Appendix Four tells us of the supremacy of the Bodhisattva Precepts; it also contains other related reference material, in addition to a postface from the compiler.
This is a general summary of the contents of the Handbook of Bodhisattva Precepts for the Laity.
Now we will discuss the precept against taking life and harming living beings. The first major precept is the precept against killing. In Buddhism we speak of "Being one substance with all is called Great Compassion." People may say that we are attempting the unattainable. "Other people are other people and I am I, how could we be one substance? My money belongs to me and their money belongs to them, how can we be of the same substance? I will not permit others to use my money, but on the other hand, I can use other people's money." Okay! That's fine, we won't talk about it.
So it is said that you are you and I am I; therefore we share the same attachment, that is, all of us cherish and protect our bodies. You cherish and protect your body, likewise other people also cherish and protect their bodies. If you harm other people, can you live with your conscience? No. Would the one that is being harmed by you be happy about it? Would he or she be a willing victim? Certainly not! However, living beings more or less still harbor a mind of hatred. Therefore, in this way mutual enmity and vengeance will never cease; this is the reason why there are so many wars.
But in the perfect sense, we and living beings are of one Dharma substance. Why do we want to mutually harm and destroy one another? When we kill or harm the other party, we are also killing and harming our perfect Dharma body. On a personal level, we should put ourselves in others' positions; thus if we kill we end up creating enemies. This is the basic attitude regarding upholding the precept against killing.
Now let's take a look at the retributions for violating the precept against killing.
The first retribution is that of a short life span. Those who recite the Earth Store Sutra know that the mother of Bright Eyes lived for thirteen years due to her karma of killing and slandering. This is one example. Other Sutras also point this out clearly.
The second retribution is that one is beset with illness. Everyone knows that the Buddha's back hurt. Why was this so? I will now speak of this story.
Limitless eons ago, the Buddha had been a great knight; his skills as a warrior were incomparable. The country at the time resembled that of ancient Rome, in which competitive races were held and knights had to compete against one another; the winner was rewarded with trophies or medals of honor. The Buddha was known to be the greatest knight of all time, no other knight could compare to him. One day along came a foreign knight who was also known as the incomparable one. Now it is said there cannot be two incomparable knights in one place. So the king told them to engage in competition, the winner to receive money as a reward. Thus, they engaged in combat on the platform.
During the competition, the foreign knight discovered that the Buddha (the knight countless eons ago) possessed great fighting skills. He then whispered to the Buddha, "You don't have to defeat me, we should have a tie, afterwards I will split the money evenly with you; in this way, you can save face for me." The Buddha was also very compassionate at the time, thinking that both of them were friends, therefore he just let it go and left it at a tie. However, the foreign knight did not keep his words; he did not share half of the reward money with the Buddha but instead use it all for himself. At the time, the Buddha was not very happy, but he had no reason to ask for the money back.
After a time, the king thought once more, there cannot be two incomparable knights in one place. Ultimately, who is the winner? He asked them to compete once again to determine the winner and the loser.
The two of them once more ascended the platform, the foreign knight said again , "Old brother, old brother, I could not help it the first time because I had to pay back some debts. This time for sure I will share it equally with you. Please let me go this one time, I certainly will not forget your great kindness and compassion." The Buddha thought, "Okay, since you have earnestly begged me." Therefore, once again he just let it go, and they ended in a tie. But what happened then? Once again, the foreign knight did not share the reward money with the Buddha. The Buddha was not happy at all. He thought, "You have cheated me." But he did not publicly say it, because if he implied that the other knight had cheated the king, that other knight could be beheaded. Therefore the Buddha kept silent.
After a time, the king thought again, "Strange, ultimately, who is the foremost knight?" He then sought out the two of them and told them to once again compete with each other. This time, the foreign monk reverted to the same old scheme. He said, "This time for certain I will not lie, I will give you the money." Did this knight who was the Buddha's former incarnation believe him or not? No, he was no longer taken in.
To be continued