News from the Dharma Realm
On Saturday, February 11th, 1973, the Venerable Master Hua, Abbot of Gold Mountain Monastery, and members of the Sangha were invited to receive offerings at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Robert C. Eberle on Long Island, New York. They have become increasingly interested in Buddhism as a direct result of what their daughter, Kuo Chao (Ruth) Eberle, a devoted disciple of the Venerable Master, has told them about the far-reaching but practical philosophy of Buddhism and the wonders of the Buddhadharma. Mr. Eberle is a graduate of Princeton and a director—producer for television, and his wife is a musician and teacher of music.
With great sincerity and enjoyment the Eberle's and their family took advantage of an opportunity to pay their respects to the Master and invite the Sangha to receive offerings at their home. This was probably the first time that the ancient tradition of making offerings to the Sangha has been enacted by an American family in the Northeastern United States. Although everyone was aware of the singular nature of the evenly one of the first of what will probably become the traditional American vegetarian meal and the comfort of the New England style home in the bitterest time of winter made the occasion a particularly happy one.
Following the meal the Eberle's invited many friends to their home to hear the Dharma talks given in response to the occasion of receiving offerings.
The first to speak Dharma at the Eberle's was Bhiksuni Heng Hsien, a vigorous Buddhist scholar and cultivator who is a candidate for a Ph.D. in Sanskrit at the University of California, Berkeley.
We are very pleased to have the opportunity to meet with you today, though I do not feel that we are strangers, but that we have strong conditions together. I had the same feeling when I first met Kuo Chao (Ruth Eberle) when she came to participate in the historic 98-day Ch'an meditation session held from the end of 1970 to the beginning of 1971 at the Buddhist Lecture Hall on Waverly Place in San Francisco. That is where we studied before the establishment of Gold Mountain Monastery, A Ch'an session is a rigorous affair, and this one was no exception, lasting from 3 am to midnight, with a formal break only for the single meal at noon. In these weeks, the practice is to sit in meditation for one hour, then alternate with walking meditation for 15 minutes to one half hour. In the case of the participants, even the three hours rest in the middle of the night was spent sitting up, and they never lay down during the whole 14 weeks. Practicing this for fourteen weeks was no small undertaking. So far as I know, there has never been another session of this length in America or Europe, nor are such sessions frequent in the Orient either.
Kuo Chao joined in this work, and where many others started but were unable to finish, she lasted to the very end. I, myself, was unable to participate fully except during the university's winter break, at which time I sat on the bench next to her. I'm afraid she put me to shame because she could really meditate well while I mostly squirmed. I mentioned to one of her friends that Kuo Chao must certainly have a strong back, to which her friend replied, "It's not a question of a strong back, it is Kuo Chao's will that's strong!" At the end of the Ch'an session each participant described his experiences and attainments. At that time Kuo Chao said that there comes a time when you have to put aside your tricycle and finally learn to ride a two-wheeler. This is good advice for us all. At that time construction of Gold Mountain Monastery had begun and from investigating movement in the midst of stillness of meditation, Kuo Chao came to help work on the building, investigating stillness within movement.
The next person to speak was another woman who completed that same historic Ch'an session, Dharma Master Heng Ch'ih. She worked extremely hard in the session: in fact, she was the last to sleep at night and the first to rise in the morning, and often stood rather than yielding to the temptation to sleep. She also works tirelessly at Gold Mountain Monastery. Now she will say some words for you.
The Buddha's teaching accords with the living beings he teaches. For each kind of living being he speaks a teaching which meets their needs, an expedient means which helps them realize the Way. There is a story, which illustrates this use of expedient means. Once there was a woman who had two sons, one named Roadside, and the other Little Roadside. It was the custom in India for a woman to return to her parent's home to give birth to her children; however, this particular woman set out for her parent's home too late into her pregnancy, and her first child was born by the side of the road on her way home. Several years later she made the same mistake again and gave birth to her second son by the side of the road. Thus the brothers got their names.
Although their names were similar the brothers were very different. The elder one, Roadside, met the Buddha and wished to leave home so that he might follow him. He was very intelligent and quickly memorized vast amounts of the Buddha's teaching. In those days the teachings were transmitted orally, and those with good memories became the most learned.
After a time, Little Roadside came to see the Buddha and his brother and decided that he too wished to leave home. One of the prerequisites for becoming a Bhiksu was the memorization of a short verse, which goes like this:
Guard your mouth; collect your thoughts,
And do not commit offenses with your body.
Don't bother other living beings.
Stay far away from unbeneficial ascetic practices.
If you cultivate like this you can save the world.
Little Roadside had a problem. He could not remember the verse. Try as he might, he couldn't even master the first three words. All the bhiksus tried different ways to help him learn the verse, but nothing worked. Finally Little Roadside decided to return to his parent's home and remain a layman, because he obviously didn't have the ability to become a bhiksu, and what is more, he felt sure that he was embarrassing his clever brother with his stupidity.
When he went to take leave of the Buddha, the Buddha asked him what was wrong.
"I can't become a bhiksu. World Honored One, much as I would like to follow the Master and study the teachings, I can't even memorize the first little verse that one is supposed to learn. I'm a disgrace to my brother and my family!" he cried.
"Wait a minute," said the Buddha, "I have a way." Thereupon he taught him a special phrase which consisted of two words, "Broom sweep." The Buddha worked patiently with Little Roadside until he finally mastered the phrase. This took a long time because if he remembered the first word, he forgot the second, and if he remembered the second, he forgot the first. Finally he managed them both and could remember "Broom sweep," "broom sweep," and got so good he could recite it both backwards and forwards. "Broom sweep, sweep broom!"
The Buddha assigned him the task of sweeping the main hall and told him to recite the special mantra constantly while he worked. So day in and day out Little Roadside devoted single-minded concentration to the words "Broom sweep." As he cleaned the hall he also cleaned his mind of all-extraneous thoughts and false ideas, until his mind was quieted and his heart purified, and he suddenly woke up. And as a matter of fact, his enlightenment occurred even earlier than his clever brother's who was still caught in his attachment to the Dharma. I hope the story has helped illustrate the extent to which the Dharmas spoken by the Buddha accord with the needs of each living being.
Taking only one meal a day and refraining from eating after noon are practices undertaken by all the residents of Gold Mountain Monastery and by many members of the Sino-American Buddhist Association. Eating only once a day is one of the twelve beneficial ascetic practices recommended by the Buddha for those who wish to cultivate the unsurpassed Way. For several years the practices have been followed as a complement to the traditional regulations followed in refectories in Ch'an monasteries.
The daily meal begins with the Great Meal Offering A representative part of the meal is offered to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Patriarchs of the ten directions and the dietary needs of the ghosts and spirits are satisfied. The assembly then chants the Buddha's name while filing from the Buddha-hall into the refectory.
Once everyone is in the refectory and the Dharma host has been seated, the assembly chants the short meal offering. The Master of the Hall then chants a reminder to everyone to reflect on the five contemplations, to avoid idle talk and scattered thinking, and to be mindful throughout the meal. The five contemplations include considering the effort involved in preparing the food; whether one is worthy to receive it; the value of avoiding greed, hatred, and stupidity; the food as an offering of medicine to keep the body from disease; and the food as a offering received so that one can cultivate and accomplish the Way. The entire meal is taken in silence.
Following the meal the assembly chants a closing mantra and chanting the Buddha’s name, returns to the Buddha-hall to circumambulate the Buddha and bow.
The schedule is followed every day. On the first and fifteenth of each
month more elaborate offerings are made to the Guardian Bodhisattvas and
CLIMB GOLD MOUNTAIN--SEE PAGE 11
The Gold Mountain community is shown here during a typical daily meal.
Open lectures on campus
-Edited by Dharma Master Heng Chu
(Continued from issue #34)
On December 6th, 1972, members of the Gold Mountain Sangha were invited to speak at California State University, S.F. One of the speakers at the open lectures was Bhiksu Heng Yo, who took the complete bhiksu precepts when they were transmitted for the first time on Western soil last summer. He is a diligent cultivator who maintains the practices of never lying down and eating only once a day, and is becoming an effective translator of Buddhist texts. He translated the biography of the Venerable Hsu Yun found elsewhere in this issue. The transcript of his lecture at State University appears below.
Every person in the world has a Buddha seed. The very same enlightenment that the Buddha experienced beneath the Bodhi tree, like a dry seedling, lies dormant in the heart of every man. Isn't it a pity that so few know what to do with it? Now I am going to explain some of the principles of cultivation, which will cause that seed to sprout and flourish.
The purpose of cultivating is to become enlightened. In the same manner that an acorn grows to become a great oak tree, the mind of every man can awaken to the inconceivably profound vision and knowledge of all Buddhas. Now, when you are not yet enlightened you have a very limited distorted view of reality. You don't know where you came from or where you are going. Deluded and confused, you pass through an endless chain of births and deaths, undergoing all manner of torment and suffering. And so cultivation is the process by which this cycle of birth and death is smashed, suffering is ended, and the pure, bright, latent wisdom of your mind is realized.
To begin cultivating a field you must clear out the boulders and stumps and make level the ground. Likewise in cultivating the Buddha-path, you must remove the obstructions of greed, hatred, and stupidity. Actions based on these three obstructions dull and confuse the mind and create karma, which must later be undergone. Therefore, to pull greed, hatred, and stupidity out by the roots, the Buddha established the moral precepts. These precepts are not "commandments." No one is forcing them on another. When you take a precept you are vowing to yourself to follow a wise course of action. Within the Buddha's teachings there are many precepts, and you may take as many as you like. For example the five basic precepts are: I vow not to (1) kill, (2) steal, (3) lie, (4) engage in sexual misconduct, (5) take any kind of intoxicants.
Once the obstructions have been cleared from the field you are ready for plowing. This is going ahead and trying your hand at the various methods of practice. Within Buddhism there are thousands of methods (dharmas) you can utilize on your path to enlightenment. Studying, Sutras, sitting in meditation, or holding mantras are a few of the many doors to liberation taught by the Buddha. Every living being is different and has his own particular inclinations, and so within Buddhism there can be found a method or combination of methods that will bring a response to everyone.
Planting the field is the next important step. It is a fixed law that when you plant a certain cause you reap a certain effect. When you plant a watermelon you get a watermelon, plant wheat you get wheat. Likewise when you plant a Buddha seed you get a Buddha. You plant a Buddha seed when you resolve in your heart that you are going to seek the utmost right and perfect enlightenment of all Buddhas without ever turning back. You can't be mediocre milksoppy about it. You have to forge a diamond-indestructible resolve for enlightenment.
The path to Buddhahood is long and sometimes difficult to travel. On your journey you will surely encounter obstructions and diverging paths. Therefore you should fortify yourself with the thought of enlightenment, making it the sole goal of your life. You should look upon the world as a passing dream that is unreal and cannot be gotten. You should break your attachments to the phenomenal and seek the quiet serenity of the self-nature. When your clinging, grasping mind has come to rest, you'll be able to cultivate in peace and happiness. In this way you will smash through all obstacles and your Buddha seed will flourish.
Finally, when all the conditions become ripe, there will come the harvest. The unspeakable, inconceivable mind of the Buddha will manifest within you. Like a bird released from its cage, in the worlds of the ten directions you'll be free to come and go. You'll know why pine trees are straight, why brambles are crooked. You will realize the utmost liberation. Your work will not be in vain.
(To be continued)
The Earth Store Bodhisattva Sutra says that one who cultivates for those who have gone off to rebirth can transfer one seventh of the accumulated merit to them. People who understand this principle dedicate their cultivation to deceased relatives and friends in order to provide them with safe passage through the fierce winds of karma that are encountered en the journey from death to the next rebirth.
Establishing a memorial plaque insures a better rebirth for the deceased. When the plaque is installed the united concentration power of the Sangha enlists the aid of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten directions and transfers the merit to the deceased. In this way the deceased is afforded the benefit of rebirth on a higher plane of existence, and can be freed from the sufferings of the three evil paths.
The fervent wish of the assembly at the time the plaque is installed can, if the deceased's good roots are deep and his meritorious acts sufficient send he deceased off to rebirth in the Pure Land. There he will undergo no further suffering, and is bound for ultimate Buddhahood.
|As regular features each issue of Vajra Bodhi Sea contains installments of THE LOTUS SUTRA, THE EARTH STORE SUTRA, and THE AMITABHA SUTRA, all with detailed commentaries; a pictorial biography of the Venerable Patriarch Hsu Yun; portraits of high masters of the past and present; Sanskrit lessons, articles; news and stories. No other English language publication presents the full expanse of the Buddhadharma, its history, theory,, practice, and the full breadth of the teachings. If you wish to cross the Bodhi Sea, this magazine is your Vajra boat.|