News from the Dharma Realm

                      of the Buddha's Birth

-- continued from issue #40


            On May 6th, 1973, Bhiksu Heng Kuan opened the Buddha's Birthday celebrations:

      "On behalf of the Venerable Abbot, the High Master Hua, and the members of the Sino-American Buddhist Association, Gold Mountain Monastery, and the Vajra Bodhi Sea Publication Society, I'd like to welcome all of you, Buddhists, honored guests, and friends to the cerebration of the 3000th anniversary of the birth of Sakyamuni Buddha. While you continue to come forward two by two and bathe the Buddha, eminent Buddhist adepts, devotees and scholars will entertain us with talks on the Dharma.

      "Bathing the Buddha is a symbolic enactment of the purification of the nature by which one accomplishes Buddhahood.  As we bathe the Buddha today, we purify our nature; just as today is the anniversary of the birth of the Buddha, it is also the anniversary of the birth of our own Buddhahood.

                  I would now like to introduce the Master of Ceremonies, Bhiksu Heng Shoou, who will introduce our guest speakers." Bhiksu Heng Shoou:

            Dharma Master Heng Ju . the first speaker, served on a submarine for a long time, and knows  a lot  about people, and, having  thought about it for many years, a lot about the Dharma. A jack of all trades, capable in many areas, he cultivates ascetic practices and  concentrates his study on the Lotus Sutra. He will now pass  on a little bit of his wisdom."

      "Thank you. Now that I've passed on to you all of my wisdom, I'll start my speech. There are 45 speakers following me, so I'll make it short.

(Buddha's Birthday)

      "The only reason the Buddha came into the world was to enable all of us to become Buddhas. This was his final teaching.   In .the Lotus Sutra he said, 'I didn't come around to make good people out of you, I didn't come around to make you saints or Arhats, I came around so that you could be just like me. If you want to honor me, then the highest honor you can pay me is to become just like me.'  Gold Mountain Monastery is founded on' this premise. This Institution is here for one reason only, so that people can become just like the Buddha.

      "Now I know that many of you are here today for the first time--you may have received our flyer or seen our announcement and you may think that all we do is have ceremonies, sing Chinese songs, and have delicious feasts. Nothing could be farther from the truth. At Gold Mountain Monastery we run the full schedule of Buddhism. During the winter months we have meditation sessions which begin at 3 AM every morning and end at midnight each night. During these sessions we drop all of our activities, all the ceremonies, the ritual activities of Buddhism, and do nothing but meditate. During the spring and autumn months there is a lot of free time when people have a chance to study the Sutras, to translate, and to do their own individual work. In the summer time, which is rapidly approaching, we have summer sessions; intense sessions of study and cultivation where people from outside can come in and live in the monastic setting and study Buddhism from before sunrise until after sunset and can get a taste of what Buddhism is really like.

      "This summer we will have a session which will top all sessions we have ever had before. There are people who can lecture Sutras, people who can teach meditation, people who can teach T'ai Chi Ch'uan, and finally, some people who can cook, all prepared to make it the best summer session ever. So if you are interested in becoming a Buddha, you should certainly consider coming around and signing up for a month, or maybe even the whole summer, and really add some depth to your Buddhist studies, really put some wisdom into your learning, and find out what you are really about.

      "I hope you will think about this. A lot of people will spend the summer running around the state parks and up and down the mountains, and when the summer is over they won't have anything to show for it. But if you come to the summer session, and are willing to undergo a small amount of bitterness, when the winter winds begin to blow you won't reassert having done it a bit.
Thank you."                                   -to be continued


        receives offerings in the East

Answers to questions on Dharma by the Venerable Master Hua, Abbot of Gold  Mountain  Monastery, given in response to offerings  at  the home of Mr. and Mrs. Eberle, parents of Kuo Chao Eberle, in February, 1973, on Long Island.

-continued from Issue 39

-taken from the notes of Bhiksuni Heng Hsien

      The Master asked  if there were any questions. Mrs. Eberle said that the group probably did not know enough to ask any, but that she herself wondered about the miraculous penetrations, whether considered as a gift or as acquired by meditation practice, that she knew some in the group must have.  At this point the Master began to speak.

      "The Buddha has three bodies, four wisdoms, five eyes, six spiritual penetrations and much more.  If one wishes to understand the six spiritual penetrations one also needs to be familiar with the five eyes.  These powers manifest when one cultivates. They are not obtained from outside, but are inherent in all beings.  If one practices and works very hard, there will be a response and they manifest.  In cultivation one should not set out to obtain them for they are not goals in themselves. This is why those who have such powers rarely use them. The six spiritual penetrations are: First, penetration of the heavenly ear.  With this, one can hear the sounds not just of people and of the world, but of the divine beings in the heavens.  This is not just the sounds of the many heavens in this one world system, but in countless world systems.  Although ordinary people cannot hear them, with the penetration of the heavenly ear they can be heard.

      "Second is the Penetration of the heavenly eye. This is the ability to see all kinds of things in this and other world systems' heavens.  Notice "heavens" is in the plural.  The majority of people who do not under­stand the Buddhadharma think there is just one heaven which is ruled by one lord.  This is not the case.  There are infinite numbers of heavens, not just one.  Ordinary people see one world and one heaven, but genuine sages can see an infinite number of worlds, and in them an infinite number of heavens and gods.

      "The third is the penetration of the minds of others Most people do not know what is in the minds of others, but with this power, a sage knows.

When someone has a thought it shows up on his own "radar screen," sometimes even before it has been thought .  The other person does not need to speak for his thoughts to be known.  This is especially true if there are faults connected with greed, hatred, or stu­pidity, all of which show up on the radar screen.

"The three penetrations just described manifest in varying degrees.  One may see through one world, through out one hundred worlds, throughout 1000 worlds, and so forth.  Some can hear within one world, while some can hear throughout infinite worlds.  Some can know one person's thoughts, while dealing with him on a one-to-one basis.  For example one may know that someone is thinking of going to a restaurant, or of listening to music, or of having a camera and taking pictures.  If the power is not sufficiently developed, then one cannot handle many people at once without becoming like a juggler with too many balls to handle.  Someone with more highly developed powers can know the thoughts of all the people in a room.

      "The fourth is the penetration of past lives. With this penetration one can know what people did in their past lives.  For example, he may see that someone in a previous life was a doctor who gave half of his services free to the poor, and so saved many lives and benefited many people.  Consequently in this life  he is never sick, and from always having given he is always rich. He is happy and peaceful from having helped others. With this penetration of past lives it can be seen that in the past a poor person was rich bat stingy, squeezing coins until they bled.  He feared that if he gave he would have nothing for himself, and so he didn't give--and now he's poor.  Or one might see that someone who now has many blessings in past lives was always poor, but helped people nonetheless, giving of his strength so now he's rich.  Just how does one see past lives? They show up like movies.  When looking at someone, the "past-life machine" turns on and movies of his past lives are projected along with running commentary.

      "The fifth is the penetration of the extinction of outflows. Outflows are long-term bad habits, and their extinction means their end. The sixth is the penetration of spiritual accomplishments.  This is the ability to work wonders: to appear-then vanish, to change from one form to another, to appear where before there was nothing and the like.  A situation which cabled for a disaster can be modified to one free from disaster.

Although all the activities of common folk look real, they are. actually like events in a dream: sheer illusions.  For example, one may be asleep, and in a .dream someone tells him he is dreaming.  He might well become upset and insist that it's all real.  In his dream he amasses great wealth, an honorable position, a wife and sons.  When he wakes up he does not need anyone to tell him it was just a dream; he knows this for himself.  This very world in which we live is like this, like what is seen within a dream.  But when people are told, they don't believe it.  Once they awaken, however, they know it for themselves, and can distinguish between their dreaming and reality.

      "The world may be divided into 10 Dharma realms, four sagely and six common realms.  The four sagely are those of the Buddha, the Bodhisattvas, those Enlightened to Conditions, and the Sound-Hearers.  The six common coincide with the six paths of rebirth, that is, among gods, people, assures, animals, hungry ghosts, and hell-beings.  We are now in one of the six, and we constantly turn, life after life, on the wheel of rebirth.  What we will be is never fixed.  If we stay people we change our names.  If we do good deeds then we may end up in the heavens.  If we act like animals then we fall into their realm.  It all depends upon the kind of thinking one does.  If one thinks of becoming a Buddha, and turns his thoughts to Buddhahood, then he certainly will become a Buddha.  If one has Bodhisattva-thoughts, and is intent upon benefiting all living beings, then he will become a Bodhisattva.  If he is intent upon understanding the Twelve Links of Conditioned Co-production, then he becomes one Enlightened to Conditions.  Intent upon comprehending the Four Noble Truths, he becomes a Sound-Hearer.  One's wishes are fulfilled in accordance with what one does, and the kind of thinking he does.

      If one holds the five precepts and practices the ten goods, then he will be reborn in the heavens.  If he must constantly be conspicuous and is stubborn and bel­ligerent, he will be reborn as an asura who always likes to fight.  If he holds the five precepts of no killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no false speech, and no intoxicants, he will be reborn as a person.  From grasping one falls into the hells;  from hatred one becomes a .hungry ghost; from stupidity one ends up an animal.  It all depends upon the way in which one's thoughts manifest.  All ten Dharma realms are simply manifestations of people's thoughts." 


The Master then inquired if those present were pressed for time.  They were not, and so he asked if there were any further questions.  Mr. Eberle asked if when someone was reborn would he necessarily be reborn on this earth, or if he might be reborn in another world-system.  The Master replied  that it was not all fixed, but depended upon the causal conditions. "One goes where one has affinities, depending upon where the wind of one's karma blows."

One young man then asked if it was necessary to do good deeds and so acquire greater prosperity in order better to continue in the quest for Buddhahood, or if one should try to transcend the creation of karma.  The Master replied that before one becomes a Buddha he must act in terms of the world of karma, and must constantly do good.  "It is only after one becomes a Buddha that one transcends the involvement in karma.  Therefore one should always do what is wholesome."

Mr. Eberle then asked how one knows he has become a Buddha and who decides.

"When you become a Buddha you certainly know it," replied the Master, "and furthermore, all the Buddhas of the ten directions come to certify you.  It is con-parable to graduation from a university, for which a number of professors must pass you."

One young man asked if the awareness of Buddhahood was like samadhi, and what the relationship was between Nirvana and realization of Buddhahood.

      Samadhi is a skill involved in cultivation. Nirvana is entered after one has realized Buddhahood.  At that time all effort becomes tranquil, all virtue is complete.  When one becomes a Buddha the three enlightenment are perfected and the myriad practices complete. In realizing Buddhahood first one must enlighten him­self. Self-enlightenment, which distinguishes one from ordinary unenlightened people, is a state of those of the two vehicles.  A Bodhisattva is distinguished-from the two vehicles, the Sound-Hearers  and those Enlightened to Conditions, in that Bodhisattvas practice six perfections and 10,000 conducts.  The six perfections are l) giving, that is, giving wealth, giving Dharma, and giving fearlessness; 2) morality, which means holding the precepts the Buddha transmitted;  3) patience, which means one can endure all circumstances without getting angry; 4) vigor, so one is never tired and never retreats; 5) dhyana-samadhi; and 6) prajna wisdom. A Bodhisattva enlightens himself and enlightens others, but his enlightenment is not yet complete.  A Buddha is enlightened himself, can enlighten others, and has totally complete enlightenment, which is what distinguishes him from a Bodhisattva.

      "When one becomes a Buddha he is aware of it himself, and the Buddhas of the ten directions come to certify his realization of Buddhahood.  Samadhi is a circumstance prior to enlightenment.  Nirvana is a circumstance which occurs after the realization of Buddhahood. After one becomes a Buddha he can enter Nirvana.  So the three are not the same."

"How many Buddhas are there?" someone asked.

"There are as many Buddhas as there are living beings," replied the Master.  "In some other religions there is only one god who is eternal and perfect unto himself so that no other living being can be that god. Only god can be god and living beings have to be living beings.  That is called a dictatorial divinity.  According to the Buddhadharma, on the other hand, all living beings can become Buddhas.  They only need to cultivate, work hard, and follow the teachings in their practice and they can all realize Buddhahood.  Everyone has a share.  In other religions there is only one god and other people have no share.  No matter who the living being  may be, he cannot become god.  God is 'only one. Which leads one to wonder why since he's eternal, 'perfect unto himself,' does he require people's belief? Shouldn't it be sufficient that he's the one and only god?  Buddha, however, is not the only Buddha.  Everyone is Buddha.  That is, if you cultivate you become a Buddha, and if you do not cultivate you don't.

      "So the Buddha said, *A11 living beings have the Buddha-nature, all can become Buddhas.'  It is only necessary to break through false thinking and attachments, to break through ignorance and cut off afflictions without a trace, and then you can all become Buddhas.  The Buddha is neither solitary nor dictatorial.  That is why the number of Buddhas is the same as the number of living beings.  If there were no living would not necessarily mean there would be no Buddhas, because the Buddhas could transform lots more living beings in the world.  Living beings are transformed by Buddhas and Buddhahood is realized by living beings.  Is that not democratic and egalitarian, magnanimous, and unselfish? It is only to be feared that you won't cultivate.  If you want to cultivate you can become a Buddha.  Therefore in Buddhism no one says, "You can't become me, I am a solitary Buddha. I am a dictatorial Buddha.' There is no such principle.

      "The Buddhadharma takes the entire Dharma realm as its substance, consequently it includes all other teachings.  It is not that the Buddhadharma is superior to all other religions such as Protestantism, Catholicism, Mohammedanism, Confucius, Taoism and the like, it is just bigger.  Other religions are not inferior they are just smaller.  The Buddhadharma is the total substance, like, for example, this table.  Other religions are like a square foot or just a corner of the table, whereas Buddhism is represented in the entire substance of the table.  That is why Buddhists do not criticize other religions, for all of them teach people to do good But some principles are ultimate and some are not.

      "The difference is that Buddhism speaks principles which are ultimate, penetrating, and complete.  Other religions express the principles unclearly and get them confused, so that they seem to be right and yet aren't. Sometimes their explanations are incomprehensible.  Some say 'you must just believe, you must not question; you must just believe you must not doubt; you must just believe, you must not disbelieve.'  Some say, 'If you believe in me you can go to heaven even if you don't cultivate.  I, the dictatorial 3od, will escort you to heaven to enjoy bliss; but when you get there you can't be me, for I am the only God.  You can just be my people. I am going to be the only God forever and ever and you have no way to become God.  If you believe in me, the only God, then you can commit offenses and still go to heaven, but if you don't believe in me, then even if you do good, you will go to hell.'  There are no principles such as these in the entire world, and I believe heaven is certainly not that way either."  Everyone present enjoyed that point.

      Then a young man made an inquiry concerning esoteric Christianity which revolved around the question, "Jesus said that only through him could one enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  What did he mean by that?  Was it an egotistical statement?"

      "Not just that statement was egotistical, but inher­ent in the entire doctrine of the religion is a condescending attitude toward other religions which are viewed as the work of the devil and so forth.  What he said, anybody could say.  I could say, 'Jesus, unless you go my way, you can never get to heaven.'  Also you must remember that the people he was speaking to were uninformed and ready to be fooled.  It all took place in the past and is not so likely to be accepted today when people are so much smarter about these things."

      "Is that really the way it was?" someone asked.

      "It might have been that way and it might not have. We are just investigating a question, and it is not our intention to slander Jesus."

      "Was Jesus himself any form of enlightened being?"

      "One could say he was a Bodhisattva.  Bodhisattvas dare to say anything and will do anything even kill and there is no offense, because they can bring beings back to life again.  They are like magicians who make things appear and disappear, disappear and reappear. People who lack deep understanding are like children who see everything the magician does as magical, for they do not understand the tricks he employs.

      "Great Master Chih Kung exemplifies this principle. To begin with he was a strange individual.  As an infant he was found in a bird's nest. Someone passing the nest heard the cries of a human baby and found the new-born infant nestled there.  He took the child out and discovered it had the talons of a bird on its hands and feet.  When the baby grew up he became the Buddhist monk Chih Kung.

      "Buddhists are vegetarians but Chih Kung ate fish and pigeons.  Every day he had two pigeons for lunch. One day his cook could bear it no longer and decided to taste the birds, thinking that they must indeed be delicacies.  He lopped off a wing and ate it.  Since  he served the birds minced, he figured the Dharma Master would never miss the wing; but when Chih Kung had finished his meal that day he called the cook out and asked who had been stealing his pigeon meat.

      "The cook denied everything, whereupon Dharma Master Chih Kung opened his mouth and a whole pigeon flew out followed by another which hopped out and flopped to the ground--because it was missing a wing.  "If you didn't eat it,' Chih Kung challenged the cook, "where did it go?'"

      The young man then asked if it was really fair of Jesus to perform tricks, or if he was just out to cheat people.

      "Not only did he cheat people at that time, he cheated them before he was born and has cheated them since his death.  What I mean is, the principles he taught were unclear.

      "The religions at that time were polytheistic. People believed in all kinds of spirits.  They believed everything had a spirit connected with it, so upon seeing rocks or stones they would light incense and bow. They bowed to shoes, they bowed to turds, and their obeisance’s kept them so busy they didn't even have time to go to work.  Jesus analyzed the situation and decided to devise a method to rescue them.  He thought about it for several days, probably sat down in meditation and thought up a plan to get the people to change their superstitious ways.  His solution (drawing on the Judaic tradition) was to say that there was only one God.  He proposed that one should not believe in other gods or spirits, but just bow to one.  With only one God to wor­ship the people would have time to get their work done as well.  That is how the idea of a solitary God got started."

      Mrs. Eberle asked if such manipulation was proper on the part of a Bodhisattva.

      "Things had gone to an extreme and Jesus was trying to rescue people.  But in attempting to correct the situation. he just set up the other extreme  and failed to establish the Middle Way.  He saw things had gone too far one way and he ended up over-compensating.  Not only did he do that, this is a failing of all religions. If you recognize that failing then you understand religion in general."

      Mr. Eberle remarked that they all require belief, and he asked if Buddhism required belief in anything except the idea of transforming oneself into a Buddha.

      "Buddhism speaks of cause and effect," replied the Master.  "If you plant a certain cause you will reap a certain effect.  "If you plant the cause to become a Jesus you will bear that fruit.  If you plant a Catholic cause, you will reap a Catholic fruit.  Buddhist causes yield Buddhist fruit, and so forth. Things are the result of causes and conditions coming together.  Therefore the Buddha does not expound a principle which just tends in one direction, but expresses an infinite  number of principles which do not block each other, and which don't block the principle of other religions either.  Rather, the principles of the Buddhadharma completely include and explicate the principles of other religions, which are all contained within it.  Why?  The Buddha said, 'ah living beings have the Buddha nature, all can become Buddhas.'  We are all living beings and so we all have the opportunity to become Buddhas, just as in this coun­try where anyone can become the president."

      At this point the Master told the group not to be­lieve a word of the principles he had been speaking on that day.  He then asked if people were tired.  No one was, but they were cold.  The Master said that the reason they were cold was that his explanation had not been warm.  One man said it was heart-warming, but not foot-warming, and the Master counseled him to dispense with his feet and just retain his heart.  When the Master arose, everyone stood up, and obviously pleased by this rare opportunity, thanked the Master.

This article concludes the series.

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