Venerable Master: This principle differs somewhat from that of "God", who says, "I am the greatest." "I created the world and I am the most pure." "I am the ultimate reality!" In reply to this "God", one might ask, "Well, if you are the only real one, why do you hang around with all these phonies?" or one could ask. "If that is really how it is, why do you have to tell everybody? That's certainly not very modest." Only the naive and stupid say, "Ah, yes! He is real."
Many people in the West do not yet believe in the Buddhadharma. They think that it is just superstitious mysticism. Yet, at the same time, they establish and practice a religion with just one god who says, "I'm God." Well, anybody can say that: "I'm God! No! I'm God's dad. Jesus said that he was God's son; well I'm God's father." This all just talking. Ultimately, to recognize what is real, we must examine the principles which are taught.
Mr. Fox: Yes, there is a great deal of ignorance and misunderstanding among Westerners with regard to Buddhism. This is strange considering the great advancements made in communications. Of course, it seems that truth and falseness are communicated with equal speed.
Venerable Master: Good and bad as well as true and false exist only because people recognize them as much. Originally there is no true and false; people establish them. So, what you think of as true is true, and what you think of as false is false.
In China, the leader of the Taiping Rebellion gained his power by calling himself God. He would say, "The spirit is coming, closer, closer, here it comes...Ah! Here it is! Here's what has to be done!" He spoke as if he possessed the power of God and led a revolution that lasted for ten years. But when the revolution was over and the sword fell, God's head went with it.
The Avatamsaka Sutra says, "Everything is made from the mind alone." Science, technology, and philosophy, all progress. Where do
they come from? They come from the mind. All things are produced from the mind of man. So, in studying the Buddhadharma, it is essential to realize that everything is made from the mind alone, and that there is nothing outside of the mind.
Mr. Fox: It has been said, "On the astronomical scale, man is insignificant." Yet man is also the "astronomer." Who, then, is insignificant?"
Venerable Master: People are not small and the universe is not big. If there were no men, then there would be no universe. If it were not for men, then there would be no ghosts and no Buddhas either, because it is only men who recognize them. If there were no men, what possible function could the Buddha perform. It is all made by us, and we are part of it. This does not accord with the position of God who says, "I alone am true: you are all false." God does not say that ordinary men are God and God is just ordinary people. But in the Buddhadharma, it says, "Living beings are just the Buddha; the Buddha is just living beings." There is no inequality. It is not said that the Buddha is real and living beings are false, because without living beings, there would be no Buddha. Buddhas come from living beings. To talk of one being true and the other false has no principle.
Mr. Fox: "I have read that there are many sects in Buddhism. What about that?"
Venerable Master: "All religions, as well as everything else, manifest in response to the karmic conditions of living beings. The Buddhadharma is no different from any other religion. The more principle you understand, the less is it necessary to discuss little points. The more expansive the principle you speak, the closer you approach truth. Originally all religions were established to regulate conduct, so that men would not do any bad, but instead offer up all good. But as soon as men discriminate, sectarianism appears, and men are soon offering up all bad. Where sectarianism develops, there is often a great deal of quarreling. The Catholics say that they have the true doctrine and that the Protestants are heretics, and so forth. Then the Buddhists say that only the Buddha's teaching is really full and
complete. Well, this talk of Buddhists is not too bad, because what is completely full accomplishes its substance from those parts which are not in themselves complete. What is truly complete must include everything which is incomplete. Without the incomplete, it would be impossible to speak of the complete. But, this is still just talk.
One day, a visitor to this temple asked me, "Isn't it true that Buddhism is higher than all other religions?" I told him that there is no high or low with respect to religions. Religions are simply medicines to cure the ills of men. After having taken enough medicine to completely cure the illness, why continue to take medicine?
Here in the West, it is taught that this world is made by God. Alright, but if God made this world, then why did he do such a poor job? Why is everything not just and equal? Why is there so much trouble in this world?
The Buddhadharma explains that everything is the result of the karmic causes and conditions of living beings. It is not the case that I or anyone else tells you to do what you do. Nothing you do is imposed from without. All manifestations are retribution for the karmic actions of men. It is said by many that God made the myriad things. If so, why did he do it? Did he do it so that there would be someone to respect and worship him? If this is really the case, then this "God" is certainly selfish.
The standard of proper conduct is not a matter of this being right and that being wrong. Proper conduct accords with true principle. Everything which happens in the world is in perfect accord with the interacting conditions of cause and effect. Your son, for example, could not have come here if he did not have co-operating causes, the karmic conditions. How much the less could he become a bhikshu? I know that before he came here, he was really very lazy, but now as the conditions ripen, he has become constant and vigorous.
Mr. Fox: I see that my son has really found the right path to follow. This pleases me. I only regret that we live so far apart. If it were more convenient, we would all be able to see each other more often.
Venerable Master: There is nothing which is apart from your own self-nature. Think about the principles we have discussed today. If you fully understand, then even at a distance often thousand miles, we are face-to-face. If there is no understanding, then even at the time when we are face-to-face, we are ten thousand miles apart. Practicing the principles that you understand is the only real thing. For example, in the book which I have written, Reflections in Water and Mirrors: Turning the Tides of Destiny, there are accounts of events in life of the Venerable High Master Chang Ren, who was the abbot of a temple where I lived in China. No matter how far apart we were, he knew exactly where I was and what I was doing, and I knew where he was and what he was doing. We were like this every moment of every day, and yet we needed no telegraph or radar. Is this miraculous or not?
Mr. Fox: That is truly inconceivable.