V 1-14 Moral Discipline and Awakenment 谈受戒与开悟
Disclaimer: The translations are not official nor endorsed by 2OR, so please just treat it as a ‘fan-based’ translation. The Buddha-Dharma is profound. No matter how you convey it, it won’t be completely perfect. Because the Buddha-Dharma is an experience, it’s an awakening 【佛法深奥无比，怎么写，都不会是究竟圆满。佛法是一种悟】. Please enjoy, and I hope it serves as a good filler until the official English version comes out.
Today’s lesson is to discuss the practice of moral discipline. Buddha said, “It is through observing precepts and adhering to the law that the body and mind can be settled.” A person who practises moral discipline is assertive on the dos and don’ts in life, they hold on to their moral discipline and abide by the law - the portal to a settled body and mind (“law” here refers to the governing law in either the human realm, the underworld or heaven, conditional on the realm in question).
How do our body and mind become calm? It is through understanding that practising moral discipline and abiding by the law allows our worries, anxieties and fears to subside. Much the same as when one has committed no evil, they have no fear when the policemen come knocking on their door at night. As long as one can observe moral discipline, they are free from all worries, anxieties and fear. Just like when an overweight person was advised by the doctor, “If you continue to gain weight, you will contract heart disease”. If this person heeds this warning and refrains from eating high cholesterol and oily foods, naturally they would no longer be worried. Their body and mind would be calm.
Do you know what we are cultivating when cultivating our mind? From a certain perspective, it’s about observing precepts and refrain from doing the things you shouldn’t do, from saying the things you shouldn’t say and from thinking about the things you shouldn’t think. You must constantly practise self-restraint so that you can gradually get rid of your bad behaviours. A person who fails to do so is not a true cultivator of the mind, and they would be at the mercy of their fate and fortune. At present, many people enjoy good health because they have embarked on the path of Buddhist practice, practise moral discipline and recite Buddhist scriptures. Under the Five Buddhist Precepts, should you violate the precept of “not stealing”, don’t you think you’ll be arrested by the police? Similarly, the precept of “not killing” - if you murdered a person or an animal, you would have violated the moral law of the human realm (“Yang” law) and the underworld (“Yin” law) respectively. Even if punishment isn’t served in the human realm regarding the killing of animals, inevitably, you will suffer due punishment in the underworld. Hence, the importance of upholding the Five Precepts is unquestionable, and it is not limited to the monastic community.
Regarding this world, let me share with you two things. Firstly, accept everything that happens in this world happens. Many people ask questions like, “Why did it happen to me? What did something like that happen to me?” There is no ‘why’. If you got cancer, you got cancer. If you die, you die. Many people are mentally unprepared when calamity strikes. You must accept that it is what it is and move on. Secondly, any money that you’ve lost doesn’t belong to you anymore. For example, when somebody swindles you, and you have transferred your money to them, it’s no longer yours. There are others who covet riches and dream about making a fortune through some miracles. Please take note; there is no miracle in this world. Even the so-called miracles are nothing but the karmic causes that you sowed in your previous lives. Peace and security are blessings. If you can remain peaceful and secure in life, then you are blessed. I have told you before on the Three Studies, that is “Moral Discipline, Concentration and Wisdom”. If you wish to obtain concentration, you must begin by holding the precepts. It is through upholding the precepts that your body and mind are pacified because you have no desires. Without desires, your mind is pure. With concentration, one can bring forth wisdom, as it is through a reigned and pacified mind that wisdom arises. No matter what life throws at you, you will remain cool, calm and collected.
Today, I’ll share with you three tips to help your mind awaken. They are to listen, read and immerse.
Listen to Buddhist teachings, scriptures and principles attentively and regularly. The benefit of listening to Buddhist teachings, positive words, kind words, inspirational words goes a long way, as you mind will gradually awaken.
Listen to Buddhist teachings, read Buddhist scriptures, become familiar with it. Through listening, reading and putting the knowledge into practice, you immerse yourself within it. Only then could your mind enter a supranormal level of spirituality - awakenment stage.
There are two foundations in life. The first being the body, which is the root of our suffering. Why do we suffer? It’s because of our physical body. For example, when we fall ill, when we lose our jobs, when we meet with car accidents, etc. All of these sensory experiences are realised because of your body. Hence it is the root of your suffering. Here’s another example. You’re thirsty, and you crave for water. What if water is not available, then what will you do? You would start to think about buying some. But what if you don’t have any money? You are then left with no choice but to mortify your body through hardship to earn money for this purpose. Next, is the fundamental of materialism, which is related to your desire for materialistic objects. It has to do with your craving for just about anything and everything; when these cravings are not satisfied, suffering is inevitable. This fundamental is also referred to as the root cause of trouble.
As long as we possess a form, we are bound to the reality of birth, ageing, sickness and death; while all material existence (or substance in this world) pass through the four states of phenomena - formation, existence, destruction and emptiness. For example, a table is made from wood; it has hence come into existence; over time, the wood will start to decay, and the table goes through the destruction phase; it will then be deemed useless and discarded as it enters into the stage of emptiness. This phenomenon applies to all the things and matters we see in this world, that is:
Human - birth, ageing, sickness and death;
Material - formation, existence, destruction and emptiness.
Mahayana Buddhism is the wisdom and magnanimity of the Bodhisattvas, which aspires to save all sentient beings. They are well aware of the suffering they have to endure in the process, but they still do so. For example, when a disaster happens, an ordinary person would prioritise who to save first. However, this isn’t the case for Bodhisattvas because as far as they are concerned, all sentient beings are equal. In practising Buddhism, it is rare for one to adopt the spirit of Mahayana Buddhism in saving all predestined sentient beings, as humans have a natural tendency to be biased. The sentient beings that Bodhisattva wish to save are so immeasurable and boundless; it is akin to the sand of Ganges River. From the context of Mahayana Buddhism, this approach is referred to as “equal deliverance”. It is not bounded by circumstances – neither does it make a difference if the person they are helping is male or female, young or old, poor or rich, noble or lowly. For example, here we have many people listening to my lesson. The level of cultivation is different for every one of you, so the level of understanding and the ability to assimilate to my teachings are different for every one of you. While I am impartial in imparting knowledge to all disciples, the energy that you receive is different, it is unequal. This inequality is established at your end, not mine. I have given all of you the same amount of energy. However, it is your receptiveness and level of cultivation which shall determine how much energy is gained.
There is a prevailing tendency of inequality in Theravada’s approach of delivering sentient beings - only to those that one favour, one extends his helping hand, while those that one dislikes are ignored. Evidently, the condition of attachment prevails in this approach.
All of you must cultivate the spirit of Mahayana Buddhism of saving all sentient beings that have a karmic affinity with us! Another important characteristic of Theravada Buddhism is, “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”, that is, help is only rendered to sentient beings who reach out their hands in need. Tell me, is this the phenomenon you are experiencing now? If others do not ask you for help, would you take the initiative to help them? Though it is said in Buddhism that we should “save only those with karmic affinity”, this should not be misunderstood as never reaching out to them, but rather to wait for their karmic affinities to ripen. The wisdom of Bodhisattva is perfect; it’s supreme enlightenment. In studying and cultivating Buddhism, we need to have complete dedication where helping others is not something we do at our whims and fancies. For the people whose karmic affinities don’t exist yet, be that as it may, create it, and lend your helping hand to them. I hope that this is something that all of you can do.
When you listen to Buddhist teachings, do not confine your understanding to the verbal constructs. Whenever I am sharing Buddhist knowledge, in essence, I am sharing about the principles of life, so don’t be contented just by savouring its lines of verse. Neither should you merely listen to the characteristics of language and its use. Instead, you should look out for the principles behind it; in other words, the doctrine. I am here to provide you with guidance; I am here to teach you a set of theories, of which you should figure out the underlying principles. The principles ought to be reasonable and never preposterous but upright - it is a set of rules of practice and the principles of Buddha-Dharma.
Let’s talk about performing life liberation. The greatest merit from this act is that you are saving future Buddhas. Think about it, when you liberate a fish from imminent death, and members of the younger generation witness it, the feeling of compassion will arise in them. You can’t say for sure that this child won’t be a Buddha in the future, can you? Please remember, the power of a role model is immeasurable. It stands to reason that your cultivation should be based on fearless compassion as it is a sure-fire way to cultivating your inherent nature.