The Shurangama Sutra with Commentary by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

Buddhist Lecture Hall, San Francisco, 1968 


There are many intelligent people in the world who, despite their intellectual ability, do not follow proper paths, but instead use their knowledge in ways that harm people. This is deviant thought. They harbor deviant thoughts and have no desire to put an end to them, because they think they are correct. They outsmart themselves and act in a very confused way. The Sutra issues a warning about them.


There is a proverb that says:


Intelligence is helped by hidden virtue.

Hidden virtue leads you to enter the path of intelligence.

Those who do not practice hidden virtue,

but make use of intelligence alone,

Will be defeated by their own intelligence.


People are intelligent because in past lives they undertook virtuous practices. Perhaps they studied hard in past lives, or they read many Buddhist sutras. But intelligence is established by doing

this good work in secret. It is “hidden virtue” that others do not see. Intelligence does not come to people who do a good deed and then strike the gong, beat the drum, and put an ad in the paper or on television saying, “I, so-and-so, have just now done something good.” Such a person may have done good deeds, but this is not hidden virtue. Good deeds that are done unknown to anyone are hidden virtue; they are genuine good deeds. So it is said:


Good done hoping others will notice--

it is not true good;

Evil done fearing others will discover--it is great evil.


People who want the good they do to be known haven’t done genuine good; they’re just being greedy for a good reputation. The very greatest kind of evil is done secretly in the fear that people will find out.


Hidden virtue practiced in the past may endow us with intelligence, but if we don’t use our intelligence correctly, if we don’t practice hidden virtue and do good deeds, but instead do evil, our intelligence defeats us and we defeat our intelligence. It becomes merely a petty knowledge, a petty intelligence, not true intelligence.


Shurangama Sutra, Volume 1 with commentary by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua