In the world, there are changes every day; people, material objects, time, and the atmosphere all undergo change. Sometimes the weather is abnormal and it rains out of season. Such changes happen due to special conditions. For instance, the pressure built up from magma collecting underground results in a volcanic eruption. Too much water in the ocean causes tidal waves and disastrous floods. Abnormal changes in the climate and the seasons are omens of future events. Mental illness is a form of abnormality in people. When the climate is “mentally ill,” that's not a good sign.
In this time when diseases and calamities are occurring everywhere, we must apply ourselves diligently to cultivation in order to transform violence and disasters into peace and auspiciousness. If we fail to cultivate seriously, we tend to become psychologically unbalanced when the climate is abnormal, and then there will be problems. Therefore, during a period of great change, Buddhists should be especially diligent in their cultivation, reciting the Buddha's name more, or reciting more mantras or Sutras. We should do as many good deeds as possible, for great virtue can dispel offenses.
In this time when things are not the way they usually are, we must “ adjust to conditions, but not change; not change, yet adjust to conditions. ” Most importantly, we should not lose our tempers. As soon as our tempers flare, a change has occurred. If we want to put an end to birth and death while still within birth and death, we must put forth great effort. In putting forth this great effort, we try to be true and honest in all that we do. When we encounter unreasonable and frustrating situations, we should remain calm and not get angry. This is to “ nurture the earth of our mind and nourish the heaven of our nature. ” If we can be like this, we can make up for the deficiencies of heaven and earth. That is to be a true cultivator, a student of Buddhism, and a seeker of Dharma. We must investigate deeply and understand, without becoming attached to anything. With no attachments, we are liberated. If we still have attachments, we have not attained liberation and self-mastery.
“ Seeing through it ” means understanding, and “ letting go of it ” means being liberated. Only when you are liberated can you truly be master of yourself. If you aren't liberated, you cannot be master. If you aren't the master, someone else is. With someone else as the master, your false thoughts fly about wildly. That means “ the noisy guest has seized the place of the host, ” and the host is no longer in charge. Pay attention to this! If the host is not in charge, everything is out of order.
“ Letting go of it ” means being liberated, graduating from the study of precepts, and graduating from the school of rules, afflictions, and ignorance. When you graduate and receive your diploma, you are liberated.
Only when you are liberated can you be master of yourself. If you are not your own master, then others are your master; the thieves come and plunder all the treasures in your home. Those “ others ” include ignorance, false thoughts, afflictions, heavenly demons, unbelievers, ghosts, goblins, and so forth. If you don't guard your house, it will be invaded and taken over by others. Therefore, you must be attentive and careful; you must be master of yourself. But first of all, you must see through it all and truly understand.
I vow to dispel the three hindrances and
I vow to attain wisdom and true
I vow to eradicate each and every
hindrance caused by offenses,
And always walk the Bodhisattva Path,
in life after life.
That is to be your own master.
To explain it at a deeper level, not being master of yourself means that the Buddha-nature is not manifest; instead, the demon king sits in the “ hall ” (of your mind), and the six thieves have taken over. Even if you want to return, you cannot. From morning to night, you fantasize about break¬ing the five precepts. Although you don't actually do it, you think about breaking precepts all the time. If that's not being stupid, what is it? That's a case of not being the master yourself, because the thieves have taken over. Only when you are the master can you be in control. If you are not the master, you are not in control, and you follow along and get confused by states of mind. If you don't follow along, you won't be confused by mental states. Cultivation is nothing more than applying effort in our own bodies and minds, in our natures and lives, until we understand everything. Then we won't do such muddled things. What we know and what we do will be in total agreement.
A talk given on September 16, 1982