THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
Buddhism & Others
Q : Please explain to me the relationship between Buddhism and Christianity.
A : They both teach you and me.
Q : There are 84,000 Dharma doors. Are other religions such as Hinduism, Catholicism and Christianity considered Dharma doors?
A : Every dharma is the Buddhadharma, and none can be obtained.
Q : What is the difference between prayer and Chan meditation?
A : If you think they’re the same, then they are the same; and vice versa.
Q : According to Buddhist scriptures, Lord Shakra of the Trayastrimsha Heaven is the same as the Jade Emperor that Taoists talk about. However, Taoists reject this parallel. Taoists say that the Jade Emperor and all Daluo Golden Immortals are outside the wheel of birth and death, therefore it’s impossible for them to be in the Realm of Desire and to wage war against asuras. Will the Venerable Master please tell us the truth?
A : This issue is an unsettled lawsuit. An idiom goes, “An honorable judge can’t settle family affairs.” Well, this Dharma Master can’t settle such religious affairs. Each religion claims that i t is the best as it espouses its own principles. Actually, they’re trying to scratch an itch on their foot through their boots. They’re like the blind men who were feeling the elephant to figure out what it looked like. Do they know how tall, how big, and what color the Jade Emperor is? Do I know? Do you know? I believe there is no proof to any of this.
Q : Presently, Christians and Buddhists are having frequent discussions on their similarities and differences. They appear to be communicating and trying to understand each other. But I have a question: can a religion really accept another religion unconditionally? For example, can Catholics and Christians really believe that people will be saved through religions other than faith in the “one and only true God?”
A : I can’t answer this question categorically as I have not attended the meetings with these religious leaders and they have not attended our meetings either. If you really want to know the truth, you should invite all the leaders of all the major religions around the world for a conference. They should sit down and speak directly, openly, and publicly about how they feel. Ask them if they can really accept each other wholeheartedly. If these religious people discriminate against others, praising themselves and condemning others, they would be violating the spirit of their founders. The purpose for the founding of every major religion was not to fight with other religions and not to insist that they alone are right while others are wrong.
Another important point to pay attention to: It is now trendy for Christians and Buddhists to organize seminars for frequent exchange of ideas. However, we must verify whether these so-called Buddhist organizations can really represent Buddhism. There are so many different kinds of pretenders in the West that we can’t tell immediately if someone is legitimate, so we must observe them carefully. Not all who claim to be Buddhists really represent Buddhism. We should not be hoodwinked by them.
Q : Master, what is the difference between Buddhism and theistic religions?
A : One is ultimate while the other is not.
Q : Christianity talks about how people join their family members in heaven after they die. What does Buddhism say about this?
A : Since they can reunite in heaven, how do you know they will not have a reunion in hell?
Q : What is the difference between Buddhism, Taoism and the Heavenly Way?
A : Buddhism is Buddhism; Taoism is Taoism; and the Heavenly Way is the Heavenly Way. Their names already indicate their difference.
Q : Are Taoism and Buddhism in the same family?
A : Are Chinese and Americans all human beings?
Q : What is the difference between Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism? Are they the same?
A : One represents elementary-level curriculum on morality; one represents secondary-level curriculum on morality; and one represents university-level curriculum on morality. The university curriculum tells you to take refuge with the Triple Jewel: the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Don’t forget the Triple Jewel. The secondary level curriculum tells you to take refuge with your essence, energy, and spirit. Don’t expend them carelessly. Beginners are taught to perfect the ways of being human.
Q : Is Buddhism a theistic religion that talks about praying to god for miracles?
A : Buddhism is neither theistic nor non-theistic. It also isn’t about praying for miracles or gains.
Q : Is there any difference between Taoism and Buddhism?
A : Taoism only goes halfway, whereas Buddhism takes it to the ultimate end. You don’t really understand the Buddhadharma if you don’t understand Taoism. You don’t really understand Buddhism if you only understand Taoism. Taoism is only the beginning one or two steps; it only reaches the halfway mark.
Q : Is Confucianism’s “disposing of objects and completing wisdom” different from Buddhism’s disposing of objects?
A : Although they’re different terms, they mean the same. To “dispose of objects and complete wisdom” means that one should clear one’s mind and lessen one’s desires, which is to sever desire and love. Confucianism doesn’t explain the disposing of objects the same way I do. It doesn’t specify the object.
Q : Where do Buddhism and Taoism differ?
A : Tell me the differences between old, middle-aged, and young people. Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism are in the same family, but respectively, one is a child, one is an adult in the prime of his life, and the other an old person. Would they understand the way each other think?
Q : What is the difference between Buddhism and Catholicism? I don’t understand this. Will the Venerable Master please explain?
A : What’s the use of explaining this? You can believe in Catholicism if you prefer Catholicism. You reap what you sow. You can study Buddhism if that’s what you like. It’s a matter of preference for you. You reap the effect of the causes that you’ve sown. Whether they’re similar or different, they’re both about not doing any evil and doing everything that is good.
Q : Are divinations done according to the eight trigrams effective?
A : Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism in China existed at the same time in China. Buddhism has endured and we have chosen to believe it because its teachings are ultimate. The teachings of Taoism and Confucianism are not ultimate. However, Confucianism and Taoism helped form a basis for belief in Buddhism. In fact, Lao Tzu of Taoism is an incarnation of Venerable Mahakasyapa of Buddhism and Confucius is a transformed incarnation of the Youth of Water and Moon according to Buddhism.
Q : Why there are no “wish sticks” at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas?
A : Buddhism does not indicate asking spirits for predictions.
Q : Confucianism talks about humaneness while Buddhism talks about compassion. There are numerous similarities between the two, please explain their differences and similarities to us.
A : To be extremely humane is to be compassionate. Compassion embodies humaneness. Humaneness is the seed of being a good person; it is the seed of goodness for practicing Buddhist precepts.
Q : Someone took a photograph of a great Dharma assembly hosted by someone who calls himself a Buddha. More than ten thousand people were in attendance. There are two white shadows in that photo; they are said to be two deceased individuals who came to be saved.
A : Someone who is virtuous does not need to organize any Dharma assembly and yet can still save thousands, tens of thousands, and countless souls in the underworld.
Q : Master, how will the Panchen Lama’s death affect Buddhism in China?
A : I will not respond to this question. I honestly don’t know, so I absolutely will make no judgments and offer no criticisms on this. Although I don’t have much to do after I have had my meal, I refuse to discuss this issue.
Q : I have seen Buddhism fracture into numerous sects, is that right?
A : Every religion, including all phenomena and objects, exists because of living beings’ karma and causes and conditions. Buddhism and other religions are not outside the principle of causes and conditions. As it is said, “Having penetrated one principle, one understands a hundred principles.” Originally, religions were meant to restrict people’s behavior and make them turn away from evil and turn toward good. However, when people become critical and exacting, sects and factions occur. Confrontations occur because of different sects and factions.
Q : I would like Buddhism to be my faith, but my parents are Catholics. Am I being disrespectful to them by not following their faith? How should I settle this dilemma?
A : Is it disrespectful to them for you to smoke dope? Is that a dilemma? I believe you don’t smoke dope and that’s why I’m answering you this way.
Q : Now that the Venerable Master has shortened, even ended, the distance between the Mahayana and Theravada traditions, will you please also shorten the distance between Buddhism and Taoism and Confucianism?
A : Confucianism is for elementary school children. Taoism is for high school youth. Buddhism is for college students.
Q : Why are both believers and non-believers of Buddhas all Buddhists?
A : Because no one is beyond [the principles of] Buddhism.
Q : I have read many Buddhist books but they seem to be different from the Buddhism that the Venerable Master describes. The Tantric practices of the Secret School are completely different from anything that the Venerable Master says. May I ask what is the value of that kind of practice?
A : I am a lesser individual than the person who teaches that. If you want to listen to me, then listen to me. If you want to listen to him, then listen to him. I refuse to compare and say what is right and what is wrong. You choose for yourself. However, the Buddha never said that anyone can become a Buddha by having desires. The Shurangama Sutra says, “Without eliminating lust, one can not transcend defilements. It would be like steaming sand and hoping that it becomes rice.”
Q : I had a friend whose soul left his body when he was lying down. He even saw his body lying on the bed. What is going on there?
A : This type of situation occurs often. His soul leaves and then comes back. Cultivators must have the right type of knowledge and views. We don’t need to pay attention to whether our soul leaves our body or not. Taoism describes how one has a midget that leaves one’s body and then returns. Taoists such as Lyu Dongbin cultivated this type of primal immortality. It is not an ultimate route though. That’s why he later took refuge with the Triple Jewel and requested Meditation Master Huang Long of the Song Dynasty to be his master.
Q : I saw someone who calls himself an Unsupassed Teacher but dresses like a layperson and uses Buddhism as an ad everywhere he goes.
A : He is a cult figure, not a real Buddhist.
Q : Will taking refuge [with Buddhism] add to the goodness of someone who is already following another religious tradition?
A : If I were to say that it would strengthen his roots of goodness, then that becomes an enticement. I refuse to answer that question.
Q : I would like to know if the coming of Maitreya Bodhisattva and Jesus are the same?
A : I’m not going to say when Jesus will come again. But it’s still a long, long time before Maitreya Bodhisattva will come. Most people who don’t really know claim that Maitreya Bodhisattva will come soon.
Q : Does Buddhism allow for geomancy?
A : Geomancy is in your mind. If your heart is in the right place, good spirits will naturally protect you.
Q : How is enlightenment according to Buddhism different from the transformed nature that Good Samaritan Wang talked about?
A : The transformed nature is to transform the water that has frozen into ice back into water again. Enlightenment is neither water nor ice; everything is empty.
Q : You spoke of Dharma Master Hsu Yun?
A : You’ve never heard of him, right? If you want to represent God Almighty and you don’t even know Dharma Master Hsu Yun, then you have lots to learn.
Q : A Buddhist nun has been teaching a practice associated with Guanshiyin Bodhisattva recently. She stresses that we can become enlightened in one lifetime. May we ask the Venerable Master if we can become enlightened in one lifetime with the Proper Dharma?
A : Crazy.
Q : Why doesn’t Buddhism include reading fortunes, prophesizing, and consulting geomancy?
A : Everything is made from the mind alone. Buddhism teaches people to seek wisdom, not to have so much that they’re confused (double entendre: superstitious).
Q : Who is the god of wealth, the god of nobility and and god of joy [three gods in Chinese folklore]?
A : The god of wealth is by your side when you don’t allow your essence, energy, and spirit to be lost. The god of nobility is next to you when you are noble enough to not lose your temper. Furthermore, you are in touch with the god of joy when you are happy.
I have a different theory from that of Chinese folklore. These three gods -- the god of joy, the god of nobility, the god of wealth -- are all right here inside us. However, we don’t know how to find them. We run outside looking for them when they’re essentially a part of us.
Q : Master, is there a genesis or a source of creation for living beings? If living beings have existed since beginningless time, then is the number of living beings fixed? If they originate from somewhere, where might that be?
A : The genesis is “zero.” Ask yourself where “zero” begins and ends? It has no beginning or end. If you break through “zero” so that it turns into “one,” then there’s a beginning. “One” comes from zero. Once there’s one, then there’s two, then three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, and infinitely many numbers. How many living beings would you say there are in that case? If you twist “0” a bit, then it becomes the symbol for infinity.
The zero is also the symbol for yin and yang in Chinese philosophy. It’s drawn differently in the West and in China. You have to cultivate so that you turn “1” into “0.” You will then have returned to the source of creation. Do you understand the answer to your question now?
Q : I am someone who has a mundane job. My question is, all the education and training that we receive through our lives are for developing our competitive spirit to win success. Everything else is just factors that help. But now we have suddenly found a new goal and can change from the course that we originally thought was correct. We must decide whether to take a fork or go down the middle of the road. Is this a dream? It is real? Or is it my imagination? May I ask another question? I would like to know if Brahmanism, which are what I am refering to as the fork in the road, and Buddhism, which I am referring to as the middle of the road, are in fact the same? Are they the same road with two different street names?
A : Having awakened enough to learn that we need not fight for fame and fortune, how could it be contradictory for us to no longer want to do so? How could that understanding be illusory or imagined? This principle is very simple; even young children can grasp it. For instance, if someone encounters a fire pyre on the road, should he proceed or turn around? Having walked to the end of the beach, should he jump in the sea of suffering or turn back? Is it a contradiction to turn around here? Is this not real? That is my response to your first question. As to your second question about whether Buddhism and Brahmanism the same, all the religions that I know of consist of people. If we evaluate from the point of view of human beings, then only the labels are changed, the substance is not. Whether or not people are American, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Mexican, German, French, they are called humans beings. Though they have different names, they are still people.
Q : The principles in Buddhism are more profound than any other religions’, right?
A : There’s no better or worse as far as religions go. Religions are just medicine to cure people’s diseases. Once we have taken our medication and have recovered, why would we still need the medication?
Q : Do you have anything that you want to say to the followers of God Almighty?
A : God Almighty is an excellent name. Its mission is excellent too. It’s very ambitious of you to want to readjust the relationship between human beings and God Almighty.
Q : According to the Book of Matthew of the Christian Bible, the year 2000, there will be apocalypse and Judgment Day. Please let us know your view on this, Master.
A : Apocalypse could occur at any time; Judgment Day could occur at any time as well.
Q : I’m a Jew. Judaism is excluded from the five major religions that the Venerable Master mentioned. I would like to know how Buddhism can cooperate with Judaism.
A : Judaism is Buddhism. Catholicism is Buddhism. The labels to these medicines have changed, but not the medicines themselves. These terms may change, but their definitions do not. I don’t consider any religion a re-ligion. Different religions simply represent the changes in human nature. So I belong to whatever religion I see.
Q : Why do I always meet up with for-tunetellers?
A : Because they want to come and test you in person. They are trying to find out how fond you still are of money. They want to see if they can entice you to get involved in get-rich-quick schemes. They want to check and see if you have any samadhi. “Everything is a test to see what you will do. If you do not pass the test, you must start anew.”
Q : Recently, I heard people say, “People should first become enlightened and then cultivate seriously.” Some say, “If you come to me, you will become enlightened as soon as I give you my blessings. Then you can go on to really cultivate.’” When I heard this, I thought it was very strange because we have always known that we have to cultivate first before we can become enlightened and be certified to the fruition. I would like the Venerable Master to please explain this seemingly contrary theory.
A : This is too esoteric. I only understand principles that are ordinary; I don’t understand principles that are too esoteric.
Q : My older sister is close to a deviant sect that cheats others by claiming to be the Dharma Protector of Earth Store Bodhisattva. How can I convince her to stay away from them?
A : She will turn around after you understand yourself.
Q : My family used to worship Matzu (Goddess of the Sea) at home. Since we started learning about Buddhism, we have been worshiping the Buddhas. Please let us know if we can make offerings to Matzu along with the Three Sages?
A : If you want to, you can make offerings to all the Sanghas and Buddhas throughout space. Buddhas are not competitive .
Q : Many people are puzzled because a certain female has so many disciples. We hope to gain a better understanding by attending this Dharma Assembly so that we can prevent these disciples from walking down the wrong path.
A : When you took refuge with the Triple Jewel, the text to taking refuge made it very clear: “I would rather give up my life than to take refuge with demons and heretics ever.”
Q : My parents believe in Mazu (Sea Goddess), the Holy Mother of Heaven. We also have the three sages of the West on our altar. Is it okay for me to bow to all simultaneously?
A : Cultivators must be kind and humble, being respectful toward everything. All living beings have the Buddha nature; all are capable of becoming Buddhas, even mosquitoes and ants. It would be more than enough if they turn away from confusion and return to enlightenment. There’s no need to differentiate.
Q : Who are those of the “outside Way” (non-Buddhists)?
A : They look for answers outside their minds.
Q : What is your religion?
A : My religion concerns truth: with regard to human beings, to sentient creatures, to all that is mundane, and to transcendental wisdom.
Q : What is the “S”-like line that separates yin from yang in the symbol for taiji?
A : Nothing. It’s yang if we’re attached to yang. It’s yin if we’re attached to yin. When we do not have either of those attachments, it doesn’t belong to either side, for in and of itself, it is nothing.
Q : Master, what kind of Bodhisattva is the Great Immortal Huang in Hong Kong?
A : The Great Immortal Huang in Hong Kong is just an immortal, but a very efficacious one. He saves ignorant people who don’t understand principles that are profound and deep, so only superficial little magic tricks can be used with them! That way they will develop faith.
Q : Many faiths do not believe in reincarnation. Do you have any way to resolve that?
A : You may talk to elementary school kids about high school courses but they will not understand. You may talk to high school kids about college courses, but they will not understand either. Whether they believe reincarnation or not is just a matter of time. We don’t need to be concerned about these issues needlessly.
Q : Why don’t disciples of a certain non-Buddhist sect study the Shurangama Sutra?
A : The Shurangama Sutra is a mirror that reflects demons. The demon-reflecting mirror makes their true character appear.
Q : Today I saw some really awesome people. One made recitation beads smell pleasant, and another person grew his arm so that it was really long!
A : Can these things make someone become liberated from the cycle of birth and death? What is a long arm good for?
Q : Then why are there books about qigong?
A : Those books contain only general descriptions by writers who have limited understanding of the excesses in qigong. They even get some terms mixed up so that the labels don’t fit their content. For instance, the term ‘martial arts for energy’ is not an accurate description of what qigong is. At its extreme, qigong is a form of controlling others and is governed by demons. When qigong is used in this way, practitioners enter demonic states. We might term it ‘a martial arts for ghosts’ because when applied in this way, practitioners are possessed by ghosts and made to shake and tremble. One well-known qigong master described this as being, ‘a martial arts that is self-initiated.’ Most people have no idea what that means. When a practitioner begins to shake, it is because a ghost has been able to take possession of that person due to his or her lack of samadhi power. Most people don’t understand what is happening and are convinced that this so-called martial arts is an internal practice. Little do they know that people who use qigong as a ‘martial arts of ghosts’ are able to command external entities to possess practitioners. If a practitioner has samadhi power, then unders such circumstances, he or she will remain calm and will not shake and tremble.
An illustration of this is the extending of an arm, which was mentioned perviously. It’s not the person’s own energy that compels the arm to extend. Rather, it is an external entity that has possessed the person’s mind and thus is causing the arm to extend. People in China are cautious about discussing things like spirits, ghosts, and monsters, and so most do not know that they are practicing ‘a martial arts for ghosts.’ Qigong has become a catch-all the name for a whole range of practices.
Qi has no sense of awareness and cannot function on its own, so how can it be a martial art? It scatters as soon as it leaves our body. Most people don’t know about this and call it qigong, qigong. They may die from such misconceptions about qi, but they’re still into their martial arts.
Q : That qigong master is well-known in China, but he is not necessarily the best master. There are masters who are even more excelled in this art but have not yet made themselves known.
A : He said his teacher is several thousand years old. I say my disciple is several thousand years old. This is true.
Q : Master, can you help prevent these extremes in qigong?
A : The ghosts see me and run away.
Q : This well-known qigong master is a vegetarian, isn’t that a form of cultivation on his part?
A : He eats witchcraft.
Q : Someone claims he can can show people a way to get rich.
A : I’m afraid that before you get rich, he will have already swindled everyone’s money and become rich himself.
Q : Why are there so many cults and heretics nowadays?
A : Those who are true are afraid of being known; those who are false want others to know.