Mr. and Mrs. Charles Kennedy and Mr. and Mrs. Nick Mechling
recently invited Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua and Dharma Masters Heng
Ch’ien, Heng Ching, Heng Shou, Heng Yin, and Heng Ch’ih to Los
Angeles to attend a vegetarian feast held in their honor, and
requested that the Master speak Dharma on this occasion. When
acceptance was received, Mrs. Kennedy and her daughter Mrs. Mechling
began careful and extensive preparation for the occasion.
Approximately seventy–five guests were formally invited. As the day
of the occasion drew near, however, the Kennedy’s received
inquiries, as more people who had heard that these Buddhists were
coming called to express their interest. All were welcomed.
The morning of February 21, 1970 was clear and cool, and at 11 AM
some ninety people gathered in the bright rooms and sunny gardens of
the Kennedy home. Businessmen, lawyers, nuns, teachers, students,
relatives, associates, friends, yellow, white and black, Asians,
Europeans, and Americans, young and old, stood respectfully in the
quiet atmosphere while an offering ceremony was chanted. Afterward
everyone served himself from an abundant variety of vegetarian foods.
In the main room adjoining the garden Mrs. Kennedy and her
daughters had arranged a lecture platform, skillfully draped with
red and gold cloth and adorned with flowers and incense. The Master
ascended this high seat to speak Dharma.
Two of his disciples, Mrs. Susan Mechling and Miss Marcia Brown,
both residents of the Los Angeles area, offered incense, bowed to
the Master, and formally requested Dharma.
The Master consented and first requested that the two visiting
Catholic nuns be seated with the Bhiksus
and Bhiksunis. He then asked his five
disciples to speak. When the Bhiksus and
Bhiksunis finished, the Master said:
"My five disciples have just spoken.
Four said that they were happy and one didn’t say she was happy, and
didn’t say she was worried. She has been working so hard that she
forgot to be happy or unhappy. She came early to help prepare this
vegetarian meal for all of you, thinking, "Today
they will eat vegetarian food; tomorrow perhaps they will make some
for themselves, and another day invite others to eat vegetarian
food." She prepared the food knowing that
you would come today and that I would talk with you; but in the end,
as to being happy or unhappy, we must let go of both.
Now I will speak about Buddhadharma. You ask,
"I have often heard the word Buddhadharma, but just what is it?" Let me ask you,
"What is not Buddhadharma?" Find one thing that is not Buddhadharma and then you will
know what is Buddhadharma. This is very simple. You say, "I can’t find anything that is not
Buddhadharma." Then everything is
Buddhadharma---what you know and what you don’t know --- everything
There are three Dharmas,
Buddhadharma, Sentient Being Dharma, and Mind Dharma,
which are also just one Dharma. One Dharma is just three Dharmas.
Why? When you understand the Buddhadharma, then you are clear about
sentient beings. When you know the Sentient Being Dharma,
you understand the mind. Comprehending the Mind Dharma is just understanding the
"What?" you say, "my mind has a Dharma?"
"What!" I reply, "your mind doesn’t have a
Dharma?" If your mind didn’t have a Dharma, how could you
live? Your life is just a manifestation of the mind. Therefore all
sentient beings, whether they believe or don’t believe, are within
the Buddhadharma. You, yourself, don’t recognize the fact that you
can’t run outside, so you say, "Awh, I
don’t believe I’m inside the Buddhadharma." Well then, do you believe you are outside the Buddhadharma?
No problem. Inside and outside, you yourself know; in the
Buddhadharma originally this distinction doesn’t exist.
You who say you are inside are inside. You who say you are
outside are still inside. Why? The Buddhadharma isn’t anywhere, and
there’s no place where it’s not, so how could you run outside?
Transform to a fine particle of dust, and you’re still within the
Buddhadharma. Or appear as great as Mt. Sumeru, and you also can’t
get out. So whether you believe the Buddhadharma or not, there is no problem.
It is important to know what is fine, like dust, and what is
coarse, like Mt. Sumeru. In the Buddhadharma, the fine dust
represents your ignorance, and the massiveness of Sumeru represents
your view of a self. When you see yourself as so big, then you can’t
see others; this inability to think of others can be compared to Mt.
Sumeru in its greatness. The subtle dust of ignorance, however, and
the Sumeru view of self, are both unable to get outside the Buddhadharma.
Originally Buddhadharma isn’t called Buddhadharma, it’s called
Sentient Being Dharma. Sentient Being Dharma originally isn’t called Sentient Being
Dharma, it’s called Mind Dharma. And Mind Dharma originally isn’t called Mind Dharma.
What is it called? It’s called "...not dwelling anywhere". Earlier these two Sisters asked me where I
lived. I said, "There isn’t any place to dwell." I answered in this way because I
knew "...not dwelling anywhere".
In the Ch’an school it is said:
'Last year I was poor, but I had the space for the point of an awl.
This year I am so poor I haven’t an awl at all.'
Not having the awl is just
"...not dwelling anywhere, produce
the mind...". If you understand, that is
"not dwelling anywhere". If
you don’t understand, then you think "not dwelling anywhere" means
to be poor. However, if you can get to the point of having nothing,
then you have enough. There is nothing which is not yours. If you
are not at this, then you don’t have everything. Buddhadharma,
sentient being dharma, and mind dharma are all within your
self–nature. Here you understand your self–nature, and are able to
return to your own original dwelling.
But now everyone runs away from his original home. Having gone
outside to seek, you don’t know how to get back inside. In
The Lotus Sutra it says that the
Buddha is like the father of living beings. Living beings are like
the Buddha’s son. When this son was very young he ran outside,
became poor, and suffered, and now doesn’t know how to return. The
poor son who ran outside originally had limitless wealth, but now he
doesn’t know how to return to his dwelling to use the wealth. He’s
outside running in great circles: running from this village to that
village; running from this city to that city; running from this
country to that country; running everywhere begging for food. This
son of a great wealthy elder doesn’t know how to make use of his own
Living beings, like the son, run out, and everywhere they go
they beg for food. They beg coming and going and think themselves
clever because wherever they go they’re able to get plenty to eat.
They don’t realize that if they returned there would be no need to
be a beggar. Living beings are upside down like this. Not only can
they not get back home, they don’t even recognize their own father.
They see their great wealthy elder and say, "I
don’t have such a father. I don’t want such a father." Others tell them that this
is their father, but they don’t believe. So it is when we are told
that the Buddha is our true compassionate father, and yet we don’t
believe. We don’t believe our father can be the Buddha, and don’t
recognize the Buddha as our father.
Albrecht Durer Engraving. 1496
All sentient beings are poor sons. You say,
"Not me! I’ve got lots of money."
You may have money, but do you have any dharma? How much dharma do you have?
You ask, "What is dharma?" If you don’t understand dharma, how can you consider yourself
rich? Your money is just worldly false with wealth. If you
understand dharma, that is true and proper wealth.
You reply, "Master, you speak
Dharma, you understand Dharma, you certainly have much great wealth." I don’t want great wealth, nor do I want great poverty; I
don’t want either poverty or wealth. I see wealth and riches as
floating clouds. One should have no attachments.
"I have money," you ask, "so how do you
figure that I am a poor son?" Not only do
I reckon you to be a poor son, you are, in fact, a poor son. One who
has money is the same as the poor son. I cannot recognize people
with money as rich sons.
You ask, "Master,
before you said that the poor son became a beggar, running from
village to village, city to city, country to country in search of
food. Now begging isn’t really so bad, it’s not of major concern, is
I said that he went from village to village, city to city, and
country to country. To go from village to village means to go from
one hell to another hell; to go from city to city is just to go from
being one kind of animal to another; to go from country to country
is to go from one hungry ghost realm to another. To travel through
village, city, and country is just to revolve in these three bad
paths within the six realms of existence.
The wheel turns, coming and going in the six paths. Earlier
today someone asked me, "Do you believe
that birth and death reoccur? Once you’re dead, do you believe you
will be born again?"
I asked this person, "Do you believe
that, once born, you will die?" It is the same principle.
The wheel of birth and death revolves in the six paths of the
gods, men, asuras, animals, hungry ghosts, and hells. That of the
gods refers to those beings born in the realm of the heavens; that
of men refers to those beings born as people; the asura path refers
to those born as asuras. What is an asura? Asura, a Sanskrit word,
means "incessant quarrelling".
Once before when I approached this topic someone said,
"Oh, no, don’t talk about asuras again.
You’ve told about asuras so many times already, I don’t want to hear
about them again, and I certainly don’t want to be one!"
"Hey, you’ve heard about them, but I
never have," someone else complained.
"Why did you tell the Master not to speak?"
"Because I don’t want him to talk
about asuras again," retorted the first.
"Well, I want to hear about them," roared the second.
"I don’t!" "I do!" "I don’t!" they
argued back and forth until finally amidst the deafening noise one
hit the other and that one dodged and struck back.
"Wait a minute," I said, "I don’t have to speak
about asuras. You’ve already demonstrated the meaning."
Now I’m sure everyone understands asuras very clearly. After
this when you see two men fighting, you will know they are asuras.
When you see four men quarrelling, they are also asuras. Families
feuding with families are family asuras, country battling with
country are country asuras, and world systems warring with world
systems make world asuras. Day in and day out the asura relentlessly
battles over even the smallest affairs. In his heart he doesn’t fear
death. "I’ll kill you and be victorious," he plots. "Ah, if you kill me, then just
wait! When I’m reborn, I’ll come and kill you."
There is another asura you may not recognize. He is the
heavenly asura, who, with his heavenly soldiers and generals, makes
war on the Jade Emperor. Catholicism teaches that asuras are devils,
and the devil and God fight it out all the
time. Asura devils use guerrilla war tactics, so that every-time the
heaven army arrives, the asuras aren’t there. They appear,
disappear, and reappear, always running off, so there is much war
but no victory.
The male asura is extremely ugly. The features of his face
grow together and merge in a very unattractive way. One may be born
with little ears and huge eyes. Another may be endowed with a vast
nose and two chins. In general, the asura’ s appearance is so
offensive that no one can bear to look at him. Women especially upon
seeing one immediately lose interest.
The asura woman, however, is born with unsurpassed beauty. The
Jade Emperor, although he was a God, still
hadn’t cut off his desire, and he used to roam occasionally in the
desire heavens. One day in a desire heaven he saw an exquisite asura
woman who happened to be the daughter of the asura king. Infatuated
at first sight, he desired to have an affair, and went to the asura
king and told him of his fondness for the daughter. The asura king
consented to give his daughter to the Jade Emperor in marriage.
The Jade Emperor had great respect for his father–in–law. When
the asura king came to his heaven to visit, he called out his
heavenly troops and generals to welcome the king. The asura king,
however, was jealous and suspicious, always assuming everyone
harbored evil motives. No matter how one approached him, he became
afflicted. If someone was good at something, he produced even
fiercer jealousy, especially if that person were better at it than
he. So when the king saw the retinue sent out by the Jade Emperor,
he thought it was a protest demonstration of some kind, and was
vexed in his heart, although he didn’t say anything at the time.
The Jade Emperor, who greatly enjoyed hearing Dharma, found a
holy man in the world who spoke sutras, and every day went to
listen. He went so often that eventually his asura wife got
suspicious and complained, "Every day you
listen to sutras, listen to sutras, listen to sutras. You wouldn’t
happen to be listening to women sutras, would you?"
She was very jealous and mistrustful. "Next
time you go to hear sutras, may I go with you?"
"What do you want to go there for,
woman?" growled the Emperor, "The place I go is a pure place for
cultivators of the way, it’s certainly not a place for you to go."
Hearing this, the asura woman became really suspicious, and
was sure that there was more to this affair than the Emperor was
revealing. "If you are actually doing what you say," she said, "If
there is nothing shady in your conduct, then why do you refuse to
allow me to accompany you?"
The next day when the Jade Emperor climbed into his palace to
fly off to hear sutras, the asura woman used her spiritual power and
secretly hid herself in the palace. When the Jade Emperor arrived in
the world and the holy man began to speak, she emerged from the
palace. The Jade Emperor, very unhappy to see her, took his lotus
whip and hit her with it. "What are you doing here, woman?" he demanded.
His beautiful wife examined the assembly and said,
"Look at all these women! Is this why you
were afraid to have me come along? You never told me there were all
these women here. What kind of muddled affairs are you involved in!"
Thereupon she marched off to see her father, the asura king.
"Daddy," she whined, "This Jade Emperor doesn’t follow
the rules. He goes to hear women sutras!"
"Very well." said the asura king, "I’ll make war on the
Jade Emperor and get you a good husband."
He called out his army and went to the heaven of the Jade Emperor to
fight. In the ensuing battles, the Jade Emperor and his army got so
bound up, that every-time there was a fray, the asuras won. Finally,
in desperation, the Jade Emperor went to see the Buddha.
"Please, Compassionate One," he said, "I can’t find a way to
conquer the asuras, can you help?"
The Buddha replied, "That’s really
easy," and taught the Emperor to say "Mahaprajnaparamita".
The Jade Emperor flew back to his heaven and
instructed his soldiers and generals, and soon, reciting "Mahaprajnaparamita", they
attained great wisdom. Then using this wisdom they reviewed their
strategy and were able to defeat the stupid asura king.
Asuras, men, and gods, are the three good paths of rebirth.
Hells, hungry ghosts, and animals are the three bad paths. All
sentient beings go from one path to another. When their conduct is
good, they establish merit and virtue. Merit and virtue is
established by cultivating the five precepts and the ten good karma
paths. The five precepts prohibit killing, stealing, sexual
misconduct, lying, and intoxicants. The ten good practices are the
opposite of the ten bad karma paths. These ten are, killing,
stealing, and sexual misconduct, which are done by the body; greed,
hatred, and delusion, which arise in the mind and harsh speech false
speech, slander, and idle prattle which are born in the mouth.
Through cultivating the five precepts, the ten good karma
paths, and taking refuge with the Triple Jewel, you can leave the
six paths. First, perhaps, you will be born in a heaven. Being born
in a heaven is not release from the six paths of rebirth, but bit by
bit, if you increase your merit and virtue, you can reach the stage
of Arhat, Bodhisattva, and finally, the accomplishment of Buddhahood,
If you commit offenses and crimes, these errors will cause you
to course in the remaining three bad paths. Just as people in the
world go from place to place, one day making a trip to Australia,
another day journeying through Europe, the next day going to Asia,
the day after that flying to Africa, and later on coming to America,
thus traversing the five great continents, so one moves in the six
paths, going from country to country, city to city, and village to
You think, "traveling not so bad!"
I agree that it’s not bad, but if you run off to the hells, there
may be no way to get back and find your original home. This is very
dangerous. The six paths are man’s long term travel in birth and
death. If you cultivate and accomplish Buddhahood, you are able to
go back to your Turning in the wheel of the six paths, you
constantly plant causes and reap fruits. For instance, yesterday
when I arrived, I said to the host’s dog. "Hey,
how’d you get to be a dog? Come on, you can tell me. Go ahead and
talk." The dog tried to speak but
couldn’t, and since he couldn’t talk, he tried to cry, but he
couldn’t do that either. All he could do was make his dog sound. Do
you think this is suffering or not?
I have a disciple who said, "He’s a
dog because he made a vow." Now really,
what use is it to vow to be a dog? If you make vows, they should be
to save sentient beings, to help them. But now, all this dog can do
is watch the door.
Plant a horse cause, get a horse result. Sow a deer cause,
reap a deer fruit. Whatever the animal, it has planted the causes to
be that animal. You plant a seed and reap a fruit. This disciple
said of the dog, "It’s his cause and
effect and he’s forgotten that he made the vow."
Making vows and planting causes can’t be described in the same way.
You make a vow because you want to accomplish something. You plant
causes out of ignorance. Plant a dog cause and get a dog result; sow
a human cause, and reap a human fruit. Cause, cause; effect, effect.
Today we have come together to hear Buddhadharma, because in
the past we wished to have this fruit. I have very deep causal
connections with all of you. I recognize you as old acquaintances,
and I don’t know how many times I’ve seen you before. Although I’ve
forgotten your names, I recognize you. I see, "Oh,
that one’s come," and, "Ah, he’s here," but I don’t know
the names. My memory isn’t good. As to whether you remember or not,
each of you can ask yourself. With each of you I have many causes.
I see you, and believe all of you will accomplish the Buddha
path. That is, unless you don’t want to be Buddhas...If you want to
be Buddhas, I now make a vow. I vow that I will wait until all of
you have first accomplished Buddhahood before I do. If you don’t
accomplish Buddhahood, I also won’t accomplish Buddhahood. I made
this vow in the past, I now make this vow, and in the future I shall
make this vow: one who sees my face, hears my name, or hears me
speak, will certainly accomplish Buddhahood. However, he must want
to accomplish Buddhahood. One person thinks, "I
won’t be a Buddha; I want to be a dog." Do
what you want; I don’t care. But I hope you don’t want to go that