Wondrous Lotus Sutra 靜思妙蓮華
Embracing the Fruits of the Seeds We Sow
From Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s notes:
When it comes to delighting in worldly joys,
how can we enjoy them without blessings?
If we do not witness suffering in the world,
we will feel discontent even amidst blessings.
If we recognize our blessings
and become content, blessings and joy will always abide in our heart.
We will embrace the fruits of the seeds we [sow].
Poverty, riches, suffering and joy are all created by the mind.
We must mindfully seek to comprehend the meaning [of this passage]. "When it comes to delighting in worldly joys, how can we enjoy them without blessings?" Everyone waits, hopes and prays to be able to come to the human realm, and when they come to this world, they hope to delight in worldly joys. Yet, if we are without blessings ourselves, how can we expect to delight in worldly joys? People are like this all over the world, yet the gap between the wealthy and poor still continues to grow. Wealthy people are rolling in riches, and they always receive good news. The rich are always the ones who enjoy everything, but what about the poor? They are lucky if they get their three daily meals. Even if they are able to secure housing, it is [often] unbearably dilapidated. When people are as poor as this, how can they even begin to think about delighting in the joys of this world?
So, "How can [they] enjoy them without blessings?" They will never be able to. No matter how hard they struggle, no matter how hard they work, their families will stay poor. When people's lives are like this, it can create imbalances within the mind, and this makes it impossible to find peace in the world. Because people are unable to achieve balance in life, many [terrible] things happen in the world. However, even those who cultivate blessings find afflictions amidst their wealth. No matter how wealthy they are, many people feel as though they are suffering and [filled with] afflictions. They do not desire material things; all that they really want is love, the love of a happy and harmonious family. Unfortunately, many find it impossible to have a happy and harmonious family because their relationships with their spouses and children and so on are full of afflictions.
Even very wealthy people often say that they are suffering. When people are like this, this means they have never gone out and witnessed those people in the world who suffer from having nothing. Only by witnessing the suffering of others will they be able to appreciate their own blessings. "If we do not witness suffering in the world," we will still suffer, even if we are wealthy. We will still feel like we do not have enough. This discontentment is suffering! Only when we feel a sense of contentment will we be able to open our minds. If we never feel content, then our minds will always feel imbalanced. We will think, "I need this, and I need that. I am unhappy and unsatisfied." If this is how we are, "we will feel discontent even amidst blessings."
This is why we are always saying, "Go on! Have a look! Go witness the suffering in the world." This is what Tzu Chi volunteers do. When you join Tzu Chi, you must undergo volunteer training to understand the things we do in Tzu Chi, the things you must devote yourself to and join us in doing. In particular, those who delight in worldly joys really need to go into the world and observe people who are suffering. This is the only way to realize, "I have always had everything I ever needed!" Once our perspective and attitude change, we think, "I have always had such a great family." Once our mindset changes, we naturally become a blessed person among the blessed. Moreover, when we see people suffering from poverty, this awakens the love in our hearts, and we are able to give of ourselves for the sake of those poor people. Wealthy people with love in their hearts are truly the rich among the rich.
The joy of being [spiritually] rich among the rich is like a heavenly joy, for the mind can become pure and peaceful. When we are content with our material wealth, isn't this like heavenly blessings on Earth? So, if we are able to delight in worldly joys, we should be very content, and we ought to devote ourselves to going among people to observe them. [Then], amidst our contentment, [our lives] will become even richer. This is what enables us to do the many things we have to do in this world. The more we do them, the more joyful we are, until we become filled with Dharma-joy.
This is like the group from Kaohsiung, which consists of a few dozen Honorary Board members. Theirs is truly like the joy of Brahma Heaven. They are wealthy, and in the past, they had bad habitual tendencies. But once they entered Tzu Chi, they quickly overcame their various bad habitual tendencies from the past, and they have become blessed people, the rich among the rich. They know the importance of contentment, and at the same time, they hope to bring happiness to our society. If we want happiness for our society, then everyone must recognize their blessings.
Where do these blessings come from? They put their heart into recruiting others who are similar to themselves and recruit them through skillful means. They think of every way they can to recruit each person, one by one. The people they recruit are grateful and [say things like], "Since I have joined Tzu Chi, the way I feel about things and my attitude are different from the past." They were so busy at work in the past. Although they were already so wealthy, they always felt like it was never enough. They were constantly busy trying to expand their businesses, larger and larger. Still, no matter how large they grew, it was never enough. So, they were always very busy. They were so busy with work that they were obsessed with managing their businesses. Their families, their wives and children, became deeply unhappy [and said], "All you care about is your business!" They were neglecting their families, leaving their children unhappy and their wives dispirited. There are many people like this in our society.
So, that group of Honorary Board members hopes that every family will be able to do what they have done by accepting the Buddha-Dharma, understanding it, joining Tzu Chi and caring for their community. The mindset [they have now] is that, as long as their business is stable, they will be happy and carefree, and they will learn Buddha-Dharma to eliminate their afflictions and become content. They hope to share this with everyone, so they put their hearts into recruiting others, [who can then] join in and are transformed too. In the same way, everyone can [bring] the Dharma among the wealthy and [help them] be awakened [by] the Dharma. These "awakened sentient beings" cannot bear for others to suffer, so they take on the responsibility helping them to bring harmony to society and spread love throughout the world.
You can see how happy and harmonious that group is. [They came] here to share with me all the methods they use to guide people and the joy they have gained from their interactions over the course of their guidance. This is just like the joys that heavenly beings delight in that we have been discussing [recently]. Heavenly beings, in their palaces, enjoy a host of amusements. [Likewise, for this group], whatever they do, they always try to get others to join in. When others come, they are so grateful! When they receive [their guests], they say, "How joyful I am! I invited you, and you came!" The guests are also very grateful. "Receiving your invitation has helped me find value in my life. I realized that I must find a way to change the way I manage my business and that I must consider my family's happiness. Now that I understand, I am very grateful!" They thank and encourage one another. By working to help society and those who are suffering, they create heavenly blessings on earth, heavenly blessings which are truly enjoyable. Whenever they come together, they never talk about financial gains and losses; they only encourage one another and enjoy being together like this.
They came and told me what they are planning for the auspicious month of July . They are planning to hold an activity to recruit Bodhisattvas during this auspicious month. [They hope to create] a spiritual environment that can help everyone understand that combining everyone's small efforts to help others can do [great] things for people who are suffering. This time, they [will hold] activities to make people [aware of] Tzu Chi and see the things Tzu Chi volunteers are doing. They have such an extraordinary plan. I was very happy to hear about it.
"Let's not forget that year." They are planning something with this [slogan] as the theme so everyone can see [what happened] "that year." Which year [are they referring to]? 2009. In the Kaohsiung-Pingtung region, there was a terrible disaster known as Typhoon Morakot. [What action] did Tzu Chi volunteers take? On a big piece of barren land in Shanlin, the government gave Tzu Chi permission to build nearly 1000 permanent homes. Within 88 days, we had completed the housing, and the disaster survivors were able to move in. We gave them 88 gifts to help them celebrate a happy Lunar New Year.
When I speak about that time back in Kaohsiung, it brings back so many memories. We had to persuade the aboriginal people living up in the mountains in the disaster zone to agree to move away from the mountains to live [in the housing we built]. Why did we have to go through so much trouble? This was because Typhoon Morakot caused the entire [mountainside] to collapse.
So, we thought that the mountains needed to be conserved in the long-term. Our hope was that they would be able to move down from the mountains. By moving down from the mountains, their lives would be safe and stable. Coming down from the mountains would make it more convenient to do business and find work, and it would be easier for their children to get to and from school. This would stabilize the lives of entire families. This could cause their minds and bodies to be at ease and stabilize their livelihood.
However, these people who lived in the mountains were uneasy about [moving to] the plains. It was up to our Tzu Chi Bodhisattvas, these Kaohsiung Bodhisattvas, to take the duty of going up into the mountains and persuading them. Time and again, they did everything they could. They traveled on damaged mountain roads, roads that were difficult and dangerous to travel. They drove along these mountain roads to plead with them over and over again, to get them to listen to reason and come down to see [the proposed location]. They did this over and over again. As they told this story, their minds recalled that time and the great efforts, mindfulness and sincerity [all of this took], in hopes that they would come down to live their lives in peace and safety.
That day, I listened to them recall their memories. "Let's not forget that year." As we reminisced about 2009, I told them, "I am deeply moved. You must help everyone understand more clearly. Rouse everyone's memory and remind them of that terrible disaster and how Tzu Chi volunteers devoted themselves to mobilizing everyone's love. That love and devotion is so precious. I hope that you can help everyone remember this. Human life is so precious. We should remember how we helped those people." This is what they are working on now to help everyone understand and see how the money that we raised was put to use back then, what it was put toward and the blessings it created for so many people.
Everyone worked together during that time, coming from south, central and northern Taiwan. So many people from Taipei and the Central Region went south to Kaohsiung and Pingtung to help following Typhoon Morakot that very quickly, Kaohsiung was able to settle many of the disaster survivors and stabilize the community. These people came from other places to serve them unconditionally and spent such a long time helping them; we must all be grateful for this. Only when this world has gratitude will it be truly prosperous. If people are willing to help us during our times of need, if people are willing to help us, we must be very grateful to them.
In the past, just for a single meal, people would have lifelong gratitude. We once went to Qinghai province for a disaster relief mission, and they have been grateful to us for over 20 years now. This time, [in 2019], there was another disaster there. Tzu Chi volunteers went there again, and [the locals] gratefully recounted what happened 23 years ago [in 1996]. They took out a flimsy, 23-year-old letter. During that relief distribution, I wrote them a letter offering my blessings; this letter was like a treasure to them, and they hid it away for 23 years.
When they saw our Tzu Chi volunteers, they exclaimed, "I know you!" The person whom they said they knew replied, "I have never been here before." "I recognize your hats. I recognize your uniforms. They were just like this over 20 years ago! I received your goodwill, your love and your assistance back then. I have asked my children and grandchildren to hold onto this letter for me as a testament, so that my children and grandchildren can pass it down through the generations. I want them all to know [how you helped]." There are more than a few people there who held onto my letters.
We also met and saw people who said, "You still have your letter? I have mine, too!" Everyone pulled out [their letters]. The edges of those letters were already yellowed and had almost worn through along the creases. Still, they cherished them like treasures. The volunteers from Kaohsiung told me, "Once we start remembering, we [realize] that we owe our grateful to so many people for their dedication and help in completing the Great Love Villages, one by one, and helping our community to quickly recover." They recalled how everyone in the Southern Region expressed their gratitude in order to show everyone and let everyone know [what happened]. We listened to them share and saw how happy they were, how grateful those who joined in back then are and the insights they gained from their work. Back then, they were drenched in sweat, but now they feel free and at ease. These memories are deeply moving, for they have come to know contentment from witnessing the suffering of others.
So, "If we recognize our blessings and become content, blessings and joy will always abide in our heart." When you look at that group of people, you can see how truly blessed and content they are. They always seek to create blessings for others. They are already quite content themselves, but they want others to know even greater blessings and contentment. They do this because "blessings and joy always abide in their hearts." We can see how satisfied they are in every way, how extremely joyful they are when helping others. "They embrace the fruits of the seeds they sow." With the past causes and conditions for giving, they seized them and went to help others. Now, they embrace the fruits; they embrace their blessings that come from what they did in the past. [Their] karmic retribution is this joy and happiness [they experience].
Thus, "Poverty, riches, suffering and joy are all created by the mind." We know that, whether we are rich or poor, whether we are suffering or happy, this [is all within the] mind. If wealthy people know contentment and recognize their blessings, their joy will be everlasting. For ordinary people who devote themselves to doing such things, they may not all be rich, but they can offer their labor, their energy and take off time from work to volunteer, etc. Thus, they reap the fruits of the seeds they sow by going among people to help others. Although they are not rich, they are still very happy. This is how all things are created by the mind. We have a saying that goes, "All Buddhas of the Three Periods teach that all things are created by the mind." Everyone, we must be mindful. This is what it means to be a Living Bodhisattva.
I said to them, "You actualize the Six Paramitas in everything that you do. You are Living Bodhisattvas. You give to others. You always give of yourselves to help others. You uphold the precepts by always following Tzu Chi's rules. You are diligent. Everyone is already so experienced. You have been diligent since the very beginning. You also listen to the Dharma and do good deeds. You constantly work to benefit our society. You are so diligent. You are all very patient. In this world of unenlightened beings, we interact with so many people that conflicts of opinion are inevitable. Also, whenever we try to do something, we must overcome many hardships and obstacles and surpass all kinds of barriers. This requires patience. Thus, you have also accomplished patience."
What else is there? As for giving, precepts, patience and diligence, they have accomplished them all. They are all very diligent. How do they practice Samadhi? I told them, "You also practice Samadhi, for you are meticulous in everything you do. You contemplate things very carefully. Entrepreneurs are very good at planning, and you all are very meticulous in pursuing your mission. You know how to lead others and how to go about doing things. You plan so meticulously that, when you come together, you are all so certain of your direction. You have achieved careful contemplation, which is what we call Samadhi."
"When you are in Samadhi, you will contemplate calmly, plan carefully and so on, without errors or confusion; this is Samadhi. Everything you do is a form of meditation, so in everything you do, you will never have errors or confusion. If you are able to [achieve] this careful contemplation and meditation, then this is Samadhi. By focusing your thoughts, you have been able to walk the Bodhisattva-path, and you have actualized the Six Paramitas in all actions. You have practiced giving, upholding precepts, patience, diligence, Samadhi and wisdom. You have applied so much wisdom in the world. You practice the Six Paramitas [in all actions]. Though we remain here in this world, our blessings are world-transcending. If you all want to become Bodhisattvas, then you must always be diligent." This is basically what I told them. So, we should all be very mindful of this. Engaging in spiritual practice in the world means creating blessed karma among people and walking the Bodhisattva-path. We have truly accomplished this.
Come, let us look at the previous sutra passage,
"As for all the flowers in the heavens above, such as mandaravas, manjusakas and the parijata tree, they will know them all upon smelling their scents. As for all the palaces in the heavens above, distinctly superior, average or inferior, magnificently adorned by various precious flowers, they will know them all upon smelling their scents."
From what we just heard and from what we are reading in the sutra now, [we know what] heavenly beings in their different realms enjoy, whether it is the scenery or being amongst themselves. So, depending on the superior, average or inferior good deeds they accomplished in the past, as a result, they are now in a heavenly realm, which is also either superior, average or inferior. But Bodhisattvas always seek supreme goodness, and they have transcended the pursuit of [material] prosperity. As they follow the Bodhisattva-path, they witness the suffering of others and recognize their own blessings. So, their joy must be even greater than that which heavenly beings constantly enjoy in heaven, for they have attained peace.
The previous passage goes on to say,
"As for the heavenly gardens, groves, supreme palaces, landscapes and wondrous Dharma halls and those who amuse themselves therein, they will know them all upon smelling their scents. Whether heavenly beings listen to the Dharma or indulge in the Five Desires, whether coming, going, sitting or sleeping, they will know them all upon smelling their scents."
We have already discussed this. If you look at those heavenly beings, no matter how many blessings they enjoy, they still have to listen to the Dharma. They still need to listen to the Dharma, and once they listen to it, they will discuss it in one of their wondrous Dharma halls. Thus, they are inseparable from the Dharma. Though they enjoy the blessings of heavenly beings, they constantly listen to the Dharma, and as they listen, they can still enjoy their heavenly blessings.
They may be "coming, going, sitting or sleeping." We discussed this before. When we cultivate blessings, we move toward heaven. When we exhaust our blessings, we descend, coming again into the Five Realms, into the human, hell and animal realms. We will descend again like this. So, we should not seek to indulge in heavenly blessings, but rather, we must transcend them by following the Bodhisattva-path. Then, we can come and go freely, and we will be very satisfied when we return. But where should we go? By witnessing suffering, we can recognize our blessings even better. We must go to visit and help the poor. This is the direction we must head in as we practice the Bodhisattva-path.
Continuing on, the following passage says,
"As for the precious garments worn by the heavenly maidens and the wonderful floral fragrances that adorn them as they wander around and play, they will know them all upon smelling their scents. Going upward in turn like this all the way up to Brahma Heaven, where beings enter and emerge from Samadhi, they will know them all upon smelling their scents."
"As for the precious garments worn by the heavenly maidens...." We know what this means when we read it. Because heavenly beings are so blessed, the clothes they wear are all precious garments, top-quality clothing. The clothes that the heavenly maidens wear are all as light as a feather and very comfortable. [These are] "the precious garments worn by heavenly maidens." In addition to those clothes being beautiful, they are made out of top-quality materials that are all very exquisite. Also, when they are enjoying themselves, there is a fragrance which surrounds them, for [they adorn themselves with] the scents of magnificent flowers. All the flowers and plants one sees there are so magnificent, and the scenery of their gardens is very beautiful.
"They wander around and play" in that place. The garments they wear among the flowers there are all as light as a feather. The flowering trees, the fruit trees and the surrounding landscape are all so beautiful! The scenery is non-sentient, while the heavenly maidens are sentient, with clothing that flutters [in the wind] as they play there. Just imagine, wouldn't this be so enjoyable? Within that landscape, both "sentient" and "non-sentient" beings come together in that place to form a very beautiful scene. Very beautifully, these magnificent fragrances [adorn them] and can be smelled by spiritual practitioners.
So, [these beings have all] "cultivated goodness in the human realm and were able to ascend to the heavens of the desire realm." By practicing the Ten Good Deeds in this world, the blessings they attained, embraced and enjoyed have caused them to be born into the heavens of the desire realm.
[Yet, they are] "attached to sensual pleasures." In their hearts, they still desire pleasure, since they have created many blessings, they are born into a heaven with their desires. "Those who are attached to sensual pleasures will be born with a female body." They are [born] there as women due to their intense desires. "As for the garments they wear and the wonderful floral fragrances that adorn them as they wander around and play," they will know them all upon smelling their scents. They play there like this, wearing light clothing and enjoying themselves, while their floral fragrances waft all around. They are truly very happy there.
As for the precious garments worn by the heavenly maidens and the wonderful floral fragrances that adorn them as they wander around and play, they will know them all upon smelling their scents: Those who cultivate goodness in the human realm will be able to ascend to the heavens of the desire realm. Those who are attached to sensual pleasures will be born with a female body. As for the garments they wear and. the wonderful floral fragrances that adorn them as they wander around and play, they will know them all upon smelling them.
The "floral fragrances and garments" represent goodness with Leaks. This simply emphasizes that [anything] we enjoy, whether it is beautiful scenery, good food, nice clothing or precious jewelry, will [one day] "leak" away. Even if we have many blessings to enjoy, once they have been exhausted, these blessings will leak away. The blessings we create leak away with every day that we enjoy them, until they are all gone. So, this is "goodness with Leaks."
"The floral fragrances and garments" represent "goodness with Leaks. The enjoyment of good retributions is considered play."
The floral fragrances and garments represent goodness with Leaks. The enjoyment of good retributions is considered play.
We are currently enjoying the good retributions we created in the past, [yet] what we enjoy now is leaking away, drop by drop. By enjoying ourselves today, we are consuming today's blessings. This is just like when we say, "With each passing day, we draw closer to death; like fish in a dwindling pond, what joy have we?" Yet, these heavenly maidens do not think they will grow old one day or that their blessings will be exhausted. They want to enjoy their blessings while they can. They just want to enjoy themselves, so they do not think about anything else that they ought to be doing. The minds of most women tend to be focused on their bodies, on themselves or on making up their bodies. Women [can be] like this. However, it is not fair to say this. At the beginning of Tzu Chi, it was [several women] who started to walk this Bodhisattva-path. This all depends on our mindset.
"Going upward in turn like this all the way up to Brahma Heaven, where beings enter and emerge from Samadhi, they will know them all upon smelling their scents."
Going upward in turn like this all the way up to Brahma Heaven, where beings enter and emerge from Samadhi, they will know them all upon smelling their scents: This begins with the desire realm and [reaches] all the way up to the pure realm of Brahma Heaven. Thus, it says "going upward in turn." Focusing the mind toward Samadhi is "entering." Arising from Samadhi is "emerging."
This is saying that, if we practice good deeds in this way, we will eventually be reborn into heaven, where we will enjoy desires and pleasures. Actually, if we do "superior good deeds, supreme good deeds" and even greater deeds, this goodness will enrich our hearts, and we will know how to eliminate our desires. When our mind is free of afflictions, when we have eliminated our desires, we can [journey] upwards like this "all the way up to Brahma Heaven." Transcending the heavens of desire and pleasure and the heavens of the pursuit of enjoyment, we are able to reach Brahma Heaven. In Brahma Heaven, they have very long lifespans. They are no longer afflicted by crass desires, so they always feel free in the Brahma Heaven.
Then there are the Brahma Kings. We have spoken a lot about the Brahma Kings in previous passages. Happiness, for Brahma Kings, comes from the elimination of both coarse and subtle afflictions, for they still have a small amount of afflictions; they still have delusions to dispel. They also seek the Dharma, but they have yet to fully rid themselves of afflictions.
So, they engage in spiritual practice by entering Samadhi. They calm their minds by entering Samadhi, earnestly engaging in calm contemplation. And when they emerge from Samadhi? They go about their daily lives. These [spiritual practitioners] "will know them all upon smelling their scents." When it comes to their daily lives once they emerge from Samadhi, there are people who, from smelling their scents, will know what their way of life is like. How do they engage in spiritual practice in Brahma Heaven? In Brahma Heaven, they do this by sitting in meditation and engaging in careful contemplation. This is their spiritual practice, but once they emerge from Samadhi, they return to their way of life as heavenly beings in Brahma Heaven. When it comes to their way of life, we will be able to understand it upon smelling their scent.
"This begins with the desire realm and reaches all the way up to the pure realm." Brahma Heaven is pure. It is just that [beings there] have yet to rid themselves of delusion. So, they are mostly pure in the realm of Brahma Heaven. "Thus, it says 'going upward in turn;'" this is going upward in turn. "Focusing the mind toward Samadhi is 'entering.'" They focus their minds completely on one thing [at a time]. This is what is known as "Samadhi." At this moment of careful contemplation when they focus their minds, this is "entering." "Arising from Samadhi is 'emerging.'" "Arising from Samadhi" means that after sitting in mediation, they get up. At this moment, they are said to "emerge from Samadhi," and then they return to the lives they live in Brahma Heaven.
[Where] they live is most important. What I mean is that I hope everyone will transcend the heaven realms and the desires and delights of heavenly beings to practice the path to Buddhahood. When we practice the path to Buddhahood, we will be able to see how the Brahma Kings might still have delusions, because they are still seeking a way to eliminate their afflictions. They are trying their best to do this now. So, in the desire heavens, they still have many afflictions, because they still have a pleasure-seeking mindset. However, once they transcend this mindset, they will be in Brahma Heaven. In Brahma Heaven, they still need to seek the Buddha-Dharma to attain Buddhahood.
So, what people in the world need now is to understand the law of karma. Those who create blessings delight in worldly joys, as if they were enjoying the pleasures of the heavens of the desire realm. Those who have never done good lack blessings, so what can they possibly enjoy? But if we do not witness suffering in the world, even if we are blessed, we will not recognize our blessings, and they will never be enough. So, we must go among people and follow the Bodhisattva-path. Whether we are rich, average or poor, we can all recognize our own blessings by witnessing the suffering of others.
"If we recognize our blessings and become content, blessings and joy will always abide in our heart." If we are able to recognize this, then we will seek the Bodhisattva-path and [follow] the path to Buddhahood. As Buddhist practitioners [who] follow the Bodhisattva-path, we will always be sure that we are heading in a stable direction. "We will embrace the fruits of the seeds we [sow]." When we understand the law of karma, when everyone understands this principle, "We will embrace the fruits of the seeds we [sow]." [Whether we experience] "poverty, riches, suffering or joy," [the law of karma] applies to everyone, and everything is created by the mind. If we understand this principle, then no matter what we might enjoy in the desire heaven or Brahma heaven, our minds will never waver and we will [continue to] follow the Bodhisattva-path. Even if we wanted to enjoy things, we can never enjoy them without blessings.
Now, we must mindfully seek to understand the suffering of this world, to relieve sentient beings of their suffering and [to] "then expound the Dharma for them." With a mutual understanding of the Buddha-Dharma, we will deliver and transform one another, bringing purity to peoples' minds. This will be heaven on earth, for only then can we transcend the world by walking the Bodhisattva-path. I hope that everyone can deeply understand this. So, we must always be mindful!