The Buddha teaches that there are eight sufferings in life. Is birth, ageing, sickness and death four of the sufferings?
1. Birth - Isn’t it painful when a child is born? The suffering already begins before birth as one is already able to feel sensations in the womb. When a mother drinks hot soup, the fetus will find it unbearably warm. When a mother eats ice cream, the fetus will find it similarly uncomfortable. Isn’t being born painful? This is the truth of birth.
2. Ageing - isn’t ageing uncomfortable? You might wish to head out, but your legs fail you. You might wish to eat something, but your teeth fail you. Isn’t growing older a form of suffering? You are unable to do anything you want to do.
3. Sickness - It is needless to say that sickness is a form of pain and suffering.
4. Death - is something that everyone is afraid of and involves even more suffering. Regardless of how much wealth, fame and benefits you possess, no one can escape birth, ageing, sickness and death. It is very fair, and that is why they are known as the four sufferings.
Let’s talk more about the other four sufferings.
5. Having to leave the one you love (爱别离Ài biélí). When you love someone immensely, but you are forced to leave the person, isn’t that painful? Train stations and airports are prime examples - places of farewell
6. Unattainable wish (求不得Qiú bùdé)- The sixth suffering is being unable to get what you wish for. If you pray very hard for something in vain, isn’t that painful? This is the most painful of them all. If your prayers are always unanswered, won’t you be suffering?
7. Being with the ones you detest （怨憎会Yuànzēng huì） - The next suffering is hatred and resentment. If you are forced to interact daily with someone you dislike at work, wouldn’t you be upset? Resentment is a form of karmic grievance, while hatred can be understood in context as having to see a person you dislike every day. There is a traditional Chinese idiom that says, “The road of enemies is narrow (冤家路窄)”.
8. Ills of the Five Yin (五阴炽盛Wǔ yīn chìshèng)- Finally, there is the suffering of The Five Yin. There are five things that are Yin in nature. It is an invisible working of the mind involving form, feeling, perception, volition and consciousness (色受想行识). What goes on in the mind is unknown to others, including your desires, love and hate towards others. When these accumulate, they will burn just like a fire, causing you much suffering.
WHAT MENTALITY SHOULD WE ADOPT TOWARDS THE EIGHT SUFFERINGS IN LIFE
Caller: At times, we may develop a sudden realisation that our parents or those that have been with us for many years will depart eventually. Perhaps they will be in a better place, and it is for good. However, those that are left behind will still be very sad. What sort of mentality should we adopt towards birth, ageing, sickness, death and the rest of The Eight Sufferings.
Master Jun Hong Lu: The Eight Sufferings in life are things that everyone must go through as long as they are in the human realm, isn't that right? We must bear this with a sense of sincerity and recompense. This is why many religions, including Christianity, preach that all men are sinners. Many people couldn’t accept this. They say, “Why am I guilty? How do I know I'm guilty?” In fact, as long as we have come to this world, we are basically guilty, and we must have done wrong in previous lives.
This world is an imperfect place. Hence, it is impossible for one to expect perfection in things. Instead, we must learn to accept this environment as a training ground for us. We can’t escape from birth, age, sickness and death in this world. These are realities. Even if we refuse them, we can’t evade them, can we?
Caller: Well, perhaps we have to endure these pains.
Master Jun Hong Lu: Yes, but endurance is one way. As Buddhist practitioners, we can resolve these pains and rely on Bodhisattva to help us see it through. We must understand that these are the sufferings that we must endure. However, we may pray to Bodhisattva to relieve our suffering by blessing us so that we don’t feel so much agony in our hearts. Although we can't forget, we have to learn to let go. Let go NOW, or you will never be able to!
Enduring hardship is a process of eliminating karmic obstacles (吃苦是消业).
Those who can accept reality understand how to change reality. For a Buddhist practitioner, suffering is only temporary. For a non-practitioner, suffering will be long-lasting.
Q2: In this chapter Master Lu reminded us not to be swayed by external circumstances (心不要随境界转). Why is this so important?
A2: Master Lu reiterated its importance through this phrase - “Buddha is in Our Heart (即心即佛)”. It means we should maintain an imperturbable equanimity at all times as our state-of-mind will determine whether we are a Buddha or a Devil.
In Buddhism, equanimity(Pali: upekkhā; Sanskrit: upekṣā) is one of the four sublime attitudes and is considered: Neither a thought nor an emotion; it is rather the steady conscious realisation of reality's transience. It is the ground for wisdom and freedom and the protector of compassion and love.
Equanimity (Latin: æquanimitas, having an even mind; aequus even; animus mind/soul) is a state ofpsychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind. Thevirtue and value of equanimity are extolled and advocated by a number of major religions and ancient philosophies.
Q3: How do we know that we are “Preserving our EQUANIMITY ((心不增减))” or not?
A3: Master Lu said, “Regardless of the circumstances, we have to preserve our equanimity. When there is inequanimity, we will attached importance certain things (重视了); with equanimity, there will not be any attachment, and we will be able to free ourselves from attachments and anxieties”.
Zongshu20170624 22:58 (Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
PRACTICE TRUE CULTIVATION - A MIND THAT IS UNPERTURBED
Master Jun Hong Lu: In practising Buddhism, we must be true to our practice (真学). No matter what happens, our mind should remain unperturbed, “no wax or wane (心不增不减)”. What does this mean? It is a state of “unmoving suchness (如如不动)”.
What does it mean by “no wax, no wane”? When good things come along, let there be no “increase” in our mind or in our desire; whatever comes along, it could never make us lose our morality or diligence in cultivation. When there is no “increase” there shall be no “decrease”. When there is no “decrease”, we don’t have to work on “increasing”. These are the basic principles of the Dharma. Only there is “no wax; no wane” can there be “no birth and no death” (不增不减才能不生不灭). There are many pitiable people around. They always desire this and that, and they suffer when they fail to attain what they wish for.
BEING UNPERTURBED IS THE ABILITY TO LET NATURE TAKES IT COURSE (随缘)
Master Jun Hong Lu: To be unmoved (心无增减) in any given situation is a quality of a broad-minded person (胸怀). We should not change when we encounter something; neither should be overly anxious. What’s the big deal? Since we have come to this world, we have to be mentally prepared. Birth, ageing, sickness, death, having to part with our loved ones….
There are The Eight Sufferings in life - but that’s just an outline, there are 100 kinds of other distresses in this world. There are those who are deeply in love but are forced to be separated; we are born alone, and no one will accompany us when we die, we will have to leave alone. Think about it that is all to this world. What is there for us to grasp? Don't be silly. All phenomena are just mere affinities (一种缘分) in this world. Let it come and let it go. Whatever happened, don’t be frightened, like what I said, “do not change with conditions (随缘不变)” To be able to do so not only requires a state of broadmindedness but also a level of maturity(成熟). It is a quality of a confident person - a person who allows nature to take its course no matter how major the ordeal they are faced with.
Buddhism In Plain Terms Vol. 1 Chapter 13 (an excerpt)
STAY TRUE REGARDLESS OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES
Master Jun Hong Lu: We should not be affected no matter what the circumstances we are in. In times of adversity, how do we eliminate unruly thoughts (消除杂念) and remain unmoved (不动心)?
Firstly, contemplate with wisdom (慧观). Understand that all phenomena are transient and it never lasts. When we look at a problem with wisdom, what we gain is wisdom.
Secondly, contemplate the sufferings of hell(观地狱苦). At the verge of doing something bad, we should think about its retribution - we may need to go to hell. Hence, we must practise restraint (克制自己). For example: when we deceive others or mistreat others, think about what kind of suffering we will have to go through in Hell.
Thirdly, contemplate the sufferings of the hungry ghosts (观饿鬼苦). Hungry ghosts are those who are in the ghost path; with small mouths and big belly. They are always in hunger and very pitiable.
Fourthly, repent through reciting scriptures(观饿鬼苦). When we are troubled, we should concentrate on chanting and repent sincerely. With that, our troubles will be eliminated naturally. Only through sincere chanting that we can be free from karmic obstacles, evil phenomena and everything else that trouble us.
Concentration during chanting is very important. Otherwise, it will be ineffective. If our thoughts are scattered during recitation, the verses that we recite will be scattered and so will be our mind. Hence, it is crucial that we recite the Buddhist scriptures attentively.
Cross reference 4 <A mind of Equanimity 心无增减 )>
Master Jun Hong Lu’s
World Buddhist Fellowship Meeting - Brisbane, Australia
7 June 2019
SHOW GRATITUDE TO THOSE WHO HAVE HELPED US; SHOW FORGIVENESS TO THOSE WHO HAVE HURT US
Master Jun Hong Lu: In the hustle and bustle of mundane life, troubles are incessant. A Buddhist practitioner would thus find it wise always to show gratitude towards those who have helped us and show forgiveness towards those who have hurt us. This is because these people make us stronger.
1. What are The Eight Sufferings?
i. How to face it when it comes?
a. Accept it (just like the Christian belief, that we are all sinners)
b. Understand that this world is but a practice ground for us
c. Understand that endurance of hardship is meant to eliminate karmic obstacles
ii. What if it is too painful to bear?
Pray to Bodhisattva to relieve our suffering by blessing us so that we do not feel so much agony.
2. A Mind of Equanimity in Buddhism is a steady conscious realisation of reality transience. It is the ground for wisdom and freedom and protector of compassion and love.
Equanimity is a state of psychological stability and composure, which is undisturbed by experience or exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind.
3. When we have a Mind of Inequanimity, we will tend to attached importance to certain things.
When we have a Mind Of Equanimity, there will not be any attachments nor anxieties.
4. What does it mean by “no wax, no wane/no increasing nor decreasing”?
When good/bad things come along, let there be no “increase/decrease” in our mind or our desire/aversion; whatever comes along, it could never make us lose our morality or diligence in cultivation.
5. “Do not change with conditions (随缘不变)” - to be able to do so not only requires a state of broadmindedness but also a level of maturity(成熟). It is a quality of a confident person - a person who allows nature to take its course no matter how major the ordeal they are faced with
Q4: In this chapter, Master Lu mentioned that in order to bring any outcome to perfection we have to practise ______
A4: letting nature takes its course (随缘). Having an unyielding attitude will impair our ability to accord with conditions.
Cross reference 1 <To Accord with conditions 随缘 )>
Buddhism In Plain Terms Vol. 7 Chapter 32 (an excerpt)
EMPTINESS IS TO ACCORD WITH CONDITIONS
Master Jun Hong Lu: No matter what life throws at us, remain firm in our reaction (随缘不变). This is the quality of a broadminded person. When ill fate is served, we face it with magnanimity, and when good affinity knocks on our door, we accept it happily.
To be able to accord with conditions is a kind of maturity and self-confidence. A person who is able to let nature take its course is able to find their way forward in changing circumstances and when things get difficult and rough in life.
To accord with conditions is when we have the correct and clear understanding of reality. When something happens, we are clear-headed, and we have the correct understanding (很清醒地、正确地理解它). This is what it means by ‘to accord with conditions’.
In fact, our ability to let nature takes its course is the spiritual freedom we gained through our thorough understanding of life (对人生彻悟之后的精神自由).
Cross reference 2 <To Accord with conditions 随缘 )>
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program) (an excerpt)
HOW TO ACCORD WITH CONDITIONS WISELY?
Caller: There is a phrase that is very commonly used by Buddhists, i.e. to accord with conditions/let nature takes its course/to go with the flow (随缘 ). At times, being able to accord with conditions is indeed a very good mental attitude that allows us to let go and learn not to be so attached; but sometimes it can be taken on as an excuse for laziness and not putting in the effort. For example, a person is very busy with work; he will accord with his conditions and do not perform daily recitation; he will also go with the flow with his bad habits. May I know if there is a way to accord with conditions with wisdom. How do we define the scope when it comes to going with the flow?
Master Jun Hong Lu: It's very simple. The notion of ‘going with the flow’ must be progressive and not regressive in nature (精进随缘”，而不是“倒退随缘). There are some people who use the excuse of ‘going to the flow’ to regress. This is not good. One must be making progress instead.
Caller: In the event that we failed in something we do and we took the stand of going with the flow. Is this considered progressive in accordance with conditions (精进随缘)?
Master Jun Hong Lu: Yes, it is because at least at the beginning, you have dedicated yourself to progress. It’s just that it did not turn out to be successful. Hence, it cannot be considered regressive. For example, you did your best to help others, but you failed, and you let nature take its course.
Was your intention good in the first place? Yes.
By you trying to help him, is it a good gesture? Yes.
Now that you don’t cling on to the end result, is it a good sign? Yes.
UNDERSTANDING THE TERMS “GO WITH THE FLOW” AND “RESIGN TO FATE”
Caller: I would like to ask a question about "Go with the Flow (随缘)" and "Resign to Fate (认命)". Before we practise Buddhism, due to our low state of spirituality, we tend to resign to fate, and never thought about going with the flow.
My understanding of: "to go with the flow" is when we understand the law of cause and effect, and with that understanding, from higher ground, we look at the matter in hand. While to “resign to fate” means one is at the mercy of one’s destiny (任自己的命运摆布). Even after studying Buddhism, practically speaking, we may not be able to tell if we are resigning to fate or going with the flow. In this case, we know well that what the person is encountering is a bad affinity; in fact, Bodhisattva had sent this person premonition dreams about it. However, he still insisted on his way. I am not sure what’s the best way to persuade him.
Master Jun Hong Lu: You are very wise in asking this question. ‘To accord with conditions’ and to ‘resign to fate’ are two different concepts. There is a molecular structure that defines our going with the flow, that is: to ‘transform positive affinity and eliminate negative affinity (改变善缘、去除恶缘)’; whereas in the concept of ‘resigning to fate’, there is no transformation nor elimination of this sort.
Caller: How should I advise this Buddhist friend?
Master Jun Hong Lu: Those who do not practise Buddhism will not understand these principles, including the law of causality. Hence, they can only resign to fate.
Caller: He is a Buddhist practitioner, and he is quite good at preaching Buddhism
Master Jun Hong Lu: He must have gone astray in his practice. The ultimate purpose of learning Buddhism is to change our destiny, not to resign to fate (改变命运，而不是认命). Those who fail to transform themselves are those who are not diligent in their practice. Therefore they are not able to make any progress.
Q5: In this chapter, Master Lu mentioned an important phrase “The Buddha is in the Heart” (即心即佛Jí xīn jí fo). What does it mean?
A5: The phrase “The Buddha is in the Heart (即心即佛)” is all-encompassing. It means maintaining an imperturbable equanimity at all times without the influence of the surroundings. Your state of mind will determine whether you are a Buddha or a Devil.
Cross reference 1 <The Buddha is in the Heart 即心即佛)>
WORDS OF WISDOM (VOL. 1)
悟道之人，逢苦不忧， 一切境界，得失从缘， 心无增减，转凡成圣， 心无挂碍，即心即佛。
An enlightened person will not be worried in times of hardship. Whatever circumstances they encounter, they act in accordance with conditions; they are not bothered by gains or losses. Their mind remains steady, neither increasing nor decreasing. They turn themselves from an ordinary person into a sage. The mind is free from obstructions. This very mind is Buddha.
Q6: We often talk about cultivating compassion. Can you remember what is the first step towards it, as preached by Confucius?
A6: The main characteristic of a sage (圣人) is their forgiving nature. In fact, forgiving others is the beginning of cultivating compassion (原谅人家实际上就是慈悲心的开始). How could you be compassionate if you are unable to forgive others? If you are unforgiving towards others, you will eventually develop hatred for them. As a result, cultivating a compassionate heart will be impossible since hatred and compassion do not co-exist (恨人家就不会有慈悲心).
In any family, everyone makes mistakes. Each time we forgive someone from our heart, we are cultivating and generating blessings (多修福和造福). Those people with great blessings around us, they are the ones who have a high level of forbearance (气量大). Hence, there is a Chinese saying that goes, “Great Forbearance, Great Blessings(量大，福气就大)”!
Q7: In this chapter, Master Lu said, “with limited abilities, in order for an individual to progress in spiritual cultivation what should one do?”
A7: One should follow a Dharma Door single-mindedly in a lifetime. If you attempt to learn from every Dharma Doors, you are bound to fail. In addition, there is a possibility that it may lead to harmful deviation and result in devilish possession.
1. A person who is able to let nature take its course is able to find their way forward in changing circumstances and when things get difficult and rough in life.
2. What are the characteristics of a person that allow him to practise the positive mental attitude of being able to accord with conditions?
o having a correct and thorough understanding of life
3. Being able to accord with conditions is indeed a very good mental attitude that allows us to let go and learn not to be attached;
4. “To go with the flow” is a good mental attitude. However, sometimes be taken on as an excuse for laziness and not putting in the effort. How can we tell the difference?
The notion of ‘going with the flow’ must be progressive and not regressive in nature (精进随缘”，而不是“倒退随缘). There are some people who use the excuse of ‘going to the flow’ to regress. This is not good. One must be making progress instead.
5. We must learn to forgive readily. What has Master Lu got to say about this?: