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Why Can't We See the Buddha?

Ven. Master Hsuan Hua


The Buddha’s body is not composed of the five skandhas.  It does not come from the twelve places or the eighteen realms. The Buddha has no form or appearance.  Why do living beings see the Buddha’s thirty-two hallmarks and eighty subsidiary characteristics?  The Buddha manifests these in order to accord with the discriminatory minds of living beings.  Since living beings distinguish between good and bad, the Buddha manifests various appearances to help them grow in joy and faith and to inspire them to seek Bodhi. It’s an expedient skill-in-means.

Men want to find beautiful wives, and women look for handsome husbands.  This proves that people like beauty and dislike ugliness.  People’s minds work the same way and share the same principles.  It’s perfectly normal and natural for people to wish for a pretty wife or a handsome husband.

Someone is saying, "Dharma Master, you’re supposed to be lecturing on the Sutra. Why are you talking about this?"  If I don’t talk about this, what should I talk about?  The ancients said, "The Way of a superior person begins with the relationship between man and wife."  There is only a man and a woman in the world.  With a man and a woman, the world comes into being.  However, I must make clear that I’m not talking about Adam and Eve, nor am I talking about the man and woman that God created from mud.  What I’m saying is that the world is formed of couples - husbands and wives.

Once there is the relationship between husband and wife, the relationships between father and son, siblings, and self and others are established.  Man and woman are yang and yin, respectively.

An equal balance of yin and yang is known as the Way;

A preponderance of yin or yang is known as sickness.

Yin alone cannot bring about birth;

Yang alone cannot foster growth.

These are principles found in Nature.

In cultivation, we must return to the source.  Men who cultivate should go from the trigram Li, which has a broken line in the middle, back to the trigram Qian, which has three unbroken lines.  Women who cultivate should go from the trigram Kan, which has an unbroken line in the middle, back to the trigram Ku, which has three broken lines (six half lines).  The trigram Qian represents the male, while Kun represents the female.  Men should return to the state of virgin boyhood, and women should return to maidenhood.  Men should be like the Youth Good Wealth (in the Avatamsaka Sutra), and women should emulate the Dragon Girl (in the Lotus Sutra).  Both were virgins who returned to the source.  We who cultivate the Way should remain chaste, for then it is easier to certify to the pure Dharma body.

Since living beings engage in discriminating between good and evil, beautiful and ugly, right and wrong, and black and white, the Buddha manifests in various forms in accord with their minds.

In the water of a thousand rivers,

one sees a thousand reflections of the moon.

With no clouds for ten thousand miles,

one sees ten thousand miles of sky.

The Buddha transforms into different forms to accord with living beings’ minds.  If living beings’ minds are like clear water, then the Buddha’s reflection appears in them.  Why can’t we see the Buddha’s body?  Because we have too much lust and ignorance, and so our wisdom cannot come forth.  Our mind is like a pool of muddy water that cannot reflect the Buddha.

Ignorance is darkness, and wisdom is light.  Ignorance leads to afflictions.  Afflictions make one stupid and dark.  Being dark and without light, one lacks wisdom.  Without wisdom, one cannot see the Buddha.  These are all interrelated.  If we want to see the Buddha, we must diligently cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom and extinguish greed, hatred, and stupidity.  Then the Buddha will spontaneously manifest and speak Dharma for us.

A talk given on November 8, 1980


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