There are all kinds of peculiar matters in this world. Because peculiar causes were planted before, now peculiar results appear. If we hadn't planted a certain cause, there wouldn't be a corresponding effect. If we understood the principle of cause and effect, we wouldn't do any evil deeds, but would only do good. People in this world cannot avoid cause and effect, yet no one can see the causes; we only see the effects, the results. When retribution comes, we panic and don't know what to do, but it's all because we weren't careful at the time the causes were planted. We wait until we receive all kinds of strange retributions and are then confounded by them.
In the Shurangama Sutra, which we are studying now, the section on the Four Rules of Purity explains very clearly about various kinds of strange, confusing causes and effects. If you want to understand cause and effect, then you should “do no evil, but do only good. ” Don't spend your days thinking about how to benefit yourself. Instead, think about how to be of benefit to others. You don't need to announce, “I often benefit other people. I build temples and stupas, and I give to the poor. ” This isn't something to talk about; you have to actually do it. Consider helping people to be the source of your happiness and your personal duty. Then this world will naturally become wholesome.
A talk given at noon on April 30, 1983,
at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas