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
- "What do you think you have to do when you are angry at other people when they act
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
if they do it the third time? What will you do? You may say, 'I already endured the
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
return it. We take it in, then relieve it out...this consistent process is the living.
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
house....is 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
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.