Precepts and Patience

The second paramita is `precepts,` which I have already discussed. To abide by the Buddha`s precepts is to walk on the Bodhisattva Way and to follow the footsteps and teachings of the Buddha. It leads one to awakening and keeps one from falling back into samsara.

Regarding the third paramita of `patience,` I have an inquiry here for you to contemplate: Who is slandering me? Such contemplation will lead to an understanding of the highest level. You have to constantly remind yourself, `Who is slandering or making charges against me?` You might reply, `My neighbors are insulting me, the Grand Master is reprimanding me, my wife is scolding me, and my children are reproving me. Not only my superiors, people junior to me are also putting me down. With pressure from above and below, I am turning into a sandwich.` The Japanese word for sandwich is San-do-yi-ji. English words incorporated into the Japanese language can sound quite stiff. One time I went to Pizza Hut and ordered by saying, `Give me Sandwich.` Perhaps I had been studying Japanese sometime in the past because the employee could not understand my English. [laughter and audience laughter]

If one does not practice patience or endurance, one will frequently find oneself feeling as if one is a sandwich, because very few people in this world like to use kind words. Pay attention to what you hear; you will find that people who use malicious remarks greatly outnumber those who speak pleasant words. Although one should not speak ill of others when engaging in chitchats, the opposite is exactly what people like to do. No one likes to talk about one`s own faults; it is always someone else`s faults. There is a Taiwanese saying that nine out of ten mouths are foul-smelling. This does not mean halitosis, but that nine out of ten people utter words that are unpleasant, abusive, and judgmental. When surrounded by such slandering and judgments, one cannot help but feel like a sandwich. Buddhists have to be patient and endure such situations. It is a difficult task, but consider this: Who is there saying these malicious things about me? Who is there scolding me? Such inquiries will lead one to realize the nature of the emptiness of the ego.

Where is the `I` of my past? It has gone into the past and is no longer here. Where am I now? I am here now at the Rainbow Villa giving a teaching. Will this current `I` turn into a past `I`? Definitely! The past `I` no longer exists, and the current `I` will become a past `I` and will also disappear. How about the future `I`? The future `I` is not here yet. So, who is there slandering me? One has to think constantly about the truth behind these questions. Do you realize that even `slandering` itself will also become a thing of the past and disappear? Since you, yourself, will disappear one day, how can the slandering exist on its own? The person who slanders you will also vanish. Fifty years, or a hundred years, from now, who is there to slander you? When you constantly think this way, you will not be tempted to go and commit suicide. [audience applause] I frequently reflect on this truth. Otherwise, I would have committed suicide a long time ago. [laughter] You have to think this way!

I ask myself, where was Sheng-yen Lu before he was born? He did not exist. Now Sheng-yen Lu is living in this world and some people are criticizing him, but will this Sheng-yen Lu vanish in the future? Definitely. The Emperor Ch`in of the Ch`in Dynasty[221-207 B.C.] no longer exists, neither do Confucius, Chuang Tzu, and Lao Tzu. Mr. Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek are not here either. Sooner or later, Sheng-yen Lu will also disappear, isn`t it so? Will the people who criticize him be here then? No, they also will disappear. Since everyone will disappear, is there really anyone who slanders one? The past no longer exists, the present will become the past, and the future is not here yet! By thinking this way often, I realize there is inherently nothing for one to endure, thus one rises above endurance. In fact, I sometimes feel grateful to people who have criticized me and am appreciative of the energy and labor they have invested in their endeavors. Endurance is therefore transformed into gratefulness and appreciation. At the highest level of endurance, one realizes that one needs not endure anything as there is inherently nothing to endure. [audience applause]

Many times people have accused me of putting forth fake light photographs. Is there any point in making a rebuttal? First of all, I do not own a camera. Those light photographs were not developed by me, as I do not have a dark room. Although I am often photographed by others, I do not take pictures myself. These light photographs were sent in by many, many different students. Some people have theorized that the photographs capturing the phenomenon of light were falsified by students in order to please me. However, we are talking not one or two students, but several thousand of them. So, how could all these photographs be fake? People can make whatever conjectures they like; we do not have to become upset because we have not engaged in any deliberate falsification. As for myself, I would find such a falsifying act despicable because what the True Buddha School emphasizes is authenticity. Such `doctoring up` of photographs is cheating and a breaking of the precepts. So, just let nature take its own course. If we happen to get a light photograph, that will be good. If we do not, that does not matter. In any case, we do not have to get upset when we hear such accusations ?this is endurance.

Coming back to the issue of the True Buddha Tantric Dharma, I remember there was a student who once raised a question while we were all totally immersed in doing the practice. She asked, `Is it possible to attain Enlightenment by just making these hand gestures and chanting the mantras in front of the Tantric shrine?` Consider this: these are words from my own student! The True Buddha Tantric Dharma is the product of a labor of heart and mind that has taken more than twenty years to become crystallized. She just took a look and decided there was nothing to it because it was so simple. After viewing the video tapes on The Complete and Detailed Exposition of the True Buddha Tantric Dharma, one might exclaim, `Oh, I get it now!` Of course, after you watch the tapes, you get it. But, if you have not been shown it, would you have gotten it? Many of the intricate parts of the practice are a distillation of what I have learned over a course of more than two decades. After watching the tapes once, you are able to practice accordingly and claim it as your own. It is a simple process for you, but if there were no such instruction, would you have known it?

There is an itinerant entertainers` saying in China: A trade secret is not worth much after it is revealed but, if no one tells you, it will take you three years to figure it out on your own. A magician can make objects appear magically from out of nowhere. How it is accomplished is the magician`s trade secret. Once, when I was a child, I became totally awed by a magician and started chasing after him to beg him to teach me. He asked me what I would like to learn. I said I would be satisfied if he would only teach me this one trick ?to make money appear. [audience laughter] He replied that he would have no need to ply his trade if he could do that.

What I have discussed in The Complete and Detailed Exposition of the True Buddha Tantric Dharma are the keys to visualization, mudra, and mantra. Although students who have practiced for many years will notice right away the intricate points being disclosed, those who are exposed to such material for the first time may not be that impressed. When we hear doubtful remarks from the latter, we just have to be patient and practice endurance.

After spending some time in explaining how to do the practice for her, this student finally asked, `Why should I attain Buddhahood?` [audience laughter] I asked her back, `Why did you take refuge?` She said, `I was just doing what my friends were doing.` So, she was being a conformist and following the pack! I explained to her that the fruition of Buddhahood is wonderful, a realm of ultimate bliss, peace, tranquillity, and perfection. She professed that she was not interested at all in such a realm. `Then what do you want to be?` I asked her. She replied, `I want to be a dog.` [audience laughter] Oh, my heaven! It is terrible to run into this kind of student. To her, it is a good idea to be a dog, especially in the United States where the supermarkets are well stocked with all kinds of dog chow. When a poor foreign student with limited English first comes to the United States, he or she might buy many cans of dog food for consumption because they are cheap. [audience laughter] Indeed, dogs in America have a good life. They are well taken care of by their owners, who share beds with them, bathe them, blow dry their hair, clothe them in the winter, and stroll with them in the parks. Dogs seem to fare better in life than men, being fed without having to do any work. When she finished extolling the benefits of being a dog, I said, `You have not met any Cantonese yet.` [uproar of audience laughter and applause] It is a fact that there are always both sides to an issue.

I have totally devoted and immersed myself in the study of Tantric practice. It is heart-rending to make an offering to others of the cream of what I have learned, and be turned down. When faced with the kind of attitude that some students have towards the Dharma, I just have to be patient.

As a founder of the True Buddha School, many people feel that I am highly revered and am constantly being paid homage to by 1.5 million students. They do not know that I also pay the same kind of homage to my gurus, although a few of them have said good-bye to me. In the past, I have experienced great inadequacy in front of my gurus, who would criticize everything that I did. Just recently, together with some of the masters from the True Buddha School, I visited Guru Thubten Taerchi in Hong Kong. I was given a seat next to Guru Thubten Taerchi while the other masters sat below us. As a distinction between the guru and the student, Guru Thubten Taerchi sat on two cushions while I sat on one. After we were seated, Guru Thubten Taerchi turned to me and said, `I need to reprimand you for something that you have done.` He said that in front of all the students, without any concern about saving face for me, the founder of True Buddha School, the honorable guru, the Living Buddha Lian-sheng, the Flower Light Self-Mastery Buddha! [audience laughter] Guru Thubten Taerchi continued, `Would you define our relationship as one of guru and disciple or of friends?` I replied, `One of guru and disciple.` `Very well, then, why have you made such a mess of the task I gave you last time?` Actually, I did not know the details of this task because after it was delegated to me, I delegated it to someone below me. [audience laughter] Right after I had gotten the telephone call from my guru, I immediately asked some of our masters and students to take care of the matter. At the same time, Guru Thubten Taerchi, being quite impatient, also had delegated the same task to another person. It took us two months to get the task accomplished, while the other party was able to report back to him in one month. As a result, he was unhappy with me for ten days and actually was considering whether he should have me `stripped,` like someone having their martial prowess `stripped` in martial arts fiction. [audience laughter] Fortunately, he had a dream which made him change his mind. He did not disclose the content of the dream, but it persuaded him to keep me as his student. From what he said, I gathered that a certain Bodhisattva had appeared in his dream to tell him that I still had great reverence for him in my heart.

After ten days of displeasure with me, he had a change of mind, but he also decided to give me a lesson when I visited him. He said he had something to give me and, while extending both of my hands out to accept the item he was handing to me, he asked, `Is this the way you are supposed to behave?` He was neither smiling nor speaking softly. `Kneel down!` He ordered. Do you know then what this honored guru of yours, Living Buddha Lian-sheng, the founder of True Buddha School, the Flower Light Self-Mastery Buddha, did? I knelt down obediently. As soon as I knelt down in front of him, all the other masters and students who had come with me also got up from their seats and knelt down. One has to have complete faith in one`s guru. I did not argue with him or try to justify that it was not my fault, as I already had delegated the job to my staff. There was nothing to rationalize.

In the past, when my other gurus reprimanded me, I just knelt down and repented for my error. I never tried to reason with them, because they already had their minds made up and would not listen to any of my reasoning anyway. Some of the experiences I had with one of my masters were quite miserable. He would raise up a hand to hit me and, if I tried to evade it, the other hand of his would come down even harder. [audience laughter] Now, Guru Thubten Taerchi reprimands me whenever it pleases him. He has been doing that for ten years and is still not tired of it. [audience laughter] He is the guru, and I just have to graciously accept his treatment of me. Honestly, what else could I have said at that time? I could not say, `Hey, if you scold me like this again, I am going to leave you.` I could not have said that. In Vajrayana, the Samaya Pledge one makes at the time of taking refuge is sacrosanct. If one leaves one`s guru, one will violate the Samaya Pledge. The Samaya Pledge is not any ordinary vow; it is the most important Buddhist vow that aligns one with the guru and the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas during the meditative state.

My guru can scold me and order me to kneel down, and I will do whatever he asks me to. I am completely one-minded, without any doubts, about my guru. If I feel even a trace of aversion or even a little out of tune with my guru, the channel between the guru and me will no longer be open; it will become blocked at my end, and I will not receive any lineage empowerment from him.

Afterwards, Guru Thubten Taerchi asked me to go up to the mezzanine. There he wrote a Tibetan mantra for me and asked me to be the successor to his lineage. So, what he had been doing to me was a test. First, he mistreated me to ascertain if I could endure the hurt. He had to kill me first to see if I could endure the death of the ego. If I still returned to him, then he would transmit the lineage to me. Several of my gurus have employed similar methods to test me. A Tantrist has to be patient with one`s gurus and not argue with them. The education of a Tantrist is more vigorous than that of a soldier.

While studying under Marpa, Milarepa was physically beaten up by his guru. Marpa also instructed Milarepa to build a triangular shaped house, then ordered him to tear it down after its completion. The same sequence of events was repeated with houses of various other shapes: round, square, and semi-circular. Not knowing the true purpose of the guru, a disciple might question the rationality behind such tribulations. Actually, through the hardship of the building and dismantling of the various shaped houses, the disciple was removing his own obscurations, as well as learning the various karma-yogas of purification [circular altar], enhancement [square altar], magnetization [semicircular altar], and subjugation [triangular altar].

My gurus were even more demanding. They scolded me, and ordered me to kneel and crawl around before passing the transmission to me. This is how a Tantrist earns his or her learning ?by not retreating after taking refuge in a guru. While a practitioner of the scriptural school may turn back from the path without suffering any retribution, the Samaya Pledge in Vajrayana can cause a reneging Tantrist to fall into the Vajra Hell. As a Tantrist, could I have turned my back on my gurus? Lama Shakya Cheng-kung was very strict with me, Monk Liao-ming has beaten me, and now Guru Thubten Taerchi of Hong Kong has been scolding me for ten years, but I have not dared to raise half a thought, let alone a single whole thought, of receding from the path. The Samaya Pledge is not a vow to be taken lightly. In Vajrayana, a guru will put one through trials and tribulations to test one`s patience. When one indeed proves to have an inviolate will to cultivate the Tao, the guru will transmit the authentic practice to one.

From Lama Shakya Cheng-kung, I received many empowerments as well as many trials. From Monk Liao-ming, I was given many `humiliations` ?I cannot call them such, [laughter] as they were more like `blames` I had to take on. But he did tell me this, `The more blames you shoulder, the more disasters you meet, the higher your achievement will be.` To be reprimanded in front of my students completely took away my facade, but I did not care at all about saving my face. Can a Buddhist worry about saving face? That day, in front of Guru Thubten Taerchi, more than ten masters and students were present. Those of you who were present, raise your hands now. [A group of students including masters and reverends raise their hands.] Quite a few, and not everyone who witnessed the scene that day is here. If, while my guru was scolding and blaming me, I had been concerned about losing my face and had decided to get up, declaring that I was going to quit and leave, I would have broken the Samaya Pledge. It would also have meant that I had not learned any patience. Since I have taken refuge in him, I would have to abide by the Samaya Pledge even if he were to beat me to death. This is the kind of determination I have. I deserve to die in the hands of my guru if he chooses to beat me to death. In fact, I would consider it an early deliverance and rebirth to the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss, expedited by my guru. If I have outlived my purpose in this life, I can always come back in another life to continue helping the sentient beings.

As Buddhists, what we are learning from our gurus today are their good qualities. One day, when you become a guru yourself, if you have learned nothing except how to treat your students the way my gurus have treated me, your students will be in misery. Anyway, I do have faith and confidence in my own gurus. As long as I have taken refuge in them, I consider them as Buddhas. They can fix me up, scold me, help me fulfill my mission, or beat me to death. Such is the attitude a Vajrayana student should have. [audience applause] Otherwise, one should not go and take refuge. If you know you are taking refuge in the Vajrayana pathway, and you make the decision to take refuge in a Vajrayana guru, you have to have complete faith in the guru. By upholding an undoubting faith in your guru, you keep your Samaya Pledge intact. You also succeed in the practice of patience.

慶賀真佛宗根本傳承上師八十聖壽 「一生一咒」800萬遍上師心咒活動,從今年師尊的佛誕日正式啟動,請參加者到TBSN官網以下鏈接登記資料: 每持滿十萬遍上師心咒者,宗委會將把名單呈給師尊加持。每持滿一百萬遍者,將列名護摩法會功德主,資料請師尊主壇護摩法會時下護摩爐。