By reciting, upholding, and silent chanting,
diminish thoughts and words.
Explain the teaching to bring benefit and joy,
transforming the universe.
The enacting of these Dharmas can
lead to the ultimate goal.
With nothing more and nothing less,
When studying mantras, you must first have a proper and sincere mind. If your mind is not proper, then no matter which mantra you learn, it will be deviant. If you learn a mantra with a proper mind, you can obtain a response. Not only should your mind be proper, it should also be sincere, means devoting your full attention to the mantra and not being the least bit casual. There will be a response only if you aren't sloppy or careless.
If you harbor deviant views and wish to harm people, your practice is demonic. Demons want to harm people, while genuine cultivators would never harm anyone under any circumstances. You should want to benefit beings. Don't learn mantras thinking that you'll be able to subdue demons and ghosts or fight people. Buddhism does not regard anyone as an enemy. Don't seek revenge on anyone. No matter who mistreats you, endure it. Be patient, and don't harbor grudges. The nobility of Buddhism lies in that.
That particular quality is not embodied in other religions. Although Christianity avows to "Love thy enemy," many only pay that lip service without being able to actually do it. Some even view Buddhism as an enemy; how could it be said that they love Buddhism? It can't be, not when they refer to Buddhists as devils. The Buddhist attitude should be: "Even if someone is a devil, we won't harm him. We will gather him in and will refrain from attacking him." Buddhism teaches us to treat all beings with compassion and not harm them.
The Shurangama Mantra is a most efficacious mantra; its power can awe heaven and earth and cause the ghosts and spirits to weep. For this reason, after we learn the Shurangama Mantra, we must constantly keep a compassionate frame of mind and make sure that we don't have even the thought of harming others. No matter how badly someone treats you, don't blame or hurt him or her. Your heart should be as vast as the universe, so that it can encompass all the myriad phenomena. That's the right attitude for a Buddhist to have.
We should never engage in rebellious activities, for that's very dangerous. By reciting, upholding, and silent chanting, diminish thoughts and words. That is, don't talk so much and have so many discursive thoughts. Singleminded concentration is efficacious, while being scattered is useless.
What's meant by singleminded concentration? Not having malicious thoughts towards others. If you harbor thoughts of malice, you'll later find yourself in danger. It's said, "If you engage in many unrighteous acts, you only bring death upon yourself." In harming others, you are actually harming yourself. "If you kill a person's father, someone will kill your father. If you kill a person's brother, someone will kill your brother." This is the law of cause and effect. We Buddhists should avoid planting evil causes, so that we won't have to suffer an evil retribution in the future. So the first line says, By reciting, upholding, and silent chanting, diminish thoughts and words.
Explain the teachings to bring benefit and joy, transforming the universe. The line of mantra this verse is explaining can also be translated as "explaining the teaching" and "benefit and joy." That is, one explains the Buddha's teaching to beings, enabling them to obtain benefit and joy. This means that when we have the chance to help people, we should immediately make use of it. As it's said,
Cultivate the mind ground;
Nurture the sky of the nature.
If you frequently benefit others, you will eventually perfect your own virtuous conduct. You shouldn't be constantly asking others to help you without ever helping them in return, because that way you'll become dependent and won't accomplish anything on your own. You'll become a totally worthless person. In this world, those always on the lookout for advantages end up failing in their endeavors. If you don't believe this, take a closer look: Whenever people fail in something, the failure occurred due to their insatiable greed for advantages. If you can benefit others and make them happy, then you'll be able to exert a wholesome influence on people wherever you go.
Confucius said, "If one's words are trustworthy and one's conduct is sincere and reverent, one can walk at ease even among barbarians." The words you speak must be truthful and honest. You shouldn't tell lies with an innocent face, pretending to be truthful when in fact you're lying through your teeth. Your actions must be sincere and reverent. Be modest, humble, and respectful towards everyone. Do everything with a humble, respectful, and courteous atti-tude. Don't become arrogant and think, "No one is as good as me. I'm the Lord of Heaven."
A talk given on January 25, 1981