How To Terminate Greed,
Hatred, and Ignorance

(from "Where Is The True Happiness?")

Today, you assemble here at the temple and ask me to guide or remind you about your practice. Because the Buddists from Bien Hoa have listened to the lectures more than others and most of you here are elders, I won't discuss anything that is too sophisticated. Instead, I will only remind you the meaning of practice. You have already listened to the lectures and understood the way. Now, you need to practice.

It's common for people to misperceive that a practice is a punishment in various ways. This is a wrong perception. It is a practice of what we have learned from the Buddha's teachings, not just only from a plain studying. There are many Buddhists who have heard my lectures, but never practice at home. This is not a full meaning of a practice. For example, a patient makes a visit to a doctor for a checkup. After the examination, the doctor gives him/her a prescription and says, "If you take this medication, you will recover." The patient is so happy to memorize the prescription, but doesn't buy the drug. Well, will his/her illness be healed? For sure, it will not, even if the doctor is an excellent doctor. Of course, when he/she gets the prescription, he/she should take the medication in order to terminate the illness. In the present, all of you, the Buddhists, have known that greed, hatred, and ignorance are the bad things or the illnesses. Have you been willing to let them go yet? "Not yet!" (the mass answered). This is the matter that I want to emphasize today. Learning the suttras, we all know that the hatred is a poison that would diminish our merits earned from the practice. Once hatred arises, it will diminish all merits that we have earned for a long time. Let's say you have treated other people nicely and supported them in everything. They appreciate you and care for you. But one day, they make an illegal action, which causes you to be angry to should at them. They hate you for it so their gratitude toward you for the past years is gone. Just one second of angriness could terminate all merits. The hatred is so harmful! For the past three years of studying, how much of hatred have you diminished? "Just a little bit..." (the mass answered). For three years, you could only diminish a little bit of it. This is too slow! If we could not terminate greed, hatred, and ignorance, we have not yet practiced. Therefore, people can criticize and laugh at us by saying "She has been going to the temple and studying Buddhism for a long time, but when others bother her, she will gets furious. It's useless to study Buddhism!" This is the reason for me to remind you to be exertive to practice. Remember to be happy and patient when others say positive or negative words.

Last year, there was a Buddhist who made a visit to the monastery from Ben Tre. He arrived at 10 a.m., which was close the lunch time. He would like to ask me 2 questions. After that, he would return home right away. He asked, "Master. I have learned and understand the Way. I have been a vegeterian, have been reciting and praying to the Buddha. However, I still can't terminate the hatred and greed. Could you tell me a method to terminate greed, hatred, and ignorance?"

For all of you who are here today, are you as same as this Buddhist from Ben Tre? Most Buddhists have this problem. How can we terminate hatred and greed? Chanting and praying to the Buddha still can't terminate greed and hatred. They could only cool them down a bit. But when we stop chanting or praying, the greed and hatred still arise when the right time comes. So, how can we terminate greed and hatred? I asked him:

- "What do you think you have to do when you are angry at other people when they act or
say things against your will?"
- "I have to endure."
- "Ah. That is for the first time. If they do it the second time, you continue to endure. What
if they do it the third time? What will you do? You may say, 'I already endured the third
time. I will no longer endure the next time!' "

Isn't true? The endurance in this case is a supression. Because the supression has gone beyond the limit, it explodes. So, what should we do so that we don't have to be angry or to supress it? We need to see the cause of it. The reason for the existence of greed and hatred is because we obtinate in ourselves to perceive that we are more important than others. Therefore, we want things to be this way or that way. When things are not the way that we want, we get angry. At home, you have a right as parents to displine your children when they do something wrong. But at the government agencies, do you have a courage to yell at them when they do something wrong? No. How come? Because you are afraid of them. At those places, you feel you are less important than those people, therefore, you don't have a courage to be mad. At home, because you think you have higher authority than your kids, you could get angry easily. Obviously, the cause of hatred is from the obstinacy in self and the obstinacy is from ignorance. Thus, to terminate hatred, we have to terminate the obstinacy in self or try to make the self smaller. This is the key of the practice. We obstinate in self because we perceive our body and mind as real to value it higher than other people. We try to make the ostination grow larger. Now, from a contemplation, we perceive it as impermanent or a union of different factors. The obstination immediately disappears.

Most Buddhists repeat the Buddha's teaching, "This body is impermanent", without utilizing their wisdom the discern it as so. Therefore, they say it's impermanent, but their mind perceives it as real and it stays for long. This is why greed and hatred exist forever. Now, by using our wisdom to discern the body is unreal, the greed and hatred instantly disappear. Let's me ask you:

- "While we are sitting here, what is our nose doing?"
- "Master, we are breathing." (The mass answered)
- "How do you breathe? and What is it for?"
- "Breathing is an inhaling the air from the earth to survive." (The mass answered)
- "The air belongs to the outside. When we inhale it, we borrow it. Then, we exhale as to
return it. We take it in, then relieve it out...this consistent process is the living. But what
will happen if we exhale, but we do not inhale?"
- "We die." (The mass answered)

So, the life expectancy of humans depends on the borrowing. As long as we still borrow and return it, we are still alive. In reverse, we die. Can we say we truly live when in fact we are doing the borrowing and returning? A land owner just built his new house. Because he can't buy the furnitures right away, he borrows them from his neighbors. Can he claim those are his? Those items are on loan, therefore he can't claim they are his! It's the same as we can't claim that our body is real because it depends on the process of borrowing and returning. If this process continues, we are alive. Else, we die. Not only this body borrows the air, it also borrows the water and excretes it out. If it doesn't take the water for a day or a week, can we still alive? "No. We are dead." (The mass answered). Not only it borrows air and water, it borrows rice, too. Once in a while, it borrows a bowl, two bowls, or three bowls of rice...But at the end, it still has to return it. The Buddha had said that this body is union of four aggregates: earth, water, air, and fire. This union depends on the external factors such as earth, water, air, and fire to survive. Breathing is a borrowing of air. Drinking is a borrowing of water. Eating is a borrowing of earth. The energy supply from the foods is the heat. The internal four aggregates are constantly borrowing the external four aggregates. Among those aggregates, if one could not borrow from the outside, the life is terminated. Thus, human life is a process of borrowing, therefore, it's unreal. Since the life is unreal, what is the real SELF for us to claim that it's important or superior? When we perceive this body as impermanent, what is it important for us to be angry and greedy about? If someone criticizes us, we should ignore it. No need to endure or supress it. If someone curses at a person who is about to die, will the near-death person curses back? Because people always think their body and mind exist for long, they would oppose or curse back. So, it means that whenever we see our body and mind permanent, the competition exists....Whenever we see they are impermanent, the greed and hatred vanish.

From now on, you should remember that this body is transient or a temporary borrowing. What do you fight with each other for? If you don't fight, then you should endure, right? Is it silly to endure? No. This endurance is not an suppression but from discerning that our body is impermanent. Today, we are here, but tomorrow, we might be gone. If we still fight with each other instead of practicing, we will suffer when the death occurs. The person who focus on the practice to attain the happiness is a person with wisdom. Those who keep fighting with each other will suffer now and in the future. They are ignorant people. Thus, because the person with the wisdom discern the impermanency of the body and life, he/she focuses on the practice and ignore all conflicts. Because he/she ignores the conflicts, people say he/he endures. The fact is he/she does not endure. The eyes of wisdom help them to see the impermanence of phenomenons there fore he/she does not obstinate in self. From here, he/she attains the happiness. If we offend him/her, he/she won't get angry. It's different from typical people who try to suppress the anger. Once, it's over the limit, they blow up by shouting or cursing. This means that they are not yet able to control the temper. To control it well, we need to use the wisdom to discern that the body and this life are impermanent and there are no real selves. Thus, the thought of conflict won't arise. In addition, when we discern that this body is impermanent, is there anything for us to be greedy for? No. The reason that we want to eat good foods, wear good clothes, live in nice we want this body in good conditions. But why do we want to live luxuriously when this body is impermanent? Well, if we can live in any circumstance, we won't have a mind of greed. No greed means no lost or gain, victory or defeat could upset us. Thus, the discernment of the impermanence of the body could terminate ignorance, greed, hatred, and sufferings. Even you are a good chanter or prayer, you still have greed and hatred if you still obstinate the body as real. That is why the Buddha had taught us the method of contemplating the impermanence of the body or contemplation of selflessness. In discerning that human life is impermanent or a borrowing process, I made a verse while I was at Chan Khong monastery. It describes the human life as follows:

One's life depends on the breath
On every beat of the heart
What is a life?
A continuous borrowing

What is a human life? It's a constant borrowing from four aggregates: earth, water, air, and fire. Life exists when the borrowing exists. Once the borrowing ends, the breathing ends so as the beating the heart. We are dead at that moment. Human life is so transient, but people keep thinking it's real; therefore, they fight and cause each other endless sufferings.

Today, I don't intend to say much, but only to remind you to practice the Buddha's teachings as soon as you understand it so that you can diminish the greed, hatred, and ignorance. This means that you have done the practicing and made some progress. If you attend to the templse often, but the greed, hatred and ignorance still exist, it's unbeneficial to yourselves. Meanwhile, other people can make fun of you and criticize you. Therefore, I hope that after hearing what I said, you will try your best to practice to diminish greed, hatred, and ignorance so that you can attain the true happiness.