Precepts, concentration, and wisdom are the fundamentals of science and philosophy.
All Good and Wise Advisors: Since I never studied science or philosophy, I am an outsider to these subjects. You are really giving me a difficult task by asking me to speak on these subjects. Nevertheless, I will say a few unscientific and unphilosophical words.
What is science? What is philosophy? These two terms are very abstract. Science deals with wisdom, and philosophy deals with reason. As for wisdom and reason, there is no progress and no retreat in them. They exist in completion, with neither more in sages, nor less in ordinary people.
What is the study of wisdom? It refers to the wisdom in the threefold study of precepts, concentration, and wisdom. If you want to have real wisdom, you must first have concentration. With concentration you can distinguish true dharmas from false dharmas and good dharmas from bad dharmas. To obtain concentration, you must first observe the precepts. What are the precepts? The precepts guard against wrongdoing. We should follow the saying:
Do no evil, practice all good, and purify your own mind.
That is the teaching of the Buddhas.
This is considered wisdom. You say, "Everyone understands the principle of doing no evil. How can that be wisdom?" "Anyone can understand the principle of practicing only good. How is that wisdom?" If you can do no evil, then you have the power of the precepts. If you practice only good, then you have the power of wisdom. Once you have the power of precepts, the power of samadhi arises. The power of concentration can regulate the power of wisdom, the nature of the wisdom.
I am an outsider to science, but I will say a few "professional" words. Science is limitless and inexhaustible. Five hundred years ago, people already understood science. Over three thousand years ago, there were already people in China who understood science. Xuan Yan, the Yellow Emperor, invented the compass four or five thousand years ago, and it is still being used today to tell direction in both the East and the West. Such things are the products of science. Very early on in Chinese science, before the Zhou Dynasty, they had cannons and gunpowder, but they didn't use them in warfare. They would just set off the cannons a few times to celebrate important occasions. Science was already developing in China then, and by the time of Mocius, the plane was already invented. Instead of calling it a plane ["flying machine" in Chinese], they called it a "flying goose."
Although the Chinese people like to study, they do not try to deepen their understanding. They invent something, but do not investigate it deeply, so after a long time, it is forgotten. There is historical evidence for this. During the Minor Han Dynasty of the Three Kingdoms Period, Zhuge Liang [a brilliant military strategist] built wooden horses and oxen that could transport food and supplies for the army without needing to eat hay or grain or to sleep. Although that technology has now been lost, it was also a scientific development.
In speaking of science, we must realize that the scientific research of five hundred years ago defined science a certain way, but that definition has changed after five hundred years. What was considered a scientific invention in the past is no longer used now. So the principles are endless and inexhaustible, and when we say there is progress, it does not mean that we invent something new. Even when there is no progress, the principle is always there. It is just that our wisdom and intelligence may not have reached that kind of state, and so we are unaware of that kind of science.
Computers are also a result of science, but nowadays everyone is infatuated with computers, and many are using them to make money. If you understand computers, you can make a lot of money, but if you don't, you might lose your job. Over ten years ago, I said that the computer ["electronic brain" in Chinese] cannot beat the "spiritual brain" which runs not on electricity, but on our own wisdom. If you have wisdom, then you can resolve any problem right away. Fools who lack wisdom cannot learn anything well. Each one of us has a spiritual brain. We don't need to go out and buy one. If we know how to use our spiritual brain, then it can surpass the electronic brain--the computer. However, those who study science today don't know about the spiritual brain, which is inherent in their own nature and need not be sought outside.
Philosophy deals with reason, with the study of what is logical and what is not. The more people study this kind of knowledge, the more muddled they become, until they grow old and die without having reached any conclusion in their studies. When they are reborn as people in their next life, they will have forgotten everything they studied previously and will have to start all over again. Science and philosophy exist by themselves, and there is no such thing as their progress or decline. Progress and decline are just discriminations that we make. As all of you scientists can tell, I am just speaking the words of an outsider.
What is true science? Not fighting is science; not being greedy is science; seeking nothing is science; being unselfish is true science; not pursuing personal profit is true philosophy, and so is not lying. If you have these six faults, then no matter how much research you do, you are just circling around on the surface. The more you study, the more muddled you get, and you will never get a handle on it. It never ends, but just goes on and on. Wouldn't it be better for us to return to the source and improve our spiritual brains? Then, without making a move, we would understand the universe. Nothing would be beyond our knowledge. As it is said, "one suddenly penetrates everything and understands all the inner, outer, coarse, and fine aspects of the myriad phenomena, as well as the overall great functioning of one's mind." If you can truly cultivate precepts, concentration, and wisdom, they are the fundamentals of science and philosophy. I'm afraid we have neglected them and paid no attention to them. We are just spinning in circles, round and round, unable to find a way out.
In studying science and philosophy, we should first thoroughly investigate the science and philosophy of our own selves. If you study what is outside, without first understanding your own problems, then no matter how much money and effort you expend in your research, it will come to nothing. This is because you are abandoning the root to pursue the branch tips. You are looking outside instead of applying effort internally, in the mind. If you search for and study the Dharma external to your mind, what you find will not be the real thing.
I am sure some people are objecting, "What you are saying is totally absurd. We've never heard anyone say that science and philosophy should be based on precepts, concentration, and wisdom. Precepts, concentration, and wisdom are the business of monks--what do they have to do with science and philosophy?" It is just because you haven't found the root that you think they are the business of monks. Actually, monks are just people, and it is people who become monks. It is said, "People's minds are all the same, and all minds follow the same principle." You shouldn't think what I said is a big deal.
The true science is just Buddhism. Buddhism encompasses the myriad things, and there is no field of study which goes beyond Buddhism. Therefore, if you want to study extensively, you should first investigate the Buddhadharma. Once you understand the Buddhadharma, it will be easy to study science and philosophy, because you will have great wisdom, and all problems will be solved as soon as they arise.
If what I have said makes sense, you can try it out. If it doesn't make sense, then I have wasted everyone's time, and you should forget it.
Q: How can we study and practice Buddhism without obstructions?
A: Is your teacher obstructing you? Even in the cultivation of Buddhism, you are bound to encounter obstructions. It all depends on whether or not you have concentration. If you have concentration and wisdom, you will be able to deal effectively with every situation, and not be obstructed by it. If you are very stupid, and you feel obstructed when a mosquito bites you or a fly kicks you, then there will be no end to your obstructions. You bring suffering and vexation upon yourself. You're just asking for trouble and obstructions.
Q: In cause and effect, which spans the past, present, and future, is the "I" who will receive the retribution in the future the same as the "I" who is creating karma in this life?
A: If you want to know the causes you planted in past lives, just look at what kind of retribution you are receiving in this life. Your present retribution is based on your past causes. If you want to know the retribution you will receive in the future, just look at what you are doing in this life. How your future turns out depends upon the karma you create in the present. For example, if you do a lot of killing, then you will have the retribution of a short life in your next life. If you do a lot of stealing, then you will be robbed by others in your next life.
Q: I'm a student, and I love to read the Venerable Master's books. I have an important question. The Master has mentioned that there are two lines in the Shurangama Mantra that can bring forth our wisdom. Could the Venerable Master tell us what those two lines are? Thank you for your compassionate instruction. Homage to Greatly Kind and Compassionate Guanshiyin Bodhisattva.
A: Yes, I can tell you, but will you recite them? First tell me that. Suppose I tell you, and you forget it and don't recite it. After a while, you complain, "You told us those two lines, but my wisdom still hasn't come forth." Why hasn't your wisdom come forth? Well, you didn't recite them, so how could your wisdom come forth? Therefore, if you want to learn them, you have to be mindful of them at all times. You have to think, "I can go without eating, I can go without wearing clothes, and I can go without sleeping, but I can't go without reciting this mantra." If you have that kind of resolve, your wisdom will certainly come forth. If you don't have that kind of resolve and are just looking for a quick "fix," thinking that you'll obtain a treasure if I tell you the mantra, then you'll end up with nothing. If you believe it, you can try it out. But if you don't recite it, don't blame me if your wisdom doesn't come forth.
Q: What do these two phrases mean?
A: If you want to know the meaning, you won't bring forth wisdom.
Q: These are Sanskrit words. Could the Venerable Master please tell us what they mean?
A: I can explain a bit. These two phrases request the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to bring forth our wisdom, that is, our true wisdom, not worldly wisdom. It refers to the Dharma-Selecting Vision that can distinguish true Dharma from false Dharma. These mantric syllables are spoken by the invisible transformation Buddha atop Shakyamuni Buddha's crown. Each of these mantric syllables are divine, true, wonderful words.
This mantra is also called "true words" and "divine text." It is called "true words" because it does not contain the slightest trace of falseness. It is called "divine text" because it is from the Brahma Heaven and was spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha to rescue Ananda. But ordinary people do not know how to use it. I will tell you that since I was little, I went around defeating and catching monsters and goblins. I've encountered probably over a hundred demonic beings who can take on human form. They were harming a lot of people everywhere, so I used the Shurangama Mantra to subdue them. As a consequence, all the demons wanted to fight me to the death, and that was when the trouble came. Now, because I'm getting on in years--perhaps I'm getting to be an old rogue--I've quit fighting them.
Fighting involves the thought of victory and defeat,
And goes in opposition to the Way.
When the four marks arise in the mind,
How can we obtain samadhi?
Samadhi refers to proper concentration. As soon as you fight with others, there will be victory and defeat. Either you win and I lose, or I win and you lose. So fighting involves the thought of victory and defeat. That contradicts the cultivation of the Way. When the four marks (the mark of a self, the mark of others, the mark of living beings, and the mark of a life span) arise, how can you obtain samadhi? How can you have proper concentration? Therefore, we should not solve problems by force. We should use a peaceful method. We should not fight with each other for the sake of gain. Everyone should be kind and courteous. If the country is in harmony, it will certainly prosper. If people fight, rob and scold one another all the time, that is really an inauspicious sign. Therefore, I hope all the intelligent people of Taiwan will stop doing muddled things.
Q: There are many signs of chaos in this country. What is the destiny of this country?
A: Don't ask me about this. All of you should know. Don't ask what you already know.
There is a saying:
If the country is about to prosper,
There will be auspicious omens.
If the country is about to perish,
There will be evil portents.
The oracles will manifest signs,
And the people's actions will be affected.
Thus, calamities and blessings can be known in advance.
Good things can be known in advance;
Bad things can also be known advance.
King Tang of the Shang Dynasty appealed to the Lord of Heaven, saying, "I, this little boy, Tang L?, offer up a black cow and address Lord Heaven and Lord Earth. If I have offenses, do not punish the people. If the people have offenses, it is because I have not taught them well, and you should punish me for their offenses. I alone should take the blame." The renowned sage-kings of ancient times courageously reformed themselves, confessed their mistakes, and accepted criticism with grace. They are truly good models and leaders.
See you next time（下次再见）。
That's it for today. See you next time. Good afternoon!
A talk by the Venerable Master Hua on January 10,1993,
at the Taiwan Institute of Industrial Technology