FIRST CURE YOUR OWN ILLNESS
Message by the Venerable Hsuan Hua given at the opening of the second year of classes held at the East-West Academy of Healing Arts at the invitation of Dr. Effie Poy Yew Chow, President of the Academy.
Last year I came to the East-West Academy of Healing Arts and I have seen that one thing very important to all of you here is that when you meet each other you hug. I've noticed this. So it's my hope that you will all hug each other and hug each other and never separate, but stay bugged together as it were. On my part, with my spirit I am always helping you so you can accomplish your aims in what you study and learn and can benefit other people. I know this is something you really want to do.
When people study something or master some skill they must first make a good foundation. For instance in building a house, if the foundation is not solid, the house will not last long. It will quickly deteriorate. So when you learn how to cure human illness, you must first learn how to cure your own illnesses.
What illnesses does one have? One likes to get a bargain to benefit oneself; one wants to be selfish; one enjoys having false thinking; one gets jealous of those who are better than oneself--all these are small illnesses. All these must first be cleaned up. If you can first clean up these obstructive things, then you can trade them for new thought-patterns. Formerly one wanted to benefit oneself, now one wants to benefit others; formerly one liked being selfish, now one changes and becomes broadminded; formerly one had impure false thoughts, now one changes and has proper thought; formerly one was jealous of others who were better than one-self, now one makes an effort to take delight in others' accomplishments--in their abilities and wisdom which transcend one's own.
In this way one can first cure one's own illness and then can learn the method for curing others' illnesses. To not purify oneself and yet tell others to be pure is not right. So in studying to cure illness, one must first cure one's own illness. One must first wash oneself clean of bad habits. From limitless aeons to now we all have recognized a thief as our son and taken suffering for bliss to the point that right now we are still confused. Born muddled, we die muddled and during the few decades between we don't do anything of merit and virtue to benefit others.
If one still has a lot of habits and faults oneself, not only can one not cure others' illnesses, one can't even cure one's own illness. The habits and faults just mentioned include smoking, drinking, taking drugs, and doing upside-down things. With these kinds of faults, you certainly can't cure others' illnesses. What's this like? It's like using dirty water to wash a mirror or a piece of fine furniture--the more you wash with the dirty water, the more of a mess you get until the stench from the water has permeated the entire room.
The dirty water is our habits and faults, which we must change for the water to become pure and fragrant. If you use pure fragrant water to wash the mirror or furniture, it will soon be clean and the entire room will smell fragrant. The room is like all people and we are like the container for the water. If one is not clean oneself and yet tries to clean up others, it won't work. Everyone should pay close attention to this. Although the analogy is simple, the meaning runs deep.
So we must first learn to get rid of greed, hatred, and stupidity. Why are there wars in the world? It is because people are confused by greed, hatred, and stupidity. I explained this last year at the East-Vest graduation ceremonies, and I say it again this year for fear people were not attentive the first time. The reason the world is bad is because of greed, hatred, and stupidity. The reason people get sick is because of greed, hatred, and stupidity. If people don't want to be sick, they must get rid of greed, hatred, and stupidity. If the world is to be free of wars, we must get rid of greed, hatred, and stupidity. One who has greed, hatred, and stupidity has dirty water. Without greed, hatred, and stupidity one can hold to precepts, samadhi, and wisdom, which are pure water.
It's possible now that all of humankind could develop cancer. Why? Because the atmosphere is filled with everyone's greed, hatred, and stupidity. This putrid air fills empty space throughout the Dharma-realm. So it is possible for all living creatures to die at any time. This poisoned atmosphere is more toxic than the atom bomb and even the neutron bomb.
In curing illness, one must not have greed, hatred, and stupidity and then one can teach others not to have them. Since we all have a connection with the world's atmosphere, if one person refrains from poisoning it with greed, hatred and stupidity, it is that much cleaner. If ten people refrain, it is ten times cleaner. If everyone could get rid of greed, hatred, and stupidity, then the people of the world would not be poisoned by the atmosphere and would not get cancer and other strange diseases. Why is it said cancer is hard to cure? Because people's greed, hatred, and stupidity never cease. To get rid of cancer, everyone should stop being greedy, hateful, and stupid.
Someone says, "Dharma Master, I don't believe what you are saying. How can people do without greed? Without anger? Without stupidity? For instance, I'm in business and if I don't have any greed, I won't get rich. Or if I want others to listen to me, I can't do it unless I get angry. And if a man wants a woman or a woman wants a man, if they don't act stupid, they'll never pull it off."
I'll tell you some more about greed: people without money are greedy for wealth to the point that they can't sleep at night and worry until their h-air turns white. Eventually they get rich and then they worry about where to put their money—if they put it in the bank, is it possible the bank might fold? If they put it in stocks, might the market crash? Day and night they calculate. So it's not necessary to have someone else beat one up; you beat yourself up when you get afflicted, to the point that you can't eat or sleep; and when the affliction gets too unbearable, you die.
Stupidity refers to ignorance, to lack of understanding. When one doesn't understand what's right one does a lot of upside-down things. This reaches a point where some people even commit suicide over love or over an inability to have some longed for material possession, or for various other reasons. Without greed, hatred, and stupidity how could one get an ulcer? How could one commit suicide?
So I hope in studying to cure illnesses that you will first cure your own greed, hatred, and stupidity and bring forth precepts, samadhi, and wisdom. Don't do the things you shouldn't do. Use the power of your concentration in all matters. With concentration you can have wisdom. With wisdom you will not be controlled by what's going on but will control what's going on.
Why have I said these things today? Because your teacher Dr. Effie Chow, doesn't have any of these illnesses. She hasn't married, so she doesn't have those stupid thoughts; she doesn't contend with people, so she doesn't have any problem with anger; and she wants to help everyone and forgets about herself, so there's no question of greed. Having found such a good teacher and good friend, you could say, to help you, you should not miss this opportunity. I hope as you study with her you will always hug her and never let her go. Follow her everywhere. If you do this, you can return to your source--your inherent wisdom.