The first refuge you take is with the Buddha. After taking refuge with the Buddha, you should always believe in and serve the Jewel that represents the Buddha. Don’t go to demons and gods of heterodox paths, sects and cults that are not ultimate after all. Anyone who contends, is greedy, seeks, is selfish, pursues personal benefit, and casually lies is following a wrong path and you should not take refuge with such a person. Even Buddhists who contend, are greedy, seek, are selfish, pursue personal benefit, and lie, are straying from the right path. You must have the Dharma-selecting eye, i.e. the ability to select between right and wrong dharmas. If you do not have that ability and remain muddled after having taken refuge, you would just be a muddled Buddhist, which would be meaningless.
After taking refuge with the Buddha, you cannot join the Yi Guan Dao (“One Connected Way,” the Heavenly Way), the Two Connected Ways, the Three Connected Ways, the Four Connected Ways, or the Five Connected Ways. You connect and connect until you connect with the hells and fall in. Just the name, “One Connected Way” already sounds suspicious. That single connection will “connect” with you and knock you over dead. That’s even worse because once you fall and die, you will have nowhere to go but the hells. I’m not scared of threats from One Connected Way. I don’t care because I advocate justice. I have to tell the truth. If there’s something I have to say, I can’t hold it in.
To take refuge with the Dharma means that you cannot read the books of heterodox teachings. If you read their books, you will also become the children of demons. As a result, the causes that you plant will not be true and the results that you reap will not be real. You could not become a Buddha even if you wanted to. As far as taking refuge with the Sangha, you should take refuge with members of the Sangha who are pure fields of blessings. Who are they? They’re the ones who keep the precept against holding valuables. Even if they don’t hold this precept, they wouldn’t want money. They may offer the money they receive to others with virtue and cultivation. These people would be members of the Sangha who are pure fields of blessings. Purity means having nothing. Those who have assets are impure. Money is filthy. If you are able to break your attachment to money, sexual desire will not be a problem. If you are unable to put down money, you cannot put down sex. If you can’t let go of sex, you can’t let go of money. The five roots that lead you to the hells—money, sex, fame, food, and sleep—are connected. They are linked in the way that the “One Connected Way” is. This “Way” is connected to the five roots. Money is linked to sex, sex is linked to fame, fame is linked to food, and food is linked to sleep. Don’t take money to be too important. You don’t need to go and gamble on the “Everybody Happy” lottery so that everybody cries. You see that I have lost and I see that you have lost. In the end, who actually wins? Everyone might as well be content and be responsible in his or her role, acting on the basis of universal principles year after year. This would be more of a guarantee. Less risk is involved.
To take refuge with the precepts means that one doesn’t do any evil and does every good, avoiding evil and preventing wrongdoing. Since the Buddha has entered Nirvana, we should take the Precepts as our teacher, hence we should take refuge with the Precepts. This is the significance of taking refuge.
You may take refuge here and take refuge there, but actually, once is enough. You don’t need to take refuge so many times. The other Dharma Masters that you have taken refuge with didn’t tell you that you only needed to take refuge once though. Why? They would have received fewer offerings if you did not take refuge again. With fewer offerings, they suffer a loss. They didn’t and wouldn’t tell you such a thing. You understand? They obviously know that it’s wrong to take refuge so many times. Meanwhile, since you didn’t receive any miraculous responses from taking refuge the first time, you don’t have any faith in taking refuge. You take refuge with the Triple Jewel again in the hopes of having your prayers answered. You didn’t believe in it the first time; you didn’t have any faith the second time...and your conviction is still missing. Without faith, you will never receive a response.
Laypeople take refuge with this Master and that Master so that Sangha members end up fighting over disciples. “Your refuge disciples cannot come to my temple; my refuge disciples cannot go to your temple”: turf wars! Disharmony exists in the Sangha because laypeople repeatedly take refuge. That is why you should take refuge just once. If your teacher has returned to lay life, disappeared, or died, and you need another teacher, then it’s permissible to take refuge. If none of those circumstances applies, it would be best to take refuge just once. If you feel a particular teacher, a monk, deserves your respect, then pay your respects as if he were your teacher. You don’t need to take refuge again. That’s why when someone asked me if it’s okay to take refuge again, I told him that I didn’t know how to do business. My answer wasn’t exactly perfect.
That’s it for today. You should be like the saying: “A general does not dismount; each gallops toward his destiny.” Cultivate with diligence. I hope that you will attain Buddhahood soon.
We will now make the Four Great Vows of a Bodhisattva. Make your resolve very sincerely now. Be a good Buddhist and don’t stir up trouble within Buddhism by fighting for fame or fortune. Don’t be that kind of a Buddhist. Is that clear? You should think: “I would rather enter the hells than use Buddhadharma to gain favors from others.” Don’t give away the Buddhadharma out of affection. Everything I said came directly from my heart out of earnest compassion. Let’s now make the Four Great Vows.
To be continued