Mr. Fox was invited to lunch at the Buddhist Lecture Hall
in San Francisco on September 24,1969, by his son, Dharma Master Heng Ch'ien, on behalf of Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua. The following record of the meeting was compiled from the notes of Upasaka Kuo-Chan Lovett and originally published in the English-only Vajra Bodhi Sea, Issues 5, 6, and 7 (August to October, 1970). Though the meeting took place many years ago, the Venerable Master's sagacious remarks deserve a fresh look after such a long time. Thus we have translated it into Chinese and published it for our readers to enjoy.
Mr. Fox arrived at ten o'clock. After a quiet meal, tea was served and conversation began. The conversation turned to the topic of sleep .
Mr. Fox: Where I work there is a great deal of noise. Strangely enough, at night, when it is quiet, I am sensitive to the smallest sound, even the turning of a doorknob, and occasionally I hear sound in my sleep.
Venerable Master: Whenever the slightest sensation is experienced through the doors of the senses a "seed" is introduce into the store, or eighth, consciousness. It is planted there in the field of the eighth consciousness and stored. Although these seeds are mere shadows of sense objects, they can later be discriminated by the sixth consciousness. Therefore, the sixth consciousness, the intellect, may continuously recollect sensations, even though the sense object is no longer present. States of mind such as the one you have mentioned arise because the intellect discriminates; if discrimination ceases, these states also cease.
If you are not attached to these false states, your worries and afflictions will be diminished. After doing something, forget it and go on to the next matter. Nothing should be taken as ultimately real. As the Vajra Sutra says: All conditioned phenomena Are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, and shadows, Like dew drops or a lightning flash: One should contemplate them thus.
Mr. Fox: When it is hot, we are comfortable wearing few clothes. However, when it is cold, if we are not warmly dressed, we shiver. If it is cold outside, then in our minds there is cold. It is hot outside, then in our minds there is hot. The states of hot and cold certainly seem real.
Venerable Master: If your intellect does not discriminate between hot and cold, they do not exist. When hot and cold do not exist, who feels either one? The same principle is true of all conditions. If we refrain from making unnecessary distinctions, our original peace of mind remains undisturbed.
Mr. Fox: How does technological progress relate to Buddhism? As times change, new things are invented, and there is progress. Each man is an individual who creates different things. Each of us has been given a mind meant to be used; minds continually think.
Venerable Master: Yes, there certainly has been a great deal of progress in technology, but there is something which is even more important than technological progress. Where does "progress" lead us? In five hundred years, all present day inventions will be obsolete, and entirely new inventions will be in use. When everything has been invented, what will man do then?
The important point here is one of priority. Should society serve man or should man serve society? In the existing order, men devote their efforts to maintain society, but society disregards the suffering and murder of men. This is a grave error. When society serves the needs of man, the world functions peacefully. When the world functions peacefully, man is free to contemplate his self-nature and consider the essential problem, the problem of birth and death.
You should know where you came from and where you are going. As it is, "murky we come and confused we go." It is important to investigate the self-nature by reflecting inwardly. If you practice inward contemplation, then no longer will you be moved by the confusion of society. When you see your self-nature, you will naturally understand science and philosophy.
Mr. Fox: That certainly sounds ideal, but I don't think that all men can become of one mind in this pursuit. We are all different. Each individual has his own natural inclinations, and it is not certain that all men can accomplish this work.
Venerable Master: You are absolutely right. Only a few people have the "roots," the natural inclination and ability, to study and practice the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma. For that matter, few people even encounter it. Among those, fewer yet can practice and penetrate its principles. It is difficult, but if we can do what is most difficult, that is true accomplishment. Some people come to study and stay for a few days, but they are unable to endure and have to leave.
If one person understands true principle, then he can do what has to be done. If ten people understand true principle, then they can do what has to be done. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, in teaching and transforming living beings, do not worry if the teachings are not received. If people understand and become enlightened, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are happy. If no one understands and nobody becomes enlightened, then the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are still happy.
Greed prevents man from solving the essential problems. It obscures his vision of the self-nature. For example, one of my disciples wants to learn about spiritual power, but as long as he is greedy for spiritual power, he will be unable to obtain it.
Now the Buddhadharma is scarce in the West. All unenlightened people are confused about something, and only the proper Dharma can resolve this confusion. It follows that your son's decision to become a Bhikshu and study the Dharma is extremely important. Where does confusion come from? Greed is the basic cause: greed for food, sleep, beautiful forms, wealth and fame. Everyone has desires which are based on greed, and it is difficult to put them down. I teach my disciples to be strong in the control of desire. However, I do not use force. I merely show them the way. Whether or not they follow is up to them. To teach a method which is contrary to this would be like using a rock to beat down grass. If you try to keep down grass by pounding on it with a stone, it grow back thick and strong. Rather than do that, I go after the roots, the basic causes.
Mr. Fox: I admire the principles that you have spoken and the students who work so vigorously to study them. Previously I was worried about my son, but now I am at ease.
Venerable Master: When you go back to work, do not worry about things that are already past. While doing things, use your wisdom to ensure that they are done well. When they are completed, do not continue to think about them. Quiet your mind. It is best to view life as a play, and not think of it as being too real; then fewer worries and problems will bother you. You will be able to come and go with freedom and independence. If what is good and what is not good are seen as fundamentally without difference, then you are without problems, without the slightest bit of trouble. If you discriminate good as good, and not good as not good, then you are turned by external states of mind. If you run after these outside states, then the more you run, the further you stray from your original home. If you are not moved, you remain in your original home. View your body as if it were heaven and earth. Although heaven and earth include between them all the ten thousand things, nevertheless they are not separate. If you understand this principle, nothing in the world can torment or worry you. Isn't this wonderful?
Dharma, the teaching of the Buddha, universally penetrates. There are no fixed dharmas. Dharmas are constant like the water of a river which flows smoothly on and is not attached in any place. If you say that a dharma is fixed, then it immediately becomes a dead dharma. The Vajra Sutra says, "One should produce the thought that dwells nowhere. " This is what is meant by "no fixed dharma."
An example of an unfixed dharma is the relationship between parents and children which is established by parents in such a way that children will be filial and respectful. But some children beat and kill their parents. How then can this dharma of filial piety be fixed? Some parents frequently scold their children. Others think their children are wonderful, and spoil them. Neither of these follows the way of filial piety, so this dharma is not fixed among parents either. Nothing is permanent or certain.
We have discussed technological progress. Man has invented many things which are of great benefit. However, man has also invented hydrogen and atomic bombs. With these have come various bizarre diseases that are difficult to cure. Modern conveniences bring both benefit and disaster. Therefore, in the midst of good there is bad; in \ the midst of bad there is good.
Before there were trains and buses, there were no derailments or bus accidents; consequently, no one was killed in such disasters. People used to die at home. Now there are far more untimely, unexpected deaths. Airplanes suddenly fall out of the sky. This is just like "eating" people. Long ago, there were more tigers to worry about, but one tiger ate only one or two people at a time. Now one derailment or airplane crash "eats" hundreds of people. When personal safety was just a matter of avoiding tigers, we could take precautions, we could walk on tiptoe. But, now there is no way for a passenger to ensure his safety against a derailment or airplane crash. This is an example of the dharma of opposition. For everything, there is an opposite; good opposes bad and confusion opposes understanding. What is true opposes the false.
Mr.Fox: It's not the planes, trains, and other machines, but the people who build, use, and maintain them that cause the accidents.
Venerable Master: That is true. Disasters result from karma, from the actions of living beings. Therefore, one cannot say that the machines are either good or bad.
Two thousand years ago, if people had been told about airplanes,buses, and other self-powered vehicles, they would not have believedthat these could exist. Moreover, if a plane had flown overhead at thatvery moment, it might well have been worshipped as a god. But now,we know that a plane is just a plane, a thing made by man, the fruit ofscientific and technological progress.
To be continued