Ji Li Business College Talks

by Venerable Hsuan Hua, Taipei, Taiwan, October 30, 1989

All of you senior monks from all of the monasteries and mountains, and all Good Knowing Advisors. Today we have affinities, so we meet together to investigate the Buddha-dharma. What is the Buddha-dharma? Everything is the Buddha-dharma. Everything in the world is the Dharma, but we people don't recognize it. We are growing up and living right in the midst of the Buddha-dharma, but we still don't know it. The situation is just like a human's need to breathe. While you are breathing, you don't consider it anything special. You inhale and exhale quite naturally, and yet you don't know why you are involved in it.

Common wisdom says, "Fish live in the water, but don't see it; people live in the air, but don't recognize it."

We are here in the midst of the Buddha-dharma, receiving it's nourishment, and yet remain unaware of it. The Buddha once said, "All living beings have the Buddha-nature, and all can become Buddhas."

All living beings includes believers in Buddhism, and non-believers alike. Some living beings hear the Buddha's name, and others never hear it. All living beings are included in the scope of the Buddha's statement, without exception. Thus everyone has the chance to become Buddhas. It's just like all citizens of the country have the opportunity equally to serve as the leaders of the country's government. As long as you have sufficient merit and virtue, learning, and ability, you can be elected as the leader of the nation. And all Buddhas come about in the same fashion.

So no matter your first religion, you can't make the claim that you aren't a living being. If you claim you aren't a living being, then there is no name that will cover you.

"It's only due to our false thoughts and attachments that we don't realize it."

We people are very strange. Clearly we know that good deeds are right, and yet we don't go do them. Clearly we know that evil is wrong, yet we insist on doing it.

So Lau Dz said, "When all the world knows that something is beautiful, this is proof that it is in fact, evil. What everyone acknowledges as good is, in fact, not good."

Suppose you teach a person to do good. You take him by the ear and admonish him three times over. He will likely still not do what you say. He will pay no attention.

But if you teach him to do evil, he will succeed without benefit off a teacher. He can do it all by himself. Nobody walks down the road to Goodness, even when you tell them to. If you don't tell him to walk down the road to Evil, they will still go all the same. Why are people so perverse by nature?

In the past, every person had his own share of innate intelligence, and lively instincts. But if we find one hundred people, they may be 99% good, but a single bad person can spoil the whole bunch, and negate their innate intelligence and wholesome instincts.

Students of the Buddha must learn to be people first of all, if they hope to become Buddhas. If you try to be a Buddha before you know how to act as a person, then you simply won't succeed. To become a person, you need to base yourself on the Eight Virtues: filial respect, brotherhood, service, trustworthiness, righteousness, courtesy, modesty, and shame. When you can understand these eight, then you know how to be a person. If you don't understand these Eight, however, then you won't know what it means to truly be a person.

Take filial respect, for instance. This is a Fundamental Virtue, a basic principle. Confucius said, "The Superior Person is concerned with the roots. When the roots are planted, then the Tao can come forth." "Filial respect and fraternity are the roots of being a person."

To be a person, we certainly must repay kindness. To repay kindness, we must know that our parents bore us, and raised us, so we should repay that debt of kindness. If we don't fulfill our role as filial children, then we lose the true value of being a person.

Brotherhood means we serve our elders and seniors, and we are loyal in service to our country. Trustworthiness is needed in our relationships with our friends. We have to practice courtesy, and also need a sense off righteousness. We have to practice modesty and thrift, and also posses a sense of shame. Confucius also said, "If someone lacks a sense of shame, I don't know what can be done with him."

In Western Society, we have forgotten these Eight Basic Values. Nobody knows what it means to practice filial respect towards parents. This word is even lost, it is not part of common parlance. People have lost a feeling of mutual respect. Take for example, the relationship between father and son. They now treat each other as strangers, for the most part. Why is this? It's because their education has lost it's roots. In the West, all students call their parents by their first names. They hold no respect in their hearts for their parents. This is a fundamental failing of education. Morality and ethical systems of practice are not discussed at all.

In China, the culture that has been working for several thousand years, is the essence of nature, of heaven and earth. China has also forgotten this essence at present. In her worship for the influences of Western culture and civilization, we have given up the roots in pursuit of the branchtips.

We should expand our own native culture and civilization, and ethics. Just like a person learns to cherish his own person, then his family, and next his society, and nation. He can develop an attitude of mutual help and mutual respect.

A saying goes, "One who respects others is respected by others. One who cherishes others is cherished in turn by others."

Likewise, if you hit others, you will be hit by others, and if you curse at others, they will curse you in turn. So if we want to learn the Buddha-dharma, we should first learn how to be good people.

The foundation off being a person is to learn how not to fight, how not to be greedy, not to seek, not to be selfish, not to want personal advantages, and how not to tell lies. If you don't contend, then "What others don't want, I can take. What others want, I give to them."

If you can be this way, then wars are over in this world. If one person can not fight, then there is one person who gains the benefits of happiness and peace. If ten people can learn not to fight, then ten people gain those benefits. When you put an end to fighting, then the disaster of wars will come to an end.

If you don't know greed, then crimes stop. Why do people become criminals? Because of greed. You have to give up your logical, rational mind to indulge in greed. When greed controls you, then you will stop at nothing. You only know to satisfy your primal craving.

Not seeking means you don't want what is not your rightful share. If you can not seek, then you won't have any thoughts of sexual desire. If you don't fight, then you won't have any thoughts of killing. If you aren't greedy to be #1, then you won't have any thoughts of stealing. If we don't seek, we will be content.

Why do we harm people? Because of selfishness. How can we do so many unreasonable things? Only out of a wish to benefit ourselves. Because of selfishness and self-beneficial thoughts, we tell lies. We aren't true to others.

If everyone can be true to these Six Principles, and truly not fight, not be greedy, not seek, not be selfish, not want advantages, and not tell lies, then no matter the country, there can be peace. The weapons can go back to the arsenal, and the war-horses can be returned to the plough.

What's more, no matter who controls the country, in any political leader can volunteer his services to the nation, an accept no salary for his work, and take no side benefits, or bribes, then for sure this country will know peace and prosperity. Unfortunately, the leaders of countries today are all greedy, and living beings fear taking a loss. So above and below there are systems to feed this greed in the political world.

We disciples of the Buddha must base ourselves on certain fundamental principles: the five precepts. If we can do so, then we will not tell lies. There will be no need to tell lies. I won't cheat you, and you won't cheat me. We will treat each other with justice and equality. Just this is the practice of the Bodhisattva Path. We in this way can benefit ourselves and benefit others, take ourselves across and take others across, rescue ourselves and rescue others.

We won't do things that exclusively hurt others so as to profit ourselves, things that can't face the light of day. We students of thee Buddha must serve as models for others, and be good examples of conduct. Only then can we deliver the world from disasters, so that the beings suffering in the three destinies of evil, and the eightfold difficulties will all leave their suffering.

I have been to Taiwan frequently, and last year I agreed to return again to see you all. I am in fact quite a stupid person. I can't talk or express myself well at all. But since you are all here, I might as well use my actual experiences to explain what I want to say to you all.

In this world science expands its domain every day. In ten years from now, perhaps going to the heavens will be an ordinary thing. Travel on rockets is not a good way to get to the heavens. It's quite easy to fall from the heavens all the way down. We rise and sink on the six-spoked wheel of rebirth. Born as a god, next we become an ashura, then we're a person, now an animal, then a ghost, and then a denizen of the hells.

Why should we go to the heavens? It's not like the past anymore. In the past we went to heaven because we had the blessings to merit being reborn there. Now to ascend to heaven is another matter. We use our ordinary eyes to see the heavens. If we all go there, the earth will be spoiled. Why? Everyone knows that the earth is now terribly polluted. The air is fouled, the water is filthy, and the earth itself is polluted.

Why is it so? It's the fault of the scientific progress with its inventions and their poisonous by-products that the earth can't digest. Pollution makes us sick. The toxins that foul the earth get into our food. We ingest them and catch diseases. The water is not natural any longer.

This is the cause of many disasters. An example is the advent of cancer, and the epidemic of AIDS. Where does AIDS come from? Everyone knows, but nobody wants to talk about it. They clearly know, but hide the truth. AIDS is a product of homosexuality. Two of the same gender mate, and the same sexes compete. A toxin is produced that bodies cannot smelt. The toxins attack each other, and AIDS results. If you don't base yourself on natural instinct and nature's laws, on the basic truths of yin and yang pairing, then you are likely to get an incurable illness.

Yet we still cover our ears and refuse to admit it. Everyone knows what's going on, but we ignore the truth. Doctors can't face it either, and cover over reality. This is very frightening.

There is also the matter of cancer. Most doctors now are aware that cancer comes from eating meat, for the most part. Animals and fish inhabit the polluted earth and water. The plants on the earth are already polluted. Horses, cows, sheep, and pigs eat these poisoned plants, and a series of toxic reactions take place in their bodies, and then when we humans eat their flesh, the toxins build up in our bodies, creating an incurable situation: medical science has no way to counter the poisons. Eating meat amounts to slow suicide.

There are now many vegetarians in the United States. In fact, vegetables contain the highest nutrition of all foods, but we people love delicious flavor in our food. Meat is the best flavored food, and it also contains the greatest harm of anything we could put in our bodies. Confucius said, "A person should not seek to eat his fill, and should not seek comfort in his sleeping."

We people should wake up to these truths and not eat so much meat and fish. Then there will be fewer strange illnesses in the world.

I feel I owe a deep apology to San Francisco and her people. My vows say that as long as I am in San Francisco one day, there will be no earthquake in San Francisco. But I came to Taiwan, to help avert calamities and disasters, and I forgot about San Francisco. The result was a huge earthquake. Lots of people died. I feel I owe them an apology.

I hope none of you believe a word that I have said.

Now is time to exchange opinions and ideas. I won't claim to be able to answer your questions, rather we can discuss your ideas. If you feel that what I say has principle, then you can try it out, and if I don't know the answer, I will tell you frankly, I won't force it.

"What you don't know, admit you don't know. What you know, say you know."

Questions and Answers

Q: Mosquitoes and spiders threaten my children's safety. Can I kill them?
A: Maybe in the past you tied up affinities with these bugs, and now they want to come get food from you. Perhaps your affinities are such that now they want to take revenge. Maybe you were a mosquito in the past and wrote up a contract with these insects. So you shouldn't kill them.Q: (From a monk) Taking yourself across or taking others across. Which comes first?A: They are the same. Taking others across is taking yourself across. There is no need to set a priority.

Q: Isn't there a quick road to Buddha-hood?
A: Smoke opium. It's only to be feared that when your habit comes on you, you won't be truly free. To be a Buddha you must truly put your feet on solid ground and walk every step of the Tao. Trying to get there quickly is a mistake.

Q: How can I teach my children to be wise?
A: If you weren't stupid, your children would very naturally be wise.

Q: Where should beginners in Buddhism start?
A: Eat! Dress! Sleep!

Q: After I hear the Dharma, I know that I have killed in the past. What can I do to repent of this?
A: Treat all that you were in the past as if you had died yesterday. See all that you will be in the future as if born today.

Q: Taiwan at present is degenerating morally. People have gone crazy with stock-market transactions, speculating, and gambling. How can this trend turn around?
A: Simply be more stupid. People are all out to get a free lunch. This is trying to be intelligent.

Q: Can I study the secret school?
A: I don't know the secret so I can't even answer your question.

Q: My father had died, but we always dream of his returning. Why is this?
A: Because the people in your family have not forgotten him.

Q: May I bow to the Buddha-image in my home before I have had "opening the light" performed?
A: Opening the light or not opening the light is not a big problem. If your mind has no attachments, then there is always light. If there are always attachments, then even if you open the light, there won't be any light.

Q: Everyone wants to recite the Buddha's name to be reborn in the Western Land of Utmost Happiness. Is it possible?
A: The Buddha spoke the Sutra of Amitabha without request. It is hard to believe in. But that doesn't mean you can't do it. Q: Will the future savior of China be a Buddhist?
A: Chairman Mao claimed that he was a savior, but he wasn't a Buddhist. You can't ask the question strictly in those terms. If a person saves China and doesn't claim to be a Buddhist, he still is one. If he claims to be a Buddhist and is not a real savior, he isn't a Buddhist.

Q: San Francisco just had a severe earthquake. How can Taiwan avoid the same disaster?
A: If everyone can get rid of their anger, then Taiwan will escape an earthquake.

Q: Why do ghosts appear at night? Do they really exist?
A: In Malaysia a person asked, "Do people fear ghosts, or do ghosts fear people, so they only come out at night? If it is true, why are ghosts invisible? If ghosts are not true, then why are people afraid of them?" I answered, "If your mind has a ghost in it, then people fear ghosts. If your mind has no ghost in it, then the ghosts are afraid of people."

Q: There was a plane crash in Hualien recently, a national tragedy. Did you know about it or not?
A: You should ask yourself this question. If others knew, why didn't you know? If you knew, why do you have to ask if others knew about it?

Q: When you left San Francisco, there was an earthquake. What is the meaning of this?
A: No meaning at all.

Q: Can we Buddhist disciples buy stocks?
A: Some Buddhist disciples kill, some steal, some lust, tell lies, and use intoxicants. Should you buy stocks or not?

Q: What is the difference in reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha or Gwan Yin Bodhisattva? Is the result the same?
A: Your discriminations prevent any results at all.

Q: Sometimes when I recite, I forget to breathe.
A: It would be better to die, wouldn't it?

Q: What are the differences between Buddhist left-home people and cultivators of the Way?
A: What are their similarities? If you can understand where they are the same, you will know where they are different.

Q: How can I calm my mind?
A: Bring it out and I'll have a look at it.