THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
Q : Is there really a Dharma Ending Age?
A : If you think the Dharma will come to an end, it will. If you don’t want the Dharma to end, then you are in the Proper Dharma Age.
Q : What kind of resolve for Bodhi is considered solid?
A : The kind where we vow to cultivate the Way, regardless of what hindrances we may encounter and no matter how hard it is. We will not ever change our past vows. We will not change our minds or beliefs. We will act in accord with conditions but not change, and we will not change yet accord with conditions. Despite the circumstances, be they excellent or poor, our resolve for Bodhi shall remain firm.
Q : Many words in Buddhist Sutras are Sanskrit transliterations. Is it more accurate to pronounce them using the Taiwanese or Mandarin dialect?
A : If you were to picture me in terms of form or to pursue me with sounds, you would be practicing in a deviant way and so could not see the Thus Come One.
Q : It is said that the recitation of the “Six-Syllable True Words” brings boundless merit and virtue, including that Bodhisattvas of the Seventh Ground inhabit our person. What does that mean?
A : The recitation of the “Six-Syllable True Words” is not the only way to obtain boundless merit and virtue. One can also obtain them by not being greedy, not seeking, not being selfish, not pursuing personal advantage and not lying. Even though these actions will bring us merit and virtue, we should not be attached to them.
Q : How do we detach ourselves from the mark of form?
A : Do not banter the teachings about. Do not be all talk and no action.
Q : Why do some Buddhist scholars say that the Shurangama Sutra is false?
A : Because what this Sutra says is so true. It describes people’s faults all too clearly, thus forcing demons and ghosts out of their hiding places and revealing their original form. They have to say that the Shurangama Sutra is fabricated because, first of all, they can’t say it’s true; second, they are unable to observe the four clear and unalterable instructions on purity, and lastly, they can’t cultivate the 25 perfect penetrations.
Q : What is Buddha?
A : Nothing at all.
Q : How do we transcend the three realms and become liberated?
A : When you are not in the three realms, you have transcended them.
Q : During the Venerable Master’s talk, you mentioned the coming of Maitreya Buddha to this Saha world. Approximately how long will it be before he gets here?
A : It is too long for me to count.
Q : Are arhats’ segmented births and deaths temporary or permanent? Is the enlightenment realized by preeminent Sanghas of the past the same as that by Pratyekabuddhas and Arhats?
A : Have you ended your segmented birth and death? I don’t know the answer to this at all, as I am neither an Arhat nor a sage.
Q : Many people say this is the Dharma-ending Age. Is there an exact period of time for it? For example, what year during B.C.E. did it start?
A : Who knows so much? Your questions have reached the limits of my wisdom. However, you should know that, “People know whether the water is warm or cold by drinking it.”
Q : How do I start to recite, memorize, and understand the three Sutras of Shurangama, Flower Adornment, and Dharma Flower? With which Sutra should I start first?
A : You can start with any of these Sutras. Their Dharma is equal; there’s no better or worse. If you think to make a choice, then you are having idle thoughts and essentially you don’t understand these Buddhist Sutras. Learn the Sutra that you want to learn. There’s no particular order.
Q : What are precepts?
A : Precepts are about the principles of no fighting, no greed, no seeking, no selfishness, no pursuing personal advantage, and no lying. Don’t go looking for precepts in precept handbooks. It is something everyone can do and can practice.
Q : The Buddhist scriptures say that the contemplation of sound is the best for attaining enlightenment. The perfection of the ear organ is the most effective method to enlightenment. However, I believe our eyes are the most valuable among all the sense organs; our ears come next. In my opinion, our eyes ought to be the most effective organ to attaining enlightenment, not our ears.
A : Actually, every one of our sense organs is the best. There are no seconds. Whatever resonates is number one; what doesn’t click is number two.
Q : What is the use of reciting the 42 Avatamsaka Syllabary?
A : The Syllabary has a limitless amount of wonderful functions. It can eradicate all our karmic obstacles. Its power is inconceivable and indescribable.
Q : What is a “vehicle,” and how do the Great Vehicle and Small Vehicle differ?
A : A “vehicle” provides transport for passengers. A great vehicle can seat more passengers and a smaller vehicle fewer. Since beings’ faculties, nature, and tendencies are different, their inclination toward either the great or the small vehicle are different too. In reality, both the Mahayana and the Theravada are one. Don’t discriminate here.
Q : Buddhism divided into the traditions of the North and South. What is your view on this?
A : Buddhist principles are essentially no different within the various schools and sects. The northern and southern traditions were established only because later generations lost the truth. They tried to counter each other. Why do we slay those of our own kind? The Great Vehicle claims that the Small Vehicle is too small; the Small Vehicle does not respect those of the Great Vehicle. Actually, anyone who tries to create schisms in Buddhism is no Buddhist. There’s no need to mention the Great Vehicle or the Small Vehicle, there’s not a single vehicle! The cause of war is selfishness and self-interest. Wishing to harm others and benefit ourselves, we only know to praise ourselves and slander others.
Q : Aren’t arhats able to become liberated from birth and death?
A : They only take care of themselves.
Q : Shakyamuni Buddha cultivated for three great eons before he became a Buddha. Is this length of time fixed?
A : Have you heard of Dhyana Master Gao Fongmiao? The one who sat at Xitianmu (Eye of Western Heaven), where the cliff was shaped like an inverted lotus. He fell over the cliff when he dozed off, but Weitou Bodhisattva saved him and carried him up back up.
Q : I’ve heard of him.
A : You’ve heard about that incident. Well, what happened to him ought to answer your question.
Q : What exactly is “Dharma”?
A : Dharma means energy, energy that can penetrate heaven and earth. All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and we are one because our energies are connected.
Q : We talk about how arhats and Bodhisattvas are different and similar. Will the Venerable Master please explain the differences between arhats and Bodhisattvas for us?
A : “Arhats” and “Bodhisattvas” are just terms. This is a matter of difference between people. Bodhisattvas benefit other people while arhats only cultivate for themselves. These are stages of cultivation. As ordinary people, we don’t understand the states of arhats. As we go back and forth, deducing and imagining, we will have wasted all our time.
Q : The “Incense Praise” has this in its lyrics: “Our sincere intention thus fulfilling as all Buddhas now show their perfect body.” Some books say that all Buddhas show their golden body. Is it their perfect body or their golden body?
A : The golden body is the perfect body; the perfect body is the golden body.
Q : Will the Venerable Master please explain samadhi?
A : “Samadhi” is a Sanskrit word that means proper concentration and proper reception. Note that proper is the opposite of deviant.
Q : A Dharma Master thinks that “Thus I have heard” in the Sutras should be changed to “Thus I have translated.” I wonder which phrase is right?
A : To tell you the truth, neither one is right. When the Venerable Ananda compiled the Sutras, he added “Thus I have heard” to the beginning of Sutras to prove that he had personally heard the Buddha say these words. This particular phrase wasn’t said by the Buddha. If you use “Thus I have translated,” you don’t even understand what this is supposed to mean. Ananda only compiled the scriptures; he didn’t translate them.
Q : 1. According to Theravadan teachings, the soul between skandhas is reborn instantly. But
Mahayana Sutras say that it is reborn after seven to 49 days.
2. Where did humans come from? How come there are so many people?
A : 1. There’s no specific length of time that the soul between skandhas lasts. Some don’t become reborn until after several great aeons. Some will become reborn immediately.
2. People don’t necessarily reincarnate to become people again. Some become chickens, some become dogs, or other animals. According to the various individual karmas and retributions, living beings are separated into those born from the womb, from eggs, from moisture, and from transformation. They go from one type to another just like people can go to Belgium all of sudden, and go from Belgium to China all of a sudden. Nothing remains static. Anyway, knowing these things don’t necessarily help cultivation.
Q : The Buddhist Sutras say, “The Buddha is our self-nature. Everyone can become a Buddha.” Will the Venerable Master please explain why we’re Buddhas and yet not Buddhas, and why we always bow to the Buddha images?
A : Most people think this line refers to our physical body being the same as that of Buddhas. But we’re not talking about the body, but our inherent nature. If we want to become a Buddha, we must cultivate to understand this principle. This line means that we have to have a certain understanding to become a Buddha; it doesn’t mean that one is already a Buddha. For instance, we don’t get a Ph.D. just because we want it. To get our doctorate degree, we must finish elementary school, high school, university, and then a doctorate program. Just because I say I’m a Buddha, it doesn’t mean that I am a Buddha. If that were the case, then I could just call myself an emperor and I would become an emperor. It doesn’t work that way.
Q : Will the Venerable Master please explain what Buddhism means by the purity of the six senses?
A : “The purity of the six senses” means: the eyes are unaffected by forms; the ears are unaffected by sounds; the nose is unaffected by scents; the tongue is unaffected by flavors; the body is unaffected by sensation; and the mind is unaffected by doctrines. Being unaffected by states is “samadhi,” which is concentration. Concentration doesn’t occur only in sitting meditation, necessarily. Samadhi can occur while walking, standing, sitting, and reclining.
Q : Our bodies must be pure so that we’ll have sharira.
A : Right. You should stay single and not touch women. Having been intimate with a woman, whatever sharira you may have will only be glass.