V 10-7 Discussion of the Twelve Karmic Affinities/ the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising (2/2) 谈十二因缘
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.
The eleventh link is growth. The birth link refers to how you live and the process of development, not its basic definition. In your daily life, live properly in an upright manner. If not, then you will be tainted. And if you’re not careful enough and allow yourself to be possessed by your inner demons, then you might be reborn in the lower realms of samsara. Birth is about engrossing yourself into endless propagation of the Dharma and awakening others spiritually. Some people use their limited lifespan to immerse themselves into endless material desires. In the end, they will be devoured by their greed for fame and wealth. The twelfth link is death. After death, you will enter into the next rebirth cycle of samsara. Alright, Master has expounded all the stages of the twelve links of dependent origination in general terms. Death is painful but can’t be avoided. Many people who cultivate well still have to undergo the rebirth cycle. Master wishes that you look out for yourself.
The twelve links of dependent origination also comprise an extra layer to evaluate: the two types of karma over three lifetimes. That’s because the dependent origination is affected and determined by the karmic causes and consequences of the past life, present life and future life. An old Chinese adage goes like so – if you want to know what you did in the previous life, then look at what you are going through in the present life. If you want to know whether you’re a good or bad person and how many good or bad deeds you did in the past life, then look at what you have gone through in the present life. If you experienced many hardships, your health is terrible, or you’ve been cheated, then it means that you weren’t a good person in your past life. If you want to know your next life, then look at what you are currently doing. Someone asked, “Master, would I achieve better in my cultivation in my next life? Can I go to heaven in the next life?” What you are currently doing indicates whether you will be going to heaven or hell in the next life. Isn’t that right?
What Master expounded are the twelve links of dependent origination while encompassing the two types of karma. What are they? They are wholesome and unwholesome karma. So how can one differentiate it? For example, by looking at what percentage of wholesome and unwholesome deeds a person did throughout their lifetime. If it’s half-half, then they might be reborn as a human in their next life. The greater the difference, the greater the swing. If you passed away right now, and 80% of all the deeds you did are wholesome, and 20% are unwholesome, then you might ascend to heaven while carrying some negative karma. After you’re aware of karma and how it works, you no longer dare to commit unwholesome deeds. Then the ratio of wholesome to unwholesome deeds will increase, and you can ascend. That’s the idea. If you did many unwholesome deeds while only doing wholesome ones occasionally, your negative karma could erase all your accumulated positive karma.
One time, after an earthquake occurred, someone asked Master, “Within the 10,000 deaths caused by it, are all of them, bad people? Surely that must also be some good people who died?” Master replied, “Within the 10,000 people who died, there are at least some people who are neither good nor bad who reached the maturity time of their karmic retribution. So they become at the mercy of their unwholesome karmic affinities. If they reach the time when their karmic rewards mature, they will also go with the flow of their wholesome karmic affinities and go to a better place. To illustrate this with an example, if a small town suddenly developed their tourism and became buzzing with activity. Then all the local residents could make money. Even if some of them were bad people, wouldn’t they also make money? So when an earthquake occurs in an area, and everyone there dies, wouldn’t the people who are neither good nor bad be included?
That’s why people who are neither good nor bad are people who haven’t cultivated themselves. You must be a good person. Otherwise, you can’t become a Buddha. “I never talk about the shortcomings of others, nor am I nosy about other people’s affairs. I’m only concerned about my own conduct.” Individuals with this attitude are not considered a truly good person. Good people must do wholesome deeds; that’s what makes them good. If you aren’t willing to cultivate your mind, then you aren’t a good person. The principle is that simple.
Then, within these 10,000 who had died, what about the good people who cultivate their minds? What happens to them when a catastrophe occurs? The Bodhisattvas would allocate them away before it occurs, for example, adjusting their fate to be away from the area when it occurs. For example, their manager gets them to travel to a different location to work. That’s why when an earthquake occurs, many people are fortunate enough to be on a business trip away from the area or not at home. The Bodhisattvas blessed them. Why was it that when there was a plane accident where 280 people on board died, one of our fellow Buddhists from Canada had suffered a stomach ache on the day of the flight, so he couldn’t get on board? He was outstanding and excellent, so the Bodhisattvas gave him special treatment. If you’re neither good nor bad, then you won’t gain anything. Master hopes that you understand that if you could cease your ignorance, then you won’t be bound by the twelve links. Do you know what you must rely on to do so? Isn’t Master currently teaching you how to cease your ignorance? From his teachings, you will understand what you can do and what you can’t do. Then you will cease your ignorance and won’t continue being reborn in samsara.
If you don’t understand, you must have a clear teacher to guide you. If Master is not around, what can you do? If you currently have nothing, don’t worry; you would have Bodhisattvas looking over you. Then you won’t get ignored. The problem with many people is that they can’t let go. If you never let go, then you will never receive. To illustrate this with an example, you went into a supermarket to buy some food for breakfast, like bread, milk and eggs. “If I have no bread, I will starve. How can breakfast be complete without milk? Without fruit, what should I eat?” If you carry all of these things, then you won’t be able to eat breakfast at your child’s home. You have to first let go of all these things and go meet your child. He will invite you for breakfast, “Don’t worry, come to my house. We have everything.” That’s the principle.
You can’t let go because you’re not willing to let go. Master had illustrated this with an example before. A person who couldn’t swim fell into a deep pool of water and kept struggling by waving his hands around to grab hold of something and moving his legs to find a ground to stand on. Due to this, his body kept sinking. When he thought he was about to die and tired of struggling, he gave up the struggle and stopped moving. When his arms and legs were relaxed, he gradually floated back to the surface. Do you still not understand? The principles can all be found in the Human Realm. If you want to cease your ignorance and not be chained by the twelve links, you must have Master to guide you. Aren’t you blessed? When Master was little, he had nobody to guide him. And unexpectedly, after many years of hard cultivation, he became enlightened and liberated. Aren’t you blessed to encounter Master?
The Bodhisattvas expounded, “Although epiphany could lead one to be like the Buddha, one’s habitual behaviour is too deeply rooted.” For example, you suddenly understand and repent, “Oh Bodhisattvas, I will never do bad deeds again.” So after awakening suddenly, aren’t you like a Buddha? It’s because you finally understand. But your habitual behaviours will gradually cause you to become confused again. Maybe you understood then, but after a while, you become lost again. That’s because you have committed many inappropriate things over your past lifetimes. That’s why even though you may have an epiphany, but you won’t immediately change and reform all the shortcomings and mistakes you made in the past.
‘When the wind stops, the waves are still surging, and habitual thoughts are still invading.” You may not understand this line, but let Master explain. When you have an epiphany, isn’t it a kind of idea? The logic and reasoning behind the idea have manifested, and you understand. But because your thoughts had constantly developed in a habitual state, it hasn’t ultimately come to a halt. For example, you know you shouldn’t beat your wife, but it has already become a habit. So it’s like your habitual thoughts are invading your mind. When the situation occurs again, those thoughts will arise. You know you mustn't smoke, but when your cravings come, although you know you shouldn’t smoke, you still do it. That’s why when vegetarians eat meat-free dishes that has taken the form of fish or duck, it’s still an issue. That’s because there are still desires to eat fish, meat, prawns, etc. They are made in that form to help make new vegetarians and meat-eaters think that plant-based foods are delicious, so they change their diet and habits. When you have practised Buddhism for a period, your thoughts and tongue must be pure.
To illustrate this with an example, if you don’t scold others, but you scold others inside your mind, do you consider yourself pure? Master wishes that fellow Buddhists don’t force things on others. If you force somebody to do something against their wishes, then you are creating negative karma. “This child is disobedient, he never listens, and I have to force him.” If you force him, you create negative karma because you have interfered with his karmic cause and consequences. The same applies to your wife or husband. If you force them to do something against their wishes, you create negative karma. In today’s society, the practice of Buddhism is the same. You should just do your best to persuade others to practise Buddhism, but if they don’t listen, you shouldn’t force them.