THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
Q : What can we do to help Buddhism prosper?
A : Cultivate by holding the Five Precepts, and practicing humaneness, a sense of fairness, propriety, wisdom, and trustworthiness. This way, little by little, Buddhism will prosper.
Q : Out of the 84,000 Dharma doors in Buddhism, which one is the best and most wonderful?
A : All of the 84,000 Dharma doors are the best. Not one of them is second place. Why do I say that? The 84,000 Dharma doors treat the 84,000 kinds of shortcomings of living beings. Every living being has his or her own particular faults. Therefore, the best practice is the one that cures one’s faults.
Q : Resolutions are easy to make at the beginning, but how do we see them through?
A : We should hang the words “birth and death” from our eyebrows in order to maintain our perseverance. If we retreat, it must be because we forgot our initial resolve.
Q : Buddhism talks about how things are “unspeakably unspeakable.” Exactly why are things unspeakable?
A : Why are you speaking now?
Q : What is the difference between false thoughts and vows? How would we know if our vows are false thoughts?
A : If our vows benefit others, then they serve a purpose even though they are false thoughts. Beyond that, you should get rid of false thoughts.
Q : Confucius had three thousand disciples, seventy-two of whom were proficient in the six arts. What abilities should one possess in our society today to be considered a paragon of virtue?
A : “To have virtue is to be truly rich. Those who have no virtue are the most impoverished.” A paragon of virtue does not kill, does not steal, does not indulge in sexual misconduct, does not lie, and does not take intoxicants.
Q : Master, what are the special features of the Weiyang School? How can we expand it?
A : The Weiyang School is very ordinary; there’s nothing special about it. The Weiyang School doesn’t have any plans to expand. We should just have strong moral characters.
Q : Which Sutra is suitable for beginners?
A : Any Sutra is suitable.
Q : What can I do to help Buddhist monasteries?
A : You help monasteries by not destroying them. You help monasteries by supporting them.
Q : How are the Schools of Weiyang, Lingji, Caodong, and others different?
A : There is no real difference. These groups are composed of practitioners who are average people who have not become Bodhisattvas yet.
Q : We hear that the merit from liberating beings is the greatest. Is that correct?
A : All the merit done for Buddhism is equal. We must liberate life out of compassion. If we were interested in merit, then we would not have much merit to speak of. It is incorrect to say that such and such a merit is the greatest, because such distinctions are bound to entice people to earn merit for the wrong reasons.
Q : A certain Dharma Master said that Buddhists do not need to attend morning and evening services. Is that correct?
A : What he advocates is his problem. Since morning and evening services are unnecessary to him, then everything else must be unnecessary too. It must be okay for him to not eat, not drink, and not sleep. Has he reached the level of non-cultivation and non-certification? He can only say such things if he were to have reached that level; otherwise, he shouldn’t say such things.
Q : Is it necessary to choose a day for putting a Bodhisattva statue in place and a direction that the statue should face?
A : It is not necessary to choose a day and a direction. It is fine as long as the Bodhisattva statue is elevated to a position above waste-level. Demons and ghosts think about checking on dates and positions for this kind of thing.
Q : How can we rescue our deceased ancestors and others?
A : Only preeminent monks who have cultivated virtue and samadhi can alter the suffering of the deceased and thereby help them to enter the heavens. When Meditation Master Lungku of the Ming Dynasty saved the mother of Emperor Wanli, for instance, he said from the podium, “I was not going to come here, but you insisted I do. Without giving rise to a thought, may you transcend the three realms.” With these lines, the emperor’s mother entered the heavens.
Q : Are we acting in accord with the Dharma when we burn fake money with the Rebirth Mantra written on them?
A : Why burn that stuff in the first place? You think about it. Is that money real or fake? What use is there in burning papers with the Rebirth Mantra on them, anyway? Once burned, the paper turns into ash. How could you think that it can be used as money?
Q : Will we be affected physically and mentally if we reveal our date of birth to those on a deviant path?
A : As long as your mind is straight, then for you, nothing will be deviant. If your mind is deviant, every path would be an evil path.
Q : I heard that the Venerable Master always sits up to rest instead of lying down? How did you learn to do it and what is the purpose?
A : Nobody told you that I always lie down to rest instead of sitting up? There is no set rule for this. If you want to sit, then you sit; if you want to lie down, then you lie down. It does not matter whether or not others say you are sitting up or lying down. Why should we be attached to something like this? Anything that we’re attached to becomes a burden to us. The important thing for us cultivators is not to be troubled at any time, whether sitting up or lying down. It is important to get rid of afflictions.
Q : All conditioned dharmas are like dreams and illusions, bubbles and shadows. So, what are Unconditioned Dharmas?
A : For a detailed description of the six Unconditioned Dharmas, you may check the Shastra on the Door to Understanding the Hundred Dharmas. The one hundred dharmas consist of: The Eleven Form Dharmas, The Eight Mind Dharmas, The 51 Dharmas Interactive with the Mind, The 24 Non-Interactive Activity Dharmas, and The Six Unconditioned Dharmas.
Q : Please talk about awakening to the views of all Buddhas.
A : To awaken to the views of Buddhas is to know how Buddhas became Buddhas and to have wisdom of the Buddhas. This is nothing too esoteric. We awaken to the views of Buddhas by being like the Buddhas and practicing the four qualities of the limitless mind: kindness, compassion, generosity, and equanimity.
Q : Is the Buddhadharma that you talk about inclusive, embodying all the various sects/schools of Buddhism?
A : That’s the way it is if that’s the way you think. If you want to exclude them, they’re excluded; if you want to include them, they’re included. This is not fixed. “The Buddha proclaimed Dharma with one sound, but different living beings understood differently.” “Wise ones tend to see wisdom occurring; humane ones tend to see humaneness occurring. Profound individuals tend to see profundity while shallow individuals tend to see shallowness.”
Q : Which is the best practice out of the 84,000 Dharma doors? Which is the most supreme?
A : The most supreme Dharma door is one that you find most suitable; the weakest Dharma door is the one you find most useless.
Q : How can I possess the ability to select the right Dharma?
A : I don’t have the ability to select the right Dharma either, so how can I tell you?
Q : How can we cultivate to escape birth and death?
A : Eat, dress, and sleep.
Q : Is it effective to have sutras and mantras printed on fake money for the deceased and also to burn them?
A : The paper money turns into ash when you burn it. How would I know whether ash is effective or not [as money in the underworld]? Let’s suppose it is effective; so does that mean all Westerner hungry ghosts are poor because they don’t believe in burning paper money?
Q : Master, what is your view on the styles of monasteries?
A : I don’t like gaudy monasteries painted red and green, like women wearing bright red lipstick. The basic rule for the construction of monasteries is that they be labor-effective and durable.
Q : Why do people worship the Monkey King instead of the Great Master Hsuan Zhuang
of the Tang Dynasty? Did the Monkey King really exist?
A : People like the Monkey King because of his golden baton, his acrobatic ability to do somersaults and travel to the heavens and hells. The characters of the Monkey King, the pig, and the novice monk really did exist, but as invisible spirits who protected the monk of the Tang Dynasty as he traveled to India for Sutras. They were not visible to ordinary people. They were spirits without physical form.
Q : By praying, we develop inner spiritual energy that could benefit all things. So do we still need to do good deeds on the outside?
A : Cultivation should be a balance between developing inner merit and outward results. When we’re doing external merit, we are not attached to the attainment of such merit. We can help ourselves by cultivating virtue within, purifying our thoughts, and lessening our desires. If we can stop being greedy, we will be helping others.
Q : Master, I would like to know what the Buddhadharma really is.
A : The fact that you are asking this question is because of your Buddha nature. You would not be asking this question if it were not for that. You deserve to be beaten a hundred times for not knowing that this is the Buddha nature.
Q : If the Buddhas were compassionate and omnipotent, why is there still suffering (earthquake, fire, war, famine, sickness, etc.) in the world?
A : According to your line of thinking, you would say that the Buddhas are not omnipotent or compassionate. I don’t dare say that.
Q : Who are the original ancestors of all sentient beings, including animals that fly and swim, flowers, grass and trees?
A : The Buddha nature is our ancestor.
Q : Is the so-called possession by spirits real? Is it evil?
A : Didn’t I mention earlier that there are all kinds of ghosts, spirits, demons, and ogres? Whether you recognize them or not depends on whether you have wisdom.
Q : Where did human beings come from?
A : Have you seen those bugs in rice containers? Those bugs appear all of a sudden and we don’t know where they came from. In the same way, people are born from true emptiness.
Q : Master, how do I deeply feel the pain caused by the wheel of life and death? How do I bring forth the resolve to cultivate?
A : How can I make you feel pain when you don’t?
Q : Human beings are so tiny in comparison to the universe, and yet we lord over the universe. What is the tiniest thing there is?/
A : Human beings are not tiny and the universe is not huge.
Q : Can we offer music with Sanskrit lyrics to the Buddhas?
A : Anything is fine. Anything that you like can be offered to the Buddhas.
Q : How can we avoid meeting obstacles as we study Buddhism?
A : We will encounter obstacles when studying Buddhism. The difference lies with your samadhi power. If you were to have samadhi power and wisdom, you would be able to easily resolve any potential problem that comes your way. It would not become a problem for you. If you are extremely stupid, a mosquito bite is a problem, and the buzzing of a fly is problematic too.
Q : What was the Buddha’s attitude toward life?
A : One of compassion, joy, generosity, and equanimity.
Q : Does destiny really exist? Do people have the ability to control their own fate?
A : Superior individuals realize they can mold their own destiny.
Determining my own destiny,
I acquire my own blessings.
Disasters and blessings occur only
because people brought them about.
Retributions and rewards follow us around like shadows.
Superior people create and change their destinies, whereas most average people think that everything is predestined. If you have faith and perseverance, you can leap from the level of an average person to the level of a Buddha. If everything were predestined, we could very well get our fortune read before we even start to study Buddhism just to see if we have a chance at becoming Buddhas. None of the fortunes and misfortunes in our lives are set in stone. If you are an extremely good person or an extremely bad person, your destiny will be different from the average person because what you have done has gone beyond the bounds of an average person.
Q : What’s the difference between saving human beings, ghosts, and demons?
A : Why would you ask if they were the same?
Q : Why are there demons?
A : The demons in our self-nature attract the ones outside. The demons of our self-nature are greed, anger and delusion. They are the poisons of our self-nature and attract external demons.
Q : 1. How do we make ourselves bold and vigorous? 2. How do I overcome the habit of eating and sleeping too much? (A beautician asked these questions.)
A : 1. By truly becoming a beautiful person. 2. By not eating, which will lead to not sleeping. The less you eat, the less you sleep.
Q : When we hear a nice song, can we offer it to the Buddhas or Bodhisattvas? How do we offer it? A : You can sing it, but you need to be sure that it is not suggestive. It has to be proper. At the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, we also present Buddhist songs to the Buddhas. For example, the praises that we sing before the Buddhas are songs of offering. The Dharma Flower Sutra makes it very clear that melodic songs and incantations can be offerings for Buddhas.
Q : Many people don’t see any results from their cultivation despite having done so for a long time. Is the Buddhadharma not working? Maybe the Sutras and mantras don’t have the power to make miracles happen?
A : That’s not it. It is because you are not sincere. You cultivate in a sloppy manner and only go through the motions. You simply do what everyone else does. You haven’t been sincere.
Q : I read this line in a magazine, “If we can’t become Buddhas from studying Buddhism in this lifetime, then we have not been studying correctly.” What is the Master’s opinion with regard to this statement?
A : If you have been studying incorrectly, then learn what is correct! “We should not have any books if we believe in them entirely.” I don’t know about magazines and I can’t write articles. I’m no expert when it comes to magazines because I have no time to read them.
Q : When my parents passed away in mainland China, I wasn’t able to visit their gravesite. Am I right in thinking that they wouldn’t receive the effect of my bowing to the Buddhas here in Taiwan?
A : If you are sincere, they will receive the effect no matter how far away. If you are insincere, they will not receive anything even if they were right before your eyes.
Q : How should I cultivate every day in order to leave birth and death?
A : Cultivation is about “watching our every move; staying close to home (the mind) whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down.”
Q : What should I do if I want to recite Sutras but don’t have a Buddha statue in the house?
A : You must first learn how to read if you want to recite Sutras. Once you can read, you can naturally recite Sutras.