2017.04.27 With Lax Aspirations, One Wishes to Retreat 初心懈怠 半途欲退

 

Wondrous Lotus Sutra  靜思妙蓮華

 

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2017.04.27

 

With Lax Aspirations, One Wishes to Retreat

初心懈怠 半途欲退

 

From Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s notes:

>> When our body and mind become lazy in all spiritual practices, we cannot diligently advance. Hence we retreat from the Great, turn toward the Small and become lax, disrupting our initial aspiration. As our afflictions hinder our great spiritual practice, we wish to stop halfway and retreat.

>> Along the way: whether or not halfway, when taking forming aspirations as the starting point and attaining Buddhahood as the goal, it is in between the two that they give rise to the thought of retreating from the Great. Therefore, it says, "Along the way [they] become lax and retreat." This means they had intended to advance toward the great Bodhi-path.

>> "There is a guiding teacher, intelligent, wise and with a clear understanding. He knows well the passable and obstructed features of this dangerous road and will lead a group of people who wish to pass through these hardships. But the people he leads along the way become lax and retreat."     [Lotus Sutra, Chapter 7 – On the Conjured City]

>> "They speak to the guiding teacher, 'We are extremely exhausted and also afraid. We cannot advance further. The road ahead seems long. We now wish to retreat and go back.'"    [Lotus Sutra, Chapter 7 – On the Conjured City]

>> There are four kinds of guiding teachers: The compassionate guiding teacher who understands the path. The guiding teacher who forms affinities. The guiding teacher who uses provisional wisdom. The guiding teacher who uses true wisdom.

The compassionate guiding teacher who understands the path: He understands other people's minds and guides them to the right path. In the sutra passage, this is the guiding teacher who leads a group of people.

The guiding teacher who forms affinities: The teacher they follow. In the sutra passage, this is the guiding teacher to whom the people speak.

The guiding teacher who uses provisional wisdom: He teaches the Small according to capabilities. In the sutra passage, this is the guiding teacher who applies many skillful means.

The guiding teacher who uses true wisdom: He opens up the provisional. In the sutra passage, this is the guiding teacher who knows these people.

>> These four are different over time, but they are all the same person, who is the [16th] prince.

>> As for those who now speak, they are speaking to the guiding teacher who forms affinities. They retreat from the Great, so those in the Great have gone, and accept the Small, so those in the Small grow. With each arising and ceasing, they respond to the call of the Dharmakaya; this is to "speak." The [16th] prince knows that they retreated from the Great. This means he hears what they speak.

>> We are extremely exhausted and also afraid: We who have limited capabilities are exhausted and extremely tired and, when facing the Great, give rise to thoughts of fear. Extremely exhausted: Their roots of goodness are thin and weak, and they are covered by ignorance. Thus they cannot advance. Afraid: They have renounced samsara, so they anxiously desire to retreat. Therefore, they need a place to rest.

>> We cannot advance further: As they look at the long road ahead, they give rise to weariness and fatigue. They cannot give rise to the diligence to advance in their practice. It means they cannot advance further toward the great path.

>> The road ahead seems long. We now wish to retreat and go back: Ordinary people look at the Buddha in ignorance across the distance of the Five Realms. Thus it says the road seems long. They think that their own strength is insufficient, so they now wish to retreat and go back.


"When our body and mind become lazy in all spiritual practices, we cannot diligently advance.
Hence we retreat from the Great, turn toward the Small and become lax, disrupting our initial aspiration.
As our afflictions hinder our great spiritual practice, halfway there we wish to retreat."

Let us take a look at this passage. In the past few days, we have been talking about this dangerous and difficult road. It is wild, desolate, and extremely terrifying. In the process of spiritual practice, we must be mindful. We must contemplate how at the beginning, when we first came to this world, it was beyond our control. What we understand about the matters of the world is that they do not meet our expectations and many things are beyond our control. Once we see through this and understand, we choose to engage in spiritual practice. After we engage in spiritual practice for a while, we slowly begin to lose our spiritual aspirations and "our body and mind become lazy in all spiritual practices." Regarding our spiritual practice, we slowly begin to feel that it is not anything special, and we lose our earnestness. Then we return to our normal lifestyle that is full of afflictions and discursive thoughts, without any sense of spirituality.

We have become lax in our spiritual practice, so we cannot be as diligent as when we formed our initial aspirations. So, we retreat from the Great and turn toward the Small. The enthusiasm we had at first to work for Buddha's teachings, for sentient beings, to transform ourselves and at the same time transform others, has already gradually been lost. We go back to thinking that it is enough to just cultivate ourselves, that we just need to take care of ourselves and not worry about others. To carry out this mission "for sentient beings," we must face all kinds of people. It is truly very complicated and difficult. It would be easier to care only for ourselves.

Our minds become lax. Once this thought of indolence arises, it disrupts our initial aspiration. Once disrupted, where is our initial aspiration to be found? If we cannot give rise to that passion to go among people, then afflictions will gradually hinder our great work of spiritual practice. Halfway there, we wish to retreat.

We must earnestly contemplate our own state of mind. Has the initial aspiration that we formed, that aspiration we first began to form years, decades, so long ago, have we continued to maintain it? We should ask ourselves this question.

It was the same in the era of the Buddha. When the Buddha taught the Dharma at Vulture Peak, there was one person who had decided to severe his family ties and came to the Buddha's spiritual training ground. He requested of the Buddha, "Venerable Buddha, I would like to engage in spiritual practice." The Buddha asked him, "Why do you want to engage in spiritual practice?" He said, "In a family, for the sake of my wife and children, I would spend my whole life working busily. It would be so difficult. In a family, there are so many ties that go on without an end. I understand now, and I want to walk on the path to Buddhahood. Please let me become a monastic and walk on the path to awakening. If I am able to understand the principles, I can spread the Buddha-Dharma to everyone."

The Buddha then asked, "Do you have a firm aspiration? Are you able to uphold your aspiration?" He said to the Buddha firmly, "I have made up my mind." So, the Buddha shaved his head for him, and he began his spiritual practice. After a while, he told the Buddha that he would like to go to the mountains so that he could be very tranquil, find a cave and earnestly engage in spiritual practice. After the Buddha agreed, he really found a cave. He had to travel a long path from Vulture Peak. In that place, he was truly very diligent. He earnestly contemplated the Buddha's teachings and the method of observing the phenomena of the world's impermanence.

In that place, he mindfully observed this for a period of three years. After three years had passed, he thought, "Throughout these three years, I have observed the impermanence of this world. The trees, flowers and grass, and so on keep passing like a flowing stream, like water that constantly flows away. Though I am observing all these appearances and understand that everything is impermanent, that this is the law of nature, what can I do? I only know that this is so. I live every day within this state. It has been three years. What else have I attained? It seems like I have not attained anything."

So, he thought to himself again, "Since I am living such a boring life, wouldn't it be better if I returned home and enjoyed the pleasures of family life? I don't need to think about the future now." He made this decision in his mind and began to take action. He left the cave and went down the mountain. The Buddha knew about this and also left Vulture Peak. He also walked toward the mountain path where this spiritual practitioner was. One was walking down the mountain, the other was heading toward the mountain. The Buddha saw this bhiksu from afar, saw him walking down [the mountain]. Using His spiritual powers, He transformed His appearance to be just like an ordinary sramana.

When the two met, this sramana asked the bhiksu who just came down the mountain, "Where are you going? I would like to ask you for directions. I am about to go up the mountain, but I am already tired getting this far. I do not know how long I will have to walk on this mountain path. Why don't we sit here and talk?"

They sat down, and as they begin to talk, suddenly, an old monkey, who looked very old, came down the mountain to the plains. The two shifted their topic. The sramana asked the bhiksu, "That is strange. This monkey lives in the mountains. This mountain should be his home. Why did he come out to the plains?" The bhiksu then replied, "For the past three years, I have observed this old monkey's way of life. I understand him. He is a member of a group of monkeys. His spouse and offspring are all there. This old monkey has to work hard every day, going to places with fruit trees to constantly collect fruits and get water in order to provide for his family. I see how he has to climb up and down trees. The skin on his hands and feet is already peeling off. Perhaps this monkey has to work too hard. Just for the sake of his family, he is always so busy. The skin on his hands is peeling off, for nothing meaningful. So, he probably came down the mountain to seek a moment of peace."

Not long after he said this, the monkey once again left the plains and went back to the mountains. The sramana then said to the bhiksu, "Strange, he already left the mountains. Why would he go back up again?" "Maybe he could not bear leaving his family. His mind was still attached. This is why he returned." After the sramana heard the story, he slowly began to speak to the bhiksu.

The bhiksu saw how this sramana was very calm when he spoke. The sound of his voice consistently sounded very dignified and gentle. He watched closely as the sramana turned back into the Buddha. When the bhiksu saw the light emitted by the sramana's body, he gave rise to a sense of remorse and repentance. He thought, "The Buddha knew that along the way I had retreated in my will to practice, that I had retreated from my aspirations halfway." For him, the Buddha had left Vulture Peak and transformed His appearance. He came to the mountain [to teach him]. So, he prostrated to the Buddha and repented before Him.

The Buddha then said, "'All thoughts of the mind flow.' Everything is merely the thoughts of our mind flowing just like the water in a river. 'With each passing day, we draw closer to death.' The water that we see in the river now is not the same as what we have just seen. The water we saw has already flowed past. Our minds are also like this. 'What has passed is like this, gone.' It is just like the water that flows by. In your mind, your initial aspirations are gone. Like the water in the river, it has already passed."

"Everything remains within the cyclic existence of the Six Realms, and 'the entanglements of love is like vines.' The human mind craves love. The entanglements of love are like vines that entangle the branches of a tree. If your cravings are not eliminated, your afflictions will not be eliminated. If your afflictions are not eliminated and your desires are not eliminated, all of these will entangle you like the vines."

"'Only with wisdom can you differentiate.' Only wisdom can do this. You must use wisdom to differentiate. Otherwise, even if you use three years to observe impermanence, you will not attain anything. It is because you have not awakened your wisdom. In your stillness, you changed. So, this was because you used your own thinking. These thoughts are constantly following your environment as you live your life. You did not remind yourself of the true meanings of impermanence, so you were still bound by your cravings. You have the desire to go back to your family, to enjoy the pleasures of family life. This is because you have not eliminated cravings. Your wisdom-life and wisdom have not grown. If you are able to use your wisdom to observe the conditions of impermanence, naturally you will awaken your wisdom and wisdom-life. It is because you have not yet eliminated your thoughts and cravings that your wisdom has not grown. Only with wisdom can we discern our external conditions and sever the roots of desire."

After the bhiksu heard this, he thought, "Yes, it was my mind. I was peaceful every day in this environment. I observed flowers bloom and wither. I saw spring, summer, autumn and winter, and I understood that everything is impermanent. I saw the river flowing, and I understood that when water flows, it cannot reverse course to flow upstream. I only understood that water flows away. I did not realize that the lives of human beings follow the passing of time and do not come back, just as the water in the river also flows past. Once it flows downstream, the water cannot flow back up. So, with the entanglements of love, I gave rise to the thought to return home. With such thoughts, this entanglement of love, like vines, bound and trapped me." This is the ignorance and affliction of the mind.

"I am grateful that along the way, the Buddha pointed out the wrong path that I was on. In that temporary confusion and indolence, I gave rise to the thought of retreating from the Great to the Small. I wanted to practice the Small Vehicle Dharma. Originally, I had planned that if I had some success in my spiritual practice, I would transform sentient beings. But my thought 'to transform sentient beings' has already been lost. I wanted to go back to enjoy the pleasures of family life. This was wrong." He repented to the Buddha. The Buddha was very happy that he could reach this understanding. He asked him to return to the Sangha and earnestly engage in spiritual practice there. So, he returned to the Sangha with the Buddha.

This story is from the sutra in Buddha's time. The Buddha was very compassionate. Whatever His disciples were thinking, the Buddha would know. Thus He could meet them along the way in time and call them back again. These are the minds of ordinary people, who constantly have discursive thoughts. If we do not earnestly take care of our minds, "We retreat from the Great, turn toward the Small and become lax, disrupting our initial aspiration." "As our afflictions hinder our great spiritual practice, halfway there we wish to retreat."

Along the way: whether or not halfway, when taking forming aspirations as the starting point and attaining Buddhahood as the goal, it is in between the two that they give rise to the thought of retreating from the Great. Therefore, it says, "Along the way [they] become lax and retreat." This means they had intended to go toward the great Bodhi-path.

This is something we have talked about before. Once we reach halfway, we want to retreat. Actually, this is a kind of analogy. When we first formed our aspirations, we were beginning to take our first few steps forward. With our initial aspiration to engage in practice, we have begun to walk forward. With that thought of attaining Buddhahood as our end goal, we start to head toward our destination. But before we have reached the goal, when we are only halfway there, we give rise to the thought of retreating.

When we engage in spiritual practice, it is easy for us to form aspirations, and these aspirations are often great aspirations; we are determined to reach the state of Buddhahood. But we cannot withstand the challenges of interpersonal conflicts. After a few years, we will get stuck and will give rise to the thought of retreating. In this lost and confused life, there was a guiding teacher to show them the way. They followed the guiding teacher, advancing forward. But along the way, they wished to retreat and desired to return to their former path. "It is in between the two that they give rise to the thought of retreating from the Great." As we head toward the great Bodhi-path, along the way we give rise to the thought of retreating. This is called "along the way [they] become lax and retreat." We have only traveled halfway and have not yet reached our goals, but along the way, we want to retreat.

The previous sutra passage states,

"There is a guiding teacher, intelligent, wise and with a clear understanding. He knows well the passable and obstructed features of this dangerous road and will lead a group of people who wish to pass through these hardships. But the people he leads along the way become lax and retreat."

"But the people he leads along the way become lax and retreat." This refers to the Two Vehicle practitioners, Hearers and Solitary Realizers. They have formed aspirations to engage in spiritual practice, but their capabilities are limited. So, according to their capabilities, the Buddha began to teach the Dharma they needed, the Dharma that they were able to take in. However, Hearers lingered as Hearers, and Solitary Realizers lingered as Solitary Realizers. They were halfway, not wanting to go forward, not wanting to reach the state of Buddhahood. They did not want to walk the Bodhi-path.

The next sutra passage states,

"They speak to the guiding teacher." Those who wanted to retreat from the Path began to speak to their teacher like this. "We are extremely exhausted and also afraid. We cannot advance further. The road ahead seems long. We now wish to retreat and go back."

"They speak to the guiding teacher, 'We are extremely exhausted and also afraid. We cannot advance further. The road ahead seems long. We now wish to retreat and go back.'"    [Lotus Sutra, Chapter 7 – On the Conjured City]

These people did not want to go forward. This is an analogy of when the Buddha began to expound the Lotus Sutra. The Lotus Sutra is the path to attain Buddhahood. The Buddha hoped everyone could move forward to form great aspirations, make great vows and walk the Bodhisattva-path. We must walk the Bodhisattva-path in order to reach the state of Buddhahood. The Buddha began to teach this to everyone, but the Two Vehicle practitioners were afraid that this practice would be very difficult. After much difficulty, they had finally begun to eliminate their ignorance and afflictions. Now if they were told to go among people and walk the Bodhisattva-path, they would be afraid. So, they were unwilling to advance further to seek the Great Vehicle Dharma.

If they were to walk the Bodhisattva-path, the road in front of them was still long.  [They worried that] if they were defiled by impurities again, they would regress. They had already gone to great lengths to eliminate afflictions. So, seeing that the road ahead was long, they were afraid of going forward. Thus, they wished to retreat. This is the process of walking the path and the process of spiritual practice. Walking the path is like spiritual practice. The process of spiritual practice is very taxing, and it requires a very long time. This is very difficult.

There are four kinds of guiding teachers.

There are four kinds of guiding teachers: The compassionate guiding teacher who understands the path. The guiding teacher who forms affinities. The guiding teacher who uses provisional wisdom. The guiding teacher who uses true wisdom.

The first is "the compassionate guiding teacher who understands the path." He understands how to come to and traverse this path. He is very familiar with the path. With this kind of teacher, it is very safe to have him guide us on the path, because he is very familiar with it. They are like the guides we have now for mountain climbers. They are like guiding teachers. They guide people through the mountains so they will not become lost.

This treacherous path is very dangerous. With this teacher going back and forth [along the path], people can travel safely under his guidance. Not only does he thoroughly understand the path, he also "thoroughly understands people's minds and guides them to the right path." This is the guiding teacher. Not only does he know the path, but he also understands people's minds. This kind of teacher can guide us onto the right path. In the sutra passage, "This is the guiding teacher who leads a group of people." He thoroughly understands the path as well as the minds of people.

The compassionate guiding teacher who understands the path: He understands other people's minds and guides them to the right path. In the sutra passage, this is the guiding teacher who leads a group of people.
The guiding teacher who forms affinities: The teacher they follow. In the sutra passage, this is the guiding teacher to whom the people speak.

Next, we have "the guiding teacher who forms affinities." "The teacher they follow" is limited to a single lifetime, and can lead us for a lifetime or a single period of our lifetime. This is like how in primary school, we have primary school teachers, in secondary school, we have secondary school teachers and in university, we have university professors. After we graduate, we do not need these teachers. It is like that; teachers who appear in certain periods of our life are "the guiding [teachers] who forms affinities." These are teachers who form affinities with us in our lives.

"In the sutra passage, this is the guiding teacher to whom the people speak." This refers to the teacher who will guide them. But after he guides them for a period of time, they say to the guiding teacher, "I am afraid, I want to stop here." Usually, when we graduate from primary school, we will go to secondary school. That is the end of primary school. Likewise, we say goodbye to our teachers and move on to the next period of our lives. Or, [we may feel], "Going to school is too hard; I will just stop here." They have graduated so they will stop where they are now. It is the same for those leading others in life, the guiding teachers who form affinities.

The guiding teacher who uses provisional wisdom: He teaches the Small according to capabilities. In the sutra passage, this is the guiding teacher who applies many skillful means.

The third is "the guiding teacher who uses provisional wisdom." The guiding teacher who uses provisional wisdom "teaches the Small according to capabilities." "In the sutra passage," it says, "This is the guiding teacher who applies many skillful means." The previous sutra passages used all kinds of skillful means so that we would not be afraid to go forward. The path we walked in the past was treacherous, but we have already finished that section of path. This is skillful means. For the Hearers and Solitary Realizers among the Buddha's disciples, the Buddha used teachings they would like, so the Dharma that was taught would be something they could accept. They thus could accept the Buddha's teachings. The sound [of His voice] entered their hearts to eliminate all afflictions. Solitary Realizers took the Buddha's guidance, "See how the world is impermanent. The Twelve Links of Cyclic Existence and the origin of cyclic existence are things you must clearly understand." Solitary Realizers were clear on this and, by connecting to these conditions, understood that cyclic existence is endless. These are the skillful means that were used to teach Hearers and Solitary Realizers.

The guiding teacher who uses true wisdom: He opens up the provisional. In the sutra passage, this is the guiding teacher who knows these people.

Fourth is "the guiding teacher who uses true wisdom." The guiding teacher who uses true wisdom "opens up the provisional." By this point, all their afflictions should have been eliminated. The entanglements should have been resolved, so they should once again move forward.

They must take the Dharma to heart. They must work hard to understand the principles, then go and transform others. So, the phrase "crossing into extinction" is referring to "Nirvana." "Nirvana" is "crossing into extinction." To "cross into extinction" is to extinguish our afflictions and allow the Dharma to cross into our heart to then be able to help others cross. This is "Nirvana." Small Nirvana is the state of Solitary Realizers and Hearers. They have all eliminated afflictions. Great Nirvana is when we take the [Dharma] to heart, get involved with people to help all sentient beings to cross over without letting our minds be shaken. We must continue to walk this path.

These four are different over time, but they are all the same person, who is the [16th] prince.

This is how the Buddha used these four different stages to patiently guide [sentient beings]. Though these stages and directions can be divided into four periods of guidance, they are all "the same person." So, "These four are different over time," but "the same person."

Time is constantly passing. It had been over 40 years, and these people were constantly engaging in practice. The process is like this. We should not linger [in one place]. We must quickly go forward. Actually, everyone is a child of the Buddha. We are all the princes of the Dharma-king; we are all Buddha-children. We should not stop halfway, but shoulder the Buddha's mission and the Tathagata's family business, which is to go among people and transform sentient beings.

So, "as for those who now speak," these people had begun to feel tired.

As for those who now speak, they are speaking to the guiding teacher who forms affinities. They retreat from the Great, so those in the Great are gone, while they accept the Small, so those in the Small grow. With each arising and ceasing, they respond to the call of the Dharmakaya; this is to "speak." The [16th] prince knows that they retreated from the Great. This means he hears what they speak.

"They are speaking to the guiding teacher who forms affinities." "They retreat from the Great, so those in the Great are gone." Another way to talk about this is that when we graduate from primary school, we say goodbye to our primary school. When we graduate secondary school, we also say goodbye. This occurs with each stage [of our education]. Of course, we must still continue to go on to the university, graduate and PhD level. We must advance forward stage by stage. If we retreat, this means that we did not graduate. If we graduate from primary school and do not want to continue on to secondary school, we are only forming an affinity, nothing more. If we go past this stage and then keep advancing forward, we can finish graduate school and become a professor. This is the same principle.

With the direction of our spiritual practice, after this life, we will bring this seed to our next life and continue to engage in spiritual practice for a very long time. The beginning of the Chapter on the Parable of the Conjured City mentioned that since Beginningless Time, dust-inked kalpas ago, life after life we have carried this thought. With each fragment of samsara, that is with each arising and ceasing, we respond to the call of the Dharmakaya. The Dharmakaya follows us life after life, as does the guiding teacher who forms affinities. Life after life, fragment after fragment, this continues on through fragmentary samsara. In each fragment we have a guiding teacher who forms affinities. He is constantly guiding us. This path is very long. We experience fragmentary samsara, and in each fragment, there is the Dharmakaya.

[We have] this aspiration, life after life. We often hear, "remain on the Bodhi-path, life after life." This is the principle. Luckily, we have guiding teachers. The Buddha would not abandon sentient beings. In each fragment, life after life, if we have not yet attained Buddhahood, we continue to rely on the guiding teachers to guide us life after life. So, "They respond to the call of the Dharmakaya; this is to 'speak.'" This is to call for the guiding teachers.

"The [16th] prince knows that they retreated from the Great." This is the son of the Dharma-king. We must have virtuous friends who know that we retreated from the Great. If our virtuous friends know that we have retreated from the Great, they will appeal to us and encourage us to advance forward. "This means he hears what they speak." As we [walk on the path] together, we must have virtuous friends to accompany us. "[He] will lead a group of people." He is not only guiding one person, [the Buddha] is guiding many people. Among these many people, some want to retreat. But, there will be people who can counsel them.

Thus, "We are extremely exhausted and also afraid."

We are extremely exhausted and also afraid: We who have limited capabilities are exhausted and extremely tired and, when facing the Great, give rise to thoughts of fear. Extremely exhausted: Their roots of goodness are thin and weak, and they are covered by ignorance. Thus they cannot advance. Afraid: They have renounced samsara, so they anxiously desire to retreat. Therefore, they need a place to rest.

They begin to ask the guiding teacher for help because they are starting to feel exhausted. They speak to the guiding teacher for help. This is to "speak to the Buddha." "We who have limited capabilities are exhausted and extremely tired." "Having made it to this point, I am already exhausted. This spiritual practice has made me tired. It is hard for me to form great aspirations and make great vows again." "When facing the Great, we give rise to thoughts of fear," because we still have a long way to go.

So, for us ordinary people, life after life, it is inevitable we face things beyond our control. At this time, we still have this seed; we can still encounter virtuous friends. We have guiding teachers to guide us, but still become "extremely exhausted" in samsara. They are "extremely exhausted" because "Their roots of goodness are thin and weak," so they will feel extremely tired. So, "They are covered by ignorance. Thus they cannot advance." This is like cataracts; things look blurry to us. This is called a cataract in the eye. Because everything is blurry, the road ahead will seem far. We will be afraid and not dare to go forward.

To be "afraid" is "to renounce samsara, so they anxiously desire to retreat." They followed the Small Vehicle and finally were able to eliminate afflictions. They could extinguish samsara, so why would they enter samsara again to go among people? Thus, we hate and fear the suffering of samsara. They really want to retreat from their aspiration and rest. Now, they only want to find a place to rest. They do not want to advance further.

We cannot advance further: As they look at the long road ahead, they give rise to weariness and fatigue. They cannot give rise to the diligence to advance in their practice. It means they cannot advance further toward the great path.

"We cannot advance further." Looking before us, it is still very far away. They do not know just how far it is, "They give rise to weariness and fatigue. They cannot give rise to the diligence to advance in their practice." They do not want to advance further. They only want to find a place to rest. "They cannot advance further toward the great path." They do not want to advance further, no matter how great the path is. They only want to rest.

So, "The road ahead seems long. We now wish to retreat and go back." They want to rest, retreat and return. They do not want to advance further. They are satisfied here, as long as they do not face transmigration. This is "Ordinary people looking at the Buddha in ignorance." Ordinary people are ignorant; they just look at the Buddha, but from "across the distance of the Five Realms." What they see is very far away. Where exactly is it? The Buddha is on the other side of the Five Realms. We ordinary people are among the Five Realms. To see the Buddha, we must transcend the Five Realms. We must engage in spiritual practice on the path until we can transcend [the Five Realms]. To practice until we truly transcend the Five Realms will require a very long time. Ordinary people are ignorant; we look at the Buddha but cannot see clearly. We are far away from the Buddha. So, it is "still far-off," it is still far away.

"They fear it is beyond their reach." They felt they did not have any strength left and were unable to advance forward. People in the Small Vehicle always feel that spiritual practice is only for eliminating afflictions and samsara. This is because samsara is terrifying. The world is complicated and dangerous. With a moment of carelessness, we may regress into the hell, hungry ghost or animal realm, and be unable to liberate ourselves. We are constantly in fear and do not dare to advance forward proudly. So, we remain at the same place. With [our understanding] of the Dharma, we do not dare to think about transforming others. We think, "This is beyond our reach." "They fear it is beyond their reach." So, "They now wish to retreat and go back."

The road ahead seems long. We now wish to retreat and go back: Ordinary people look at the Buddha in ignorance across the distance of the Five Realms. Thus it says the road seems long. They think that their own strength is insufficient, so they now wish to retreat and go back.

As Buddhist practitioners, we must be mindful. Though we may feel tired every day in both body and mind, we still must do what we need to do every day. This is the mission of our initial aspiration, "for Buddha's teachings, for sentient beings." A day does not go by when we are not tired. But every day, we must face the myriads of sentient beings, and we must continue to go forward. As the days pass by, our lives grow shorter. We must form affinities with sentient beings, form good affinities and create karma of blessings. This is our aspiration that we should carry out in our lifetime. We must sustain our original aspiration; then we can surely attain Buddhahood. We must always be mindful.

 

法華經‧化城喻品第七

 

◎身心懶惰於諸道業不能精進,因而退大向小懈怠惱亂初心,隨煩惱障礙大道業半途欲退。

 

◎中路:非是半途,但以發心為初始,至佛為終,於此中間,而起退大之意,故名「中路懈退」,即擬向往菩提大道。

 

◎「有一導師聰慧明達,善知險道通塞之相,將導眾人欲過此難。所將人眾,中路懈退。」《法華經化城喻品第七》

 

◎「白導師言:我等疲極而復怖畏,不能復進,前路猶遠,今欲退還」。《法華經化城喻品第七》

 

◎導師有四:通途慈悲導師、結緣導師、結緣導師、實智導師。

 通途慈悲導師:通他人心而導正,文中有一導師,將導眾人。

 結緣導師:從我師故,文中所將人眾白導師言。

 權智導師:隨機施小教故,文中導師多諸方便是。

 實智導師:取開權故,文中導師知此人眾。

 

◎四從時異,人只是一,並是王子。

 

◎今白者,正白結緣之導師。以其退大則大滅,接小則小生,一生一滅,感於法身,呼此為白。王子知其退大,即是聞其所白。

 

◎我等疲極而復怖畏:我等小機,疲倦困極,而復於大,生怖畏心。「疲極」,善根微弱,無明所翳,則不能進。「怖畏」,厭生死,則亟欲退,故需有休息之所。

 

◎不能復進:遙望前路道遠,心生疲困不能起精勤進修。云不能復進向大道。

 

◎前路猶遠,今欲退還:凡愚望佛,隔絕五道,故云猶遠。自惟己力所不及,故今欲退還。

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

「身心懶惰於諸道業不能精進,

 因而退大向小懈怠惱亂初心,

 隨煩惱障礙大道業半途欲退。」

 

我們看看這段文,這幾天一直在說人間道險難,曠野無人,甚為恐怖。我們在修行的過程中,要好好用心,思考我們這輩子,從開頭不由自己地來人間,今所了解的人間世事不盡人意,很多事情都是由不得自己。看透了,了解了,選擇修行。修行一段時間後,道心會慢慢退失,「身心懶惰於諸道業」,對道業已經慢慢不稀奇了、不認真了,回歸與平常人一樣的生活,就是帶著煩惱雜念,一點道氣都沒有。

 

自己內心道業已經放鬆了,無法如初發心那一念精進,所以退大向小。開始時的熱情,要為佛教、為眾生,要自度也要度他人,這念心慢慢退失了,回歸到修我自己就好了,顧好自己,不必管別人;做「為眾生」的事業,面對著各形各色的人,真的是很複雜、很辛苦,不如顧好自己就好了。

 

自己的內心已經懈怠,懈怠心一起,就惱亂了我們的初心。起初這念心往哪裡去了呢?提不起這分入人群中的熱情,慢慢地隨著煩惱障礙大道業,半途欲退。

 

自己的心態,自己來思考看看,初發那一念心,是不是與當初幾十年前、十幾年前,很多年前開始所發的那念心,到現在還保持著嗎?自己可以自問。

 

就如佛的時代,佛陀在靈鷲山講經時,有一位下定決心辭親割愛,來到佛的道場,向佛陀懇求:「佛啊!我想要修行。」佛陀問他:「你為什麼要修行呢?」他說:「在一個家庭裡,只是為了妻、兒,一輩子庸庸碌碌,很辛苦啊!家庭有很多很多的牽掛,無了時。我想通了,很想向佛的道路追求,求佛讓我出家,走在這條佛的覺道上,若能了解道理,我也能將佛法傳達給大家。」

 

佛陀說:「你有決心嗎?你能守你的志向嗎?」他向佛保證:「我已經下定決心了。」佛陀就為他落髮,修行了。一段時間後,他向佛陀說想要到山裡去,靜靜地找一個山洞好好修行。佛陀答應了,他真的找到一個山洞,距離靈鷲山還有一段很長的路。在那個地方很精進,認真地思考佛陀的教育,用什麼方法觀世間無常法。

 

他在那個地方用心觀察,經過了三年,他想:這三年時間裡,一直在觀察世間的無常,樹木、花草,水的流逝等等,儘管看到這些景象,知道這是無常,自然的法則,但是又能如何呢?我只知道這樣,每天都是在這樣境界裡,三年的時間過去了,到底我得到什麼呢?好像什麼都沒有得到。

 

自己又想:既然過著這麼無聊的生活,不如歸去,回家享受天倫之樂,以後的人生再說了。內心就這樣打定了主意,開始行動,離開山洞往山下走。佛陀知道了,也離開靈鷲山,往修行者住處走,一個是下山,一個是走到山下去等。遠遠地看到這位比丘果然是下山來了,佛陀運用他的神通,變化成普通的出家沙門的身形。

 

兩人相遇了,沙門就問從山上下來的比丘:「你要去哪裡?我想向你問路,我要上山去。來到這個地方很累了,到山上的路不知還有多遠,不如我們坐在這裡好好說說話。」

 

坐下來開始說話時,忽然間出現一隻看起來蠻老的獼猴,也是離開山上,來到平地。他們兩人話機一轉,沙門就問比丘:「奇怪啊!猴子應該是以樹林為家,生活在山林裡,為什麼會來到平地呢?」這位比丘就說:「這隻老獼猴,我觀察牠生活有三年的時間,我了解牠。牠有一群猴群,有妻、有子,這隻老獼猴每天每天都很辛苦,要不斷去有果樹的地方採果、取水,來供應家族,爬上爬下,看,牠的手腳都已經磨破皮了。可能太辛苦了,只是為了家族,這樣庸庸碌碌,磨破了手皮,是沒有意義,所以牠下山來,取得清閒。」

 

說完之後沒多久,這隻猴子離開平地,轉向山林去了,沙門就向比丘說:「奇怪,牠都離開山林了,為什麼又向山上去呢?」「可能是不捨眷屬,心有所戀著,所以又回歸山林去了。」這位沙門聽了之後,就開始向比丘說話。

 

比丘看著沙門,說話好像很沉著,說出來的聲音,是一種莊嚴、柔軟的音聲。他認真看,一直聽,沙門也慢慢恢復為佛陀的形象,比丘看到沙門的形象全身發光,自己的內心起了很慚愧、懺悔的心,覺得:佛陀知道我的心已經退轉了,了解我半途退失道心了。佛陀為了他,捨去在靈鷲山說法的身形,來到山下。所以他向佛頂禮、膜拜,求懺悔。

 

佛陀就說:「『一切意流衍』,一切就只是一個心意,就如溪水流,『是日已過,命亦隨減』,現在看到的溪水,不是當下看到的這個溪水,因為你看到的這一段溪水已經流逝過去了。你的意一樣的,『逝者如斯夫』,就如流過的水,這念初發心不存在了,隨著溪流過去了。

 

一切都是在六道輪迴中,就如『愛結如葛藤』,人的心就是貪於愛,愛的結如葛藤一樣將樹枝、樹幹纏住了。這就是欲愛未盡,煩惱未淨;煩惱還未清淨,欲心還未去除,如葛藤一樣纏住了。

 

『唯慧分別見』,唯有智慧,你要用智慧來分別。你三年時間觀無常,心無所得,因為沒有啟發智慧。你靜中有變,都是用你自己的心意,讓心意不斷隨境界而生活,沒有提醒自己無常的真意義,那個愛結還將你纏住,你想要再回到家庭享受家庭的天倫之樂,這就是愛的結未盡,你的慧命、智慧並未成長。若能用智慧觀察無常的境界,自然會啟發慧命。就是因為意還未斷、愛還未盡,所以智慧未增長。唯有智慧,才有辦法讓你能分別周圍的境界,斷除了愛的根源。」

 

這位比丘聽了之後,「對啊!我的意識,只在這個境界裡,每天雖然人很靜,看花開花落,春、夏、秋、冬,知道這是無常;看溪水流淌,知道水的流逝,無法再逆流回來,所以只是知道它流過去,不知道人的生命也隨時光流逝過去,不會再回歸,如隨溪水一直流,這些水不會再逆流回來。這就是愛結,因此起了一念不如歸去,不如回家吧,這種心念,愛結的這個葛藤還是將我纏住了。」這就是心的無明煩惱。

 

「感恩佛陀在半途指點我的迷津,我一時糊塗懈怠,生起退失,退大向小,修小乘法的心。本來打算若是修行有成,我要度眾生,這個『我要度眾生』那念心已經退失了,還想要回家享受家庭的快樂,這是錯了。」他向佛陀表達他的錯。佛陀很歡喜,「能夠想得通,了解了,你就回歸僧團,好好在僧團中修行吧!」就這樣隨著佛陀回歸僧團去了。

 

這是在佛經裡一段佛在世時的故事,佛慈悲,弟子內心在想什麼,佛知道,及時半途呼喚再回歸。這就是我們凡夫心,時時都會起心動念,這念心若沒有好好照顧好,「因而退大向小懈怠惱亂初心」,「隨煩惱障礙大道業半途欲退」。

 

◎中路:非是半途,但以發心為初始,至佛為終,於此中間,而起退大之意,故名「中路懈退」,即擬向往菩提大道。

 

我們前面說過了,到半路就想要退轉了,其實這是一種形容。發心起步向前走,從最初發心要修行的起頭,開始向前走了,以那念想要到成佛的心,做為他的終點,但還沒到終點,在半路就想要退轉的心態。

 

我們修行,發心容易,所發的心也很宏大,一定要到佛的境界去,但是經不起人我是非的考驗,不必幾年就停滯了,心就退轉了。本來迷失的人生,有一位導師來帶路,隨導師向前走,但半路就想要退了,要走回原來的路。「於此中間,而起退大之意」,在往菩提大道的半路上想要退轉,這叫做「中路懈退」。目標還沒到,但是我們在中路就想要退轉。

 

前面的經文說,「有一導師聰慧明達,善知險道通塞之相,將導眾人欲過此難。所將人眾,中路懈退。」

 

「所將人眾,中路懈退」,這是指聲聞、緣覺二乘人,本來發心修行,但是根機很小,佛陀應他們的根機,說他們所需要、聽得進去的法;然而聲聞就停滯在聲聞,緣覺停滯在緣覺裡,在半路,不想要再往前走,不想要到成佛的境界,不想要走過這條大菩提道。

 

下面經文再說,「白導師言」,想要退道的人,開始向導師這樣說:「我等疲極而復怖畏,不能復進,前路猶遠,今欲退還」。

 

◎「白導師言:我等疲極而復怖畏,不能復進,前路猶遠,今欲退還」。《法華經化城喻品第七》

 

這群人不想要再向前走,這是譬喻佛陀要講《法華經》了。《法華經》乃是成佛之道,希望人人發大心、立大願,再向前行菩薩道,走過菩薩道,才能到成佛的境界。佛陀這樣告訴大家,二乘人怕了,「修行修得很辛苦,好不容易才將無明煩惱去除,又要我再入人群,行菩薩道,我會怕。」所以不想要再向前求大乘法。

 

因為行菩薩道,往前的路好像還很遠,萬一受到濁氣污染,我們不就又退回去了;好不容易已經斷煩惱了,前面的路這麼遠,我們不敢再向前行,所以欲退還。這就是修行的過程,就如走路一樣,修行的過程是這麼辛苦,要用這麼長的時間,很辛苦。

 

導師,有四種導師。

 

◎導師有四:通途慈悲導師、結緣導師、權智導師、實智導師。

 

第一種就是「通途慈悲導師」,能夠通達這條路的去來,這樣的導師要帶人過這條路是很安全的,因為這條路他很熟。就如現在說的,登山有嚮導,這就與導師一樣,帶人登山,才不會迷山了。

 

這條險要的道路,很危險,有導師來來回回,引導人人平安走過,不只是通這條路,還能「通他人心而導正」,這就是導師。不只是識路,也了解人的心性,帶人走正道。所以在經文中說,「有一導師將導眾人」,這麼的通達,不只是路通,也能通人心。

 

◎通途慈悲導師:通他人心而導正,文中有一導師,將導眾人。

 結緣導師:從我師故,文中所將人眾白導師言。

 

再另外,第二就是「結緣導師」,「從我師故」,就是侷限在一個範圍裡,帶你走這一生、這一世,這一段的人生。就如我們讀小學,有小學老師,讀中學,有中學老師,讀大學,有大學老師,畢業之後,就不必有老師了。如此一階段一階段的導師,這是「結緣導師」,生命中與我們結緣過的老師。

 

「文中所將人眾白導師言」,是指帶的這些人,被帶了一段後,就向導師說:「我怕,我要到這裡就好。」與我們平常小學畢業之後,要再向中學走,小學就到此為止,要告別他的老師,再向他另外一段的人生;或者是「讀書很辛苦,我到這裡就好了。」畢業了,這一段這樣就好了。這就是與人生中,為我們帶路的結緣導師一樣。

 

◎權智導師:隨機施小教故,文中導師多諸方便是。

 

第三就是「權智導師」。權智導師就是「隨機施小教故」,「文中」所說的「導師,多諸方便是」,如前面的經文,用種種方便法,讓你不必怕,向前走,過去的路很危險,你已經走過這段路。佛陀弟子中的聲聞與緣覺,佛陀投其所好,所說的法,他們都能接受,隨佛的教法接受,聲音入心來,斷諸煩惱。而緣覺,佛陀所指導的,「看,人間無常,十二因緣法,生死的源頭在哪裡,你要很清楚、了解。」緣覺清楚道理了,緣著這個境界,了解人生的生死無窮盡。這都是教聲聞、緣覺的方便法。

 

◎實智導師:取開權故,文中導師知此人眾。

 

第四,是「實智導師」。實智導師就是「取開權故」,已經到這裡,你該斷的煩惱斷除了,該解的結也已經解開了,你應該要再向前前進。

 

法度入心來,你要用功、知道道理之後,要再去度他人。所以「滅度」這二字就是「涅槃」,「涅槃」就是「滅度」。「滅度」就是滅盡一切煩惱,將法度入自心,再度他人,這也就是「涅槃」。小涅槃就是緣覺、聲聞,只是斷煩惱;還有大涅槃,就是法度入心來,還要投入人群去度化眾生,心不受動搖,這條路要繼續走。

 

◎四從時異,人只是一,並是王子。

 

這是佛陀用這四種階段,循循善誘引導人;而依這個方向,雖然分四種階段來引導,其實是「一」。所以,「四時雖異」,人只是「一」。

 

時間不斷過去,四十多年了,這些人一直在修行,過程是這樣,不要再停滯了,要趕緊向前。其實人人都是佛子,也是王子——法王之子,也就是佛子,不要在半途,應該要承擔佛的家業,荷擔如來家業,入人群,度眾生。

 

所以「今白者」,就是這些人開始有起了疲倦的心。

 

◎今白者,正白結緣之導師。以其退大則大滅,接小則小生,一生一滅感於法身,呼此為白。王子知其退大,即是聞其所白。

 

「正白結緣之導師」。「以其退大則大滅」,用另外一個說法,小學畢業,就是告別了小學,中學畢業就告別中學,這樣一段一段。當然,我們也要再連接下去,到大學,到博士班的程度,應該要一段一段向前走,若是退回去,那就是沒有畢業。若是小學畢業,就不想再上中學,這只是結緣而已。若過了一段,能再向前前進,修完博士後,就當教授了,同樣的道理。

 

對修行的方向來說,這一輩子的種子帶到來生,繼續修行,時間要很長久。〈化城喻品〉的一開頭就告訴我們,塵點劫前,無始以前,生生世世,就是這念心,一段的生死,是一生一滅感於法身。法身常隨我們生生世世過來,也就像結緣導師,生生世世,一段再來一段;段段的分段生死,段段的生死都有結緣導師,不斷在指導我們。因為路很長,段段的生死,段段都有法身。

 

我們的心來回在生生世世中,常常聽到「生生世世在菩提中」,就是這樣的道理。也幸好有結緣導師,佛陀不捨眾生,段段、生生世世,在我們還未成佛之前,不斷靠著導師生生世世引導我們。所以「感於法身,呼此為白」,如此來呼喚導師。

 

「王子知其退大」。法王之子,我們要有善知識,善知識若知道我們要退大了,他會呼喚我們要往前走,路才是平安的。「即是聞其所白」。在這裡,彼此之間也要有善知識來相伴。「將導眾人」,不是只有一個,要引導的是這麼多人,這當中,若有人想要停滯,就有人能好好地輔導他。

 

所以「我等疲極而復怖畏」。

 

◎我等疲極而復怖畏:我等小機,疲倦困極,而復於大,生怖畏心。「疲極」,善根微弱,無明所翳,則不能進。「怖畏」,厭生死,則亟欲退,故需有休息之所。

 

我們這群人疲倦了,開始要向導師呼救了。向導師呼救,叫做「白佛」。「我等小機,疲倦困極」,我們來到這裡,已經很疲倦了,修行到這裡很累了,難再發大心、立大願。「而復於大,生怖畏心」,因為前面的路還很長。

 

所以,凡夫啊凡夫,生生世世難免還是由不得自己,這時候我們有這顆種子,能遇到善知識,有導師引導我們,但在生世中也是會「疲極」。「疲極」,因為「善根微弱」,就會疲極,覺得很累,所以「無明所翳,則不能前進」。翳,就如眼睛看東西,模糊了,是因為眼睛生翳。眼睛模糊了,要看到前途,好像很遠一般,會怕,不敢去。

 

「怖畏」,就是「厭生死,則亟欲退」,我們已經從小乘好不容易斷了煩惱,能滅生死,何必還要在生死中入人群去呢?所以我怕、我厭,厭生死的苦難;一直想要退道心,想要休息,我們現在只想要找一個地方來休息,不想要再向前前進。

 

◎不能復進:遙望前路道遠,心生疲困不能起精勤進修。云不能復進向大道。

 

「不能復進」,遙望前路,道還很遠,不知道到底還有多遠。「心生疲困,不能起精勤進修」,不想要再向前進修了,只想找一個地方休息。「不能復進向大道」,不想要再往前面的路,不論路有多大,我只想要休息。

 

所以「前路猶遠,今欲退還」。在這裡稍微休息一下,想要再回頭,我們不想要前進了,這樣就好,只要不再淪入生死輪迴。這就是「凡愚望佛」,凡夫愚癡,只能看佛,但是「隔絕五道」,他所看的遙遠,是遠在哪裡呢?佛是在五道的另一邊(編按:涅槃的彼岸)。我們凡夫在五道之中,要見到佛,就是要超越五道。要能修行到真正超越五道,時間還很長,我們凡夫愚癡,要看佛,還是看不真切,還是隔得很遠,所以叫做「猶遠」,還很遠。

 

「自惟己力所不及」。自己覺得已經沒體力了,無法再向前走。小乘人就是一直覺得修行只能斷煩惱、斷生死,因為生死可怕,人間很複雜、很險,一不小心就要墮落地獄、餓鬼、畜生道,不能自拔。只是怕,不敢挺胸向前走,這樣畏縮在原地,自己想:我一己之力辦不到。自己有法也還不敢度人,「自惟己力所不及」,覺得自己不及,所以「今欲退還」。

 

◎前路猶遠,今欲退還:凡愚望佛,隔絕五道,故云猶遠。自惟己力所不及,故今欲退還。

 

學佛,我們要很用心,身與心雖然每天都覺得很累,但是每天也都要該做的事情。「為佛教,為眾生」是初發心的使命,沒有一天不說累,但是每一天都是要面對芸芸眾生,隨著日子一樣要向前,生命是減少了,但願與眾生結善緣、造福業。這就是我們發心,這一生中應該盡的。我們要發心如初,成佛有餘。我們要時時多用心啊!