This time my coming to the large island of Hawaii was unplanned. Since the chairman and the various secretaries of this assembly have honored me, I have come here to say a few words today. On the topic of the Way, virtue, and human relationships, everything in the world is within the Way (dao). Everything is born from the Way, and then nurtured with virtue. There is a saying,
“The Way can give birth to me. Virtue can foster me.” The Way and virtue are the proper energy of heaven and earth. The Way and virtue are the most excellent foundation of people, a foundation of superlative character. The Way and virtue are the inherent virtue with which we are all endowed. Therefore, Laozi began by saying,
“The Way that can be spoken of is not the eternal Way. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. The named is the mother of all things. So, constantly without desire, one may perceive its wonders. Constantly with desire, one may observe its manifestations. These two came from the same source, but each bears a different name. Both are called mysteries, mystery upon mystery─the gateway to the manifold wonders.” Ah! Some people, hearing me recite this passage, are saying,
“Ha! This is the first section of the five-thousand─character
Classic of the Way and Virtue (Daodejing). So you’re just an old Taoist! How did you become a Buddhist monk? Truly a mystery!” This is also
“The Way that can be described is not the eternal Way,” and
“The names that can be named are not the eternal names.” That which we can speak of or do is not the eternal Way. The eternal Way is nameless. Thus Laozi said,
“The Great Way is nameless; the Great Way is formless; the Great Way is without sentience.” And so it is also said,
“The Great Way is formless; it produces heaven and earth. The Great Way is without sentience; it causes the sun and moon to orbit. The Great Way is nameless; it nurtures the myriad creatures.” Since it is the mother of all things, you cannot give it a name. If it must have a name, you can call it the
dao “Way.” But in reality, it cannot even have the name
“Way.” It is every person’s human nature. It is also the Buddha nature that makes it possible for us to cultivate and become Buddhas. It’s also the living beings’ nature of all living beings. Thus the Buddha said,
“All living beings have the Buddha nature and can become Buddhas. It is only because of false thinking and attachments that they do not realize Buddhahood.”
Let’s talk about the character 道 dao. There are two short strokes丷on the top. Originally, these two strokes are a transformation of the character 人 ren “person.” When the ancient teacher Chang Jie was creating characters, he made this character. He transformed the character 人 ren into the two short strokes. These two short strokes represent yin and yang. When one is moved above and the other is moved below, it becomes the taiji diagram with the yin and yang fishes (when the Limitless 無極 wuji gives rise to the Absolute 太極 taiji). It is just a different transformation. In terms of a person, the two short strokes represent a person’s two eyes. In terms of heaven, they are the sun and moon, which are yin and yang. There is a saying: “A balance of yin and yang constitutes what is called the Way. An excess of yin or yang constitutes what is called sickness.” The Way, if we were to describe it, is infinite and inexhaustible. The transformations of yin and yang, the five elements, and the eight trigrams are all produced by transformation from the Way.
Below the two strokes of yin and yang, there is the character 一
yi ‘1’. This 1 includes the myriad things
within it. The 1 was originally a 0. “How did the 0 turn into a 1?” you ask. The zero is numberless; it is the fundamental substance of a number. It is neither great nor small, neither inside nor outside. It is a circle without a beginning. It goes around and comes back to the beginning. If you add a 1 to the 0, it becomes 10. If you add two 0s it becomes 100. Add three 0s and you get 1000. Add four 0s and it becomes 10,000. If you keep adding 0s, it becomes hundreds of thousands of tens of thousands of millions...endless and infinite. When you add a 0, the number increases. Each time you add a little, the number gets a little bigger. This is known as
“one source dividing into ten thousand ramifications,” but
“the ten thousand ramifications all return to the one source.” As you keep adding 0s, the more you add, the greater the number becomes, and there is no end to it. If you don’t add any, then there isn’t a single number to begin with. If not one number exists, then that is the Limitless 無極
wuji. The Limitless gives rise to the Absolute 太極
taiji. Nothing existed, but then the 0 was broken, straightened out, and became a 1 (一 ).
It is said of the One: “When heaven attains the One, it becomes clear. When earth attains the One, it is peaceful. When people attain the One, they become sages.” What is the One? This refers to
“eradicating desires and extending knowledge to the utmost.” When you have gotten rid of material desires, you will attain the One. Therefore the Buddhist Sutras say,
“When the One is attained, all things are finished.” But once you attain the One, you have to cultivate to turn it into a zero. The light that the Buddhas emit comes from the zero. The Great Light Treasury is a transformation of the zero. How do you bring this transformation about? You have to attain the One. How do you attain the One? You must first get rid of material desires. Everyone should pay attention to this.
What material desires have to be eradicated? All material desires. For example, people have the desire for wealth. If you get rid of thoughts of desiring wealth, then you won’t have any desire for wealth. If you get rid of thoughts of desiring beautiful forms, then you won’t have any desire for beautiful forms. If you eradicate thoughts of desire for fame, then you won’t have any desire for fame. Everyone likes to eat good food. To determine whether a person can cultivate or whether he has any cultivation, you don’t have to look at anything else: just look at the way he eats. Is it the case that whenever he eats, he always forks up the good-tasting food while ignoring the food that doesn’t taste so good? Or if he uses chopsticks, does he always use his chopsticks to pick up delicious food but refuse to eat food that isn’t so delicious? Does he move the appetizing dishes closer to himself and push the unappealing dishes farther away? By observing just this, you can determine whether or not the person is a cultivator. If he is a cultivator, he certainly wouldn’t waste his effort on food. He is able to eat good food as well as bad. Whether it is flavorful or flavorless, he can eat it just the same. He isn’t picky about food. Whether a person is a cultivator, a student, or a scholar, regardless of what he does, if he is a glutton, then it’s for sure that he doesn’t have much skill in cultivation. If he had true skill, he wouldn’t be tempted by these things. That’s the desire for food. Then there’s the desire for sleep. You may be greedy for sleep and not be able to take it if you don’t get enough sleep. One must get rid of these five kinds of desire before one can be considered to have eradicated material desires.
After eradicating material desires, one can extend one’s knowledge to the utmost, have wisdom, and be able to understand many things by inference.
“When things come, one reflects them. When they are gone, one is pure.” This kind of wisdom is like a mirror. When something comes along, its image appears in the mirror. When it passes, the image is gone. Thus, you must have wisdom to contemplate before you can extend your knowledge.
After one’s knowledge is complete, one has to make one’s thoughts sincere. To be sincere in thought means that whatever one does, one does it with an attitude of utmost reverence and earnestness. One is not casual or sloppy in the slightest. One is able to be sincere in mind and heart.
After one’s thoughts are sincere, one must rectify one’s mind. You should not have any deviant thoughts in your mind. You shouldn’t be daydreaming all the time, thinking about the colorful attractions of the world day after day. To rectify the mind, you must have proper knowledge, proper views, and proper mindfulness. The
Sixth Patriarch Sutra says,
“When there is proper mindfulness, the Buddha is in the house. When there is deviant mindfulness, the demon is in the hall.” A genuine cultivator does not talk or laugh casually. You should not move or act casually. You must observe the three thousand modes of awesome comportment and the eighty thousand subtle aspects of conduct. Don’t go along with the crowd and follow the defiled ways of the world. Don’t be an impostor, a thief among the virtuous. You have to be sincere in thought and rectify the mind.
Once you have rectified the mind, you can then regulate the family. If you cannot rectify your mind, if you do everything with a selfish motive and cannot be public-spirited, then your family will not respect you. If that’s the case, then how can you expect to govern the country well? You cannot govern the country well, and so you cannot cause the world to be at peace.
The first of the Three Guidelines is to illustrate virtue. This means to understand our inherent virtue. Once we understand it, we can renovate the people. Once the people are renovated, we can rest in the highest excellence. The Three Guidelines and Eight Principles are where we should apply effort. Eradicating desires, extending knowledge, being sincere in thought, rectifying the mind, cultivating oneself, regulating the family, setting the country in order, and bringing peace to the world─this is explained very clearly in the
Great Learning. There’s no need to go looking east and west, investigating this way and that! You may investigate all you want, but if you don’t actually practice it, it’s no use at all. Once you understand the Three Guidelines and Eight Principles, you have to apply them, put them into practice, and actually carry them out yourselves. You can’t just talk about it and then forget it; that’s like merely talking about food or counting others’ treasures. You have to actually work at it. That means you have to honestly practice. To honestly practice means to start from yourself. As it is said,
“If I want the world to be good, I have to start with myself.”
I am a member of the human race. If I’m not good,
how can I tell others to be good? We should
constantly discipline ourselves and be “Mahasattvas who pay no heed to others.” You shouldn’t be a washing machine or a camera. A washing maching can only wash others’ laundry. It can wash their clothes clean, but it can’t clean the thick coat of dust on its own exterior. A camera can only take pictures of other people; it can’t take a picture of itself. The camera is only a machine, an object. Human beings are the most efficacious of all creatures. Therefore, we should set a good example. We should be a good model for other people.
When heaven attains the One, it is clear. Heaven is heaven because it possesses the One. Earth is earth because it has attained the One. If people attain the One, they become Sages. What is the One? It is the eradication of material desires. Sages use propriety to control desire. When Yan Yuan inquired about the meaning of humaneness, Confucius said,
“Restrain yourself and return to propriety.” This means to discipline yourself. It means to constantly keep your inner mind free of deviant thoughts, to keep your body from acting in deviant ways, and to avoid uttering deviant speech with the mouth. Don’t tell lies, don’t speak with duplicity, and don’t say superstitious things. These kinds of behavior come about when you are not practicing honestly. You have to discipline yourself. Only then can you make people listen to you. If you don’t discipline yourself, it is said,
“When you are upright, people will do things without your having to order them. If you are not upright, then even if you order them, they won’t listen.” Therefore,
“First rectify yourself and then teach others. First rectify yourself and then convert others. First rectify yourself and then help others.” If you yourself are not upright, then nothing will work. Hence,
“When there is proper mindfulness, the Buddha is in
the house. When there is deviant mindfulness, the
demon is in the hall. When neither deviant nor
proper are established, one is constantly on the
White Ox Cart.”
We must restrain ourselves and return to propriety before we can have humaneness. What does it mean to restrain ourselves and return to propriety? Confucius said,
“If it’s not in accord with propriety, don’t look at it. If it’s not in accord with propriety, don’t listen to it. If it’s not in accord with propriety, don’t talk about it. If it’s not in accord with propriety, don’t do it.” Whatever we look at, listen to, talk about, and do just be in accord with propriety. If it does not accord with propriety, then we shouldn’t act upon it. That’s known as humaneness. If we want to cultivate virtue and practice humaneness, we must first rectify ourselves. Only then will humaneness manifest. As it is said,
“Humaneness, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom are rooted in the mind.” They are produced from within the mind, from the thoughts of sympathy, shame, yielding, and discrimination.
“The thought of sympathy is the beginning of humaneness. The thought of shame and dislike of evil is the beginning of righteousness. The thought of yielding is the beginning of propriety. The thought of discriminating between right and wrong is the beginning of wisdom.” It is said,
“Humaneness, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom are rooted in the mind.” Their basis is in the mind.
“They produce a luminous quality which manifests radiantly in the countenance.”
“Wealth enriches one’s home. Virtue enriches one’s body.” When you have genuine virtue, the glow of virtue appears on your face and suffuses your body. When you are replete with humaneness, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom, you will have an aura of virtue and everyone will be drawn to you. Thus, the glow
“manifests radiantly in the countenance, suffuses the back...” Not only does it appear in your face, it is also revealed in your figure and bone structure. It suffuses the back and
“spreads to the four limbs.” They are expressed even in the four limbs. Therefore, a virtuous light emanates from you. It is said,
“When one has virtue, everyone respects one. When one has the Way, one is honored.” There is a saying,
“When the Way is lofty, dragons and tigers are subdued. When virtue is complete, ghosts and spirits are respectful.” If you truly have the Way, then dragons have to coil up and tigers have to lie down. This is not superstitious talk. The response that comes from your virtuous conduct and morality is such that
“your virtue unites with that of heaven and earth, your brightness unites with that of the sun and moon, your timing unites with the order of the four seasons, and your fortunes and misfortunes unite with those of the ghosts and spirits.” These are the manifestation of the fullness of virtue. Thus, virtue is
“rooted in the mind, manifests radiantly in the countenance, suffuses the back, and spreads to the four limbs. The four limbs express it without words.” There’s no need to speak about it. People can all tell.
As it is said,
“Being replete with virtue is known as beauty.” If humaneness, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and trustworthiness are abundantly rooted in your mind, that is known as excellence. You are a beautiful person, because all people feel they have affinities with you. When one has virtue, all people respect one. When one has the Way, one is honored. Everyone draws near you and likes to be around you. This is what virtue is like. This is a beautiful person. This beauty is not a matter of applying blush and lipstick and dressing up prettily. This is a natural kind of virtuous light that shines forth. Then it is said,
“Being replete to the point of radiance is known as greatness.” A great person surpasses a beautiful person.
“When one is great and can bring about transformations, that is known as sageliness.” If you are great and can transform yourself, then you are a sage.
“When one is sagely to a point that cannot be known, that is known as divineness.” One is a divine person. The manifestations of beauty, greatness, sageliness, and divineness are the result of being filled with humaneness, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom. Why do we have enemies? Because we are not filled with humaneness, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom. But in Buddhism, there are no enemies. Everyone is a person with whom we have affinities. If someone scolds me, I don’t scold back. If someone hits me, I don’t hit back. If someone kills me, I don’t kill him. In general, we don’t fight with others.
“No fighting and no greed: boundless blessings and wealth. Fighting, greedy, and making mischief: one’s offenses are not a few.” Not seeking outside, not being selfish, not pursuing personal advantage, not lying, always telling the truth─these are the requirements for cultivating and being a human being.
The 1 is just a transformation of the 0. You have cultivate to turn it back into a 0. The 0 is neither deficient nor in excess. It does not lack anything, and it does not have too much of anything. To reach this state, one must return to the source, return to the inherent nature. If you can return to the source, then you have truly understood how to cultivate the Way.
In the word 道
dao, below the “一” there is a 自 zi
“self.” Where is the Way? It is right within yourself! Don’t look for it outside. You cannot buy it with money. No matter what method, what maneuver, what plan you use, it won’t work. You have to be like
“the blacksmith and the mason, whose every blow is right on the spot.” You have to really cultivate and truly apply effort. If you’re off by a hair, you’ll miss by a thousand miles. So you have to cultivate the Way, and the Way is right where you are. Combining these elements, we get the word 首
shou, which means “head.” This refers to cultivation. The most important thing in life is cultivation. Unfortunately, people have forgotten this most important matter. They have renounced the root to pursue the branchtips. As it is said,
“Fame and profit are small matters, but all people like them. Birth and death are a great matter, but no one guards against them. Purity is a blessing, but no one enjoys it. Afflictions are offenses, but everyone craves them.” Day in and day out, they chase after fame and profit. Those who seek fame will die in pursuit of fame. Those who seek profit will die in quest of profit. Even after they die, they feel no regret. They still think,
“Oh! I didn’t finish my business in this life. In my next life, I’ll keep working hard and striving ahead.” And so they forget about cultivating the Way. They forget this foremost matter.
How should you go about cultivating the Way? The character 道
dao has a “walking” element, indicating that one must cultivate and walk by oneself. You have to walk the Way yourself. So it is said,
“The Way is to be walked. If one doesn’t walk, how is it the Way? Virtue is to be practiced. If it is not practiced, how can there be virtue?” All day long you tell others,
“Hey! You have to cultivate! You should cultivate the Way.” In telling others to cultivate, you forget to do so yourself. You say to others,
“Why don’t you do some meritorious deeds?” All you do is tell others to do meritorious deeds, but you don’t do any yourself. This is truly a case of renouncing oneself for others, a true Bodhisattva resolve. But if you don’t practice, then what use is the Way? Virtue must be done. If you don’t do it, how can there be virtue? What is virtue? Virtue consists of benefiting others. What is the Way? The Way is not to harm others. Your benefiting of others is virtue; your not harming others is the Way. If you don’t harm others to benefit yourself, then that is morality. If you keep doing things that harm others and benefit yourself, then you have no morality. You lack the Way and virtue. So you yourself have to practice the Way. The Way must be walked. If one doesn’t walk it, what use is the Way? Virtue must be done. If you don’t do it, how can you have virtue? You must actually put it into practice and truly do it yourself. I don’t understand anything else. I can only say these simple and honest words. This is what morality─the Way and virtue─are all about.
“Wealth enriches one’s house; virtue enriches one’s body.” Once you have virtue, that excellent, great, sagely, and spiritual light will emanate from you. Then you will be a genuine cultivator of the Way.
I don’t know if my explanation of the Way and virtue is incorrect in any way. Does someone have an opinion? If I have spoken wrongly, I hope everyone will correct me.