開山祖師惟覺安公老和尚 – 智慧法語
Wisdom Words from the grand master
To believe that every one of us, and every sentient being, has buddha nature; that in affliction there is bodhi; in seeing, hearing, feeling and knowing is our inherent buddha nature. This is right faith. Thoroughly understand that all dharmas are ultimately empty in nature and that all phenomena are as illusory and unreal as a dream, a mirage, a bubble, or a shadow; this is [also] right faith.
With samadhi, this very mind can always be in command and undistracted by circumstances. With wisdom, we can see things truthfully, and know when to move forward or step back, and what choices to make. With samadhi and wisdom attained, we handle all affairs clearly and properly. As a result, we can be accomplished at school, in our career or in Buddhist cultivation, and we can better follow the various causes and conditions to practice the bodhisattva path.
Gradual cultivation means to enter [the Way] by practice, in which the principle is realized through the practice. Sudden enlightenment means to enter [the Way] by principle, in which the practice derives from the principle. If there are no conditions for sudden enlightenment, there is always gradual cultivation. Gradual cultivation and sudden enlightenment are seemingly two methods, yet they are interrelated; there is no contradiction between the two.
To realize the Way and attain buddhahood, causes and conditions must come together. Even though every one of us has buddha nature, realizing the Way and attaining buddhahood requires our sincere determination, for this is the cause. In addition to our aspiration for attaining buddhahood, conditions must be timely, and we need to learn from a teacher of great knowledge and establish right views. In this way, we will not be misled or sidetracked from the path.
The ancients say, “For a peaceful mind, a humble hut is comfortable; for a calm mind, simple food is flavorful.” As the mind settles, a hut is no less than a palace of the seven jewels, and plain food is more than delightful. But for an afflicted mind, even the most exquisite dishes can taste like wax.
“All the Dharma the Buddha has ever taught is for the purpose of healing our minds. Of what use is the Dharma without these minds?” All the many Dharma gates work as antidotes. To purify the three karmas—physical, verbal and mental—proper self-discipline and countermeasures are necessary. A person who can well tame their body, speech and mind and take this very mind to nirvana is called a “Skilled Tamer.”
Constantly reflect on whether or not we are keeping our three karmas pure. If not, we remain ordinary beings in the cycle of samsara. If so, we are wise beings liberated and at ease. [Just like] turning the hand from one side to the other, affliction is bodhi. Everyone can do this; it completely depends on whether or not we do the work.
Everyone has a richly jeweled garment. Our practice is to dust it and clean off the stains. Once the stains are removed, instantaneously the jeweled garment is revealed for our endless benefit. Nonetheless, great vows and persistence are required of us to wash off the dirt. This is why we must make great vows, and through our practice our vows are fulfilled.
A sutra says, “Anything can be accomplished with a focused mind.” This is how the mind works. In every moment observe the six senses to keep them from clinging to any of the six sense objects, and from being carried away by circumstances. If the eyes cling to a form or the ears to a sound, immediately regret and repent. This is the most practical cultivation, which will lead to liberation in this life.
“Behold the precepts as the teacher.” The precepts are important because they help us stop our transgressions. By way of upholding the precepts, we steer our body, speech and mind away from wrongdoings. Every moment we keep the three karmas pure then we will be able to resonate with the bodhi mind. This is why the precepts are fundamental to the Buddhist cultivation toward enlightenment.
By way of self-reflection, observation and contemplation, we transform ignorance into nirvana and completely extinguish the three delusions—our false views and thoughts, dharma ignorance and fundamental ignorance—in the mind, which then becomes the bodhi mind, the pure mind, a mind full of brightness and at ease. This is our everlasting Dharma body and life of wisdom.
The Diamond Sutra says, “If even the Dharma should be abandoned, how much more so the non-Dharma?” The unwholesomeness of this world and its offenses such as fame, fortune, lust, discrimination and resentment are all the non-Dharma. To say that “even the Dharma should be abandoned” means that we do not cling to any wholesomeness; rather, we let it all go. How much more so, then, should we let go of the unwholesomeness of this world?
Cultivating the bodhisattva way means making the great resolve to liberate all sentient beings. Therefore, we need to study extensively to enhance our knowledge and skills, develop our integrity, and nurture our ability to deliver the Dharma. Just like a doctor needs to be familiar with every kind of prescription to treat various illnesses, we need to learn the Dharma prescriptions starting now.
When we react to others’ accomplishments with heartfelt joy and praise instead of envy and interference, we are getting rid of our own jealousy and gaining great merits at the same time. When we help others to accomplish good deeds, we are bringing merits and blessings not only to others but also to ourselves.
When we thoroughly understand the principle of causality and the unconditioned, that the suffering we face in this life is the karmic consequence of our past transgressions and therefore accept adversities willingly, our karmic obstacles will dissolve. Furthermore, when we deepen our insight and know to face hardships without distress, recognizing this mind that knows is not swayed by any conditions—right then we will be free from attachments and afflictions, be in accord with the Way and attain liberation.
When facing any situation, we need to stay mindful in using our senses. When the six senses come into contact with the six sense objects—sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and dharma (mental object), immediately contemplate—“all appearances are illusory”—this is wisdom.
Faith can be deep or shallow, based on principle or practice, on cause or effect. We should always irrigate faith with the water of wisdom and compassion so it can take root and withstand the eight kinds of wind. Without deeply rooted faith, we will easily lose our bodhisattva resolve and the will to attain the Way whenever we encounter external influences.
The ancients said: “Action is like a mountain; vow, an ocean.” Actions and vows are two wings of a bird. Everyday, after affirming our vows with prostration, we should take steps to fulfill them in our daily life—for vows guide actions; actions fulfill our vows.
The ten Dharma realms arise from this very mind. Whenever we conceptualize anything, our mind is already trapped in the cycle of rebirth through the Dharma realms. If we do not recognize this and turn our mind around, our karmic consequences will result in the cycle of physical rebirth. If we truly understand this, then we will understand the nonduality of physical form and mind, that principle and phenomena are one in suchness.
There are two aspects of observing the precepts, with action and with the mind. When we commit verbal and physical transgressions but feel regretful and repent afterwards—this is to observe the precepts with action. When we are mindful of the precepts so we have no scattered thoughts or false views, when we purify our action, speech and thought and accord with the empty nature of reality—this is to realize the essence of precepts—the unconditioned Dharma of the mind. Through upholding the precepts with pure actions, our pure mind will manifest itself.
Practice adapting to conditions with our best effort; cultivate all good deeds without any attachment; always abide in our non-arising and non-ceasing true nature. Although we know all worldly things are illusory, we should still play our roles in life sincerely. When we realize this truth, we can cultivate the bodhisattva path—“sit at the water-moon monastery in serenity, do dream-like buddha works wholeheartedly”—this is the true Dharma.
Not knowing thoughts are illusory, sentient beings follow their deluded thoughts and generate afflictions and bad karma. However, knowing thoughts are impermanent, ever-arising and ceasing, our mind reflects on and stays mindful of itself, then deluded thoughts will gradually cease. At that time, the mind instantly realizes its intrinsic state of absolute stillness—this realization, or prajna wisdom, will liberate us.
A great Chan master said: “Realizing the right view is more important than just doing the practice.” In Buddhist cultivation, the most essential thing is to have right views. There are 84,000 Dharma gates or methods, but why do we practice them? why observe the precepts or sit in meditation? The correct understanding of the goal and meaning behind our practice is what is meant by “right view.”
Dedicating merits is like lighting a torch and passing it on to others—from one to ten, from ten to hundreds. The brightness of our own torch not only does not diminish but keeps illuminating one another; in the same way our dedicated merits continue to grow and multiply.
Buddhism teaches Dependent Arising, which means everything happens due to the coming together of specific causes and conditions. To accomplish anything, the right conditions must be present. However, we do not wait for this to happen; we should strive to create and develop them ourselves. Therefore, we say, “before we become a buddha, first make good karma with people.”
When the mind is calm and still, its power will manifest naturally. “Tolerance brings peace;” a mind of tolerance frees us from the bonds of afflictions. It can also bring forth the power of samadhi and enable us to attain non-regression from our bodhisattva resolve. This power is true power.
The principle of causality in Buddhism teaches us to be mindful of our conduct and relationships, starting with our motives and thoughts. Give rise to good thoughts only, never bad thoughts. Always reflect to improve ourselves from within. Be strict with ourselves but kind to others. In this way our merits will continue to grow.
Words and speech of the Dharma are like a finger pointing to the moon. The finger merely points the way, while the moon is this very mind, with which Shifu is speaking and everyone is listening. Once awakened, this mind will naturally illuminate everything like a full moon.
External conditions are ever-changing, yet all changes follow one underlying principle. As long as our mind is in command, we will have the power to transform external conditions, turning misfortune into blessings, difficulties into opportunities.
Laozi said: “Studying is a daily accumulation; cultivating the Way is a daily subtraction.” Through studying, we accumulate knowledge and skills, whereas in cultivating the Way, we constantly reflect inwardly, gradually diminishing our afflictions. When this mind has truly attained peace and tranquility, its infinite virtue and wisdom will naturally manifest.
“A room in darkness for a thousand years is lit just by a single lamp.” The wise are able to shatter the darkness of ignorance and confusion, not by an electrical lamp, but by the light of wisdom. This wisdom light is just this very mind with which Shifu is speaking and everyone is listening. This mind should always abide in right mindfulness, be still in suchness, and be clear and aware.
The goal of cultivation is to see our true nature, which is actually within our afflictions. When we practice by following the nature of our mind, we will be able to see our true nature and transform affliction to enlightenment. In Hinayana, one eradicates afflictions to attain enlightenment. In Mahayana, one transforms affliction to enlightenment. In the Ultimate Vehicle, affliction is enlightenment.
When this present mind does not think about the past, present and future, and is without delusive and wandering thoughts, it is a mind of samadhi; when it is clear, lucid and aware, it is a mind of prajna wisdom. The nonduality of samadhi and wisdom is the unconditioned. However, the unconditioned mind does not hinder the arising of conditioned phenomena, and without attachment to conditioned phenomena, the mind is unconditioned.
“Water can carry a boat; it can also overturn a boat.” When there is no wind and the surface of water is calm, the boat will sail smoothly to the other shore. But when waves surge, the boat may overturn. Our mind is like water. If we give rise to wholesome thoughts, speech, and deeds, our life will become brighter and brighter, like water carrying a boat smoothly forward.
The Dharma teaches causality and the original nature of mind. While causality deals with phenomena, the nature of the mind is their underlying principle; they are two aspects of one unifying truth. If we get attached to things and ignore their principle, we become the mundane. When we focus only on the principle and do not put it into action, we fall into an empty state. However, when we realize the nonduality of phenomena and principle, we are in the realm of bodhisattvas.
It is said: “When the mind is pure, the land is pure”—when our mind is purified, this world will be a pure land. “When the mind is peaceful, the world is peaceful”—when our mind is calm, our society will naturally be stable. “When the mind is even, the world is even”—when our mind achieves the absolute equality of nondual suchness, the whole world will be at peace.
The Buddha Dharma teaches us that our mind is the Dharma Realm; a dark mindset fills the entire Dharma Realm with darkness. There is both good and evil in our mind; however, within a single thought, the mind is enlightened, and the darkness of tens, hundreds and even thousands of years will be dispelled without a trace.
The Chan patriarchs said: “stand firm and stay firm.” Standing firm means after one has realized and found a footing in the “non-arising mind” in which no thought is raised, one firmly dwells in this realization, whether things are going well or getting rough. Staying firm means to practice regularly so one can maintain the state of non-arising. This is cultivation.
To avoid bad karma, we must understand the principle of causality. Be diligent in doing good deeds and correcting misdeeds. This is the way to free our mind from bad thoughts, from affliction and worries, from gains and losses. Our mind will shine in radiance and our health will improve.
“When at rest, rest all thoughts; when in action, perfect all actions.” We must abide in right mindfulness: think only good thoughts, say only kind words, do only good deeds. Rest when it is time to rest; act when it is time to act. Practice good deeds without attachment, and then return to the state of no-thought. With confidence and commitment in this teaching, we will always make progress in our practice.
Be true in all our endeavors. In studying, cultivating merits, learning the Dharma, or Zen meditation, be honest and sincere. When we apply this principle in our daily life and Buddhist practice, we are truly cultivating merit and wisdom.
Giving can eliminate greed and hatred, remove karmic obstacles, and increase merit and wisdom. Giving can also help others overcome their difficulties, leading to the opportunity to hear the Dharma, and eventually uproot their afflictions. Therefore, giving not only benefits ourselves and others, but also fulfills the bodhi path.
The bodhi path is a path of merit as well as wisdom. Merit is doing good deeds. Wisdom is doing good deeds and cultivating compassion without attachment, without the notions of self and others. With wisdom, the bodhi mind will manifest.
Cultivation is simply to “become skillful with the unfamiliar and become unskillful with the familiar.” Learn to disengage from past delusions and conflicts, and become skillful at various forms of cultivation such as meditation and sutra recitation. Step by step, through commitment and patience, the sweet fruit will come with hard work. This is the best way to cultivate.
Giving praise and rejoicing in others’ merits not only eliminate envy but also generate great virtue and blessings, which are shared by the givers, receivers and supporters alike.
Ordinary beings have many karmic habits and make frequent missteps in speech and behavior. The way to rectify this is to observe the precepts. By observing one precept, we overcome one karmic habit; by overcoming one karmic habit, we purge one affliction, and with the purging of all afflictions, the Way will manifest.
“One who respects others will always be respected. One who loves others will always be loved.” Compassion helps us transcend the notions of self and others, and resolve hostility. As Buddhist practitioners, we especially need to cultivate compassion. As a sutra states, “Behold the friendly and the hostile equally; neither harbor grudges nor despise malicious people.” Let us broaden our minds to practice the bodhisattva way and liberate all sentient beings.
In our daily life, our six senses come into contact with external objects every moment. When we encounter objects to our liking, greed and craving immediately arise. Therefore, we need to always reflect and examine our thoughts. When an affliction arises, detect it and turn it around right away, so we can maintain this present mind in constant samadhi and wisdom.
“Spring is the time to plan your year. Morning is the time to plan your day. Diligence is the way to lead your life.” Success is achieved only with effort; there is no free lunch in life. Not only should we work hard, we should also put our efforts in the right direction, so we do not detour or take the wrong path.
“A thousand-mile journey begins with the first step.” The first step is the present mind; apart from it there is no other mind. Deluded or awakened, it is just this mind.
To cultivate the Way is to realize the Way. This begins with awakening to the present mind. Then we practice being the mind’s master, whether we are moving or sitting, resting or working. When afflictions arise, transform or dissolve them. As afflictions are eradicated in due course, the bodhi mind, the pure mind, will manifest.
When thoughts arise in our minds, we need to distinguish between the “visitors” and the “master.” The visitors are our delusive thoughts, coming and going endlessly, like dust in the air. The “master” is that which recognizes the delusive thoughts, like the empty space in which the dust floats, boundless, always unmoving.
There is a saying: “If one cannot tolerate the small aggravations, one will upset the whole plan.” Tolerance brings peace; it is a crucial Buddhist practice. In our everyday life, we may encounter positive or negative situations any time; face them with tolerance and patience, then we will progress in our cultivation.
Right faith is faith grounded on wisdom. Like a bird with two wings, right faith can fly us from the shore of samsara to the shore of nirvana, from the darkness of ignorance to the light of bodhi.
To attain samadhi means to always maintain mindfulness. Wherever you are, that is where your mind should be. Adhere to this principle in life: “In quiet meditation, reflect on our own deeds; in conversation, never gossip about others’ faults.” Always examine our own mistakes and correct them as soon as we discover them.
Cultivation is a process of self-examining, and not of quibbling about others’ faults, or judging others’ right and wrong. If we are being slandered, do not get annoyed, angry, or complain. Remember “rumors are stopped by the wise”; the truth will surface in time.
Being content is superior to being rich. The discontented, albeit having wealth, are always in distress. The minds of the contented are at ease and peace every moment—this is true wealth.
The Middle Way means the Zen mind. It is inexpressible, yet what is spoken is right to the point. It is inconceivable, yet the wisdom flows without rumination. Whatever one effortlessly touches is the Way. Such is the wondrous power of Zen.
Giving praise to others help eliminate impure speech. Rejoicing in others’ success or good deeds overcomes our jealousy. If we all uphold pure speech, learn from and commend others’ merits, and practice charitable giving and kind words, our society will be filled with harmony.
Buddhist cultivation requires long term commitment. Buddhahood is attained through persistence and mastery of the six paramitas and the eighty-four thousand Dharma teachings. If one is motivated for one day and slack off for ten days, lacking commitment and diligence, nothing can be accomplished.
Blessings come from doing good deeds and making beneficent connections with others. If our past deeds have brought us hardships, now is the time to be diligent—turn misfortune into blessings, and open up a world of new opportunities for ourselves.
“Great is the kindness that is unconditioned; great is the compassion when all are one”—this is the bodhisattva way. Practice loving-kindness and compassion, then Guanyin Bodhisattva is in your heart.
Buddhism does not advocate love and passion. It is not apathy but rather an elevation of love to loving-kindness, to care about others’ children as if they were your own. With a mind of equality, this loving-kindness is infinite and boundless.
A Chinese proverb says, “Saints have many faults. Sages have fewer faults. Ordinary people have no faults.” Reflect inward and discover your own faults instead of judging and criticizing others’, then your mind is a pure land without strife, cool and peaceful every moment.
Cultivation is not the study of doctrines, nor should it do without the doctrines. Without the teachings as a guide, we can easily stray from the right path or mistake some small insight as true enlightenment. When our minds are troubled, studying sutras or attending Dharma lectures can correct our views, calm our minds, and quickly turn our afflictions around.
The change our fate, we should focus on the cause instead of the outcome. The Buddhist teaching of causality tells us that what happens in our lives come from our own efforts. Understanding causality means we can create our own destiny.
It is said that “before you become a buddha, make good connections with people first.” The foes we make now will return as difficult people who create trouble for us in the future. Therefore, make it a habit to appreciate and praise others’ good points instead of disparaging their shortcomings or making things difficult for them.
“Fear not a thought arising, but a thought undetected.” When a bad thought arises, see through it right away. Having committed bad deeds, turn around immediately onto the path of virtue, vowing never to make the same mistakes again. This way, every step will take our life toward a brighter future, leading ultimately to liberation.
The right cause for being successful in all endeavors is the cultivation of person and mind. Equally important are helpful external conditions. When both come together, success is ensured. Thus the saying “things are easily accomplished with the right cause and conditions.”
A Zen master once said, “Be unmoved by the wind of joy, unstirred by the wind of anger.” Observe that all phenomena are illusive manifestations of causes and conditions. Unmoved by external circumstances, this present mind will have the power of stillness and wisdom, attaining self-mastery and liberation.
A practitioner should reflect inward and examine each thought. Is it a wholesome thought? An unwholesome thought? A mixed thought? Or is there no thought? Check how many faults and bad habits we still need to remedy. If we have done wrong, repent and amend right away.
Foremost in the Buddhist practice is learning how to let go. When we can let go of all our afflictions and attachments, our mind will be free. Freedom of mind is liberation.
The core of Buddhism is human beings; the core of human beings is the mind; the core of the mind is pure awareness, which makes enlightenment possible. With this understanding, life has direction and purpose; it is no longer occupied by worries and meaninglessness.
We should act mindfully, knowing when to advance and when to retreat. If we do not advance when conditions are right, we lose opportunities.If we do not retreat when it is time, we invite disgrace. Making the right decision requires wisdom.
Be mindful each moment. Do not dwell in the past, present or future. The past is past, to linger on it is pointless. The future has yet to come, to speculate on it is wishful thinking. To worry about the present is to be trapped in fleeting, inconsequential thoughts.
Maintain a mind that is clear, lucid, still, and free from discrimination. A mind of stillness is samadhi. A mind of clarity and reason is wisdom. The oneness of samadhi and wisdom is the supreme bodhi mind.
In meditation, we let our thoughts settle. Do not let the mind wander or become drowsy. Be aware of each thought. Neither delight in something good nor worry about something frightening. Remember, “All forms are illusions.” Maintain mindfulness without clinging to the duality of existence and emptiness.
Harboring no thoughts, the mind of the present is unborn and undying. Do not give rise to thoughts of purity or impurity, gain or loss. This mind is as it is. “The myriad phenomena all derive from this mind of non-dwelling.” This is the true reality.
“Be mindful of the buddha of our original nature. Read the sutra that is wordless.” Whether we are chanting the Buddha’s name or reciting a sutra, the purpose is to overcome our afflictions and ignorance. What is most important is to realize that there is a wordless sutra within each of us—our intrinsic, pure awareness.
The sutra says, “The Buddha Dharma is here in this world. There is no enlightenment apart from this world.” Practicing Buddhism empowers us to deal with any circumstance through observation and mindfulness, leading to enlightenment.
Frequently peer inward, reflect, and reform with a mind of compassion, respect, tolerance, and harmony. By taking a step back, you instead expand your horizons. Truly transforming yourself in this way, you will discover that everyday is a good day, any time is the right time, and that there is reward in every endeavor.
Maintain a mind free of attachment. Neither enjoy praise nor resent defamation. Do not crave, cling, grasp, or reject. Let the bodhi mind manifest at all times—this is true bodhisattva practice.
Enlightenment is the realization of the original mind, that all is just as it is. Zen cultivation is the practice of overcoming defilements, to ultimately just letting be. Therefore, true cultivation is non-cultivation. No matter what the circumstance, at work or at rest, facing prosperity or adversity, during daytime or nighttime, we can always practice Zen.
The ultimate repentance is to realize the true nature of the mind and abide by it each moment. This will cleanse all sins. Hence the saying “one light dispels the darkness of a thousand years.”