All Good & Wise Advisors, Venerable Swamis, all good men and women, especially the elders present, and especially those in the prime of life, especially all young friends, good morning!
I, Hsuan Hua, am a very inarticulate person. Talking does not come easy to me. I am especially unwilling to walk or sit in front of anyone else, or to come and speak before anyone else. I don't assume to put myself in those places, I don't dare to make that assumption. But you are all so sincere and have invited me to say a few words. This being the case, I don't hope that you will forgive me, but I will say that those of you who don't want to hear what I have to say, please shut your ears. Those who are willing to hear what I have to say, feel free to listen on. (Laughter.)
Now what I said is not a joke, it's absolutely the bald truth. This is a genuine expression of my heart, so why, if this is the case, might some of you be unwilling to listen? Why might some of you not want to hear what I have to say? Well, perhaps it's because the things I have to say are not ordinary human talk, or normal human discourse. I assume it's the case that the ants wouldn't want to say the things that I have to say. People who know me, know that I often refer to myself as being like a mosquito, but the problem with being like a mosquito is they can only buzz, so nobody understands what mosquitoes say. So I don't want to compare the things I say to a mosquito talk. But all the same, I will say there is a place where we are the same, which is the things I have to say to you are like a mosquito in that I always want to take blood from those who hear me buzz, the way a mosquito does.
The topic today, as soon as I saw it on the program, I thought, "Gee, I don't understand that! The topic is called activating inner wisdom. Well, wisdom, as far as I know, is limitless and boundless, which is to say there is no way one can completely express it in words." So, here I am in a situation being unable to express the topic - - you can't say it! You people want me to talk about it and I can't talk about it. If you want an example of how to put it into practice, I can do that even less. I myself have no wisdom. So, if you ask me to come before you all and talk about wisdom, then it's really a quandary. All the same I don't want to disappoint your expectations, since all of you have been so sincere in requesting. So I thought that I will force it, (Translator: In Chinese this phrase is eloquent, and in English it takes about three sentences to say.) I'll try to explain to you in a way that learns as I speak.
What I say to you is not my wisdom, I am not the source of my own wisdom. In fact, I have no wisdom to speak of. What I do have, is a stupidity. This is not so strange because you could say wisdom emanates from stupidity. But I want to learn the wisdom that I hope to attain from all of you. Especially, in the matters of how to become a good person. So, I can't say that what I offer is the wisdom of wisdom, it is simply the wisdom of stupidity.
Now the stupidity that I am talking about does not depart from wisdom. In fact, stupidity is the source of wisdom. If you don't have stupidity, there will be no wisdom. And yet, if you are looking for wisdom you will not find it apart from stupidity. Wisdom and stupidity (Translator: stupidity can also be translated as ignorance) are two things that are non-dual; they are one and the same. All the same, we people much prefer wisdom, we always aspire upwards towards wisdom. Nobody would openly admit that they prefer stupidity or ignorance. I myself, in ignorance, I am this way I don't dare compare myself to wisdom that ascends. This is the way I see it, whatever other people don't want, that's what I go and pick up for myself. And anything that others want, I will give to them.
This is my stupid behavior, and it's also my dumb
appearance; the way I show myself externally. Now, behavior,
that's something that you yourself are aware of, that's in
the person. The outer manifestation is what others perceive,
that's what the world witnesses. So, all in all, I would say
that stupidity is much more practical than wisdom. It's much
more applicable to life.
Wisdom, although it receives the praise of the world, is not something one needs to aspire to. This should be something that one is willing to give to others. So my principle is that I want to give as much wisdom as I can, and not keep it for myself. If I had any, I wouldn't be in the process of giving it to others. So, I don't know whether you want to listen to this, but that's just how ignorant my wisdom is. You have freedom of choice. If you listen to this stupid person talking about stupidity and say, "Hey! that's pretty good, that's interesting!" then I invite you to listen. If you listen to it and the more you hear the less you like it, well it's up to you, you're free to choose. This is a democracy, and I cannot compel any of you to do what you are not willing to do.
I recall the first time I met the late Paul, Cardinal Yu-bin, who was the Catholic Cardinal of China. I am a Buddhist, I was interested in taking him across and making him a Buddhist as well. I thought, well, how am I going to do this? So, the first time I met the Cardinal I said, "Cardinal Yu-bin, you have been a Catholic for so long, I bet you're tired of it." So he stared at me. I said, "I have a proposal, why don't you be a Catholic-Buddhist? Why don't you be the Buddhist among the Catholics?"
He opened his eyes even wider at that, and he stared. He thought that was pretty strange. Why would I be asking him to change his religion? How incredible! So I said "Cardinal Yu-bin, you need not see this as strange, You should go ahead and be the Buddhist among the Catholics. Then I will be the Catholic among the Buddhists. That way, when our thinking merges, we can exchange our beliefs in this way, and it will put an end to all the wars in the world. So what do you say?' He stared at me a little longer, about two minutes,and he slapped his thigh and said "Right! Let's do it!"
After that, since he's a man of his word, he went into the Buddha Hall at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and bowed to the Buddha images. After that he didn't think bowing was such a superstitious act, or like worshiping graven idols. He didn't think that way any longer.
So, that you could say, was my dumb intent, to try and take across a Catholic Cardinal. Especially a person as wise as Cardinal Yu-bin. I believe nobody dared do such a thing in the past. When I explained the principle behind it, not only did he not stand behind his seat as a Cardinal, he completely agreed with the principle and the truths inside. He didn't fear over-stepping the boundaries of his Cardinal's authority. In fact, he stepped out of that role in order to meet the truth of unity and harmony among religions. His intent was to connect at the level of thought; to put the hearts together.
Now, as we look at the wars in the world we can know that a large part of the responsibility for them should be placed squarely on the shoulders of religious leaders who are not upholding their proper duty, their proper responsibility, in guiding people away from warfare. We need to use wisdom to do the things we do; we don't want to use ignorance and stupidity to do those things.
What does that mean? Well, stupidity would mean constantly finding fault, constantly criticizing; finding out where my religion is long, and your religion is short, mine is good and yours is bad. In this way, we are constantly knit-picking and harping on each other. When we allow ourselves to fall into this habit, then invisibly the seeds of warfare have been planted. The conflict that follows is simply the natural progression of those seeds.
If religious people can unite, we can then go forward together and teach people how to change their faults, how to go towards the good, how to end ignorant behavior, and how to bring into being all wise behavior. Since we have the same goal, we should instruct those who follow our religions not to gossip, not talk about what is right and what is wrong among religions. Most of all they should be taught to avoid slander, mutual vilification. When we can be this way then wars will naturally end because the seeds that foment them will not be in the ground.
There is a verse that says
Fighting is the attitude of victory and defeat;
It stands in opposition the the Way, (the Tao)
Further it brings into being the Four Mark mind,
ow can you possibly attain samadhi?
That's to say once we begin fighting for any reason then we have let our stupidity loose. Once we refuse to fight then we have allowed our wisdom to flourish. If we refuse to fight, then a bad situation can turn good. Likewise, if we are in a good situation and decide to fight, it will become a bad situation. So peace depends on what we do. Nobody in this world tells us to contend, or to mutually find faults. In fact, the problem of correcting faults is something that we, as religious believers, should make our first order of business. We should rid our character of faults; find the invisible thorns in our nature, and change the parts of our personality that prick others when they draw near us. Those are the thorns in our nature.
We should thoroughly banish a mind of contention, because once we have this thought, then there is a winner and a looser, which allows disharmony and discord. Once we fight, then we are far away from the Path, the Tao, we cannot approach it anymore. When we fight we create the Four Mark mind, the mind of four characteristics. Those four characteristics are self, others, living beings, and creatures with lifespans. All of those are perceived one by one, they all roll right out when we allow a thought of contention to arise in our minds.
|Venerable Master Speaking Dharma for the Vedanta Assembly 上人說法
Once we have a thought of self and others, that are separated from me, and living creatures with life span, then comes forth the Four Mark mind, and then how will we approach samadhi? How will we attain a state of meditative peace where we have proper concentration, and proper reception? How will there be any wisdom? How can we approach Prajna wisdom once we allow a thought of contention to arise in our minds?
The basic substance of all the different religions is one and the same. It is said that
"religions all emanate from people's needs, the way medicines all appear for illnesses."
If we want to cure the illnesses in people we should use a different medicine, because the illnesses are not all the same. This is true, nonetheless the function of medicine is simply one, to cure illness; and so it is with religion. Everyone is different. I will give as an analogy, the five flavors of food.
Many people know that Chinese cuisine is divided into five flavors, which are the spices on our food. Religions are this way, too, like the seasoning in people, as it were. Which is to say some people prefer sour, other people prefer sweet, others prefer hot/spicy food, others like salty, still there are others who like bland or bitter food. Now, if one person prefers sweet, hot, bitter or sour, you can't correct him and say he's wrong. Someone may argue, and say "Hot, spicy food is the best, how can you like salty food? You're wrong!" You can't righteously say that, because verybody has a different palate, a flavor they prefer. It's simply a matter of taste.
Religions are the same way. The people who like sweet flavors have no basis in criticizing those who like bitter flavors. Simply because when the person who likes it bitter swallows his food, he feels comfortable with that flavor. The person who likes the sweet flavor, feels hers is the best, and enjoys the feeling when she swallows it. There's no basis for criticism. Religions are the same way, whoever prefers, according to their taste, has a right to believe and to follow as he pleases. It's a question of habits.
Now, at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, following the same analogy, we have established our monastery to accord. The first thing we did was to heal the artificial division between the so-called Mahayana and Theravada (The Great Vehicle and The Small Vehicle), we put them together so that the two Vehicles no longer mutually engage in criticism or set up an adversarial relationship. This never existed at the City of Teri Thousand Buddhas. The many Vehicles are one at that Buddhist community. We welcome all religions there. In the past, I know it was the case, that Buddhists stayed in their Buddhist circles that was all that they knew. There was little contact with other religious groups; and this is not the way it should be. While there was no open hostility, there was still a division, you knew where you belonged and you didn't join other groups. I always felt that this attitude was disadvantageous to world peace.
So the policy at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas has been that we welcome Catholics to perform the mass in our Buddha hall, and in fact, this has occurred on a regular basis. We also welcome Protestants to give their services in our worship halls. We also welcome Jewish Rabbis to chant their Holy ceremonies in their worship halls; we don't want to say
ours because they are theirs equally. We want the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to be the home of all religious people. It won't be any different than if the Buddhists were there, it is the same. So, at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas we want to create harmony among all peoples. That is how this stupid person has set up his monastery.
I call myself a stupid person because my wish is to learn the ways of wisdom. I can't say that I have any wisdom of my own, but I am, all the same, willing to unify with all of you, and become one. Not only am I willing to do this with all religious people, but, at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas our credo, our principle, is that we want to unite with all living beings completely; that is to say we want the view all the world as a single family and live in harmony, the way a family should.
This is our principle: We treat all living beings alike. It should be this way among all people and how much the more so should it be with all living beings. So, I welcome all of you to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. At our City, in Talmage, near Ukiah, we keep a very low profile, we do our daily rounds in silence, we don't advertise, or blow our own horn. As a result, even our next-door neighbors, know little about us. But, our central goal is to lose the discriminations that set people and religions apart.
I don't know whether you believe the things I've said. I acknowledged at the start they my comments were coming from a stupid person. Some of you may have taken my advice and stopped listening, but if you plugged your ears then you did not hear what I said. My goal, nonetheless, is to learn the wisdom of all religions and to learn the wisdom of all living beings. Where do I start? I start with ants and with mosquitoes. Now, some of you may laugh, but it's true, it's straight talk.
There will be people here who do understand what I say. The Buddha's first teaching was that all living beings have the Buddha nature, and that all can become Buddhas. This is not to say that there are certain living beings who cannot become Buddhas. That is not the case; all living beings have the Buddha nature, and all can become Buddhas.
We all come here by the same road, and will return on the same road. Since we are all travellers on this road, there is no need to differentiate between ourselves and other living beings. Although we aspire to live this way, and walk this way, I know there are people who would prefer not to hear what I have said. They don't want to listen. Is that the case with all of you? Is anybody sleeping? We're going to request another three minutes because I haven't gotten to the real point of what I want to say! (Laughter.)
So, if we want to have real wisdom, the first job is to learn to recognize stupidity. What is stupidity, after all? If we really see it clearly, then we will know what wisdom is. Wisdom is not something that arrives from outside. Recognition of it is not done from outside. We recognize wisdom from our own self nature, this is the Buddha nature; this is our original face, our fundamental identity. Nobody can take it from us, or stand in for us and use it in our place. I only have five minutes so I will tell you in brief. If you don't attach to forms, that is to say, (Translator: the literal Chinese is the "dust of visual sense objects", it's called the " dust of things seen"); if we attach to objects with form, things that we see, then we should know that this attachment to beautiful forms will impede our cultivation, this will create an impediment to our spiritual cultivation. If we can cut off this attachment to beautiful sights, just this is wisdom. It's the same way with the dust of sounds, with the things we hear. If we attach to those sounds, then our cultivation will turn towards stupidity and turn away from wisdom. Cultivators should look at sights and listen to sounds as if they were not there; we should treat them as if they were illusory. We can regard them like a person who "rides by on a horse to look at the flowers" (Literal translation), like a tourist. If that's the way we see the sights and hear the sounds of the real world then there can be real wisdom. If we can see through and put down sights, sounds, smells, flavors, and sensations of touch, those five things, then we can approach wisdom.
Furthermore, we should recognize the pursuit of wealth, sex, fame, food and sleep as as being part of stupidity Once we have seen through and put down the senses, then we must further identify these Five Desires. If we can be unmoved by the pursuit of wealth, see through the desire for property and money; if we can stop the relentless pursuit of sexual pleasure, as well as the desire for food, the craving for more and newer sensations of flavor, and if we can abandon the pursuit of sleep or comfort, if we can see through fame, and not be moved by any of these desires, then we are on the road to wisdom.
The Six Objects of the Senses: sights, sounds, smells, taste, objects of touch, and dharmas (the sense objects of the mind) are things we desire. Furthermore, the Five Desires are wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep. If we can see these things as ordinary, if they don't hook us, seduce us, or tempt us, and we are not attached to them, then we can have real wisdom. If we can bring forth this wisdom then we are on the road to Buddha hood.
Further, there are six more important things to mention: the Six Guiding Principles of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. The first of these is not fighting, not fighting in our thoughts. The second is not being greedy; the third is not seeking anything; the fourth is not being selfish; the fifth is not pursuing self-benefit; the sixth is not lying. These problems all arise from selfishness, so we begin to investigate them there. When we cant be unselfish, then we are no longer greedy. But if we are selfish, and hang on to that thought of self, then greed will come forth. What follows is contention and fighting.
So we begin with the question of selfishness. Further, cultivators don't seek anything, and are content at all times. Then, we want to not tell lies, but to be honest and have integrity. If we can keep these six principles in front of us at all times, then we are at all times on the broad, bright road to the wisdom of Buddhahood.
I think everyone understands these Six Guidelines, and we know that they are right, but how many of us walk this road? How many of us set our feet on this road in the morning and never leave it during the day? Well, if we can, then we are at all times on the road to Buddha hood. Well, if we can, then we are on the bright road of wisdom. Even though we may not want to arrive, we will quickly reach the end of the road, the fruition of Great Wisdom.
When I was introduced to Swami Prabuddhananda, he said you all hoped to learn wisdom from me. I said, "Sorry, I am a stupid person. All I can do is bring forth my ignorant point of view." If there are those people who like to hear what I have to say, then I just spoke my piece. The people who don't like to hear it, also heard me have my say, anyway. So, this being the case, I hope you won't thank me, and I won't thank you, and we'll wind up right where we started.
Now is the time for questions, and I will tell you frankly, before we begin, that I think all of you have much more wisdom than I have. If you want to stick me with tough questions about wisdom, then I hope after you hear my answers you will feel free to seek a higher authority. I am inept, I am just an amateur here. I'm afraid many of you will feel unsatisfied by the answers that I give. If that's the case, you've been warned, and I won't say I'm sorry.