To Turn a Hopeless Situation Around, Uphold the Precepts
Ven. Master Hsuan Hua
When you don't uphold the precepts, you may not be harming anyone else, but your own nature gets harmed.
This is the Dharma-ending Age. However, Buddhists should rouse their spirits and make an indestructible Vajra resolve to turn the Dharma-ending Age into the Proper Dharma Age. We should be true Buddhists. If everyone strives to approach the truth, we can turn the Dharma-ending Age into the Proper Dharma Age. However, if Buddhists are not earnest and do not practice the Buddhadharma in a down-to-earth manner, then even the Proper Dharma Age would turn into the Dharma-ending Age. Why? Because when people are proper, the Dharma is proper; when people have deviated, the Dharma also deviates. When people deviate, that means they no longer walk the proper path. They don't observe the precepts, but instead look for loopholes in the precepts. In the same way, laws are supposed to maintain peace and order in society, but some people only look for ways to get past the law and engage in illegal activities. Then it's as if the laws didn't even exist, and there is an adverse effect on the world.
If we who are Buddhists do not sincerely work hard for and dedicate ourselves to Buddhism, how do we expect Buddhism to flourish and expand? If we want Buddhism to flourish, it's not that we learn some mantras, cultivate spiritual powers, or learn Secret School practices or other strange skills, such as being a medium or making charms. The most important thing is to study the precepts taught by the Buddha. If we can cultivate in accord with the Buddha's teaching, the Proper Dharma is in the world. If no one observes the Buddha's precepts, then it's the Dharma-ending Age. Everything is made from the mind; the Dharma is right in our minds. Why have we come to the Dharma-ending age? It's because there are many who transgress the precepts and few who observe them; there are many who know the precepts, but few who truly understand them. And so people are confused. You may say that a person understands the precepts, but his understanding isn't complete. If you say he doesn't understand them, well, he does possess some superficial knowledge.
What are precepts? Precepts serve to keep us from committing evil and making mistakes. They help us to refrain from all evil and practice all good. We want to practice every wholesome deed, but not commit any bad deed.
The five precepts taught by the Buddha are very important. We all understand them, and they have a direct connection to each one of us. If we observe the rules without laxness, we are increasing the wisdom of your own nature. From the observing of precepts, samadhi arises; and with samadhi, wisdom comes forth. If precepts are not upheld, there is no samadhi; without samadhi, there can be no wisdom. When precepts are upheld, it's like a clear, cloudless sky. If precepts are not upheldỞif you recklessly indulge in killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and taking intoxicants - it's like dark clouds forming in the sky. Once dark clouds form, they cover the sun and you cannot see the light. You are left in darkness, which represents stupidity and ignorance. What's more, you could lose your human body and go into a pig's womb to become a pig, go into a cow's womb and become a cow, or go into a horse's womb and become a horse. These are all the results of experiments in the laboratory of our own nature.
People who uphold the precepts are purifying their own nature and wiping out the darkness in their nature. Those who don't observe the precepts have infinite layers of dark clouds. Each day that they don't uphold the precepts, they generate more dark clouds. When people neglect to observe the precepts, defiled dark clouds appear in their inherent nature. When you don't uphold the precepts, you may not be harming anyone else, but your own nature gets harmed. Therefore, you must strictly uphold the precepts. If you can uphold the precepts, then it's the Proper Dharma Age; if you don't uphold the precepts, then it's the Dharma-ending Age.