Gwo Fang Shr:
Amitofo. Let me report on some of my thoughts as I study Buddhism. For one, it’s been hard. I took refuge with the Triple Jewel about six years ago and followed a teacher who taught us to recite the Buddha’s name. I was still young and didn’t know much then, so I thought, “How could it be as easy as just reciting the Buddha’s name? Buddhism must be more complex than that.” I was overly ambitious and began to search for a teacher who “understood”. At that time, people mostly worshipped knowledge and were superstitious about reputation. My frantic search led me to a Buddhist Academy organized by a layperson. After studying for three months, I was sent to do chores in the office because my level was too low to keep up with the rest of the class.
Let me report on some of the theories espoused by this layperson. He encouraged people to eat meat rather than be vegetarian. Why? His reason was simple. He said that for several hundred years, the human race has been acquiring nutrition directly from these meat-eating animals and not from vegetables. Vegetarians acquire nutrients indirectly. Therefore we should eat meat. Also, since laypeople do not just sit cross-legged and meditate all day long like monks and nuns, we don’t have enough nutrients, so we must eat meat. Furthermore, he encouraged polygamy. Why? It is because nothing occurs between the couple after they’ve been together for ten years. Instead of getting rid of the wife, the wife might as well subserviently follow her husband instead of going out to hunt for a job.
The scariest part was that they cultivated Tantric practices for couples. I believe people have heard of this. He said that the reason this practice for couples is used is because you can break through barriers in your energy channels. Since everyone was in a hurry to do that, I discovered all the girls in the office had been practicing this couples-method with him, including sixteen or seventeen year old high school girls. Not only single women, but married women did it too. I was alarmed when I learned about this and left the place. Since I was hurt a lot by this, I avoided Buddhism for more than two years. Perhaps because I have some very deep affinities with the Buddhas, I gradually returned to Buddhism, thinking that people, not Buddhism, were to blame for the happenings there.
Later, a long-time coworker of mine introduced me to a Dharma Master who lived at a layperson’s house. I raised this question: why is this left-home Dharma Master living in a layperson’s house? He responded, “Since he had realized the Way, everyone in his temple treated him like an outcast. They were jealous and couldn’t accept him. Hence he stays at a layperson’s house to accept offerings.” Initially, I agreed to make an offering of NT$2,000 a month to him because that’s what I could afford at the time. After my first offering, this Dharma Master gave me a pair of demon-subduing pestles and bells. Later it was perfume. I thought it was strange, “What’s the perfume for?” “It’s an offering to the Buddha!” I thought, okay, making offerings to the Buddha is the right thing to do. The next gift was a ring. He said, “This ring has been blessed and will keep you safe.” After that there were novels by Tagore and Turgenev. I was very naïve at the time, thinking that this Dharma Master was very worldly, different from others.
Later, I had frequent headaches for a period of time. He then told me, “Ah, you’re experiencing some disasters. Let me quell your disasters.” Of course as a disciple, one should then make an offering of money placed in a red envelope. The amount should not be small either. At that time, I worked in a restaurant late into the night and sometimes got off work quite late. Sometimes he came to the restaurant to see me too! I also gave him a red envelope [every time he visited]. Later it became more serious. He asked me directly for two million Taiwanese dollars. There was no way I could afford that, so I asked a female friend of mine. She told me, “You should be careful; this is not a real monk.” Later that day he actually presented me with a silver dollar of Chiang Kaishek. My classmate said this was obviously a hint about giving him money. I was so terrified that I dared not see him again. Even my colleagues stopped talking to him.
The reason I report these two things is that I believe some people have also encountered deviant dharma. These experiences I share are for your reference. They also serve as a warning for most students of Buddhism who are sincere, respectful to monks and nuns, and trusting of laypeople who study Buddhism.
After these experiences, I began to have contact with the real proper Dharma. When I read the Venerable Master’s instructional talks, I learned the six great principles. I remember how the matching couplets class was in session the day that I went to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. The first line of the couplet was “A straightforward mind, straightforward speech, and straightforward action free us from all crookedness.” I was so moved. Why? When I first began to learn about Buddhism, I thought Buddhism was so complex, filled with lots of tricks. I never knew that the simplest and most basic teaching would also be the final and direct truth. Some people had mentioned that the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is a Way-place for ascetic practices. It’s very hard. But what is truly hard is to not find a teacher who truly cultivates. Just as the Venerable Master taught us, don’t learn to cultivate secret practices: secret, secret, so secret that the teacher and disciples all end up in the hells because of their secret. Amitofo!
All good advisors, good evening. In the
Doctrine of the Mean, one of the four Chinese classics, there are these lines, “People claim to be intelligent, and yet they don’t know to avoid nets, snares, and traps when they’re being driven into them.” Most people claim that they’re wise and not dumb. Although they are wise, they don’t know when they’re being chased into the hells. Traps are equivalent to the hells. Is it wise that they don’t know how to avoid them?
People studying Buddhism must have true wisdom. Where does true wisdom come from? It’s from proper knowledge and proper views. What are proper knowledge and proper views? They are about not being greedy for admiration and empty glory and not craving that which is novel and different. When you’re curious, strange occurrences begin to take place. What strange phenomenon? Deviant knowledge, deviant views, and dharma spoken by deviant masters. You wanted to study Buddhism to learn about wisdom, but you end up becoming more and more stupid, confused, and ignorant. The more you learn, the more your wisdom diminishes. With less wisdom, you run after foolishness until you run into the hells. Why do you run into the hells? It is because you are foolish. You are incapable of choosing the right Dharma. You don’t have proper knowledge and views. To have proper knowledge and views, you must first examine your thinking until you’re clear. Don’t be greedy or think that you’re particularly lucky. You must be honest and know that the straightforward mind is the Bodhimanda. Seek the Dharma with a straightforward mind rather than a twisted mind. If you were to seek Dharma with straightforwardness, that itself would be the proper Dharma. If you were to request dharma out of perversity, that itself would be the evil Dharma. As it is said, “Even the evil dharma becomes proper when a proper person practices it. Likewise, the proper Dharma becomes evil when an evil person practices it.” It’s not that the Dharma is evil, but that the person is evil. It’s not that the Dharma is proper, but that the person is proper. This is a basic requirement for someone studying Buddhism.
Why do you walk down the wrong path? It is because of greed. Why do you fall into the hells? It is because of greed. What are you greedy for? You’re greedy for speed and efficiency. Nothing in this world comes about for free. Once you consider yourself lucky for getting a bargain, you will definitely end up losing out. It is just like how gamblers all hope to win but end up losing their houses and land. They lose so much that they have no food to eat, no pants to wear, and no place to sleep. Isn’t that miserable? It is because of one thought of greed that they ruin themselves so that they have no place to stay. That is to gamble.
For those of us who are learning Buddhism, we should avoid being greedy for the best method. Most people have the perspective that the Secret School is the quickest dharma practice to immediate results. I will tell you a secret dharma. This is a conversation between Six Patriarch the Great Master and the Great Master Huiming.
Great Master Huiming said, “Is there any hidden meaning in the principles that you spoke of earlier?”
Sixth Patriarch the Great Master said, “What is hidden is within. If you say it, then it would be no secret.”
The secret Dharma is apart from language and ends the activities of the mind. You can’t verbalize it. “You wish to speak about it but words cease. Your mind desires conditions yet deliberations die.” You cannot imagine this state. It’s certainly not a result of greed. If you attain it by being greedy, then it must be a grave mistake at the most fundamental level.
Those learning about Buddhism should be most afraid of greed. They would enter demonic fires if they were greedy. The result is beyond repair—without realizing it, they plunge into the depths of an abyss. The black hole has no sunlight or moonlight, not to mention starlight or electric lights. There’s not a bit of brightness, only darkness. This results from greed. If you were really free of greed, then you would definitely attain what you were meant to attain. There’s no need to seek for anything out of greed. The most harmful practice in the Secret School is Tantric practice for couples, which permits people to indulge in lust. Once you cultivate the practice for couples, you obviously will have a couple, a couple of kids that is. This is about ruining and destroying Buddhism! This negative influence on Buddhism means that demon kings are undercover in Buddhism now; that’s why Buddhists do not adhere to the precepts and the regulations of Buddhism.
To be continued