Going back and forth two times, three times, if I come back every day, then you will say the Master has this and that fault! The Master is partial! The Master is good to this disciple and bad to that disciple! Then there will be plenty of talking! When I was at Cihang (Boat of Kindness) Monastery, I said very clearly that if you truly cultivate, then you are truly making offerings to me and giving me good food and drink; if you do not cultivate and only make a show of giving me this good food and drink, I don’t want it! If you truly cultivate diligently and sincerely practice the Buddhadharma, this is to give me truly good food and drink. I don’t want disciples who offer me food and drink, I want those who offer with sincerity. Don’t I say that every day? Everybody should bring forth their sincerity and make offerings with this sincerity. That is “true purity”, which is an “offering of true dharma.” You can give me endless good food and drink, but I’ll tell you honestly that decades ago I already stopped caring for sight, sound, smell, tastes, touch, and consciousness, do you think I can regress? The better the food I eat, the more unhappy I am! Then disciples will say, “Cultivate blessings and wisdom,” well, now I’ve used up my blessings, my wisdom is gone, and I’ve become a stupid person; if I am more stupid than you, how can I be your teacher?
Cultivators must constantly reflect and take stock of themselves, asking, “Am I pure in my body, mouth and mind? Has my body committed the offenses of killing, stealing, sexual misconduct?”
To kill means to take life. This is the first of the Five Precepts. Taking life does not necessarily mean that you personally murder someone in your immediate vicinity. According to the Bodhisattva Precepts, even the thought of killing is a violation of the “no killing” precept, so this is very difficult to practice. At the obvious level, killing a living thing violates the precept; more subtly, it means that in every thought of yours, if you give rise to a thought of killing, this also counts as violating the precept. The subtlety is as thin as the hair of an ox. hyin
Secondly, there is stealing. Stealing means robbery and theft. What is called robbery and theft? Regardless of whether it is an object or money, as long as you take something without somebody’s consent, this is called “stealing”; or if you use something without the owner’s consent, this is violating the no stealing precept. So it is said, “to take without permission is stealing”.
Thirdly, there is sexual misconduct. Sexual misconduct refers to when men and women engage in illicit relations that do not comply with the law or the rules. Any behavior of this type violates this precept.
These are the offenses that can be committed by the body. Why do you kill? Because of your body. Why do you steal? Because of your body. Why do you commit sexual misconduct? Also because of this body. Especially sexual misconduct. Those that indulge in sexual misconduct will die and fall into the hell of the burning pillar. Upon entering that hell, you see the person you liked and you are irresistibly drawn to this person. The moment you get close, you realize that it is a figure made of copper and is on fire, and you yourself are burnt until your skin bursts and your flesh disintegrates. The pain is indescribable. In your ignorance, you get caught up in the moment, and this is the kind of retribution you receive. All of us who are learning Buddhism must cut off these thoughts of sexual misconduct and desire! Normal relations between a husband and wife are within the law and therefore permissible; but any relations outside of a marriage are in violation of this precept. So these are the three bodily offenses – killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct. Every day we should observe ourselves and see if we do things out of ignorance and commit the acts of ignorance which are killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct.
Ignorance means not to understand. What is not to understand? It is to have thoughts of sexual misconduct and desire! We don’t know why, but the thought arises, and this is “ignorance”. What arises from ignorance, you don’t understand and are covered over by this ignorance, so the wild heart and savage nature come forth. These are the three bodily offenses.
The mind also has three offenses, which are greed, anger, and delusion. Every day we should reflect, have I been greedy? Have I been angry? Have I been deluded? You must reflect on yourself.
There are four offenses of the mouth, and again you must examine yourself: Have I committed the karmic offense of harsh speech? Have I committed the offense of divisive speech? Have I committed the offense of frivolous speech? Have I created the karma of divisive speech?
“All blessings and wholesomeness are created,” all of the blessings you have created and all the good deeds you have done, should be transferred to the living beings of the Dharma Realm, and not to yourself. So it is said, today I resolve not to seek personal benefit, and not to resolve the
bodhi mind for myself, but for all living beings, to make transference with utmost sincerity. “To make transference with utmost sincerity” is to earnestly and sincerely transfer merit to the beings in the Dharma Realm. “Wishing all fellow cultivators chanting Buddha’s name,” I am willing to, with all those who recite the name of the Buddha, “to have responses at any time” on the spiritual path, appear at all times. “On the verge of passing away, the Pure Land in the West,” when I am passing away, this western state, “appears vividly before me.” It will appear clearly before my eyes.
“Those within sight and hearing are vigorous,” whoever sees someone who is reciting the Buddha’s name, and hears the name of the Buddha being spoken, “will be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.” They will together be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. If every day, day after day, you can do this and reflect on yourself, purify your three aspects of karma, then your skill to recite the Buddha’s name will mature, and in the future you will surely be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
Karma brings obstructions, which are too agonizing. This world is too filthy! Think about it. Even if you are emperor, you still cannot avoid death, especially since an emperor creates many karmic offenses. You can be a president, and you will still create karmic offenses. Everybody has their own suffering. Look! In America, when Nixon became president, all of these troublesome things happened, and all day long people want to investigate the Watergate affair. Every time this was mentioned, I’m sure Nixon got a headache and was afflicted with worries. He ended up resigning. After resigning, he immediately got sick and had to go to hospital. He had varicose veins and other sicknesses. So you see, even the President cannot escape all the troubles, not to mention common people! That is why this world is a world of suffering, because the more money you have and the higher position you hold, the more worries you have!
From what I know, every household has their own problems, which are extremely complicated and full of gossip. Although on the surface every household looks very pleasant, when you really delve into it and study it, you begin to see many, many knotty problems. Especially in America, every family has its problems; and what’s the biggest problem? Divorce. When a couple has a baby, and the child grows older they divorce. They divorce without consideration and marry without thinking. They spend two and a half days married, then get divorced for another two days and a half. Divorce and marry again, so there are countless problems the whole day long. From what I know, everybody has their problems; those close to Gold Mountain Monastery may have a little less, but upon leaving Gold Mountain Monastery, the problems arise again.
I remember in 1968 there was a couple that was ready to divorce in Seattle when summer classes were about to begin. However, they both came together to attend the summer classes here, and when the classes were over, they both took refuge. During the ceremony, I spoke to them, telling them not to get divorced, and they agreed. After the husband and wife took the Bodhisattva Precepts they were very sincere. The woman had brought from home eight hundred dollars in her handbag, and they went to a restaurant to eat. When they were done, she forgot her handbag. When she returned, she remembered and asked me, “I left my handbag there, is it gone?” I said, “Go back and look for it, don’t be frightened!” The next day she went back to the restaurant, and indeed, she found it lying there untouched. Because of this, she had a lot of faith, and both of them stayed here in San Francisco instead of returning to Seattle. They lived here for five or six years getting along well. They didn’t argue as they used to, and drank less, so the family was very harmonious. Afterwards the woman graduated from university and said that she was going to go to Seattle to work, and moved back there. Not half a year later, they wanted to divorce again, and they had a lot of problems again. The woman found another man and the man found another woman, and it was all messed up. When it’s like that, it’s difficult not to drink, so they drank. They were in a fix, so they came to find me again. This woman came to find me and asked what to do? I said, “You’ve messed it all up and didn’t even ask me first if you could do these things! Now you don’t know what to do and come to find me again! I’m not going to manage these problems for you!” So in my experience, none of the households in America are truly harmonious.
I believe that every Chinese household has its dramas too, to see how well you can sing in them or how perfect you are in them. There are many questions. So I don’t believe that this Yan Guo-ling’s family has no dramas.