Only when your own nature is at peace will you know real happiness.
All Good and Wise Advisors! Today you have asked Hsuan Hua to speak the Dharma for everyone. However, Hsuan Hua not only doesn't know how to speak the Dharma, he doesn't even know how to speak. But since everyone is so sincere in asking me to speak the Dharma, especially these young students, I am obliged to speak even though I do not know how to speak. What shall I say? Why do I say that I do not know how to speak?
Let me explain. It is because I speak only the truth, and no one in this world likes to hear the truth. Everyone likes to hear phony talk and words of praise. I don't even know how to begin speaking hypocritical flattery! Therefore, you should all be psychologically prepared. Don't wait until I say something unpleasant and then decide you don't want to listen. Be psychologically prepared, so that no matter if I speak in accord with the Dharma or not, you are especially careful not to take a loss. This is what I want to tell you in advance.
Do you all understand what I said? [Everyone: "Yes."] So you all understand me even though I don't know how to speak? Isn't that strange? So we will not translate to Taiwanese or English, in order to save time. Is that all right? ["Yes!" Applause]
What I want to say is, "Too much happiness leads to sorrow." If you become extremely happy, you will feel sad afterwards. Whether or not you believe this principle, that is what I say. I say what I feel like saying regardless of whether people believe it or not. This is what I will say even if you consider me someone who doesn't know how to speak. I haven't come here just to flatter you with words of praise. I know that all of you who share the same vows, whether you are elderly, middle-aged, or young, have heard a lot of that kind of talk. Now I'll give you something that tastes different and say some things that you don't like to hear. I will tell you not to pursue happiness.
What is happiness? True happiness is not worldly happiness. Rather, it is a happiness that is always present in your own mind, which you need not look for outside. If you seek outside, you won't find the ultimate happiness. If you want the ultimate happiness, you must have considerable cultivation, considerable learning, and considerable attainment. Only then will there be peace and joy in your own nature, which is the real happiness. If you seek for happiness outside, you may attain it, but it will only last for a moment. If you fail to attain it, you will be full of afflictions. If you are insatiably greedy, you worry about getting things, and then you worry about losing them. None of this is true happiness. True happiness comes from not seeking anything. When you reach the state of seeking nothing, you have no worries. Seeking nothing, you have true happiness, and your nature is stable and tranquil.
You can search outside all you want, but you won't find true happiness anywhere. The enjoyment we pursue in this world--eating, drinking, making merry, driving an expensive car, owning a plane, or buying a ship and taking a cruise--is this happiness? This is just wasting your energy and wasting your wisdom. True wisdom cannot be found in these external things. True joy comes from being carefree and happy. We all have this within us, and we need not search outside for it. But people always seek outside themselves, and end up cheating, flattering, and fighting one another in order to obtain an artificial happiness. The Buddha said such people are to be pitied. They are lamentable. So do not forsake what is fundamental to pursue the superficial. Do not act in an upside-down way. What I've just said is something no one likes to hear.
What do I call happiness? Not fighting is happiness. Not being greedy is happiness. Seeking nothing is happiness. Not being selfish is happiness. Not wanting to benefit yourself is happiness even more. Not telling lies--that's true happiness. If you lie, you will feel remorse in your heart because you know you have deceived someone, and there will be a stain on your conscience. If you are a person with no conscience, that's another story. People's minds are not the way they were in ancient times; morality has perished; and the world deteriorates day by day. In this situation, we must quickly awaken. How can we awaken? If we are students, we should apply ourselves diligently, studying in the morning and in the evening. In the past, Zhong Ni (Confucius) took Xiang Tuo as his teacher. We must pursue our studies as earnestly as the woodcutter who put his book on a log he was hauling, the oxherd who hung his book from the horn of the ox he was riding, the student who studied at night by the light of fireflies collected in a pouch, or the boy who read by the moonlight reflected off the snow. Only then can we be considered true students. We should not just seek ease and comfort all day long and enjoy ourselves instead of studying. That is not happiness.
Now I want to tell you something that you may not be aware of yet. In the United States, and in the West generally, education is totally bankrupt. However, like the person who plugs his ears and steals a bell thinking that other people will not hear the bell, they claim that their educational system can still manage. Why do I say that Western education is bankrupt? Because Western educators have discarded the ethics of human relationships. Parents and children do not know their place, and the old and the young do not know their roles. In the West, children do not address their father as "Father." Instead, they call their fathers by name. The order between elders and the young, and between superiors and subordinates, has been messed up.
Broken families are widespread; ninety-nine percent of the marriages in America end in divorce. If the children live with their father, all day long they hear him rant about how terrible their mother was. "If she hadn't been so bad, I wouldn't have divorced her," the father tells them. The children think, "Oh, how awful my mother is! How I hate women!" So you see, those children end up hating women. If the children live with their mother, she keeps telling them how awful their father was. "That's why I divorced him," she says. The children end up hating their father. They get annoyed whenever they see a man, because they think every man must be that terrible.
Think it over. As a result of their parents' divorce, the children learn to hate men or women and grow up to become troubled teenagers. If they hate their father, they will want to murder any man they see, finishing him off with one shot. If they hate women, they will want to shoot women. They see women as thorns in the flesh. Under these circumstances, how can the society function well? It is rotten at the core. Nevertheless, Americans have not yet realized the seriousness of this problem. They still think, "Our country is so rich in natural resources and material goods, and doesn't lack anything. This is a good country." They do not realize that it is already rotten inside, just like a tree whose trunk is rotten and whose roots are gone. This problem is caused by divorce. After a man and a woman get married, they are almost certain to get divorced, because they will get tired of each other and want to find new partners. The new partners turn out to be worse than the original ones, and the more they do this, the more of a mess it becomes. As a result, there are troubled children and broken families. This is because the five kinds of human relationships and the eight virtues are no longer functioning. Chinese people should not think that Western culture is so great, for it has become bankrupt at the very roots.
Furthermore, even if a couple stays married and does not get divorced, the man will find a lover and the woman will also get a lover, out of revenge. They become dissatisfied with each other and mutually want to take revenge. They disturb the family until it breaks up and is no longer a real family. That's what happens if they don't get divorced. There are still some people who understand principle and do not get divorced or find lovers, but they are in the minority. The vast majority of the people are constantly getting divorced.
It seems to me that Chinese people are also picking up this trend. That's why I want to speak about the importance of the fundamentals of being a human being. We should quickly awaken from our confused dream. Don't dream about the West anymore. I used to think the West--the United States of America--was really great. But when I got there, I found out--I'll tell you the truth, and I'm not afraid if the Americans here oppose me--I think they are very stupid. What do you think? Did you hear about this trend in the United States before?
I have eighteen minutes left. After listening to my talk, if any of you have questions, you can ask them. I'll answer your questions now. I plan to stay until eight o'clock tonight. I say to you, whether you believe or not is up to you, because I have come with illness, to tell you about these experiences in my ineloquent way. Do you think they are of any benefit to the Chinese people? Everyone can think it over.
When you ask questions, I have one condition: Don't ask profound questions. I won't be able to answer them, because I don't have much learning and I don't have much wisdom. If you ask a profound question, it's best if I don't answer it. If I answer it incorrectly, then I have to be responsible for the cause and effect. You can ask simple questions about what you really don't understand, and we can discuss them together. I am also just a student and wish to learn from all of you. You should not think I know everything, for I really know nothing at all. If you ask questions, I will try my best to answer them. Do you understand? [Everyone: "Yes."]
Quickly! Those who ask questions should either write out or say their names. There are many people, so don't waste time. You should first give your full name, and then ask your question. If there is a microphone, please use it so that I can also hear it clearly. In my old age, my ears are going deaf and my vision is blurred, and I am no match for you young people, so please do not fight with me!
Q: Venerable Master, I lost my eyesight in a car crash, and often the vision of a lake of changing colors, with a waterfall in it, appears before me. I feel like a scuba diver wearing a bright lamp on my forehead. This experience occurs all the time, except when I am asleep. What should I do?
A: When you ask your question, don't make it an essay. Be brief and to the point. Don't be so long-winded, for my memory isn't that good anymore. By the time you finished asking your question, I already forgot most of it. What am I supposed to do?
Q: Venerable Master, my friend Su Jianming lost his eyesight in a car accident. He has seen all the best doctors, but none have been able to help him. I sincerely request the Venerable Master to advise him on a method to cure himself. Thank you.
A: You should recite Guanyin Bodhisattva's name. In the "Chapter on Guanyin Bodhisattva's Universal Door," there are four verses:
The pure, undefiled radiance
Of wisdom's sun destroys all darkness;
It dispels the calamities of wind and fire
And lights up the entire world.
The car accident you were in has to do with your past causes and their effects. In a previous life you may have blinded some living beings, or hunted birds, or put out the eyes of animals before you killed them, and so in this life you have to undergo the retribution. That's all there is to it.
Q: Venerable Master, when my sister was a freshman in community college, she showed suicidal tendencies. During her second year of living on campus, she behaved abnormally and talked illogically. After her family transferred merit to cross over her creditors from past lives, her condition improved. However, she still has periodic lapses. Is there any way to cure her?
A: She should just recite Guanyin Bodhisattva's name, and she will get well. But she has to have true faith.
Q: Venerable Master, someone said that my brother will be a threat to my mother's life in 1994 and should not be allowed to live with her. Is there a way to solve this problem?
A: I'm a left-home person, not a snake-oil salesman, and I don't know how to answer such questions.
Q: If we recite mantras on a daily basis, should we recite just one mantra or many different mantras? Which is more beneficial?
A: Neither is more beneficial. All Dharmas are equal, without one being better than another. The one is just the many, and the many are just the one. Whether you recite many mantras or one, you have to be single-minded for it to be efficacious. If you say you want to recite more mantras or Sutras, that's just your greed acting up.
Q: Yang Shuhui bows in respect and asks: How should a beginner go about studying Buddhism? How should he choose a Way-place and find a Good and Wise Advisor? How can he recognize the Proper Dharma?
A: I am not a Good and Wise Advisor, so I don't know. You have to choose for yourself. There is no fixed method. You have to use the Dharma-Selecting Eye. Don't mistake the true for the false and the false for the true, that's all.
Q: National Master Yu Lin refused to return to lay life and get married. I don't quite agree with his decision. What is the Venerable Master's opinion?
A: Being a left-home person, I don't get involved in such matters. Don't ask me about matters of marriage and childbirth.
Q: Venerable Master, how can I obtain the Dharma-Selecting Eye?
A: I don't have the Dharma-Selecting Eye myself, so how can I tell you?
Q: Venerable Master, how can we be vigorous and advance to a higher level?
A: Eat, drink, and play mahjong.
Q: Wang Manmei seeks instruction. Venerable Master, how can one leave the Triple Realm and enter the door of liberation?
A: If you are not in the Triple Realm, then you have left the Triple Realm!
Q: How can I recognize my true life? I fully agree with what Venerable Master just said.
A: Then you've been cheated!
Q: Venerable Master, how should one prepare for rebirth?
A: Why do you want to be reborn? How can you go to rebirth when you are dragging so much garbage around?
Q: What are the conditions for leaving the home-life?
A: There aren't any conditions for leaving the home-life. The only condition is that you must be vigorous. Don't be lazy, don't just eat in confusion and wait for death, and don't exploit situations. Don't just sit there all day long waiting for people to make offerings. Don't be greedy for blessings. After you leave home, the more bitter it is, the better. You should not enjoy too much luxury. The left-home people at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas are all like skinny monkeys, because they eat just one meal a day. You won't find any chubby faces. They've all been cheated by me. Some have been cheated for over ten years, and they still feel they haven't had enough. So they haven't run off and are still following me. The ones who feel they've had enough of being cheated have returned to lay-life.
Q: What is the meaning of the line, "You should produce the mind which abides nowhere"?
A: Where is your mind? First tell me that!
Q: Venerable Master, please be compassionate. My whole body is aching and ill. I have had several operations, but they haven't cured me. My family has fallen apart and I have suffered so many setbacks in my life. May the Venerable Master instruct me, and may the sunlight shine on me. Amitabha.
A: Amitabha! You have killed too much, and you come to ask me?!
Q: Why do so many Buddhists in Taiwan use money as a yardstick to measure their level of accomplishment? How should we seek the true Buddha path?
A: The true Buddha path is the poorest of the poor. It costs nothing and doesn't need to be sought.
Q: Venerable Master, what motivated you to leave the home-life?
A: Is he asking about my leaving home or his leaving home? My leaving home is my business--what are you asking about it for? If you want to expose my roots, I don't have any roots left.
Q: The second question is: Why is your Dharma-name "Hsuan Hua"?
A: That's my name. Why do you want to know about it? It just means that I'm a ghost in the hells.
Q: Venerable Master, how can I get rid of deviant thoughts?
A: Simply stop having idle thoughts, and your deviant thoughts will disappear. If you do nothing but idle thinking, then the deviant thoughts will come one after another. Do you really need to ask me? Reflect within and ask yourself: Why can't you maintain proper thoughts? Why are you so fond of deviant thoughts?
Q: Earlier the Venerable Master replied that vigor consists of eating, sleeping, and playing mahjong. What does this mean? I am very stupid and cannot fathom the secret meaning. Please explain more clearly how to be vigorous. Thank you.
A: Your wisdom is very great. You clearly understand, and yet you ask on purpose. Eating, sleeping, and playing mahjong are the things that worldly people do. If you want to transcend the world, you have to renounce these. Although I don't dare to call this Zen talk, I just said the opposite of what I meant. If you don't even understand this, what can you hope to understand?
Q: Venerable Master, how can I improve my relations with people, especially in the workplace, and prevent others from talking behind my back?
A: If you haven't done anything bad and someone speaks ill of you, then it's his fault. If you did something bad and people spread rumors, then the more they gossip, the better.
Q: The calamities in the world grow day by day, month by month. How can we quell them and save ourselves and others?
A: Simply don't get angry and don't fight. Don't cheat and hurt one another. Then the calamities will disappear. Everyone should unite instead of breaking into so many factions and parties. If you have factions, then you won't be able to unite. True unity--great unity--is without factions. In the Book of History (Shu Jing) it says, "Without factions or favoritism, the way of the kings was broad. Without favoritism or factions, the way of the kings was just. Without twists and turns, the way of the kings was straight and proper." That is what a nation needs.
Q: Venerable Master, every Dharma Master tells us that the Buddha's name he recites is the best. As beginners, what is the right Buddha's name for us to recite?
A: All the Buddhas of the past, present and future, throughout the ten directions are of the same Dharma-body. You can recite any Buddha's name and be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. All the Buddhas are equal. There is no such thing as a true Buddha, a false Buddha, a living Buddha or a dead Buddha.
Q: Is it really true that people can be possessed by spirits?
A: Go ask the people who are possessed. I haven't been possessed by a spirit, and even if I knew the answer, I wouldn't talk about this.
My time is up, and I have to retire. If you are willing to stay up a little longer, eat a little less, and miss your mahjong game, then you can stay and listen to the people I brought along. They speak much better than I do. Although I am the teacher, I learn from and listen to my disciples. Ordinarily, my disciples speak before I do, but today I spoke first because I want to retire earlier. I don't know if this is your lucky chance--an unexpected coincidence.
Wherever I go, that place is a Buddhist school. That's how I train my disciples to be better speakers than I am. Why do I say they are better speakers? It's because they can speak many languages, such as Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese and English. On the other hand, I don't even know how to speak Chinese well. Since you insisted, I have said a few words, but you probably didn't find my words very logical or to your liking. Maybe you even feel like throwing up. However, I've already said them, and I don't care if you throw up!
A talk by Venerable Master Hua
in the evening of January 9, 1993,
at the Taipei Institute of Industrial Technology