Lecturer: Master Cheng-Yan
Subject: Disasters and Blessings Are Created by the Mind (一切禍福唯心造)
Learning Buddhism is learning about our minds. Heaven and Hell are created by the mind. The Buddha of the Three Periods are also created by the mind.
Everything comes back to our minds. Hell is very painful. The millions of types of suffering we experience cannot be compared to the pain in Hell; clearly it is filled with extreme suffering. We describe extreme suffering by calling it Hell. That pain is truly indescribable, so we call it Hell.
We describe extreme suffering as Hell. The illness and pain of this world can be compared to Hell; bedridden patients moan helplessly. We create the many thoughts that cause disasters and blessings.
The illness and pain of this world can be compared to Hell. The Earth Treasury Sutra describes an Iron Bed Hell, where “one being’s suffering fills the entire realm.” Clearly, even if many people are suffering in Hell, they just focus on their own pain, without regard for others right next to them. In this Hell they feel like their suffering is whose than anyone else’s. So, their suffering fills up the entire Hell Realm and the entire iron bed.
What does the iron bed look like? The Earth Treasury Sutra explains that the entire bed is made from iron. It burns red-hot with fire. When people are on that red-hot iron bed, are they not in pain?
The bed in Hell spans millions of meters. When one suffers punishment, he sees himself covering the entire bed. When millions suffer, they all see their own body spread across the bed. The retribution of various karma is as such. The Earth Treasury Sutra.
Sometimes I see lay people who love to eat living creatures. They throw live animals into boiling water or fry them in a pan of budding oil, or stir fry and cook them. I am not sure if this pain is comparable to suffering in Hell. But when people cook and stir fry living beings, do they feel those creatures’ struggles? They have no way to feel it.
When they are sick, when they suffer as they lie in bed, they never think about how others feel. They just feel the pain in their own bodies. When sick people roll around their bed in pain, then they might have some idea of how that type of suffering feels. So, they wail and moan. Who can save them? Sadly, doctors and nurses can only provide limited help. Their family cannot help them either. This suffering is like being in the Hell of the Iron Bed.
Why does this happen? Without causes there would be no effects. Causes arise from the mind. An ignorant thought causes the Three Subtleties. External states lead to the Six Coarse Marks. Thus, internal temptations arise from external surroundings, which leads to much difficulty and suffering.
Our minds provoke extreme suffering; we create our own disasters and blessings.
So, the most important part of learning Buddhism is dealing with our minds. Let us take good care of our minds. Suffering is everywhere in this world.
Our office in Dallas came in contact with an old woman from Cambodia, who went to the United States in 1980. Back in Cambodia there had been lot of unrest. The Khmer Rouge and the army were often at odds. After she married, her nine children and her husband all joined the Khmer Rouge. They often clashed with the army.
I remember that we would provide aid to Cambodia. Aside from providing Cambodia with material aid, including bags of rice and fuel, we hoped they could set up an irrigation system. We also gave them seeds so they could sustain themselves. When they were ready to reap their bountiful harvest, the Khmer Rouge suddenly appeared. They snatched the harvested grain and set fire to the fields which were still waiting to be harvested.
We witnessed this when we tried to provide relief aid in Cambodia. When the government clashed with the rebels, the people suffered greatly.
This old woman, her husband, and her children all joined the ranks of the Khmer Rouge. They were raided by the government and the husband and eight children were killed. The woman was just 50 or 60 years old at the time. People at the Red Cross took pity on her, so they helped her and her remaining, injured son immigrate to America and settled them with other Cambodian refugees.
Some of those people knew that she was part of the Khmer Rouge. They all felt she was the enemy. “You Khmer Rouge were like bandits. You robbed or fought us. We couldn’t live in peace because of you. Your family created a lot of suffering for our people.”
So, they beat her son to death. Think about it. In this lifetime, aren’t the places she lived Hell on Earth for her? In that society, her beloved husband and children were sacrificed one after another. Finally she brought her only hope, her son, to the United States. But after they were settled in the refugee camp, a mob actually beat him to death. This was her life.
But this old woman was also very strong. After she left the refugee camp she got a job. She faced a lot of hardship, but survived. Then our Tzu Chi volunteers encountered her. Our volunteers in Dallas showed love for her, regardless of her ethnicity, her origins, her past. But there was a language barrier, because she spoke no English. Eventually we found someone among our volunteers who could speak her language. So we asked this person to talk with her. She was always lonely. Her countrymen all treated her like an enemy, so she was very lonely.
When she heard her dialect and felt how the volunteers cherished and cared for her, she began to open her heart and accept their help. When she saw them, she was as happy as if they were her children. Think about it. Hers was a very tragic life; she lived in Hell on Earth, was torn apart from her family. Think about the heart- and gut- wrenching pain of this emotional Hell. Only the person experiencing it can really know.
So, in a sense it is our mind that brings extreme and deepest suffering. But the way to escape this spiritual torment is also with the mind. After a long time undergoing these misfortunes, her affinities led Tzu Chi volunteers to find her. After that, she seemed to enjoy her old age because she was surrounded by volunteers who loved her like a grandmother .
She was the same person, but in different circumstances. We understand the difference is the mind. In the country of Cambodia, human minds made it what it was. The citizens did not live in peace. Otherwise, that place could be the “rice warehouse of the world.” If they had lived peacefully and worked happily there would be abundant harvests. We just gave them seeds, a motor to pump water, and fuel. Once they have water, seeds, and land, if they work hard, they can harvest bountiful amounts of rice. See, the rebellion and robberies took away people’s hopes.
Look at that land; there are many natural resources. But human minds created a hell. The suffering of human life is created by the human mind.
So, why are people born there? It is rich in natural resources, but people’s minds are imbalanced. That is the pull of karmic forces. So when we compare worldly suffering to Hell, can we come to a realization?
Can we realize that when we sow evil seeds, we reap evil fruits? Not matter how painful our retributions are, we cannot comprehend the suffering in Hell. It is only one millionth of Hell’s suffering. This sounds truly frightening. But listening is just listening. We cannot feel it, so we are still not scared.
So then next passage in the repentance text says,
“We hear this and remain peaceful and unafraid. We are not frightened or scared. With this spirit we will suffer repeatedly, which is truly painful. Thus we repent with deepest sincerity.”
Why is it that although the Buddha told us about all the suffering in Hell, we are still unafraid? “We remain peaceful and unafraid.” After we hear about these kinds of suffering, we should strive to feel it in our hearts. In this world we can see how people torture other animals. They chop them up and consume them.
If you think about it ,Yaksa in the Human Realm and Hell are very similar. Although we were not aware that these thoughts are in our minds ,now that we listen to the Dharma ,we need to have this awareness. If we remain unaware , we are the most tragic,lamentable ordinary beings who create so much karma.
Now ,we hear about many disasters in the world. So many people face pain and suffering
that anyone can truly understand.In this world ,this planet we share ,does the suffering of these people make us more alert?We ordinary people can see how we are like Asuras.
Entire societies are struggling with , fighting ,slandering and humiliating each other.
How long will it be before people self –reflect and come to a realization ?Everyone remains in a state of being “peaceful and unafraid ,not frightened or scared ”.So people continue to
create karma in this environment.
Therefore we need to know ,“with this spirit , we repeatedly suffer anew ”.We each think that we suffer the most. People nowadays are unwilling to experience pain. They cannot deal with hard work and suffering. If we give them a little responsibility ,they say there is too much pressure.
Studying causes them pressure ,Parents love also creates pressure , and so on. This can turn into depression. This depression is like the spirit “suffering repeatedly”.Our spirit ,what is in our minds,always feels that we suffer the most. “To suffer repeatedly” means we are repeatedly unable to open our minds. Then a tiny issue will grow and multiply.So we think we suffer the most. This is “to suffer repeatedly”.We continuously multiply our spiritual suffering. While still living , we enter a spiritual Hell.This is a mental Hell , a spiritual Hell.We do not self –reflect or raise our awareness of what we have done in the past. We must willingly accept the retributions we now face.
Some people refuse to willingly accept them ,so they suffer more. When we listen to Tzi Chi volunteers share ,some have experience with young children who are mentally troubled or
physically challenged. Sometimes we hear people say ,“I want us to die together ”“He tortures me so much ”.
But after guidance from Tzi Chi volunteers,they understand and instead say ,“I willingly accept this , I’m grateful”“My child is here to help eliminate my karma”“I willingly accept”
“that my husband is also eliminating my karma”.They went from being unwilling
to willingly accepting.
So ,now they look back and are grateful. They completely eliminated suffering and hardship.
Now they are filled with willing acceptance. With such causes and conditions ,there are now such retributions.
If we willingly accept them , we open our minds and escape a spiritual Hell.Do not “suffer anew”.Do not multiply that suffering. Otherwise we will endure spiritual torture. That will “truly be painful”.
If we suffer greatly in the Human Realm ,we experience Hell on Earth. “Thus we repent with deepest sincerity”.Let us all be more vigilant .With a heart of utmost reverence ,we must be careful and not make the same mistakes.Repent sincerely right away. That is how we truly save ourselves. Heaven and Hell are created by our minds. The Buddhas of the Three Periods are also created by the mind.
So ,we should all really undersatnd this. We describe extreme suffering as Hell.The illness and pain of this world can be compared to Hell ,as bedridden patients moan helplessly.
We create the many thoughts which cause disasters and blessings.
Everyone ,we must all be very mindful.Otherwise we will suffer extreme pain and hardship because of our minds.
Please always be mindful.