Monthly Archives: April 2016

Day 1 Leave the Past in the Past (page 191-192)

Since an early age I have accumulated knowledge,

Studying the sutras, sastras, and commentaries.

Discriminating between names and forms without rest,

I only troubled myself counting the sands in the sea. 

I was severely reproached by the Tathagata:

What is the benefit of counting others’ treasures?

I realized the futility of my dalliance;

For many years I busied myself in the world in vain.

At the beginning of this retreat, I told you to take your past, from the moment you were born up to the moment you walked into the meditation hall, roll it into a bundle and toss it in the garbage. If, at the end of seven days, you feel a need to reclaim your past, you can dig it out of the garbage. During this retreat, however, leave it behind.

If you can master this attitude, then I guarantee enlightenment. But if you want to be enlightened, and at the same time do not want to renounce your past, then I guarantee nothing. Dropping your past is not easy to do. Even if you want to do it, sometimes you cannot. The first step, however, is to be willing to let go.

In direct light, your body will cast a shadow. You cannot escape your shadow while you are in the light. If you want to get rid of it, either you have to go where there is no light, or you have to leave your body. If you have always been in darkness, then you will not even know you have a shadow that you can get rid of. Most people are like this.

One must be aware of one’s shadow if one wants to do something about it; one must have walked into the light. It is analogous to your position right now. All of you on this retreat want to dispose of your shadow. The shadow is your past, and the past consists of your memories, your experiences, and the karmic force of things you have done.

You will not be able to drop the past as long as you have a sense of self, just as you will never lose your shadow as long as you have a body. You must stop being self-centered. It would be best to drop your past right away, otherwise, while you work on your method, images of past experiences and teachings will appear incessantly, and it will be impossible to focus your mind and become one with the method.

— The Sword of Wisdom by Master Sheng-Yen (page 191-192)

A Correct View Is the Compass for Proper Practice (part 6)

Wrong is not wrong; right is not right;

The slightest deviation veers a thousand miles off course.

If right, the dragon maiden becomes Buddha at once;

If wrong, the monk Suraksatra falls alive into hell.

Remember, if a person is having problems with his practice, help him out; but you must be careful what you say. Buddhist remedies may hurt, rather than help, certain people. Furthermore, do not try to convert Jews, Christians, Muslims, or anyone else who believe strongly in something else. They will not listen to you. You will only rile them, and they will defame Buddhism. If your words or actions cause someone else to slander Buddhism, it is your responsibility.

Before you are enlightened, it is best that you concentrate on your own practice. You might think someone is doing something incorrect, but you could be wrong. He may be at another level of practice, or working from a different standpoint. If you follow your own practice as you should, you will not have time to judge others’ practice anyway.

— The Sword of Wisdom by Master Sheng-Yen (page 188-188)

A Correct View Is the Compass for Proper Practice (part 5)

Wrong is not wrong; right is not right;

The slightest deviation veers a thousand miles off course.

If right, the dragon maiden becomes Buddha at once;

If wrong, the monk Suraksatra falls alive into hell.

The second story is about Suraksatra, one of Sakyamuni’s sons. Suraksatra was an accomplished monk. Upon realizing the fourth dhyana level, he thought he had entered Nirvana. Unfortunately, he never asked the Buddha for verification. He had heard the Buddha’s sutras, and he thought he understood the teachings, so he did not bother to inquire about his experience. One of his friends caused his power of samadhi to dissipate, so he dropped from the fourth dhyana level. He wondered, “How can I slide back from Nirvana?” His vexations returned, and he thought, “How is this possible? The Buddha is deceiving people. Nirvana is not genuine!”

Suraksatra was too arrogant to go to Sakyamuni for guidance and advice. He convinced himself that Nirvana was not real and that Buddha was a fraud, and his heart filled with hatred.

As soon as he perceived Suraksatra’s thoughts, Sakyamuni sent out his disciple, Kasyapa, and told him to calm Suraksatra until he could see him. But Suraksatra would not be appeased. He ranted and raved at Kasyapa, and when the Buddha arrived he cursed him and his teachings. At that moment, the earth opened up and Suraksatra plummeted to hell.

These stories symbolize two important points in Buddhism. First, listen to the Buddha’s words. Second, do not have so much faith in yourself that you think you can be your own master. It is all right to trust yourself, but you need somebody else to verify your practice. Measure your practice and attainment against the standard of the Buddha’s teachings. Your own experience and knowledge is unreliable. If you have doubts, ask a master for guidance. If you read the sutras without guidance, you may misinterpret their meaning and endanger yourself. This is why it is important to study with a master.

— The Sword of Wisdom by Master Sheng-Yen (page 187-188)