With One Heart, Bowing to the City of 10,000 Buddhas
(Chinese in issue #106)
the causal ground is not true,
Shih Fu, I created a stupid offense this month which I just realized is not a small thing. I would like to repent now by letter as I have done this morning before Heng Ch'au here in our Way-place.
Two weeks ago Heng Ch'au and I were discussing our time-schedule. I had been experiencing a lot of difficulty in concentration and was coming in from the bowing really dissatisfied and frustrated each day. This led me to say out loud, "I hate the bowing. I'm no good at it and I would much rather sit in Ch'an meditation in the car. The only thing that keeps me out there bowing is knowing that it's good for the world and for everyone and it's what I have to give in order to repay my debt of kindness."
This remark is the kind of seed that can completely wipe out any merit and virtue that my work creates. This is slandering the Triple Jewel, it is turning my back on the Avatamsaka Sutra and the Assembly, it offends the great compassion of the Venerable Abbot through whose teaching I discovered my method of cultivation, and it is just a stupid, ignorant thing to say. It breaks the Bodhisattva precepts.
In fact the bowing is my road to progress along the Way. It is a supreme method of cultivation, too good for me, and it is only my heavy obstacles created by my own huge greed, hatred, and stupidity, particularly my greed for self-benefit and for fame that lead me to make offenses like this one.
I now want to sincerely repent of this offense before the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the three periods of time and the ten directions, before the Great Avatamsaka Assembly, before the Venerable Abbot, before the Dharma Protectors and good spirits and before my Dharma friend Sramanera Heng Ch'au. I apologize for my lack of faith and lack of patience and my arrogance and I promise to reform my ways.
I hope that I may be allowed to return to purity so that I may start again 1n my cultivation of the Bodhisattva Path and the wonderful Dharma-method that I have been practicing on this pilgrimage. I sincerely wish the work to come to successful completion. I do not hate the bowing or hate anything in the Dharma-realm. It is only my own afflictions and doubts that lead me to say such things. It is like a beggar splashing mud on a king. I have no wisdom and to slander the Triple Jewel in this way is truly ignorant. In cultivation one cannot be off by a hair's breadth or the result is off by a mile. How much the less can one casually break precepts and hope for success.
May the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have compassion on this unfilial disciple and may I be washed clean of this arrogant impatient offense so that I can start over and work towards the good.
The remark was made as a joke and said with a laugh, since Heng Ch'au had been doing a lot of Ch'an sitting at the time and I had been bowing alone for weeks. But it is just this kind of insincerity and this casual attitude that cancels the reward of all the rest of the work in cultivation. Slandering the Triple Jewel is not a joke. And an ignorant person like me cannot go around lightly saying he hates his work. I tru1y do not want to fall back from the Bodhisattva's Path and with a sincere heart I apologize for my offense.
I have ultimate respect for the bowing method. I know it is an unsurpassed Dharma-door, a jewel beyond measure. It is the perfect medicine to cure my illness of ignorance. Precisely because it's working, it tastes very bitter. Because I have been so sick with greed, hatred, and stupidity, pride and doubt, I find the bowing difficult.
Most of all, I want to be able to give Dharma and to make others happy. What I have to give is the bowing and the successful completion of my vows. Sloppy talking can take away the benefits that I might transfer and it can obstruct the realization of the vows.
Only through the Master's compassion have I been able to review my bad mistake and make this repentance.
I hope that everyone cultivates as if his or her life depended on it, because it really does.
The Buddha-recitation Dharma-door is a priceless treasure that has power to end suffering forever. By reciting the Buddha's name we make good energy in the world. By transferring the merit with a single-minded wish for goodness, we can make a great gift to all beings and do a little bit towards repaying the limitless kindness of the Buddhas, our teacher, our parents, and elders.
We can tell when it's session time at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas—the positive vibes in the air increase when the recitation begins and the great assembly gathers to concentrate and cultivate the name of the Buddha of Limitless Light and Limitless Life.
Disciple Kuo Chen (Heng Sure) bows in respect.
I might as well te11 the whole story of this morning's awareness that lead to my repentance. While sitting in meditation this am. I had an instant's vision of the Avatamsaka Assembly. It was near the near the of the bowing pilgrimage and they suddenly appeared before me--the ocean-wide assembly for Buddhas and Bodhisattvas—just the way the great assembly from the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas appeared last month.
The Venerable Abbot was in the Dharma-platform amid all the great Avatamsaka heroes. They had come to judge my work. "Passed" meant promotion into the Assembly and high-level cultivation among them. "Failed" meant back to the causal ground to straighten out my twisted seeds.
The basis for judgement was how well I had cut off and seen through my attachments to the mundane world. How had I done with the basics of everyday cultivation. Could I put down food, clothes, sleep, and the Five Desires? Or was I still holding to notions of reward in this world? Had I forgotten myself for the Dharma? Had I given up my self to benefit others? These were the questions.
Then it came around to: had I kept the rules? And just then I saw my bad karmic seed planted this month. The vision vanished immediately and I knew that by not keeping the rules, no matter how long I had sweated during the rest of the time it didn't matter. I had knocked myself out of the ring.
Joining the Assembly is my heart's wish. Being off by a hair's breadth on the basics, I miss my chance.
"In cultivation, strive to be ahead and fear falling behind. Then you won't miss your opportunities."
-Ven. Abbot May 1978.
The mother of heaven and earth is said to be born from the Tao.
The sun and the moon are both bright, moving in their orbit.
So it is with the basic substance of all in creation:
It is infinitely wonderful.
-Ch'an Master Hua
This poem came alive today, Shih Fu, as the sun rose on the rain-soaked coast. It's been raining for two days at Ano Nuevo. Everything in our world is damp. Moisture hangs in the air, saturating space without boundaries. It's wet outside the skin, wet inside our bones. The dusty hills have turned to dull gold, the sagebrush and the tall grasses have exploded in green. Everything is happy with the rain.
This morning the clouds blew away and the sun appeared. At nine AM there was a turning point; a transformation happened. The wetness began to flash, change, and disappear. You could see and feel the yin moisture stage of the weather cycle reaches its extreme and suddenly, dryness was born. Soon the water vapor left our slimy clothes, our sleeping bags, and the puddles on the ground.
Birth and change, yin and yang, happening all by itself, wonderful to see. All in its proper time. Nature is patient, the Tao contains all things.
Cultivating the Way has been called the great reversal. "Go towards the good," says the Master. "Return the light in every thought. Change your bad habits from evil to good. Find out your real self. This is what all Buddhist sutras tell us." Because one who walks the Way turns back the energy that used to flow out in bad habits, soon the accumulated light will reach a flash point. Like the sun transforms the wetness, the resolve to go toward the good and the practice of returning the light will carry one surely on to a new high road. There will be a birth of wisdom, a change of darkness to Inner Light. The dross metal of the body transforms into vajra, the selfishness of false-thoughts transforms into the universal lamplight of Great Compassion. Birth, change, returning, transforming.
"If you want to find what's really true, don't look for it apart from the false," said the Master in Kuantan, Malaysia. "It's right within the false that you find what's true. And you have to be very, very patient."
"How do you find the false within the true?" asked a layman.
"Diamonds come out of the earth, don't they?" answered the Master.
The key seems to be patience. Or you could call it faith. The Three Necessities for the Pure Land are Faith, Vows, and Practice. Faith can mean not pushing the Way, not forcing and seeking results overnight. The magic of the weather change at Ano Nuevo was in its perfect, effortless timing. It happened slowly and completely all by itself, wet changed to dry, yin changed to yang all in patient harmony. As the poem says, "The sun and the moon are both bright, moving in their orbits."
Even though we took a lot of wrong roads before we began to practice the Dharma, once we recognize our faults and resolve to change, we step inside the orbit of Enlightenment. Patiently, faithfully, "making tracks for the good, one step at a time," as the Master says, will certainly bring about the Great Reversal.
Now it's raining again and the autumn wind is whistling past our tin-roofed, four-wheeled Bodhimanda. Soon the sun will rise and the whole cycle will move on in its orbit. From empty space there is birth and change. "Infinitely wonderful."
Kuo Chen (Heng Sure) bows in respect.
November 23, 1978
It says in the Avatamsaka:
According to what living beings practice in their minds,
Their visions of kshetras follow suit.
I have found this to be really the case with dreams.
November 23, 1978
The Buddhadharma is vast and great, without bounds or distinctions. So are the Bodhisattva's vows:
He further makes great vows, vowing within all worlds to achieve anutarasamyaksambodhi without leaving the place of the tip of a single hair: in every place of a hair tip to make appear being born, leaving home, going to the Way place, accomplishing Proper Enlightenment, turning the Dharma wheel, and entering Nirvana...in thought after though in accord with the minds of living beings to display the accomplishment of Buddhahood...With a single sound to speak Dharma and cause all living beings to be delighted at heart--vast and great as the Dharma Realm, ultimate as empty space, exhausting the boundaries of the future, throughout a11 numbers of kalpas without cease.
In May of 1977 when we began from Gold Wheel Temple in Los Angeles the Master noted in a lecture that all of us had been together with Vairocana Buddha in the past investigating the Buddhadharma. And way back then the Master said we should all go to America and investigate the Dharma there. "So now we are here together to fulfill our vows. Causes and conditions in the past create a strength of togetherness here now that stays through all circumstances. From limitless kalpas past our conditions with one another are deep...Everyone is Vairocana. All around you, in front, behind, all around you is the Buddha. The pure Dharma body of the Buddha fills up all places."
All living beings are deeply related and connected. Who can say where we have been or will be cultivating the Way and fulfilling the vows of Bodhisattvas. Nothing is fixed. And what we can see isn't always real. The Master ended that lecture with this remark, "In the midst of a dream we are all here doing the work of the Buddha."
in the Way,
Songs For Awakening
A new volume published by the Buddhist Text Translation Society. The songs, a collection of jewels gleaned from the wisdom of the Buddha's teaching and honed and polished by the instructions of the Venerable Master Hua, present timeless principles in an age-old form.