Maybe we’ve never really deeply experienced it: how much the seemingly unremarkable activity of making obeisance to the Buddha can influence those who need help, or even the entire Dharma Realm as a whole. Therefore, this process of repetition, this day-after-day service to the Buddha, cannot help but make people feel bored, and inevitably over time we do it rashly and perfunctorily.
It’s probably the practice of reciting the Shurangama Mantra, which awakened my inherent nature from its deep slumber. I learned how deep and serious the negative karma accumulated from my daily thoughts and actions really were. I should make penance to the Earth Store (Ksitigarbha) Bodhisattva, repent at all times, because our mind never stops creating negative karma. I truly never liked bowing before, but because I had to fulfill the requirement of bowing 10,000 times in order to take refuge with the Venerable Master Hua, I started bowing constantly. In the process, I slowly realized the importance of bowing to the Buddha. At the same time it became clear that the Venerable Master wanted us not only to bow 10,000 times, but to keep right on bowing.
When I first started bowing, every time my false thoughts arose, I thought of how the Venerable Master once said, out of his life’s achievements, the important ones came from “concentrating single-mindedly,” which involves not thinking false thoughts. Therefore, every time my mind starts to wander, I do my best to collect these false thoughts racing towards other things. And through learning to control my false thoughts, I experienced the importance of the Six Great Principles of “no fighting, no greed, no seeking, no selfishness, no pursuit of personal advantage, no lying. I discovered that the majority of false thoughts arise from fighting, greed, seeking, selfishness, pursuit of personal advantage, and false speech, or in other words “greed, anger, and delusion.” It’s for this reason that having a Bodhi mind becomes so extremely important.
One evening, after reading the Avatamsaka Sutra, I started to bow to Earth Treasury Bodhisattva, and during that process of prayer bowing, my heart had no extraneous thoughts, and one bow came after the other. Suddenly, an image appeared in my brain. I saw a stretch of sea, and the people in the sea were raised upwards due to the rays of light shot forth from Earth Store Bodhisattva floating in the air. I thought, “It’s probably just false thinking; ignore it.” But as I continued to bow, this image didn’t disappear. It stayed just as clear and precise as it was before. Thereupon I started to concentrate intently on this tableau for a while, and continued to bow. I don’t know when it disappeared.
After this, when I think back to that image, I no longer regard it as a trivial false thought that should be discarded. Rather, I have placed this image at the bottom of my heart. Whenever I feel constrained, and my mind is panicked and unfocused, and false thoughts fly unabated, I think of those ‘people’ wearing white flying upwards due to glorious rays shot forth from the Bodhisattva.
As I ponder it, whether it’s meditation, Sutra recitation, or bowing, there is generally no way to quickly know the benefits we reap through these Buddhist deeds. Since we have accumulated more good roots compared to some others, it is difficult for us to truly understand the merit and virtue of cultivation. It’s analogous to how, because we can eat our fill every day, we do not understand what hunger is truly like.
Therefore, it is very easy for us to ignore and not treasure the blessing of the Buddhadharma which is so difficult to encounter. And we cannot truly comprehend that “the world is impermanent, and countries are precarious” as well as the importance of timely cultivation. It’s just like if in Taiwan, a one dollar coin were dropped on the ground, few people would bother to reach over and pick it up. But that one dollar could give a tiny child in faraway Africa a day’s worth of sustenance so he would not go hungry. During an instant when we just don’t feel like practicing Buddhism, we are not aware that this insignificant act of bowing to the Buddha might be able to give peace to one of the many painful living beings in the hells. I had never thought about this issue until this experience.