The Two Stages of Life
Written by Zen Master Thich Thanh Tu
Translated by Tu Tam Hoang
Enjoy the Way In Life
The Buddha is in the house
No need to look for
Forget the true nature, we search for Buddha
Then we know the Buddha is us
Understand thoroughly the Zen patriarch’s teaching, pleasantly live in un-confinement.
Read the sutra three times, then relax in Korea
Respect love and righteousness, improve Five Senses, enter the Buddhist and patriarchal gate.
Retreat from disputes, despise forms and sounds, be careful not to engage in lustful activities
Buddha is compassionate, thus we pray in many life times to be near him
The benevolence of king Nghieu is great, politics is a difficult matter
If clothes could keep us warm, then careless of their conditions
Rice or rice soup, whichever could fill the stomach
Prevent Eight Senses and Eight Winds, the more they’re suppressed, the more they elevate
Fully understand Three Speeches and Three Principles, keep clearing the mind
Let the stringless lute play an interesting “unborn” song
And the holeless flute sounds the song of peace.
Pick the root to find the branch unfortunately for Master Ju Shi
Loose the head, how silly Enyadatta
Break a diamond cage, with no facial expression
Swallow thorny bamboos without damaging the skin
That’s good! (1)
This line opens the section
The Buddha is in the house (2)
No need to look far (3)
These 2 lines say that the Buddha is already in the house, not anywhere else. We usually wish to meet or see Buddha. Such desire makes us think that the Buddha is far away, somewhere that is hard to find. But he’s not that far away. He’s right in the house. Which house? The house of Five Aggregates. Buddha means enlightenment and our mind already has the enlightened nature or Buddha.
Forget the true nature, we search for Buddha (4)
Then we know the Buddha is us (5)
Not knowing the Buddha’s existence inside of us, we look for him from outside. When we find him, we realize that the Buddha is us.
Enlightenment is the mind. No mind means no enlightenment. The Complete enlightenment is Buddha. Partial enlightenment is called Bodhisattva. Our Buddha nature is covered because we have forgotten it and look for it in everywhere. If we realize this matter, we would stop looking for him. So, how can we attain the Buddha nature?
We all have enlightened nature. The difference is the realization levels. Like in the beginning, we renounce because we’ve realized that life is full of suffering and impermanent. This means we’re awakened. Unfortunately, we can’t maintain the awakening for long. Greed, hatred, and ignorance restore. Such forgetting causes our practice to gradually diverge to a wrong direction. Thus, practice means to nurture the awakening so it could grow. We were awakened to renounce this life and practice to attain enlightenment and liberation. It’s senseless and unacceptable to forget our purpose. As monastics, we should have a goal for liberation. We should nurture the awakening mind so it could always grow.
I had seen a regression in monks and nuns. I felt hurt. Thus, for whatever it takes, I try to create the best conditions for you to practice. We should make sure that from the first day that we begin the practice to the last moment of our life, our practice progresses. It should not be regress or idle. The regression is a big shame to our practicing life. How come our friends, who practice with us could advance while we regress? Such question could help us to determine a definite path of advancement. Otherwise, we should be ashamed with ourselves and other practitioners.
Thus, from line 2 to 5, the patriarch reminds us to discern that the Buddha already exists in us. Because we forget our mind, we look for him externally. When we remember that our mind is Buddha, we stop looking for him.
Saying so, we shouldn’t ignore the practice when we still haven’t realized his existence inside of us. For instance, we don’t bow at Buddha status or have no regret for elder monks and nuns because we think we are Buddha. This is wrong. It’s a big transgression caused by ignorance. The Buddha statues remind us our internal Buddha. If we don’t show our respect to him, we have not yet discerned his existence and his value. Thus, we have to be clever in harmonizing the concept with the practice. Don’t ignore the concept and just focus on the practice, or vise versa.
Understand thoroughly the Zen patriarch’s teaching pleasantly live in unconfinement (6)
When we understand thoroughly the teaching of patriarch, we are not entangled in any life matter.
Read the sutra three times, then relax in Korea (7)
In the past, Chinese people open said Korea was a relaxing place. This line says that the people could relax in Korea if they understand thoroughly Buddhist scriptures after a few times of reading. Line 6 and 7 to say that practitioners who fully understand the dharma could reach to infinity. Those who fully understand Buddhist scriptures also could relax in Korea.
Respect love and righteousness, improve the Five senses, enter the Buddhist and patriarchal gate (8)
He teaches us how to practice in our daily life. Monastics should fully understand scriptures in order to apply dharma in their practice. Laymen, who live with righteousness have virtues and love for everyone.
Improve Five Sense- He talks about the eyes when they see forms, the ears when they hear sounds, the nose when it smells scents, the tongue when it tastes flavors, and the body when it touches objects. If Five Senses are unattached to Five aggregates during their contact, it is called “improve”.
Enter the Buddhist and patriarch gate - Means that whoever respects righteousness and could keep Six senses unattached to Six aggregates is the person who could enter the Buddhist Zen school (gate)
Retreat from disputes, despise forms and sounds, be careful not to engage in lustful activities (9)
Why do we have to retreat from disputes? It’s because disputes involve in right and wrong. This is a common problem for everyone. All comments and criticisms are the cause of the disputes. People are who they are and we are why who we are. Don’t be too concern about the people and hastily criticize them. Are we sure that our thoughts and views are correct. We should stay away from disputes. True practitioners should speak less.
Despise forms and sounds - We should be careful with other people’s comments. Don’t impulsively act or follow. Good or bad forms should have no affect on us. This is the rudiment of practice.
Be careful not to engage in lustful activities - We should be cautious not to engage any lustful activities. This causes corruption.
Line 8 and 9 remind us to live with virtues and not letting Five senses attach to Five sensual objects. If we’re able to do it, we’re already thorough with the Buddha’s teaching and have entered the patriarchal gate. We also should repeat from disputes, despise sounds and forms, and never engage in lustful activities. These are the things that true practitioners should do.
Politics is a difficult matter – Means that it’s not an easy life for being government officials because they have to deal with many issues. Line 10 praises the Buddha’s compassion, while line 11 praises king Nghieu’s benevolence.
If clothes could keep us warm, then careless of their condition (12)
Through 4 seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter, the winter is coldest season. Having warm clothes and blankets are good enough to get through the winter. They don’t need to be nice or in perfect condition.
Rice or rice soup, whichever could fill the stomach (13) – Doesn’t matter what kind of food it is, it it can fill the stomach. There’s no demand.
Our practicing life would be nice if we can exercise these 2 lines. Line 12 implies the wearing habit and line 13 implies the eating habit. In life, eating and wearing are important matters. But no monastic people, clothing is just a protection from the weather. They have no complaints about its condition. For the eating, they have no preference. If we cleverly apply these two phrases in life, we would see that the eating and wearing customs of practitioners are simple and comfortable.
Prevent Eight sense and Eight Winds, the more they’re suppressed, the more they elevate (14)
Eight consciousness that we need to prevent are: Visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile, mind, defile mind consciousness (Manas), and store consciousness (Alaya). The Mahayana schools affirm that people have eight consciousness. Consciousness is the differentiation.
Seeing objects and differentiating them are the functions of visual consciousness. Hearing sounds and differentiating them are the functions of auditory consciousness. Smelling scents and differentiating them are the functions of olfactory consciousness. Tasting foods and differentiating their flavors are the functions of gustatory consciousness. Contacting objects and differentiating their temperature or conditions are the function of tactile consciousness. The mind raises all kinds of thoughts and judgments, which is the functions of mind consciousness.
It’s easier to differentiate and understand the functions of the first Six consciousness than the Seventh consciousness. This one is hidden that people rarely know. It relates to the Eight consciousness, which is also called the Store consciousness. It’s like a storage that holds all kinds of seeds collected from seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. The Seventh consciousness takes the good or bad things to store them in Store consciousness. The Store consciousness doesn’t collect the objects by itself at all. The Seventh consciousness is called the “mind”.
The Function of the mind is to think of everything that happens from the past to the future. But when we don’t think, where is the Mind? The eyes have the Visual consciousness clinging to, but the Mind has no place to cling to. It only depends on other consciousness to arise differentiation. When no differentiation arises, it returns to its original stage. The Mind is also called the Defile Mind-consciousness (Manas), which is the root of Mind consciousness and the reliance of the Mind consciousness. In its inactive mode, the Mind consciousness awaits in the Mind for the right moment to arise. These explain why the Seventh consciousness is also called the Mind. Let sum it up by saying that the Mind consciousness and secondly, it takes all seeds from outside (perceiving objects) to the Store consciousness.
Today’s science explains that our memory of things is recorded by the cerebral cells. But the Mind Study (of Buddhism) explains differently. We all have a storage that stores all mental objects that wait for the right moment to arise. Let say, one day, you see a unique flower that you haven’t seen before. You pay attention to its details. Later at home, you suddenly remember that flower during your relaxing moment. Thus, the image (mental object) of the flower already resided in the Store consciousness. Whatever our eyes see is differentiated by the mind. From there, the seeds (being-to-be-born) objects are created. The seeds are then transferred to Manas consciousness and later are stored in the Store consciousness (Alaya). When the right time comes, the seed arise. Thus, all things that we like have their seeds in the Store consciousness. People who like to do good things have good seeds in the Store consciousness for their actions, speeches and thoughts. When they’re close to death, the strongest good seed becomes the karma that takes the Store consciousness to reborn in a well-being place. For those who do evil things, their seeds will lead them into the evil place. In the sutra, it says that at the last moment of life, good people smile or have a pleasant face to joyful scenes that they see. On the other hand, bad people see bad images that frighten them. By looking their face after death, we guess which side (evil or good) they’re heading to. Overall, the Mind Study lets us know that we have the Store consciousness that stores all seeds (being-to-be-born objects). Those seeds are created by the eyes, ears nose, tongue, and body when they are in contact with the Five sensual objects. The Mind arises differentiation and the Mind consciousness takes the mental objects into the Store consciousness. The seeds are just the images, not the physical objects. Therefore, when we die, the seeds have a power to take sue to the new life. If everything is physically stored in the brain, then how could we reborn when the brain disintegrates? And how could the good and bad seeds still exist?It makes more sense to explain that the Store consciousness holds the good and the bad seeds and take them from this life to the next life.
Many people often think that they should get immediate retribution when they do good or bad deeds. But how come there’re people who never get immediate retribution when their life is full of bad deeds or good deeds? It’s not true, isn’t it? The people with bad deeds in this life already created much of good seeds from previous life. When good seeds all used up, the bad seeds reveal. Also, there’re people who have made good deeds all their life, but still face with many ordeals. They don’t even die pleasantly. And they think that what they have done is gone. It’s not so. The good seeds that they have created will appear in the next life.
We all know that none of use chooses specific parents for our reincarnation. It depends on the previous karma that lead us to the good or bad life setting. The good or bad seeds in the Store consciousness determine the reincarnation. Let says in previous life, we deceived someone to make him/her go bankrupted. He/he hated us. After death, the old debt will take us to be reborn into his family to repay the debt. But let’s say that in previous life, we helped a good person, Then after death, we will be reborn into his/her family to live a happy life.
Thus, the previous karma always exists because they remain in the Store-Mind consciousness. They control our reborn condition. It’s not a coincidence or a setting by anyone. Thus we should understand clearly about the Eight consciousness so we can stop creating bad seeds in the Store consciousness. In other words, we prevent the undesired retribution. This is the preventive method for the Eight consciousness.
Prevent Eight Winds – This means not to allow them to control us. The Eight Winds are benefit, loss, destruction, gain, praise, ridicule, suffering, and happiness. They usually made us be unstable.
- Benefit – Let say one day you win lotto of ten million dollars. Can you sleep at night? If you can’t sleep, you’re blown by the Wind of Benefit. If you can sleep well, then you can’t be blown by it.
- Loss -Can you be calm when loosing the money to an investment? Of course not. This means that the Wind of Loss has blown you away.
- Destruction -You’re a good person. One day, a man comes and points his finger to your face with a curse. Will you be upset? Indeed, this third wind is not easy to pass, isn’t it?
- Gain – If you are applauded by hundreds of people in a conference, will you be able to nap later? If not, then you’re blown by the Wind of Gain.
- Praise – It’s often that people can’t sleep from a praise. They’re blown by the Wind of Praise.
- Ridicule -Let say in public you’re criticized by someone. Are you calm when you arrive home? If you are not, then you’re blown by the Wind of Ridicule.
- Suffering – When dealing with sufferings, your mind is untamed. You’re blown by the Wind of Suffering.
- Happiness – We’re expecting a visit from a dear person. The closer it gets to the meeting day, the more impatient we could be. This means that the coming happiness makes us moved.
Thus, practitioners in any situation of praising, criticizing, gaining, loosing, advantaging, or disadvantaging should control the agitation. Those who do lip-talk are just faking. When we can control one wind, we sure will be able to override the others.
Zen masters often check their students’ attainment levels by yelling at them. If students are calm, they are not bad. But if they cry out, then they are still behind. In normal circumstances, we tend to portrait our high morality, but the truth reveals when we face with the real matters. So, in this section, the patriarch has reminded us to control the Eight Winds.
Fully understand Three speeches and Three principles, keep clearing the mind (15)
The three speeches and principles are the words that patriarch Lin Chi usually said in his teaching. This phrase says that we should completely understand this concept and we should keep clearing the mind so it won’t get dull. Actually, Lin Chi never explained the three speeches and principles, but his students did as follows:
The three speeches are:
- The speeches should be truthful and direct
- The speeches have no differentiation. For instance, one asks “What is Buddha?” The answer is “3 kilos.” Is the answer differentiate? Not at all.
- The speeches is unbind to two sides.
The three principles are:
- The speeches arises no differentiation
- The speeches are clear and wise, doesn’t follow the worldly words
- The speeches mean to cease the answer, not to make respondents to think.
Later, Zen master Thien Chieu made a verse about the three speeches and principles as follows:
The three speeches and principles are hard to differentiate
Understand the true meaning makes one closer to the Way
One clear phrase could go beyond all worldly formality
One the Ninth of September, the daisies open bright
What he tries to say here is it’s hard to differentiate the Three Speeches from the Three Principles. To be close to the Way, we must understand the main points and forget about the words. That’s how to fully understand the patriarch’s speeches and be free from two sides. Those who understand this idea are like “daisies that open on the ninth of September” This means that when the right time comes, people’s mind turns bright.
Let the stringless lute play an interesting “unborn” song (16)
And the holeless flute sounds the song of peace (17)
An enlightened person is a person who has a talent to play an unborn song with a stringless lute and a song of peace with a holeless flute. The patriarch’s saying doesn’t allow use to arise differentiation and agitation. Once fully understand it, people would have the upmost effect. He/she could peacefully live in an unborn world without wandering and suffering.
Pick the root to find the branch, unfortunately for master Ju Shi (18)
Ju Shi is a name of Zen master who lived in Tang dynasty. Usually, he quietly raised a finger up whenever someone asked about Zen. It’s because the ultimate stage of attainment it not dual; Therefore, he raised a finger up. His response is visual because he had no other way to express it.
Loose the head, how silly Enyadatta (19)
In Suramgama sutra, the Buddha illustrated as such:
Long long ago, there was a young man named Enyadatta. One morning, he washed his face and saw his handsome face reflected in the mirror. He liked it so much. But when he turned it around, he didn’t see his face anymore. In panic, he ran and screamed: “I lost my head, I lost my head!”
Why did he loose his head? It’s because he relied on the mirror and totally forgot about his real head. When the mirror was upside down, he thought his head was gone. But the face in the mirror was just a reflection. If he lost his head, then who was running in panic?
From this illustration, the Buddha wanted to tell us that each of us has a true mind or the Buddha mind. However, the Mind consciousness is agitated by the differentiation of outer objects and attached to the mental objects that are stored in the Store consciousness. The Mind consciousness and mental objects are unreal. When the mind is tamed, one might ask, “I don’t have the mind, I lost it.” IF they say no thinking is no mind, then do they really loose the reflection of mind or the mind itself? The truth is when the mind is not thinking, the images subside. It doesn’t mean that we have lost the mind. During the stage of thoughtlessness, we can constantly realize the truth mind. It’s the same that the head and face in the mirror illustrate the images, while the real head and face illustrates the true mind. Enyadatta only remember the image, not his head.
We are the same as we only remember the right and wrong, gain and loose, advantage and disadvantage, etc…We forget our constant existing mind. We take our mind to find the mind. we ‘re often mistaken the unreal matter to be real, and undiscern what is real. An example is the body. It’s unreal, but no one can touch it. The mind is often changing, but we don’t let others have different opinions. We live in ignorance as we think the reflection is ourselves and are not willing to awake the true mind that always exists in us.
When the thoughts arise, our mind is agitated. When it’s tamed, we’re also aware of its condition. This awareness is not the agitation. Thus, why don’t we accept the true mind instead of running after impermanent that lead us to suffering and joy? Are we crazy? Are our craziness and Enyadatta craziness the same?
These two phrases remind us to practice by realizing our true mind and not attaching to outer forms and images. Knowing that, we’re awakened. How far apart are ignorance and awakening? They’re apart like a hand. When it faces down, it’s ignorance. When it faces up, it’s awakening. Say the unreal things are real is ignorance, while say the unreal things are unreal is awakening. Those who know this are those who love themselves and know how to practice.
Break a diamond cage with no facial expression (20)
Swallow thorny bamboos without damaging the skin (21)
The diamonds are hard to break, but the patriarch said that one could break the diamond cage with no problem. He also said that one could swallow thorny bamboos without scratching the skin. He implies that when practitioners attain the ultimate stage, they can overcome all obstacles like breaking a diamond cage or swallowing thorny bamboos without being hurt. This is the great effect of being attained. These attained people can live in any circumstances without fear because they already attained the truth.
Imminently, discern the Way
When three karmas end, the body and mind are tamed
Attain One mind, fully discern the patriarch’s teaching
Obstinate in words, Zen practitioners are lost
To attain the master’s and Buddha’s teachings, need to be clever
Ask for reborn and no-born, it’s like a mesh or a brick wall
Ask for great vehicle or small vehicle, it’s like a coin change or rope.
Discern that the true nature is always bright, careless of the weather conditions
Polish the mirror, don’t let dusts cling
The gold is still impure, it needs to be formed and forged nine times
No greed in wealth, veggies or congi is acceptable
Preserve the mind precepts and polish the body precepts from inside out, this is Bodhisattva in Pure Land
Mankind are loyal to leaders, children respect parents, stand filial men
Practice Zen, find good friends, repay them even with this body
Study dharma, honor Masters, this body can’t repay them enough.
It’s true (1)
Be mindless (2)
Imminently, discern the Way (3)
Although practitioners have different methods in practice the ultimate goal is to reach to the stage of mindlessness. Which mind is it? The false mind or the mind of differentiation that runs after Six sensual objects. When this mind tamed, we discerns the Way. We call it mindlessness, but other people may call it the “One mind” The Way is the true nature of the true mind. When we discern the true mind, we have discerned the Way. When false mind subsides, the true mind reveals.
When three karmas end, the body and mind are tamed (4)
The three karmas are the bad deeds of the body, speech and mind. Once they’re terminated, the mind is tamed and bright.
Attain One mind, fully discern the patriarch’s teaching (5)
Our goal of practice is to attain One mind. If we can do that, we fully understand the patriarch’s teaching. Otherwise, we are lost in the forest of dhamas. One mind means the only are lost in the forest of dhamas. One mind means the only true mind with no agitation. In Pure Land practice, the Buddha taught us to chant with One mind and to meditate with no false thoughts. Even though the words of both methods are different, the key point is the same. One mind means no more false thoughts.
These two phrases (4,5) tell us first, to practice to terminate the Three karmas. Then, attain One mind in order to reach to the ultimate stage that all patriarchs have taugh us.
Obstinate in words, Zen practitioners are lost (6)
If practitioners just rely and get trapped in words and meanings. They’ll soon be lost because they can’t discern the key ideas that the patriarchs have tried to point out. For instance, one points his hand at the noon. Instead of looking at the moon, people pay attention to his finger and arise differentiation as it’s big, small, good, bad, etc…They will never see the moon. Practitioners are the same as they keep getting trapped in the wording and can’t attaint the ultimate stage.
Buddhist dharmas have been expounded for years and the Buddha’s goal is to help us to discern our real Buddha. Our true nature (true mind). We keep obstinating in wording without looking into ourselves to realize our true nature. It’s same as the people who differentiate the finger instead of looking at the moon.
In Pure Land sutra, Amitabha Buddha said that if anyone with tamed mind could chant the Buddha’s name from one day to seven days, he/she can be reborn in the Pure Land. But nowadays, people don’t chant with One mind. When can they be reborn in Pure Land? In Prajna sutra, the Buddha said that once we discern that the Five Aggregates are unreal, we would override all obstacles. But if Zen practitioners recite it and still see them real, when will they be enlightened?
Buddhistsutra teach us the way to clear misperceptions and obstinacy so we could attain One mind. But we chant instead of practicing it. We’re like parrots that mindlessly repeat everything that they hear. The patriarch called this type of practitioners “the wanderers.”
To attain the master’s and Buddha’s teaching, need to be clever (7)
Zen practitioners should discern Buddhist dharmas and know their attainment level. These are confident, clever, and truthful.
I often tell monks and nuns that I highly respect attained practitioners. They fully attain Buddhist dharmas. When fully attained dharmas, we know our level and other’s level, so we could guide them appropriately and effectively. If we’re arrogant about our ability to read and explain dharmas, we are just wanderers on the road of practicing Zen.
In the past, I liked Zen so much that I practiced the Six Marvelous Methods. It’s because I had no one to guide me in the early stage. I felt it was alright. After this stage, I planned to practice Zen because I thought that Zen was more appropriate to my ability. I knew this because of my real experience and discernment. The stages of attainment are real and only true practitioners would know. If we don’t really practice, we don’t know which method is appropriate to us. Only after passing through the bitter stages, we reach to a lighter and more interesting stage, where we realize which practicing method is appropriate to us. From there, we keep heading straight. This is called “awakening”, which can only be attained from a real practice, not from a plain study.
This phrase teaches us how to be true practitioners, who have the ability to override all ordinary matters to reach to the ultimate goal and to be free from the formality of wordings and meanings.
Ask for reborn and no-born, it’s like a mesh or a brick wall (8)
We often hear the words “reborn” and “no-born” in Buddhism, but how should we practice to attain the reborn or no-born merits? First, we need to understand their meaning. “Reborn” means “lingering” and “no-born” means “no-lingering” But lingering in what? In the Three Realms.
The sutra says that in liberating from birth and death, we’re liberating from the Three Realms. The Three Realms are Desire, From, and Formlessness. It says “no lingering” when one fully attains the Way and liberates form the Three Realms. It says “lingering” when one has a blessing to be reborn in the Three Realms or this mundane world.
Lingering is like sands falling down from a gauze. No lingering is like a wall that prevents the lingering.
Ask for great vehicle or small vehicle, it’s like a coin chain or rope (9)
This means that small vehicle is like a small thread that holds the coins and great vehicle is like a rope that is used to pull the ladle. It’s a concrete example.
Discern that the true nature is always bright, careless of the weather conditions (10)
If we discern that our true nature is always bright, we don’t need to wait for the right moment to discern it. The true nature is always bright, so it still exists whether the right moment or not. We only need to realize it to fully attain it. This phrase has a profound meaning and we should never ask, “when will I attain the Way?” it’s a redundant question.
Polish the mirror, don’t let dusts cling (1)
The mirror illustrates the enlightened nature. What is the nature? I usually illustrate it with a fist. Before curling the fingers, the first doesn’t exist. When the fingers are uncurled, the fist disappears. Thus, the emptiness already exists. When the fingers are uncurled, it returns to the emptiness stage. The fist is made because of the union of elements. When the union ends, it’s nothing. Therefore, it’s unreal. The enlightened nature already exists. It’s like a bright nature of a minor and the annoyances are like dusts.
Long ago, master Shen Hsiu and patriarch Hui Neng. One said to always polish the mirror so it always shines. The other one said the mirror is always bright. So it shines whether the dusts cling or not. The mirror is already clear, so the polishing it’s just a formality. Patriarch Hui Neng discerned that the true mind is like the bright nature of the mirror. So he said that there’s no need to polish it. Conversely, master Shen Hsiu only looked at the formality of it as he said to keep polishing the mirror. He should mean to clean the dust, not the mirror. The mirror is already bright so it doesn’t need to be cleaned. But because the dusts cover it, it can’t be shined. For long, we often misperceive this matter.
Our true nature is the same as it’s always bright. But because it’s been covered by affliction, it doesn’t shine. When affliction ends, it reveal itself. We usually misperceive that the true mind will gradually turn bright after the affliction is clear. It’s incorrect. The brightness already exists, that’s why it’s called the “enlightened nature”.And the Buddha had said that all sentient beings already had the Buddha mind. If we already have it, we should elicit it so it could shine. Many Buddhists don’t realize this matter so they discard their Buddha nature. How sorry it is!
Our enlightened nature never disappears, but we keep wandering everywhere and submerge in suffering to look for it from life to life. How pity we are. Our goal of practice is to return to our existed true nature by cleaning the long-time existing afflictions. When afflictions end, the enlightened nature shines bright. Our target in practice is the afflictions, not the Buddha nature. Many people told me that they try to practice so their Buddha nature could be shined. How unfair for the Buddha nature because it’s never being dull.
These two phrases (10, 11) say that people who already realized their true nature (Buddha nature) should not ask how long it takes to be enlightened. The true nature already exits, so we only need to keep the dusts away from it so it could shine. No need to wonder about the time.
The gold is still impure, it needs to be formed and forged nine times (12)
Knowing the gold is impure, we should continue to purify it. As long as a tiny bit of residue is still mixed in it, the gold is impure. It’s the same that our enlightened nature is always right. But if a bit of affliction still lingers, it can’t reveal itself.
No greed in wealth, veggies or congi is acceptable (13)
If we’re careless of wealth, then a simple meal like veggies or rice soup is all we need. Nothing is important! Let’s assess to see if we can do that. We usually want our meal to be tasty. Such practice is still subjective to “wealth”
So, if practitioners realize that their mind is not yet habitual, they should try harder to train it so it become habitual. If the mind has no desire in wealth, then a vegetable meal soup is enough to fill the stomach.
Preserve the mind precepts and polish the body precepts from inside out, this is Bodhisattva in Pure Land (14)
The first half of the phrase is a reminder to monastic people, and the last half is a reminder to laymen. We need to fully preserve the mind precepts, the precepts written by Master Phap Loa that we recite every month. He taught us the Rules of of Purification: the eyes, ears, and sensual organs are unattached to sensual objects. We need to polish the Ten Body Precepts (for novice monks and nuns) and hundreds of precepts (for Bhikkhus and Bhikkunis). Our mind and our body have to be pure. When they’re pure, we are like Bodhisattva in the Pure Land
Mankind are loyal to leaders, children respect parents, stand filial men (15)
Preserving the mind and body precepts is a duty that monastic people should fulfill. They should also be loyal to their leaders and be filial to their parents. They are called “filial men.”
Practice Zen, find good friends, repay them even with this body (16)
In practicing Buddhism, we should look for good friends, so they could be our guides. Having such people in life, we can’t thank them enough, even if we have to sacrifice our body.
Study dharmas, honor Masters, this body can’t repay them enough (17)
As a layman, the patriarch was able to express the most honorable thing in Buddhist study. That is, to honor the masters even if we have repay them with our life. We claim a little suffering is a repayment to the master. How gratitude would it be?
We can see clearly the value of practitioners in this segment. If we don’t truly practice, we would never appreciate the intention of the masters and scholars. Only those who attain the Way can fully understand this phrase. Our parents give birth to us, and this body can last at most 80 or 90 years. On the other hand, when we attain the Way, we can have it forever. Thus, it is a great gratitude to the individuals who show us how to attain the forever-existing true nature.
Completed section 5 & 6