Young Shramanera (Novice) Guo Zhan Shr:
Tonight I'd like to share some of the questions that came to me as I was reciting the
Avatamsaka Sutra, and my progress in finding answers. In the past few days we have been reciting the Ten Transferences Chapter and we finished today. It is eleven rolls long and primarily discusses how to make vows and transfer the merit. Making vows and transferring merit are also discussed in the Worthy Leader Chapter and the Chapter on the Comparative Merits of Giving in the
Earth Store Sutra. From these Sutras, we can know that when we do a good deed, it makes a difference whether or not we make vows dedicating the merit to living beings.
For example, if we offer flowers to the Buddha without dedicating the merit, we may be rewarded with attractive looks or abundant wealth in the next life. If, however, we emulate the Bodhisattva described in the Worthy Leader Chapter, offering the flowers to all Buddhas and dedicating the merit to the benefit of all beings, the future reward of our simple offering will be incredible.
If you practice charity towards an ordinary living being and dedicate the merit to yourself alone or to no one, you may gain a position such as that of a king in the future. But if you dedicate the merit to anuttara-samyak-sambodhi (perfect enlightenment) and to the ultimate benefit of all beings, you will have planted a wholesome cause that will eventually enable you to become a Buddha.
Even when we do trivial things, we can make some inconceivable vows. Without the help of the Sutras, however, we would not know how to do this. Making vows is an art. You wonder whether those Bodhisattvas in the Ten Transferences Chapter and the Worthy Leader Chapter, who make numerous vows, took a special course called "An Introduction to the Making of Vows" to learn how to make vows. Without such a course to teach us, we wouldn't know how to make vows for all the things we do.
My question is: How do we know how to make vows? What kinds of vows will come to fruition? If we make any vows we want, will we be able to achieve our goal? For example, the Jeweled Repentance of the Emperor of Liang says that King Yama, in a former reincarnation as a king, vowed to rule over the hells in the future and that's where he was assigned. I don't know what will happen in the future, but it seems that his vow has come true so far. Does that mean that if we make a vow to be such and such, that's what will happen?
My second question concerns the statement in the Earth Store Sutra that the deceased only receive one seventh of merit dedicated to them. Does that mean that when we dedicate merit to all living beings, each of those beings attains one seventh of the merit? Bodhisattvas, in their compassion, have been dedicating one knows not how much merit to living beings for a long time, so those beings ought to have a lot of merit. I wonder how much merit the dedicator receives.
A final related point concerns that idea that 'Everything is created by the mind." Does that mean that whatever we think about and wish for turns into reality, provided we are sincere? We discussed this in class before. The statement "everything is created by the mind" refers to the law of cause and effect. All events are karmic retributions that have causes. These causes are initiated by our mental karma, and later by our verbal and physical karma. That's why we say everything is made from the mind. The karmic cause begins in the mind, and after karma is created, the retribution follows. If, for example, you want to become a Superman, you won't turn into one simply by thinking about. The cause you have created is merely a random, false thought that only makes you more scattered and results in nothing.
If you really want to become a Superman, you must cultivate well until you attain wisdom and supernatural powers. If you don't create a proper cause, there will be no result. That's how we should interpret the statement that "everything is created by the mind."
Young Shramanera Guo Ding Shr:
All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master, and good advisors: Amitabha!
Today I'd like to talk about some insignificant thoughts I had while memorizing the Ten Practices Chapter. At the beginning, I read to the part of the chapter describing how the Bodhisattva eagerly gives away his flesh to beings who beg for it to eat. My impression was that his attitude was, "The more I give, the better." I thought, "Boy, I don't know of anyone in the world who can do that!" But then I reconsidered that such things do happen.
I'd like to now tell two stories. During the Warring States Period [in China], the Lord of Qin was about to attack the state of Yan. Yan knew that it would lose, so it went to negotiate with Qin. Qin asked for several cities as well as the head of one of the great generals of Yan. Prince Dan of Yan summoned an assassin and asked, "Can you assassinate the Lord of Qin?" It was pretty improbable, but the assassin said yes. The prince then informed the general that the Lord of
Qin wanted his head. The general said that he would cut off his head for the sake of peace in China and for the well-being of the people. The assassin took the head to the Lord of Qin, but failed to assassinate him. The general in this story was able to give away his head.
There is another story that I read in a book. The story goes as follows: King Asoka's son had his eyes dug out by externalists (followers of a non-Buddhist sect). King Asoka, in his fury, issued a decree that anyone who killed an externalist and brought his head to the palace would be rewarded with ten ounces of silver. Thereupon people raced out to slay externalists. One poverty-stricken farmer heard the news and went home to get a knife. King Asoka's little brother, who was a Buddhist monk, happened to pass by the farmer's home on his almsround.
Taking the monk to be an externalist, the farmer exclaimed
to his wife, "They say that if you behead an externalist,
they'll pay you ten ounces of silver. I'm going to slay
him!" His wife said, "He's not an externalist; he's a
Buddhist monk. You must not kill him."
matter," said the farmer. "I can simply tell the palace
guards that he's an externalist." But the wife disagreed.
Overhearing their conversation, King Asoka's brother said,
"If my head can bring you ten ounces of silver and make you
happy, you are welcome to take it!" The farmer thereupon cut
off the monk's head and took it to the palace to exchange
for money. That's another example of how someone gave up his
head to make living beings happy.