News from the Dharma Realm
In the early spring of this year the
members of the Sino-American Buddhist Association were happy to receive a visit
from Mr. Carl Foorman, father of Sramanera Heng Lu who recently left the home
life with the American Sangha at Gold Mountain Monastery. Mr. Foorman, a native
of the bay area, shaped a vegetarian meal with the four-fold assembly, and took
the opportunity to meet the members of the Sangha. He is shown here (second from
right) being welcomed to Gold Mountain. Sramanera Heng Lu stands far right.
September 10, 1974 Nagarjuna Bodhisattva’s Birthday
September 15, 1974 Earth Store Bodhisattva’s Birthday
Elder Master Hsu Yun’s Birthday
September 18, 1974 Sixth Patriarch’s Birthday
October 7, 1974 Dipankara Buddha’s Birthday
November 2, 1974 Avalokitesvara’s Day of Leaving Home
November 13, 1974 Medicine Master Buddha’s Birthday
November 18, 1974 Patriarch Bodhidharma’s Birthday
January 1, 1974 Amitabha Buddha’s Birthday
January 19, 1974 Sakyamuni Buddha’s Enlightenment
February 11, 1974 Maitreya Bodhisattva’s Birthday
New Year’s Day –Lunar Calendar
THE BUDDHA’S BIRTHDAY –- 1974 –- GOLD MOUNTAIN
HENG HSIEN, Candidate For Ph.D., UC, Berkeley
"All Buddhas have compassion upon me. Original Teacher have compassion upon me, all good knowing advisors have compassion upon me.
"Originally in honor of the Buddha's birthday I intended to speak about something very abstruse, but as we were walking abound the Buddha hall this morning, something happened to me which I will tell about instead.
"As you know, since very early this morning we have been alternately circumambulating the Buddha reciting "Homage to our Original Teacher, Sakyamuni Buddha" and sitting in meditation mindful of his name. As I was reciting during one of the walking periods, my ear started to feel rather strange. In fact, it felt like something was crawling in it. I immediately tapped it gently because it felt like a bug. It was; it was an ant, crawling around in my ear. Now this ant was in trouble, because as long as he was wandering around in my head, he was likely to fail into some rather filthy and dangerous hole. For example, he had almost fallen into my ear, which for an ant would be a great cavern of wax, which would do him in. Now the ant found himself on my hand instead of about to fall into my ear, but he was still in a predicament because if he attempted to move—and if you know anything about ants you know that they basically can't hold still, that they have got to run around—he was likely to get squashed as I went through my normal movements.
Now it happened at that time I caught sight of a leaf that had fallen off of a bunch of flowers offered to the Buddha. Here was the solution—to get the ant on to the leaf. Then I could put him down on something and he could find his way out to the garden in back of the Buddha hall where he wouldn't get crushed. But when the ant saw the leaf it looked strange to him, and he wasn't about to climb on anything so weird. Also it was kind of small, and it didn't look like it would be nearly so interesting—I could almost see his thought processes going on—as crawling around all over my hand and arm and wherever he was about to wander. But finally, meeting the leaf everywhere he turned, he got on it, but was not very comfortable on that small leaf. He wanted off, but between the two of us we managed to keep him on it until he could be let off onto a table where he could wander around the vast universe of the Buddha hall, or perhaps make his way into the dining hall and join us for lunch. In other words, he had a very vast realm and was no longer in danger of being crushed on my limited person.
Why do I bring up the story of the ant? Partly because some people here since 4 AM have been subjecting themselves to a process which might not seem very free and independent to them. Yet the reason they were attracted to Buddhism was because they heard that Buddhism can bring total freedom, show the way to be complete, independent, and at ease. How can this apparent contradiction be resolved?
It is just like the ant. We are like the ant, crawling around on a limited range of understanding and in a very limited plane, although it seems large to us, just as crawling around on my robe or hand seemed like a pretty vast sphere for the ant. But in fact, we are in great danger because in a few years, or perhaps sooner, we are all going to die. As long as we stay in this very limited range we are not very free; our freedom is only a very relative kind of freedom. We want total freedom, which for the ant was the Buddha hall and the opportunity to go beyond it, which it finally attained. And the way the ante got there was by means of the leaf, which represents the practices of the Buddhadharma, the practices we have been performing today, reciting the Buddha's name, bowing to the Buddha, and circumambulating the hall. These activities concentrate our minds, which want to wander about, just as the ant couldn't hold still. But by limiting the illusory freedom of our minds to wander, we can attain to extremely vast unlimited freedom in the future. So this is what we are about today. The ant made it, and I hope that we will too.
KUO CHEN CLOWERY, Graduate Student, UC, Berkeley.
Dharma Masters, eminent Dharma-protectors, distinguished teachers and guests: I have little of value to say compared to the eloquence and wisdom of the awesome Buddhists gathered here. I am only a lazy disciple with shallow knowledge of the Buddhadharma. Nevertheless, I am delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to the words and deeds offered up today on the Buddha's birthday-celebration.
My name is Kuo Chen. I am a graduate student of Chinese Buddhism at UC, Berkeley. My professor there is Lewis Lancaster.
When I look around at the goings-on in the world today I am convinced that our society is pretty sick. What are our symptoms? We embrace what is bad for us and we actively avoid what is good. We kill, steal, lie, harm our bodies with intoxicants, and go wrong with sexual desire. We wallow in the three poisons: greed, hatred, and illusion. There are the symptoms.
You all are good doctors, what is the disease? Ignorance. Can we cure it by putting on a Band-Aid? Can we cure it by taking a pill and waiting for it to go away? These methods will not go to the source of the sickness. Good doctors know that every sickness has in it the seeds of its own cure. We have to know the causes and conditions of the disease.
When I used to go hiking in the beautiful mountainous state of Vermont I remember we often got poison ivy on our legs and it was very painful. This particular forest was very beautiful, green and calm. People used not to walk there because they were afraid to get poison ivy. One day while I was out in the woods sitting by a stream where poison ivy grew I met an old man who asked me if I knew I was sitting on some poison ivy. I said no. He said have you ever heard of jewelweed? I said no. He said in this woods, jewel-weed always grows right next to poison ivy. It is the natural antidote for poison ivy. I looked down and sure enough there was a patch of jewelweed growing right next to the poison ivy. It seems that the two plants always grow next to each other in riverbanks of that area, even though one completely changes the effect of the other.
I picked a leaf of jewelweed and broke it and rubbed it on my leg. The next morning the poison ivy was gone. It was as easy as that. This old man was an excellent doctor because he understood that doctors don't really cure anyone. The patient really cures himself. What is the use of the doctor then? He has penetrated the causes and conditions of the disease. He is not afraid of disease or non-disease. He shows the patient the way to health.
The disease is ignorance. As patients we have peerless good medicine: faith in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. And we have the highest of doctors to show us how to cure ourselves.
NANCY LETHCOE, Stanford
I have little to say because this is the first time I have attended a Buddha's Birthday celebration, but for those of you for whom it is also a first, I thought I might share some of the questions this day has raised.
In one of the last ceremonies we performed we washed the body of the Buddha image. Why? Was the newborn Buddha wasted, when according to all the legends he was immaculately conceived and born? Yet as the introduction to the day's activities pointed out, from very early times in representations of the birth you find Rama and Indra and various nagas washing the Buddha. This is something I meditated on earlier today, and I'm not going to give you any of my less than profound thoughts on it, but I might suggest you think of it also.
We also said, as we circumambulated the hall, that we pay homage to the Original Buddha, Sakyamuni Buddha, Tathagata. This again raises a question of why we use this particular line, and use the word original, when both Mahayana and Hinayana have many Buddhas of the past, and the Mahayana and Tantrayana go beyond this to say that each of us has the Buddha-nature, and each of us is already a Buddha, although we don't yet recognize it.
thought about this, and at about that time we had a very short and kind Dharma
lecture in the midst of our meditation in which we were asked to try and realize
emptiness through non-discrimination. And I thought yes, that's what all the
textbooks say, and I began to try and realize emptiness through
non-discrimination. The first thing I realized, just like everybody else in the
past I'm sure, is that the statement itself is a form of discrimination, and the
very act of investigating is also discrimination—trying to do it without
discrimination is just discrimination. About then I thought that maybe my legs
wouldn't hurt so much if I fell asleep, and then I thought no, that's not what
I'm here for. Today is a chance to awaken the Buddha-nature and realize
enlightenment. Well, I didn't make it, but I didn't fall asleep.
Adoration to the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas. Adoration to those who are an ocean of virtues. It is my privilege to come on this sacred day, the Buddha's Birthday, to Gold Mountain Monastery, of which I had heard much even in Sikkim. I rejoice in the merits of the Venerable Abbot, and your bhiksus and bhiksunis, your fully ordained monks and nuns, who in the heart of San Francisco have founded a Monastery dedicated to teaching the Buddhadharma. I rejoice in the merits of the compassionate Bodhisattva who has started this Monastery. I rejoice in the merits of the monks and nuns of this Monastery, and I rejoice in the merits of all the lay devotees of this Monastery. I pray that for countless years the work of this Monastery may not cease, that many may come here to become enlightened, that many may receive the Bodhisattva vow. And on behalf of the Tibetan Mahayana Buddhists I offer felicitations and I bow before the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas. May all be happy and may all beings throughout space, all sentient beings, cross the ocean of suffering and attain enlightenment.
I feel like saying Buddha's evening rather than good evening. Looking and thinking about coming here tonight I feel as if I was asked to speak of compassion a long time ago. I have been thinking for some time since the last time I was at Gold Mountain about what compassion might mean. And all I have to report to you are some kindergarten efforts of the first understanding of things that are important to me, and I hope to you.
After a long time I did the obvious thing and looked in the dictionary. What does compassion mean? Where does it come from? It says, among many other meanings, fellow feeling. And somehow that opened for me the door that compassion comes in along with that other word I had had to think about, which is cultivation.
I thought of compassion in the crude way of pity, or sympathy for others, a sort of condescending feeling that set me apart from someone for whom I might feel compassion, and I rejected that for a long time, because that clearly could not be the meaning of compassion that we are celebrating here. On the other hand, compassion comes from roots that mean sharing feeling, sharing passion. And it gives me great joy to think of sharing with you and with everything my feelings, and my awareness, and feeling in some sense aware and together with all the rest of the world. In that sense of sharing feelings, of compassion-ship, as well as comradeship I got to thinking about cultivation.
And again in my kindergarten step, last week I prepared some ground for a small garden and was thinking about compassion and what I had heard here before and what I had read. I was putting steer manure in the ground and had to dig up some very hard ground with a pick and shovel, and turn it over and over. After a while it got soft and warm and I looked down and saw my hands in the dirt, my own hands, and I felt compassion for my hands, what marvelous things they were as they moved through the dirt and removed a stone. How wondrous they were on the ground beside a worm and an insect. Somehow it seems I could share with that plot of ground and those tiny animals in a very simple way a fellow feeling.
Actually it is quite simple. The reason why his birthday is so special is because it was his last birthday. Now why was it his last birthday? Why was it the last time that he was born? That's also very simple. He did not want to be born any more. He just did not want to be born any more. Now why is that? It is because he knew, not just intellectually, but very, very clearly, that birth inevitably leads to aging, sickness, and death. And he knew that the basic nature of aging, sickness, and death is suffering. Why it is that we suffer? It's basically because we want more birthdays. Just because we want more birthdays. It's that simple.
Now of course this poses a little problem of just who it is who wants more birthdays, anyway. And today while we are celebrating the Buddha's birthday we should all look into this problem, the problem of who it is who wants more birthdays. We should look into ourselves and find out whether it is a "he" or a "she" or one of the members of the four assemblies, that is, a bhiksu, or perhaps a bhiksuni, or an upasaka, or an upasika! Or perhaps it is an honored guest here or just one of our curious bystanders. Maybe it is somebody rich or somebody poor, or somebody American, or Chinese, Japanese, or Tibetan, or Vietnamese, or maybe even somebody from outer space who stopped in for the occasion. Maybe it is a Mahayanist, or a Hinayanist, or a Christian, or a Hindu. Maybe it is even an atheist. Who is this person? Just who is it who wants more birthdays? Is it somebody who's always right? Somebody who's always wrong? Somebody who's weak? Somebody who's powerful? Just who is it, who is that person who wants more birthdays?
Another way of putting the same question: when we look within ourselves, into our own inherent beings to answer this question about births, who it is who is without beginning? Do you really know who it is within you who is without beginning? Do you know who it is within you who is unborn and indestructible? Who is it within you who is neither green nor yellow, and has no form and no appearance? When you seek within yourself, who can you find that does not belong to the category of things which exists, or do not exist, and which cannot be thought of in terms of old and new, long or short, big or small? Who is it within you who transcends all these limits, measures, names, traces, comparisons?
course, as we begin to reason about this "who," we at once fall into
error. But when we find out who it is who is like boundless empty space, which
can neither be fathomed nor measured, then we will probably be very close to
knowing who it is who doesn't want more birthdays. Thank you.
THE VENERABLE MASTER HUA
Someone is thinking, "You say the Buddha hasn't left, but did the Buddha come or not?"
The Buddha also didn't come. Because he doesn't come and doesn't go, the Buddha resides throughout empty space to the ends of the Dharma-realm in all places. When you bow to the Buddha, you don't necessarily have to bow where there is a Buddha image. Even in places where there is no Buddha image, the Buddha's Dharma-body resides. What you see with your eyes are Buddhas with form and appearance. What you can't see is the genuine Dharma-body of the Buddha.
Today everyone has gathered together to participate in the ceremonies for bathing the Buddha. Does the Buddha need to have us bathe him? No. Then why do we bathe the Buddha? It is the custom. Whether we bathe the Buddha or not, he is neither more nor less because of it. You bathe the Buddha, but the Buddha is not defiled and not pure. You don't bathe the Buddha, and he is still not defiled and not pure. When there is nothing to do people like to find something to do, so we bathe the Buddha, but on the part of the Buddha there is neither defilement nor purity. On our part it represents offerings of respect to the Buddha.
The Buddhadharma pervades empty space to the ends of the Dharma-realm. Everything is Buddhadharma. If you want to find genuine Buddhadharma you should look for it in empty space, for empty space is the place where the Buddha's Dharma-body resides, the place where the Buddhadharma resides.
The Avatamsaka Sutra says, "If people wish to understand the state of the Buddha, they should make their minds as pure as empty space." If you can be like empty space—put everything down--you are one with the Buddha. If I can put down my body and mind and become one with empty space, they are also one with the Buddha's Dharma-body. Speaking of putting down one's body and mind is easy, but ifs not easy to actually do.
Today, after this ceremony of bathing the Buddha, each of us should wake up. The Buddha realized enlightenment long ago. Buddhas of the past have: already realized Buddhahood and present Buddhas have already realized Buddhahood. Now there are only the Buddhas of the future who have not become Buddhas.
"Who are the future Buddhas?"
You and I and all of them. All living beings are future Buddhas. Now as we bathe the Buddha we should wash ourselves, wash our bodies, wash our mouths, and wash our minds all clean. Having washed the body, mouth, and mind, the three karmas are pure. When your body karma is pure, you do not kill, steal, or lust. When your mind karma is pure, you are not greedy, angry, or stupid. When your mouth karma is pure, you don't say crude things, lie, speak harshly, or gossip. When you have purified the three karmas, that is truly having washed the Buddha. If you can't purify your three karmas, then all you have done this time is plant a Bodhi seed. If your three karmas of body, mouth, and mind are pure, before long you will become a Buddha. Those of you who are looking for the Buddhadharma should look for it in empty space.
"Space is totally vacuous," you think, "where would I go to find Buddhadharma?"
If you can become one with empty space, then you will be filled with Buddhadharma. Because, as those of you who continually study the Buddhadharma know, "in emptiness there is wonderful existence." The wonderful existence in true emptiness is just the Buddhadharma. "In wonderful existence there is true emptiness." That also is the Buddhadharma. "True emptiness does not obstruct wonderful existence, and wonderful existence does not obstruct true emptiness"; this is wonderful existence. "Wonderful existence is not existence," and so it has wonderful emptiness. Within this experience if you can understand, then today will not have been wasted. If you haven't understood, then you must still bathe your body, mouth, and mind. Bring your body, mouth, and mind to purity and then you can get a small portion of the Buddhadharma.
At the very last I will talk about a few words which could never be explained completely. "In one day it is easy to buy ten bushels of phony stuff; in ten days it is hard to buy one bushel of truth." Sometimes people who tell the truth are mistaken for phonies. And sometimes phony people are recognized as those who possess the truth. In Taiwan I heard a story which I'll tell you.
When the students first began to leave the mainland for Taiwan, a hundred or so didn't bring along their degree certificates. In order to enter the universities on Taiwan, they had to pass examinations, and when they were examined they had to offer proof of what schools they had attended on the mainland, how long they had studied, and what degrees they held.
Among the hundred students there was only one with a genuine certificate, but he generously said, "I'll let you borrow mine, you can make copies and then add your own name and vital statistics; then we'll all be able to enter the universities."
The students without certificates made counterfeit ones, and when they went to be tested they all passed. Only the one who had the original certificate was turned down. When he went to be examined the professor said, "That's phony. Take a look at everyone else's. They are all fresh and new. Why is yours so old and soiled? It is obvious that you made a point of making it look old so it wouldn't be recognized as a fake certificate. But you can't get by my keen eye."
What do you suppose the student felt like? He was so upset he was on the verge of tears. "Professor," he stammered, "no matter what, mine isn't false." But he couldn't say that theirs were false, for if he said that, they wouldn't have been able to enter the university to study. Although he was beside himself, not one of the students offered to guarantee that his was genuine. So as a result he did not pass.
As to the affairs of this world, ultimately which ones would you say are true and which are phony? Other religions all say that they are true. But from within the Buddhadharma I will tell you Buddhism is phony. It is not true. Don't any of you believe in Buddhism? It would be very best if you believed in ghosts, because ghosts have big tempers, and if you don't believe in them they can give you trouble.
The Buddha is in a state of unmoving suchness. If you believe in him he wishes to take you across to realization of Buddhahood. If you don't believe in him, he still wishes to take you across to realize Buddhahood. He says, "When all living beings have been taken across, then I will certify to Bodhi. Until the hells are empty I will not rest in Buddhahood." No matter what living being it is, he can become a Buddha. There is not one living being who cannot become a Buddha. So whether you believe or not is merely a question of time. You who believe in the Buddha will become Buddhas. You who don't believe in the Buddha will become Buddhas.
Even if we reckon Buddhism is phony, it contains everything within it. And what is the phoniness? It is true emptiness. And what is the truth? It is wonderful existence. Earlier I talked about true emptiness and wonderful existence. That just means that you don't have to believe in the Buddha--but just believe in true emptiness and wonderful existence and that will be sufficient. Just believe in wonderful existence and pay no attention to whether Buddhism is true or false. If you understand this doctrine, the false is true; if you don't understand, even the truth becomes false.
Not one of you dares to say that he is not a living being. No matter what religion you are, whether a religion of the heavens, a religion of the hells, a religion of gods, or a religion of ghosts, no matter what your religion, you say "My religion is a big one, and your religion is small." Regardless of that, you are all living beings, and you can't say that you are not living beings. Since you are living beings, then sooner or later you will become Buddhas. It's no problem. Whether you believe or not doesn't matter. I'm waiting, waiting for you and watching to see where you will run. Go. Go!