How can we become enlightened?
Enlightenment can be compared to unlocking a door. When the door
is locked, you can't go in or out through it. You have to use a
key to unlock the door. If you don't have the key, then you'll
be locked inside the house forever. Where is the key? It's right
where you are; it's very easy to find. How can you find it? As
you sit in Chan meditation, recite the Buddha's name, and recite
mantras, you are looking for the key. When will you find it? It
depends on the level of your cultivation. If you are vigorous,
you will find the key very quickly. If you are lax, you'll never
find it, not in this life or in lives to come. This is a very
In the analogy, the lock in your mind
represents the ignorance that causes your pure and bright mind
to become dark and defiled. When you encounter situations, if
you lack the wisdom to distinguish good from evil, you will act
in deluded ways. After you have gained skill in your practice,
you will be able to smash through ignorance and unlock the door
of your mind to reveal bright wisdom. Then no matter what
happens, you won't get afflicted.
What is ignorance? To put it simply, it
is darkness, or lack of understanding. When we don't understand
the truth, our mind is locked up and we cannot attain
During the reign of Emperor Taizong of the Tang
dynasty, there was a eunuch named Yu Chao'en. Yu Chao'en asked
the National Master [the Dharma Master who was the emperor's
spiritual teacher], "What is ignorance?" The National Master
said, "You look like a slave. What makes you think you're
qualified to ask about the Buddhadharma?" The eunuch was
furious. The National Master smiled and said, "That is
ignorance." A proverb says: "The fire of ignorance can burn up a
forest of merit and virtue."
People are able to become
enlightened only because they cultivated many good deeds in
their past lives. If they hadn't cultivated those good deeds,
they wouldn't attain enlightenment in this life. Do you want to
become enlightened? Then you must first cultivate. Only then
will there be hope for enlightenment.
How did Shakyamuni Buddha achieve
He cultivated blessings and wisdom for
three asamkhyeya kalpas.
And planted the causes for the fine hallmarksfor a hundred eons.
For three great asamkhyeya kalpas
(uncountable eons), he cultivated blessings and wisdom. For a
hundred great eons, he performed merit that led to his being
adorned with the Thirty-two Hallmarks and Eighty Subsidiary
Characteristics. That's why he was able to become enlightened
upon seeing a bright star one night while sitting under the
Bodhi tree. If he hadn't cultivated in the past, he couldn't
have achieved Buddhahood when he did.