All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, the Venerable Master, all good advisors, my topic today is, "Good Advisors."
All sentient beings wish to leave suffering behind and attain bliss. We know that cultivating the Buddhadharma is the ultimate solution. During the Dharma-ending age, our chaotic world is filled with wicked teachers and words. Even living beings with roots of goodness drift along with the currents of the times, finding it difficult to locate the proper path.
This past summer (1999) I read a newspaper article entitled, "Corrupt Official in China Has Phenomenal Memory". Greedy government officials are everywhere, but this officer had used his position to illegally accept bribes for several years. The man was finally arrested after he had committed numerous frauds. The investigators found that the offender had amassed several million dollars through his scams. Although this dollar figure isn't small by today's standards, law enforcement officials were not particularly surprised. They were only amazed by the man's memory. This insatiable bureaucrat had accepted 200 some bribes. He recalls the sum of money exchanged in each transaction, the time, location and individuals involved in every incident flawlessly. The arbitrators compared his oral statement with research material from various sources—they couldn't help but be astounded by the accuracy of his memory.
I remember that the Venerable Master once said that wisdom is also a reward from the past, a result of philanthropy without strings attached. This greedy officer must have done some good deeds in the past to have such an excellent memory; yet it is unfortunate that he didn't know to cherish his ability. Why is that? You might say that he didn't believe in the law of cause and effect. To convert non-believers into believers is easier said than done. When we try to persuade people in reality, we find that the obstacles are monstrous and persistent. I once asked the Venerable Master how we might ensure that living beings believe in the law of cause and effect. He said, "It must be explained to them by someone who truly understands." In other words, only good advisors are capable of bringing forth people's faith.
In reality, good advisors help us even beyond the initial stage of making resolutions. Good advisors help us throughout the entire process on the path toward liberation. The Buddha elucidated this point in one of the Sutras in Roll Forty of the
Gradual Collection. That Sutra states:
Thus it was heard. At one time, the Buddha dwelt at Shravasti, in the Jeta Grove in the Garden of the Benefactor of Orphans and the Solitary. At that time Ananda uttered to the World Honored One, "A practitioner with a good advisor has already perfected half of his pure practices, for the good advisor guides one onto the wholesome path leading to the unconditioned."
The Buddha advised Ananda, "Do not assert that a practitioner with a good advisor perfects only half of his pure practices. Why? If you attend to a good advisor, you have already perfected all pure practices. Working along a good advisor ensures that one will reach a good path. I, too, by virtue of having good advisors, realized the Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal Enlightenment and attained the fruition to the Way; thereupon I liberated countless sentient beings and freed them from birth, aging, sickness, and death. Through this skillful means, you should know that those around a good advisor are practitioners replete with perfected conduct."
"Moreover, Ananda, if good men and women attend to a good advisor, the roots of their faith will increase; their virtue of listening to the Dharma, of charity, of wisdom are all obtained. Just as the moon increases in brightness when it is nearly full, so it is with good men and women who draw near good advisors. Their virtues of faith, listening to Dharma, mindfulness, charity and wisdom will all increase. This expedient illustration shows that good advisors assure that people complete their pure practices. If I had not served good advisors in the past, Burning Lamp Buddha would never have prophesized my realization of Buddhahood. Since I had attended upon good advisors, Dipamkara Buddha saw me and prophesized my realization of Buddhahood. Through this example, we learn that those who have good advisors become replete with all pure practices. If no good advisors exist in the world, people would not honor the social status and relationships with parents, teachers, siblings and relatives. Then human beings would differ in no way from swine and dogs, for they create evil affinities and illicit conditions for reincarnation in the hells. With good advisors, people will honor their relationships with parents, teachers, siblings and relatives."
Ananda had originally thought that by drawing near a good advisor, a person only accomplished half of his pure practices. However, the Buddha told Ananda that one's pure practices are completely realized when one draws near a good advisor. That shows how great are benevolent and wise counsels. Without good advisors, the world is dark and dim. If we manage to remember the teachings of a good advisor at all times, maintaining complete confidence in them and putting their teachings into practice, we will have fulfilled the causes and conditions for all pure practices. That way, when we're lost, we'll receive instructions. When we need blessings, we will have fields of blessing to till. When we're afraid, we'll be comforted. However, if we abandon a good advisor and fail to abide resolutely on the proper path, we will inevitably create all kinds of offenses and go astray.
To be continued