有情著染 無欲清淨 返本還原 寂光大定
猴子美人 難堪比併 天堂地獄 苦樂是境
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From last issue: In front of everyone, the Buddha “forced” Sundarananda to leave the home-life, and Sundarananda had no way to return home.
One day, the Buddha and all of his disciples were invited to a vegetarian meal offering. Before he left, the Buddha said to Sundarananda, "You have work to do today. Sweep the floors of the monastery so that we can eat together when we come back." Sundarananda promised, "Okay, I'll do that."
As soon as he swept the dust into a pile, a gust of wind blew in and scattered the dust all over the floor. And so he set about sweeping it back together. But just as he finished, the wind blew it away again. "Oh, this wind is disgusting!" he exclaimed. He closed all the windows and started sweeping again. However, the wind soon blew the windows open again. There was no way he could finish his job, and it was almost time for the Buddha to come back.
Sundarananda thought, "The Buddha is about to return. I'd better get out of here. If I don't escape now, I'll never have another chance." Feeling certain the Buddha would return soon, he quickly left the monastery and ran toward the palace. On the way, he thought, "If I run into the Buddha, I'll be trapped. What should I do? Well, the Buddha always takes the main road. I can avoid meeting the Buddha if I take a by-path."
Strangely enough, the Buddha decided to take the by-path on his return. When Sundarananda saw the Buddha coming toward him, he quickly hid behind a big tree. However, the Buddha had already seen him. Actually, the Buddha knew he would escape along this route. "Nanda," the Buddha called out, "What are you doing here? What are you up to?"
Since the Buddha was calling him, he couldn't keep hiding. He came out and said, "Oh, it's you, Buddha. I waited and waited, but you didn't come back, so I thought I'd come out to meet you and welcome you home. You must be tired from all that walking. Let me help you carry your bowl."
"Fine," said the Buddha, "you may help me with my bowl." Nanda took the bowl from the Buddha and obediently followed the Buddha back to the monastery.
However, back at the Jeta Grove, Nanda continued to miss his wife. He was so lovesick that he couldn't eat or sleep. The Buddha took pity on him and said, "How unhappy you are! Let me take you on a holiday."
"Where are we going?" asked Sundarananda.
The Buddha said, "I'll take you into the mountains where you can get some fresh air." Sundarananda thought to himself, "There are many forests in the mountains. When I get there, I'll just plunge into the forests and run home. Ah! There is still a chance." So he agreed and went with the Buddha to the mountains.
Walking into the mountains, they saw many groups of monkeys. There was a female monkey that was slightly blind in one eye. The Buddha asked Sundarananda, "What do you think of this monkey?"
"It looks fun to play with," replied Sundarananada.
"Do you think it's pretty?"
"Well, it's not bad-looking," said Sundarananda.
"How does it compare with your wife Sundari?" asked the Buddha.
Sundarananda made a face and said, "How can this ugly monkey possibly compare to my beautiful Sundari?"
"Oh, so they can't be compared?" asked the Buddha. "Okay, let's go then. We've seen enough monkeys for today."
The following day, the Buddha said, "Let me take you to the heavens to have a look."
Sundarananda said, "Wow! What are the heavens like? I've never been there. Great, let's go." When they arrived in the heavens, in each heavenly palace they saw five hundred heavenly maidens attending upon a heavenly lord. Every maiden was as lovely as a flower. They were the prettiest sights Sundarananada had ever seen.
"Who's prettier," asked the Buddha, "Sundari or these heavenly maidens?"
"Compared to these maidens, Sundari is as ugly as that monkey we saw before," Sundarananda replied. "Without a doubt, these maidens are prettier by far."
Then they came to empty palace. There was no heavenly lord there, but there were five hundred maidens cleaning the place. Sundarananda asked the Buddha, "Who is the master of all these heavenly maidens, and why isn't he here?"
"Why don't you ask the maidens?" the Buddha suggested.
Sundarananda turned to the maidens, "Why are you all so busily tidying up this place and making it nice and pretty? Who is your master?"
"Our master lives in the Saha world," the maidens told him. "His name is Sundarananda, and he is the Buddha's brother. He has left the home-life with the Buddha, but has not renounced his emotional attachments. He is cultivating heavenly blessings, and when he dies he will ascend to the heavens and be our master. We will all be his attendants."
Sundarananda was overjoyed. The sight of those beautiful heavenly maidens made him forget all about Sundari. He no longer wanted her. Determined to attain heavenly blessings so he could be served by five hundred maidens, he went back with the Buddha and began cultivating in earnest.
Seeing that it wouldn't do for him to cultivate for a heavenly reward, the Buddha asked him, "Sundarananda, how would you like to take a tour of the hells?"
"The hells are no fun; in fact, they're terrible places," said Sundarananda.
"Let's just go and see what they're like," urged the Buddha.
And so Sundarananda went with the Buddha to the hells, where they saw people undergoing punishment in cauldrons of boiling oil, on mountains of knives, and with other implements of torture. They noticed one oil cauldron guarded by a young ghost and an old ghost. Both ghosts were toothless--the old one because his teeth had fallen out, and the young one because his hadn't grown in yet. Their age could be determined by their teeth. The two toothless ghosts who were supposed to be watching the cauldron of oil had both dozed off, and the fire beneath the cauldron had almost died out.
"Why aren't these two ghosts doing their job?" Sundarananda wondered. "The oil isn't even boiling." When he asked the Buddha why the ghosts were sleeping, the Buddha said, "Why don't you ask them?" He went over and asked the ghosts, "What exactly are you guarding this cauldron of oil for?"
"You want to know?" asked the ghosts. "Well, in the Saha world, Shakyamuni Buddha has a brother who renounced his wife Sundari and left the home-life. He is cultivating because he wants to be born in the heavens, where he will be served by five hundred heavenly maidens. After heavenly blessings are exhausted, he will fall into the hells. This cauldron of oil is prepared for him."
Hearing this, Sundarananda was startled into wakefulness. "Oh, so after going to the heavens, I still have to fall into the hells." Turning to the Buddha, he said, "Brother Buddha, I've seen enough! Let's go back!" After he returned, he thought to himself, "I certainly don't want to fall into the hells to be deep fried in boiling oil for who knows how many kalpas after I use up my heavenly blessings." And so he decided to truly cultivate and not seek the blissful reward of the heavens, knowing it would be followed by suffering in the hells.
People who leave the home-life to cultivate the Way must renounce desires and cut off emotional love. When Sundarananda started cultivating, he immediately realized the fourth fruition of Arhatship, the Position beyond Study. The first, second, and third fruitions are called Positions of Studying. The fourth fruition is called the Position beyond Study. At that time, one has ended birth and death, has accomplished pure conduct, has done what needed to be done, and has transcended existence. This is possible due to a concentrated mind and a sincere resolve. With a firm, sincere, and persevering mind, one can concentrate and accomplish things with efficacy. Having finished everything one set out to do, one transcends conditioned existence and no longer undergoes birth and death.
Although Sundarananda was a follower of the Two Vehicles, who are said to "contemplate the Triple Realms as hell and regard birth and death as an enemy," he and others like him manifested only to speak the Dharma and to serve as models for us. He had been so in love with his wife that he couldn't bear to part with her, and yet he left the home-life and cultivated. Although Sundarananda was a man, women should also learn this lesson from him.
Relationships between husband and wife are the manifestation of past affinities--both good and bad. These affinities cause people to get afflicted and to quarrel and fight in their own families, in the society at large, and even on an international scale. Even the richest and most noble person has nothing at the time of death. An old proverb says, "The Great Wall is still around, but has anyone seen the Emperor of Qin (under whom it was built)? We should quickly awaken and relinquish our attachments. While we're alive, we find many things unbearable, but when it comes time to die, we leave empty-handed, forgetting everything. So why should we take things so seriously? Why should we be so obsessed?
Sundarananda's story has an important message for couples who are deeply in love. Loving couples should hurry up and awaken, and afflicted, incompatible couples should also wake up soon. Do not wander astray and forget to return. Having seen today's "reflection in waters and mirrors," can you turn your minds around and avert calamities? It all depends on your personal understanding.
A verse in praise says:
Emotional love is but attachment and defilement;
Without desire, one is pure and clean.
Returning to the source and going back to the origin--
The great samadhi of stillness and light.
A monkey and a beauty
Can hardly be compared.
The bliss and suffering
Of the heavens and hells are mere states.
Emotional love is but attachment and defilement. People are stained and defiled by emotional love. Without desire, one is pure and clean. Only when one is free from desires can one obtain purity. If you can understand the meaning of returning to the source and going back to the origin, you will know that people originally are free from desires and basically no different from the Buddha. However, having forgotten our true identity, we drift along in the current of birth and death, drowning in the sea of suffering. If we could return to the origin, we would enter into and attain the great samadhi of stillness and light.
A monkey and a beauty can hardly be compared. Sundarananda said his wife could not be compared to a monkey, yet when compared to a heavenly maiden, his wife seemed like a monkey. A monkey is no match for a beautiful lady, but when the beauty is set next to a heavenly maiden, she becomes a monkey herself. And so Sundarananda transferred his love for his wife to the heavenly maidens. If Sundari had found out about this, probably she would have rammed her head against the wall and killed herself. However, Sundari was an intelligent lady who also began cultivating later on.
The bliss and suffering of the heavens and hells are mere states. Heaven and hell, joy and misery are all states. Everything is made from the mind. If the mind goes to the heavens you are in the heavens; if the mind goes to the hells, you are in the hells. How can the mind be in heavens? If you are happy, you are in the heavens. If you are afflicted, you are in the hells.
Another verse says:
Born in the Buddha's family, he was handsome as could be.
In a single confused thought, he was beguiled by her feminine charms.
Wandering in forgetfulness, when would he return?
Through an expedient device, he was lured to the Way-place,
But never for an instant did he forget the road back home.
Sneaking away, he happened to run into the Dharma King.
With no place to hide, he was forced to return to the monastery.
Contemplating his nose and emitting light, a foolish man was saved.
Born into the Buddha's family, he was handsome as could be. Sundarananda had a full and perfect appearance. He possessed thirty of the fine hallmarks. In a single confused thought, he was beguiled by her feminine charms. In a moment of confusion, he fell in love with Sundari and could not bear to part from her.
Wandering in forgetfulness, when would he return? He was so infatuated with her there seemed to be no end to it. Through an expedient device, he was lured to the Way-place. The Buddha employed his awesome spiritual power and used a clever trick to lead Sundarananda to the Jeta Grove.
But never for an instant did he forget the road back home. In thought after thought, he wanted to flee back to the palace and return to lay life. Sneaking away, he happened to run into the Dharma King. He ran away stealthily, wanting to return to lay life. On his way home, he took a by-path. Who would have guessed that he would run into the Buddha on the by-path?
With no place to hide, he was forced to return to the monastery. There was no way he could escape, so he returned to the Jeta Grove. Contemplating his nose and emitting light, a foolish man was saved. Then the Buddha taught him to contemplate his nose, that is, to concentrate on a single point. When the mind dwells on one spot, everything is possible. When your mind is free from wild, deluded, scattered, and random thoughts, you can definitely attain the Way. And so the Shurangama Sutra says, "When the mad mind is subdued, just that is Bodhi."
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Once when leading the Three Thousand Buddhas Repentance, the cantor speeded up the bowing in order to finish by the time for the Noon Meal Offering. During lunch that day, an American Dharma Master who had just come to Taiwan remarked in puzzlement, “I never knew people in Taiwan bowed as fast as hopping frogs!”
It turned out that he was the tallest member of the Sangha. By the time he stood up from his first bow, we short ones were already on our second bow!