Lecturer: Master Cheng-Yan
Subject: Learn Dharma with Fellow Practitioners(志同道合聞正法)
Truly, it is difficult to obtain human form, hear Right Dharma, and meet benevolent friends, and also to find those with the same aspirations and path and be able to maintain that aspiration.
Having overcome so many difficulties, do we really cherish what we possess? First, we should cherish our bodies. I am grateful that these past few decades have passed without any problems. I am more grateful for hearing Right Dharma, and for the good friends who surround me. They all share my mission and my path. So many people have made the same vow and resolve. What is most important is that having given rise to these aspirations, we have all upheld our initial resolve up to now. For this I am also be very grateful. Since we have overcome so many difficulties, we should have mutual gratitude, for ourselves and for others. We must be grateful for one another. We should seize these precious conditions that we have obtained. The Sutras indicate,
“Yet if ordinary people do not encounter and value guidance of good friends, there is no evil they will not commit.”
Although we have obtained human forms, if we do meet benevolent friends who accompany us and encourage us, perhaps “there will be no evil we do not commit.” These Ignorant delusions often arise in our minds. Once they arise, our conduct becomes erroneous. With mistaken conduct, we may commit many immoral acts; there may be no evil we do not commit. So, we should always recognize that we are ordinary beings. Once lost, ordinary beings have no way to attain self-realization. So, we always need to seek out benevolent friends. Since we cannot become enlightened on our own, we need others to guide us. Hopefully, those who are pointing our way truly know the path. Then we can avoid going the wrong way again. But those who are pointing out the path tell us that if we do not mindfully listen to their directions, a slight deviance can lead us far off course. So, we must be mindful. We should always maintain the conditions for the Right Dharma to permeate [our hearts]. Do you know what permeate is? If we stand next to an incense burner, and the aloeswood and sandalwood incense is burning, the smoke will be very fragrant. If we are standing there for a while, the fragrance naturally permeates our body. When the Buddha was in the world, He was walking with His disciple and saw a piece of rope. He said to Ananda, “Go pick up that rope.” As Ananda picked it up, he pondered why the Buddha had asked him to do so.
As Ananda picked it up, he pondered why the Buddha had asked him to do so.So, he held the rope very cautiously.The Buddha asked, “You picked up the rope. Why do you not hold it more tightly?”He answered, “The rope has a foul odor. ” “Why does it have a foul odor?”
Ananda said, “It might have once tied fish. ”“ It reeks of fish.”The Buddha said, “Alright, you can let go. Why would this rope which once held fish still smell even though the fish are gone?”“Perhaps after being tied to the fish so long, the stench of the fish has tainted the rope.”“This smell takes a long time to dissipate.”
The Buddha nodded.“Yes, A rope that once tied fish still smells even with the fish gone.”
“Ananda, you should be more mindful.”They continued walking and came across a piece of paper.The Buddha said, “Come, Ananda. Go pick up that piece of paper.”Ananda quickly went.As Ananda picked it up, he was smiling.The Buddha asked, “Ananda, are you happy to pick up this paper?”“Yes Buddha, this paper is very fragrant.”“How does it smell?”
“It smells like aloeswood or sandalwood.”The Buddha smiled and asked, “It is clearly just a piece of paper, why do you say it smells like fragrant wood?”Ananda answered, “It must have once wrapped aloeswood, so it smells like it.”“But the wood is no longer on the paper.”
Ananda said, “It was wrapped for a long time so its smell permeated the paper.”“Although the wood is already gone, the fragrance still lingers on the paper.”
The Buddha said, “Yes, Ananda.”“These objects are like people.When they are around something foul, its smell permeates them.When they are with something fragrant, they are permeated by its fragrance.”Ananda had deep insight upon hearing this.
The story is analogous to this passage of the repentance text.
So, allowing the Right Dharma to permeate us means always immersing ourselves in the proper teachings.This allows Dharma to enter our hearts.Listening leads to contemplation.
After listening, we will contemplate and reflect.Then we put these thoughts into practice.
After engaging in reflection and contemplation, we will naturally walk the path of goodness.
This is spiritual practice.
Ordinary people are confused and cannot achieve enlightenment on their own.
They need to be close to spiritual friends and allow the Right Dharma, to permeate them.
After listening to the Dharma, they contemplate and practice it.Practicing kindness brings merits; doing evil brings destruction.Eliminate wrongs to produce benevolence; then you will know the merits of repentance.
We feel that putting the Right Dharma into practice is our mission.So, we work to understand it experientially by putting it into practice.The realizations and understanding we come to are part of our internal practice. Our hearts have already manifested this power. So, we must practice internally and externally. When we practice kindness, we get merits.Naturally merits and virtues will accumulate. Merits are internal and virtues are external. So, after contemplating, we practice. Practicing kindness brings merits.
If we do not encounter and value benevolent friends who guide us, we remain ignorant of our karmic consciousness and create all kinds of bad karma.
If we see others taking right actions, we should encourage them. If they have not done so, we should teach them, and continue to encourage them until their kindness truly develops. So, if we have not met benevolent friends who encourage us, we will remain ignorant of our karmic consciousness and commit many wrongs.
Once, I do not remember when, I had just entered the lobby of the Da-Lin Tzu Chi Hospital. Among the many people there, I saw a young man in a wheelchair. I saw that his body was covered with tattoos, even his hands and palms.He was covered with tattoos of dragons, phoenixes, and many other things. I was curious and walked over. Since he was in a wheelchair, I bent over to pat his hand and asked, “Young man, what happened?” it seems he was injured in a drunken fight, so he was hospitalized and was in a wheelchair.
I patted his hand and said, “You are still so young, you should reflect on yourself. Hopefully the next time I see you, you will be one of our volunteers”.He smiled shyly and nodded his head. I said, “Then that’s a promise” .Then I left. Afterwards, I saw him at our recycling center on Da-Ai TV’s program “Grassroots Bodhi”. I found out that this young man had become a regular volunteer with Tzu Chi.He was working diligently at the recycling center. When our staff interviewed him, he said that when he was in a wheelchair and I walked over and told him specifically that. I hope to see him in our organization next time, he had a deep realization from that one sentence.Plus, our hospital volunteers kept him company. He said, “How could I not change?” In order to return to living a very dignified life, after he left the hospital，he contacted our volunteers, who guided him to our recycling center.
Now he is doing very well. Moreover, he said that after he returned, his friends often invited him out. So our staff asked, “What will you do?Will you be tempted by them again?”He answered, “I am going to guide them instead.”How ?He said, “After I went back ,I quit smoking , drinking and drugs.” In that positive group environment ,he made a resolve to either write Jing Si Aphorisms everyday or go volunteer at the recycling center. If this friends look for him ,he gives them，the aphorisms he wrote. So, he said that he has been able to influence many people.
I was very joyful hearing this. This is the effect of benevolent friends. Regardless of our causes and conditions all TzU Chi volunteers should resolve to be unsummoned teachers for those who are lost. We should willingly guide others on the path.Not only do we guide them ,we also keep them company.When they young man was guided to the recycling center ,it not only saved him ,it also allowed him to guide a group of lost individuals.
So , benevolent friends are very important. We must cherish good teachers and friends.
Next the verses read ,
“As one nears the end of one’s life ,all the negative manifestations of Hell appear all around.”
Everyone ,time passes quickly. If benevolent friends do not appear in time to guide us ,we make mistakes ,day after day , year after year.Negative karma will continue to accumulate;
until “life comes to an end “According to the laws of nature life is impermanent ;when death arrives ,“the negative manifestations of Hell all appear”If our thinking and conduct are negative ,our Eighth Consciousness if full of negative images.At death , these images appear one by one,and cause immense fear.
We often hear of the manifestations of retribution.Even before someone dies ,we may
hear them cry like they were in the Animal Realm. Or perhaps ,as if in Hell,they remain in great suffering , wishing to die,but living on in torment.
There are many such examples of retribution that are very frightening. So everyone ,in learning Buddhism we may experience joy or suffering in this world.
From birth , some people live a harsh life.In a poor family ,or may not get along with their parents ,or may suffer through many hardships. Despite this suffering ,their kindness still exists.As long as they have benevolent friends ,and causes and conditions to influence them ,they can unleash a powerful force of love and can empower many others.
Otherwise ,karmic cause and effect is inevitable. If we do not cultivate our minds well ,we will have all kinds of seeds in the fields of our hearts stored in our Eighth Consciousness when the time comes ,all karma manifests ,whether it is positive or negative.
That is why in life ,sometimes we get what we want ,and sometimes we do not. Many things become very complicated.We can see all of this in the world. It is rare to obtain human form
hear the Right Dharma ,meet benevolent friends and find those with the same aspiration and resolve. Furthermore ,maintaining that resolve is difficult.There are so many difficulties.
Everyone ,we have already overcome so many difficulties.They are no longer difficult as long as we maintain our resolve to practice. Maintaining this initial resolve is very important
because it is the truest thought.
So ,we must continue to sustain that moment ,turn that most sincere thought into something that lasts. We are truly very fortunate ,so we should cherish our blessings and create more blessings.We have overcome so many difficulties.
So we should always be mindful.