THE FOUR CIRCUITS

A Dharma lecture delivered by the Venerable Master Hua in the WOW Hall in Eugene, Oregon, on February 4, 1977.

Translated by Bhiksuni Heng Yin

What we were talking about just now is merely a hypothetical situation.  If you want to get down to talking about real cultivation, you've to have faith, you've got to believe in it. It's said that

Faith is the source of the Way,

The mother of merit and virtue

Which nourishes all good roots.

Faith gets you in the door, and wisdom takes you across to the other side. So, if you have faith you can enter into the Buddhadharma. If you gain wisdom you can then be free of suffering and obtain bliss. The first thing you need is faith.

In investigating Buddhism you have to understand a few things. Is there or is there not a Buddha? If you are going to try to understand who the Buddha is, then you must first understand what people are. Are people real or not? Are they alive or dead? What are they all about? Where do they come from, anyway? How did they get here? And in the future, where are they all going to go? Where do people go?

Now, you can't say people come from rocks, and you don't pick them off trees. Everyone will agree to this. People are transformed from out of the Buddha nature, the nature of enlightenment. That's why we say that people can become Buddhas.

People can become Buddhas--this is true--but they also can turn into ghosts. Now, this is one of the principles that you are eventually going to have to believe. Ghosts can turn into people. If ghosts cultivate, they can become Buddhas. If the Buddha doesn't cultivate, he can turn into a ghost. So, if you understand the principle behind the fact that people can become ghosts as well as Buddhas, it just means that people should walk down the way towards Buddhahood; they shouldn't walk down the path of ghosts.

Ghosts are very sloppy and casual about everything they do. They like to be very free and have freedom without license; they really like to enjoy themselves and have a good time. They just do whatever they feel like doing.

Buddhas, however, don't like to enjoy things themselves. They like to give the good things to other people, and take other people's suffering upon themselves. They take the blessings and benefits that basically are theirs to enjoy, and give them to others. If you have genuine faith, you can become a Buddha by benefiting other people. If you have real faith, you can become a Buddha.

You must also understand the Buddhadharma in order to become a Buddha.  This just means you've got to understand the way things work, the laws or principles which underlie the things that go on. For example, the analogy that was just brought up: if you say that you can eat good food without discrimination, then you can eat it when someone gives it to you. Now, I would ask why it is that you can't do this when somebody gives you something that's not good. This is something you'll have to figure out on your own. Somebody gives you a steak and you say, "I'm not going to discriminate as to whether it's good or not, because it's basically delicious, so I'll eat it."  Now, if you want to eat meat, that's fine. Go ahead and eat meat. Why go around trying to find some principle to cover up what you're doing? People eat meat; it's very common. A lot of people eat meat. Basically, everybody eats everybody else; that's the way living creatures are. One living being eats another; the other creature eats yet another being and then they are reborn. The person that was eaten becomes the eater, and things just trade around like this. If you're not afraid of this kind of interaction between what is eaten and those, which eat, then go ahead and eat all the meat you want. But don't say, "Well, somebody gave it to me, sol ought to eat it."  When people don't give you meat, why is it that you go out and buy it? If nobody gives it to you, then why do you think about it?

So, you eat meat without discrimination, yet you refuse to eat shit without discrimination. Now, in America we don't have pit toilets because we're very hygienic, but in the Orient they do. Some of you have had experience with pit toilets; after a while they start to have worms in them, and the worms get bigger every day. If you've ever seen one you know how repulsive they are. Okay now, speaking of these worms, they don't make any discriminations either, none whatsoever. They eat shit all day in the pit toilets, and they love it. They get real fat and sassy there in the shit; they dance around and frolic in it; when they're done eating and are stuffed they start dancing. What I'm getting at is that you really have to understand the principles behind things. You have to understand the Dharma. You can't just sort of muddle through it and suppose it's just a lot of crackpot theories about things.

I recently ran into a person in Los Angeles who said to me, "Samsara is Nirvana." This person kept repeating, "Well, birth and death are Nirvana." I said, "Fine, that's fine." That means if you can just sit there and die whenever you want to or live as long as you want, then it's true that birth and death are Nirvana. If you can't do that, if you can't just die while you're sitting there or continue to live at willif you don't have this ability--then you're not at the level where you can say birth and death are Nirvana. That's just intellectual Zen, just talking, and anybody can talk. What I'm saying is that you have to understand, and once you've understood you have to actually practice in accord with what you've understood. You've got to cultivate in accord with principle, and not get carried away with some very exotic, zany approach to Buddhism.

For example, you might say, "If I only eat grass I'll get enlightened, so I'll eat grass all day long. This is my thing." Well, take a look at all the cows that eat grass. They've eaten grass for I don't know how long, and they're still not enlightened; they're still cows. The same goes for horses, etc. Or, you may try to find something that will get you enlightened really fast, miracles of modern chemistry or something. If you've got to do it that way, it's artificial.

Now, Sakyamuni Buddha was in the Himalayas for six years cultivating ascetic practices, and then he went to the Bodhi tree. One evening he saw a bright star in the sky and became enlightened. If you can do that, really do what he did, then it counts. You can't just say you're going to find some chemical process that's going to take you to Buddhahood. There isn't any. There's no artificial way to do it. If you want to become a Buddha, then you have to cultivate. This means you must believe, understand, and practice. Then you can attain Buddhahood, and only then.

Becoming a Buddha is not as easy as just going around and saying, "Well, I'm enlightened. I've seen the sky, and I'm enlightened now." Everybody has seen the sky--I look at it all the time. In other words, you can't just be an ordinary person and claim that you're enlightened. You can't just say that and think it's really true. You have to cultivate.

      Tonight I'm telling you about what's called the Four Circuits in Buddhism. They are faith, understanding, practice, and attainment. If you would like to understand Buddhism you're going to have to start out with these four.

I think you all must be very tired; you've sat here so long. I should be considerate of you and understand that you've got things on your mind that you have to do. I'm not going to say any more. But, just one last thing: I hope you will hurry up and become Buddhas'. So, go back to wherever you're from, go to bed early, and have a really good dream; have a really good time in your dreams. These are my wishes for you.

Question: What is meant by "circulation of the light?

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Answer: In Taoism they talk about circulation of the light and returning to emptiness, merging with emptiness. This is a beginning method of Taoist cultivation. You conceive a spiritual child in yourself which eventually goes up through your chakras and out of the top of your head. You get so that you can send it out any time you want. It emerges when you want it to and returns when you want it to. A person who can send a spiritual child out of his or her head is different from ordinary worldly people, but such a one still blends in and looks just like everybody else. It's not a big thing. The great circulation of the light goes along with the great merging; it is an expression which along with the great merging; it is an expression which refers to this yoga practice.