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

From the 1970 issues of Vajra Bodhi Sea
Translated by Bhiksu Heng Ching


In stillness, regard the system of three thousand great thousand worlds; bad karma wells up and fills it all. Nation kills nation creating world wars. Family kills family creating civil wars. Man kills man creating wars of that and this. Self kills self, creating wars of mind and nature, and so forth until emptiness kills emptiness, and water kills water creating the wars of shape and shapeless. So many wars. How sorrowful! How painful! There is not one of the limitless disasters which is not brought about because of the activity of killing.

If we do not awaken soon, prohibit and cast off the causes, conditions, Dharmas, and activity of killing and so forth, it will certainly be difficult to turn back those great disasters and obtain peace and happiness.

Disasters are produced from the activity of killing; the act of killing is produced from the mind. If the mind does not produce thoughts of killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech, and intoxication, and awesomely maintains the five precepts, vigorously cultivating the triple study, then all bad karma can certainly be erased. The original face is not at all difficult to recognize; the originally existent wisdom will certainly spontaneously manifest. The wind and light of the original ground have a special wonderful delight. Its flavor is indeed inexhaustible. If we wish to try its taste, we have foremost only to purify our will and that is all there is to it.

Turn the mind toward the good, put forth the vigorous heroic mind, establish the will to cultivate and accomplish the fruit of the way, widely cross over those of like kind, and together ascend to the other shore. Together with all good superior men assemble happily in one place, eternally companions with irreversible Bodhisattvas.

My Water Mirror Turning Back Heaven has been written for just this reason, which is easy to speak, but very difficult to do. Why? Consider beings doing good; grab them by the ear, thrice admonish and five times teach, and still they do not raise up their conduct. If they encounter bad conditions thought after thought they increase and grow, without teaching they can penetrate by themselves. Those who know how to turn away from the confused road are few indeed.

Like the moon in water, and flowers in a mirror, these have merely reflections and no shape. It is properly called the hoping of what cannot be hoped, the accomplishing of the unaccomplishable. Therefore, it is called "Water Mirror Turning Back Heaven".


What time is present time? It is the time of the imminent extinction of living beings. Looking around the Dharma realm, country fights with country, family fights with family, man fights with man, and so forth until the great fighting of world systems arises.

An ancient said, "Quarrelling over land, war is made. Murdered people fill the fields. Quarrelling over cities, war is made. Murdered people fill the cities, and lead the earth to eat the flesh of men. These offenses are not pardoned by death."

It is deeply hoped that the heads of every state will embody the virtue of heaven and earth's preference for life. Put forth good government and dispense justice. Banish quarrelling and dispense with greed. Renounce oneself and rescue people. Benefit oneself in benefiting others. See the universe as one family. See all people as one person. " If there is a man who has been killed, it is as if I killed him. If there is a man who has been cheated, it is as if I cheated him. " Constantly and always turn back and look inwards. If one offends before heaven, there is no place to pray.


At the age of 50, one is able to awaken and know the errors of 49 years. This is not far removed from being a superior man who changes his ways and moves towards the good. An ancient author has said, "I know that my past faults were not remonstrated, yet know that in the future I can catch up. Knowing that the confused path is not far behind, I am aware of today's rights and yesterday's wrongs."

In Buddhism it is said, "Of all bad karma which I have done based on beginningless greed, hatred and stupidity, committed by body, mouth and mind, I now repent and reform...Offenses arise from the mind; use the mind to repent. When the mind is forgotten, offenses are no more. Mind forgotten and offenses eradicated, both are empty. This is called true repentance and reform."

It is hoped that sentient beings of the Dharma Realm will read this, minutely savor its flavor, actually practice it themselves, and from their pain produce repentance and reform.

Confucius said, "To have faults and not to change is indeed a fault. When you have faults do not shrink from changing." There is no greater good than this.


Born in this age, we must establish the will to be new and great people. The engraving of T'ang says, "If once made new, every day renew: Let there be daily renewal." The announcement to K'ang says, "Make a new people."

Look into modern science. It is new every day and different every month. Military weapons are new every day and different every month. Wars are new every day and different every month. Although it is called progressive change, it does not differ from advancing cruelty. It takes human life as a child's play, an experiment. It uses strength and force to fill its great desires and aims.

Why not think instead of washing clean the body and mind, of brushing away the accumulated dirt, of producing great shame and painfully changing the former wrongs. To create a new life, be a new and imposing person, full of grand power. Establish merit for the sake of beings of the Dharma Realm. Take all countries as brothers and establish virtue. Establish a model for all under heaven. This is called mercifully representing heaven in widely transforming. With loyalty and filial piety, for the sake of the country, teach the people.

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