|The Holy Sage Enlightened to Conditions Dozes High on a Mountain Peak, Alone.
Q: I have a question, my name is Vernon Castle. The question is on intention. The idea was that we clean up our faults, the idea that we may have thorns and when our thorns cause harm we try to remove the thorns. What is a skillful response when the intention feels clean, and yet harm comes from the action that the intention provoked?
Venerable Master Hua: In terms of intention, the first thing to do is to rid your purpose of any selfish benefit. In every situation if your intention is to benefit others, then you will not be an obstruction to others. On the other hand if you intend to only benefit yourself, then you will be an obstruction to everyone. If my answers are wrong, I hope you all will correct me.
Q: My name is Jeff Kurnan. My question is that it seems that what the Master is saying is very different, at least it is for me, and a number of my friends have said the same thing, about being entirely unselfish. Does the Master offer any kind of initiation, support, or course of study by which this can be facilitated?
Ven. Master: Although this has to be taught, it has to be instilled from the start, at an early age. If you teach children how to be a person, how to behave toward others, how to deal with things, and not contend to be number one and seek to make a lot money ... if, when children are young, they are without greed; then after they become adults, they will not act selfishly. Some people say, "I'm too old to learn the principle that you speak of." Others say, "I didn't learn this when I was little, so I can grasp it even less now. Presently, all I can think about is making a lot of money, holding an influential post, or striking it rich. This is all I know." Even if people have passed their youth and are advanced in years, it doesn't matter because they can still emulate a child's natural inborn tendency for learning and start again. It is said that:
Everything's a test
To see what I would do,
To see what you would do,
To see what he would do.
Mistaking what's before your eyes
You'll lave to start anew.
Q: I'm Dr. Huston Smith. (question is in Chinese). Venerable Master, I'm very happy to have this opportunity to meet you. Although we've just met, I feel we're old friends. I think you must be my good friend. My intelligence can't be compared to the Venerable Master's. I'm most unintelligent. Because you're a Chinese, you speak Chinese. I'm an American, I should speak American. But, instead, I speak Chinese. I don't know if you'll agree with this. I want to ask you something. You're an American among Chinese, I'm a Chinese among Americans. Because I was born in Su Jou (a city in China), when you speak I understand what you're talking about. Because I understand what you said, I think the Venerable Master's self-nature and my self-nature are the same.
Ven. Master: You still do not know yourself. I am the stupid one among the stupid and you are the intelligent one among the intelligent. I'm not only one with you, I'm also identical with all living beings. When I'm with ants, I feel like an ant. When I'm with great people, I'm not much lesser than them. When I'm with the most insignificant people, I don't feel I'm more superior than them. The Dharma is level and equal, there is no high and low. I'll tell you something else today. Whoever wants to activate their inner wisdom and potential has to do it from within. Whatever I say to you is only an extrinsic similarity or a graphic indication. True wisdom has to be mined by yourself, you yourself have to (be?) uncover it. There is no way I can convey it to you. What I can say in words is not true wisdom.
Q: My name is Jim Schuman and I'm a particularly ignorant human being. I would have liked to be a monk. (Ven. Master: Not as ignorant as I am!) But, I am a father with two boys and a wife. Not only do I have my own desires but I also have the desires of my children pointed in my direction. The desire-making machine that exists here, particularly in the United States, the television creating more and more desires, which seem to be necessities ... my question is, how to face the onslaught of desire and as a householder, a human being with wife, children, family, the full catastrophe as Socrates says. My thought is that I need to be a monk in order to rid myself of desire and yet I have responsibility to complete. How in the face of that, in my ignorant state can I be.... quiet?
Ven. Master: When you see things and understand, you can transcend the world. When you see things and are confused, then you will fall. This you don't need to ask; you should ask yourself. You brought this trouble on yourself, and you will need to get rid of it yourself. You have to figure out a way. What to do? This is not something that I can do for you, nor is it something I can express clearly in a few sentences. You end your own birth and death, you eat your own fill.
Q: Venerable Master Hua and Swami Buddhananda. This question comes from a common person who runs the affairs of the world like me. So. Our whole life's education and training is designed to put us on a long route where the sole objective is competitive spirit and success. The rest is all means to the end. Suddenly we get a goal in life and we decide to change routes, right at the beginning. To the right path or the middle path. Is such a dream real or is it a delusion? I'll try to avoid the controversy about wisdom and ignorance. So I would request you, for the benefit of a common person like me, who runs the affairs of the world, is such a dream of following the right path real or just delusion? And if a second question is permitted, are the Vedantic path and the Buddhist path, what you call the right path or the middle path, the same name for these, two names for the same street?
Ven. Master: In the past, you learned to contend for fame and fight for profit; then, suddenly you're enlightened. You don't want to go and contend for fame and fight for profit anymore. Is it a contradiction? Is this an illusion? This is a rather simple and obvious way of looking which even a child can understand. For instance, while a person is walking along the road, he suddenly sees a blaze of fire. Should he continue walking on, or turn back? When you walk to the edge of a sea-cliff, should you leap into the ocean of suffering, or should you turn around? In such a situation, would you say that turning around is a contradiction? Is it unreal?
As for the second question: Whether it's the case that Buddhism or Hinduism are different names for the same religion? Well, I know that all religions are just people. We make judgments based on people. You call them different names, but actually they are the same. Whether you are American, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Mexican, German, French, you are called a human being. You all have different names, but all of you are people. No matter what nationality you are, you can't be called a dog or a cat.
Q: Venerable Swami and Master Hua, my name is Dick Bolte and my question comes from what has just been said by Master Hua. Many of us here are struggling with a society now that is increasingly divided into two social classes. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting-poorer. We see the fire in the road. What is the task of the religious person in such a case?
Ven. Master: Extinguish the fire. (Audience laughter.)
Q: Swami Pradhananda and Ven. Master Hua, would you please address the Buddhist principle of Anata or Anatman. We can appreciate the beauty of Atman in Vedanta. We can also understand the necessity of transcending the jivaatman (self), but what about the Buddha-nature which seems often to be similar with the Atman, the true self.
Ven. Master: If you are looking for the Buddha-nature, you're talking now and it's the Buddha-nature who is talking. Eating, it's the Buddha- nature eating. Running, it's the Buddha-nature running. Every act you do, it's none but the Buddha-nature doing it. But only if you're on a good road is it the Buddha-nature. If you're on a bad road, it's the demon-nature. So the difference between good and evil lies in one thought. You must know that within this one thought, fundamentally, it's different yet not different, not different yet different. The Chinese character for "mind" (心) symbolizes the Buddha-nature very well. It's described as,
Three dots like clustering stars,
A hook like the new moon.
Animals and Buddlas
Both come from here.
Q: I wonder, in talking to people from the Judeo-Christian religion, is there a way to resolve the question of the soul? They think that there's no such thing as reincarnation.
Ven. Master: If you talk about the high school curriculum with elementary school students, they won't comprehend it. If you talk about the content of the college curriculum with high school students, they won't understand either. If you ask a college student about the elementary school curriculum and high school curriculum, he'll know. If you ask him about the college curriculum, well, he's studying it. When he goes to college, he'll know without your telling him. So, whether people believe it or not is only a matter of time. It is also a question whether or not people are mature. So, there's no need to worry about this question.
Q: This is for Master Hua, I'm Arlene Linda. Do women take part in your Buddhist community, and what do they do?
Ven. Master: Because the minds of women are as fine as hair, paying attention to minute details as fine as hair, they tend to be very fastidious. They will see what others cannot see. Men are broader and coarser. (The audience laughs) In Buddhism, there is equality, but they each have their own set of rules. Each has to comply with his or her rules.