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Listen to Yourself: Think Everything Over

Volume 1




Uniting and Holding Thousand Arms Hand and Eye  

   According to the Small Vehicle, Buddhism is over 2500 years old. According to the Great Vehicle it is over 3000 years old. In Buddhism we find an attachment to the Great and Small Vehicles, and much opposition between them. Those of Small Vehicle Buddhism won’t admit there is a Great Vehicle. And in the Great Vehicle Buddhism, the attitude toward the Small Vehicle is condescending.  

   So, just within the Buddhadharma itself there arises this difficulty. You say I’m false and I say you’re false; as a result, it’s become the case that both are false, neither is true. That’s because the Buddha’s disciples didn’t listen to the Buddha’s instructions and made divisions of Great and Small.

    An expression says one must enter as the master and come out as the slave. So if you are a Great Vehicle person, then the Great Vehicle is the master, the lord, and the Small Vehicle is the servant. And if you’re of the Small Vehicle, then you say that the Small Vehicle is the master and the Great Vehicle is the servant. All this struggle occurs right in the basic substance of the Buddhadharma.  

   When I was in Los Angeles I said to a bhikku from Thailand. “The Small Vehicle should take a step forward and not be so attached. And the Great Vehicle should take a step back and not be so attached.” When the two, the Great and the Small Vehicles, don’t have any attachments, then they can become one. When they become one then they can obtain mutual benefit from one another, and not indulge in mutual slander.  

   In the Dharma-ending Age, all the Buddha’s disciples do superficial work. They don’t apply their work to the fundamental, actual places. And that’s a very painful situation. Not only do people nowadays argue about Great Vehicle and Small Vehicle, but before in India there were two Bodhisattvas, bodhisattva Asanga (non-attachment) and Bodhisattvas Vasubandhu (heavenly relative).

   One of these Bodhisattvas studied the Great Vehicle, and the other one studied the Small Vehicle. The one who studied the Great Vehicle knew what the experiences were like for the one who studied the Small Vehicle, but the one who studied the small Vehicle could not fathom what the state of the Great Vehicle was like. He didn’t know, because those of the Small Vehicle are not permitted to read the Great Vehicle sutras, even to the point that if you bring up the name of a Great Vehicle sutra you’ve broken a precept. That’s how sever it is.  

   Now, Asanga was the older brother and Vasubandhu was the younger brother, and it was the older brother who studied the Great Vehicle Dharma. He studied the wonderful principles of the Avatamsaka. The younger brother studied the Small Vehicle, the sutras and the principles. Not only did he study the doctrines of the Small Vehicle, but he also wrote shastras which slandered the Great Vehicle. How many shastras did he write? He wrote 500 volumes—500 volumes of shastras which criticized the Great Vehicle, saying in what ways it was wrong, in what ways it was mistaken, and how the Buddha didn’t speak the Great Vehicle Dharma.  

   Take a look at that: they were blood brothers and they took different roads, each thinking he was right, each thinking the other was wrong. Like fire and water. Although they were brothers, they were like fire and water; they weren’t compatible. Asanga studied Great Vehicle principles of the Avatamsaka. He deeply entered the sutra store and had wisdom like the sea. And he thought, “My younger brother believes in the Small Vehicle Buddhadharma, that’s too pitiful. I have to think of a way to convert him.”

   How was he going to convert such a stubborn brother who wouldn’t listen to him? He thought up an expedient device. He wrote a letter to his younger brother and said, “I know that I am going to die soon. Before I die I would like to see you. I don’t know if you can bring my wish to fulfillment.” And the older brother wrote the younger brother the letter, but basically the younger brother didn’t pay any attention to his older brother. He never listened to what he told him. When he read the letter about how his older brother was about to die and that it might be the last time he would see him, he said, “Okay, I’ll go.” He’d go see his brother.  

   The two of them chatted a bit and the older brother said, “I’m about to die. There is a sutra that I haven’t finished reading and I haven’t any energy to recite the sutra. Could you help me out and finish reading the sutra to me?”  

   The younger brother said, “Wellll…sure I can do that.”  

   So he recited the Great Vehicle sutra out loud for his brother. And when he started reciting there was nothing special about, but after he had recited for awhile, he started to sweat and then he became really ashamed. He said, “Oh, the offenses I have committed are too many! I have been slandering the Great Vehicle sutras and then I come to find out the state of the Great Vehicle is this mysterious and wonderful! I’ve just been sitting in a well looking at the sky; trying to measure the sea with a calabash. I’ve made a grave mistake.” And then he pulled out his sword and pulled out his tongue with his hand and prepared to cut off his tongue. His older brother said, “Wait! What are you doing? Tell me about it first.”  

   His younger brother said, “Now that I have read the Great Vehicle sutras, I realize that in the past I’ve slandered the Great Vehicle and that it was a mistake. Since I’ve used my tongue to slander the Great Vehicle I want to cut out my tongue.”  

   His brother said, “Don’t be so stupid! Before you used your tongue to slander the Great Vehicle; now you know that was a mistake so use your tongue to praise the Great Vehicle. What in the world do you want to cut it out for? For instance, if somebody falls down, he pushes himself back up, he doesn’t just lay there.”  

   When his younger brother heard that, he saw it had a lot of principle so he didn’t cut out his tongue. He wrote the Avatamsaka Shastra, all together 600 chapters, in praise of the Avatamsaka Sutra

   So it is not strange that people nowadays make discriminations between Great and Small Vehicles and say there are only Arhats, there aren’t any Bodhisattvas or any Buddhas in the ten directions. They are still arguing ceaselessly and it’s really too bad.

   A few days ago I said in Buddhism there shouldn’t be any Great Vehicle and Small Vehicle, there is only the Buddha Vehicle. There is no other Vehicle. If you can look at it this way, then you won’t be able to have so much attachment. Also, for the sake of the Dharma, you should forget yourself. For the sake of seeking the buddhadharma, you should not spare body or life. So it is said that to the ends of space throughout the Dharma Realm, there isn’t a place even as small as a speck of dust which is not a place where all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the past, the present, and the future have given up their lives.  

   All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have renounced their lives for the sake of the Buddhadharma in order to seek true principle, to seek the unsurpassed Way.  

   The people today not only don’t seek true principle, they also indulge in mutual slander of one another. The Small Vehicle slanders the Great Vehicle; the Great Vehicle slanders the Small Vehicle. Evolving in this way the substance of Buddhism has grown into a lot of rights, wrongs, us and them, mine and yours—all these discriminations. They don’t understand in the least that the practices which the past Buddhas cultivated had in them no sense of self and others, of right and wrong. They just cultivated many kinds of Dharma doors and did not criticize the dharma doors of any other people as being wrong.  

   Now I will give you an example of the way in which the Buddha forgot himself for the sake of the Dharma. Long ago, prior to when Shakyamuni Buddha had become a Buddha, he cultivated all kinds of doors of conduct. Though he hadn’t met a wise advisor to instruct him in the true principle, he was very sincere. And since he didn’t have a good and wise advisor he used sincerity in seeking for one. And about that time a rakshasa ghost came along. It was a very very ugly rakshasa ghost and when he got there he recited a verse. What did he say?  

     All activities are impermanent,
   characterized by production and extinction.  

   Shakyamuni Buddha who was then in the causal ground long ago as a cultivator of the Way, heard him recite that much and recognized it as Buddhadharma. But the ghost had recited only half the verse. There was still another two lines. So he said to the ghost. “Please tell me what they are.”  

   The rakshasa ghost said, “Tell you? Well, it’s not as simple as that. I’m not going to tell you just like that, cause now I’m hungry. I don’t have the energy to recite the last two lines of the verse. If you want to hear them, you should first renounce your life. I’ll eat you and then we’ll talk about it.”  

   Shakyamuni Buddha in the causal ground said to him, “But if you eat me and then speak it, there won’t be anybody to hear it. And then I won’t have gotten any benefit and living beings won’t have gotten any benefit. It would be better if you spoke it first and then eat me. If you speak it first and then eat me, then I’m agreed, that’s okay with me.”  

   The rakshasa ghost said, “Welll…Okay.” So he recited:  

     All activities are impermanent,
        characterized by production and extinction.
     When production and extinction are ended,
       still extinction is bliss.  

He finished speaking it and said, “Okay I said it is already hard for me to bear my hunger. I want to eat you.”  

   Shakyamuni Buddha said, “Wait a minute.”  

   The rakshasa ghost said, “Wait for what? You aren’t going to keep your end of the bargain? That’s not fair. You can’t not keep your word. You told me if I said the end of the verse that you would renounce your life. You can’t back out. I won’t permit it.”  

   Shakyamuni Buddha said, “I’m not backing out. Wait a minute. I want to write that four line verse on a tree. And then later on when someone sees it and reads it, they will gain benefit from it.”  

   The rakshasa ghost said, “All right, write it on a tree.”  

   So Shakyamuni Buddha carved the words in the tree. When he finished the rakshasa ghost said, “Okay, it’s time for me to eat you.”  

   Shakyamuni Buddha said, “It’s not sufficient just to write it on the tree, because after a long period of time the words will disappear. Then wind and rain will erode it. The words will fade away. Can you wait a minute while I carve the words on a rock? I will cut them in and then they will be there eternally. And living beings of the future will be able to see them. Wait a minute.”  

   The rakshasa ghost said, “Okay. If I have to wait, I’ll wait.”  

   And Shakyamuni Buddha carved the four lines into a rock. When he finished carving it he said, “Okay now I’m inviting the rakshasa ghost to come and eat me.”  

   As soon as he had actually invited the rakshasa ghost to eat him, the rakshasa ghost ascended into empty space and turned into Shakra, the lord of the heaven of the Thirty-three, who had come to test him to see how really sincere he was, to see if he could really renounce his body for the sake of the Dharma.  

   So if you can really give it up…  

     If you don’t give up death
       then you can’t avoid birth.
     If you can’t renounce the false
       you don’t realize the truth.  

So those of you who study the Buddhadharma should truly renounce everything. If you have kindness, compassion, joy, and giving, the Four Boundless Minds, then you can work in response with the Way. Shakyamuni Buddha renounced his life for the sake of half a verse, for the sake of seeking the Buddhadharma, for the sake of accomplishing the unsurpassed Way. But now cultivators of the Way can’t put aside their thoughts of desire. All they know about is selfishness and benefiting themselves, of making a profit for themselves. They only know about themselves; they don’t do it for the sake of the Dharma or for the sake of the Buddha, or for the sake of the Sangha.

   But when they cultivate, they investigate Ch’an and sit in meditation, they do it all for their own sakes. They don’t bring forth the heart of the Bodhisattva, they don’t cultivate the Bodhisattva Way. They can’t benefit themselves and benefit others, enlighten themselves and enlighten others, save themselves and save others. They can’t do that and since they can’t, they should at least save themselves, enlighten themselves, and benefit themselves in this session. 

   This matter of sessions has become the latest craze in America. Some people just come to take a look. Although it’s a little bit bitter, they try it out to see if it has any flavor. But they’re just going through the motions. In several years of having sessions, although there have been people who have attained benefit, they are few. Why? It is because the people who are here are in it for the experience. They aren’t in it to really work at it, they aren’t here for the sake of investigating Ch’an. It’s not a case of forgetting their bodies for the sake of the Dharma. In their minds the discriminations are very heavy. There are lots of distinctions being made. They sit here and if they aren’t having this false thought, they are having that false thought. Sometimes they are running east, sometimes they are running west, south, north—they go everywhere.  

   So now this session will soon be over. In this last bit of time if you work very well there’s still a chance there will be a response. There’s still hope. Hope for what? Hope that you will become enlightened a little sooner; that you will understand your mind and see your nature a little sooner; that you will recognize your original face a little sooner. Since I talk but can’t really talk, and I explain things but can’t really explain them, it would be better if I just didn’t talk or explain. That would be better and all of you could run around and play some more and then sit and fight the battle a little more.

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