Q &A
from talk given on Oct. 27, 1990 in Grenoble, France - 1993
by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

Question: According to doctrines of Theravada Buddhism, the "body between sets of skandhas" (the "soul" or conscious ness after it leaves the corpse) is immediately reborn. But Mahayana Sutras say that it may take from seven to forty- nine days before rebirth occurs.

Venerable Master: The amount of time it takes for the "body between sets of skandhas" to be reborn is not fixed. Some may not necessarily be reborn even after several great eons, while others may be reborn immediately. It's not fixed.


Question: Where do people come from? How did there come to be so many people?

Venerable Master: Where do people come from? When people die, they are not all able to be reborn as people. Some may become chickens, dogs, or other animals. All living beings are classified as being born from wombs, from eggs, from moisture, or by transformation. According to their karmic retributions, they run east or west. It is just like a person who suddenly goes to Belgium, and then from Belgium travels to China. None of this is fixed. Knowing these matters is not necessarily helpful to cultivation.


Question: I often feel ill at ease both physically and psychologically, both sitting and standing. What should I do?

Venerable Master: Sincerely recite the Great Compassion Mantra and the name of Gwanyin Bodhisattva, and refrain from telling lies.


Question: In Chan meditation one investigates the question "Who is mindful of the Buddha?" How do we start to investigate it? How do we apply effort on this?

Venerable Master: To investigate "Who is mindful of the Buddha?" you have to investigate for it to count. You don't ask about it, you investigate it. It's like using a drill to make a hole. When you drill all the way through, you'll understand. Before you've drilled all the way through, you can ask about it, but you won't understand. This is the Dharma- door where "the path of language is cut off, and the place of the mind's activity disappears." It cannot be spoken of. Anything that other people tell you is not it.


Question: When someone scolds me, there are two possible reasons. One is that I have scolded him in a previous life, so in this life he is scolding me. The second is that he is planting a bad cause. How should I think of this?

Venerable Master: You can think of it as being your own retribution, but you shouldn't think the other person is planting a bad cause. If you think he is, your own bad causes will grow. Even if he is planting a bad cause, don't think of it that way. If you do, you yourself are planting a bad cause, so that is not a good way to deal with it. If you don't think like that, there's no problem.


Question: There is limitless merit and virtue in reciting the "Six- syllable True Words," and a Bodhisattva of the seventh ground dwells within one's body. What is this all about?

Venerable Master: Not only is there limitless merit and virtue in reciting the "Six-syllable True Words" [Om mani padme hum], there is limitless merit and virtue in not telling lies, in not contending, in not being greedy, in not seeking, in not being selfish, and in not wanting self-benefit. However, although there is merit and virtue, one should not become attached to it. "All appearances are false. If one sees all appearances as non-appearances, one sees the Thus Come One." [Vajra Sutra] In cultivation, one should not be preoccupied with how much merit and virtue one. has. If you are always counting up your merit and virtue, it's like hoarding money in the bank. If you hoard up a lot, you'll have lots of false thoughts.

Cultivating is just cultivating. Even if you have a lot of merit and virtue, you still have to cultivate. And if you have no merit and virtue, you have to cultivate even more. Reciting Sutras and mantras is for the sake of purifying the mind.

If the mind is free of discursive thoughts, then there is immeasurable merit and virtue. Having no temper is immeasurable merit and virtue. Never getting angry, never losing your temper, never arguing or fighting with people is limitless merit and virtue.


Question: How can we get rid of the three poisons of greed, hatred, and stupidity?

Venerable Master: People who have left the home-life [monks and nuns] work at getting rid of greed, hatred, and stupidity every day. You haven't even left home, yet you hope to get rid of your greed, hatred, and stupidity all at once? If you really want to do that, you can be like Layman Pang and dump all your family valuables into the ocean. Can you do that?


Question: A single person can do that, but someone with a family cannot. How does dumping valuables into the ocean help people?

Venerable Master: You are doubtful about Layman Pang's realization of the Way. Layman Pang was utterly stupid. That's why he was able to realize the Way. You are too smart.