Venerable Master: Good and Wise Advisors:
Today’s Buddhism is full of people who try to pass fish eyes off for pearls. Buddhists today are a mixed lot of dragons and snakes. Why? It is because the demon king used various magic tricks to try to disturb Shakyamuni Buddha when he saw that the World Honored One was about to become a Buddha. He failed to shake the Buddha’s concentration though. Since the demon king was powerless, he swore, “I can’t do anything to you today, but when your Buddhadharma is about to end in the future, I will have all of my demon retinue enter Buddhism undercover. I will eat Buddhism’s food and wear Buddhism’s clothing, but I will defecate and urinate in your food, ruining Buddhism until there’s nothing left of it.” When the Buddha heard the demon king Papiyan make such an evil vow, he couldn’t stand it and was concerned about the strength of evil and the weakness of Dharma in the Dharma Ending Age. There are members of the demon kng’s retinue who mouth the words of the Buddha, but do not carry out the Buddha’s work. They shake the faith of those Buddhists with proper belief who don’t have the ability to recognize the proper Dharma and thus can’t tell the difference between a disciple of the Buddhas and a disciple of demons.
Let me teach you how to select the Dharma: you may differentiate between the disciples of the Buddha and the disciples of demons through observation. The disciples of the Buddha cultivate and uphold the Vinaya whereas the retinues of demons destroy the Buddhist rules and regulations. What are the Buddhist regulations? They tell people not to contend, not to be greedy, not to be selfish, not to pursue personal advantages, and not to lie. Don’t lie and cheat others for the sake of personal advantages. Those who lie to and cheat others and disobey the Buddha’s precepts are the children of demons. Those who do no evil, perform every type of good, and strictly follow the Buddha’s regulations are disciples of the Buddha. Therein lies the difference. Watch that Buddhist and see if he contends for fame and competes for fortune. Does he fight with others? The desire to fight is a characteristic of an asura. Once the characteristic of an asura appears, the demon king’s face is revealed. Furthermore, take a look to see if he is obsequious to rich people and looks down on poor people. Is he constantly calculating ways to profit? Does he never weary of being greedy, filling each day with activities and luxuries due to greed? Why does a person seek after fame or gain? It is because of selfishness. Why is he selfish? It is because he seeks personal advantages. Since he isn’t altruistic and honorable, he may appear to be doing things for Buddhism, but he intends to ruin Buddhism. We should recognize that such a person is from the retinue of the demon king. Although he appears to be a Buddhist, he violates the law and is manipulative. This is how you recognize a true Buddhist. Perhaps he takes part in a corrupt form of Buddhism, acts unreasonably, and only talks about superstitious practices that confuse people.
If we really want to be disciples of the Buddha, we must possess the ability to choose the right Dharma. Without the ability to choose the right Dharma, you may find that your attempt to do good deeds for Buddhism mixes in evil. You can neither ascend to the heavens nor stay on earth because your deeds are a mix of good and evil. You hang there in midair. Isn’t it tiring just to hang there, unable to ascend or descend? You want to go up but you can’t; you want to come down and you can’t either. Who knows how many more billions of eons will it be before you have the opportunity to encounter the Buddhadharma again? Think about it, everyone: Shouldn’t we be especially cautious?
There’s a saying in Buddhism, “Every man is my father and every woman is my mother.” If we contemplate in this fashion, we will feel a sense of interconnectedness with men and women. Therefore, the Bodhisattva “Never Slighting Others” frequently said, “I don’t dare to slight others because they can all become Buddhas.” He said that all beings should become Buddhas. Since that’s the case, we should maintain a sense of great kindness even toward those with whom we have no affinities and great compassion toward all beings, as our substance is identical. Does someone have no affinities with me? Then I must be kind and loving toward him; his pain will be my pain. Empathy is based on great compassion and the understanding that we are of the same substance. If you can think in this way, you should not be slandering even those who are kin or children of demon kings. We consider them our own parents. We must influence and transform them by setting a good example through our own practice.
Here, I am reminded of how I do not look down on Catholicism, Christianity, Judaism, or any other non-Buddhist religions. I am not their enemy, but their friend. There is no such thing as an “enemy” according to Buddhism. Those who slander us are our Good Advisors, people who care about us. Those who don’t care about us will not slander us. People may appear to be slandering you on the surface, but they’re actually trying to make you cultivate and realize the Way sooner. They are teaching you from the opposite direction. If you understand this principle, you will understand the teachings of Buddhism more.
I am also walking down this path now—by never forgetting and following through completely on the six great principles of not contending, not being greedy, not seeking, not being selfish, not pursuing personal advantage, and not lying. I probe more deeply to find out why this person slanders me. He is concerned about me. He is afraid that I will not grow and improve. He is afraid that I will become lazy. Why does he talk about my mistakes, sometimes even in an unreasonable and cross manner? He wants me to be better. He expects me to “Climb to a higher level, so I can gaze out for a thousand miles around.” “When you reach the top of a hundred foot pole, take another step, and the worlds throughout the ten directions will appear for you.” He is hoping that I will not be self-satisfied and complacent with very little, that I will not quit halfway, but will instead continue with courage and vigor. He is hoping that I will never retreat in my courage and vigor. This is our true counsel, a good teacher, and a kind friend.
Let’s consider the point of view of someone who slanders me. He has his particular set of circumstances. He hopes that more Buddhists will believe in him and not others. Why is he selfish? He is afraid to starve to death, afraid to go without food, afraid to be without an audience at lectures, afraid that no one will make offerings to him. However, by slandering me, he receives food and does not starve. That way, he has people making offerings to him and faithful disciples who support him. His followers will not change to worship someone else.
You must understand that fear makes him slander others. If he were not afraid, why would he speak ill of others? Since he is afraid, we should forgive him for his mistakes. He has to be this way to survive. By forgiving him, we are indirectly feeding him, making offerings to him, and supporting him. Since helping others is the source of happiness, we are only meeting the requisites of those who practice the Bodhisattva path by benefiting him quietly. On the Bodhisattva path you must benefit yourself and others, enlighten yourself and others, also save yourself and others. We don’t forget to save living beings; we don’t forget to save our past debtors and enemies; and we don’t forget to repay everything we owe from our past lives. For this reason, we must gently accept any problem that comes our way.
Here, I also remember that the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas had organized an Interfaith Religious Conference last year. On the first day of the conference, some good advisors came. Those who recognized them considered these people good advisors; those who didn’t recognize them as such considered these people evil advisors; those who partially understood saw these advisors as a mixture of good and evil. What’s the reason behind this? On the first day [of the conference], there were lots of people outside the gate of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. No one knew what they were up to or to what religion they belonged. They held up signs protesting against the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. What did the signs say? They said, “You devil! Regardless of what trick you use, Jesus sees right through you. You cannot possibly escape the gaze of Jesus and the lightning sent down by Jesus.” They were shouting and hollering there at the gate, giggling and making a big ruckus. The place was like an outdoor bazaar. At that time, Heng Gung, who’s here today, was watching the office. He came to me in a panic, saying, “What do we do? There are so many people protesting at the entrance.”
I said, “A protest is surely helpful for us.” I said, “Let me go thank them. Let me go and bow to them.” I have no other talent in this life other than knowing how to bow to people. I bow to those who are good to me and bow to those who are bad to me. If someone were to scold me, I would bow to him; and if someone were to beat me, I would still bow to him. Even if he were to kill me using a knife or a gun, my spirit would still bow to him after I am dead. In other words, I would bow no matter what! Out of the desire to counsel, and fear and some anxiety too, Heng Gong said, “Even if you bow, they won’t understand it.” I said, “If they don’t understand, couldn’t I at least greet them with a half-bow?”
To be continued