While coming and going at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, helping at the branch temples, and living at the City, what I’ve seen and heard over the past few years truly inspires my praise, but I’m also a bit dismayed. My praise is endless....What dismays me is that for several decades, people from around the world have been coming to the City, perhaps attracted by the name, perhaps to cultivate, or even to live in the City, but many still cannot understand how rare and supreme it is. How many have left in anger upon encountering the first barrier? How many have been drifting with the wind? How many have been following the Elder Master around, chasing after superficial images and seeking along the line? Even after spending many years in the City, many still do not understand. Truly, it is difficult for the Buddhadharma to arise!
Even though the Master is advanced in years, he still tirelessly teaches and transforms living beings according to their potentials. Just as it says in the
Earth Treasury Sutra, “If good men and good women in the future have a single thought of respect toward the Buddhadharma, I shall use hundreds of thousands of expedient devices to save them so that they may quickly attain liberation from birth and death.” The problem is that living beings are obstinate and difficult to subdue; each has his own attachments. How much longer can the Master wait? If we cannot return the light and reflect within, then even if we spend our whole lives near the Master, what use is it?
Learners know that the myriad sutras and shastras are meant to break attachment and eradicate false thoughts. Be it the Four Noble Truths, the Six Paramitas, kindness and humility, or not losing one’s temper...they are all the same.
“There are many expedient doors, but only one road back to the source.”
“One can enlighten suddenly to principles, but the actual practice is gradual.” In gradual cultivation, most important are the tests of patience which come one after another. Only with patience can one enter the Way and benefit from the Buddhadharma. Thus, a sutra says,
“In the heavens and human realm, there is no strength greater than patience; giving and holding precepts cannot compare with it. Patient people have great strength, and can shoulder the work of the Tathagata.”
I recall the Master reciting the Earth Treasury Sutra in the Buddha Hall, and people coming to test him. The Venerable Hs Yun who preceded the Master endured even more. I also remember the Master asking,
“What would you do if someone were to scold your teacher or slander Long Beach Monastery?” The correct answer was: kowtow to him three times. Although we’ve been listening to the sutra lectures, when things happen in our daily lives, whether between spouses, family members, or Way-places, we forget to return the light and reflect within.
“As soon as we contend, the four marks arise.” “Whether you are right or not, you must recognize your own faults.”
“If you want to be good, all your creditors show up...” We can’t apply any of these, let alone kowtow three times. We meditate, bow to the Buddha, recite sutras, and cultivate for a long time, yet we don’t recognize problems when they come. Isn’t it pathetic? As the Master says,
“Everything is a test to see what you will do. If you don’t recognize what’s before you, you’ll have to start anew.” If we just study Buddhism for a long time and become scholars, what use is that? Just think: if there were no tests in our cultivation, what would we be cultivating for? When the mind is pure, the Buddhaland is pure. All states are opportunities for us to reflect within to see if we still have the seeds of greed, anger, and stupidity. The Buddha said,
“Be cautious not to associate with lust. When one associates with lust, calamities arise.” Truly, if learners cannot see through the superficialities of right and wrong, it’s hard to tally with the reality of the Dharma Realm. Don’t you know that Guanyin Bodhisattva manifested as the Great Ghost King Burning Face to save the Venerable Ananda? How do we know that the people who trouble us, scold us, and give us nasty looks are not manifestations of Bodhisattvas or Dharma-protecting gods and dragons coming to test us, or our grieving relatives and creditors making big issues small and untying knots of past hatred? If we still act like ordinary people, arguing about rights and wrongs, then we’re missing the point, and learning Buddhism in vain.
The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is the way it is, not just how we think it
“should be”─warm, compassionate, and gathering in living beings with charity, beneficial conduct, kind words, and working together. Going a step further, it has various adverse conditions to test us so that we will advance in our cultivation. The dragons and snakes mingle; the gods, dragons and the rest of the Eight Divisions put on a great show; and the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas use the wonderful functioning of spiritual penetrations. How could it only be the appearances which ordinary people see with their ordinary eyes?
To raise the great banner of proper Dharma in the West, true cultivators must lay the groundwork together. Patience is a great strength. Without patience, how can we enter the true Way? Let’s ask ourselves: why can’t we bear a few words or a nasty look? Isn’t it true that,
“Originally, there’s not a single thing”? Then why are we deluded by our conscious thoughts, by the movement of the wind and flag? The Song of Enlightenment says,
“Contemplate vicious words as merit and virtue, and they become one’s good advisors. Do not let abuse and slander arouse enmity or liking. How else can the power of compassion and patience with non-production be manifest?” The wise see what is supreme as if drinking sweet dew, while the dull don’t recognize the treasure within the wonderful! If one can turn things around, then one is just the Tathagata. However, words are still words. I, the last to learn, have also been gingerly going through big and small tests, but I see many who don’t understand the principle and are deluded by appearances, thus losing their Bodhi resolve and increasing their mouth karma. Therefore, I’ve expressed my limited views, hoping that all learners who come to the City can be patient, seek nothing, and not be fooled by states. Then it is guaranteed that,
“If one can get through this gate, one will become an Arhat
who transcends the world.”