＊ ＊ ＊
The Forest-Ruling Spirit named Luster and Flavor of Flowers and Fruits obtained the liberation door of an adorned treasury of merit and virtue from enabling everyone to see the has appear and to recollect them with constant reverence and without forgetting them.
At that time, the Forest-Ruling Spirit named Spreading Flowers like Clouds received the Buddha's awesome might, contemplated all the multitudes of forest-ruling spirits, and spoke the following verse.
The Forest-Ruling Spirit named Luster and Flavor of Flowers and Fruits causes living beings' Prajna flowers to bloom, so that they bear the fruit of Bodhi. He emits the light of Prajna and reveals the flavor of ghee. That's the meaning of his name. He obtained the state of the Buddha and
the liberation door of an adorned treasury of merit and virtue from enabling everyone, all living beings,
to see the Buddhas appear in the world
and to recollect them with constant reverence and without forgetting them. Through such merit and virtue, he is particularly adorned with fine hallmarks. The abundance of merit and virtue makes it a treasury, a beautiful and adorned treasury of sublime merit and virtue. He obtained this liberation door.
At that time, the Forest-Ruling Spirit named Spreading Flowers like Clouds received the Buddha's awesome spiritual
might, contemplated all the multitudes of forest-ruling spirits, boundlessly many of them, not just one,
and spoke the following verse to explain certain principles which were not fully explained earlier.
The Buddha formerly cultivated and accumulated practices for Bodhi,
Thereby achieving perfect blessings, virtue, and wisdom.
Being completely endowed with all of the powers,
He emerges in the world with resplendent light.
The Buddha formerly cultivated and accumulated practices for
Bodhi. In the past, the Buddha accumulated the practices for Bodhi, so that starting out with a little, he gradually acquired a great amount. This accumulation took him from the near to the far, from the shallow to the profound, from having none to having some, and from having few to having many. The Buddha started out being the same as living beings. However, he vigorously cultivated all manner of practices. In the beginning, he had no practices of Bodhi. So, he went from nothing to something. He went from one Bodhi practice to many Bodhi practices. He did not bypass even the smallest opportunity to do good. Therefore, starting out with a little, he accumulated a lot. He did all kinds of difficult ascetic practices. He was able to endure what most people found unendurable and cultivate what most people could not cultivate. In this way, he amassed a large quantity of Bodhi practices,
thereby achieving perfect blessings, virtue, and wisdom. Having perfected both blessings and wisdom, he is known as the Doubly Perfect Honored One.
Being completely endowed with all of the powers. The Buddha has cultivated the Ten Powers to perfection. Upon realizing Buddhahood,
he emerges in the world with resplendent light.
＊ ＊ ＊
The Sino-American Buddhist Association at Gold Mountain Monastery was established out of the Buddhist Lecture Hall. In the beginning, some people founded the Buddhist Lecture Hall. Later on, it became the Sino-American Buddhist Association. Since the establishment of the Sino-American Buddhist Association in 1968, we have held Buddha recitation sessions and Chan sessions annually. These sessions have quietly gone by without much notice. Every year we hold them, but even the people of this city of San Francisco are not aware of them, not to mention people elsewhere. Why aren't they aware of the recitation and Chan sessions here? First of all, it's because we haven't done any publicity or broadcasting. Our intention is to honestly cultivate. If other people find out about our sessions and wish to participate, they are most welcome. But even if no one knows, we continue to hold our sessions regardless. We don't go out begging, asking people to help us with our Chan sessions, saying, "You ought to make offerings to these cultivators who have attained the state of no-thought." We don't do that.
In China, the offerings given during a Buddha-recitation session would be sufficient for a monastery for a year and more. The income from one recitation session would about cover a year's expenditures. During Chan sessions, many people also make offerings to create affinities with the assembly. The offerings would pour in huge quantities of rice, oil, flour, and so on. In the United States, on the other hand, because we have not resorted to any tactics to get offerings, we haven't received any. If we were clever at using exploitative strategies, perhaps the offerings would be even more abundant than in China. Why do we refrain from using any manipulative schemes? We are determined to practice sincerely and leave it to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to make arrangements for us. When the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and the eight divisions of gods, dragons, and Dharma-protecting spirits see us applying genuine effort, we will naturally obtain a response. However, if we don't really work hard, then we ought to be extremely ashamed for our offerings.
There is a saying which goes:
When the three thoughts are not ended,
Even water is hard to digest.
If we constantly have thoughts of the past, present, and future, then we will have difficulty receiving even the offering of a sip of water.
If the five contemplations are understood,
Even gold can be absorbed.
At noon we chant, "The Buddha told the Bhikshus: While eating, observe the five contemplations." The five contemplations are:
1. Consider the amount of work involved to bring the food to where it is eaten.
2. Consider whether or not one's virtuous conduct is sufficient to enable one to accept the offering.
3. Guard the mind from transgression, of which greed is the principle cause.
4. Properly taken, the food is like medicine, to keep the body from wasting away.
5. This food is accepted only in order to accomplish the Way.
If we can practice these five contemplations, then we can digest even gold. Don't take this literally and think that if you eat a piece of gold, your stomach will be able to break it down. This line means that you are deserving of eating the finest and most expensive foods.
Tonight the Chan session begins. Our Chan session is different from those held in China. In China, Chan sessions are basically "eating sessions." In the evenings, the cultivators are served steamed buns with sesame oil. This is the case even at Gold Mountain and Gaomin Monasteries. The bigger the buns, the more energetic the cultivators. The more sesame oil, the more slick their mouths. With their mouths greased, their heads become slick too. "Slick heads" refer to people who join the session just to eat sesame oil buns. Many longtime Chan cultivators have cultivated for so long that their hair has turned gray, teeth have fallen out, ears have gone deaf, and eyes have become blurry, yet they are still attached to sesame oil buns. If no sesame oil buns are offered at one place, they will run off to another. They search out the place with the best-tasting sesame oil buns. I am not slandering Chinese cultivators by saying that they are attached to food. I'm simply telling things the way they are. This is one difference between our sessions and those in China.
We offer no sesame oil buns or other snacks during our sessions. What do I mean by snacks? Sometimes, as you're sitting in a session in China, the host may hand you two or four
guiyuan (dried longans) to eat. During another period, crackers might be passed out. In yet another period, you might get a piece of rice-crisp to eat. That deep-fried rice-crisp tastes even better than that fried stuff we had today. Sometimes you are given peanut candy as a way to create affinity. The laypeople all want to make offerings to the cultivators who have attained no-thought, but they are actually causing them to have thoughts of eating.
Sometimes tea is served, and one can tell whether a person is a seasoned cultivator by the way he holds his teacup. The teacup has to be held in a certain way. Drinking tea, eating crackers and sesame oil buns, one comes to have a perpetually stuffed belly. You can't down anything else. If you cannot even let go of your stomach, then you can forget about anything else.
In our Chan session, we start in the early morning and alternately walk and sit. Sometimes there is milk, and you have the choice to drink some tea, but there is nothing to eat. It is quite bitter. Our session is one of bitter cultivation and bitter practice. We try to practice what others cannot practice. During this "birth and death" session, you must keep the words "birth and death" before your eyes. Don't forget about birth and death. Don't decide, "I haven't had enough sleep. I'm really tired. I might as well sit here and enter the sleeping samadhi." If you do that, you won't accomplish anything. You must renounce life and forget about death as you participate in the session. Without paying attention to birth and death, diligently apply effort in the session. Be determined to attain the benefit you ought to attain. Don't just follow the crowd, mindlessly walking and sitting when you see others doing so. Don't think, "I will just follow everyone else. When I see someone else doze off, I will doze off too."
I will tell you that in all the Chan sessions I have participated in, the proctor never had to hit me with the incense board, because I never slept. I sat in the Chan Hall during the daytime, and at night I continued sitting in the hall. The words "rest" and "sleep" were not part of my vocabulary. In those days when I was a student, I would not casually waste a single second. I constantly worked at developing my skill.
All of you have deep, thick, good roots. You are endowed with intelligence and wisdom. You ought to see the importance of this session. In this year's Chan session, I insist that someone become enlightened. If no one becomes enlightened, then after the session everyone will receive one hundred strokes of the incense board. If you feel you can bear that, then don't get enlightened. If you don't think you can take it, you'd better get enlightened. If you are really scared, then before the Chan session starts, you can back out and not join the session. That's also acceptable. However, once you begin the session, you cannot retreat. Once you enter the Chan Hall, you have bid farewell to birth and death, and you are not allowed to leave. Even if you die, your body will be put under the Chan bench and not be carried out. If you haven't died, then you have even fewer reasons to readily leave. We are setting up the threshold of life and death. If you are not on the side of life, then you are on the side of death. If you are not on the side of death, then you are on the side of life.
If you cannot renounce death, you cannot gain life in return.
If you cannot renounce the false, you cannot achieve the true.
That is the threshold at Gold Mountain Monastery.
To be continued