The Record of Water Mirror Turning Back Heaven
By Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua

From the 1973 issues of Vajra Bodhi Sea
Translated by Bhiksu Heng Ching

The Interwoven Net of Karmic Feeling,
the Turning Onwards of Cause and Effect

The Dharma-realm is not large; a mote of dust is not small. Why? The totality is identical with one, one is identical with the totality. Yet there is something more wonderful, subtle, and difficult to believe than even this: the net like interweaving of karmic responses, and the wheel like spinning of cause and effect.  

For example, the karmic feelings between countries are interwoven; their causes and effects compel them to engage in senseless quarreling. It becomes difficult to end the murders and massacres, which increase endlessly until the final destruction of the countries and the annihilation of the race when everything is eradicated and brought to an end. There is a saying, "Plant good causes, reap good results; plant bad causes, reap bad results.  

There is also this interweaving of karmic feelings as well as the turning of cause and effect between families. When there is kindness, there is harmony, but when enmity arises there is revenge. The participants do not understand, and continue to rail at each other for life. Who awakens from this?  

A sutra text says, "If the deeds done in a hundred thousand aeons are not eradicated, the retribution will be experienced when conditions become ripe." In all our actions, how can we possibly not be cautious and attentive, "as if standing on the edge of a deep abyss, as if treading on thin ice!"


The standard phrase "In flocks of good and packs of evil, people always seek their own kind," sums up the concept of identical interest groups. Scholars are friendly with scholars, farmers with farmers, businessmen with businessmen, and officials with other officials. Buddhists are friendly with Buddhists, Taoists with Taoists, Christians with Christians, and Moslems with Moslems. Military personnel consort with military personnel, bandits with bandits, good citizens with other good citizens, and criminals with other criminals.  

Each person seeks out his own kind, and thus parties and special interest groups are established in mutual jealousy and enmity.  Such groups are as compatible as water and fire, i.e. they will not admit of one another. They start out well but gradually hatred arises and after a time they begin to devour one another.  The strong overpower the weak and the many take advantage of the few. Strength comes to outweigh reason and thus we reach the present sorry state of affairs.


Sheep can become people and humans can become sheep, as explained in the Surangama Sutra. There are nations of sheep, nations of horses, nations of cows, of pigs, of gods and so forth down to the nations of bees, ants, mosquitoes, and other insects. Each of these gathers in groups of its own kind. The strong become kings and the many become the nation. All of this occurs in accord with the retributions for the deeds done in the past, and this retribution is never off by a hair's breadth.

When viewed with the Buddha Eye it is all total inversion. Suddenly beings soar to the heavens and then plummet to the earth.  Suddenly they are asuras, and then, just as suddenly, flittering, flying, crawling, and creeping things. Beings undergo these retributions in accord with their own past deeds yet remain quiet unaware that this is happening. How pitiful this is.  

An ancient verse says,  

From the womb of a horse to the womb of an ass,
Constantly passing by Yama's door.
An ascension to Sakra is followed
By the passage back to Yama's pot. 

From this, one should see the successions of lives and deaths as being unfixed like the bobbing of motes of dust floating in the wind of karma, sinking into the six paths without rest.

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