What is a good advisor? According to the Venerable Master's instructions, besides the outstanding, clear-eyed advisor who has realized the fruition, common people who sincerely cultivate according to Dharma can be good advisors too. We're talking about individuals who possess proper knowledge and views, conduct and cultivation congruent to the Buddhadharma; individuals whose every action and move is consistent with the Dharma. Speaking of helpful teachers, some people have never met a larger-than-life, kind-hearted guide with clear vision, and so find the state I mentioned incredible. They estimate that such counselors merely know a bit more than they do. They may learn some principles from these teachers; however, there's no confidence to speak of, only that the Buddha is an ideal. On the other hand, some people have absolute faith in clear-eyed, good advisors, but mock cultivators below that rank. Both of these views are incorrect.
First, let's talk about why we must have an advisor who is good and clear-eyed to engender great faith in us and guide us down the right path. Currently, Buddhism faces unprecedented challenges. The environment today is drastically different from that of ancient times. To reiterate and duplicate the traditions of ancient Chinese Buddhism and Hinduism no longer suffices at this time. When the Tripitaka Master Paramartha came from India to China, he said, "The Chinese have two types of blessings. One is the absence of rakshasas, the other is the absence of externalists."
"Rakshasas" generally refer to the category of evil ghosts who damage human bodies and minds. "Externalists," especially those with magical powers, fashion themselves in novel and eccentric ways to gain and mislead a following. Hinduism had to tackle these two issues during earlier times. Since the Chinese had aspired to practicing the fundamental virtues of being human, emphasizing morality and ethics rather than supernatural powers and occult spirits, they imperceptibly resolved these two major issues. Most people today have not cultivated the basic Way (dao) and virtue for too long. It is unlikely to find nations endowed with these two great blessings in today's world. Are the venomous spells and black magic in Southeast Asian witch- craft, and Chi-gong masters who claim to be patriarchs to attract students, dissimilar from India's rakshasas and externalists of that earlier time? How can we possibly propagate the Buddhadharma under such circumstances without the guidance of good and wise advisors?
To cultivate the Way, we must sever desires and abandon love; however, sentient beings are attached to the five desires out of greed and cannot pull themselves out.
The Collection of Kindred Sutras discusses the time when the Buddha was explaining the five hindrances and the seven factors of enlightenment. The Buddha said, "No god, demon, cultivator of purity, Shramana or Brahmin in the human and celestial realms rejoices and complies with my words- except for Tathagatas and the multitudes of Shravakas." If the effect of the Thus Come One personally speaking the Dharma and enticing sentient beings with their preferences is this miniscule, we can imagine the result of instructions by other cultivators. Encountering challenges, living beings with wholesome roots may hear and yet dislike the Dharma; they become doubtful, deluded, and worried instead. How can people's concerns be resolved and faith grow if we don't have benevolent and knowledgeable advisors who possess true and great wisdom, blessings, and awe- some virtue?
Our society today is superstitious about science; the quality of the world's phenomena assumes a new complexity. Many items that appear neutral murder the wisdom life of cultivators imperceptibly. Will we advance on the right path because we believe that the five desires are unhealthy? To cultivate the Way is to preserve essence, energy (qi) and spirit. If we practice preserving our essence and energy, we should contemplate the source of afflictions with our spirit. As we observe this, we realize that we falter most of the time. We spend most of our time using the television, the computer, the Internet, the pager and the cellular phone. Even though we haven't given rise to any major thought of deviance, we have wasted essence, energy, and blessings that we've nurtured. When we want to reach the same mental state to proceed with subtle and detailed mindfulness, we will need to accumulate the blessed retribution of essence and
qi again. This shows us how many inventions in the world appear not to directly encourage the five desires, yet they impalpably ruin the conditions for people's cultivation. When the Buddha was about to enter Nirvana, he said that he wanted his disciples to rely on the Four Applications of Mindfulness, to dwell on the body, the feelings, the mind, and dharmas. This way, we discover and alleviate afflictions instantaneously. Computers, the Internet, television and others are not conducive to the contemplation of our body, mind, and afflictions. We remain blinded by the three poisons if we focus on such things; we fail to reflect. Furthermore, we reduce our time and effort on introspection. To shatter modern man's superstition for scientific technology, we must clearly recognize its complex effect on cultivation. To advance, we must forsake the various "conveniences" of the world, cultivate according to the teachings and follow a good and wise guide, too. Just as the Venerable Master said, "Only someone who understands can speak."
What luck for us at the Sagely City to have met this greatly kind advisor! Some people who have been around the Venerable Master may make the mistake that only people at the level of the Venerable Master is qualified to be their teacher. They cannot see the virtue in good advisors who are less than perfect. They abandon their cultivation and compare strengths and weaknesses or become excessively critical over minutia. As a result, they inevitably sigh that no teachers exist, or become egoists.
To be continued