Translated by Bhiksuni Heng Yin
Transcribed by Upasika Kuo Chwan Baur
Day #5 June 19, 1970
To recite the name of Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva once can eradicate limitless kalpas of karma of birth and death. But you must recite with a sincere heart. Why? To recite the name of Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva without a heart of faith is just the same as not reciting. The Buddhadharma is like the waters of a Great Sea, but in order to enter it, you must have a heart of faith. Without faith you will be unable to enter the waters of the Buddhadharma.
Once you have faith, you then make vows.
LIVING BEINGS ARE BOUNDLESS; I VOW TO SAVE THEM.
Ask yourself, "Have I saved them or not? If I’ve already saved some, I should save some more. If I haven’t saved any, I vow to save some."
AFFLICTIONS ARE INEXHAUSTABLE; I VOW TO CUT THEM OFF.
Ask yourself, "Have I cut them off? Do my afflictions get less day by day? If that’s the case, then I vow to cut them off more and more day by day." Do not treat your afflictions as you would eating some very good food, eating too much of it. If you eat too many afflictions they will make you very uncomfortable.
DHARMA DOORS ARE LIMITLESS; I VOW TO STUDY THEM.
The Buddhadharma-doors are limitless and boundless. I vow to study them all. There are eighty-four thousand Dharma-doors. Some people say there are 48 thousand but this is incorrect. There are 84 thousand Dharma-doors, not 48 thousand. Students of the Buddhadharma should remember this very clearly. After this, if anyone makes a mistake in lecturing you should correct them. If you don't, and they go out to speak, they could make the same mistake. Then everyone will ask them, "Who taught you the Buddhadharma."
You'll say, "My teacher."
"Well, did your teacher teach you that there are 48 thousand Dharma-doors?"
"Yes," you'll say, and everybody will lose face. So if anyone makes a mistake you should correct him. We are practicing lecturing now, not actually lecturing. If you make a mistake and no one corrects you, you'll never know, and you'll always be wrong. The Dharma-doors are inexhaustible and I vow to study them. Ask yourself, "Have I studied all the Dharma-doors?"
"I read a few books," you tell yourself, "several English translations, a bunch of times..."
That doesn't count as studying the Buddhadharma. That is just taking a look at the Buddhadharma. It is like gazing at flowers while on a horseback ride. The horse goes by so fast you just catch a glimpse of the flowers. Riding in the car it is the same, you look at the flowers but don't really see them clearly. Reading books about the Buddhadharma doesn't count as studying the Buddhadharma.
In the Buddhist Lecture Hall students listen to the Buddhadharma every day and take notes and practice giving lectures. This is truly studying the Buddhadharma. The Buddhadharma isn't something you can just take one look at and then think you are ready to explain it. Even Master Hsuan Tsang, who was very intelligent, had to go to India and study for over ten years in order to understand it. If you've just read a few books, that doesn't mean you've studied the Buddhadharma.
THE BUDDHA WAY IS SUPREME; I VOW TO REALIZE IT.
There is nothing higher than the position of Buddhahood, and everyone should cultivate to attain it.
Sakyamuni Buddha cultivated blessings and wisdom for three great asamkhyeya kalpas. Asamkhyeya, a Sanskrit word, means "uncountable." For a hundred kalpas he perfected his minor characteristics. No matter what it was, if it benefited other people, he would do it. He didn't think about benefiting himself. This is how Sakyamuni Buddha cultivated and became a Buddha. We should make these four vast vows and afterwards, we should cultivate the Bodhisattva path. This is an important point to remember.
Seeing the pigeons, I've thought of a story. It's about the founder of the Golden Crown Vairocana Sect, Great Master Chih Kung. Everyday he ate two pigeons. His cook had never tasted pigeons and one day he thought, "The Dharma Master eats two pigeons every day. I wonder what they are like..." and he snuck two mouthfuls of pigeon. "Pretty good," he said. "Tastes better than duck or chicken. No wonder the Dharma Master likes to eat them every day." Then he gave them to Master Chih Kung.
"Ugh," Master Chih Kung said. "Who stole my pigeon meat?"
The cook thought, "The Dharma Master is really extraordinary. I snuck two mouthfuls of pigeon and he knows about it. Strange...no one saw me do it." Aloud he said, "I gave them directly to you, Dharma Master. They didn't go through anybody else's hands."
Master Chih Kung said, "Then it was certainly you who ate them."
The cook said, "No! I wouldn't lie to you. If you don't have enough to eat, I'll get you some more, but you shouldn't go around saying people stole your food."
Then Master Chih Kung said, "So you say you didn't eat them? Well, take a look at this!" and he opened his mouth and out flew two pigeons. One of the birds went hopping across the floor because he was missing a wing. Master Chih Kung said, "You say you didn't eat the pigeon? Then what happened to its wing?"
The cook watched this happened and became petrified with fear. "The Dharma Master ate the two pigeons and then spit them out alive! That is really weird," and he said, "I confess! I stole two bites of pigeon!"
Master Chih Kung laughed and said, "You can't get away with anything, can you?"
Nobody should eat the two pigeons here at the Buddhist Lecture Hall. None of the Dharma Masters may eat them unless they can spit them out alive. If you can't spit them out alive, you can't eat them.
Master Chih Kung was very strange. His hands were like the claws of a hawk. Nobody knows who his father and mother were, but probably they were hawks. An old monk heard a child crying in an eagle's nest and brought the child home and raised it. When the child grew up, he had the five eyes and six spiritual penetrations and became the high Buddhist monk, Dhyana Master Chih Kung who not only ate pigeons but knew how to transform pigeons as well. He could eat them and spit them back out again, transformed. And not only that, he had the five eyes and six spiritual penetrations. At that time he converted a lot of people, and ghosts, and fierce beasts, and poisonous dragons, and they all bowed to him as their teacher.
Now, we recite Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva's name and Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva has even greater spiritual powers than Master Chih Kung and is even more inconceivable.
How is Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva inconceivable?
Kuan Yin follows the sounds beings make when they are suffering, and wipes their suffering away. We recite Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva’s name in order to get rid of all our problems.
Among Chinese people husbands and wives must strictly adhere to social mores. If they don't, they are breaking the law and no one will speak with them. Once, there was a businessman who went out on business trips and left his wife alone. Often he was gone for three or even five months. His wife finally could not bear the loneliness. In China it is not permissible, but she got herself a lover because she was so lonely. They decided that when her husband returned her lover would murder her husband and then they could get married.
It so happened that the businessman sincerely believed in Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva. He made offerings to Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva and kept an oil lamp burning in front of the Bodhisattva's image in his home. When he returned he traveled by ship and on the voyage he had a dream. In the dream Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva came to him and said, "Good man, you're very sincere. I'm going to tell you a couple of sentences and you should remember them and when the time comes to use them they will be effective.
When you meet the bridge, don't anchor the boat.
Encountering the oil, smear it on your head.
A peck of grain yields three cups of raw rice.
The houseflies gather on the end of the brush."
And then he woke up.
The next day they ran into a heavy rainstorm and the captain anchored the boat beneath a bridge to avoid the downpour. Sitting there, the merchant suddenly remembered the poem: "When you meet the bridge don't anchor the boat." He finally convinced the captain to continue, and the moment the boat pulled out from under the bridge, it collapsed. Had they been under it the people and cargo would have all been crushed. "Oh!" he cried, "Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva, you are really something! Really magic! If you hadn't told me not to anchor the boat under the bridge the boat would have been sunk and we all would have been killed and the wealth lost." He bowed to Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva most respectfully.
When he arrived home, he told his wife, "I just about lost my life today. I had a dream in which Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva said, 'When you meet the bridge, don't anchor the boat,' so when the captain anchored the boat under a bridge I made him move it and then the bridge collapsed. So, because of Kuan Yin, I am able to come back and see you," he said congenially to his wife.
His wife thought, "If he had been smashed beneath the bridge that would have suited me just fine. I'd hoped he wouldn't come back at all. If you had been killed then I wouldn't have had to do it now..."
Then they had dinner and she managed to get him slightly drunk. However, before the meal he had gone before Kuan Yin's image to bow and had knocked over the oil lamp. He remembered the second line of the verse, "When you meet the oil, smear it on your head," and so he did. In those days the men wore their hair in long neat plaits. The women, however, sometimes wore cream dressings on their hair. After dinner and a lot of wine, he dozed off. That night his wife's lover snuck in carrying a knife. He patted the man's head and, feeling the oil smeared on it, figured it must be the woman. Convinced that the other person in the bed was the husband, he deftly performed the decapitation.
The next day he found out that he had killed his lover and not her husband. He wrote a letter to his girlfriend's parents saying that her husband had returned that night and killed their daughter. The parents had the husband arrested. Although he denied it, the evidence was stacked heavily against him. "You must have killed her," they said. "Why else did the murder take place on the very day you returned?" He couldn't talk his way out of it, and they gave him the death penalty. He continued to deny it, but they all said, "If you didn't kill her, who did?"
In ancient times they wrote out; the death sentences with a brush, saying when the person was going to be beheaded. Just as this was being written out, however, a swarm of flies gathered on the tip of the brush, making it impossible to write. They brushed the flies away but they kept coming back. Seeing this, the businessman laughed and laughed, and thought, "Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva, you're really magical." The jailer said, "What are you laughing about? We are going to cut your head off, and you're laughing. You've killed your wife and even as you die for it you are self-satisfied!"
"No, that's not why I'm laughing," said the man. "I'm laughing because I had a very efficacious dream in which I heard four sentences, and the first two sentences have already turned out very auspiciously. The last two sentences I still haven't figured out."
The jailer said, "What two sentences?"
He replied, "I believe in Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva. Two days ago I had a dream in which Kuan Yin told me:
'When you meet the bridge, don't anchor the boat.
Encountering the oil, smear it on your head.
A peck of grain yields three cups of raw rice.
The houseflies gather on the end of the brush.
The next day when we stopped under the bridge to wait out the storm, I told the captain to move on. As soon as we pulled out, the bridge collapsed. We barely escaped with our lives! That first sentence was magic.
"When I got home, I bowed to Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva and the oil lamp got broken. Remembering the second sentence, I rubbed the oil on my head. So when the murderer felt my head he figured I was a woman. Instead of murdering me, he killed my wife, who was lying beside me, figuring she was me. Now, I can't keep from laughing- because Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva is just too magical. See! the flies are gathered on the brush-tip, just like the last sentence says. However, I still haven't figured out the third line.
"What was it again?"
"'A peck of grain yields three cups of raw rice,'" said the man.
"Oh!" said the jailer, "I know who did it," and he ordered the sheriff to go find out if there was anyone named K'ang Ch'i ("seven parts chaff") living in the county. They did in fact find one such man and arrested him. He turned out to be the dead woman's lover.
The police questioned him and said, "We know that you killed this woman."
"Since you arrested me," he said, "I might as well admit it. I didn't want to kill the woman. I wanted to kill the man. But I made a mistake. My conscience has suddenly got the best of me. So I'll plead guilty. But tell me, how did you know it was me?"
The man related his dream and the jailer said, "The sentence 'a peck of grain yields three cups of rice' gave me the murderer's name. A peck is ten cups: subtract three cups raw rice and that leaves 'seven parts of chaff'--Ch'i K'ang."
So we know that Kuan Yin Bodhisattva's
realm is truly inconceivable and the response evoked is also inconceivable--too
vast to narrate in detail. This is just an inkling. We should now perform the
Great Transference of Merit and ask Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva to help us
eradicate our karmic obstructions.
24 Oct 1975
Dear Revs. Heng Yin and Heng Ch'ih,
I recently obtained copies of two BTTS publications at the 8th Street Bookshop where I am employed part time. A friend of mine chanced to remark one day on the resemblance between a practice of my own and the way of Pure Land devotees. At the time I knew nothing of Pure Land but a few passing references to the cult in various histories. A short time later I "chanced" to come upon a copy of Master Hua's Talks and read them eagerly. They suggest an understanding of such breadth and depth as can only be achieved in many lifetimes, and a degree of truth one seldom meets with in these days. Your practice at Gold Mountain is inspiring, and so far as I know, unique.
I have just begun to read your Amitabha Sutra. Are there others in your series? Do you publish a journal or newsletter? If you will send a list of your publications I will do my best to see that my bookshop orders them.
Because of the high esteem in which Master Hua holds it, I am particularly anxious to lay hands on a copy of the Avatamsaka Sutra (if this is not already too much grasping!). Unfortunately it does not seem to be among the many scriptures readily available, or if it is, I lack the skill to find it. Do you know of an edition in or out of print?
I would like to come to San Francisco to hear the Master discourse on the Sutras, and to practice. Do you operate on the, standard schedule of summer and winter semesters? Will there be more Dharma assemblies? Does Gold Mountain accept yung-shui?
Knowing that you are very busy with your
work of translating and lecturing, I am sorry to burden you with all these
questions and do not expect an immediate reply. Only write a few lines when you