to Our Original Teacher
Several hundred people, representing almost every state and many countries overseas, gathered for the Buddha's Birthday festivities, traditionally celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth lunar month. Sponsored this year by the Sino-American Buddhist Association and Vajra Bodhi Sea on May 2nd, the Bay Area Wesak began at 9:30 Sunday morning in the newly completed Gold Mountain Monastery on l5th Street and Albion, San Francisco. Buddhists gathered to participate in an ancient ceremony during which each individual symbolically bathes the newly born Buddha, thereby cleansing his self-nature. Many newcomers had the opportunity to participate in this tradition for the first time.
Following a Great Offering Ceremony at 10:30, all guests were invited to join the Sino-American Buddhist Association for a vegetarian feast. After the large and satisfying meal, everyone returned to the Great Hall to hear Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua explain the sastra on the Awakening of Faith in the Mahavana.
The main event of the day took place that evening, when an even larger crowd gathered to honor the Buddha. Dharma Master Heng Ch'ien, Chairman of the Buddha's Birthday Committee, opened the Dharma Meeting and welcomed the guests and friends. Following his introductory remarks, the Sangha led the assembly in the traditional ceremony, which included the bathing of the Buddha.
Following the ceremony, Dharma Master Heng Shou, Master of Ceremonies, introduced the main speakers of the evening, who addressed talks on the Dharma to the Bhiksus, Bhiksunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas, dignitaries, guests and friends. These speeches were well received, and are being made available here to the many readers of Vajra Bodhi Sea unable to attend the celebration.
I Kuo Jung, Ass't. Chairman S.A.B.A.;
Propagation Dept.; B.T.T.S. Correction and Certification Corn.; President
I would of course like to say first how happy I am that we can all be here together tonight to celebrate the birth of the Buddha. I am especially pleased that we are able to have three honored guests here tonight who have consented to speak to you: Professor Lancaster, Professor Jaini, and Professor Staal. We welcome you here to celebrate the Buddha’s birthday with us.
birth of the Buddha symbolizes the world emerging from darkness into
light. Now you might say, “What does this have to do with me? You are
talking about the world and I am interested in me.” Where do we find the
Buddha? We find the Buddha in ourselves, in our own hearts, and the
Buddha’s birth can also symbolize our own emergence from darkness into
As you have already heard, when the Buddha was born, the heavenly dragons bathed him with heavenly water to wash off all the impurities of birth. Of course, as I am sure many of you know, when the Buddha was born, there were no impurities, because the Buddha is clear and pure, and beyond birth and death. Just in the same way, the Buddha in our own hearts is clear and pure and beyond birth and death. So on this occasion we should all cleanse the Buddha in our own hearts and wash away all the defilement, all the ignorance, all the greed, hatred, and stupidity, all that darkness which covers up the light of the Buddha. And when we do this, we too will see that the Buddha in our own hearts has no defilements, has no greed, hatred, or stupidity, that the darkness in our hearts has no ultimate reality; that the Buddha in our own hearts is originally clear and pure and bright. This evening is an opportunity for each and every one of us to wash away the webs of illusion and darkness, so that together we can return to our own original clear, pure bright Buddha-nature. Thank you.
Our first special guest of the evening was Professor Lewis R.
Lancaster, who has greatly helped us as Advisor to Vajra Bodhi Sea and in
polishing the translation and commentary of the Sixth Patriarch’s
Sutra. As Professor of Buddhist Studies in the Department of Oriental
Languages and Literature at the University of California at Berkeley, he
recently traveled extensively in Buddhist countries in Southeast Asia.
Many of our lay members have studied with him, and currently there are two
pursuing Ph.D.’s under his guidance. Professor Lancaster:
As I came over tonight I recollected that last year I celebrated Buddha’s birthday in a new Buddhist Monastery in Korea...a bit different from this one, still I think with much of the same feeling. Many of the rafters were still showing in that monastery. They were still putting in lots of work, and it smelled of new wood and paint. As you celebrate the Buddha’s birthday here, this is also the beginning of something new for the S.A.B.A., a brand new building and many new beginnings for you who are participating in it. Tonight in this new setting, we carry on an ancient ceremony, which goes back through centuries in Asia to the time of the lighting of the lights. The Buddha’s birthday meant, in Asia in old times, that on this particular night the towns were all lit up; lanterns lined the streets and they were hung row upon row in the monasteries as they still are now in many places. What we do here today is part of that tradition, even though we do it in this new setting, one in which we hope that many of you will have a long and happy experience.
next speaker was Professor P.S. Jaini, currently a visiting Professor at
the University of California at Berkeley, who teaches at the University of
Michigan and has taught Buddhism at the School of Oriental and African
Studies in London. He has spent many years working in monasteries in
Ceylon, and has visited monasteries throughout Southeast Asia. Professor
It is an occasion of great happiness for me to participate in the Buddha's Birthday today. It is really not proper to say that we celebrate the Buddha's birth, because the Buddha is not born. We come to express our gratitude to the Enlightened One and to witness once more the awakening of the Buddha in ourselves. This is the awakening of the Bodhicitta, the thought of enlightenment which once aroused develops during many births. By the practice of the Perfections, it ultimately reaches its highest and fullest growth like throwing a small pebble into the ocean, which produces waves that ultimately reach the ends of the ocean. The thought of enlightenment produced in our heart, increased by charity, compassion, friendliness, vigor, and mindfulness will insure that, if not in this life, then in the next, the small seed of enlightenment will grow into a mighty tree. As we celebrate the Buddha's Birthday, we should resolve with sincerity to follow the Buddha and to attain the enlightenment, which he realized. This will be the birth of the Buddha within us all. May the Lord grant us this. Thank you.
next guest, Professor Frits Staal, currently a Professor of Philosophy,
more specifically Indian Philosophy at the University of California at
Berkeley, will soon be Chairman of the South and Southeast Asian Studies
Department. Professor Staal:
I am very glad to be here and am grateful to you for having invited me. I think I am not really worthy to speak to you since I am not a Buddhist but merely a student of Hinduism. As a student of Hinduism, one is told in the books that there are a great many differences between Hinduism and Buddhism and that Buddhism is a reaction in every respect against certain fundamental tenets of Hinduism. But being here I couldn't fail to be impressed by a large number of things of which I shall mention only one.
I had the good fortune to be in India in January and I saw a large ceremony in the south, where the main deity, a form of the dancing Siva, was undergoing this exact same ceremony, called Abhiseka in India, of being bathed with water, honey, milk, coconut oil, and other substances. The ceremony started at 2:30 in the morning and lasted most of the day.
There is one other small event I would like to recount. I have only once attended a celebration of the Buddha’s birth. It was in New Delhi and it was the 2500th celebration; there were Buddhist dignitaries from all over the world, from the Far East, the Hinayana countries, the Dalai Lama, the Panchen Lama, high dignitaries from Sikkim, and so on. What impressed me there, is of course what impresses all students of Buddhism—its adaptability to different conditions. I am very glad that one form of Buddhism has come here in a direct and pure line and that you are keeping it alive. I think you are doing a good thing and I wish you success with it. Since I am really not the right person to be here, I feel a little bit guilty and so in order to obtain some good karma, I want to offer you a small gift.
In Ceylon I made some recordings of ceremonies of the initiation of novices into the Order. It is recorded in Pali, which is similar to the Chinese. I will make a copy of the tape and hope that you keep it in the monastery library. Thank you.
Upasaka Kuo Kuang, noted Professor of Music, Los Angeles.
Good evening. Coming from a desert area such as Los Angeles, and seeing the rain this morning made me think of the chapter in the Lotus Sutra where the Dharma is likened to rain which falls on all of us. The Buddha likens some of us to grass and some of us to larger plants, and those who are very close to him and serving very hard he likens to great trees. As I look out here I see a forest. Each tree is bearing its own fruit and giving of its gifts in its own unique way to Buddhism. For example, I heard once of the Bhiksu who copied the Avatamsaka Sutra as part of his cultivation by using the blood from his tongue. Here I see some trees who have used their tongues to learn a very difficult language and master it so completely that they will be giving and are giving to the world wonderful translations.
I have also witnessed some who have used the blood from their fingers to lubricate nails to build the Bodhimandala. One even helped lay the linoleum with the blood from his toe. One of my favorite stories comes to mind as I think of the work done here by the laymen and the Bhiksus and Bhiksunis. Some of us may think our acts are insignificant and trivial, but perhaps in our own hearts we know that we have done something to help level the problems of the world.
A story comes to mind, told by the Buddha; it is one of my favorite stories. A bird saw a forest fire burning and thought, "What can I do?" He flew to a lake at a distance and immersed himself in water and flew back and shed a few drops at a time. He went back and forth from the lake to the forest until finally he was exhausted and dropped into the forest fire. I told this story to one of my friends who is very learned and a fine Buddhist. He said, "That is beautiful." I said, "What does it mean?" and he said, as he walked away, "I haven't the slightest idea."
Upasaka Kuo Ti Grant Dharma Propagation Dept.; S.A.B.A.; B.T.T.S.
Certification and Dharma Protector Corn.; Chairman, Board of Trustees,
I was not going to speak this evening, but it was a case of
"speak or get out". I concur with my superior, Dharma Master
Heng Shou in one respect. I
tried to take over a job, but it looked like so much fun that I was
deposed by someone who did it better than I. So I tackled another part of
the Bodhimandala and was again relieved.
Now I have to pick the smallest jobs and complete them faster than others can create the desire to replace me at them. Oh well. The Bodhimandala gets built, and right now that's all that matters. The noise in my face doesn't matter a bit. There are those here with greater wisdom and ability to lead than I. I see no reason to speak my own words; it would be better if we each learned to recite the Buddha’s names, either the Eighty-eight Buddha Repentance or the Amitabha Sutra. The Buddha has promised that if you do so your enlightenment is immanent. Thank you.
Kuo Chan Lovett-Finance Dept. S.A.B.A.; B.T.T.S.
It's amazing how fast this building has been transformed from a factory to Gold Mountain Monastery. Those of you who remember four months ago will know what I am talking about. A lot of people think that the spiritual powers of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas allowed this to happen. If they are right, these spiritual powers have manifested in the Bhiksus, Bhiksunis and lay people here at the temple. These people get up before the sun, do morning recitation for an hour, and then get to work, and don't take a break until lunchtime, which comes at 11:00 o'clock. At noon they get back to work again, and work until 6:30 or 6:45 at which time they get ready for evening recitation and the lecture at 7:00 o'clock. Work has gone on like this for some three and a half months, and that is how we find the monastery as it is today.
But someone might be thinking, "If they spend all this time working, why isn't it more comfortable here? I was at a meeting of the S.A.B.A. yesterday, and I sat on a stool that had a seat the size of the head of a pin, and I had to sit there for four hours."
If our bodies become too comfortable, they fall asleep, and then our brains fall asleep and then, when the time comes to die, we've been so caught up in searching for comfortable bodies all life, that we'll grab the first one that comes along, and, quick as a flash, you're a muskrat. Or perhaps a disembodied spirit looks down on its funeral ceremony and is pleased to see everyone really paying attention and giving it a good ceremony to send it off to rebirth. With this thought, which is a good thought, the spirit gets a little lighter and rises a little higher which is very good...off to a good rebirth. Then it looks a little closer and sees one of its relatives falling asleep, and it gets angry and thinks, "You worthless dreamer, how can you care so little about met" and goes of to hell with that thought. It doesn't do any good to cultivate a comfortable body.
The principle here is recognizing true Dharma. We all know that Dharma is everywhere and is not confined within any particular building. It’s a question of realizing it, and perhaps finding a place where we can be helped in realizing it. A way to do this is to take a really close look at what people are doing. Are they cultivating comfortable bodies or are they cultivating the Dharma? And when you find a place where people are cultivating the Dharma then you know where you can go, and where you will be welcomed to cultivate the Dharma.
We’re all very fortunate to be here today. I feel especially fortunate to have the opportunity to be here on the Buddha’s Birthday, and honor the Buddha. By cleansing ourselves, we get closer to that which is born and does not die.
Before I close I'd like to say a few words about Vajra Bodhi Sea which has just completed its first successful year. We are very grateful to those of you who have helped, either with financial assistance, with constructive criticism or with articles. One of the most important events of this year was when Professor Lancaster joined our staff as advisor. Since that time we have been improving. One of the changes that you'll see is that the Sixth Patriarch's Sutra, which has been the feature article all year, is now printed in a different format which makes it easier to read and is more in accordance with the way sutras should be printed. This is Professor Lancaster's suggestion and it is a good one.
A very important series has started in V.B.S., The Heart Sutra Lectures. These are lectures delivered by Dhyana Master Hsuan Hua which are very important for people who have begun to cultivate, who have started to meditate. They contain incredibly valuable information for anyone who wants to cultivate the Way. Thank you.
Upasaka Kuo Hu Klarer-B.T.T.S. Dharma Protector Com.
Several thousand years ago, a very ancient Chinese poet, whose name is very esoteric, said, “It ain’t no use talking to me cause it’s just like talking to you.” Now, this very ancient line is appropriate in my case.
The people who have spoken before me are all very learned and know a lot about Buddhadharma. There have been several professors and several people who will be professors soon, people who are very learned in many respects. But if there weren't any sentient beings to save, what would the Buddha have to do? And the same with professors. So I stand here as a fully qualified, foolish, common person in order to complete the possibilities of all these learned people and give them something to do.
This afternoon I had to give another impromptu speech. I wished everyone a happy birthday because this is the Buddha’s Birthday. And since you all will definitely, without a doubt, certainly, 100%, all be Buddhas, I would like to wish you a happy birthday.
On the other hand speaking in terms of the foolish, common person, there seems to be a slight difference between Buddhahood and my own state. And after lunch it occurred to me that it was a difference of about one half a spoonful of strawberry ice cream. So I would like to extend an invitation which I did this afternoon, to everyone present, that after we all achieve Buddhahood we can all have a party. We can all sit around, after we achieve Buddhahood, and anything you like to do, we can all do that. So I hope to see you all there.
Upasika Kuo P’u Jastram-B.T.T.S. Office Staff;
I am very pleased this evening that so many of my professors are here and, although I feel rather as if I were on trial up here, I am going to make a confession to you. And I think some of you perhaps more than others will understand what I'm saying. There was a time, when although already a promising graduate student and scholar, I threw away my books, quite fed up with any intellectual knowledge, thinking that true salvation would come from "destroying" the mind. I had at least the insight that it was false thinking, that it was the mad play of the mind that was keeping me from peace. But far from finding a solution in the means to which I resorted, I found that I merely fell prey to the false thinking of others, was simply caught up by whatever insane idea was circulating in the streets. For it is not by "destroying" the mind or allowing it to be turned or taken over by demon states passing for freedom that one achieves peace; it is by turning the mind back to one, returning it to its original source, that one can attain the way. And I had the good fortune to discover the Buddhadharma, which teaches exactly that. Now in the presence of my learned professors I am about to make another confession: Whereas I am again studying books and studying far more diligently than I ever studied before, I hope one day to throw away my books again. For once one has opened bright wisdom and achieved the liberation of the Buddhas, then he no longer has need of books. Thank you.
The next presentation was rather unique, especially for a Buddha's Birthday ceremony:
Kuo Tsun Dinwiddie-Finance and General
When the Buddha was alive, which wasn't long ago, he was invited to lunch and after lunch, he was asked to tell a tale, and this is the tale that he told:
Once upon a time, deep in a forest, there lived a rabbit. And this rabbit was not an ordinary rabbit for he had met two friends there, Mr. Goat and Mr. Bear. Before they knew Mr. Rabbit, they had been a bad goat and a bad bear. They had stolen things and they had lied and they had done very many bad deeds. But every evening after they met the rabbit, they would get together and talk, saying very, very, very many things. They would talk about the state of the world, and slowly, slowly, the goat and the bear grew better and better. And now they will tell you their story:
Mr. Rabbit: Mr. Goat, Mr. Goat!
Mr. Goat: What do you want rabbit old friend? Hey! Got a joke to tell you! I heard it just the other day. Do you know what it is?
Mr. Rabbit: Of course I know what it is.
Mr. Goat: Which came first, rabbit old boy, the chicken or the egg?
Mr. Rabbit: Which came first Mr. Goat, wisdom or compassion?
Mr. Goat: My, since you put it that way, I'll have to give that one a thought. Well, I heard you calling. What did you want me for?
Mr. Rabbit: I have been looking at the stars and I have been looking at the sky. Tomorrow will be an auspicious day and I think we should offer something special.
Mr. Goat: What can I offer? I have a whole stack of old tin cans at home, but I don't think that is proper.
Mr. Rabbit: Find something that you think is particularly delicious and offer that. By the way, if you see Mr. Bear, please tell him to stop by my house as I have something to tell him.
(Enter, Mr. Bear:)
Bear: Hello Rabbit.
Rabbit: Tomorrow is going to be an auspicious day, Mr. Bear. Don’t
you think it would be nice to offer something?
Bear: Offer what? I don’t have much honey left.
Mr. Rabbit: Find something that you think would be good to offer up and offer that up, because tomorrow the stars and the sun are set for an auspicious day.
(Exit, Mr. Bear.)
Rabbit: I have to find something to offer up too. I'll go see if I
can find something in the forest.
Bear: I can't find anything to give; my honey is almost gone. Oh!
What's that? Let me see. Why, it's a bunch of salmon in a sack. It looks
I bet it belongs to somebody and the rabbit told us never to steal.
Does anybody belong to this bag of fish? Speak up! Finders keepers. Oh
boy! I'm going to offer this up tomorrow. A bunch of fish! Yum!
Goat: I don't have anything here at home—two Libby's cans and a
number one bean can. Let me think. I'll go out in the forest and take a
look. What's that over there? How wonderful! A bag of lunch: three kosher
dills and a ham sandwich. I haven't had a ham sandwich in three years.
Horseradish, mustard—wait a minute, I can't eat it. I should offer it as
an offering tomorrow. Mr. Rabbit told us never to steal. Hey! Does this
bag belong to anybody! No answer. How lovely. Kosher dills, I love them.
Mr. Rabbit: What to give? I just don't know. Rabbits live pretty much on grass and things, but I don't think that's a very good offering. I haven't heard of many special days where you can give offerings like that. Let me think. What shall I give? I'll give the best thing of all. Why, I'll give my own body.
(A harmonica in the background plays "Amazing Grace".)
Why, I heard that. I'm going to see if that rabbit is really sincere.
Hello little rabbit!
Rabbit: Hello. Who are you?
I am the holy man that all the auspicious signs told you about. I want to
see if you are truly sincere in your vow. I just happen to have a pot of
boiling water with me. If you will just step inside, I will have rabbit
stew for dinner.
I think you will like it. It’s delicious. First, I’m going to get rid
of a few of my friends. All right bugs, this is your last chance! All you
lice and vermin jump off. I’m going to be boiled alive and I don’t
want you to go with me. Here I go! One! Two! Three...(splash!) Oh boy,
look at this kettle full of boiling water. Wait a minute. There’s
something funny here. I’m not hot at all; it’s not burning me. Mr.
Holy Man, why is it just sort of boiling up around me and not harming me a
Sakra: Little rabbit, I came to test you. You may get out now. I wanted to see if you were really sincere in your vow. I am not really a holy man but I am someone else. Just a minute and you shall see.
Mr. Rabbit: I wonder who that holy man really was.
Sakra: Here I am little rabbit, up in the heavens. I am truly Sakra, King of the Heavens. I shall immortalize you by painting your picture on my heavenly halls, squeezing the juice of this mountain to make a picture of you on the moon. Whenever there is a full moon, people will look up and see the little rabbit who was so unselfish that he gave himself to everyone and let his body be used as a true sacrifice. Here is a picture of what you will look like with your stewpot.
Mr. Rabbit: Oh my! I never thought it would be like that. Well, goodbye Sakra!
the end of the story, the Buddha said, “It was truly these animals that
showed their self nature. These were some of us in a previous life. The
goat was Ananda. The bear was Sariputra. The rabbit was the life that was
to become the Buddha. Thank you.
that's certainly a hard act to follow! Before coming up here I recalled
how the Buddhadharma talks about the world being simply the putting on of
plays in dream theatres but little did I ever think that anyone would show
such sincere faith in that particular phrase that they would not only
believe but also go ahead and put it into practice.
brings us to another Buddhist list, that of faith, vows and practice.
In order to put on a play you yourself must first believe that it can be
done. "Well," you think, "I am going to put on the finest
puppet show that ever there was." Of course, if you just believe it
but do not make a firm resolve to go ahead and do it nothing will happen.
Based on your resolve you get it all together and rehearse. Finally, when
you have it all down pat and the appropriate time comes you can get on the
stage and do your play.
There are 84,000 Dharma doors in the Buddhadharma. What is really wonderful about the people at the Sino-American Buddhist Association is that they have such faith that they will vow to and in fact actually practice all kinds of rare and wonderful dharmas. If you want to learn any of the 84,000 Dharma doors, including puppeteering, you can come and do it here. You see,even esoteric and mysterious lines of the Buddhadharma like "putting on a play" become clear to us all once they have been demonstrated and put into practice by someone who has understood them a bit himself.
As I said, that was a hard act to follow but I am sure that the next person will have quite an easy time of it.
Dharma Master Heng Shou-Finance Dept. S.A.B.A.; B.T.T.S. Correction and Certification Dept.; Director of Administration, V.B.S.
Today we commemorate the birth of the Buddha, the time when Sakyamuni Buddha in particular was born into this world. You may say, "Well that's all fine and dandy, your telling us how happy we should be commemorating the birth of the Buddha, but I don't see how it has a whole lot of relevance to me, here, now."
Well, that’s a fine problem you’ve brought up there and actually it’s one you’ve got to solve yourself. I can't solve it for you for sure. Not even Sakyamuni Buddha can solve it for you really, unless you want to solve it for yourself. There is a gatha which I've after a fashion, translated. It's in the morning and evening recitation book and says, "The Buddha's face is like a full moon, like a thousand suns spraying bright light. The full light illuminates the ten directions. Joyous giving and compassion are complete." Perhaps just perhaps, this might serve as a clue to you as to why you should be joyous this day in bathing the Buddha and celebrating the Buddha's birth. You see, this celebrating the Buddha's birth is uncovering in yourself this joyous giving and compassion which are inherently complete in your own self-nature when you let them come forth. But in order to let them appear you have to wash away all darkness so that this moon-like face can shine forth, so that this bright fact that's like a thousand suns shines forth. And at that time which will surely come we'll all become Buddhas and illuminate 'the ten directions. But this requires uncovering our self-nature, and that's a real task. It's one that is easy to forget about, because you have to go at it afresh every new day, and not let it lapse at all. But if you work at joyous giving and compassion, wisdom, all the perfections will come forth full and complete.
There's another little gatha that really seemed appropriate; it's one that is often said at the end of evening recitation. It's an exhortation and reminder to the cultivators to stay mindful. It goes something like this: "This day has already passed. Life is accordingly decreased. It's like a fish in shallow water. What bliss is there in this? Great assembly you ought to be diligent and vigorous as if striving to save your own head. Just be mindful of impermanence and take care not to backslide.
I hope I've given you a clue. And I hope you'll go forth and uncover it because I'm not kidding you it's there, you can feel it as it comes forth.
Dharma Master Heng Yin-Correspondence Dept. S.A.B.A., B.T.T.S. Correction and Certification Com.
Either you are closing your eyes to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge, or you are not aware of the caliber of good fortune indicated by the presence of a Bodhimandala in your community.
Well, we've got good karma,
here in Gold Mountain,
a capital "G" and that
with "B" and that
Today, we commemorate the birth of the Buddha, the time when Sakyamuni Buddha in particular was born into this world. You may say, “Well that’s all fine and dandy, your telling us how happy we should be commemorating the birth of the Buddha, but I don’t see how it has a whole lot of relevance to me, here, now.”
Now, I know all you folks are the right kind of people. Would you
like to know what kind of cultivation we do here? We do hard work,
meditation, and Sutra study, and you should know that it’s these three
things that mark the difference between a common man and a sage,
With a capital “C” and that
Rhymes with “B” and that
The young prince left his home. He left his upper-class father, his beautiful wife, and his child. He hit the road and landed in Greenwich Village, searching. He looked in existentialism, but he didn't find what he was looking for. He looked in jazz, and it wasn't there either. And while he was looking in jazz, he found something else—and he smoked that—and it wasn't there. So he packed his pack and hitch-hiked West, headed for the dance at Winterland, and spent many years on the Berkeley campus memorizing paradigms, but it wasn't there.
Fortunately, the young prince at last discovered the right and orthodox Buddhadharma. He learned that what he was seeking was a way to give up his search, and to set aside the "self" that was searching, his mad desire to be special. The Buddhadharma taught him how to give and how to receive. He learned that true happiness comes when one can learn true principles from those who know and give this knowledge freely to those who can use it.
In this country, Gold Mountain Bodhimandala is teaching and practicing this right, orthodox Buddhadharma. I hope that all the young men and young women will hitch-hike out here, soon. Thank you.
Dharma Master Heng Ch’ih: Finance and Correspondence
Kuo P’u talked about the mad mind and I have been sitting through all these speeches wondering how I would get inside each of your heads when my turn came to speak. I thought and thought in my own mad mind and I decided to tell what probably is neither history nor story. I just got it straight and I’ll just tell it straight.
Once there was a prince who, having grown up in the confines of his father's palace grounds, decided at age nineteen to go see the world. He and an older companion packed up and headed East. But when he arrived at the eastern gate of the palace grounds, he saw a woman in a state he had never seen before. She was swollen and moaning. The prince turned to his friend, who had been outside the gates before, and asked, “What’s wrong with that woman?”
“She’s giving birth” came the reply and the young prince was astounded.
“I didn’t know birth was suffering!” he thought, and being troubled by this knowledge, he returned home instead of going out the gate.
After a day or so he set out south, avoiding that eastern gate. When he arrived at the southern gate he saw a man on the other side who had something wrong with himself. The skin of his face looked like a chicken's and he didn't have any teeth. Anybody the prince had ever seen had teeth! The man was stumbling along bumping into things. "What's wrong with that man?" asked the prince.
His friend said, "He's old now, so his teeth are gone and his eyes are blind and his legs don't work very well any more."
The prince was very concerned and again returned to his father's palace to think about this. "Birth and old age are both suffering! What is going on here!"
After a time the prince prepared to depart again, this time through the western gate. However beyond it he saw a person laying by the side of the road. His body was covered with sores and flushed with fever which burned his brain and caused him to mutter incoherently. "What's wrong with him?" the prince asked.
"He is sick," replied the older companion.
Again the prince did not go out the gate but returned to the palace thinking, "Birth, old age and sickness all cause people suffering."
Being young and strong he soon set out again, this time to the north. There at the entrance he noticed a human being lying in the dirt, stiff, unmoving and very white. He touched the skin of that being and it was cold. The prince turned to his friend and whispered, "What's this?"
"Death" his friend replied quietly.
The young prince was deeply troubled and returned home once again. One afternoon he went walking in a garden and sat down under a tree. "There must be a way to end birth, old age, sickness, and death" was his constant thought. Suddenly, he was confronted by a person in robes. "Who are you?" asked the prince.
The person in robes replied, "I am a Bhiksu."
"What is a Bhiksu?" responded the prince.
"A Bhiksu is one who has left home to cultivate the Way."
"One who leaves home cultivates the Way to end birth, old age, sickness, and death," came the reply. At that time the Bhiksu disappeared into empty space, having been a response from the heavens to the young prince's deep concern about the problem of birth, old age, sickness, and death. And at that time the young prince knew that there was a "Way"—-that once you were born you didn't have to get sick, get old, and die again and again.
Now some of you may have been at Wesak last year and you're going to say, "Boy! You're lazy! That's the exact same story you told last year!" You're right. But one thing which helps people remember is repetition, so I thought this was a good way to get inside your heads. So maybe I'll tell it again next year! Thank you.
Master Heng Ch’ien-Asst. Chairman S.A.B.A.,
You have heard many tines that today is the Buddha's birthday and also our own birthday. If it is really our birthday then why didn't we have a party? You might think, "But this is a party, the Buddha's Birthday Party."
But if we hadn't told you, would you have known? Now you say, "That's right! If I hadn't seen one of those posters I wouldn't have known." So although today is said to be a birthday for all of us, we are still not Buddhas, and it takes a Buddha to have a Buddha's Birthday. "Ahh, but doesn't the Buddhadharma teach that everyone is a Buddha?" Right! But we are future Buddhas, and so our birthdays are future birthdays. If you are really a Buddha, not only will people wish you a happy birthday, but all the gods, dragons, kinnaras, mahoragas, gandharvas, ghosts and spirits will wish you a happy birthday. Now you are probably thinking, "What a lot of nonsense!" It is all nonsense until you become a Buddha. Therefore you should cultivate. Let me tell you about what we do here. It is not the case that we only meet once a year and have a birthday party. Cultivating the Buddhadharma is something you do every day. Every night at 7 P.M. and on Sundays at 12:30 P.M. there are Sutra lectures which are open to the public. If you have never heard Sutra lectures then you don't know what you are missing. They are instructive as well as entertaining. They teach us how to become Buddhas.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Nancy Lethcoe, whose article appears on the following page, was born on Mercer Island in Seattle, Washington. After receiving her B.A. from the University of Washington she entered the Buddhist Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin where she worked with Professors Robinson, Conze, and Wayman. She presently lives in Girdwood Alaska, and is a Professor of Religion at the college there. Once an Olympic World Champion swimmer. Dr. Lethcoe’s major research has been on the Prajna Paramita; she has stayed close to the water, however, and this summer plans to sail the Prince William Sound to study the area for possible inclusion in the National Wilderness System.
Dr. Lethcoe is married to Dr. James Lethcoe who received his doctorate in Comparative Literature from the University of Wisconsin. He is presently a Professor of Comparative Literature in Anchorage. The Lethcoe’s have one daughter.
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