Outstanding youth of the ten directions gather And increase their light of wisdom.
On June 19, Dharma Realm Buddhist Youth (DRBY Taiwan) invited the DRBA Dharma Masters and DRBY members to conduct a symposium to investigate the topic “Searching for an Instructor in Life.” The symposium was divided into two sessions. In the first session, the Dharma Masters delivered instructional talks on the set topic; in the second session, DRBY members aired their views and discussed them with the Dharma Masters. It was hoped that the Dharma Masters’ instructional talks and the interdynamic process of the discussions would enable every participant to search correctly for one’s own instructor in life.
The first session began with Dharma Master Heng Yun’s setting the example of learning how to drive. After one has learned the techniques, one must still keep practicing until one can drive smoothly and safely on the roads. She also cited herself as an example by talking about her own instructors in life. In her younger days, society was simple and honest, and the natural environment was not polluted. These two aspects influenced her character and could be said to be her life instructors. When she was a student, the schools instilled students with the Four Principles and Eight Virtues, thereby protecting the young people invisibly. On the other hand, family ethics and moral education taught everyone to fulfill one’s own role and to observe the rules and regulations. These could also be considered “life instructors”.
These two kinds of instructors have their limitations and are not ultimate. However, it has evolved to such a point now that science and technology are progressing rapidly everyday. Indulging in playing virtual games on the internet is indicative of people’s spiritual emptiness, of their constant seeking outside. A life that revolves around machines renders the human nature cold and indifferent. What have scientific and technological advancements taught us in living life? How have they benefited us? Have they really brought us true happiness?
The society that we look forward to is one that is kind and compassionate and imbued with a sense of justice. People in such a society accord one another with courtesy and respect and do not display rude behavior towards others. With wisdom, sincerity and trustworthiness, all things are done in a fair and reasonable manner. Creating an ideal society starts with oneself. Therefore, in this present age with moral values disintegrating, it is all the more pertinent that we have a life instructor to guide us. Who can be our instructor in life? It is the Buddha, who is “aware of cause and effect, understands everything thoroughly and is replete with kindness, compassion and wisdom.”
What is the purpose of life? The Venerable Master once asked, “Does one live to eat, or eat to live?” People who live to eat are undoubtedly seeking pleasures and comfort, pursuing fame and gain. People who eat to live could possibly benefit the world and others.
We who study the Buddhadharma should practice the skill of being a “sage within; leader without” – cultivating virtue internally, and establishing merit externally. We should not underestimate ourselves. Begin with the minute details of daily life, however insignificant they are, for “A thousand mile journey begins with the first step.” In addition, follow the Six Guidelines (no fighting, no greed, no seeking, no selfishness, no self-benefit and no lying). In one’s daily practice, take the Five Precepts (no killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no lying and no taking of intoxicants) as our “instructor”. Always cultivate wholesome dharmas and uphold proper thoughts in whatever we do in our daily lives. Practice sitting meditation to calm our minds, reflect within and cultivate samadhi power.
Following this, Dharma Master Jin Guo related that when she was young, she wrote an essay about her wish to become a civil engineer so that she could build many houses for people to live in. This would be ideal for the society and country. She held a part-time job while she was studying and was very enthusiastic at the beginning. When she could not complete her tasks, she worked overtime. As time went by, she became more experienced in the affairs of the world. Influenced by her colleagues and the environment, her outlook changed. Her innocent mind was gradually preoccupied with mundane thoughts and her character changed. She learned how to compete with others and how to seek a pay rise and overtime benefits. Her original aspiration of becoming an engineer to benefit others turned into wanting to belong to the wealthy and powerful in society.
During the period when she was working, she led a very hectic schedule trying to eke out a living and everything she did was for self-benefit. As this ran contrary to her nature, she became very exhausted. Unable to bear it any further, she resigned from her job.
We have to learn to think critically while searching for an instructor in life. As the pace of life in society is getting faster and faster, we are led along by it instead of the other way round. Therefore, we must constantly examine ourselves. The Venerable Master once said, “There are two kinds of people in society: the ones who cheat themselves and those who do not cheat themselves.” We should ask ourselves if this is really what we want. Is this the path that we wish to take? Is this how we want to determine our lives? People who cheat themselves take suffering as enjoyment, whereas those who do not cheat themselves are the ones who leave suffering and attain bliss. While searching, we should learn to contemplate in this way: What kind of lives do we strive for? What kind of guidance and help do we require?
In the second session of the symposium, the participants brought up a wide range of issues for discussion and the Dharma Masters explained each and every one of them. Below are the main points of the discussion:
Q: In our studying or working environments, it appears that people set higher standards for us Buddhists. How should we deal with this?
Dharma Master (DM): First, we must be sure of ourselves and be firm in our resolve in the spiritual path. We should understand why we study Buddhism. As long as we know that what we are doing is right or wrong, we can be free of worries and earnestly try our best in whatever we do. Do not bother about how other people perceive us and neither should we act according to the standards set by others. Follow the principle of “Refrain from all evil actions, perform all good deeds.” Learn and gain experience as we go along, and strengthen our faith and Bodhi mind. In this way, we will be more confident of ourselves.
Q: How do we control our temper in daily life? When we are angry, how do we transform our thoughts? How do we suppress and control anger?
DM: Suppressing anger is not the solution. As time goes by, it may explode like a volcano. Moreover, as losing one’s temper can become a habit, you should first find out the cause and eliminate it. If you are on the verge of losing your temper, try to be more patient. When that moment has passed, examine the situation again and you will see things differently. In this way, you will also reduce the chances of hurting others and yourself. Bow and repent more to the Buddha and you will then gradually eradicate your ignorance. You may also make adjustments to your diet, such as eating less stimulating and spicy food. Reduce influences from external conditions and avoid watching violent and war films so as to prevent the seed of aggression from being planted in your consciousness. On the psychological level, you should ask yourself why you are being affected by external influences that cause you to lose your temper and give rise to afflictions.
Q: While working in society, we need to socialize. If our superiors or colleagues urge us to drink liquor, how should we respond?
DM: When people ask you why you abstain from liquor, you need not be so forthright as to tell them that alcoholic drinks cause one to be stupid. You may tell them that your abstinence is due to religious reasons. If they really want to know the reason, then explain to them that drinking liquor will confuse the senses.
Q: How should beginners start their cultivation?
DM: You should make it a habit to do your daily homework. Gauge your own circumstances and spend at least half an hour every day to do it.
Q: What should our frame of mind be when practicing vegetarianism?
DM: Practicing vegetarianism may result in some inconveniences and others may treat you differently – such as giving you a hard time. You should be firm in your faith. Try your best to become pure vegetarian. If you really resolve to practice pure vegetarianism, you will naturally transform the environment.
The end of the symposium heralded the beginning of a brand-new mood. In our daily lives, we can find instructors everywhere to guide us on how to relate to others and the world. In this symposium, the Dharma Masters taught us to follow life’s most ultimate instructor, the Buddha, and to follow his footsteps and teachings so that we will not be carried away by the world. They also urged us to apply the Buddhadharma in our lives, cultivate our virtuous conduct and be more vigorous in our practice of Buddhism.