The Vajra Strikes: Part 1
A Collection of Q & A's with the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Q: According to the
Book of Matthew of the Christian Bible, the year 2000 will be apocalypse and
Judgment Day. Please let us know your view on this, Master.
A: Apocalypse could occur at any time; Judgment Day could occur at any time as well.
Q: Most people in Hong Kong now are
worried about their future. May we ask you to give them a sense of peace?
A: They should think about what they had done in the past instead of thinking about the future. Their past affects their future. Only fools worry over nothing. Good things happen to those with merit and virtue. Disasters and danger occur to those without merit and virtue.
Q: This country is over-populated.
Does the present birth control policy violate the law of cause and effect?
A: Being over-populated is the same as being under-populated. I think a national policy such as "one child only" is wrong. Since each family can only have one child, eventually everyone will be male. How can a country of only men and no women procreate? This policy will mean the extinction of a country and the human race in the future. To really manage a country well, [the government] should allow each couple to have two babies. Two kids can keep each other company and they can be a boy and a girl. If they were both males, one can be exchanged for a female from a family with only female babies, and vice versa. It is perfectly all right and legal to adopt a son-in-law into the family. However, if people were to have too many babies the way pigs give birth to hoards of piglets at a time, people would experience a shortage of food.
Q: Please explain to me the
relationship between Buddhism and Christianity.
A: They both teach you and me.
Q: How does one control a thought
as it arises? How can one not follow an unwholesome thought?
A: "One is aware of that thought as soon as it arises; and as soon as one is aware of it, the thought disappears." Once you realize that it is an unwholesome thought, it vanishes. Nobody can help you if you do not consider your thoughts unwholesome and pursue them. Again, "One is aware of that thought as soon as it arises; as soon as one is aware of it, the thought disappears." Idle thoughts have no origin. It will be fine as long as you don't follow idle thoughts and try to work with them like they're your business partners.
Q: Master, will you please tell us
your life experiences?
A: My experience has been to do no business. That's my experience.
Q: The four elements are empty and
all dharmas are impermanent. What does the true self look like?
A: Like a ghost.
Q: Why can't we control ourselves
and get upset even though we know we shouldn't get upset?
A: Why do you eat even though you were told not to eat when hungry?
Q: Lu Shengyen has over 10,000
disciples in Malaysia (in 1988). Please tell us if what he preaches is true or
deviant. Please answer this question frankly.
A: There's no difference between true or deviant dharmas during the Dharma-ending Age. You should see if he is greedy, likes to fight, likes to seek, is selfish, is into pursuing gain for himself, and cheats others by lying. I don't know who Lu Shengyen thinks he is, but I call him a demon-child. When you look around this world, you see so many drug dealers. People take drugs even though we all know poison is bad for people. What are the reasons for that? Lu Shengyen is one of the reasons.
Q: Why does my student shiver when
bowing to the Buddhas?
A: The bad karma that follows him is telling him to be immoral and hence onto a worse path.
Q: There are 84,000 Dharma doors.
Are other religions such as Hinduism, Catholicism and Christianity considered
A: Every dharma is the Buddhadharma, and none can be obtained.
Q: Which thoughts should we tame?
A: The thoughts of sexual desire.
Q: The Master always says "to truly
recognize our faults and do not discuss the faults of others. Others' fault are
simply my own, that is great compassion." However, the Venerable Master often
criticizes others (in the Vajra Bodhi Sea). Doesn't that mean you don't practice
what you preach?
A: If what I say is true, then I'm not finding fault with them; if what I say were false, then I would go to hell. You know the person who said, "Great cultivators are not affected by cause and effect," had to face the consequence of being a fox for 500 lives. I would go to the tongue-pulling hell if I were wrong or have twisted the facts by treating black as white, white as black, true as false, and false as true. If what I say is correct, I am not guilty. Why do I talk about how others are right or wrong? It is because there is too much gossip in the Buddhist community, calling this one the Black Sect, that one the White Sect, Yellow Sect, Red Sect_ There are so many colors that they blind people's ability to tell them apart. They can't tell that black is black and white is white. Therefore, I must say what others dare not say.
Q: Is there really a Dharma ending
A: If you think the Dharma will be ending, it will. If you don't want the Dharma to end, then that is the Proper Dharma.
Q: Please tell us which line of the
Shurangama Mantra will develop our wisdom?
A: I only know the mantra for ignorance: "Lazy, lazy, swo pe he."
Q: My grandfather is seriously ill,
A: Only Guanshiyin Bodhisattva can change the Registry for Birth and Death.
Q: What can we do to make Buddhism
A: By cultivating, holding the Five Precepts, and practicing humaneness, justness, propriety, wisdom, and trustworthiness. This way, little by little, Buddhism will prosper.
Q: What is self-nature?
A: Self-nature is the Buddha nature. The Buddha nature is rounded and illuminating; it is free of others, self, and living beings, and has no lifespan.
Q: What is the reason for the war
in the Middle East?
A: Reincarnated asuras insist on killing and setting fires.
Q: Master, would you please beat me
over the head a few more times?
A: Don't be greedy.
Q: What is true?
A: Anything that is true helps others and not us. This applies without regard to profession, faction, sect, or school of religion. To be more explicit: too often we appear to help others but really mean to benefit ourselves. If we were not interested in money, then we're interested in sex; if not sex, then fame and fortune. In so doing, we are always haunted by a shadow.
Q: How do we get rid of the mark of
A: "I" is a misleading pronoun. The true "I" is the original Buddha nature. If we consider humans, living beings, and those with a long lifespan to be the same, then we will be reducing our egos.
Q: Have monks and nuns (literally
"left-home people" in Chinese) really "left home?"
A: Lay people who can leave behind defilement and impurities while living at home, are the same as left-home people. Although they are physically in the midst of defilements, their minds and hearts transcend such defilements. Like flowers planted in a well, they are not touched by dust. Monks and nuns whose minds are tainted by dust are no different than those of laypeople.
Q: Why are there so many
A: Because people have bad tempers.
Q: Buddhism talks about how things
are "unspeakably unspeakable." Exactly why are things unspeakable?
A: Why are you speaking now?
Q: Master, which Dharma Master do
you most respect in this lifetime?
A: Venerable Master Hsu Yun.
Q: Out of the 84,000 Dharma doors
in Buddhism, which one is the best and most wonderful?
A: All 84,000 Dharma doors are the best. None of them is second place. Why do I say that? The 84,000 Dharma doors treat the 84,000 kinds of shortcomings of living beings. Every living being has shortcomings; therefore, the best practice is the one that cures one's faults.
Q: What is the difference between
false thoughts and vows? How would we know if our vows are false thoughts?
A: If our vows benefit others, it's okay even if they are false thoughts. Beyond that, you should get rid of false thoughts.
Q: How did wars come about?
A: Wars occur because we are violent within. Wars occur because our minds are not at peace.
Q: Who is Hussein (the Iraqi
A: He is a member of the demons' family in the heavens.
Q: How do we stop warfare?
A: Being gentle and kind is the most fundamental solution to the ending of warfare.
Q: Confucius had 3,000 disciples,
and 72 out of which were conversant with the six arts. What abilities should one
possess in our society today to be considered a paragon of virtue?
A: "Truly wealthy are those with virtues, and the most impoverished have no virtue." A paragon of virtue does not kill, does not steal, does not indulge in sexual misconduct, does not lie, and does not take intoxicants.
Q: What kind of resolve for Bodhi
is considered solid?
A: The kind where we vow to cultivate the Way, regardless of what hindrances we may encounter and no matter how hard it is. Don't ever change our past vows. Do not change our minds or positions. We act in accord with conditions but not change, and we do not change yet accord with condition. Despite poor or excellent conditions, our resolve for Bodhi shall remain firm.
Q: Master, what are the special
features of the Weiyang School? How can we expand it?
A: The Weiyang School is very ordinary; there's nothing special about it. The Weiyang School doesn't have any plans to expand. . . We should just have strong moral characters.
Q: How are the Schools of Weiyang,
Lingji, Caodong, and others different?
A: There is no real difference. All these practitioners are average people who have not become Bodhisattvas yet.
Q: Why shouldn't cultivators be
A: Emotions represent selfishness. If we let the seven emotions control us, then we are being selfish and are straying from the path to Buddhahood. The path to Buddhahood is about being altruistic and impartial.
Q: What can I do to help Buddhist
A: You help the temples by not destroying them. You help the temples by supporting them.
Q: Why should we meditate as we
study the Buddhadharma?
A: So that we can study a countless number of sutras and boundless wisdom inherent to our self-nature. There are countless Dharma doors in our nature, but people tend to disregard the foundation and chase after the superficialities. We look for answers outside of ourselves, failing to realize that we should reflect.
Q: Do we create unwholesome karma
in our dreams?
A: What occurs in our dreams is not karma. The important thing is for us not to create unwholesome karma while we are awake. Of course, we can't generalize. For instance, if you were to wish to dream about doing lots of awful things, then you would be creating unwholesome karma. If you were to dream about doing bad deeds though you didn't think about them beforehand, then it has nothing to do with you. It is because of delusion, and not karma, that we have unwholesome thoughts but no unwholesome action while we're awake.
Q: The Amitabha Sutra tells us to
make vows to become reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss where there are no
three evil paths. If human beings were all to be in the Land of Ultimate Bliss,
would that mean that no one will rescue and take care of living beings of the
three evil paths?
A: Others will take care of them if you don't. Once we become Buddhas there, we could come back and take care of them like Amitabha Buddha.
Q: Can we be reborn in the Land of
Ultimate Bliss by reciting Guanyin Bodhisattva's name, Great Compassion Mantra,
and the "Chapter on Universal Worthy Bodhisattva's Conduct and Vows" in the
Flower Adornment Sutra?
A: Yes. The "Chapter on Universal Worthy Bodhisattva's Conduct and Vows" directs us toward the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
Q: Most people say,
for good fengshui (geomancy), we should: hang a mirror at the front door, have
green plants on the left side of the room, hang two swords above the owner's
bed, and hang wind chimes along the hall ways. Is it so?
A: 1. Mirrors symbolize purity
so that we are physically pure as we leave our residence.
We sweep the floor
to remove dirt from the house as we become spick and span.
Mirrors symbolize clarity
So that we become clear about phenomenon and noumenon.
We are content and accept life as it is,
for we are free from greed and the desire to seek.
Most ignorant people believe in diabolical ideas, thinking that demons won't dare to invade their homes by installing mirrors that reflect demons. Simply by thinking in this way, demons have already taken a hold of them. 2. Foliage are just decorations. 3. The sword of wisdom slashes away emotional ties. We should not be loose. If so, a man and a woman will each have a sword at hand to fight one another. Demons may not have appeared if we had not hung those swords. But once we have hung them up, demons come to challenge you. You never know who will win or lose either. 4. Wind chimes symbolize the process of withering away, meaning that the family will be on the decline, wilting away by the day.
Anyhow, fengshui actually comes from our
minds: when we are kind, open and honest, everything will be fine. Even
negatives will become positives. When we are unkind, everything will turn out
poorly; even positives will become negatives. That is why the Buddha had said,
"Everything is made from the mind alone." The ancients of China have also said,
"Everyone believes that the excellent grave site is in the mountains. Little do
they know that the best site is that square inch that is their mind." Street
quacks argue forcefully and unreasonably, developing incorrect theories to fool
ignorant men and women. What a pity! What a pity!
Q: Is it necessary to choose a day
for putting a Bodhisattva statue in place and a position that the statue should
A: It is not necessary to choose a day and a position. It is fine as long as the Bodhisattva statue is located at a level above an adult's upper body. Demons and ghosts think about checking on dates and positions for this kind of thing.
Q: A certain Dharma Master said
that Buddhists don't need to attend morning and evening services. Is that
A: That is his problem. Since morning and evening services are unnecessary to him, then everything else must be unnecessary too. It must be okay for him to not eat, not drink, and not sleep. Has he reached the level of non-cultivation and non-certification? He can only say such things if he were to have reached that level; otherwise, he shouldn't say such things.
Q: How can we rescue our deceased
ancestors and others?
A: Only preeminent monks who have cultivated virtue and samadhi can alter the suffering of the deceased and thereby help them to enter the heavens. When Meditation Master Lungku (Dragon Pants) of the Ming Dynasty saved the mother of Emperor Wanli, for instance, he said from the podium, "I was not going to come here, but you insisted that I do; without giving rise to a thought, may you transcend the three realms." With these lines, the emperor's mother entered the heavens.
Q: We hear that the merit from
liberating livings beings is the greatest. Is that correct?
A: All the merit done for Buddhism are equal. We must liberate life out of compassion. If we were interested in merit, then we would not have much merit to speak of. It is incorrect to say that such and such a merit is the greatest because that is just our enticement.
Q: What does "being upside down"
A: Being upside down means treating suffering as happiness, truth as falsehood, and impermanence as permanence. It also means a restless heart and a swarm of thoughts, inaction when a situation calls for help, and action when a situation holds out some gain for us. In general, we are upside down when we are not able to distinguish black from white, and true from false.
Q: Are lay people allowed to cook
non-vegetarian meals for other members of the family during the designated
A: It is your own business if you want to sew wedding gowns for people to get married.
Q: A certain Dharma Master told his
disciple not to recite the Shurangama Mantra and the Great Compassion Mantra
because by reciting them the heavenly demons and heretics will become fearful,
which goes against the idea of compassion. Therefore, this Dharma Master told
his disciples and followers not to use or read any sutra because there is no
need to. He says it's fine to just recite "Amitabha Buddha" with a singleness of
A: If people who recite mantras are said to be uncompassionate, then the Buddha would not have spoken the Shurangama Mantra and the Great Compassion Mantra so his disciples' compassion would diminish.
Q: Will we be affected physically
and mentally if we had revealed our date of birth to those on a deviant path?
A: As long as your mind is correct, there is no deviance. If your mind were deviant, every path would be an evil path.
Q: Master, how do we get rid of
attachments and idle thoughts?
A: Who gave you those idle thoughts? Who gave you attachments?
Q: I yawn every time I go to the
monastery to listen to the Buddhadharma. Please tell me what I should do?
A: It's no problem if you just stop yawning.
Q: Are we acting in accord with the
Dharma when we burn fake money with Rebirth Mantra written on them?
A: Why don't you think about whether that money is real or fake when you're burning papers with the Rebirth Mantra on them,? Once burned, those papers turn into ash, so how can it be used as money?
Q: Many words in Buddhist Sutras
are Sanskrit transliterations. Is it more accurate to pronounce them using the
Taiwanese or Mandarin dialect?
A: If you were to picture me in terms of form
or to pursue me with sounds,
You are practicing evil norms,
therefore cannot see the Thus Come One.
Q: My family used to worship Matzu
(Goddess of the Sea) at home. Since we started learning about Buddhism, though,
we have been worshipping the Buddhas. Please let us know if we could make
offerings to Matzu along with the Three Sages?
A: If you want to, you could make offerings to all the Sanghas and Buddhas throughout space. Buddhas would not fight one another.
Q: Many people are puzzled because
Dharma Master Chinghai has so many disciples. We hope to gain a better
understanding by attending this Dharma Assembly so that we can prevent these
disciples from walking down the wrong path.
A: When you took refuge with the Triple Jewel, the text to taking refuge made it very clear: "I would rather give up my life than to take refuge with demons and heretics ever."
Q: "Form itself is emptiness;
emptiness itself is form." I can't seem to pass this test. Will the Master
please provide me with instructions?
A: We were born because of sexual desire and we will die because of sexual desire. That is all. If you can't see through this, then you will be born from form and die from form.
Q: A certain Dharma Master said
that when pregnant women recite the Shurangama Mantra, they will have
miscarriages. Is this believable?
Q: Buddhism is beyond materialism
and universal truths; however, why is it stuck on and cannot seem to transcend
the issue of sensual desire?
A: As Father Rogers had mentioned, cultivators want to keep the precepts purely. Not only do they do so physically, but they avoid any lewd thoughts too. We are all ordinary people who have not yet realized Buddhahood at this point, so who would dare to claim that he has reached transcendence? Don't we all need to eat, dress, and sleep still? Since we still need to eat, dress, and sleep, what have we transcended?
Q: Master, I have heard you call
yourself stupid on many occasions. You are probably being humble. However, if
you say that too often, it may reflect your lack of self-confidence and
indecisiveness. How could you preside over an organization that way? And what
exactly does stupidity mean?
A: If I were not stupid, why would I tell the mosquitoes to bite me and not other people? If I were not stupid, why wouldn't I be interested in more money? If I were not stupid, why would I renounce what most people find enjoyable? What else do you call this but stupidity?
Q: We often see newspaper ads
promoting "offerings to the souls of aborted babies." Could we make offerings to
A: This can't be considered "offerings" because these souls are not a part of the Triple Jewel (the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha). It is a deviant idea to think so. Instead, we should say we are, "crossing them over [to the other shore of liberation.]" These souls have rather intense grievances and are difficult to liberate, however. Since we incurred this debt by taking away the lives of these babies, we must repay them with our own lives. However, if you meet a true cultivator who is not greedy for money, there may be an opportunity to cross these souls over.
Q: Many people give money to make
offerings to the souls of aborted babies. Will these offerings alleviate their
A: The enmity cannot be alleviated that way.
Q: Many people nowadays are making
money off of dead babies. Some Buddhists do not think it is wrong. What does the
Master think of this? Will the souls of these dead babies cause the parties
involved to become ill or to experience problems in other areas? Will they cause
so much fear in those who had abortions that fear becomes the reason why they
pay for these plaques for the deceased? What is the Master's view on this? Will
these souls cause trouble? What can we do to tame them? How can we bring them
A: Being alive in the first place would have been better than having plaques when dead. People should not have had abortions to begin with; abortion is a form of killing. If people did not kill, this extra step would be unnecessary. Setting up prayer plaques for these babies are just a superficial way to cover up the real cause of problem. Can these souls be crossed over? Can the debt be eliminated? It is not for sure. We should practice prevention instead of being sorry later. Don't use any contraceptives and have premarital sex. Why can't we wait? What is the rush? Why are we such gluttons? This is all because of our shamelessness.
Q: The Buddha said, "The
Buddhadharma is not apart from the worldly dharma." How can we integrate the
Budhadharma into our daily life?
A: By not fighting, not being greedy, not seeking, not being selfish, not pursuing self benefit, and not lying.
Q: Someone said that if we recite
the Great Compassion Mantra 108 times a day and do so consecutively for three
years, we will see some results. But I am quite busy with my work and can't
spend over one hour reciting the Great Compassion Mantra 108 times in one
sitting, is it okay for me to recite the mantra 108 times during different parts
of the day?
A: As long as you are sincere, everything is OK.
Q: Cockroaches and mosquitoes are
harmful insects that belong to one of the six paths. Could we kill them?
A: I am not a cockroach but I am a tiny mosquito. If you want to eliminate mosquitoes, you need to kill me first.
Q: I heard that Bhikshus can point
out Bhikshunis' faults, but Bhikshunis can't do the same to Bhikshus. Is this
oppression of women by men?
A: "[True] Dharmas are all equal, none of which is better or worse." Everyone is equal in Buddhism; no one ranks higher or lower. Here, if a Bhikshu makes a mistake, the Bhikshunis can point it out and when a Bhikshuni makes a mistake, the Bhikshus can do the same at any time. There is no oppression by either men or women. Even though men and women work separately and don't interfere with each other, they still regard each other with mutual respect. They don't try to dominate one another. If I make any mistakes, other people can point them out at any time.
Q: I work for a
poultry farm and can't change my job right away. How I can emulate Earth Store
Bodhisattva and turn the poultry farm into a monastery, thus liberating those
A: This is a dilemma. The best solution would be for you not to raise chickens but to raise human beings instead.
Q: Is the Western Land of Ultimate
Bliss the world that we now live in? Or does it exist in another place?
A: You can go and check it out for yourself if you want to know.
Q: I have been a Buddhist for four
or five years now. Why do demons and ghosts still follow me?
A: Because you are not sincere when bowing to Buddhas and that you have sown [unwholesome] causes for this effect that you now face. One can't escape the law of cause and effect. Even though you believe in the Buddha, you still have to face the consequences of what you have done. This is also why demons have come to punish you.
Q: Your disciples in the Gaoshong
area really need your guidance. May we ask the Venerable Master to build a
monastery at Gaoshong?
A: I do not have the capability to build a monastery. If anyone of you will be building a monastery, I can be a construction worker.
Q: Someone said that it's best to
recite the Shurangama Mantra before 5 a.m. Is it so?
A: As long as you recite the mantra, anytime is 5 o'clock in the morning.
Q: Please talk about awakening to
the views of Buddhas.
A: To awaken to the views of Buddhas is to know how Buddhas became Buddhas and to have wisdom like that of Buddhas. This is nothing too esoteric. We awaken to the views of Buddhas by imitating the Buddhas and practice the four qualities of the limitless mind: kindness, compassion, generosity, and equanimity.
Q: Not too long ago, one of my
relatives passed away. What should I do to help the deceased become liberated so
that he can be reborn?
A: I recently read a news article about a Colonel in Thailand who had died and returned to life three times. According to his experiences, the merit from donating to the Triple Jewel is limitless and it can help to liberate our immediate family and extended relatives. Therefore, we must, first of all, not do any evil and do only good deeds. This is the only way to liberate our family members and other relatives.
Q: How do we cut off our worldly
desires for fame, fortune, and sex?
A: They are cut off once we're dead.
Q: All conditioned dharmas are like
dreams and illusions, bubbles and shadows. So, what are Unconditioned Dharmas?
A: For a detailed description of the six Unconditioned Dharmas, you may check the Shastra on the Door to Understanding the Hundred Dharmas. The one hundred dharmas consist of: eleven Form Dharmas, eight Mind Dharmas, 51 Dharmas Interactive with the Mind, 24 Non-Interactive Activity Dharmas, and six Unconditioned Dharmas.
Q: How can we cultivate to escape
birth and death?
A: Eat, dress, and sleep.
Q: Venerable Master, since becoming
a monk, you have persevered in maintaining a life according to the precepts such
as "eating one meal a day" and "sleeping sitting up." Is it necessary for you to
suffer so much?
A: I want to save my food and my clothes for other living beings. I had made a vow: may I bear the sufferings of all living beings in the Dharma Realm.
Q: Master, since you still
reminisce about China, why did you establish your monasteries in the United
A: I have always been the one to take what others had abandoned and to go where others don't want to go. There are plenty of temples in Taiwan already.
Q: In your opinion, what is the
most serious issue that Taiwan faces?
A: People here are too extravagant! Extravagant and wasteful! They have too many "wants." How will they be able pay those things back in the future?
Q: Everyone is very curious about
your supernatural powers. We hear that you often cure the illnesses of your
A: Real cultivators do not talk about supernatural powers. Monastics only talk about the pursuit of great wisdom.
Q: It is said that Bhikshunis have
more precepts than Bhikshus. Isn't that inequality?
A: I will answer your question bluntly. At the most fundamental level, Bhikshunis are women. Women can give birth while men can't. Do you understand now?
Q: Please tell me how to deal with
karma that obstructs and controls me.
A: You can surrender to that obstructive karma.
Q: After taking refuge with the
Triple Jewel, could we still visit night spots and the like? A certain Dharma
Master said that it is okay as long as we pay for everything. Will the Venerable
Master please let us know if we violate the precepts by doing so?
A: Why do you still want to find your way to hell after you have taken refuge?
Q: While doing the morning
ceremony, I would recite Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's name. My body would sway left
and right or back and forth spontaneously. In this situation, is it okay to
meditate at home?
A: When your body sways like that, you are in danger of being possessed easily by flying spirits.
Q: Venerable Master, why do I
experience headaches, dizziness, the feeling that my body is swaying, and
shivering while reciting the Great Compassion Mantra or Shurangama Mantra?
A: Even the Great Compassion Mantra becomes ineffective because you have something wicked on your mind.
Q: Why does my body move and why do
I feel as if I am short of breath while reciting the Buddha's name and while
A: You are experiencing a demonic state.
Q: Goodness or evil depends on
one's thought. So when we do unwholesome deeds, they may be wholesome instead.
A: This could be a combination of good and evil. Some people do bad deeds with good intentions, such as the likes of Robin Hood who try to help the poor by killing the wealthy and fighting for justice. Although what they do is illegal, there is some goodness in what they do. There are many cases where wholesomeness contains unwholesomeness and vice versa.
Q: Would it be wholesome or
unwholesome if I were to steal from or swindle some people for money to donate
it to the Master for building monasteries?
A: That would be an impure seed. "Unwholesome causes bring about warped effects." The temples built with this kind of donation of yours would collapse very quickly.
Q: But I would have been the one
who had stolen the money, the Master did not do anything bad.
A: We cannot deceive the law of cause and effect.
Q: The cause and effect would be
A: You can't be deceptive even if they were yours. Also, precisely because they would be yours, you shouldn't try to be deceptive. [An example would be] to build temples with your winnings from gambling. Also, as Confucius had said:
Everyone wants to be wealthy and aristocratic;
But one should not keep what is gained illegally.
Everyone loathes poverty and lowliness;
But one should not desert what one has for illegal gains.
I would not forsake poverty and lowliness through illegal means; I would rather stay poor but content and at peace.
Q: Some people say that we can only
recite the Shurangama Mantra before 7 a.m. Is it okay to recite it after 7 a.m.?
A: I don't know what time it is in America when it is 7 a.m. here. What should we do since 7 a.m. in the United States is different from 7 a.m. in Taiwan?
Q: Is the practice of the mind-seal
transmitted by Dharma Master Qinghai correct?
A: Many people are misled by her because of their greed. If they were not greedy, she couldn't have held them spellbound.
Q: How do we become enlightened and
A: We will not have this thought when we are falling into the hells.
Q: Venerable Master, please tell us
what to do with deviant thoughts.
A: Don't entertain idle thoughts and you will not have deviant thoughts! If you keep having false thoughts, of course deviant thoughts will come one after another. You actually need to ask this question? You should reflect and ask yourself why you can't bring forth proper thoughts and enjoy deviant thoughts so much.
Q: Can lay people become paragons
A: Both members of the laity and the Sangha can cultivate to become paragons of virtue.
Q: Will animals be reborn after
A: This is the same theory as the reincarnation of people. We may be Chinese in this life but will come back as Americans in the next life, and Japanese after that; we are all capable of transmigrating anywhere. The spirits of animals also transmigrate; but each to a different life due to different karma, thoughts, and behavior.
Q: Will children of divorced
parents become successes?
A: Right! Don't you see that there are children with problems everywhere? Their parents are to be blamed for not being responsible enough to teach and discipline the kids. Children become wayward because there's no coordination between education at home and education at school. Both sides have failed. Kids are so controlled by television and computer that they lose their freedom. Freedom is widely touted in the western society; but in my view, this type of freedom is superstitious, misconstrued, unreasonable, and totally not free.
Q: Our parents gave us our bodies.
But should I be filial though they were cruel to me when I was young?
A: "The more they love you, the more they criticize you." Both of them had hoped that you would become a success. They were afraid that you would take the wrong path.
Q: As human beings, what is the
most important behavior for us to do?
A: It is to get rid of sexual desire. Don't indulge in it at such a young age. In the contemporary western society, most children aged seven or eight already know about sex. They will all become ghosts who are short-lived because their budding sprouts are cut before they become physically and mentally mature. Bad seeds can't be harvested.
Q: Why are women underprivileged?
A: Who says women are underprivileged? All the men in the world love women.
Q: The abnormal phenomena of
homosexuality and unwed mothers are causes for concern. How should parents
educate their children and themselves in the midst of such social disorder?
A: This is a very good question. The reason that the society is like this now is because "Fathers do not act like fathers and mothers do not act like mothers." Nowadays parents have children because they enjoy sex, not because they consider kids a priority. They only know how to make babies, but not how to teach them. Couples divorce on a whim; therefore children become fatherless and motherless. The real cause of these problems is that married couples don't know how to be married and parents don't know how to parent. The world would be free of these problems if parents would educate their children by following the example of Mencius' mother. She moved three times to find an environment suitable for her son's education.
Q: How should laypeople learn to
sleep while sitting up?
A: Laypeople should not prefer new things to old things. Just learn not to be naughty first.
Q: How did negative karma come
A: It comes from the greed for wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep. We create karma by being greedy for money, for sex, and for fame. We create even more karma by being greedy for food. We create the karma of stupidity by being greedy for more sleep.
Q: Isn't it greedy to be humble?
A: It does not hurt to have this kind of greed.
Q: Is the Buddhadharma that you
talk about inclusive, embodying all the various sects/schools of Buddhism?
A: That's the way it is if that's the way you think. If you want to exclude them, they're excluded; if you want to include them, they're included. This is not fixed. "The Buddha proclaimed Dharma with one sound, but different living beings understood differently." "Wise ones tend to see wisdom occurring; humane ones tend to see humaneness occurring. Profound individuals tend to see profundity while shallow individuals tend to see shallowness."
Q: If education were really
significant because it's about precepts, which are inherent to our minds and
wisdom, then is this idea the same as the Confucian idea that human nature is
A: You are inherently good if you don't do anything evil. If you do any evil, then, "Though our natures are similar, our habits are by far dissimilar."
Q: How do we improve our
relationships with people, especially not having others talk behind our backs at
A: If you didn't do anything bad, then the person who talks behind your back is wrong. But if you did do something bad so that it's a juicy topic for gossip, then the more they talk about you, the better.
Q: Dharma Master, what do you think
of this prediction: the human race will become extinct as a result of a major
disaster at the end of this century or the beginning of the next century?
A: Well, you should not come back in the next century. Why are you bothering with this? You may remember the events of this century, but you forget by the time that you are born in the next century. For instance, you remembered to ask this question now, but you will forget what you know in the next century. How is that useful?
Q: The number of calamities in the
world is on the rise. How do we eradicate them to help others and ourselves?
A: There would be no calamities if we were to not get mad, not fight, and not cheat and not hurt each other.
Q: How can I possess the ability to
select the right Dharma?
A: I don't have the ability to select the right Dharma either, so how can I tell you?
Q: Which is the best practice out
of the 84,000 Dharma doors? Which is the most supreme?
A: The most supreme Dharma door is one that you find most suitable; the weakest Dharma door is the one you find most useless.
Q: What is the
difference between prayer and Chan meditation?
A: If you think they're the same, then they are the same; and vice versa.
Q: The recitation of the
"Six-Syllable True Words" brings boundless merit and virtue. Furthermore,
Bodhisattvas from the Seventh Ground become a part of you. What is this about?
A: The recitation of the "Six-Syllable True Words" is not the only way to obtain boundless merit and virtue. One can also obtain them by not being greedy, not seeking, not being selfish, not pursuing personal advantage and not lying. Even though these actions will bring us merit and virtue, we should not be attached to them.
Q: Please tell me whether or not
Dharma Master Kuanjing is a disciple of Dharma Master Hsu Yun? Is what he wrote
in A Visit to the Land of Ultimate Bliss true?
A: I knew Dharma Master Kuanjing when I was at Nanhua Temple. He was a youngster then. I do no know whether he is a disciple of Elder Master Hsu Yun or not. He claims to be, though I have never heard the Elder Master mention him and I did not ask the Elder Master either. So, I can't answer your question without having the facts. However, A Visit to the Land of Ultimate Bliss is a fiction.
Q: I often feel so uneasy that I'm
restless whether sitting or standing. What should I do about it?
A: You should recite the Great Compassion Mantra, Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's name, and not lie.
Q: Where do good and evil come
A: They come from each living being's karma.
Q: Recently, Christians and
Buddhists are having frequent discussions on their similarities and differences.
They appear to be communicating and trying to understand each other. But I have
a question: can a religion really accept another religion unconditionally? For
example, can Catholics and Christians really believe that people will be saved
through religions other than faith in the "one and only true God?"
A: I can't answer this question categorically as I have not attended the meetings with these religious leaders and they have not attended our meetings either. If you really want to know the truth, you should invite all the leaders of all the major religions around the world for a conference. They should sit down and speak directly, openly, and publicly about how they feel. Ask them if they can really accept each other wholeheartedly. If these religious people discriminate against others, praising themselves and condemning others, they would be violating the spirit of their founders. The purpose for the founding of every major religion was not to fight with other religions and not to insist that they alone are right while others are wrong.
Another important point to pay attention to: It is now trendy for Christians and Buddhists to organize seminars for frequent exchange of ideas. However, we must verify whether these so-called Buddhist organizations can really represent Buddhism. Many phony groups pretend to be Buddhists to con the rest of the world. For example, some in the Secret School have contracted AIDS because they treat sex as child's play; also, some Buddhist monks in Japan marry. How can they be considered members of the Sangha? There are so many phonies in the West that we can't tell if they are legitimate, so we must observe them carefully. Can these Buddhists really speak on behalf of Buddhism? We should not be hoodwinked by them.
Q: Master, what is your view on the
styles of constructed temples?
A: I don't like gaudy temples painted red and green, like women with bright red lipsticks on. The basic rule for the construction of temples is that they be labor-effective and durable.
Q: What is your religion?
A: My religion is that of the principles of truth, of humans, of living beings, of the general public, and of wisdom.
Q: Buddhism says, "Fixed karma
means that it can't be changed." Will we definitely face the corresponding
retribution for the unwholesome karma that we've committed?
A: Even though it is said that fixed karma can't be changed, offenses can be eradicated if aided by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in samadhi. However, we must be extremely repentant, sincere, full of faith, and willing to change courageously. As the saying goes,
Anger and resentment can create
The dead can return to life.
If you think these words are false,
You should know that Buddhas never lie.
Serious offenses vanish the moment we repent. No matter how large our karmic debt, we could eradicate disasters and illnesses to befall us by setting our minds on enlightenment, regarding the Triple Jewel with great faith, and accumulating enough merit and virtue to make up for our mistakes.
Q: Why are there poor people?
A: Poor people do not have blessings in this life because in their previous lives they did not do good deeds to earn merit and virtue, they did not sow any roots of goodness, they always tried to take advantage of others, and they fretted over their gains and losses.
Q: Can we become enlightened though
we eat meat?
A: Anyone with a mouth so large as to be able to swallow a whole pig, lamb, or cow in one gulp can become enlightened. Except for those with such a big mouth, no one is guaranteed enlightenment.
Q: By praying, we already develop
inner spiritual energy that could benefit all things. So do we still need to do
good deeds on the outside?
A: Cultivation should be about a balance between developing inner merit and outward results. When we're doing external merit, we are not attached to the attainment of such merit. We can help ourselves by cultivating virtue within, purifying our thoughts, and lessening our desires. If we can stop being greedy, we will be helping others.
Q: What should we do if others
libel us when we try to serve our community?
A: Work even harder if people libel you when you work for the community. It's not really genuine service if you were to stop it because of libel.
Q: Most people say that you have
several kinds of supernatural powers?
A: I will not admit to it. It's just coincidental. Those who are meant to live will not die by asking me for help. Those who are meant to die will not live by asking me for help. Do you understand?
Q: Every Dharma Master stresses
that the name of the Buddha or Bodhisattva that he/she recommends is the best.
As beginners, which name is most suitable for us to recite?
A: "All the Buddhas in the ten directions and three times share the same Dharma body." The recitation of any Buddha's name is a path to the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Buddhas are equal; no particular one is true or false, alive or dead.
Q: Does everyone have the affinity
to become your disciple?
A: You have the affinity if you are sincere. Affinity will become no affinity if you're insincere. No affinity will become affinity if you're sincere.
Q: How do we be good monks and
A: Just don't violate the precepts! Why do you need to analyze the obvious?
Q: What is the difference between
learning one character a day and studying one character all day?
A: What is the difference between eating a meal and a meal which is being eaten?
Q: Is the study of martial arts and
Tai Chi helpful to Chan meditation and cultivation?
A: Everything is made from the mind alone. They are helpful as long as we know how to use them. Otherwise, they could be harmful. Excelling in martial arts helps us to concentrate and enter samadhi more easily. As long as we don't entertain idle thoughts, anything can be helpful to our cultivation.
Q: How do we train and test
A: You have too much time on your hands.
Q: 1. Can Buddhas and Bodhisattvas
shoulder living beings' obstructive karma? 2. How can we tell who is really a
A: 1. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have the power to acquit us of our crimes if we are willing to change. It is wrong to not reform but rely solely on the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for taking on our karma. 2. To know whether someone is truly a good teacher, just watch and see if he is into fighting, being greedy, and being selfish. Does he say things out of convenience, lying but claiming that he is being expedient? It doesn't make sense to call this kind of a person a wise advisor.
Q: How do we detach ourselves from
the mark of form?
A: Don't just throw out Buddhist cliches. Don't be all talk and no action.
Q: How do we help sick people?
A: You should cure your own sicknesses before you try to cure other people's sicknesses.
Q: How do I tell what kind of
illnesses are derived from obstructive karma?
A: This type of illness is strange, the onset of it happens all of a sudden without any apparent reason.
Q: Why do we doze off?
A: We doze off because we don't have enough energy, probably from the lack of sleep. We doze off because we can't sleep at night: men are thinking about women, women are thinking about men, and left-home people are thinking about food. This is nothing; it's very simple.
Q: "It is better to study nothing
for a day than it is to study wisdom for a thousand days." What does this quote
A: "Not knowing when to quit the studying of different terms, we only trap ourselves by counting sand in the sea." Who is learning wisdom for a thousand days? Who is learning nothing for a day? We should not keep on doing others' laundry.
Q: How do we eliminate the three
poisons of greed, anger and delusion?
A: Left-home people are eliminating greed, anger and delusion every day. How can you eliminate greed, anger, and delusion at once without even leaving home? If you really want to do it, you should learn from Mr. Pang by throwing all your valuables into the ocean. Can you do it?
Q: Single people can do that, but
it's impossible for people with a family. How are we helping others by throwing
our valuables into the ocean?
A: You are skeptical about Mr. Pang's enlightenment. He became enlightened because he was the dumbest person. You are way too smart.
Q: Master, I would like to know
what Buddhadharma really is.
A: The fact that you are asking this question is because of your Buddha nature. You would not be asking this question if it were not for your Buddha nature. You deserve to be hit 100 times for not knowing that this is the Buddha nature.
Q: Master, how do we say thank you
at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas?
A: People at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas do not say thank you. Whoever says so will be fined $500. I never say these two words, "thank you." That's why they say I only like to yell at people.
Q: What can we say to show respect?
A: You don't need to say anything, just do it.
Q: What are the advantages to being
a vegetarian? What are the disadvantages to being a non-vegetarian?
A: You lose out by being a vegetarian while alive. By being a non-vegetarian, you will lose out after death.
Q: I heard that you recently met
Vice President Bush of the United States, also one of the presidential
candidates in the next election. Did he ask you to predict his chances of
winning the election?
A: No. I just told him to be a good president and that it will be right for him to uphold the six ideals at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas: no fighting, no greed, no seeking, no selfishness, no pursuing personal advantage and no lying. He will be a good president by keeping to these six principles.
Q: Master, the main theme for this
Assembly is to protect the nation by reciting the Great Compassion Mantra. Can
you tell us your insight on this?
A: Guanshiyin Bodhisattva became a Bodhisattva with a thousand eyes and a thousand hands by the power of the Great Compassion Mantra. The Great Compassion Mantra possesses the wonderful power of the Dharma to penetrate heaven and earth. As long as we are sincere and committed, every disaster will become serendipity. Its wonder is indescribable and inexhaustible. During this tour, the Dharma-propagation group is reciting this mantra 'round the clock because it hopes to obtain some results. Everyone will have his/her wish fulfilled that way.
Q: How can we be free of anger that
comes from ignorance?
A: One must cultivate the practice of the paramita of patience and never get upset. This is the key: we become wiser by not getting upset.
Q: Those who have received the
precepts must uphold the precept of not killing. However, I have so many ants at
home that I would step on them by accident. I violate this precept every day.
Please tell me how to eradicate my offenses.
A: I am also a little ant and you should kill me first.
Q: I have killed more than ten
thousand dung beetles and earthworms before. How many times must I recite the
Rebirth Mantra before I clear my karma from killing?
A: Once is enough if you were to have put an end to your desire. Ten thousand times will not be enough if you have not put an end to your desire.
Q: If the nature of Bodhi is
inherently pure and complete, how does that thought of ignorance arise?
A: If you were free of ignorance, you would not be here.
Q: Venerable Master, with your
experience in cultivation, please tell us: how can I balance and resolve the
conflicts and frustrations from the meeting of my mind and various external
states (such as family, work, children, etc.), health, anxiety, and different
desires? Will the Venerable Master please provide an explanation that is more
adaptable and concrete. Don't use the traditional method of shoving things down
A: Just have no greed, anger, and delusion, that's all!
Q: Why would people improve if it
were not for greed? Why would people persist if it were not for deluded
attachments? Why would people be strong if it were not for the force from their
A: Don't get confused. To pick ourselves up when we're down is not greed; that is hard work. Delusion includes getting angry and doing stupid things such as playing the lottery, prostituting, and gambling.
Q: No more desire means no more
trouble. How would this world advance if there were no more desires? There would
be no more scientific and technological inventions. How do we control desire?
A: It is okay to invent things that help others but not the other way around. We are often remiss about what is beneficial and what is harmful. To invent things blindly creates suffering. For example, the pleasure of scientific invention has poisoned people and made them numb. What good is this type of invention?
Q: Given the prospect of Taiwan's
future, how should we cultivate to avert our collective karma?
A: Do not do anything evil and do everything that is good.
Q: Who are the original ancestors
of all sentient beings, including animals that fly and swim, flowers, grass and
A: The Buddha nature is our ancestor.
Q: Master, before you came here
last year, I dreamed of at least seven Honored Ones wearing red precept sashes
and hats embroidered with the image of five Buddhas descending from the heavens.
Even though I have dreamed of Buddha and Bodhisattvas before, I had never
dreamed of so many at one time. Please kindly accept my sincere bow and give me
A: Since you know about wearing the hat with the image of Buddhas, why don't you wear it now?
Q: When I attended last week's
session on reciting the Buddha's name, I actually wept. Master, was my crying
because I have a great deal of obstructive karma? I am just starting to study
A: You may have been crying because you had bumped into too many walls in the outside world. You were crying because you realized that to some extent.
Q: 1. How do I overcome my worries
and fears? 2. Will demons more readily test me because I recite mantras? Also,
will I more easily become greedy with the Dharma? How do I calm myself and
concentrate on reciting the Buddha's name?
A: 1. If you're scared for no reason, that is because you've got ghoul on your mind and in your heart. 2. Concentrate on reciting the Buddha's name and eat less!
Q: Will the Master please give me a
more clear definition on "greed," "anger," and "delusion"? Does the Master have
any greed, anger and delusion?
A: Why do you like to bother with other people's business? I did not order you not to have them. I just talked about them. Why are you questioning me?
Q: What does it mean by taking
refuge with the Sangha?
A: What is refuge with the Sangha? Let me ask you, who takes refuge with you? The Sangha consists of past and present sages and regular monks.
Let me first make this clear: I won't answer difficult questions because I don't have a great deal of wisdom. I also won't answer simple questions because I will be wasting other people's time.
Q: My older sister is close to a
deviant sect that cheats others by claiming to be the Dharma Protector of Earth
Store Bodhisattva. How can I help my sister to stay away from them?
A: She will turn around after you understand yourself.
Q: If the Buddhas were
compassionate and omnipotent, why is there still suffering (earthquake, fire,
war, famine, sickness, etc.) in the world?
A: According to your line of thinking, you would say that the Buddhas are not omnipotent or compassionate. I don't dare say that.
Q: Please tell us where the Dharma
Master will be going after your death?
A: There is nowhere to go.
Q: Why do we need to cut off our
sexual desire as we cultivate? How do we cut it off?
A: Why do you ask this question? Do you want to cut off your sexual desire? It would be way too easy if we were able to cut off sexual desire by asking one question. Let's not talk about you. It is not easy for many monastics to cut sexual desire, not to mention lay people. One question will not eliminate all sexual desires. People live and die for sexual desire. We came from our father's semen and mother's blood. Sex is the dirtiest. However, people nevertheless pursue it until they die. To get rid of desire, we must work hard on inward reflection.
Q: How do we transcend
the three realms and become liberated?
A: When you are not in the three realms, you have transcended them.
Q: Where does much of the suffering
A: From being attached to money, sex, fame, food, and sleep. Once we have let go of money, sex, fame, food, and sleep, we will be very relaxed. We'll feel like we're on cloud nine, happy and trouble-free.
Q: 1. I have a serious bone spur on
my neck and if I have it removed by surgery, I may be paralyzed. What type of
karma created this? 2. What kind of karma created depression that has led to
insomnia? How do I resolve this?
A: 1. You had killed people with guns, knives, swords, and spears. 2. Who told you to worry?
Q: How do I cultivate vigorously
A: By eating, sleeping, and playing mahjong.
Q: You mentioned "eating, sleeping,
playing mahjong" in your previous answer on how to cultivate vigorously and
advance. What did you mean? I am too stupid to understand the profundity of your
A: You don't understand even with your great wisdom? You obviously know that it's wrong, but you still do it. Most people need food and sleep, but if you want to transcend the worldly, you must let all this go. I don't dare call this Chan wit, but if you don't even understand my sarcasm, what else could you understand?
Q: Is it effective to have sutras
and mantras printed on fake money for the deceased and also to burn them?
A: The paper money turns into ash you burn it. How would I know whether ash is effective [as money in the underworld]? Let's suppose it is effective; so does that mean all the Westerners hungry ghosts are poor because they don't believe in burning paper money?
Q: Whenever I recite sutras and the
Buddha's name, my body will feel very hot and bloated. Are these symptoms a
result of the reawakening of the bugs of my self-nature?
A: You have these symptoms because you are uptight. You won't have that feeling if you were not nervous and pretentious.
Q: During the Venerable Master's
talk, you had mentioned the coming of Maitreya Buddha to this Saha world.
Approximately how long will it be before he gets here?
A: It is too long for me to count.
Q: Are arhats' segmented births and
deaths temporary or permanent? Is the enlightenment realized by preeminent
Sanghas of the past the same as that by Pratyekabuddhas and Arhats?
A: Have you ended your segmented birth and death? I don't know the answer to this at all, as I am neither an Arhat nor a sage.
Q: Does an eternal and absolute
truth exist in this universe? If so, what is this truth? I pray that the
Venerable Master will advise us out of compassion.
A: It is due to the Truth that you are able to ask me the question now.
Q: Morality, especially valued by
the Chinese, is fundamental to systems of belief. According to the teachings of
Buddhism, how should we handle the relationship between the mundane and the
A: By perfecting yourself on being human, you'll have an opportunity to become a Buddha. If you don't perfect yourself on being human, you are like a house without a foundation, which is not durable and can't be successfully built. Therefore, you must have a good moral character and virtue. Do your part well at home before you learn about leaving the householder's life. Don't try to escape at the last minute.
Q: Many people say this is the
Dharma-ending Age. Is there an exact period of time for it? For example, what
year during B.C.E. did it start?
A: Who knows so much? Your questions have reached the limits of my wisdom. However, you should know that, "People know whether the water is warm or cold by drinking it."
Q: My ears have been ringing and my
treatments for the last eight months have been ineffective. I also recite the
Great Compassion Mantra constantly, but my condition has not improved. Please
tell me what to do.
A: Why are you asking me instead of all these doctors in Taiwan? Just eat less food containing the fire element.
Q: A kind of "Contemporary Chan" is
popular now, their instructors teach mudras. I hear people achieve rather quick
results with this. Master, is it okay to learn this "Contemporary Chan?"
A: I am old fashioned and do not understand this contemporary question.
Q: How do we overcome our lack of
focus while reciting the Buddha's name? Which methods should I use?
A: You will not be scattered if you recite the Buddha's name more often! "Whether for one day, two days, three, four, five, six, or seven days, with one heart unconfused." Since you don't recite often enough, of course your mind is scattered.
Q: I have heard many people say
that cultivators are protected by many gods, dragons, and Dharma protectors.
Cultivators have many mystical experiences. May I ask the Master what kind of
mystical experiences or miracles have you encountered?
A: I have encountered many miracles, but I don't know about the eightfold heavenly dragons, ninefold earth dragons, or tenfold human dragons.
Q: What health condition is
ill-suited for bowing to the Buddhas?
A: All animals and hungry ghosts are suited to bow to the Buddhas. I don't know what kind of condition you have.
Q: Are we retreating if we
surrender to karmic obstacles?
A: Why do you surrender to them?
Q: There are two possible reasons
why people insult me: 1. I had insulted them in a past life and so they insult
me in this life. 2. They are sowing bad causes now. How should I think about
A: It's okay for you to think that you are facing the consequences. You can't imagine that other people are sowing negative effects for the future. If you have that thought, you will be developing your unwholesomeness. Even if they were really sowing unwholesome causes, don't think about it that way. In so thinking you will have sown some unwholesome causes too. Therefore, this is not a good method. It's no problem if you just don't think about it.
Q: I have so many false thoughts,
what should I do?
A: You should recite the Buddha's name more often.
Q: Is the so-called possession by
Bodhisattvas or spirits real? Is it evil?
A: Didn't I mention earlier that there are all kinds of ghosts, spirits, demons, and ogres? Whether you recognize them or not depends on whether you have wisdom.
Q: I don't know how to proceed with
and apply the Chan meditation koan, "Who is mindful of the Buddha?"
A: You should investigate, "Who is mindful of the Buddha?" instead of asking it. Investigation is like drilling a hole; we will understand when we drill through. Before you do, you will not understand by asking the question. This is the Dharma door of, "When the path of language is cut off and the places for the mind are extinguished." No one can describe it. What others can tell you is usually phony.
Q: Venerable Master, could you
provide some instructions for your disciples in Taiwan during this visit?
A: For peace in this country and the world, we must have a foundation of decency between men and women. How can the world be at peace if husbands, wives, and children do not act their parts? I beseech husbands and wives to live up to their responsibilities, take good care of their children, and do not get a divorce. Once we have harmony in our families, there will be peace in our country. Furthermore, I must ask you not to have abortions. Just think, so many unborn babies become angered souls; many little ghosts are seeking opportunities to return to life everywhere. Consequently, how can a society be peaceful? These baby ghosts are hard to deal with and only virtuous people who are not greedy for money can liberate them. How could it be peaceful when karmic offenses are being committed everywhere?
Q: Venerable Master, you said that
China will improve after it reaches its worst. Exactly how long will that take?
A: There is no set time as it all depends on people's minds. We need to see what the Chinese people will do.
Q: As an overseas Chinese, I often
want to help China but find myself helpless. Please tell me what I can do for my
fellow citizens in China.
A: You should try your best to do good deeds. You should not be narrow-minded and think only about helping Chinese people or certain individuals. You should help anyone who experiences hardship and difficulties. More importantly, do not get upset. You are helping China by being a good person and by changing your behavior. Since you are Chinese, your good behavior will add to China's integrity.
Q: Why does Buddhism encourage
A: Those who eat meat have strong desires while vegetarians have less. Jesus did not necessarily teach people to be vegetarians. Some religions allege that all creatures are made for the human race, so it is reasonable for people to eat meat. However, Buddhism believes in compassion and treating all living beings as if everyone were the same. Buddhism maintains that we should avoid killing and protect life because we see all living beings as having the Buddha nature and all can become Buddhas.
Q: Where did human beings come
A: Have you seen those bugs in rice containers? Those bugs appear all of a sudden and we don't know where they came from. In the same way, people are born from true emptiness.
Q: How do we, especially laypeople,
rein in our minds while living among the six kinds of defilements? What kind of
Dharma door should we maintain in a society full of temptations?
A: Use the Dharma door that requires you to be strong and not to be enticed by the external environment. Tell yourself not to be affected by anything. This is not really a Dharma door. No mantra can make you unaffected by others; no sutra can lock down your wild monkey-mind. We must work hard on our own and set some goals. Ten thousand Dharmas are made from the mind alone. If you don't want to be influenced, no one can move you.
Q: Master, how do I deeply feel the
pain caused by the wheel of life and death? How do I bring forth the resolve to
A: How can I make you feel pained when you don't?
Q: 1. Do we have to leave the
home-life to recite the Buddha's name? 2. Please explain to us what kind of
desire and love should we be cutting off. Is it love between husbands and wives?
Love for our parents and friends? 3. Is it worthwhile to recapture the good
relationship between a man and a woman after one party has changed his/her mind?
Is it okay if one person really wants to get back together? How does one try to
get the relationship back?
A: 1. Why would we have to leave the home-life to recite the Buddha's name? If this were the case, what would we recite after leaving home? 2. I don't know how to go 'round and 'round. 3. I don't have any experiences with this issue and can't give you a good solution.
Q: It is generally said that the
precepts help us enter samadhi and develop wisdom. Why does the Chan school only
talk about cultivating a balance of samadhi and wisdom until we perfect our
enlightenment and conduct?
A: They can say whatever they want. It is also okay for some to talk only about precepts, or samadhi, or wisdom. It is not definite. It all depends on each individual's goals and principles. There is no set standard.
Q: Human beings are so tiny in
comparison with the universe, and yet we lord over the universe. What is the
tiniest thing there is?
A: Human beings are not tiny and the universe is not huge.
Q: In your poem, "White Universe,"
there is a phrase, "One breaks the cover of empty space with two fists." What
does it mean?
A: There is no meaning to it. If it means anything, the cover of empty space would not be broken.
Q: While meditating, what should we
A: Nothing specific. "Give rise to the mind that is nowhere dwelled." If there is anything specific, then you would be dwelling there. Dwell nowhere; don't think about good or bad. This is where you want to do some serious work.
Q: Do insentient beings possess
A: Go ask insentient beings this. Since I am not one of them right now, how can I know whether they have prajna!
Q: Do we need to have all the right conditions before leaving the home-life?
A: What kind of conditions? I don't understand this question of yours. I didn't have any right conditions when I became a monk.
Q: Can we offer music with Sanskrit
lyric to the Buddhas?
A: Anything is fine. Anything that you like can be offered to the Buddhas.
Q: Since everything is equal
according to Buddhism, people and dogs should be equal too. Why are people and
A: Could you call a dog "Daddy"?
Q: Master, please be compassionate
and save my daughter Lin Wan Rong. She was born at 10:13 a.m, on January 29th
(according to the lunar calendar), 1963. She was diagnosed with hereditary weak
metabolism, which has affected her bones and heart.
A: When I was in Hong Kong, there was a five-year-old child who couldn't walk. His mother brought him to my Buddha hall in the mountains every day to bow to the Buddhas. After half a year, he was well without having to take any medication. Please ask the person who bowed to the Buddhas. I don't understand it.
Q: Vegetables have life too. Are we
killing plants by eating them?
A: I don't eat meat to avoid killing. If eating vegetables is another form of killing, I would not eat them. What else is there to eat? Many people have asked me this question a long time ago. Even though vegetables have life, they don't have much wisdom and don't run away when you try to eat them. They have life to them but they have nowhere to run and they aren't scared either. Look at the mosquito that's sucking your blood: it will escape as soon as you move. When you kill it, you are committing the offense of killing.
Q: My husband is having an
extramarital affair. What should I do?
A: Recite the Heart Sutra more often.
Q: Why does the dead bleed from the
nose when he/she sees family members? What is the reason for it?
A: You should ask a doctor.
The Vajra Strikes: Part 2
A Collection of Q & A's with the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Q: Why are there
A: The demons in our self-nature attract the ones outside. The demons of our self-nature are greed, anger and delusion. They are the poisons of our self-nature and attract external demons.
Q: How can we avoid meeting any
obstacles as we study Buddhism?
A: We will encounter obstacles when studying Buddhism. The difference lies with your power of samadhi. If you were to have the powers of samadhi and wisdom, you would be able to resolve quite easily any problem that comes your way. It would not become a problem for you. If you were extremely stupid, a mosquito bite is a problematic for you and a punt by a fly is problematic for you.
Q: Someone says that so-and-so is a
devil and that he should be kicked out.
A: It's precisely because he's awful that I'm trying to teach and transform him. I'll leave the good people for that "someone" to convert.
Q: How do I get rid of the quandary
that's been on my mind for a long time?
A: Did you see that person just now? He is full of greed, anger, and delusion. He spoke Dharma for us by appearing.
Q: Birth, old age, sickness, and
death in our present life are weighed down by the obstructive karma from our
past lives. Most people do not know that the problems that they experience are a
result of unwholesome deeds that they've done in their lives gone by. Such
people always feel that they get sick for no reason. Isn't this a rather severe
punishment for these people?
A: Who told you to be born as a human being?
Q: Christianity talks about how
people join their family members in heaven after they die. What does Buddhism
say about this?
A: Since they can reunite in heaven, how do you know they will not have a reunion in hell?
Q: What's the difference between
saving human beings, ghosts, and demons?
A: Why would you ask if they were the same?
Q: 1. How can we be good laypeople
who balance their work and cultivation? 2. Can lay cultivators have romantic
A: Quit acting like a monk if you want to be a layperson. Quit acting like a layperson if you want to be a monk. You can't have your cake and eat it too.
Q: How can we bring peace to our
A: We should start with education, teaching children to be filial to their parents and be loyal to their country.
Q: According to Buddhist
scriptures, Lord Shakra of the Triyastrimsha Heaven is the same as the Jade
Emperor that Taoists talk about. However, Taoists rejects this parallel. Taoists
say that the Jade Emperor and all Daluo Golden Immortals are outside of the
wheel of birth and death, therefore it's impossible for them to be in the Realm
of Desire and to wage war against asuras. Will the Venerable Master please tell
us the truth?
A: This issue is an unsettled lawsuit. An idiom goes, "An honorable judge can't settle family affairs." Well, this Dharma Master can't settle such religious affairs. Each religion claims that it is the best as it espouses its own principles. Actually, they're trying to scratch an itch on their foot through their boots. They're like the blind men who were feeling the elephant to figure out what it looked like. Do they know how tall, how big, and what color is the Jade Emperor? Do I know? Do you know? I believe there is no proof to any of this.
Q: Where did Guanshiyin Bodhisattva
A: Ask yourself where you had come from.
Q: May I ask if I should recite one
mantra or many mantras? Which mantra is more beneficial?
A: You can't benefit from them. They are equal, not better or worse. One is many and many are also one. You must concentrate when you recite many mantras so that they will be efficacious. If you can concentrate on just one mantra, then it can be more efficacious too. It is because you're greedy that you say you want to recite more mantras or Sutras. Greed is the trouble-maker.
Q: How do we handle being reborn?
A: How can you be reborn anywhere when you carry so much garbage with you?
Q: What was the Buddha's attitude
A: One of compassion, joy, generosity, and equanimity.
Q: Every time the United States
became involved in a war, there were always anti-war demonstrations. Master,
what is your view on war protests?
A: War protests are just another war. Soldiers used to be anti-war demonstrators.
Q: How do we support Buddhism?
A: To support Buddhism, you should make some quiet observations. Proceed if the act will lead you to enlightenment; otherwise, back away. Sometimes you create merit and virtue by donating money; but sometimes you create offenses by doing so. You should think things over.
Sangha members cannot have money; once they do, they will disobey their code of regulations. With your financial help, they will overeat, drink, prostitute, and gamble. Give them more money and they will return to lay life. Without your help, they would have continued to cultivate. In particular, it's enough that Sangha members who live alone just get an adequate amount of food.
Q: I am so stupid! 1. I can't
penetrate my own mind. 2. If I am not careful, I fall asleep when I meditate.
How do I overcome these two problems?
A: 1. It is not so easy to penetrate it (especially in only two or three days). 2. It is better to be asleep than to be false thinking.
Q: Is there any difference between
your method of meditation and that of Ajahn Sumedho? If so, how are they
A: "There is only one path at the source, but there are many expedient entries." For instance, people's faces look differently; but we are all people and our minds are the same. You can't make everyone uniform in every respect. The same principle applies here.
Q: Buddha talked about having less
desire. Please give us a clear explanation on this.
A: We're content if we have fewer desires. We're always happy if we're content. If we're always happy, then, no more worries!
Q: Does fate really exist? Do
people have the ability to control their own fate?
A: Superior individuals know that they can create fate.
I determine my own destiny and acquire my own blessings.
Disasters and blessings enter only because people sought them out;
Wholesome and unwholesome retributions, however, follow us around like shadows.
Superior people create and change their
destiny whereas most average people think that everything is predestined. If you
have faith and perseverance, you can leap from the level of an average person to
the level of a Buddha. If everything were predestined, we could very well get
our fortune read before we even start to study Buddhism just to see if we have a
chance at becoming Buddhas. None of the fortunes and misfortunes in our lives
are set in stone. If you are an extremely good person or an extremely bad
person, your destiny will be different from the average person because what you
have done has gone beyond the bounds of an average person.
Q: How do we pay off our debts?
A: Dedicate the merit and virtue that you develop to your debtors so that they may leave suffering, attain bliss, and leave the cycle of life and death. We have to settle our debts.
Q: When we hear a nice song, can we
offer it to the Buddhas or Bodhisattvas? How do we offer it?
A: You can sing it, but you need to be sure that it isn't sexy. It has to be proper. At the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, we also present Buddhist songs to the Buddhas. For example, the praises that we sing before the Buddhas are songs of offering. The Dharma Flower Sutra makes it very clear that melodic songs and incantations can be offerings for Buddhas.
Q: How do people who work in the
area of law save others?
A: They must be fair, incorruptible, and accept no bribes as they serve the public.
Q: My entire body aches with pain
and from sickness, what should I do?
A: Our body is not real. Cultivators do not ask for a healthy body. We become greedy with desire when we're robust.
Q: How do we maintain the mind that
is unaffected and "just as it is" at all times?
A: "Just as it is" means that it is in accord with the Dharma and the rules. To not accord with the Dharma means to act against the rules. "Just as it is" means being unaffected; by being unaffected, we can be "just as it is." If we are affected, we don't even need to talk about being "just as it is."
Q: It just so happens that the
third week of next month will be the Master's birthday. Could we hold a birthday
celebration for you?
A: You could celebrate my birthday by reciting the names of Earth Store Bodhisattva and Guanshiyin Bodhisattva 10,000 times every day. Can you do it? This would be a real birthday celebration. Birthdays are better left to the gods than to people.
Q: Will the Master please be
compassionate and teach us?
A: Recite the Buddha's name more often!
Q: We own some businesses in
Taiwan. How will the political situation affect us? What is the future in
investing in mainland China?
A: As businessmen in Taiwan, you should love and be loyal to that country. Use your wisdom in running businesses to help the country. Many people in Taiwan have lots of assets, but few are patriotic. The Taiwanese who invest in China are speculating and not being patriotic. Doing business that requires no capital during this sensitive time means that there's the danger of losing everything.
Q: I heard that the Venerable
Master always sit up to rest instead of lying down? How did you learn to do it
and what is the purpose?
A: Nobody told you that I always lie down to rest instead of sitting up? There is no set rule for this. If you want to sit, then you sit; if you want to lie down, then you lie down. It does not matter whether others say you are sitting up or lying down. Why should we be attached to something like this? Anything that we're attached to becomes a burden to us. The important thing for us cultivators is not to be troubled at any time, whether sitting up or lying down. It is important to get rid of afflictions.
Q: Is Guanshiyin Bodhisattva in
your range of consideration?
A: Who said he is not?
Q: The Dharma Flower Sutra says
that we could get rid of greed, anger, and delusion by reciting Guanshiyin
Bodhisattva's name often. Please tell me how to recite his name for immediate
results? (An employee of China Airlines asked this question.)
A: By flying.
Q: 1. How do we make ourselves
becomes bold and vigorous? 2. How do I overcome the habit of eating well and
sleeping well? (A beautician asked these questions.)
A: 1. By beautifying yourself. 2. By not eating, which will lead to not sleeping. The less you eat, the less you sleep.
Q: How do I start to recite,
memorize, and understand the three Sutras of Shurangama, Flower Adornment, and
Dharma Flower? With which Sutra should I start first?
A: You can start with any of these Sutras. Their Dharma is equal; there's no better or worse. If you think to make a choice, then you are having idle thoughts and essentially, you don't understand these Buddhist Sutras. Learn the Sutra that you want to learn, there's no particular order.
Q: What does it mean by this
saying, "We should give rise to the mind that is nowhere dwelt?"
A: Tell me, first of all, where is your mind?
Q: What is the difference between
entering samadhi and sleeping?
A: During samadhi, you are very aware while you're sitting straight up. Your body does not move around and your head does not lower or tilt. This is the state of being still and yet always reflecting, reflecting and yet always still. When asleep, you are not at all aware, you snore thunderously, and your position is completely the opposite.
Q: What is delusion?
A: Delusion is when we don't feel that we're deluded.
Q: Venerable Master, what should we
do with the rest of our life so that we may leave suffering and death and at the
same time live happily?
A: You will be happy if you are not afflicted. You're unhappy because of your greed and discontentment.
Q: How do I get rid the unwholesome
karma from my past, accumulate wholesome karma, and realize Buddhahood soon?
A: You should do nothing evil and do everything that is good.
Q: I am the only one in the family
who is studying Buddhism. How can I eliminate the obstacles so that the entire
family become Buddhists and benefit from the Dharma?
A: Just do things sincerely and they will naturally be moved to change.
Q: Why did you say that
contemporary Taiwan is similar to the era of Ling An during Southern Song
A: At that time, those generals and high-ranking officials did not get along, which led to the fall of the country. In this small country, two political parties are now fighting each other and everyone from top to top is in it for their own interests. The Democratic Progressive Party and the Nationalist Party compete in every respect; they fight like barbarians. And as the saying goes, "That which is valued by those above is valued even more by those below."
Q: Under such circumstances, what
can we do now?
A: You should be virtuous. "No fighting, no greed, no seeking, not being selfish, no self benefiting, and no lying" are essential principles for human beings, the foundation for cultivators, and the keystone for politicians. If the latter can act according to these principles, they can take care of the Communist Party. The Communist Party has been successful in taking advantage of people's greed. They claim that China has no class that is rich or poor, but the reality is that they don't practice what they preach; members of their elite are as wealthy as kings. Bribery, corruption, and bureaucracy are rampant within the Communist Party. Money is their motivator; underground connections is their mode of operation. Everyone of them is extremely greedy and ambitious. In summary, harmony will be ideal for both sides; destruction will ruin both.
Q: Some people say that the Dharma
Master is a monk who interferes with politics.
A: I feel that Taiwan may be in a dangerous situation, but most people are still in the dark. Being Chinese, I have to do something about it. People with power can't stop me from saying what I want to say. For example, when I said "contemporary Taiwan is like Southern Song," people only look down, but not ahead.
Q: What are your vows?
A: Buddhism in China is generally conservative. I want Buddhist Sutras translated into English. Why are Catholicism and Christianity so prevalent? It is because they have translated the Bible into different languages. If Buddhism can have all the Sutras translated into different languages, it will not lose out to Catholics and Christians. I am ready to integrate every religion at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Every religion may conduct their services in the new temples we plan to build. By being inclusive, I believe sectarian thinking will diminish.
Q: What are the qualifications to
becoming your disciples?
A: You must change yourself.
Q: What should I do if I want to
recite Sutras but I don't have a Buddha statue in the house?
A: You must first learn how to read if you want to recite Sutras. Once you can read, you can naturally recite Sutras.
Q: Can bows completed on a bowing
pilgrimage be counted toward the 10,000 bows that we must do? (Editor's note:
The Venerable Master required that anyone who takes refuge with him must bow
A: I asked you to bow 10,000 times for taking refuge with the Triple Jewel, but you try to negotiate and pull numbers from here and there. This is not a business and you are not paying off a loan. If you can't complete the bows, you are not sincere enough. We are not bargaining over prices.
Q: If no one were to make any
donations, where would you get food to sustain you?
A: In that case, I might as well starve to death.
Q: I can't keep a vegetarian diet,
but can I still recite the Great Compassion Mantra? The Theravadan monks sustain
themselves by going on alms rounds and eat whatever they receive. Why must we be
A: When you eat meat, you should ask yourself, "How would I feel if other people were to eat my flesh?" "Do not do onto others what we do not want done to us." You should also ask yourself, "Why can't I be a vegetarian when many people are? Why do I have to give in to meat?" The Sutras do not give any detailed explanation as to whether one may be a non-vegetarian and still recite the Great Compassion Mantra.
Q: Must we transfer our merit after
reciting a Sutra?
A: Transference is an attachment to marks; non-transference is also an attachment to marks. Anyone with attachments will not resonate with the Buddhadharma.
Q: How do I cultivate "dwelling on
no false thinking within; being untouched by the six objects of defilement
A: By not getting married and leaving home.
Q: Proper Dharma exists when we
protect the Shurangama Sutra and to recite the Shurangama Mantra. How many time
should I recite this mantra?
A: As many times as you would like.
Q: What is karma?
A: Karma is a burden on people, their lives, and their spirits. We store our karma in our warehouse that is the field of the eighth consciousness. Neither large nor small, this warehouse is possessed with supernatural powers, being able to contain heavy or light loads of karma. It does not make the distinction between yours versus mine. No one can steal, rob or take karma away from you.
Q: I read this line in a magazine,
"If we can't become Buddhas from studying Buddhism in this lifetime, then we
have not been studying correctly." What is the Master's opinion with regard to
A: If you have been studying incorrectly, then learn what is correct! "We should not have any books if we believe in them entirely." I don't know about magazines and I can't write articles. I'm no expert when it comes to magazines because I have no time to read them.
Q: I have worked hard my entire
life, so why doesn't my son listen to me and respect me?
A: It is because you are too obedient. You did not work too hard in your previous life. "To suffer is to end suffering; to enjoy your blessings is to use them up." You should acknowledge that you owe him and that you have to pay your dues. If you don't pay back your debts, your debtors will come knocking on your door every day, asking for their remuneration.
Q: How should I cultivate every day
in order to leave birth and death?
A: Cultivation is about "watching our every move; staying close to home (the mind) whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down."
Q: What is the source of greed,
anger, and delusion? Is it because of unwholesome karma from our past or from
the absence of cultivation now?
A: All of the above. Anyway, it will be okay if you can get rid of them. It would be useless if you don't get rid of them but only ask about their origin.
Q: Master, what is your view on
spiritual penetration? Do you have any?
A: What spiritual penetration? I don't even have ghostly penetration, let alone spiritual penetration. I don't talk about spiritual penetration, only wisdom. Intuition or foresight could be a result of your wisdom, and not spiritual penetration. Our spirit has incredible power. If you behave properly and follow the rules, you will naturally have that wisdom after some time. Spiritual penetration is just some minor trick developed on our spiritual path; it's not worth mentioning. Don't think it is something special. People who really cultivate do not pay special attention to it and do not reject it either. It's just a natural tendency.
Q: Many people don't see any
results from their cultivation despite having done so for a long time. Is the
Buddhadharma not working? Maybe the Sutras and mantras don't have the power to
make miracles happen?
A: That's not it. It is because you are not sincere. You cultivate in a sloppy manner and only go through the motions. You simply do what everyone else does. You haven't been sincere.
Q: Which Sutra is suitable for
A: Any Sutra is suitable.
Q: When my parents passed away in
mainland China, I wasn't able to visit their gravesite. Am I right in thinking
that they wouldn't receive the effect of my bowing to the Buddhas here in
A: If you are sincere, they will receive the effect no matter how far away. If you are insincere, they will not receive anything even if they were right before your eyes.
Q: Please describe the spirit of
Venerable Master Hsu Yun.
A: He did not sleep.
Q: Can Buddhist disciples eat eggs?
A: Why bother asking me this question when you know you simply have a yen for rich foods?
Q: Why can't vegetarians eat eggs?
A: Eggs hatch without a rooster or a hen. Not knowing about this before and without any proof, people used to say that eggs do not hatch without chickens to roost them. Why do people who eat eggs have this theory? It is because they want to eat eggs. Chickens lay eggs with or without the rooster. The Shurangama Sutra tells us that "eggs are created by thought alone."
Q: What is the difference between
Buddhism, Taoism and the Heavenly Way?
A: Buddhism is Buddhism; Taoism is Taoism; and the Heavenly Way is the Heavenly Way. Their names already indicate their difference.
Q: Are Taoism and Buddhism in the
A: Are Chinese and Americans all human beings?
Q: What is the difference between
Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism? Are they the same?
A: One represents elementary-level curriculum on morality; one represents secondary-level curriculum on morality; and one represents university-level curriculum on morality. The university curriculum tells you to take refuge with the Triple Jewel: the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Don't forget the Triple Jewel. The secondary level curriculum tells you to take refuge with your essence, energy, and spirit. Don't expend them carelessly. Beginners are taught to perfect the ways of being human.
Q: Is there any difference between
Taoism and Buddhism?
A: Taoism only goes halfway, whereas Buddhism takes it to the ultimate end. You don't really understand the Buddhadharma if you don't understand Taoism. You don't really understand Buddhism if you only understand Taoism. Taoism is only the beginning one or two steps; it only reaches the halfway mark.
Q: Where do Buddhism and Taoism
A: Tell me the differences between old, middle-aged, and young people. Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism are in the same family, but respectively, one is a child, one is an adult in the prime of his life, and the other an old person. Would they understand the way each other think?
Q: Why am I chronically ill? What
should I do about it?
A: Your health condition is poor because you had killed many living beings in your previous lives.
Q: What's the fastest route to
Buddhahood? How should we study? Which Sutra or mantra should we recite? Which
Dharma should we cultivate?
A: You should recite the Sutras of not getting angry, not getting upset, and not scolding people. You will become a Buddha quickly with these three Sutras.
Q: How do we put an end to lust,
including thoughts of lust?
A: It will end if you don't think about it! How can it end if you are thinking about it? "Become aware of the thought as it arises; it disappears as soon as you are aware of it."
Q: How do we use mantras against
different evil spirits?
A: The spells of some non-Buddhists, ghosts, and demons could sometimes make your head or tooth ache, or eyes sting. Sometimes they could make you immobile, dizzy, insane, or talk gibberish. If you were to recite a mantra, you could break their spells and render them ineffective. The mantras are not meant for you to assault those evil spirits for no reasons.
Q: Is it a must to contemplate
while reciting mantras and the Buddha's name?
A: You will have fewer stray thoughts if you contemplate; otherwise, you will have more stray thoughts.
Q: Master, you had said that we
would see some results after reciting the Great Compassion Mantra for three
years. Please tell me what kind of wonderful mental state exists at the end of
those three years?
A: Ask me this question after you have recited the Mantra for three years.
Q: While I'm reading Buddhist
scripture, I will recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva at the same time. Am
I not concentrating?
A: It's fine as long as you are concentrating! Why ask about it?
Q: At Chang Geng Hospital in Linko
(Taiwan), I saw the Master beat a patient over the head with your cane. What was
that supposed to mean?
A: I did not like the looks of this sick patient, so I hit him.
Q: Master, in your Dharma talks,
you told us to study Chan samadhi. We really want to learn, but you will be
going back to the U.S. shortly. We will not have an opportunity to learn from
A: If you have enough faith, I can teach you every day, not only while in Taiwan, but from the U.S. also.
Q: What is the meaning of life?
A: Hurry up and die if you feel life is meaningless. If you feel that there is meaning to your life, then that means everything.
Q: Can laypeople be delivered from
birth and death?
A: You make your own observations. If laypeople can be delivered from birth and death, you don't need to ask me about it. If they cannot be delivered from the cycle of birth and death, you don't need to ask me about it either.
Q: Why do people worship the Monkey
King instead of the Great Master Hsuan Zhuang of the Tang Dynasty? Did the
Monkey King really exist?
A: People like the Monkey King because of his golden baton, his ability to do summersaults and travel to the heavens and hells. The characters of the Monkey King, the pig, and the novice monk really did exist, but as invisible spirits who protected the monk of Tang Dynasty whilst he traveled to India for Sutras. They were not visible to ordinary people. They were spirits without physical form.
Q: My younger sister is suicidal.
She behaves strangely and talks nonsensically at school. My family helped her by
crossing over her debtors. Though her condition has improved, she still relapses
on a regular basis. Does the Master have a way to cure her?
A: She should recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva with real sincerity.
Q: Someone told me that my younger
brother is a jinx to my mother. He will be a threat to her life and that he
should not live under the same roof as my mother. Is there a way to solve this
A: I don't understand these problems, as I am a monk, not a street quack.
Q: National Master Yulin refused to
return to laylife to get married. I don't agree with his decision. Master, what
is your view on this?
A: I don't concern myself with this kind of things as a monk. Please do not ask me about the things that you do: getting married, having children, etc.
Q: Why is it that people in Taiwan
use money as a measure for judging which Buddhist has cultivated well or poorly?
How do we find the real path to Buddhahood?
A: The real path to Buddhahood is the poorest. Such Buddhists are not interested in money; they don't want it.
Q: A friend of mine lost his vision
due to an automobile accident. Many famous doctors couldn't help him. Master,
please give me some pointers as to how she can recover completely. Thank you!
A: You must recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva. There is a four-line verse in "Guanyin Bodhisattva's Universal Door Chapter," that goes,
Your sun-like wisdom shatters darkness.
Immaculate, your virgin light unfurls.
To quell disasters, winds and storms and fires.
A universal light for all the world.
The automobile accident happened because of cause and effect. Your friend probably had blinded someone's eyes or had damaged the eyes of a bird or an animal that he had been trying to kill. Therefore, he suffers this retribution in this lifetime. That's all there is; it's nothing unusual.
Q: Please tell me how a beginner
should be studying Buddhism? How do we choose the right place for cultivation
and wise advisors? How do we judge whether a dharma is proper?
A: There is no one right way. You have to have the ability to choose the proper Dharma for yourself. If the Dharma is genuine, you should not treat it as if it were false; and if false, you shouldn't treat it as if it were genuine. That would be enough.
Q: How can someone
learning about Buddhism calm his mind and have a sense of peace in mind?
A: Why don't you first take out your mind to show it to me?
Q: What are the conditions for
leaving the householder's life?
A: There are no special conditions except: to be vigorous and make progress, not to be lazy, not to spend one's life by waiting around for the next meal, not to take advantage of relationships, and not to wait around for donations.
Q: Can people be possessed by
A: Please ask someone who is possessed by a spirit this question. I am not possessed by spirits. Even if I knew the answer, I would not talk about this.
Q: Master, what motivated you to
become a monk in the first place?
A: Why do you want to know about my becoming a monk? You want to dig to my roots that have been long gone.
Q: My second question is, why is
your Dharma name Hsuan Hua?
A: Why do you want to know about my name? This is a ghost from hells!
Q: There are many things in this
world that you won't get if you don't fight for them. But the Master talks about
"no fighting, no greed, and no seeking." How should we give and take here?
A: When it is mealtime, we should eat; otherwise, we should not eat.
Q: How do we develop our children's
A: If you were not deluded, you would give birth to children with wisdom.
Q: Master, please have pity and
compassion for me. My entire body aches from illnesses. I have not recovered
despite having undergone several operations. I have a broken family. I have gone
through so many tragedies in my life. I beg that the Master advise me. I hope
that I will be blessed by sunshine. Amitabha Buddha.
A: Amitabha Buddha! Why ask me about this when you're the one who have slaughtered a huge number of pigs?
Q: Why don't Buddhists understand
the Proper Dharma but pursue psychic powers zealously? How come today's
Buddhists actually care even more about money?
A: Because people nowadays have fallen prey to the poison of money.
Q: Why isn't there a Dharma Realm
A: The demons are like bandits. They wander everywhere like a team of guerillas, having no permanent place to live or anyone to manage them. Demons are a grouping similar to bandits. Bandits are human beings, but since not everyone is a bandit, there is no realm for bandits.
Q: What is more important, to save
myself or others? Which is of higher priority?
A: Neither one is more or less important; they're of equal importance. It is a mistake on your part to want to differentiate them by order of importance.
Q: When I recite the Buddha's name,
I sometimes forget everything, including breathing. Is this a form of
A: Wouldn't death be better?
Q: What is the difference between
monastics and cultivators?
A: How are they the same? Ask yourself how are they similar or dissimilar? Wouldn't you understand that way?
Q: Besides being vegetarians and
shaving off our hair to cultivate, are there other routes to realizing
Buddhahood in this very life?
A: One gets an instant high from smoking opium, but being addicted becomes hard to bear too. To become a Buddha, you must plant both feet on the ground, put yourself in others' shoes, and apply yourself in all earnestness. It is a big mistake if you want to cut corners.
Q: The Amitabha Sutra points out how the Pure Land in the West is so wonderful. Is it a form of escape or laziness to want to study Buddhism and recite the Buddha's name so that we may become reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss?
A: Buddhism contains 84,000 Dharma doors. The Buddha spoke about the Pure Land approach without having been asked. It is an inconceivable and incredible Dharma door. However, just because it seems incredible does not mean it is impossible.
Q: Will the future savior of China
be a Buddhist?
A: Since he will be a savior, he will be considered Buddhist even though he may not be. The reason being that he will relieve humanity of suffering and attain bliss for humanity. If he were not a real savior, he would not be a Buddhist even though he might call himself one.
Q: There was a major earthquake in
San Francisco. Will there be similar disasters in Taiwan in the future? How do
we avoid them?
A: There will be no earthquakes if people don't get upset.
Q: Master, did you know ahead of
time about the China Airlines plane crash on October 26? How do we avoid future
A: First of all, ask yourself if you knew about it or not. If you did, others would have too; if not, why would you want others to know about it?
Q: What is the origin of the three
A: Fires occur because of people's greed; floods occur because of their anger; and windstorms occur because of their delusion. These three poisons therefore create the three disasters.
Q: Could we kill the big mosquitoes and spiders we have at our house? We're afraid that they will bite our kids and jeopardize the lives of our small children.
A: Why are there big mosquitoes and spiders? You might have had some affinities with them in your previous life so they came to seek cover from you for their survival, or maybe they want to take vengeance for their grievances. Each of us may have been a mosquito or spider in some lives past. Now that we are human beings, they came to ask for their payments. Therefore, it is best that you don't kill them.
Q: How do people new to Buddhism
cultivate and maintain themselves?
A: Eat, dress, and sleep.
Q: According to the law of cause
and effect that applies to the three periods of time, are the "I" who will be
receiving the effect in the future and the "I" who is creating karma in this
life the same one?
A: "To know what we had done in our lives past, just look at what we face in this life." What happens to you in this life is a result of your deeds in lives past. "To know what we will face in our future lives, just watch what we do in this life." What you will get in your next life depends on what karmic obstacles you create in this life. For example, if you always kill, you will have a short lifespan in the future. If you always steal, you will be robbed in your next life.
Q: There is a lot of turmoil in our
country now. What will become of this country?
A: You don't need to ask me this question as you all should know. You don't need to ask when you obviously know the answers.
The man who said these words, Tang Lyu, dared to kill a black cow and "report to past emperors and empresses that. . . I, as the emperor, is solely responsible for my people; any mistake that my people commit is my fault." He said that his people shouldn't be blamed because he is the one who will take the blame. If the populace had erred any, he says to please blame him as the emperor, for he did not teach them well. He alone will be responsible. This is how ancient sages and kings are. As role models and leaders, they are courageous enough to admit their mistakes and change. They accept other people's criticisms too.
Q: What are precepts?
A: Precepts are about the principles of no fighting, no greed, no seeking, no selfishness, no pursuing personal advantage, and no lying. Don't go looking for precepts in precept handbooks. It is something everyone can do and can practice.
Q: Why do I fear ghosts and
spirits, especially at night? Are there really ghosts and spirits?
A: Someone in Malaysia asked me this question before. He asked whether humans are afraid of ghosts or ghosts of humans? My answer was that if he had ghosts on his mind then he would be afraid of ghosts. If he had no ghosts on his mind, then the ghosts would be afraid of him.
Q: I did not take the precepts
despite having encountered the Dharma. I often kill. How can I make sure that I
am committed to this spiritual path and repent for my past acts of killing?
A: Consider what's in the past to have died yesterday and what's in the future starts today. Your ability to change is already the first step.
Q: Someone was seriously ill from
having a stroke. After a group of people helped him by reciting the Buddha's
name, he recovered. Some say that he did not meet all the conditions for being
reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Is this theory correct?
A: Since it is not yet his time to be reborn, he recovered. When his time is up, he will die. It is as simple as that.
Q: Can Buddhists trade stocks?
A: Some Buddhists murder, steals, engage in sexual misconduct, lie, and drink alcohol. Do you think they should be doing these things?
Q: Taiwan used to be a simple
place, but people have become obsessed with the lottery, stocks, etc. Everyone
in Taiwan now worships money. How can this situation be improved?
A: People should learn to be dumber. They play the lottery because they're too smart. They want to get paid without having worked; they want to reap a harvest without having sowed. This is abnormal.
Q: How come people in our family
still dream about my father though he had passed away a long time ago?
A: It is because you family members have not forgotten him.
Q: Venerable Master, you had said
that as long as you are in San Francisco, there would be no earthquakes. Now
that you are away, an earthquake has taken place. What is the meaning behind it?
A: There is no meaning.
Q: Is there a difference between
reciting the names of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva and Amitabha Buddha? Do they have
the same effect?
A: By trying to make a distinction, you lose any possible effect.
Q: Can I bow to the Buddha statue
at home though it hasn't been "inaugurated"?
A: Whether the statue has been "inaugurated" or not is not a problem. What matters is whether you are attached. Without any attachment, the Buddha statue has always been inaugurated. Otherwise, a Buddha status that has been "inaugurated" is the same as one that hasn't been.
Q: Where do our illnesses come
A: They come from the three poisons of greed, anger, and delusion.
Q: Master, I've quit smoking.
Should I quit eating meat too? If so, all my faults will be gone.
A: You should reserve some so that you don't leave! Stay around! Continue to live in the Three Realms!
Q: I have recited the Buddha's name
many times, but why haven't I eliminated my obstructive karma and reached
A: How do you know how much obstructive karma you have? How can we eliminate overnight our obstructive karma from time immemorial, that is, from billions and billions of eons ago until now?
Q: The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
is too big!
A: The City is not too big, your mind is too small.
Q: What kind of attitude should we
have when interacting with homosexuals, or what methods should we use to help
A: First of all, you need to understand how they became homosexuals. Why do they have this tendency? Perhaps it's because they had quarrels with their spouse. The Chinese are chauvinistic while in America, women come first. Some Americans may say "ladies first," but they don't really respect women. These slogans may flatter some women, making them believe that "ladies [are] first, ladies [are] first." But the fact is that men continue to lie about this and women continue to accept the lies. This kind of "first" is a "first" without power or status. This trend makes women uncomfortable and therefore do not want to marry. Men, on the other hand, became uncomfortable with overly domineering women. Hence, they wonder why they should marry.
Q: What is suffering and what is
A: What we are unwilling to do is suffering and what we are willing to do is happiness. If you are neither willing nor unwilling, then there is neither suffering nor happiness.
Q: What is the use of reciting the
42 Avatamsaka Syllabary?
A: The syllabary has a limitless amount of wonderful functions. It can eradicate all our karmic obstacles. Its power is inconceivable and indescribable.
The Venerable Master: Five hundred or a
thousand years later, people from each side of the Eastern and Western
hemispheres will be able to talk to each other directly without wireless
telephones. Although thousands and thousands of miles apart, people will be able
to converse with each other as if the other person is standing before them. They
also will be able to watch all kinds of entertainment programs without
Q: Dharma Master, what kind of evidence do you have for announcing such an implausible prediction?
A: Of course I have evidence for it; otherwise, I would be violating the precept against false speech and I will fall into the tongue-plucking hells in the future.
Q: The Amitabha Sutra says, "Those
living beings who have hear should vow, 'I wish to be born in that country.'"
Since I don't want to be reborn, instead I want to jump out of the wheel of
birth and death, I don't understand why I would want to be born at that country?
A: Good question! To be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss is to leave the wheel of birth and death.
Q: What is the reason behind
burning paper money for our ancestors?
A: If this were reasonable, all the Westerners would be poor. You should look into the truth and never be superstitious.
Q: Human beings basically live in
pain. How many people really live happily?
A: Who told them to be human beings? If God did, you should sue him and hold a debate with him.
Q: The Venerable
Master had said that there are no women in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Why are
men preferred over women in the Land of Ultimate Bliss?
A: Why is the Pure Land in the West named the Land of Ultimate Bliss? It is forever blissful and devoid of suffering. It is the Land of Ultimate Bliss because it is not like the mundane world, where sorrow occurs when bliss reaches its zenith. Yesterday I may have said that there are no women in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, but today I may say there are no men either. You must be thinking that I speak off the cuff. Actually, I give my answers depending on how you ask the questions. But we all should know that "there is no distinction between men and women along the great Way." Once we start to discriminate, the meaning becomes secondary. The Vajra Sutra says, "No mark of others, no mark of self, no mark of living beings, and no mark of lifespan." Along the same line, why should there be a mark for men and women? We can say that the Land of Ultimate Bliss consists entirely of men or women, as its residents are beings without desires. Since they have a clean self-nature, men and women there can replace each other.
Q: I would like to make some
offerings to you, but I don't know with what?
A: The best offering to me is the recitation of the Buddha's name. To recite the Buddha's name sincerely is an offering of sincerity; to recite the Buddha's name with a commitment to precepts is an offering of commitment to the precepts; to recite the Buddha's name with samadhi is an offering of samadhi; to recite the Buddha's name with wisdom is an offering of wisdom.
Q: What exactly is "Dharma"?
A: Dharma means energy, energy that can penetrate heaven and earth. All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and we are one because our energies are connected.
Q: Why must we sit in the full
lotus position in order to enter samadhi? Why not with other methods? Is it okay
if we just sit still when we cannot bend our legs into that position?
A: It is okay too. This position is the vajra position though, so it is stronger.
Q: Is the half-lotus sitting
position analogous to a silver pagoda and the full-lotus position to a gold
A: No pagoda for no position.
Q: What is the difference between
the Great Compassion Mantra and the Shurangama Mantra? Which recitation will
lead to enlightenment sooner?
A: I am not enlightened. I don't know how to answer this question of yours.
Q: What are the basics to Chan
A: The basics are: 1. not being greedy; 2. not being angry; and 3, not being deluded.
Q: What is the next step in
A: The first requirements in meditation are to clear our minds and lessen our desires. A clear mind has no false thinking. Less desire means being less emotional.
Q: Please briefly introduce
meditation as it is taught at Gold Mountain Monastery.
A: You will find out when you come to Gold Mountain Monastery. To begin with, we train ourselves to sit in the full lotus position. The "Fruit Monk" sits this way also. This position is called the vajra position, which can subdue demon.
Q: The Youth Good Wealth visited 53
different teachers, so why can't I have a few more masters?
A: The Youth Good Wealth's teachers personally sent him off to his next teacher. He didn't disobey his previous teacher and sneak off to take refuge with other virtuous Dharma Masters whom he had been admiring.
Q: What is the difference between
Buddhas and demons?
A: Demons have sexual desires while Buddhas don't. Therein lies the distinction.
Q: In a family, how should husband
and wife relate? What kind of people relations is proper?
A: Husbands and wives should regard one another with respect. Children born from couples like this will definitely become presidents. Children of couples who do not regard each other with mutual respect will definitely become beggars.
Q: There are many couples who don't
respect each other, so all their children will be failures?
A: Yes! That's why nowadays there are so many troubled children who kill and set off fires. Young children don't follow rules because they are controlled by televisions and computers.
Q: You said earlier that males are
pure and women impure. Does that mean females are no good?
A: Females are the best. All men love women. Otherwise, they would never look for girlfriends to marry.
Q: Do you believe in ghosts?
A: If you don't believe in ghosts then you won't believe in Buddhas. Ghosts become Buddhas through cultivation.
Q: Can we cross over our late
ancestors by reciting Sutras?
A: Somewhat. Seventy percent of such merit goes to the living and 30% to the deceased.
Q: So, how do we cultivate?
A: You should cultivate according to your ability, doing what you can and not forcing yourself into doing what you can't.
Q: What are the basics to
A: We should not have so many discursive thoughts. Don't think so much. "A hundred things occur because of the move of a thought; ten thousand things cease with the stop of a thought." Everything can happen because of one thought. If not one thought appears, then the entire substance manifests and nothing will happen. The basic issue here has to do with thoughts of desire.
Q: I had studied transcendental
meditation. While meditating, I would listen to a sound and visualize a scene by
the ocean. In the beginning, I could concentrate very well and was in a pleasant
state. However, after a period of time, things became more and more blurry and
confusing. I don't know if this is a good way to meditate.
A: Any wish to listen for a sound is a type of false thinking. This type of meditation is false and not transcendental, which is natural, free of greed, seeking, or anticipation. That wanting makes you transcend nothing.
Q: Our transcendental meditation
instructor taught us to imagine a particular sound.
A: It is a useless act, just like putting another head on top of a head or searching for a mule while riding on one.
Q: So, is
transcendental meditation good or bad? It is now very popular in many countries
around the world!
A: Novel ways to meditate were created for those who can't sit in the full lotus position. The fact is that we must learn to sit in full lotus to mediate. It's impossible to say that one has attained the Way without having sat in full lotus.
Q: I have often heard that
everything we do become seeds in our eighth consciousness, but I don't
understand the relationship between the eighth consciousness and the previous
A: The seven consciousnesses work together in our body. The first seven consciousnesses are controlled by the eighth consciousness. If we separate these consciousnesses, the eighth consciousness is responsible for our actions. When the eighth consciousness can't control the first seven, a person dies. When a person dies, the eighth consciousness is the last to leave the body and will be the first to enter the womb; thus, the saying goes, "The host is the last to leave and the first to come." The eighth consciousness is the host, without which the first seven consciousnesses are rendered useless. When the former has failed, the rest fails to work. They depend on the former the way the rest of the car engine depends on the carburetor.
Q: Will my mantra be effective even
if I do not pronounce it accurately?
A: In the past, there was a long-time cultivator who recited the Six Syllable Great Bright Mantra all the time. He may have made it up himself without checking with others or he may have forgotten what others had taught him, but he presumed that since most Chinese characters are pronounced one way depending on the radical next to it, he thought the last syllable in "om mani pa me hung" is pronounced "niu" (meaning "ox" in Chinese). So, he recited "om mani pa me niu" really sincerely and with the gusto of an ox, he recited it one million times every day. Instead of using the recitation beads, he used a million soybeans to help him count, taking one bean from one side to the other each time he recited the mantra. Gradually, he didn't even have to use his hand to pick up the beans as they would jump from one side to the other. Later on, someone told him that "om mani pa me hung" was the right pronunciation. So, he changed; but strangely enough, the beans didn't jump the way they used to. Though he went back to his initial pronunciation, the beans jumped again. This was because his faith had been shaken knowing that he had been reciting incorrectly.
Q: What is the heart of the
A: The long version of the heart of the Shurangama Mantra is: "Da Jr Two. Nan. E Na Li. Pi She Ti. Pi La. Ba She La. Two Li, Pan Two Pan Two Ni. Ba She La Bang Ni Pang. Hu Syin Du Lu Yung Pan. Swo Pe He."
Q: What is the basic difference
between cultivating as a layperson as opposed to a left-home person?
A: Laypeople are men and women close to Buddhism while left-home people are a part of the Buddha's family. The former can't be considered family members of the Buddha. Left-home people must have a clear mind and few desires. Laypeople don't have to be so serious. Laypeople can marry while monastics must be single. In order words, one is pure and the other impure.
Q: What is life for?
A: Life is not for eating. It is to help others. Helping others is the source of happiness.
Q: If I were to give my afflictions
to you, what would I be left with?
A: Wouldn't it be better if you were to have no more afflictions while I did? I can handle them.
Q: What should we do with a broken
A: Start from scratch. Everything is a test to see what we'll do. If we don't recognize what is before our eyes, we must begin anew.
Q: The Buddhist scriptures say that
the contemplation of sound is the best for attaining enlightenment. The
perfection of the ear organ is the most effective method to enlightenment.
However, I believe our eyes are the most valuable among all the sense organs;
our ears come next. In my opinion, our eyes ought to be the most effective organ
to attaining enlightenment, not our ears.
A: Actually, every one of our sense organs is the best. There are no seconds. Whatever clicks is number one; what doesn't click is number two.
Q: We should recite the Great Compassion Mantra 108 times a day. How many times should we recite the Shurangama Mantra a day?
Q: Is it a good idea
for Buddhists to donate their organs after they die?
A: It is better to donate their organs while they are alive and not while they're dead. What is the use of donating the organs when you won't need them anymore? There's an idiom, "Do not give to others what we don't want." True generosity means that we give what we can't bear to give away.
Q: How do we integrate the
Buddhadharma into our lives?
A: By not fighting, not being greedy, not seeking, not being selfishness, not pursuing personal advantage, and not lying.
Q: How could earthquakes be
A: There will not be earthquakes if people don't get upset.
Q: How do we leave suffering to
A: We realize enlightenment in the midst of suffering. We must suffer to end suffering.
Q: We will become pigs, sheep, or
cows if we eat pork, lamb, or beef, respectively. Will we become vegetables if
we eat vegetables?
A: We are what we eat because pigs, cows, and sheep have legs. When you try to kill them, they will try to run away. Even though you may succeed in killing them, they will hate you and want to drag you down to their level. Vegetables, in contrast, will not scream, cry, or jump when you eat them. They don't have legs to run away. So you won't become the vegetables you eat.
Q: Presently, there's a growing
movement trying to force seniors in this country to retire.
A: "The older the ginger, the spicier it is; the older the person, the more valuable one is." Why do they all need to retire if they are in good health?
Q: What does the Venerable Master
think of the Taiwan's present condition?
A: I can use two simple phrases to describe it: "We don't know how to enjoy our blessing; we make up things to do when there's nothing to be done."
Q: Master, are you tired?
A: I might as well die from fatigue.
Q: What do test tube babies
A: They are a symbol that the human race will soon become extinct!
Q: Buddhism had divided into the
traditions of the North and South. What is your view on this?
A: Buddhist principles are essentially no different by schools or sects. The northern and southern traditions were established only because later generations lost the truth. They rebuffed one another. Why do we slaughter our own kind? The Great Vehicle claims that the Small Vehicle is too small; the Small Vehicle does not respect those of the Great Vehicle. Actually, anyone who tries to create schisms in Buddhism is no Buddhist. There's no need to mention the Great Vehicle or the Small Vehicle, there's not a single vehicle! The cause of war is selfishness and self-interest. Wishing to harm others and benefit ourselves, we only know to praise ourselves and slander others.
Q: What is a "vehicle," and how do
the Great Vehicle and Small Vehicle differ?
A: A "vehicle" is an automobile for passengers. A great vehicle can seat more passengers and a smaller vehicle fewer. Since living beings' faculties, nature, and tendencies are different, their inclination toward either the great or the small vehicle are different too. In reality, both the Mahayana and the Theravadan are one. Don't discriminate here.
Q: How do we teach and transform
living beings who are difficult to tame and subdue? Is there really an end to
A: We should be extremely patient in teaching and transforming them. The day each person dies is the end of the world for that person.
Q: Are mediums, channelers, etc.
part of the Buddhadharma?
A: All dharmas are the Buddhadharma; none can be obtained. Or we could say that all dharmas are no Buddhadharma. Anyway, we must let go of any attachment as we study Buddhism: sweep away all dharmas and leave every mark.
Q: The Amitabha Sutra notes how
living beings can recite the Buddha's name and thereby take their karma with
them as they are reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. However, Buddhism also
emphasizes that people should be independent and self-sufficient in order to
become Buddhas. Don't these two principles contradict each other?
A: Let me ask you this: when you recite the Buddha's name to the point of singleness, is the Buddha or are you reciting? I believe it all still depends on your personal hard work.
Q: It is ridiculous for left-home
people to eat only one meal a day.
A: The more they eat, the more desires they will have.
Q: What does it mean to "turn the
wonderful Dharma Wheel?"
A: Everything is turning the Dharma wheel: humans are turning the Dharma wheel for humans; dogs the Dharma wheel for dogs; and cats the Dharma wheel for cats. Once you understand, you will hear dharmas that make you understand; otherwise, you will hear dharmas that make you deluded.
Q: Who are those of the "outside
A: They look for answers outside of their minds.
Q: Why haven't I developed my
A: Why don't you reflect and ask yourself: why haven't I decreased those three poisons of mine? Why haven't I liberated myself and others?
The Venerable Master: What is ultimately
real? Everyone try speaking up!
Buddhist: Cultivation is real!.
The Venerable Master: Then why don't you cultivate? If you're looking for what is real in the world, you will not find it. Cultivation may be real, but it's invisible. What you see are just the appearances. Truth is soundless and scent-free, formless and colorless. Nevertheless, we must find the true in the false. Don't search for the real by leaving the false.
Q: How do we search for the true in
the midst of falsehood?
A: It is like gold or diamond buried in excrement and dirt.
Q: Some people say that the idea of
a "soul" doesn't exist in Buddhism. Is that correct?
A: Some people may say that, but this statement can't represent the Buddha's teachings in their entirety. I have never heard of such a theory and I am a Buddhist.
Q: Is our mind capable of
understanding the three periods of time-past, present, and future?
A: Why not? The three periods of time are just yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Let me use shorter time frames so that it's easier for you to remember, instead of forgetting them quickly. The three periods of time can also be last year, this year, and next year. It is the same principle for past life, this life, and next life.
Q: Some people say that you are an
old demon king, what should we do about that?
A: So I am the old demon king!
Q: What does it mean to be clear
about our own coming and going?
A: To be clear about our coming means that we understand what happened in our past lives. For instance, some people here know that they had been monks or laypeople in their past lives. To be clear about our going means that we know what will happen to us after death. Will we enter the womb of a cow of a horse, or be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss? People who have been delivered from birth and death understand everything clearly. They are no longer baffled.
Q: Why do some non-vegetarians
refuse to eat beef?
A: Cows help to till the field, so some people can't bear eating their meat. "Everyone is sympathetic."
Q: Could we encourage monks and
nuns who don't observe the rules to return to laylife?
A: Wouldn't it be better if you became a monk yourself? Wouldn't it be more effective if you could set a good example for them by being a model left-home person?
Q: Can the law of cause and effect
explain the reasons why some families have hereditary diseases?
A: Of course it can. Heredity is cause and effect. If the cause weren't planted in the past, why would they receive the same effect generation after generation?
Q: Can the Shurangama Mantra revive
a person since it can also kill a person?
A: It will be able to revive a person who is not completely dead. To revive someone who is already dead will not be easy.
Q: Why do I keep forgetting how to
A: It is because of your obstructive karma from the past.
Q: Master, if the law of cause and
effect never errs, how can dharmas not be fixed? What does it mean?
A: The fact that dharmas are not fixed does not mean you don't need to cultivate and that you can kill, commit arson, and rob. No fixed dharmas means that we should do no evil and do every good. We do them but we're not doing them; we are doing nothing but we are doing everything. Don't be attached.
Q: Master, are the Sanghas in Asia
dismal because of their inability to leave money and sex?
A: If people can let go of money and sex, they will immediately attain the Way.
Q: Why do monastics still fish for
fame and a good reputation?
A: They have become monks and nuns physically, but not mentally.
Q: This path is so arduous, would I
be able to persist to the end and not retreat?
A: You will reach your destination as long as you are bold and vigorous, strong and indefatigable.
Q: The thing I am most sorry about
is not having enough time to meditate.
A: You must spare some time in your busy schedule and not waste it in the midst of confusion. You could cultivate at anytime and anywhere, not just by sitting there with your eyes closed.
Q: What is the biggest problem with
A: The biggest problems are greed, exploitation, and selfishness.
Q: Since the Dharma Master was able
to prevent typhoons from invading Hong Kong while you lived here, would you do
that again for people in Hong Kong now?
A: You should make the request that people in Hong Kong live forever!
Q: Why should monks and nuns always
wear their precept sash?
A: Most monks and nuns nowadays only wear those long robes with big sleeves. They think this is an indication that they are monks and nuns. Actually, those robes with the big sleeves are ancient outfits from the Tang Dynasty, also worn by laypeople at the time. This style of clothing was adopted by Japan and people there still wear them. These robes are absolutely not the symbol for monks and nuns. Only the precept sash makes them look like monks and nuns.
Q: Why do we typically have to
recite the Buddha's name?
A: It prepares us for our time of death. If we haven't made the recitation of the Buddha's name a habit, then we may forget to do so or be oblivious to having to do so at the time of death.
Q: What are the advantages to being
vegetarians? Are we cheating ourselves by being vegetarians?
A: If you feel cheated as a vegetarian, you should know that you're only cheated while alive, but not after you die. You may not feel cheated as a non-vegetarian while alive, but you will be cheated after you die. When you settle the accounts, you need to pay what you owe and in the form that you had borrowed it.
Vajra Strikes: Part 3
A Collection of Q & A's with the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Q: Shakyamuni Buddha
cultivated for as long a time as three great eons before he became a Buddha. Is
this length of time fixed?
A: Have you heard of Dhyana Master Gao Fongmiao? The one who sat at Xitianmu (Eye of Western Heaven), where the cliff was shaped like an inverted lotus. He fell over the cliff when he dozed off, but Weitou Bodhisattva saved him and carried him up back up.
Disciple: I've heard of him.
A: You've heard of it. What happened to him ought to answer your question.
Q: What will happen to Taiwan?
A: If everyone in Taiwan avoided killing, became vegetarians and recited the Buddha's name, then the state of affairs in Taiwan would improve. If people in Taiwan continue to kill and create unwholesome karma, Taiwan will collapse. Don't do anything that is bad and do everything that is good, then Taiwan will improve as a result. If everything you do is unwholesome and nothing you do is wholesome, then Taiwan will always be in danger.
Q: Master, how can I use skillful
means to control and overcome sexual desire, fear, and skepticism?
A: Don't eat meat, don't eat onions, and don't eat garlic. Don't eat anything that acts as a stimulant in general. Contemplate that "Every man has been a father to me and every woman my mother." If you think along these lines, your sex drive will vanish.
Disciple: I know that the Master doesn't
like to hear people say thank you, but I am grateful for the Master for saving
my life on several occasions.
A: Expand your mind, don't be so petty. Hurry up and reflect, restore your original purity!
Q: Master, you made every one of
the ten thousand Buddhas in the Buddha Hall of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas!
A: It's all in the past. Why mention it?
Q: While meditating in the last
several days, the pain in my legs have intensified, especially in my left knee.
This pain gradually rolled into a ball and stayed on my kneecap. When the pain
heightened yesterday, it exploded and became a clean and warm energy that's
yellow. It went from my knee to my ribs and to the upper part of my body. This
warmth didn't make me drowsy, but happy and comfortable. Later I saw a throne
surrounded by white lotuses. The edges to them seemed blurry, but their centers
have purple buds like an inverted wine glass with a wide rim. They would
suddenly change into mountains of gems, the bright light of which are
unprecedented. At times, they would also look like European castles or lotus
diases that Bodhisattvas sit on. There was a flat headed snake that climbed to
the top of the throne. Sometimes the scenes were transparent like a movie and
would just flash by so I couldn't remember well. I only remember that I seemed
to be walking along on the seashore by myself. No one else was in sight. The
place was quiet and beautiful, charming. There was only the sound of seagulls
that occasionally broke the silence. Now, I want to know if this was real or was
it a result of my discriminating consciousness?
A: Visions of Buddhas or flowers are not real when you have tried to visualize them and want to see them. Anything that you want to see is not real. The only significant state that's real is the one before a single thought occurs; though even that can be illusory at times. It's best not to encounter any state during meditation. There's nothing at all, just emptiness. Don't be shocked or happy. Either shock or happiness could cause you to become possessed by demons, such as the fifty skandha demons listed in the Shurangama Sutra.
Q: The Japanese Dhyana Master
Daoyuan said "anybody can become a Buddha." But I am skeptical about these
words. Other people may be able to become Buddhas, but not me.
A: "All living beings have the Buddha nature; all can become Buddhas." Shakyamuni Buddha said that, not the Japanese Dhyana Master Daoyuan-what an imagination.
Q: Venerable Master, please tell us
the difference between our rules and the rules in the meditation centers of
A: Obviously there are lots of differences. But here we must assert our independence and uniqueness. We only choose what is good and we discard what is wrong. We will reform all the problems that plague us within Buddhism. Meditators in China require three meals a day: porridge for breakfast, lunch, and stuffed buns for the evening. Every meditator has to be beaten. The proctor beats the participants one by one. You're beaten whether you act correctly or otherwise. The harder you're hit, the more the monastery gets to show how strict its rules are. Gaoming Monastery, for example, is famous for its beatings. Sometimes they break their whipping stick from beating people. None of you have been beaten yet this year. You have been hit in the past. I'm probably more compassionate this year and your karmic obstacles are lighter too. These are some of the differences. Those monks in China are really scary. They don't have any smile on their face at all, looking as stern as Sangarama Bodhisattva. When you go the Chan Hall, you would be so scared that you're afraid to lift up your head, like mice seeing a cat.
We don't beat people for no reason here. I am pleasant and I give you talks every day as if I'm babysitting. Why do you have to suffer the way you do? It is because there's a tremendous amount of blessings for people in this country. If I don't make you suffer a bit, you will not develop any major commitment to cultivating. You give up wearing nice clothes, eating good food, living in a nice house, and forgoing all kind of luxury to come and suffer here. This is the only way to eliminate your arrogance, so that you can honestly cultivate and become liberated from birth and death.
Also, you absolutely cannot stretch out your legs in the meditation halls of China. You'll definitely get hit that way. They won't be a bit polite. The lead gets beaten too if he violates the rules. For instance, if the lead snoozes on occasion, the proctor will have to kneel on his right knee before hitting him, which is different than hitting the rest of the group.
Also, there's a certain way to hold one's teacup too because the cup has no handle. You have to place your thumb on the rim of the cup and use the rest of hand to hold the cup from the bottom. With your cup at hand, you extend your arm to let the attendant pour you tea. After you are done with the tea, you place it in front of you and the attendant will take it away. This is done in complete silence. We drink ginseng tea here, so our rules are substandard. We can study these rules and improve upon them over time. But we don't have to imitate China for sure. The rules have to fit the culture here. Meditators in China absolutely cannot go outside the hall to drink tea, to sit down, to stand around, and to chat. They return to the Chan hall for walking meditation immediately after their meal. They don't waste one second of their time. They don't do anything else at all. They don't go upstairs to rinse their mouths, stretch their backs and legs after eating. We'll change these little problems later so that we'll be on the right track.
Q: Some lay people will tell us
that the reason they don't want to advance but want to retreat is because their
karmic obstruction has shown up. How should we respond to them if this kind
karma is fixed? Do we force them to continue to be diligent?
A: That depends on the situation at the time. Prescribe medicine according to the specific illness. Afflictions and Bodhi are like ice and water. Afflictions are Bodhi. One is born after one is put to death. It is right to bear what one really cannot bear and to go through what one really cannot go through. No need to corner yourself; there's no dead end.
Q: We often talk about how arhats
and Bodhisattvas are different and similar. Will the Venerable Master please
explain the differences between arhats and Bodhisattvas for us?
A: "Arhats" and "Bodhisattvas" are just terms. This is a matter of difference between people. Bodhisattvas benefit other people while arhats only cultivate for themselves. These are stages of cultivation. As ordinary people, we don't understand the states of arhats. As we go back and forth, deducing and imagining, we will have wasted all our time.
Q: How should we deal with
resistance to cultivation, which becomes obstructive?
A: Would you bite the tiger that comes to bite you? This is resistance. Is it okay that you do that?
Q: I've been a criminal for nine
years. I know that my offenses are grave, but I want to cultivate. How should I
eliminate my obstructive karma?
A: Offenses as huge as the universe are gone as soon as we repent. The most important thing is for us to be extremely ashamed and remorseful. By repenting before the Buddhas, offenses melt away like ice before the sun-like Buddhas. If your offenses don't disappear, I will go to the hells with you!
Q: How can I quickly eliminate such
grave offenses that I've committed?
A: Offenses as many as grains of sand in the river vanish as we bow to the Buddhas. We must repent sincerely and change.
Q: How can I overcome the sudden
onset of drowsiness and paralysis in my arms and legs?
A: We have to have the guidance of good teachers while learning to meditate. We can't blindly practice it on our own.
Q: What are the effects of the
A: It develops wisdom. As it is said, "if we want the Buddhadharma to flourish, first study the Shurangama Sutra; if we want to do battle with kings of the underworld, first recite the Shurangama Mantra."
Q: Is it in accord with the Dharma
to make Buddhist songs with popular music? Will it invite criticism?
A: If you're afraid of being criticized by others, then you might as well not do anything. Just ask yourself if anything good happens in the world without criticism? If you're scared of criticism, then don't do it. If you're not afraid of criticism, then go ahead and forge ahead.
Q: But some people criticize
Buddhism for not creating its own music, that it uses popular songs instead.
A: Every one of the 84,000 practices is the best.
Q: Why doesn't the Master go and
visit high ranking officials in the government?
A: The Precepts makes it clear that monastics should not visit politicians.
Q: Master, I obviously know that
I'm wrong, but once I had this false thought, I lost my energy. I'm afraid that
I cannot sustain myself.
A: Your selfishness is the source of the trouble! If you had been selfless and had forgotten yourself for the sake of Dharma, how could you have an "I" that can't stand a situation? You would have forgotten all this long ago.
Q: My parents refuse to let me
leave the householder's life. They think leaving the householder's life is not a
good thing. I want to use Buddhism to change my parents, but they will react
negatively to my leaving home. Will the Master please show me a way for them
gradually accept Buddhism and meditation?
A: Okay, it will be very easy for your parents to agree to your leaving the householder's life. There was a monk in Malaysia who saw that monks and nuns at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas wear the precept sash. He had wanted to wear it too, but his teacher forbade him no matter what, claiming that monastics don't need to wear their precept sash. He asked me what he should do? I told him, "Ask your master what to do about this: tell him that if you wear the Precept sash, you'll know that you're a monk and will not have sexual desire; whereas if you don't wear the precept sash, you will always want to go and find a woman. See if he will let you wear your precept sash at that point?" He did go back and ask his teacher. His teacher agreed to let him wear a precept sash having heard that explanation.
In your case, you could tell your parents, "If I don't leave the householder's life, I will want to go and overeat, drink, prostitute, gamble, smoke dope, murder, commit arson, and everything else. Since the precepts for monastics prohibit killing, I will naturally not do any of these shady things." Ask your parents what you should do at this crossroad? Will it be better for you to leave home or not?
Q: Theravadan Buddhism uses the
practice of reciting the Buddha's name less. I would like to ask the Master what
kind of practice I should try to make me have more faith.
A: Faith is just like the five flavors. The various practices that the Buddha had described are just like these flavors: sour, sweet, bitter, spicy, and salty. No one can say sourness is the best, sweetness is the best, or bitterness, spiciness, or saltiness. Everyone has a favorite, that's all.
Q: Most people think that meat is
more nutritious and better for the body. What does the Venerable Master think?
A: Actually, meat is no more nutritious or better for one's health. There are lots of people who eat meat and develop cancer.
Q: 1. According to Theravadan
teachings, the mid-skandha body is reborn instantly. But Mahayana Sutras say
that it is reborn after seven to 49 days. 2. Where did humans come from? How
come there are so many people?
A: 1. There's no specific length of time that the mid-skandha body lasts. Some don't become reborn until after several great eons. Some will become reborn immediately. 2. People don't necessarily reincarnate to become people again. Some become chickens, some becomes dogs, or other animals. According to individual karma and retribution, living beings are separated into those born from the womb, from eggs, from moisture, and from transformation. They go from one type to another just like people can go to Belgium all of sudden, and go from Belgium to China all of a sudden. Nothing remains static. Anyway, knowing these things don't necessarily help cultivation.
Q: Your Buddhadharma seems
different than that of Asia's?
A: During the Dharma-ending Age, Buddhism has been focused on superficialities. Corruption and deficiencies are rampant in Buddhism. If we don't rescue it immediately by revolutionizing it, then the lifeline of the Buddhadharma will also be cut off. We need to improve many different aspects of Buddhism for this time and age.
Q: What are some guiding principles
for propagating Buddhism in the United States?
A: The most fundamental are the Six Great Guiding Principles: no greed, no fighting, no seeking, no selfishness, no pursuit of self-benefit, and no lies. These six mirrors show up monsters by reflecting them. These six pestles tame demons too. If we can base ourselves on these Six Great Guiding Principles at all times, then demons, heretics, and phonies will have nowhere to hide, they will be exposed for who they really are. Our principle will create more proper energy for the universe, shatter and eliminate the heightened violence and toxic resentment that permeate the entire globe.
Q: Most people think that to
believe in Buddhism or to leave the householder's life is to escape reality, is
A: The Sixth Patriarch Platform Sutra says, "The Buddhadharma is in the world. Enlightenment is not found apart from the world. To look for Bodhi beyond this world is to search for horns on hares." The Buddhadharma is not out of touch or contrary to the dharmas of the world. It enters the worldly and transcends the worldly. It is in the dust and leaves the dust behind. It is form and yet it is apart from form.
Q: What does it mean to return to
the origin and to go back to the source?
A: To cultivate what is true, to restore one's virgin-like physical purity, and to make this stinking skin bag of ours into an indestructible vajra body. By stopping any harmful behavior that we have been doing, turning away from the objects of defilement and uniting with enlightenment, we have a chance to restore our original purity.
Q: Some people say that we don't
have to take refuge with the Triple Jewel just because believe in Buddhism. Is
A: Take education, for instance. If you want to graduate from elementary school, you must finish your courses for elementary school. If you want a high school diploma, you have to finish your high school courses. If you want to obtain degrees for bachelors, masters, or doctorates, you would naturally have to complete the required curriculum for those levels, pass your tests, and receive your degree. The same principle applies to taking refuge with the Triple Jewel.
Q: How do we tell the difference
between good teachers and bad teachers?
A: That's easy, just observe him to see if he is greedy for money. Is he licentious? Let these two be your standards of measurement.
Q: A Dharma Master
thinks that "Thus I have heard" in the Sutras should be changed to "Thus I have
translated." I wonder which phrase is right?
A: To tell you the truth, neither one is right. When the Venerable Ananda compiled the Sutras, he added "Thus I have heard" to the beginning of Sutras to prove that he had personally heard the Buddha say these words. This particular phrase wasn't said by the Buddha. If you use "Thus I have translated," you don't even understand what this is supposed to mean. Ananda only compiled the scriptures; he didn't translate them.
Q: Is there hope for the conflicts
in the Middle East?
A: There would be no war if we were kind and genial. The cause and effect of war are that people are not kind and genial.
Q: Conflicts in Israel and the
Middle East tell us that, it's easy to make enemies but hard to unmake them. How
exactly do we dissolve this kind of rivalry?
A: They're accumulated bit by bit. During this trip to Europe, I had visited Poland. There, the Germans killed an incredible number of Jews [during WWII]. Each grave has ten's of thousands of people in it. Tens of thousands people in one grave.
Q: China and Taiwan have broken
relations for a long time. Now lots of people are afraid that Taiwan will become
independent or that Communist China will use force to unify Taiwan and China.
Once that occurs, the Chinese will kill their own kind--this is not what the
Chinese hope for. Do you think there's a better method to achieve unification?
A: Everything would be solved if everyone were just nice and kind. There would be no need for combat. It's very simple! That political faction for an independent Taiwan or what have you are just about wanting power. They want power and status, and that's why they want Taiwan to become independent. . .
Q: I have a question. Will China be
unifying China and Taiwan or will Taiwan be unifying Taiwan and China?
A: This is a question for Taiwan and China. The Taiwanese will say that Taiwan will control China while the mainland Chinese will say that they will control Taiwan. It's not really about control, but about a better way to govern the country.
Q: But their political ideologies
A: Political ideologies are "owned by those who have virtue and lost by those who have no virtue."
Q: Will the Master predict for us
as to when Buddhism will flourish in the United States?
A: It's already flourishing. Don't be discontent! Isn't Buddhism flourishing since the number of Buddhists is relatively large in a country that is predominantly Christians and Catholics?
Q: Will the Master please instruct
laypeople on how to cultivate at home? What's the best method for cultivating
outside of work and our busy schedules?
A: The best method is not being angry! Don't fight with yourself. Don't wage a war in your mind. Don't have one side cultivating and another side declining. Don't fight with yourself, that's the best cultivation.
Q: The "Incense Praise" has this in
its lyrics, "Our sincere intention thus fulfilling, as all Buddhas now show
their perfect body." Some books say that all Buddhas show their golden body. Is
it their perfect body or their golden body?
A: The golden body is the perfect body; the perfect body is the golden body.
Q: The Avatamsaka Sutra says, "To
the Buddha I return and rely, vowing that all living beings proliferate the
seeds of Buddhism and bring forth the unsurpassed resolve." And yet when we
recite the three refuges, it's been changed to "To the Buddha I return and rely,
vowing that all living beings understand the great Way profoundly, and bring
forth the Bodhi mind."
A: No dharma is fixed. He changed it because he thought it was easier to read, that's all!
Q: I saw on TV that these high
school students were asked the question, "Why would you want to be a good
person? What's the use of being a good person?" I was really hurt watching that.
A: Why does someone want to become a horse or a cow? Why does someone want to become a cat or a dog? It's the same thing! If one isn't a good person, he can become one of those things!
Q: My son asked me how many
preeminent monks have converted tigers and lions and had them take refuge. Also,
what would polar bears eat if they were to take refuge? The North Pole is too
cold to have any vegetables.
A: Eat ice! Eat snow! What if they were at the South Pole? Eat ice! Eat snow!
Q: How can we make the Buddhadharma
flourish in the countries of the West?
A: Cultivate according to the Dharma! Keep the Five Precepts and practice the eight virtues. Do it bit by it, and it will flourish!
Q: Will the Venerable Master please
A: Samadhi is a Sanskrit word that means concentration, proper concentration and proper reception. Proper concentration is different from deviant concentration, proper reception is different from deviant reception.
Q: Our founding father Sun Yat-Sen
had once said, "Buddhism is the humaneness that saves the world. Buddhism is the
mother of philosophy. Studying Buddhism can fix the slant of science." Why did
our founding father say this?
A: Buddhism is true science. Before science was developed, several thousand years ago, the Buddha had said, "The Buddha sees 84,000 insects in a bowl of water. If one doesn't recite this mantra, it is as if one is eating living beings' meat." From this, we can tell that although the Buddha didn't have a microscope or magnifier, he knew there were numerous microorganisms in a bowl of water. It isn't until today that people have proven this to be correct. So the level of people's wisdom today is far below the level of the Buddha's wisdom. This country's founding father may have said that "Buddhism can fix the slant of science," but my opinion is: Buddhism not only can fix the slant of science, but Buddhism contains science while science cannot contain Buddhism."
Q: Could we get a billboard that
welcomes visitors and attracts people who have affinities with Buddhism? We can
place it north or south of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas on Highway 101.
A: You can try it.
Q: Many students are worried that
they will be drafted to fight in the war. What can students do to help this
A: Students should work hard on their studies and not pay attention to these distractions. This is not something that they can help! On the one hand, the government of this country is trying to administer justice by using force; on the other hand, the people in the country oppose the war. This country is fighting an internal war and an external war. On top of the existing war, the protestors are creating yet another war.
Q: What is the relationship between
the United States and the Middle East conflicts at this time?
A: U.S. may claim that it is administering justice, but it's actually afraid that it will lose its stakes. If it weren't for selfishness, they would be victorious anywhere with their military. It would not lose.
Q: Is this blow for the world predestined?
A: Pretty much!
Q: Then we're all finished!
A: That's a retribution for living beings!
Q: Citizens should be loyal to its
country. Is there any offense for the pilots who were ordered to bomb the enemy
in the Middle East? If so, what kind of attitude should they have [as they face
A: This question can't be cleared up even if you were to go to the international court of justice! This is an issue too huge for an average citizen like me to solve. This has to do with power of countries, individuals, and world leaders. This is not an issue that I can resolve.
Q: The Buddhist Sutras say, "The
Buddha is our self-nature. Everyone can become a Buddha." Will the Venerable
Master please explain why we're Buddhas and yet not Buddhas, and why we always
bow to the Buddha images?
A: Most people think this line refers to our physical body being the same as that of Buddhas. But we're not talking about the body, but our inherent nature. If we want to become a Buddha, we must cultivate to understand this principle. This line means that we have to have certain understanding to become a Buddha; it doesn't mean that one is already a Buddha. For instance, we don't get a Ph.D. just because we want it. To get our doctorate degree, we must finish elementary school, high school, university, and then a doctorate program. Just because I say I'm a Buddha, it doesn't mean that I am a Buddha. If that were the case, then I could just call myself an emperor and I would become an emperor. It doesn't work that way.
Q: Will the Venerable Master please
explain what Buddhism means by the purity of the six senses?
A: "The purity of the six senses" means: the eyes are unaffected by forms; the ears are unaffected by sounds; the nose is unaffected by scents; the tongue is unaffected by flavors; the body is unaffected by sensation; and the mind is affected by doctrines. Being unaffected by states is "samadhi," which is concentration. Concentration doesn't occur only in sitting meditation, necessarily; samadhi can occur while walking, standing, sitting, and reclining.
Q: How do we restore our inherent
A: This is easier said than done. To restore the bright wisdom of our inherent nature, we must first decrease our desire. Wisdom manifests when we have less thoughts of desire. Real wisdom doesn't show up with so many thoughts of desire.
Q: How do we make the Proper Dharma
live long in the world?
A: To have the Proper Dharma live long in the world, you must not fight, not be greedy, not be selfish, not pursue self-benefit, and not lie.
Q: We don't know how to study the
A: The Six Great Guiding Principles of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas are the Vinaya. To avoid fighting is to avoid violating the precept against killing; to avoid being greedy is to avoid violating the precept against stealing; and to avoid being selfish is to avoid violating the precept against lying. Why do we lie? We go around telling lies because we want our own interests served. To avoid pursuing self-benefit is to avoid violating the precept against taking intoxicants. Drinkers think that drinking is good for their health because alcohol makes their blood circulate faster. When they're drunk, they feel so high that they think they've become gods. Drinkers' false thoughts and self-interests are troublemakers. To avoid lying is a principle already included in the above five items, but to caution everyone especially, we emphasize the liability of lying by adding the sixth principle as a precaution.
Q: I recently read in
the Buddhist Sutras that, "We must make the vow to become reborn in the West."
Does this mean that we should make a vow about being reborn in the West or does
it mean that we should make that vow before the Buddhas?
A: We are afraid of vows because our will is too weak. Actually, we strengthen our aspirations by making vows. If we aspire to become sages and worthies, then we will become sages and worthies. If we aspire to become great heroes, then we will become great heroes. If we aspire to become Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, then we will become Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Though we may have set some goals, our will is not strong enough to achieve them. This is why we have to make vows. By making vows, we show that we are willing to act on them without retreating or regretting. We must be unrelenting in striving to realize our vows, focusing on them in every moment. We must be unrelenting in our action, behaving according to our vows. To that end, we will obtain the one of the positions of fruition, which is a position of non-retreat, be it the position of the first stage arhat, second stage arhat, third stage arhat, or fourth stage arhat. We make vows to help us with our goals. It's okay to make the vows before the Buddhas. It's also okay to be persistent. Don't do things just for looks, but really put things to practice.
Q: You had once said that "We can't
understand and become enlightened to our inherent nature because we have been
tainted by the burdensome objects of the five desires in the Saha World. That is
why we cannot understand our mind and know our inherent nature." Will the Master
please explain this?
A: Being tainted means having impure thoughts. We're tainted if we want to get rich; we're tainted if we want to become famous; we are tainted if we want to chase after the opposite sex; we are tainted if we want to eat good food. All these are impurities. Though our inherent nature is fundamentally pure, with these things we have polluted and covered our wisdom and the brilliance of our inherent nature.
Q: Are Tibetan lamas monks?
A: The Bhikshus of Mahayana Buddhism receives 250 ordination precepts. They can only be called Bhikshus if they adhere closely to the precepts. They cannot be comparable to some of the Tibetan lamas. Those lamas eat meat, eat the five pungent plants, drink alcohol, and other things that need not be mentioned. Therefore, their application of the precepts is completely different than what the Buddha has personally established.
Q: Well, why then is the mantra of
the Secret school so effective? For example, they have a mantra that can kill
A: That's right, the power of secret mantras is terrific, but most of its practitioners are mostly hateful and vengeful. If you defy him or refuse to listen to him, he will recite a mantra. These mantras could put someone to death in seven days. At the minimum, they could make the victim sick or experience some disaster; their family could break apart and their fortunes could be depleted. People who cultivate secret dharmas are mostly short of compassion and are very much like asuras.
Q: The Buddhist scriptures often
talk about the shakings of the great earth. Why do earthquakes happen?
A: Earthquakes can also be called people-quakes because people are connected to earthquakes. When people quake, the earth also quakes. If people were not to quake, then the earth would not quake either. Why did the earth quake in six ways when the Buddha entered Nirvana? It is because people panicked and were awfully scared, so their seven emotions and six desires seep out, causing to earth to quake.
Q: Is it considered killing to take
prescribed medicine which kills viruses?
A: You are not taking that medicine because you want to, but because you're sick and you're treating your sickness. That's why the doctor gave you your medication. This is not something that you had wanted. It's not that you want to kill them, but that they came to harm you. On the other hand, we attract germs because we have too many false thoughts. You must first reflect and introspect. Kill the germs in your mind first.
Q: If we cannot retaliate against
someone who has humiliated us, then we should be patient according to Buddhism.
But in the eyes of others, we're little wimps. What should we do, really?
A: Don't be moved by others. Who cares whether they think we're wimps or not. We're not being patient if we're affected by what other people say. We must have our own guiding principles.
Q: Is the Western civilization on
A: This depends on what people do. If everyone did good things, then the fate of these countries will turn for the better. But if everyone did bad things, then the destiny of these countries will certainly founder.
Q: I had heard that it's wrong to
have abortions according to Buddhism. But I had done so without any idea of this
before, what can I do to make it up now?
A: The greatest good is but to change the mistakes that one has made. Offenses large enough to fill up the universe vanish through repentance.
Disciple: It's really a hard life for monastics who only eat one meal a day and do so much work.
A: It's no longer hard once you die.
Q: Buddhist precepts are very
strict, but just as you have said, "Don't commit sexual misconduct; don't have
thoughts of sexual desire." However, most people are likely to disagree, saying,
"This is inhuman!" Will the Venerable Master explain this?
A: If you want to learn to be like a Buddha, then you cannot be human. If you want to be like a human being, then be a good person. In general, this is the way you must be if you want to cultivate.
Q: Is there anything we can do if
our son is not filial and beats and scolds his parents?
A: Just take the beating! Who told you to have given birth to this son in this lifetime? People are intimately connected. You've probably hit your parents in some of your previous lives; therefore you have to undergo this retribution in this lifetime. If you think along these lines, then you wouldn't be so sad. If you want to turn things around, then recite the name of Guanyin Bodhisattva. Ask Guanyin Bodhisattva to please dissolve your resentment, but you must be very sincere.
Q: What kind of expedient practices
can we use to influence people who kill chickens and ducks for a living?
A: They should change any mistakes that they've committed in the past once they realize that they have been wrong. As it is said, "Changing the errors of our ways, those errors vanish."
Q: Will the Venerable Master please
explain the Great Compassion Mantra. One book says, "Serious physical diseases
disappear instantly." But some people say, "That's impossible! Will your
sickness get better just by reciting the Great Compassion Mantra?"
A: It's effective if you're sincere. If you're insincere, then it cannot be effective. As the saying goes, "When anger turns into joy, the dead man returns to life. If you claim this is false, you should know that Buddhas don't lie." Once you have faith, there will definitely be some response. The Great Compassion Mantra can cure 84,000 kinds of illnesses in the world, but that's for people with roots of goodness. People who don't have any good roots cannot read it even if he wants to. And try as he might, his sickness cannot be cured
Q: Meditators see illusions, as
most people call it. Could you please explain this phenomenon that occurs during
A: Any phenomenon is illusory and false. What you see are just the fifty kinds of transformations according to the Shurangama Sutra. It would be very sad of you to consider any of these a form of accomplishment.
Q: How come Buddhism doesn't
encourage people to enjoy themselves?
A: "To suffer is to end suffering; to enjoy blessings is to end blessings." The money in the bank is always yours if you don't spend it. If you eat, drink, and be merry, then you will use up your saving very quickly.
Q: Confucianism talks about
humaneness while Buddhism talks about compassion. There are numerous
similarities between the two, please explain their differences and similarities
A: To be extremely humane is to be compassionate. Compassion embodies humaneness. Humaneness is the seed to a good person; it is the seed of goodness for practicing Buddhist precepts.
Q: Why should I adhere to the Five
Precepts if I haven't received them?
A: The Five Precepts are the precepts of our inherent nature. You should keep them whether you have received them or otherwise. Receiving the precepts is a phenomenon while keeping the precepts is a noumenon. You must keep the precepts purely so that the noumenon becomes perfected.
Q: The Heart Sutra has this
passage, "Form is emptiness and emptiness is form." Is this talking about women
or men? It's not necessarily an explanation of male and female forms only,
right? Will the Venerable Master please explain?
A: All female and male forms are included here. True emptiness contains wonderful existence while wonderfulness contains true emptiness. True emptiness is not empty, therefore, it is wonderful existence. Wonderful existence is not existent, therefore, it is true emptiness. "Form is emptiness," is simply about not looking outside for happiness because it is actually inherent to our nature. We don't need to dwell on form. There's true happiness in emptiness. Therefore, "Form is emptiness and emptiness is form."
Q: Is meditation and the
"investigation of Dhyana" the same thing, or are they two different things?
A: Although the terms are different, they mean the same. If we really understand the investigation of Dhyana, then we wouldn't be confused any longer.
Q: Are charms and the spells of the
eight diagrams effective?
A: Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism in China started out the same. So why do we still believe in Buddhism now? It is because the teachings of Taoism, Confucianism, and other religions are not ultimate; while that of Buddhism is ultimate. I told you earlier about the great functions of the entire substance (that which is ultimate is complete), so Confucianism is very similar Buddhism. In fact, Lao Tzu of Taoism is an incarnation of Venerable Mahakasyapa of Buddhism and Confucius is a transformed incarnation of the Youth of Water and Moon according to Buddhism.
Q: How can we eliminate our karmic
A: Any karmic obstacle can be annulled if people could just not get angry. Just be patient for an extra second before we get angry.
Q: The Sutras say "To the Buddha I
return and rely, vowing that all living beings understand the great Way
profoundly, and bring forth the Bodhi mind. To the Dharma I return and rely,
vowing that all livng beings deeply enter the Sutra Treasury, and have wisdom
like the sea. To the Sangha I return and rely, vowing that all living beings
form together a great assembly, one and all in harmony." Since monks or nuns
have to manage the great assembly, everything that they do must accord with the
Buddha's way. But people are not perfect. People are still people, if they can't
even upheld the rules themselves, aren't they misleading living beings by
managing the great assembly.
A: There's good and bad in the world; there are those who cultivate and there are those who don't. There are those who truly support Buddhism and there are those who only use Buddhism to supply themselves with clothing and food. To the latter, Buddhism is a business. They try to fool people into believing that fish eyes are pearls. Whether people are fooled depend on whether they have the ability to select the right Dharma, the understanding of what is right and what is wrong. Without such an ability, people mistake the thief for their son, misery for joy, and black for white.
Q: Why can't Buddhism be simpler so
that lots of people can understand it all at once?
A: Why don't we think of ways for kids to work as soon as they're born?
Q: What happens if we are
illiterate and understand the words to the text?
A: This is easy, just learn! You can ask others if you don't understand! To draw near good teachers is to find good friends!
Q: How can we tell who is truly a
teacher who understands?
A: To tell, just check and see if he contends and if he is greedy? Check and see if he is selfish or self-benefiting? See if he always lies but claims that he is being expedient. If you still consider people like that to be good advisors, then you can't tell right from wrong.
Q: Some people think that Buddhism
is a religion that is very passive, could you please explain their point of
A: It would be wrong to think that Buddhism is passive. Buddhism is most proactive. It's just that most of us don't understand this kind this proactivity. In today's world that is fragile, chaotic, and wartorn, people are in a daze all day, oblivious to the fact that their lives could end the next day. Buddhists, however, remain completely calm in this state of affairs, still cultivating and doing the work that they should be doing. Take the Sangha at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, for instance, which grounds itself on Buddhist traditions, getting up at 3:30 a.m. to participate in the 4 a.m. service. There may be universal bowing, meditation, Sutra recitation, repentance ceremony or individual work after the morning service. Think about it, is it passive to get up so early and work hard on cultivation all day long?
Q: Some people say that they're
sick because they have inherited their ancestors' karma. How do they eliminate
that kind of karmic obstacle?
A: "We get full only when you eat; we end our own karma." We don't need to shoulder the offensive karma of those generations before us. It would be enough if we just stop creating more karma.
Q: Are there really hells?
A: I'll tell you, we're in the hells when we're alive: most people are troubled, fighting and arguing with each other without a break. Isn't that like being in the hells? How is a life like that meaningful? There are also floods, typhoons, wars, and other manmade disasters that make life here like living in the hells! Furthermore, disasters plague us so that we're miserable beyond words. We would rather die when we our cancer acts up. Isn't that like being in the hells?
Q: Besides human
beings, could other living beings in the six destinies become Buddhas too?
A: Living beings in any of the destinies can become Buddhas, but they must become a human being first before they can become Buddhas. Animals don't become Buddhas straightaway. The realm of humans is the most important threshold for living beings on their path to Buddhahood.
Q: Is it more appropriate to bury
or cremate the deceased?
A: Cremation. Less space is required that way, only a tiny spot. If the dead use up too many places, the living will run out of places to live.
Q: We can only cultivate the
Buddhadharma by having no desires; but this world would not make progress unless
there are desires. How do ordinary people balance the two?
A: When you say there's progress only because of desires, what kind of progress might that be? So what if there is progress? How is that beneficial?
Q: Some monastics have begun to bow
to laypeople recently. Some disciples believe that is ridiculous and does not
accord with the Dharma. Will the Master please provide us with instructions on
A: This started a long time ago. Such monastics have bowed to presidents, high ranking officials and certain laypeople on a frequent basis. However, they don't bow to beggars; they only bow to people who are rich and powerful. We don't even need to inquire as to whether these people act according to the Dharma. More fundamentally, these are no monastics: monastics would never bow to laypeople because they know how noble monks and nuns are. They would never make themselves so lowly.
Q: I heard that the Venerable
Master supported the Republicans in the election between Bush and Clinton?
A: I don't belong to a political party. I support whoever has the capabilities. There will be a series of natural and manmade disasters once Clinton is elected president. That's because he doesn't have enough blessings. Open up the history books and you will see that when leaders don't have enough blessings, citizens suffer as a result too.
Q: Master, if you were to say that
you were enlightened, would mean that you are not enlightened?
A: If I were to say that I am not enlightened, it wouldn't mean that I'm enlightened either. Why do people have to say they were enlightened?
Q: You just talked about how the
full lotus posture is equivalent to a gold pagoda and a half lotus position is
equivalent to a silver pagoda, will you please discuss meditation?
A: Don't be too anxious. You will only bite off more than you can chew. If you cannot sit in full lotus yet, sit in half lotus. The faster you want to go, the slower you're going to get there. Study one day at a time; don't try to graduate from college right away.
Q: I just want to learn more.
A: You have to empty your brain if you want to learn more. If you don't empty your brain and all that falsehood in it, you will not be able to put any dharma in there.
Q: You just don't want to put it in
A: You're always discontent. You first have to build the foundation to the house well. Before the foundation to the house is well-built, the house would not be solid either. A house is useless just sitting there on the side.
Q: Now that I have taken the first
step, what is the second step?
A: Take it slow. You don't even necessarily understand everything that I am saying right now. Wait until you can understand what I'm saying, that way you will also understand why I don't say anything.
Q: I'm an officer in an association
at school. I would like the Venerable Master to detoxify some of my poisons. My
poisons are probably what Buddhism refers to as the Three Poisons of greed,
anger, and delusion. I feel that I must study hard during my student years, but
relationships have affected me. Also, as an officer in the association, I have
some difficulties in working with people. I don't know whether my problems are
because of greed, anger, and delusion, so will the Master please provide me with
A: All evil karma occurs because of "greed, anger, and delusion that had no beginning." They began since time immemorial. There was no beginning to when we had planted those seeds of defilement, and that's why we're very emotional. Where did emotions come from? From greed, anger, and delusion. That's why greed, anger, and delusion are the three poisons. Why don't we stay away from the three poisons since they're so dangerous? To keep away from greed, anger, and delusion, we shouldn't act out of emotion. People have feelings, but we have to work hard to prevent ourselves from being pressured by feelings. That way, a girl doesn't have to feel pressured to have a relationship when she doesn't have a boyfriend and a boy doesn't have to feel pressured to have a relationship when he doesn't have a boyfriend.
Q: Taiwan has a tradition for people not to save someone who is drowning. They call that person a "replacement," a "substitute for a ghost." By saving the person who is drowning, you get yourself in trouble. When another friend and I were in high school, we saved someone who was about to drown. According to Taiwanese customs, we had to eat noodles stewed with pig feet, food that is suppose to calm our scare. But we didn't eat any. Will we become sick or hurt because of that incident?
A: No. Nothing bad will happen to someone who tries to save people. Those customs and traditions are thought up by demons and ghosts; they're solutions made up by fox spirits, for example. They get passed around long enough that they became traditions. We have to save someone who's dying. How can we refuse to save someone who's dying?
Q: Has the Master seen ghosts
A: I will not answer questions like this. Why? Because even if I have, you haven't yet. If I were to say that I haven't, you would still think that I have. So this is a question that shouldn't be answered.
Q: Is there a mantra we can recite
to make ghosts leave?
A: The power of mantras is inconceivable. It's not that ghosts are afraid of the mantra, but because we don't have any ghostly shadows in our minds. We feel protected as we recite a mantra, thinking, "This mantra of mine will scare away all the ghosts." So the ghosts disappear. In that way, it's correct that mantras are effective.
Q: Are there some ghosts who are
not afraid of mantras?
A: There are some very strong and powerful ghosts.
Q: Why do they disturb you when you
didn't disturb them?
A: This question has to do with cause and effect, with karma that intersects the way a net does.
Q: If they continue to go round and
round [with cause and effect], when will their karma ever end?
A: We end it whenever we understand it, that is, whenever we realize Buddhahood. When can we end it if we're always confused?
Q: Do you think it's better to yell
at people or to bow to the Buddhas?
A: Sometimes it's good to yell at people too.
Q: Under what circumstance is it
good to yell at people?
A: When mistakes are made.
Q: Mistakes made by whom?
A: By the one who gets yelled at.
Venerable Master: Do you yell at your wife
A: Yes. But sometimes when I am the one who have made a mistake, I feel good that other people yell at me too.
Venerable Master: That's not the principle here. Do you yell at people who are not related to you for no reason?
A: I do sometimes that when I'm in a bad mood. Like when somebody I don't know bumps into me on the road. He should have walked with his eyes open.
Venerable Master: You should be a bit more patient there. Don't get so angry.
A: Master, I'm not kidding with you (in Chinese it is literally, "lifting a bar").
Venerable Master: Not bad if you have enough strength to lift up that bar.
Q: Have you ever smoked cigarettes before?
Venerable Master: Since you have, it's as if I have.
Q: Master must know what kind of
Bodhisattva is the Great Immortal Huang in Hong Kong?
A: The Great Immortal Huang in Hong Kong is just an immortal, but a very efficacious one. He saves ignorant people. They don't understand principles that are too profound and deep, so only superficial little magic tricks can be used with them! That way they will develop faith.
Q: What happens when we feel pain
A: If you're aware of the pain, then the more painful it is, the better. If you can't get past this stage, you will always hurt. Don't always follow the command of that feeling. You have to make it listen to you. You have to be the one in control. We have to know that our body is not real, but composed of the four false elements. It doesn't matter at all. If I were to die and go to the hells, I would experience agony from volcanic eruptions in the hells much more painful than this! What should I do at that point? While I can be in control now, I'll let it suffer a bit more because once energy and blood break through that spot, it will no longer be in pain.
Q: Does anyone bow to himself?
A: To whom is he bowing? Is there a self? "Both the one bowing and the one receiving the bow are empty and quiescent." It's empty, don't be attached.
Q (by a student): I have a question, could
the Venerable Master please point out the way for me? When someone is
meditating, who or what is the meditator?
A: You find out.
Q (by a student): You say that while we're
meditating, we should be patient with what we feel. But I find that strange. Can
we express our feelings, or should we keep them inside? Sometimes when I stuff
them inside, I find that I want to explode afterwards. What should I do?
A: Be patient with them, which means emptying them so that they disappear. It's not about hiding them inside. What's the use of hiding them inside? Why do you need to keep in garbage? Forget them! Things that are suppressed are even filthier than the filthiest things. As powerful as the atom bomb may be, the power of suppression is even greater. If you're not afraid of exploding into pieces, go ahead and hide them. How scary!
Q: I would like to ask the
Venerable Master about shariras. Some people say they are rocks. Some people say
one sharira will split into two while others say they will disappear. Will you
A: Shariras are a result of keeping to the precepts: no killing, no stealing, and primarily, no sexual activity. That way, one's precious things are not lost. What are those "precious things?" I believe every one of us knows what is the essence of life, I don't need to say too much. If we refrain from sexual activity, our shariras will naturally be bright and brilliant, more solid than diamonds. As far as what the average person says about it multiplying. . . I have never experimented with them or done tests on shariras before. I can only tell you this: by keeping the precepts, one will have shrariras. On the other hand, if one doesn't keep the precepts, there will be no shariras.
Q: In that case, our bodies must be
pure so that we'll have shariras.
A: Right. You should stay single and not touch women. Having been intimate with a woman, whatever shariras you may have will only be glass.
Q: Then women can't be intimate
A: Right! That's right too. That's why Buddhist monasticism doesn't allow monks or nuns to marry; instead they watch and encourage each other to avoid promiscuity. To be promiscuous is to violate precepts. Cultivators must be very clear on this issue between men and women. If they're not clear about this, they would merely be pretending that fish eyes are pearls.
Q (by a student): Will you please help me
with my meditation so that I can understand the principles of Buddhism even
better, as well as those of other religions that I'm studying?
A: To sit in meditation is to learn to sit and handle beatings; meditation is as painful as being beaten. This applies to the hours when you're not actually sitting as well. We ought to be patient when people hit us or yell at us. In general, we can meditate well and sleep in a sitting position when we are unaffected by the eight kinds of emotions.
Q (by a student): Please tell me the
difference between "enduring" and "being patient." Are they the same? Or is
endurance different from patience, which is to be accepting.
A: Being patient means not getting angry, not exploding like a bomb. The intolerance of pain during meditation, for instance, is both endurance and patience. To bear what one can bear and to bear what cannot bear means that one doesn't go off like an atom bomb.
Dr. Akpinar: I believe there is a difference between the two in English. To endure is to be strong; to be patient is to have a good personality. Endurance is mostly physical, while patience is about being soft, gentle, and easygoing.
Q (by a student): You say each religion
has its strengths and weaknesses. What are the weaknesses of Buddhism?
A: There are many weaknesses. Cheating people! Claiming others' money for themselves. These are all weaknesses! Buddhists should not exploit relationships and have others contribute only to themselves but not others. These Buddhists let their blessings run away. Buddhist monastics should not touch money, but why do some monastics have so much money in their pockets? They're suppose to be eating one meal at midday, staying under a tree [at one location] only for the fortnight, uninterested in valuables, own no possessions, and just going on their alms rounds barefoot and eating whatever they receive. That ought to be enough. So why do they live in high risers? Why do they live in such luxurious housing facilities? Eat such excellent food? Dress so nicely? What does this mean? Are these weaknesses?
Q (by a student): Will the Venerable
Master please tell me how I can strengthen my determination?
A: How do you obtain determination? Why do you want determination?
Student: I'm not strong enough.
Venerable Master: Who took it away?
Student: It's right here in me.
Venerable Master: If it's right there inside you, why are you asking me?
Student: I'll go and practice on my own.
Venerable Master: Since you have it, just turn around! It's enough if you would just take it out! You're asking me, but how can I teach you to be strong? Your determination belongs to you while my determination belongs to me. By asking me this question, are you going outside of yourself for answers? Aren't you asking a blind man for directions?
Student: Maybe I have not lost it, but I just want to strengthen it.
Venerable Master: When did you lose it? And how come you are so determined when you're chasing after women?
Student: I understand.
(The crowd laughs.)
Venerable Master: If you've got determination in that area, why don't you have determination in this area?
Student: Now I've got it.
Q (by a student): How does a non-Buddhist
learn to bear pain from family and friends?
A: What kind of pain?
Student: The guy that you like doesn't reciprocate in kind.
A: Everything is a test to see what you will do, what I will do, and what he will do. If we don't recognize what is before us, we must start anew. Really recognize our faults in any difficult situation. Do not criticize others. If we really know our mistakes, we don't need to worry about whether other people are right or wrong. Others' faults are simply my own; knowing that we are all the same is great compassion. Be extremely kind to those with whom you have no affinities. Great compassion is to understand that we are all the same. By being kind and compassionate to people, we will have no more problems.
Q (by a student): I'm a Jew. Judaism is excluded from the five major religions that the Venerable Master mentioned. I would like to know how Buddhism could cooperate with Judaism.
A: Judaism is Buddhism. Catholicism is Buddhism. The labels to these medicines have changed, but not the medicines themselves. These terms may change, but their definitions do not. I don't consider any religion a religion. Different religions simply represent the changes in human nature. So I belong to whatever religion I see.
Q: What does "affliction is Bodhi"
A: If you don't know, how could you have become even more distraught than you had been? There's not much to get out of this. It's not at all difficult; it's as easy as flipping over the palm of your hand. Affliction is one side of the coin while Budhi is on the other side. This, too, is just like ice and water.
Q: What's the difference between
cultivating with a group at a monastery versus at home? What should we do if
we're ill at ease at a monastery?
A: If you really know how to cultivate, you may do so at a monastery. If you really know how to cultivate, you could cultivate at home as well. If you are able to focus on what you're doing, regardless of what it is, then anything is possible. Otherwise, it's useless whether you're at home or a monastery.
Q: How do we cultivate?
A: Recite the Buddha's name with sincerity.
Q: How can we be sincere?
A: Let go of everything and be avid about being liberated from birth and death.
Q: As a parent, how should I teach
my kids so that they understand the value of the Five Precepts and adhere to
A: The best method would be for you, first of all, to adhere to the precepts. Children model behavior. They will naturally not be skeptical about the value in holding the precepts when they see that their parents enjoy keeping the precepts. Another good method is to read to them the biographies of preeminent monks and nuns. Virtuous monastics since times of old have upheld the precepts and cultivated what is good, thus attaining great blessings. These stories leave indelible impressions a child's subconsciousness, which become the model for their moral life as future adults. They will believe in them and carry them out.
Q: What is the primary purpose of
A: The advantages to meditation are manifold. Whether we study, work, or take care of the house, daily meditation increases our concentration, lessens the pressures of life, and increases our physical health. If we honestly want to develop our wisdom and become liberated, then we must develop this habit. We must make be committed to meditation in the long run so that we will be truly delivered from the cycle of birth and death.
Q: Does a Buddhist disciple who has
received the Five Precepts and the Bodhisattva Precepts have to uphold them with
care and be a lifelong vegetarian?
A: Of course! What's the use of receiving the precepts if you were not going to keep them?
Q (by a student): After encountering the
Buddhadharma, I have studied it quite seriously; but my friends and family still
don't understand. They think that I have become too involved and tied down by
demons. At this point, should I practice compassion and go with the flow, or
should I grit my teeth and pull myself out of the sea of suffering that is birth
and death? Please give me some instructions.
A: You have to be the unwavering candle in the windstorm, the enduring gold in the intense fire. You have to be undaunted to be a true disciple of the Buddha.
Q: Should we use things that are
derivatives of slaughter, such as leather jackets, leather shoes, and leather
A: What if they feel the same way as some people who have died and then decided that they did not want to donate their organs? They claim that they were just confused at the time they made the decision.
Q: How come that bird sits in the
Master' palm without flying away?
A: Because I have no thought of killing.
Q: Buddhism says "All living beings
have the Buddha nature." Why are living beings so lost that we need to continue
to suffer now?
A: All living beings have the Buddha nature; all living beings also have the ghost nature; living beings also have the animal nature; living beings also have the nature of god, of Bodhisattvas. Living beings come complete with these, they only know to go downhill and not to move up. As the saying goes, "The superior man understands what is lofty while the petty man understands what is base." Living beings are greedy for visible and tangible objects in the world. They think that eating, drinking, and being marry are real. They don't recognize the happiness that is in their true and inherent nature. Therefore, there are actually "two paths of good and evil, but some cultivate while others commit evil." You say that living beings are all lost, but there are those who are not lost. There are those who seriously cultivate, taking one step at a time and working as hard as they possibly can. So you can't say that all living beings are lost.
Q: Someone has been preaching to me
lately about the Teachings of the Sun Lotus in Japan. They say they're a form of
Buddhism as well, but they only talk about the Dharma Flower Lotus Sutra. I
wonder if the Venerable Master has any insights on this sect?
A: I'm not going to respond to this question. If I were to answer, I would be attacking others. Although they're Japanese, I don't want to hurt their self-respect.
Q: Recently, I had heard people
say, "People could first become enlightened then go and cultivate seriously. If
you come here, you will become enlightened immediately after I give you my
blessings. You can then go on to really cultivate." When I heard this, I thought
it was very strange because we have always known about how we should cultivate
first before we become enlightened and certified to the fruition. I would like
the Venerable Master to please explain this seemingly contrary theory.
A: This is too esoteric. I only understand principles that are ordinary; I don't understand principles that are too esoteric.
Q (by a student): I have a question about
desire. Please explain the difference between the right kind of desire and the
wrong kind of desire.
A: It's wrong for us to be selfish, and it's right for us to be selfless. It's right when we accord with principle; it's wrong when we do not accord with true principles. It's wrong to benefit ourselves; it's right to benefit others. I wouldn't understand this if it were more profound. The right desires are those we can be open about; whereas the wrong desires are those we want to hide from others. In other words, it's right when everyone considers what we do to be reasonable; we're being open that way. It's wrong when we're afraid that everyone will find out about the unprincipled things that we do. We are wrong whenever we pretend. We are wrong when we put on a façade to hide what's inside. The truth is not far from human cravings; they are different in only a matter of a thought.
Q: Will the Venerable Master please
explain what you think of this: some people say that when they're possessed by
ghosts, it's Guanshiyin Bodhisattva who has entered their body.
A: I am not Guanshiyin Bodhisattva and I'm not a ghost either, so I don't know the answer to this question.
Q: We must bow to the Buddhas
10,000 times to take refuge with the Venerable Master. Must we finish those
10,000 bows before we take refuge or is it okay to do the 10,000 bows over time
after we have taken refuge?
A: You can do 10,000 bows gradually after taking refuge. After you finish 10,000, you can bow 100,000 or 1,000,000 more. There's no limit.
Q: Do we have to be lifelong
vegetarians after we receive the precepts? If it's inconvenient for the time
being, is it okay to eat the vegetables cooked with meat?
A: If you were as sincere as the Sixth Patriarch, you may eat the vegetables in dishes that contain meat. If you haven't reached the level of the Sixth Patriarch, it's better to eat less meat.
Q: Why are there so many disasters
in the world now? For instance, there are many more airplane crashes this year
than last. What kind of retribution is this?
A: People get angry too often and kill too often!
Q: Dharma Master, can
laypeople also perform the ceremony for feeding ghosts?
A: Lay people can eat and so can monastics. Lay people can wear clothes, and so can monastics. Lay people have to sleep, and so can monastics. Whatever monastics cultivate, laypeople can too. You should not lie and say, "I'm not performing any ceremony to feed the ghosts." Don't put on an act and collect donations too. No matter what it is that laypeople do, they cannot accept donations. When lay people perform Buddhist services such as reciting Sutras, they cannot accept remunerations. They can't accept remunerations for anything that they do. You can do any Buddhist service if you were not doing it for your own gain. If you were interested in your own gain, you can't do any Buddhist service because you would be using Buddhism to get your clothes and meals, even though you haven't even left the householder's life.
Q: What does "the mutual unknowing
of dharmas" mean?
A: Do you need to ask? They don't know one another! Do you think dharmas can be cognizant of one another? Do dharmas have awareness?
Q: My parents have been dead for
many years and I have participated in crossing over ceremonies many times as
their son. May I know if my parents have been crossed over to the other shore
and in which destiny have they become reborn?
A: Ask somebody who knows. I'm somebody who doesn't know. I can't answer this question of yours. I don't have that kind of knowledge.
Q: What kind of Buddha is the
A: Japanese Buddha!
Q: Will the Venerable Master
explain from the Buddhist perspective why the Chinese never unite wherever they
are, including in Malaysia?
A: They do this to help other people and other countries. It's negative in one respect and positive in another respect. For instance, we work during the day and rest at night, but if you think it's wrong to rest at night, then you will wear yourself out! They may be discordant and fragmented now, but when they have helped enough people, they will become united. That's all right. When things reach an extreme, it will turn around. When things become extremely negative, it will turn positive. Opposition is Tao's movement while weakness is Tao's function. If you can reverse your perspective and find the positives, then everything is OK. No problem.
Q: How do we leave suffering and attain happiness, become liberated from birth and death?
A: You're happy if you don't suffer! You will be reborn if you don't die!
Everything can be let go,
Except for our temper.
If we can really remain free from anger,
Then we have attained a priceless gem.
If we can stop blaming people,
Then things are even better.
When afflictions never arise,
How could our enemies and debtors find us?
When we look for people's faults all the time
We shall never end our suffering.
Q: Is there such a
thing as Tibetan Tantric practices for couples in the Buddhadharma?
A: Why do you want to know so much? Have you had too much to eat?
Q: You said earlier that animals
produce toxins in their bodies when they eat polluted plants. Will humans also
produce toxins when we eat those plants?
A: Not only toxins, but death! Try it if you don't believe me.
Q: Will you be our master once we leave the householder's life?
A: I'm already your master without you having to ask! If you think I can be your master, then I'm your master even if you don't ask. However, if you don't cultivate, I'm not your teacher even if you ask.
Q: How should we explain the text
in the Great Compassion Repentance: "The nature is directed toward the
Buddhadharma and the Sangha; the two truths interpenetrate the seal of samadhi."
A: Do you want to cultivate this? If you don't want to cultivate it, then don't ask about it. If you want to cultivate it, then don't ask so informally. You must be earnest and serious. What's the use of learning a bunch of clichés when you don't respect the Dharma?
Q: Bodhisattvas are cultivators who
are about to become Buddhas. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva is a Bodhisattva while
Shakyamuni Buddha has already become a Buddha. So why does the "Universal Door
Chapter" tell us to recite "Namo Guanshiyin Bodhisattva" more and recite "Namo
Fundamental Teacher Shakyamuni Buddha" less? We should be learning from the
A: If you want to recite "Fundamental Teacher Shakyamuni Buddha," you can recite more even if he tells you to recite less [Shakyamuni Buddha spoke the "Universal Door Chapter"]. If you don't want to recite "Guanshiyin Bodhisattva," you can recite less even though he tells you to recite more!
Q: The kids that I teach don't
listen to me. It's impossible to teach them. I have used everything. What other
methods can I use to make them listen? What kind of mantra should I recite?
A: Be patient, be patient, so po he.
Q: How should parents encourage
their children to cultivate? Should they start cultivating at a young age or
should they wait until a certain age before they begin to cultivate?
A: "We become red around rouge; we become dark around black ink." If you do what is good, then kids learn that; if you do what is bad as parents, then kids learn to be bad too. For instance, if the parents were to think about selling drugs all the time, the kids would definitely smoke dope because they're too close to it.
Q: Are you my teacher from lives
A: You're asking me this question because you don't really believe it. You're skeptical about it.
Q (a disciple): We earnestly request that
the Venerable Master remain in the world. (People expressed this on three
different occasions in 1990.)
A: I didn't say I was leaving. This kind of thing is predetermined.
Q (a disciple): I would like to set up a
lengthening life plaque for the Venerable Master.
A: How can I help others if I need other people's to help?
Venerable Master: Are you really shy?
Venerable Master: You're shy because you have the mark of self. The Vajra Sutra says, "We should have no mark of self, mark of others, mark of living beings, and mark of life span."
Q (a disciple): I'm really scared that the
Master will yell at me.
A: Have I ever yelled at you before?
A: If anybody yells at you, you should smile.
Q: How do we curb our desires?
A: If we want to put restrictions on our desires, we might as well cut them off completely. We should know that desires drain people's wisdom. Without desires, we increase our wisdom. With desires, we increase our stupidity. Why do we have desires? It is because we eat too well. We have desires after we eat a lot of rich foods and yet we don't control the resulting thoughts of desire well. People with strong desires should not eat so much meat, onions, scallions, and leeks. Eat less rich and nourishing foods; eat only a bit of it. People have strong desires because they eat too well. If they don't eat for six months, they will definitely have no desires.
Venerable Master: I would like to ask
everyone, do people live to eat, or eat to live?
Disciple: We eat to live.
Venerable Master: Why do we live?
Disciple: For knowledge.
Venerable Master: What is knowledge for?
Disciple: To achieve our spiritual goals.
Venerable Master: That's right, we should all search for wisdom. With great wisdom, we will not be so confused. Why do we always act confused? It is because we don't have any wisdom. This is the fundamental issue. The Buddha realized Buddhahood for the sake of wisdom. We should do some meritorious things for the world, virtuous things for the citizens, and beneficial things for the entire human race. This is the duty of human beings, eating isn't it.
Q: Master, how will Panchan Lama's
death affect Buddhism in China?
A: I will not respond to this question. I honestly don't know, so I absolutely will make no judgments and offer criticisms on this. Although I don't have much to do after I have had my meal, I refuse to discuss this issue.
Q: Master, how should I cultivate?
A: Be bold and courageous in life. Don't become arrogant and egoistical.
Q: Why don't disciples of a certain
non-Buddhist sect study the Shurangama Sutra?
A: The Shurangama Sutra is a mirror that reflects demons. The demon-reflecting mirror make their true character appear.
Q: I have read many Buddhist books
but they seem to be different than the Buddhism that the Venerable Master
describes. The Tantric practices of the Secret School are completely different
than anything that the Venerable Master says. May I ask what is the value of
that kind of practice?
A: I am less than him. If you want to listen to me, then listen to me. If you want to listen to him, then listen to him. I refuse to compare and say what is right and what is wrong. You choose for yourself. However, the Buddha never said that anyone can become a Buddha by having desires. The Shurangama Sutra says, "Without eliminating lust, one cannot transcend defilements. It would be like steaming sand and hoping that it becomes rice."
Q: How should I help others?
A: Quietly help from behind the scenes.
Q: I would like Buddhism to be my
faith, but my parents are Catholics. Am I being disrespectful to them by not
following their faith? How should I settle this dilemma?
A: Is it disrespectful to them for you to smoke dope? Is that a dilemma? I believe you don't smoke dope and that's why I'm answering you this way.
Q: Isn't it good if we can
appropriately express our hatred and anger?
A: It would be excellent if you could do it so that it's just right, but I'm afraid that you can't stop at "just right." You either go too far or not far enough, because there's no line drawn at the place where it is "just right."
Q: We should not harbor any hatred
even though it may be just right, right?
Q: Why are there asuras in the
three wholesome destinies if they don't belong there?
A: Although asuras belong to the three wholesome destinies, they are often dragged into the four evil destinies too. Why are they classified into one of the three wholesome destinies? It is because some of them have done some good deeds, such as fighting against injustice. It's just that they have been too extreme; they're good and bad. That is why sometimes they are grouped into one of the three wholesome destinies and sometimes the four evil destinies.
Q: If someone eats human flesh, will he become a human being?
A: You go ahead and try it. I've never been a cannibal. Neither have you. How would I know the answer to this question? I can only say that you can try it out.
Q: Why do Christians eat meat while
Buddhists do not?
A: Christians don't have to eat meat. In the past, some Buddhist monks ate meat too. Buddhism doesn't necessarily forbid people to eat meat; Buddhists can eat the three kinds of purified meats. Christianity doesn't necessarily make everyone eat meat; there are Christians who are vegetarians too.
Q: How can we cultivate to have the
karma to become enlightened?
A: You will not have the karma for enlightenment if you don't change your habits.
Q: Why am I terminally ill and
bedridden though I've done lots of good deeds? Will the Venerable Master please
A: Just recite Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's name and you'll get better.
Q: Aren't arhats able to become
liberated from birth and death?
A: They only take care of themselves.
Q: Isn't it miserable for
Bodhisattvas to save living beings in life after life?
A: Although we're not Bodhisattvas, we want to learn the ways of Bodhisattvas. We will no longer be miserable once we have realized the path. By then, people are but photographic images to us.
Q: Master, what were your greatest
delight and greatest disappointment in the past?
A: I enjoyed helping people the most. I am most disappointed to have lied: not being able to do what I said I would.
Q: Buddhism is separated into the
two schools of the Manifest and the Secret. Which one is more helpful to living
beings? Do those at the City of the Ten Thousand Buddhas study both the Manifest
and the Secret schools?
A: The "Secret" in the Secret and Manifest schools are not the kind of secret we imagine. The Manifest isn't what we imagine to be either. The Manifest School in Buddhism means that it allows everyone to understand: when I speak Dharma for person A, person B also understands; when I speak Dharma for person B, person A also understands. This is Manifest. Secret means that I speak Dharma for Smith but Lee doesn't understand that Dharma. When I speak Dharma for Lee, Smith doesn't understand. It is definitively "secret." It doesn't mean that it is secretive so that people wouldn't understand. It's not talking about Tantric practices for couples, for singles, for the confused, or for the outrageous.
Q: Both the Secret School and
Christianity say their believers could marry. Is that impure?
A: I don't want to answer this question because you don't know whether they're telling the truth or I am. Implicit in this question is an argument. I don't want to fight. In general, real cultivation requires celibacy, not homosexual behavior or masturbation.
Q: I had heard that there's merit
and virtue to bowing to preeminent Sangha members. One gets to eliminate one's
past karma. Is that true?
A: Yes and no. If the Dharma Master that you bow to is a real cultivator, then there would be merit to bowing to him. If the Dharma Master that you bow to has no merit, he will have to bow to you because he has to pay back his debt to you. How do I know this? I know lots of people who owe a lot of debts. That's why I have been bowing to all living beings since I was twelve. I had even bowed to mosquitoes and ants. I had never hoped for them to release some kind of light to shine on me. I don't wait around for it because if I did, I would owe so much to so many that I could never repay my debts.
Q: Some people say there is no
Buddhahood to realize. So why exactly are we cultivating?
A: There is Buddhahood. It's just that once we realize Buddhahood, we no longer become attached to the existence of Buddhas.
Q: I often hear people say that
one's soul can leave the body during meditation. What exactly is real
A: Here's what the Honorable Ji said about meditation, "The gluttonous gets hungry; the starved becomes lanky." You're a glutton because you're hungry. When you've been starved, you become skinnier. To meditate is to cool your thoughts. You know when you're having an out of body experience during meditation. You also know when you can't leave your body. I don't think about this. I don't think about leaving my body or not leaving my body. I don't want to eat too much either.
Q: Have fewer desires
and be content. How can we be content with fewer desires? How could this be
considered real satisfaction?
A: Without desires, you would no longer be greedy. Free from greed, you're content! Why are you dissatisfied? It is because of greed. Greed is a form of desire.
Q: Although vegetables have no
blood or breath, they are unhappy when we pickle them. They resist. Isn't that a
form of killing? Is it true that we're committing murder when we eat meat, but
it's considered less severe when we eat vegetables?
A: If you really think that you're committing murder when you kill and eat vegetables, then you wouldn't do anything. Wouldn't that be better? Of course, as you breath, you're drinking in air that contains microorganism too, which have their lives. There are even more organisms in water. There is life in dirt too if you were to eat dirt. So you're only left with eating fire. There's life in fire too. You tell me what you should do at that point.
Q: Our environment has been
destroyed. If all the animals were to die, where will their spirits go to become
A: They will have immigrated to other countries! You don't believe it? Some Chinese like the United States, so they become American citizens. Some Americans like China, so they become reborn as Chinese. They don't need to naturalize to become Chinese citizens. Souls are the same. You ask me what evidence I have? The things I say now are evidence.
Q: How do we cut off sexual desire?
We may want to cut off our desire, but it just becomes more acute. It becomes so
intense that it's impossible to control.
A: I have a good solution for you if you want to control your sexual desire. Don't eat for six months and you will definitely have no thought of sexual desire.
Q: Is the consequence just as
severe for people who have abortions because they don't have the financial means
[for rearing a child] and other reasons?
A: Without the financial means, they shouldn't have been pregnant in the first place. They should have avoided the problem that would follow that act. Without the financial capabilities, why do they attempt to resolve problems only until they occur? Why do they have to wait until it's too late before they know that they're hungry and have to cook? They should have anticipated this in when planning their yearly budget.
Q: People are born, age, get sick, and die. Is it because of cause and effect that people become ill? Would people become free of illnesses if they were to do good deeds?
A: Not necessarily. For instance, some people want to have an abortion because they're afraid that the doctor would not earn enough money. The doctor [who performs abortions] must be intimately related to you, perhaps a relative or a friend of yours; otherwise, why would they be afraid that he would not get enough to eat?
Q: Is the Truth of Actuality
talking about "emptiness?"
A: It could also contain "existence." If you think it exists, then it exists. If you think it's empty, then it's empty. Emptiness does not obstruct the mundane, while the mundane does not obstruct actuality. Wonderful existence is contained in true emptiness; while wonderful existence contains true emptiness. You don't want to be confused by true emptiness or misled by wonderful existence.
Q: How can we ease others' sadness
when we're sad ourselves?
A: Find the root to that sadness and throw it away so that you will no longer be sad! What is its root? Its root is unsatisfied desires. That is why you're sad. You would definitely be happy if your desires were satisfied. Have no desires and there would be no problems.
Q: How can we lighten our evil
A: Do good deeds.
Q: How do I do good deeds?
A: You should know how to do good deeds since you know how to do evil deeds.
Q: What does the Venerable Master
think of building temples?
A: It's better to build people than to build temples; it's better to build Buddhas than to build people. It's a waste if a temple is built, but there were to be no one to guard it. I'm not against building temples; I am telling the truth. I approve of your building large temples. I don't approve of the building of small temples. I dismantle small temples to build large temples. I build temples where there are no temples.
Q: What is the difference between
consciousness-only and prajna?
A: Consciousness-only is what is known only to consciousness. Prajna is wisdom, which is unknown to consciousness.
Q: Please explain, "One's character
is naturally noble when he seeks nothing. All the victories have been won since
ancient times solely because of patience."
A: Don't expect anything from people. Patience means that one bears what one cannot bear. However, a master cannot be completely tolerant of his disciples, he has to use both kindness and strength. He spoils his disciple by being too patient with them.
Q: May I ask the Venerable Master
how we should study and cultivate Buddhism so that we will have excellent
positions of fruition?
A: Cultivate honestly and earnestly. Respect and do what the teachings have taught. Don't try to be clever and look for shortcuts. Don't think that you're special. Buddhism is most impartial. You reap however much you sow. If you don't work hard, you will not have anything as a result.
Q: Some people say that it seems
like there are more Buddhas than human beings?
A: Buddhas do not have conflicts. They are all one. However many Buddhas there are, there are just as many human beings. However, people fight each other.
Q: It's extremely difficult to
cultivate so that one reaches Buddhahood because one has to become pure
personally and purify one's six senses, which is already a state very difficult
A: The Buddha cultivated blessings and wisdom for three asankhyeya eons and sowed the seeds for fine physical features for a hundred eons. He spent three asankhyeya eons to develop his blessings and wisdom, whereas we talk about how we've been cultivating after two and a half days. It's such a joke.
Q: What is the lotus sit?
A: It's because this sitting position resembles a lotus. It's also because to sit on a lotus all the time symbolizes that one's body is light and concentrated. It also represents the meaning as contained in the Worlds of the Treasury of Lotuses. That's why this sitting position is the lotus sit, or the auspicious sit.
Q: The Venerable Master says that
the Buddha's teachings are the teachings about wisdom. What is Buddha? What is
great wisdom? Great kindness and compassion? Great humaneness?
A: These questions cannot be answered in a few words. The Buddha is half of a transliterated Sanskrit word. "Buddhaya" is the entire word. It's "Buddha" in English, which sounds like "Not Big" in Chinese, so I've called it that too. He's not big, but is he small? He's not small either. I said Buddha is "Not Big" when I spoke at Lancaster. The Buddha is like people, he's not too big; he just has superior wisdom. The Buddha cultivated the Three Bodies, the Four Wisdoms, the Five Eyes, and the Six Penetrations successfully. The Buddha is absolutely capable. The Buddha has terrific wisdom, which is why he is immensely compassionate. He always has the greatest energy and resources; he's never lacking. No one can compare to the Buddha in terms of abilities. Most people are limited in their capabilities; but the Buddha's capabilities are unlimited, which is also why he has boundless kindness and compassion, boundless joy, and boundless equanimity. Kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity are the four qualities of the Buddha's Boundless Mind. Most people have limited kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. They are not like the Buddha. The Buddha can give up what other people cannot give up. He is "greatly kind to those with whom he has no affinities; and greatly compassionate because he considers everyone the same." What is kindness? What is compassion? Kindness makes others happy. Compassion ends others' suffering.
Q: Some people say that there are
360 billion Amitabah Buddhas in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Is that number
A: Everyone becomes a Buddha when he reaches the Land of Ultimate Bliss, so as more people go there, the number of Buddhas increases by the day. The figure, 360 billion, was given several thousand years back. I'm afraid the number is even larger now. Don't have any doubts about this.
Q: Why doesn't Buddhism build more
temples and give more Sutra lectures? Would more people learn about Buddhism
A: Buddhism has its hideousness too sometimes. How is it hideous? In China, Buddhists want to rule their individual turfs. They're not united, like sand that has been strewn about.
Q: Many monks know martial arts,
such as certain sects of the Shaolin Monastery. Why do they have to know martial
A: This was an expedient means that the Patriarch Bodhidharma used when he went to China. Monks sleep when they have nothing to do after a meal. They don't cultivate. So the Patriarch Bodhidharma had them develop their martial arts skills so that they strengthen their bodies after they've had their food. This is for the sake of their personal cultivation.
Q: The passage on the Ten
Commandments in the Bible talks about how one of the commandments is related to
being filial to one's parents. But Westerners have ignored this commandment. As
for Buddhism, how can it claim that filial piety is the root of virtue since the
Buddha had left his parents?
A: Buddhism elevates filial piety so that it reaches its pinnacle. Most people think there's no filiality in Buddhism from what they see. The Buddha had said, "Every man has been my father and every woman, my mother." He saw that all living beings are his parents from the past and are Buddhas of the future. Hence he is not condescendingly toward any living being. He wants to save all living beings so that they become Buddhas. He has vows as terrific as that. That's why after he had cultivated and realized Buddhahood, he then comes back to save all living beings so that they become Buddhas. This is filiality perfected. Every Buddhist Sutra talks about filiality. It's just that most people who don't understand the Buddhadharma see only the surface of the Buddha leaving home to cultivate, which to them meant that he didn't care about his parents. Actually, this is about wanting to be categorically filial to one's parents.
Q: How do we prevent malicious
people from violating us and cheating us?
A: Will you let wolves swallow you if they came to do that?
Q: Some people mean well, but their
actions actually result in harm. How should we deal with that?
A: If you try to help people in all respects, you will not cause people problems. If you try to help yourself in all respects, you will cause everyone problems.
Q: Catholics and Christians
basically don't believe in reincarnation. Do you have any way to resolve that?
A: You may talk to elementary school kids about high school courses but they will not understand. You may talk to high school kids about college courses, but they will not understand either. Whether they believe reincarnation or not is just a matter of time. We don't need to be concerned about these issues needlessly.
Q: I had wanted to leave the
householder's life to become a monk in the past. But, now, I'm already the
father of two children, the husband to my wife, and someone with certain hopes
and desires. United States is a machine that creates desires. With the
promotions on television and various advertisements, someone who has no desire
will still turn into someone who has desire. As a husband and father who is
supporting a family, I am the one who end up facing this unfortunate trend and
these desires. Do I have to become a monk to sever desires and end love? I
should be responsible for the life that I have created up to now. At the same
time, how can I be at peace?
A: "We transcend the world when we see things and reflect upon them; we become lost when we see things and become confused." Don't ask me, ask yourself. You have to figure out the solution to the problems that you've created for yourself
Q: The society is divided into two
different echelons: one is the wealthy while the other is the poor. The divide
has become more and more obvious. The rich has become richer, and the poor has
become poorer. Essentially, we are already seeing the fire pyre down the road.
How should we face this reality?
A: Put out that fire.
Q (by a disciple): We should organize
non-religious activities more often so that more people will come to believe in
A: Anyone who is my disciple should cultivate well. I am more concerned about quality than quantity in order to avoid violating the law of cause and effect.
Q: The Venerable Master had said
that if you don't have a good heart, that if you are not proper, and if you are
selfish, then you would bump into walls. The question is, how do we tell what is
the right goal, the right direction? How do we tell the difference between good
and evil? Not only do we have to pick the path of goodness, but we have to work
hard as we travel on this path. But how can we tell the difference?
A: Laotzu said, "Everyone knows what is ideal, but behaves badly anyway. Everyone knows what is good, but acts unkindly anyway." People could easily change for the better, but they too often become confused on the path of light and run quickly toward the path of darkness. It's actually as easy as the turning over of one's hand! I believe you don't need to ask any more. Kids know how to drink milk though no one had taught them. Why do you have to have someone tell you how to grow up and what to do?
Q: The Venerable Master says that
if we eat too much, we cannot develop our wisdom. So why is one of the Buddhas
so chubby and has a big stomach?
A: I've never seen the Buddha. I don't know.
Q: What kind of status and role do
women have in Buddhism? If they were to learn the Buddhadharma from you, how
should they apply themselves?
A: There's no difference between men and women in Buddhism. There are only rules in Buddhism. Women have more rules to follow than men do because women have the habit of being picky over the smallest things. Men are unrefined and more imprecise. So Buddhism is about equality, but each gender has its set of rules that they have to follow.
Q: I would like to hear more said on this topic, "Developing inherent wisdom."
A: You have to discover your own wisdom. Begin with do no evil and respectfully do every good.
Q: How do I know when
I have become small enough? I am willing to grow and shrink into something
small, but where would my strength come from when I need to do big things?
A: There's no big or small in the things that we do. If we do lots of little things, they become big; if we do just a few big things, they are small. There's no clear distinction between big and small. Do however much you can, don't try to figure out whether something is big or small. If you're always doing this kind of accounting, you will not be able to sleep.
(Extending his hand to show both his palm and the back of his hand.) This is wisdom and this is stupidity. Where is the line drawn between stupidity and wisdom? This is my stupid opinion. (The crowd laughs.)
Q: Now that the Venerable Master
has shortened, even ended, the distance between the Mahayana and Theravadan
traditions, will you please also shorten the distance between Buddhism and
Taoism and Confucianism?
A: Confucianism is for elementary school kids. Taoism is for high school kids. Buddhism is for college kids. (The crowd laughs.)
Q: When I first heard about the Six
Guiding Principles that the Master talks about, I thought they seem difficult.
They're hard to learn, especially true altruism. I believe that's very
difficult. Does the Venerable Master have any class or school for us to attend,
or some method that could teach us to be unselfish?
A: Although people need to be taught this, they can actually begin with some small things, start from the beginning. If you teach kids how to be good people, how to interact with others, how not to fight to be the best and earn big bucks, then as selfless kids, they would not be crazy when they grow up. Some people say, "I can't learn that, I'm too old already." Some other people say, "I had never learned it when I was young and I cannot learn it now. Now I just want to earn more money or get a promotion. I only know this much." That's okay, though the childhood of those in the prime of their life and those who are senior have already gone, they can still have the mentality of kids. You can start over with your actions. As it says, everything is a test to see what I will do, to see what you will do, to see what he will do. If you do not recognize the situation, you will have to start anew.
Q: Why is it that some monastic and
lay cultivators cultivate so that they emit a light, while others do not? Some
radiates a light since they have been young. What's the reason behind that?
A: Don't be attached to that. Cultivate whether there's light or not. Don't be full of yourself if you have an aura. The aura disappears as soon as you're attached. People who don't have any light can have that light if they cultivate. Don't be attached to these superficialities, just work hard and cultivate honestly. Proceed boldly and vigorously according to the Buddhadharma. Don't back down. Don't be concerned about light or no light. When the time comes, you'll radiate light even when you don't want it. When it's not yet time and you haven't reached that level, there will be no light even though you want light.
Q (by a disciple): Master, so and so will
be leaving the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
A: We don't try to keep them even if they were Bodhisattvas.
Q: The Taipei city government's
plan to move the Guanyin Bodhisattva statue at Park No. 7 will not harm the
statue, so why does the Venerable Master say this will pose a danger for Taiwan?
I really don't understand. Will the Venerable Master please provide us with an
A: This is because in their heart of hearts, people do not want that statue moved. The government would be dismissing everyone's wish and bring about misfortune. "Citizens are the foundation to the country; the country is at peace when its foundation is solid." The populace is the foundation to the country, so their wish should be fulfilled.
Q: If my friends take drugs, drink
alcohol, and do bad things, how do I be kind and compassionate with them when
they get angry?
A: Be careful with the kind of friends that you keep. Those who are near rouge become red, those who are near black ink become dark. Tainted by the color brown, one becomes brown; tainted by the color yellow, one becomes yellow. The best way to interact with a friend who is less than oneself, that is, a bad friend, is to respectfully keep a distance.
Q: Is Buddhism a theistic religion
that talks about praying to god for miracles?
A: Buddhism is neither theistic nor non-theistic. It also isn't about praying for miracles or gains.
Q: What's the difference between
need and desire?
A: A need is something that is required; a desire is something that one can do with or without.
Q: How do we know what kind of
practice is suitable for us?
A: You can ask yourself what type of food you like. If you know that, then you should know what kind of practice you should cultivate. This is very simple, there's no need to ask.
Q: How can we cultivate so that we
can become liberated from birth and death, leaving behind suffering and attain
A: Cultivate the practice of entertaining no false thoughts. Ah, you have another question: How can we not entertain false thoughts? Hey, just reflect!
Q: How do those just starting to
study Buddhism tame their minds and rest their minds on the net of Bodhi?
A: Bodhi has no net. If you don't cultivate, I can't make you become one of the fish that escapes being caught by the net.
Q: What is the difference between
nature, consciousness, thoughts, and mind?
A: Newborns are vivacious, free from the marks of others, the marks of self, the marks of living beings, and the marks of life span. At this point, it is "nature." Once the baby begins to drink milk, his "consciousness" is strengthened. After drinking milk, he learns to dress so that he will not be cold or embarrassed. He understands hunger, thirst, warmth, and cold. That would be "thoughts." When he is grown, he wants this and that, that would be the "mind" working. These are actually four types of mental states, but they could be said to be one too because they are inextricably connected. They all belong to the same family. Although there are four terms, their fundamental quality is the same. The offender that has created them is "karma."
Q: Recently I read that a province
in Canada is developing curriculum on morality. However, I find that there's
something dangerous in their content, which is that although they discuss
self-respect and self-love, they have basically forgotten that the most
fundamental value: filiality to parents and respect for family values. My
personal difficulty in teaching is that I have discovered that many kids live in
harsh environments. How? Their families are broken; they may only live with
their father or mother, or with their homosexual parents. So when I talk about
being filial to parents, the kids have a hard time with accepting this concept
in their heart of hearts and applying it at home. Some parents even reject this
idea when their kids try to put it to practice at home. Will the Venerable
Master and other instructors please tell me how teachers and elders can make a
deep impression of the basic moral principles of filial piety and respect on the
minds of children?
A: Every teacher needs to use wisdom. One should know how to apply skillful means. For instance, everyone has a different kind of family; some families are functional while some are dysfunctional. We cannot treat bad families the way we treat good families. This requires expedient means and compromises. Don't wait to try different expedients though we may not be at that stage yet. Everyone could get together to study these issues and to solve it by using collective wisdom. These are not difficult issues. Filiality is for the average family. We have to use other means for families that are different and complex. There are the typical methods and there are the expedient methods. The typical methods are more common while the expedient methods are skillful means for a particular time and situation.
The Tao contains both the typical and the expedient,
and they should both be used;
Phenomena separate into substance and function,
and they should both be understood.
Q: What's the difference between
Sutras and mantras?
A: What do you think the difference is? Mantras include vows, oaths; it's about getting what we want. Sutras is one of the ways of cultivation that we must learn. Once you understand the principle, you must do it. In addition, the meaning in the Sutras has been translated from Sanskrit into Chinese. Mantras are not translated from Sanskrit into Chinese; only their sounds are transliterated. These are the mystical true words of all Buddhas.
Q: Master, what is the difference
between Buddhism and theistic religions?
A: One is ultimate while the other is not.
Q: I had a friend whose soul left
his body when he lied down. He even saw his body lying on the bed. What is going
A: This type of situation occurs often. His soul leaves and then comes back. Cultivators must have the right type of knowledge and views. We don't need to pay attention to whether our soul leaves our body. Taoism describes how one has a midget that leaves one's body and then returns. [Taoists] such as Lyu Dongbin cultivated this type of primal immortality. It is not an ultimate route though. That's why he later took refuge with the Triple Jewel and requested Meditation Master Huang Long of Song Dynasty to be his master.
Q: At the moment that the deceased
is about to depart, will his enemies and debtors show up?
A: It would be his karma. With the magnetic power of karma, certain forms appear. Without [offense] karma, nothing appears. Therefore, we reap what we sow. We reap good things when we do good thing; we reap bad things when we do bad things. It's not that there's some ghost that comes to haunt the dying, it's a creation of his karma, not his mind. Karma refers to the offenses that he has committed in the past.
Q: How should we rescue the
mid-skandha body? Is that different than the Secret School?
A: The best method is to rescue people and help people. It's better to save people than to save ghosts.
Q: Although there are three sages
in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss, how come it seems as if Great Strength
Bodhisattva doesn't have much to do with us?
A: People don't have much affinities with Great Strength Bodhisattva. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva is extremely compassionate while Great Strength Bodhisattva is extremely powerful. The great earth shakes in six different ways when he moves one of his arms or legs, so people are too scared to be near him. People in the Saha World are afraid of earthquakes, so they're afraid of Great Strength Bodhisattva.
Q: Will there be no earthquakes if
we recite the name of Great Strength Bodhisattva every day?
A: It would be a false attachment of ours if we were to recite the name of Great Strength Bodhisattva every day. Whether the earth quakes or not doesn't depend on whether we recite his name. Earthquakes occur because of everyone's karma and not because of the supernatural powers of Great Strength Bodhisattva. Great Strength Bodhisattva may make the great earth shake in six different ways with one move of his arm or leg, but he doesn't hurt living beings.
Q: Some people say that Dharma
Master Yingguan is Great Strength Bodhisattva. Is that right?
A: That's a guess on the part of busybodies. Do people who say this actually know? These are all estimations based on their imagination. They don't have anything better to do, so they pretend to be know-it-all's, saying, "Oh, he is actually Amitabha Buddha; he is actually Great Strength Bodhisattva; and he is actually Guanshiyin Bodhisattva." What kind of evidence does he have? His so-called evidence is no evidence either, anyone can be anyone else's transformation body. Ordinary people cannot fathom the states of Bodhisattvas.
Q: Should I concentrate on reciting
the name of Amitabha Buddha, Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, or both?
A: If you enjoy reciting Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's name, then you have affinities with Guanshiyin Bodhisattva. If you enjoy reciting Amitabha Buddha's name, then Amitabha Buddha will welcome you. It's better to be reciting at least one rather than none at all. I'm just afraid that you'll recite and recite, then forget Guanyin Bodhisattva or Amitabha Buddha. To me, Bodhisattvas mostly don't have much to do, so they look for jobs to do for living beings. They don't have any money for you, so they tell you to recite the Buddha's name. They don't waste any money and you don't waste any energy. This is one way by which Bodhisattvas save living beings.
Q: Is a demon that appears during
one's meditation a creation of the mind? If it is made from the mind alone, is
that the same kind of demon that you talked about earlier?
A: When you have offended demons outside of you, the demons in you will also act up. There's not just one kind of demon and not just one kind of ghost. There are heavenly demons, earth demons, spiritual demons, ghostly demons, demons who are people, demons made from the mind, and demons that are created by external states. There isn't just one kind, but many kinds.
Q: Earlier you talked about a past
disciple who had the Five Eyes and the Six Penetrations, including the
penetration of no-outflow. What exactly is that? From what I understand, that
means he has already certified to arhatship.
A: Do you know what is the penetration of no-outflow? The Five Eyes and the Six Penetrations that I talk about are not necessarily the same either. There are approximate penetrations and ultimate penetrations. He had attained approximate penetrations, so he understood very little; he only knew, for instance, others' thoughts. Most people can reach that level. On the other hand, someone who has ultimate penetration knows not just the thoughts of one individual but the thoughts of each and every individual in the entire world. Not only does he know the thoughts of human beings, but the Thus Come One knows the thoughts of all kinds of living beings.
Q: Venerable Master, when you were
in Northeast China, the Japanese had invaded there. However, the Japanese, even
today, refuses to admit that their behavior had been invasive. Do you think they
will repeat such moves?
A: They will eventually become extinct if they don't set a limit on their greed. If they haven't learned to change from past lessons such as their unconditional surrender after being hit by atom bombs, their future spells danger.
Q: Should someone who works in an
occupation that is related to national defense switch jobs because they're
actually indirectly killing people?
A: Wouldn't it be even better if you weren't born during this time in history? Wouldn't you have avoided all these problems? It would be good for you to change your occupation, but if you can't then you can recite the Buddha's name while you work. That way, national defense will not be less effective in killing so many people.
Q: Master, are the reasons for eating one meal a day recorded in the Buddhist scriptures?
A: The Buddha ate one meal a day.
Q: Does the Master encourage us to
eat only one meal a day?
A: I don't encourage it. People who have left the householder's life under me must eat one meal a day. But things are made more convenient for those who are over sixty years of age. I don't mind. For young people who have left the householder's life under me, however, their first requirement is to eat one meal a day.
Q: Is it better to be a monastic or
A: I don't know which one is right or wrong either. Both are right and wrong. Each has its advantages. What one wants is right and what one doesn't want is wrong.
Q: After we've counted 108 using
the recitation beads, could we skip that larger bead that is meant as a divider?
Some people say we can't.
A: The longer an article, the better. The less one talks, the better. The recitation beads are meant to help people be mindful and prevent false thinking. As far as whether to skip the divider bead or not, that's too minor a point to be mentioned. It's insignificant.
Q: When will there be a third world
A: I don't know about that, but you are still not sincere enough when you recite the Buddha's name. If you were sincere, why would care whether there would be a third, fourth, or fifth world war?
Q: May I ask where Amitabha Buddha
go once Guanyin Bodhisattva becomes Buddha in the Land of Ultimate Bliss?
A: To his mind.
Q: When we're born in the Land of
Ultimate Bliss, are we there until we realize Buddhahood? Or do we go somewhere
else after we have been there for a period of time?
A: You become a Buddha there.
Q: The principles in
Buddhism are more profound than any other religions', right?
A: There's no better or worse as far as religions go. Religions are just medicine to cure people's diseases. Once we have taken our medication and have recovered, why would we still need the medication?
Q: I would like to know if the
coming of Maitreya Bodhisattva and Jesus are the same?
A: I'm not going to say when Jesus will be here again. But it's still a long, long time before Maitreya Bodhisattva will be here. Most people who don't really know claim that Maitreya Bodhisattva will be here soon.
Q: Master, why do you always walk
behind your disciples?
A: I pick up what people toss away. I give people what they want. To pick up what people toss away is to not fight, to not be greed, and to not seek; to give people what they want is to be selfless, to refrain from pursuing personal advantage, and to refrain from lying.
Q: How should we go about
liberating life for deceased ancestors who had become mentally disabled as a
result of an accident?
A: Don't be too superstitious about the ceremony to liberate life. You should act according to the gold mean: not too much and not too little. Do what you can and try your best.
Q: How can we really apply the Six
A: Change our habits. We cannot accomplish anything without changing our habits. This is also about taming the ego.
Q: What should I do if I were
ambitious about my career but has experienced some beatings?
A: You can only achieve what you want if you really set your mind to it. Don't try to benefit yourself when you're doing work for Buddhism. Don't use Buddhism as an excuse to swindle money and sex.
Q: What can we do to help someone
who is lost and needs someone to help him set some goals?
A: Tell him so with utmost sincerity. Friends are people who are extremely sincere. Sincerity will move even stones so that they split open.
Q (by a disciple): The Master arrived
earlier today because I drove you back to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
A: Don't drive too fast. Don't be too fast or too slow in everything that you do, that would be the middle way.
Q: Why is the Master's memory so
excellent? How should most people develop that?
A: Practice non-outflow in life after life.
Q: How do we cultivate non-outflow?
A: Go back and read the Shurangama Sutra more often.
Q: Is sudden death like a cow
getting its skin peeled while alive? Is it just as painful for someone who is
shot to death, for instance?
A: That kind of pain is even more unbearable. He may not know it at that instant, but he will know it afterwards. He will undergo the same pain at the same time every day. Go and tell him that he should avoid trying to get the better end of the bargain all the time and think that there's not much pain to dying that way. That kind of pain lasts much longer than natural death.
Q: Many people say that the power
of the Shurangama Mantra to harm is tremendous. Is it not compassionate to use
the Shurangama Mantra to heal the sick?
A: Mantras are solutions that do not kill. How can one uphold mantras without compassion?
Q: We can wipe away our offenses
and eliminate our suffering by reciting a Bodhisattva's name. I believe that.
However, how come we can also understand our mind and see our inherent nature by
reciting a Bodhisattva's name?
A: A few days ago, I had used the analogy of making telephone calls for this. Let me now use an even simpler analogy! Someone's eyes have been covered up so he feels as if it is dark all around. He was bumping into walls wherever he went. He became so wounded and frustrated, miserable beyond description. However, he never knew about taking off his blinders. Fortunately, he met a compassionate individual who saw how pathetic he looked and walked up to him to take off his blinders. Consequently, the person who could not see before could now see. He no longer suffers and bumps into walls wherever he goes. Being able to understand one's mind and see one's inherent nature by reciting the name of a Bodhisattva is the same principle.
Q: What is the "transmission of one
mind to another mind?" How does the transmission of one mind to another occur?
A: The transmission of Dharmas occurs often. The amount that you receive is yours. No one sees this transmission and no one knows who has received how much.
Q (by a disciple): My power of
concentration is poor.
A: You haven't any to speak of.
Q: Minor thoughts of desire seem
easy to eliminate; however, how do we eliminate some thoughts of desire that
seem like giant trees?
A: Use a bit more effort and dig out the root.
Q: The relationship between father
and son is intense.
A: Take a saw and saw off that tree. I understand what you're saying. This kind of desire is the most intense kind. This is most difficult to end.
Q: How do laypeople cut off desires
and sever love? What is desire? What is love?
A: How would a monk understand if a layperson doesn't understand? I have already forgotten these things and yet you come and ask me about it!
Q: Would we continue to
transmigrate if we were to not cultivate the Buddhadharma in this life?
A: No one can purchase insurance for this!
Q: Is it okay to just meditate
every day, investigating who is mindful of the Buddha, and not read any Sutras?
A: Is it okay for you to drink alcohol all day long without eating any food?
Q: The Venerable Master always bows
five times before and after speaking Dharma. What's the significance there?
A: The first bow is for all Buddhas throughout the ten directions and three periods of time. The second bow is for the Dharma spoken by all Buddhas throughout the ten directions and three periods of time. The third bow is for holy as well as ordinary members of the Sangha throughout the ten directions and three periods of time. The fourth bow is for all living beings throughout the Dharma Realm. The fifth bow is for all the pratimoksha spoken by all Buddhas throughout the ten directions and three periods of time. Each one of the five bows is a bow that reaches all places.
Q: Is it of any use to recite the
Rebirth Mantra for bad people who have died?
A: Is of any use to not recite the mantra? Furthermore, you become full by eating. Will you become full by not eating?
Q: Why are there so many cults and
A: Those who are true are afraid of being known; those who are false want others to know.
Q: How can we accomplish great
A: Someone who can do great things will do what others cannot do. To be able to withstand the worst form of misery, one becomes the best among the best. But this is not about being different or competitive.
Q: The wind is so strong recently
that even the telephone poles have been knocked down. What's going on there?
A: You have been getting upset!
Q: What are some guiding principles
for our Dharma-propagation delegation?
A: Do not accept invitations to meals or banquets. Starve if there are no offerings. You have to suffer when you go out with me. Don't bother with any personal business because this tour is for a country.
Q: Is meditation a practice that
tends to be more dangerous because one is more prone to being possessed by
A: There are different causes and conditions for this situation, not one. Some people cultivate and become possessed by demons more easily because they are extremely selfish, opinionated, and self-centered. These are the reasons why they cultivate.
Q: I had received the Bodhisattva
Precepts. But two years ago, in a situation where it couldn't be helped, I
cooked liver. I was really sad. What should I do? May I receive the precepts
A: That's okay as long as you don't cook it again! Will you violate the Bodhisattva Precepts again once you receive them?
Q: My second daughter is attending
a Buddhist academy, but she is less than healthy. I'm stuck between a rock and a
hard place. What should I do?
A: Get a doctor to check on her!
Q: Due to cancer my mother recently
had a surgery that amputated sections of her intestines. She has been released
from the hospital. Will she recover fully? I'm so worried.
A: She ate too much meat!
Q: How come five patients passed
away during my shift when I worked for Room 2 West for a period of six months?
A: They have affinities with you!
Q: How long should we wait until
someone has been dead before we can cremate the corpse?
A: I've never died before, I wouldn't know how long to wait.
Q: 1. How come every company picnic
we've had, we've encountered typhoons? 2. Why do I seem to see disasters and
A: 1. The wind is there to help you show off your awesomeness! 2. You would not see them if you were to close your eyes!
Q: How come I have been chronically
sick? What should I do?
A: You had killed too many lives in your past life, that's why you're in poor health.
Q: 1. We must bow ten thousand
times to the Buddhas to take refuge with the Master. Do we have to recite the
repentance text when we bow to the Buddhas? Is it okay that we only bow and not
recite sometimes? 2. When I met the Master (at Eastern Purity Monastery) in
1988, I actually sobbed uncontrollably. What is the reason for that? 3. May I
ask about the possibility of my leaving the householder's life?
A: 1. Bowing to the Buddhas is about wrecking your arrogance. It's also a form of exercise that makes you physically healthy. It's the best way to prevent you from taking too much medication. 2. You were probably hit. 3. As long as you do not kill, steal, commit sexual misconduct, lie, drink alcohol, and take drugs.
Q: When I first joined the
profession of nursing, I had compassion, plenty of forgiveness, and diligence
that never quit just as I did when I first tasted the Buddahdharma. But once I
truly and deeply entered nursing, I had feelings about sickness and suffering
that could not be resolved. That refreshing feeling for the Buddhadharma also
disappeared for me, which became a frustrating quandary that sat in my heart.
I'm too weak to be able to comfort living beings completely. I don't seem
relieved by reciting the Buddha's name either. What is this all about?
A: Don't be a clay Bodhisattva [who takes on more than one can handle].
Q: If one of your disciples were to
make the great vows of Earth Treasury King Bodhisattva, would that delay the
Master's realization of Buddhahood?
A: What does this have to do with you that you need to ask?
Q: Has the Master been sick before?
If so, how did you treat yourself? Did you heal yourself or did you use Western
A: "Sickness enters through the mouth, disasters exits out of the mouth." You'll get sick if you only eat good food that is too nourishing. I don't dare to eat anything good, that's why I don't get sick. I don't have money to use Western medicine, and even less money to take Chinese medicine. So I figure that I might as well not use any doctor. It's okay to die and it's okay to live.
Q: If we already know that what we
have done in the past is unwholesome, how should we dissolve its negative
effects? As average people, how do we resolve the unwholesome causes that our
parents have created?
A: You never did need to create them, so why is there need to resolve them?
Q: It was reported in the United
Evening News of Taiwan on November 18, 1988 that the Venerable Master publicly
criticized Qin Hai for being a demon (The news headline: Qin Hai attempts to
pass fish eyes for pearls and to fool living beings. Buddhism says that she
wears the Buddhist precept sash but transmits the teachings of the Sikhs. The
Venerable Master Hua even publicly criticized her for being a demon.)
A: If you believe it, you believe it. If you don't believe it, don't believe it. Why bother coming to me to ask?
Q: Why can't laity wear their
Buddhist beads around their neck?
A: We never said that.
Q: Master, some single mothers have
been the cause of a lot of social issues, such as abortion. . . I don't know
whether the Master has any views or recommendations on these questions?
A: Most young people today enjoy dancing, movies, and singing. They enjoy eating, drinking, and being merry; therefore they lose their humane nature. Having lost their humaneness, they don't even know they're human beings. People should be doing human-like things, but they just do ghost-like things, being secretive and violating the rules. They want to try it before marriage. As a result, kids [are born out o wedlock]..
Q: Master, what do you think of
monastics who have entered politics? In your view, is it appropriate for
monastics to be politicians?
A: Monastics cannot be politicians. People who want to be politicians should not become monks and nuns. I only have this to say.
Q: How many disciples have taken
refuge with you in the United States?
A: I have never counted. And I don't care either.
Q: Great Master, let me first ask
you, how come you became a monk?
A: I was probably meant to become a monk.
Q (by a reporter): You must have
had teachers too?
A: Of course, lots of them. Ms. Fong is my teacher in many ways. I have followed many great monks. Dharma Master Hsu Yun helped me the most.
Reporter: Dharma Master Hsu Yun?
Venerable Master: You've never heard of him, right? If you want to represent God Almighty and you don't even know Dharma Master Hsu Yun, then you have lots to learn.
Q (by a reporter): The Chinese
Americans in San Francisco all know that those at the City of Ten Thousand
Buddhas are a bunch . . .
A: You mean freaks?
Reporter: No. They say that this is a place for Buddhas; it's where a bunch of monks and nuns practice asceticism (literally "practices of sufferings" in Chinese).
A: We don't suffer at all; conversely, we're well to do.
Q: Lots of endowments are required
for you to have found so many monasteries and schools. What kind of begging did
you do to get this funding?
A: Beg? I will starve to death before I beg. Think, when I first arrived in the United States, most people don't understand Buddhism at all. If I were to have gone on alms round from door to door, people would have been scared off before they knew anything about Buddhism! So our monks here never beg, unless people come looking for us.
Q: Do you have anything that you
want to say to the readers of God Almighty?
A: God Almighty is an excellent name. Its mission is excellent too. It's very ambitious of you to want to read just the relationship between human beings and God Almighty.
On the blackboard at the City
of Ten Thousand Buddhas's Great Compassion Courtyard, a disciple discovered
these words: Plenty of room, but no people!
A: There are Buddhas!
Q: The ten evils and the five
rebellious acts cannot be repented of. Yet why is it also said that, "Grave
offenses that fill up the sky are all gone once we repent"?
A: I can't answer this question of yours. If I were to respond, then the Buddha would be lying. Just don't commit these offenses so you wouldn't need to repent!
Q: Is Mt. Sumeru material entity
that really exists? Or is it a state seen during meditative concentration? Or is
it just a part of the Indian philosophy?
A: Mt. Sumeru is right before your eyes. Who can you blame if you can't see it? "Everything is wrong when we are attached to forms; and yet non-doing means that we sink into the void." Let's see what you'll do.
Q: What is the "S"-like line that
separate yin from yang in the symbol for taiji?
A: Nothing. It's yang if we're attached to yang. It's yin if we're attached to yin. It doesn't belong to either side. It has nothing to do with its three different parts.
Q: Please clarify the relationship
between the external Triple Jewel (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha) and the internal
triple jewel (essence, breath, and spirit).
A: The spirit is parallel to the Buddha, essence is parallel to the Sangha, and breath is parallel to the Dharma. The internal triple jewel is the Dharma body and wisdom life of people while the external Triple Jewel are role models for people. While we are protecting and supporting the external Triple Jewel, we should also take care of our essence, breath, and spirit. Be chaste so that we don't expend any of internal triple jewel. Sangha doesn't refer to people who have left the householder's life, but people who don't waste their essence and energy. Laypeople who don't waste their essence and breath are Sangha members too, believe it or not!
Q: How do we recite so that we end
up with this kind of result: "By uttering the Buddha's name once, we extinguish
offenses as many as grains of sand in rivers"?
A: Be very focused while you recite.
Q: How is enlightenment according
to Buddhism different from the transformed nature that Good Samaritan Wang
A: The transformed nature is to transform the water that has frozen into ice back into water again. Enlightenment is neither water nor ice; everything is empty.
Q: What are the three obstacles in
the saying, "All evils are eradicated and the three obstacles are completely
A: The three obstacles refer to the obstacle that is karma, the obstacle that is retribution, and the obstacle that is affliction. There's no form to the obstacle that is karma. It's fortunate that there's no form to it, otherwise it would burst open the trichiliocosm.
Q: Which realm do ghosts and
spirits belong to out of the Ten Dharma Realms?
A: Ghosts and spirits don't belong to the same category. Ghosts belong to the Dharma realm of ghosts while spirits belong to the realm of spirits. Ghosts are yin in nature while spirits are yang in nature. Ghosts should belong to the realm of hungry ghosts.
Q: Are there different levels of
enlightenment? Will we retreat after we have become enlightened?
A: Do you want to retreat?
Questioner: I don't know.
Venerable Master: If you don't know, then why are you asking about enlightenment? Don't just learn clichés. Knowing theories aren't helpful at all, you must realize it for yourself.
Q: How should the laity pay
respects to the external Triple Jewel of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha while
enhancing the internal triple jewels of essence, breath, and spirit?
A: First, you must not have any sexual desire. You can't discuss this until you've reduced your sex drive.
Q: Why are some infants born
A: Their parents didn't have enough essence, energy, and spirit.
Q: The Buddhadharma is new to me. I
would like to know to which school you belong.
A: Gold Mountain Monastery is just Buddhism. It doesn't belong to a particular school or sect of Buddhism. It is Buddhism that has no schools or sects.
Q: What principles should we use to
guide us when we build the Great Heroes Jeweled Hall in the future?
A: Conserve labor. Easy maintenance.
Q (by a disciple): Master, the car
ahead of us is going the wrong way, so I'm going to follow him down the wrong
A: You can't follow him and go wrong just because he has!
Q: What is the difference between
Buddhism and Catholicism? I don't understand this. Will the Venerable Master
A: What's the use of explaining this? You can go and believe in Catholicism if you prefer Catholicism. You reap what you sow. You just go ahead and study Buddhism if that's what you like. It's a matter of preference for you. You reap the effect of the causes that you've sown. Whether they're similar or different, they're both about not doing any evil and doing everything that is good.
Q: What is bliss? What is soul? How
do we make contact with our soul?
A: I've already talked about what is bliss. Not fighting is bliss. Not being greedy is bliss. Not being selfish, not pursuing personal advantage, and not lying are bliss. When you're fighting, you expend a lot of effort and brainpower thinking about how to fight people, which is quite miserable. When you're greedy, you can't sleep at night and the food tastes bland to you. That's misery. When you search for things outside, including men pursuing women and women pursuing men, you forget everything. You don't even care about your parents; you only know to go after the object of your affection. That's misery. Being selfish, you always do things that hurt others and help yourself. Pursuing self-advantage means that you only know about benefiting yourself but not others. Lying is misery too. Being discontent is misery. Being content is bliss. I've already said that earlier.
The soul is your Buddha nature. To most people, the Buddha nature is the soul. It can become a Buddha if you cultivate well. If you don't cultivate, then it becomes a ghost. You want to make contact with your soul, but you can't see your soul. To see it, you have to cultivate spiritually and sever your desires and love. You cannot possibly know what your soul is like if you don't sever desire and love as cultivated on the spiritual path.
Q: How come we rarely hear about
Bhikshunis cultivate to the level of proper fruition or Bodhisattvahood?
A: The corpse of Bhikshuni Wujingzang (Boundless Treasury) of Nanhua Monastery is still in good condition now. The dragon girl presented pearls to the Buddha and realized Buddhahood right there and then. Haven't you heard? You should read more Buddhist books. I'm not criticizing you, but you are poorly informed.
Q: Could the Venerable Master
please talk about the third eye?
A: There are Five Eyes. Not just three.
Q: Master, how should we pray for
rain in San Francisco since it has had a drought for a long time?
A: Recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva.
Q: Does the mudra of Guanshiyin
Bodhisattva have to do with the password to the universe?
A: I don't understand the password to the universe and don't understand Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's mudra. I cannot answer you.
Q: Is Confucianism's "disposing of
objects and completing wisdom" different from Buddhism's disposing of objects?
A: Although they're different terms, they mean the same. To "dispose of objects and complete wisdom" means that one should clear one's mind and lessen one's desires, which is to sever desire and love. Confucianism doesn't explain the disposing of objects the same way I do. It doesn't specify the object.
Q: How do we become liberated from
the cycle of birth and death?
A: It's enough if you want to.
Q: Generally speaking, which is the
best religion among the world's religions?
A: The religion that you believe in is the best. Why? If it weren't good, you wouldn't believe it.
Q: The Vajra Sutra says, "Thoughts
of the past cannot be gotten at, thoughts of the present cannot be gotten at,
and thoughts of the future cannot be gotten out." Could we explain the text
using the line, "give rise to the mind that is nowhere produced"?
A: Thoughts of the past have already gone, where will find those thoughts? Thoughts of the present do not stop either, so where are those present thoughts? Thoughts of the future have not yet come! Therefore, thoughts of the past, present, and future cannot be gotten at means that we should not entertain any false thinking.
Q: How should we alleviate our
sadness and fear?
A: Why would you be sad or afraid if nothing has happened? It must be an issue with your mind.
Q: What should I do if I often
entertain different thoughts while reciting the Sutra out loud?
A: Continue to recite!
Q: How do we be good, orthodox
A: Recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva sincerely.
Q: What should I do if my family
members don't understand the ideal practice and disapprove of my cultivating it
because I am a layperson?
A: You should put your practice into action, personally applying the teachings. Do what is even more correct.
Q: Sangha and laity members do
everything personally: from painting the walls to fixing tables and bowing
cushion, repairing doors and windows to patching leaks and changing tiles, etc.
Why don't we spend some money and get some help? We can save some time and use
it to cultivate.
A: I'm not as wasteful as you! What are you doing then?
Q: How come the wealth of Dharma
can be damaged? How come merit and virtue will end?
A: That's because you use your conscious, in particular, to calculate, guess, and discriminate. You only expend effort on your consciousness, therefore you will harm your wealth of Dharma and end your merit and virtue.
Q ( by a disciple): I am really
upset! Somebody criticized the Master!
A: Did you thank him for me? How can we cultivate if we can't even let go of that ego?
Q: Some advertisements will try to
appeal to people's sympathy by showing really sad scenes. Most people will
donate when they see them. Is that right?
A: We can do anything that is right, but to do that kind of promotion in order to get more donations violates the precepts.
Q ( by a disciple): I would like to
start an association to attract more members.
A: I as the teacher have to be responsible for the effect of the mistaken causes that my disciples have sown. You would also have to face the effect of the mistaken causes that you have sown. Don't ever violate the law of cause and effect if you want to cultivate. Don't be greedy.
Q: If the Master doesn't agree that
I should establish a certain association, then could we get more people to come
and make donations?
A: If monastics can just keep the precepts and cultivate, people will naturally make donations.
Q: How can we eliminate natural
A: If people would just refrain from getting angry or being hateful.
Q: How come the Master doesn't
allow us to notify the newspapers about your donations to various agencies? That
way everyone will know that the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas also makes
A: Do cultivators still pursue fame?
Q: How should disciples cultivate
once the Master leaves?
A: Follow the Six Great Guiding Principle. Don't forget the traditions of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Don't try to take advantage of others by developing relationships with them.
Q: Why did so and so become
possessed by demons?
A: Because he was greedy for supernatural powers and sought after it wherever he went.
Q ( by a disciple): One monk told
his disciples that he is a Buddha.
A: That's a major lie.
Q: What kind of attitude should we
having when our family does not get along?
A: The Vajra Sutra says, "All conditioned dharmas are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, and shadows, like dewdrops and flashes of lightening. We should thus contemplate."
Q: The Master hasn't eaten for a
week in order to pray for rain. Could we notify the newspapers now that it's
raining in both the United States and Taiwan?
A: I fast to transfer merit and virtue to all living beings; it's not for fame. Don't advertise.
Q: How come we can't notify the
newspapers about our praying for rain?
A: It wouldn't work that way.
Q ( by a disciple): The world is a
mess right now. In every corner, either a natural or man-made disaster is
occurring. Those victims are so sad!
A: How can you be concerned about the world when you haven't done what is right for yourself?
Q: How can we realize Buddhahood
A: First learn to be human and deal with different situations.
Q: What should we pay attention to if we were to use the Great Compassion Mantra or Shurangama Mantra to cure the serious illness of someone whom the doctors have been unable to treat?
A: The patient must repent of the karma that he has created in the past.
Q: How come the Master never taught
us any mudras?
A: Mudras are meant to make people focus and not be distracted. What's the use of mudras if you already have the power of concentration?
Q ( by a disciple): When I was
meditating, focusing only on reciting Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's name, I saw the
Master sitting before me.
A: Don't be turned by any state, regardless of what it is that you see.
Q: Why doesn't the Master let us
organize some non-religious activities?
A: Don't go around building relationships to exploit them later. You can only proceed and not back up in cultivating, do you understand?
Q: The Master requires that the
fourfold assembly take turns to lecture the Sutra or summarize a lecture. How
should laypeople speak so that their talks are in accord with the Dharma?
A: Use the Sutras as the bases. Don't make things up.
Q: How can we bring peace to a
country and its people?
A: The leaders of the country would have to be virtuous and at the same time, be willing to employ worthy and capable individuals.
Q: Planet earth currently faces
major crises such as a polluted environment, corrupted officials, and other
hopeless circumstances. Is there still hope and what methods can Buddhists
employ to revert these situations?
A: Sever desire and love! Without them, everything will be okay. I don't care who disagrees; I have to say this nonetheless. It's up to you as to whether you believe it.
Q: How come I have miscarried every
baby that I have had?
A: Because you were a military man in a past life, you had committed lots of murders.
Q: Master, may I leave the
A: There wouldn't be too many with you; there wouldn't be too few without you.
Q: How could we be detached to sex
considering that we're flooded by enticements?
A: Stop learning clichés. Don't learn to be a stone sculpture either (all talk and no action).
Q: How do people who believe in and
accept the Buddhadharma protect their Bodhi resolve?
A: Who told you not to protect it?
Q: Some people say that if we want
to cultivate then we can't get married. If we want to get married then we can't
cultivate. Is that true?
A: What's so great about marriage? The three most important valuables are essence, energy, and spirit for people. Marriage uses these three things. The more these are used, the sooner people die. What's so great about marriage?
Q: The ancients have said, "Men and
women ought to marry when they become adults." Also, "There are three things
that are unfilial, having no descendants is the worst."
If we don't marry, wouldn't that mean that we would have discontinued our family lineage?
A: What lineage do you want to continue? This is the perspective of people who are mundane.
Q: Sometimes we meet people who are
A: Don't develop negative affinities with anyone. Use kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity with everyone. It's okay even if you have to sacrifice your life. Always forgive others and don't hate, be jealous, or obstruct others. Otherwise you'll be miserable when these unwholesome retributions become ripe.
Q: Many Buddhists come here to dump
their frustrations and problems.
A: I don't know how to teach and transform people, so I am extremely ashamed every day. If I knew how to save people, then all of you would not have any afflictions a long time ago.
Q: How come some monks and nuns
have returned to lay life?
A: Because they enjoy flattery.
Q: May our kind teacher live
forever to propagate the Buddhadharma and universally save all sentient beings.
A: I am already dead.
Q: Buddhism talks about affinities.
The Buddha doesn't save anyone with whom he has no affinities. Is it that most
people who have affinities with him just drift along and continue to be lost in
the six paths of transmigration? Or can they just learn bits and pieces from the
books by the Good Man in the Mill?
A: What kind of books are those? Ask your question bluntly and directly. There's no need to write an essay on it. "Just because you can string a bunch of words together, that doesn't make you a scholar."
Q: I haven't been following
Buddhism for too long, but most people say that meditation is to meditate
whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down. We're only told to meditate,
but never given a method. How do we cultivate Dhyana while walking, standing,
sitting, and lying down? I've only heard of sitting meditation, but not walking
meditation, standing meditation, or reclining meditation.
A: "Walking is Dhyana, sitting is also Dhyana, in speech or silence, in movement or stillness, my substance is at peace. Even if I meet with a knife's point, I am always completely tranquil. If I am given a poisonous drug, I am still totally at ease. " Is this clear? Meditate while you're walking or sitting. For example, you may investigate as to who is mindful of the Buddha when you're walking. Don' be mindful of who is making money. Investigate who is mindful of the Buddha while you're sitting, don't be mindful of who is eating. Investigate who is mindful of the Buddha when you're lying down. Being mindful of the Buddha means that we look for the answer to this "who". We don't repeat this question over and over again.
Q: How do we overcome our habits of
enjoying food and sleep?
A: Don't eat! If you don't eat, then you don't sleep. If you eat less, then you sleep less. If you eat more then you sleep more.
Q: I had seen Budddhism fracture
into numerous sects, is that right?
A: Every religion, including all phenomenon and objects exist because of living beings' karma and causes and conditions. Buddhism and other religions are not outside of the law of causes and conditions. As it is said, "Having penetrated one principle, one understands a hundred principles." Originally, religions were meant to restrict people's behavior and make them turn away from evil and turn toward good. However, when people become discriminating, sects and factions occur. Confrontations occur because of different sects and factions.
Q: Memories from the past often
A: When you go back to work, don't think about what happened before. When you're dealing with something, you should use your wisdom to do what you do well. Don't think about it after it's finished. Still your mind. Don't take life too seriously; consider it a game. That way you'll decrease your unhappiness and afflictions, and become free and at ease. If you don't discriminate between good and bad, you'll be free from any impediments. If you are turned by states and falsely discriminate between good and bad, you'll be a long ways away from Buddhahood.
Q: May I ask about "when the mind
is gone, offenses also have died"?
A: If you can forget your mind, your offenses are gone too! Since you can't forget, you karma of offenses remains. If you can really forget the mind completely, what else is there?
Q: A monk experienced some problems
while in seclusion once. Negative energy entered his body so that he became
mentally insane. He had lost his ability to reason. Something was controlling
him so that he forgot to recite the Buddha's name. He was miserable because he
could never sleep, certain noises would bother him at night.
A: This is because he was greedy for supernatural powers. This is also a part of greed, hatred, and delusion! He became deluded as a result.
Q: Will the Venerable Master please
be kind and save this monk? I don't know what to do with him.
A: I'm not omnipotent.
Q: How many times do I need to
uphold the rebirth mantra to wipe out my karma of having killed more than ten's
of thousands of insects and earthworms?
A: If you have cut off your desire, then just one recitation is extremely effective. If you haven't ended your desire, the mantra will be ineffective even though you may recite it ten thousand times.
Q: How do we get rid of our bad
habit of being gluttonous for food, especially good food?
A: You get rid of the habit by not eating!
Q: What is an arhat? What is the
A: It's impossible for an elementary school student to know the book that a Ph.D. is reading!
Q: My grandmother has already
passed away for seven or eight years. She passed away in July according to the
lunar calendar, which is considered inauspicious and bad for the deceased
according to Chinese customs. How can I help my deceased grandmother? Otherwise
I would feel bad. What should I do?
A: What a hassle!
Q: What is the cause of my poor
state of health since receiving the precepts for my deceased father last
September 12? Please instruct me out of kindness.
A: You may be just as unhealthy even if you didn't received the precepts for the deceased.
Q: The disciple has a child who is five years old. Having witnessed a butcher kill the chickens that he sold last year, he cried bitter and promised to never eat living beings' meat. He hasn't broke that promise yet. Master, how should disciple I help him increase his roots of wisdom? Amitofo. Thank you for the the Venerable Master's compassionate instructions.
A: He will not become a living being if he doesn't eat living beings' meat!
Q: I have been losing sleep because
of stress. What kind of negative karma is this? How do we dissolve it?
A: Who told you to be stressed?
Q: What is, "To not think about
what is wholesome and what is unwholesome."
A: To not think about what are wholesome and unwholesome is to understand one's true face, which is the original face of the questioner here.
Q: How should we use our wisdom to
do good deeds in our society now?
A: Wisdom means not being deluded.
Disciple: We respectfully request that the
Venerable Master, out of compassion, pity the population of Taiwan who are lost
in falsehood, and come back to propagate the Buddhadharma every year so that the
proper Dharma will live forever and thrive.
A: It's better that you come back than for me to come back. It's better if you quit running toward the outside.
Q: How do we get rid of our habits
A: You will have gotten rid of it if you don't have any habits! Why do you have to carry this baggage with you all the time?
Q: We respectfully request the
compassionate Master to save the patient who have passed away in this hospital
so that they may avoid suffering.
A: I have already done some contemplation before I came over. I have already dedicated merit and virtue to those who died though they shouldn't have, and those who cannot transcend their current realm. Nothing that I do has to be visible.
Q: We have to attend the Buddhist
Academy before we leave the householder's life, right?
A: You may attend the Buddhist Academy if you want to; if you don't want to attend the Buddhist Academy then you don't have to. This is not set in stone.
Q: What does it mean to make vows?
Why should we make vows? How do we make vows?
A: If you want to make vows then you make them. If you don't want to, then don't. Why ask me?
Q: I came to this place and met the
Dharma yesterday and I immediately want to shave my head and cultivate starting
next month. Is that appropriate?
A: Cultivate. You have to consider whether you will leave the householder's life then return to laylife? Even though the hair that you have shaved off can grow back, it's still inappropriate.
Q: I want to follow the Master and
cultivate Brahma conduct. What kind of causes and conditions must I possess?
A: Be able to eat and dress, and to not be an insomniac. These are the required criteria.
Q: What is the Dharma of causes and
A: The Dharma spoken by causes and conditions, I say is just emptiness, which is also called false by name, as well the meaning of the Middle Way.
Q: Why do we have to pay $500 NT
for the precepts for the deceased? What should we do if we don't any money?
A: Why do you have to eat every day? You don't have to receive the precepts for the deceased; nobody is forcing you.
Q: What is the future of Taiwan?
Will it become unified with mainland China?
A: I'm not the president of Taiwan and not the Chairman of China. I don't care about this. Why? "Not being in that position, I don't get involved in its politics."
Q: Why are there droughts?
A: Because the karma of livings beings is intense. The stench that people release shoot straight up into space and chase the dragons that dispense rain away. They can't perform their duties.
Q: Is it okay that we use one of
the lines used in the Shurangama Mantra to cure illnesses?
A: Some people can't. They may even invite problems.
Q: My child took refuge with the
Master since he has been three or so. What happens if he can't finish bowing his
ten thousand bows?
A: There are lots of kids in America who have taken refuge with me wwhen they were still in their mothers' womb. What do you think they ought to do?
Q: Why couldn't the disciple have
met the Master earlier in life?
A: Because you didn't make big vows in your past lives.
Q: I have a nephew who went back to
China to visit. On the return trip, he felt mentally unstable and was talking
nonsense and looking for doctors to cure him. After some friends' guidance, we
learned that he must take refuge with the Buddha. We took him to Hualian and he
became mentally unstable along the trip and jumped off the train. With the
blessings and compassion of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, he fortunately did not
die. After several operations, he is gradually recovering now. However, he is
still somewhat slow mentally. Will the Master please provide instructions on how
to make my nephew recover?
A: I am not going to buy this insurance no matter how much it is. This kind of illness is because of intense karmic obstructions. He probably has a ghost after his life. There are many resentful ghosts in China. This one is probably a relative or friend who has nowhere to complain and no way to have their debts repaid, so they want to grab a replacement. This is a possibility. It's not for sure that it is this way though.
Q: How do we make sure that we do
not retract from cultivation?
A: How do you make sure that you don't eat when you're not eating?
Q: Is the accumulation
of hidden virtue in the worldly sense the same as "merit and virtue"? Is merit
and virtue related to the so-called "good deed"? Is there really merit and
virtue in the human realm?
A: If you were to deny cause and effect, then you wouldn't need to believe in anything.
Q: Is okay to eat the vegetables in
dishes containing meat while attending social engagements outside?
A: No one can force you to not take poison.
Q: Master, were you really mindful
of the Buddha during all these years of cultivation? What is considered success
when we have recited the Buddha's name to the point of focus that we are not
confused and become reborn?
A: Ask yourself. Don't ask me. You're no judge and I'm not defendant.
Q: We know about other people's
experiences after reading Buddhist Sutras and books of sages and worthies. But
when we encounter problems, other people's experiences don't necessarily help us
resolve our questions. So why do we need to recite the Buddha's name and study?
A: We're not reciting the Buddha's name to resolve problems. To recite the Buddha's name is to cultivate the Pureland Dharma door, become reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. We're preparing the ration that we'll need for the future. We're not preparing to resolve anyone's problems. To recite the Sutra is the increase our wisdom. You don't enough wisdom if you can't resolve the problems that you currently face. If you have enough wisdom, all the problems will wither away and be resolved immediately.
Q: The Buddha said that the Buddha
nature is pure originally, then where did ignorance come from?
A: We give rise to the three fine [thoughts/desires] when one though goes unnoticed; we develop the six coarse "thoughts/desires] when we take states to be our conditions." Ignorance comes from emotions and love. Ignorance is an alias for delusion.
Disciple: Many visitors to the City of Ten
Thousand Buddhas feel that this place is cold, there's nothing human about it.
A: There's no need to social chatter in a monastery, but we don't need to be as cold as ice either.
Disciple: Venerable Master, I have finally
decided to never play the guitar. I want to give it to the Master.
A: If you have really decided to not play, why do you keep it around?
Q: Master, Master, what kind of
mental state should we use to maintain the feeling of not want to get up during
meditation after getting into it? If I want to break through this level, what
kind of method should I use to not become possessed by demons?
A: Everything is wrong when we're attached to forms; with nondoing, we fall into voidness. The Vajra Sutra says, "All marks are empty and illusory." What states are there to be attached to? "If we see that all marks are not marks, then we see the Thus Come One." If we just spend all our efforts on superficialities, we can continue for however long and we'll still be working on superficiality.
Q: Will there be any problems
because I held three plaques for the precepts for the deceased in Hong Kong?
A: It's okay as long as you think it's okay, but I think that it is not respectful and sincere when you hold too many. Which one are you actually trying to save? You must be careful and respectful with this. What happens if you can't hold so many? Don't think they're just paper plaques, how would you have felt if those souls were to show themselves so that you couldn't carry them?
Q: Someone body usually doesn't get
angry often gets angry recently.
A: One will get sick when karmic obstructions come.
Q: Why doesn't the Master wear
better clothes and eat better food?
A: If I eat well and dress well, then my disciples will also eat well and dress well, how can we cultivate that way?
Q: May I ask about the samadhi of
reciting the Buddha's name and being one-pointed and unaffected. Does being
one-pointed and unaffected mean that the name of the Buddha naturally emerges
without ceasing regardless of the situation that we're in?
A: To be one-pointed in your focus and unaffected means that you're mindful in every moment. Your skill has reached a certain level. This is the samadhi of being mindful of the Buddha. Samadhi is a Sanskrit word that means proper concentration and proper reception. With proper concentration and proper reception, you will be one-pointed in your focus and unaffected. You will definitely not have any random thoughts.
Q: My brother has been in and out
of the psychiatric ward several times, but still likes to be naughty and can't
sleep at night? Is he being entangled by karmic obstacles? How can we help him
to become better? Amitofo!
A: There are causes to these effects. This problem is not solved too easily.
Q: How can we have living beings in
the six paths all come to learn about Buddhism?
A: If you're really studying Buddhism, then living beings in the six paths are studying Buddhism. How can have living beings study Buddhism when you always search for the answers outside? Then no one in the any path is studying Buddhism.
Q: Most people have the habit of
eating meat, how can we eliminate this kind of habit?
Two "people" are in the Chinese character "meat":
One person overlaps the other.
Living beings eat one another's flesh,
Thinking it over carefully, people eat people.
Q: 1. How do we open our Five Eyes
and become complete with the Six Spiritual Penetrations? 2. How do we really
walk the Bodhisattva path?
A: Why do you want to open your Five Eyes? Why you want the Six Spiritual Penetrations? Why do you want to walk the Bodhisattva path? You have to know the reasons before you will naturally understand how to open your Five Eyes, attain the Six Spiritual Penetrations, and how to walk the Bodhisattva path. See how children know how to drink when they're born. No one has taught them. This is a natural function of theirs. As long as we people sever our desires and love, really let go of the ways of the world, then you will naturally perfect the ways to transcend the world. We need not talk about the Five Eyes and Six Penetrations, by then you'll be adorned with infinite virtues, being no different than the Buddha. It's unfortunate that you cannot let go. You want to take the shortcut, the expedient approach. That doesn't exist.
Q: How come no one can treat so and
A: Because he is greedy. He has been asking for anointments everywhere he went. Many of his spiritual/mental consciousnesses have become one substance and cannot become separate. It's been too long too (several decades).
Q: I brought a bottle of water.
Will the Venerable Master please bless it with compassion so that people who
drink this water of great compassion will be relieved of their illness and
recover soon? My mother-in-law wants to recite the Buddha's name and bow to the
Buddhas with diligence, unfortunately, her knees are sore and in pain.
A: Rather than to have me bless it, it's better that you bless it yourself. If you can recite the Great Compassion Mantra so that it becomes efficacious, then it'll be even better if you bless it. That's much better than asking for outside help. Don't rely on outside help. People have to stand on their own. Don't rely on other people. We must have backbone. It's not the ultimate Dharma for you to rely on me. If you recite the Great Compassion Mantra sincerely, then it will be effective.
Q: What kind of attitude should we
have to repent and bow the ten thousand bows after we take refuge?
A: Be without a mind. No mental attitude. Don't think about anything.
Q: What are the steps for laity to
cultivate the dharmas of entering yet transcending the mundane?
A: Lay man Pang and his wife and children are all members of the laity. If you want to know how to cultivate at home, go and ask them. They're not in this world anymore, but there are some stories:
Mr. Pang said, "Difficult, it's so difficult. It's as if ten bushels of sesame are spread all over a tree."
Mrs. Pang said, "Easy, it's so easy. It's as if the message of patriarchs are written on the tip of every blade of grass."
Miss Pang said, "It's neither difficult or easy. Eat when we're hungry and sleep when we're tired."
We should study Buddhism honestly, don't build a trap for yourself/corner yourself.
Q: Being laden with offense karma
in this life, we don't know karma from our past lives. How do we lighten our
karma from this life? Will the Venerable Master please instruct us?
A: Cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom with diligence; cease greed, hatred, and delusion.
Disciple: I remember once when the
Venerable Master was giving a Sutra lecture upstairs, you said a certain Dharma
Master gave money to people.
A: You remember things very clearly.
Disciple: I want to learn from the Venerable Master.
A: Most of the monastics at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas have been tricked by me big time because they keep the precept against holding valuable. It doesn't count if they have money in the bank that is accruing interest, but they just don't want to spend it. Some are said to be keeping the precept against holding money, and yet they still go buy things secretly. That's doesn't count either. Those who really keep the precept against holding money are clean. They don't touch money, they don't think about money, and they don't touch about money either. That's to really keep the precept against holding valuables.
Q: Disciple I am practicing
meditation, but I have been bothered by the chakra between my eyebrows for many
years. Will the Master please help?
A: A chakra between the brows? "Being attached to forms, everything goes wrong; non-doing makes you fall into the void." "All marks are illusory and false. If we were to see that all marks are but no mark, then we have seen the Thus Come One." It's a strong attachment to hover over a chakra or stay with your dantian. None of these are ultimate dharmas. The ultimate Dharma is about wiping away all dharmas and be apart from all marks.
Disciple: If monastics can also eat three
meals a day like the average person, then many more people will become monks and
A: We don't leave the householder's life to enjoy ourselves. We'll suffer much more after death if we enjoy ourselves too much.
Disciple: Someone asked the Master to pray
for blessings and quell disasters for the nations that are in chaos.
A: National leaders should be the ones to request the Dharma for quelling disasters for a nation. Dangers will naturally become safety if political officials don't accept bribes.
Q: Why doesn't Buddhism read
fortunes, prophesize? (ask gua), and check on geomancy?
A: Everything is made from the mind alone. Buddhism teaches people to want wisdom, not to have so much that they're confused (double entendre: superstitious).
Q: Although I am orally reciting
the Sutra, yet my spiritual consciousness has flew out to a place really far.
Disciple I don't understand. I'm a bit scared.
A: Always keep good thoughts in mind then protective spirits will be there to guar you. By being focused, you will naturally not be scared.
Q: Does helping patients recite the
Buddha's name has last a full eight hours?
A: There's nothing fixed about any dharma. Those eight hours are not more than one thought. One thought is apart from those hours. If you were to really have some skill, then you could send him to rebirth by reciting once. If you were to have no skill, then you could make your voice hoarse and yet you can't help him.
Q: Is it that we can't violate the
precepts again once we've received them? But people are not holy, they don't
even know they've violated the precepts when they have. How should they face the
receiving of precepts?
A: Keep the precepts once you've received them. It's better to not receive the precepts if you can't keep them after you've received them.
Q: What does "the world is in three
division" in Great Master Bu Xu's predictions mean?
A: There will be three superpower that lead the entire world. "That's the world in three divisions."
Q: How can we cultivate well?
A: To keep the precepts is to cultivate. Don't try to build relationships to exploit them. It's the same whether we've got money or not.
Q: Abortion is killing, but I
didn't know that I had killed before I learned about Buddhism. How can I make
things up now?
A: Create more merit and virtue. Repent more. Recite the Buddha's name more.
Q: The Buddhadharma encourages
people to not fight or seek. Is it a form of fighting and seeking to want to be
the best student or the outstanding employee?
A: Live up to your responsibilities. In the reach of your intellectual capacity, you might as well read more books and do your assignments well.
Q: Someone is insane. How can we
help his condition that sometimes is better and sometimes worsens?
A: This is not easy. There's a ghost of karmic obstruction after him, that's why he is better at times and worse at times. He's better when the ghost leaves. Anyone who's sick has a kind of demon pestering him. This is what I know. For instance, if someone were seriously ill, that is because the ghosts of those whom they had killed in past lives, perhaps ghosts of pigs, horses, or cows, have come to ask for their lives, saying, "You have eating so much of my flesh! It's now time for you to pay it back." That's why sicknesses occur. Not a trace of it goes wrong. If you're afraid of being sick, then eat less meat. If you're not afraid of being sick, then it's okay to eat more.
Q: The Shurangama Sutra is so
profound that disciple I only know how to read it, but I don't quite understand
A: Read it every day and you will eventually understand it one day.
Disciple: Someone overseas asked another
person to bring in some donation to the Master.
A: That's money that came from bribery. I will not accept it. Return it immediately.
Q: How come we can't chat and joke
in the monastery?
A: Without comportment, Dharma protectors and good spirits will not support us. How can we then cultivate?
Q: The Venerable Master said, "It's
best that everyone learning to meditate to sit in the full lotus position. If
you can't both of your legs on top of each other, then one leg is okay. You have
sit until your two legs listen to. Sit until you can sit for one, two, three,
four, five, or six hours, and no longer be in pain. That is when you will have
reached a certain level where you will have some insights, some awakenings." But
what happens if I don't that much time.
A: You may not have so much time, but if you can just sit for a moment, you can still gain boundless merit and virtue. The Sutras say, "Sitting in meditation for a moment is better than building as many stupas made of seven jewels as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River." If you can gather in your mind and not entertain false thoughts, then you will attain boundless merit and virtue in the shortest possible moment. Why? It is because the merit of building stupas made with seven different gems are external; whereas meditating without false thoughts is to maintain virtue, which is much more superior than building seven-jeweled stupas. For this reason, everyone should take the time out to practice meditation.
Disciple: The car that the Venerable
Master uses is small and hot!
A: The hells are even hotter!
Q: Could we deflect inauspicious
energy by hanging a Chinese octogram or mirror in front of the door?
A: Will the mirror reflect everything that is outside?
Reporter: Why did the Dharma Master think
about coming westward to North American to propagate the Buddhadharma?
A: Buddhism wasn't growing in America several decades back. Some places here have never heard of Buddhism, that's why I had decided to go and preach Buddhism in a country without it. I can't help it though as to whether people accept it or not.
Reporter: Is Buddhism in Nepal, India,
China, Japan, and different country somewhat different? Will Buddhism in America
be different than Buddhism in the United States?
A: Yes, they will be different. To propagate the Buddhadharma in America, we of course have to consider the habits and uniqueness of Americans. For instance, Americans will recite Sutras in English; they don't necessarily know Chinese. So we have to translate Buddhist scriptures into English. Also, Buddhism requires Sangha members be vegetarians and celibate. Some Americans left the householder's life on impulse, and yet he couldn't tolerate the lonely monastic life. He may return to laylife, but he shouldn't ruin the rules laid down by Buddhism.
Q: What is Buddhism's view toward
A: Buddhist monastics are celibate, no sexual relations at all, not to mention homosexuality that defies nature. Homosexuality is behavior that will make a country die out. Because of homosexuality, AIDS is rampant and there is no particularly effective cure either. Some states in America legally allow for homosexuality and marriage between homosexuals. This goes against human nature.
Q: How come there are no "wish
sticks" at City of Ten Thousand Buddhas?
A: Buddhism does not have us ask spirits for predictions.
Q: Does Buddhism allow for
A: Geomancy is in your mind. If your heart is in the right place, good spirits will naturally protect you.
Q: How can we save China?
A: Everyone should not smoke and not kill.
Q: How can we save Taiwan?
A: Don't have abortions. Don't kill.
Q: I want to donate this certain
monastery to be one of your branch temples in Taiwan. Would you like to have it,
A: You have to ask yours. Don't ask me. If I were to say that I want it, then I must be greedy. If I were to say that I don't want it, then I would not be granting your vow to make this donation. You have wisdom, so your should decide for yourself. It's up to you whether you donate or not.
Q: Why don't we lie?
A: Because Protective spirits will not respect you if you lie frequently. They will leave you.
Q: Besides cultivating our own
minds while walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, and to correct our bad
habits, what other Sutras should we recite?
A: Start with the Shurangama Sutra.
Q: Master, how did you teach your
A: I'm interested in education, wishing to nurture the next generation and teach young people and children how to be good people. Both adults and children nowadays don't know how to be people, so they have made our society become disorderly. It's painful to watch.
Q: How did the Venerable Master
propagate the Buddhadharma in the West?
A: On the power of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, Great Compassion Mantra, and Shurangama Mantra.
Q: When should I start cultivating?
A: You can start cultivating when you can let go of everything.
Q: Could the disciple help?
A: You want to run before you even know how to walk. It's too soon.
Q: The Earth Store Sutra has many
ghosts and spirits. I don't dare to recite it.
A: Ghosts and spirits are Bodhisattvas manifested. What is there to be scared of? Do you have ghosts in your heart?
Disciple: Master, there are many eightfold
dragons and gods, Dharma protecting good spirits on the sides of the road bowing
to the Master.
A: Where do I have the virtue?
Q: How do I bow to the Buddhas?
A: Bow to the Buddhas of your inherent nature.
Q: How are the Buddha images have
to be adorned?
A: Because living beings see adorned Buddha images and will feel respectful and will make their resolve for Bodhi.
Q: Is it okay for us to drink milk?
Is it okay to eat cheese?
A: It's better to eat these things than to eat meat. They will not stimulate people's desires and disturb them. It's better to be a vegetarian so that we can be clear of mind and lessen our desires.
Q: Master, you have been a monk for
so many years. Although you've been in the United States, but you still think
about your homeland. What are you most sad about?
A: I had written a verse before:
Several decades of chaos in China,
As I think about it I am overcome with sadness, my tears form a pool
Unfortunately I do not have the ability to turn back fate
I cannot shoot down time that has gone by with the flick of an arrow
The ways of the world are crooked and twisted as both humans and ghosts are cunning
The ups and downs of politics grill both you and me
I have not forgotten my loyalty despite being a monk
I keep my nationally to be faithful to my origins.
Do you know what I mean? My country has been chaotic for so many years; the Chinese are too sad! I can't help but shed tears when I think about it. Although being Chinese we experience so much hardship, I still want to preserve my nationality. The Chinese must have moral fiber!
Q: Is it very important to receive
the eightfold vegetarian precepts? Is it best to experience it at least once?
A: It's important if you think it's important. It's not important if you don't think it's important. This is not for sure. Of course it's great if you have the opportunity to receive them. If you don't have that opportunity, don't be insecure either. Everything depends on causes and conditions.
Audience member: This Dharma Master sure
likes to insult people. He has to insult people even while lecturing on the
A: I didn't insult anyone else. When I insult you, I'm insulting myself. So I insult myself everyday.
Q: People who are mindful of the
Buddha should make the vow to become reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. It's
difficult for me to make this vow because on the one hand I am still somewhat
attached to this world; on the other hand, if I really have reached the level to
be able to be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, then I could very well stay
here to help others. If I fly there and not stay here to help others, isn't that
wrong? Will the Venerable Master please be compassionate and solve my problem
A: According to Buddhism, vows will be fulfilled. If you make the vow to be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, then you will be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. If you make the vow to go to the Land of Ultimate Bliss then come back to teach and transform living beings, then your vow will be fulfilled too. It's okay whether you want to stay at the Land of Ultimate Bliss forever or if you want to come back. But to leave the Land of Ultimate Bliss then come back here, you'll be riding on your vows, which is a different situation than the one that you're currently in. You're now more confused than you are enlightened. Coming back on your vows, you'll be more enlightened than you are confused. That's why you would be willing to be here to help others, teaching people to be mindful of the Buddha. That's the resolve of a Bodhisattva. The Bodhisattva also makes the resolve to be here first to help people. This world is being grilled by all kinds of suffering. If you're not afraid to suffer, then you can be here to help Buddhas teach and transform living beings. The Buddhadharma is perfectly interpenetrating and free from obstructions. It makes sense however you explain it. Just do whatever it is that you like, as long as you're not attached.
Q: For monastics to be cultivating
in the monastery and seemingly not making contact with the world, is that a
contradiction from applying oneself as the Buddha had stressed?
A: The evils and disasters in the world occur because of greed and attachment. The fact that the Buddhadharma remains in the world warns the world and guides the people, helping people to purify and transform their minds and hearts, for them to wish to become liberated and help others become liberated. This is to help oneself and help others, right there and then. Is it passive to save people right there and then? To detest the mundane is the inspiration to enter the mundane. The purpose of transcending the mundane is to enter the mundane. If we were true cultivators, we must ultimately turn away from self-interest and head toward the Mahayana idea of the Bodhisattva practice. The life of laypeople is full of afflictions and fighting. If you enjoy it, feel free to stay around!
Q: What are the pluses to sleeping
A: To sleep sitting up means that we don't lie down to sleep. Not only do we decrease our need for sleep, but we are actually more awake and can control our sexual desire.
Master, I really admire you.
A: Who admires?
Q: As we study the Buddhadharma, is
it more important that we hide at home all day or should we bow to the Buddhas
and be mindful of the Buddha in the monastery to pray for Buddhas and
Bodhisattvas to receive us to the Land of Ultimate Bliss? Or is it more
important to apply the Buddhadharma in our daily lives?
A: Use it in our daily lives. Don't have any tainted dharma, use pure dharma. It's the Buddhadharma if you have a normal life where you are pure and free from false thinking, even desires. If you were to bow to the Buddhas every day and recite the Buddha's name to pray for rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, but you become extremely angry when you see people, all that would be useless. You will not reach the West by reciting the Buddha's name that. You will not reach the East by bowing to the Buddhas either. Because your temper will hold you back, your ignorance will press you down. So you have to eliminate your bad habits, ignorance, your natural tendencies, your afflictions, and your temper. To apply yourself in these areas is real cultivation. 173
Q: What recommended antidote does
the Venerable Master have for our bankrupted education?
A: The best medicine for the problem of education in this country is a wonderful prescription. It can solve the problems of every young person in the world, and that is: filiality and brotherhood. If teacher could model their behavior and teach students to listen to their parents and respect their teachers and elders from the start, then most of the dangers that we face now will not occur. The important thing is that if we don't know to teach kids the value of filiality, then any other solution would only take care of the symptoms and not the source. The prescription doesn't fit the illness. With regard to this issue, my solution is to be role models and teach the foundation of every virtue-filiality.
Q: I am someone who has a mundane job. My question is, all the education and training that we have received through our lives have been developing our competitive spirit and to win success. Everything else are just factors that help. But now we have suddenly found a new goal and have to change the course that we originally thought was correct, to direct the road down the right or the middle. Is this dream real or is it my imagination. If I may ask another question, I would like to know if Brahmanism and Buddhism, which are what I refer to as the road down the right and down the middle, the same? Are they the same road with two different street names?
A: We learned about fighting for fame and fortune. Is it a contraction that we have suddenly woken up and don't want to fight for fame and fortune any longer? Is this illusory and imagined? This principle is very simple, even little kids understood too. For instance, someone encounter a fire pyre on the road, should he proceed or turn around? To have walked to the end of the beach, should jump in the sea of suffering or turn back? Is it a contradiction to turn around here? Is this not real? This is the first question. The second question. Are Buddhism and Brahmanism the same? All the religions that I know of consist of people. If we evaluate from the point of view of human beings, then only the labels are changed, the substance is not. Whether someone is an American, Chinese, Japanese, Spaniard, Mexican, German, French, they are all called "humans" Though they have different names, they are still people. Of course, regardless of which nationality someone is, you can't call him "dog" or "cat."
Master, if you don't eat you will
A: It's only my body that hurts if I don't eat. However, for you to not cultivate well, my heart is in even more pain.
Q: If the monastery could change
its attitude in receiving people, won't they make people feel more welcomed and
introduce more people to Buddhism?
A: A monastery is not a party place for people to eat and drink. Everything has to accord with the middle way.
Q: My first marriage was bad, and
the second was worse. Why?
A: Then don't get married, recite Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's name more often.
Q: My husband wants to divorce me,
but I don't want to. Will the Master please provide instructions?
A: Then be his friend.
Q: My son and daughter-in-law are
not very filial to me, will the Master please provide some instructions for me.
A: You can quietly repent the karma that you had with them in the past. The causes from past lives become the effect of this lifetime. Recite Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's name often. Don't be resentful; the enmity can be resolved gradually.
Q: I am still young, but lots of
girls call me. What should I do?
A: Yell back at them. Tell them to study.
Q: My son wants to be the best in
everything, what should I do?
A: Everyone wants to be first, so who will be second?
Q: What method can we use to
concentrate to upholding a line of a mantra? How many times should we recite
that line of the mantra?
A: How come just one line?
Answer: For example, "tu xi fa" or . . .
A: You don't just recite this line. You should recite one section by one section. You can't just recite one line. This line is connected to the lines before and after it, so to just recite one line doesn't work. Each line has its meaning and it connected to what comes before and after it, forming little sections. If you really want to study the Shurangama Mantra, you have to the layers and know which line belongs to which section before you have really understood it.
Q: How come when Bodhisattvas make
vows, they use the qualification of not becoming a Buddha to give power to their
A: Those are no Bodhisattvas; they are ghosts. Ghosts fall into the three evil paths. He will not become a Buddha too soon, He's on the slow path. Just like me. That's why I say I am a ghost. You don't believe me at all because I see that I am just like a person. I had saved some ghosts in the past, so they dragged me into the hells. No one would pull me out even though that was what I had wanted to. So I stayed in the hells to play. I saw my ghost friends were suffering, so I thought I would wait until these hungry ghosts become Buddhas before I become a Buddha. Although my vow cannot compare with that of Earth Store Bodhisattva's vow: I vow to never become a Buddha until the hells are empty. For me, if there's even a single ghost, I will not become a Buddha. The hells may not necessarily be empty because I'm talking about ghosts in the present time. I will not bother with those in the future. There will be another time for that.
Q: Disciple I feel that I am
extremely attached to the self. How can really become empty of the self?
A: To be free of the self, you have to be free from others. If there no others, then there's naturally no self. No self, no others, then you want to have no living beings, and no lifespan. You have to know that this "I" is just a false label. "People" is just a false label. Living beings and life spans are all false labels. Don't get confused by false labels. This true "I" is not this, it's the Buddha nature that we had originally. Why did we forget our Buddha nature and only remember the false ego, false labels, and false meansings of the world? If you can really remember, then that false self will naturally vanish. Although you're very smart, if you can forget the false self and find the real one, then you will become truly smart.
Disciple: After I start to learn about
Buddhism, I no longer enjoy social engagements. Many people say that I have
become increasingly abnormal.
A: Isn't that to become normal?
Q: I am a sophomore at University
of Berkeley. Recently, I always feel that there's tremendous amount of pressure
with studying. It's so competitive. I can't find a way to freedom and
contentment. I wonder if there's any advantage to studying at this university. I
don't know what to do.
A: Be calm and serene when you study. Don't think so much. Don't worry about what is good or bad and don't be concerned about loss and gain. Who gave you that pressure? You gave it to yourself. If don't let the pressure get to you and just let things develop, then you will experience no pressure.
Q: I feel that I am realy lazy. I
find that many of my friends have the same problem. I often encourage them, as
well as myself, to study, but I always feel that I have wasted too much time. I
experience internal struggle while I admonish them. If I can't even admonish
myself to make myself change, how can I admonish my friends?
A: Just study hard! There's an antidote to being lazy. This is not about reciting a mantra. To not be lazy, you have to become inspired. "The person who is committed will be successful." Let's not talk about being lazy. People who are committed and willful can achieve anything.
Q: I am freshman at Berkeley. My
parents are in Taiwan. Sometimes when I call home, I hear that Mom or Dad is
sick or something. For instance, when I heard my that my father was in the
hospital for a surgery yesterday, I was in a very bad mood.
A: Just don't call. Don't worry about this and that when you are studying. Forget everything. Don't use your emotions. To call home is to use your emotions. They give your problems when they call you; you're not looking for problems. However, if you were to call them, then you are looking for problems. Why can't you let go? You're the one who can't let go if you call home often. If you can let go, then even if there were problems, things will turn out fine. Don't be concerned. Just remember to be mindful of the Buddha.
Q: Will the Venerable Master please
pick a lucky day and hour for the opening of my store?
A: Any hour is a good hour; any day is a good day.
Q: The Guanshiyin Bodhisattva image
that I have at home faces a large pole, is that unlucky?
A: Is the Bodhisattva ill at ease at all? Is anything no good for the Bodhisattva?
Q: Could I become enlightened?
A: Are you scared to die?
Q: Am I enlightened?
A: Do you still have sexual desire?
Q: How come every time we go out,
the Master is never tired, and yet the disciples are already extremely tired?
A: It's not that I am not tired, but that I overcome it with my willpower.
Q: Many people teach their
disciples mudras to earn more money. Does that practice exist?
A: This is to exploit people's greed. Just because they practice mudras, it doesn't mean that all of them will have the power to make every business transaction a success.
Vajra Strikes: Part 4
A Collection of Q & A's with the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Q: How can we avoid
being fooled by non-Buddhists?
A: Don't be greedy for fame or fortune. Recite the Shurangama Mantra every day.
Q (by a disciple): I saw someone
who calls himself an Unsupassed Teacher but dresses like a layperson use
Buddhism as an ad everywhere he goes.
A: He is a cult figure, not a real Buddhist.
Q: How come some people think about
killing themselves all day long? Is there any way to resolve this problem?
A: This is the result of karma. Some people improve their conditions by reciting the Sixth Patriarch's Platform Sutra, some people recite the Vajra Sutra, and some people recite the Avatamsaka Sutra. They must repent every day.
Q: Why does the Venerable Master
want to go into seclusion when your have not yet recovered physically?
A: I have to go into seclusion for a month for the war in Iraq. I want to help them by dedicating merit and virtue to the locals there.
Q (by a disciple): Someone took a
photograph of a great Dharma assembly hosted by someone who calls himself a
Buddha. More than ten thousand people were in attendance. There are two white
shadows in that photo; they are said to be two deceased individuals who have
come to be saved.
A: Someone who is virtuous does not need to organize any Dharma assembly and yet can still save thousands, tens' of thousands, and countless souls in the underworld.
Q: My grandson is in the hospital.
He is at the brink of death. What should I do?
A: Recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva.
Q: I really want to cultivate.
A: Have you let go of your emotions?
Q: How come my children never
listen to me?
A: Because you treated your parents this way when you were young too.
Q: How come my mother is
A: Because in her last life she had studied the Buddhadharma, but she did not want to teach it to others who asked.
Q (by a disciple): Master, I have fewer and fewer friends since I had begun studying Buddhism.
A: Why do you want friends?
Q: My husband is having an affair,
what should I do?
A: You've got a substitute ghost; you are now free!
Q: How come the Master is wearing a
green bracelet all of sudden?
A: A spirit from several millenniums ago still possesses this bracelet. It'll be a while before she can let go of and become liberated.
Q: The Master's blessings cured my
sickness. Will the Master please use your supernatural powers to take back the
land that a certain monastery has robbed from me? That monastery forced me and
conned me into donating it.
A: I don't save people for money. It would be ineffective if we were to ask the Bodhisattva to bless us in the hopes of gaining something.
Q (by a disciple): I have been
dreaming often lately. In these dreams, I've got fantastic paranormal powers. I
was killing many visible and invisible beings.
A: You have a strong tendency to kill; you had better repent thoroughly.
Q: Should we repent even when we
err in our dreams?
A: Everything is made from the mind alone. We must repent of and change any improper thinking.
Q: Sutra texts are very difficult
to understand, what should I do?
A: You must concentrate and read the commentaries at least four times. You will understand the Sutras readily that way.
Q: Has someone certified to the
fruition because of his supernatural powers?
Q: What is the Vajra Bodhi Sea?
A: What is Vajra? It means indestructibility. What is the Sea of Bodhi? It is the sea of great enlightenment. Actually, the Vajra Bodhi Sea is deeper and wider than any ocean.
Q: How do we attain wisdom?
A: Quit being confused then you've got wisdom! How could you be wise when you're confused day in and day out, laden with so much sexual desire?
Q: Will my recitation of the Great
Compassion Mantra be equally effective if I am not a vegetarian or do not keep
A: You have to stand on your own. Don't rely on the Great Compassion Mantra, small compassion mantra, eastern compassion mantra, or western compassion mantra.
Q: What are the Three Non-retreats?
A: The Non-retreating Position is a resultant position for Mahayana Bodhisattvas whereby they do not retreat to become those of the Two Vehicles and study Theravadan teachings. The Non-retreating Resolve refers to one's resolve for Bodhi. One would never withdraw from cultivating enlightenment and achieving one's vows. The Non-retreating Conduct means that one always moves ahead boldly and cultivates vigorously, never backsliding or becoming lazy after cultivating for a while. For instance, one does not stop and turn back after cultivating for two or three days, asking, "Why haven't I become a Buddha yet?"
Q: The Master says that if we were
to understand this line, "sa dan duo bwo dan la", then we would understand our
mind and see our true nature, also tame spirits, demons, and heretics. Exactly
how do we use it?
A: Just like learning martial arts, we must master its moves before we confront the enemy with our sword or rifle at hand. We don't become the world's undefeated champion because we've watched for a day a few Shaolin-styled kung fu moves and think they're very good. You think you know it but you don't even have the basics down! The Shurangama Mantra works the same way, how could you use it if you haven't even recited it?
Q: Just now the Master gave a talk
on how excellent the Great Compassion Mantra is. May I ask which layperson or
Buddha or Bodhisattva invented the Great Compassion Mantra?
A: The Great Compassion Repentance and the Great Compassion Dharani Sutra both make it clear that the Great Compassion Mantra was said by Buddhas as many as grains of sand in 990 million Ganges Rivers in the past. As soon as Guanshiyin Bodhisattva recited the Great Compassion Mantra, she acquired a thousand hands and a thousand eyes. She sees with her one thousand eyes, listens with one thousand ears, and rescues all beings with one thousand hands. Since she has accepted, upholds, reads, and recites the Great Compassion Mantra, she has wonderful features that adorn and is replete with a thousand hands and a thousand eyes.
Q: How do we uncover intense
ignorance and see real wisdom during our waking hours.
A: This question shows that you're not too far from real wisdom.
Q: What is Right Samadhi in
cultivation? What kind of a state is that?
A: Right Samadhi is [a state of deep absorption] during which one has no deviant views. There's no Right Samadhi if one has deviant views. The Shurangama Sutra says so clearly, "It is a wholesome state if one doesn't consider oneself a sage because of that state; if one does consider oneself a sage, one will fall for deviant multitudes." This is an explanation of Right Samadhi, and the best explanation at that.
Q: How come the Buddha has Three
A: Have you read the Avatamsaka Sutra? Go back and really study it.
Q (by a disciple): Venerable
Master, please have my son take refuge with the Triple Jewel.
A: Everything has its time and place. Don't force things.
Q (by a disciple): Natural
disasters are occurring often recently, will the Master please not go to Taiwan.
A: If I deserve this retribution, then I'll accept it.
Q: Today I saw some really awesome
people. One made recitation beads smell really good, and another person grew out
his arm so that it was really long!
A: Can these things make someone become liberated from the cycle of birth and death? What is a long arm good for?
Q: We may recite the Great
Compassion Mantra or other mantras, but we don't understand what they mean. Will
we naturally understand what they mean by continuing to recite and thereby
developing our wisdom? Is there any other way to understand what they mean?
A: This mantra is not to be understood. Although not to be understood, it contains meaning. Since there are very few people who understand mantras, they are generally considered incomprehensible. However, I have used four line verses to explain every line of the Great Compassion Mantra. Those explanations are not perfect, but they shed some light.
Q: How does an ordinary person tell
whether someone has true spiritual penetration?
A: A real cultivator doesn't talk about spiritual penetration, only wisdom. Spiritual penetration is just an alias for wisdom. Once you have wisdom, you will naturally understand everything, the trichilocosm (three thousand great world systems of thousands of worlds) would be like an apple in your palm. Without wisdom, you run into obstacles in everything that you do.
Q: Why should we recite the
Shurangama Mantra once in the morning and once at night?
A: Once in the morning for protection during the day and once in the evening for protection throughout the night.
Q (by a disciple): What things
should we be careful of in the future?
A: Don't make any predictions. Don't brag. Don't be interested in fame and fortune. Real cultivators appear dumb though they're extremely wise. They don't go around advertising how they have saved so many people.
Q: Is rebirth in the Western Land
of Ultimate Bliss possible if we were to recite the Great Compassion Mantra and
make the vow that we be reborn there after death?
A: The same rebirth [as reciting the Buddha's name].
Q: How come some people are
irresponsible and drag their foot when it comes to work in the monastery?
A: They have food to eat despite their irresponsibility.
Q: Is there one absolute truth, or
is there none?
Another person: It's basically impossible for absolutes to exist in this world of relativity. If there were any absolutes, it would this one: expediency. For instance, we are studying Buddhism though fundamentally there is no Buddha. Since we're stupid, we have to have a Buddha to guide us to Buddhahood. When we do become Buddhas, we would realize that there's no such thing as a Buddha. I believe that's what the Master means.
A: That's somewhat right, although slightly off the mark. Everything is relative; there are no absolutes. There is one thing that is the absolute truth: that even this absolute doesn't exist. Even the "one" is gone. Once you understand the one absolute, you cannot become attached to this absolute. Attachment to the absolute, the truth, is still a form of attachment; consequently, that absolute truth will be of no use to you. You must let go of that absolute too. As it is said, "The myriad Dharmas return to one, and where does that one return to?" To where should "one" go back? There's not even that "one". If there's not a thing, what might that be? That's "zero". Zero creates the heaves, earth, and myriad things; it creates immortals, Buddhas, and sages. They are all born from this zero. That zero is limitless and boundless. Think about this number. If you put a "0" next to a "1", you've got "10", add another circle, it's a hundred. Draw another circle and it's one thousand. Draw yet another zero, and you have ten thousand, then thousands upon thousands, and ten's of thousands upon ten's of thousands. There's no end to the number of zeros that you could draw. Even the computer can't compute that figure. You say, "That's a number." You have to let go of that "a" then. What is there if there is nothing? A zero is not a number; being zero, it is nothing. So this "one", this absolute of yours basically doesn't exist.
Earlier you talked about Buddhas and how there are fundamentally none. Wrong, it's impossible for there to be no Buddhas. You are caught in dull emptiness and annihilism if there were no Buddhas. Why are you cultivating if there were no Buddhas? There are Buddhas; we just become attached no longer to the idea of Buddhas once we realize Buddhahood. This is incorrect: there are no Buddhas and the story of a Buddha was fabricated so that we would have an idol. Actually, the Buddha is just the fundamental nature in every one of us. "All living beings have the Buddha nature; we are capable of becoming Buddhas." So, to be able to become Buddhas is most democratic. Anyone can become a Buddha!
Once in a car ride from San Francisco to Gold Wheel Monastery, [Los Angeles,] a disciple was looking at the scenery and telling the Master how pretty it was there and how nice it was here.
A: I don't look to the outside.
Q: What is the usefulness of
A: Whether mantras are useful is beside the point, the important thing to note is that it's a dharma that adorns the Dharma Realm. To adorn the Dharma Realm is to adorn our inherent nature. Adorning the Dharma Realm, we also adorn our inherent nature. An adorned inherent nature is a dharma that allows us to realize Bodhi. I don't mean that I don't have to eat when hungry because I uphold mantras, that I don't need to put on more clothes when I'm cold because I uphold mantras, or that I don't need to sleep when on I tired because I uphold mantras. Mantras have nothing to do with those things; mantras make our Dharma body and wisdom life grow.
Q: How come some babies are born
A: They used to be so intimate that they couldn't be apart from each other! Do you even need to ask?
A faith-goer is shooting pictures of the
Venerable Master left and right, wanting lots of photos.
Venerable Master: Don't take so many pictures. You can't be so greedy. Just take one picture, don't take too many! You're not the only one eating. Be content. The Dharma is impartial and not hierarchical. Don't be eager for too much of anything; you'll only bite off more than you can chew.
Q: How come I had to go through
such major trials and tribulations?
A: Trials and tribulations occur for sages because of their vows; trials and tribulations occur for average people because of their karma.
Q: I know that I've got a hot
temper, but how may I change it?
A: If you really understand that, "others' faults are simply my own," then you would not get angry.
Q: But it's hard to change our
A: There are not two inherent natures. Temperament is an illusion created by ignorance. Get rid of it and become liberated.
Q (by a disciple): How should we cultivate once the Master leaves us?
Venerable Master: You must enter the Sutras deeply. Do everything according to the Buddhdharma. Cite from the Sutras whenever you answer people questions about the Buddhadharma.
Q: There's someone who can show
people a method to getting rich.
A: I'm afraid that before you get rich, he will have already swindled everyone's money and become rich himself.
Q: Will the upholding of mantras
help us restore our purity?
A: Not only can mantras help us restore our purity, but the recitation of mantras can help us become more pure.
Q: There are wholesome karma,
unwholesome karma, and neutral karma. What kind of karma is neutral?
A: It's neither wholesome nor unwholesome and a bit wholesome and a bit unwholesome. You say it's wholesome and yet it's not completely wholesome; you say it's unwholesome and yet it's not completely unwholesome. You may not know whether it's wholesome or unwholesome because you have paid any attention; thus that karma is neutral.
Q: Why do we need so many temples?
A: There will be many Buddhists in the future. We will not have enough temples to serve them.
Q: Will the Venerable Master please
bless my son so that he doesn't become a bad person?
A: Parents should always discipline and teach their children.
Q: How do we avoid becoming
attached to demons while meditating?
A: Repent daily, recite the Buddha's name more, do morning and evening ceremonies, and recite the Shurangama Mantra before meditating.
Q: What does one experience when
one is attached to demons?
A: One doesn't want to recite Sutras and doesn't want to participate in daily worship in the mornings and evenings.
Venerable Master: Do you understand now? You can't take what's meant for the Great Heroes Jeweled Hall for Dharma propagation.
Q: How come the Venerable Master is
A: Because a lot of people from Taiwan today are laden with karma. I am not eating so that I can transfer that merit to them.
Q: How come natural disasters
A: The heads of states are not virtuous enough. Superiors and subordinates are all greedy.
Venerable Master: Have you been a nun for
a long time? What have you been doing at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas? Which
Sutra do you know how to lecture?
Disciple: I have been more focused on work and have neglected the studying of Sutras.
Venerable Master: What kind of work?
Disciple: I enjoy cleaning and organizing jobs.
Venerable Master: You can't do that. You only know how to clean up the outside, but you're such a mess inside. You don't have any real cultivation. Why do you have so many false thoughts?
Q: How do lay people cultivate the
practice of 42 Hands and Eyes?
A: By not fighting, not being greedy, not seeking, not being selfish, not pursuing self-benefit, and not lying.
Q: The Master often instructs us
that we must accept no remunerations for using the Buddhadharma to heal people,
but is meals at a restaurant okay?
A: That is also a form of greed. My true disciples take advantage of no one.
Q: Why do I have to
recite Namo Amitabha Buddha? How come Namo Amitabha Buddha doesn't recite my
A: Because you haven't made a vow to have everyone recite your name.
Q: While I was meditating, I heard
a loud voice calling my name. Should I have continued to meditate?
A: It's okay. Don't be scared. You have to face reality and get through those tests. There's nothing to be afraid of as long as your thinking is upright and not deviant.
Q: How can we prevent nations from
being enemies and waging war against another?
A: Only if everyone believes in the Buddha and understands the cause and effect that abstention from killing and hurting in this lifetime prevents suffering in future lives. We could not otherwise put an end to killing and injury, even for as long as a thousand lives or ten thousand lives.
Q: How come an act of kindness
begets negative consequences?
A: Matchmakers, users, contrived donors to Buddhism, or donors who are disgusted with Buddhism after giving are people whose faith in Buddhism are actually obstructed. Actually, they actions reap no merit and virtue.
Q: Does the Master want to do some
A: Sightseeing? I've seen everything.
Q: What kind of causes and
conditions bring people together?
A: The Avatamsaka Sutra says, "I have been a parent, a sibling, a child to every living being since time immemorial. . ."
Q: How come the Master is always
telling people to recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva?
A: Because demons are in reign while Dharma is on a decline during this Dharma-Ending Age, but Guanshiyin Bodhisattva has a great vow to rescue all living beings with kindness and compassion.
Q: In which destiny was I, in my
A: The Vajra Sutra says, "What is in the past cannot be attained." As long as you do more good deeds, recite the Buddha's name more, everything will naturally be peaceful. Major disasters will turn into minor disasters, minor disasters will turn into no disasters.
Q: How come there are people who
become possessed by demons as soon as they start to meditate?
A: This is the work of your enemies and debtors from past lives. You have to do more good deeds and dedicate those merit and virtue to them.
Q (by a disciple): Somebody said
that the Venerable Master has already gone.
A: He's revealing to you how his level of cultivation is beyond that of others!
Q: It seems to me that there are
many horror movies about ghosts and demons now. The scarier they are, the more
people enjoy watching them. I never did understand that kind of mentality.
A: People are driven by curiosity. They don't understand what a ghost is about and have never seen one. They see one in the movies and think that's probably it, that the world of ghosts must be that way. They want to turn into ghosts too: "Let me try it, let me check it out. When I become a ghost I will know how to hassle people." This is a form of psychosis whereby one enjoys the novel and likes the strange; it has nothing to do with demons and ghosts, but false thinking.
Q: It seems inappropriate to hang a
picture of Fundamental Teacher Shakyamuni Buddha at work and bow to it. How
should I solve this dilemma?
A: Your work is delayed by your eating, why do you eat?
Q: Is it the case that all
disciples who have take refuge with the Venerable Master, whether monastic or
lay disciples, would be able to avoid transmigration in the six destinies?
A: Those who have taken refuge with me but who are unruly, doing all kinds of bad things, cannot avoid transmigration in the six destinies. Those who have not taken refuge with me but try their best to do good deeds can also avoid transmigration in the six destinies.
Q: Yiguan (One Connection) Way's
books often contain Buddha images and quotes from Sutras, should we burn them to
prevent living beings from stepping into that on mistake.
A: The kind get together; the evil gang up. People look for those like them. Whether something is demonic or Buddhist depends on the situation, but they don't mix.
Q: A Buddhist nun has been teaching
people a practice associated with Guanshiyin Bodhisattva recently. She stresses
that we can become enlightened in one lifetime. May we ask the Venerable Master
whether we can become enlightened in one lifetime with the Proper Dharma?
Q: My parents believe Mazu (Sea
Goddess), the Holy Mother of Heaven. We also have the three sages of the West on
our altar. Is it okay for me to bow to all of those statues simultaneously?
A: Cultivators must be kind and humble, being respectful toward everything. Don't make the distinction between Mazu (which sounds like "horse patriarch" in Chinese) and cow patriarch. All living beings have the Buddha nature; all are capable of becoming Buddhas, even mosquitoes and ants. It would be more than enough if they turn away from confusion and return to enlightenment. There's no need to differentiate and consider her some kind of a patriarch, be it horse patriarch, pig patriarch, cow patriarch, or sheep patriarch.
Q: What is the Mark of Longevity?
A: Wanting to live forever.
Q: The Shurangama Sutra says that
because living beings don't know to dwell in the true mind at all times that
they are mixed up and therefore revolve around the wheel of transmigration.
Venerable Master, what is the true mind?
A: The true mind is the mind without any sexual desire. Anyone without sexual desire is someone no longer mixed up, someone who understands what it means to dwell in the true mind at all times.
Q: What is the relationship between
dwelling in the true mind at all times and sleeping sitting up? How do we
practice sleeping sitting up? Do we need to practice sleeping sitting up only if
we were interested in dwelling in the true mind at all times?
A: To dwell in the true mind at all times doesn't require that you sleep sitting up. In Taipei, someone asked if laypeople could sleep sitting up. I said laypeople could quit fooling around. Sleeping sitting up is just one antidote for sexual desire, it doesn't have much to do with the true mind. It is one corridor along the road of cultivation. Of course it's okay if you can sleep sitting up. If you can't sleep sitting up, that's okay too. We don't become Buddhas by sleeping sitting up. Just because you sleep sitting up, it doesn't mean that you understand what it means to dwell in the true mind at all times and actually do so.
Q: The Bodhisattva Precept Against
Sexual Misconduct prohibits conjugal sex during certain times and places. It's
prohibited during the six vegetarian days and daytime. When one's husband has
misgivings about this, divorce is likely. Should the precept be our first
priority or should we ignore people's judgments and just divorce? I'm afraid
that people will misconstrue Buddhism. I'm very troubled. Will the Master please
kindly tell me what to do.
A: [The Precepts list] the inappropriate times and places quite explicitly, there's nothing more to it. Since you can't keep this precept, then don't keep it. You don't need explain and defend. It's your decision whether you divorce, I'm not the one to answer that question. He really wants a divorce though because he is tired of the old and wants to find something new, it's has nothing to do with this precept.
Q: A certain Sikh dressed in
Buddhist monastic robes looks like a Buddhist monk. He has even received the
three sets of ordination precepts. But the Dharma that he propagates is not the
Buddhadharma at all. May I ask the Venerable Master how monks and nuns should
protect and support the Proper Dharma? And how should laity protect and support
the Proper Dharma?
A: Give him the silent treatment! The king of demons had told the Buddha before, "During the Dharma-Ending Age, my demon kids and grandkids will go to your homes, live there, and eat your food and defecate in it." We should give people like him the cold shoulder. They rely on Buddhism for their clothing and food by claiming that they're Buddhists, yet they don't do any work for Buddhism. At the same time, we can't kill him. If we were to kill him, we would violate the Precept Against Killing.
Q: As a housewife, I
often violate the Precept Against Killing without intending so. What should I
A: I'm a little ant too. It's okay to kill me, but you absolutely must avoid killing an ant.
Q: How come some people have dreams
about the Master even before they meet you? Is it that they have affinities with
you from the past? Or is it that the Venerable Master emits some light that
makes people dream about you?
A: I don't have that much light, that much gasoline. Cause and effect is the reason. People have affinities with others. Those who have deeper affinities with others will recall impressions from their past. These past affinities unveil themselves of their own accord. Many people are delighted to see me, especially children, who will do everything that I tell them. In Northeast China, without being told, some teenagers used to prostrate, bow, and do all kinds of things when they first see me. Some people would cry when they see me; some would be ecstatic. When asked why it is that they cry, they say it's a feeling like children who have been lost and apart from their parent for a long time. They feel as if they have finally come home after years of suffering. They let out their pent-up angst and have a good cry when they know they've come home. There are many, many different situations, but I don't' want to tell you about them. If I were to tell you, you all would cry too.
Q: Are you talking about causes and
conditions from past lives when you mentioned earlier about how people have seen
you in the past?
A: Possibly, who knows?
Q: Do you lay disciples need to
A: You can meditate whether you're a member of the Sangha or laity. Nothing is mandatory. For instance, monastics eat and so do lay people.
Q: Do we need to breath when we
A: Don't you die if you don't breath? You have to be natural. Don't suppress your breathing on purpose.
Q: The Venerable Master's
cultivation can affect dragons and gods. We suggest that the Venerable Master
save all our fellow citizens who have suffered in the last several hundred
A: Ghosts and spirits who had died several thousand years ago have all arrived here at the Protecting the Country and Quelling the Nation Guanyin Great Compassion Dharma Assembly. The deceased have been ferried over to the shore of liberation. You just don't know about it. I know you find what I am saying now unbelievable.
Q: Can anyone make the resolution
to save the deceased in the ten Dharma Realms? Or will this be effective only if
done by enlightened, virtuous Sanghans?
A: Of course virtuous Sanghans who are enlightened can do this, but everyone save the deceased in the Ten Dharma Realms too. By being a good person, you are saving the deceased.
Q: May I ask the Venerable Master
as to how a student in school now should study the Buddhadharma?
A: Students should focus on their schoolwork. You may try to soak up some Buddhdharma when you're not studying; but it would be wrong to focus only on the Buddhadharma only and not your coursework. You must balance the two so that you don't overemphasize one aspect. Young people often make the mistake of neglecting their studies to study the Buddhadharma.
Q: Will the Venerable Master please
be kind and compassionate and ease the suffering of the Chinese.
A: That is a vow of mine. I am willing to take on the suffering of every Chinese and I dedicate to them all the blessings that is meant for me.
Q: How do you explain, "The
sentient and insentient together perfect the wisdom of all modes"?
A: The sentient and insentient refer to sentient beings and non-sentient beings. What are insentient beings? They're plants. Plants have their nature of life but not any emotion. Anything with blood and breath is sentient. "Together perfect the wisdom of all modes" means that all of them will realize Buddhahood. No computer can figure out who will realize Buddhahood first or last.
A: How do we propagate the Buddhadharma in the United States?
Q (by a disciple): To end greed, anger, and delusion. To diligently cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom.
A: Elaborate. That's too vague.
Q (by a disciple): To not fight, not be greedy, not seek, not be selfish, not pursue self-benefit, and not lie.
A: Right, that's it.
Q: Uh oh, so and so is leaving, who
is going to be translating in the future?
A: There's nothing that has to be done by someone; there's nothing that a person has to do.
Q: May we request that the
Venerable Master come to Taiwan often to propagate the Dharma? Taiwan has so
many monsters, demons, ghosts, and spirits.
A: I want to go to the Republic of China often, not Taiwan.
Venerable Master: Tell me, is it better to
write with a piece of white chalk or black chalk on the blackboard?
Disciple: White one.
Venerable Master: Should we use a larger or a smaller piece of white chalk?
Disciple: One of average size.
Venerable Master: Who else would say that? Why do you say a piece that's of an average size? Tell us!
Disciple: A large piece breaks easily. A small piece is difficult to handle. We can write with a piece that's medium in size.
Venerable Master: Do you see me with a large piece or small piece every time I write? Or do I use a medium-sized one?
Disciple: A small piece.
Venerable Master: Then I must not write well?
Disciple: No! It's just that the Venerable Master wants to be frugal.
Venerable Master: What is that? It means to cherish and use anything that can still be used. Only when something cannot be used anymore do we stop using it. We do not waste anything.
Q: Should lay people cultivate the
Six Paramitas all at once or according to a specific order? With meditation, for
one, should we wait until we have reached a relatively more advanced state
before we cultivate Dhyana samadhi?
A: All dharmas are equal; there's not one that's better or worse. Don't make the distinction that a state is more or less advanced. Don't create differences and categorizations. Just do what you ought to do in the situation you are in. No one is required to do anything. There's no first or last, no better or worse; they're equally important.
Q: Master, you said that you had
started to bow to all living beings since the age of twelve. Is this a vow from
your lives past and you have returned to this world again for this lifetime?
A: I can't prove this, so I can't respond.
Q: Things such as typhoon,
earthquakes, or wars occur because of the collective karma of people at a
specific location. Since these people have done the same things as individuals,
they collectively face the retribution of their past acts. Given the point of
view that cause and effect do not change, how could the Master's vows and
prayers weaken the karmic consequences that living beings must face? Master,
from whom does the power of your vows come? Is it yourself? And to whom do you
A: I ask the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas from the ten directions to change a certain situation. Although fixed karma is said to be unalterable, it has no standard definition either. [More specifically,] we say, "Oh, this fixed karma cannot be changed.!" But how do we know that something is fixed karma? How do we know a premeditating murderer would not act if we were to talk to him nicely? How do we know two countries at the brink of war would not put down their weapons if someone were to facilitate the two? How do we know that our tumor would not be non-life-threatening if a doctor were to apply medication to dissolve the toxins? If any of this is possible, then this is the way things are. If any of this is impossible, then no patient will look to the doctor for a cure.
Q: If everyone were to have this
kind power to their vows, then none of us would need to bother the Master
A: Right, why don't you have this kind of power to your vows?
Q: Is it a must?
A: If you were to do that, then there would be more proper energy in the universe, more energy that is kindness.
Q: Please pump some gasoline into me, Master.
A: Gasoline is available any time, anywhere. You can buy it for free.
Q: The Master is so powerful. Could
you make a vow to make our country rich, that is, mainland China. Because Taiwan
is very rich while many of our fellow countrymen in mainland China are still
A: Once they've suffered enough, there will be no more suffering. Sweet rewards comes after misery. To undergo suffering is to relieve one of suffering; to enjoy blessings is to end blessings. This is my philosophy: anything that reaches its extreme will turn the other way; anything that gets bad enough will turn into something good. It's okay. Whatever it is that all of us need to face, we will face it; once we've experienced it, there will be no more suffering. Don't worry. Don't worry about anything, like the sky falling down. Just do a good job studying.
Q: Should we visualize how the
Buddhas and Bodhisattvas with billions and billions of transformations?
A: When you cultivate to that level, you will naturally transform into billions and billions of bodies. You don't need to visualize.
Q: Master, why don't you have any
A: I really can't help it! If my attendants were Chinese, then my American disciples would be unhappy. If my attendants were Americans, then my Chinese disciples would be unhappy too. If my attendants were male, my female disciples would be unhappy. If my attendants were female, then my male disciples would be unhappy too. If my attendants were young, then the older ones would be unhappy.
Veneerable Master: Do you know why you've
got a hunched back?
A disciple: I don't know.
Venerable Master: Because [you've got a chip on your shoulder.] You're always thinking about other people's reaction to everything that you do.
In Taipei, a prominent Buddhist monk came to see the Venerable Master for the first time. The guest was nervous and just as he was hesitating as to what to say, the Venerable Master bowed down as soon as he saw this monk. . . little would have the monk have guessed.
Q: Why can't we leave any space
empty when we're standing in the Buddha Hall?
A: People who come early should move up and not leave any space. There will be future retributions for your standing in a disarrayed fashion.
Venerable Master: What kind of kashaya
(precept sash) is that person wearing?
A disciple: Venerable Master, that's not a precept sash; that's a large scarf.
Venerable Master: Tell him not to wrap it around his neck that way.
Q: Homosexuals contract AIDS
because those of the same sex contain agents that clash with one another. How
exactly do they act counteract each other?
A: The basic element for sperm is positivistic. If the male element enters the female body, yin and yang will neutralize each other. If this male element enters another male, it turns into toxic poison.
Q: To what religious school do you
A: The one-meal-a-day school.
Q: What should we do with kitchen
staff who gossip?
A: We will eat food made of gossip.
Q: Master has eyes in his palm!
A: Not just in my palm, they're in every pore.
Q: Is qigong (a martial art that
uses qi, our energy) a form of meditation?
A: There's no energy to martial arts.
Q: Then why are there books about qigong?
A: Those books contain only general descriptions because they really don't understand. They even get some terms mixed up so that the labels don't fit their content. There's no martial art for energy, it's not called qigong. It's martial arts for monsters. It's martial arts for demons because practitioners enter demonic states. It's martial arts for ghosts because these practitioners shake and tremble. Yanxing [A famous qigong master in China] also says, "This is martial arts that is self-initiated." Most of you have no idea and don't know what's it's all about. When a practitioner begins to shake, a ghost is taking possession of that person who has no samadhi power. Most people think martial arts is an internal practice, but they don't understand at all! People who practice the martial arts of spirits are able to prophesize. Spirits' martial art does not require shaking and trembling because they have some samadhi and are calm.
An illustration of the spirit is the
extending of one's arm. It's not our energy that orders it to extend it, but the
spirit of the mind that is the commander. Since people in China are forbidden to
talk about spirits, ghosts, and monsters, they don't know that they're
practicing martial arts associated with spirits, ghosts, monsters, demons, etc.
Consequently, qigong is the name for all these practices in general. Qi has no
sense of awareness and cannot function on its own, so how can it be a martial
art? It scatters as soon as it leaves our body. Most people don't know about
this and call it qigong, qigong. They may die from qi but they're still into
their martial arts.
Q: But there's qigong in Taiwan.
A: They only understand a bit; they can't even get the terms straight.
Q: Master, you're so awesome, is there any way you can change it?
A: The ghosts see me and run away.
Q: Everyone in China agrees that
Yanxing is the best qigong master and there are masters who are even more
excelled in this art but have not yet made themselves known.
A: He said his teacher is several thousand years old. I say my disciple is several thousand years old. This is true.
Q: This great qigong master is a vegetarian, isn't that a form of cultivation on his part?
A: He eats witchcraft.
Q: May I ask the Master if you have
taught people who are not your disciple a meditation method that is convenient?
A: To learn this method you must first cut off desires and end love, and then practice sitting in the full lotus posture.
Q: It's easy to become attached to
demons while cultivating Dhyana. Although the Pureland practice is very steady,
it's very slow. Is it better practice Dhyana or Pureland?
A: Although the Pureland and the Dhyana schools are two different routes, they end up being the same path when one is successful. All dharmas are equal, there's not one that's better or worse.
Q: Should lay people
recite the Daily Vinaya by heart?
A: Monastics must have the Daily Vinaya memorized well. The laity could do with or without it.
Q: What does it mean by "All sages
and worthy ones become distinguished by grounding themselves on the non-doing
Dharma" in the Vajra Sutra?
A: Non-doing means sleeping. Become distinguished refers to eating. This is about eating and sleeping, sleeping and eating; there's no need to do anything else. Isn't that interesting? All sages and worthies include all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. What is non-doing? Non-doing is about doing nothing that would violate the precepts. "There's nothing that isn't about non-doing" means that we should do everything that avoid violating the precepts. "Become distinguished" means that one becomes distinguished through keeping the precepts. This is an explanation for beginners.
Q: How did Filial Son Wang achieve
the indestructible Vajra body?
A: Slowly. He didn't think about becoming a Ph.D. before he was able to read.
Q: The Buddha told the Bhikshus to
do walking and sitting meditation during the first third of the night, to rest
during the middle third of the night, and to do walking and sitting meditation
during the last third of the night. What are the actual times for each?
A: The first part of the night is sunset, from 6 to 10 p.m. 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. is the mid-part of the night. And 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. is the last-part of the night.
Q: How come we have to recite
mantras every day?
A: The power of reciting mantras is fantastic. It is capable of producing an inconceivable power of samadhi. It can change anything, turning violence into auspiciousness, turning danger into safety. We ought to concentrate while reciting the Shurangama Mantra. Don't grow lazy after a while and become disinterested in the Shurangama Mantra because you don't see immediate effects. Even if you don't see any result, you should still read, recite, and uphold daily. You must cultivate it every day so that you will succeed at once. It will not be effective unless you usually practice it. If you usually cultivate all kinds of dharmas, then 84,000 Vajra Treasury Bodhisattvas will come and support you and your every word, every action, and every move. This requires long-term commitment; it's not achieved in 24 hours.
Q: Why do we need to plant
A: So that we don't have to depend on outsiders to donate. We can try to take care of ourselves. The fruits that we harvested ourselves are especially sweet. All the properties that I purchase must be used so that the roots of Buddhism grow deep in the soil of this land.
Q: Why do we experience a lot of
A: We did not cultivate enough goodness in the past; that's why many negative states occur. A lot of things don't go our way.
Q (by a child): Could I play the video
game, "Roaming the heavens" at home?
A: Your mom won't let you play until you have the Shurangama Mantra memorized.
Q: Why are there rules?
A: Rules exist because you don't follow them. If you did follow the rules, you wouldn't need them. As it is said, "You can't draw squares and circles without T-squares and compass (which mean rules in Chinese)." How can you become wise without following the rules? How can you become enlightened?
Q: What is Bodhi?
A: Bodhi means not picking it up. Let it go! "It" includes money, sex, fame, food, and sleep.
Q: What are mantras?
A: Mantras are just honest words. If you were honest, then everything you say become effective mantras because ghosts and spirits obey them. Mantras are "true words," which means the truth.
Q: I hear that a seasoned
cultivator "eats when hungry and snoozes when tired." How is that different from
an ordinary person?
A: He has reached a certain level of cultivation so he can do as he pleases guilelessly.
A sincere Catholic didn't know what to do
when he first stepped into the Buddha Hall as a guest.
Suddenly the Venerable Master appeared and said with much kindness: Just treat this like your home. Do what you think is right. Don't worry.
The guest became relaxed.
Q: They say you're really mean, you
yell at people.
A: Not only do I yell at people, I hit people too!
Q: What is Buddha?
A: Nothing at all.
A disciple asked an inappropriate
A: Gee, you wasted a lot of your gasoline!
Visiting Buddhist pray with huge handfuls
of incense in the Buddha Hall.
Venerable Master: Look at how you're darkening those Buddha statues! The Buddha is all choked up by smoke. What is the Pureland has now been polluted to become the land of filth. This is all a result of greed and ignorance.
Q (by a disciple): Lots of people are
unhappy with what the Master said; but there are lots of people who are happy
A: The purpose of my saying things is not to make people happy or unhappy. I just say what is true and what accords with the principles of truth. That's what I have always known to do.
Q: Could I auction off some things
in the temple and apply the proceeds to the Sunday elementary school?
A: You can't do any business in the temple!
Q: There's a City of Ten Thousand
Buddhas in Canada too! Where is it?
A: At Golden. We can build a Buddhist Village there that comes with monasteries, schools, elders' homes, and manufacturing businesses for lay people to settle there while working. You can go there to build the Buddhist Village after you retire.
Q: The hospital building (at the
City of Ten Thousand Buddhas) has many leaks. To renovate the whole thing will
require several tens of thousands of dollars.
A: That's too expensive. Just do spot repairs.
Q (by a disciple): I want to donate a
large Buddha statue for the Great Heroes Jeweled Hall, is that okay?
A: Okay, but hurry. Otherwise it will be gone.
That disciple didn't understand why he should hurry. The Great Heroes Jeweled Hall hasn't even been built yet. Could it be that someone will grab the opportunity to donate before him? That can't be yet. He thought he might as well go and invest that money. Wouldn't it be better to earn more money in the next couple of years and donate two large Buddha statues? In the end, the investment was completely awash because his partners swindled the entire amount. Only then did he realize that what the Venerable Master meant by "it will be gone." He meant the money will be gone.
A disciple told the Venerable Master what
his job duties were at the time.
Venerable Master: Don't use your authority to oppress people, but move and transform people through personal example.
Venerable Master: Do you like candy?
A child: I don't like American candy. I only like Chinese candy.
The Venerable Master then takes out a box of hard candy made in Taiwan and gives it to the child.
The child couldn't help but utter: This is my favorite candy. Thank you, Master!
Venerable Master: Does your mother-in-law
Disciple: She wants to go out and buy a pair of shoes that fits her. I haven't had time to take her.
Venerable Master: Why don't you do it immediately?
Disciple: There are too many things to take care of in the temple.
Venerable Master: Don't be that way. Your mother-in-law's welfare comes first. Take care of temple business later. Don't leave her frustrated.
The first time that a disciple visited the
City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, he received a phone call from the Master while at
the Administrative Office.
The Master hammered down these first words to him: Everyone at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is small.
That disciple was speechless.
It was not until ten years later that that disciple understood how young and righteous he was at the time, extremely arrogant. That's why the Master said that everyone else was small, to remind the disciple of his egoism.
Q: There are some duties that
volunteer teachers at the schools are not able to do, is it okay to hire people
for these things?
A: Yes, but the volunteer teachers are the bosses. The hired help has to listen to volunteer teachers.
A disciple is currently attending a
certain college. I'm in the middle of getting my teaching credentials so that
I'll have a teaching certificate for being a high school teacher at the
conclusion of the program.
A: Your virtue is your certificate for being a teacher. Don't ever attempt homosexuality.
In 1985, the Venerable Master was training disciples to go up on stage to lecture on the Sutras and give Dharma talks. The Venerable Master only gives a talk and an evaluation at the end. One newly arrived disciple thought, "I had come thousands of miles from Taiwan to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas just so that I can hear the Venerable Master's Sutra lectures and Dharma talks; but now the Venerable Master isn't speaking. It's so unfair!" The Venerable Master suddenly walked off the stage and next to that disciple, saying, "Who told you not to come earlier?"
Q: How should we cultivate the
practices of the Secret School?
A: The Great Master Sixth Patriarch said, "What I tell you is no secret. If you would reflect, the secret is within." The secret is inside of you. What I tell you is no secret. I'll tell you, Westerners have this problem: they hear "Secret school" and think secret, secret, secret. . . that which is a secret must be the best because no one knows about it. Actually, that's wrong.
Q: I've already taken refuge with
the Triple Jewel and have been reciting the Buddha's name diligently and on a
regular basis. Why am I still entangled by sicknesses right now?
A: People who have taken refuge with the Triple Jewel still die.
Q: We have to bid on that piece of
land next to the ocean, how much should we offer?
A: $830,000 is okay.
The business manager suggested that they only write $750,000 because he thinks that they can still negotiate after the bid. The Venerable Master didn't say any more. In the end, the bid that won was $830,000.
The Water, Land, and Air Great Dharma
Assembly invited many elderly Dharma Masters from China. Once the Venerable
Master went to check on their lodging.
Venerable Master: Is everything okay?
An elder Master from ChinA: Old Master, I've become a softie here every night. (The bed is too soft.)
Venerable Master: Oh, so sorry. We had to have you suffer. Everything is difficult when it comes to developing Buddhism in the United States! I'm so sorry.
That elder Master later told a disciple of the Master: It's extremely difficult for the Master to have come to America to propagate the Dharma and build temples! He is really fantastic!
Q: Will taking refuge [with
Buddhism] add to the goodness of someone who is already following another
A: If I were to say that it would strengthen his roots of goodness, then that becomes an enticement. I refuse to answer that question.
When the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas first began, Sangha members took turns to go and pick wild vegetables. One day, it was a new monk's turn to go and pick. He picked an entire pot full of wild vegetables. He was so happy, thinking that everyone will have a full meal today. Once the vegetables went into the wok, however, it shrank into an amount that only fills a small plate. He couldn't control himself and panicked and cried out, "Master! Hurry up! The vegetables ended being so little. How could this be enough for everyone? I'm in trouble, everyone has to go hungry today."
Q: How come you always ask if
anyone needs a ride whenever you go back to San Francisco?
A: Gee, you don't even understand this. We save a dollar because a carpool of more than three people requires no toll at Golden Gate Bridge. One hundred trips during the year means that a savings of $100. You understand now?
The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas organized the Center for Refugees in 1985 to help Southeast Asians. Many refugee children who had nothing to eat in refugee camps became wasteful when they saw there was so much food at the City. They dropped their food all over the floor while eating. Once the Venerable Master saw this, he went over and picked up the food that had fallen on the ground and ate it. He didn't say a word. From that day forward, no kid tossed his food everywhere.
In 1976, the Venerable Master had just
purchased the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas..
Q (by a disciple): The company that drills wells is here. Where should they begin to drill?
The Venerable Master began to walk over toward the empty lot east of the Joy and Giving House.
California was in the middle of a drought and it was mid-summer. The sun was blistering hot. However, just then a puff of cloud drifted by and hovered over the Venerable Master until he reached the empty lot. Everyone instantly felt extremely cool. The Venerable Master then pointed to a spot on the ground, "Drill here."
Venerable Master: When you have time in
the next few days, cut down that big tree east of the Guest House.
The disciples felt that that large tree was healthy and fine, so they didn't go and cut it down. After a few days, that tree collapsed all of a sudden. Wham, it smashed the roof of the Guest House.
Q: Since I had decided to go and
become a volunteer at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, my professor introduced
me to a job that will pay $60,000 in annual salary. The company also offers
employee stocks and dividends. Should I take this job?
A: Go ahead if you want to earn money!
The disciple thought about it, "Right, why earn money? Might as well work as a volunteer." He decided to move to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas nevertheless.
The Venerable Master was going to have his
meal at Gold Mountain Monastery. A number of disciples eagerly offered health
products and special delicacies to the Master, hoping that he would take them.
But the Venerable Master didn't touch any of those items. Then a kid brought an
apple over to the Venerable Master.
Venerable Master: Is this yours?
That day, the Venerable Master took only that apple for his meal.
A disciple's older sister came to the City
of Ten Thousand Buddhas for the first time and met the Venerable Master.
Venerable Master: Yu Bin is a good friend of mine.
That disciple didn't understand why the Master would talk about Cardinal Yu Bin with his sister all of a sudden.
After the Venerable Master left, that disciple's sister said: Strange, I was able to come to the United States to attend college because I received the Yu Bin Scholarship after graduating from Taipei's No. One Girls High School. You didn't even know about that, how did the Venerable Master know?
Q: Strange, how come there are so
many broken pipes at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas? The water is shooting out
A: Who told you to get angry!
Venerable Master: Go and look at a piece
of land tomorrow.
A disciple: What should I be looking at?
Venerable Master: Make sure that it has mountains, waters, and large trees. You want usable evergreen trees such as pine and cypress. Trees that shed leaves do not make good wood; they're useless. The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas should gradually change its trees that shed to trees such as pine and cypress.
Venerable Master: The International
Translation Institute needs to add a kitchen.
Q (by a disciple): How do we add a kitchen? Where do we build it?
A: Build it downstairs between the fence and the house, just add a roof over that space. Also, move the Jyunkang Vegetarian Café to the front office at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
Q (by a disciple): Where do we put the kitchen?
A: Just put a roof over the lot behind the office.
The disciple thought afterwards, "How come I'm so stupid! I can't even think of such a straightforward solution. Aren't the Five Contemplations Hall at the City and the Buddha Hall at Long Beach Monastery built this way? Add a roof over the three existing walls plus an additional wall--it's economical and efficient.
Q (by a disciple): I would like to have my
entire family move the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and be volunteers. When is a
good time to move?
A: The sooner the better.
That disciple thought three weeks ought to be soon enough because that's summer break for his kids. Little would he have guessed that less than a week later his child would be hit by a car on the way home from school. The child lost consciousness and was sent to the emergency room. The accident scared the whole family. Fortunately, the child wasn't seriously hurt. As soon as the child was released from the hospital though, the whole family moved. They didn't dare to delay their move any longer.
Q (by a disciple): If the Building with
the furnace were to be renovated into the Earth Store Hall, the contractor would
charge $100,000 just to dismantle the existing pipes, wires, and furnace.
A: That's too expensive. Let's wait.
Q (by a disciple): It rained heavily
yesterday, many of the roofs at the City are leaking.
A: Who told you to have outflows?
Venerable Master: When there's time, cut
off the large tree behind the hospital building.
A disciple: Yes, got it.
When things got busy, that disciple forgot to go and cut down the tree. One month later, one of the large trees went "boom!" and fell in a windstorm. The roof to the hospital was smashed so that it had a big hole. It was a good thing that no one was hurt.
Q: How come we rarely see the
Venerable Master ride in a car at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas?
A: Let's not pollute the City's air.
Q: Master, why don't you live in a
warmer room or turn on the heater to keep warm?
A: I like being in a refrigerator.
Q: May I become a monk?
A: You're kind of stupid, okay.
Q: My daughter has been in a lot of
pain after her divorce.
A: The more she's in pain, the better.
Q: I have been feeling miserable since my daughter's divorce too. What should I do?
A: You have to think of everyone in the world as your children so that you will not be so miserable.
Q: Master, when the City has lots
of people, could we install more gas heaters for heat?
A: The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and Walnut Grove have so much wood. There are more than enough logs to keep everyone warm every winter! Why should we install gas heaters?
Q: Some people say that meditators
do not need to recite the Buddha's name. They say that we're being heretical and
heading down the wrong path by reciting the Buddha's name. They say the mind is
the Pureland, so why should we bother reciting the Buddha's name? This argument
actually rejects both Dhyana and Pureland practices.
A: People who really meditate are really being mindful of the Buddha. People who are really mindful of the Buddha are really investigating Dhyana. The fact that they say this is right and that's wrong shows that they have not really understood meditation and mindfulness of the Buddha. As it is said, "One who does both meditation and Pureland practices is like a tiger with horns. One becomes a teacher to others in this life and a Buddhist patriarch in a future life." This is self-explanatory!
For someone who really knows how to be mindful of the Buddha knows that [the Pureland practice] does not keep him/her from meditating. We could be mindful of the Buddha while moving and meditate while still. We can also be mindful of the Buddha while still and meditate while moving too. Moving and being still are but one. Without movement, there's no stillness.
Both meditation and Pureland practices are practices the Buddha told us about; they don't obstruct one another. There's not one that's right and not one that's wrong. If you say this is right and that's wrong, then you would be slandering the Buddhas, which would be really stupid of you! I believe the Sixth Patriarch said what he said to break his listeners' attachment at the time. Neither is right nor wrong; in fact, either could be right for someone without any attachments. For someone who has attachments, neither is right.
Q: Is it okay to just recite "Namo
Dharma Flower Lotus Sutra"?
A: To recite "Namo Dharma Flower Lotus Sutra" is better than to not recite anything at all. Instead of reciting only the name of this Sutra though, you might as well recite the actual text of the Dharma Flower Lotus Sutra.
Q: From which part of China did you
come? How did you begin learning about the Buddhadharma?
A: I probably could not finish my answer to this question in several years. To put it simply, I enjoyed learning the Buddhadharma so I studied the Buddhadharma. I am originally from China, but I believe that I'm not Chinese, American, or Japanese. (No country wants me because I'm the dumbest person in the world.) I didn't come down from Heaven. I'm no Jesus. I didn't come from the Land of Ultimate Bliss, so I'm not Amitabha Buddha. I'm not from the Land of Lapis Lazuli, so I'm not Medicine Master Buddha who Quells Disasters and Lengthens Life.
Q: I really admire your strand of
recitation beads. Where did it come from? What use does it serve?
A: It came from dirt. Its uses? It's used to ornament when hung around the neck and used to recite the Buddha's name when at hand.
Q: How many American monastic
disciples do you have?
A: I don't know. Forty or fifty of them returned to lay life though. I don't know how many monks and nuns there are now.
Q: How large is your one meal of
A: It's different depending on whom you talk to. If you were to ask a kid, I probably eat lot. If you were to ask grown up's, I probably don't eat too much, perhaps a bit less than others. (To the translator:) You tell them how much I eat every day.
Translator: Basically a bowl of boiled vegetables. He doesn't eat any oil or salt. He may eat a bowl of rice or some bread, a few pieces of fruit.
Venerable Master: My disciples eat one meal a day. Since I'm their teacher, I would be ashamed to eat one meal a day like my disciples. I would feel bad toward my disciples for eating all that, so I may eat one meal for two or three days. It's not for sure.
Q: Why don't we put
advertisements on television and do some promotions to attract more people?
A: "Perfume is fragrant on its own, why would we need a gust to blow it?" We must cultivate honestly and pay attention to our virtue. Promotions would be useless too if we were not down to earth! We propagate the Dharma and benefit living beings by lecturing on the Sutras and giving Dharma talks, not by selling ads.
Venerable Master (over the phone): I'm
going to wear my black face-mask to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas today.
Q (by a disciple): Why does the Master want to wear a [black] face mask?
A: Not only do I have a black one, I've got a yellow one, a red one. . . the traditions that took me several decades of sweat and blood to build up were blown away in a matter of minutes. I can't bear to face them!
Once a shramanera (novice monk) was
walking around when someone was [performing the ceremony for] requesting Dharma
at Gold Mountain Monastery. After the request concluded. . .
Venerable Master: What are you doing?
ShramanerA: Answering the phone.
Venerable Master (before the assembly): What could be more important than requesting that the Dharma be spoken? You have to be most sincere and earnest when requesting Dharma and that the Buddhas throughout the ten directions to come before us. How can you cultivate if you don't have the slightest respect toward the Dharma? Kneel down!
The Venerable Master proceeded with his two-and-a-half hour class on the Records of Water Mirror Reflecting Heaven without telling the shramanera to stand up.
Q: Two Bhikshus would like to fast
for eighteen days. . .
A: It would be better if they just worked hard on sweeping the floor. There's no need to fast.
Q: A relative of mine has cancer in
A: It's from changing husbands.
Q: Is it in accord with the Dharma
for monastics to stand up and greet lay teachers for class?
A: It's okay with elder teachers. If you want to stand up, stand up. If you don't want to stand up, don't stand up. It's okay to sit and greet them with your palms together too.
Q: I'm so busy with work that I
have no time for anything else. I get yelled at. I cannot seem to survive the
karma that faces me now. I want to return to lay life. Will the Venerable Master
please help me?
A: No one can help you. One monastic rule is that we don't keep anyone who wants to return to lay life. How can you cultivate if you can't even stand this?
Q: How should we be receiving
outside guests who are staying overnight?
A: One rule at a typical Chinese monastery is that any outsider, regardless of where he is from, must leave his belongings in a luggage room outside the guesthouse. No matter how busy, two people will check the luggage on the first day. They can't check people's belongings the next day. Each person must place his luggage where he can see it to avert "Thousand-Handed Guanyin", or thieves and thugs. You don't know because you've never lived in a large monastery.
Q: The Christmas tree was stolen
(October 6, 1993), money in the Buddha Hall donation box was stolen on Tuesday
(October 14), and three young men had wanted to steal the Buddha statues in the
Lengthening Life Hall. . .
A: Large monasteries need surveillance personnel. Two people need to survey the entire City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Make an announcement to everyone that during lunch, two people must be on the watch outside. If anyone notices, they must take the initiative and question any suspicious character or vehicle: Why are they here? Did they register at the main office? Have they completed the paperwork for staying the night? Vehicles must have permission slips.
Q: A non-Chinese monastery across
from one of our branch temples proposes to borrow our basement for their classes
because their parking lot is too crowded. Is that okay?
A: What if you attract gangsters? What will you do then?
Q: Why do people like to talk?
A: Too much emotions.
Venerable Master: There's good and bad in
Visitor: So there's no difference between good and evil.
Venerable Master: That type of viewpoint is deviant.
Visitor: . . .I believe the Master is out of time.
Venerable Master: My time stretches into the end of time throughout future.
Q: What did I do in my past life
that I've got a big temper in this lifetime?
A: You had killed a great deal in your lives past. You had created karma from killing, the causes and conditions for killing or having taught others how to kill. As a result of so much killing in your past, you have a tremendous amount of resentment and enmity, which led to a huge temper, a tough demeanor, and the tendency to want to take another's life.
Q: Why are some people so selfish?
They only do things to help themselves but do not want to help others.
A: This is because they had stolen in lives past. Thieves steal because of selfishness. If they were not selfish and self-interested, they would not steal from others. People who had stolen from others in past lives are very selfish in this life. That's a definite.
Q: How come some people are
A: Those who had created a lot of karma in the area of sexual misconduct are extremely jealous in their present life. Their jealousy is so extreme that they are jealous of everybody and their every move and every action. This is because they had been extremely licentious in the past.
Q: How come some people are
skeptical about everybody?
A: It is because they always lie and exaggerate. Having sowed causes like those, they do not believe in anyone. They have no confidence in anyone because they had been telling lies in this life and in past lives throughout countless eons. Consequently they think other people lie too and find whatever people say implausible.
Q: How come some people are
A: Those people have sowed the causes of drinking alcohol in their past lives, hence they are extremely confused in their present life. They don't' understand anything. Even if you teach them, they would not understand. Teach them once and they don't understand; teach them twice and they don't recall.
Q: How can we avoid hunger?
A: If we have enough vital energy, then we will not feel hungry. With enough vitality, we can go without eating for several days without any problem. We can talk with a booming voice still; our voice does not wane and our health does not become poor when we don't eat. This is because we have developed our real qi, which pours in endlessly like running electrical currents.
Q: How can we avoid sleepiness?
A: If we have enough spirit, then we will not be so sleepy. Why do we sleep so much? Because for us, yin energy is dominant. If our yang energy were dominant, we would sleep less.
Q: Why are we afraid of the cold?
A: If we have enough essence, we would not be afraid the cold. If we can keep the precepts and not violate them, we would not be afraid of the cold. There's nothing special to this. If men don't get near women and women don't get near men, we would be fine without food and much clothing.
Q: Why do we want to eat?
A: Because we don't have enough samadhi power.
Q: Where does the power of samadhi
A: From the precepts. We would not be afraid of the cold if we kept the precepts in a strict manner. Our power of samadhi has surfaced if we are not physically afraid of the cold. Given that power of deep absorption, we would be fine without food because we would have forgotten about hunger for sure. Why do we want to eat? It's because we're thinking, "I haven't eaten today!"
Q: Could the precepts show us where
the Buddha nature lies?
A: The Precepts are your Buddha nature.
Q: There are some trees at the City
of Ten Thousand Buddhas that seem to be withering away and dying gradually. What
should we do to save these trees?
A: We don't want those that are withering away and dying. When it's time, they will inevitably die. It's not easy to save something or someone that has lived a long time. Of course we try to save what we can; however, if we can't, we could try nourishing them with the soup from cooking or rinsing rice. If they don't live, we've at least tried our best. All we can do is try our best!.
Vajra Strikes: Part 5
A Collection of Q & A's with the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Q: How come Shakyamuni
Buddha, while cultivating, was able to withstand humiliation without becoming
A: That is because he wasn't attached to the self. Being unattached to his ego, having his body parts chopped off was just like someone trying to carve out pieces of emptiness to him.
Q: Why do we have to experience
suffering that is deprivation?
A: We suffer because we are extremely greedy. Being so greedy, we cannot sleep at night and cannot eat during the day.
Q: Why do I always meet up with
A: They want to come and test you in person. They want to see if they could influence you, to see whether you're still interested in money, such as by pursuing get-rich-quick schemes. They want to come to check and see if you've got any samadhi. "Everything is a test to see what you will do. If you do not pass the test, you must start anew."
Q: Don't the rich suffer?
A: Yes. Their wealth could shrink and disappear. They may have lots of money and lots of property, but a fire could easily burn down their house and turn cash into ash. This is a form of suffering called decay. The wealthy experiences the suffering of decay.
Q: What is great compassion?
A: To forgive others. No matter what it is that other people have done, we consider ourselves to have been in the wrong. To be able to forgive others, not see their faults, and allow them to change-that is great compassion.
Q: Won't the human race be extinct
if everyone were to become a monk or a nun?
A: Could you make everyone become a monk or a nun?
Q: To really adhere to the
precepts, we must first stop crying. Does that mean we ought to laugh a lot?
A: No. A mental state of concentration is required to refrain from both crying and laughing. We cry and laugh because we don't have any samadhi. With samadhi comes wisdom. We have not kept to the precepts if we don't have any samadhi. We may even claim to have wisdom, but that would be talk only.
Q: Will I die from hunger or cold
when I become old?
A: What a pathetic way of thinking!
Q: How come the world is in such
mayhem that everything seems hopeless?
A: The world is in such a state of chaos and unrest because everyone is selfish and self-interested: "This is mine, that belongs to me." Cultivators must achieve the state of "no-self." What is there to fight for if there is no self? What is there to hanker after? What is there to be sought after? When we have settled our accounts, we figure out that we don't want a thing. We only want to learn to have the attitude of Bodhisattvas: sacrificing ourselves for the sake of others.
Q: How come we can't talk during
meals at the temples affiliated with the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association?
A: We have to make sure that we remain silent during meals because talking while eating will cause indigestion and is unhygienic. I'm not forbidding you to talk; I just hope that you will live a long and healthy life.
Q (by a disciple): I really can't stand
A: If you can't stand it, then you can't end it. What are you ending? Karmic obstructions. If we don't eliminate our [negative] karma, then we are still attached to emotions. Where does that leave us in terms of birth and death? As it is said, "If our karma were light, we would not have been born in the Saha World; if we don't cut off love, we would not become reborn in the Pureland." When we have put an end to our karma and seen through the emptiness of our emotions, we will have really become liberated, ending our birth and death.
Q: How come both believers and
non-believers of Buddhas are all Buddhists?
A: Because no one is beyond [the principles of] Buddhism.
Q: What responsibilities do we
Buddhists of the West have?
A: Your responsibility is to bring Buddhism to the West. Each one of you should make resolutions to contribute yourself to the best of your abilities. Don't rely on others.
Q: I have a dog, I really like. . .
A: Do you really have to be that intimate with the dog to help it?
Q: Is it okay for people to be
close and is it okay for people and their pets to be close?
A: By being too close, you end up becoming the same life-form as that person or pet in the future.
Once a disciple went to look at a piece of
property with the Venerable Master and encountered a vicious dog that was
barking wildly. He quickly hid behind the Venerable Master.
Venerable Master: Cultivators have to cultivate so that they reach a stage whereby they are not afraid of any animal.
Q: "The monkey king" was born from a rock. Why did a rock give birth to that monkey?
A: "The monkey king" is a demon; plenty of similar cases exist. The monkey king was probably experiencing some problems with his thinking skandha during his cultivation, so he became a monkey that can bore his way through to the heavens and dig his way into the earth. He symbolizes demons described in the Shurangama Sutra.
Q: I still don't understand the
nature of living beings. Also, what is the Buddha nature?
A: It's the Buddha nature once you have become enlightened; it's the nature of living beings while you are deluded.
Q: What is true giving?
A: It's to give up what we cannot give up. That's true giving.
Q: How is it useful for us to be
bowing to Buddha statues made of wood?
A: Buddha statues are not the Buddhas; the Buddhas are everyone. There's not one spot that the Dharma body of Buddhas fails to reach. Wooden statues are figures representing the significance of Buddhas in the same way that citizens salute their national flag though it is a piece of fabric or canvass. What's the use for them to salute?
Q: Why are cultivators afraid of
having false thoughts?
A: Because each false thought becomes a black film that pollutes our self-nature. By not entertaining false thoughts, we uncover and let shine the brilliance of our self-nature.
Q: Since the Buddha has passed
away, those of us living in this time and age probably wouldn't cause the Buddha
to bleed, right?
A: Whenever you hurt Buddhism, you can be said to be making the Buddha bleed.
Q: How can we be reborn in the Land
of Ultimate Bliss?
A: Without false thinking, we are free from afflictions, hence free from suffering. Having absolutely no false thoughts whatever, we have become reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
Q: Why does the Master look down on
the rich in particular?
A: Because the amount of money you have represents the amount of offense karma that has been following you.
Q: How do you explain that the day
we are born is the day that we die? Is it that we die as soon as we are born?
A: That's right. We're dead as soon as we are born; but it's not that our life ends, it's that the 84,000 pores in our body die. From our birthday onward, one pore dies each day until we reach the age of 60 or 100. Our pores become clogged because of dead tissue though new cells develop. In any case, nothing is born on our birthday and nothing is dead on our day of passing.
Q: Where does the "I" go after one
is dead and has been cremated?
A: The essence of meditation is to look for that "I", the self-nature of the true "I".
Q: You say our body is like a
A: Every person's body is like a toilet. Our stomach houses feces and urine, for instance. So why do we love our body and value it so much? Our body is extremely filthy, so why do people consider it a gem, decorating it with diamonds, gold, silver, and jewelry or rubbing it with perfume and makeup? Aren't they decorating a toilet with flowers and jewelry?
Q: Cultivating. . .
A: Cultivation is very easy, right? Just eat about 80 percent full and don't make your stomach explode. Just be natural and maintain moderation!
Q: Why should we sit there and not
move when we're meditating?
A: It teaches you to have no thoughts. One who gives rise to not one thought is a Buddha.
Q: Exactly how do we avoid giving
rise to even a single thought?
A: It's impossible. Although it's impossible to prevent a thought from surfacing, it is possible to keep a thought from ceasing. That which ceases will arise and that which arises will cease. If we can prevent a thought from ceasing, we can prevent it from arising. This is the principle behind meditation: by having not a single thought arise, one is a Buddha.
Q: How are the results different
for those who practice asceticism, scholarship, and propagation of Dharma?
A: By sowing melons, we reap melons; by sowing beans, we reap beans. Just as it is the cause, so it is the fruit.
Q: What exactly is the "Wordless
A: It is to "give rise to not a thought." If you can give rise to not a single thought, everything naturally returns to still emptiness. That's all that the Buddhadharma is about; there's nothing else.
Q: Lay people receive the Five Precepts and violate them severely. But how about monks and nuns who don't adhere to the Precepts?
A: I'll tell you, you have to be "a Mahasattva who could careless about others; Amitabha Buddha who just takes care of himself."
Q: Cultivators must cultivate
blessings and wisdom, but how?
A: Do more meritorious and virtuous deeds. Try your best to do things that benefit living beings: that's to cultivate blessings. Read and recite Sutras and study the principles of Buddhism by "entering the Sutra Treasury deeply and have wisdom like the sea": that is to cultivate wisdom.
Q: What kind of mental attitude is
considered proper and what kind is deviant?
A: The proper mental attitude is one that has set its sights on Bodhi, one of impartiality, one of compassion, sympathy, giving, and shame. A deviant state of mind is one of selfishness, self-interest, jealousy, resentment, arrogance, and false thinking. The purpose for us to be cultivating is to eliminate our falseness and maintain our trueness, which is equivalent to eliminating the deviant mental attitude and giving rise to the proper mental state.
Q: Who are the god of wealth, god
of nobility, and god of joy [(three gods according to Chinese folklore)]?
A: God of wealth is by your side when you don't let your essence, energy, and spirit be lost. God of nobility is next to you when you are noble enough to not lose your temper. Furthermore, you have accepted the god of joy when you are happy.
I have a different theory than that of the Chinese. These three gods-the god of joy, the god of nobility, the god of wealth--are all right here inside of us. We don't know how to find them, however. We run out looking for them when they're essentially a part of us.
Venerable Master: Why do we have to die?
How can we avoid death?
A relative: The only way to avoid death is to become a monk or nun and cultivate. That's the only way to not die.
Q: The retribution for the number
of marriages one has had shows up after death. Depending on the number of times
one has been married, one will be sawed apart by a large chainsaw that many
What's so bad about being split apart from head to toe?
A: When you are split into several pieces, your spirit will have a hard time regrouping. You may not have the human body again in billions and billions of eons. Your nature becomes transformed and your spirit disintegrated so that you are practically like a grass or tree, an insentient plant. It's difficult to become a sentient being once one has dismembered one's inherent nature.
Q: Why do people gossip?
A: Because they're stupid.
Q: Why is it that "one sees but
does not see"?
A: Because one is reflecting and being introspective.
Q: Why is it that "one listens but
does not hear"?
A: Because one is turning one's hearing inward to listen to one's inherent nature.
Q: Why is it that "one sniffs but
A: Because one's body and mind are collected so that they are not turned by the objects of scent.
Q: Why do people have the intent to
A: Because of stupidity.
Q: How come Guanshiyin Bodhisattva
can look, look, and look all day long, but I can't?
A: The way you look and the way Guanshiyin Bodhisattva looks are different. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva looks inwardly while you look out.
Q: Are we brothers of Guanshiyin
Bodhisattva? But Guanshiyin Bodhisattva is a sage whereas we're ordinary people.
How can ordinary people and a sage be brothers?
A: Your thinking is in line with the views of ordinary people because you haven't entered the Sutra treasury deeply and consequently you don't have wisdom as deep as the sea. The Avatamsaka Sutra says, "The Bodhisattva contemplates that, 'I have been brother, parent, sister, and spouse to living beings since beginningless time.'" You don't believe this because you don't understand the principles contained in the Avatamsaka Sutra. Furthermore, not only does a Bodhisattva see living beings in that light, but as a Buddha, he sees every man his father and every woman his mother. Since Buddhas see living beings as their parents, why would it be unreasonable for me to say that Guanshiyin Bodhisattva considers living beings his brothers and sisters?
Q: Chinese monasteries do a ritual
for feeding ghosts and spirits, called "Releases at Mt. Meng." What is it?
A: Great Master the Sixth Patriarch told Hui Ming to go and stay at Mt. Meng in Yuan Province. Instead of going immediately, Hui Ming went three years later. There, he met a ghost who used to be a scholar in the ranks of today's Ph.D. Despite having become a ghost, he continued to create poems. He wrote a poem after seeing Great Master Huiming, which says,
Dreams are long here in the wild, desolate
and forlorn. . .
Too languid to think over victory or loss, of the past and present. . .
How many grass blades and flower bouquets have I pulled?
Rain seems bitter and wind seems sour, for how many times have I had a broken heart?
In and out with the fireflies during the dark of the night,
My shadow of a form I hide when cocks crow at first light.
My only regret being: not having cultivated the mind's ground from the start;
And hence my fall for the realm of phantoms. . . oh teardrops roll down my face.
Great Master Hui Ming heard the ghost sing this poem and explained Dharma for him. The former scholar was saved as a result and became reborn in a different incarnation. This is how "Releases at Mt. Meng" came about. Releases at Mt. Meng are about saving ghosts.
Q: Why should monks and nuns under
the Venerable Master eat only one meal at midday?
A: The Buddha had established the monastic rule for eating only one meal at midday. This helps to regulate our diet, keeps ghosts and the dead at bay, and reduces our desire. There are three spirits of the dead in the human body. When we overeat, these three spirits act up. It's easier to cultivate if our desires were lighter, so don't feed this system of ours anything too rich. Although our group is not doing this perfectly, we do hope that everyone will strive to do what is right.
Q: Why do we have to take refuge
with the precepts at the same time that we take refuge with the Triple Jewel?
A: Typically, Buddhists only take refuge with the Triple Jewel and do not with the precepts. However, since the Buddha has passed away, all living beings should take the precepts to be our teacher. That is why I also have you take refuge with the precepts at the same time that you take refuge with the Triple Jewel. Precepts are about not doing anything evil and doing everything good. Do not refuse to do a good deed because it's too small; do not do a bad deed because it's considered insignificant.
Q: What does it mean for Sangha members to be pure and to be fields of blessings?
A: Being pure means not being tainted. The method to not being tainted is: to not fight, to not be greedy, to not seek, to not be selfish, to not be self-benefiting, and to not lie. Whoever can keep the precept against holding money is a true Sangha member who is pure and serves as a field of blessings. It's problematic if one becomes extremely happy because one receives a little donation. If one is thus unmoving and bright with understanding, then one will have the same kind of reaction whether one gets a donation or not.
Q: What is "great kindness despite
a lack of affinities"?
A: It means that we try to save those with whom we have no affinities. By being kind to those who are unkind to us, we are acting out of great kindness despite having no affinities.
Q: How exactly did living beings
come about? Some say we evolved from monkeys.
A: From what did monkeys evolve? If in the past monkeys had been able to evolve into human beings, why don't they turn into people nowadays? Strange! Idiots who attempt to own a unique and novel theory developed this idea. Humans came from monkeys! Why don't they say humans came from mice?
Q: From emptiness comes existence,
that's how people and all living beings came about. Does this apply to
A: Cultivation is about transforming existence into emptiness, which means that we return to our source of origin, the Buddha nature that has been there all along.
Q: Why do cultivators practice
asceticism, such as by eating only one meal a day?
A: To end suffering. Once suffering ends, there's joy.
Q: How come we never seem to be
able to shatter our ignorance? Why can't we ever cut off our afflictions? Why
don't our wisdom ever appear?
A: Because of gluttony and licentiousness.
Q: What kinds of state are real?
A: States that occur before a thought has arisen are real. Once deluded thoughts wiggle their way to the surface, you have already been thinking about what you would like to see; consequently, most of what you encounter are false.
Q: What happens if we don't believe
in cause and effect?
A: Gods have the virtue of wanting to foster life; gods will not do anything to harm living beings. A violation of the law of cause and effect is like "a slip of the foot that causes regret for a thousand generations." "Once we lose our human form, we may not have it again for ten thousand eons." Anything else may be unbelievable, but not cause and effect. Someone who rejects the law of cause and effect is in an extremely precarious situation.
Q: What particular state of mind
should we be in while we recite the Buddha's name?
A: No state of mind! Recite without a mind. Any state of mind is a false state of mind, for it cannot be attained. We should leave behind appearances that have resulted because of our thoughts. By seeing that all marks are no marks, we see the Thus Come One.
Q: What kind of compassion is great
compassion based on the knowledge that we are all the same?
A: Feeling that we're in pain when we see others in pain, we would want to alleviate their pain in any way possible. We would treat others the way we treat ourselves. One is all and all is one. This is great compassion based on the understanding that we're the same.
Q: Why should people avoid
displaying their talents?
A: We can use candles as an analogy. Candles emit light. By lighting them often, they burn out more quickly. If we only light them as necessary and not light them when uncalled for, we will be able to use them for a long time.
Q: Why is this world in such a
A: Because we haven't set up the foundation to being human well.
Q: How can we become human beings [in the future]?
A: We will become human beings if we do good deeds. Check and see if we have done major or minor, many or few good deeds. Having done a lot of good deeds, we will become rich and belong to the upper class. Having done very few good deeds, we will become poor and belong to the lower class.
Q: How were the hells created?
A: The hells manifest through the karma that we have created.
Q: Why do people face demonic
A: Because they didn't listen to the instructions and follow the guidance of good teachers. Rejecting the warnings of kind teachers, they continued to entertain false thoughts and create evil karma. Hence they are often surrounded and trapped by demonic karma in this life. They don't get their wishes fulfilled.
Q: What criteria are used for
selecting an abbot?
A: The first criterion: no temper. He must treat people well and be well liked. He doesn't use his power to oppress; he is democratic: people do things for him out of respect.
Q: Master, you get so many letters
every day. Do you collect the stamps on those envelopes? They'll become valuable
A: I don't want money.
Q: What is the power of samadhi?
A: It is the ability to not be turned by situations, but to turn situations around. If you can turn situations around, you are no different than the Thus Come One.
Q: Why don't we click with the Tao?
A: Because our wild mind hasn't stopped.
Q: What is the true self?
A: It's our inherent nature that realizes Buddhahood. Once we have realized Buddhahood, it's the true self. Before we have realized Buddhahood, it's all false.
Q: What kind of practice will we be
doing after we become monks or nuns?
A: The practice of being patient with humiliation.
Q: What is the secret to
A: Eating less.
Q: What does it mean by "turning
over" in terms of our [spiritual] cultivation?
A: It's to "Give what's good to others and leave what's bad for ourselves." We sacrifice ourselves for the greater good.
Q: How do I make my husband believe
A: Don't be so insistent!
Venerable Master: What happened to your
eyes? How come they look differently than before?
A disciple: Because I have makeup on.
Venerable Master: You know you should not wear makeup if you're cultivating. Made up, you increase your appeal and imperceptibly attract a lot of trouble, so it becomes an obstruction in cultivation.
Q: "If people wish to know all
Buddhas throughout the three periods of time, they should contemplate the nature
of the Dharma Realm and that the Thus Come Ones are made from the mind alone."
What shape is this mind?
A: It's shapeless. The mind is just the mind. If it were to have any shape, it wouldn't be the mind. We're not talking about that gray matter that's our brain; we're talking about the real mind, which is omnipresent, pervading all of space and the Dharma Realm. If we recognize this, we will have reached the true mind completely.
Q: What causes people to become
A: The absence of limits on their desires for money, sex, fame, food, and sleep.
Q: How come these objects of desire make people immoral?
A: Because they don't know to check their thoughts in the areas of contention, greed, seeking, selfishness, self-interest, and dishonesty.
Venerable Master: Don't pick only the good
stuff to eat. Don't be greedy for form, scent, and taste. Since you have enough
food, eat only about eighty percent full. How can you cultivate if you can't
even let go of food?
The disciple was speechless.
Q: Why is this Sutra the Wonderful
Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra?
A: It's the most wonderful Sutra among all Sutras. We shouldn't miss the opportunity to attain wondrousness. It wouldn't be wonderful if we failed to receive any wondrousness. No one should be devoid of wondrousness; everyone should go and find this "wondrousness". But first, you must bear the pain and withstand the toil, work hard on studying this wonderful Dharma.
Q: What is the Vajra Samadhi?
A: The Vajra Samadhi is a state of mind that is eternal and unchanging.
Q: Do other places have talks on
the Shurangama Mantra?
A: Out of the all the places in the world and all of space and Dharma Realm in fact, only the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas holds the Shurangama Mantra Dharma Assembly that includes lectures on the Shurangama Mantra.
Q: Isn't it a waste that the Master
has lots of property but they're all vacant?
A: There are plenty of things that are wasted in this world.
Q: The Master says, "I'm not afraid
of people coming and I'm not afraid of people running away either. It's the same
whether they came or not; it's just the same whether they run away or not." Why?
A: The Dharma Realm is mine. People can run far away and yet they cannot run outside the Dharma Realm. If they were able to run outside the Dharma Realm, they would have [succeeded] in their getaway. They haven't escaped if they haven't reached the outside of the Dharma Realm. Like "the monkey king" whose one flip goes as far as 18,000 miles, but can never get out of the Buddha's palm.
Q: Who has become enlightened and
what have they become enlightened to?
A: Fundamentally speaking, both that which is capable of becoming enlightened and that which is enlightened are nonexistent.
Q: We live in a polluted world, the
water and land are polluted, the environment is polluted, and the air is
polluted. Where did pollution come from?
A: It basically originated from our single thought of ignorance. The nature of ignorance is like fire: the bigger the fire, the more dark smoke looms over the world and pollutes families and human nature.
Q: Why do we have so many false
thoughts? How come we don't have any patience, lasting commitment, or sincerity
with any practice that we do? How come we're irresolute?
A: We don't know about the "golden wheel" [mudra] yet. Now that we know what the problem is, don't ignore it.
Q: What are the knowledge and views
of all Buddhas and World Honored Ones?
A: One that refrains from fighting, seeking, being selfish, pursuing self-benefit, and lying. With this knowledge and view, one becomes a Buddha right away.
Q: So what if we put the Six Great
Guiding Principles into practice?
A: We realize Buddhahood and then some.
A disciple's father passed away
unexpectedly. The entire family is heartbroken, teary-eyed all the time.
Q: I want to see my father one more time, where is he?
A: It doesn't help to cry. You have to recite the Earth Store Sutra and dedicate merit that you've done to him. The more often you recite, the better.
Q: Does reciting the Sutra help?
A: Yes! Just recite it sincerely and you will have your prayer answered.
Q: Will the Master please bless
A: I did it a long time ago, you just didn't know about it.
Venerable Master: It's wrong to have
opened my mouth and it's wrong to shut my mouth, so tell me what I should do?
The disciple couldn't come up with a response.
Q: How should we meditate, bow to
the Buddhas, and recite the Buddha's name? Will the Master please provide us
A: The first thing with meditation is to relax, let go of everything. Bow to the Buddhas as if you're facing them. Don't become greedy over the number of bows, just do them slowly and sincerely. Contemplate on and visualize the Buddha while you're reciting the Buddha's name. Things will click for you when you have recited until your mind is just that of the Buddha.
Q: My daughter is
stubborn, ill-tempered, and disobedient…
A: Your daughter is just like you!
Q: How come the Master's face is
swollen and there is medication on those bruises?
A: I didn't turn on the light so I fell as I was walking up the stairs.
(The Venerable Master is very frugal. He doesn't waste any money, no matter how insignificant.)
Venerable Master: Whose turn is it to
(People pushed a disciple out from the crowd.)
Disciple: I don't know Chinese and didn't bring pen and paper.
Venerable Master: Just say what's in your heart when you're giving a Dharma talk. Don't be scared that people will think you're a poor speaker. Just tell the truth and there will naturally be people who appreciate it.
Q: Can teachers go on strike?
A: Teachers can't go on strike… The pilots of an American airline had gone on strike once, and the public suffered... education is the work [based on] conscience, as well as the work of developing people for generations to come. If teachers readily go on strike, how could they be role models for students? How could they educate the next generation?
Q (by a disciple): I would really
like to have a pet dog, is that okay?
A: You can own whatever you want to become in the future!
Q: How do we eliminate our bad
A: Getting rid of bad habits is like shaving off the skin of pineapples. It's useless to cut away only the surface because the thorns that are in the pineapples need to be pulled out and tossed too.
Q: Why do we have to bear
A: A person becomes one-in-a-thousand when he can humble himself before a multitude. Only when we can take the most insufferable sufferings will we become people who are better than others. If we want to be the choice candidates for Buddhahood, we must first be workhorses for living beings. "The Way is sought from down below." We will never see the Way if we were searching for it from the top of Mt. Sumeru; the Way only exists at the foot of the mountain.
Q: What kind of talk is wise?
A: To be truly wise, we would speak simply, clearly, and to the point. Don't say any more than is necessary.
Q: How can we disciples work on
behalf of Buddhism?
A: The four types of monastic and lay disciples must complement and support each other, working together cooperatively for the sake of Buddhism.
Q: Elder Master Laiguo said that
the grave illness of birth and death. . .
A: Birth and death is no grave illness; not being liberated from the cycle of birth and death is the grave illness.
Q: How come we can't be liberated
from the cycle of birth and death?
A: Because of ignorance. So ignorance is the gravest illness.
Q: May I ask about how my future will turn out?
A: Ask yourself whether you're compassionate. There's no need to inquire about your future.
Q: We talk about different worlds
as many as motes of dust in Buddhalands. What's the use of having heard the
names of so many worlds?
A: I'll tell you, this is a state according to the Avatamsaka Sutra. It teaches us to expand our minds.
Q: But if we clear away all those
worlds that are as numerous as motes of dust, does that mean there would be no
A: To clear away those worlds means that evil worlds filled with the five turbidities are gone; however, wholesome and pure worlds as many as motes of dust remain.
Q: Why aren't we free?
A: Because we have tied ourselves down with the ropes of attachment and false thinking, so we can't move freely and cannot attain liberation.
Q: Why are there sicknesses?
A: Because people are unhappy. As it is said, "Since the times of old, immortals have had no other elixir except to always be happy and never be sad." This is the secret to a healthy body and mind.
Q: How would you explain these
words: "If you don't want to die, you must be a living dead man."
A: The living dead do not see things with their eyes, do not listen to sounds with their ears, do not speak with their mouths, and do not think with their minds-just like corpses. If we can reach that state, we will have become liberated from birth and death.
Q: How come so many people retreat
halfway along their path of cultivation?
A: This is because their resolve for enlightenment is too weak; their resolve for Bodhi consequently does not grow and develop. They back out as soon as they encounter some negativity. Monks and nuns are often tempted by the objects of the Five Desires. Failing tests that are demon-like desires, they become slaves to these desires.
Q: The Venerable Master says that
"Instead of having the power to focus while still, 'tis better to have the power
to focus while moving." Why?
A: Because we will, at the least, be affected by different states without any concentration. We don't want to be stuck in emptiness and stagnate in stillness. To be stuck in emptiness means liking emptiness; to stagnate in stillness means being attached to stillness. We ought to cultivate movement in stillness and cultivate stillness in movement.
Q: Why are our tongues so tiny and
A: Since we enjoy being dishonest, our tongue shrinks. If we can learn to be honest and keep the precepts purely the way the Buddhas do, then everyone will have a tongue large enough to cover one's face.
Venerable Master: What are the Four
Qualities of Mindfulness?
A disciple: Oh, I don't know.
Venerable Master: What are the Five Roots?
A disciple: Oh, are they the five sticks (which has the same pronunciation as "roots" in Chinese) of incense I burned yesterday?
Venerable Master: What are the Six Paramitas?
A disciple: Oh, I'm just one person; I don't have six stomachs (which has the same pronunciation as "Paramitas" in Chinese).
Venerable Master: What are the Eight Noble Paths?
A disciple: Probably eight large roads!
Venerable Master: What are the Ten Powers?
A disciple: Are they ten different kinds of powers?
Venerable Master: What are the Eighteen Shared Dharmas?
A disciple: I don't have a clue.
Venerable Master: How can you improve if you don't know the answers to any question though you have studied the Buddhadharma?
Q: Why is our dhyana samadhi so
A: We want to enter samadhi, but when a tick bites, we have to scratch it. We're kept from entering samadhi when a fly comes to suck our blood. An ant crawls onto our face and we can't enter samadhi either. It's no wonder that our samadhi is so flimsy.
Q: If Bodhisattvas save all living
beings, why are there so many living beings left?
A: Bodhisattvas save living beings with whom they have affinities.
A disciple's praise of a picture of
Do you know who he is?
Bodhidharma the elder patriarch, the man of the Way!
From the Western Land whence eastward he came.
Sitting before a wall for nine years,
He saw his nature and understood the mind.
Oh but actually, he was being a busybody!
Venerable Master: You still haven't gotten it. To see his nature and understand the mind implies that there are two dharmas; but the Buddhadharma is a dharma of nonduality. Understanding the mind is just seeing one's nature.
Q: The stairs to my house head
straight for our main entrance, is that bad?
A: Don't be silly.
Q (by a disciple): Have I
misinterpreted the Vajra Sutra?
A: Mull over its meaning.
Q: Obviously I only say what I think is right.
A: Then you have stepped right into it!
In my empty hand, I'm clutching a hatchet.
I walk while riding on a buffalo
For someone crossing a bridge
The bridge appears to move, while the water runs still.
Can you do that?
A disciple: No.
Venerable Master: What a waste for you to have followed Buddhism for several decades!
(He reaches for the disciple's shirtsleeve as he finishes talking.)
I hang on to a sleeve that leaves me empty-handed.
A disciple: What's use of talking about it?
Venerable Master: What's the use of not talking about it?
The Venerable Master turns his head that
so he is looking at a monk's notes upside down.
A: What is this?
Disciple: My notes.
Q (by a disciple): My relative gave
birth to a child. The Chinese typically prepares sesame seed liquor to celebrate
when the baby is a month old. . .
(Editor's note: The Buddhist Five Precepts includes a precept prohibiting the use of alcohol and other intoxicants.)
Q: What is the straightforward
A: It's said that, "The straightforward mind is the Bodhimanda." If we were not straightforward, we would not have come to a place of cultivation. With a mind that is straight, we reach the Bodhimanda quickly. We're not talking about a place of cultivation such as the facility in which we're lecturing the Sutras now, but the Bodhimanda that is Buddhahood. The straightforward and right mind is not crooked and twisted. What does it mean to be crooked and twisted? To be sycophantic.
Q: What does the Venerable Master
think of hierarchy?
A: All living beings are family members; the universe makes up my body; emptiness is my university. My name is nonexistent and I practice kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity.
Q: People are not born as equals in
the world: some are intelligent while some are dumb; some are rich while some
are poor; and some live long while some die young. There are all kinds of
differences in terms of social status. Why?
A: Because we didn't cultivate in our lives past. As it is said, we suffer in this life because we didn't cultivate in a previous life; we will suffer in the future if we don't cultivate in this life.
Q: The material world is
inequitable too. There are luxurious houses and fertile lands while there are
debilitated housing and infertile lands. There is an abundance of clothing and
food while there is a dearth of clothing and food too. Why do inequity like this
A: Because we did not cultivate blessings and wisdom in the past.
Venerable Master: The True Wordless Sutra
is the Heart Sutra, the Sutra of our heart and mind.
Q: What is the Sutra of our heart and mind?
A: The mind upon which the Three Realms are based; the consciousness upon all noumena is based. Everything is created because of this mind.
Q: How large is this Sutra?
A: It fills up three thousand great world systems of a thousand worlds.
Q: Why is it so large?
A: Because there are so many dust particles.
Q: Would the Sutra be smaller if there were fewer dust particles? Where would a larger Sutra be?
A: It's not that the Sutra is large but that it exists in every mote of dust. The number of dust motes is large. Not only is the total number of dust motes large, but the worlds are large too; so this Sutra can become really huge as well. Where is this Sutra? That's a meditation koan. It's wherever you say it is.
Q: What is the mind?
A: The mind is the Dharma Realm. You mind is bigger than all of empty space, bigger than the universe. It's just that you don't use it.
Venerable Master: Why do human beings have
so many false thoughts about what is right and wrong?
A disciple: Because everyone thinks that he or she is right.
Venerable Master: Why don't you say that you think that you're right?
Q: Will the Master please instruct
me on how to be a person?
A: You've still got a person.
Q: I'm asking about how to cultivate.
A: Why cultivate?
Q (by some women at the City of Ten
Thousand Buddhas): We do not have enough tools to weed and it's inappropriate to
ask the men for them, so we can only write notes asking to borrow them. But we
always have to wait several days and sometimes we don't ever get a response.
A: To adhere to the precepts and observe the boundary between men and women don't mean that you are forbidden to talk to one other and therefore can only write notes. Don't you become freaks that way? If problems occur because of conversations between you, then that will just have to happen. You're humans after all!
Q: How come the Buddha neither
comes nor goes?
A: Because the Buddha's Dharma body pervades all of space and the Dharma Realm. He is everywhere present and nonexistent
A disciple: I will accept any beating and
criticism for any mistakes that I make in the future.
A: You deserve a beating whether you're wrong or right. It would be genuine patience when you can bear being beaten though you were right.
Q: What is the meaning of life?
Q: Many people are dissatisfied
with the current state of social disorder. These people are all very educated
and do not wish to comply with unscrupulous norms. As a result, they want to
escape and come here to cultivate.
A: That kind of motive is faulty. They shouldn't be escaping reality; they should use what they've learned to save the human race and improve society.
Q: What are the advantages to
A: There's not much advantage to reciting Sutras. It takes a lot of energy, time and effort. People, don't be so foolish! Advantages that you can see are not real. Anything that has a characteristic is illusory and false. Any tangible advantage cannot be a plus. What are intangible advantages? Every time you recite a Sutra, you cleanse your self-nature and enhance your wisdom. What is invisible to the eye is honest advantage. Superficialities are visible. This is an explanation for the importance of Sutra recitations.
Q: How can we make sure that there
will be no Armageddon?
A: If we translate the Buddhadharma into English and other different languages, then people will stop being so apathetic. By making progress in their spiritual development, the world would be far removed from its end. Armageddon could be delayed until numerous great eons later, or, maybe the end of the world will never arrive. It's possible that the end of the world will not arrive because the great wheel of the Buddhadharma is being turned, for it magnetizes the sun in orbit so that it never disappears.
A disciple (is thinking): There are so
many excellent offerings, why don't we eat more of them and really enjoy them?
Venerable Master: Okay, eat more, cultivate more, stir up more trouble-you always want more; you never get enough of anything.
Q: Why do people lie?
A: They lie because they want to show off their strengths and hide their weaknesses. Isn't that right?
A disciple muses: When will I become a
Venerable Master: When will you become honest and not lie?
The light of Buddhas shines on everything.
A disciple: Does it shine on me?
Venerable Master: It has been shining on you since long ago.
A disciple: How come I don't know it?
Venerable Master: When the mind is clear, reflections of the moon appear in the pool of the mind; when thoughts are pure, the sky is cloudless. When your mind becomes extraordinarily pure, the Buddhas' light shines on you. When your mind is impure like a pool of muddied water, moonlight could hardly penetrate it.
Q: What kinds of things are
A: The wonderful Dharma is wonderful. What is wonderful? Living beings are wonderful. What else is wonderful? Buddhas are wonderful too. What else is wonderful? Everything in the universe is wonderful. Everything is the wonderful Dharma.
Q: How can a mote of dust contain
three thousand great world systems of a thousand worlds?
A: You should know why three thousand great world systems of a thousand worlds can not be contained in a mote of dust. If you understand that principle, you would understand how they can be contained therein. The Avatamsaka is just this inconceivable!
Q: The Saha World is a polluted
land; a world in the Flower Treasury is a pure land. The Buddha spoke the
Avatamsaka Sutra in a Flower Treasury world. Does this mean that the Buddha left
the Saha World and went to a Flower Treasury world?
A: He didn't leave; he's still in the Saha World. Saha is Flower Treasury, and Flower Treasury is Saha. This is a mixture of impurity and purity, a state that is neither pure nor impure.
Q: What are the Flower Treasury
A: They are called worlds of the Flower Treasury because they arose from the great lotus in the Sea of Perfume. The flower contains worlds as many as motes of dust. There are twenty layers to each world. Each layer has infinite worlds. The Saha World on which we live is on the thirteenth layer.
Venerable Master: Do you know me? Do you
A disciple: I am ashamed. . .
Q: What is wisdom?
A: Wisdom is about always knowing the right thing to do and say.
Q: I have a dog at home that's very
old, it's sick and miserable and near its end. My mother feels sorry for it and
wants to put it to death.
A: Don't do that. Recite the Great Compassion Mantra for it.
(After a period of time, this dog passed away in peace.)
Q: What are false thoughts?
A: This question on what are false thoughts is a false thought.
Q (by a disciple): Master, is there
a genesis or a source of creation for living beings? If living beings have
existed since beginningless time, then is the number of living beings fixed? If
they originate from somewhere, where might that be?
A: The genesis is "zero." Ask yourself where "zero" begins and ends? It has no beginning or end. If you break through "zero" so that it turns into "one," then there's a beginning. "One" comes from zero. Once there's a one, there's two, then three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, and infinitely many numbers. How many living beings would you say there are in that case?
A disciple: If you twist "0" a bit, then
it becomes the symbol for infinity.
A: It's also the symbol for yin and yang in Chinese. It's drawn differently in the West and in China. You have to cultivate so that you turn "1" into "0." You will then have returned to the source of creation. Do you understand the answer to your question now?
Q: Do human beings have souls?
A: Of course. Buddhists believe in souls. If you don't believe in souls, you don't understand Buddhism.
Q: What are souls?
A: Souls are ghosts. Having cultivated successfully, they become Buddhas; not having cultivated, they are ghosts.
Q: Where is the soul?
A: It's in this jail-like body of ours when we're alive. Once we've successfully cultivated, it leaves this jail cell and attains true freedom.
Q: What is the destiny of animals
A: Acting on one's ignorance and deviant views, one eventually becomes an animal.
Q: How can we avoid being reborn in
the four evil destinies?
A: If you don't have any wish to fight, you will have ended your connection with asuras. If you are not greedy, you will have ended your connections to the animal realm. If you do not become angry, you will have severed all connections to the realm of ghosts. If you are not deluded, you will have severed all connections to the realm of hells.
Q : What is the "first
A : It's that very first thought of understanding before you consciously deliberate. Whenever you think, you are using your human brain and not your enlightened mind.
Q : Typically, our first thought at
the sight of good food is to eat it and our first thought at the sight of pretty
things is to own them. Is that the Primary Truth?
A : No, don't get confused. The so-called "first thought" is the revelation of your true mind, or your original face. It is view and knowledge at its most fundamental. Thoughts of greed for food, for nice things belong to the false mind, the mind of greed, and not the true mind.
Q : Can insentient beings restore
their spiritual nature?
A : Yes, if they were to meet the right people who speak Dharma for them. Just as "When the Honorable Shen spoke Dharma, obdurate rocks nodded too." They could restore their spiritual sense only if they were to meet a sage or an arhat.
Q : Do King Yama and the Ghost of
A : That depends on whether you can avoid death. If you can avoid death, there is no Ghost of Impermanence. If you're certain that you will not have to undergo any retribution, there is no King Yama.
Q : Buddhism talks about returning
to one's origin, which means that we become whatever we were originally. Well,
what were we like originally?
A : Nothing at all. So now we try to go back to where there is nothing. Any bit of attachment is a barrier that keeps us from transcending the Triple Realm.
Q : How did demons become demons?
A : They became demons with the help of the five poisonous gases: hate, resentment, affliction, anger, and frustration.
Q : Why have we been this confused
for all these countless eons?
A : Because we're not diligent. We're lazy and try to hide out in some comfort zone.
Q : What is liberation?
A : It's to attain true freedom, to be free from hindrances and bindings, and to come and go as we please.
Q : What is true emptiness?
A : Zero.
Venerable Master: Most people only make
small business transactions and fail to make the major deals. Why?
First of all, they don't have enough "good roots" for their capitol. Second, they lack "wisdom" that comes with experience. Consequently, nothing major takes place. What is a major deal? It's the business of birth and death, that of transcending the Triple Realm.
Venerable Master: What heirloom do we own?
We own an heirloom that is the true mind. It is the wondrous and enlightened nature of understanding that always dwells in the Tathagatha's Treasury. It's not the visible and tangible world of gold, silver, and gems.
Q : How many melodies may we use in
A : It's fine to use two or three elegant tunes. Sing softly and sing so that people hear your sincerity.
Q : How can we be filial?
A : By being compliant.
Q : What if my parents want me to do bad things?
A : See! Never having been filial and not having even taken the first step in filiality, you're already trying to circumvent it!
Q (by a disciple): Master, someone
wants to become a monk. Firstly, because he wants to repay the Buddha's
kindness, secondly to repay the Master's kindness. . .
A : I have lots of disciples, but very few really repay my kindness.
Q : Master, how can we teach the
little shramaneras (novice monks) well?
A : Make sure they don't return to lay life.
While the Venerable Master is giving a
talk, a disciple is entertaining a false thought off the stage: It's so hard to
earn a Ph.D., should I attempt it?
A : Some people are really stupid, they don't enjoy studying and yet they want to go and get a Ph.D. . .
This disciple thought he was just that way. He doesn't enjoy studying and yet he still wants to earn a doctorate degree. He would only cause himself distress. So stupid! He immediately decided to not pursue the degree.
Q : What should we name the
monastery that we will build at the Lake County walnut grove, northwest of the
City of Ten Thousand Buddhas?
A : Gold Sea Monastery.
Q : On the market now are
vegetarian fishballs, vegetarian shrimp balls, vegetarian chicken, vegetarian
chicken drums, vegetarian pork, vegetarian beef, vegetarian mutton, vegetarian
ham and the like. Although they're vegetarian, they taste exactly like seafood
or meat, leaving an unforgettable impression with vegetarians. . Are we really
vegetarians when we eat these things?
A : You've got to have some backbone as vegetarians! We must improve upon these trends in Buddhism. If we don't change these trends, there will eventually be no more vegetarian monks and nuns. I believe vegetarian dishes shouldn't contain names such as chicken, duck, etc. I hope every Buddhist has the ability to be selective with dharmas and recognize the law of cause and effect so as avoid errors.
Q : Master, what should I do? My
A : How come you still react this way despite having studied Buddhism? Birth and death are the same!
Q : How do we cultivate?
A : To cultivate is to not entertain false thoughts.
Q : A disciple muses: How come the
noise in the meditation hall doesn't quit?
A : It's hard to find a place that's completely silent. There are sounds from airplanes, cars, etc. outside and there are sounds such as heartbeat etc. inside our bodies. There are also the sounds of electromagnetic waves in the air, sounds of atoms, and sounds of atoms moving through space. If you were to stay in a hole underground that has been sealed with cement, you would still hear sounds of being underground. So too the meditation hall has the sounds of people coughing. It's impossible to find a place free from any sound in the Saha World. There is no sound, however, if you don't go looking for sound.
Q : What means do we have for
collecting donations to build temples?
A : Like the eight immortals who were trying to cross the ocean, each used everything he or she had.
Once I brought my oldest daughter to Gold
Wheel Monastery because I wanted Venerable Master Hua to bless her so that she
will find a good marriage partner.
The Venerable Master takes a look at the daughter and with great kindness says: This child has a lot of affinities with Buddhism; unfortunately she is very emotional when it comes to relationships with the opposite sex. If she were to channel this kind of emotion into studying Buddhism or cultivating, she would be quite accomplished.
Q : How should we design the
heating system at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas?
A : Northern Chinese styled fireplaces and brick beds warmed by a fire underneath are ideal.
(Editor's note: The Venerable Master always showed everyone how to design a brick bed heated by fire. He even told one of his relatives to build one at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.)
Q : There are plans to build a
Great Heroes Jeweled Hall on the back property of the City of Ten Thousand
Buddhas. . .
A : Don't call it back property, it's Wonderful Enlightenment Mountain. Don't call it plans for the back either; you have to say it's the plans for the Wonderful Enlightenment Monastery.
Q (by the chairperson of a
technical college's Buddhist Association): How can we make people believe in
cause and effect?
A : By making sure that the people who are explaining it are the ones who understand.
While his disciples were translating the
Shurangama Sutra, they asked the Venerable Master about the meaning of many
words in the Sutra text.
Venerable Master (after explaining those words): You have to understand that the translation of the Shurangama Sutra into Chinese had utilized many different terms for one meaning. That translation avoided repetition of the same words and kept the text elegant throughout. You must pay attention to this too when you're translating this Sutra into English.
Q : Why is it detrimental to live
in a small temple?
A : Because it's too unrestrictive and free. It's no longer about contemplating with ease, but about eating with ease, sleeping with ease, and traveling with ease. It's very easy to forget to cultivate. One only learns to build one-on-one relationships: a habit that will be the death of Buddhism.
Q : How should parents admonish
children who are not filial?
A : Parents should reflect, first of all. We should begin by being filial to our own parents. Action speaks louder than words. When children see that their parents are filial, they will naturally model after their parents and be filial. If you kick your parents out or speak to your parents harshly and with conceit, your children will naturally emulate you who are their role models. Behavioral lessons are vivid for children. Parents may talk all they want, but if they don't walk their talk, children will always feel that their parents are not filial.
Q : A psychic once told my
stepmother that her daughter is one of the youths close to Guanshiyin
Bodhisattva and is here to create affinities with her mother. . .
A : Nonsense! You believe in fortunetellers?
In 1991, a proposal to expand the City of
Ten Thousand Buddhas was denied by the local government. The disciples
responsible for the application dejectedly asked the Venerable Master: Why
didn't it pass?
A : Because you don't have enough virtue. That's why it failed.
Venerable Master: Is there a problem with
the search for temples?
A disciple: Yes. I could never find [a suitable] one. I don't know how to find one. I've been searching for four years, from 1992 to 1995.
A : To build a temple, you must have a vision that is far and wide, a plan that will cover the next century. You have to find a place that is big enough to accommodate future expansions and is conveniently located in city centers. You have to find a facility that can be used comprehensively and allows for more stories to be added. If a monastery is in a high-riser, it ought to be the one on the top floor. Businesses on the lower floors below the monastery must be larger than 10,000 square foot.
Q : Is the Middle-Way the state of
neither existence nor non-existence?
A : The Middle-Way is not "neither existence nor non-existence." It embodies existence and emptiness; and yet it does not fall for existence or emptiness. To fall for existence means that one leans too heavily toward existence; to fall for emptiness means that one leans too heavily toward emptiness. The Middle-Way is about being unattached to existence and emptiness. Of course, if you are searching for the Middle-Way, you are attached to the Middle-Way, which would not be the Middle-Way.
Q : What does Buddhism think of
euthanasia (literally, "peaceful and happy death" in Chinese)?
A : What is euthanasia? How can death be peaceful and happy? We would only enjoy a peaceful and happy death if we were to have a certain level of cultivation from being mindful of the Buddha and can predict when we will be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Buddhism has no opinion on euthanasia.
But if this kind of death is peaceful and happy, is it a peaceful and happy death for people who have committed suicide by hanging themselves, jumping into the river, and poisoning themselves? Is it so for those who have ended their lives voluntarily and willingly, despite others' efforts to prevent them from such acts? I'm someone who doesn't know how to cultivate; I don't have the ability to teach you to die peacefully and happily. I have no way to teach you to live peacefully and happily either. I'm at my wits end when it comes to making you peaceful and happy as well as unpeaceful and unhappy. People are not the way they are because you want them that way. People do not stop their actions because you want them to avoid certain actions. This incredible process is called life.
Q : What does Buddhism think of
euthanasia? Is it completely forbidden?
A : The things that people do are neither absolutely and necessarily right nor absolutely and necessarily wrong. Not every legal prohibition is correct, necessarily. People may want to help the dying by killing them because they see that they are in pain. That is right in a sense. Buddhism forbids killing though; after all, this is about karma. It is karma that a patient suffers and should therefore face the consequences. We have no way to prevent someone from facing his karma.
Q : Could patients who are
vegetables try euthanasia?
A : I would be going against the universal principle of wanting to see things live if I were to approve of people trying euthanasia. At the same time, they probably would not be at peace or happy if their life continued. . . I can't answer this question.
Q : What are your feelings on organ
donation after death?
A : Oh, it will be like having your skin peeled while alive! The most important thing for someone who is dying is this: have everybody recite the Buddha's name! If one is meant to die, one will go willing; if one isn't meant to die, one will live!
Q : How come the Venerable Master
knows so many things?
A : When I want to know, I know everything. When I don't want to know, I know nothing.
Once one of the Master's disciples removed
an important guest. The Master scolded his disciple so harshly that the student
nearly wanted to pack up his stuff and leave.
Disciple: I feel so ashamed. What I did was wrong, unhelpful, and really pathetic. I should die.
Venerable Master: You won't die. Quit lying to yourself. For you to go away and die would be letting you off easy! You should change your bad habits. Where's that Sutra on the Comprehensive Extinction of Dharmas? Bring it over and read it to me! Since you've already left the householder's life with me, you can't act the way you used to. You must cultivate now. You're the Buddha's disciple, a member of the Buddha's family. Don't you realize how your every move is important? In this country, you represent the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, do you understand? You're no longer living for yourself. How could you be so careless and so selfish? Don't you see the path that you've chosen? How could you act like someone who is just hanging around and waiting for the next meal? As the Buddha's disciple, you have to be a role model for humans and gods. You have to be outstanding! You have to undertake what others cannot undertake, eat what others cannot eat, suffer what others cannot suffer, do what others cannot do, and bear what others cannot bear. This is the only way for you to pass the test. You must consider the propagation of Dharma your personal duty; otherwise, the Buddhadharma will never become rooted in this country.