结夏的意义与功德
惟覺老和尚

(一)
从佛陀时代一直到现在,每一个道场每一年都要举行夏安居,希望大众在结夏安居的时候,尽量利用时间用功,听经闻法、禅修静坐。

  首先要确实了解夏安居的意义,否则不容易得到真实的利益;就像每年的佛诞一样,我们是以什么心情来庆祝佛诞,这非常重要。结夏也有事、有理,在中台禅寺举办夏安居,就是事。

  修行要具足因缘,夏安居也是一样,必须具足因缘,依止中台禅寺,还要结界、遵循种种规定,这样用功才会如法。儒家说:「不以规矩,不能成方圆。」制作器具时,要方、要圆,就必须有规、有矩来量度。想要成就法器、成就大器,也要有一些助道的因缘。

  第一,要有依止的常住。第二,要有人在这里主法。第三,衣食住行不虞匮乏。第四,有人指导、开示。这些都是因缘。结夏期间,除了为三宝事之外,不能出界,要专心用功、精进办道,希望大众珍惜宝贵的结夏因缘。道场建设完成,一切制度也都上轨道了,现在就是靠自己用功,这是很重要的。用什么功呢?就是心地法门。《金刚经》云:「一切贤圣皆以无为法而有差别。」有为法是成就无为法的方便;没有有为法,没有福德、没有方便,要想契悟、证悟无为法也不容易。

  大众平时修了很多方便,广积福慧资粮,事多理少,现在就是要事理一如、事理不二、圆融无碍。这念心有体、有用,无为法就是体。所谓「无为」,就是指这念心。诸位听法的这念心,达到寂灭、不动的境界,就是涅槃;听法这念心,就是我们的灵知灵觉,这就是菩提。禅宗祖师说,每个人心中有一个智慧佛、一个如如佛。智慧佛,是指我们的觉性了了分明,无住生心;如如佛,即无论行住坐卧,这念心不攀缘、不颠倒,打坐的时候,则一念不生。如果修行不知道这个道理,就是走远路、走错路。

  无论是哪一个宗派,都想得解脱、都想生净土、都想成道、都想证菩提和涅槃,这是一个大的目标。但是,必须了解净土究竟在哪里?心清净了,就是净土。所以,在夏安居的时候,要经常检讨、反省这个心有没有过失,有没有邪念,有没有杂念,有没有颠倒,有没有愚痴和无明?经过检讨、反省、改过,这念心清净了,就是智慧佛;这念心达到寂灭的境界,就是如如佛。这样,不论修什么法门、什么宗派,都是一样的。否则,就会认为自己修禅宗,属于心法,别人修净土,要藉佛的力量,矮了自己一截。以密宗来讲,也是一样的。密宗强调「即身成佛」,即什么身呢?身,就是指这念心,清净心、不动心、无为心、菩提心、无住心、广大心、无碍心、慈悲心、平等心、智慧心……即这个心是佛。因此,无论是哪一个宗派,都是一样的。假使不了解这个道理,听到人家说:「你们出了家是不错,但就是不如我这个宗好。」就会产生动摇。

(二)
佛所说的八万四千个法门,都是方便,藉由这些方便,目的是要达到究竟。经云:「佛说一切法,为治一切心;若无一切心,何用一切法。」《金刚经》亦云:「法尚应舍,何况非法?」到最后,烦恼漏尽了,清净心、无住心、寂灭心现前了,所有的法门统统要放下,也不要念佛了,也不要诵经了,也不要持咒了,也不要再修六波罗蜜了。为什么?因为这些都是方便,都是过海的船、渡海的浮囊,已经过海了,还要这些浮囊作什么?不是多此一举吗?所以,到最后一切都要舍掉。佛所说的正法最后都要放下,何况是非法呢?非法、邪法,更不能执着,想都不要想,沾都不要沾。明白这些道理了,依据这个方向来用功、学习、修行,每个人都能到达彼岸。

  什么是彼岸?菩提、涅槃就是彼岸。此岸是众生境界,经过烦恼的中流,彼岸就现前了。烦恼化掉了,此岸、彼岸就是一个。无论是出家、在家,假使不了解这些道理,就不知道方向,也不知道佛在哪里、道在哪里;方向都不知道,如何成道呢?因此,开宗明义跟大众说明,无为法是体,有为法是用。众生的心没有慈悲、没有清净,起贪瞋痴、造杀盗淫,绑票勒索,无法无天,无所不为,这些也是心的作用。这些作用将来的果报,就是地狱、畜生、饿鬼。出家修行也是心的作用,不论是在精舍、常住、佛学院,都是清净的、慈悲的、智慧的用,都是修福报。

  做一件善事,就得一件功德,这也是心的作用。但真实的功德在哪里呢?真实的功德就是体,就是无为法。《金刚经》云:「一切贤圣皆以无为法而有差别。」「凡所有相,皆是虚妄,若见诸相非相,即见如来。」

  无论是大乘、小乘,都是一样的,没有差别。例如,三十七助道品,可帮助我们达到菩提和涅槃的境界。三十七助道品不是道,而是帮助我们净化这个心、对治这个心,是助道的方法,目的是在这里。佛法所说的「法法平等」,就是指每一个法都是对治颠倒的我执、法执,都是对治自己的烦恼、妄想、昏沉的方便。明白了这些道理,就能去除执着,修一切善而不执着一切善。

  有些人偏执一边,认为不执着就是不要,因此连善法也不修。假使不修一切善法,哪里有今天的中台禅寺?没有中台禅寺,我们怎么能自利、利他?佛法就是要在利他当中完成自利,利益自己又能利益众生。所以,一切法门都要学习,不能走错路,否则就是害了自己。

(三)
夏安居,一方面是听闻佛法,二方面就是打坐,这就是夏安居真实的修行、真实的意义。我们这念心,一个是体,一个是用。没有开悟的人,心的用是属于染用、属于恶用、属于糊涂的用,将来就会堕落。无论是出家或在家,起心动念是善念,说的是佛法、是好话,身行的是善事,所修的是戒定慧……这都是清净的功德、清净的用。现在起善用,将来就得善果,或是净土、或是天上、或是人间。

  如果再进一步,认识这念心体,那又不一样了。体是什么?体,就是诸位听法这念心,一念未生之处,无念、无相、无住、无为、无想、无愿。必须靠自己多静坐,才能彻底了解。坐久了,就有功夫;功夫现前了,这念心就会现前。经云:「若人静坐一须臾,胜造恒沙七宝塔,宝塔毕竟化为尘,一念净心成正觉。」净心,就属于无为法;无为法现前了,才能成正觉。无为法,就是指我们静坐的这念心。无念,不起心动念;无想,不想过去、现在、未来;无为,这念心不要执着,看到任何境界,都知道是虚妄不实的;无住,无论是善、是恶,无论是明、是暗,都不要执着,不住在任何一个境界上面,因为一切都是虚妄的。

  修行要找一个最究竟的境界,那就是道、就是无为法。如果认为无为法太困难了,是在唱高调,现在不能修,这就是邪见。为什么?出家就是要得解脱,无为法现前,才能得到解脱;无为法现前了,才有真正的净土。所以,大家要有正知正见。没有无为法,就没有真正的净土,只是自己想出来的;想出来的,就属于五阴境界。《金刚经》云:「若有色、若无色,若有想、若无想、若非有想非无想,我皆令入无余涅槃而灭度之。」无余涅槃就是心之体,就是真正的净土,才能达到菩萨的境界。

  明白了这个道理,在结夏当中,这就是一条修行的道路,这是属于心之体。什么是心之用?有念是用。只起善念,不起恶念,如禅宗祖师所说的,心无善念不起,口无好话不说,身无善事不行。要起心动念,就是善念;要讲话,就是佛法、就是好话;要做事,就是善行、就是净行,这就是心之用。有了这些用,未来虽然还没成道,至少善根不会灭掉,将来所得到的是福报;可是福报用完了,就没有了。那么,什么才是用不完的呢?就是心体。契悟了这念心,就是契悟了道。道,才是真功德。

(四)
道是什么?就是一念不生,无念、无相、无住、无为,始终保持这念心清楚明白,在这个地方来用功,就是心之体。夏安居期间,就要在这念心上来用功。体和用,不是二个,而是一个,所谓「体不碍用,用不离体」。这念心用了以后要归于无想,因此,《四十二章经》云:「念无念念,行无行行,言无言言……。」念了以后,要归于无念;话讲了以后,归于不起心不动念、无言无说那个地方。

  这就是禅宗祖师所说的「返照自心」,哪个是自心?无念、无相、无住、无为,觉性不灭;一般佛经里称之为觉性、菩提心、净土。净土宗强调念佛,阿弥陀佛就是指我们的觉性,无形、无相、无住、无想。阿弥陀佛是无量寿、无量光,这念觉性才是无量寿、无量光,而不是外在的任何形相和境界。

  如果不了解这些道理,这一生修行就对不起自己。假使今生的知见不正,来世可能又成了邪知邪见,又会走错路,又会走远路。所以,体不碍用,用不离体,体用一如,体用不二。明白心体了,就知道体才是道,其他都属于有相的福报、有相的功德。所以,夏安居有事有理,非常重要。

  达磨祖师到中国来,当时是梁武帝在位。梁武帝三次出家,就是为了要建寺庙,为了要度皇族,故意舍身,让他们出钱赎他回去,这些都是菩萨行。梁武帝是个佛心天子,修了很大的福报,对佛教界有很大的贡献,如:梁武帝规定中国佛教僧人吃素,吃素的功德就是从梁武帝开始的。达磨祖师决定先去度化他,告诉他心地法门、无为法,使他明白心之体。

  达磨祖师看到梁武帝发心广大,想度他契悟本心。梁武帝一看到达磨祖师,就问:「我建了几百个道场,度了数万人出家,请问达磨大师,我这些功德有多大呢?」达磨祖师回答:「毫无功德!」梁武帝进一步问:「这些都不是功德,那什么才是真功德?」达磨祖师说:「这些不是真功德,只是人天小果、人天福报而已!」这就是《金刚经》所说:「一切贤圣皆以无为法而有差别」,不是以有为法而有差别。所谓「实际理地一法不立」,无为法就是师父说法、诸位听法的这念心。不管是好的、坏的,这念心里面什么东西都不能存在,「有一些些,还有一些些」,这念心是绝对的。就如同眼睛一样,里面不能有一点点灰尘、渣滓跑进去,就算是世上最珍贵的钻石打成了粉,放到眼睛里,眼睛也会瞎掉。所以,我们的心当中是一法不立,这就是般若,就是《金刚经》所说的「法尚应舍,何况非法」!

  达磨祖师答复梁武帝,说他没有功德,这只是福报,不是功德。梁武帝问:「什么才是真功德?」达磨祖师就为他开示心地法门:「净智妙明,体自空寂,如是功德,不于世求。」「净智妙明」,就是诸位听法的这念觉性,清净的智慧,真空妙有。所谓「明」,心要清清明明、光光明明、念念分明。这念心无形无相,真空无为。「体自空寂」,诸位在这个地方去返照。「如是功德,不于世求」,这就是真功德。想要入道,就必须在这个地方入,要「百尺竿头再进步」,契悟这个道理。

(五)
儒家说:「道也者,不可须臾离也;可离,非道也。」「须臾」,就是一剎那都不能离开我们当下这念心,坚住正念,随顺觉性,念念分明,清明在躬,在这里来用功,这就是「道也者,不可须臾离也」。什么叫作离开呢?忽然一下打了妄想,想是、想非,想东、想西,想南、想北,想美、想丑。无论是世间上的欲爱也好,出世法的道理也好,只要起了一个念头,这念心就跑掉了。

  心之体才是道,心之用也是道,体用一如也是道。所以,夏安居期间,如果自己用功坐不下来、静不下来,就要检讨反省,看看是哪些念头在作怪,自己要知道。无论是听到的也好、见到的也好、心当中打妄想也好,这些念头都是自己的事情,不是外面有个什么东西。无论是世间法、出世间法,所有一切都是自己的妄想,都是自心起用,没有别的。

  明白这些道理了,还要求什么?「狂心顿歇,歇即菩提」,坐下来什么都不要理。一念万年,万年一念,要有这个信心。这一生想要了道、悟道、成道,假使不在这里用功,修任何法门、任何宗派都没办法成就。

  祖师说「万法归宗」,「宗」就是心地,佛法就是心地法门。哪个心?菩提心、涅槃性,就是指这个觉性,念念分明,处处作主,清明在躬。假使这念心作不了主,起了烦恼,看看是哪一种烦恼?是贪的烦恼、瞋的烦恼,还是痴的烦恼?就用不同法门来对治。

  所谓「法门无量誓愿学」,法门是个方便,一个是用来普度众生,一个是对治自己的烦恼。男女之欲爱、色爱就是生死的根本;对治欲爱、色爱,要修不净观。把自己对人的执着看破、放下,用般若来观照、分析:我为什么爱他?人身是臭秽的,毛、发、爪、齿皆是不净之物,怎么还想入非非呢?不是自己颠倒是什么?这些道理,我们一开始就明白,虽然知道,但做不到。为什么?没有修不净观,没有吃这个药!没有吃这个药,这个病怎么会好?绝对好不了。不净观就是对治欲爱、色爱的法门。

  假使检讨起来,自己经常发脾气,就要修「四无量心──慈无量、悲无量、喜无量、舍无量」。怎么修?「但愿众生得离苦,不为自己求安乐」,把整个身心放下,「将此深心奉尘剎,是则名为报佛恩」,心量要广大,要修四无量心,就能对治瞋恚的烦恼。

  什么是痴?看到经文,有很多道理,看也看不懂、听也听不懂,甚至打瞌睡。这个心就像经上所说的「心粗如柱,道细如毛」。听不懂,是痴心太重,就要修析空观。分析内四大空、外四大空,诸法都是因缘和合,毕竟空寂。修空观,就能对治愚痴。

  贪、瞋、痴的烦恼没有了,就坚住正念、随顺觉性。正念是什么?所谓「不起凡夫染污心,即是无上菩提道」,保持自己这念觉性,不是另外还有一个觉性。这些都是修行的一些转折、一些过程,假使连这个过程都搞不清楚,怎么修道、怎么成道呢?

(六)
佛经里讲得非常清楚,人的根器分为利根和钝根。利根的人,一闻千悟,闻一知十,闻十知百,一看佛经,马上就能契悟了达;钝根的人,听什么法门都听不懂,一听就打瞌睡,就算是十遍、一百遍、一千遍、一万遍,可能都不了解。假使自己是钝根的人,不要灰心,所谓利根、钝根,也只是暂时把我们的根机分析一下而已。现在是利根,是过去修来的,没有过去的加功用行,哪有今天这个利根呢?没有的!假使现在属于钝根,代表过去没有修好,如果现在还在等待、还在观望,始终没办法进步。要诵经、持咒、礼忏,要知恩、感恩、报恩,上求佛道、下化众生,这是从事上努力。最后还要通达理,什么理?能所俱空──修善不执着善,归于自心;断恶,无恶法可断,能所俱空。

  佛经里面提到,钝根的人修行有几个层次:先修一切善法。为什么要修善法?就是为了对治自己过去、现在的所有恶法──恶念、恶言、恶行。假使不修善法,怎么对治得了恶法?所以,要修戒定慧、诵经、持咒、打坐、礼忏……什么都要修。等到心中没有贪瞋痴了;口不恶口、两舌、妄言、绮语,口业清净了;身不造杀盗淫,身业清净了,这就是善法成就了。再上一层楼,善法也不执着,把这个法执舍掉,最后归于无念、无相、无住、无为,这就是「先以善摄恶,后以舍摄善」。根机好的人,直截了当,当下就是无念、无相、无为,当下就是寂灭,当下就悟到心之体了。无论是利根、钝根,最后都是一样的。

  一般人的根机都是如孔子所说的「学而知之,困而学之」,不是先知先觉。先觉,只有佛陀一人。第一种人是「学而知之」。第二种人,学也学不会,就是「困而学之」,别人念一遍就会,我必须念一百遍才会;别人念十遍,我要念一千遍。虽然如此,但「人一能之,己百之;人十能之,己千之」,到最后,「及其知之,一也」,到最后统统是一样的。不管是天生的神童,或是一步一脚印慢慢走来的,到最后统统都爬到山顶了,是不是都一样呢?

  如果我们不知道学习,自甘堕落,就始终在原地踏步。所谓「生而知之,学而知之,困而学之」,「生而知之」,就是一生下来就知道;假使一生下来不知道,就必须要学;假使学了也不知道,就要勤能补拙,加紧地学。如果在这方面搞不清楚,到处寻师访道,找外面的人加持,到最后一无所得,就是愈来愈糟糕。

  大家要了解,世间上没有侥幸的存在。如果走了错路、走了远路,就是自己害了自己!每一个人都会老,老了以后,每一个人都会死。到了年纪大了,想要打坐,腿都硬了,坐不下来了;想要背经,脑筋也老化了,看了经典就会忘记。所以,趁着还没有老、没有病,要赶快用功。

(七)
所谓「师父引上门,修行在个人」,心地法门的功夫用上了,就能脱离生老病死。怎么脱离生老病死呢?每个人都是从母亲肚子里生出来的,有生就有死。历史上有没有记载什么人能从过去活到现在的?没有,最多寿命延长一点而已。中国历史上的彭祖活了八百岁,还是觉得自己的寿命太短,还要向上天求寿。就算是活到一千年,还是要死。为什么?有生就必定有死。佛经里讲得很清楚,我们这个身体是地水火风、父精母血,因缘和合而成;因缘散掉,就死掉了。同时,我们这一生是业果循环,来世也是业果循环,造了业,由善业、恶业牵引,非生不可,就是如此的。

  我们现在怎么去了生死?怎么达到不生?心念无生,就能了生死。我们这个心由有念归于无念,这念心不生就不灭,不生就不死,翻过来是手掌,翻过去是手背。生死要从心上来了,这是做得到的!如果不知道这个道理,怎么去了生死?不可能的事!念佛也是一样的,用念佛的方法,一念抵万念,来度我们过去所有的妄想。无论是念佛、诵经、持咒,最后归于无念,能所俱空。无念、无住,这就是「万法归宗」。

  心念不生,生死就了了。但一般人只能维持三分钟、五分钟,过了以后妄念又跑出来了,心当中的烦恼始终是纠缠不清,那就要靠现在的功夫。静坐时这念心清清楚楚、了了分明。进而时间延长,无念、无住、无为、无想,常寂常照,常照常寂,这就是净土,这就是法身。在这个空间里,什么人都找不到你,阎王小鬼找不到你,连佛也找不到你。

  所以,这念心要达到无生的境界,必须要靠自己努力,谁也帮不上忙,解铃还须系铃人。自己的烦恼、执着在自己的八识田中,诸佛菩萨不能把种子从你的八识田中拿掉,另外安一个清净的种子下去。所以,佛法就是转识成智。我们过去是坏人,现在觉悟了,想成贤、成圣,怎么办呢?必须从现在开始,改过自新,检讨反省,观空破执。把过去坏的种子,统统转过来,转识成智,这才是佛法。如果不这样做,就算把身体烧掉也没有用,方向都错误了,这些都是邪见、都是妄想,始终是南辕北辙。修行不能走错路、不能走远路。有法执,就是走了远路、走了错路,心外求佛、心外求法、心外求道。

(八)
希望每一位在夏安居当中,都能朝这个方向努力。道,就是诸位听法这念觉性。《四十二章经》云:「观天地,念非常;观世界,念非常;观灵觉,即菩提。」灵觉,就是诸位这念觉性。觉性不要迷失、不要颠倒,有了过失,要赶快惭愧忏悔、检讨改过,把它净化。如此,才会清楚、才会明白、才会作主,才不会随业流转,就是这么简单。明白了以后,还要细水长流。因为我们的习气太重,执着太多,就像心中有一潭水浑掉了,现在知道这个道理,藉夏安居这个因缘用功来沉淀。

  怎么沉淀呢?第一,这个地方是一个避风港,没有外面的境界风了。第二,虽然没有风,但过去的念头始终没完没了,也不要害怕,本来就是如此的。现在就是不理它、不动,照它、看破它。参禅的人就回光返照:「是谁?谁在起心动念?」「谁」字一提,照它一下,妄想就没有了。照破了以后,又要保持平常心。平常心才是道,平常心就是我们的觉性。这就是一个公式,假使这个公式都不知道,这一生不是走错路,就是走远路。明白这个公式,朝这个方向继续努力,一步一脚印,一步一光明,愈走愈光明,就是如此的。

  无念、无相、无住、无为、无想、无愿,这就是菩提、涅槃。每一尊佛菩萨都是在这里用功,一切都要归于自心。经云:「菩萨清凉月,游于毕竟空,众生心水净,菩提影现中。」要净化心水,没有别的。所以,打坐就是用《楞严经》所说的「狂心顿歇,歇即菩提」这个功夫。静坐就是要忍耐,现在年轻力壮,不知道用功;等年纪大了,双腿、脑袋都老化了,想用功已力不从心;因此,现在正是用功的时候。功夫用好了,这念心时时刻刻都存在,了了分明、清清楚楚、清明在躬,无念、无住、无为,有体、有用,用不离体,体不碍用,体用一如。

  无论修任何法门、任何宗派,假使违背这个道理,都不可能成道。为什么?道不离开这念心!离开这念心,还有什么道?如果离开这念心另外还有一个道,释迦牟尼佛的弟子早就统统成道了,十方诸佛早就把众生统统送到净土里了。为什么佛菩萨不运用神通把众生送到净土呢?为什么不是佛菩萨来摩顶就能成道、开悟呢?因为这是不可能的事情!解铃还须系铃人,必须要靠自己用功。所以,每一年有一个夏安居,这是一个福报,机会难得,要把握这个机会努力用功。

  经云:「不起凡夫染污心,即是无上菩提道。」想要这念心不染污,不是容易的事。既然过去染污了,现在就要对治。对治了以后,无能无所,不作对治之相,归还原处,归还本心。

  希望每一位把握结夏的这一个善缘、这一个净缘、这一个福缘、这一个法缘。因缘到了,自己不把握,就要等到明年。所谓「诸法缘起」,所有一切都是因缘和合。一个是善缘、一个是恶缘,一个是世间缘、一个是出世缘。结夏,是出世缘、是佛缘、是法缘。因缘现前了,大家要把握。祝福大众在夏安居这三个月当中,不会空手来,也不会空手去,要对得起自己。狂心顿歇,歇即菩提!

Ven Wei Jue (惟覺老和尚) 12.

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If a person stays in another’s house even for one night and receives food and drinks, he should not even wish evil for the host. Gratitude is what is praised by good persons (sappurisa).

Whenever prudent people have met a good person they don’t give up his friendship, nor do they spoil the service done to themselves. The fools, however, give up the friendship, and they spoil the service done to themselves.

Even if one would offer the whole earth to an ungrateful person, one could not please him.

Even a lot of service towards the fools is reduced to nothing, for fools are merely ungrateful.

A service is hopeless from one who has no gratitude who does not help in return. Is ungrateful and apathetic. His friendship is not won by the clearest good deed. One should hastily shun him with no bitter thought and angry word.

The wise ones indeed don’t give up the friendship, nor do they spoil the service done to themselves. Even a slight service towards themselves is not disowned, for the wise ones are full of gratitude.

— The Buddha

Buddhahood in Three Dimensions
by Thich Nhat Hanh

Chapter 1 of the Lotus Sutra takes us to Vulture Peak, near the city of Rajagriha in the kingdom of Magadha (present-day northeast India), where the Buddha has gathered with a large assembly of disciples, including Kashyapa, Shariputra, Maudgalyayana and Ananda, as well thousands of bhikshus and bhikshunis, including the Buddha’s aunt, Mahaprajapati and his former wife, Yashodhara. In addition, there are tens of thousands of great bodhisattvas in attendance, among them Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, Bhaisajyaraja (Medicine King) and Maitreya. Also present are many thousands of gods, including Indra and the kings of the nagas, kinnaras, ghandharvas, asuras and garudas. The ruler of Magadha, King Ajatashatru, and his royal family and retinue are also in attendance. This vast multitude of many different kinds of beings is present in the assembly when the Buddha is about to deliver the Lotus Sutra.

This not only sets the stage for the delivery of the sutra in the historical dimension, but also reveals the ultimate dimension. The vast numbers of shravakas and bodhisattvas, the presence of gods and mythical beings, give us our first taste of the ultimate dimension and show us that the opportunity to hear the Lotus Sutra delivered by the Buddha is something very special, a great occurrence not to be missed.

First, the Buddha delivered a Mahayana sutra called the Sutra of Immeasurable Meaning, then entered a state of meditative concentration (samadhi). While he was in this concentration, heavenly flowers rained from the sky and the earth quaked. Then the Buddha sent out a ray of light from his ushnisha [crown protrusion on a buddha’s head, symbolising the cosmic openness of an enlightened being], illuminating various cosmic realms. The entire assembly was able to see these worlds appear very clearly, and everyone was most surprised and delighted at the wonderful event that was taking place around them. In all these worlds, buddhas could be seen giving dharma talks to great assemblies of bhikshus, bhikshunis, upasakas and upasikas — exactly like the Buddha’s disciples in this world.

In order to understand the great importance of this teaching, the assembly that had gathered in this historical dimension had to be introduced to the ultimate dimension. In the past, in another cosmic realm, the Buddha Sun and Moon Glow had also given the teaching of the Lotus Sutra. So the miraculous events that were happening that day were only a repetition of something that had already occurred in another dimension of reality — the ultimate dimension, which is unbounded by our ordinary perceptions of time and space.

As far as the historical dimension is concerned, Shakyamuni was the buddha who was giving the dharma talk that day. From this perspective, the Buddha gave teachings for forty years, and then only at the end of his life did he give the teaching of the Lotus Sutra. But in terms of the ultimate dimension, Buddha Shakyamuni and Buddha Sun and Moon Glow are one and the same. In the ultimate dimension, never for a moment has the Buddha ceased to deliver the Lotus Sutra.

So, this opens two doors. The first door is that of history, the events we experience and what we can see and know in our own lifetimes. The second door is that of ultimate reality, which goes beyond time and space. Everything — all phenomena — participates in these two dimensions. When we look at a wave on the surface of the ocean, we can see the form of the wave and we locate the wave in space and time. Looking at a wave from the perspective of the historical dimension, it seems to have a beginning and an end, a birth and a death. A wave can be high or low, long or short — many qualities can be ascribed to the wave. The notions of “birth” and “death,” “high” or “low,” “beginning” and “ending,” “coming” and going,” “being” or “nonbeing” — all of these can be applied to a wave in the historical dimension.

We, too, are subject to these notions. When we look from the historical dimension we see that we are subject to being and nonbeing. We are born but later on we will die. We have a beginning and an end. We have come from somewhere and we will go somewhere — that is the historical dimension. All of us belong to this dimension. Shakyamuni Buddha also has a historical dimension — he was a human being who was born in Kapilavastu and died in Kushinagara, and during his lifetime of eighty years he taught the dharma.

At the same time, all beings and things also belong to the ultimate dimension, the dimension of reality that is not subject to notions of space and time, birth and death, coming and going. A wave is a wave, but at the same time it is water. The wave does not have to die in order to become water; it is already water right in the present moment. We don’t speak of water in terms of being or nonbeing, coming and going — water is always water. To talk about a wave, we need these notions: the wave arises and passes away; it comes from somewhere or has gone somewhere; the wave has a beginning and an end; it is high or low, more or less beautiful than other waves; the wave is subject to birth and death. But none of these distinctions can be applied to the wave in its ultimate dimension as water. In fact, you cannot separate the wave from its ultimate dimension.

Even though we are used to seeing everything in terms of the historical dimension, we can touch the ultimate dimension. So our practice is to become like a wave — while living the life of a wave in the historical dimension, we realise that we are also water and live the life of water. That is the essence of the practice. Because if you know your true nature of no coming, no going, no being, no nonbeing, no birth, no death, then you will have no fear and can dwell in the ultimate dimension, nirvana, right here and now. You don’t have to die in order to reach nirvana. When you dwell in your true nature, you are already dwelling in nirvana. We have our historical dimension but we also have our ultimate dimension, just as the Buddha does.

We also need to establish a third dimension of the Lotus Sutra to reveal its function, its action. How can we help people of the historical dimension get in touch with their ultimate nature so that they can live joyfully in peace and freedom? How can we help those who suffer to open the door of the ultimate dimension so that the suffering brought about by fear, despair and anxiety can be alleviated? I have gathered all of the chapters of the Lotus Sutra on the great bodhisattvas into this third, action dimension, the bodhisattva’s sphere of engaged practice.

Practicing the path and liberating beings from suffering is the action of the bodhisattvas. The Lotus Sutra introduces us to a number of great bodhisattvas, such as Sadaparibhuta (Never Disparaging), Bhaisajyaraja (Medicine King), Gadgadasvara (Wonderful Sound), Avalokiteshvara (Hearer of the Sounds of the World) and Samantabhadra (Universally Worthy). The action taken up by these bodhisattvas is to help living beings in the historical dimension recognise that they are manifestations from the ground of the ultimate. Without this kind of revelation we cannot see our true nature. Following the bodhisattva path, we recognise the ground of our being, our essential nature, in the ultimate dimension of no birth and no death. This is the realm of nirvana — complete liberation, freedom, peace and joy.

In chapter 20 of the Lotus Sutra, we are introduced to a beautiful bodhisattva called Sadaparibhuta, “Never Disparaging.” The name of this bodhisattva can also be translated as “Never Despising.” This bodhisattva never underestimates living beings or doubts their capacity for buddhahood. His message is, “I know you possess buddhanature and you have the capacity to become a buddha,” and this is exactly the message of the Lotus Sutra — you are already a buddha in the ultimate dimension, and you can become a buddha in the historical dimension. Buddhanature, the nature of enlightenment and love, is already within you; all you need do is get in touch with it and manifest it. Never Disparaging Bodhisattva is there to remind us of the essence of our true nature.

This bodhisattva removes the feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem in people. “How can I become a buddha? How can I attain enlightenment? There is nothing in me except suffering, and I don’t know how to get free of my own suffering, much less help others. I am worthless.” Many people have these kinds of feelings, and they suffer more because of them. Never Disparaging Bodhisattva works to encourage and empower people who feel this way, to remind them that they too have buddhanature, they too are a wonder of life, and they too can achieve what a buddha achieves. This is a great message of hope and confidence. This is the practice of a bodhisattva in the action dimension.

Sadaparibhuta was actually Shakyamuni in one of his former lives, appearing as a bodhisattva in the world to perfect his practice of the dharma. But this bodhisattva did not chant the sutras or practice in the usual way — he did not perform prostrations or go on pilgrimages or spend long hours in sitting meditation. Never Disparaging Bodhisattva had a specialty. Whenever he met someone he would address that person very respectfully, saying, “You are someone of great value. You are a future buddha. I see this potential in you.”

There are passages in the Lotus Sutra that suggest that Sadaparibhuta’s message was not always well received. Because they had not yet gotten in touch with the ultimate dimension, many people could not believe what the bodhisattva was telling them about their inherent buddhanature, and they thought he was mocking them. Often he was ridiculed, shouted at and driven away. But even when people did not believe him and drove him away with insults and beatings, Sadaparibhuta did not become angry or abandon them. Standing at a distance he continued to shout out the truth:

I do not hold you in contempt!
You are all treading the path,
And shall all become buddhas!

Sadaparibhuta is very sincere and has great equanimity. He never gives up on us. The meaning of his life, the fruition of his practice, is to bring this message of confidence and hope to everyone. This is the action of this great bodhisattva. We have to learn and practice this action if we want to follow the path of the bodhisattvas. The sutra tells us that when Sadaparibhuta was near the end of his life he suddenly heard the voice of a buddha called King of Imposing Sound (Bhishmagarjitasvararaja) teaching the Lotus Sutra. He could not see that buddha but he clearly heard his voice delivering the sutra, and through the power of the teaching, Never Despising Bodhisattva suddenly found that his six sense organs were completely purified and he was no longer on the verge of death. Understanding deeply the message of the Lotus Sutra, he was able to touch his ultimate dimension and attain deathlessness.

We have already learned about the infinite life span of a buddha in the ultimate dimension. In terms of the historical dimension, a buddha may live one hundred years or a little bit more or less; but in terms of the ultimate dimension a buddha’s life span is limitless. Sadaparibhuta saw that his life span is infinite, just like the life span of a buddha. He saw that every leaf, every pebble, every flower, every cloud has an infinite life span also, because he was able to touch the ultimate dimension in everything. This is one of the essential aspects of the Lotus message. When his sense organs had been purified, he could see very deeply and understand how the six sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind) produce the six kinds of consciousness. When his senses had been purified he was capable of touching reality as it is, the ultimate dimension. There was no more confusion, no more delusion in his perception of things.

This passage describes a kind of transformation that we too can experience. When the ground of our consciousness is prepared, when our sense consciousnesses and our mind consciousness have been purified through the practice of mindfulness and looking deeply into the ultimate nature of reality, we can hear in the sound of the wind in the trees, or in the singing of the birds, the truth of the Lotus Sutra. While lying on the grass or walking in meditation in the garden, we can get in touch with the truth of the dharma that is all around us all the time. We know that we are practicing the Lotus samadhi and our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind are automatically transformed and purified.

Having realised the truth of the ultimate, Bodhisattva Sadaparibhuta continued to live for many millions of years, delivering his message of hope and confidence to countless beings. So we can see that the Lotus Sutra is a kind of medicine for long life. When we take this medicine, we are able to live a very long time in order to be able to preserve and transmit the teachings in the Lotus Sutra to many others. We know that our true nature is unborn and undying, so we no longer fear death. Just like Sadaparibhuta, we always dare to share the wonderful dharma with all living beings. And all those who thought the bodhisattva was only making fun of them finally began to understand. Looking at Sadaparibhuta they were able to see the result of his practice, and so they began to have faith in it and to get in touch with their own ultimate nature. This is the practice of this great bodhisattva — to regard others with a compassionate and wise gaze and hold up to them the insight of their ultimate nature, so that they can see themselves reflected there.

Many people have the idea that they are not good at anything and that they are not able to be as successful as other people. They cannot be happy; they envy the accomplishments and social standing of others while regarding themselves as failures if they do not have the same level of worldly success. We have to try to help those who feel this way. Following the practice of Sadaparibhuta we must come to them and say, “You should not have an inferiority complex. I see in you some very good seeds that can be developed and make you into a great being. If you look more deeply within and get in touch with those wholesome seeds in you, you will be able to overcome your feelings of unworthiness and manifest your true nature.”

The Chinese teacher Master Guishan writes,

We should not look down
on ourselves.
We should not see ourselves as
worthless and always withdraw
into the background.

These words are designed to wake us up. In modern society, psychotherapists report that many people suffer from low self-esteem. They feel that they are worthless and have nothing to offer, and many of them sink into depression and can no longer function well and take care of themselves or their families. Therapists, healers, caregivers, teachers, religious leaders and those who are close to someone who suffers in this way all have the duty to help them see their true nature more clearly so that they can free themselves from the delusion that they are worthless. If we know friends or family members who see themselves as worthless, powerless and incapable of doing anything good or meaningful, and this negative self-image has taken away all their happiness, we have to try to help our friend, our sister or brother, our parent, spouse or partner remove this complex. This is the action of Never Disparaging Bodhisattva.

We also have to practice so as not to add to others’ feelings of worthlessness. In our daily life, when we become impatient or irritated, we might say things that are harsh, judgmental and critical, especially in regard to our children. When they are under a great deal of pressure, working very hard to support and care for their family, parents frequently make the mistake of uttering unkind, punitive or blaming words in moments of stress or irritation. The ground of a child’s consciousness is still very young, still very fresh, so when we sow such negative seeds in our children we are destroying their capacity to be happy. So parents and teachers, siblings and friends all have to be very careful and practice mindfulness in order to avoid sowing negative seeds in the minds of our children, family members, friends and students.

When our students or loved ones have feelings of low self-esteem, we have to find a way to help them transform those feelings so that they can live with greater freedom, peace and joy. We have to practice just like Never Disparaging Bodhisattva, who did not give up on people or lose patience with them, but always continued to hold up to others a mirror of their true buddhanature.

I always try to practice this kind of action. One day there were two young brothers who came to spend the day with me. I took them both to see a new manual printing press I had just gotten. The younger boy was very interested in the machine and while he was playing with it the motor burned out. As I was pressing one button to show the boys how it worked, the little boy pressed another at the same time and it overstressed the machine’s engine. The elder brother said angrily, “Thây, you just wanted to show us the machine. Why did he have to do that? He wrecks whatever he touches.” These were very harsh words from such a young boy. Perhaps hearing his parents or other family members use blaming language like this had influenced him and he was just repeating what he had heard without realising the effect it would have on his little brother.

In order to help mitigate the possible effects of this criticism on the younger boy, I showed the boys another machine, a paper cutting machine, and this time I instructed the younger one on how to use it. His brother warned me, “Thây, don’t let him touch it, he’ll destroy this one too.” Seeing that this was a moment when I could help both boys, I said to the older brother, “Don’t worry, I have faith in him. He is intelligent. We shouldn’t think otherwise.” Then I said to the younger boy, “Here, this is how it works — just push this button. Once you have released this button, then you press that button. Do this very carefully and the machine will work properly.” The younger brother followed my instructions and operated the machine without harming it. He was very happy, and so was his older brother. And I was happy along with them.

Following the example of Sadaparibhuta Bodhisattva, I only needed three or four minutes to remove the complex of the younger brother and teach the older brother to learn to trust in the best of his younger brother and not just see him in terms of his mistakes. In truth, at that moment I was a bit concerned that the young boy would ruin the other machine. But if I had hesitated and not allowed him to try and follow my instructions, believing that he would destroy the machine, I could well have destroyed that little boy. Preserving the health and well-being of the mind of a child is much more important than preserving a machine.

You only need to have faith in the action of Sadaparibhuta and very quickly you can help others overcome their negative self-image. Never Despising Bodhisattva shows everyone that they have the capacity for perfection within themselves, the capacity to become a buddha, a fully enlightened one. The message of the Lotus Sutra is that everyone can and will become a buddha. Sadaparibhuta is the ambassador of the Buddha and of the Lotus Sutra, and sometimes ambassadors are reviled or attacked. Sadaparibhuta was also treated this way. He brought his message to everyone, but not everyone was happy to hear it because they could not believe in their own buddhanature. So when they heard his message they felt they were being scorned or mocked. “Throughout the passage of many years, he was constantly subjected to abuse . . . some in the multitude would beat him with sticks and staves, with tiles and stones.” The mission of a dharma teacher, of a bodhisattva, requires a great deal of love, equanimity and inclusiveness.

Sadaparibhuta represents the action of inclusiveness, or kshanti. One of the six paramitas, kshanti is also translated as “patience,” and we can see this great quality in Sadaparibhuta and in one of Shakyamuni’s disciples, Purna, who is praised by the Buddha in the eighth chapter of the Lotus Sutra. While the Lotus Sutra only mentions Purna in passing, he is the subject of another sutra, the Teaching Given to Maitrayaniputra. In this sutra, after the Buddha had instructed Purna in the practice, he asked him, “Where will you go to share the dharma and form a sangha?” The monk said that he wanted to return to his native region, to the island of Sunaparanta in the Eastern Sea. The Buddha said, “Bhikshu, that is a very difficult place. People there are very rough and violent. Do you think you have the capacity to go there to teach and help?”

“Yes, I think so, my Lord,” replied Purna.

“What if they shout at you and insult you?”

Purna said, “If they only shout at me and insult me I think they are kind enough, because at least they aren’t throwing rocks or rotten vegetables at me. But even if they did, my Lord, I would still think that they are kind enough, because at least they are not using sticks to hit me.”

The Buddha continued, “And if they beat you with sticks?”

“I think they are still kind enough, since they are not using knives and swords to kill me.”

“And if they want to take your life? It’s possible that they would want to destroy you because you will be bringing a new kind of teaching, and they won’t understand at first and may be very suspicious and hostile,” the Buddha warned.

Purna replied, “Well, in that case I am ready to die, because my dying will also be a kind of teaching and I know that this body is not the only manifestation I have. I can manifest myself in many kinds of bodies. I don’t mind if they kill me; I don’t mind becoming the victim of their violence, because I believe that I can help them.”

The Buddha said, “Very good, my friend. I think that you are ready to go and help there.”

So Purna went to that land and he was able to gather a lay sangha of five hundred people practicing the mindfulness trainings, and also to establish a monastic community of around five hundred practitioners. He was successful in his attempt to teach and transform the violent ways of the people in that country. Purna exemplifies the practice of kshanti, or inclusiveness.

Sadaparibhuta may have been a future or a former life of Purna. We are the same. If we know how to practice inclusiveness, then we will also be the future life of this great bodhisattva. We know that Sadaparibhuta’s life span is infinite, and so we can be in touch with his action and aspiration at any moment. And when we follow the practice of inclusiveness of Never Despising Bodhisattva, he is reborn in us right in that very moment. We get in touch with the great faith and insight that everyone is a buddha, the insight that is the very marrow of the Lotus Sutra. Then we can take up the career of the bodhisattva, carrying within our heart the deep confidence we have gained from this insight and sharing that confidence and insight with others.

Therapists and others in the healing professions, dharma teachers, school teachers, parents, family members, colleagues and friends can all learn to practice like Sadaparibhuta. Following the path of faith, confidence and inclusiveness, we can help free many people from the suffering of negative self-image, help them recognize their true buddhanature, and lead them into the ultimate dimension.

Thich Nhat Hanh 82.

The essence of the highest teachings lies within a simple moment of awareness.

— Khandro Rinpoche

一碗白饭的恩情
证严法师

曾看过一则感人的故事――数十年前,台北市的旧市区有一家小餐馆。一天,有位年轻人向老板询问:「不好意思,我可以只买一碗白饭吗?」老板和老板娘不嫌少,仍以亲切的态度,盛好一碗饭给他。

年轻人看到其他客人喝剩的汤,又问:「这些汤可以给我吗?」老板说:「可以,可以。」他就将剩汤倒在饭上吃,吃完后,又买一碗白饭带回去。

善心老板默默帮助求学青年

从此,这位年轻人几乎天天都来买白饭。日子一久,彼此也较熟识了,老板就问他:「你不是本地人吧?」他说:「不是,我是从乡下来念书的;大都市的物价很贵,我一定要节省。」老板忍不住又问:「你每天吃完又买一碗饭回去,给谁吃?」他说:「那是我隔日的午餐。」

老板夫妇觉得:真是诚实又节俭的孩子,不仅能立志读书,在这个繁华的大都市,还能不受影响,如此刻苦耐劳,不禁愈发疼爱这年轻人,有时就在白饭底下放个卤蛋或藏点菜给他。

年轻人毕业前,特地前来向老板夫妇道谢:「感恩你们过去四年的照顾,我一定会记住你们的恩情。」

起初年轻人常写信问安,出社会找工作也时有联络;后来慢慢地信少了,这对夫妇也渐渐地淡忘。

之后都会区为整顿市容,要拓宽道路、辟建公园绿地,旧社区面临拆迁,也包括老板夫妇的小店,然而拆除后该怎么办?

正在烦恼生计时,一日来了一位西装笔挺的人,拿出名片说明来意,原来这位是一家大企业的总经理助理,特别来请他们前往开设员工餐厅。老板老板娘高兴之余,也不禁纳闷。

这位助理说:「我们总经理曾到这里用餐,很喜欢你们的菜,认为同仁也会喜欢。」于是老板夫妇就随同助理到这家公司,想不到总经理竟在门口很有礼貌地迎接他们。

老板一时只觉得:怎么这么面熟?总经理就说:「老板,你不认得我了吗?」原来这位总经理就是当年只买一碗白饭的年轻人。

我们立志就要守真,如这位总经理,年轻时也贫困过,但是他不受环境诱引,认真向学、克勤克俭,终于事业有成;而且受过帮助,就永铭在心,及时回报。

那小店老板夫妇在他人最需要援助时,发挥爱心,并不认为是给予很大的恩惠,还能处处顾及不伤人的自尊。

人与人之间就是要互相帮助,以欢喜心助人,即使不求回报,能种下这分爱的因,就会得到一分爱的果。所以有能力时要「助人无所求」,受助时也要「受恩不忘报」,才是为人应有的品德。

Our human awareness is so powerful that even if we tap only a small part of it we can accomplish more than we ever thought possible. Using our complete potential, we can soar to the height where our accomplishments have great and lasting value for both ourselves and for future generations.

— Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche

Understanding Our Mind
by Khöndung Ratna Vajra Rinpoche

Generally speaking, whether we experience suffering or not when we face problems or challenges, depends on how we react to them, how we handle the situation. For example, if two persons experience the same suffering or face the same challenge, and if one is a Dharma practitioner while the other is just a mundane person, then although they may be facing the same problem and the same suffering, they will most probably handle the situation in different ways. Each one’s suffering will be different from the other’s. The one who faces challenges with an understanding of Dharma– not only a knowledge of Dharma, but also the capacity to apply their intellectual understanding of Dharma into their practice – will experience less suffering.

The Dharma can be a powerful tool in helping us to handle life’s situations. In order for this to happen, we first need to gain knowledge of the Dharma, we need to study it. And then we need to use our knowledge in our approach to our challenges. The Lord Buddha gave an enormous amount of teachings, and the purpose of all these teachings is to help us to subdue our mind, to tame our mind.

In his seminal text Bodhisattva Acharyavatara, the great Acharya Shantideva said that if we tether the mind, if we control it, then we will be able to control all the fears that assail it, and we will gain all the virtues that lead to its happiness. Shantideva said that if we are successful in taming our mind, we can control any fearsome animal, any evil spirit, any enemy whatsoever– we become completely free from fear.

Shantideva also said that cannot cover the whole universe with an animal skin or with a leather sheet. We can, however, cover our feet with leather. Similarly, as Shantideva adds, we cannot defeat all our enemies, but we can protect ourselves from them. We can apply this to our crises – we cannot defeat every single one of our obstacles, but we can protect our mind by controlling it, thereby overcoming all our obstacles. The outcome doesn’t depend on external factors but, rather, it depends on our own mental state.

Furthermore, whether we feel as if we are facing big problems or not also depends on our mind. The importance we give to problems depends on how strong our attachment is to the mundane world. If we don’t have much attachment to the mundane world, then even if we face problems, we won’t place too much importance on them. We won’t be so affected by them, they won’t cause us to suffer so much.

If we lose an object that has little value, we won’t feel sad. But if we lose a precious object, then we will experience sadness. Whether we feel sad or not doesn’t depend on the object itself – it depends on the importance that we place on it, it depends on our mind. If we’re attached to it, we’ll experience suffering; if we’re not, then we won’t experience suffering.

For example, if we buy a disposable product like a plastic plate or cup, and we know that we will only use it once and then throw it away. If we lose it, we won’t feel sad, because we don’t feel attached to it. But if we buy something precious like a car or a house and lose it, then we will feel sad, because we’re attached to it. It all depends on whether we feel attachment or not.

If we feel attachment to an object, it means we have attachment to samsara. If we have attachment to samsara then, as Manjushri says in his four-line teaching “Parting from the Four Attachments”, we don’t have the renunciation thought.

Also, an object, the same object, can produce different kinds of feelings. In Spain, for example, saffron is commonplace, we can get it anywhere. And so, if we lose saffron in Spain, we won’t feel sad. But elsewhere, saffron is rare and if we lose it there, we will feel regret, we will feel some suffering. So we can feel more or less attachment to a particular object depending on the circumstances.

Therefore whether we feel suffering or not doesn’t depend on the object itself. It depends on our own mind, how we perceive the object. If we have attachment to the object, then we feel pain when we lose it; if we don’t, then we don’t feel pain. Everything is mind. And so it is very important to control our mind. This is the key.

The Buddha gave an enormous amount of teachings to tame our mind, to subdue our mind. He taught the Dharma in many ways, but all his teachings can be combined into truths: the relative truth and the absolute truth, also known as the ultimate truth.

It is important to know and understand these two truths. If we can concentrate on these two truths, if we can meditate on them, then not only can we overcome the problems of this life or even of the next life, but we can also overcome all of samsara and attain Buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings. We can gain ultimate happiness and ultimate wisdom, power and all the other great qualities of the Buddhas.

So there are two realities. One is the reality of relative truth and the other is the reality of ultimate truth. The reality of relative truth refers to all the phenomena that we perceive, which in actuality are not truly existent. They only seem to exist. They are like a reflection in a mirror, like a magical show or like a dream. As ordinary beings, we cannot realise this. We see things as truly existent. We have a strong attachment to phenomena and cling to them as real. We don’t see the reality of relative truth. Due to this, we become more materialistic and we focus on the outside world. We don’t focus on our mind.

According to the reality of relative truth, these phenomena are not truly existent but, rather, they depend on their own causes and conditions. All phenomena depend on interdependent origination.

In the world today, we see the world getting smaller and smaller, i.e. we are more and more interdependent. We can very much see this interdependent origination everywhere we look.

What interdependent origination means is that the phenomena that we perceive are not truly existent. If they were truly existent, they wouldn’t depend on anything else to exist. But in order to exist, everything depends its own causes and conditions.

Interdependent origination means that things are not real the way we think them to be. Things are compound things, i.e. they are impermanent. They are not inherently existent. They depend on other things to rise. What’s more, everything that arises will eventually cease, everything is impermanent.

For example, all beings born in this world will die. There’s not a single person who is born is this world who will not eventually die. Not only living beings, but also material objects – whatever materialises will eventually cease. Even something as solid as iron can be destroyed and cease. Everything can be destroyed and cease.

So everything is impermanent and nothing is intrinsically true. Everything is like a dream. In one of his sutras, Lord Buddha gives the example of a young woman who dreams of having a son, which makes her very happy, only to find that her child dies, which plunges her into despair. In actuality no son was born to her, which means she has no reason to rejoice, and no son died, which means she has no reason to feel dejected. Similarly, all phenomena are like this.

We have good and bad dreams, and these make us feel happy or sad. But when we awaken from sleep, these feelings will not prevail during our waking life, because we know that dreams are not true. It is the same with the reality of relative truth. Our waking life is like a vision, like a dream. But at the moment, we look at our waking life as real, different from the dreams that we experience while we’re sleeping. This is because we have a stronger propensity to believe that our daytime experience is real.

It’s important to know the reality of relative truth. By doing so, we can definitely lessen our suffering, we can definitely control our mind, and we can definitely reduce and eventually subdue our negative thoughts.

And by suppressing our negative thoughts, we can eventually know the reality of absolute truth, which eliminates all negative thoughts from our mental continuum.

The reality of ultimate truth refers to a state that is free from all extremes. In reality, there is no self at all. If we analyse it thoroughly, we cannot find the self. For example, when we say “my car”, it means that this car belongs to me, but it doesn’t define the car itself. Likewise, when we say “my body”, the body is not self. It belongs to me, but it is not my self, just like my car.

If we examine the body and try to determine what in it is ‘self’, we won’t find it anywhere. As it says in the Bodhicharyavatara, “the teeth are not self, the hair is not self, the nails are not self, etc..”

And so in the reality of relative truth, there is a self, but it is like a vision, a dream, a magical show. And in ultimate truth, there is no self at all. We cannot find a self. But this doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything there. This is not right either. Both views are faulty – to say that there’s nothing there is a nihilistic view, whereas to say that something exists inherently is an extremist view.

The truth is that actual reality is neither existing nor non-existing. The truth lies beyond these extremes. In short, by knowing the reality of relative truth, we can subdue our negative thoughts, which are the cause of our suffering. And by knowing the reality of ultimate truth, we can completely eliminate negative thoughts from our awareness.