All Good and Wise Advisors:
In studying Buddhism, the most important thing is to avoid creating offenses in Buddhism. If you create offenses, then what you gain does not make up for what you lose. You should establish merit, virtue, and teachings in Buddhism, not create offenses. The greatest flaw that students of Buddhism have, the place where they commit the most offenses, is in washing others’ clothes all the time─always pointing out the faults of others. We should follow the motto that
“the straight mind is the Way-place” and not contend, not be greedy, not seek, not be selfish, not pursue personal benefit and not tell lies. If you can do this, then you won’t create any offense karma in Buddhism.
We should pay special attention to this point. If you don’t pay heed to it, then you simply don’t understand the Buddhadharma. The Buddhadharma is wholesome and good; you shouldn’t be stirring up rumors in Buddhism. You should be able to:
“Select what is good and follow it; / Take what is bad and change it. / If it is the Way, then advance upon it; / If it is not the Way, then retreat from it.”
“All dharmas are equal and level, without high or low.” If you understand the Buddhadharma, then each action or movement, every word and deed, is the Buddhadharma. If you don’t understand it, then even if you recite the Sutras or the Buddha’s name every day, it’s all useless. That’s because your mind is full of jealousy and obstructiveness. Take a look! With your mind full of jealousy, obstructiveness, and arrogance, how can you understand the Buddhadharma? You simply can’t! The Buddhadharma is something very ordinary and honest. The straight mind is the Way-place. Don’t act in a crooked way. The straight mind is the Way-place! It may seem that you gain nothing, but in reality, you are already walking on the path of true cultivation!
The ancients said,
“The Way is near, but people search afar; the task is easy, but people make it difficult.” Originally, the Way is very close to you, but you fail to recognize it and want to look for it in distant places. Your search may even take you to the Secret School. This is all a waste of effort and energy. If you keep looking outside, you won’t find it. Return the light and shine within. Seek within yourself: you’ll find the Way right here. The Way is near, but people search afar. They seek the Way in distant places. It’s basically an easy task, a simple matter to resolve, but people make it difficult. They decide that it is very difficult, so they limit themselves and never resolve the problem. They think it’s very hard, very deep. Actually, the Way is very ordinary. The ordinary mind is the Way. We should realize that all dharmas are the Buddhadharma, and none can be obtained. If you think that something can be attained, you are an outsider─one who seeks the Dharma outside the mind.
In every move you make, mind your own conduct. Whether moving or still, sleeping or awake, do not leave the true mind. This is the skill needed to
“restrain oneself and comply with propriety.” What kind of skill is this? It consists of not looking at what is improper, not listening to what is indecent, and neither speaking nor acting without observing propriety. I won’t look at anything which does not accord with propriety. I won’t listen to words that do not accord with principle. I won’t make any comments that go against principle. I shall never perform deeds that do not accord with principle. If you can be this way, you will attain humaneness when you seek it, and you will obtain wisdom when you seek it. There’s no need to go around in circles or to seek afar. It’s just a turn of the head. The sea of suffering is boundless; a turn of the head is the other shore. If you can’t turn around, how can you get to the other shore?
So we should first follow the principles of being a good person, and strictly uphold the Six Principles─not contending, not being greedy, not seeking, not being selfish, not pursuing personal advantage, and not lying. These six guidelines are the basic duty of every Buddhist. This is what we should do. Don’t advertise yourself as a Buddhist and then scheme to attain things all day long. When the time comes,
“You pile up mountains of gold and silver, but when you close your eyes in death, you have to cast them aside. Empty-handed, you go to see King Yama. Filled with remorse, you can only weep.” Only now do you realize that you have frittered away your life. Isn’t it pitiful! Cultivate well, and the light and wisdom of your inherent nature will appear. This is the responsibility of a real Buddhist. Before you attain wisdom, you are still standing outside the door.