V 11-23 View Desires as Something Empty and the Bodhi as Something Real 欲望为空 菩提为真
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.
Buddhists shouldn’t become too indulgent into their desires. Desires can ruin people. A person starts from wanting this and that, then gradually they want everything until their mind is completely filled with desires. They would then forget all about the hardships they experienced in the past, and they will no longer cultivate properly. If we are too eager to experience the worldly pleasures, for example, eating fine food, drinking fine wine, playing and joking around, they basically won’t find the time to cultivate. One wastes their time because they’re too greedy. Some people will use up a lot of their time for the sake of getting a property or a car. In the past, why did the Bodhisattvas tell us to practise asceticism? It’s because when a person is experiencing hardships, they will think about cultivating. Whereas when a person is enjoying themselves, they won’t think about cultivating, they won’t think about restricting themselves to increase their level of spirituality. Just like when a child study. If the child didn’t spend a lot of time playing and focused on studying, then they will perform very well academically. If the child plays all day and enjoys a lot of things, then they won’t put in the effort, and they won’t do well academically.
To us, Buddhists and in the eyes of the Bodhisattvas, hardship and bliss are empty. Hardship is empty because when the experience is over, it’s gone. If you twisted your ankle today, you would be in pain for a few days, but afterwards, it will disappear, and you will forget about it. Many people injured their body before, but when the pain disappears, they will forget about it. Many people tell smokers to smoke less. Some of them obey when they find themselves coughing non-stop even if they haven’t developed any lung disease yet. At the same time, others continue to smoke despite coughing badly. These are all hardships. Bliss is also empty. Are you happy now? After a while, that feeling is gone. When you were married, weren’t you very happy? That happiness quickly passes as what follows are arguments, afflictions, housework and many other responsibilities. In the end, divorce is a possibility. Is there still happiness? When you gave birth to your child, weren’t you happy? Yes. But when the child grows up, they would continue to argue with you. Then when they start to scold at their parents or disobey them, then many parents might think that it would’ve been best if they didn’t give birth to them. In the end, the child will still leave their parents. So doesn’t that happiness become empty? When you’re having your favourite dish, aren’t you happy? But after you ate it, doesn’t that happiness go away? Many people eat too much and vomit when they return home and throw up all of their favourite food. So happiness is empty. Think about it, the level of spirituality of a human and a Bodhisattva is different, and it shows in these kinds of environment.
That’s because you haven’t enlightened yet, you don’t know what you should possess or what you should lose. That’s why you differentiate between things of hardship and things of bliss. If you understand that today’s hardships will bring tomorrow’s sweetness, or today’s happiness will bring you tomorrow’s suffering, then you will know how to use the dialectic method of analysis. Then in times of hardships, you won’t get too depressed, and in times of happiness, you won’t be too overjoyed. That’s because, on many occasions, what awaits at the end of the road of happiness is the road of suffering. That’s why one must persevere in times of hardship in order to awaken. Hardship is the same as bliss, and bliss is the same as a hardship. They are inseparable. But because you haven’t awakened, you think that life is always hard. If one day, you realise that everything in this world is impermanent, then you won’t feel unhappiness or joy. That’s because unhappy events will go away, and happy events will also go away. In the end, there is only emptiness. Many great people who passed away always died empty-handed. Isn’t that right? Emperor Qin has his terracotta army buried along with him, could he take them away? He wanted to take all the lands he conquered with him, could he? That’s why you must understand these principles.
Here’s a classical allusion, there was once a small mouse. The mouse said, “I possess the sun; I give warmth and sunlight to the lands.” All of the small animals around it laughed at it and said it was crazy. In reality, it’s because the small mouse genuinely felt that the sunlight is its. That’s because it has experienced the sun’s radiance and it made it very happy and warm. So it felt that the sun belongs to it. From that perspective, it isn’t wrong. That’s because every person could view the sun as theirs. They just need to open the window and go out in the open, and they could feel the sun’s rays, and the sun belongs to them. If you could open up your mind, as long as you accept the Buddha-Dharma, then the Buddha-Dharma belongs to you. Many people don’t cherish it. They hide at home so they don’t see the sun and can’t feel the sun’s warmth. In reality, as long as you could feel that the Buddha-Dharma exists, then it’s yours. When you don’t feel that it exists, then it is the same as losing the sunlight. A person who hasn’t seen the sun for a long period would say, “The sun is meaningless to me.” But we who possess the sunlight will never want to lose it.
Master hopes that you could cherish your worldly blessings, and cherish your possession of the Buddha-Dharma so that you could clear up your mind and find your inherent nature and minimise your desires. To you disciples, how many desires do you currently have? Think about it according to your age, is it still realistic for you to do the things that you want to do? If you are currently 70 years old, and you want to have a property or have more children, then it’s definitely not a realistic desire. People should think about things and act according to their age. That’s why one shouldn’t let their desires grow; otherwise, it will lower your rational thinking to the lowest point. Think about it, when many people encounter problems suddenly, is it because they lack money? They already have enough money to drive a Bentley and spend it for a few lifetimes, yet why do they still want more money? It serves as a warning. If a person’s desires continually grow, it won’t shrink back. Unless the person learns Buddhism, they would naturally be led by their deep-rooted bad habits, and they would never be satisfied when their desires are fulfilled.
Many of the kings and emperors of the past had a hobby of collecting antiques. From our perspective, even they themselves are antiques. But at their time, they were excavating antiques that were older than them to keep. They were very happy. There was once a king in Europe who likes to steal things. He was a king, so why did he still steal? That’s because he felt happy about it. He regularly held balls in his palace and invited other princes and princesses to dance there. And when they turned away, the king would steal something from them, so when he returns back into his room, he will admire his spoils. “Oh, this is the pocket watch from the prince of xx. Oh, this is the jewellery of the princess of xx.” He would be very happy. You may say that he’s already a king, what does he lack? In reality, it is a kind of deep-rooted bad habit. That’s why the Bodhisattvas tell us to act like sages. In other words, we must elevate our rational thinking to the highest point. That’s because only a rational person could control their desires. Just like when we act like a morally upright individual, we must always view things from the other person’s point of view, so we know how to care for them. That is an act of compassion.
Look at those who are around Master. Master is somebody who thinks about others before thinking about himself. When Master sees you all doing volunteer work, he would first think of how hard it is for you. “The temperature is so hot, have you eaten yet?” Master is always like that. That’s why, as a disciple, you should also think of others first. When somebody could think of others first, then it means that they’re compassionate. Buddhists must learn that compassion could resolve their afflictions. When you’re frustrated about others, or when you are depressed about something, it’s because you haven’t forgiven the person. If you do, then it means you’re compassionate. Those who are compassionate forgive others easily. When you forgive others, your afflictions would be resolved.
You must know that retreating is advancing. After your afflictions are over, you will gain wisdom. That’s why an affliction appears, don’t be frustrated about it, you must think of a method, and use the Bodhisattva’s wisdom to treat it. After the affliction is eliminated, then you would own the rights of the affliction. Do you know what that means? In reality, when you control its rights, it is what Gautama Buddha called ‘afflictions are Bodhi’. Bodhi means wisdom; afflictions mean problems. If that problem didn’t arise, how could you manifest your wisdom? It’s when you encounter many problems that your wisdom would fill your mind, and then you possess the Bodhi wisdom. That’s why ‘afflictions are Bodhi’.