How Can We Determine Our Own Destiny?
A Talk by Venerable Master Hua
October 22, 1990 at the Overseas Chinese Association in Paris, France
Each of us should look within and ask ourselves: From the time I was born until now, what kinds of things have I done? Have I done more good deeds or more bad deeds? Have I done benefitted others more, or have I harmed others more? We should take stock of ourselves. There is a saying:
A superior person knows how to mold his own destiny.
We determine our own fate and seek our own fortune.
Calamities and blessings are not fixed;
We bring them upon ourselves.
The consequences of our good and evil acts
Follow us just like shadows.
Why is a superior person said to be able to control his fate? Qiu Changchun, one of the seven Taoist Patriarchs, was fated to die of starvation, but because he cultivated diligently, not only did he avoid starving, he became the foremost of divine immortals.
Some people are born fated to be poor, but because they do good deeds, they later become rich. Getting rich is not our final aim, but most people think that a person who strikes it rich must be happy. Why isn't getting rich our final goal? Our final goal is to gain true understanding; then we will not have lived our lives in vain. If you lack understanding, then you can't control your own birth and you are born in a muddle. Nor can you control your death; you also die in a muddle. No matter how much wealth, honor, and status you have, it's of no use. But if you understand, you have freedom over birth and death. If you want to live, you can live to be eight hundred years old. If you want to die, you can die at any time without any problems. That is freedom over birth and death. Obtaining freedom over birth and death is the most important matter. Since ancient times until now, people have overlooked this matter in their pursuit of wealth and high rank. They have lived as if drunk and died in a dream, being muddled all their lives.
No one is aware of this problem. Now in the Space Age, we should look into it. AIDS and cancer are very common in the world right now. These are all forms of retribution. They indicate that living beings' karmic offenses are extremely grave. Their offenses of killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, and false speech are extremely heavy. The karma created through taking alcohol and other intoxicants is also severe. That's why so many incurable and strange diseases have developed. These are living examples of Dharma that tell people to quickly gain true wisdom and not do such muddled things.
If you can refrain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and taking intoxicants, then no matter what you say, your words will be efficacious. You don't have to recite any mantra or bow to any Buddha. If you can uphold these five precepts, then whatever you say will be efficacious. Let me tell you something. I don't have any other skill, but from the time I was born, I have not killed, stolen, practiced sexual misconduct, lied, or taken intoxicants. And so wherever I go, whatever I say is bound to come true.
When I went to Hong Kong in 1949, I built a small house and planted some papaya, bamboo, and many other trees and flowers on the mountainside near the village of Mashan in Xiwanhe. The papayas were very sweet, too. But one year a typhoon blew in and killed all the plants and trees. At that time I found it a bit hard to bear, and I lost my temper at Heaven. I pointed my finger at Heaven and said, "Lord of Heaven, if you know that a typhoon is due to hit Hong Kong, I hope that as long as I am here, Hong Kong will not have a typhoon. If another typhoon hits Hong Kong, let me tell you frankly that I won't be nice to you."
After I said that, strangely enough, every time a typhoon was forecasted to hit Hong Kong and the warning signs were put out, the typhoon would veer off course maybe four to six miles from Hong Kong and go somewhere else. I lived in Hong Kong for over ten years, and never once was there a typhoon. But once when I went to Australia for a month, Hong Kong was ravaged by a typhoon. The streets were covered with billboards that had blown down. There were many casualties and an incalculable loss of property. This proved that, because I had never told a lie, even the Lord of Heaven didn't dare to disregard my words. When I left Hong Kong for the United States, there was a flash flood at Hongshuiqiao ("Floodwater Bridge") in Hong Kong that drowned 150 or 160 people, and there were also typhoons. I'm telling you these experiences, hoping that all of you will refrain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and taking intoxicants. If you do, then no matter what happens, you will be protected all your lives by the gods, dragons, and others of the eightfold division of Dharma-protecting good spirits. Everything will be auspicious and as you wish.
If people cultivate honestly, then all their problems will be resolved. We first have to do a good job of being people, and then can we think of becoming Buddhas. We should not forget our human roots. Our human roots are filiality, brotherhood, loyalty, trustworthiness, propriety, righteousness, integrity, and a sense of shame. These virtues are the essence of Chinese culture, so even though we are overseas in another land, we Chinese people should be good models for all of humankind. We should doing a good job of being people. We have affinities with each other, so I have spoken to you from my heart.
We shouldn't take money so seriously. Money is no better than dung or dirt. We should base our actions on our Chinese heritage of filiality, brotherhood, loyalty, trustworthiness, propriety, righteousness, integrity, and a sense of shame; and of humaneness, righteousness, the Way, and virtue. These are our human roots.