Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Brahma Net Sutra

Translated by the Buddhist Text Translation Society in USA

I. Vairocana Buddha
At that time, Vairocana Buddha began speaking in general about the Mind-Ground for the benefit of the Great Assembly. What he said represents but an infinitesimal part, the tip of a hair, of His innumerable teachings -- as numerous as the grains of sand in the river Ganges. He concluded: "The Mind-Ground has been explained, is being explained and will be explained by all the Buddhas -- past, present, and future. It is also the Dharma Door (cultivation method) that all the Bodhisattvas of the past, present, and future have studied, are studying and will study." "I have cultivated this Mind-Ground Dharma Door for hundreds of eons. My name is Vairocana. I request all Buddhas to transmit my words to all sentient beings, so as to open this path of cultivation to all."

At that time, from his Lion's Throne in the Lotus Treasury World, Vairocana Buddha emitted rays of light. A voice among the rays is heard telling the Buddhas seated on thousands of lotus petals, "You should practice and uphold the Mind-Ground Dharma Door and transmit it to the innumerable Sakyamuni Buddhas, one after another, as well as to all sentient beings. Everyone should uphold, read, recite, and singlemindedly put its teachings into practice." After receiving the Dharma-door of the Mind-Ground, the Buddhas seated atop the thousands of lotus flowers along with the innumerable Sakyamuni Buddhas all arose from their Lion seats, their bodies emitting innumerable rays of light. In each of these rays appeared innumerable Buddhas who simultaneously made offerings of green, yellow, red and white celestial flowers to Vairocana Buddha.

They then slowly took their leave. The Buddhas then disappeared from the Lotus Treasury World, entered the Essence-Nature Empty Space Floral Brilliance Samadhi and returned to their former places under the Bodhi-tree in this world of Jambudvipa. They then arose from their samadhi, sat on their Diamond Thrones in Jambudvipa and the Heaven of the Four Kings, and preached the Dharma of the "Ten Oceans of Worlds." Thereupon, they ascended to Lord Shakya's palace and expounded the "Ten Dwellings," proceeded to the Suyama Heaven and taught the "Ten Practices," proceeded further to the Fourth Heaven and taught the "Ten Dedications," proceeded further to the Transformation of Bliss Heaven and taught the "Ten Dhyana Samadhi," proceeded further to the Heaven of Comfort From Others' Emanations and taught the "Ten Grounds," proceeded further to the First Dhyana Heaven and taught the "Ten Vajra Stages," proceeded further to the Second Dhyana Heaven and taught the "Ten Patiences," and proceeded further to the Third Dhyana Heaven and taught the "Ten Vows." Finally, in the Fourth Dhyana Heaven, at Lord Brahma's Palace, they taught the "Mind-Ground Dharma-Door" chapter, which Vairocana Buddha, in eons past, expounded in the Lotus Treasury World (the cosmos). All the other innumerable transformation Sakyamuni Buddhas did likewise in their respective worlds as the chapter "Auspicious Kalpa" has explained.

II. Sakyamuni Buddha
At that time, Sakyamuni Buddha, after first appearing in the Lotus Treasury World, proceeded to the east and appeared in the Heavenly King's palace to teach the "Demon Transforming Sutra." He then descended to Jambudvipa to be born in Kapilavastu -- his name being Siddhartha and his father's name Suddhodana. His mother was Queen Maya. He achieved Enlightenment at the age of thirty, after seven years of cultivation, under the name of Sakyamuni BuddhaThe Buddha spoke in ten assemblies from the Diamond Seat at Bodhgaya to the palace of Brahma.

At that time, he contemplated the wonderful Jewel Net hung in Lord Brahma's palace and preached the Brahma Net Sutra for the Great Assembly. He said: "The innumerable worlds in the cosmos are like the eyes of the net. Each and every world is different, its variety infinite. So too are the Dharma Doors (methods of cultivation) taught by the Buddhas. "I have come to this world eight thousand times. Based in this Saha World, seated upon the Jeweled Diamond Seat in Bodhgaya and all the way up to the palace of the Brahma King, I have spoken in general about the Mind-Ground Dharma Door for the benefit of the great multitude."Thereafter, I descended from the Brahma King's palace to Jambudvipa, the Human World. I have preached the Diamond Illuminated Jeweled Precepts (the Bodhisattva precepts) from beneath the Bodhi-tree for the sake of all sentient beings on earth, however dull and ignorant they may be.

These precepts were customarily recited by Vairocana Buddha when he first developed the Bodhi Mind in the causal stages. They are precisely the original source of all Buddhas and all Bodhisattvas as well as the seed of the Buddha Nature. "All sentient beings possess this Buddha Nature. All with consciousness, form, and mind are encompassed by the precepts of the Buddha Nature. Sentient beings possess the correct cause of the Buddha Nature and therefore they will assuredly attain the ever-present Dharma Body. For this reason, the ten Pratimoksa (Bodhisattva) precepts came into being in this world. These precepts belong to the True Dharma. They are received and upheld in utmost reverence by all sentient beings of the Three Periods of Time -- past, present and future. "Once again, I shall preach for the Great Assembly the chapter on the Inexhaustible Precept Treasury. These are the precepts of all sentient beings, the source of the pure Self-Nature." ***Now, I, Vairocana Buddha Am sitting atop a lotus pedestal; On a thousand flowers surrounding me Are a thousand Sakyamuni Buddhas. Each flower supports a hundred million worlds; In each world a Sakyamuni Buddha appears. All are seated beneath a Bodhi-tree, All simultaneously attain Buddhahood. All these innumerable Buddhas Have Vairocana as their original body. These countless Sakyamuni Buddhas All bring followers along -- as numerous as motes of dust. They all proceed to my lotus pedestal To listen to the Buddha's precepts. I now preach the Dharma, this exquisite nectar. Afterward, the countless Buddhas return to their respective worlds And, under a Bodhi-tree, proclaim these major and minor precepts Of Vairocana, the Original Buddha.

The precepts are like the radiant sun and moon, Like a shining necklace of gems, Bodhisattvas as numerous as motes of dust Uphold them and attain Buddhahood. These precepts are recited by Vairocana, These precepts I recite as well. You novice Bodhisattvas Should reverently accept and uphold them. And once you have done so, Transmit and teach them to sentient beings.Now listen attentively as I recite The Bodhisattva Pratimoksa -- the source of all precepts in the Buddha Dharma. All of you in the Great Assembly should firmly believe That you are the Buddhas of the future, While I am a Buddha already accomplished. If you should have such faith at all times, Then this precept code is fulfilled.All beings with resolve Should accept and uphold the Buddha's precepts. Sentient beings on receiving them Join forthwith the ranks of Buddhas. They are in essence equal to the Buddhas, They are the true offspring of the Buddhas. Therefore, Great Assembly, Listen with utmost reverence As I proclaim the Bodhisattva Moral Code. ** *

III. The Buddha Reciting the Bodhisattva Precepts
At that time, when Sakyamuni Buddha first attained Supreme Enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, he explained the Bodhisattva precepts. The Buddha taught filial piety toward one's parents, Elder Masters and the Triple Jewel. Filial piety and obedience, he said, are the Ultimate Path [to Buddhahood]. Filial piety is called the precepts -- and it means restraint and cessation.The Buddha then emitted limitless lights from his mouth. Thereupon, the whole Great Assembly, consisting of innumerable Bodhisattvas, the gods of the eighteen Brahma Heavens, the gods of the six Desire Heavens, and the rulers of the sixteen great kingdoms all joined their palms and listened singlemindedly to the Buddha recite the Mahayana precepts. The Buddha then said to the Bodhisattvas: Twice a month I recite the precepts observed by all Buddhas.

All Bodhisattvas, from those who have just developed the Bodhi Mind to the Bodhisattvas of the Ten Dwellings, the Ten Practices, the Ten Dedications, and the Ten Grounds also recite them. Therefore, this precept-light shines forth from my mouth. It does not arise without a cause. This light is neither blue, yellow, red, white, nor black. It is neither form, nor thought. It is neither existent nor nonexistent, neither cause nor effect. This precept-light is precisely the original source of all Buddhas and all members of this Great Assembly. Therefore all you disciples of the Buddha should receive and observe, read, recite and study these precepts with utmost attention. Disciples of the Buddha, listen attentively! Whoever can understand and accept a Dharma Master's words of transmission can receive the Bodhisattva precepts and be called foremost in purity. This is true whether that person is a king, a prince, an official, a monk, a nun, or a god of the eighteen Brahma Heavens, a god of the six Desire Heavens, or a human, a eunuch, a libertine, a prostitute, a slave, or a member of the Eight Divisions of Divinities, a Vajra spirit, an animal, or even a transformation-being.IV. The Ten Major PreceptsThe Buddhas said to his disciples, "There are ten major Bodhisattva precepts.

If one receives the precepts but fails to recite them, he is not a Bodhisattva, nor is he a seed of Buddhahood. I, too, recite these precepts. "All Bodhisattvas have studied them in the past, will study in the future, and are studying them now. I have explained the main characteristics of the Bodhisattva precepts. You should study and observe them with all your heart." The Buddha continued:

1. First Major Precept On Killing
A disciple of the Buddha shall not himself kill, encourage others to kill, kill by expedient means, praise killing, rejoice at witnessing killing, or kill through incantation or deviant mantras. He must not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of killing, and shall not intentionally kill any living creature.As a Buddha's disciple, he ought to nurture a mind of compassion and filial piety, always devising expedient means to rescue and protect all beings. If instead, he fails to restrain himself and kills sentient beings without mercy, he commits a Parajika (major) offense.

2. Second Major PreceptOn Stealing
A disciple of the Buddha must not himself steal or encourage others to steal, steal by expedient means, steal by means of incantation or deviant mantras. He should not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of stealing. No valuables or possessions, even those belonging to ghosts and spirits or thieves and robbers, be they as small as a needle or blade of grass, may be stolen. As a Buddha's disciple, he ought to have a mind of mercy, compassion, and filial piety -- always helping people earn merits and achieve happiness. If instead, he steals the possessions of others, he commits a Parajika offense.

3. Third Major PreceptOn Sexual Misconduct
A disciple of the Buddha must not engage in licentious acts or encourage others to do so. [As a monk] he should not have sexual relations with any female -- be she a human, animal, deity or spirit -- nor create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of such misconduct. Indeed, he must not engage in improper sexual conduct with anyone.A Buddha's disciple ought to have a mind of filial piety -- rescuing all sentient beings and instructing them in the Dharma of purity and chastity. If instead, he lacks compassion and encourages others to engage in sexual relations promiscuously, including with animals and even their mothers, daughters, sisters, or other close relatives, he commits a Parajika offense.

4. Fourth Major PreceptOn Lying and False Speech
A disciple of the Buddha must not himself use false words and speech, or encourage others to lie or lie by expedient means. He should not involve himself in the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of lying, saying that he has seen what he has not seen or vice-versa, or lying implicitly through physical or mental means.As a Buddha's disciple, he ought to maintain Right Speech and Right Views always, and lead all others to maintain them as well. If instead, he causes wrong speech, wrong views or evil karma in others, he commits a Parajika offense.

5. Fifth Major PreceptOn Selling Alcoholic Beverages
A disciple of the Buddha must not trade in alcoholic beverages or encourage others to do so. He should not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of selling any intoxicant whatsoever, for intoxicants are the causes and conditions of all kinds of offenses. As a Buddha's disciple, he ought to help all sentient beings achieve clear wisdom. If instead, he causes them to have upside-down, topsy-turvy thinking, he commits a Parajika offense.

6. Sixth Major PreceptOn Broadcasting the Faults of the Assembly
A disciple of the Buddha must not himself broadcast the misdeeds or infractions of Bodhisattva-clerics or Bodhisattva-laypersons, or of [ordinary] monks and nuns -- nor encourage others to do so. He must not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of discussing the offenses of the assembly. As a Buddha's disciple, whenever he hears evil persons, externalists or followers of the Two Vehicles speak of practices contrary to the Dharma or contrary to the precepts within the Buddhist community, he should instruct them with a compassionate mind and lead them to develop wholesome faith in the Mahayana. If instead, he discusses the faults and misdeeds that occur within the assembly, he commits a Parajika offense.

7. Seventh Major PreceptOn Praising Oneself and Disparaging Others
A disciple of the Buddha shall not praise himself and speak ill of others, or encourage others to do so. He must not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of praising himself and disparaging others. As a disciple of the Buddha, he should be willing to stand in for all sentient beings and endure humiliation and slander -- accepting blame and letting sentient beings have all the glory. If instead, he displays his own virtues and conceals the good points of others, thus causing them to suffer slander, he commits a Parajika offense.

8. Eighth Major PreceptOn Stinginess and Abuse
A disciple of the Buddha must not be stingy or encourage others to be stingy. He should not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of stinginess. As a Bodhisattva, whenever a destitute person comes for help, he should give that person what he needs. If instead, out of anger and resentment, he denies all assistance -- refusing to help with even a penny, a needle, a blade of grass, even a single sentence or verse or a phrase of Dharma, but instead scolds and abuses that person -- he commits a Parajika offense.

9. Ninth Major PreceptOn Anger and Resentment
A disciple of the Buddha shall not harbor anger or encourage others to be angry. He should not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of anger. As a disciple of the Buddha, he ought to be compassionate and filial, helping all sentient beings develop the good roots of non-contention. If instead, he insults and abuses sentient beings, or even transformation beings [such as deities and spirits], with harsh words, hitting them with his fists or feet, or attacking them with a knife or club -- or harbors grudges even when the victim confesses his mistakes and humbly seeks forgiveness in a soft, conciliatory voice -- the disciple commits a Parajika offense.

10. Tenth Major PreceptOn Slandering the Triple Jewel
A Buddha's disciple shall not himself speak ill of the Triple Jewel or encourage others to do so. He must not create the causes, conditions, methods or karma of slander. If a disciple hears but a single word of slander against the Buddha from externalists or evil beings, he experiences a pain similar to that of three hundred spears piercing his heart. How then could he possibly slander the Triple Jewel himself? Hence, if a disciple lacks faith and filial piety towards the Triple Jewel, and even assists evil persons or those of aberrant views to slander the Triple Jewel, he commits a Parajika offense.

V. Conclusion: The Ten Major Precepts
As a disciple of the Buddha, you should study these ten parajika (major) precepts and not break any one of them in even the slightest way -- much less break all of them! Anyone guilty of doing so cannot develop the Bodhi Mind in his current life and will lose whatever high position he may have attained, be it that of an emperor, Wheel-Turning King, Bhiksu, Bhiksuni -- as well as whatever level of Bodhisattvahood he may have reached, whether the Ten Dwellings, the Ten Practices, the Ten Dedications, the Ten Grounds -- and all the fruits of the eternal Buddha Nature. He will lose all of those levels of attainment and descend into the Three Evil Realms, unable to hear the words "parents" or "Triple Jewel" for eons! Therefore, Buddha's disciples should avoid breaking any one of these major precepts. All of you Bodhisattvas should study and observe the Ten Precepts, which have been observed, are being observed, and will be observed by all Bodhisattvas. They were explained in detail in the chapter, "The Eighty Thousand Rules of Conduct."***

VI. The Forty-eight Secondary Precepts
Then the Buddha told the Bodhisattvas, "Now that I have explained the Ten Major Precepts, I will speak about the forty-eight secondary precepts."

1. Disrespect toward Teachers and Friends
A disciple of the Buddha who is destined to become an emperor, a Wheel-Turning King, or high official should first receive the Bodhisattva precepts. He will then be under the protection of all guardian deities and spirits, and the Buddhas will be pleased.Once he has received the precepts, the disciple should develop a mind of filial piety and respect. Whenever he meets an Elder Master, a monk, or a fellow cultivator of like views and like conduct, he should rise and greet him with respect. He must then respectfully make offerings to the guest-monks, in accord with the Dharma. He should be willing to pledge himself, his family, as well as his kingdom, cities, jewels and other possessions. If instead, he should develop conceit or arrogance, delusion or anger, refusing to rise and greet guest-monks and make offerings to them respectfully, in accordance with the Dharma, he commits a secondary offense.

2. On Consuming Alcoholic Beverages
A disciple of the Buddha should not intentionally consume alcoholic beverages, as they are the source of countless offenses. If he but offers a glass of wine to another person, his retribution will be to have no hands for five hundred lifetimes. How could he then consume liquor himself! Indeed, a Bodhisattva should not encourage any person or any other sentient being to consume alcohol, much less take any alcoholic beverages himself. A disciple should not drink any alcoholic beverages whatsoever. If instead, he deliberately does so or encourages others to do so, he commits a secondary offense.

3. On Eating Meat
A disciple of the Buddha must not deliberately eat meat. He should not eat the flesh of any sentient being. The meat-eater forfeits the seed of Great Compassion, severs the seed of the Buddha Nature and causes [animals and transcendental] beings to avoid him. Those who do so are guilty of countless offenses. Therefore, Bodhisattvas should not eat the flesh of any sentient beings whatsoever. If instead, he deliberately eats meat, he commits a secondary offense.

4. On Five Pungent Herbs
A disciple of the Buddha should not eat the five pungent herbs -- garlic, chives, leeks, onions, and asafoetida.This is so even if they are added as flavoring to other main dishes. Hence, if he deliberately does so, he commits a secondary offense.

5. On Not Teaching Repentance
If a disciple of the Buddha should see any being violate the Five Precepts, the Eight Precepts, the Ten Precepts, other prohibitions, or commit any of the Seven Cardinal Sins or any offense which leads to the Eight Adversities -- any violations of the precepts whatever -- he should counsel the offender to repent and reform.Hence, if a Bodhisattva does not do so and furthermore continues to live together in the assembly with the offender, share in the offerings of the laity, participate in the same Uposatha ceremony and recite the precepts -- while failing to bring up that person's offense, enjoining him to repent -- the disciple commits a secondary offense.

6. Failing to Request the Dharma or Make Offerings
If an Elder Master, a Mahayana monk or fellow cultivator of like views and practice should come from far away to the temple, residence, city or village of a disciple of the Buddha, the disciple should respectfully welcome him and see him off. He should minister to his needs at all times, though doing so may cost as much as three taels of gold! Moreover, the disciple of the Buddha should respectfully request the guest-master to preach the Dharma three times a day by bowing to him without a single thought of resentment or weariness. He should be willing to sacrifice himself for the Dharma and never be lax in requesting it. If he does not act in this manner, he commits a secondary offense.

7. Failing to Attend Dharma Lectures
A Bodhisattva disciple who is new to the Order should take copies of the appropriate sutras or precept codes to any place where such sutras, commentaries, or moral codes are being explained, to listen, study, and inquire about the Dharma. He should go anywhere, be it in a house, beneath a tree, in a temple, in the forests or mountains, or elsewhere. If he fails to do so, he commits a secondary offense.

8. On Turning Away from the Mahayana
If a disciple of the Buddha disavows the eternal Mahayana sutras and moral codes, declaring that they were not actually taught by the Buddha, and instead follows and observes those of the Two Vehicles and deluded externalists, he commits a secondary offense.

9. On Failure to Care for the Sick
If a disciple of the Buddha should see anyone who is sick, he should wholeheartedly provide for that person's needs just as he would for a Buddha. Of the eight Fields of Blessings, looking after the sick is the most important. A Buddha's disciple should take care of his father, mother, Dharma teacher or disciple -- regardless of whether the latter are disabled or suffering from various kinds of diseases. If instead, he becomes angry and resentful and fails to do so, or refuses to rescue the sick or disabled in temples, cities and towns, forests and mountains, or along the road, he commits a secondary offense.

10. On Storing Deadly Weapons
A disciple of the Buddha should not store weapons such as knives, clubs, bows, arrows, spears, axes or any other weapons, nor may he keep nets, traps or any such devices used in destroying life.As a disciple of the Buddha, he must not even avenge the death of his parents -- let alone kill sentient beings! He should not store any weapons or devices that can be used to kill sentient beings. If he deliberately does so, he commits a secondary offense. The first ten secondary precepts have just been described. Disciples of the Buddha should study and respectfully observe them. They are explained in detail in the six chapters [now lost] following these precepts.

11. On Serving as an Emissary
A disciple of the Buddha shall not, out of personal benefit or evil intentions, act as a country's emissary to foster military confrontation and war causing the slaughter of countless sentient beings. As a disciple of the Buddha, he should not be involved in military affairs, or serve as a courier between armies, much less act as a willing catalyst for war. If he deliberately does so, he commits a secondary offense.

12. On Unlawful Business Undertakings
A disciple of the Buddha must not deliberately trade in slaves or sell anyone into servitude, nor should he trade in domestic animals, coffins or wood for caskets. He cannot engage in these types of business himself much less encourage others to do so. Otherwise, he commits a secondary offense.

13. On Slander and Libel
A disciple of the Buddha must not, without cause and with evil intentions, slander virtuous people, such as Elder Masters, monks or nuns, kings, princes or other upright persons, saying that they have committed the Seven Cardinal Sins or broken the Ten Major Bodhisattva Precepts. He should be compassionate and filial and treat all virtuous people as if they were his father, mother, siblings or other close relatives. If instead, he slanders and harms them, he commits a secondary offense.

14. On Starting Wildfires
A disciple of the Buddha shall not, out of evil intentions, start wildfires to clear forests and burn vegetation on mountains and plains, during the fourth to the ninth months of the lunar year. Such fires [are particularly injurious to animals during that period and may spread] to people's homes, towns and villages, temples and monasteries, fields and groves, as well as the [unseen] dwellings and possessions of deities and ghosts. He must not intentionally set fire to any place where there is life. If he deliberately does so, he commits a secondary offense.

15. Teaching Non-Mahayana Dharma
A disciple of the Buddha must teach one and all, from fellow disciples, relatives and spiritual friends, to externalists and evil beings, how to receive and observe the Mahayana sutras and moral codes. He should teach the Mahayana principles to them and help them develop the Bodhi Mind -- as well as the Ten Dwellings, the Ten Practices and the Ten Dedications, explaining the order and function of each of these Thirty Minds (levels). If instead, the disciple, with evil, hateful intentions, perversely teaches them the sutras and moral codes of the Two Vehicle tradition as well as the commentaries of deluded externalists, he thereby commits a secondary offense.

16. Unsound Explanation of the Dharma
A Bodhisattva Dharma Master must first, with a wholesome mind, study the rules of deportment, as well as sutras and moral codes of the Mahayana tradition, and understand their meanings in depth. Then, whenever novices come from afar to seek instruction, he should explain, according to the Dharma, all the Bodhisattva renunciation practices, such as burning one's body, arm, or finger [as the ultimate act in the quest for Supreme Enlightenment]. If a novice is not prepared to follow these practices as an offering to the Buddhas, he is not a Bodhisattva monk. Moreover, a Bodhisattva monk should be willing to sacrifice his body and limbs for starving beasts and hungry ghosts [as the ultimate act of compassion in rescuing sentient beings].After these explanations, the Bodhisattva Dharma Master should teach the novices in an orderly way, to awaken their minds. If instead, for personal gain, he refuses to teach or teaches in a confused manner, quoting passages out of order and context, or teaches in a manner that disparages the Triple Jewel, he commits a secondary offense.

17. On Exacting Donations
A disciple of the Buddha must not, for the sake of food, drink, money, possessions or fame, approach and befriend kings, princes, or high officials and [on the strength of such relationships], exact money, goods or other advantages. Nor may he encourage others to do so. These actions are called untoward, excessive demands and lack compassion and filial piety. Such a disciple commits a secondary offense.

18. On Serving as an Inadequate Master
A disciple of the Buddha should study the Twelve Divisions of the Dharma and recite the Bodhisattva precepts frequently. He should strictly observe these precepts in the Six Periods of the day and night and fully understand their meaning and principles as well as the essence of their Buddha Nature.If instead, the disciple of the Buddha fails to understand even a sentence or a verse of the moral code or the causes and conditions related to the precepts, but pretends to understand them, he is deceiving both himself and others. A disciple who understands nothing of the Dharma, yet acts as a teacher transmitting the precepts, commits a secondary offense.

19. On Double-tongued Speech
A disciple of the Buddha must not, with malicious intent gossip or spread rumors and slander, create discord and disdain for virtuous people. [An example is] disparaging a monk who observes the Bodhisattva precepts, as he [makes offerings to the Buddhas by] holding an incense burner to his forehead. A disciple of the Buddha who does so commits a secondary offense.

20. Failure to Liberate Sentient Beings
A disciple of the Buddha should have a mind of compassion and cultivate the practice of liberating sentient beings. He must reflect thus: throughout the eons of time, all male sentient beings have been my father, all female sentient beings my mother. I was born of them, now I slaughter them, I would be slaughtering my parents as well as eating flesh that was once my own. This is so because all elemental earth, water, fire and air -- the four constituents of all life -- have previously been part of my body, part of my substance. I must therefore always cultivate the practice of liberating sentient beings and enjoin others to do likewise -- as sentient beings are forever reborn, again and again, lifetime after lifetime. If a Bodhisattva sees an animal on the verge of being killed, he must devise a way to rescue and protect it, helping it to escape suffering and death. The disciple should always teach the Bodhisattva precepts to rescue and deliver sentient beings.On the day his father, mother, and siblings die, he should invite Dharma Masters to explain the Bodhisattva sutras and precepts. This will generate merits and virtues and help the deceased either to achieve rebirth in the Pure Lands and meet the Buddhas or to secure rebirth in the human or celestial realms. If instead, a disciple fails to do so, he commits a secondary offense. You should study and respectfully observe the above ten precepts. Each of them is explained in detail in the chapter "Expiating Offenses."

21. On Violence and Vengefulness
A disciple of the Buddha must not return anger for anger, blow for blow. He should not seek revenge, even if his father, mother, siblings, or close relatives are killed -- nor should he do so if the ruler or king of his country is murdered. To take the life of one being in order to avenge the killing of another is contrary to filial piety [as we are all related through the eons of birth and rebirth].Furthermore, he should not keep others in servitude, much less beat or abuse them, creating evil karma of mind, speech and body day after day -- particularly the offenses of speech. How much less should he deliberately commit the Seven Cardinal Sins. Therefore, if a Bodhisattva-monk lacks compassion and deliberately seeks revenge, even for an injustice done to his close relatives, he commits a secondary offense.

22. Arrogance and Failure to Request the Dharma
A disciple of the Buddha who has only recently left home and is still a novice in the Dharma should not be conceited. He must not refuse instruction on the sutras and moral codes from Dharma Masters on account of his own intelligence, worldly learning, high position, advanced age, noble lineage, vast understanding, great merits, extensive wealth and possessions, etc. Although these Masters may be of humble birth, young in age, poor, or suffering physical disabilities, they may still have genuine virtue and deep understanding of sutras and moral codes. The novice Bodhisattva should not judge Dharma Masters on the basis of their family background and refuse to seek instructions on the Mahayana truths from them. If he does so, he commits a secondary offense.

23. On Teaching the Dharma Grudgingly
After my passing, if a disciple should, with a wholesome mind, wish to receive the Bodhisattva precepts, he may make a vow to do so before the images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and practice repentance before these images for seven days. If he then experiences a vision, he has received the precepts. If he does not, he should continue doing so for fourteen days, twenty-one days, or even a whole year, seeking to witness an auspicious sign. After witnessing such a sign, he could, in front of images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, formally receive the precepts. If he has not witnessed such a sign, although he may have accepted the precepts before the Buddha images, he has not actually received the precepts. However, the witnessing of auspicious signs is not necessary if the disciple receives the precepts directly from a Dharma Master who has himself received the precepts. Why is this so? It is because this is a case of transmission from Master to Master and therefore all that is required is a mind of utter sincerity and respect on the part of the disciple. If, within a radius of some three hundred fifty miles, a disciple cannot find a Master capable of conferring the Bodhisattva precepts, he may seek to receive them in front of Buddha or Bodhisattva images. However, he must witness an auspicious sign. If a Dharma Master, on account of his extensive knowledge of sutras and Mahayana moral codes as well as his close relationship with kings, princes, and high officials, refuses to give appropriate answers to student-Bodhisattvas seeking the meaning of sutras and moral codes, or does so grudgingly, with resentment and arrogance, he commits a secondary offense.

24. Failure to Practice Mahayana Teachings
If a disciple of the Buddha fails to study Mahayana sutras and moral codes assiduously and cultivate correct views, correct nature and the correct Dharma Body, it is like abandoning the Seven Precious Jewels for [mere stones]: worldly texts and the Two-Vehicle or externalist commentaries. To do so is to create the causes and conditions that obstruct the Path to Enlightenment and cut himself off from his Buddha Nature. It is a failure to follow the Bodhisattva path. If a disciple intentionally acts in such a manner, he commits a secondary offense.

25. Unskilled Leadership of the Assembly
After my passing, if a disciple should serve as an abbot, elder Dharma Master, Precept Master, Meditation Master, or Guest Prefect, he must develop a compassionate mind and peacefully settle differences within the Assembly -- skillfully administering the resources of the Three Jewels, spending frugally and not treating them as his own property. If instead, he were to create disorder, provoke quarrels and disputes or squander the resources of the Assembly, he would commit a secondary offense.

26. Accepting Personal Offerings
Once a disciple of the Buddha has settled down in a temple, if visiting Bodhisattva Bhiksus should arrive at the temple precincts, the guest quarters established by the king, or even the summer retreat quarters, or the quarters of the Great Assembly, the disciple should welcome the visiting monks and see them off. He should provide them with such essentials as food and drink, a place to live, beds, chairs, and the like. If the host does not have the necessary means, he should be willing to pawn himself or cut off and sell his own flesh.Whenever there are meal offerings and ceremonies at a layman's home, visiting monks should be given a fair share of the offerings. The abbot should send the monks, whether residents or guests, to the donor's place in turn [according to their sacerdotal age or merits and virtues]. If only resident monks are allowed to accept invitations and not visiting monks, the abbot is committing a grievous offense and is behaving no differently than an animal. He is unworthy of being a monk or a son of the Buddha, and is guilty of a secondary offense.

27. Accepting Discriminatory Invitations
A disciple of the Buddha must not accept personal invitations nor appropriate the offerings for himself. Such offerings rightly belong to the Sangha -- the whole community of monks and nuns of the Ten Directions. To accept personal offerings is to steal the possessions of the Sangha of the Ten Directions. It is tantamount to stealing what belongs to the Eight Fields of Blessings: Buddhas, Sages, Dharma Masters, Precept Masters, monks/nuns, mothers, fathers, the sick. Such a disciple commits a secondary offense.

28. Issuing Discriminatory Invitations
A disciple of the Buddha, be he a Bodhisattva monk, lay Bodhisattva, or other donor, should, when inviting monks or nuns to conduct a prayer session, come to the temple and inform the monk in charge. The monk will then tell him: "Inviting members of the Sangha according to the proper order is tantamount to inviting the Arhats of the Ten Directions. To offer a discriminatory special invitation to [such a worthy group as] five hundred Arhats or Bodhisattva-monks will not generate as much merit as inviting one ordinary monk, if it is his turn. There is no provision in the teachings of the Seven Buddhas for discriminatory invitations. To do so is to follow externalist practices and to contradict filial piety [toward all sentient beings]. If a disciple deliberately issues a discriminatory invitation, he commits a secondary offense.

29. On Improper Livelihoods
A disciple of the Buddha should not, for the sake of gain or with evil intentions, engage in the business of prostitution, selling the wiles and charms of men and women. He must also not cook for himself, milling and pounding grain. Neither may he act as a fortune-teller predicting the gender of children, reading dreams and the like. Nor shall he practice sorcery, work as a trainer of falcons or hunting dogs, nor make a living concocting hundreds and thousands of poisons from deadly snakes, insects, or from gold and silver. Such occupations lack mercy, compassion, and filial piety [toward sentient beings]. Therefore, if a Bodhisattva intentionally engages in these occupations, he commits a secondary offense.

30. On Handling Business Affairs for the Laity
A disciple of the Buddha must not, with evil intentions, slander the Triple Jewel while pretending to be their close adherent -- preaching the Truth of Emptiness while his actions are in the realm of Existence. Furthermore, he must not handle worldly affairs for the laity, acting as a go-between or matchmaker -- creating the karma of attachment. Moreover, during the six days of fasting each month and the three months of fasting each year, a disciple should strictly observe all precepts, particularly against killing, stealing and the rules against breaking the fast. Otherwise, the disciple commits a secondary offense.A Bodhisattva should respectfully study and observe the ten preceding precepts. They are explained in detail in the Chapter on "Prohibitions".

31. Rescuing Clerics Along with Sacred Objects
After my passing, in the evil periods that will follow, there will be externalists, evil persons, thieves and robbers who steal and sell statues and paintings of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and [those to whom respect is due such as] their parents. They may even peddle copies of sutras and moral codes, or sell monks, nuns or those who follow the Bodhisattva Path or have developed the Bodhi Mind to serve as retainers or servants to officials and others.A disciple of the Buddha, upon witnessing such pitiful events, must develop a mind of compassion and find ways to rescue and protect all persons and valuables, raising funds wherever he can for this purpose. If a Bodhisattva does not act in this manner, he commits a secondary offense.

32. On Harming Sentient Beings
A disciple of the Buddha must not sell knives, clubs, bows, arrows, other life-taking devices, nor keep altered scales or measuring devices. He should not abuse his governmental position to confiscate people's possessions, nor should he, with malice at heart, restrain or imprison others or sabotage their success. In addition, he should not raise cats, dogs, foxes, pigs and other such animals. If he intentionally does such things, he commits a secondary offense.

33. On Watching Improper Activities
A disciple of the Buddha must not, with evil intentions, watch people fighting or the battling of armies, rebels, gangs and the like, should not listen to the sounds of conch shells, drums, horns, guitars, flutes, lutes, songs or other music, nor should he be party to any form of gambling, whether dice, checkers, or the like. Furthermore, he should not practice fortune-telling or divination nor should he be an accomplice to thieves and bandits. He must not participate in any of these activities. If instead, he intentionally does so, he commits a secondary offense.

34. Temporary Abandoning of the Bodhi Mind
A disciple of the Buddha should observe the Bodhisattva precepts every day, whether walking, standing, reclining or seated -- reading and reciting them day and night. He should be resolute in keeping the precepts, as strong as a diamond, as desperate as a shipwrecked person clinging to a small log while attempting to cross the ocean, or as principled as the "Bhiksu bound by reeds". Furthermore, he should always have a wholesome faith in the teachings of the Mahayana. Conscious that sentient beings are Buddhas-to-be while the Buddhas are realized Buddhas, he should develop the Bodhi Mind and maintain it in each and every thought, without retrogression.If a Bodhisattva has but a single thought in the direction of the Two Vehicles or externalist teachings, he commits a secondary offense.

35. Failure to Make Great Vows
A Bodhisattva must make many great vows -- to be filial to his parents and Dharma teachers, to meet good spiritual advisors, friends, and colleagues who will keep teaching him the Mahayana sutras and moral codes as well as the Stages of Bodhisattva Practice (the Ten Dwellings, the Ten Practices, the Ten Dedications, and the Ten Grounds). He should further vow to understand these teachings clearly so that he can practice according to the Dharma while resolutely keeping the precepts of the Buddhas. If necessary, he should lay down his life rather than abandon this resolve for even a single moment. If a Bodhisattva does not make such vows, he commits a secondary offense.

36. Failure to Make Resolutions
Once a Bodhisattva has made these Great Vows, he should strictly keep the precepts of the Buddhas and make the following resolutions:

1.- I would rather jump into a raging blaze, a deep abyss, or into a mountain of knives, than engage in impure actions with any woman, thus violating the sutras and moral codes of the Buddhas of the Three Periods of Time.

2.- I would rather wrap myself a thousand times with a red-hot iron net, than let this body, should it break the precepts, wear clothing provided by the faithful. I would rather swallow red hot iron pellets and drink molten iron for hundreds of thousands of eons, than let this mouth, should it break the precepts, consume food and drink provided by the faithful. I would rather lie on a bonfire or a burning iron net than let this body, should it break the precepts, rest on bedding, blankets and mats supplied by the faithful. I would rather be impaled for eons by hundreds of spears, than let this body, should it break the precepts, receive medications from the faithful. I would rather jump into a cauldron of boiling oil and roast for hundreds of thousands of eons, than let this body, should it break the precepts, receive shelter, groves, gardens, or fields from the faithful.

3.- I would rather be pulverized from head to toe by an iron sledge hammer, than let this body, should it break the precepts, accept respect and reverence from the faithful.

4.- I would rather have both eyes blinded by hundreds of thousands of swords and spears, rather than break the precepts by looking at beautiful forms. [In the same vein, I shall keep my mind from being sullied by exquisite sounds, fragrances, food and sensations.]

5.- I further vow that all sentient beings will achieve Buddhahood.If a disciple of the Buddha does not make the preceding great resolutions, he commits a secondary offense.

37. Traveling in Dangerous Areas
[As a cleric], a disciple of the Buddha should engage in ascetic practices twice each year. He should sit in meditation, winter and summer, and observe the summer retreat. During those periods, he should always carry eighteen essentials such as a willow branch (for a toothbrush), ash-water (for soap), the traditional three clerical robes, an incense burner, a begging bowl, a sitting mat, a water filter, bedding, copies of sutras and moral codes as well as statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. When practicing austerities and when traveling, be it for thirty miles or three hundred miles, a cleric should always have the eighteen essentials with him. The two periods of austerities are from the 15th of the first lunar month to the 15th of the third month, and from the 15th of the eighth lunar month to the 15th of the tenth month. During the periods of austerities, he requires these eighteen essentials just as a bird needs its two wings. Twice each month, the novice Bodhisattva should attend the Uposattha ceremony and recite the Ten Major and Forty-eight Secondary Precepts. Such recitations should be done before images of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. If only one person attends the ceremony, then he should do the reciting. If two, three, or even hundreds of thousands attend the ceremony, still only one person should recite. Everyone else should listen in silence. The one reciting should sit on a higher level than the audience, and everyone should be dressed in clerical robes. During the summer retreat, each and every activity should be managed in accordance with the Dharma. When practicing the austerities, the Buddhist disciple should avoid dangerous areas, unstable kingdoms, countries ruled by evil kings, precipitous terrains, remote wildernesses, regions inhabited by bandits, thieves, or lions, tigers, wolves, poisonous snakes, or areas subject to hurricanes, floods and fires. The disciple should avoid all such dangerous areas when practicing the austerities and also when observing the summer retreat. Otherwise, he commits a secondary offense.

38. Order of Seating Within the Assembly
A disciple of the Buddha should sit in the proper order when in the Assembly. Those who received the Bodhisattva precepts first sit first, those who received the precepts afterwards should sit behind. Whether old or young, a Bhiksu or Bhiksuni, a person of status, a king, a prince, a eunuch, or a servant, etc., each should sit according to the order in which he received the precepts. Disciples of the Buddha should not be like externalists or deluded people who base their order on age or sit without any order at all -- in barbarian fashion. In my Dharma, the order of sitting is based on seniority of ordination. Therefore, if a Bodhisattva does not follow the order of sitting according to the Dharma, he commits a secondary offense.

39. Failure to Cultivate Merits and Wisdom
A disciple of the Buddha should constantly counsel and teach all people to establish monasteries, temples and pagodas in mountains and forests, gardens and fields. He should also construct stupas for the Buddhas and buildings for winter and summer retreats. All facilities required for the practice of the Dharma should be established. Moreover, a disciple of the Buddha should explain Mahayana sutras and the Bodhisattva precepts to all sentient beings. In times of sickness, national calamities, impending warfare or upon the death of one's parents, brothers and sisters, Dharma Masters and Precept Masters, a Bodhisattva should lecture and explain Mahayana sutras and the Bodhisattva precepts weekly for up to seven weeks.The disciple should read, recite, and explain the Mahayana sutras and the Bodhisattva precepts in all prayer gatherings, in his business undertakings and during periods of calamity -- fire, flood, storms, ships lost at sea in turbulent waters or stalked by demons ... In the same vein, he should do so in order to transcend evil karma, the Three Evil Realms, the Eight Difficulties, the Seven Cardinal Sins, all forms of imprisonment, or excessive sexual desire, anger, delusion, and illness.If a novice Bodhisattva fails to act as indicated, he commits a secondary offense. ***The Bodhisattva should study and respectfully observe the nine precepts just mentioned above, as explained in the "Brahma Altar" chapter.

40. Discrimination in Conferring the Precepts
A disciple of the Buddha should not be selective and show preference in conferring the Bodhisattva precepts. Each and every person can receive the precepts -- kings, princes, high officials, Bhiksus, Bhiksunis, laymen, laywomen, libertines, prostitutes, the gods in the eighteen Brahma Heavens or the six Desire Heavens, asexual persons, bisexual persons, eunuchs, slaves, or demons and ghosts of all types. Buddhist disciples should be instructed to wear robes and sleep on cloth of a neutral color, formed by blending blue, yellow, red, black and purple dyes all together. The clothing of monks and nuns should, in all countries, be different from those worn by ordinary persons.Before someone is allowed to receive the Bodhisattva precepts, he should be asked: "have you committed any of the Cardinal Sins?" The Precept Master should not allow those who have committed such sins to receive the precepts. Here are the Seven Cardinal Sins: shedding the Buddha's blood, murdering an Arhat, killing one's father, killing one's mother, murdering a Dharma Teacher, murdering a Precept Master or disrupting the harmony of the Sangha. Except for those who have committed the Cardinal Sins, everyone can receive the Bodhisattva precepts. The Dharma rules of the Buddhist Order prohibit monks and nuns from bowing down before rulers, parents, relatives, demons and ghosts. Anyone who understands the explanations of the Precept Master can receive the Bodhisattva precepts. Therefore, if a person were to come from thirty to three hundred miles away seeking the Dharma and the Precept Master, out of meanness and anger, does not promptly confer these precepts, he commits a secondary offense.

41. Teaching for the Sake of Profit
If a disciple of the Buddha, when teaching others and developing their faith in the Mahayana, should discover that a particular person wishes to receive the Bodhisattva precepts, he should act as a teaching master and instruct that person to seek out two Masters, a Dharma Master and a Precept Master. These two Masters should ask the Precept candidate whether he has committed any of the Seven Cardinal Sins in this life. If he has, he cannot receive the precepts. If not, he may receive the precepts. If he has broken any of the Ten Major Precepts, he should be instructed to repent before the statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. He should do so six times a day and recite the Ten Major and Forty-eight Minor Precepts, paying respect with utter sincerity to the Buddhas of the Three Periods of Time. He should continue in this manner until he receives an auspicious response, which could occur after seven days, fourteen days, twenty-one days, or even a year. Examples of auspicious signs include: experiencing the Buddhas rub the crown of one's head, or seeing lights, halos, flowers and other such rare phenomena. The witnessing of an auspicious sign indicates that the candidate's karma has been dissipated. Otherwise, although he has repented, it was of no avail. He still has not received the precepts. However, the merits accrued will increase his chances of receiving the precepts in a future lifetime. Unlike the case of a major Bodhisattva precept, if a candidate has violated any of the Forty-eight Secondary Precepts, he can confess his infraction and sincerely repent before Bodhisattva-monks or nuns. After that, his offense will be eradicated. The officiating Master, however, must fully understand the Mahayana sutras and moral codes, the secondary as well as the major Bodhisattva precepts, what constitutes an offense and what does not, the truth of Primary Meaning, as well as the various Bodhisattva cultivation stages -- the Ten Dwellings, the Ten Practices, the Ten Dedications, the Ten Grounds, and Equal and Wonderful Enlightenment. He should also know the type and degree of contemplation required for entering and exiting these stages and be familiar with the Ten Limbs of Enlightenment as well as a variety of other contemplations. If he is not familiar with the above and, out of greed for fame, disciples or offerings, he makes a pretense of understanding the sutras and moral codes, he is deceiving himself as well as others. Hence, if he intentionally acts as Precept Master, transmitting the precepts to others, he commits a secondary offense.

42. Reciting the Precepts to Evil Persons
A disciple of the Buddha should not, with a greedy motive, expound the great precepts of the Buddhas before those who have not received them, externalists or persons with heterodox views. Except in the case of kings or supreme rulers, he may not expound the precepts before any such person. Persons who hold heterodox views and do not accept the precepts of the Buddhas are untamed in nature. They will not, lifetime after lifetime, encounter the Triple Jewel. They are as mindless as trees and stones; they are no different from wooden stumps. Hence, if a disciple of the Buddha expounds the precepts of the Seven Buddhas before such persons, he commits a secondary offense.

43. Thoughts of Violating the Precepts
If a disciple of the Buddha joins the Order out of pure faith, receives the correct precepts of the Buddhas, but then develops thoughts of violating the precepts, he is unworthy of receiving any offerings from the faithful, unworthy of walking on the ground of his motherland, unworthy of drinking its water. Five thousand guardian spirits constantly block his way, calling him "Evil thief!" These spirits always follow him into people's homes, villages and towns, sweeping away his very footprints. Everyone curses such a disciple, calling him a "Thief within the Dharma." All sentient beings avert their eyes, not wishing to see him. A disciple of the Buddha who breaks the precepts is no different from an animal or a wooden stump. Hence, if a disciple intentionally violates the correct precepts, he commits a secondary offense.

44. Failure to Honor the Sutras and Moral Codes
A disciple of the Buddha should always singlemindedly receive, observe, read and recite the Mahayana sutras and moral codes. He should copy the sutras and moral codes onto bark, paper, fine cloth, or bamboo slats and not hesitate to use his own skin as paper, draw his own blood for ink and his marrow for ink solvent, or split his bones for use as pens. He should use precious gems, priceless incense and flowers and other precious things to make and adorn covers and cases to store the sutras and codes. Hence, if he does not make offerings to the sutras and moral codes, in accordance with the Dharma, he commits a secondary offense.

45. Failure to Teach Sentient Beings
A disciple of the Buddha should develop a mind of Great Compassion. Whenever he enters people's homes, villages, cities or towns, and sees sentient beings, he should say aloud, "You sentient beings should all take the Three Refuges and receive the Ten [Major Bodhisattva] Precepts." Should he come across cows, pigs, horses, sheep and other kinds of animals, he should concentrate and say aloud, "You are now animals; you should develop the Bodhi Mind." A Bodhisattva, wherever he goes, be it climbing a mountain, entering a forest, crossing a river, or walking through a field should help all sentient beings develop the Bodhi Mind. If a disciple of the Buddha does not wholeheartedly teach and rescue sentient beings in such a manner, he commits a secondary offense.

46. Preaching in an Inappropriate Manner
A disciple of the Buddha should always have a mind of Great Compassion to teach and transform sentient beings. Whether visiting wealthy and aristocratic donors or addressing Dharma gatherings, he should not remain standing while explaining the Dharma to laymen, but should occupy a raised seat in front of the lay assembly.A Bhiksu serving as Dharma instructor must not be standing while lecturing to the Fourfold Assembly. During such lectures, the Dharma Master should sit on a raised seat amidst flowers and incense, while the Fourfold Assembly must listen from lower seats. The Assembly must respect and follow the Master like filial sons obeying their parents or Brahmans worshipping fire. If a Dharma Master does not follow these rules while preaching the Dharma, he commits a secondary offense.

47. On Regulations Against the Dharma
A disciple of the Buddha who has accepted the precepts of the Buddhas with a faithful mind, must not use his high official position (as a king, prince, official, etc.) to undermine the moral code of the Buddhas. He may not establish rules and regulations preventing the four kinds of lay disciples from joining the Order and practicing the Way, nor may he prohibit the making of Buddha or Bodhisattva images, statues and stupas, or the printing and distribution of sutras and codes. Likewise, he must not establish rules and regulations placing controls on the Fourfold Assembly. If highly placed lay disciples engage in actions contrary to the Dharma, they are no different from vassals in the service of [illegitimate] rulers. A Bodhisattva should rightfully receive respect and offerings from all. If instead, he is forced to defer to officials, this is contrary to the Dharma, contrary to the moral code. Hence, if a king or official has received the Bodhisattva precepts with a wholesome mind, he should avoid offenses that harm the Three Jewels. If instead, he intentionally commits such acts, he is guilty of a secondary offense.

48. On Destroying the Dharma
A disciple of the Buddha who becomes a monk with wholesome intentions must not, for fame or profit, explain the precepts to kings or officials in such a way as to cause monks, nuns or laymen who have received the Bodhisattva precepts to be tied up, thrown into prison or forcefully conscripted. If a Bodhisattva acts in such a manner, he is no different from a worm in a lion's body, eating away at the lion's flesh. This is not something a worm living outside the lion can do. Likewise, only disciples of the Buddhas can bring down the Dharma -- no externalist or demon can do so.Those who have received the precepts of the Buddha should protect and observe them just as a mother would care for her only child or a filial son his parents. They must not break the precepts. If a Bodhisattva hears externalists or evil-minded persons speak ill of, or disparage, the precepts of the Buddhas, he should feel as though his heart were pierced by three hundred spears, or his body stabbed with a thousand knives or thrashed with a thousand clubs. He would rather suffer in the hells himself for a hundred eons than hear evil beings disparage the precepts of the Buddha. How much worse it would be if the disciple were to break the precepts himself or incite others to do so! This is indeed an unfilial mind! Hence, if he violates the precepts intentionally, he commits a secondary offense. The preceding nine precepts should be studied and respectfully observed with utmost faith.

VII. Conclusion

The Buddha said, "All of you disciples! These are the Forty-eight Secondary Precepts that you should observe. Bodhisattvas of the past have recited them, those of the future will recite them, those of the present are now reciting them. "Disciples of the Buddha! You should all listen! These Ten Major and Forty-eight Secondary Precepts are recited by all Buddhas of the Three Periods of Time -- past, present, and future. I now recite them as well."

VIII. Epilogue
The Buddha continued: "Everyone in the Assembly -- kings, princes, officials, Bhiksus, Bhiksunis, laymen, laywomen and those who have received the Bodhisattva precepts -- should receive and observe, read and recite, explain and copy these precepts of the eternal Buddha Nature so that they can circulate without interruption for the edification of all sentient beings. They will then encounter the Buddhas and receive the teachings from each one in succession. Lifetime after lifetime, they will escape the Three Evil Paths and the Eight Difficulties and will always be reborn in the human and celestial realms." I have concluded a general explanation of the precepts of the Buddhas beneath this Bodhi Tree. All in this Assembly should singlemindedly study the Pratimoksa precepts and joyfully observe them. These precepts are explained in detail in the exhortation section of the "Markless Celestial King" chapter. At that time, the Bodhisattvas of the Three Thousand World System (cosmos) sat listening with utmost reverence to the Buddha reciting the precepts. They then joyously received and observed them. As Buddha Sakyamuni finished explaining the Ten Inexhaustible Precepts of the "Mind-Ground Dharma Door" chapter, (which Vairocana Buddha had previously proclaimed in the Lotus Flower Treasury World), countless other Sakyamuni Buddhas did the same. As Sakyamuni Buddha preached in ten different places, from the Mahesvara Heaven Palace to the Bodhi Tree, for the benefit of countless Bodhisattvas and other beings, all the countless Buddhas in the infinite lands of the Lotus Treasury World did the same. They explained the Buddha's Mind Treasury (the Thirty Minds), Ground Treasury, Precept Treasury, Infinite Actions and Vows Treasury, the Treasury of the Ever-Present Buddha Nature as Cause and Effect of Buddhahood. Thus, all the Buddhas completed their expositions of the countless Dharma Treasuries. All sentient beings throughout the billions of worlds gladly receive and observe these Teachings. The characteristics of the Mind-Ground are explained in greater detail in the chapter "Seven Forms of Conduct of the Buddha Floral Brilliance King."

IX. Verses of Praise
The sages with great samadhi and wisdom Can observe this teaching; Even before reaching Buddhahood They are blessed with five benefits: First, the Buddhas of the Ten Directions Always keep them in mind and protect them. Secondly, at the time of death They hold correct views with a joyous mind. Third, wherever they are reborn, The Bodhisattvas are their friends. Fourth, merits and virtues abound as The Paramita of Precepts is accomplished. Fifth, in this life and in succeeding ones, Observing all precepts, they are filled with merits and wisdom.

Such disciples are sons of the Buddha. Wise people should ponder this well. Common beings clinging to marks and self Cannot obtain this teaching. Nor can followers of the Two Vehicles, abiding in quietude, Plant their seeds within it. To nurture the sprouts of Bodhi, To illuminate the world with wisdom, You should carefully observe The True Mark of all dharmas:Neither born nor unborn, Neither eternal nor extinct, Neither the same nor different, Neither coming nor going. In that singleminded state The disciple should diligently cultivate And adorn the Bodhisattva's practices and deeds In sequential order. Between the teachings of study and non-study, One should not develop thoughts of discrimination. This is the Foremost Path -- Also known as Mahayana.

All offenses of idle speculation and meaningless debateInvariably disappear at this juncture; The Buddha's omniscient wisdom Also arises from this. Therefore, all disciples of the Buddha Should develop great resolve, And strictly observe the Buddha's precepts As though they were brilliant gems. All Bodhisattvas of the past Have studied these precepts; Those of the future will also study them. Those of the present study them as well. This is the path walked by the Buddhas, And praised by the Buddhas. I have now finished explaining the precepts, The body of immense merit and virtue. I now transfer them all to sentient beings; May they all attain Supreme Wisdom; May the sentient beings who hear this Dharma All attain Buddhahood.

X. Verses of Dedication
In the Lotus Treasury World, Vairocana explained an infinitesimal part of the Mind-Ground Door, Transmitting it to the Sakyamunis:Major and minor precepts are clearly delineated, All sentient beings receive immense benefits.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sutra On The Buddha's Bequeathed Teaching

Translated from Sanskrit byYau Chin Tripitaka Dharma Master Kumarjiva
Translated from Chinese by: The Buddhist Text Translation SocietyDharma Realm Buddhist UniversityTalmage, California, USA

When Shakyamuni Buddha first turned the Wheel of Dharma, he crossed over the Venerable Ajnatakaundinya. The very last time he spoke the Dharma, he crossed over the Venerable Subhadhra. All of those whom he should have crossed over had already been crossed over. He lay between the Twin Sala trees and was about to enter Nirvana. At this time, in the middle period of the night, all was quiet,without any sound. Then for the sake of all of his disciples he spoke on the essentials of the Dharma.

All of you Bhikshus, after my Nirvana, you should reverence and honor the Pratimoksha. It is like finding a light in darkness, or like a poor person obtaining a treasure. You should know that it is your great teacher, and is not different from my actual presence in the world. Those of you who uphold the pure precepts should not buy, sell or trade. You should not covet fields or buildings, or keep servants or raise animals. You should stay far away from all kinds of agriculture and wealth as you would avoid a pit of fire. You should not cut down grass or trees, plow fields or dig the earth. Nor may you compound medicines, prophesize good and evil, observe the constellations, cast horoscopes by the waxing and waning of the moon, or compute astrological fortunes. All of these activities are improper.

Regulate yourselves by eating at the appropriate time and by living in purity. You should not participate in worldly affairs or act as an envoy, nor should you become involved with magical spells and elixiers of immortality, or with making connections with high ranking people, being affectionate towards them and condescending towards the lowly.

With an upright mind and proper mindfulness you should seek to cross over. Do not conceal your faults or put on a special appearance to delude the multitudes. Know the limits and be content with the four kinds of offerings. When you receive offerings, do not store them up.This is a general explanation of the characteristics of upholding the precepts. The precepts are the root of proper freedom; therefore they are called the Pratimoksha (lit. the root of freedom). By relying on these precepts, you will give rise to all dhyana concentrations, and reach the wisdom of the cessation of suffering. For this reason, Bhikshus, you should uphold the pure precepts and not allow them to be broken. If a person is able to uphold the pure precepts, he will, as a result, be able to have good dharmas. If one is without the pure precepts no good merit and virtue can arise. Therefore you should know that the precepts are the dwelling place for the foremost and secure merit and virtue.

All of you Bhikshus, if you are already able to abide by the precepts, you should restrain the five sense organs, not allowing them to enter the five desires as they please. It is like a person tending cattle who carries a staff while watching them, not allowing them to run loose and trample others sprouting grains. If you let your five sense organs run loose, not only will the five desires become boundless, they will be uncontrollable. They are like a violent horse unrestrained by reins who drags a person along so that he falls into a pit. If you are robbed or injured you will suffer for a single life, but the injury from the plundering done by the five sense organs brings misfortunes which extend for many lives. Because their harm is extremely heavy, it is impermissable to be careless.

For this reason wise people restrain the five sense organs and do not go along with them. They restrain them like thieves who are not allowed to run loose. If you let them run loose for a while, before long you will observe their destruction. Since the five sense organs have the mind as their ruler, you should restrain the mind well. Your mind is as dangerous as an extreme- ly poisonous snake, a savage beast or a hateful robber. A great fire rushing upon you is still not a satisfactory analogy for it. It is like a person carrying a container of honey who, as he moves along in haste, only pays attention to the honey, and does not notice a deep pit. It is like a mad elephant without a barb, or a monkey in a tree jumping about, which are both difficult to restrain. You should hasten to control it and not allow it to run loose. Those who allow their minds to wander freely loose the good situation of being a human being. By restraining it in one place there is no affair which cannot be completed. For this reason, Bhikshus, you should vigorously subdue your mind.

All of you Bhikshus, you should receive various kinds of food and drink as if you were taking medicine. Whether they be good or bad, do not take more or less of them, but use them to cure hunger and thirst and to maintain the body. Bhikshus should be the same way as bees gathering from flowers, only taking the pollen without harming their form or scent; receive peoples' offerings to put an end to distress, but do not seek to obtain too much and spoil their good hearts. Be like a wise man, who having estimated the load that suits the strength of his ox, does not exceed that amount and exhaust its strength.

All of you Bhikshus, during the day, with a vigorous mind, cultivate the Dharma and don't allow the opportunity to be lost. In the first and last periods of the night also do not be lax, and during the middle period of the night, chant Sutras to make yourself well informed. Do not let the causes and conditions of sleep cause your single life to pass in vain, so that you don't obtain anything at all. You should be mindful of the fire of impermanence which burns up all the world. Seek to cross yourself over and do not sleep. The robber afflictions are always about to kill you even more than your enemies. How can you sleep? How can you not rouse yourself to awaken? With the hook of the precepts you should quickly remove the poisonous snake afflictions that are sleeping in your heart. When the sleeping snake is gone, then you can sleep at ease. Those who sleep even though it hasn't yet gone, are without shame. The clothing of shame, among all adornments, is the very best. Shame can be compared to an iron barb which can restrain people from doing evil. Therefore you should always have a sense of shame, and not be without it even for a moment, for if you have no sense of shame you will lose all of your merit and virtue. Those who have shame have good dharmas; one without it is no different from the birds and beasts.

All of you Bhikshus, if a person dismembered you piece by piece your mind should be self-contained. Do not allow yourself to become angry. Moreover, you should guard your mouth and not give rise to evil speech. If you allow yourself to have thoughts of anger, you will hinder your own Way, and lose the merit and virtue you have gained. Patience is a virtue which neither upholding the precepts nor the ascetic practises are able to compare with. One who is able to practise patience can be called a great person who has strength; if you are unable to happily and patiently undergo the poison of malicious abuse, as if drinking sweet dew, you cannot be called a wise person who has entered the Way. Why is this? The harm from anger ruins all good dharmas and destroys one's good reputation. People of the present and of the future will not even wish to see this person. You should know that a heart of anger is worse than a fierce fire. You should always guard against it, and not allow it to enter you, for of the thieves which rob one's merit and virtue, none surpasses anger. Anger may be excusable in lay people who indulge in desires, and in people who do not cultivate the Way, who are without the means to restrain themselves, but for people who have left the home-life, who cultivate the Way and are without desires, harboring anger is impermissable. Within a clear, cool cloud, there should not be a sudden blazing clash of thunder.

All of you Bhikshus, you should rub your heads for you haverelinguished fine adornments, you wear the garments of a Buddhist monk, and you carry the alms bowl to use in begging for your livelihood; look at yourself in this way. If thoughts of arrogance arise you should quickly destroy them, because the increase of arrogance is not appropriate even among the customs of lay people, how much the less for a person who has left the home-life and entered the Way. For the sake of liberation, you should humble yourself and practice begging for food.

All of you Bhikshus, a mind of flattery is contradictory to the Way. Therefore you should have a straightforward disposition of mind. You should know that flattery is only deceit, so for people who have entered the Way, it has no use. For this reason, all of you should have an upright mind, and take a straightforward disposition as your basis.

All of you Bhikshus, you should know that people with many desires, because they have much seeking for advantage, have much suffering. People who reduce their desires, who are without seeking or longing are without this trouble. Straight-away reduce your desires and in addition cultivate appropriately. One who reduces his desires is more able to produce all merit and virtue. People who reduce their desires, do not flatter in order to get what they want from others. Moreover they are not dragged along by their sense organs. People who reduce their desires have, as a consequence, a mind which is peaceful, without worry or fear. In meeting with situations they are always satisfied and never discontent. One who reduces his desires has Nirvana. This is known as reducing desires.

All of you Bhikshus, if you wish to be free from all suffering and difficulty, you should be content. The dharma of contentment is the dwelling of blessings, happiness, and peace. People who are content, although they might sleep on the ground are peaceful and happy. Those who are not content, although they might abide in the heavens, are still dissatisfied. Those who are not content, even if they are rich, they are poor. Those who are content, although they might be poor, they are rich. Those who are discontent are always dragged along by their five sense organs, and are pitied by those who are content. This is known as contentment.

All of you Bhikshus, seek quietude, the Unconditioned peace, and happiness. You should be apart from confusion and disturbances, and dwell alone in seclusion. People who dwell in quietude are reverenced by the heavenly ruler Shakra and all the gods. For this reason you should renounce your own group and other groups, and dwell alone in seclusion in order to contemplate the basis for the cessation of suffering. If you delight in crowds, you will undergo a lot of affliction. It is like when a flock of birds gathers in a great tree, it is in danger of withering and collapsing. One who is bound and attached to the world drowns in a multitude of suffering, like an old elephant sunk in mud, who is unable to get himself out. This is known as seclusion.

All of you Bhikshus, if you are vigorous no affair will be difficult for you; for this reason all of you should be vigorous. It is like a small stream flowing for a long time which is able to bore through stone. If, on the other hand, the mind of one who cultivates frequently becomes lax, it is like trying to make a fire by friction but resting before there is any heat; though one wants to make a fire, the fire is difficult to obtain. This is known as vigor.

All of you Bhikshus, seeking for a Good and Wise Advisor, or for a wholesome benefactor, does not compare with mindfulness. If you do not neglect mindfulness, none of the thieves of the afflictions can enter you. For this reason all of you should constantly collect the thoughts in your mind. If you lose mindfulness you will lose all merit and virtue. If your power of mindfulness is firm and strong, though you enter among the thieves of the five desires, they cannot harm you. It is like entering a battle wearing armour, thus there is nothing to fear. This is known as mindfulness.

All of you Bhikshus, if you collect your mind, it will be concentrated. Because the mind is concentrated, the production and destruction of the appearances of dharmas in the world can be known. For this reason, all of you should constantly and vigorously cultivate concentration. If you attain concentration your mind will not be scattered. It is like a household that uses its water sparingly and is able to regulate its irrigation ditches. One who cultivates concentration is also the same way; for the sake of the water of wisdom he well cultivates dhyana concentration so it doesn't leak away. This is known as concentration.

All of you Bhikshus, if you have wisdom, you will be without greed or attachment. Always examine yourselves, and do not allow yourselves to have faults, for it is in this way that you will be able to obtain liberation within my Dharma. If one is not like this, since he is neither a person of the Way, nor a layperson, there is no name for him. One with wisdom has a secure boat for crossing over the ocean of birth, old age, sickness, and death. Wisdom is also like a great bright lamp in the darkness of ignorance, a good medicine for those who are sick, and a sharp axe for cutting down the tree of afflictions. For this reason all of you should increasingly benefit yourselves by learning, considering, and cultivating wisdom. Even though a person only has flesh eyes, if he has illuminating wisdom, he has clear understanding. This is known as wisdom.

All of you Bhikshus, if you have all sorts of idle discussions, your mind will be scattered, and even though you have left the home-life, you will not attain liberation. For this reason, Bhikshus, you should quickly renounce a scattered mind and idle discussions. If you wish to be one who attains the happiness of still tranquillity, you only need to be good and eliminate the evil of idle discussions. This is known as not having idle discussions.

All of you Bhikshus, with respect to all merit and virtue, you should always have a single purpose. Relinguish all laziness as you would leave a hateful thief. That which the greatly compassionate World Honored One has explained for your benefit is already finished; all of you need only to practice it diligently. Whether you are in the mountains, in a desolate marsh, beneath a tree, or in an empty and quiet dwelling, be mindful of the Dharma you have received and do not allow it to be forgotten. You should always exert yourselves and practise it vigorously. You don't want to reach the time of death and be filled with remorse because of a life spent in vain. I am like a good doctor who understands illnesses and prescribes medicine. Whether it is taken or not is not the responsibility of the doctor. Moreover I am like a virtuous guide who points out a good path. If those who hear of it do not walk down it, it is not the guide's fault.

All of you Bhikshus, if you have doubts about suffering and the other Four Truths, you may quickly ask about them now. Do not harbour doubts and fail to clear them up.
At that time the World Honored One repeated this three times, yet no one asked him a question. And why was this? Because the assembly did not harbour any doubts.

At that time Venerable Aniruddha contemplated the minds of the assembly and said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, the moon can become hot and the sun can become cold, but the Four Truths proclaimed by the Buddha cannot be otherwise. The Truth of Suffering taught by the Buddha is actually suffering, and cannot become happiness. Accumulation is truly the cause of it, besides which there is no other cause. If one is to destroy suffering, the cause of suffering must be destroyed, because if the cause is destroyed then the result is destroyed. The path leading to the destruction of suffering is truly the real path, besides which there is no other path. World Honored One, all of these Bhikshus are certain and have no doubts about the Four

"When those in this assembly who have not yet done what should be done see the Buddha cross over to Nirvana they will certainly feel sorrow. Those who have newly entered the Dharma and heard what the Buddha taught, will all cross over. They have seen the Way, like a flash of lightning in the night. But those who have already done what was to be done who have already crossed over the ocean of suffering, will only have this thought: 'Why has the World Honored One crossed over to Nirvana so soon?'

Aniruddha spoke these words. Everyone in the assembly had penetrated the meaning of the Four Holy Truths. The World Honored One wished all in that great assembly to be firm, so with a mind of great compassion he spoke again for their sake.
"All of you Bhikshus do not be grieved or distressed. If I were to live in the world for a kalpa, my association with you would still come to an end. A meeting without a seperation can never be. The Dharma for benefitting oneself and others is complete. If I were to live longer it would be of no further benefit. All of those who could be crossed over, whether in the heavens above or among humans, have already crossed over, and all of those who have not yet crossed over have already created the causes and conditions for crossing over.

From now on all of my disciples must continuously practise. Then the Thus Come One's Dharma body will always be present and indestructible. You should know therefore, that everything in the world is impermanent. Meetings necessarily have seperations, so do not harbour grief. Every appearance in the world is like this, so you should be vigorous and seek for an early liberation. Destroy the darkness of delusion with the brightness of wisdom. The world is truly dangerous and unstable, without any durability.

My present attainment of Nirvana is like being rid of a malignant sickness. The body is a false name, drowning in the great ocean of birth, sickness, old age and death. How can one who is wise not be happy when he gets rid of it, like killing a hateful thief?

All of you Bhikshus, you should always singlemindedly and diligently seek the way out of all the moving and unmoving dharmas of the world, for they are all destructible, unfixed appearances. All of you, stop; there is nothing more to say. Time is passing away, and I wish to cross over to Nirvana. These are my very last instructions.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On Chanting "Amitabha"

Under the guidance of the Buddhist Yogi C. M. Chen
Written by Dr. Yutang Lin

The most popular practice adopted by Buddhists is the chanting of "Amitabha," the sacred name of the Buddha of the Western Pureland. Whenever I talk to people, I like to talk about the benefits of doing this practice. I talk from my own experiences and understanding of Buddha's teachings. Since many people know only a little about Buddhism, I present my ideas in simple words, with the sincere hope that the benefits will be shared by all who are prompted to do this practice.

Let me, first of all, talk from my own experiences:

In 1976, when I was a graduate student in the Group in Logic and the Methodology of Science at the University of California, Berkeley, I came across a Chinese Gong-fu novel Tian Long Ba Bu (i.e., the eight departments of gods, dragons, etc.) The author incorporates some Buddhist philosophy into his story. Driven by a Logician's fondness for accuracy, I wanted to verify his version of the Buddhist philosophy, hence I went to the East Asiatic Library on campus. Alas! There were thousands of books on Buddhism in the library, and I didn't know where to start. Back home in Taipei we had a copy of the Diamond Sutra on the altar, so I felt a kind of familiarity with it. Thus, I began my study on Buddhism by reading various annotations on this Sutra. The next three years I read quite a few books on Buddhism; gradually my interest shifted toward the study of classical Chan (Zen) stories (i.e., the Gong-An's of Chan masters.) Nevertheless, I gradually came to realize that reading by itself is not a reliable method. On the one hand, my interpretation of the same story would change from time to time, and I wouldn't know when I had the right one; on the other hand, even if my understanding of the philosophy were quite good, it was not readily applicable when I had to face the facts of life. The practice of chanting "Amitabha" is consistent with the profound philosophy of Buddhism. As long as I couldn't grasp the essence of Chan at once, I might just as well adopt this practice, the step-by-step path which is generally recommended for being safe and sound.

I worked rather hard on it; I tried to stick with it all the time. While chanting "Amitabha" I would even ignore visiting friends or relatives. Three months later I felt mentally and physically a bit more relaxed than before. During my first year of doing this practice, I chanted, on the average, ten thousand "Namo Amitabha Buddha" per day. Gradually I gained some supernatural experiences. At the time my accumulation had reached four million repetitions, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to move on to the tantric path of Tibetan Buddhism. I voluntarily gave up my social activities so that I had more time for my practices. On the day after I received my Ph.D., I donated all my logic books to either the Math Library or the Logic Group's small library. I have been a full-time Buddhist practitioner ever since.

Although I'm now doing the more advanced tantric practices, I still adhere to my daily chanting of 1,000 repetitions of "Amitabha." Since our lives are impermanent, if I fail to realize the tantric goal of attaining Full Enlightenment within this body, I'll definitely need to reach out for the salving hand of Amitabha Buddha. Until today (12/09/92) I have accumulated 8,426,000 repetitions of "Amitabha." After each and every Dharma activity I always turn the merits to all sentient beings for their rebirth in Amitabha's Pureland.

Let me tell you one of my supernatural experiences:

Some people think that chanting Buddha's name is superstitious or self-hypnotic. In fact, the numerous records of Buddha's miraculous responses to faithful Buddhists' appeals are still well preserved today in the Buddhist literature. They certify that, although supernatural experiences are not common to people in general, Buddha's answer to our calls can be realized. However, there are still people who do not accept these records as evidential, and even consider these as mere propagandas. Thus I, serving as an eyewitness, would like to reveal my own story.
If I cited my dreams as examples, the critics would say: "You are so crazy about Buddha while you are awake; no wonder you dream of Buddha when you sleep. How could this be accepted as an example of supernatural experiences? It is nothing but your own imagination!" Therefore, the example I give below is not a dream; it happened when I was fully conscious and among a group of over 1,000 people.

The 16th Karmapa, the spiritual head of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, came to San Francisco six years ago. My guru Yogi Chen led my wife, our son, and me to attend the Black Crown Ceremony bestowed by His Holiness. The origin of this ceremony is, briefly, as follows: the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, attained Buddhahood and manifested as the Buddha Chakrasamvara; simultaneously 100,000 dakinis (i.e., female Buddhas) gathered around and cheered him in celebration. Each and every one of them offered him one thread of her hair, and the hairs are woven into the Black Crown for him to wear.

Since then there have been 15 reincarnations of Karmapa, and they all wear this holy crown. However, this spiritual crown is not visible to the ordinary human eye; only those with great faith or high spiritual attainment may witness its presence. The fifth Karmapa, Deshin Shegpa, was invited by the Chinese emperor Yong Le of the Ming dynasty to go to Nan-jing. So he went to China and gave the emperor many tantric teachings. Once during a ceremony the emperor witnessed the presence of the spiritual Black Crown on his teacher's head, hence he ordered a replica made and offered it to Karmapa. Karmapa accepted the gift and agreed to the emperor's request that whoever sees this crown will receive the same blessings as seeing the spiritual one.
Thus began the tradition of Karmapa's Black Crown Ceremony, and each generation of Karmapa had conducted it over and over again to bless the faithful. Before the ceremony my guru taught me the mantra of Karmapa, and instructed me to recite it during the ceremony so as to become more receptive to the blessings. Guru Chen also explained to me that concurrent with the present Karmapa's wearing the crown, the first Karmapa would be spiritually present and we should stand up to express our respect.

The ceremony began with lamas reciting the ritual text and playing the ritual music, then His Holiness put the Black Crown upon His head. We stood up and I continued to recite the mantra in my heart. Right at that instant, when the Crown rested on His head, a strong force filled me. My blood circulation sped up and the force was so powerful that I shouted out the mantra in spite of myself. In the presence of so many people during a meditative ceremony, I knew quite well what my manners should have been. Nevertheless, such a force had never been experienced by me before, nor did I expect it. It simply came and took me over. Karmapa supported the Crown with His right hand, while reciting the mantra of Avalokitesvara and counting a crystal rosary with His left hand.

At the end of one round of the 108 beads, His Holiness took the Crown off. The force was with me all that time and the outburst of chanting from my mouth--to be more precise, from my heart--just kept going. Then, with the coming down of the Crown, the force left me, and my chanting quieted down. I was baptized by the Grace of Karmapa, the Dharma King. My experience, in Buddhist term, is called the sign of receiving initiations. In other words, I had, in fact, received the blessings. I was the only one there who did the shouting.

Afterwards I asked only my wife and our son to see if they also shared the same experience; they did not feel the force. It is not because Karmapa's blessings are partial to anyone, rather it's because I had accumulated over four million repetitions of "Amitabha," and that made me spiritually more receptive to the Grace of Karmapa. I hope that the above eyewitness account would help people understand that Buddhism is not just a philosophy, but also contains spiritual contents that could be experienced.

Living in this world, each one of us has more or less some worries. The universal problems of overpopulation on Earth, safety of the uses of nuclear energy, environmental pollution by industrial wastes, etc., plus the personal problems of health, career, social relations, family, etc., all weave into a web of sorrows. We would seem to be no better than the insects hanging on a spider's web. Aging, sickness and death arrive in no time, and we have no escape from them. Our lifelong efforts in the pursuit of wealth, fame, fun and pleasures will neither prevent the misfortunes nor prolong our lives.

Upon death all worldly efforts become futile, and the habit of worldly worries would render a peaceful departure impossible. Worldly things and worldly concerns take up the best of our time and energies, bring us numerous sorrows, and disturb us unceasingly up to our final moments. Were death the end of our consciousness, then the suffering would last but one lifetime. There are numerous records of reincarnations in the histories of mankind; how could we just ignore them as insufficient proof? Even today there are new evidential cases of reincarnation reported by researching scientists.

Buddhism teaches that our mentality at our final moments has the most influence on the outcome of our next rebirth. Shouldn't we reflect upon the goals and ways of our lives? Wouldn't it be better to go after a way of life guided by the wisdom of Buddha who is free from all sufferings? The teachings of Buddha are applicable, not only to our individual ways of life, but also to the direction and path for the human race. In a word, Buddha teaches us to "Forget yourself; Serve others!" A detailed and precise presentation of Buddha's teachings is beyond the scope of this talk, hence we go no further on this.

However, I would like to emphasize the fact that Buddhist practices can lead to the following:
1. The development of inner strength and tranquility that pacifies the storms of life.2. The increase of favorable circumstances and the reduction of misfortunes.3. The ability to give effective help to others through meditative prayers.

Above all, the most precious thing about Buddhism is its ultimate goal of achieving complete liberation from all suffering for all sentient beings.

There are Buddhist books collecting records of people who had obtained rebirth in the Pureland of Amitabha. Due to their diligent practice of chanting "Amitabha," many of them knew in advance the time of their departure from this life. Hence they could make their final arrangements in time, and bade friends and relatives adieu with grace, as if they were about to set out on a long journey. Moreover, their departures were often accompanied by miraculous phenomena, such as the coming of Amitabha Buddha with His holy attendants to welcome the dying person, supernatural lights, heavenly music coming from the sky, and/or extraneous fragrance, etc. In contrast, we ordinary people neither know when we'll have to leave, nor have any guaranty for a peaceful ending.

We may encounter an inopportune death, such as drowning, freezing, being shot, crushed or burned to death, or death due to diseases like cancer, heart attack or AIDS. After death we would go through endless transmigrations in the six realms--heaven, asura, human, animal, hungry ghost and hell--and endure countless repetitions of sufferings; while those who have gone to the Pureland of Amitabha Buddha are forever free from this vicious recycling of sorrows; we couldn't help but envy them. Fortunately Buddha's teachings are not patented by them; owing to the boundless compassion of Buddha, as long as we are willing to learn and practice the teachings diligently, we shall be at ease with life and death, and be liberated from all suffering.
Buddha gave various teachings to different people, always choosing the most appropriate one to suit the students' levels and needs. All the teachings from Buddha are sure paths leading to complete liberation, but which one is the best for ordinary people? The traditional choice is the practice of chanting "Amitabha." Even today it remains the most popular practice adopted by Buddhists all over the world.

From the Talk above we know that Buddhist philosophy is based on empirical spirituality and that Buddhist practices are indeed beneficial. Now I am going to explain the practice of chanting "Amitabha," using learning to swim as my favorite analogy. No matter how many books on swimming you have studied in great details, if you haven't tried it out in water, you won't be able to swim! Children who live by the ocean and play daily in the water learn to swim in no time, without reading any book on the subject. Most of them can even dive, surf and somersault in water; they are at ease and have a lot of fun! Of course, if they were to become experts, reading the right books would be helpful. But if their goal is simply to be able to swim, then reading becomes unnecessary. Likewise, studying Buddhist books is very important, but understanding the teachings without carrying out the practices will not float you through the tidal waves of life. Chanting "Amitabha," at the beginning, is like children wading; although with just a few tries a day, gradually they learn to float.

Numerous are the books on Buddhism; abstract and complicated are the terms and theories contained therein. One could hardly expect a thorough grasp of its essence in a short time. Furthermore, real understanding of the teachings can be gained only through the extraordinary experiences that come with the actual practices. The habit and experiences of chanting "Amitabha" will enable one to gain insights into Buddha's teachings. Moreover, the essential benefits of Buddhism would be tasted by the practitioners, and this is what really matters.
As modern men we generally have good common sense about diet and hygiene. We are selective and particular as to what to eat, how much to take, and how to combine and prepare the food. In contrast, we are generally quite careless about our consumption of spiritual foods. Willy-nilly we take in the commercials and gossips from television programs, newspapers or magazines. Upon reflection we would seem to be a spiritual dump filled up with all kinds of junk. This junk will not get us out of our sorrows; yet they are sure to incite our worldly desires or reinforce our prejudices.

Thus we become even tenser and more sorrowful. What a waste of life! If we build up the habit of chanting "Amitabha," it would be like drinking milk or fresh water, or eating nutritious food. A sorrowful mind is like a glass of muddy water; as the pure drops of "Amitabha" drip in continuously, at first the muddy water runs over, finally it becomes a cup of clear water--pure, clean and ready to serve. People who chant "Amitabha" not only benefit themselves. They will try to persuade others to do the same so as to share the same benefits. They will also help dying people by chanting "Amitabha" near the deathbed, or pray for people who are in trouble. In fact, the basic principle behind all Buddhist practices is to help all beings to achieve Buddhahood. Hence chanting "Amitabha" would transform one into, so to speak, a glass of fresh water that would quench others' thirst.

The holy name "Amitabha" can purify our minds, because Buddha transmits His blessings through it. Beginners could hardly sense this; old-timers may become aware of it. It is analogous to tuning in for a radio or television station. "Amitabha" is the particular frequency or channel that we want; our practice of chanting it, is an attempt to tune in. Beginners, with all sorts of worldly concerns in their minds, cannot concentrate on the chanting. Even while they are chanting "Amitabha" loud and clear, deep down inside there are still many thoughts running through, therefore, they are not tuning in to Buddha.

No wonder beginners cannot see Buddha's presence. Nevertheless, it is more a matter of sincerity and concentration than time, so it is also possible for a beginner to sense Buddha's grace, especially in the case of people who had done much practice in their previous lives. In general, however, we need to build up the habit of chanting "Amitabha," then gradually its strength will overcome our indulgence in worldly thoughts. Only then, with a pure mind, can we feel the transmission of power from Buddha. Like a 24-hour radio station, Buddha is transmitting His grace constantly; but we are unaware of it, simply because our minds are not tuning in.

Some advanced practitioners have witnessed the existence of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in the dream state; the more advanced ones have seen the holy ones in meditation, which is a state of high concentration with ease. Some practitioners have even visited the Pureland of Amitabha Buddha either in dream or in meditation. These dreams differ from the ordinary ones in that the contents are orderly, symbolic and in agreement with the teachings; they can be recognized by experienced practitioners and be interpreted systematically.

Some of these dreams show concurrent distant events, foretell the future or impart teachings; they are indeed meditative states of a lesser degree. We should not discard them as mere dreams and confound them with the ordinary ones that reflect and extend our confusions, desires, and emotions.

When worry comes, it wouldn't be stopped: we would lose our appetite, forget our thirst, and sometimes even stay awake all night worrying. Suppose you say to yourself: "I won't think about this anymore!" Such a thought just shows that you are still tied up with it. So it seems that there would be no easy way to leave one's worries behind. Moreover, the things that vex us are various and abundant. On our backs we are carrying so many burdens picked up along the road of life--no wonder the years could have hunched our backs. Chanting "Amitabha" is a simple yet sure way out.

All worldly thoughts and emotions are intertwined. The whole complex could be activated by the slightest stirring of any limb, although we might not be sensitive enough to be aware of this. It is not unusual for trivial arguments to lead to big fights, or minor misbehavior to be taken as great offenses; all the tiny, insignificant annoyances in the past may be triggered by a careless remark into a volcanic eruption. The holy name "Amitabha" is transcendental and free from the whirlpool of sorrows. It is ideal to do this practice at the same time daily, for at least a certain number of repetitions. The fixed schedule would help us to form the habit of practicing daily. The preset minimum number of repetitions would make sure that our practice won't deteriorate. Ideally, one should gradually raise his minimum to a higher number, just as swimmers would gradually increase their number of laps.

Besides the daily practice, it would be helpful to chant "Amitabha" whenever possible, e.g., while driving, waiting, bathing, doing chores, etc., and even in dreams. One may chant "Namo Amitabha Buddha" (meaning homage to the Amitabha Buddha, and the name "Amitabha" means boundless light and infinite life), "Amitabha Buddha," or simply, but with equal reverence, "Amitabha." As time goes by, our hands will slowly be untied from holding the big bags of sorrows on our backs. Then one day, all of a sudden, the bags will be off our backs, because we have joined our hands with Amitabha's.

Jogging has been a popular exercise in recent years because it is simple, effective and beneficial. Nevertheless, it wouldn't be very useful, unless you did it regularly and persistently. Chanting "Amitabha" resembles jogging in that profound changes would ensue only after long-term practices. Chanting "Amitabha" is the spiritual jogging for our minds; it will increase our wisdom and endurance, and produce a healthy and mature mentality. Why don't we get into the habit of spiritual jogging? We may even unify the physical jogging with the mental one. Just add the chanting to your jogging by running to the beat of "Amitabha, Amitabha, Amitabha, ..."
The resulting concentration will improve the effectiveness of your jogging. Moreover, the mental jogging becomes a daily rush toward the spiritual summit of Enlightenment. Daily the repetitions would bring us a certain height upward. The spiritual strength which ensues would shelter us against the storms of life; the spiritual power that may be acquired by devotees could even render help to sentient beings in distress.

We would like to take care of our family members, especially aging parents and growing kids. Nevertheless, unless we ourselves are dependable and well-off, we could even become a millstone to the family. Who in the world has the guaranty that no accident will befall him? The habit of chanting "Amitabha" would invoke Buddha's mercy to protect us--afflictions would be eased and things would change for the better. One who constantly chants "Amitabha" keeps a pure mind; he would naturally do no harm, but good. Consequently he will be well-received by society, and live a stable and happy life.

Taking good care of our folks involves not only the provision of physical comforts and mental amusements, but it is also important to comply with their wishes and likings. But, most of all, we should endeavor to help them feel peaceful and calm when they are sick or dying. This is of course no easy job, but it is not impossible. The best thing to do is to convert the whole family into Buddhists; preferably all would gather together to do this chanting day by day. This will bring about a harmonic and peaceful atmosphere in the family. When someone in the family is sick or dying, remind him to chant "Amitabha" and the rest of the family would take turn in chanting along beside him. Under Buddha's blessings the one-mindedness of the whole family would relieve the suffering and conquer the distress. Best of all, the deceased would get rebirth in Amitabha's Pureland.

Even when the person needing help, be he a family member or not, has no experience of Buddhist practices, he may still receive Buddha's blessings through our chanting and praying for him. It is customary for Buddhists to pray for the joy and happiness of all sentient beings. I believe that our sincere concern for others' well-being should include easing their pains and sufferings, especially when they are sick or dying. Handing patients over to the hospital, leaving the funeral to the undertaker, and paying the bills are not good enough; we should strive for spiritual help that are direct and most significant to the sick or dying. These considerations are among the reasons that led me to give up worldly activities for Buddhist practices.

The practice of chanting "Amitabha" won't cost you a dime. Maintaining the holy name in your heart will keep your mind clear and pure. Isn't it better than indulging in self-centered wishful thoughts compounded with emotional entanglements? At least it would be more relaxing and effortless. I have savored the flavor of chanting "Amitabha," and I do pray that you will also have the same good fortune. Please realize your chance by trying it out. Good luck and best wishes!

July 27, 1986 Written during a retreat


This article focused on the chanting of the holy name of Amitabha Buddha, but the ideas therein are not limited to this specific holy name only. For those who want to practice chanting, they may select other Buddhist holy names or mantras according to personal inclinations, for example, Namo Healing Buddha, Namo Avalokitesvara (Guan Yin) Bodhisattva, Namo Ksitigarbha (Di Zang) Bodhisattva, Om Mani Peme Hung, etc. The key point is to engage oneself deeply into one practice, i.e., to base one's chanting practice mainly on one specific holy name or mantra and practice it frequently. For other holy names and mantras besides the main one, one may chant a few repetitions during regular morning or evening sessions or at some other time. The wisdom and compassion of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are based on Non-Self, and they are indivisible in Limitless-Oneness. Therefore, one may choose any one of their names or mantras for practice.

This supplementary explanation is added in response to Ms. Yun-hua Huang's request.

April 9, 1998A study for the cultivation of harmony, California