Although the Buddha was a prince in India, he was deeply weary of worldly fortune and honor. He wanted to renounce the glory of his royal position and leave the home-life to cultivate the Way. He wished to make all living beings realize that worldly dharmas are nothing but false thoughts. How did the world come into being? It was created by the false thoughts of living beings, and in the future it will be destroyed by the false thoughts of living beings. This is the correspondence between cause and effect.
All things in the world are impermanent and subject to decay. Bodhisattvas detest worldly dharmas, and Buddhas detest worldly dharmas even more. They are not defiled by craving for them, and they are not attached to them. The Buddha has forever ended the greed, love, and desires that worldly people feel. The Buddha doesn't crave the things that worldly people crave. The Buddha doesn't love the things that worldly people love. Since he is free of greed and love, he has no affliction. Our afflictions come from our greed and love. Without greed, we won't be selfish; and without selfishness, we won't be afflicted. When we feel greed and love, and things do not go as we wish, we become afflicted. Once we are afflicted, we become muddled. Once we are muddled, we are defiled. When we cultivate pure conduct, we destroy all defilements.
The Buddha was able to constantly benefit all living beings. When the Buddha was still living in the palace, he did not covet sensual pleasures, nor did he crave worldly splendor, wealth, and honor. After he left the home-life, he completely renounced the behavior of worldly people. He refrained from contending and arguing with people, and thus attained the samadhi of non-contention. As it is said,
Contention involves thoughts of winning and losing;
It goes against the Way.
Thinking about the four marks,
How can one attain samadhi?
The Buddha fulfilled the vows he had made in the past and became endowed with limitless merit and virtue. With the light of great wisdom, he eradicated all the stupidity and darkness in the world. He served as a supreme field of blessings for living beings in the world. On behalf of all living beings, he constantly praised the merit and virtue of all Buddhas throughout the ten directions and three periods of time. Thus he enabled all living beings to cultivate blessings, seek wisdom, and plant various roots of good¬ness by drawing near to the Triple Jewel. The Buddha used his Wisdom Eye to contemplate genuine truth. On behalf of all living beings, he also praised the merit and virtue of leaving the home-life.
Leaving home means leaving the home of the Three Realms: the Desire Realm, the Form Realm, and the Formless Realm. It also means leaving the home of an ordinary person in the world. One leaves behind one's worldly ideas. It also means leaving the home of affliction. Every person in the world dwells in the home of affliction. When we lose our tempers, we feel it tastes more flavorful than any delicious food we could eat. Therefore, when we leave home, we mean to leave the home of affliction. We should also leave the home of ignorance. Because of ignorance, we don't understand anything, and all of our actions and deeds are deluded. So we ought to leave the home of ignorance.
People leave the home-life for various reasons. For example, in China, some people leave the home-life because they are old and have no one to support them, and leaving home makes it easier to get meals. Others are forced by circumstances to leave the home-life. Perhaps someone has broken the law or committed murder, so he changes his name and leaves the home-life. Then the authorities pay no more attention to him, and they cannot track him down, either. Some children are sent to a temple to leave the home-life because their families have difficulty raising them.
It is not certain whether people who leave the home-life for the above three reasons will be able to cultivate. They may or they may not be able to. Finally, there is the person who leaves the home-life because he genuinely wants to end birth and death. If such a left-home person doesn't retreat from his resolve, he will be able to cultivate. Being painfully aware of birth and death, he will make the great resolve to reach enlightenment and cultivate according to the Dharma spoken by the Buddha. There are various situations under which people leave the home-life. After leaving the home-life, you should purify yourself of offenses and get rid of all your faults. Stay away from offenses and put an end to evil deeds. Regain your original purity. Leave the home of the Triple Realm, the home of affliction, the home of ignorance, and the worldly home forever.
Answer: That's not quite true. As the Dharma Flower Sutra says, the Dragon Girl offered her precious pearl to the Buddha and immediately attained Buddhahood. This proves that those in female bodies can also become Buddhas; however, it is quite rare. As to why some are born to become men and others women, it's a question of personal preference. If one longs to be a woman, one will become a woman. If one likes to be a man, one will become a man. Your karma controls you, and you undergo the retribution of the karma you create.
Nevertheless, some people can control their own karma. Instead of being turned around by a situation, they can turn the situation around. They can alter their karma and be their own masters. If you follow your karma, you are not in control. But if you can direct your karma, then you are in control. Why do Bodhisattvas make vows? Because they want to control the flow of their karma. Relying on their great vows as a foundation, they can direct their karma. In their case, they can control their karma, but their karma cannot control them. They can control states of mind, but states of mind cannot control them. They can control their retribution, but retribution cannot control them. One can control these things, but only with wisdom. Someone who is always stupid and ignorant and doing muddled things will not be able to control his karma. When asked why you do muddled things, you answer that you don't know. Your not knowing means you are being led by your karma.
It is not the case that women cannot become Buddhas. You could say that Buddhas are purely yang and ghosts are purely yin. People are partly yin and partly yang. It is not the case that men are completely yang and women are completely yin. If men were completely yang, they would not need to marry women, and if women were completely yin, they would not need to marry men. After marriage, people become partly yin and partly yang and are no longer purely one or the other. When you reach a state of being without outflows, you are purely yang. Although men are yang, there is yin within the yang. Although women are yin, there is yang within the yin. Therefore, when a man and woman are married, they are able to have children: these are all transformations of yin and yang. It is not a fixed rule that men are definitely yang and women are definitely yin. The Book of Changes says,
A balance of yin and yang is the Way.
An excess of either yin or yang is sickness.
An excess on either side will cause problems. What is not excessive in either direction is called the “middle.” What admits of no change is “constant.” This is the Way of the “constant middle.”
Therefore, men should not think they are yang. If you were, why would you want to get married? After you are married, there is yin within the yang. After women are married, there is yang within the yin. There is a mutual interchange. That's yin and yang.
As to what a person is, a “person” is merely a false name. We use the word “person,” but, when language was invented, if the word “dog” had been applied to people, people would be called dogs now. Names of things become habitual. So “person” is a mere name. It is said that one yin and one yang make a person. Within the yang there is yin, and within the yin there is yang. Summer is included in winter, and winter is hidden in summer. On the day of the winter solstice, yang is born. On the day of the summer solstice, yin is born. A year is divided into yin and yang. When the yin reaches an extreme, it becomes yang. When the yang reaches the utmost point, it becomes yin. When people are born, they are yang, and when they die, they become yin. It's the same principle.
You say we are called “people,” but if in the beginning people had been called chickens, then we would be called by the name of
“chicken.” After we became used to being called that, we wouldn't feel it was so strange. For example, if you give a child the name “Little Dog,” then when he grows up and someone calls out, “Little Dog,” he will know he is being called. That's just a false name, nothing more. If you ask a man named Smith why his name is Smith, he will say it's because his father's name is Smith. What was his father's father's name? It was also Smith. How about his father's father's father? Keep tracing the generations back until you can go no further. What was the first ancestor's surname? You don't know, because it's all false anyway.
People shouldn't become too attached to being a certain way. The only reason we become afflicted is because of our ego and our selfishness. If we had no ego or selfishness, how could we have afflictions? Why do people lose their tempers? They feel others have done them wrong. When we take a loss, we get angry. When we gain some advantages, we feel happy. In both cases, we are being affected by the situations, due to our ignorance.
A talk given on September 1, 1982,
at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas