Monday, September 27, 2004

Believing and Practicing: So You Think You Are Good Enough?

by Yin Hwee (Chuan Yin)

One winter, I woke up early in the morning to do my daily routine of cleaning the shrine in my room. As I examined the Medicine Buddha crystal pagoda, I thought, “This looks pretty clean to me. Seems like I don’t need to spend much time on it!” Then I had another thought. “Well, I have plenty of time to spare today. Why don’t I just clean it thoroughly till it sparkles?”

As I took the pagoda to wipe it, a ray of sunshine shone through the window, making the house brighter. I was surprised to see that the “clean” crystal pagoda was actually covered with dust. I imagined that if it had been a summer morning, I would have seen dust flying all around my house very clearly.

This was a “light bulb” moment for me. I realized that sunshine is like the light of the Buddha’s teachings. The Buddha reveals to us the root of mental disturbances and sufferings (the dust), and showed us the way to liberate ourselves (the cleaning). His teachings are a brighter, clearer, more complete view of life and the nature of the universe.

Under the dim light (lay person’s eyes), many people understand that there are consequences for committing bad actions. They think that as long as they do positive things and have a good heart, having faith in any religion is unimportant. Some people say, “It’s sufficient to believe in Buddha, there is no need to cling to becoming a vegetarian.” I once saw this kind of comment as a personal preference, and I would respect other people’s choices. But after attending meditation classes at the Buddha Mind Monastery, and reading the Sutra of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, I realize that practicing Buddhism in addition to faith makes a huge difference.

Buddhism empowers us with the ability and strength to understand, train, and control our minds. By taking control of our minds with practice, we take control of our actions, too. Every thought in our minds counts. Every thought may be crucial to bring us closer to heaven or cost us a trillion years of suffering in hell. Therefore, we need to train ourselves to be the masters of our minds and be able to differentiate between the good thoughts and the bad thoughts that arise from moment to moment to bring about positive actions and prevent negative ones.

Simply abiding by the precepts is not enough. We should go deeper and understand why we should not have bad thoughts that would lead to bad actions in the first place. Although we might all appear to be good people under the dim light, we all still have room to improve under the Buddha’s light. This is why Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s vow to liberate all sentient beings is never ending. The sentient beings’ minds alternate between good and bad very fast, and cause them to go back and forth between the good realms and the lowly realms just as fast.

The Chung Tai Chan Monastery and all its meditation centers have the common goal with the Bodhisattvas to transfer the Buddha’s teachings to everyone within reach, using many methods that are convenient and acceptable to the lay people. Their compassionate wish is for us to be able to understand and take control of our own mind, and have a pure mind like the Buddha.

If we do not believe in the Buddha and our Buddha nature, our world is in darkness. If we only believe in the Buddha and do not practice, our mind will still be in darkness, which will be a disappointment to our Dharma teachers. If we rely on our own understanding to practice Buddhism, we might get lost on our path and deviate from the truth. We should all accept the Buddhist monks and nuns’ teachings with humbleness and utmost respect, and practice diligently at the same time. We should be thankful that there is someone with higher wisdom here to help us live a better life. I am confident that following in their footsteps will lead us to a brighter, broader life, and ensure that we never get lost in the dark anymore.

Believing and Practicing: 信佛與學佛


在冬天的一個早晨,我在清掃家中的小佛桌。這時太陽剛升起,我也沒有開燈,單單靠著佛桌上的小蓮花燈的燈光,便開始擦著佛桌上供奉的藥師佛水晶塔。可是我 個子矮,佛桌比較高,小蓮花燈的燈光又偏暗,所以也沒看出些什麼灰塵。心想:"這藥師塔還算滿乾淨,不需要怎麼擦嘛!"但回頭又想:"反正有時間,就給祂 徹底清一下吧!"我就伸手把藥師塔端下來。我就這樣一隻手端著,一隻手擦著佛塔。這時天已經開始亮,微微的冬天的陽光從視窗照射進屋裏。清澈透明的藥師塔 在陽光之下就顯得佈滿了灰塵。我心想如果今天是個夏天的大太陽,我可能還能看得見屋裏的灰塵在空中亂飄,一些可能會落在傢俱上,一些還可能會被吸進鼻子裏 呢!

頓然一想:這陽光不就像佛光一樣嗎?在佛陀慈悲的教化之下,我們才能看清楚人生中的煩惱與痛苦(灰塵)從哪裡來,從而知道如何去轉煩惱成菩提。很多人往往 只像在微光下(世俗的人事物)隱隱約約知道殺人放火的事不能幹,要坐牢的,或者會毀了家庭和前途的。又或者覺得心好就可以,有沒有信教都不重要。有人還曾 經對我說過: “ 心中有佛就好啦, 吃不吃素無所謂!”  多年來我都認為這些只是各人的看法和喜好,只要不做壞事,信不信佛或有沒有學佛的親友都應該給予尊重。但是當我親近中台禪寺分院佛心寺的法師們,誦讀了地 藏經之後,漸漸地發現其實它的差別可大了。這個差別在於我們如何去瞭解,鍛煉及掌控這顆心,如何去掌握自己的命運。要知道我們的起心動念是非常微細的,其 因果報應是絲毫不爽的。我們對自己的起心動念必須清清楚楚明明白白。對於為什麼這惡事,惡念不能有,也一樣要清清楚楚明明白白。在微光之下,一個人看起來 是個好人,但在佛光之下,這個人一定還有改進的地方。地藏菩薩之所以從長久遠劫以來都還在精進地度化眾生,不也因為眾生的心常常旋轉在善與惡之間,無法完 全清淨,而隨業流轉,一時生往善道,旋而又墮到三途去。可悲又可怕!

靈泉之光, 中台之光, 自性之光, 光光相照, 共成菩提。 佛菩薩及法師們開種種方便,循循善誘,為的是讓我們都可以來認清人生宇宙的事實真相,都可以像佛陀一樣有一顆清淨無染的心。他們的心是慈悲的,是廣大的。 人不信佛,心中一片黑暗。人單單信佛,不夠積極,白費佛菩薩及法師們的一片苦心,心中仍是一片黑暗。人單靠自己的智慧去修行,可能走偏了,乖離了佛道而親 近外道。所以我們應該以一顆感恩的心,恭恭敬敬,認認真真地去接受與實踐 老和尚的教誨,追隨佛陀的腳步,一步一腳印,總有一天會走出一條屬於自性的光明 道路,不再迷失在黑暗中。