An ancient saying goes,
A superior person is the master
of his own fate.
He determines his own destiny,
And creates his own blessings.
Calamities and blessings are not fixed;
We bring them upon ourselves.
Heaven, Earth, and Mankind are known as the three powers. Mankind is the representative of Heaven and Earth. Heaven does not speak, and Earth has no words either. Only people are endowed with the capacity to speak and act. A person's destiny is not fixed at birth. Yet, in a certain sense, it is. In what way? One's fate is similar to splitting something into portions and giving a portion to each person. How is destiny unfixed, then? You may use up your portion completely, while I don't use mine at all. That's how it is unfixed. Thus, we say, “A superior person is the master of his own fate.” When you were born, no one told you to do evil, and yet you went ahead and committed evil deeds, thus altering your fate. When you were born, no one told you to do good, and yet you did good deeds. With such acts you can transcend your fate. Similarly, if a person wants to walk east, he will go to the east; if he wants to walk west, he will go to the west. The fate of a superior person is flexible, not rigidly fixed. Everything is in his own hands. Hence a superior person can be the master of his own fate.
“He determines his own destiny.” My fate belongs to me; I can determine my own destiny and alter my own fate. Even if you get sick, you can take extra precautions so as to not endanger your life. You must be responsible for this; you cannot rely on others. Basically, you are supposed to undergo endless rounds of rebirth. However, if you cultivate, you can transcend your fate and put an end to birth and death. Then you are the master of your fate.
“And he creates his own blessings.” If you cultivate blessings, you will obtain blessings; if you cultivate wisdom, you will obtain wisdom. To cultivate both blessings and wisdom is even better. Blessings come from yourself. If you perform good deeds, you will have blessings. Otherwise, you will not. A superior person makes demands on himself, while ordinary people make demands on others and always seek outside themselves.
“Calamities and blessings are not fixed; we bring them upon ourselves.” There is another saying:
Sickness enters through the mouth; Calamities come out of the mouth.
When you are beset with calamities on all sides, careless talking may very well be the cause. You may temporarily enjoy the flavor of rich, fattening gourmet foods such as steak, chicken, duck, and seafood, but if you eat too much, you will end up very sick. These foods taste delicious at the time of eating, but in the long run, they will slowly poison you until you are beyond hope of medical cure. Nowadays, animal flesh contains a kind of poison for which there is no antidote. When we eat the flesh, the poison enters our bodies. Vegetables are also contaminated, but to a much lesser degree, because vegetables are not sentient. If meat is one hundred percent poisoned, then vegetables are only one percent poisoned. They are at opposite extremes of the spectrum.
Therefore, if we Buddhists do not crave good flavors, the poison will eventually leave our systems and we won't contract any strange diseases. All of you should investigate the meaning of these words. Since the present age is very evil, we should do our best to encourage people to stop killing and to protect living creatures instead. Then we may keep the human race from becoming extinct. Be careful!
A talk given on October 7, 1982