V 3-16 Expounding the Principles of Buddhism – An Awakening to Life; Discussion about the Six Realms
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.
Whenever we look at Guan Yin Bodhisattva, we feel upset. That’s because we constantly feel that we’re not doing enough, and we are still too far away from Guan Yin Bodhisattva. Although we feel this way, for every minute that we use to do the deeds of a Bodhisattva, then you are a Bodhisattva for that minute. But it’s not that easy. Here’s an example, just like the cells inside our body, there are red and white blood cells. If you only have a little number of white blood cells, it would be devoured by the red blood cells. Or if there are an excessive amount of white blood cells relative to the red blood cells, the white blood cells would devour the red blood cells. In other words, when a person’s negative karma is too great while the benevolent deeds and meritorious deeds that they did are too little, after a while, one’s faults outweigh one’s merits, this person can’t be saved.
As the person remains alive, they should cherish every minute and every second. Although time is precious, it’s important how you use it. There are many Buddhist believers who constantly look for the right Dharma door (cultivation practice) just like the story of the blind people feeling around the elephant. Many people couldn’t find the right cultivation practice in all their life, even when they will soon pass away. If you are like them, and you couldn’t find the right cultivation practice, and you are already knocking on death’s door, then your life is over. You must understand, in different countries around the way, aren’t there many extreme religious practices? Or any cults? They allow their followers to burn and raze villages to the ground or take part in group suicides. If you have entered into these kinds of religion, then you have been led astray. But what wisdom do you possess to differentiate between right and deviated?
Master wants to persuade you all to properly recite sutras. One mustn’t change or miss a single character of the sutras. All of these sutras were passed down by the Buddhas. You must understand, if a character or two characters of a sutra had been changed, then you must be cautious. That’s because if you recite any sutras that had been changed, the power of it isn’t channelled to the Bodhisattvas, but to the master who taught you the sutra, and in return, the master gives you their blessing while they get stronger. You are ignorant about it, so you mustn’t casually recite any sutras you find. Just like how you can’t casually take any medicine you find. Master regularly expounds that it’s easy to draw on a blank canvas, but it’s hard to remove it once it has been drawn. Also, a preconceived notion would be formed, and in his thoughts and ideas, he would form a unique preconception towards religion. So when you want to change the person, it becomes difficult. The reason is that they are not awakened. They think that everything they do and had learnt are right.
Do you know? There was a Juvenile Probation Service, and the local government organised a group of public figures and educational professors to have an exchange with the delinquents, the result was that over 80% of the delinquents thought that what they did was right. 30% of the children said that if their parents could do it, why can’t they do it? Why didn’t they arrest their parents but instead arrested them? It’s simple, that’s because their parents were very experienced, and so they did not get caught. But when the child did the same thing, due to their inexperience, they were easily caught. For example, in the big shopping stores like Woolworth and Coles, there are many shoplifters who get caught every day. They don’t even want to pay for a toothbrush, that’s how deeply-rooted their unwholesome nature is, it’s pitiful. That’s why it’s so important to develop wisdom.
The most precious quality in the practice of Buddhism is perseverance, and also to eliminate one’s attachments. Attachment is to think something should be like so, why should something be as you want? Your most primordial nature is bright and was bestowed by heaven; it is what Gautama Buddha expounded, “All people possess a Buddha-Nature.” But the Buddha-nature that you possess now has been covered and defiled, and it can’t be seen. What capability would these kinds of people have? What could they discover? Yet think they think highly of themselves. After you awaken, and you then, you’ll be in the process of enlightenment until finally, you become a Buddha or Bodhisattva. A completely understanding person is a Bodhisattva. The unenlightened are ordinary people. Because you are foolish and deluded, that’s why you’re an ordinary person. It’s very difficult to become a Buddha and Bodhisattva. We don’t want to be an ordinary person but a Bodhisattva. However, how many hours can we be a Bodhisattva in a day? When one is reciting sutras, or if they’re not scolding at others, or when they’re helping others, or when they’re doing other benevolent deeds, that’s when they are a Bodhisatta.
Next, Master expounds that the advice ‘refrain from doing all evil’ is a concept from Theravada Buddhism. It denotes that one shouldn’t commit crimes nor any unwholesome deeds to protect themselves; it’s like sweeping the snow just outside your doorstep. Isn’t that for the sake of saving themselves? People shouldn’t be doing bad deeds in the first place anyway. While ‘cultivating all benevolence’ is a concept from Mahayana Buddhism, it denotes that after you have awakened and your wisdom has developed, you should be doing all kinds of benevolent deeds. You must know that benevolent deeds can be transformed into meritorious deeds.
Benevolent deeds are the foundation of meritorious deeds. If a person is unwilling to do even a single benevolent deed, then it’s useless when they recite sutras. Master wants to expound a new concept to you; do you think that a person who only recite sutras but unwilling to help others and do good deeds could attain Buddhahood? Could they become a Bodhisattva? It’s useless. Here’s an example, just like when you want to roast something to eat, if the thing is originally tasteless, no matter how much seasoning you use on it, when you bite into the core, it’s still tasteless. If a person who recites sutras do not possess a kind heart nor any benevolent deeds as the foundation, then no matter how much they recite, the sutras are still ‘tasteless’ and lack in merit-virtues. It’s only if the exterior and interior are in harmony, then it will have its effect. That is why one must cultivate their mind and behaviour in union.
The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have already been very clear about it, not only must one cultivate their mind but also their behaviour. Then when their behaviour is reformed, they must also reform their spirit. Do you know? There are many Dharma doors (cultivational practices) that only focuses on the cultivation of one’s behaviour, but not on the mind. They only pay attention to their actions, like doing benevolent deeds, but they don’t recite sutras. There are also many laypeople who only ‘sweeps the snow in front of their doorstep’ or go up to the top of the mountains to recite sutras, offer incenses and pray to the Buddhas. They only cultivate themselves and don’t go spiritually awakening others, that’s Theravada Buddhism. If a cultivator is only concerned about themselves, and don’t care about their family, their children, or their parents, then they lack responsibility. These kinds of people won’t cultivate well and would easily deviate, and at the most, reincarnate into the Asura realm. Do you know? In the Asura realm, there are also Bodhisattvas. Are there any Bodhisattvas in the Human realm? People who walk on the path of the Bodhisattva are considered as Bodhisattvas of the Human realm. You must properly cultivate, there’s not enough time. Think about when you were young and now look at how old you’ve become, there’s very little time left.
Last time when Master talked about the Heavenly realm, he has mentioned about the Asura realm. The Asura realm is where people who possess powers reincarnate into. In the human realm, cultivators, people who have done many benevolent deeds or possess merit-virtues could reincarnate into the Asura realm after death. Those cultivators who have deviated could also reincarnate into the Asura realm. In the past, when explaining about the six realms, the religions put the Asura realm as below the Human realm. In reality, there are two kinds of levels in the Asura realm. The upper levels where it’s just below the Heavenly realm. The other lower levels are situated between the Underworld and the Hungry Ghost realm; the sentient beings also possess powers. They are cultivating spiritual beings that had deviated, like fox demons or snake demons etc.
They can roam freely in the Underworld. Because they are cultivators and possess powers, they can easily become an officer of the Underworld. In the Hell realm, there are many ferocious ghouls that have become the executors of the Hell Realm, the duo Black and White Impermanence are also one of them; they can roam freely. Sinners in the Hell realm are naked regardless of whether their man or woman, there’s only pain and suffering. If you don’t properly cultivate in the human realm, or if you cultivate deviated cultivation practices, then you would reincarnate into this level of Asura realm. When Master performs his Totem reading in his radio programme, the Asura realm he mentions is the upper level one, which is higher than the Human realm.
Sentient beings of the Asura realm also has a lifespan, which is longer than a human’s and have qualities similar to the sentient beings in the Heavenly realm, who also possess the five signs of decay. What happens if they reincarnate into the Human realm, what do they do? They would be, for example, doctors who only care about making money. Many clever people, government officials, people who like to fight, crooked business people and thieves are the kinds of people they typically become. They hold a position of authority while they like to indulge themselves. They experience the karmic rewards that are associated with which realm they came from. For example, people who reincarnated from the Heavenly realm typically become the children of government officials, architects, singers etc. They usually live on the right path.
The women who reincarnate into the Human realm from the Asura realm become very beautiful. Men who reincarnated into the Human realm from the Asura realm only knows how to fight and compete; they would fight against the heavens and anyone who stands in their way. Many beautiful women in the human realm descended from the Asura realm. Most of them become singers or actresses, but their marriages are usually imperfect and unstable. The way the people of the Asura realm dress are not as pretty as the people in the Heavenly realm, the colours are usually darker, and most of them are green coloured. Some people can regularly see a swarm of bright green or blue balls of light, and they go and try to grab it. You mustn’t do that; otherwise, you’ll get into trouble. People have a physical body while spirits only have a spiritual body. If we use our hand to grab it with force, we don’t feel anything, but they get hurt. In science fiction films, isn’t it popular to give the invisible beings some form for the viewer to see?
The people of the Asura realm possess one significant shortcoming, and that is their sexual desire is still not completely ceased. That’s because, on the lower levels of spirituality, sexual desires still exist. In the human realm, these people would be considered lustful. If they do manage to ascend into the Asura realm, it’s not easy to eliminate it. Although they’re in the Asura realm, it’s just like a beautiful picturesque environment in the Human realm, their thoughts of desires are still there. The only difference is that their realm is higher than ours. But if they want to ascend to an even higher realm, then it’s impossible for them. There’s no concept of money in the Heavenly realm. In the Desire realm, there’s still a differentiation between man and woman, but sexual intimacy won’t occur, the most they would do is hold each other’s hands. Do you know how does Master go to heaven? If Master wants to go, then he’s there already, it only takes a second. In heaven, I can see childing playing on the swings and their laughter echo throughout heaven. When Master look below, there’s nothing there, how do they play on the swings? It’s because they are treading on clouds. That kind of feeling exists in one’s mind.
Master tells you that if you are in heaven, all afflictions are gone, you won’t be upset, nor would you feel pain. As long as you’re able to ascend to heaven after death, everything is gone. Let me illustrate this with an example, let’s assume you went to Guilin in China for a holiday, that kind of breath-taking scenery will cause your mind to go blank. This continuation of emptiness will make you forget about everything else. It’s because when you move to a new environment, the environment will make gradually make you forget about the past. When you ascend to heaven, you’ll gradually forget about everything that happened in the Human realm. Only when somebody is commemorating you, or they keep calling out your name repeatedly, would you think about what’s happening down in the Human realm. You could still hear and feel that you’re being called. Just like us in the Human realm, we can feel if there’s still somebody who misses you. In Heaven, there’s a tower that allows you to look at the other worlds beyond. On the third level, you can see the Human realm and all that’s happening within.
Do you know? When a tiger mother kills their own child, they would still descend into hell. There’s a Chinese saying that ‘even a vicious tiger will not eat its cubs’, right? Does a tiger have intellect? Yes, they do. There was once an article that reported that the IQ of a dog is similar to a two-year-old child. If they commit wrongdoings, they will still descend. Humans are pitiful, they only know about indulging themselves in wine and other forms of entertainment, they don’t know why they are living, just like an animal. They don’t know what their life should be used for. There’s an old granny who was diagnosed with cancer, and it gave her a shock. She doesn’t do any benevolent or meritorious deeds, but only recite sutras. Master has already told her many times to do benevolent deeds, but she replies that she has no time, and also she’s too old. Just because you’re old, you can’t do benevolent deeds? Then why does she only know how to do unwholesome deeds, like sowing discord, like talking badly about others, and hating. As long as a person is alive, they should know how to cherish themselves. If they don’t even cherish their own Buddha-nature, then what kind of person are they? It’s already very pitiful here in the Human realm.