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Spiritual Penetrations in the Palace
of the Trayastrimsha Heaven
They lauded how he regulates and subdues the obstinate beings so that they can learn what causes suffering and what brings bliss. Each one sent his attendants to pay their respects to the World Honored One.
At that time the Thus Come One smiled and emitted billions of great light clouds.
They lauded how he regulates and subdues the obstinate beings. What is subduing? People, and perhaps particularly the Chinese, enjoy delicious foods. They season our plain vegetables with five different kinds of flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, spicy and salty. Too spicy and people who do not like spicy foods will not eat that dish at all; too sour and those who do not like sour foods will not eat any of that dish; too bitter and most people do not like it; even when it is too sweet, some people will not like it. So the flavors must be balanced; each seasoning is just right, neither too much nor too little.
People enjoy foods that taste good. The same applies to the Buddhadharma. Some prefer this practice; others prefer another practice. Some prefer Christianity, while some prefer Catholicism; some prefer Islam, while some prefer Taoism or Confucianism. Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam are five major world religions. They are said to be five, but they are actually one. How are they one? According to the Buddha’s Dharma, everything is the Buddhadharma, all religions and their practices are included here. Catholicism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Confucianism are all included in all dharmas; none of them transcend all dharmas. No religion will say it has no Dharma or is beyond the Dharma.
Actually there is no Dharma outside the Dharma. All dharmas are the Buddhadharma; all cannot be acquired. No! You have really come home if you say, all dharmas are gone. I would not try to come up with a way to deceive you, telling you that you will get something good to eat. No! There is nothing. To begin with, there was nothing. How do we know? The Great Master Sixth Patriarch said, “The Bodhi was without a tree, the mirror without a stand. Originally there was not a thing, where does dust alight?” Since there was nothing to begin with, where will you find dust? Since there is nothing, dust cannot dirty it. All these dharmas are the Buddhadharma. People who understand know that all dharmas are the Buddhadharma.
There are right dharmas and wrong dharmas, ultimate dharmas and non-ultimate dharmas, good dharmas and bad dharmas. Cultivation requires practicing the ultimate dharmas. It’s like walking, if you have an airplane, you can definitely go from the Americas to Europe. How long would you have to walk if you were to walk from the Americas to Europe? Besides walking on land, you have to trek across the ocean too. When you get to the ocean, you have to take a boat, which is slow and takes a long time. It would be faster if you were to take a plane. This is analogous to cultivating the non-ultimate dharmas. You must cultivate for a long time before you can reach your home (Buddhahood). Cultivate the ultimate dharmas and you will reach your home soon. What are the non-ultimate dharmas? It is like all non-Buddhist dharmas that are somewhat helpful, but slow. Ultimate dharmas are means of cultivation that accord with the Buddhadharma.
Speaking of disciplining obstinate beings, Shakyamuni Buddha will not begin by criticizing anger to angry people. He would say, “Anger is not so bad. Afflictions are just Bodhi. Can you do that? It’s no problem that you are angry. Afflictions are just Bodhi; birth and death are just nirvana.” Make him feel as if it is not bad to have a temper. Although I have a huge temper, Bodhi is not small. So he tries and the more he tries the fewer afflictions he has and bigger the Bodhi. Afflictions decrease by the day while Bodhi increases by the day. It is Bodhi to reduce afflictions. Tell obstinate beings this kind of Dharma.
How does the Buddha speak to weak and fearful living beings? They have no will of their own, always afraid. They tremble from hearing a cat’s meow, leave their body from hearing a dog’s bark. They are afraid of any movement. So the Buddha said, “Do not be afraid. Study the Buddhadharma and it will help and protect you!” Speak credibly to fearful beings like you and it’s like comforting babies. Consequently, they will believe in the Buddhadharma. After they study the Buddhadharma, they will become more and more courageous by the day.
For example, I had a disciple who took refuge with me in Hong Kong. Before he took refuge, he was afraid of ghosts and dark nights. He was so frightened that he did not dare to step out the door when the night fell. Even though there were other people in the house with him, he was still afraid. He felt as if he was surrounded by ghosts, even though he does not see any. When he took refuge, I did not give him any mantra or dharma. But after he took refuge, he was not afraid of being alone, not afraid of ghosts or the dark. He was not afraid to be home alone at night; he was not afraid to go outside. This is how you help fearful beings. Tell living beings who like to cry to stop and be joyful instead. In short, living beings who are extreme must reach the Middle Way. This is the principle behind regulating others.
Regulate obstinate beings so that they can learn what causes suffering and what brings bliss. Obstinate beings do not care whether there is suffering or joy. What is suffering? What is joy? He does not care! Since he is obstinate, he is not afraid of suffering or happiness. Shakyamuni Buddha make obstinate beings know what is true suffering and what is true happiness. Exactly what is true suffering? Falling into the lower realms is true suffering. For example, it is true suffering to fall into the realm of the hells, hungry ghosts, or animals. What is true happiness? Becoming enlightened, certifying to the fruition of arhatship, and practicing the Bodhisattva path is true happiness. Actually there are so many kinds of suffering and happiness, but it is fine just for us to have a general idea.
Each one sent his attendants . All the great Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas throughout the lands of the ten directions did not come alone. Each Bodhisattva brought many attendants, perhaps one, two, three or four. Some preferred as many as several hundred, several thousand or several ten’s of thousands of attendants. Each person sent the attendants with him to pay their respects to the World Honored One. They went up to the Buddha and greeted him. What are their greetings like? They say, “Is the World Honored One healthy, at ease and happy? Are living beings easy to save?” World Honored One, are you free of any sickness? Are you free of any afflictions? Are you very happy? Are living beings easy to deliver [to the shore of perfection]? This is how they greet the World Honored One. At that time the Thus Come One Shakyamuni smiled a slight smile, not a boisterous laugh, and emitted billions of varieties of great, the largest light clouds and colorful clouds.
There was the light cloud of great fulfillment, the light cloud of great compassion, the light cloud of great wisdom, the light cloud of great prajna, the light cloud of great samadhi, the light cloud of great auspiciousness, the light cloud of great blessings, the light cloud of great merit, the light cloud of great refuge, and the light cloud of great praise.
After emitting indescribably many light clouds,
As said, there was the billions and billions of clouds of great light. Since billions and billions are numerous, he will only name ten. These ten represent the Contemplation of the Ten Vehicles and the Ten Dharma Realms. As said, the light cloud of great fulfillment. Shakyamuni Buddha released lit clouds of great perfection, which are symbolic of how the realm of Buddhas pervades the entire Dharma Realm. Perfection means that something is non-existent yet omnipresent, shining on all places without an exception of a dust mote. All of space and the Dharma Realm are covered by these great clouds of light. This is the realm of Buddhas, which is perfect.
The light cloud of great compassion. Kindness can bestow happiness while compassion can uproot suffering. This is the Bodhisattva path. Bodhisattvas conduct themselves to bring living beings’ every happiness and uproot living beings’ every suffering. Whatever living beings enjoy, give that to them. They like sweets, give them sweets; they like sour things, give them sour things.
When Universal Worthy Bodhisattva was the temple’s dining hall attendant, someone who stands by the table, serving and refilling food for monastics, he had all the seasonings with him, one bottle after another. You enjoy something sweet and he will add some sugar; you enjoy something sour and he will add some vinegar; you enjoy something spicy and he will give you some hot pepper. He had bottles all over his body. He carried all these seasonings with him because if someone wants something sour, he will pour something sour for him. But the person will complain, “Hey! I do not want that much! How come you gave me so much?” Someone says he wants something spicy but the Bodhisattva is afraid to pour too much so the person will not want it. He pours very little and the other person yells, “Hey! Some more! So little!”
Universal Worthy Bodhisattva has a hard time satisfying living beings. He gives a lot and they complain that it is too much; he gives a little and they complain that it is too little. See, it’s not very easy to be a Bodhisattva.
Confucius of China had this to say: “Only women and petty individuals are most difficult to live with.” Women and petty individuals are difficult to handle. How come? “Too close and they condescend”. Get too close to them and they become unreasonable and do not observe the rules. “Too far and they resent.” Stay a distance from them and they resent you. They are difficult to interact with. Confucius probably suffered in this way, so as an experienced expert, his words fit people’s understanding. Bodhisattvas are this way too.
Too good to people and it does not accord with the Middle Way. Too mean to people and that does not accord with the Middle Way either. So Universal Worthy Bodhisattva has a hard time satisfying living beings. The Bodhisattva path is difficult to walk. I am so considerate of you and you are so dissatisfied. This light cloud of compassion represents the Bodhisattva path.
The light cloud of great wisdom. This wisdom represents the realm of Those Who Enlighten to Conditions, those who cultivated the Twelve Causal Links and became enlightened. He needs great wisdom. What is great wisdom? He contemplates the Twelve Causal Links and knows that all things come into being and cease. Through this principle, he develops true wisdom from the Buddha nature. So the light cloud of great wisdom represents the realm of Those who Enlighten to Conditions.
The Twelve Causal Links are: ignorance conditions activity, activity conditions consciousness, consciousness conditions form, form conditions the six entrances, the six entrances conditions contact, contact conditions feelings, feelings condition love, love conditions craving, craving conditions existence, existence conditions birth, birth conditions old age and death.
This series involves birth (migration). There is also a series that involves ceasing: ignorance ceases then activity ceases, activity ceases then consciousness ceases, consciousness ceases then name and form cease, name and form cease then the six entrances cease, the six entrances cease then contact ceases, contact ceases then feelings cease, feelings cease then love ceases, love ceases then craving ceases, craving ceases then existence ceases, existence ceases then birth ceases, birth ceases then old age and death cease. Shatter ignorance and everything disappears. So Those Who Enlighten to Conditions contemplate and shatter ignorance first. Everything comes from ignorance. He shatters ignorance and real wisdom is born.
The light cloud of great prajna. Prajna is wisdom, which includes:
1. literary prajna, 2. real mark prajna, 3. contemplative prajna. Sound Hearers develop contemplative prajna from literary prajna; they reach real mark prajna through contemplative prajna. Since they reached real mark prajna, they certified to arhatship. These are the Sound Hearers Vehicle.
The light cloud of great Samadhi . Samadhi is Sanskrit that means concentration. Heavenly beings cultivate the ten good deeds at the highest level and reach the Four Dhyanas and the Eight Samadhis through this power of concentration. The Four Dhyanas are the Fourth Dhyana Heaven, Third Dhyana Heaven, Second Dhyana Heaven and First Dhyana Heaven. The First Dhyana is called the Ground of Leaving the Production of Bliss, the Second Dhyana is called the Ground of Bliss from Samadhi, the Third Dhyana is called the Ground of Leaving Bliss, the Fourth Dhyana is called the Ground of Purity from Letting Go Thoughts.
There are also the Four Stations of Emptiness: 1
. The Boundless Emptiness Heaven,
2. The Boundless Consciousness Heaven,
3. The Heaven of No Particular Place and
4. The Heaven of Thought Nor Non-Thought. Together these are the Four Dhyanas and the Eight Samadhis. These types of individuals have Samadhi and cultivate the highest among the ten goodnesses, which include the superior grade, the average grade and the below-average grade. These people will become reborn in the heavens if they take the Three Refuges and receive the Five Precepts.
The light cloud of great auspiciousness . Auspiciousness represents the human realm. People want everything to be auspicious. In Chinese, this means luck, such as wishing each other great luck around Chinese New Years in the hopes that good things happen. It also means auspiciousness, something lucky. Those who cultivate the average grade among the Ten Good Deeds, take the Three Refuges and receive the Five Precepts will become reborn in the human realm.
The light cloud of great blessings . Blessings and virtues represent the asuras. Asuras are in the heavens, the human realm, the animal realm and the hungry ghost realm. In short, they also have great blessings and virtue, so this kind of clouds of light shine on the asuras.
The light cloud of great merit represents the animal realm. The Buddha releases this kind of meritorious cloud of light so that all the animals will eliminate their offenses, leave suffering and attain bliss in the future.
The light cloud of great refuge. This represents the realm of hungry ghosts. The Buddha releases this kind of clouds of light so that all hungry ghosts will change from being evil to being good, reforming and renewing themselves. They will wish to take refuge with the Triple Jewel. Ghosts can take refuge with the Triple Jewel too.
And the light cloud of great praise. This represents the realm of hell-beings. The Buddha releases this kind of cloud of light out of praise. Beings in the hells who see these clouds of light will want to leave suffering and attain bliss, change for the better and set their sights on Bodhi.
These ten kinds of clouds of light represent the faculties of beings in the ten realms. Shakyamuni Buddha releases so many kinds of clouds of light so that living beings throughout the ten Dharma Realms will become Buddhas soon. After emitting indescribably many light clouds that are wonderful beyond words, then what?
He also uttered many wonderful, subtle sounds. There was the sound of dana paramita, the sound of shila paramita, the sound of kshanti paramita, the sound of virya paramita, the sound of dhyana paramita, and the sound of prajna paramita. There was the sound of compassion, the sound of joyous giving, the sound of liberation, the sound of no outflows
He also uttered many wonderful, subtle sounds. He let out various kinds, not just one, but many different kinds of subtle and wondrous voices. These voices are not too loud and harmonize with one another. Wondrous means that it is clear. The Buddha’s voice is very clear, subtle and wonderful.
The Buddha speaks the Dharma with one voice; regardless of which type of living being hears the Buddha’s voice in speaking the Dharma, he understands. Even people of different countries hear him and understand what he says. The Buddha speaks with one voice, but the Japanese will hear him speaking Japanese; the British will hear him speaking English; the French will hear him speaking French; the Spanish will him speaking Spanish. Although these languages are different, the Buddha can make them appear in his single voice. He does not need translations into many languages. The Buddha’s state is inconceivable. That is why it is said that the Buddha explains the Dharma with a single voice and living beings understand it according to their kind.”
What are sounds? Sounds are drinks. Why? If you understand the sound, it is as if you drank it. Sounds are also hidden; some are louder and some are quieter, half hidden and half appearing. The Buddha’s state is incredible; living beings find his voice very different. You hear it as this kind of voice, and he hears it as another kind of voice. Although he utters one voice, but different beings will hear the voice differently.
How far can the Buddha’s voice reach? Mahamalgayayana was foremost in spiritual penetrations. He had tried to use his spiritual powers to cross as many worlds as sands in the Ganges River toward the East by looking for the sound of the Buddha’s voice. After traveling as many worlds as sands in the Ganges River, the Buddha’s voice was still as loud as it was when he was in front of the Buddha. So the Buddha’s voice is inconceivable.
The Buddha now emits so many kinds of voices, not just one kind. How many kinds in total? There was the sound of dana paramita. Dana is a Sanskrit word that means giving. We have said this many times before: there is the giving of wealth, the giving of Dharma, and the giving of fearlessness.
Although everyone understands, we can explain the meaning of giving in more depth now. Giving without being attached to the outer signs of giving is real giving. Giving while attached to the outer signs of giving will result in becoming reborn in the heavens. Giving without being attached to the outer signs of giving will result in retribution that is free from outflow. Not being attached means not remembering it. For instance, I gave someone some money and I keep thinking, “Ah, I will reap some fine retribution for making this donation.” In the end, there is either no reward or the mere reward of becoming reborn in the heavens, not the retribution free from outflows.
What does it mean by giving without being attached to outer marks? One must be empty in three aspects: there is no giver, nothing given, and no receiver. What is giving? What is being given? Recalling that there is a giver is a sign that there is a self; one cannot forget one’s self.
For example, I have a donation to contribute to building a temple, to building Buddha images or to printing sutras. This is an attachment. What is attachment? I am a donor; I can give $50,000. The gift, the $50,000 I donate, whether it is building a temple, building Buddha images or printing sutras, I earned some merit from contributing this gift. I am the donor; I offered a gift. Now along with the donor and the gift, there is a receiver. There is a subject and object to the receiver. The subject of the receiver is someone who receives that donation of $50,000. The object received is the gift the other party gave to me, making the other party the giver of the gift received. Without a giver and a gift, there would be no receiver and nothing received. These are the three aspects of emptiness in giving, which is about not being attached to the outer marks of giving.
Paramita is a Sanskrit word, which means to the other shore or arriving at the other shore. What other shore is this? Arriving at the other shore means we have succeeded with what we want to do, fulfilling our wishes and reaching our goals. For instance, we want to become liberated from the cycle of birth and death now. Birth and death is this shore while nirvana is the other shore. From this shore of birth and death, cross the currents of afflictions and reaching the other shore of nirvana, we arrive at the other shore. Wanting to reach the Buddha’s world of Constant and Still Light, we start walking toward our destination. When we reach our destination, we have arrived at the other shore, from this shore of ordinary beings to the other shore of sages. Certifying to the sagely fruit is also called reaching the other shore. We did not understand the Buddhadharma before but now we do. This is also called arrival at the other shore.
But that other shore consists of an ultimate and a non-ultimate shore. What is the ultimate shore? What is the non-ultimate shore? Ordinary people who certify to the first level of arhatship reach the other shore of first level arhatship, but not the other shore of the second level arhatship. When we certify to the second level arhatship, we reach the other shore of second level arhatship but not the other shore of the third level arhatship. When we certify to the third level arhatship, we reach the other shore of third level arhatship but not the other shore of the fourth level arhatship. When we certify to the fourth level arhatship, we reach the other shore of fourth level arhatship but not the other shore of the Bodhisattvas.
When we certify to the level of Bodhisattvas, we reach the other shore of Bodhisattvas but not the other shore of the Buddhas. When we certify to the level of Buddhas, that is the ultimate other shore, the final other shore. So this “to the other shore” can be explained at a very profound level and endlessly. I have only explained a few principles here. Once you understand the meaning of the other shore, expand and elaborate on it so that you reach the ultimate other shore.
Although I explain only a few principles for you, if you can expand and elaborate on these, such as getting insights on ten or a hundred principles from my explanation of one principle, then you are expanding and elaborating on the meaning.
Another example is our sutra lecture. We begin now and when we finish two hours later, we reach the other shore. That is paramita. Another example is we started with “Thus I have heard”, which is this shore. By the time we reach the end about how everyone is happy and left in full faith, it means we have reached the other shore. In short, when we reach our goal, we arrive at the other shore. Once you understand this other shore, you reach the other shore. Our biggest goal is to realize Buddhahood, attain anuttarasamyaksambodhi, the unsurpassed, equal, level and right enlightenment. This is our other shore.
The sound of shila paramita . Shila means clear and cool. It is clean and refreshing, which means the absence of heated afflictions. This is one interpretation.
There is another interpretation for it, which means prevention. There is national defense with its preventative measures and equipped armies that will strike other countries that do not observe the laws and try to attack us. This is national defense. Families have their preventative measures and individuals have their preventative measures. This is personal defense. What are we preventing? We want to prevent all evil deeds. Avoid any evil means doing no evil and doing all good.
There was a great layman in the olden days who pleaded with his senior monk to give an explanation on the Buddhadharma. This monk responded, “Do no evil and devote to all good.” The layman said, “Elder monk, I am requesting the Buddhadharma from you! Even three year olds understand this do no evil and devote to all good. How can you tell me this is Buddhadharma?” The old monk said, “Three year old’s may understand it but 80 year old’s cannot do it.”
All evil means each and every possible kind of evil. To me, each is one while every one is many. Many are one though. Why do you even do one evil deed? Do one, and you will do a second evil deed; do that second evil deed, and you will do a third evil deed; do a third evil deed and you will do a fourth evil deed, even millions and millions of evil deeds. All these are accumulated from one.
A mountain, for instance, is huge and it came from one dust particle. Many dust particle gather together to create a mountain. So how many is “many”? There is no applicable number, might as well explain it as one so that it is easier to understand. So do not do even one evil deed. This is called doing no evil. Doing no evil means not doing many evil deeds; but, this thing I am about to do is probably not included in all the evil deeds. I can do that. My explanation now prohibits the doing of even one evil deed, not to mention many, which is all the more prohibited. This is most critical, most wonderful. Do not do even one evil deed.
Devote to all good. This means doing every single good deed, whether the deed is big or small. Even if the deed is as minor as a piece of hair, as long as it is good, do it. If you do not do it, then you will miss that bit of the “all” good. “All” refers to the great function of the entire substance without any flaw or deficiency. I do not do only this kind of good deed but not the other kind. No, I use all of me. Avoid every evil and devote to all good. Goodness, whether numerous or few, major or minor ought to be done. But do no evil. You are mixed up if you do evil deeds regardless of how big or small they are. So this elder monk said, although three-year-old’s understand, 80 year old elders cannot do it. This is because you cannot perfect it.
Shila also means precepts. When the Buddha entered nirvana, Ananda asked the Buddha one of these questions, which is: When the Buddha was in the world, we had the Buddha as our teacher; after the Buddha enters nirvana, who do we take to be our teacher? The Buddha answered Ananda’s question, saying: monastic disciples should take the precepts as their master. The precepts talk about avoiding all evil and doing every good, which is to stop evil and prevent wrong-doing. So Shakyamuni Buddha talked about the shila paramita.
Precepts are most critical, number one. Earlier we said giving is the foremost important issue in cultivation, now we say keeping the precepts is. This is also a most important topic in cultivation.
Some people are wondering, how come there are so many first’s? There are no second’s in the Buddhadharma; all are number one. No matter which dharma it is, it is the foremost. Someone once asked me, out of the 84,000 practices of the Buddhadharma, which is number one? Which is the most lofty? The most wonderful? Guess how I responded? I said the Buddhadharma contains 84,000 kinds of dharmas, creating 84,000 number one’s, none of which is number two. Why did I say this? The 84,000 practices are antidotes for curing living beings’ 84,000 problems. Each being has his or her problem. The practice that cures his habit is number one.
For example, all the medicines include some that cure headaches, some cure pain in the throat, some cure pain in the eyes, some cure pain in the ears, toothaches, pain of the nose and the rest of the body parts. Which medicine is number one? It would be wrong to say the medication for curing a headache is number one and the medication for curing pain in the eyes is number two. Take medicine for curing a headache if that is what you have. That medication is number one. You have problems with your eyes, take medicine to cure the eye disease, then that medication is number one.
For example, we have greed, hatred and delusion. By understanding the Buddhadharma and curing your greed, the Buddhadharma which cured your greed is number one. By understanding the Buddhadharma and curing your hatred, then that Buddhadharma which cured your hatred is number one. By understanding the Buddhadharma and curing your delusion, then that Buddhadharma which cured your delusion is number one. Living beings have 84,000 habits so the Buddha spoke 84,000 dharmas to cure those 84,000 habits. Whatever can cure your illness is number one; whichever ones fail are not number one’s. So there are 84,000 first places among the 84,000 dharmas.
The Vajra Sutra says, “The Dharma is equal and level, without high or low.” Since there is neither high nor low, I say the 84,000 dharmas are all number one. Is that not the Buddhadharma?
I lecture the sutras differently than others. Other people lecture and will definitely explain the “do no evil” as not doing all or many evils; they will not explain it as one evil. But since I do not know numbers, there are too many too count, I don’t know which is which, I figured since I can’t catch up, I might as well turn around and head back, meet up from another direction. For example, this person is a fast runner, so I will turn whenever he turns. I can never catch up by chasing after him. But if I turn around and wait for him at the other end, I meet up with him. See, this is the way I lecture the sutras too. Since there are so many numbers that I cannot figure out how many exactly, I will just talk about one. Not only do I understand this time, even children understand. This is how I lecture the Dharmas.
The shila paramita. Shila means keeping the precepts. There are so many people who keep the precepts whom I can talk about, but I will talk about one. Who is he? Vinaya Master Tao Xuan. Vinaya Master Tao Xuan was foremost in keeping the precepts in China and had achieved the highest level of understanding in the vinaya. Due to the way he upheld the precepts, he moved the heavenly beings to bring him food. He did not eat food in the human realm but ate food in the heavens offered by the heavenly beings.
Everyone knows that among the Chinese patriarchs, only Vinaya Master Tao Xuan received offerings from heavenly beings. The vinaya talks specifically about the principles of the outer marks of the precepts, the precept dharma, and comportment. The 3,000 comportments and 80,000 fine conducts. Where did these 3,000 comportments come from? They came from the four great comportments of walking, standing, sitting and lying down. Walk with dignified decorum, sit with dignified decorum, stand with dignified decorum, and recline with dignified decorum. Walk like a breeze, stand like a pine, sit like a bell and recline like a bow.
Walk like a breeze. This breeze is not a typhoon or a gale. If you walk like you are running then you have turned into a gale, if not a typhoon. Do not do that. Waft by like a light breeze that does not even stir up waves in the water. The light breeze is slow and does not blow over water and create waves.
Stand like a pine. Stand as straight as a pine tree. Don’t shirk back your neck and look lethargic or sleepy. Stand with your chest out and back straight. Looking down at the ground when you walk is like looking at the hells. Do not walk with your head too high up either. Let it be natural but straight. This is standing among the four great comportments. Also, don’t look around when you walk, glancing front and back. Looking left and right, the police will think this person must want to steal, to crack someone’s door open. They will pay attention to you. So don’t glance about.
Sit like a bell. Recline like a bow. Recline like a bow, with the right hand palming your chin and the left on the side of your hip, this is an auspicious posture for reclining. Curl your legs slightly like a bow.
There are 250 rules of comportment for each type of major comportments: walking, standing, sitting and lying down. There are 250 for walking, 250 for sitting, 250 for lying down and 250 for standing. These are very detailed so there are as many as 250 for each type. See, it’s not so easy. Add 250 for each type together makes a total of 1000. There are three sets of one thousand: one thousand for the past, one thousand for the present and one thousand for the future. These are the three thousand rules of comportments.
Since Vinaya Master Tao Xuan kept the precepts strictly and are replete with the 3000 forms of comportment and 80,000 minor conducts, which so moved the heavenly beings that they brought him food. When he cultivated he did not speak or laugh causally. You had to speak to him according to the rules of the vinaya for him to respond; if you did not, he would not speak. He did not laugh easily. But he did not cry, get angry or pout either. He was just natural all the time. He was not in any particular state of joy, anger, sadness or happiness.
What kind of a person does not have any joy, anger, sadness or happiness? A wooden person. A wooden sculpture has no joy, anger, sadness or happiness. He was not happy or upset; he did not cry or delight. But before joy, anger, sadness or happiness develops, that is just the Middle Way. People who keep the precepts keep to the Middle Way in every action and every move. Vinaya Master Tao Xuan kept to the Middle Way, so heavenly beings , including Lu Xuan Chang, were so moved that they brought him offerings every day at noon. Despite such heavenly offerings, he maintained one meal a day.
Vinaya Master Tao Xuan cultivated at Mt. Zhong Nan, a seemingly continuous mountain range linked to the Himalayas. I hear that Mt. Zhong Nan in China has many seasoned cultivators who cultivated and became enlightened there. There are many wolves and tigers there too, but they do not obstruct monastic cultivators; in fact they act as supporters of the Dharma. Vinaya Master Tao Xuan cultivated there, living in a straw hut while heavenly beings presented him with offerings.
At that time, Dharma Master Kui Ji had false thoughts, what was it? He said, “I have tried all the most delicious foods in the human realm, whether vegetarian or not; I have tried them all, but I have not tried food from the heavens. Vinaya Master Tao Xuan has heavenly beings bringing him offerings, let me go there for lunch.” For this reason, he went to Mt. Zhong Nan to see Vinaya Master Tao Xuan.
Dharma Master Kui Ji was a national master too. He was a very intelligent disciple of Dharma Master Xuan Zang of the Consciousness-Only School. At that time, 800 or 900 monks translated sutras together. He was a key player. In any case, he went there early for lunch, since Vinaya Master Tao Xuan only eats lunch. But he waited and waited, lunch time, afternoon, evening...no one offered any food. Both Vinaya Master Tao Xuan and Dharma Master Kui Ji did not have any food to eat.
Dharma Master Kui Ji loved to eat excellent food, so he could not tolerate going without food for a day. This was no small distress. “You say heavenly beings offer you food every day, how come there is nothing now that I am here? Did you brag? Did you lie?” Vinaya Master Tao Xuan said, “Say what you will. You may say I lie, but I know whether I lie or not.” Dharma Master Kui Ji said he lied but he did not argue back. Dharma Master Kui Ji waited until nightfall, so he spend the night at the straw hut because it got to be too dark to walk.
So there was a fat monk and a skinny monk. The fat monk was Dharma Master Kui Ji and the skinny monk was Vinaya Master Tao Xuan. Although Vinaya Master Tao Xuan ate heavenly offerings daily, he was not fat; although Dharma Master Kui Ji did not eat heavenly offerings everyday, he was very fat. He enjoyed eating, so he was always telling the cook to think up some excellent dishes.
Dharma Master Kui Ji did not meditate or investigate dhyana, but fell on the bed and slept. As soon as he fell as asleep, he was snoring thunderously. Vinaya Master Tao Xuan meditated and did not snore. Dharma Master Kui Ji lied there and snored in his sleep. Vinaya Master Tao Xuan was so disturbed that he could not enter Samadhi, so he was picking lice off of his body (Mt. Zhong Nan is very cold so cultivators have lice from not showering too often.) As the lice bit him, he picked the lice off of him. Because he kept the precepts, he did not dare to kill, so he slowly placed the lice on the ground. There was no light and nothing happening. Dharma Master Kui Ji fell asleep too, so he did not know at all. Vinaya Master Tao Xuan continued to meditate.
The next morning, Vinaya Master Tao Xuan told Dharma Master Kui Ji, “Hey! How come you do not cultivate at all? You don’t meditate, you don’t do any practice. You lie down and sleep at night, snoring loudly and talking in your sleep. I could not meditate or enter Samadhi.”
Dharma Master Kui Ji said, “Ah! You say I have no cultivation, but I think you don’t. You say heavenly beings bring you offerings but since I have been here, I have not seen any heavenly being. Last night, instead of doing your practice, you were picking lice. You picked two lice. If you had pinched them dead, then never mind; but you placed them on the ground. One fell down and died and the other broke two legs. The dead louse went to King Yama to sue you. King Yama was planning to send some ghosts over to capture you for questioning but I spoke on your behalf. I told him that you are a cultivator and hoped that King Yama will forgive you. I told those two lice to find their next birth. This is how you were saved from your troubles. And you actually tell me that I disturbed you, preventing you from cultivating? I think you have no cultivation whatsoever!” Vinaya Master Tao Xuan thought, “How did he know about two lice being thrown on the ground? There were no lights on or anything; how did he know?” He did not dare to argue because he keeps the precepts so he did not speak to people casually. He simply remained patient with what other people say about him; he did not argue back or defend. Later, Dharma Master Kui Ji said, “I’m leaving, you are just pretending to cultivate here. I am not going to wait for lunch today.”
By noon, heavenly being Lu Xuan Chang brought offerings to Vinaya Master Tao Xuan. Vinaya Master Tao Xuan, somewhat unhappy, said, “Why did you not bring any food yesterday?”
Lu Xuan Chang immediately knelt down and said, “Vinaya Master, it's not that I did not make offerings yesterday but when I did, I could not enter your hut. More than a dozen miles radius around this hut shone with a golden light that was so bright I could not open my eyes. I could not see the roads in front of me. I asked the local earth Bodhisattva how come the golden lights were so bright up ahead that I could not proceed. The local earth Bodhisattva said, ‘Someone in the hut is a Bodhisattva in the flesh, a living Bodhisattva.’ I circled around a few times yesterday and could not come in, so I could not bring you offerings. Please forgive me.”
Vinaya Master Tao Xuan thought, “No wonder Dharma Master Kui Ji is a national master whom even the emperor believes in. He is a Bodhisattva in the flesh.” He did not dare to look down on Dharma Master Kui Ji anymore. So we cannot fathom the states of Bodhisattvas.
The sound of kshanti paramita. We have talked about two of the paramitas among the Six Paramitas and the Myriad Conducts in the Buddhadharma. There are four more. The third is kshanti, which is Sanskrit for patience. There is patience with production, patience with the Dharma and patience with the non-production of Dharma, something extremely wondrous and filled with joy. If you certify to the patience of non-production of Dharma, then you have really tasted the Dharma, really understood the wonder and the inconceivability of the Buddhadharma. By being patient, you can reach paramita; by being impatient, you cannot reach paramita.
The sound of virya paramita. Virya is also Sanskrit, which means vigor. Some people misunderstand vigor as being diligent with non-Buddhist practices. Actually, those who really understand vigor are diligent with the Buddhadharma. Diligent with non-Buddhist practices is merely about cultivating useless ascetic practices. There were many heretics in India. One practice that sought answer outside of themselves (externalist practice) was that they ate grass instead of rice; keeping the cows’ precepts, imitating cows.
Another externalist practice was to imitate dogs and keep the precepts of dogs. These externalists will not do what dogs refuse to do; they will reject any food dogs reject. They only eat what dogs eat. These are the cows’ and dogs’ precepts. There is another externalist practice of sleeping in a pile of ash. The human body is already unclean, but these externalists pile lots of dust on their bodies and cultivate in the dust. Another externalist practice is to sleep on a bed of nails to show that these externalists can tolerate pain and practice asceticism. These are examples of externalists’ useless ascetic practices. They think they are very diligent, but it is actually a deviant form of knowledge and view. It is not proper knowledge and proper view. This kind of diligence is useless.
Be vigorous in the area of good dharma rather than evil dharma. Being diligent with evil dharma is to go against the Way. Diligent in doing good dharma, such as bowing to the Buddhas, reciting the sutras, bowing in repentance, reciting the Buddha’s name are about being diligent with the body.
Then there is being diligent with the mind. What does it mean by being diligent with the mind? Always cultivate in thought after thought, never forgetting to cultivate the paramita of vigor but always forget your fatigue. Cultivating the Buddhadharma truly, that way you will not feel tired or hungry, you will not be bothered by anything that is not according with the Dharma. Why? You are diligent so you do not have any of these negative feelings. If you were not diligent, then you will experience problems. You will feel tired and lethargic; you figure you might as well go to sleep. This is not vigor. Vigor is primarily based on what you do, such as cultivating the path of goodness at all times and places. That would be the paramita of vigor.