Karmic obstacles and defilements are attached to a person’s soul according to the law of cause and effect. From a traditional Chinese medical point of view, these can hinder your energy and your blood circulation, leading to various illnesses. That is what I often say when I see patches of karmic obstacles concentrated on one area of the body – it means there are blockages in the energy channels that obstruct the normal circulation of blood in that area. The physical body then becomes ill. Changing your behaviour and cultivating your mind is similar to using your mind and your behaviour to switch on your inner light. For example, if you performed good deeds today, your mind feels more grounded and you feel happy as a result. And when you are helping others, with your body or your mind, you are opening up the window of your soul. You will therefore perform that benevolent action to help others.

Because the Buddha-dharma is profound, it is also invisible and intangible. But when I tell you that the Buddha-dharma is great, you may wonder how that is so. In fact, when you experience the hardest and most helpless moments, the Buddha-dharma already has a place in your heart. When a person suffers the most, it is also the time for placing the strongest faith in Buddhism. In the face of dire desperation and hopelessness, you really and truly can let go of everything. Why? Because only when heart-wrenching agony reaches its own deep-down nature will the Buddha-nature truly emerge. Then, you can accept the essence of the Buddha-dharma. On the other hand, when a person leads a wealthy or otherwise smooth-sailing life whilst experiencing no great hardship, they will generally not cultivate diligently. When that same person feels distressed and helpless and you reach out to them, that’s the time when they are most likely to start practising Buddhism. In helplessness, our prayer leads to the Buddha in the depths of our hearts.

When you are performing good deeds, you need to “see” the emptiness of your own nature.  In other words, as you are doing something good, you must at the same time feel that what you are doing is empty. This inherent emptiness is when you are doing good deeds by using your own nature – your mind is empty. Without any agenda or motive, you will truly appreciate the act of helping other people. However, when you help people with motives, they won’t think you’re sincere either. Doing good deeds whilst having any related motive at all will not land you the merits and virtues you seek. Instead, you will get only karmic rewards. But if you “see” the emptiness of your own nature, then you will be successful. Otherwise, you’ll only receive karmic rewards for doing it – not merits and virtues. When you help others but are yet to attain inherent emptiness, the deeds you do are only considered to be benevolent deeds rather than meritorious ones, because you have some motive or another for doing so.

As I often say, cultivation is the correction of your conduct. As you conduct yourself in life, you must cultivate. Conducting yourself is to make your everyday life an integral part of cultivation. Always correct your bad behaviour, whether it’s at work or just as you get on with everyday life. View the process of working as part of your cultivation, and therefore apply cultivation to your work. In other words, cultivate while you work, and work while you cultivate. Meld both work and cultivation into one as part of your daily life. Don’t assume that you cultivate only when you’re in the Guan Yin Temple, and then leave cultivation aside once you leave. Don’t forget about cultivating even when you work, and don’t forget about working while you cultivate. It’s just that simple. Every aspect of your work and your daily life, including every word you utter and every action you take, is all part of your cultivation.

A non-abiding mind is about letting your mind dwell nowhere. It’s like saying: “I don’t mind, it can be anywhere – it doesn’t have to be a particular place.” Similarly, your mind should not dwell on any particular place. When I say “an abiding mind”, what does that mean? It means that no matter what you pay attention to, be it your desire, what you want to eat, or what you want to achieve in your career or anything else, all these things count towards having an “abiding mind”. And when we talk about a non-abiding mind, it just means we don’t let any trivial matters dwell in our minds. We must discover our Buddha-nature, awaken our minds, and develop our potential for enlightenment.

Life is a combination of reality and illusion. Life is real, but sometimes it also feels like a dream – then suddenly it becomes very real. It keeps shifting between the two – it is real, but it feels like a dream. Or: it’s a dream, but it feels so real. I hope you remain cautious about your actions and your speech. In this dream-like everyday life, don’t casually sow the seed of karma.

BPT Vol1.29: With a Non-abiding Mind, Correct Our Conduct