THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
N3 He explains in detail.
O1 He reveals Ananda’s confusion.
P1 He describes two views.
"Ananda, all living beings turn on the wheel of rebirth in this world because of two upside-down discriminating false views. Wherever these views arise, revolution through the cycle of appropriate karma occurs.
As soon as you read this section of text, you should experience immediate terror. You should be shocked. Ananda, all living beings turn on the wheel of rebirth in this world. The Buddha calls to Ananda and says, “All living beings of this world spin on the wheel of birth and death, flowing and twisting through births and deaths. They spin like the wheel of an automobile, sometimes being born in the heavens, sometimes entering the hells. Sometimes they become asuras, sometimes they are people. Sometimes they become animals. Sometimes they are hungry ghosts. The turning wheel of the six paths continually revolves without cease because of two upside-down discriminating false views. The wheel is turned by two kinds of perversions which result when the conscious mind makes distinctions and gives rise to false views. These views stem from individual and collective karma. Wherever these views arise - at any time or place that these false views come into being - revolution through the cycle of appropriate karma occurs.” Whatever is seen is false, there is nothing true. What is meant by “false views”? If we truly understood, the mountains, the rivers, the great earth, the houses, buildings, structures, and dwelling places would not exist.
“That presents a real problem, then, because if there isn’t anything at all, where am I going to live?” you say.
You still live in your house. Don’t worry.
"Wherever these views arise, revolution through the cycle of appropriate karma occurs.” You receive a fitting retribution for whatever karma you create - both individual and collective. If you do good, virtuous deeds, you get reborn in the heavens. If you commit crimes you fall into the hells. Whatever karma you create brings you an appropriate retribution which you must undergo. In whatever place you create a particular incident, you will undergo an appropriate retribution on the turning wheel.
The Buddhadharma is very subtle and wonderful. Those who are within the Buddhadharma may not be aware of its advantages to them. And those who are outside the Buddhadharma may not be able to find out the bad points of being outside. But within Buddhism, every bit of good you do and every single offense you commit is accounted for, and the accounting is never wrong by even a hair’s breadth.
Buddhism is also completely free and equal. There is absolutely no prejudice. Why is it said to be so impartial? All living beings, including hungry ghosts and those in the hells, can become Buddhas if they resolve to cultivate the Buddha-Way. Even the worst people can eventually become Buddhas. Even the worst animals can eventually become Buddhas. Externalist sects say that bad people are always bad and that there is no way to save them. But in the Ming dynasty, a tiger bowed to Great Master Lian Chi, became his disciple, and wanted to protect him. Wherever Great Master Lian Chi went, the tiger followed him. No one was afraid of Great Master Lian Chi, but when the tiger arrived on the scene, people kept their distance. They caught sight of the shadow and ran away, crying, “A tiger is coming!” and everyone ran for cover.
Monks beg: they ask people to give them food. Great Master Lian Chi was no different. He also begged for his food, and when he didn’t have any food to eat, he told the tiger disciple to go out begging.
"But everyone is afraid of tigers. Who would have dared make offerings to one?” you ask.
Your point is well-taken, but Great Master Lian Chi had taught this tiger to be good and not to harm anyone. So after a long time, everyone came to know that the tiger was a genuinely good tiger, and no one was afraid of it. Besides that, Great Master Lian Chi had taught it to enter the city walking backwards, and people weren’t so afraid when the first thing they caught sight of was the tiger’s tail rather than its head. What is more, all Great Master Lian Chi’s disciples recognized that their tiger dharma-brother had come. The ones who had taken refuge before he did called him “little dharma-brother tiger,” and the ones who had taken refuge after he did called him “elder dharma-brother tiger.” And when he arrived, people fought to make offerings to him. This one gave three dollars. That one gave five dollars. Another gave eight dollars, and another ten dollars. By the time the tiger had finished his begging-round, there was enough to feed them for a whole year. So, although tigers are very evil, this one knew enough to take refuge with the Triple Jewel and protect it. He was not bad, and in the future he can become a Buddha. That is an example of how equal the Buddhadharma is.
The Buddhadharma is also very free. Your doing of good and evil is of your own making; no one puts any restrictions on you. No one says you absolutely must do good things and not bad things. All I can do is exhort you not to do bad things, but if you are determined to do them I can’t make a jail exclusively for my disciples who don’t listen to my teaching. There is no law like this in the Buddhadharma. There is no talk of putting people in jail to cause them to change their minds and reform.
"What are the two views? The first consists of the false view based on living beings. individual karma. The second consists of the false view based on living beings’ collective share.
The two kinds of upside-down false views mentioned above cause all living beings to revolve in the turning wheel of the six paths. After they are born they die, and once they die they are reborn. Their births and deaths never cease. The cycle is never cut off. It is because these kinds of false views take control that people undergo birth and death.
What are the two views? The first consists of the false view based on living beings’ individual karma. It can also be called the false views based on one’s individual share, and the false views based on the collective share can also be called the false views based on collective karma. Individual karma is what makes you different from other people. It is your own particular private karma, not the same as anyone else’s. “False views based on individual karma” means that you have your own particular opinions and activities, and so the karma you create is particular to you.
People’s false views based on individual karma make them “display their differences and exhibit their peculiarities.” “Display their differences” means they show themselves to be unlike other people. They always feel that they are not the same as the ordinary lot. And the karma they create is special. How? Absolutely everyone wants to be “number one.” Everyone likes to be first. And this is because each person’s karma is different from everyone else’s. This too is a false view. To display differences and exhibit peculiarities are both instances of false views. They are instances of false thought, false deeds, and false behavior.
The individual karma which results is all created from false thoughts in the mind - false thoughts of great expectations for the self. The higher the better. People put on a special style, and individual karma is the result.
The second consists of the false view based on living beings’ collective share. The collective share is what is the same as everyone else’s. It can also be called “public karma,” which includes such things as natural disasters, drought and starvation, and man-made calamities. The heavens fall and the earth revolves, and innumerable people are killed, a hundred thousand or a million or even ten million people are all killed at once in a single place. That is “public karma.” “False views based on the collective share.” False thoughts create this kind of collective karma. Because living beings confuse things for themselves and recognize a thief as their son, they create the false views of the collective share, that is, collective karma. It is false views created from false thinking. “Views” here does not necessarily mean what is seen, but refers to opinions. People’s opinions are shared collectively; everyone’s opinions are identical. Living beings’ false thinking creates this kind of false karma. And then they undergo a false retribution. It is said they give rise to delusions, create karma, and undergo a retribution. In the beginning they don’t understand, and that is why they create karma. Once they create the karma they must undergo the retribution.
I will tell you about a response resulting from collective karma. In China in the thirty-third year of the Republic (1944), there was a drought in the province of Honan. Not only was there no rain, but incalculable swarms of locusts came raining from the skies. Each locust was about three or four inches long. They flew through the air and did nothing but eat the crops in the fields. They would swoop down and strip the fields of sprouts and shoots, no matter what kind of crops were growing. The locusts were fierce. They came in droves which covered the skies and blocked off the sun. People could catch a whole butterfly-net full with a single swipe, and they’d bring them home to eat. Because they didn’t have any rice or any other food then, people ate the locusts. The locusts ate the crops, so the people ate the locusts.
For the most part, it is easy for a child’s Buddha eye to open, and at that time there were children who saw why there were so many locusts in the air. They saw that there was an old man in empty space with a long white beard, spitting the locusts out of his mouth. As his spit fell, it turned into locusts. There would be no way to estimate how many there were once they fell to the ground. They were more than a foot thick - not just at one place, but for a radius of several hundred miles. Wouldn’t you say this was strange? This is truly an example of collective karma, of the false views from the collective share. The people caught the locusts and brought them home to cook them, but when they put them on the table to eat them, they turned into human excrement. The locusts turned into human excrement by themselves. They didn’t wait to be eaten to turn into it. Wasn’t that strange? No matter how hungry people are, they cannot eat their own excrement. That’s what their karmic obstruction was like. That’s how fierce it was. How could it not be false views? People fled from Honan to the western capital of Chang An, a distance of more than 800 miles. And incalculable numbers of people died on the road every day from starvation. When people die of starvation, the hungrier they get the more they laugh. They died laughing on the road. So I say that dying of starvation is not bad.
That’s what happened in China in the thirty-third year of the Republic. Not just one person, but many people told me about it. I didn’t witness it personally, but many dharma masters related the story to me, ones who had been there at the time and endured that hunger. I didn’t ask whether they ate the locusts. So there is no need for you to ask me that question now.