly accumulate [wisdom]. This is how we give rise to wisdom.

If not, after we have formed aspirations, we will take three steps forward and two steps back, then take another three steps forward and another two steps back. If we are constantly coming and going, advancing and retreating, we will never improve. Wisdom requires us to have a determined mind, to practice for a long time and to observe matters and objects. If we are able to be understanding and diligent [as we go among] people, matters and objects, we will be able to comprehend the principles. If we do not understand people, matters and objects, and if we do not have determination, we will not be able to focus and understand [the teachings]. Then, we will not be able to develop wisdom.

Thus, as for precepts, Samadhi and wisdom, we must connect them all together so that we can really focus [on them]. With all things in our lives, whether they are people, matters or objects, we must have firm aspirations. When we can bring all of these together, we accumulate virtue. So, virtue is like a fragrance. By upholding the precepts, Samadhi and wisdom, we naturally accumulate the various fragrances of precepts and Samadhi, which together produce the fragrance of wisdom. Thus, when the fragrances of precepts, Samadhi and wisdom all come together, this is virtue. All virtuous Dharma begins with the precepts, Samadhi and wisdom. So, we must all be very mindful.

"Pervades the Ten Dharma-realms" means that they spread throughout the Ten Dharma-realms. If the fragrances of the precepts, Samadhi and wisdom can all accumulate together, this fragrance can pervade the Ten Dharma-realms. The "Ten Dharma-realms" refers to the Four Noble Realms and the Six Unenlightened Realms. We should know about the Four Noble Realms and the Six Unenlightened Realms are the hell, hungry ghost, animal, human, heaven and asura [realms]. These are the Six Unenlightened Realms. The Hearer, Solitary Realizer, Bodhisattva and Buddha [realms] are the Four Noble Realms. Together, these form the Ten Dharma-realms. In the Dharma-realm of sentient [beings], we must begin with spiritual practice. The Buddha taught us how to attain Buddhahood, and He said that all sentient beings have Buddha-nature. Thus, the Ten Dharma-realms are also called the sentient realms.

Thus, the fragrance of wisdom pervades [within] the fragrances of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Hearers and Solitary Realizers, who have already thoroughly engaged in spiritual practice. The [fragrance of] the Buddha's [wisdom] is the fullest. Next is [that of] the Bodhisattvas, who are still practicing diligently. Then comes the Hearers and Solitary Realizers who have just begun to advance in their practice. After that are heavenly beings who have done the Ten Good Deeds. [They are] followed by those human [beings] who have abided by the Five Precepts. So, it continues on just like this. If we make an error and our minds become unstable, once a single thought goes astray, we will deviate in that direction. One deviant thought can lead to 1000 [more], and we [may] end up in the hell, hungry ghost or animal realms. So, we must abide by the precepts, Samadhi and wisdom. If we have completely attained this fragrance, the fragrance of the Four Noble Realms, it naturally will pervade the Ten Dharma-realms. So, we must be very mindful.

"The incense is now lit, spreading throughout the ten directions." The ten directions and the Ten Dharma-realms are not the same. The Ten Dharma-realms refers to the realms of sentient [beings]. The ten directions refers to the four cardinal and four intermediate directions, above and below. These are the ten directions. As for the fragrance of lit incense, we often sing the Incense Praise. The fragrance emerges when the incense is lit. The fragrance of the incense floats up and away, drifting ever higher. This is expressing how the fragrant [air] [rises], as if becoming a cloud. On top of the cloud, all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas manifest their entire bodies. Isn't this what we [recite] in the Incense Praise?

Now, the fragrance of the Four Noble [realms] spreads in all ten directions, not only upwards, but in the ten directions. The ten directions are, not only the four cardinal and four intermediate directions, but also above and below. It is this virtuous goodness which teaches and transforms all Ten Dharma-realms. In particular, those in the Four Noble Realms are [role models] who teach those in the Six Realms. We must mindfully seek to comprehend this. To be able to comprehend this, we must first uphold precepts, Samadhi and wisdom to be able to comprehend how this fragrance spreads everywhere to teach and transform [us].

"This is like when the flowers of the king of heavenly trees open and unfold." When the flowers of the king of heavenly trees bloom, the flowers of this great tree will be very fragrant. Because this tree is very big, the fragrance that wafts from its flowers is all-pervading. "This is like when the flowers of the king of heavenly trees open and unfold." When these flowers bloom and the wind blows, their fragrance spreads widely.

So, the fragrance [travels] naturally. Whether it is downwind or upwind, it can travel over thousands of miles; [it is] very pervasive. Thus, "As it spreads throughout the Bodhi-path, the fragrance of the path is the same way." This wind comes from the Bodhi-path to awakening. The entire path to awakening is very fragrant.

This smell, the fragrant flowers and fragrant aroma, is what we must mindfully seek to comprehend. Where does this fragrance come from? It comes from spiritual practice. As we practice, we gather virtue that accumulates into fragrance. The fragrance of virtue will permeate everything. Because we practice according to the path, we will attain this fragrance of virtue. To earnestly and mindfully engage in practice, to mindfully listen and observe, requires us to be diligent at all times. If we are diligent, our physical conduct will awaken others' minds. From Taipei, in the Northern Region, more than 900 volunteer leaders returned [to the Abode]. More than 900 volunteers! These groups of men and women are experienced and dedicate themselves very diligently. They came to share and encourage each other so they do not forget their initial aspirations. In order not to forget their initial aspirations, they renewed the aspirations they made. More than 900 people came together; almost 1000 people gathered in this place of spiritual practice to wholeheartedly form aspirations together in this Bodhisattva-training ground. They aspired to recruit more Bodhisattvas and to encourage others to form aspirations. They all aspired toward "Recruiting one million Bodhisattvas." This is very impressive!

The Buddha taught us that, when we listen to the Dharma, we must be diligent, and we must read and recite. We must also spread the Dharma and encourage others to spread it. This is how the Buddha taught the Bodhisattva Way. He taught us not to retreat, but to move forward diligently. Time does not wait for us; we grow older with the passage of time. But we do not learn the Buddha's teachings only for one lifetime. When unenlightened beings form aspirations for one lifetime and stop halfway through, [it is because] they feel, "I am old, so I am not able to go out; I will leave this for the young people." But then, will young people be able to see our diligence and our mindfulness? Do they have such a role model to learn from? If they do not have such models, they have no way to know where to begin. So, when Bodhisattvas form aspirations for a lifetime, they must form it for future lifetimes, too, so that they can carry it on.

It is often said that when we learn the Buddha-Dharma, we must take it to heart. As we learn it, we must take it into our hearts and turn worldly knowledge into wisdom to pave the path to Buddhahood with wisdom. We pave the path in this lifetime and open a path in our next lifetime. This way, we will be able to remember and maintain our wisdom-life from this lifetime to the next. So, the older people become, the more we should encourage them to do this. In this lifetime, they should not cease [to grow] their wisdom-life.

This fragrance travels with the wind. Downwind, the fragrance can be carried over thousands of lifetimes. This fragrance comes from virtuous deeds. When we form our initial aspiration, this Bodhisattva-mind [is] virtuous. This mindset continuously accumulates like a natural fragrance. If we can do this ceaselessly, this is called "downwind." When the wind blows, it travels a thousand miles. What about when it is upwind? This is when, for a period of time, we become lax. We remain lax until some causes and conditions awaken our minds again. From there, we begin again. This is when we are obstructed halfway through, but we overcome these obstacles and continue on. Thus, upwind means that, although the fragrance is carried a shorter distance, when we can pick it up again, it pervades throughout the Bodhi-path; the fragrance of the path is the same way.

Following this same principle, when we are walking this path, we keep walking smoothly, one step at a time, walking continuously. Then, it will be very complete. If we only walk halfway, it is because we have encountered an obstacle, but more causes and conditions will inspire us to keep walking this path without deviating. Do we still remember the Chapter on the Parable of the Conjured City? We are tired and wish to go back. To go forward, it is still so far. To go back, the rugged road is even more exhausting. Thus, the wise guiding teacher conjured a city ahead, [saying], "The place of treasures is nearby. We should not rest, and we should move forward." It is the same principle.

In this, we will encounter many more paths that are difficult to walk. We will encounter a [drought] where we do not even have water to drink [as we walk] this dangerous path. In the same way, in this world, all our paths are dangerous. Perhaps in our past lifetimes, because we had an affinity with the Buddha, we also followed the Bodhisattva-path [then], [so] we have accumulated this fragrance of virtue. In this lifetime and the next, we have these causes and conditions. Since we have these causes and conditions, it is as if we have climbed a mountain and have reached its peak.

At this time, we should understand that we cannot rest. Our treasured place is nearby, so we must keep walking forward. Even though we are still in the conjured city, we must still move forward. This way, whether it is downwind or upwind, we are still able to move forward wholeheartedly. Thus, it "can spread throughout the Bodhi-path." As we accumulate virtue, no matter how far [we must go], we [must] keep moving in the right [direction]. "The fragrance of the path is the same way." Thus, everyone should mindfully seek realization. This is how we [transmit] our Dharma-lineage. Having entered the Dharma, we must pass down the Dharma-lineage. [So], we must be earnestly mindful.

The previous sutra passage says,

"In turn like this, all the way to the Brahma realm and up to the summit of existence, they will smell all heavenly beings' bodily fragrances. Furthermore, they will also smell all the incense burned by all heavenly beings."

In the same way, as we continually accumulate [wisdom], in turn [the fragrance] reaches the Brahma Heaven. From the desire realm [to the] form realm, and all the way to the formless realm, this fragrance [ascends to each] in turn to the Brahma Heaven. [So], this Brahma realm [is] the realm of the Brahma Heaven.

In the place of the Akanishtha Heaven, we have accumulated so much virtue to reach the utmost peak. "All heavenly beings [have] bodily fragrances." [Because] these heavenly beings have accumulated so much virtue, they emit the fragrance of virtue. So, "They will smell all." Everyone will be able to smell the fragrance of their accumulated virtue. We are also able to smell all [the incense] burned by all heavenly beings. It is like lighting incense. This fragrance, continuously wafting, travels endlessly outwards.

The following passage says,

"Moreover, regarding the fragrance of Hearers, the fragrance of Pratyekabuddhas, the fragrance of Bodhisattvas and the bodily fragrances of all Buddhas, they will be able to smell them all from afar and know where they are."

As for Pratyekabuddhas, all we have discussed [so far] were just the Six Unenlightened realms. The heaven realm is still among the realms of unenlightened beings. Next, we will talk about the Four Noble Realms. The Four Noble Realms begin with the Hearer and Pratyekabuddha [realms]. Their spiritual practice has already [advanced] through the process of [attaining] the First, Second, Third and Fourth Fruits [of Arhatship], all the way to the stage of Pratyekabuddha. What [practice] do they cultivate?

Moreover, regarding the fragrance of Hearers, the fragrance of Pratyekabuddhas...: They sustain the fragrances of the path of the Four Noble Truths and the 12 Links of Cyclic Existence.

Hearers and Pratyekabuddhas have all received the Buddha's Four Noble Truths. They all have a very clear understanding, so they want understand [even more deeply] about the origin of life and why the convergence of afflictions and ignorance accumulates into suffering; they want to investigate where suffering comes from. So, this is [another] teaching, which is called the 12 Links of Cyclic Existence. There are the Four Noble Truths and the 12 Links of Cyclic Existence.

The root of the afflictions of greed, anger and delusion is ignorance, which leads to volitional formation, consciousness, name and form, the six entrances, contact, feeling, craving, grasping, becoming, birth, old age and death. [These 12 Links] encompass [all of our] delusions throughout the Three Periods, [as well as] the karma we create, the rebirths we suffer and all of our karmic causes and effects. We repeat this cycle, again and again, without end.

Greed, anger and delusion, these three, all come together to form afflictions. [Among our] afflictions, the most fundamental affliction is ignorance. Our afflictions come from ignorance. This is how greed, anger and delusion cause us to give rise to afflictions. So, we must investigate the source of the 12 Links of Cyclic Existence.

We must begin to tell everyone that it all begins with ignorance. Ignorance leads to volitional formation, which leads to consciousness. Consciousness leads to name and form, which then [leads to] the six entrances, [followed by] contact, feeling, craving, grasping, birth, old age and death. This is how [it proceeds]. Due to our ignorance, [our] "deluded thoughts create the Three Subtleties," [and our] "external states lead to the Six Coarse Marks." We have discussed in the past that this is how [the 12 Links] proceed. Because of our ignorance, we act in confusion. In terms of "action," our world exists within the aggregate of action, in this state of confusion. With our forms, feelings, thoughts and actions, we continuously go about creating karma from amidst our confusion. Our "actions" create karma.

As we are creating karma, our consciousness [acknowledges] all the forms and colors of the world, and we go about recognizing these things. At the very beginning of this is the desire between males and females. This type of desire [causes] males and females to pursue each other, to come together as husband and wife and to become pregnant. Once pregnant, the [baby] in the mother's womb does not have any form yet. The Sutra of Profound Gratitude toward Parents has already explained this. When the father's sperm and the mother's egg come together, it becomes like a bubble that gradually takes shape. After the six entrances [develop], the head, hands and legs gradually take shape, and it continues to mature.

At the start, when there was not a head or hands or legs, it was called "name and form." It had a name, and it had a form. When it takes shape, and the head, hands, legs and all organs are fully developed, this is called "the six entrances." [Because] its Six Roots have begun to [develop], [this is what] six entrances refers to.

When the time comes, and [the baby] has been carried to term, it is then born. Once the baby is born, it encounters the world. Its very first sensation is suffering. This is "feeling," the feeling of worldly suffering. As babies begin to grow from childhood to adulthood, they are constantly craving. Even very young children select the people they like, and these very young children also choose the things they crave to eat. As they are continuously craving, they must [learn to] distinguish and choose [the things] they want to grab. So, they go after the things they crave and want to possess for themselves. [This is what] "becoming" refers to. The becoming of what? Of karma. They continuously create karma, and so it is due to this karmic force that they [are born] into this world to experience birth, aging, illness and death. These are the 12 Links of Cyclic Existence.

In this world, we come into contact [with things] every day. Every day, [using] the six entrances we have formed, we see with our eyes, hear with our ears and have very complicated views in our [minds]. So, in this way, it is through interacting with things that our "feelings" are generated, feelings of joy and affliction, which are all part of our lives. [Throughout] the 12 Links of Cyclic Existence, through our grasping and so on, we create karma. We continuously accumulate it. So, in terms of karma, as we do good deeds, we accumulate good karma and blessings. And when we do evil and create bad karma? When our conduct is evil, and we accumulate evil karma, which creates evil conditions, evil effects and evil retributions. This means [we have] regressed. By doing good deeds, we receive good conditions, good karma, good effects and good retributions, which we continuously accumulate like this.

Thus, from the Four Noble Truths to the 12 Links of Cyclic Existence, this is what Pratyekabuddhas and Hearers practice. This [teaching] is what they seek to understand. As we listen and take in its sound, we must take it to heart and realize whether the Four Noble Truths and the 12 Links of Cyclic Existence are part of our daily lives. We have already taken form in this world. Every day, our six entrances observe forms, listen to sounds, develop feelings and so on. We must be very mindful as we seek to comprehend this in our lives.

So, this encompasses the Three Periods. "How did I come to this world?" This depends on our past, which includes the conditions we have formed, the karma we have accumulated and whether we accumulated good or bad karma. We must look at our past. Having come into this lifetime, we must be very grateful. In the past, we have formed many good affinities with people, so we must be even more focused. We must be even more diligent. These good, blessed affinities that we have formed should not be cut off. In the next lifetime, we still want to come to the world with the affinities we formed with everyone. What about our future lifetimes? Similarly, those who have gone first will guide us and then we will go on to guide others, too. In this way, our affinities [remain], lifetime after lifetime, and our Dharma-lineage continues on ceaselessly. We have this Dharma, this lineage that we must pass on ceaselessly, lifetime after lifetime. So, these are the Three Periods.

But in these Three Periods, if we are not careful, we could give rise to delusion. If we give rise to delusion in this lifetime, our conditions in future lifetimes will cease, because, in this lifetime, we gave rise to afflictions in our minds. [If] our diligence wanes, [if] our continual diligence has waned, [then] we have regressed and become indolent. Perhaps our [focus] has turned elsewhere, so we are unable to stay on the Bodhi-path and walk this same path together. So, when delusion arises, we keep creating karma because we are not mindful in this lifetime. Lest our karmic conditions from past lifetimes converge, when we come to this life, if we do not earnestly seize our time and continue to create karma, we will suffer from birth, death and so on, [and suffer] all of our karmic retributions.

"Thus, we go through this cycle without end." After we are born, in this world, in this life, we move from childhood to old age. When we are first born, we continue according to the law of nature, until our karmic conditions reach their limit and this lifetime will quickly end. Then, in our minds, we must still understand that we have future lifetimes, so we must be very vigilant. Even at the end of [our] lives, we must be even more vigilant. Having walked this right path all the way, in our future paths, we will not lose our way. We will not be lost. "Thus, we go through this cycle again and again, without end." Lifetime after lifetime, we die and are born again, and after being born, we die again. We die and are born, coming and going. Thus, "We go through this cycle, again and again." Once this life is over, the next life begins again, endlessly like this. This is how life is. So, these are the Four Noble Truths and the 12 Links of Cyclic Existence, which are the teachings Pratyekabuddhas and Hearers practice. This is where their virtue comes from.

What about Bodhisattvas?

The fragrance of Bodhisattvas and the bodily fragrances of all Buddhas: By actualizing the Six Paramitas in all actions, they accumulate merits and virtues, which have a wondrous fragrance. This is the fragrance of the Bodhi-fruit of ultimate liberation.

The fragrance of Bodhisattvas and the bodily fragrances of all Buddhas [come] from actualizing the Six Paramitas. What we just discussed was the Small Vehicle. To cultivate one's body and mind through understanding the origin of life and where the power of karma comes from is the Small Vehicle Dharma; they clearly understand these principles. But to actualize the Six Paramitas in all actions, the merits and virtues accumulated [from this] [emit] a wondrous fragrance. How wondrous! It is a very wondrous fragrance. So, "This is the fragrance of the Bodhi-fruit of ultimate liberation." This fragrance is thoroughly [permeating].

They will be able to smell them all from afar and know where they are: Although they are in the human realm, they will smell the fragrance of the path from afar. Whether they are far or near, they will be able to smell all [these fragrances]. Despite currently residing in the human realm, they will be able to determine the retributions of noble or unenlightened beings based on their karmic conditions and [smell] the fragrance of heavenly beings as they take joy in accumulating virtues and the fragrance of practicing the Four Noble Truths. So, [they will] "smell them all from afar."

"They will be able to smell them all from afar and know where they are." Even though we are in the human realm, because we engage in spiritual practice, when we hear the Dharma, we can understand and distinguish virtuous and unwholesome teachings. We understand [how to do] this. All of these virtuous fragrances come from the accumulation of so much virtue. This is the virtuous Dharma. In the hell, hungry ghost and animal realms, those on the unwholesome path all have a foul odor. But, a foul odor can become fragrant. So, in this place where everything is fragrant, [it is a place of] understanding. All living, moving beings have Buddha-nature, not to mention those in the hungry ghost, animal and hell realms. The hell realm is where people fall when they have done evil deeds. Their intrinsic nature is still there, it is just that they have created evil karma and fallen into [either] the hell, animal or hungry ghost realms, which are the Three Evil Realms. Thus, evil karma makes people fall [into the lower realms]. What about the virtuous? Their fragrance travels upwards.

So, after we understand the principles, even though we are in the human realm, and we are unenlightened beings, we understand the principles [of] the Bodhisattva Way. We begin to put [the principles] into action and advance. Having smelled this fragrance and knowing that we must accumulate virtuous Dharma, we will be able to [enter] the Four Noble realms of Hearers, Solitary Realizers, Bodhisattvas and [finally], Buddhahood. Because we know this, we must be very mindful.

"Despite currently residing in the human realm, they [can] determine [the retributions] of noble or unenlightened beings based on their karmic conditions." Based on these karmic conditions, we are able to fully understand and determine if this is the path of a noble being or the unenlightened path of ordinary beings in the world. [If we] walk toward the path of noble beings, what will the result be? If we walk toward the unenlightened paths, what will the result be? We [already] know that [the minds] of unenlightened beings rise and fall, so forming aspirations is easy, but persevering in them is hard. [This is what makes us] unenlightened beings. We form aspirations in a moment, but we cannot persevere in them all the way; this makes us unenlightened beings. As for noble beings, they eternally [emit] the fragrance of precepts, Samadhi and wisdom. It is easy for ordinary beings to form aspirations, but difficult to persevere. This is why I constantly say, "We must not forget our initial aspiration." We must not forget that moment when we formed our initial aspiration. So, this is what not forgetting our initial aspiration means.

If we can frequently maintain our initial aspiration, [our minds] will not rise and fall, and we can walk straight ahead on this path, very diligently. As Hearers, we take in the sounds we hear and cultivate our minds and bodies toward awakening, entering the ground of noble beings. This is the Bodhisattva-practice of actualizing the Six Paramitas in all actions and going among people to transform sentient beings. We must keep doing this until the conditions converge for us to transform sentient beings. We must not abandon sentient beings; we must keep following after them. Isn't this what the Buddha taught? [Buddhas and Bodhisattvas] follow sentient beings to the Saha World, coming and going like this. They return to the Saha World to transform sentient beings. These are the causes and conditions of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Unenlightened beings, following the law of karma, progress and regress, advancing and retreating. After the hell, hungry ghost and animal realms, if they can move forward toward virtue and good, they will also attain Buddhahood. Following the Bodhisattva Way, they will attain Buddhahood. It is the same principle. So, "They will be able to determine the retributions of noble or unenlightened beings based on their karmic conditions."

"They [smell] the fragrance of heavenly beings as they take joy in accumulating virtues." We are able to differentiate [this]; this is the retribution of accumulating virtue. When we smell this fragrance, we are able to understand this principle. We understand the principle of practicing virtuous Dharma. Then, there is "the fragrance of practicing the Four Noble Truths." Since we know that this is the virtuous Dharma heavenly beings enjoy, we must understand [how to] practice the Four Noble Truths and the 12 Links of Cycle Existence even [better]. We must understand and know this even better in order to move toward the stage of noble beings, of Bodhisattvas and Buddhas.

Now that we have this direction, [we can smell them] "from afar." [Now that] we have heard [this teaching], although we are still very far from the state of Bodhisattvas and Buddhas, we already understand these principles. Although we are in the human realm, we are still able to [smell them from afar]. This is because "We are able to determine the retributions of noble or unenlightened beings based on their karmic conditions." We are able to discern clearly between noble beings and ordinary beings. We must seek to comprehend these two paths of noble beings and unenlightened realms.

So, we must always be mindful [to uphold] the precepts, Samadhi and wisdom. [The fragrance] "pervades the Ten Dharma-realms," which are the Four Noble Realms and the Six Unenlightened Realms. As we just explained, these are known as the Ten Dharma-realms. So, we must always be mindful.