Q & A
at Taipei Institute of Industrial Technology - 1993

by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, Taiwan Institute of Industrial Technology January 10, 1993
Question: If we recite mantras on a daily basis, should we recite just one mantra or many different mantras? Which is more beneficial?

Venerable Master: Neither is more beneficial. All Dharmas are equal, without one being better than another. The one is just the many, and the many are just the one. Whether you recite many mantras or one, you have to be single-minded for it to be efficacious. If you say you want to recite more mantras or Sutras, that's just your greed acting up.


Question: Venerable Master, I lost my eyesight in a car crash, and often the vision of a lake of changing colors, with a waterfall in it, appears before me. I feel like a scuba diver wearing a bright lamp on my forehead. This experience occurs all the time, except when I am asleep. What should I do?

Venerable Master: When you ask your question, don't make it an essay. Be brief and to the point. Don't be so long-winded, for my memory isn't that good anymore. By the time you finished asking your question, I already forgot most of it. What am I supposed to do?


Question: Venerable Master, my friend Su Jianming lost his eyesight in a car accident. He has seen all the best doctors, but none have been able to help him. I sincerely request the Venerable Master to advise him on a method to cure himself. Thank you.

Venerable Master: You should recite Guanyin Bodhisattva's name. In the "Chapter on Guanyin Bodhisattva's Universal Door," there are four lines:

The pure, undefiled radiance
Of wisdom's sun destroys all darkness;
It dispels the calamities of wind and fire
And lights up the entire world.

The car accident you were in has to do with your past causes and their effects. In a previous life you may have blinded some living beings, or hunted birds, or put out the eyes of animals before you killed them, and so in this life you have to undergo the retribution. That's all there is to it.


Question: Venerable Master, when my sister was a freshman in community college, she showed suicidal tendencies. During her second year of living on campus, she behaved abnormally and talked illogically. After her family transferred merit to cross over her creditors from past lives, her condition improved. However, she still has periodic lapses. Is there any way to cure her?

Venerable Master: She should just recite Guanyin Bodhisattva's name, and she will get well. But she has to have true faith.


Question: Venerable Master, someone said that my brother will be a threat to my mother's life in 1994 and should not be allowed to live with her. Is there a way to solve this problem?

Venerable Master: I'm a left-home person, not a snake-oil salesman, and I don't know how to answer such questions.


Question: Yang Shuhui bows in respect and asks: How should a beginner go about studying Buddhism? How should he choose a Way-place and find a Good and Wise Advisor? How can he recognize the Proper Dharma?

Venerable Master: I am not a Good and Wise Advisor, so I don't know. You have to choose for yourself. There is no fixed method. You have to use the Dharma-Selecting Eye. Don't mistake the true for the false and the false for the true, that's all.


Question: National Master Yu Lin refused to return to lay life and get married. I don't quite agree with his decision. What is the Venerable Master's opinion?

Venerable Master: Being a left-home person, I don't get involved in such matters. Don't ask me about matters of marriage and childbirth.


Question: Venerable Master, how can I obtain the Dharma-Selecting Eye?

Venerable Master: I don't have the Dharma-Selecting Eye myself, so how can I tell you?


Question: Venerable Master, how can we be vigorous and advance to a higher level?

Venerable Master: Eat, drink... and play mahjong.


Question: Wang Manmei seeks instruction. Venerable Master, how can one leave the Triple Realm and enter the door of liberation?

Venerable Master: If you are not in the Triple Realm, then you have left the Triple Realm!


Question: How can I recognize my true life? I fully agree with what Venerable Master just said.

Venerable Master: Then you've been cheated!


Question: Earlier the Venerable Master replied that vigor consists of eating, sleeping, and playing mahjong. What does this mean? I am very stupid and cannot fathom the secret meaning. Please explain more clearly how to be vigorous. Thank you.

Venerable Master: Your wisdom is very great. You clearly understand, and yet you ask on purpose. Eating, sleeping, and playing mahjong are the things that worldly people do. If you want to transcend the world, you have to renounce these. Although I don't dare to call this Zen talk, I just said the opposite of what I meant. If you don't even understand this, what can you hope to understand?


Question: Venerable Master, how should one prepare for rebirth?

Venerable Master: Why do you want to be reborn? How can you go to rebirth when you are dragging so much garbage around?


Question: What are the conditions for leaving the home-life?

Venerable Master: There aren't any conditions for leaving the home-life. The only condition is that you must be vigorous. Don't be lazy. Don't just eat in confusion and wait for death, and don't exploit situations. Don't just sit there all day long waiting for people to make offerings. Don't be greedy for blessings. After you leave home, the more bitter it is, the better. You should not enjoy too much luxury. The left-home people at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas are all like skinny monkeys, because they eat just one meal a day. You won't find any chubby faces. They've all been cheated by me. Some have been cheated for over ten years, and they still feel they haven't had enough. So they haven't run off and are still following me. The ones who feel they've had enough of being cheated have returned to lay-life.


Question: What is the meaning of the line, "You should produce the mind which abides nowhere"?

Venerable Master: Where is your mind? First tell me that!


Question: Venerable Master, please be compassionate. My whole body is aching and ill. I have had several operations, but they haven't cured me. My family has fallen apart and I have suffered so many setbacks in my life. May the Venerable Master instruct me, and may the sunlight shine on me. Amitabha.

Venerable Master: Amitabha! You have killed too much, and you come to ask me?!


Question: Why do so many Buddhists in Taiwan use money as a yardstick to measure their level of accomplishment? How should we seek the true Buddha path?

Venerable Master: The true Buddha path is the poorest of the poor. It costs nothing and doesn't need to be sought.


Question: Venerable Master, what motivated you to leave the home- life?

Venerable Master: Is he asking about my leaving home or his leaving home? My leaving home is my business—what are you asking about it for? If you want to expose my roots, I don't have any roots left.


Question: Venerable Master, how can I get rid of deviant thoughts?

Venerable Master: Simply stop having idle thoughts, and your deviant thoughts will disappear. If you do nothing but idle thinking, then the deviant thoughts will come one after another. Do you really need to ask me? Reflect within and ask yourself: Why can't you maintain proper thoughts? Why are you so fond of deviant thoughts?


Question: Venerable Master, how can I improve my relations with people, especially in the workplace, and prevent others from talking behind my back?

Venerable Master: If you haven't done anything bad and someone speaks ill of you, then it's his fault. If you did something bad and people spread rumors, then the more they gossip, the better.


Question: The calamities in the world grow day by day, month by month. How can we quell them and save ourselves and others?

Venerable Master: Simply don't get angry and don't fight. Don't cheat and hurt one another. Then the calamities will disappear. Everyone should unite instead of breaking into so many factions and parties. If you have factions, then you won't be able to unite. True unity—great unity—is without factions. In the Book of History (Shu Jing) it says, "Without factions or favoritism, the way of the kings was broad. Without favoritism or factions, the way of the kings was just. Without twists and turns, the way of the kings was straight and proper." That is what a nation needs.


Question: Venerable Master, every Dharma Master tells us that the Buddha's name he recites is the best. As beginners, what is the right Buddha's name for us to recite?

Venerable Master: All the Buddhas of the past, present and future, throughout the ten directions are of the same Dharma-body. You can recite any Buddha's name and be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. All the Buddhas are equal. There is no such thing as a true Buddha, a false Buddha, a living Buddha or a dead Buddha.


Question: Is it really true that people can be possessed by spirits?

Venerable Master: Go ask the people who are possessed. I haven't been possessed by a spirit, and even if I knew the answer, I wouldn't talk about this.

Question: How can we study and practice Buddhism without obstructions?

Venerable Master: Is your teacher obstructing you? Even in the cultivation of Buddhism, you are bound to encounter obstructions. It all depends on whether or not you have concentration. If you have concentration and wisdom, you will be able to deal effectively with every situation, and not be obstructed by it. If you are very stupid, and you feel obstructed when a mosquito bites you or a fly kicks you, then there will be no end to your obstructions. You bring suffering and vexation upon yourself. You're just asking for trouble and obstructions.


Question: In cause and effect, which spans the past, present, and future, is the "I" who will receive the retribution in the future the same as the "I" who is creating karma in this life?

Venerable Master: If you want to know the causes you planted in past lives, just look at what kind of retribution you are receiving in this life. Your present retribution is based on your past causes. If you want to know the retribution you will receive in the future, just look at what you are doing in this life. How your future turns out depends upon the karma you create in the present. For example, if you do a lot of killing, then you will have the retribution of a short life in your next life. If you do a lot of stealing, then you will be robbed by others in your next life.


Question: I'm a student, and I love to read the Venerable Master's books. I have an important question. The Master has mentioned that there are two lines in the Shurangama Mantra that can bring forth our wisdom. Could the Venerable Master tell us what those two lines are? Thank you for your compassionate instruction. Homage to Greatly Kind and Compassionate Guanshiyin Bodhisattva.

Venerable Master: Yes, I can tell you, but will you recite them? First tell me that. Suppose I tell you, and you forget it and don't recite it. After a while, you complain, "You told us those two lines, but my wisdom still hasn't come forth." Why hasn't your wisdom come forth? Well, you didn't recite them, so how could your wisdom come forth? Therefore, if you want to learn them, you have to be mindful of them at all times. You have to think, "I can go without eating, I can go without wearing clothes, and I can go without sleeping, but I can't go without reciting this mantra." If you have that kind of resolve, your wisdom will certainly come forth. If you don't have that kind of resolve and are just looking for a quick "fix," thinking that you'll obtain a treasure if I tell you the mantra, then you'll end up with nothing. What is the mantra? It goes: bo na ni, fa la ni. If you believe it, you can try it out. But if you don't recite it, don't blame me if your wisdom doesn't come forth.


Question: What do these two phrases mean?

Venerable Master: If you want to know the meaning, you won't bring forth wisdom.


Question: (Liang Surong) These are Sanskrit words. Could the Venerable Master please tell us what they mean?

Venerable Master: Is Liang Surong asking? I can explain a bit. These two phrases request the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to bring forth our wisdom, that is, our true wisdom, not worldly wisdom. It refers to the Dharma-Selecting Vision that can distinguish true Dharma from false Dharma. These mantric syllables are spoken by the invisible transformation Buddha atop Shakyamuni Buddha's crown. Each of these mantric syllables is a divine, true, wonderful word. Bo na ni, fa la ni requests all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to "give me aid and cause me to bring forth great wisdom."

This mantra is also called "true words" and "divine text." It is called "true words" because it does not contain the slightest trace of falseness. It is called "divine text" because it is from the Brahma Heaven and was spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha to rescue Ananda. But ordinary people do not know how to use it. I will tell you that since I was little, I went around defeating and catching monsters and goblins. I've encountered probably over a hundred demonic beings who can take on human form. They were harming a lot of people everywhere, so I used the Shurangama Mantra to subdue them. As a consequence, all the demons wanted to fight me to the death, and that was when the trouble came. Now, because I'm getting on in years—perhaps I'm getting to be an old rogue—I've quit fighting them.

Fighting involves the thought of victory and defeat,
And goes in opposition to the Way.
When the four marks arise in the mind.
How can we obtain samadhi?

Samadhi refers to proper concentration. As soon as you fight with others, there will be victory and defeat. Either you win and I lose, or I win and you lose. So fighting involves the thought of victory and defeat. That contradicts the cultivation of the Way. When the four marks (the mark of a self, the mark of others, the mark of living beings, and the mark of a life span) arise, how can you obtain samadhi? How can you have proper concentration? Therefore, we should not solve problems by force. We should use a peaceful method. We should not fight with each other for the sake of gain. Everyone should be kind and courteous. If the country is in harmony, it will certainly prosper. If people fight, rob and scold one another all the time, that is really an inauspicious sign. Therefore, I hope all the intelligent people of Taiwan will stop doing muddled things.


Question: There are many signs of chaos in this country. What is the destiny of this country?

Venerable Master: Don't ask me about this. All of you should know. Don't ask what you already know. There is a saying:

If the country is about to prosper,
There will be auspicious omens.
If the country is about to perish,
There will be evil portents.
The oracles will manifest signs,
And the people's actions will be affected.
Thus, calamities and blessings can be known in advance.
Good things can be known in advance;
Bad things can also be known advance.

King Tang of the Shang Dynasty appealed to the Lord of Heaven, saying, "I, this little boy, Tang Lu, offer up a black cow and address Lord Heaven and Lord Earth. If I have offenses, do not punish the people. If the people have offenses, it is because I have not taught them well, and you should punish me for their offenses. I alone should take the blame." The renowned sage- kings of ancient times courageously reformed themselves, confessed their mistakes, and accepted criticism with grace. They are truly good models and leaders.

That's it for today. See you next time. Good afternoon!