Monthly Archives: November 2014

Admonition on Chan Practice

Translated by Guogu (Dr Jimmy Yu)
http://zeta.robotcat.org/yt/reading/Sillent-Illumination_Hongzhi.html
Chan Magazine, Spring and Summer 2007
The essential point of all the Buddhas,
the critical essence of each and every patriarch:
Without encountering things, it knows;
not opposing conditions, it illumines.
Without encountering things, it knows—
its knowing is inherently subtle.
Not opposing conditions, it illumines—
its luminosity is naturally wondrous.
Its knowing is inherently subtle—
it does not involve discriminating thoughts.
Its illumining is naturally wondrous—
there are no signs whatsoever.
Without discriminating thoughts—
it knows without pairs; yet, it is solitary.
Without any signs of haste—
it illumines without any grasping, yet it still goes on knowing:

The water so clear—transparent to the bottom.
Late, late, fishes have yet to appear.
The sky so vast—without boundaries.
Distant, out of sight, the birds have left no trace.

別顛倒看世界

佛法說「癡」是眾生的根本煩惱之一,癡的意思是事理不明、是非顛倒,這和我們常說這個人很癡心的癡不一樣,癡心的癡是「執迷不悟」的意思。
所謂是非顛倒、事理不明,是指一般常識認為是正常、合情合理的,甚至於合法的見解,可是從佛法的觀點來看,卻是顛倒見。譬如我們對一樣東西貪戀執著,就會認為那是永恆的。以男女之間的關係來講,很多人談戀愛或是要結婚的時候,總是山盟海誓,但是人的生命很短暫,怎麼可能像山一樣堅固、像海一樣深廣呢?更何況山和海都有崩塌和乾涸的可能。
偏偏就有許多人相信有永恆不變的東西,能讓自己永久依靠,好像只要找到了靠山,就能平穩安定一輩子似的。卻不知就連山都會崩塌,更何況是人呢?所以說,想以人做靠山是最愚蠢的想法,這就是以無常為常,以常變的東西為不變,以不可靠的東西為可靠,也就是癡。
佛說眾生顛倒,而眾生的顛倒歸納來講有四種,也就是所謂的「四顛倒」。除了上述的以無常為常外,還包括了以苦為樂、以不清淨為清淨、以非我為我。
除了身外之物不可靠之外,就連自己也靠不住,譬如身體的健康,自己的觀念、想法和意志力,沒有一樣東西是我們自己能掌控的。可是我們卻認為是自己所擁有的,或是自己本身很可靠,這就是以非我為我,其間的落差會為我們帶來極大的衝擊和痛苦。
以苦為樂就是把明明是苦的事情當作是樂的,而把真正的樂當作是苦的。譬如很多人會把大吃大喝、狂賭濫嫖當成娛樂來追求,但這只是一時的刺激和快樂,一旦刺激結束以後,在精神上反而會帶來更大的空虛,增加更多身體上的痛苦負擔,那怎能快樂呢?一時間的快樂造成長時間的痛苦,但人卻引以為樂,卻不知道這個被自己覺得是樂的事,其實就是造成苦的原因。
至於以不清淨為清淨,是說世界上沒有一樣東西是恆久清淨的,例如我們的身體,現在可能看起來是清淨的,但是到了明天就會流汗髒臭了,這也是人需要天天沐浴的原因。餐桌上美味的食物,我們認為是清淨的、沒問題的,所以吃它,但是吃下肚子以後,等到明天排泄出來時就是不清淨的。美食即使不吃它,只要一收回廚房就會開始變質,然後慢慢腐爛而變得不清淨。
可見,任何東西的淨穢都只是我們一時之間的感覺而已,要視情況才能決定是否是清淨的,那就不是真正的清淨了。是你喜歡的,那就是清淨的,不喜歡的,就是不清淨的了,因此清淨是相對的感受。
所以,常、樂、我、淨都不可靠,沒有一樣是真的,都只是一種幻相、幻覺而已。
— 摘自聖嚴法師 放下的幸福

空花水月

問:虛雲大師說:「空花佛事,時時要做;水月道場,處處要建。」空花和水月都是空幻的、不實際的。從字面看來,做佛事和建道場有如空花水月,做了等於沒有做,修了等於沒有修,虛雲大師卻要時時做、處處建,這是什麼道理呢?
答:這兩句話是積極而非消極的。很多人誤解佛教所講的「空」是虛幻,「虛雲」這兩個字就讓人感覺虛無縹緲,不著邊際。其實他有如虛空的雲,需要雨滋潤的地方他就去,需要雲遮蔽的地方他也去。
所謂「佛事」就是做佛救度眾生的事,「道場」就是修行成佛之道的場合和處所。
「空花」在一般狀況下是不存在的,空中那會有花呢?除非是下述兩個例外:第一,說法的人非常有修行,感動天人來散花,這是神蹟。第二種情況是捏目生花,眼睛被捏或被壓之後會看到一片金花;或者眼睛長翳,患了飛蚊症,看到空中有黑影在飛舞。
所以,「空花」不是事實,「水月」也一樣。水中並沒有月亮,而是空中的月反映在水中,使水中看起來有月亮。
眾生汲汲營營,忙著在水中撈月──撈名利的月、撈權勢的月、撈虛榮的月、撈種種的不實在。結果身陷五欲,葬身其中。
可是話說回來,虛雲和尚這句話有積極的、正面的作用。「道場」雖是空的,「佛事」雖是假的,但跟追求五欲完全不同,他是從五欲的反面出發。
做「佛事」就是用佛法來幫助人,不論有形無形,不論是語言、文字或物質,其目的是提昇人的品質、心智、道德和內在的智慧,並且增長福報,使眾生離苦得樂、出離煩惱。
佛教所指的「道場」很具體,即是寺院和塔廟。虛雲老和尚隨緣度眾生,處處度眾生,凡遇到破敗沒落的道場他都會幫忙重建,一生之中修復了十幾處已成廢墟的古道場。對他而言,「空花佛事時時做,水月道場處處建」是出家人的本分,目的就是為了利益眾生,淨化人間。
摘自聖嚴法師 聖嚴說禪

Non-Attachment Is True Wisdom (page 126)

Once its power is expended, the arrow falls,

Bringing discontent in the next life.

How can this compare to the true door of non-action,

Through which one leaps straight into the Tathagata ground?

If you have the proper attitude or true spirit of Ch’an practice, then you should give your full attention to whatever you are doing, and you should do things to the best of your ability. Do not think about the past. Do not think about the future. Just focus on the present.

From our point of view, Buddha must have infinite wisdom and merit in order to save innumerable sentient beings. Actually, the Buddha has no wisdom, and he attains no merit from good deeds or blessings. If he still has wisdom and merit, then he is not a Buddha. It is we, not he, who say that the Buddha has wisdom.

When someone does something wrong, you might think, “How dumb! That person has no wisdom.” You see a fly beating against a window trying to get out of your house. You open the window, but it just flies back and forth. You think, “How stupid!” If the Buddha has wisdom, then what does he see as being stupid? Do you think the Buddha would say, “What a stupid fly!” Compared to the Buddha, everything is stupid, but that is our point of view. Likewise, the Buddha does not perceive wisdom. Wisdom can only exist in relation to ignorance. In enlightenment there is no discrimination.

The Buddha has no wisdom, no insight, no accumulation of merit. Such concepts do not exist for the Buddha. If your intention is to gain wisdom and accumulate merit in order to become a Buddha, then you are attempting the impossible.

The great Ch’an poet, Han Shan, lived on Cold Mountain, from where he took his name. He did not own anything, not even pants, yet he felt that there was nothing that was not his. If Han Shan had gone to the T’ang Emperor and said, “All this is mine, ” he might have been put to death for his audacity. But if the Emperor proclaimed to Han Shan, “The whole world is mine, ” Han Shan would probably have answered, “Yes, you are right.” There was nothing that Han Shan desired. He did not even concern himself with his body. He was utterly free, with no attachments. Therefore, he had no self-limit. Having no self-limit, the mountain he lived on, all of China, in fact the entire universe, was his.

I said that the Buddha has no wisdom. You may think, however, that he has compassion. If there is compassion, then there must be an idea of sentient beings. If the Buddha is aware of sentient beings, then he is still discriminating, and he is not a Buddha. We say that the Buddha has compassion, but as far as he is concerned, he has none. If we feel that we are compassionate, then we are not Buddhas.

After one retreat, a student told me, “I feel like I am the mother of the whole world.”

I said, “It is merely an illusion. It is the mind of vexation, not wisdom.” I am not saying that you should be cold and aloof. Having compassion for others is good, and it is definitely much better than closing your heart. I’m not saying that people who give donations with ulterior motives are evil. If their motives are good, then what they do is meritorious. In the early stages of practice, people may have strong feelings of compassion; but some people become so attached to these feelings that they become fanatics. You will never find a true Ch’an practitioner who possesses the fanatical nature of a zealot.

Do not get the wrong idea. Ch’an does not advocate nihilism. A Ch’an practitioner does not say, “I’m not going to do anything.” Rather, with a positive and attentive mind, a practitioner does everything that needs to be done as each moment arises, but he does not do anything with a fanatical mind.

What, then, is the proper attitude for practice? You will have to find out. But if you throw yourself fanatically into Ch’an practice ─ practicing, practicing, practicing ─ as if you are going to start a revolution, then you are on the wrong track. That is not the practice of Ch’an.

— The Sword of Wisdom by Master Sheng Yen (page 126)

菩薩的夢

菩薩所行行,一切諸妙願;明解悉如夢,於彼無所著。

──六十華嚴經卷二八.十忍品

菩薩明白,自己的所作所為,以及所發的一切偉大悲願,無非都是夢境,所以對於這些了無執著。

菩薩有智慧,所以他們已沒有煩惱;菩薩有慈悲,所以他們永遠地、不斷地、無限地幫助眾生解除苦難。因此,菩薩行就是智慧行與慈悲行。

菩薩行有六度萬行;六度是總綱,萬行是凡為菩薩該做的事都要做。該做的事太多太多了,不同的情況、不同的時間、不同的空間、不同的眾生,都須用不同的法門、方式、形態來協助眾生離苦得樂。

六度是布施、持戒、忍辱、精進、禪定、智慧。看起來似乎只有布施是度眾生,其實不然!如果該度眾生而不度,就是犯戒,所以持戒也是度眾生。精進是繼續不斷地布施、持戒。忍辱是對一切眾生所加於菩薩行者的打擊或讚歎、服從或挑釁等等,不起任何愛恨等的煩惱。禪定是心不動搖,在幫助眾生時,即使得到負面的反應,也不因此而灰心氣餒;遇到恩將仇報的眾生,菩薩行者也當以平常心看待。智慧是對不同的眾生給予恰到好處的幫助、安慰、勉勵,自己亦不因挫折而產生心理上的障礙。

因此,所謂六度,無一不是為了度眾生;而萬行不僅是一萬行,更可以是千萬行。人有千千萬萬不同的性格、需求、層次,佛菩薩會很有耐心地滿他們的願。菩薩所發的基本弘願是:度一切眾生、斷一切煩惱、學一切佛法、成無上佛道。除此之外,時時要有無量的心願,願願都是願助眾生離苦難得安樂,要到第八地以上或成佛之後才不再發願,不用發願,自然而然都在大願海中。所以,菩薩的「一切諸妙願」可以用另兩句話來表達,那便是「虛空有盡,我願無窮」。

然而,發了這麼多的大願,幫助了這麼多的眾生,自己都很清楚這些願行,都像空中的花、水底的月、夢中的情景一樣,不會沾沾自喜地認為自己真的做了多少好事,積了多少功德。菩薩進入眾生的夢中,與眾生一同做夢,所不同的是,菩薩在夢中知是夢,眾生做夢時尚不知是夢。一旦明心見性,大夢醒時,便知什麼也沒發生。不過,菩薩明知是夢,菩薩一定要進入眾生的夢境才能把眾生喚醒。

這是非常積極的奉獻,又不以為自己度了任何眾生。一般人雖不是佛菩薩,也該學習這種菩薩的胸襟,就會發現人世間跟佛國淨土是沒有距離的。

— 《智慧一〇〇》

Day 5 No Substitute for Hard Work

Once you get to the root, don’t worry about the branches,
Like pure crystal containing a precious moon.
Since you have realized this all-giving pearl,
Benefit for yourself and others will never end.

Most people pay close attention to the benefits that can be derived from practice, yet they are unwilling to put in the effort needed to accumulate such benefits. The average person may envy a rich person, and wish he had his wealth, but does he consider how that person obtained his money? If he did, he might discover that earning millions of dollars takes time, and requires great effort and determination.

There was once a poverty-stricken woman who was sincere, kind and generous. A deity was touched by her character and appeared before her. “Whatever you desire I will give to you, ” it said.

The poor lady answered, “I would like gold.” The deity pointed its finger at a rock, and lo and behold, the rock turned into pure gold.

The deity asked, “Is there anything else that you desire?”

The woman thought for a while, and then said, “What I would really like is your finger.”

With that, the deity disappeared, and the gold turned back into an ordinary rock. The woman ruined a wonderful opportunity. Worse, she did not realize why the deity did what it did. Even if the deity had given her its finger, it would not have helped her. The deity’s ability to turn rock into gold came from the power of its practice, not from its finger.

At the end of one of my lectures, I asked the audience, “Should I stop, or should I continue speaking?”

A student in the audience said, “I don’t want to hear any more. What I’d really like to do is take you home and have you all to myself.” What if I agreed to his wishes? Chances are, all I would do at his house is eat, sleep and read. Would he benefit?

Every one of us has a finger that can turn rock into gold, but we must practice to discover and cultivate our power. The problem is, most people do not want to practice that long or that hard. Even if you managed to obtain the finger from a deity’s hand, all you would have is dead flesh. It would not do you any good. Keeping me as your private master would not be as good as tranforming yourself into a master.

— The Sword of Wisdom by Master Sheng Yen (page 128)

Dharma Drum 3-Day Hartford Area Retreat (Oct. 8-10, 2014) led by Abbot Ven. Guo Xing

The weather was fine… it stopped raining the morning the retreat started. Beautiful three days of autumn weather in central CT. Old stone Catholic seminary in picturesque grounds, what better setting to embark on a universal spiritual quest. What better way to see the attachments we rely on for our existence.

Surrounded by sincere practitioners, “noble silence” felt so natural and right. We all just followed the bells & boards as they sounded out the various activities of each day… content to share the environment, and our struggles, with other serious practitioners.

No thought is connected to the next; phenomena cannot create phenomena; the pain in my leg is not really “my” pain; etc.; etc.. Ven. Guo Xing’s Dharma talks challenged and shook our accepted perceptions and understandings. At times I almost wished Ven. Guo Xing would temper his teachings; make them less direct and candid, so they would be more palatable to us who have not yet had the necessary insights. But he cannot. His compassion and passion to share the Dharma knows no bounds. Such a rare opportunity… I feel ever so grateful.

The translations from Chinese into English, when needed, were excellent and quickly dispelled any misunderstandings due to language.

It has been a few weeks now since the retreat. I try to apply Ven. Guo Xing’s teachings… at least those that resounded and stayed with me. I cannot wait till next year to attend the next 3-Day Dharma Drum retreat in the Hartford area. What a wonderful way to spend three days.

(some personal comments by Dan Vencak)