How are Buddhas created? Buddha images are made from wood. How are living Buddhas created? Can Buddhas be created? Of course. How? When you help people to leave the home-life, you are creating Buddhas, because left-home people will definitely become Buddhas in the future. When you help many people to leave the home-life, you will eventually leave the home-life yourself. That is to say, when you create other Buddhas, you are creating the Buddha of your own nature.
To establish a Way-place is the greatest source of merit and virtue. In particular, by helping others to leave the home-life to become monks, one achieves the highest merit and virtue. In Burma and Thailand, people think leaving the home-life is the most important affair. If someone wants to leave the home-life, many people will make money offerings to that person. Leaving the homelife is taken more seriously than getting married. If the person who is leaving the home-life is rich, he will invite thousands of people to a meal. Who pays for the meal? It is paid either by his relatives, friends, or Dharma protectors in Buddhism. People will offer money and say, "So and so is leaving the home-life; I will pay for the meal and create merit and virtue." In this way, they help others leave the home-life. Some people cannot leave home themselves, for they are reluctant to renounce their families, wives, children, wealth, and so on. So they help others leave the home-life instead. They make money offerings as a way to help people leave the home-life and create merit and virtue for themselves.
I am very pleased that Guo Su's mother is able to visit us this time. I hope she will stay for a few more days to get to know how things are done here. Guo Su's mother is a very sensible and capable person. She is happy that her son is leaving the home-life. This is rather rare. Usually parents are not pleased when their sons want to leave the home-life. Some would rather leave the home-life themselves than have their sons leave home. Remember Mrs. Chang, who was here last year, the one who knows how to cook vegetarian food? She wanted to leave the home-life herself. However, she would not permit her son to leave home no matter what. Her son asked her, "Mother, you want to leave the home-life yourself. Why won't you let me leave the home-life?" She could not answer. She said, "What a strange kid! Why would he want to ask me such a question?"
Guo Su's mother has been to many Buddhist countries, so she knows that Buddhism is a great religion. It is said, "When one child enters the Way, the ancestors of the past nine generations ascend to the heavens." Some people want to retreat after they have studied the Buddhadharma. How can you retreat when your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents are all waiting for you to save them? They are waiting for you to help them become Buddhas. When you retreat, they all want to cry. Therefore, when we cultivate the Way, we can only advance with vigor. We may not retreat. After we bring forth the Bodhi resolve, that resolve should grow higher and greater every day. When it has grown to the point of being so great that nothing is outside of it, and yet so small that nothing is inside of it, you will have succeeded.
Some people say, "I want to be filial to my parents. However, since I have left home and am away from my parents, how can I be filial to them?" Leaving the home-life is itself a great deed of filial piety. As it is said, "When one child enters the Way, ancestors of the past nine generations ascend to the heavens." When you leave the home-life, your ancestors of the past nine generations will ascend to the heavens because of you. So, you see? Your ancestors of nine generations will be saved. You are being filial not only to your parents of this life, but to ancestors and parents from past lives as well. However, you must cultivate. If you don't, all of your ancestors will fall into the hells. They will all weep. Why? They will say, "We thought that since we had a descendant who cultivated the Way, all of us could be saved. Who would have guessed that he would neglect his cultivation? He is so lazy; he just sleeps all day. Now all of our offenses cannot be pardoned. We will fall into the hells again."
Therefore, although it's said that leaving the home-life and cultivating the Way causes ancestors of the past nine generations to ascend to the heavens, if you don't cultivate, they will fall into the hells just like before. Leaving the home-life does not guarantee that your ancestors will ascend to the heavens. If you don't cultivate, they won't. Only when you cultivate are you being filial to your parents in a great way, and only then will you be able to save them.
In leaving the home-life, we leave the home of afflictions, the home of the Triple Realm, and the home of ignorance. What does it mean to leave the home of afflictions? Everyone has afflictions, but it is only when you can put them down and not give rise to them that you leave the home of afflictions. The Triple Realm includes the desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm. If you can leave the home of the Triple Realm, then although you still live in the realm of desire, nevertheless, you will not have any sexual desire. Even though you have not reached the form realm, still you see that forms and appearances are empty. That is the meaning of leaving the home of the Triple Realm.
In leaving the home of ignorance, you break through ignorance, which is the basis of afflictions. If you can eradicate ignorance, then you will perfect the wisdom of enlightenment. That is the meaning of leaving the home of ignorance, the third of the three kinds of leaving home.
In China, not everyone who leaves the home-life is able to cultivate. Upon seeing that a sickly child is doomed to die, it is customary for the parents to take him to a monastery to leave the home-life as a novice. Often the child becomes well as soon as he leaves the home-life, and he does not die. He leaves the home-life to avoid death. Although such a person has good roots, he may still be confused and not know how to cultivate. He has forgotten how he obtained his good roots, and so it is not for sure that he will be able to cultivate. These people usually go to the monastery to leave home when they are very young.
Then there are people who leave the home-life because they have had a difficult life. They may come from a very poor household, and they leave home because they have heard that one gets food, clothing, and shelter when one leaves the home-life. These people leave the home-life for food and clothing.
Others decide to leave the home-life and become monks because they are old and have no one to take care of them. They then take young disciples who will be filial to them, because the rule for disciples is that they should be filial to their teacher. For example, they should offer whatever they eat to their teacher first, and no matter what the circumstances, they must always be respectful to their teacher. Some elderly people who do not have any sons or daughters leave the home-life so they can take a young disciple who will take care of them. This kind of person leaves the home-life so that he will be taken care of in his old age, and it is not for sure that he will be able to cultivate.
Some people are forced to leave home due to circumstances; the Patriarch Kuiji is one such example. Circumstances compelled him to leave the home-life, and then he was able to cultivate.
In China there was a law which permitted a person to leave home in order to avoid prosecution, even if he was a murderer, an arsonist, or a bandit, and so there were people who left the home-life to avoid being punished for breaking the law. It was not certain that these criminals could cultivate either.
To be continued