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Listen to Yourself: Think Everything Over
Wonderful Sound, Kuan Shih Yin
From limitless kalpas until the present we’ve been born and we have died. After dying, we’ve passed through interminable hundreds of thousands of millions of aeons without ever encountering a Dharma assembly honoring Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. We have failed to decrease our bad habits and faults in the slightest, and every day our ignorance and afflictions increase.
To now be able to encounter a Dharma assembly dedicated to Kuan Yin Bodhisattva means that at this particular time, good roots which you have amassed throughout limitless kalpas past until the present have ripened, and come to maturity. That is the reason you are now able to participate in this extremely subtle, wonderful, and inconceivable Dharma assembly.
It’s also possible that if you yourself haven’t planted good roots, that your parents have virtuous conduct, and they have encouraged you to attend this most wonderful Dharma assembly. But, in general, anyone anywhere in the entire ten directions who has not planted good roots and amassed virtuous conduct will not be able to attend this Dharma assembly. This should be sufficient reason for you to refrain from false thinking during these seven days. You shouldn’t let the time pass by in vain. If you simply immerse yourself in false thinking, then although you’re attending this session, it’s just as if you weren’t here at all, and you won’t obtain any particular advantage.
Now I know that although this Dharma assembly started only two days ago, already some people have seen Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, light, lotuses, and other extremely inconceivable states. There are some among you who are just about to open your Five Eyes.
The rest of you who haven’t obtained any advantage should be ashamed. You shouldn’t think because nothing’s happened with you, that it’s the same with everyone else; that’s not the case. We’re now in this great foundry—Gold Mountain Monastery’s Buddhahall—where we are smelting gold, silver, copper, and iron, to see which can withstand the test of fire. It’s said, “real gold doesn’t fear the fire of the smelting furnace.” When true gold goes into the furnace of the foundry, the more it smelts, the more brilliant it becomes and the clearer the color grows.
Silver, has a little less clarity, copper has even less, and iron obviously has a lot less. At Gold Mountain Monastery, we pan for gold. Among the grains of sand, we sift out the gold. Whoever is really cultivating will not want to leave Gold Mountain. If you leave Gold Mountain in search of a place to cultivate, you’re going to have a hard time finding it. Here at Gold Mountain, all the people are resolved in the Way. No matter how difficult it is, they want to stay here and cultivate.
There are eighty-four thousand Dharma doors for cultivating the Way, and you should understand each kind of Dharma door. You don’t want to just concentrate on one. You want to at least be familiar with the others, so that eventually you can come to understand all Dharmas. If you concentrate solely on one Dharma door, then you’re not going to understand the ocean-like state of a Buddha; you will be as if looking at the sky through a telescope, and deciding that the sky is only as big as the amount you can see through the telescope. However, if you put down the telescope, and take a look, you will see how vast the sky is. So when you’re studying the Buddhadharma, you don’t want to limit yourself to a single aspect, but penetrate all dharmas; understand all dharmas.
A Kuan Yin recitation session, is one aspect of the Buddhadharma. If you’ve never cultivated this Dharma, then you should try it out. You don’t want to pass judgment on it before you’ve even tried it, and not even attempt to cultivate it. If you can go from the first day through the seventh day, and finish the whole thing, then it definitely will have a good effect on both your body and your mind. I hope you won’t fail to realize this.
Bodhisattvas cultivate the Six Perfections and myriad practices. The first of the Six Perfections is giving. When you give, you don’t want others to give to you. It doesn’t mean, “give, give, give to me, but I won’t give to you!” That’s not the idea. If you are able, then give.
The second Perfection is patience. This Kuan Yin recitation session is a period to test your patience. If you can be patient, then you will finish the entire session. If you can’t be patient, then from morning until night you’ll have false thinking. You’ll be thinking about what your friends are doing, or be imagining yourself walking into a restaurant and ordering a steak, or pork chops, or making some Chop Su’ey. You might even start thinking, “Well, what use is it for me to be here anyway? It’s a lot of nonsense! I’m ‘splittin’”. These sorts of false thoughts indicate a lack of patience. People without patience are not going to be able to cultivate the Way. Because if you’re a real cultivator, then you will take delight in investigating Ch’an, or you will be happy to recite the Buddha’s name, and you’ll feel joy when reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name—considering them all equally fine Dharma doors, and not making distinctions among them.
If you have patience, you can succeed at whatever Dharma door you happen to be cultivating. But if you don’t have patience, then you won’t be able to cultivate any Dharma door. That’s because if you lack patience, then you’ll keep thinking, “This is wrong, and that’s not good.” Nothing will satisfy you. If you are like that, how are you going to be able to cultivate?
In cultivating the Way, you must not have a view of self. You want to be without a self. You don’t want to have that attachment. If you have an attachment to a self, you’re never going to be able to cultivate. “I want to investigate Ch’an,” you insist. Well, if you’re going to investigate Ch’an, you must have a lot of patience. Then, after being patient, you have to hold the precepts. Do not do any evil, and offer up all good conduct.
Then you have to be vigorous, not lax or lazy. Don’t slack off. Finally, you have to develop Ch’an Samadhi. When we’re reciting the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, we’re beseeching Kuan Yin bodhisattva to help us. What are we asking him to help us with? Our Ch’an samadhi. When we’re not reciting the Bodhisattva’s name, we cultivate Ch’an. Once you have Ch’an samadhi you can give rise to wisdom. That is the relationship which the Six Perfections bear to one another.
You still persist, saying that you are totally infatuated with the idea of cultivating Ch’an. Fine. Then I’m going to talk to you about a method of Ch’an cultivation.
People who really cultivate Ch’an go into the Ch’an Hall, and once everybody has gone in, NOBODY GETS OUT—NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS!! “What if I get sick?” you ask. You still have to investigate Ch’an. “Well, what if I die?!” you wonder. You still are not removed from the Ch’an Hall. When somebody dies in the Ch’an Hall, they are just thrown under a bench. If you notice an empty spot and a bench that was formerly occupied, you can guess what has happened. Even if the corpse begins to decompose, and smell bad, it still stays there. NOBODY GOES OUTSIDE!
“That’s like being in jail, isn’t it?” It’s like jail. You think you’re not in jail now? Everyone is in jail; it’s just that you don’t realize you’re in jail. Your self-nature tries to get out, but it can’t. On the other hand, it can’t get back in either. If it’s out, it can’t get back in, and if it’s in, it can’t get out. Is that freedom? Everybody’s body is a jail, but you haven’t realized it. That’s the way a Ch’an Hall is run. The door is closed, and that’s it. You’re in and you can’t get out. If you try to leave, you’re going to get beaten on the head and the back with the incense board. We call it, “Striking up a session!” Well, that’s just what it’s all about; you actually can get beaten. Beaten to death? That’s one method for striking up a session.
Kuan Yin recitation sessions work the same way. You can’t get out of the Ch’an Hall without getting beaten. Who asked you to come here anyway? “You announced it,” you counter. But you came! We never said in the announcement that once you came you could leave. You can go; it’s okay, you can go. But if you leave, you have to provide for everybody else’s food for the week, otherwise you can’t leave.
Stop and think about it. We’re cultivating together. If you go, others will notice your absence, and start false thinking, “Oh, that guy is splitting; I’m going to leave too.” In this way it will “snow-ball,” and pretty soon everyone will be going. That’s called “breaking up the Bodhimanda.” Since breaking up the Bodhimanda is a serious offense, I feel you should pay for everybody’s food for the entire session to help counteract that bad influence. If you don’t have that much money, then don’t leave. “That’s just a made-up rule.” Well, if you don’t go, then we don’t have to resort to the rule.
The affinities you people have with one another have brought you to Gold Mountain Monastery. If you didn’t have affinities, you wouldn’t even be able to get inside the door of Gold Mountain. Since you have affinities, obviously you are friends in this Dharma assembly honoring Kuan Yin Bodhisatva. You should all join hands and step forward together. Where will you be going? You’re going to go where each of you wants to go. It’s your choice as long as you cherish the desire to help other people.
I have spoken rather severely today, because I’m afraid that you might take a wrong path. I’m afraid for you, because the minute you step out of Gold Mountain, things get very dangerous.
One of my disciples came to this session, and left after just a few days. He left in the middle before it was over, but when he went outside, he couldn’t take that so he’s come back. My impulse is to beat him—beat him out of here! It’s been a long time since I ever beat anyone. Maybe the time will come, and I’ll try it out. I’ll beat him, and see if he still dares to remain here.
The things I’ve said here today, are for the good of you all.
You’ve all recited the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva for a day, but do you know what “Kuan Shih Yin” means? Maybe you don’t even know, especially if you are a Westerner who is not familiar with the sounds of Chung Wen. Those who understand Chung Wen know what’s being said, but for those who don’t understand the language it’s just as if they were reciting a mantra.
The word “Kuan” means “contemplate.” The word “Shih” means “world.” The word “Yin” means “sounds.” So the name means “Contemplate the World’s Sounds.” This Bodhisattva, having nothing to do, wants to find something to do. The “Kuan” also means “look,” but in this case it’s the opposite of the kind of “looking” you do. It is to look within, to look into the hearts of living beings. It doesn’t mean looking at external things. It means looking to see which living beings don’t have any false thinking in their minds; which living beings’ minds are empty; which are enlightened.
The verse in honor of this session says:
From the ten directions,
We gather in an assembly
Of good men and faithful women,
To study together the unconditioned.
Reciting the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva is an unconditioned dharma. It’s neither conditioned nor unconditioned. It is an unconditioned dharma that can teach you not to have false thinking. When you recite, “Namo Kuan Shih Yin Pu Sa,” you are mindful of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva and Kuan Yin Bodhisattva is mindful of you. You are mutually mindful of one another. This is just like thinking of a relative, when at the same time the relative is thinking of you. We have been in the Dharma retinue of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva for limitless, limitless aeons. We are related by means of the Dharma to Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. Our forefather is Amitabha Buddha, the teaching host in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. That Buddha is the teacher of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva helps Amitaba Buddha propagate the Dharma in the Pure Land.
Therefore, Kuan Yin Bodhisattva is like an older brother to us all. That makes us very close relatives. The older brother watches over the younger brother. “Do we dare say we are the younger brothers of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva?” you wonder, “isn’t that setting ourselves up pretty high?” No, indeed it isn’t. Not only does Kuan Yin Bodhisattva consider you his younger brothers, he considers all living beings to be his younger brothers. If it weren’t that way, then why would he manifest and save people from suffering? Why would he always be there to help all living beings when they have some difficulty? He just looks upon all living beings as he would his own hands and feet, his own flesh and blood. That’s why he doesn’t fear any difficulty or suffering in order to save all the living beings in the Saha world.
So, you should never forget about your brother. If you are mindful of Kuan yin Bodhisattva while you are here, then Kuan Yin Bodhisattva will be mindful of you. Our appeal to Kuan Yin Bodhisattva is one of brother to brother. Kuan Yin Bodhisattva refers to those of us now, who are future Bodhisattvas and future Buddhas, as his younger brothers. If you look at it this way, then you should be even more sincere, respectful and true-hearted in your recitation—as thoughtful as you would be of your own brother. Younger brothers often ask their older brothers to play with them, but here, the “play” doesn’t mean going to movies, going skiing, or playing golf. What we do is sit in a Lotus Flower and become transformationally born out of that Lotus Flower. Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to sit inside of a Lotus Flower? Now that you’ve met up with the Dharma door of reciting the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisttva, don’t waste your time. Be particularly sincere.
When you’re mindful of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, you should not walk around with your head down; hold your head up high. Show some courageous and vigorous spirit! Don’t act defeated and morose! When Kuan Yin Bodhisattva sees how vigorous you are and how much spirit you have, he’ll take you by the hand and say, “Come along with me.” Then step-by-step eventually you’ll get to the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss. While I was saying all this, one of my disciples had a false thought. “You always say that Kuan Yin Bodhisattva is looking, looking, looking. Why is it that you tell me I can’t look, look, and look?” Well, I’m going to tell you that there’s a difference between the way you look and look and the way Kuan Yin Bodhisattva looks and looks. Kuan Yin Bodhisattva is looking inside and you’re looking outside.
Kuan Yin Bodhisattva is contemplating his self-nature and its connection with that of all other beings. This connection is like radar. He checks the radar in his own self-nature as it reflects what is going on in other beings’ self-natures, and then he knows how to respond to them.
For instance, he knows whatever particular false thoughts living beings are having, because he’s looking inside. Of course there are a lot of living beings, many of whom are great distances away from him. So, although he has a thousand hands and a thousand eyes, he still has to look at limitless, boundless numbers of living beings. Since even a thousand of each doesn’t go far enough to serve him, he continues to turn back the light and illumine within. He looks into his own self-nature. He looks at the living beings within his own self-nature. He looks at the living being within his own self-nature. He sees what kinds of suffering they’re undergoing and saves each particular living being.
When you look, however, you look outside. You forget about your inherent wisdom. That is why I say that the way Kuan Yin Bodhisattva looks is quite different from the way you look.
That answers that disciple’s question. There’s another person who is thinking, “Dharma Master, you’ve explained all these things, but I don’t believe any of them. For instance, you say that we are brothers of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva and that Kuan Yin Bodhisattva is a sage. But we’re just ordinary people. So, how can common people and sages be related as brothers? It’s not logical. So I can’t believe it.” Fine. You don’t believe it. What you say has a lot of reason to it. But the problem is, your logic is limited to an ordinary person’s way of thinking, and you are not using your ocean-like wisdom. You should remember that passage we heard a few days ago in the AVATAMSAKA SUTRA which said,
Bodhisattvas throughout time without beginning have
been brothers, have been husbands and wives, have been
sisters, have been parents and children.
Since that’s the way the AVATAMSAKA SUTRA explains it, how can Bodhisattvas not be that way? So, when you say you don’t believe this, it’s because you don’t understand the principles of the AVATAMSAKA SUTRA. That passage continues:
Not only do Bodhisattvas look upon us as brothers,
after they become enlightened and become Buddhas,
they regard all men as their former fathers.
You may say that you believe this even less, wondering how Buddhas can have so many fathers. Not only that, they have that many mothers as well. The Buddhas look upon all women as their former mothers. So, you see, if Buddhas look upon all men and women as their former fathers and mothers, then for me to say that Kuan Yin Bodhisattva looks upon us as brothers and sisters doesn’t seem to be illogical, does it? So, your lack of faith is a lack of understanding. To put it another way, you haven’t yet seen enough and you don’t yet know enough, and so you make stupid judgments like this. No matter what I say, you don’t believe it.
Why does a Buddha want to save living beings? Because, since he regards every woman as his former mother, and every man as his former father, when he sees them suffering and writhing in pain in the six paths of rebirth, he can’t help but come and try to save them. He hopes to enable his fathers and mothers to separate themselves from suffering and obtain bliss.
Every day we are mindful of Kuan Yin Bodhisttva and bow to Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. But when Kuan Yin Bodhisattva manifests and comes to see you, you don’t even recognize him. Living beings are really in a pathetic state of affairs. When you’re mindful of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, then you want to practice being like Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. Kuan Yin Bodhisattva possesses great kindness and great compassion, and has great vows and great strength. We should work to be like this.
If anybody does anything to us that is not nice, we should not move our minds. We must be patient no matter who scolds us. We must bear it no matter who strikes us. You should think, “In past lives if I hadn’t harmed this person, then he wouldn’t be coming to harm me now. If in the past I hadn’t scolded this person, he wouldn’t be coming to scold me now. If in the past I hadn’t struck other people, they wouldn’t be coming to strike me now. So why is this person scolding me, striking me, and harming me? It’s just because in the past when I was stupid, I did the same to him.” All we’re doing now is paying back our debts. Our very admitting that we have these debts is seeing Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. It is having a definite, genuine connection with the Dharma-retinue of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva.
Everyday we are mindful of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, but then we look around and start noticing other people’s faults. As long as you look at others’ faults, the roots of your own suffering are not cut off. We should all understand this, and return the light to illumine within—getting to the very roots of it all. When you study the Buddhadharma, you have to be able to apply it to yourself. If you can’t use it, then no matter how long you study it, the Buddhadharma will still be Buddhadharma, and you will still be you. But if you can use it, then you unite with the Buddhadharma, and you cannot be separated from the Buddhadharma.
Patience is extremely important. Patience is applied when you encounter a situation you don’t like, and feel you can’t bear. For instance, if you don’t like to be scolded, you apply patience and decide, “If someone scolds me, I’m going to be happy about it.” The same applies to being beaten or harmed in other ways. The person who is disturbing you becomes your genuine Good and Wise Advisor. When you study the Buddhadharma, that’s how you have to turn things around. When you cultivate the Way, you have to turn things around. You have to want the things you don’t want. You have to be able to yield to others the things you want yourself.
If you decide to cultivate the Way but continue to be like most people who can’t see through things or put them down, so that you can’t make your attachment to self become empty, you can’t make your attachment to dharmas become empty, and you also have a view of people, a view of a self, of living beings, and of a lifespan, then you’re in for a lot of trouble. If you can always yield—take a step back—then you’ll get through all situations. When you study the Buddhadharma, you have to know how to use it. You have to know how to make it function. This is very important.
If you study the Buddhadharma but you can’t use it, then you are, “swallowing a date whole,” as it were—you don’t have any idea how sweet the date is. But if you know how to use the Buddhadharma, it’s like chewing up a date and eating it slowly to savour the sweetness. When you study the Buddhadharma, you don’t have to look in lofty places, because the Way is found in the ordinary state of mind.
The straight mind is the Bodhimanda. If you cultivate with a straight mind, then when you recite the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, you won’t have any greed. You won’t think, “If I’m mindful of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, then I’ll get rich.” That’s not really possible. But if you don’t have that kind of greed, it might be possible. It works like this: if you are greedy, then you probably won’t get the object of your desire. If you’re not greedy, then you quite likely will.
Nor will you think, “I’m going to recite the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva and when I’m done, I’m going to let everyone know what I’ve done. Having spent a whole week reciting the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, I’ll be better than all of them. They will be beneath me.” If you have a straight mind, you won’t have this attitude either. Nor will you be greedy for fame or pleasure. You keep your mind really even and ordinary when you recite. You won’t want to be seeking for anything. You won’t think things like, “I don’t have a son, so I’ll recite the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva and seek a son.” Nor will you recite in hopes of getting a daughter. Nor will young men recite the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva seeking a beautiful girlfriend. Nor will young women do it to find a boyfriend.
When you recite the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, you want to get rid of these defiling thoughts. Don’t have thoughts of greed, thoughts of hatred, or stupid thoughts. Don’t pay attention to whether the clothes you wear are good or not. They’ll do as long as they keep you from getting cold. Don’t say, “If I recite the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, then I’ll get some good things to eat.” You can’t do that. Just eat your fill. That should be sufficient. Don’t be greedy for flavors. If you’ve got that on your mind, then you’re not really truly reciting the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. If you are really mindful of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, how can you still be thinking of good things to eat, nice things to wear, or a good place to live? Forget everything. When you forget everything, then you can become one with Kuan Yin Bodhisattva.
Kuan Yin Bodhisattva is in the heart of each living being. It’s just because there’s a Kuan Yin Bodhisattva in your heart that you’re now able to be mindful of him. What you’re really being mindful of is the Kuan Yin Bodhisattva in your own mind. You should do this to the point that you don’t even have a mind anymore. Once you don’t have a mind at all, then you don’t even need to recite the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, because you just ARE Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. That’s because Kuan Yin Bodhisattva is without a mind. That is, Kuan Yin Bodhisattva doesn’t have any false thinking. Kuan Yin Bodhisattva doesn’t have any greed, any hatred, or any stupidity.
Kuan Yin Bodhisattva doesn’t make plans about what good things he’s going to eat today, or what good offerings he’s going to be able to muster up. He doesn’t think about things like that. Kuan Yin Bodhisattva doesn’t think about whether he’s gotten enough sleep or not. Kuan Yin Bodhisattva doesn’t think about anything at all! Kuan Yin Bodhisattva is without any attachments, and doesn’t seek for anything. What Kuan Yin Bodhisattva does is take living beings across. He wants to be able to help living being leave suffering and obtain bliss, to put an end to birth, cast off death, and quickly accomplish the Buddha path.
That is the Kuan Yin Bodhisattva Way. Kuan Yin Bodhisattva doesn’t seek anything from any living being. The one hope that Kuan Yin Bodhisattva has, is that all living beings will really understand and not be greedy.