Key to Enlightenment
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 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 medidation, 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 simple principle.
the analogy, the lock in your mind is the ignorance which causes your
pure and bright mind to become dark and defiled. When you encounter
states, 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
is ignorance? To put it simply, it is darkness--lack of understanding.
Because one doesn't understand the truth, one’s mind is locked up
and one cannot attain enlightenment. 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 to whom the
emperor bowed as 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."
who become enlightened are able to do so 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.
did Shakyamuni Buddha achieve Buddhahood?
cultivated blessings and wisdom for three asamkhyeyas
planted the causes for the fine hallmarks for a hundred eons.
three great asamkhyeya kalpas (limitless eons), he cultivated
blessings and wisdom. For a hundred great kalpas, 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.
talk given on July 12,1980
the past, Shakyamuni Buddha "cultivated blessings and wisdom for
three asamkhyeyas of eons, and planted the seeds
for good appearance for a hundred kalpas." And so he
attained the thirty-two hallmarks and eighty subsidiary
characteristics as peerless physical adornments. Cultivators must
cultivate blessing and wisdom. How? By doing meritorious works. We
should do our best to do any and every deed that brings benefit to
living beings. This is cultivating blessings. When we study and recite
Sutras and investigate the principles of the Buddhadharma,
"deeply entering the Sutra Treasury to attain wisdom like the
sea," we are cultivating wisdom. To put it simply, if we do a lot
of meritorious deeds, we’ll have blessings; if we listen to Sutra
lectures and speak the Dharma, we’ll have wisdom. It’s a very
and wisdom come from cultivation. If you don‘t cultivate, you’ll
never have any blessings or wisdom. Cultivators shouldn’t feel that
they can get away with an evil deed, however slight it may be; nor
should they neglect doing a good deed even if it is small. If you can
cherish, cultivate, and plant blessings day after day, you’ll
certainly have great blessings in the future. If you don‘t do that,
where could blessings and wisdom come from? If you merely wish for
blessings and wisdom without doing anything, you’re just foolishly
indulging in idle fantasies that will never come true. It‘s like
looking for fish in trees--something that could never be.
talk given on June 4, 1981
are a cultivator's life. If one transgresses them, this would be as
grievous as having one’s life cut off. Before the World Honored One
entered Nirvana, he told the Venerable Ananda, "Take the precepts
as your teacher." This shows how important the precepts are.
means with certainty, cautiousness, and perceptiveness. Cultivators
should not talk carelessly. When you need to speak, do so in a
discreet and appropriate way, and don’t babble nonsense. In other
words, there’s a definite way to act whether you are walking,
standing, sitting, and lying down. You can‘t just do whatever you
want; that wouldn’t be upholding the precepts.
“uphold” means to manage. It also means to carefully and
cautiously hold something with your hands, being constantly attentive
and never lax. We should uphold the precepts with full concentration.
serve to prevent mistakes and to stop evildoing. “Do no evil; do all
good." Precepts serve to warn us before we commit offenses; they
also stipulate the penalties incurred by offenses. A snake normally
slithers in curves, but when it goes into a pipe, it straightens out
by itself; this is the function of precepts.
are laws. In everything we do, we should abide by the rules. There‘s
a saying: "Without a compass and a T-square, you can’t draw
circles and squares." [Note: In Chinese the words for
‘compass’ and ‘T-square’ form a compound that means
“rules”.] We should not act carelessly, hinder other people‘s
freedom, or usurp others’ benefits.
a nutshell, upholding precepts means not having a temper. When we
cultivate patience to the utmost degree, then we’ll be able to
handle favorable as well as adverse states without losing our calm;
we’ll deal with everything naturally and easily. When we reach that
level, we won’t transgress the rules. People don’t abide by rules
because they don’t have enough patience; they can‘t keep the fire
of ignorance under control, and it burns up all the merit and virtue
they have cultivated.
talk given on June 6, 1981