Venerable Master: Hydrogen and atomic bombs have existed in this world for a short time, but if you think on a larger scale, considering all of time and space, then you will understand that these phenomena are quite common. Now man is able to fly to the moon, but going to the moon is just the play of children. From the point of view of small children, it seems very special, but from the cosmic point of view, it is just as it ought to be. When a child has a new toy, he treasures it, thinking that he is the first to have it.
Every world system passes through a cycle of four periods: birth, dwelling, decay, and emptiness. A kalpa (eon) is a long period of time, measuring hundreds of millions of years. One thousand kalpas are equal to one small kalpa, twenty small kalpas are equal to one middle-size kalpa, and four middle-size kalpas constitute one great kalpa. When a particular world system passes through the four periods, it completes one cycle. In a cycle of one great kalpa, each period of change lasts for twenty small kalpas. Over such long periods of time, the new becomes old and the old becomes new again. The same is true of people. We are born, we grow up, we grow old, and then we die. The cycle continues as we are born, and grow up, grow old, and then die. The principle is as true for people as it is for countless eons of world systems.
Mr. Fox: Now that lunch has been eaten, we digest the food. In the same way, the wisdom which you speak is also being digested. It seems that from the beginning people have not changed. Our brains continue to think without stopping so we invent more and more new things. Because of this ceaseless thinking, although the inventions may change, people remain more or less the same.
Venerable Master: Yes, people continue to think and invent, but who tells us to think? Is it this physical brain? When a person dies, certainly his brain still exists, but although it continues to exist in the corpse, it no longer performs the function of thought. All these inventions are really not new. They have been before. A person who wishes to study all-knowledge will find that after ten years, he has forgotten many of the things which occurred ten years before; after twenty years, he will have forgotten a little more, until as an old man he will have forgotten the events of his childhood. In the same way, all of these inventions have been before. It is just that people have forgotten that they once had them, and now they discover them once again.
For example, originally I wrote characters vertically in columns, as they are normally written. Then I began writing horizontally from right to left, and then back again left to right, line after line down the page. The characters, however, were to still be read in the usual way, in columns. Everyone was greatly surprised at this. But now, after having seen it for a long time, they no longer think it special.
Mr. Fox: Many things are this way, but no one takes the trouble to ask why, to investigate the source of this continuous change and renewal.
Venerable Master: This question of 'why?' is basically a matter of man's limitless potential. Everything lies within the power of the true mind of man. Therefore it is said, 'the ten thousand things arise from the self-nature of living beings, and are not separate from the self-nature.'
Mr. Fox: Do you believe, then, that we are capable of determining and controlling the course of our individual destinies?
Venerable Master: It is not fixed. What happens to us depends on what we do, and what we want to do. You can become president and so can he. I too can become president. It only requires that we expend the necessary effort and do what is required to reach our desired goal.
Individual destiny is not a matter of dictatorship as it is with "god," who makes it very clear that he is the only one, the Supreme Being. The Buddhadharma includes everything and everyone. In the Buddhadharma, anyone who cultivates can accomplish Buddhahood, and everyone is capable of cultivating his conduct and thought. In the Buddhadharma, equality is found even in the realm of the Buddhas. All Buddhas are equal. It is not that some Buddhas are bigger than others, some taller and some shorter, some better and some worse, some lighter and some darker. All Buddhas are in accord and they have no mutual obstruction.
To be continued