Lecturer: Master Cheng-Yan
Subject: Transcend the Mundane, Return to Intrinsic Nature(超凡入聖歸本性)
Always be mindful when learning Buddhism. A small deviation in thinking can truly lead us thousands of miles off-course. Although we all say, “Everyone is born with a good nature,” we ordinary beings constantly transmigrate through the Six Realms and become defiled. Then we become good, evil or neutral. Whether we do good or evil depends on a momentary though. Whatever good or evil we do, we each face the consequences of our actions. An earlier part of the repentances text said our retributions do not interfere with others’. One person fills Hell, as will many. No matter how many people there are in Hell, we feel we
are suffering the most. We have nothing to do with those around us. That is correct. Karmic causes and conditions do not interfere with those of others. Can everyone understand this concept? Our own afflictions, pressures, etc., create our own mental hell. “You do not know how exhausted I am! Even if I tell you my afflictions, you cannot understand.” That is similar to “we each reap what we sow”. We do not interfere with each other. Even those who are close to and love each other cannot shoulder each other’s burdens. So, practicing goodness is to practice by following our true nature. We can only work on our spiritual practice. If we practice goodness, after we hear Dharma, we want to understand it. Then we will accept and uphold it. The good practices we accept come from the innocent, intrinsic nature in our hearts. This is our true nature. After we listen to Dharma, let us accept these good practices. Let us be firm in our faith and our practice. From our Tathagata Nature deep in our hearts we know, “This is wholesome, this is what I need to practice. This is good, I need to uphold this.” So, if we accept and uphold good practices, we are practicing by following our true nature, our completely good and kind nature. If we create bad karma, we do so against our true nature. If we rely on our kind intrinsic nature to guide our spiritual practice, we are following our nature. If we do not believe in good and evil, or in karmic cause and effect, we will act contrary to these principles. Thus we go against our nature. There are two sides to everything, like a mirror. If we use the front of the mirror, it clearly and accurately reflects the mountains, rivers, and landscapes. If we turn the mirror around, it will be dark. We cannot see the world in front of us.
That is “going against”. Our intrinsic nature is so bright and clear.If we go against it, we use the other side which is ignorance.So, we cannot reflect our conditions and create a lot of evil because we go against our true nature.As for good and evil, one is in accordance, one goes against.They are both related to our nature.
However, if we follow our pure nature, we do good.If we go against our nature, we do evil.
We need to know the difference between the two.If we follow, we create goodness.If we go against, we create evil.
But both are created by the mind, by our thoughts.For ordinary beings, this is called Mind-consciousness.For saints, it is their nature, their pure, intrinsic nature.If we go against our pure nature, it becomes Mind-consciousness.
So this is all about our minds.If our thoughts return to our true nature, they become good.
If our thoughts leave our true nature and go against it, they become evil.So good and evil return to our Eighth Consciousness, unless we transcend the ordinary and become a saint.
We all have a completely pure nature, so I hope everyone can work hard to comprehend following or going against our nature.
Those who follow, uphold goodness.Those who go against, create evil.Of course, those who do good, go to Heaven.But if we can transcend goodness, are free of afflictions and attachments, then we will return to our intrinsic nature, which is equal to the Buddha’s.This is called transcending the ordinary.So everyone, please be mindful.
Whether good, evil or neutral, karmic forces, causes, and conditions do not interfere with each other.Upholding good Dharma is practicing by following our true nature.Creating evil is going against our nature.The two are different, but both are created by the mind.
The talks these few days have centered around Hell.People cannot see Hell, so how do we begin to understand it?We can experience many things in this world.In Master Lian-Chi’s Essay on Liberating Life, he tells many stories from that era as proof that we must refrain from killing.
In Shandong, there was a village with a man whose profession was to kill pigs and cows.
One day he bought a cow and led her along the road home.The cow knew, “I have been bought by a butcher. My life is more or less over.”Like all living beings, she was afraid of death when you touch an ant, it will run away.So, all living beings seek life and fear death.
The cow was afraid “I am afraid that as I’m being led by a butcher, my life is quickly coming to an end.”
So, the cow refused to move.The butcher used all his might to drag her.The cow moved left and right, but refused to walk forward.So, the man pulled and pulled until he exhausted all his strength.Then, he beat her.After tugging and pulling for a while, they finally passed the doorway of a rich family.
A man stood at the door and saw the butcher pulling this cow.He could not bear it.The cow saw this rich man, and felt he was truly compassionate.He could not bear it. The cow saw this rich man, and felt he was truly compassionate. So the cow knelt, as if seeking help. She raised her head and shed tears. This kind person knew the cow was asking for help. So he asked the butcher, “How much is this cow worth?”
He said, “$8000” “Fine, can I buy it from you for $8000?” When the butcher thought about it, he grew angry. Although if he sold the cow for $8000 he stood make a lot of money, he was really mad. “This cow wasted so much of my strength.This cow is so unreasonable, so stubborn and unyielding”. So, he did not want to sell her. But this kind man said, “Then I will pay you more”. But the butcher still said, “I won’t sell”. He still wanted to drag this cow home.
The kind man tried to pay him even more. He said, “Do not try to pay more.Even if you pay an additional $10,000, I still will not sell. This cow is detestable.It forced me to waste so much energy.I dragged it until I am exhausted.I am going to kill and cook it myself.”
Once the cow heard this, she knew she had no hope. She knew, “I will die for sure”. So, she was hateful and angry. “You are not killing me just for the money.You are killing me with an evil, poisonous heart”. So, it suddenly stood up and obediently followed the butcher.
Once they arrived home, the butcher boiled water. He used a giant pot to heat and boil water. At night when it got dark, he began his butchering. He cut off pieces of flesh and threw into the pot. The fire blazed brightly. He was very tired, so he went to bed.
When he woke up, it was not yet daybreak. He though the beef should be well-cooked. He started walking while it was still dark. He walked to the doorway and saw the fire blazing.
He lifted the lid and looked in, to see the meat was cooked, and fell completely into the boiling hot pot .At dawn, his wife wondered, “Why has he been gone for so long?” After many hours, she went out and saw the big pot.More than half her husband’s body was in the pot. His body was as well-cooked as the beef. Let us teat this story as a warning. Will we face retribution in this life? This is an example of present-life retribution. After we see this, we should understand.
We should be aware, self-reflective and vigilant. Then we will have a sense of remorse and repent. Know that small transgressions accumulate and become greater transgressions. Small karma accumulates and become tremendous.So, we can never commit even the slightest act of evil. We must be very careful even when we open our mouths to speak. This is following our intrinsic nature.Our intrinsic nature is the Buddha – nature.
Do not go against your intrinsic nature and create negative karma with body ,speech and mind. As we said earlier,Let us “deeply prostrate and repent in remorse”.Now we talk about,
“Next we also repent ,”
which means we must repeatedly repent, “the Mountains and Forests of Knives Hell ,where our heads are cut off as retribution.” We also , “repent the Hell of . Molten lron Cauldrons and Charcoal Stoves,where we are cooked as retribution.” Also , we “repent the Hell of the lron Bed and Bronze Columns ,where we are burnt as retribution.”
Aren’t these words very simple ?We all know about these mountains of knives. An earlier passage already mentioned seven layers of iron nets,seven layers of forests of knives.
This is truly “Mountains and Forests of Knives”.The knives are pointed upwards. There are layers and layers of them . “In the Mountains and Forests of Knives Hell”.
If we committed wrongdoings ,we face this karma.If we want to escape through the side ,
there are many iron walls. If we want to escape from above,there are layers of iron nets.
If we want to escape from below,there are mountains and forests of knives.If we created these transgressions and karma and receive this retribution,we cannot escape in any direction.
We can only endure the pain and torture.In the mountains and Forests of Knives Hell,
our heads will be repeatedly separated from our bodies. We do not just die once.After the head falls ,it reattaches. Then it falls again ,This happens repeatedly.So ,the head separates from the body,then reattaches , then separates , then reattaches.This is the retribution.
Besides the mountains and Forests of Knives Hell,we must also repent “the Hell of Molten lron Cauldrons and Charcoal Stoves where we are cooked as retribution”.
The retribution of being cooked in the Hell of Molten lron Cauldrons and Charcoal Stoves
does not happen only once.We will be cooked, then revived , then cooked again.That repetition,besides inflicting physical pain ,creates mental anxiety and fright. This repeats a countless number of times. It is constant retribution.
Then we “repent the Hell of the lron Bed and Bronze Columns”.People lay on the iron bed heated to a fiery red.Think about how painful that hell must be. It is like a live fish,dropped into a pan to be fried.This hell is more painful.In the Earth Treasury Sutra says that this bed is full ,whether there is one person in it or many.This means that this kind of suffering pervades the entire Hell Realm. The larger the Hell ,the more intense the pain. Thus one person can fill it ,and so can many.
People do not just lie down in the Hell of the lron Bed.People are also forced to wrap themselves around bronze pillars that are heated to a burning red.Think about it Once they hug it they are stuck.Their flesh will be burnt to crisp,Isn’t this Hell full of suffering?If we look , we can see that there are many Hells in this world.
They are easy to see ,they are obvious.We can distinctly and clearly see these Hells.
We do not need to go to the Hell Realm,we can experience them in this world.
Where do they come from ?If we only follow our nature,we can practice goodness and
avoid the suffering in Hell. We can draw near to the Buddha –Dharma and be like sages and saints ,if we practice by following our nature.
If we create bad karma ,we are going against our nature. Although good and evil are different,and Hell and Heaven are far from each other,they are determined by a thought;
they are only created by our minds.
So everyone ,when we learn Buddhism ,we must truly always be vigilant.If we believe in cause and effect,we create less bad karma.
Everyone ,please always be mindful.