Outlook Of Buddhism
By Wang Chi Biu
English Translation By P. H. Wei
Practical Application of Buddhism
Because of general misunderstanding and erroneous interpretation of two Chinese Buddhist Terms, ?Chu Shi?(Beyond, or outside world, not of this world; of nirvana character) and ? Liao Sheng Szu?,(To understand and end ?birth and death; rebirth and redeath; life and death?) Buddhism is said to be a pessimistic religion. In order that we may have right understanding of Buddhism, those Buddhist terms need to be clarified. ?Chu Shi? in literal English translation means to go beyond the world, and ?Liao Sheng Szu? is to realize (the question of) birth and death. The Chinese character ?Shi? in the context of ?Chu Shi? connotes a period of time, thus ?Chu Shi? in Buddhist Terminology means transcending the barrier of time, or precisely speaking, passing through the three periods of time ? the past, the present and the future. Where comes the time? The answer is this: where thoughts arise and pass out alternately in succession, there is time. Consequently, the more the thoughts, the longer the time; the less the thoughts, the less the time. For example, when one is waiting for someone, the time seems to drag on very long. In contrast to this, when one sits down by oneself quietly for a comfortable rest, time passes away very quickly. If there is no arising and no cessation of thoughts in the mind, there will be no concept of duration of time at all, thus if the mind does not abide in the existence or extinction of illusory phenomena, it would be completely free of restrictions of time. From this, we can see that positively, ?Chu Shi? is neither pessimistic of the world nor escaping from the world. The Sutra says: ?Buddhism is inseparable from the world and leads one to constant practice of the Transcendental Way.? ?Buddhism is not only inseparable from the world but also aware of the world. Thus to seek Bodhi outside the world is as futile as to seek a rabbit with the horn.? From these sayings it is obvious that Buddhism never departs from the world; the Buddhist Term ?entering the world? means participating in the activities of the world, although actually Buddhism neither enters nor departs from the world, so those Chinese Buddhist Terms are but merely figurative speech. This also holds true with the phrasal term ?Liao Sheng Szu?, where ?birth? and ?death? refer to the arising and cessation of illusory thoughts and illusory phenomena. Without understanding the implications of those terms, people distort them by saying that Buddhist, in their fear of death, want to run away from the world an to seek an eternal life. IN reality, same as science, Buddhism is a Subject of practical Study of life, embodying both principles and methods of practical application; ther it differs from those theological religions, which are devoid of basic principles and also restricted in their application; again, it is at variance with Philosophy, which is theoretical and non-experimental.
In this last Chapter, let us see how Buddhism may extend its infinite services to the peoples of the world collectively and individually.
(A) Service in the Buddhist Sense
As seen in the first of the four Great Vows, ?I vow to deliver infinite sentient beings?, and also in Bodhisattva Samantabhadra?s Vow to be acquiescent with sentient beings, according to Buddhism, to serve others is identical with liberating sentient beings. This proves conclusively that Buddhism is a religion that is taking an active part in serving humanity and is giving its services unconditionally. But why does Buddhism teach us to serve others in such a dedicated manner? The reason is this: on the understanding that all sentient beings are fundamentally of one entity, and equal with one another, we can see clearly that as long as one makes no distinction between oneself and others, therefore, to liberate others is equal to liberating oneself and to help others is same as helping oneself, as verified by the Diamond Sutra: ?Although inestimable, innumerable and infinite sentient beings are thus led to the final Nirvana for the extinction of reincarnations, in reality, not a single being is led there at all. Why so, Subhuti? Because, if Bodhisattva still clings to the false notion of self, others, sentient beings and phenomenal continuity, he is not a (true)Bodhisattva.? Furthermore, since the self and others are identical with each other, so at the time of doing services to others, not only we should give no thought of it, but should do it gladly and gratefully as if we are repaying our debts to our benefactors. Someone may argue to say, to put sentient beings indiscriminately in the same category of benefactors as parents and teachers is too far-fetched and utterly unjustifiable. With this viewpoint, the writer begs to differ. To take sentient beings as our benefactors is neither exaggerated nor idealistic, on the contrary, it is but a simple statement of ordinary facts in our daily life. If we look into our basic needs, food, clothing, housing and transport, at once we can see that those people who give us services in connection with any of those essential things are rightfully our benefactors. First, take clothing, for example: from the geginning manufacturers get raw materials from farmers to the time customers obtain clothings from shops, this, as we can see, necessarily involves the efforts and labours of multitudinous people in business, industry and the farm, who are directly responsible for the production of clothing, let alone those who help us indirectly, say, those who are responsible for the transport of the finished products, e.g. makers of aeroplanes, trucks, motor cars, railways, accessory parts and tools, engineeers, drivers, etc. etc. Without their help, centainly we would not be able to get food, and any other basic necessities at all. In view of all this, should we not be grateful to all of them for giving us their services? Again, many a thing, for which we pay but a trifling sum, may be of enormous value to us. A book is a case in point. After all, this points out clearly that all those things bought and enjoyed by us are not made and given by a creator but are produced by a good many people. In view of their supplying us with those essential things in life, should we not be grateful to all them equally and indiscriminately? In short, it must be conceded that in our daily life we are indebted to humanity as well as individuals in one way or another. In return for what we have been benefited by humanity, we should emulate the positive spirit of Bodhisattva Manjushri?s Vows and work for the benefits of others incessantly. In this connection, it is vitally important for us to get, if possible, some right occupations to do, so that we may exert our effort for a worthy cause and, meanwhile, may contribute our services for others? benefits. This is the true meaning of services to society and humanity.
(B) Responsibility in the Buddhist Sense
A sense of responsibility is the first requisite for doing services to others and society. What is responsibility? The general conception of responsibility is this: at work, one is obligated to do his best, otherwise he would be subjected to reproach consequently. If one assumes responsibility under compulsion, it seems, he would be no different from horses and cows driven to work unsparingly by their cruel masters. Refuting this criticism, someone may say, "It is not fear of censure but the dictate of a guilty conscience that is the incentive of hard-working." In reply, the writer would say, "you should admit, the so-called conscience is a tricky thing which, as explained in the previous chapter, may direct you to go wrong, and if you disobey, you would be obsessed with fear of punishment. Now, granted that conscience has power over you, in that case, what do you think you are, and what are you made up of?; or would it be possible for you to have double conscience, one good and one bad?" Ironically, nowadays in every society, people are used to say that because they have a clear conscience, they are men of responsibility. However, it is so easy for them to fall into evil ways and to become irresponsible. Why? From the standpoint of Buddhism, it is because of their misconception of conscience that their conception of responsibility is ambiguous and erroneous. On the other hand, if the true sense of responsibility is realized, there is no question that they would carry out their responsibilities without fail. In order to facilitate our understanding of true responsibility, for expediency, Buddhism calls it "truthful responsibility." To carry out one’s responsibility truthfully, it call for an integration of four fundamental prerequisites: Universal Mind, Compassionate Mind, Grateful Mind, and an Understanding Mind to apprehend the cause-and-effect relationships of everything in life. Buddhism tells us that at work we should not look upon our superior with fear nor should we treat our subordinates with arrogance, and this is called the Universal Mind. Next, if our subordinates are in difficulty, we should go a long way to help them, and this is called a Compassionate Mind. Indebted to the guidance of our superior and the assistance of our subordinates, we are under obligation to repay both benefactors, and this is called a Grateful Mind. The fundamental Law of Causality, symbolized by the "reap as you sow" slogan, e.g., good seeds bring good fruit and bad seeds bring bad fruit, operates automatically like shadow following the substance: corruption breaks up the precept "not to steal"; indolence leads to idleness; losing temper breeds anger; rudeness spells arrogance; in short, if in discharging one’s responsibility, one breaks any of those precepts, he is bound to get the retribution in due time, and to be able to realize the cause-and-effect relationships in daily affairs and activities is called an Understanding Mind. If he does his work in keeping with these requisites, certainly he would carry out his responsibility with these requisites, certainly he would carry out his responsibility with every satisfaction. And this is called truthful-to-responsibility, or for short, truthful responsibility. On the other hand, in his dealing with other people, if he does not understand this principle of Buddhism, he would run counter to it; to the superior he would be obsequious and to the inferior, arrogant; to those who he thinks may be useful to serve his interests, he is all humbleness, but to those with whom he bears grudege, he would revenge with double effort; being egoistic and self-centred, he knows no gratitude to others; to him, wealth, power and fame are the substantial practical things in life, and the Law of Cause and Effect, Fruit and Retribution is false and incredulous. Unfortunately, this misconception of life is commonly upheld by a vast majority of the people of the world, owing to their ignorance of this fundamental truth that whereas man-made punishments, whatever they are, may be averted, the fundamental Law of
Cause and Effect is inviolable, therefore the inexorable wrong-doer not only inflicts harm on others but also on himself eventually.
(C) Correct Judgement
As a rule, it takes a man of integrity and ability to handle a big job successfully’ The character aspect having been dealt with in the proceeding chapter, let us turn to the question of ability, which generally includes education, technical skill and wisdom. Wisdom is popularly called "good sense". One who is lacking knowledge and skill may offset such deficiencies by securing help from others, but on the question of judgement, he can depend on no one but himself. It is only with good understanding of the general working principles, in addition to being conversant with the conventional ways of the world, that sound judgment may be formed. To acquire such understanding, however, is by no means an easy thing; moreover, in the views of Buddhism, such principles, are far from being reliable criteria to fathom out truth, for more often that not, they can only lead us to illusion, rather than perceiving the reality of the thing. But if we have a clear understanding of this fundamental principles of Buddhism, then and only then, we would be able to see into the reality and to arrive at correct judgment. Why? As emphatically stressed by Buddhism, if we look at everything objectively and not from the subjective point of view, and if we are always in sympathetic accord with sentient being, in response to what comes from the innermost of their heart, certainly we would be able to apprehend the reality and the sophisticated ways of the world as clearly as broad daylight. And if the object under study is well understood, correct judgment, to be true, would be formed. But the very reason why we cannot perceive reality correctly is this: Owing to our strong attachment to the ego, in delusion we are blindfolded and misled by klesa and karma, consequently, the mind gives rise to fear and perversions; with such a mind, contaminated and obstructed, it is impossible for us to perceive and understand the truth at all. For illustration, if in the battle an officer, on hearing a false rumor, was to obsessed with fear that he was at a loss to judge if the rumor was authentic or not; in this case, the man simply believed in the rumor but without making correct judgment at all. In delusion, people who are dominated by greed, anger, arrogance and stupidity, are used to make wrong judgment. Such incidents are too many and too common everywhere. In view of this, we may conclude that only those with right understanding of the Doctrine of Buddhism may take correct judgment, and only those who make right judgment may be successful in their great accomplishments.
(D) Unwavering Perseverance
In whatever undertaking one is engaged, it is only by perseverance that he may meet and overcome numerous difficulties in his way, without fear and submission, and carry on his work strivingly till it is successfully done. On the other hand, if he is easily discouraged with frustrations and setbacks, he can hardly make success in anything, let alone some task of major importance. From knowledge, which gives courage, and from culture, which gives patience, we can acquire perseverance; thus knowledge and culture are two components of unflinching perseverance that enables us to shoulder great responsibilities without fear and, to exert great effort without fail. Because it is attained by knowledge and culture, perseverance is fundamentally different from stubbornness; through sheer lack of knowledge and culture, one becomes stubborn, for without adequate knowledge, he cannot perceive and understand truth clearly, and without adequate culture, he is apt to be unruly and refractory. It is a grave mistake to take stubbornness for perseverance; in effect, a stubborn person is as unreasonable as he is unyielding, for despite his knowing his wrong, not only he would not feel repentant with it but would repeat doing it again and again. This, a man of perseverance would never do.
In Buddhism, patience is advocated in lieu of perseverance because, in its sense, is more comprehensive and more profound than perseverance. Not only in coping with adverse circumstances is the power of endurance urgently needed, but in favorable situations, it also plays a tremendously important role, as we can see, a man of patience would neither be carried away by heaps of compliments, nor would be swept off his feet by the powerful impact of the "Eight Winds" (profit and loss, defamation and fame, praise and blame, pleasure and pain), and if he remains totally indifferent to those things, he may be said to have developed patience to perfection. In Buddhism, patience is classified meticulously into different categories, such as Patience in discipline, Patience in Meditation, Formless Patience, Uncreated Patience, etc., and so forth. Patience, the third of the six Paramitas, is a cure for self-conceit and arrogance. That patience is of prime importance for cultivating Buddhism cannot be too strongly streesed here. No doubt, if one is not free from egoism, he would not be free from self-conceit. Unfortunately, it is generally true that the more educated, the more arrogant one is. It seems to be quite a common practice with some hot-headed, gifted speakers at a meeting, who, in arguing over an issue with their opponents, resort to the tactics of attacking them personally. Not even for a Buddhist Cause, would a Buddhist do this, for Buddhism exhorts us that we should be aware of our thoughts at all times, not only to stop the arising of self-pride, but more important still, to restrain ourselves from anger and other evil thoughts. Only by patience, one may remove various impediments in his way and free oneself from craving and selfish desires, then and only then, in his work, he would make good progress in walking the Path of Enlightenment.
(E) Attitude of Sincerity
Watching Buddhist devotees at the ritual performance walking orderly in a line in the spacious hall, reciting sutras and mantras and chanting hymns in tune with the beating of drums and clinking of bells, and reverentially paying homage to Buddha, one cannot but be deeply impressed with the serene, soothing atmosphere and the wholesome, harmonious environment of the monastery, and this shows all the impressive sincerity of the worshippers. Again, at the mess service and at lecture meetings. Buddhists pay every attention even to simple Discipline rules, and this shows not only orderliness and reverence in the monastery, but also the tremendous impact of the educational influence of Buddhism in a unique way. Having attended a Buddhist ceremony at a monastery, Cheng Yee and Cheng Ho, the two celebrated Confucian scholars of Sung Dynasty, gave vent to their admiration for the monastic system in these words: "How wonderful it is that all the rituals and the music of The Three Generations (the Golden Age) can be completely seen right at this spot" Similarly, the following remark made by the Head of a big social organization was noteworthy: "Complaint of mess service is very common in every social welfare organization, but for all we know, in every monastery there is not a single case of complaint with the food, regardless how poor it is." For the efficient handling of the question of mess service, unquestionably full credit should go to the Buddhists for spontaneous but strict observance of Buddhist Discipline.
According to Buddhism, discipline applies not only to conduct but also to the mind, this is to say, not only we should refrain from doing evils but should also be free from every perverted thought; the way to rectify our wrong is to begin with sincere repentance. To be sincere and respectful is streesed by Confucianism, and to be obedient is the fundamental discipline in the army, but in both cases, discipline is hardly as strict and well-defined as that of Buddhism. Whereas the guiding principles of Confucianism governing the five kinds of interelationships are predominantly abstract and too demanding, the five Prohibition Rules of Buddhism are simple, concrete and practicable by everyone. In fact, Buddhism and Confucianism have some moral principles in common: not to kill is Benevolence; not to steal is Righteousness; not to have illegal sexual relations is Propriety; not to lie is Truthfulness; and not to take alcoholic drink is wisdom. Nevertheless, on both the principle and practice of discipline, Buddhism lays its stress equally; in other words, whenever a thing is done, we should know why it is done. Though discipline in the army is very strict, however, obedience is merely nominal, because its imposition is compulsory and its acceptance is blind. On the contrary, according to Buddhism, in everything or every act, there is always a cause or reason to show why it should come about. In view of this, should we still conceive Buddhism to be something of superstition? Surely, there is not even a dose of it.
On analysis, the Buddhist concept of utmost sincerity consists of the integration of four psychological elements: 1) Faith, 2) An impartial mind, 3) Sense of sympathy and 4) Sense of respect. IN the belief that all sentient beings are equally to one another, and all things and dharmas are also equal with one another, one should deal with other people with neither love nor hate, neither envy nor disgust, neither obsequence not arrogance. This is faith integrated with sincerity. By impartial mind, it is meant that in discussion with others, one would not deviate from facts, not would he lie and distort truth, nor would he hold biased, egoistic and perverted view at all. One would lend a hand to those in need of help, enlighten the perplexed and comfort those in fear and trouble sincerely with kind words, and this is sympathy embodied in sincerity. If one regards others with respect as one does towards one’s parents, brothers, sisters, or teachers, and in doing so, one has no consideration of any personal advantages at all, this is respect embodied in sincerity. If one shows these four elements towards others, an attitude of utmost sincerity would be completely manifested. As a result of this, consequently, the following benefits would be attained: 1) One would gain confidence from others; 2) One would be congenial and agreeable to everyone; 3) One would enhance friendly ties with others; 4) One would be held in esteem by others. If sincerity applies to politics, those malpractices of irresponsibility and inefficiency would be done away with sweepingly, and there would be no obsequence to the superior nor bullying the inferior, to be seen; if sincerity is practised in business dealings, there would be no intrigue, monopoly, or exploitation, etc.; if sincerity is cultivated at home, all the family would be in harmony; if sincerity is extended to friends, friendship would be firmly cemented like rock. In short, where sincerity prevails, the outcome is bound to be good in the long run. Again, if sincerity is practised by the personnel of an organization, there would be orderliness cooperation and good success. The principle of sincerity was stressed by Chinese scholars in the Way of Heaven and cultivation of sincerity is the Way of man; "Sincerity in the superlative degree may move Heaven and Earth"; "Where superb sincerity prevails, nothing can stand in its way." Such is the tremendous impact of sincerity in life. The fact that among the diverse and numerous Dharmas of Buddhism, sincerity is stressed by every Buddhist Sect, points out that there is no cultivating of Buddhism without cultivating sincerity. No sermon, no matter how well-spoken, would be of any benefit to the audience, if it lacks sincerity.
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