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Venerable Master Hua's Talks on Dharma Volume Six 

化老和尚开示 Lectures by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua


The Tao

If we want to return to the origin, we must go from the One back to the Zero. Returning to the Zero,
we return to our original countenance; then we will be able to turn the wonderful Dharma wheel.



Fish live in the water, but don't know that they are in water. People live surrounded by air, but cannot see the air. Although the air is invisible, we cannot say it doesn't exist. Fish cannot see the water, but they cannot survive outside of it. People depend on air for their survival. Although we can't live on air, we need it to live. Without air, all forms of life would die.



In the human realm, there is air. In the heavens, there is a spiritual energy, a spiritual nature. And in the state of the Buddhas, there is the Buddha-nature. Although the Buddha-nature and spiritual nature cannot be seen, sages cannot be without them. Without that spiritual energy, the gods would fall into the lower realms. Without the Buddha-nature, there would be no Buddhas. These are all ineffably wonderful states. When we cultivate, we want to cultivate the great Tao which has no form or sentiment, the great Tao which is nameless. Lao Zi said in the Classic of Purity and Stillness,



The great Tao is formless;
 it nurtures heaven and earth.
The great Tao is emotionless; it moves
 the sun and moon in their orbits.
The great Tao is nameless;
 it causes the myriad things to grow.
I do not know its name,
 so I merely call it the Tao.



The Chinese character Tao(道) has two short strokes on top representing yin and yang. If the character for person(人) is taken apart, it becomes one yin and one yang. These two strokes are the character ren(人) person inverted. Cultivating the Tao means turning around and going against the current. Going along the current is birth and death; going against it is Nirvana. The character ni(逆), going against, also has the two strokes on top representing person, because it is a person who decides whether to go along or to oppose the current.



In the character for Tao, beneath the two strokes is a horizontal line─ the character yi, which means one. Where do we find the Tao of being a person? We start with One, the basic substance of all numbers. Where did the One come from? Zero. Zero has no inside or outside, no beginning or end; it sweeps away all dharmas and is apart from all appearances. Expand it, and it fills the universe; roll it up, and it hides away secretly. The Zero is the beginning of all things. To put it more plainly, the Zero is our inherent Buddha-nature. It is the great, bright, perfect treasury of light. It can be tinier than a speck of dust, or greater than the Dharma Realm. It can be limitlessly great and limitlessly small; it has no bounds.



When people do not follow the rules, the Zero breaks up and turns into One. When there is only Zero, there are no numbers. The numbers start with One. In the beginning, there is only the round, bright circle, and then it turns into the One, which is both yin and yang. One yin and one yang make the Tao. Excessive yin or excessive yang causes sickness.



Cultivation of the Tao must begin with One, and with searching for one's own self. The word zi (自)self is the character mu(目)eye with a stroke added on top. This tells us to look within, to turn our eyes inwards, not to look outwards. When you add the radical for walking (这), it becomes the character Tao(道)path.



It becomes the Tao, or Path, only when it is walked. Thus when Han Yu says in the essay Yuan TaoPath to the Origin), "A path goes from one place to another." People form a path by walking it; to walk the spiritual path, we must practice with serious effort. If we want to return to the origin, we must go from One back to Zero.

When the One is attained,
All things are settled.

When we return to the Zero, we return to our original countenance; then we will be able to turn the wonderful Dharma wheel.



A talk given on October 10, 1982


法界佛教总会 . DRBA / BTTS / DRBU