Bhikshuni Heng Yin: Barbara has been teaching Sanskrit and Buddhism for many years at Dharma Realm Buddhist University.
Upasika Waugh: The Venerable Master, the honored Sangha, and cultivators, I don't know if any of you have ever had any of this kind of experience, but, one day you're sitting there listening to a wonderful Dharma lecture, and you have this false thought. The false thought is, "Gosh, I've got things to say. I could do that. Why don't they ask me?"...
When I came to listen to the lecture tonight, it was talking about the ten pāramitā. As it turns out, I was thinking about this topic and have some humble thoughts. I remember once that the Venerable Master was asked the question, "What is wisdom?" I feel very lucky to have encountered the Venerable Master because it's just very fortunate to encounter a good knowing advisor. He would always amaze me because, throughout the time I've known him, about twenty-five years, I would usually try to anticipate how he would respond to a certain situation or answer a certain question that somebody had, but I was always surprised because he would always see so much more clearly and so much more deeply than I could. And his answers were always right on and beyond anything that I could see.
So somebody asked him, "What is wisdom?" I thought, "Well, that's great. Wisdom. That's prajñā. Prajñā isSanskrit. Jñā means "know." There's jñāna, which is ordinary knowledge that let's you know how to fix your car or let's you know how to do well on an exam or at school. It's basic, every day kind of knowledge which is valuable. But pra means onward, so prajñā is higher knowledge, transcendent knowledge; it's not ordinary, mundane knowledge.
It's knowledge that allows you to end birth and death. It's knowledge that allows you to cross over suffering and to bliss.
What did the Venerable Master say in answer to this question? He said, "Wisdom is always knowing in any given situation what the right thing is to do or say." I thought, "Wow, that is fantastic."
That is a really good explanation because basically that's what I never know. And basically the Venerable Master is a wonderful example of that. Pāramitā, as you may know, means "to go beyond," or "gone beyond." comes from the root -i- which means "go." When you add the ending -tā on to it, it means "gone." Pāra means "the other side, the other shore." So that's wisdom that has "gone beyond." It's really amazing because if you have this kind of wisdom, which I have never had, but have witnessed, then you can understand the smallest, most ordinary things very clearly.
Let me tell a story as an example of that. After I had met the Venerable Master and had taken refuge, my mother came to the temple one night. This was during a summer session. I had been there for three months. The only way that she could see me was to come. She heard the Venerable Master speak and immediately wanted to become a disciple. She became a vegetarian and took refuge. One day, she brought up a problem that she was having to the Venerable Master. He was always very kind, and no matter how insignificant the problem was to somebody else, he would try to shed some light on it. He would have compassion and help that person.
The question was that my brother had a dog when he was a child and now that my brother had grown up and gone to school, this dog was very old and very sick. He was obviously dying, and it was very pitiful to watch. When my mother came to Shifu [the Master] and said, "What should I do? I think I should put this dog to sleep; that would be painless and it would end its suffering quickly. Maybe that would be the best thing. What should I do?" Shifu said, "Don't do that; recite the Great Compassion Mantra for the dog." It wasn't easy for my mother, but she did it. I'm not sure how long, if it was a day, a few days, or a week. My mother would recite and the dog would look up at her with great trust, not complaining at all. Finally the dog passed on.
So was that the right thing to do? I didn't know. But as a result of this, my mother, who had begun smoking since she was very young and hadn't been able to stop, stopped smoking. At that time, she was middle age, maybe in her 40's or 50's. It wasn't too late for her to stop smoking and gain some benefit from it. She wanted to, but she hadn't been able to. But after reciting the Great Compassion Mantra for the dog, she was able to stop smoking. A number of her relatives who had smoked had died from lung cancer since that time, but she didn't get lung cancer. She's still pretty healthy. I'm sure that the advice that the Venerable Master gave her not only benefited the dog, but it also saved her life.
The time's pretty much up, but there's just one thing I remember the Venerable Master once said, "If you only have one dharma, that's really all you need. If you can cultivate that one dharma to success, that's all you need." He said that dharma is being patient. So thank you for being patient with me. Amitabha!