With One Heart
Letters to the Venerable Master Hua from Bhiksu Heng Sure and shramanera Heng Ch'au on their bowing pilgrimage to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
March 28, 1979
Dear Shih Fu,
"Truly recognize your own faults and don’t discuss the faults of others. Other's faults are just my own. Being of one substance with everything. This is called Great Compassion."
Shih Fu it's funny that I can't criticize anyone anymore. Every time I see something to criticize these days, I get an immediate feedback in my mind that says, "Wait a minute, don't you recall when you did the very same thing yourself? How can you stand apart from anyone and judge them? Return the light. Those are your own faults you are looking at and disapproving of." For example I'll see a sports car driver speeding around a curve and think, "How can he put himself and others in danger like that, just for thrills?" Then I remember how I used to drive fast cars no difference. Return the light. Don't fight.
I'll see tourists hop out of cars, run up and photograph the Golden Gate Bridge or the scenic coastline and then jump back in their vehicles and zoom away without flyer actually looking at the sights, without ever being there. It seems like such art empty exercise. Then I get my warning Buzzer: "Don't criticize! Return the light. I used to live far away from the present. Stuck in worries, dreams, and future fantasies, my feet rarely touched the ground. Who am I to criticize anyone else? It's only my own bad habits that I'm seeing and rejecting." What's going on here? It's called "attaching to appearances' and being confused by false thoughts. The sutra explains it like this;
"All worlds in all directions are completely created by the distinctions made in their thoughts. As for both thoughts and non thoughts, there is nothing that can be obtained. In this way the Bodhisattva understands thought."
I spent so many years being pushed around by my false thoughts! I felt there had to be a plan made in advance for every action. I made lists of projects and nailed down details before I made a move. Of course I was never very happy. I was too bound up by the chatter of my mind. At every hand I sought self benefit. I knew the score before I played the game. Take a loss? Never.
Why did I always feel tired and burdened down? Because discriminating right and wrong, chasing benefit and running from the fear of loss takes a lot of energy. And ultimately it's in vain. There is never an end to rights and wrongs. Only by giving up the chase for self benefit does the mind find peace.
On San Bu Yi Bai the Master's basic instruction to us has been "Don't do any false thinking." "Don't think." Why? Because the Ego, the Self that seeks advantage is a phantom, an illusion that lives only in our thoughts. The Ego is the boss that pushes us into the ridiculous pursuit of benefit and fame. When thoughts stop and the Ego disappears everywhere is peaceful. All dharmas suddenly look flat and empty. All appearances and rights and wrongs vanish because the mind no longer needs to separate and name the world, there's no more Self to defend. The demons are subdued and every day is happy.
March 30, 1979 above Stinson Beach
Dear Shih Fu,
We are constantly astonished by the magic of the Avatamsaka. When we read from it each night after the ceremony, unmistakable changes happen. If we are tight and nervous from our false thoughts and mau brings the sutra relaxes us and gives us courage to continue. If we are irritable or feeling off center the sutra cools the fire and brings us back home. If we are happy, the sutra celebrates with light.
One night several weeks ago I was feeling pressure in my head, my body ached in every joint. I was ready for a fight, anything to let off the steam. But when I opened the sutra to translate from the Eighth Transference section all my heat transformed into a feeling of crystal clarity and kindness. I recognized my state and pulled back on the light that I was ready to shoot out. After the reading was finished I was reaching for an incense stick to begin our Surangama mantra recitation when suddenly I had an instant's vision of the age and the importance of our sutra. Time seemed to stand still as the vision flashed by. Here's what I saw. It was like a movie, as if Hollywood had filmed a story to illustrate the rare treasure that is the Buddhadharma.
"The supreme, profound, subtle and wonderful Dharma is difficult to encounter in billions of aeons..."
A band of people of all ages and races are travelling through deep and dangerous caves. The trail is long, narrow and filled with hazards. Their journey requires courage and stamina and faith. There are many trials and setbacks but they do not weary of the walking. They are guided by a pure golden light that leads them forward through all the peril. On the walls of the caves are the traces of ancient civilizations. The company passes through levels of measureless time. Layers of entire worlds pass by with the stories of their coming into being and dying away recorded on the stones.
Finally the travelers reach the source of the golden light. It is a secret fortress that conceals a library. It is made of vajra and locked with a magic power. Only beings with blessing and good roots may enter. Gods, dragons and uncanny creatures guard the door.
Once inside, the company walks by the bookracks in the outer chambers. They contain texts of ancient knowledge: the planets, the herbs, mathematics, music, languages, literature, and encyclopedias of practical arts and ritual. The group walks past this worldly lore, it is valuable and worth preserving, but the light leads them on to another locked gate in the heart of the library. Awesome warriors, tall and pure guard this crypt. They pay their respect to it with deep reverence. Within the crypt is a treasure chest, which gleams with dazzling, jeweled light. This is the ultimate adorned place, the sanctuary, of the Holy of Holies, the pinnacle of ageless wisdom.
The lid of the chest creaks open and a pure light blazes forth. The company breathlessly inspect the contents: crumbling scrolls and cobwebbed parchment. The printing is faint, the punctuation is missing, the meanings are hard to understand. No one has studied this wisdom for a very long time, very few practice it. But there is a feeling surrounding the chest. The group recognizes that this is a jewel beyond price, a treasure to be preserved and protected at all costs. It must be cherished and made known everywhere. Its truths must be practiced.
The group sits at the feet of their leader, one with wisdom and experience. He shows the group how to correctly venerate the treasure. He explains it for them. He calls it Dharma, the ultimate principles, the road to the end of suffering, the methods for gaining lasting and genuine peace and joy.
"...I now get to hear it, see it, and hold it in my hands, and I vow that I will understand the Tathagata's true, actual meaning."
The company of travelers are very happy. They recognize the value of their discovery and they marvel at their good fortune. Together they make great vows to give their lives to the Dharma, to protect it, to translate it, to practice it and make it known in all future times and places. As they make these vows the light radiating from the chest doubles in brilliance. A change takes place in the texts themselves: the words on the ancient pages grow more distinct. The books take on a new life and a new strength. The Bodhisattva guardians, the gods and dragons and all the protectors are delighted. The vows made by the company revive the Holy Dharma and keep it in the world.
The light from the crypt in the secret library beams out and cuts through the cave walls. It illuminates all worlds, all civilizations throughout measureless time. Suddenly the company of walkers find themselves no longer underground. They now stand on a pure, magnificent mountain peak.
They have in their possession countless expedient means and tools for giving, the Dharma to all beings in their great big family. The leader of the group explains that the secret library was in their hearts all along. But it required the journey through the caves and braving the dangers and the toil to discover it. The company is overjoyed and with great vigor they set off down the mountain to do the work of filling their vows. They know they will meet again.
That was the vision and as I looked at the sutra rack in our Plymouth, which holds our neatly bound and clearly printed Dharma books in English and Chinese I realize that we must not take our good fortune for granted.
We of the Sino American Buddhist Association are steeped in the purest of the Proper Dharma. It is our highest responsibility to keep alive and fresh our vision of the precious treasure we possess. The presence here among us of the Proper Dharma, the real road to Buddhahood is the rarest of jewels. It is nothing short or miraculous.
Like the members of the company in the vision, my happiness at being able to serve the Buddhadharma and give my life to the Triple Jewel is measureless and boundless,
of the Buddha