Dharma Master Heng Sure:
All fellow cultivators, tonight I want to talk about the ways in which the Venerable Master Hua propagates the Proper Dharma in the West. The Venerable Master has always advocated that we learn to be human from the Buddha. That is to say, there are two aspects to learning the Buddhadharma: the first is how to be a human being. If you don’t know how to be humane, you can forget about becoming a Buddha. The ancients said it well, “When humaneness is perfected, the path of the Buddha has been realized.” That is to say, if one can be fully humane, one will naturally become qualified for Buddhahood. For this reason, one of the courses at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is “Developing Inherent Wisdom.” One night we investigate Buddhist sutras, such as the
Nirvana Sutra or Shurangama Sutra. On another night we study the ethics and principles contained in the four Confucian classics. We simultaneously learn the dharmas of the world and dharmas that transcend the world while still in the world. The two are equally important to being humane.
Instilling Goodness Elementary School at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is based on the two fundamental principles of filial respect and fraternal brotherhood. We are building a solid foundation for children to be humane. This is how we teach Americans and Westerners. This is how we introduce the Buddhadharma to the West. We really do teach according to potentials and prescribe medicine according to the ailment. There are many, many students in the United States who only have one parent. They may live with just dad or just mom. Since divorce has become quite common, those pitiable little children cannot live with both mom and dad. If families are unstable, how can the country be peaceful? There is bound to be complete chaos in the world.
When the children are in class, not only do they hear how the Great Shun’s filiality moved the universe, but also the story of Minzi Qian’s acceptance of his stepmother despite being mistreated, or about Zilu’s rice bag. These are for children. Adults attend the university to study Buddhism, or participate in the sutra lectures and Dharma assemblies. They also hear about the boundless filiality of Earth Store Bodhisattva and the Venerable Mahamaudgalyayana, who was the most filial of the Buddha’s senior disciples. Perhaps they will hear about Shakyamuni Buddha’s heroic filial respect in life after life. We nurture our students, Buddhist friends, and Sangha members, teaching them the basics of being human in every aspect of their lives. We not only pay filial respect to our own parents and take care of our own children,but we also encourage and practice filiality toward all beings. For instance, when the Buddha spoke the Bodhisattva precepts in the
Brahma Net Sutra, he said that it’s most important to be filial to parents, teachers, the Sangha, and the Triple Jewel. Filiality is the Way. Filiality isn’t just for children. To be genuinely filial, one must be filial to every man and woman, considering everyone as our siblings or our parents if they are senior. When you consider things like this, your acts of filial respect will extend to all beings. In this way, you will have really understood the
vinaya [moral precepts]. Why? Because the Buddha also said, “Filial respect is the precepts as well as the prohibitions,” which is the
vinaya. If one understands the true principles of filial respect, then “I am a part of every living being. Our bodies are all the same, falsely made up of the four elements. How could I possibly harm sentient beings? It’s impossible because I would be harming my mother or father. In this way, I will not take life. If I don’t kill, then I will naturally maintain the first precept of not killing.” Therefore, if one truly understands filial respect and applies it in every aspect of one’s life, then one knows the practices of the Way. This is the first requirement for realizing the Way. The Venerable Master guides Westerners to understand the various facets of filial respect bit by bit and also learn the truth contained in the Buddhadharma bit by bit. They start with the fundamental aspect of filial respect. When one is fully humane, one will naturally realize the path to Buddhadhood.
Good advisors, bad advisors, and neither good nor bad advisors!
Hsuan Hua has failed to know his own limitations and has presumptuously come to Taiwan to hold a Great Compassion Guanyin Dharma Assembly to Protect the Country and Quell Disasters. I know that my Way and my virtue are scanty; my talents are few and my learning is shallow; my obstructions are onerous and my blessings light. We need not mention protecting the country and quelling disasters—I can’t even protect myself. Though I can’t protect this country, I must still protect it. Though I have no power to quell disasters, I still want to quell them. I have no ability to save people, and yet I still want to save people. I don’t care if I can achieve results; I will just be sincere and try my best to do what I can do. I will be at peace that way. I have long since dedicated my life to serving this country, its citizens, and all beings in the world. I will do what I must do. This is why I wrote a book called
Reflections in the Water-Mirror: Turning the Tide of Destiny. Why does it have such a strange name? “Water” refers to the reflection of the moon in the water. “Mirror” refers to the reflection of flowers in a mirror. Both of these are images without substance. We don’t know whether they can turn the tide of destiny, but someone mentioned one of Confucius’ lines, “Though you know it’s impossible, you try it anyway.” He knows that it requires a great deal of effort, but he’s not afraid, he still wants to complete his mission and become a janitor for past sages. He forgets himself wherever he goes. That’s why I say that I’m the dumbest person in the world. Why? Most intelligent people will not want to do anything that I do. As a fool, I always do foolish things: I rush about [to help] without being concerned about hardship.
For instance, by hosting this Guanyin’s Great Compassion Dharma Assembly to Protect the Country and Quell Disasters, we are trying our best to do the Buddha’s work using our bodies that only eat one meal a day. Think about it, we monks and nuns get up early in the morning. We eat nothing in the morning or evening; we only eat one meal at noon. For most people, food is the iron that fuels this body made of metal; they go stir-crazy with hunger if they have to go without a meal. However, we don’t panic, despite our hunger. We continue to do our ceremonies and everything that we’re supposed to do in the morning and evening. Several members of the Sangha, furthermore, don’t consume oil and salt. They want to follow me, a teacher who doesn’t take oil or salt.
Some people had invited me to a vegetarian meal today. But my rule is: I don’t ask others to a meal and others don’t ask me to a meal. That way, neither of us wastes money and time, which could be put to better use than socializing. When the Venerable Wu insisted that I go, I offered a compromise. I can’t go because I have made a vow to turn down all social engagements. Since I’m afraid of social engagements, I don’t eat oil and salt. However, I will ask and see if members of my delegation are willing to go. Why will I not go when they could? It is because I know everything that we eat outside is seasoned or cooked with oil and salt. You say you don’t touch oil and salt, but the cook will still drop some in. I don’t want to make anyone do anything false or deceptive, so I will not go. When I talked it over with these young disciples, they followed instructions and went. However, they were not forced to go, and they probably thought that some dishes would be free of oil and salt! In the end, they didn’t eat their fill at all. They felt like the oil and salt were stuck in their throats so that they couldn’t swallow. I felt really bad for them. It’s as if I had purposely prevented them from cultivating. This happened today. This one here said that he ate a couple of pieces of oily food and couldn’t eat any more. Were they hungry when they got back? They were okay—barely. It’s all right that they didn’t eat their one meal. Even though they didn’t eat their fill, they continue to do the Buddha’s work. This is where I disappoint my disciples and all people. I don’t know how to do things right.
Since I don’t know how to do things, starting at the age of twelve, I made vows to admit my wrongs and to repent to all beings. I believe that for many lives in infinite eons, I at times have been a mosquito, an ant, a honeybee, a venomous snake, and a tiger. I have traveled to every one of the six destinies of transmigration. I have offended people as many as the grains of sand in the Ganges River; therefore I must admit and apologize for my mistakes. I tell all living beings: “I have offended you throughout infinite eons; I have brought so much trouble to you. I hope that you will practice the Bodhisattva path and forgive me for my past deeds. Let me now bow in obeisance to all of you sentient beings, whether mosquitos, ants, humans, or non-humans.”
To be continued