The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have come to this world solely for
the purpose of teaching and transforming living
beings. They use the 84,000 Dharma-doors to
gather in beings with whom they have affinities. Failing to understand the spirit of kindness, compassion, joy, and giving of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, we turn our backs on enlightenment and wallow in the dust of ignorance. We chase after petty things, forgetting the important things, and don't want to end birth and death or escape the Three Realms.
Everyone knows that the Three Realms are like a burning house; there is no peace within them. Yet we linger in the burning house, not at all scared, and not wishing to leave it, even though we know that it contains nothing but suffering.
The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas explain the Dharma in an effort to teach us, but, unfortunately, we do not understand their intentions. We listen without hearing, and look without seeing; their instructions go in one ear and out the other. We prefer to go on living in a stupor and dreaming our lives away, just like walking corpses. Though we may say we are cultivating, we are not seeking the path of true enlightenment.
How can we find true enlightenment? It's very easy: do not seek outside. All you need to do is turn your back on delusion and return to enlightenment. Turning around from being in the state of delusion is itself enlightenment.
If living beings could renounce their deviant thoughts and return to proper thoughts, they would become enlightened and attain great wisdom. But living beings are not willing to turn back. They prefer to remain bobbing up and down in the bitter sea of birth and death, thinking this sorry state is worthwhile. Confronted with this problem, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have no way to enable living beings to leave suffering and attain bliss. Living beings are so deeply deluded that they cannot understand the principles of enlightenment. Their accumulated bad habits are profuse and ingrained, smothering their wisdom. That is why they cannot tell the difference between right and wrong, proper and deviant, true and false.
Once we know what is true, we should leave the false behind. Why are we confused? Because we are bereft of wisdom. Lacking real wisdom, living beings bang their heads against the wall wherever they go: if they are not bumping into the east wall, they are crashing into the west wall, or banging their heads against the north or south wall. Although there is plenty of room in the middle, living beings still insist on running to the four directions to bang their heads against the wall. This is really pitiful!
These poor living beings bash their heads until blood streams down their faces. Yet they still do not know that they need to reflect within. No matter how devotedly the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas work to teach us, setting before us the Tripitaka (“Three Stores”) and the Twelve Divisions of the Buddha-dharma, we simply pay no attention. They have bestowed these innumerable Dharma treasures upon us, yet we feel no sense of gratitude; thus the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas feel very tired. Why? Living beings are truly difficult to liberate! The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas exhaust their efforts to save us, yet we remain unmoved; we still go about doing our own things, not cultivating, not upholding precepts. Nevertheless, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are not discouraged. No matter how difficult it is to liberate living beings, they still want to do it. They want to compassionately liberate all living beings. How can we repay their kindness? For instance, consider the vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva, who said,
As long as the hells are not empty,
I will not become a Buddha.
Only when all living beings are liberated
Will I become a Buddha.
Everyone should deeply ponder the meaning of these words. Consider how magnificent and great these vows are! Without even reading the Sutra, just by listening to this vow, we should feel deeply indebted to Earth Store Bodhisattva and to all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for their compassionate and mindful protection of us.
From beginningless time, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have been giving up their very bodies and lives in order to nurture us. And so we must bring forth the resolve for Bodhi in order to repay their kindness, as well as the kindness of our parents and teachers and that of heaven and earth. We should seek Buddhahood and vow to liberate all living beings. We should be the Buddhas'
compassionate representatives in proclaiming the Dharma and transforming beings, serving society and the country with a sense of righteousness. Let us always be compassionate and righteous, propagating the Buddhadharma and carrying out the Buddha's original intent with our humble effort.
Why is it that after the Buddhas have become Buddhas, they still do not forget living beings and they vow to liberate us? It's because all living beings have the Buddha-nature and can become Buddhas. However, living beings do not realize this. Covered up by greed, hatred, stupidity, ignorance, afflictions, and idle thinking, their true wisdom cannot manifest. Therefore, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas come to show us the way to become enlightened. If we can cultivate accordingly, we will surely attain wisdom. We should remember and be grateful to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, as well as our parents and teachers. Human beings are ranked equally with heaven and earth. We should not waste our precious lives. We should clearly recognize the Buddhas' and Bodhisattvas' intent and the power of their vows, so that we don't live our human lives in vain.
A talk given on July 9, 1983,
at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas