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Listen to Yourself: Think Everything Over
Her Universal Door Rescues All
As we begin this Kuan Yin Bodhisattva Recitation Session, everyone should bring forth a resolve for the Way; don’t let the time pass by in vain. The best would be not to talk to each other, not to take phone calls, not to read letters or look at the newspaper, because any of these activities can scatter your concentration. You won’t be able to get your essence and energy gathered together. If that happens, then even though you are participating in the Kuan Yin Session, you won’t get any genuine benefit, and that will be a real shame. So, this time, as we participate in the Kuan Yin Session, everyone should have true and actual regard for the Way.
During these seven days, at the very least you should see Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, or see light, or see flowers, or smell a rare fragrance; you should be able to obtain such special responses as these. The most important point is to talk as little as possible. As soon as you talk your mind becomes scattered. Once that happens, you cannot accomplish the samadhi of being mindful of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva.
In the past, every year we had sessions reciting Kuan Yin bodhisattva’s name, or Amitabha Buddha’s name, or Earth Store Bodhisattva’s name, or perhaps a session where we recited a specific mantra. However, nobody has really achieved any tremendous benefit from it. Their attainments have been few and small in terms of benefit. Why haven’t we achieved great benefit? Because we haven’t been really vigorous. On the one hand we recite the name of Kuan Yin bodhisattva, and on the other hand we have false thinking. So, there has not been a response. Or, we recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva when it’s time to recite, but as soon as there’s a spare second, we want to talk with somebody. Now that’s a cause for obstruction in the Way, and because of it, there won’t be any big response.
On the one hand we may be reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name, and on the other hand we are wondering when it’s going to be time to eat. Or, you think, “I’m really thirsty, I’m going to have a cup of tea,” and you strike up all kinds of false thinking. So, people recite, and you recite along with them; people walk, and you walk along with them; you follow along with the crowd, you’re just going through the motions, because you don’t have any genuine vigor, or a true mind.
So this time, unless there’s something absolutely essential, you should not talk. In the Buddha-hall especially, or in the place where the toilets are. Don’t congregate at the door to the toilet, or the kitchen; don’t hold meetings at the tea table in each others’ ears, or walk with each other, or stare at one another. If you do any of these things, there won’t be any response. There won’t be any response on your part. You won’t be able to recite to the point where there is single mindedness with no scattered thinking.
When you reach the point when your mind is single and unconfused, then inside there is no self and outside there are no people. People and self are both gone. Above you don’t know there’s heaven, below you don’t know there’s earth, and in between you’re not aware of people. You can see everything as empty. That’s when you get a big response. So, during this Kuan Yin Session let’s be particularly vigorous. Let’s not be sloppy about it as we have been in the past, and just have a lot of false thinking about eating, drinking tea, and sleeping. For so many years now we’ve been at it; we should really be ashamed, recognize our past mistakes and painfully change for the better. You certainly must know your own mistakes, and at all times turn the light around and look in on yourself. You can’t gossip with your mouth; absolutely not!
The person who cultivates the Way who can’t even control himself is hard put to be able to cultivate. At all times don’t be greedy for fame, don’t be greedy for profit, don’t be greedy for wealth, for food, or for sleep.
At all times turn back the light and look within, and figure out who you are. If you aren’t able to figure out your own mistakes, then you are really wasting your time, and that’s really sad. In the past we’ve made a lot of mistakes. After this, I hope that day by day we’ll change for the better and do things right.
At Gold Mountain Monastery, one of our biggest mistakes is when people come from the outside, nobody pays any attention to them. No one tells them where to stand, or to sit. When visitors first come they look upon people who are already here as being like wood or mud. This is because when it’s time to talk, they don’t talk. Of course, when it’s not time to talk, I don’t know how much they talk; they’ve got a lot to say then.
As for newcomers, if it’s a man or a Bhikshu, then the men should take care of him; tell him where to stand and where to sit. You don’t have to get into a long rap with him. Just point to where he’s supposed to be, and he’ll understand. There’s no need to get all involved in a conversation about a lot of useless things. Just tell him where to stand and let it go at that.
If it’s a woman or a Bhikshuni, then a Bhikshuni should tell her where to stand and sit. The first time someone comes, they basically don’t know how we do things here; if you people act like sticks or stones, and don’t tell anyone what to do, it’s a big mistake, because it cause visitors to feel like they’ve gone into, “Never-Never land.” Now, if a layman comes, then a layman should help him. The laypeople who have been here longer should tell them where to stand and sit; talk to him about whatever they might need to know. If a laywoman comes, the women should take care of her; tell her where to stand and sit.
When people first come, they don’t know how to do these things. If you all act like you’re dead, and don’t pay attention to anything, then what use are you to the Bodhimanda? You’re supposed to be protecting it, and you don’t even pay attention to newcomers. The things you ought to say, you don’t say, and the things you shouldn’t say, you say a lot of!
Also, whenever there’s a Ch’an session or a recitation session, it’s like nobody has any interest; nobody has a mind on the Way; nobody wants to participate. If you keep this up, then before the Proper Dharma is even established, the Dharma Ending Age has arrived. So, after this you should realize that having come to the Bodhimanda, you need to help it grow, and then you’re called a Dharma protector. Cultivating the Way is teaching and transforming living beings. It’s not being a self-ending Arhat, being selfish after your own interests.
Now, you should look very deeply into the things I’ve said today. You people who are Dharma Protectors and Buddhist disciples, what have you done to help out? Ask yourselves.
Everyone should bring forth a resolve for the Way, and not let the time pass in vain. The very best would be not to speak at all, not to take phone calls, not to read letters, and not to read the newspaper, lest you get distracted and allow your energy to scatter.
During these seven days, at the very least, you should all see Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, or see light, or see lotus Flowers, or perceive a rare fragrance, or have some other kind of special response. Most important is to talk less! As soon as you speak, your mind scatters; once your mind scatters, you can’t bring to perfection the Samadhi of reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name. If you can’t avoid talking altogether, at least speak less; don’t talk so much.
Whoever talks should punish themselves, either by kneeling before the Buddhas or standing in front of the Buddhas, and not sitting. We should make rules for ourselves. Don’t start talking as soon as you have finished eating, or look for opportunities to chat with one another; don’t look for opportunities to bother other people. This is extremely important.
Next time when we light the incense, everybody ought to race to be first; fight not to be last, to be behind. Don’t be the last one in line; be in front. Be courageous and vigorous; you want to go in front of other people. I see a lot of people who are always holding back.
So, during this Kuan Yin Session, we should be very vigorous, and not be turned by other people. After we eat and we’ve done what we have to do, we should immediately light the incense and begin. Don’t wait around and give people an opportunity to chat.
When reciting the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, we should think of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva as always surrounding us on our left, right, above and below, that we’re never apart from Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. Contemplating her in this way, we’ll obtain a response. However, whoever isn’t sincere won’t get a response. In the period of this session we should all set our minds on what we are doing. Walking becomes Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, sitting becomes Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, standing becomes Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, and lying down becomes Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. In walking, standing, sitting and lying down, we never renounce the thought of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva.
If you turn your mind to one, then it’s efficacious. If your mind is scattered, then there’s no response. If you really are singleminded in your recitation of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, then everything will be in accord with your wishes. Whatever you want will come to pass, depending on how sincere you are, but you can’t just follow along with others and recite when they recite, and not recite when they don’t recite. Be mindful of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva absolutely every second. Hold Kuan Yin Bodhisattva right there in your heart, and never forget her. If you can be like that, Kuan Yin Bodhisattva will certainly come and anoint your crown with Sweet Dew. The willow branch will brush your body, and aid you. Then you can very quickly bring forth great wisdom.
It’s explained clearly in the Universal Door chapter¹ of the DHARMA FLOWER SUTRA, “IF THERE ARE LIVING BEINGS WITH A LOT OF DESIRE, THEY WILL BE SEPARATED FROM THEIR DESIRE.” If you are a person who is greedy, and has desire either for sex, wealth, fame, food or sleep, but you are constantly mindful of and respectful toward Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, your desire will disappear.
“IF THERE ARE LIVING BEINGS WITH A LOT OF ANGER WHO CAN CONSTANTLY REVERE KUAN YIN BODHISATTVA, THEY’LL BE ABLE TO SEPARATE FROM THEIR ANGER.” This is referring to people who have bad tempers. It’s said,
The fire of ignorance and a tiger-like spirit,
Are roots of offenses from former lives.
People who have big tempers have heavy karmic obstacles. They have big tempers because their karmic obstacles urge them on. However, there is a way to handle this. You shouldn’t worry. It’s a very simple method. Be constantly mindful of and respectful toward Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, and you’ll be able to get rid of your anger. It will just go away. The Sutra also says,
“IF A PERSON IS REALLY STUPID AND IS CONSTANTLY MINDFUL AND RESPECTFUL TOWARD KUAN YIN BODHISATTVA, THEY CAN SEPARATE FROM THEIR STUPIDITY.”
So, you can see the power of reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name is inconceivable. The virtue is unthinkable! What you can accomplish is also unbelievable! The very best is to always be mindful of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva in every second—every second, and every moment. When you’re reading, you’re reciting Kuan Yin’s name. When you’re putting on clothes, you’re reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name; when you’re sleeping, you’re still reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name.
Your recitation just fuses together with whatever it is you’re doing, to the point that even if you thought not to recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name, you wouldn’t be able to stop. At that point, you have achieved the Samadhi of reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name, and from that you can come to open great and perfect understanding.