The Art of Living (Dallas)
DALLAS, TEXAS JULY 1995
instructs us how to live happy and fulfilling lives. It was transmitted
to China in 67 AD and since then, has spread and flourished throughout
the country. However, anything that has been passed down for a long
period can be expected to experience some distortion and Buddhism
is no exception.
was Buddha Shakyamuni・s teaching of perfection of enlightenment
for all sentient beings in the nine realms. Unfortunately, over
the last two to three hundred years, some began to regard it as
a religion. Then, in the past twenty to thirty years it began to
be viewed as a philosophy. However, the most disastrous of all is
its distortion by some into a cult. These have seriously misled
people away from the original teachings. If we commit ourselves
to the practice, we need to clearly understand exactly what the
Buddha taught us.
A few years ago in San
Francisco, I gave a talk titled "To Understand Buddhism."
Unfortunately, due to the one and a half-hour time constraint, I
was unable to elaborate as much as I had wanted to. Then, several
months later, Mr. David Zheng invited me to Miami. He both hosted
and provided the English translation for my seven-day lecture series
on Buddhism titled "To Understand Buddhism". The talks
were video taped at that time and later published. To understand
the Buddha・s teachings is our first and most basic lesson. Practicing
Buddhism and not knowing what the goals are can reduce our practice
to blind superstition.
First, the Buddha is
our teacher and not a god. Bodhisattvas are our senior classmates
with whom we share equal status. Buddhism is an education. What
does it teach? The Buddha・s forty-nine years of teaching are recorded
as sutras. These have been combined with sutra commentaries by great
masters throughout history into a dense collection called The Buddhist
Canon, of which there are over thirty versions in existence. These
teachings explain the truth about life and the universe. Life refers
to us and the universe refers to our living environment and beyond.
What is more relevant than to understand the relationship between
the universe and us?
Several years ago, I
was lecturing to professors at the Universities of Beijing, Nanjing
and Liaoling. Upon learning that Buddhism is an education, my audience
was astonished. Then, two years ago I learned that there were one
hundred seventy professors across China studying the teachings.
This is a good sign. We ought to first change our perceptions and
understand the nature of this unsurpassed education, to fully benefit
The Buddha told us that
an enlightened person is one who completely understands about life
and the universe. A Buddha is a being who is perfectly enlightened
while a Bodhisattva, according to Master Xuan Tsuang, is an "awakened,
sentient being." The element that differentiates us from Buddhas
and Bodhisattvas is the state of consciousness or enlightenment.
Enlightened beings are free and independent in any environment while
we are not. The Chinese have a saying "When one is constricted
by society, one is unable to act according to one・s will."
For instance, almost everyone wishes to make a fortune in this lifetime,
but look around, how many people・s dreams have actually come true?
Buddhist sutras have provided us with methods to achieve whatever
we wish; to stay healthy, young and happy as well as to end the
cycle of birth and death. Praying to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas or
spirits simply does not do it.
The sutras have taught
us the way to take control of our destiny. If we follow the teachings,
we can have what we wish for. However, if we fail to achieve our
goal, it is because we either have applied the wrong method or misinterpreted
the meanings within the sutras. Buddhism is a teaching of wisdom
as only wisdom can resolve our problems and fulfill our wishes.
How do we gain wisdom?
Many people who grew up in our modern society would agree that wisdom
is gained from information or knowledge. The Buddha told us the
opposite! He taught us that wisdom is already within our self-nature;
it does not come from the outside. Upon reaching enlightenment,
the Sixth Patriarch of Zen, Master Hui-Neng reported to his teacher
that wisdom is something we all possess and that it is innate. Our
good fortune, capability and wisdom are complete; none of them can
be obtained externally. The Buddha teaches us to look for them within
our mind, our pure mind. Therefore, Buddhism is a study of the inner
Earlier this year, a
group of professors, most of them from the University of Taiwan
and the Central Educational Research Center, requested me to talk
on the Diamond Sutra. Although I had not lectured on this sutra
for almost twenty years, I gladly accepted the invitation as an
opportunity to leave future Buddhists a lecture series to aid them
in their studies.
The Diamond Sutra is
truly an important part of Mahayana practice as well as the core
of Zen practice. It concentrates on the understanding of wisdom.
Due to the advocation of Zen・s Fifth and Sixth Patriarchs, this
sutra became widely known in China. Over five thousand eight hundred
words in length, it is too profound for most people to completely
understand. There have been several hundred explanations or commentaries
written on this sutra alone throughout Chinese history. Earlier
in this century, Mr. Wei-Nong Jiang, who spent forty years studying
this sutra, wrote what has become a well-read commentary. He combined
the essence of both the ancient and current commentaries to make
it easier for people to understand the sutra and thus, the true
meanings of life and the universe.
The Diamond Sutra, like
other sutras, contains the principles and methods to achieve enlightenment.
If we can master the principle and cultivate with confidence, we
will become enlightened regardless of the method we choose. However,
if we are not achieving improvement in our daily practice, then
we must have overlooked the principles and methods of the sutra.
For many years, I have
been lecturing on the Pure Land method. Someone asked me, "Teacher,
you have been speaking of the Pure Land teachings for so long, why
are you now lecturing on the Diamond Sutra?" When you think
about it, the Diamond Sutra, the Amitabha Sutra and the Infinite
Life Sutra are all the same in that they encourage us to recite
the Buddha・s name, without any attachment, in order to be born
into the Western Pure Land. If we did not already have a high degree
of wisdom, good roots, merits and good conditions, we would not
have chosen the Pure Land School as our practice.
When I was young, I made
the mistake of thinking that this school was not a high level practice.
Fortunately, I met good teachers who tried to convince me of its
importance. Still I was unable to completely accept it. The confidence
I now possess comes from having lectured on the Avatamsaka (Flower
Adornment) Sutra for seventeen years. It tells of how Manjusri Bodhisattva,
Samantabhadra (Universal Worthy) Bodhisattva, Maitreya Bodhisattva,
the forty-one levels of enlightened Bodhisattvas, Sudhana and the
fifty-three spiritual guides all turned to the Pure Land School
in the end. As I became convinced of its importance, I started to
study the Pure Land sutras. I realized that practicing the Pure
Land method was actually the highest level of Buddha Shakyamuni・s
teachings and of all the Buddhas in the ten directions as they strove
to help all sentient beings achieve enlightenment.
I have lectured on the
Diamond Sutra, the Infinite Life and the Visualization sutras. They
all are concerned with the right and proper way of living. The Diamond
Sutra speaks of the principle while the Infinite Life Sutra and
the Visualization Sutra speak of the specifics in practice and attainment.
Mr. Wei-Nong Jiang emphasized that one who cultivates prajna, innate
wisdom, should chant the name of Buddha Amitabha in order to be
born into the Pure Land. Practitioners need to completely understand
the Buddha・s teachings because they lead us to perfect, free-spirited
and prosperous living. If we misinterpret the teachings, then we
will not benefit from them. While Buddhism emphasizes the principles,
it puts more stress on our practice. If our practice fails to follow
these principles then we have missed the point.
Take the Diamond Sutra
for example. As it begins, the Buddha takes us into his daily life.
This is unlike other Mahayana sutras in which he would release radiant
light at the beginning of his talk. However, this talk is all about
everyday life! Every action the Buddha has taken has revealed his
virtues and merits due to his commitment of practicing Buddhahood
through infinite lifetimes.
The Avatamsaka (Flower
Adornment) Sutra tells us that "One is all and all is one."
One refers to a matter or subject, for example, dressing is one
activity, eating is another. From the moment we decide to begin
our practice till the time we achieve Enlightenment, our merits
are accumulated and revealed through our efforts and commitment.
Daily activities are the way of practice; however, most of us cannot
see this. Why not? Because of our lack of wisdom. Subhuti, one of
the Buddha・s main students, explained it for us. We all get up
every morning, dress and eat. What do we have to show for this?
Infinite lifetimes of committing misdeeds and the resultant sufferings
due to incorrect understanding of the purpose of life and our environment.
Buddhas and Bodhisattvas
show us the art and the correct way of living. If we understand
the Diamond Sutra, we will understand everything around us and in
the universe. Beings who do understand are called Buddhas and Bodhisattvas:
those who do not are called ordinary people. We all possess the
capabilities of Buddhas, but we are temporarily lost and have forgotten
what we possess. This is why we must practice to learn how to live
our lives. Practicing Buddhism means correcting our erroneous thoughts
and actions in our daily lives. Those of us who understand focus
on the root of the problem, which means we focus on correcting our
thoughts while others focus on their actions. By only correcting
our actions, we may gain some improvement; however, this is similar
to only taking care of the branches and leaves of a tree while neglecting
its roots. The most effective way, as pointed out in the Diamond
Sutra, is to correct our thoughts by attacking the roots of all
that is wrong or erroneous.
What are the guidelines
for practicing Buddhism? Buddha Shakyamuni told us they are The
Three Learnings, which are precepts (rules), concentration and wisdom.
Precepts refer to following all of the Buddha・s teachings, not
just the basic five or ten precepts. They also include following
customs, rules and laws wherever we are. Law-abiding people have
a clear conscience, so their minds are peaceful and they can more
easily concentrate, whereas, people who often break the law are
generally unable to concentrate. Therefore, following rules and
obeying laws enables us to achieve the concentration that allows
us to uncover the wisdom that we already possess.
The Platform Sutra of
the Sixth Patriarch Hui-Neng is praiseworthy for its high level
of wisdom. We can understand why the Sixth Patriarch told his master
that he often generated wisdom. We, on the other hand, often generate
affliction. He achieved this high level because his mind was pure.
Our minds are filled with afflictions, attachments, discriminating
and wandering thoughts: all causes of reincarnation. To alter this
course requires us to cleanse our minds of these pollutants. To
accomplish this, Buddha Shakyamuni gave us the fore-mentioned three
guidelines which are also contained in the Infinite Life Sutra,
the full title of which is The Buddha Speaks of the Infinite Life
Sutra of Adornment, Purity, Equality and Enlightenment of the Mahayana
School. Purity refers to precepts; equality refers to deep concentration;
enlightenment refers to wisdom. These are also expressed as the
Triple Jewels, representing respectively the Sangha, the Dharma
and the Buddha. Please do not mistake the physical images of the
Triple Jewels for their true essence. The Diamond Sutra clearly
tells us "One who sees images of oneself, other human beings,
all beings and life is not a Bodhisattva." In other words,
looking beyond physical aspects is the correct way to understand
The Buddha represents
enlightenment. The Dharma, symbolized by sutras, represents the
Buddha・s wisdom, virtue and proper understanding of life and the
universe. The Sangha represents purity of the six senses, having
no pollution. The Three Jewels are being enlightened and not deluded,
proper and not deviated, pure and not polluted. When we take refuge
in the Triple Jewels, we request guidance from a Monk or Nun regarding
purity, equality and enlightenment. It is important to understand
this at the beginning of our practice. We need to use an awakened
mind to perform in our daily lives. The Dharma comes from the self-nature
within. The goal of the learning process is to find our true self
and to let go of our incorrect state of mind.
This incorrect state
of mind is embroiled in a non-stop rush of thoughts. When we let
go of all our wandering and discriminating thoughts, our true self
will surface and so then will true wisdom. Only through the process
of concentration and purification can wisdom flourish. To accomplish
this, the Pure Land School uses the Buddha Name Chanting Method,
while Zen uses a different method. Every practice has its own method
to accomplish the same goal of enlightenment. All ways of practice
Buddha Shakyamuni taught
us innumerable ways of practice. It is up to us to choose the one
that is compatible with the depth of our root nature, level of achievement
and manner of living. Regardless of the practice we choose, the
three basic guidelines are enlightenment, right and proper thoughts,
We have to be extremely
careful living in our time. The Surangama Sutra tells us that we
are now living in the Dharma-ending age when pollution of both the
mind and the environment are at their worst. There are countless
numbers of deviated thinking teachers in this time who are creating
great chaos. It is crucial that we use the standards taught by the
Buddha to distinguish between proper and deviated.
The Pure Land sutras
teach us how to start our practice with the Three Conditions. These
three have been the foundation of Buddhahood throughout eternity.
All Buddhas say that Buddhahood is achieved through any one of an
infinite number of methods. However, every method requires the Three
Conditions as a foundation. This is similar to building a house.
No matter how many houses we are building, each requires a good
foundation. The First Condition includes:
* Showing respect and
care for ones parents,
* Listening carefully
to and respecting teachers and elders,
* Showing compassion
by not killing and
* Following the Ten
If we act accordingly,
then we will benefit from this First Condition. The practice of
Filial Piety is showing respect and caring for one・s parents. The
foundation of Chinese civilization has been built on filial piety,
as was Buddhism in India. The Chinese character "Xiao"
means filial piety. The top part means old age while the bottom
part means son. When the two are put together, it gives us the meaning
of one entity. It is vastly expansive and never-ending. It speaks
of the generations before ours and of those to follow.
I have met many westerners
who asked me about the Chinese tradition of paying respect to ancestors
they did not even know about. They did not understand that all of
life is just one entity with no beginning and no end. Only Buddhism
can carry filial piety to perfection.
Being filial does not
simply mean taking care of parents financially, it goes beyond that
to helping them cultivate their minds to a higher level of living
and wisdom. Buddha Shakyamuni, our "Original Teacher",
taught this to us. If our actions such as not doing well at school,
not following rules and listening to teachers, not getting along
with friends, relatives or co-workers; generally not living up to
our parent・s expectations worry them, then we have done poorly
at filial piety. In other words, making our parents happy is part
of filial piety. But most importantly, not until we reach the state
of Buddhahood, will we perfectly fulfill filial respect for our
parents and ancestors.
The second part of the
First Condition is following and respecting teachers and elders.
In his forty-nine years of teaching, Buddha Shakyamuni showed us
how to correctly live our lives. Following his teachings shows our
respect for him.
The third part of the
First Condition is cultivating compassion and not killing. There
is a big difference between love and compassion. Love comes from
feelings; compassion comes from wisdom. Love is unstable and unreliable.
We may love someone today but not tomorrow. When someone tells us
that he or she loves or hates us, we would do well not to take it
too seriously. However, compassion is for forever because it is
based on the wisdom that is part of the true mind, our original
self. It is not based on emotion. We can start by showing compassion
and kindness for our family and keep expanding until we include
every sentient being in the ten directions. Developing this level
of compassion is another part of the cultivation that will lead
us to enlightenment.
The fourth part of the
first Condition includes following the Ten Good Conducts. These
are no killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, abusive language,
bearing tales, seductive words, greed, anger or ignorance. The first
three are disciplines of the body, the next four are disciplines
of the mouth and the last three are disciplines of the mind.
One who follows the Ten
Good Conducts in their daily life acquires a solid foundation for
self-cultivation. To be truthful, understanding the principles is
easy; however, putting them into practice requires a high level
of wisdom. There is some flexibility in practicing the Ten Good
Conducts, which is why the guidance of a good teacher and the encouragement
of our fellow classmates or practitioners are essential in helping
us to attain enlightenment in this lifetime. This is why the respect
and sincerity towards our teachers and elders are part of the foundation
and a prerequisite for our cultivation.
Having achieved the First
Condition in this area will have a positive effect on one・s prosperity
and well being in both the human and the heavenly worlds. The sutras
call those who accomplish this, "good men and good women"
because they are ready to accept the teachings and follow the precepts
to attain purity of mind.
The Second Condition
* Abiding by taking
refuge in the Triple Jewels of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha,
* Following the precepts,
laws and customs and
* Behaving in a dignified
and proper manner.
I have discussed these
earlier in this talk.
The Third Condition is:
* Generating the Bodhi
* Deeply believing in
the Law of Cause and Effect,
* Reciting and upholding
Mahayana sutras and
* Encouraging others
to advance on the path to enlightenment.
In generating the Bodhi
mind, one commits oneself to achieving ultimate enlightenment. Enlightenment
refers to a perfect and complete understanding of life and the universe.
If we cannot reach it then we can at least obtain a clear understanding
The second part of the
Third Condition is deeply believing in the Law of Cause and Effect.
Nothing is beyond this law. All other laws in the universe revolve
around it. However, one can control one・s own cause and effect.
How can this be done? There is nothing we can do about past causes
once the thought or action has been done, but we can control the
"condition." For a cause to generate an effect, a condition
has to exist. By controlling the circumstance or condition, one
prevents the cause from coming into effect. For example, if we place
a seed on a rock, it will not grow. However, if we plant it in fertile
soil where the sun shines and water it carefully, then it can grow.
Once we learn how to control the condition, then everything we wish
for can be obtained. Knowing this and acting accordingly, we will
be liberated from aging, sickness and the cycle of birth and death.
All dharmas are generated
by the mind. For example, why does a person become old? When a person
reaches a certain age, he or she starts thinking "old."
I have spoken with a number of Buddhist doctors about why people
become old. They agreed with me that when people are working, they
do not think about old age. However, after they have been retired
a few years they look as if they were twenty years older! Why? Retired
people who are no longer working start thinking every day about
becoming old. After a while, they start to age more rapidly and
then to become sick. Once they get sick, they start thinking about
going to the hospital. All this came about from wandering thoughts.
However, this is not
the case for people who successfully practice the Buddha Name Chanting
Method. My late teacher, Mr. Bing-Nan Lee, lived to be ninety-seven
years old but looked more like seventy. He cooked for himself and
washed his own clothes. Not until his last two years did he accept
any care. He was healthy, had a strong voice and was giving lectures
up until two weeks before he passed away. Why? He did not think
about sickness or old age. We will not get sick if we do not think
about getting sick, we will not age if we do not think about old
age and we will not die if we do not think about death.
Buddhism provides the
principles, methods and practices to accomplish this. The art of
living can be mastered once we fully understand and practice Buddhism.
It teaches us to maintain a healthy mind. A healthy mind creates
a healthy body. All sickness comes from pollution and the worst
pollution is that of the mind. The Buddha called this pollution
the Three Poisons of Greed, Anger and Ignorance. Between the pollution
of the environment and that of our mind how can we not get sick?
However, even with the worst pollution around us, a person who is
free of the three poisons will not become sick.
All the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas
set examples so beings can see that we may live happy, prosperous
and perfect lives. Seeing this, people will want to follow our example.
We are supposed to be role models for society. However, if people
see Buddhists living a miserable life, no one will want to learn
The more we understand
the Buddha・s teachings, the more joy we will receive from them.
To comprehend the profound meaning within, one needs to practice
earnestly. Understanding and cultivation are equally important in
complementing each other to attain even deeper understanding and
cultivation. Achieving this, one will experience true inner joy
and peace. If we are not experiencing some of this joy and are instead
filled with worries then we need to take a good look at ourselves,
to see whether or not we are practicing in accordance with the teachings.
If not, find out where the problem lies and correct it. Doing this
properly, we will be on the right path of Buddhism.
Regardless of the situations
we encounter, adverse or favorable, keep focused and concentrate
on achieving enlightenment. The fifty-three visits that Sudhana
had in the Flower Adornment Sutra represented people from all walks
of life portrayed by fifty-three enlightened Bodhisattvas. This
shows us that people of any profession can become a Buddha or Bodhisattva.
We do not have to change our job or the environment, in which we
live, but can practice, wherever we are. The benefits begin the
minute we start to correct our thoughts and actions.
We would do well to live
our lives with a clear mind and to be proper in thought and action,
not being tempted by erroneous influences. If we are able to do
this, then no matter which method we choose we will be true followers
of the Buddha. As our daily thinking becomes clearer, our mind will
become purer, enabling us to live happier, peaceful and fulfilling
When I heard of a suggestion
made by the late Mr. Lian-Jui Xia to use the name Pure Land Buddhist
Learning Center instead of the traditional name of temple, I thought
it was appropriate for today・s society. Buddhism has always been
forward thinking not backward. It has adapted to existing cultures
and localities. When Buddhism first came to China, it took on aspects
of the Chinese culture. The temples had a Chinese appearance, the
monks and nuns clothing was in the Chinese style. If the temples
had followed Indian design, the Chinese would not have wanted to
enter such a foreign looking place. The teachings were interpreted
in a way that enabled the Chinese people to merge them into their
daily lives, thus they were readily accepted. The Diamond Sutra
tells us that nothing is permanent, while the Surangama Sutra explains
that everything should accord with the minds of sentient beings.
All this is to remind us to accord with local conditions.
At a talk one time in
Miami, there were quite a few Buddhists who were westerners. I told
them that Buddhism had not yet officially come to America. They
asked why I had said that when Buddhism was very popular in America.
I asked them," Have you ever seen Buddhist statues with features
that resemble a westerner?" They briefly thought about it and
realized that what I had said was true. When Buddhism spread to
China, pictures and statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas adopted
Chinese features. In Japan, they have Japanese features. The same
applies to Thailand, Tibet and so on. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas do
not have only one fixed appearance, rather they appear in the form
that is most acceptable and comfortable for the local people.
adapts to take on the aspects of the local culture. In America,
a typical Buddhist temple needs to look like the White House and
not like a traditional Chinese temple. When Americans see a Chinese
temple, they would think of it as foreign and might not feel comfortable
going in. However, if the buildings look like the White House, they
would go in uninvited! Do you not think that they would be happy
to see Buddhas and Bodhisattvas with western features? They certainly
We need to remember that
Buddhism is an education. As it spreads through America, it will
take on a more western appearance just as it did when Indian teachers
brought it to China, where it took on a Chinese appearance. As Buddhism
adapts to new cultures, it will remain current with the times, thus
appealing to more people. Those, who accept it, will be able to
apply the teachings in solving their personal as well as social
problems. As Buddhism is accepted, it will bring peace and prosperity
to those people as well as to the whole world. Understanding this
will help us to begin our cultivation.
After the Pure Land Learning
Center was officially established, Five Guidelines were set up for
1. The Three Conditions,
2. The Six Principles
3. The Three Learnings,
4. The Six Paramitas
or Principles and
5. The Ten Great Vows
of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva.
These Five Guidelines
can bring us happiness and prosperity if we make them a part of
our daily lives.
The Six Paramitas or
Principles, one of these Five Guidelines, represent the six goals
that Bodhisattvas practice. They are giving, precepts, patience,
diligence, deep concentration and wisdom. A homemaker, who daily
performs the same chores and constantly complains about them, will
find that with this attitude, he or she has created a certain destiny
within the cycle of birth and death. On the other hand, if one is
awakened and devotes himself or herself to accomplishing the Six
Principles, the results will be quite different.
For example, the Principle
of Giving is achieved when one takes care of the family with wisdom
and tireless labor. The Principle of Precepts is achieved when one
sets priorities and puts things into order; the Principle of Patience
when one increases patience while working; the Principle of Diligence
when one tries to improve daily; the Principle of Concentration
when one is no longer affected by external factors and the Principle
of Wisdom when one is clear-minded. A pure mind has no attachments
therefore it never gets tired. On the other hand, a polluted mind
becomes easily tired without having doing much. The difference lies
in the way we think, when this changes, so will the results. Wherever
one is, at work or with friends, one can strive to achieve the Six
Principles. Cultivation is not being separated from family or society,
but is perfected within one・s daily life. One who truly knows how
to cultivate accumulates infinite good fortune and merits.
In conclusion, the most
important principles of the Buddha・s teachings are having purity
of mind, thoroughly seeing through to true reality, letting go of
all worries and attachments and serving all sentient beings with
a joyful heart.
May you all learn and
practice the "Art of Living" so that your lives will be
happy and fulfilling.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Question. How do we purify
our minds so we can remain forever young?
Answer. This is a good
question. The sutras tell us that anything that has a physical image
is unreal. We can apply or use these physical images, but we cannot
foster attachments for them. Attachments create impurity in our
mind, deterring us from achieving enlightenment. This applies to
all forms of practice in Buddhism. Even the Pure Land School, which
many agree is the easiest to practice, requires that although one
who wishes to be born into the Pure Land can take their remaining
karma with them, they cannot have any existing worries or attachments.
Therefore, a person with worries or attachments cannot transcend
the cycle of birth and death. Life becomes harder as we pass through
the cycles of rebirth.
Earlier in this talk,
I spoke of filial piety. Up until 1995, the only attachment I had
left was for my ninety-one year old mother, who lived in China.
When I met with her about ten years earlier in Hong Kong, I persuaded
her to practice the Buddha Name Chanting Method. When I spoke with
her on the telephone several years ago, she still had strong attachments
for her sons and grandchildren. Not until a year ago did she finally
let go of all attachments. She told me that she had seen Buddha
Amitabha twice and Guan Yin Bodhisattva once. In addition, she had
prior knowledge of when she would be leaving this world. On May
29, 1995, she passed on and was born into the Western Pure Land.
At her funeral, people were aware of a radiant glow and a pleasing
yet unfamiliar fragrance. Her complexion appeared similar to that
of a live person. After eight days, her body was still soft. Upon
her cremation, more than three hundred sharira, or relics, were
found. All this is evidence that she had been successfully born
into the Pure Land.
In conclusion, once we
are rid of worries and attachments we can go to the Western Pure
Land whenever we wish. By maintaining a pure, non-discriminating,
compassionate and kind heart, one holds the key to remaining youthful.
Question. Why do some
Buddhists exclude the five pungent vegetables from their diet?
Answer. Some Buddhists
who follow a strict diet do not eat the five pungent vegetables;
onions, garlic, chives, green onions and leeks. The Buddha said
that these adversely affect those who are in the early stages of
cultivation. If eaten cooked, they produce hormones. Eaten raw,
they may affect the liver, leading one to become irritable and less
able to concentrate. Please understand that this only happens if
you eat them in large quantities. There is no problem if a moderate
amount is used for cooking.
The same applies for
alcohol and intoxicants. Intoxication can be a factor in causing
erroneous behavior. The Buddha warned people against alcohol or
intoxicants to guide them in the avoidance of committing misdeeds
due to intoxication. Therefore, the precepts that the Buddha set
forth really depend upon the environment and the situation that
we are in.
Our society is different
from that of Buddha Shakyamuni's. If he were to re-appear in this
world, I am sure the Buddha would encourage the use of garlic, simply
because it can be used to cure some diseases, especially lung disease.
Many years ago, I was
teaching at the Eastern Buddhist College. During that period, we
found out that a few of the students had lung diseases. Dr. Tang,
who was one of the professors, suggested that they use garlic for
treatment. He told us of an event that had happened in China some
time ago. A patient was told by his doctor that due to his end stage
of TB, he only had three months to live. The patient・s family was
also told to let him have anything he asked for, with one condition;
that he lived apart from his family. His family, therefore, built
a room for him to live in a vegetable garden and delivered meals
to him every day.
In that garden, grew
a large amount of garlic. Due to his isolation and boredom, he tried
the garlic raw and discovered that he enjoyed the taste of it. Soon
the garlic became more of a snack for him. Three months later, he
was still alive, and months after that, he was becoming healthier
and healthier. His family found it strange and thinking there had
been a misdiagnosis took him back to the hospital.
The doctor was astonished
at what he saw and immediately gathered a group of specialists to
investigate his patient・s case. Finally, they found out it was
the garlic that cured the disease! From then on, many medicines
for lung disease have been made with garlic. Regretfully, when Dr.
Tang suggested that those students use garlic for treatment, his
suggestion was not accepted. The students did not want to violate
the precepts even though their illness was contagious. Therefore,
precepts have to be flexible and to consider environmental conditions.
Nowadays, almost everything we eat, such as, meat, fish and even
vegetables, contains either chemicals or preservatives, which are
harmful to us. In addition, we are seeing more and more people with
diseases that have not previously existed.
Even the taste of meat
is different now. Years ago, chicks and piglets were raised in the
open, so they were happier and that affected the taste of the meat.
Now animals are raised in a narrow space with no place to move.
Do you think they are happy? I heard that in Taiwan, the piglets
are injected with chemicals so they grow more quickly. Their life
span is only six months and the chickens only live for six weeks!
Even vegetables and grains are no exceptions to being contaminated.
How could we not get sick?
Therefore, garlic is
good for us, although it is harmful to our eyes when taken in large
Question. The Buddha
taught us not to kill, but what should we do about insects such
as mosquitoes and flies?
Answer. The Buddha not
only taught us to protect all animals, but also plants. Even plants
have lives and grow with dignity. Therefore, unless there is absolutely
no space for us to walk around them, we should not step on them
because that behavior is disrespectful and an insult to the plants.
Normally, when a tree
is as tall as human, there is a tree spirit. In ancient times, monks
often lived in mountain huts. Three days before they cut a tree
to build the hut, they would respectfully tell of their intention
and ask the tree spirit to move to a safe place. This method can
be applied to insects. In order to keep our houses and environment
clean and our family healthy, we can stand in front of a statue
of the Buddha or Bodhisattva three days before our actions and ask
the insects to move. Some people who have done so with sincere and
kind hearts have received good result.