Lecturer: Master Cheng-Yan
Subject: Diligently Cultivate Blessings and Wisdom (勤耕福田長慧命)
No matter how painful and difficult life is, the pain is not even a millionth of that in Hell. Though the world has suffering, it also has Dharma with which to cultivate and nurture Wisdom-life and plant fields of blessings.
Seize your time in this world because human life is so short. In this short lifetime, how much have we done? We have accumulated negative karma of lifetimes. Some people say, “This is just something minor, is it really that much? Am I really creating karma? I just spoke one lie. Are falsehoods and lies that serious? If we slander or say bad things about others, all we did was open our mouths. Do we create bad affinities just by doing that?” The Buddha told us that whenever we open our mouths we commit wrongdoings, create karma. That seed has entered our Eighth Consciousness. This means it came to fruition. The seed already entered the storehouse. The Eight Consciousness is like a storehouse. If we plant a cause, it creates an effect, and we reap the fruit. These seeds have already been planted in our Eighth Consciousness. Everyone, this comes from simply speaking. Creating good or bad conditions can happen just from moving our mouths. How can we not be more vigilant? We truly need to be more alert. In this world, when some people experience spiritual or physical afflictions, or troubles with others, they already complain, “Why do I suffer so much?” and so on. Although we suffer in the Human Realm, when compared to Hell, it is only a million of the suffering there. Because even if we live 100 years, it is just a day in Trayastrimsa Heaven. Our life is considered short. There is not much time. Did you know that if we descend to Hell, a day there is equivalent to hundreds or thousands of years here. There are numerous levels in Hell. The more painful the level, the longer the time. Compared to time in the Human Realm, time there is no shorter than time in Heaven. So, in the end, the Human Realm can be Heaven or Hell. In this world we have time to cultivate blessings. Although life is full of suffering, there is also Buddha-Dharma. Our world is a mix of joy and pain. There is suffering but there is also happiness. There is also room for us to choose. We must earnestly work to do good and eliminate things that are bad. We still have time to choose. Those who create blessings rise to Heaven. Those who create evil fall into Hell.
Those who create blessings rise to Heaven. Those who create evil fall into Hell. It is rare to be born human and hear the Dharma. We must take it and apply it, develop our Wisdom-life and cultivate fields of blessings.
So, we need to examine ourselves. The Buddha-Dharma is before us. If we do not take it and apply it, we waste our lives as time passes. Our Wisdom-life also becomes neglected. The Sangha is called “field of blessings Sangha.” This means that the Sangha are cultivating their own fields of blessings within. They take the teachings and apply them. They cultivate merits and virtues so that Wisdom-light can shine everywhere. The fragrance of virtue can be prevalent. So let us look at the fields in our minds. Have we pulled the weeds? Have we planted good seeds into the soil? Have the seeds we planted sprouted and fruited? The field of blessings Sangha must cultivate these themselves in order to transform those around them. So they cultivate their own fields of blessings and plant seeds of blessings all around them. This lets the pay practitioners they encounter accept and practice the teachings. Everyone will benefit. If we can accept the Buddha-Dharma, we should focus on developing our Wisdom-life, cultivating our fields of blessings. To develop our Wisdom-life, we must diligently seek out the teachings and also help transform sentient beings. Thus we accumulate blessed conditions, which is our foundation for leaning Buddhism. We need many blessed conditions to have the chance to attain Buddhahood. So, we must have internal and external practice in the Buddha’s time, even those born in Heaven, especially the heavenly lord Sakrodevanam Indra, were diligent after taking refuge with the Buddha. Early one morning, before sunrise, a thought arose in Sakrodevanam Indra, so he wanted to go seek teachings from the Buddha. When he came before the Buddha, the sky was still dark, but heavenly beings have heavenly merits. This heavenly lord, in particular, had a bright aura. His body emitted light. Late at night, his aura could illuminate his surroundings. When he came in front of the Buddha, he prostrated to Him and asked for His teachings. He came to ask the Buddha to confirm whether or not his thought was correct. His thought was actually a teaching, so he asked the Buddha to validate it. After he prostrated to the Buddha, he explained his realization. His thoughts were, “What should we eliminate to sleep peacefully? What should we eliminate to have no worries? What should we eliminate for Gautama’s praise? I only hope you can resolve my queries.” The meaning of this is that when thoughts arise, what do we need to eliminate to sleep peacefully? What do we need to eliminate to relieve worry? What do we need to eliminate to attain praise from Gautama, the Buddha? “I ask the Buddha to guide me because I cannot sleep peacefully, I cannot be free of worry, I do not know how I can attain the Buddha’s acceptance and praise. Buddha, please help eliminate my doubts.” The Buddha heard this and was very happy. He responded and said, “Eliminate anger to sleep peacefully. Eliminate anger to relieve worry. Destroy the thorny and poisonous root of anger.” Do not be angry. Eliminate angry thoughts from your mind and you can sleep peacefully. “Eliminate anger to relieve worry”. If you eliminate anger, you will not be worried. “Destroy the thorny and poisonous root of anger”. Anger is a thorny and poisonous root. If you eliminate anger, you destroy this thorny and poisonous root.
“Today, Indra, you should know that anger destroys beauty and goodness. If you can destroy anger, you have my praise.”
This means, one should know that anger will destroy truth, goodness and beauty. The truth, goodness and beauty of human life and the long life, blessings and joy of Heaven are all destroyed by anger. This destruction happens just because of anger. After one eliminates it, one can sleep peacefully, be relieved of worries. If one can do so, he has [Buddha’s] praise; one has complete truth, goodness and beauty and can retain one’s heavenly blessings. If one can do this, the Buddha will absolutely praise him. When the Buddha was in the world, even the heavenly lord came to seek the Dharma. He did not seek much, just one teaching. Then he could maintain heavenly blessings, truth, and beauty, and attain the Buddha’s praise. When the Buddha was in the world, He expounded so much Dharma which was all concise and to the point. He pointed directly to our minds. But we humans did not understand. We did not know to accept this and practice. Even the ruler of Heaven came to seek Dharma. And what about us? So let us earnestly make vows. There is truly a lot suffering in Hell. Thus the repentance text continues to state, “For us disciples, from Beginningless Time until today, of all our obstructions of retributions the most serious is Avici Hell. As the Sutras clearly state, today we briefly explain its appearance.” This passage is also very simple. We are all the Buddha’s disciples. Since Beginningless Time, we have truly been continuously accumulating things over many lives. That is “from Beginningless Time”. “Until today” is up until this moment. “All our obstructions of retribution” are the sufferings we experience that have already slowly manifested. Even the most serious retributions are constantly drawing closer. We say life is painful now, but this is not really painful. When the worst obstructions of retribution start to appear, where do we go first? To the Avici Hell. “The most serious is Avici Hell”. It is for the most serious transgressions. How painful is Avici Hell? It is a place of extreme suffering. The Sutras’ descriptions are very detailed. However, in this passage, as we continue reading, the appearance of Hell is only briefly described. It is described simply, because it cannot be described completely. So, how painful is it in Hell? Next, it states, “This Hell is encircled by seven walls of heavy iron and it is also covered with seven nets of heavy iron. Below are seven forests of iron knives and boundless scorching flames. This Hell extends over 84,000 yojanas. It is covered with the bodies of wrongdoers.” Are we afraid of what Hell looks like? “This Hell is encircled by” refers to its borders, its perimeter, which is made of “seven walls of heavy iron,” layered outside each other. In the Earth Treasury Sutra, it is explained clearly. There are seven walls of heavy iron, each burning red-hot with fire. Right now we talk about the greenhouse effect. Hell is even warmer. Besides the fire-heated iron walls, there are “also seven nets of heavy iron”. There are seven nets. Hell is ringed by iron walls. To prevent escape from above, there are seven layers of iron nets. Then there are “seven forests of iron knives”. There are iron nets above and seven layers of sharp knives below. Each layer is like a forest. There are “boundless scorching flames”. “This Hell extends over 84,000 yojanas”. “It is covered with the bodies of wrongdoers”. The area “extends over 84,000 yojanas”. Think about how vast this is. The size of this Hell is incomparable. “It is covered with the bodies of wrongdoers”. In this large space, those who are being punished are all crammed together. There are many people in Hell. What is this actually describing? Is the physical size of Hell that big? Since the Buddha said it, it probably is. But we cannot see it. Consider that “Hell extends over 84,000 yojanas” and “it is covered with the bodies of wrongdoers”. It is full no matter how many people are there. One person’s body can cover 84,000 yojanas. One person fills it, and many people can also fill it. This probably tells us that our minds are like Hell. There are seven walls of fire. Our minds are filled with so much afflictions and ignorance. There are seven walls of iron, and seven nets of iron, and even seven layers of iron knives in our minds. The vastness of Hell is analogous to every second. Don’t I often tell everyone that in every day there are 86,400 seconds? We spend every second in affliction. We spend every second in a Hell on Earth. We torture ourselves spiritually. We do not feel like we are torturing others, but we always think that others are torturing us. This is all created by us. So, “it is covered with the bodies of wrongdoers,” is talking about ourselves and how we are treated by others. Think about it. Our spiritual hell is painful beyond belief. We do not need to wait until after we die and follow our karmic forces to places that are full of pain and suffering. If we are just talking about our current mindset, a spiritual hell, this is probably analogous. Can we immediately free ourselves from Hell? We can. Everything is created by the mind. The mind creates Heaven; the mind creates Hell. So, do you want to leave Hell immediately? The only way is to practice the Buddha-Dharma. Though there is much suffering in this world, fortunately we also have the Buddha-Dharma. If we can take it and apply it, nourish ourselves with Buddha-Dharma, since we have good seeds and field in our minds, if we earnestly cultivate the fields of blessings, we will be in a Pure Land here and now. Everyone, we are not in Hell yet. We cannot see it. But a spiritual hell can truly torment us. Although there is Buddha-Dharma in the world, we must accept and apply it. Although in this world we are tested by pain, will our minds truly be worn down? If I try to explain the appearance of Hell, I would say it is in our thoughts, every minute and second. In our minds, our mental afflictions are iron walls, iron nets, and iron knives. So everyone, please be more mindful. First look within, understand your mental hell. Then you can be alert and not fall into a hellish place in the future. So, let us always be mindful.
(Source: Da Ai TV 靜思晨語 法譬如水)