The Heart of the BLIA
Confucius said, “A great man has nothing to hide. A small man is always hiding everything.”
A saint has the heart of a saint. A small person has a small heart.
What we are able to do in this world depends on the size of our hearts. If a person’s heart is confined to the size of his family, he will be able to care only for his family. If a person’s heart contains only his village, he will be able to lead only his village. If a person’s heart contains an entire nation, he will be able to lead that nation. If a person’s heart contains the Dharma, he will be of great value to others and able to lead many to the truths of Buddhism. What kind of hearts should members of the BLIA seek to develop? In the following six sections, I will answer this question in detail.
The transcendental heart
When people first begin to believe the Dharma, they often want to leave this mundane world and shut themselves away in some remote mountain retreat. Buddhism does make a distinction between tran- scendental and mundane energies, but the truth is, it is not necessary to shut yourself away from the world to develop transcendental energies. There is a saying, “Peaceful meditative concentration does not depend on mountains and streams. When the desires of our minds are extinguished, we will be at peace.”
The deepest transcendental energies of Buddhism, ultimately, can only be found in the selfless and formless mountains that always are with us in our innermost natures.
You don’t need to hide from the world to find these energies, and you don’t need to go anywhere to develop them. They are within you at all times.
As Buddhists, we awaken these energies by not clinging to our emotions and desires, and by neither seeking nor rejecting the things of this world. We do not fear death, and we do not hide from life. We discover in ourselves an awareness and energy transcending all individuality and all defilements of this world.
A good Buddhist needs the wisdom and energy that derive from transcendental consciousness. However, a good Buddhist also needs to develop a personality suited to this world and to the society in which he finds himself.
In the Platform Sutra, Huineng said, “The Dharma is in this world. One does not leave this world to become enlightened. To leave this world to search for the bodhi mind would be futile.” Huineng also said, “The Dharma is to be sought and found only among sentient beings.”
Sakyamuni Buddha spent forty-five years preaching the Dharma to sentient beings. After his enlightenment he re-entered society and taught the Dharma to kings and commoners alike. He lived very simply and worked with great energy solely for the good of others. Sakyamuni Buddha’s own example of how to live is the best example we could possibly ask for. In his life, he exemplified the perfect balance between transcendental and practical energies. He lived in this world even as his consciousness fully transcended all aspects of this world.
I hope all members of the BLIA will seriously contemplate the profound example Sakyamuni Buddha has set for us. All of us should learn directly from him, for he is our original master. All of us should seek to develop personalities that can function in society, as simulta- neously, we seek to understand the selfless and formless mountains in the hearts of all beings.
Stand locally, think globally
Sakyamuni Buddha preached the Dharma in this world principally for the benefit of people in this world. However, whenever the Buddha spoke about time, he always spoke of all three periods of time: past, present and future. And whenever he spoke about space, he always extended his discourse to include the entire universe with all its worlds. And whenever he spoke of sentient beings, he always included all sentient beings of all Dharma realms. Similarly, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva “travels to all the myriad lands to save all beings.” Inhabi- tants of Amitabha Buddha’s Pure Land, “Rise in the clear morning and put on their clothes. Then they carry beautiful flowers to other worlds to make offerings to the innumerable Buddhas of the universe.”
The above citations show clearly that Buddhism is a universal religion that applies equally well to all levels, places and realms of existence.
The literature of Buddhism has been translated into many languages. Kasyapa-matanga and Dharmaraksa began the effort of translating sutras into Chinese around 67 CE. The Japanese monk Saicho (767-822) and the Korean monk Uisang (625-702) went through great hardships to study Mahayana Buddhism in China. The American Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907) expended great effort to help revitalize and preserve Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Sir Edwin Arnold helped preserve Bodh Gaya in India. A Latvian Buddhist organiza- tion did much to spread Buddhism in northern Europe. The Russian Fyodor Stcherbatsky (1866-1942) traveled to India and Mongolia to study Buddhism.
The efforts of people like these, coupled with Buddhism’s long tradition of adapting to new regions of the world, has allowed Buddhism to develop and spread to many parts of the globe. At the same time, it is only because people in other parts of the world have been willing to open their minds to the “new” faith that Buddhism has been successful in adapting.
All of us should contemplate the open-mindedness that is essential to the growth and spread of Buddhism. And all of us must learn to work and study together, and be influenced by one another. If all of us in the BLIA really work to develop cooperative and positive attitudes, our task of spreading the Dharma to ever more places will be greatly eased. The work we do today will help countless sentient beings all over the world, now and in the future. BLIA members should think of themselves as standing firmly in their own local communities even as they cast their gazes across the entire earth.
We are based in our temples, and through them we benefit all the world
It is always a good thing to go to the temple and hear the Dharma. A temple is the fountainhead of the Dharma. We drink deeply from it, and it cleanses us as it slakes our thirst of many lifetimes. More important than simply receiving the Dharma ourselves, however, is our ability to exhibit the Dharma in our lives. If we have truly understood what we have heard in the temple, then we will do our utmost to practice Buddhism in the world, no matter what our conditions may be.
We must bring the Dharma home to our families, we must practice patience and tolerance at work, and we must help our friends under- stand the joy and the peace of meditative concentration.
The Dharma is something to learn, but it is also something that must be given to others. It does not matter who we are or where we are. The Dharma can go anywhere. The joy of the Dharma can be carried into the classroom, to the farm, into businesses, factories, army camps. It can be carried to the street corner, and it can be carried into prisons. When we have truly understood the depth of the Dharma, we will realize that all the world is a temple and that the teachings of Buddha apply everywhere.
The Lotus Sutra says, “All places in the world are right for learning this sutra, for chanting this sutra, for explaining this sutra, and for copying it. Practice what it says. No matter where this sutra is, whether it be in a garden or forest, under a tree or among monks, in a layman’s home or in a temple, in valleys or in fields, all these places should have stupas built on them for worship and offering. Why is that? That is because all these places are temples.”
The Vimalakirti Sutra says, “The clear mind is a temple, the deep mind is a temple, the bodhi mind is a temple, generosity is a temple, the three supernatural knowleges is a temple, and the vast Dharma that can be grasped in a moment of thought, is a temple.”
If all of us in the BLIA can find room in our hearts to make the great vow of compassion, and if all of us can think deeply about the best means to spread the Dharma, then no matter where we are we will be able to effect positive changes on all whom we encounter. It does not matter who you are or where you are, all the world is your temple.
Heaven is beautiful, but this world is more important In heaven, you need only think of something and you will have it, and your life will be very long and very pleasant. Many people in this world feel envious when they consider how happy the lives of heavenly beings are.
Heaven is beautiful, but what many people do not realize is this world is much more important. In this world we can develop courage and determination. These rugged virtues when turned to Buddhism make us very strong, and they make us progress quickly in our practice. In this human world, we possess complex memories that can vividly recall pain and suffering. By these recollections, we are able to
learn from our mistakes and remember not to repeat them again.
In this world we experience pleasure and pain, and through these opposites, we are able to practice Buddhism in the best way possible. This world forces us in many different ways to reflect on our behavior and correct our mistakes. In contrast, heaven is a place so full of ease and enjoyment, wisdom is never required and there seems to be no need whatsoever to cultivate higher virtues. The days in heaven are long and pleasant, but in the end, when the karma that put us there is used up, rebirth must be taken again in a lower realm.
This human realm, without question, contains much suffering. If we understand the value of suffering, however, it will not seem to be so repellent. We learn through suffering, and if we face our trials with courage and a firm resolve to improve ourselves by them, then our suffering can be understood to be a higher condition. This world is good for us, and we should all treasure our time here.
Buddha once said, “It is as hard to obtain a human life as it is for a blind turtle to find a hole in a single piece of wood in the ocean.”
There are two beautiful Buddhist verses that further express this point: “A human body is hard to obtain, but today we have one. It is rare to be able to hear the Dharma, but today we have heard it. If we do not seek liberation in this life, then in which life will we finally seek it?” The other verse says, “When you are hungry, eat. And when you
are tired, sleep. If you follow this practice, you will see mystery after mystery. If you tell this to others, however, they will never believe, because they always look outside themselves for truth.”
I hope all members of the BLIA will deeply appreciate the great good fortune of having a human body and the chance to practice Buddhism with it. Let us all use ourselves to learn and to help others learn right here in this world. If we put our hearts into it, we will succeed in saving ourselves as we bring the benefits of Buddhism to all who encounter us.
The Dharma realm is limitless, but family comes first
The Dharma realm can be as small as a grain of sand and as large as the entire universe. When we contemplate the overwhelming immensity of the Dharma realm, we may wonder where to begin our practice.
“If you want to climb high, you must start low. And if you want to travel far, you must start wherever you are.” This old saying is very appropriate.
All Buddhists should make the happiness of their families their first item of practice. The family is the first place we learn, and it is a fundamental unit of society. The family nourishes our being, and it is the first place we turn when times get rough. The following folk saying expresses the point well: “A golden place, a silver place, neither is as good as the poor place of home.” Many, if not most, of the problems in society can be traced back to dysfunctional families, broken homes or simply poor education at home.
Members of the BLIA should stop for a moment and think about this point. Can our own practice of Buddhism possibly be complete if we are not actively striving for the happiness of our families? If we have not made clear distinctions between right and wrong within our own homes, how can we possibly expect to have any kind of lasting influence on our societies? If we are not practicing morality at home, how can we expect to ever lead all sentient beings to the truth? If our family lives are in order, then we will certainly succeed in having a very positive influence on society. And if our family lives are based on truth, then we certainly will pass on a great legacy to our children and our children’s children.
We participate fully in BLIA chapters to leave an influence for all time
A small seed planted today is capable of growing into a large tree over time. If that is so, then how much more significant are the moments of our human lives?
When we join the BLIA, we must commit ourselves to deriving maximum benefit from every moment, both for ourselves and for others. We must strive to deepen our friendships with other members of the BLIA. We should meet with each other frequently and always keep our minds open so that we can learn from one another. In this way our activities will be stimulating, and all of us will be able to improve ourselves by our participation in them. When we really come together like this in a positive manner, we are “not just planting seeds with one Buddha, or with two, or with three, or with only four or five Buddhas. We are planting bodhi seeds with the countless Buddhas of all the Buddha realms.”