Lecturer: Master Cheng-Yan
Subject: Recognize Your Blessings Every Day (日日知福)
In our daily living, whenever we are hungry, we have something to eat, whether or not it is something tasty. Being able to swallow and eat is such an enjoyable thing. Being able to live in peace and having food and water is a truly fortunate life. There are many people who cannot swallow or eat, even if there is food in front of them. They are very hungry but they cannot eat. So, we need to recognize our blessings every day. We have so much that we can enjoy. We typically lead abundant and safe lives. When we see food or clean water, to us it is normal. It is nothing special. But for some people, it is hard to get even a drop of a mouthful of clean water. So, when we see this food and water, gratitude should arise. If we can lead peaceful, fortunate lives with adequate nutrition, isn’t that something to be grateful for? We say, “Witness suffering to recognize blessings. Recognize the grace you have been given and wok to repay it.” If we can enjoy such a functional body, if we are safe with abundant clothing and food, then we should witness suffering and recognize our blessings. In recognize blessings, we must recognize grace. The efforts of many workers, businessmen, farmers, etc., are what allow us to enjoy our blessings. So, we also need to repay them. How can we not repay all their contributions? So, we certainly must give to help others. If we give, we have self-respect. This is the greatest life. What is a great life? One where we can put our abilities to use, and have ample material goods and ample opportunities to give. This is the best life. A life where we can give is the best.
Eating and swallowing every day is enjoyment. Being safe, having food and water is a blessing. Witness suffering to recognize blessings, recognize grace and work to repay it. Have self-respect and give to have a good life.
Right now (March 2008), in Bolivia, Tzu Chi volunteers from the U.S., Argentina, and Paraguay joined local Tzu Chi volunteers to arduously bring relief to the disaster area. We saw a line of cars. The road was covered with water, like an expansive sea. As the cars drove over the water, everyone looked happy and at ease. They even said, “We saw so much water. The roads were rough. We didn’t even know if the road was cut off. We had to drive this car very carefully.” Many cars moved forward like this. They said, “Only now do we understand the feeling of transporting spiritual provisions on the ship of compassion.”
They treated this like sailing a boat on the sea, as if they were transporting food and provisions. Indeed, this was how it was.They spared no effort.They faced all that danger for those who suffered from the disaster and were starving.Aren’t they truly Living Bodhisattvas?
They sailed the ship of compassion to relieve suffering sentient beings, relieve hteir hunger.
Over ten doctors from TIMA operated on patients there.After a woman’s operation was over, she smiled through her tears and said, “Thank you”.She had a gallbladder surgery.It was filled with sand when they operated on it.Everyone said, “This expanded my horizons.”
By looking at the sand, they could guess what her daily life was like, how she lived through the pain of that illness.So, being safe is a blessing.In a place of poverty with constant disasters, she was also tormented by illness.Think about how painful that must be.
There is a lot of suffering in the world.When we witness suffering, we need to recognize blessings.We need to recognize grace and work to repay it.We live in such a safe place.
We live in peace, have food and water.We are so fortunate, how can we not think about giving?So, we must have self-respect.With self-respect and willingness to give, we can truly lead a good life.
Do not lead empty lives, only seeking enjoyment without limits, eating without limits.
If we have enough to eat we should be grateful.But we are still very picky.We also consume all kinds of living beings.Therefore we face retributions.Why are there so many disasters in the world?We all create karma, then face collective karma.
So, let us constantly repent.We talked about repenting the Hungry Ghost Realm.The next piece of the repentance text is the same.
“We repent the Hungry Ghost Realm, where when we move our bodies, all our joints are on fire as retribution, where we have big stomachs and tiny throats as retribution.”
“For these countless retributions in the Hungry Ghost Realm, today we prostrate deeply and sincerely repent.”
Earlier we talked about Hungry Ghosts suffering from hunger over a long period of time.
It is rare to see or even hear of broth or water, because there is no food.Now the text says when Hungry Ghosts “move their bodies all their joints are on fire as retribution.”There is no water, so they have not even heard the word “water”, or heard the word “broth”.Clearly they are very parched, very dry.Their body is dried out, so if there is movement and friction, there will be heat to ignite a fire.
This is the pain in the Hungry Ghost Realm.“When they move their bodies, all joints are on fire.”This retribution is truly pitiful.Then “we repent the Hungry Ghost Realm, where we have big stomachs and tiny throats as retribution.”Have we seen big stomachs and small throats?
Look at the starving people in Africa.Many children and adults have bloated stomachs and very thin necks.We know they are malnourished.This is the Hungry Ghost Realm.Some people draw pictures of Hell, and when they draw the Hungry Ghost Realm, they draw images of those with bloated stomachs and needle-thin throats.This is the Hungry Ghost Realm.
Do we see this in the Human Realm?Yes. Look at all the different patients in the hospital. Some of their stomachs are already very big. Though we want them to eat, they cannot swallow. Even if they leave the hospital, they still cannot eat. They need nasogastric tube feeding.
But they are still considered as blessed.Although they cannot open their mouths and eat, cannot know the flavor, even if they have lost those abilities, they can still be tube fed. This is not possible in the Hungry Ghost Realm.There is no broth or water for the tube. So, they are very malnourished. They have big stomachs and narrow throats. We should understand this suffering. It is already unbearable to hear about it. When we see sick people, we are even more pained.
Then we hear that in the Hungry Ghost Realm no one can save them. They have no chance to rest .This kind of long-term torment is truly scary. Everyone, we must think carefully. Have we created karma? Retribution in Hell or as Hungry Ghosts is full of countless torments.
These are the “countless retributions”. We must always be vigilant and self-reflect. So, today we prostrate deeply and sincerely repent.
We must thoroughly repent In the past, did we crate karma by being stingy and miserly?
Instead of being sympathetic, did we look down on those who are poor and suffering? Did we belittle them and refuse to give? Were we proud and arrogant, refusing to offer a bit of sympathy? Have we done any of this? Many people live like this.
Thus they create the Hungry Ghost Realm. They truly sowed their own seeds. The names of these retributions are just simple descriptions. Not only do some people want to drink good things, they even drink fresh blood. These people crave eating living beings and consume raw flesh or flowing blood.
When they end up in the Hungry Ghost Realm, they do not even hear of water or broth. Their bodies will be very dry. There are many chances [to end up there]; if people only want to enjoy themselves and consume things constantly, In the future they will face the retribution of lack of food and clean water, or even descend into a Hell, where they do not even hear the names of water and broth.
Or they may end up in a Hell on Earth. There are many opportunities for karmic forces to lead them there. When we die, we take nothing with us except karma. With these retributions of the Hungry Ghost Realm we truly must always heighten our vigilance.
So, we need to “prostrate deeply”. We truly need to repent everything, repent Hell, repent the Hungry Ghost Realm. We need to repent those and the Animal Realm.
Next, the passage in the repentance text says,
“Next we repent the Ghost , Spirit and Asura Realm, where we face retributions for flattery and cheating. ”
“We repent the Ghost , Spirit and Asura Realms where we carry sand and rocks to block rivers seas as retributions.”
Thus we also need to “repnet the Ghost , Spirit Realms”.Besides,the Hell Hungry Ghost and Animal Realms there are also other Ghost and Spirit Realms.There is a lot of suffering there , too.The Asura Realm exists in the Heaven, Human and Animal Realms ,and also in Hell.
Ox –headed Yaksas are also in the Asura Realm.
So ,Asuras pervades the Five Realms.These Five Realms plus the Asura Realm make up the Six Realms.Asuras exist across the Five Realms.They are ghosts with blessings.But they are very proud and have great anger and resentment ,so now they end up as Ghost and Spirits.They “face retribution for flattery and cheating”.
They are normally very proud , but if they meet someone richer and more powerful,they will flatter and fawn over them or try theat them or do other unethical things. People like this ,
will fall into the Ghost and Spirit Realms.Some are blessed but they still fall into the Ghost and Spirit Realms.Asura have heavenly blessings,but no heavenly virtues.Without virtue, even those who have blessings,are still in the Ghost and Spirit Realm.This realm is also very painful.
So ,we must constantly repent.Even Ghosts and Spirits with blessings still remain in the Six Realms,where they suffer.How do they suffer?“We repent the Ghost and Spirit Realms , where we carry sand and rocks”.They need to carry sand and move rocks.What does it mean to carry sand and move rocks?It is like a landslide Mountains , lands ,rivers , nad seas
each have their own spirits.Wasn’t this mentioned in the Earth Treasury Sutra?You see , they cause mundslides or floods or falling rocks . etc .This is all very painful.
Or they”block rivers and seas”.We see people fill in the sea to make land.So ,people and oceans fight over the land.If they are not fighting with the land then they are fighting with the sea. So now , people move mountains to fill in the sea. They takes rocks from the hills to make it level and use it to fill in the sea. With a lot of rock and dirt in the ocean,it will also trun into land.This is also very painful.
This happens in the Ghost and Spirit Realms.When they were alive ,they created blessings.
Where they currying favor or creating blessings ?Regardless , their minds were inpure.If the heart in not open ,thoughts not pure,although they create blessings,they do it for recognition and wealth.
Thus they will have blessings , but no virtues,and will fall into the Ghost and Spirit Realm.
Everyone , do good deeds , just do them.Then let go.Be grateful.Do not be arrogant ,thinking “I’ve already donated so much money ““I have done so many food deeds”There is no need .
Then ,we will not become a fortunate ghost or spirit.Even if others pray to us,we still need to carry sand or fill in the sea.
This is also very tiring.So let us be someone who transcends the Human Realm to go to
the Pure Land ,Realm of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. This requires us all to constantly take good care of our minds and always be content.
If we can eat every day , that is enjoyment.If we have food ,water ,when we see these things ,we say , “I’ll grateful”“I am very grateful to have sufficient supplies”.We are very blessed. When we witness suffering,and work to repay them. We must quickly contribute.
That will be a great life.
So ,give and be grateful.
Everyone , please always be mindful.
(Source: Da Ai TV 靜思晨語 法譬如水)