Firstly, I would like to tell everyone that the objective of learning Buddhism is to restore our inherent wisdom and our moral capabilities. We need to understand that spiritual practice is not an easy task, as it requires both our sincerity as well as concrete actions. This involves learning how to eliminate from our hearts and the world the bad habits that stem from our ignorance. We must learn to battle against and eradicate our selfishness, and to clear our minds. We must also correct our mistaken ideas, and rectify our erroneous explanations, perceptions and actions about the universe and life. Cultivating the mind is about cultivating a pure mind. With this pure mind, which is of utmost importance, we can eliminate all delusions, attachments, deviant thoughts and impure intentions. Therefore, it is only possible for wisdom to arise with a serene and purified mind. Once the mind is pure, the body will also be clean. And when both the body and mind are pure and clean, so will be our spiritual state.
All men are equal. But what matters most is the foundation upon which such equality is built. In this world, there is no such thing as absolute equality. Superficially, it is very difficult to ensure that all men are equal. In fact, this notion of equality is established on the basis of our innate nature. Hence, it requires us to use our minds to strike a balance. Equanimity is acquired through cultivation, which requires us to learn to get around our mental blocks with wisdom. Regarding our society at large, it is evident that some people are very fortunate while others are miserable and impoverished. In a family, how much effort a husband or wife has put in for the family will, in effect, be the test of their equanimity.
One must show filial piety and respect for parents and teachers. But why are the concepts of parent and teacher grouped together? As the saying goes, “A teacher for a day is a father for a lifetime.” This is because the teacher or master cares for their disciples with their heart and their soul. They help and protect their disciples with their energy field, which is by no means an easy task. There are things that even your own parents may not be able to accomplish – but they can be done by the master. Although our parents have nurtured us over the years, it is the master who saves our souls and our lives by leading us on the path towards Buddhahood. Many people suffer from illness due to karmic obstacles, with their parents often unable to save them. However, a master is able to do so, just as Guan Yin Bodhisattva is able to help a sentient being become spiritually awakened. It is important to clarify that the word “master” here does not necessarily refer to myself, Master Jun Hong Lu, alone. Rather, it refers to all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who guide us along the right path.
Having filial piety and respect are our innate virtues through which our own nature can be revealed. Moreover, respecting teachers accords with the teachings of the Buddha; it is also built upon the foundation of filial piety. Therefore, it is no use talking about respect for one’s teachers if they do not even respect their own parents and elders. As such, it is essential for everyone to respect one’s teachers and honour their teachings in order to accomplish their Buddhist practice.
Achieve harmony in your views through sharing common understandings. In other words, one must strive for consensus. When interacting with others, we need to be sincere and never rely on our deluded minds, as the deluded mind is constantly in flux. Only when we present our true hearts can we forge mutual understanding. After all, there is no deluded intention in our true hearts. Therefore, we need to learn how to let go of our discriminating minds and our attachments to people and things. For example, when two disciples have different opinions in conversation, how should they go about reaching consensus? Reconciling these differences requires the Boddhisattva’s wisdom. Only with a good grasp of this concept is it possible to resolve the disagreements and conflicts whenever they arise. This approach, although sophisticated and profound, is essentially about finding common ground so that both parties are able to share the same fundamental view. Otherwise, there is no hope for satisfactory resolution. It is worth pointing out that resolving differences does not require the suppression of yourself. Do not even try to suppress your anger. Rather, you should learn to defuse such instances of tension.
The highest state of cultivation is to resolve an issue amicably without restraining or suppressing oneself. The Chinese people often suggest that we bear and forbear in the face of every situation. As a matter of fact, forbearance is only temporary, and not the highest state of cultivation. You all have seen the movie, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (Note: a ninja, etymologically, is someone who endures). The Chinese character for forbearance, “忍” (Ren), depicts the sharp edge of a knife hanging on top of the heart. When forbearance is pushed to its limit, the heart can be broken as the knife falls. Hence, when first encountering differences of opinion, you should have learned how to resolve the matter. Initially, you can present all your points of view for discussion, and then try to use wisdom to resolve any disagreement.
“Harmony is invaluable”. Now, let us delve into the idea of “harmony” in this saying. Harmony means amicability, and it should be given top priority in whatever we do. Many regard harmony as simply living in peace with others, not realising that it actually means more than peaceful coexistence. If a very kind original intent is used when solving problems, then every problem can indeed be readily solved. Hence, this original intent is notably valuable. Only harmony can work to bring our views, opinions and lifestyles closer together.
It is hard to get to hear the Buddha-dharma. This can also be interpreted as: It is hard to meet a good teacher and get to hear the Right Dharma. In this Age of Dharma Decline, many people go around visiting temples to worship whilst offering incense or looking for spiritual masters. But do you know how many people in the world believe in Buddhism? Do you know how many of them really understand the importance of reciting Buddhist scriptures? You may have heard many people claim to worship and believe in the Bodhisattva. But as I told you before, and to put it in harsher terms, if someone simply prays to the Buddha but does not recite Buddhist scriptures, they are no different from those who do not pray at all. If they understand nothing about Buddhism, knowing not even the names of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, how can they expect to receive help from Bodhisattvas? To use an analogy: let’s say I like a university very much. But how can I expect to be admitted to this university if I do not want to make an effort or to study hard? This is a crucial point to understand.
It is hard to get to hear the Buddha-dharma. In this Age of Dharma Decline, you ought to seek the true Buddha-dharma if you wish to understand the essence of the Bodhisattva’s teachings and receive blessings from Guan Yin Bodhisattva. Nowadays, it is hard to emulate the Bodhisattva, and even more so the Buddha. A Bodhisattva is a being who has attained a kind of understanding and wisdom, whereas a Buddha is a being who has become fully awakened and completely enlightened. In other words, once you become awakened and have attained complete and perfect enlightenment, you are a Bodhisattva. To become a Buddha, you must attain unsurpassed, complete and perfect enlightenment.
Many people have the misconception that they have heard the Buddha-dharma after having made prostrations or having read books on Buddhism. However, the question is: what kind of books have they read, and what kind of Buddhist teachings have they listened to? You must understand this logic. As I have often said, when Shakyamuni Buddha was preaching his doctrines in India, he would let his disciples knock on every door whilst carrying their alms bowls to beg for alms, thus nurturing their Buddha nature. There are two rationales behind this. Firstly, it is to allow laypeople to cultivate their compassion by practising the act of giving. When they heard a knock on the door, they would say: “Oh! The monks are here. Amitabha!” By offering alms to the monks, they cultivate generosity. Secondly, during the Buddha’s time, many of the monks were wealthy merchants or members of royal families. Having been awakened to the truth spoken by the Buddha, they decided to shave their heads, wear the saffron robes and be ordained as monks. Begging for alms helps them to nurture compassion and let go of their ego and their arrogance. The Buddha wanted them to feel like ordinary men equal to all sentient beings. But, nowadays, have you ever seen a monk from any monastery begging for alms in the street? We do not necessarily have to follow whatever is said by a senior monk, or emulate whatever is practised by an experienced practitioner. In fact, cultivation is all about finding one’s true self and Buddha nature.
Spiritual practice in the present day requires certain adaptations. We must understand that what needs to be changed is the approach to learning and the spreading of the Dharma. However, the Buddha-dharma itself does not change with the passage of time; rather, cultivation should be done sincerely and conscientiously. In this Age of Dharma Decline, we need to study the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism, whose aim is to save people. Only by saving people can we gain true wisdom and strength. In this world of turmoil, Guan Yin Bodhisattva will manifest herself in various forms in her mission to save sentient beings. This is what I have been doing right here. It is my goal to get everyone to recite Buddhist scriptures, and help every family to live a better life. It is my task to propagate the Dharma and benefit sentient beings of all kinds.
Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are those who have attained unsurpassed, complete and perfect enlightenment. I am also doing what I can to help people develop their wisdom so that they may understand how Guan Yin Boddhisattva saves humanity from its suffering. For example, if an island is hit by a flood, helicopters and rescue ships come to rescue the victims. But will they save only a few people, or all of the people? In the course of saving people, they may encounter problems: some of the old, the sick or the invalid among the victims may fall into the water while boarding the rescue ship, while others may suffer a heart attack. These pitiful people are likened to those who do not have the chance, due to the lack of suitable conditions, to hear the Buddha-dharma. So if we truly want to save people, we must reach out to the public and adopt the Buddhist methods of listening, contemplation and practice. Think to yourself: are the monks helping sentient beings? Indeed, they are helping people to become spiritually awakened, and they do this in a manner that is honourable and open.
What constitutes the Chinese character for propriety, “正” (Zheng)? According to Chinese tradition, it is an integration of Yin and Yang, as well as Wu Xing (or the Five Phases). Let me say something more about this word, “propriety”. The topmost horizontal stroke represents the phase of metal, while the bottommost stroke represents the phase of water, the middle vertical stroke represents the phase of wood, the short vertical stroke on the left represents the phase of fire, and finally the short horizontal stroke on the right represents earth.
As such, unsurpassed, complete and perfect enlightenment refers to the ultimate perfect wisdom, which enables you to find the right path of spiritual practice. Don’t forget that in this Age of Dharma Decline, anything deemed to be upright and proper will be able to stand the test and brave the storm. It has been proven time and time again, and therefore, we must propagate Buddhism. As long as you have the energy to receive Buddhist teachings, you will definitely be able to understand them. But without this energy, you will not be able to understand the Buddha-dharma, even if it is transmitted to you in private.
The spiritual power you possess varies according to the level of cultivation in your past lives. As a result, the energy you can receive also varies. Nevertheless, we need to find the most proper and practical path that best helps us solve your problems in this Age of Dharma Decline. If a person still resists help from Guan Yin Boddhisattva to protect them, save them, and change their destiny, the only word I can use to describe such a person is “pitiful”.
The ultimate perfect wisdom refers to being completely free of any speck of confusion about the truth of the universe and of life. In other words, if you can calmly think, observe, and perfectly resolve a problem, you are said to possess perfect wisdom. Without perfect wisdom, your success rate will be reduced to half, but once you have acquired it, success awaits you in every endeavour.
Bear this in mind: as long as you respect the old and care for the young, your children will grow to respect you, and care for you in return. In the human realm, this is known as karmic effects. Contrary to the common belief that karmic effects only materialise after death, they can also take place within one’s lifetime. Just look at people lying by the roadside, begging for food and covered in filth and grime. Isn’t this an example of present-life retribution? Can we deny the existence of this retribution? What we must realise is that the effects of present-life retribution materialise very quickly, as does the shadow that follows us around.
If you go too far with the things you do, you will experience retribution in the present life. If you commit bad deeds within limits, the corresponding retribution occurs in the afterlife. And if the bad deeds are pushed over the limit, immediate retribution awaits. Therefore, there is a limit to anything and everything you do. Don’t go too far, or you will bring calamity upon yourself.
Some people cultivate their minds well. They are very sincere with a good conscience, paying respect to Bodhisattvas in whichever temples they visit. However, if they cannot find a good teacher and realise the goal of cultivation, they are merely believers. For example, a person may pray to Guan Yin Bodhisattva every day but fail to properly understand the Bodhisattva. They also will not know how to learn from Guan Yin Bodhisattva’s wisdom. The result is that they find themselves suffering terribly every day, and yet never comprehend why. Many people do not even know the benefits of praying to the Buddha until disaster strikes. If you cannot find a good teacher, and therefore identify the correct goal of cultivation, how will you solve your problems in this life?
Cultivation is about cultivating both your blessings and your wisdom. To cultivate your blessings, you must perform good deeds. On the other hand, wisdom is not something that can be acquired by an ordinary person. This is the most important issue. Wisdom, once acquired, helps you to solve whatever problems you face. The only way to gain wisdom is by reciting Buddhist scriptures and performing meritorious deeds.
Only by observing the precepts can one attain concentration; and only by attaining concentration can one attain wisdom. We must maintain a tranquil body and mind. In other words, from the precepts comes concentration; and what arises from concentration is wisdom. All Buddhists are required to observe the Five Precepts, namely: refraining from killing, refraining from stealing, refraining from sexual misconduct, refraining from lying and refraining from intoxication.
Do not assume that only Buddhists undertake the Five Precepts, as they also apply to ordinary people. Every normal person should refrain from committing unwholesome deeds including killing, stealing, sexual misconduct and the like.
I hope that you come to truly understand the reasoning behind these principles. Why are the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas against drinking alcohol? Because drinking alcohol causes a great deal of harm to people as it robs their minds of clarity and makes them feel demoralised.
This is why many government departments put up notices cautioning people that drink-driving is an offence. This demonstrates that Buddha’s teachings are, indeed, Right Dharma. This also explains why Buddhism is comprehensible and has taken root in many people’s hearts. Only things in accordance with propriety are able to receive the endorsement and adoration of all people.
One must break through confusion to become enlightened. What does confusion mean in this instance? It includes obsession with fame, gain, alcohol, lust, wealth, anger, greed, hatred and ignorance. Upon death, a person with insatiable greed will ultimately descend into the realm of hungry ghosts. Greed and craving is the root of all evil. When a greedy person cannot get what they want, their anger arises and they become afflicted, with a descent into Hell being the end result. A foolish and ignorant person knows only how to amass wealth or cause harm, with no intention to help others. In the future, such a person will be re-born as an animal. And as animals are attached to their own forms, they will then continue to undergo rebirth in the animal realm. To be foolish and ignorant is to be devoid of wisdom.
What I have told you is about the Right Dharma, Right Path, Right Faith, Right Mindfulness and Right Time. The purpose is to help you break through confusion so that you may become enlightened, and to help you learn how to alleviate your suffering and discover your true happiness.