Dharma Talk at Eastern Purity Monastery

by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

Hualien, Taiwan, October 10, 1989

"Study Buddhism for one year, and the Buddha is right before your eyes. Study Buddhism for ten years and the Buddha has gone off to the Western Paradise."

Buddhism is not found apart from every person's own mind. Buddhadharma is simply mind-dharma. When our minds are free of polluted thoughts, when the wild mind and coarse-nature is gone, when all the bad habits and faults no longer fill the mind, just this is Buddhadharma. If the mind however is fill of polluted thoughts, full of the crazy-mind and coarse nature, bad habits and faults, then this is demonic dharma.

The Buddha is good and pure; the demon is evil and impure, defiled. The Ancients had a saying:

"Good and evil are two different roads. One takes bus to cultivation, one towards offenses."

These two roads are easy to confuse, so that when we do good deeds, a bit of evil is mixed up inside that good. When we do evil acts, there is also a bit of goodness is included. We haven't concentrated our merits; we haven't employed the Dharma selecting vision. We haven't understood the saying:

"Advance firmly if it's the Path;
Retreat quickly if it's not the Path."

We have not followed the advice:

"Select what is wholesome and follow its course;
Observe what is unwholesome and change it in yourself."

Because of this problem, what is in fact wrong, we assume is right. What is right, we assume is wrong. And in this confused way we waste our lifetime away. You can say that such a person has let his lifetime pass in vain. His life has been lived in vain, uselessly.

The ancients said, "the world contains only two kinds of people: those who seek fame and those who seek profits." Outside these two categories, there are very few people left.

A verse describes the situation:
"Fame and gain are trifles, but
everybody likes them."

Everybody is fond of name and profit, and this includes left-home persons. For example, you all know the cultivator of Three Steps, One Bow, Heng Sure. Why did I name him constantly real? Because he is not grounded in fact. His Dharma name is fruition of the Truth. "True and Real" should aim for reality in all places.

But through his entire life he has been unreal, untrue. He always is phoney, and he writes embroidered fictions. No matter what is going on, he is compelled to spice it up and exaggerate.

For instance, a moment ago he translates my instructions about the impending typhoon, and added the line "don't worry" which are words I didn't speak. "The bigger the better" are my words, but he got it wrong. He likes to add flowers to what he does.

Some people hear this and have some doubts arise: Three Steps, One Bow was a good thing; the whole world heard of it; if he isn't a true cultivator, who is?

I'll tell you very frankly, because I can't teach him, he hasn't understood; yes, it's true he did bow every three steps from Los Angeles' Gold Wheel Temple to CTTB, but his purpose was not to achieve Buddhahood, or to seek world peace. That's what the pilgrimage was ostensibly about, but in fact there was no peace in his heart. Why not? Because in his heart he thought, "when this pilgrimage is over, I'll be #1 in the world. I will be famous."

So I ask all of you, what kind of fame can you get by bowing once every three steps along the highway? Seeking reputation and #1 status? Wanting to be number one is worthless. TO make so many prostrations all for the sake of being first? To use such a method for the sake of winning top spot, it would have been better not to have bowed even once. This is using the mind incorrectly.

What's more when he reached any big city he thought, "I wonder when the press reporters will come out and do an interview and write up a big news story?"

To do three steps, one bow for the sake of newspaper publicity. It would have been better to not have bowed than to go for such a small goal.

He also had in his mind that when he arrived at CTTB he would become a little emperor, and become #1, because his name and profits would be solidly established. Who would have thought that when I showed up at the opening of the light ceremony where he was bowing, in his mind he would think, when he saw his teacher,

"This old country bumpkin has come to spoil my party!"

Think it over everyone, to bow for two years and nine months, he can still be fighting in his mind with his teacher, and still be contending for #1 position. How stupid! If this isn't creating demonic karma, what is it? So if any of you admire Three Steps, One Bow, you should know it was done for name and for gain.

"Reputation and benefits are trifles, but everyone loves them.
Birth and death are the major concerns, but who can prevent them?"

Birth and death matter most, and yet he can be concerned with name and gain? How pathetic!

"Purity is blessings; no one wants it."

Doing nothing at all surpasses doing good, the purer we can be, the better.

"Afflictions are offenses, but people grab them tightly."

Cultivation that cures our afflictions is the only cultivation that counts. If instead we only know to eat and drink afflictions all day long, and stay afflicted while walking, standing, sitting, reclining and even while sleeping, then what are we cultivating?

Some people may react, "Well, didn't you know he was thinking this way?" "Who taught him to do this?" "Who is his teacher?" Why should you blame him? His teacher is an old country bumpkin, who can't teach anyone.

Everyone pay attention here, the important part is here. I don't care if I'm an old country bumpkin, just so long as my disciples are not bumpkins.

"Azure comes out from basic blue."

"The Summa Cum Laude student has a very ordinary teacher."

I in fact don't dare take even a single step or make one bow, for fear that I might topple over. I'm not like my disciples, who have spiritual skill (gung fu). If I were to bow down, I might not stand up.

Maybe it's not the teacher's fault. Perhaps the disciple is reflecting a mistaken national characteristic. Perhaps the teacher need not be blamed for failing to teach the disciple well. In America everyone stresses "free-expression" "independent growth," and it produces in fact an attitude of confused freedom, a superstitious freedom, an unreasonable freedom, a misunderstanding of true freedom; everyone believes in it. So children are allowed to grow up without any controls whatever.

I often tell my disciples, "If you want to climb to the heavens, you may. If you wasn't to fall into the hells, you are free to do so. You can do what you like." And it may have been here that he fostered his attitudes that seek fame and profits.

I don't say this in my own defense, mind you, but even though I didn't bow on that pilgrimage, my ordinary way of bowing is different from his. He did Three Steps, One Bow hoping others would know about it. When I began to cultivate I didn't take three steps. I stood in one spot and bowed from the time I was twelve, each day 830 times in the morning, and 830 times each evening. I didn't want anyone to know I was doing it, so in the early dawn I rose before anyone else was awake and went outside, and bowed towards the sky. At night after my family had gone to sleep, I bowed to space again, bowing to all beings, exhausting empty space and the Dharma Realm.

My prostrations saluted and bowed to limitlessly many beings in all twelve categories of creatures: those with form and those lacking form, those with thought and those without thought, etc., hoping they will all change evil ways into wholesome behavior. But I was unwilling to let anyone know what I was doing, simply because there was no way to become famous by bowing.

Now I'm old and it doesn't matter who knows about my past. To go bow for two years and nine months for fame… advertising yourself…

"Good done for others to see is not genuine good.
Evil done fearing others will know is truly great evil."

Do you know this now?

That's the story of one off my disciples. I have bad ones and good ones all mixed up together. Some are the worst of the lot, some are the best. This is a true sutra, a living sutra, it's not dead or fixed.

For example, Heng Chi went into seclusion for four years and two weeks during which time he spoke to no one, read no letters, and wrote none, didn't watch t.v. or listen to the radio, didn't hear news or use the telephone. He only memorized the Shurangama Sutra in Chinese. He can still sit in meditation for fourteen hours when he enters samadhi.

Another example is Heng Chang, a young Vietnamese monk who didn't know English when he first came to the U.S., but who now speaks quite well. He can sit for eight hours in meditation without moving. My disciples are a varied group, with dragons and snakes all mixed in together. Some can cultivate well, others cannot. There are snakes and scorpions among them.

I've recited my disciple-sutra for you now; why are there dragons, snakes, scorpions, and elephants altogether? It's because I simply have no skill as a teacher. Some of these disciples make big noise, but wind up totally wasting their time.