THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
Q : The Buddhadharma is new to me. I would like to know to which school you belong.
A : Gold Mountain Monastery belongs to Buddhism. It doesn’t belong to a particular school or sect of Buddhism. It is Buddhism that has no schools or sects.
Q : “The monkey king” was born from a rock. Why did a rock give birth to that monkey?
A : “The monkey king” is a demon; plenty of similar cases exist. The monkey king was probably experiencing some problems with his thinking skandha during his cultivation, so he became a monkey that could bore his way through to the heavens and dig his way into the earth. He symbolizes demons described in the Shurangama Sutra.
Q : The Venerable Master says that the Buddha’s teachings are about wisdom. What is a Buddha? What is great wisdom? Great kindness and compassion? Great humaneness?
A : These questions cannot be answered in a few words. The word Buddha is half of a transliterated Sanskrit word. “Buddhaya” is the entire word. It’s “Buddha” in English, which sounds like “Not Big” in Chinese, so I’ve called it that too. Buddhas are not big, but are they small? They are not small either. Buddhas are like people, they are not any bigger, they just have superior wisdom. Buddhas successfully cultivate the Three Bodies, the Four Wisdoms, the Five Eyes, and the Six Penetrations successfully. Buddhas are absolutely capable. Buddhas have terrific wisdom, which is why they are immensely compassionate. They always have the greatest energy and resources; they are never lacking. No one can compare to Buddhas in terms of abilities. Most people are limited in their capabilities; but Buddhas’ capabilities are unlimited, which is also why they have boundless kindness and compassion, boundless joy, and boundless equanimity. Kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity are the four qualities of the Buddhas’ Boundless Mind. Most people have limited kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. They are not like Buddhas. Buddhas can give up what other people cannot give up. They are “greatly kind to those with whom they have no affinities; and greatly compassionate because they consider everyone the same.” What is kindness? What is compassion? Kindness makes others happy. Compassion ends others’ suffering.
Q : Why can the wealth of Dharma be damaged? Why will merit and virtue end?
A : That’s because you use your consciousness, in particular, to calculate, guess, and discriminate. You only expend effort on your consciousness, therefore you will harm your wealth of Dharma and end your merit and virtue.
Q : Does a Buddhist disciple who has received the Five Precepts and the Bodhisattva Precepts have to uphold them with care and be a lifelong vegetarian?
A : Of course! What’s the use of receiving the precepts if you are not going to keep them?
Disciple : We should organize non-religious activities more often so that more people will come to believe in the Buddha.
A : Anyone who is my disciple should cultivate well. I am more concerned about quality than quantity in order to avoid violating the law of cause and effect.
Q : What kind of Buddha is a Japanese Buddha?
A : A Japanese Buddha!
Reporter : Is the Buddhism in Nepal, India, China, Japan, and other countries different? Will Buddhism in America be different from Buddhism in Asia?
A : Yes, Buddhism in America will be different. To propagate the Buddhaharma in America, we, of course, have to consider the habits and uniqueness of Americans. For instance, Americans will recite Sutras in English because they don’t necessarily know Chinese. So we have to translate Buddhist scriptures into English. Also, Buddhism requires monastics to be vegetarians and celibate. Some Americans left the householder’s life on impulse, and yet couldn’t tolerate the lonely monastic life. They may return to laylife, but they shouldn’t ruin the rules laid down by Buddhism.
Q : Besides cultivating our own minds while walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, and to correct our bad habits, what Sutras should we recite?
A : Start with the Shurangama Sutra.
Q : The Shurangama Sutra is so profound that I only know how to read it, but I don’t quite understand it.
A : Read it every day and you will eventually understand it one day.
Q : The Earth Store Sutra has many ghosts and spirits. I don’t dare to recite it.
A : Ghosts and spirits are Bodhisattvas manifested. What is there to be afraid of? Do you have ghosts in your heart?
Q : In which destiny was I, in my last incarnation?
A : The Vajra Sutra says, “What is in the past cannot be attained.” As long as you do more good deeds, recite the Buddha’s name more, everything will naturally be peaceful. Major disasters will turn into minor disasters; minor disasters will turn into no disasters.
Q : Why do the Buddha images have to be adorned?
A : Because when sentient beings see adorned Buddha images, they will feel respectful and will be inspired to make the resolve to attain Bodhi.
Q : Why do we need so many monasteries?
A : There will be many Buddhists in the future. We will not have enough monasteries to serve them.
Q : Can anyone make the resolution to save the deceased in the ten Dharma Realms or will this be effective only if done by enlightened, virtuous Sanghans?
A : Of course virtuous Sanghans who are enlightened can do this, but everyone can save the deceased in the Ten Dharma Realms too. By being a good person, you are saving the deceased.
Q : Of what use is it to bow to Buddha statues made of wood?
A : Buddha statues are not the Buddhas; the Buddhas are everyone. There’s not one spot that the Dharma body of Buddhas fails to reach. Wooden statues are figures representing the significance of Buddhas in the same way that citizens salute their national flag though it is a piece of fabric or canvas. What is the use of saluting them?
Q : How can a mote of dust contain a three-fold great-thousand world system?
A : You should know why a three-fold great-thousand world system cannot be contained in a mote of dust. If you understand that principle, you would understand how they can be contained therein. The Avatamsaka is just this inconceivable!
Q : How do the results different for those who practice asceticism, scholarship, and the propagation of Dharma?
A : By sowing melons, we reap melons; by sowing beans, we reap beans. as is the cause, so is the effect.
Q : What are the advantages to reciting Sutras?
A : There’s not much advantage to reciting Sutras. It takes a lot of energy, time and effort. Your question is foolish, so my first answer is chiding. In fact, the advantages that you can see are not real. Anything that has a characteristic is illusory and false. Any tangible advantage cannot be a plus. What are intangible advantages? Every time you recite a Sutra, you cleanse your self-nature and enhance your wisdom. What is invisible to the eye is honest advantage. Superficialities are visible. This is an explanation for the importance of Sutra recitations.
Q : Chinese monasteries do a ritual for feeding ghosts and spirits, called “Releases at Mt. Meng.” What is it?
A : Great Master the Sixth Patriarch told Hui Ming to go and stay at Mt. Meng in Yuan Province. Instead of going immediately, Hui Ming went three years later. There, he met a ghost who used to be a scholar in the ranks of today’s Ph.D. Despite having become a ghost, he continued to create poems. He wrote a poem after seeing Great Master Hui Ming, which says:
Dreams are long here in this wild and forlorn desolation.
I have become too languid to care about
success or failure, about past and present,
Or how many bunches of grass I have pulled and bouquets of flowers I have picked.
The bitter rain and the biting wind almost break my heart.
I flit in and out with the fireflies during the dark of the night.
My shadow of a form I hide when cocks crow at first light.
My only regret is not having cultivated the mind-ground from the start.
Hence my fall into the realm of phantoms.
Oh, the tears roll down my face.
Great Master Hui Ming heard the ghost sing this poem and explained Dharma for him. The former scholar was saved as a result and became reborn in a higher incarnation. This is how “Releases at Mt. Meng” came about. Releases at Mt. Meng are about saving ghosts.
Q : The Saha World is a polluted land; a world in the Flower Treasury is a pure land. The Buddha spoke the Avatamsaka Sutra in a Flower Treasury world. Does this mean that the Buddha left the Saha World and went to a Flower Treasury world?
A : He didn’t leave; he’s still in the Saha World. Saha is Flower Treasury, and Flower Treasury is Saha. This is a mixture of impurity and purity, a state that is neither pure nor impure.
Q : What are the Flower Treasury Worlds?
A : They are called worlds of the Flower Treasury because they arose from the great lotus in the Sea of Perfume. The flower contains worlds as many as motes of dust. There are twenty layers to each world. Each layer has infinite worlds. The Saha World on which we live is on the thirteenth layer.
Q : Can insentient beings restore their spiritual nature?
A : Yes, if they were to meet the right people who speak Dharma for them. Just as “When the Honorable Shen spoke Dharma, obdurate rocks nodded, too.” They could restore their spiritual sense only if they were to meet a sage or an arhat.
Q : By Venerable Master: What heirloom do we own?
A : We own an heirloom that is the true mind. It is the wondrous and enlightened nature of understanding that always dwells in the Tathagatha’s Treasury. It’s not the visible and tangible world of gold, silver, and gems.
Q : Master, what should I do? My grandson died.
A : Why do you still react this way despite having studied Buddhism? Birth and death are the same!