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Questions & Answers

Buddhist Terms

Q : What is Right Samadhi in cultivation? What kind of a state is that?
A : Right Samadhi is a state of deep absorption during which one has no deviant views. There’s no Right Samadhi if one has deviant views. The Shurangama Sutra says so clearly; “It is a wholesome state if one doesn’t consider oneself a sage because of that state; if one does consider oneself a sage, one will fall into the deviant hoards.” This is an explanation of Right Samadhi, and the best explanation at that.

Q : Could the Venerable Master please talk about the third eye?
A : There are Five Eyes. Not just three.

Q : What is the Dharma of causes and conditions?
A : The Dharma spoken by causes and conditions, I say is just emptiness, which is also called false by name, as well the meaning of the Middle Way.

Q : What kind of compassion is great compassion based on the knowledge that we are all the same?
A : Feeling that we’re in pain when we see others in pain, we would want to alleviate their pain in any way possible. We would treat others the way we treat ourselves. One is all and all is one. This is great compassion based on the understanding that we’re the same.

Q : The Shurangama Sutra says that because living beings don’t know to dwell in the true mind at all times, they are mixed up and therefore revolve around the wheel of transmigration. Venerable Master, what is the true mind?
A : The true mind is the mind without any sexual desire. Anyone without sexual desire is someone no longer mixed up, someone who understands what it means to dwell in the true mind at all times.

Q : What is Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra?
A : It’s the most wonderful Sutra among all Sutras. We shouldn’t miss the opportunity to attain wondrousness. It wouldn’t be wonderful if we failed to receive any wondrousness. No one should be devoid of wondrousness; everyone should go and find this “wondrousness.” But first, you must bear the pain and withstand the toil, work hard on studying this wonderful Dharma.

Q : Is there one absolute truth, or is there none?
A : Everything is relative; there are no absolutes. There is one thing that is the absolute truth: that even this absolute doesn’t exist. Even the “one” is gone. Once you understand the one absolute, you cannot become attached to this absolute. Attachment to the absolute, the truth, is still a form of attachment; consequently, that absolute truth will be of no use to you. You must let go of that absolute too.

As it is said, “The myriad Dharmas return to one, and to where does that one return?” To where should “one” go back? There’s not even that “one”. If there’s not a thing, what might that be? That’s “zero.” Zero creates the heavens, earth, and myriad things; it creates immortals, Buddhas, and sages. They are all born from this zero. That zero is limitless and boundless. Think about this number. If you put a “0” next to a “1 ,” you’ve got “10”, add another circle, it’s a hundred. Draw another circle and it’s one thousand. Draw yet another zero, and you have ten thousand, then thousands upon thousands, and tens of thousands upon tens of thousands. There’s no end to the number of zeros that you could draw. Even the computer can’t compute that figure. You say, “That’s a number.” You have to let go of that “a” then. What is there if there is nothing? A zero is not a number; being zero, it is nothing. So this “one”, this absolute of yours basically doesn’t exist.

The Buddha is just the fundamental nature in every one of us. “All living beings have the Buddha nature; all are capable of becoming Buddhas.” So, to be able to become Buddhas is most democratic. Anyone can become a Buddha!


Q : How do you explain, “The sentient and insentient together perfect the wisdom of all modes”?
A : The sentient and insentient refer to beings with blood and breath and beings that lack blood and breath. What are insentient beings? They’re plants. Plants have their nature of life but not any emotion. “Together perfect the wisdom of all modes” means that all of them will realize Buddhahood. No computer can figure out who will realize Buddhahood first or last.

Q : What is the Mark of Longevity (the attribute of having a lifespan)?
A : Wanting to live forever.

Q : What is great compassion?
A : Forgiveness for others. No matter what it is that other people have done, we consider ourselves to have been in the wrong. To be able to forgive others, not see their faults, and allow them to change—that is great compassion.

Q : What are mantras?
A : Mantras are just honest words. If you were honest, then everything you say become effective mantras because ghosts and spirits obey them. Mantras are “true words,” which means the truth.

Q : What is Bodhi?
A : Bodhi means not picking anything up. Let it all go! “It” includes money, sex, fame, food, and sleep.

Q : I still don’t understand the nature of living beings. Also, what is the Buddha nature?
A : It’s the Buddha nature once you have become enlightened; it’s the nature of living beings while you are deluded.

Q : What kinds of things are wonderful?
A : The wonderful Dharma is wonderful. What is wonderful? Living beings are wonderful. What else is wonderful? Buddhas are wonderful too. What else is wonderful? Everything in the universe is wonderful. Everything is the wonderful Dharma.

Q : How do you explain that the day we are born is the day that we die? Is it that we die as soon as we are born?
A : That’s right. We’re dead as soon as we are born; but it’s not that our life ends, it’s that the 84,000 pores in our body die. From our birthday onward, one pore dies each day until most of us reach age 60 to 100. Our pores become clogged because of dead tissue though new cells development. In any case, nothing is born on our birthday and nothing is dead on our day of passing.

Q : But if we clear away all those worlds that are as numerous as motes of dust, does that mean there would be no more worlds?
A : To clear away those worlds means that evil worlds filled with the five turbidities are gone; however, wholesome and pure worlds as many as motes of dust remain.

Q : What exactly is the “Wordless Sutra”?
A : It is “not giving rise to a single thought.” If you do not give rise to a single thought, everything naturally returns to still emptiness. That’s all that the Buddhadharma is about; there’s nothing else.

Q : What is true giving?
A : It’s to give up what we cannot give up. That’s true giving.

Q : What is “great kindness despite a lack of affinities”?
A : It means that we try to save those with whom we have no affinities. By being kind to those who are unkind to us, we are acting out of great kindness despite having no affinities.

Q : What is the power of samadhi?
A : It is the ability to not be turned by situations, but to turn situations around. If you can turn situations around, you are no different than the Thus Come One.

Q : What is the true self?
A : It’s our inherent nature that realizes Buddhahood. Once we have realized Buddhahood, it’s the true self. Before we have realized Buddhahood, it’s all false.

Q : We talk about different worlds as many as motes of dust in Buddhalands. What’s the use of having heard the names of so many worlds?
A : I’ll tell you, this is a state according to the Avatamsaka Sutra. It teaches us to expand our minds.

Q : What is the straightforward mind?
A : It’s said that, “The straightforward mind is the Bodhimanda.” If we were not straightforward, we would not have come to a place of cultivation. With a mind that is straight, we reach the Bodhimanda quickly. We’re not talking about a place of cultivation such as the facility in which we’re lecturing the Sutras now, but the Bodhimanda that is Buddhahood. The straightforward and right mind is not crooked and twisted. What does it mean to be crooked and twisted? It means to be sycophantic.

Q : Why is it said that the Buddha neither comes nor goes?
A : Because the Buddha’s Dharma body pervades all of space and the Dharma Realm. He is everywhere present and nonexistent.

Q : Typically, our first thought at the sight of good food is to eat it and our first thought at the sight of pretty things is to own them. Is that the Primary Truth?
A : No, don’t get confused. The so-called “first thought” is the revelation of your true mind, or your original face. It is view and knowledge at its most fundamental. Thoughts of greed for food, for nice things belong to the false mind, the mind of greed, and not the true mind.

Q : What is the mind?
A : The mind is the Dharma Realm. Your mind is bigger than all of empty space, bigger than the universe. It’s just that you don’t use it.

Q : What is the Vajra Samadhi?
A : The Vajra Samadhi is a state of mind that is eternal and unchanging.

Q : How large is this Sutra?
A : It fills up three thousand great world systems of a thousand worlds.
Q : Why is it so large?
A : Because there are so many dust particles.
Q : Would the Sutra be smaller if there were fewer dust particles? Where would a larger Sutra be?
A : It’s not that the Sutra is large but that it exists in every mote of dust. The number of dust motes is large. Not only is the total number of dust motes large, but the worlds are large too; so this Sutra can become really huge as well. Where is this Sutra? That’s a meditation topic (koan). It’s wherever you say it is.

Q : Do human beings have souls?
A : Of course. Buddhists believe in souls. If you don’t believe in souls, you don’t understand Buddhism.

Q : What is the meaning of life?
A : Death.

Q : What is wisdom?
A : Wisdom is about always knowing the right thing to do and say.

Q : What are souls?
A : Souls are ghosts. Having cultivated successfully, they become Buddhas; not having cultivated, they are ghosts.

Q : Where is the soul?
A : It’s in this jail-like body of ours when we’re alive. Once we’ve successfully cultivated, it leaves this jail cell and attains true freedom.

Q : What are false thoughts?
A : This question on what are false thoughts is a false thought.

Q : What is true emptiness?
A : Zero.

Q : What is the destiny of animals about?
A : Acting on one’s ignorance and deviant views, one eventually becomes an animal.

Q : What is the “first thought”?
A : It’s that very first thought of understanding before you consciously deliberate. Whenever you think, you are using your human brain and not your enlightened mind.

Q : Do King Yama and the Ghost of Impermanence exist?
A : That depends on whether you can avoid death. If you can avoid death, there is no Ghost of Impermanence. If you’re certain that you will not have to undergo any retribution, there is no King Yama.

Q : What is liberation?
A : It’s to attain true freedom, to be free from hindrances and bindings, and to come and go as we please.


While his disciples were translating the Shurangama Sutra, they asked the Venerable Master about the meaning of many words in the Sutra text.

Venerable Master (after explaining those words) : You have to understand that the translation of the Shurangama Sutra into Chinese utilizes many different terms for one meaning. That translation avoids repetition of the same words and keeps the text elegant throughout. You must pay attention to this, too, when you’re translating this Sutra into English.


Q : Is the Middle Way the state of neither existence nor non-existence?
A : The Middle Way is not “neither existence nor non-existence.” It embodies existence and emptiness; and yet it does not fall for existence or emptiness. To fall for existence means that one leans too heavily toward existence; to fall for emptiness means that one leans too heavily toward emptiness. The Middle Way is about being unattached to existence and emptiness. Of course, if you are searching for the Middle Way, you are attached to the Middle Way, which would not be the Middle Way.

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