All of you Good and Wise Advisors, if you have come here to listen to the Dharma, you will not get to hear any. That's because if I am not beating people, then I am scolding people. So I want to inform you in advance. Now I want every one of you to close your eyes. If you are sincere, you will get a response. All of you have come here with a motive, a hope. What are you hoping for? I know you all hope that I will give you aid. If you want aid, you must first be sincere and true. Don't just go through the motions and try to get by. What is sincerity? Now if I were to strike each of you three times with my cane, I probably wouldn't be finished even after several hours. So, I will strike each of you from here. You may feel it when you get struck. You may feel the pain, or you may not feel it. You may have some kind of sensation. For those who feel something, that doesn't mean you have received aid. If you don't feel anything, that's just your own response; you haven't really understood the Buddhas' principles yet.
I am representing the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten directions when I strike you three times. I don't have to hit each of you on the head individually. I will simply give three strikes with my cane from here. If your karmic obstacles are meant to be eradicated, they will definitely be eradicated. If your karmic obstacles are too heavy, then three strikes of the cane will not get rid of them all. In time you will have more chances to be struck. Of the three strikes of the cane, the first one beats away your body karma, the second one beats away your mouth karma, and the third one beats away your mind karma. Only when the three karmas of body, mouth, and mind are purified will you get to taste the flavor of the Dharma.
What is the Dharma? All dharmas are not apart from the minds of living beings. It is only because of the minds of living beings that all dharmas exist. If all minds did not exist, of what use would all dharmas be? Therefore, if you feel the three strikes, that's good, and if you don't feel them, that's also good. If you feel something, there is no need to publicize it, for if you do, people will think I hired you to advertise for me. If you feel nothing, it is because your karmic obstacles are too heavy, and even the Buddhas' power cannot aid you. You should feel great shame and remorse. If you have no response, don't say that this is all false. You cannot distinguish between the true and the false, for the true also contains some falseness, and the false also contains some truth. Everything is made from the mind. If your mind is not true, then even the true becomes false. If your mind is true, then even if it is false, you will have a great response.
Do you understand what I said? [Everyone: "Yes."]
Now I'm going to start hitting people. You should all shut your eyes. If you don't, then don't blame me if you are scared to death by what you see.
The beating is over, and now you should obediently listen to the Dharma. No matter who you are, if you have come here, then you must coil up if you are a dragon and lie down if you are a tiger. I am a person who does not know how to speak the Dharma, but if you know how to listen, then every sentence is wonderful Dharma. If you don't know how to listen, then no matter what I say, you will think what is said is shallow and uninteresting. That's why it's said, "Everything is made from the mind." That is the wonderful Dharma. If you do not understand how to turn around and look within yourself and find your own mind, you'll miss the opportunity that's right in front of you. Do you all understand? [Everyone: "Yes."]
All of you have come to listen to the Dharma, not to look at people, so it would be best if you all close your eyes and mouth. Don't talk, and don't look around to see what other people are doing. If your eyes are closed, your mind will not run outside. Then you can listen with single-minded concentration and full attention to the Dharma that is spoken. If your mouth is also closed, then you won't chatter or hold a little discussion to praise how well this Dharma Master speaks. You may not know for sure whether he is good or bad, so you should not presume that you are intelligent and casually offer a critique.
In general, every day before I begin, I will hit everyone three times with my Vajra-jewelled staff. If you have any problems, your problems may be resolved. However, if you do not listen with a proper, sincere, and concentrated mind, your wisdom will not come forth. Even if your wisdom comes forth and you obtain some benefit, there's no need to publicize it. I forbid you to go around making false advertisements for me.
This time I have come to bring blessings to the people of Taiwan. If any one of you is sincere, you will definitely receive a special response. Insincere people just follow the crowd, reciting the Buddha's name when they see others reciting, and bowing when they see others bowing. When they recite the Buddha's name, they aren't truly mindful, because they are having the false thought, "When is the Dharma Master going to arrive? When is he going to speak the Dharma?" They already have a mind dwelling on the future.
People who listen to the Dharma should be such that "the mind of the past cannot be obtained, the mind of the present cannot be obtained, and the mind of the future cannot be obtained." You must sweep away the three minds and get rid of the four marks. Be without the mark of self, the mark of others, the mark of living beings, and the mark of a life span. If you can listen to the Dharma in this way, then whether or not it agrees with your thinking, it will be the wonderful Dharma. In Buddhism there is a saying, "General summaries and detailed descriptions all express the foremost meaning."
How can you obtain the foremost meaning? You can if you know how to listen. If you know how to listen, then even if I am scolding people, it sounds like wonderful Dharma to you. If I beat people, you feel as if it is a timely blow on the head. If you don't know how to listen, then no matter how hard I try to help you, it won't be able to reach you.
All Good and Wise Advisors, do not waste your time by just listening to the Dharma I speak. I told you to close your eyes so that you wouldn't look around and to close your mouth so you wouldn't whisper among yourselves. This is telling you to turn the light around and shine within, to concentrate and pay attention. Don't let your essence, energy, and spirit flow out and disperse. I will tell you the first condition for health: Cut down on idle chatter, and don't look at things which do not accord with propriety. A Confucian saying goes,
If something does not accord with propriety,
don't look at it.
If something does not accord with propriety,
don't listen to it.
If something does not accord with propriety, don't say it.
If something does not accord with propriety, don't do it.
The things you look at, listen to, say, and do should all be proper. If you do not act properly, you cannot be considered a human being. If you want to look at, listen to, say, and do things that do not accord with propriety, then you are not a human being! You should know the fundamentals of being a human being.
I don't know how to speak Dharma. I only know how to talk about the principles of being a human being. Don't use any tricks to cheat others and benefit yourself. Don't use any scheme to seek outside and take advantage of the situation. Don't plot to seize the wealth of others for yourself. Don't use improper means to achieve improper ends. If you can do this, then you will approach humaneness. These are the principles advocated by Confucianism.
In studying to be a human being, we must first understand the basic principles of Confucianism. Therefore, in every move, watch over yourself. Walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, constantly be mindful. To "watch over yourself" means to do your own job well and pay no attention to whether others are right or wrong. Do not criticize anyone. If he is bad, if he is wrong, that is his fault and his offense. Once you speak about his faults, you become partly responsible for his offense. Although you do it out of compassion, I think you will take a big loss. From morning to night, you wash others' clothes, but never notice how dirty your own clothes are. This point is basic to being a human being, and we should recognize it. It should not be that you arrive in confusion and leave in a confusion. At birth, you are wrapped in the blanket of confusion, and at death you go to the coffin of confusion. Failing to understand, you die. All of you think about this; you are just working for others, but you are not at all clear about your own affairs.
Earlier today, I didn't finish speaking about my eight lines of rustic verse. Right now, more than ten people are having an idle thought: "We don't really want to listen to what you are saying right now. You haven't finished telling us about being mbroiled in the sufferings of old age and disease.' We want to listen to that." Your idle thought has interrupted my train of thought, and I don't know how to continue. So I might as well go back to the original topic! You should know that I am not a wandering story-teller who deliberately stops in the middle of the story and leaves the rest for next time. "The Dharma does not arise by itself; it is produced in accord with situations. The Way is not practiced in vain; it responds to conditions." Since you had this idle thought, I will ignore everyone else's idle thoughts and fulfill your wish first.
This morning, I told you six of the eight lines. There are two lines left. What are they?
Don't you know that life is determined in the space
of a breath?
Quickly return to the city of purity and comfort!
I have not explained these lines yet. For each of us, life is determined in the interval of a breath.
Once there were three old men at a banquet, and they were giving their views on life and death. One old man said, "This year we meet at this banquet. Which one of us will not be around next year?" That is to say, who will be dead by then?
Another one said, "You're talking too far in the future." "Well, what do you say?" asked the first one. "I say: When I take off my shoes and socks tonight, I do not know whether I will put them on tomorrow. Not to mention next year, I can't even be sure about the next day." He felt his statement really hit the mark.
There was another foolish old man who wanted to show off his wit, saying, "What you two are talking about is still too far away." "What do you say?" they asked. "I say: when I inhale this breath, I don't know if I will be able to exhale it!" Therefore, we should not let the time pass in vain. It is said, "Life is determined in the space of a breath." When you inhale this breath, you do not know whether you can exhale it.
You see! Although that old man was foolish, you can't argue against him. No one can deny his words, for that is how it really is. So I said, "Don't you know that life is determined in the space of a breath?" Life occurs in the space of a breath, didn't you know? Hurry and pack your bags, and "Quickly return to the city of purity and comfort." Quickly learn to recite the Buddha's name. Focus your body and mind in order to recite the Buddha's name and seek rebirth in the Pure Land. That is the purest place. It is not as busy as it is here. The fragrance of the flowers and singing of the birds is totally different from our world. So it is said, "The white cranes, peacocks, parrots, egrets, kalavinkas, and two-headed birds make harmonious sounds in the six periods of the day and night. Their sounds proclaim the Five Roots, the Five Powers, the Seven Bodhi Shares, and the Eightfold Proper Path."
The Buddha then told Shariputra not to think that all these birds are mere animals. Amitabha Buddha really created them by transformation in order to widely proclaim the sounds of Dharma. They are divine birds, not at all like the birds in our world. These birds can live without eating. They don't drink, yet they don't get thirsty. They don't eat, yet they don't feel hungry. Ordinary birds, on the other hand, will gobble up any worm they see. They take the lives of other creatures. The birds in the Land of Ultimate Bliss do not kill, nor do the people there. So that's why Shakyamuni Buddha praised the Land of Ultimate Bliss as a place where beings are free of the myriad sufferings and only experience all kinds of joy. Since Shakyamuni Buddha doesn't lie, we should deeply believe in and not have the slightest doubt about the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
A talk by the Venerable Master Hua
in the evening of January 11, 1993, at the Taipei County Stadium in Banqiao, Taiwan