The reason that people are the most magical among the myriad creatures is that they are able to cultivate a virtuous character. Therefore, one's words should be trustworthy, and one's actions must be prompted by utmost reverence. We should treat others with sincerity, teach them with earnestness, and observe the rules of courtesy with caution. Whenever things don't go our way, we should seek to find the problem within ourselves. We should get rid of selfish motives and embrace a public spirit. Above, we should understand the Buddhas of the ten directions, how they feel great kindness toward those with whom they have no affinities and universally save all living beings so they can together escape the wheel of suffering and accomplish the Buddha Way.
Below we should be mindful of our kin within the three evil destinies, who are still undergoing ceaseless retribution for their offenses. We should quickly rescue our relatives and friends, so that they all leave the realms of ghosts and hells, and together realize Bodhi. We should always maintain this resolve, and make firm our practices and vows. If we haven't reached this goal, we vow to never rest. By establishing a virtuous character, we can certainly fulfill our vows.
The Chinese word for "character" (品) is composed of three "mouths" (口) put together. This refers to three people talking about someone. Suppose the first person says, "This is a bad person," the second person says, "This is not a good person," and a third person says, "He's neither good nor bad, but just average." Then you know this person doesn't have virtue. Suppose the first person says, "This person is really good." Another one says, "This person isn't bad; he's very kind to people. He's very diligent, not at all careless." A third person comments, "Right, I agree with both of you." Then the person is someone who has virtue, who has virtue of character. If everyone praises him, then he is someone with good character. How is a person's character? Everyone is asked to evaluate it. For instance, what do you think of Guo Xing? Someone says, "Oh, he does very good work." Another one says, "He also speaks pretty well." Another one says, "He's not lazy at all. When it's time to work, he does a lot of work." From their evaluations, one can judge his character.
The reason that people are the most magical among the myriad creatures. Among creatures born from wombs, from eggs, from moisture, and by transformation—the four kinds of birth—people are the most intelligent. People control all other living beings. Horses do work for people, cows are raised to provide meat for people, and so are pigs. They can't eat the flesh of people, because they aren't as smart or as wise as people. That's why people are said to be the most magical of all creatures. "Magical" means intelligent and wise. The reason for this
is that they are able to cultivate a virtuous character. People know to go towards the good. How does one go towards the good. Once you say you will do something, you should do it.
Therefore, one's words should be trustworthy. Your words should be true and honest. You should do your best to live up to your own words, and you should not cheat others. For example, if you make an agreement with me to get up at four o'clock tomorrow morning to do morning recitation, and you don't get up until four thirty, then you will not have been trustworthy. To be trustworthy means if you say four o'clock, then you get up at four o'clock. You are on time for your appointment. If you aren't on time, then you can't be considered trustworthy.
And one's actions must be prompted by utmost reverence. Every deed you do, no matter how small, should be done with complete sincerity and respect. For example, don't think that you can be casual when you are typing. If you fall asleep as you type, then you aren't being reverent and serious. If you are serious, you won't make a single mistake in your typing. Everything you do should be based on an attitude of reverence.
We should treat others with sincerity. For example, if a person hasn't eaten, we should invite him to eat, saying, "Please come and partake of this food with us. Help yourself." You ask him to come to the table, and you serve him and take care of him. That's being sincere. A lack of sincerity would be to say, "Eat!" You sound as if you're joking, so even if the person wants to eat, he doesn't. He thinks, "You aren't being sincere, so why should I eat?" On the other hand, you shouldn't try to show your sincerity by giving him a huge bowl of food and insisting that he finish it all even if it's too much.
That's going overboard and doesn't count as sincerity. You shouldn't think that telling people to eat a lot is sincerity. You should
teach them with earnestness. When you teach people, you should be very earnest and serious. The principles you tell them should be very solid and down-to-earth. You shouldn't say things that are frivolous or vacillating, not the least bit serious, because then people won't want to listen.
And observe the rules of courtesy with caution. Be a little more careful to practice the rules of courtesy towards others.
Don't be so rash and impolite. To be cautious means to be very respectful and afraid of offending others.
This kind of spirit is not very common among you. You seldom show a sense of shame and remorse. You don't usually feel embarrassed when you offend someone.
Whenever things don't go our way, when we don't get a satisfactory response in whatever we do... for example, when we greet someone, but he doesn't even look at us or acknowledge our greeting,
we should seek the problem within ourselves. Why doesn't he acknowledge our greeting? It's because we haven't shown true respect. Reasoning in this way, we seek the problem within ourselves. We look for our own mistakes. We don't go to him and say, "I greeted you but you didn't even bother to look at me." So you got into a fight with each other. To argue with others in that way is not seeking within ourselves.
We should get rid of selfish motives, cast them aside,
and embrace a public spirit. We should work for the public good. If something is for our personal benefit, it doesn't matter if we do it. If it is for the good of humankind, for the good of everyone, then we are determined to do it.
Above, we should understand and be mindful of the
Buddhas of the ten directions, how they feel great kindness and compassion
toward those with whom they have no affinities and universally save all living beings so they can together escape the wheel of suffering and accomplish the Buddha Way. They don't discriminate and say, "I like this being so I'm going to rescue him first; I despise that one so I'll wait till later to save him." Whether or not you have affinities with the Buddha, he will save you. As long as a living being is in suffering, the Buddha wants to help him get out of the six paths and become a Buddha.
Below we should be mindful of our kin—our parents, ancestors, siblings, spouses, and relatives from this life and seven lives past—within the three evil destinies, who are still undergoing ceaseless retribution for their offenses. They are suffering in the hells and the realms of hungry ghosts and animals. Just as Maudgalyayana wanted to save his mother from the uninterrupted suffering of the hells after he certified to Arhatship and saw where she was,
we should quickly rescue our relatives and friends, so that they all leave the realms of ghosts and hells, and together realize the fruition of Bodhi.
We should always maintain this resolve, and make firm our practices and vows. If we haven't reached this goal of rescuing all living beings and our friends and relatives,
we vow to never rest. By establishing a virtuous character, we can certainly fulfill our vows.