Buddhism as a Way of Life
A talk given by Guru Yutang Lin
The Asian Gallery of Asia and Pacific Museum, Warsaw, Poland
October 16, 2010
Reviewed and Revised by Guru Lin
Transcribed by Disciple Ji Hu
Interpreted in Polish by Disciple Xu Ming
I will stand up to talk, so people in the back can see me.
Today's topic is "Buddhism as a Way of Life." Buddhism is not just knowledge, because whatever we do, if it is not related to our life, it is useless. But why do we choose Buddhism to guide our life? So I will explain it step by step. First of all, the basic attitude of Buddhism is to look at life itself, instead of saying this is something, someone holy or someone with authority asks you to do. So, the first, this attitude is very realistic; it asks you: everyone looks at life, and if you find this is the truth about life, then you follow the truth. Because it is about truth, so no one has monopoly. So Buddhism says everyone can find the truth even if they don't know Buddhism. And what did Buddha try to teach, actually is beyond words. That's why when he first became enlightened he stayed in silence for seven days. And then even when he tried to explain to people, he had to choose someone who was ready to receive the teachings. Why? Because if you based everything upon the reality, the reality is that you cannot force others to understand. So Buddhism is always peaceful and tolerant. Why? You have to wait till people are ready to learn the truth. So you see, since Buddhism is based on the reality, if everyone understands reality so well, the world will be in peace. Without peace we cannot live well. So, this is the first reason we have to choose Buddhism as our way of life.
And the second reason is, when you look at life as it is, first of all you find that life is full of suffering. Why life is full of suffering? Because everything is changing, no one can say, oh, I like this, so I want to keep it; no one can say, oh, I don't like it, so I can avoid it. And if we look at life long enough, you will see that unsatisfactory things, illness, old age and death are all inevitable. And if you look at life wide enough, you realize that all humans are the same, and not just humans, all sentient beings go through similar situations. And when you can see far enough and look wide enough like this, then you can no longer stay, you mind cannot become limited, only within your small, small, small, tiny circle. And when one can always think of all, and feel for all, then what one will do, will be beneficial to all. And when you are so open, you can comprehend everyone, think for everyone, then what you do will be good for everyone, and also no one can be happy only to work for himself. So, if you learn the Buddhist way, you will live a happy life, you will live in peace, you will be harmonious with everyone around you, and you can help them through your patient and harmonious ways, and this is the basic reason that we choose Buddhism as our way of life.
And furthermore, what Buddha told us is that everything is changing. On the one hand, when everything changes, of course, what we prefer, what we want will sooner or later be lost. However, on the other hand, because everything will change, so our suffering can also change for the better. How can we escape from our suffering due to changes? It's just to act according to the reality, which is that things are changing, so we have to follow the change. Because when things are changing, if we have grasping in mind—we don't want it, we are angry, we are not happy, then our mental state makes the situation worse. But if you through adopting Dharma practices, you gradually be able to let go of your grasping, then on the one hand, you no longer feel so bad; on the other hand, you realize that world is so open, you are so tiny, your problems are not so important.
And why can the Buddhist practices help us in learning to let go? It is because the basic principle of all Buddhist practices is for us to become purer through repetition of simple activities. We have much worry because we are accustomed to thinking for ourselves, thinking in small circles, and keep on worrying. And the continuation of worrying is not just a mental problem, because it brings tension, so your body also becomes tense and twisted. And because the body is in tension, so, on the one hand, during your lifetime you have many illnesses due to this. Also, when death comes, during the dying process, your body cannot relax, so you also go through much suffering. And in order to reverse the process from very tense state, the physical one, to become at ease, you have to do it through the mental part. But how to reverse the process in the mind? Because you are accustomed to worry, how can you escape from worrying? Even when you say, "I don't want to think about it," actually you are thinking about it. So if you use the ordinary way, you will always stay in the circle, you cannot escape. But to escape in the mind, only mental activity can help you escape. So the Buddhist solution is, to give you something that is pure—that means without worldly connections, and then ask you to repeat this; for example, you keep saying the name of a Buddha: Amitabha. At first, your worry is like a bank, you deposit much money in it already, now this "Amitabha" is like a new bank, and you withdraw from there (the old bank of worries) through all the repetitions. And the only way that this worry will become loosen is not by paying attention to it, but by paying attention to the new one. And when you have done this enough, then all of a sudden, it's empty there.
And also similarly, like the prostration practices, when you begin to do, you are one carrying much worry in your head, but through constant and daily repetitions, gradually you have nothing in the mind, but just remain in the pure act of prostration. And for people's daily life, these two kinds of practice, the simple repetition and the prostration, is both good for the mind and for the body, and it will bring you no problem in the world—you are just doing your own daily exercises. And if you do it long enough, you will realize the benefits. And I am saying all this not because I have read about it, but because I have done all these. When I started to learn Buddhism because I am a scholar, so I'd done reading for, like three years, many, many kinds of Dharma books, but I realized that through reading I cannot find the real meaning of the teaching, also I have no real peace of mind. So through my study, I decided for myself the practice of repeating "Amitabha." And at first, I do repetition of this everyday ten thousand times, and for a beginner, that means about eight hours a day. And I do this so seriously for three months, I begin to feel this two sides loosen, the shoulders, only outer side. And also when I encountered situation in life, I realized that I have more stability and peace in mind. And because of these real benefits that I gradually realized more and more, right after I get my Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, the next day I devoted my life to Buddhism. And since my study of Buddhism, now it's over thirty years, and of course, you know, I have gone through many inner realization of the loosening of the body and mind. That's why, you know, I can guarantee you that this is the reliable and healthy way of life. And I even got the good fortune to come to Warsaw to meet you.
So I think, you know, basically this is enough for tonight, and then I welcome your questions on Buddhist practices, and I also want to add a little more because I think of something now. Not only Buddhist practices are based on the principle of repetition of pure activity, in the Russian Orthodox tradition, they also have repetition practice done even in retreat; that is the repetition of the prayer of, to Jesus, I think. It is called: "Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." And because Buddhism understands how to help different levels of people using different methods, I even wrote a short article on this to encourage Christian people to adopt their own practice of repetition. Also, you know, in the spiritual reality, it is a matter of purity, degree of purity; it is not a matter of human-made different religions. For example, when I began to study Buddhism, I also went to Church to read Bible. But at that time I have never saw Jesus in my dream. But after I have repeated "Amitabha" for over four million times, once in a dream I saw Jesus. So you see it did not depend on what you practice, as long as your purity improve, you even get in touch with what is supposed to be other religion. And in the dream Jesus is, of course, taller than me, and he has long hair. He wears a white long garment, robe, but the clothing is not smooth, I can see the texture (long hair to here—shoulder). And in the dream he also gave me a garment of the same material, but it is not that long, it is short. And what is amazing is, the lining of the garment he gave me, inside are written in Chinese words from Buddhist Sutra. So, don't hold on to our human-made worldly distinctions; improve on your own spiritual purity.
And also what is fundamental in the Buddhist teaching is that originally everything is pure. So, on the one hand, you don't have to suffer from the notion of original sin; and on the other hand, all you have to do is to unlearn the worldly things and return to your original purity. And because it's your original purity, so, after you've returned to it, you don't have to worry that you have to make any effort to keep it. And also, when you can really let go of all your thoughts—ideas that are learned through human society, it is possible to experience what Buddha experienced. And what Buddha experienced but very difficult to say in words to help people understand is that, actually everything is all connected in oneness. If you adopt Buddhist practice and do it with devotion, after long years, gradually you can sense this. And it is not only a personal experience, it can have actual applications. After you have experience of this kind, your prayers can actually help people instantly. For example, we do Powa to help deceased beings, and we do this freely, and many people in Poland know about my service. And, now and then, I received their response, they are saying after they asked me to pray, they sensed relief, or they have wonderful experience like smelling incense fragrance. Or when people have big problems, in emergency, sickness, they called me or emailed me, just need to let me know the name, or say someone, I know someone, even without the name, asked for prayer, and often, instantaneously they feel the effect of prayer; and these people are people completely unknown to me, and they are overseas. And sometimes even though I didn't receive, for example, email I didn't check, but as soon as they sent the email, they got the relief. This does not mean that I am special, this is only because the spiritual reality is like this—it's all connected. And when you do service without consideration of yourself, then all Buddhas can help, so it's all Buddhas' work. But who are all Buddhas? It's all sentient beings. So you all have this potential; you just have to know the principle, know the simple practice, and devote yourself to it, then someday you might be able to do this. The day you can loose yourself, you will do this, you will be able to do this. Thank You.
Q1: What was your Ph.D. subject?
A: Logic and the Methodology of Science—that's Mathematical Logic. UC Berkeley—University of California at Berkeley. The subject is something called "free logic," it's an argument form, free logic. Even the logic I studied has to do with liberation.
Q2: If you try to bless somebody, if you are not fully purified or realized, are you making yourself harmed or this other person you could harm?
A: The trick here is that you have to be selfless, so when you pray, you don't say: I pray for you. What you do is, you say: someone has this problem, and we don't know how to help them, but Buddha, please help. You are a pure bridge; you have only this function of praying for them. And you don't even say what is better, what I pray for, you just say: the problem is here, it's in your hands. Then there is no bias of yourself, everything is just what Buddha thinks is best.
Q3: One Tibetan Lama, Norbu Rinpoche, said that as in Christian religion and Catholic religion there is a possibility to reach such a high state, like a Pure Land or Heaven, when you don't have to reincarnate into Samsara again. What do you say about this?
A: That will be, according to Christian teaching, will be only Heaven. But the problem is, because they think everything comes from one factor, one—from God, but the Buddhist concept is: everything is conditional, there is no one factor that is dominant. And so, in one way you say, you know, it's one factor determining everything; the other view is, the reality is, everything is so complicated, involving so many factors. So, everything has to do with the whole picture. So, ultimately the question is whether God is over truth or truth is over God? As a Buddhist, of course, I think, you know, we follow the truth. But once in a dream, Green Tara told me something. She said that it is not only sentient beings got hurt, but Jesus also got hurt. So I pondered on this, what's the meaning? And then I figured out: if God is almighty, why couldn't He just say pardon all sins? Why does He have to make a sacrifice to compensate for the sins? And even sacrificing his son, meaning to sacrifice Himself? Through this redemption, He is saying that even God has to follow the law of cause and effect. He cannot just say, "Pardon you," and then you are sin free. So if we understand this, if someday we want to unify all religions, we say religion should be based on the truth, the causal laws.
Q4: Does it mean not to hurt?
A: When she said hurt sentient beings but also hurt Jesus, it means Jesus is also equal in following the causal law. Jesus is equal to all other beings, has to suffer.
Q5: She asked, does this truth means not to hurt?
A: Once you realized the truth, you realized that all are connected. Will you hurt yourself? So you will not force anything, but you, with patience, with tolerance, you try to gradually show them how to live a happier life. And also another aspect of following Buddha teaching is, because it is: everything is impermanence, so I come without any preparation. So what you hear is from my heart, not from my memory, and when I speak, I don't have a plan; I think of something, I tell you what's important. So, it's possible to live like this; don't think that you always have to plan everything, you can live so free.
Q6: If we cannot live skillfully, which means without hurting others, should we still continue to live unskillfully but with good intentions?
A: Also do repentance, and try to learn how to do better next time.
Q7: Can you say something about, because this is the anniversary of the 16th Karmapa, what was your experience with this Lama?
A: When I was in America as a graduated student, the first time the 16th Karmapa went to America, I saw the posters, but I didn't go, because I didn't understand Tantra. But the second time, because after my practice of Amitabha, I had the opportunity to follow Guru Chen, so I know about the importance of Karmapa through Guru Chen. And at that time, Karmapa gave the Black Crown Ceremony in San Francisco, in the lobby of a big hotel. The attendance was, I think, over one thousand people, and Guru Chen was kind enough to take me and my wife, and my eldest son, at that time was still a little boy, we all go together to receive the blessing. And before the ceremony began, Guru Chen told me the mantra, "Karmapa Khyenno." And also told me when Karmapa begin to wear the black crown, we have to stand up because at that time the original 1st Karmapa actually arrived—we have to stand up to show respect. And as soon as Karmapa put on the black crown, I sensed a very strong force in my body and my blood was circulated like this, and I am not one who tried to be particular in the crowd, you know, but the force just made me shout out: "Karmapa Khyenno, Karmapa Khyenno, Karmapa Khyenno." But as soon as the black crown was removed, that's only one hundred and eight repetition of "Om Mani Padme Hum"—the duration, the force gone. So that was the blessing from Karmapa. But I think, you know, no other people told me that they had this, and that's because at that time I had done Amitabha repetition over four million times. So, in order to be blessed, you have to be pure first. So, work on your own purification and salvation.
Q8: What does it mean to be non-sectarian?
A: If you follow the truth, then the truth is: all are connected, and different kinds of people certainly can walk on only different paths, so why do you say only this way or that way? On the one hand, all are connected; on the other hand, everyone is different, so, of course, they can walk on different paths. So why do you say only this or that is good? If you think like that, that is only because you have not opened your eyes.
Q9: Can somebody ask you to bless the pictures of the people who are passed away?
A: Sure, sure. And also, you can write the name of the deceased one you think of, give them to me and I will do Powa for all of them. And also let them know about the websites, so they can find many things there. We also have the Polish website, let them know through you.
October 28, 2010
El Cerrito, California
From: Yutang Lin
Sent: Friday, October 29, 2010 12:15 PM
To: Dharma Friends
Subject: FW: English Transcript
The talk I gave in Warsaw had been transcribed by disciple Ji Hu in English.
I had finished reviewing and revising it. My revisions are in yellow highlights.
There are still some grammatical mistakes, but those were made during my speech and no harm to people's comprehension of the meanings, so I just leave them as they were.
Maybe with this English transcript ready, Polish disciples can come up with a transcript for the Polish part of this talk.
May all beings attain Enlightenment soon!
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