All the people here in the Saha World enjoy happiness and dislike suffering. Beings in the hells enjoy suffering and dislike happiness. Hungry ghosts enjoy hatred and anger, and dislike kindness and compassion. Animals enjoy stupidity and dislike wisdom. That's why they've descended to the destiny of animals.
Although we say that people enjoy happiness and dislike suffering, none of us really know how to end our troubles. Living beings who dwell in the heavens also prefer happiness to suffering.
The state of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is such that they are free of suffering, and they are also free of happiness. They've forgotten both joy and sorrow. Most of us living beings are inverted. We take right for wrong, and see wrong as right. We turn black into white and white into black. And yet, are we aware that this is inverted behavior? On the one hand, you might say we do know. But even though we know, we still insist on doing wrong things. We clearly know that something is not in accord with Dharma, yet we do these deeds more often than not. We know what's right, but we cannot bring ourselves to do it.
An example would be somebody who goes off to drink tea when it's time to recite the Buddha's name. There's a special time reserved for drinking tea; people can't drink whenever they feel like it. A person who drinks tea when it's time to recite the Buddha's name is just being lazy. He gets tired reciting the Buddha's name, so he decides to take a rest and help himself to a cup of tea. If someone is reciting the Buddha's name true-heartedly, how could he possibly think of drinking tea? He'd have forgotten about drinking tea altogether. Even less would he think of drinking milk. He'd have forgotten everything else. When a person is truly reciting the Buddha's name, he's not aware of whether or not he's eaten. Even less would he think of drinking a cup of tea.
Someone may say, "Reciting the Buddha's name must be dangerous if you don't even know whether or not you've eaten." Nonetheless, this "not knowing" reveals true skill. Someone who understands cultivation isn't aware of whether or not he's eaten, gotten dressed, or slept. He's forgotten everything. He doesn't know if it's day or night. He is not aware of the heaven above, the earth below, or the people in between. Everything is empty. Everything being empty, how could he possibly think of drinking tea or milk?
One Dharma Master at Gold Mountain Monastery doesn't dare to drink milk, because as soon as he does, his thoughts of desire multiply and he cannot control them. So he doesn't dare to drink it. We should eat only enough to sustain our life. We should take food as medicine, taking a bit to sustain ourselves because if we didn't eat, we'd die. However, there's no need to eat very nutritious food to bolster our body. If we eat excessively nutritious food, we'll have a lot of trouble. When we cultivate the Dharma-door of reciting the Buddha's name, we should be constantly mindful of the phrase, "Namo Amitabha Buddha," and never stop reciting it. We recite the name both when we are awake and when we are asleep. We recite this eight-syllable great name "Namo Amitabha Buddha" continuously, until our recitation cannot be cut even with a sword, and the power of our recitation is even more solid than a diamond. Then there is no way to interrupt our recitation of "Namo Amitabha Buddha." This state is known as the Buddha Recitation Samadhi.
Not only should we recite the Buddha's name this way, we should also recite Sutras and mantras this way. In this state, we cannot indulge in idle thinking even if we want to. Cultivation is really not easy. Take a look at Guo Zhen (Master Heng Sure, who cultivates "three steps, one bow.") Why did he make a vow not to drink milk? Because he knows how harmful milk is. As soon as he drinks milk, a bovine nature appears, and this bovine nature is more fearsome than a tiger.
As long as our diet isn't deficient and our bodies are in balance, we don't need to eat any food that is rich in nutrition. If we do, we'll have a lot of trouble. That is to say, "Too much is the same as too little." Neither excess nor deficiency is good.
The deeds of living beings in the Saha World are, without exception, full of greed, hatred, and stupidity. We pursue worldly matters with that greed, hatred, and stupidity. We also use greed, hatred, and stupidity when we cultivate world-transcending dharmas. As we cultivate, we're greedy to get enlightened. We sit in meditation for two and a half days, and expect to get enlightened. We cultivate a Dharma for two and a half days, and want to gain spiritual powers. We recite the Buddha's name for two and a half days, and want to master the Samadhi of Buddha Recitation. Look at how huge that greed is! These are the thoughts of a greedy ghost!
We should see cultivation as our basic duty. There's no need to be greedy. Over time, our merit and virtue will naturally be perfected, and we'll accomplish the fruition of Bodhi. It may be that we were due to accomplish it, but then we bit off more than we could chew. We must eat one mouthful at a time. If we try to stuff too much food into our mouth at once, leaving no room for chewing, how can we eat it? We can neither chew nor swallow it. Eating is a very simple analogy. This is called "biting off more than you can chew."
When we cultivate, we should feel as if nothing special is going on. We shouldn't be greedy and calculate, "What's in it for me? Can I get enlightened? Can I get spiritual powers?" Who could expect results so quickly? A farmer plants the seeds in the ground and waits patiently until they sprout. When the time is right, they will ripen by themselves. The ancients had a saying, "Rub an iron pillar down to the size of a sewing needle. When your spiritual skill is mature, you will naturally succeed." You should not fear that you might be wasting effort. Over time, you will naturally rub the iron pillar down to the size of a needle.
In our cultivation of the Way, we have to get rid of our faults. What are our faults? Liking to drink tea is a fault. Liking to drink milk is a fault. Liking to entertain idle thoughts is a fault. If you always crave comfort and ease, then your efforts will never evoke a response. If you don't fear suffering, difficulty or fatigue, you'll succeed in cultivation. Now I want to apologize to all of you here. You see, I like to joke around, so those of you who are overweight should not immediately go on a diet after listening to my advice on eating. If you do, you will be "adding a head on top of the head you already have," and causing yourself much vexation!
Calamities now fill the entire world. Our world has become a dark place without any light. The continued existence of humankind is seriously threatened. We are engulfed by a killing energy that has never existed before. We know about atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs, nuclear weapons, and even laser-cannons. If one of these lethal weapons were set off, the entire human race could easily be wiped out. In the present time, a black miasma covers the entire world, and this karma of black deeds surrounds every land. The only way we can avert calamity is to cultivate according to the Buddhadharma. In any location where there are genuine cultivators, the disasters will be slightly lessened. If many, many cultivators could gather together and unite their efforts, they'd be able to eradicate disasters, invisibly transforming the violent energy into a positive, beneficial atmosphere. To make it happen, however, we must do real work, take firm strides, and honestly cultivate according to the Buddhadharma.
So let us bring forth true minds and recite the Buddha's name! When we recite the Buddha's name even once, a ray of bright light appears in the air. If we can recite the Buddha's name with utmost sincerity, the light can shine throughout the trichiliocosm. It can transform the atmosphere of the entire cosmos into auspicious energy, neutralizing the energy of violence, pollution, and disasters.
The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is the one place in the world right now that shines with a bright light. When ten thousand Buddhas emit their effulgence, the radiance illuminates the entire universe. If you are at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, then even when you indulge in delusive thinking, your merit and virtue is still greater than any merit and virtue you could create elsewhere in the world. Why do I say this? Because the people at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas all wish to be good. Even if they entertain idle thoughts, those thoughts, by and large, are wholesome thoughts; rarely are they evil thoughts. So we can rightly say that the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas acts as both a sun and a moon for the world, shining everywhere on the globe, and bringing clarity and coolness to all people.
Residents of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas have all planted roots of goodness in the past. They've all made vows to reform and to rescue the world, to eliminate disasters on the planet. That's why every word spoken and every deed done by the people here must be correct. We may not mix with the rabble and conduct ourselves like everyone else. The residents of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas are all wholesome and good people. Any evil-natured person, sooner or later, will voluntarily remove himself from the commu-nity. Such a person will not be able to remain here.
The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas has welled up from the ground here in the West. In the future, Buddhists from around the world will assemble here to cultivate and investigate the Buddhadharma together. The Dharma will flourish and grow great. We who are able to leave the home-life and cultivate at the City of Ten Thou-sand Buddhas are guaranteed to become Buddhas in the future. Why? There's a saying that captures it: "Those who draw near the pagoda at the pond will get to see the moon's reflection first. "Those who arrived first at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas will attain the Way first. Those who come later will attain it a little later.
Some people come to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, but they feel they cannot stay. They may feel that there aren't enough activities going on, or that the rules are too inflexible, or that there's not enough entertainment. But you should realize that any entertain-ment that you seek outside of yourself will interfere with your own true happiness. In this world, those who seek what's false will lose what's true. If one wants to find what's true, the first step is to put down what is false. It won't work to cultivate world-transcending dharmas on one hand, and still be unable to put down mundane dharmas on the other. Such a person has one foot in each boat. He wants to go to the northern bank and also to the southern bank of the river, but that's impossible.
We are now holding a Buddha Recitation Session, and our goal is to concentrate intensively on this one method. We cultivate the method of reciting the Buddha's name with a true, sincere, earnest mind. We don't want to waste even a minute of time. We should realize that "an instant of time is an instant of life." If we fail to work hard, then our karmic offenses will increase. If we do work hard, then our good roots will increase. If we honestly recite the Buddha's name, then we can say we haven't wasted this time, and our lives will have some real value.
A talk given in winter of 1979 at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas