Every day, we recite Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's name. But what does "Guanshiyin Bodhisattva" mean? "Guan" means "to contemplate," to contemplate all the sounds in the world. To contemplate also means to look. But it doesn't mean looking at things outside; it means looking into the minds of living beings. It's looking to see which living being is free of random thoughts. Once those thoughts are gone and the mind is empty, then one can become enlightened. Therefore, a line of verse states: "People have gathered from the ten directions to study the unconditioned." All of the good men and good women who've come together in this assembly from the ten directions are cultivating "unconditioned dharmas." Reciting the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva is also an unconditioned dharma. Being unconditioned means "there is nothing done and yet there is nothing left undone." This unconditioned dharma is a method for helping us get rid of random thoughts.
When you recite, "Namo Guanshiyin Bodhisattva," Guanshiyin Bodhisattva is also mindful of you; there is a mutual mindfulness. It is like when you are thinking about your family members and they are also thinking about you. From limitless eons in the past, we and Guanshiyin Bodhisattva have been relatives in Dharma. When did this time begin? What time am I talking about? I'm talking about a time that began with Amitabha Buddha. Amitabha Buddha is the Teaching Host in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss. He is Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's teacher, and Guanshiyin Bodhisattva helps Amitabha
Buddha to propagate the Pure Land Dharma-door.
We are the Dharma-brothers of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva. Guanyin Bodhisattva is the elder brother of all living beings who have not yet been born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. We living beings are his younger siblings. If I explain it this way, then we become very close relatives. So we are mindful of our brother, and our brother also keeps us in mind. We are Guanyin Bodhisattva's younger brothers, and Guanyin Bodhisattva is our elder brother.
Someone is saying, "How can Guanshiyin Bodhisattva be my elder brother? Doesn't that make me too exalted?" Not only does Guanyin Bodhisattva regard us as his younger brothers, he treats all living beings as his younger brothers. Otherwise, why would he listen to our sounds and come rescue us from our suffering? When we living beings get ourselves into trouble, why would Guanshiyin Bodhisattva want to help us out? It's because he sees that all living beings are just the same as his own hands and feet, his own flesh and bones. For this reason, Guanyin Bodhisattva fears neither trouble nor difficulty, and comes to rescue all the living beings who are suffering here in this Saha World. Therefore, none of us should forget our Dharma-brother. When we mindfully recite "Namo Guanshiyin Bodhisattva" one time, Guanyin Bodhisattva is also mindful of us.
When we call out to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, we're calling our elder brother. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva then calls out to his younger brothers, who are future Bodhisattvas and future Buddhas. If we can regard Guanshiyin Bodhisattva in this way, we'll be even more sincere. We should recite the name of our Dharma-brother as sincerely as we can. Don't miss this chance! But as we recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, we shouldn't let our heads droop down. We should lift our heads up and recite with courageous, heroic vigor. Don't appear listless or apathetic. When Guanshiyin Bodhisattva sees our spirit, he'll say to us, "Quickly take my hand!" Then he'll take us toward the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss.
Someone else may be idly thinking, "Why is Guanshiyin Bodhi-sattva looking, looking, looking all day long? And why am I not allowed to look at anything at all?" You should know that your looking and Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's looking aren't the same. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva looks inside, but you look outside. Guan-shiyin Bodhisattva looks at his own nature. He has every living being on his radar screen. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva knows all the idle thoughts that living beings are indulging in. Guanshiyin is always looking at his inner radar. Therefore, the things he looks at and the things you look at are not the same. Because some living beings are far away from him, even a thousand hands and a thousand eyes are not enough. He wants to look at limitless numbers of living beings, but he cannot see them all. For this reason he "reverses the light to reflect within." He turns his hearing back and listens to his own nature. He looks at the living beings of his self-nature. He wants to know the pain and suffering they are experiencing, then he goes to save those living beings. On the other hand, you are looking outside, forgetting all about your inherent wisdom. That's why I said your looking and his looking are different.
Someone else is having another random thought. "Dharma Master, I don't believe what you're saying at all. Why not? You say we're the brothers of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, but Guanshiyin Bodhisattva is a sage, while we're common mortals. How could common mortals be brothers of a sage? This is very illogical, and I don't buy it." Okay, you may disbelieve as you choose. Your point is well taken. However, your principle expresses the viewpoint of an ordinary person. Because you haven't deeply penetrated the treasury of Sutras, your wisdom isn't as deep as the sea.
The Flower Adornment Sutra says: "The Bodhisattva has this thought: rom time without beginning to the present, all living beings and I have been brothers. We have been fathers and mothers to each other. We have been sisters to each other. We have been husbands and wives to each other.'" You told me you didn't believe; that's simply because you don't understand the truths in the Flower Adornment Sutra.
Not only does the Bodhisattva see living beings in that way, but even the Buddha contemplates living beings and knows that all men were his fathers in the past, and all women were his mothers. Since the Buddha sees living beings as his fathers and mothers, that is why I said Guanyin Bodhisattva sees living beings as his brothers and sisters. How could this principle be unreasonable? You don't believe simply because you don't have this kind of wisdom and knowledge. Or it may be that you don't have enough experience. That's why you're so ignorant and skeptical.
Why does the Buddha want to rescue living beings? Because he can see that, "All men have been my father, and all women have been my mother." His fathers and mothers are suffering in the six destinies of rebirth, so he wants to rescue living beings at all costs, and help his parents escape suffering and attain bliss.
Every day we recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva and bow to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, but when Guanshiyin Bodhisattva appears in person before us, we don't recognize him. That's why I say we living beings are extremely pitiable. What do I mean that if Guanshiyin Bodhisattva appeared in person before us, we wouldn't recognize him? It's our big test. When we recite Guanshiyin Bodhi-sattva's name, we should learn to be like him. Guanshiyin Bodhi-sattva possesses great kindness, great compassion, great vows, and great strength. When we recite his name, we should also learn to have his great kindness, great compassion, great vows, and great strength. No matter who mistreats us, our minds must remain calm.
No matter who curses at us, we should endure it. No matter who hits us, we should bear it. Even if someone were to kill us, we should also bear it patiently, and recognize it as our rightful due. Why should we see it as our due? Because if we hadn't scolded others in the past, others wouldn't curse at us now. If we hadn't hit someone in the past, he certainly wouldn't come to beat us now. Why would someone want to curse at us, hit us, or kill us? Because in the past, when we were stupid and ignorant, we cursed at him, beat him, or killed him. So in this present life, the same situation has happened to us, and we should repay the debts that we accrued in the past. In the past, out of ignorance, we didn't make good our debts. Now that we understand, we should honestly acknowledge the unpaid debts. Once our debts are paid, we can see Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, and we can truly count as one of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's Dharma-relatives.
When we are reciting Guanyin Bodhisattva's name, we shouldn't criticize other people as soon as we meet them. If we're always looking at the faults of others, it proves that our own suffering hasn't come to an end. We haven't pulled up the roots of suffering. So all of us must clearly recognize the situations that occur. We must thoroughly understand the Dharma. People who study the Buddhadharma have to be able to use the Buddhadharma. If we cannot use it, then no matter how long we cultivate, the Buddhadharma merely remains Buddhadharma, and we are simply us. But if we know how to use it, then we can become one with it; we become indivisibly united with the Buddhadharma.
Patience is of utmost importance; you must endure the things that you ordinarily find unendurable. For instance, maybe you don't want to put up with a scolding, but if someone scolds you, you should be happy about it. Perhaps you don't want to be beaten, but if someone beats you, you should be even happier. Perhaps you don't wish to die, because life is very precious. However, if someone wants to kill you, you should think, "This death can deliver me from the karmic obstacles of this life. He is truly my wise teacher." So all of you should appreciate the Buddhadharma from the opposite side; learn to flip it over. Cultivating the Way is, in fact, cultivating from the reverse. How do we flip it over? It is simply a matter of learning to like what you dislike. You shouldn't, however, pass on to other people the things that you don't like.
If you're like ordinary people who cannot see through or renounce things, if you have not emptied out attachments to self and to dharmas, and if you have the marks of self, others, living beings, and a life span, then you'll have lots of trouble. If you can step back and consider things calmly, then no matter what happens, you'll always be able to put things in perspective and take them in stride. As we study Buddhism, we shouldn't go looking for its truths in lofty and profound places. There is a saying, "The ordinary mind is the Way; the straight mind is the place of cultivation." We should have a straightforward attitude as we cultivate the Way.
As we recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, we shouldn't cling to greedy notions. Don't say, "I hope that by reciting Guanyin Bodhisattva's name, I can strike it rich." That's impossible! You might get rich if you don't have any greed, but as soon as you become greedy, you won't attain any wealth. Also, there's no need to publicize the fact that you're reciting Guanyin Bodhisattva's name. Don't say to others, "I'm better than you, because I joined a Guanyin Recitation Session at such and such a place, and you didn't." Don't have such vain thoughts. Don't crave fame or benefits, and don't be greedy for luxuries or pleasure.
Recite Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's name with an ordinary attitude. Don't scheme or hope for rewards. Don't be like the people who recite the Bodhisattva's name while thinking, "I don't have a son yet. I hope Guanyin Bodhisattva will bring me a son." Other people seek daughters. Some boys recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhi-sattva hoping to attract a pretty girlfriend. Some girls seek a boyfriend. That's not allowed! When we recite Guanshiyin Bodhi-sattva's name, we should sweep away all such dirty thoughts. Purge thoughts of greed, anger, and stupidity. For example, we should pay no attention to whether the clothes we wear are pretty or not. If they protect us from the cold, that's enough. We shouldn't view our daily food like a gourmet who loves delicacies. If you have such vain thoughts, then you haven't recited Guanyin Bodhisattva's name with a true mind. If you held Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's name with a true mind, how could you possibly care about eating tasty food or wearing pretty clothes? You would've forgotten all that long ago. The only way to become one with Guanshiyin Bodhisattva is to forget everything else.
There's a Guanshiyin Bodhisattva inside the mind of every living being. As we recite and recollect Guanyin Bodhisattva, we're sim-ply recollecting the Guanyin Bodhisattva inside our minds. Some-one may say, "I'm looking inside for my mind; why can't I find it?" If you truly have no mind, then you don't need to recite Guanyin Bodhisattva's name, because just that is Guanyin Bodhisattva. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva doesn't have a mind. He doesn't indulge in any idle thoughts, and he is totally free of greed, hatred, and stupidity. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva doesn't think, "Today I'll wear some pretty clothes, eat some delicious food, or enjoy some special offerings." He has no attachments and seeks nothing whatsoever. What he does is rescue living beings. He wants all living beings to leave suffering, attain bliss, end their birth and death, and accom-plish Buddhahood, yet he seeks nothing from living beings. He hopes that living beings will be able to truly understand the Buddhadharma and become free of greed, anger, and stupidity.
As we recite Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's name, we shouldn't be indulging in idle thoughts all day long. We shouldn't say, "I didn't eat anything at all this morning, and tonight there won't be any tea to drink. This is too much suffering! I can't take it, I'm going to run away!" Someone who cultivates with that attitude is worthless.
A talk given on March 16, 1976, during a Guanyin Recitation Session