Do you still believe that “seeing is believing”?

It is easy to believe in everything your five senses experience and allow them to influence your thoughts and actions. However, these perceptions blind you to the truth of things so you lose your ability to make sound judgments, which may lead to wrong decisions.

During self-cultivation, you may encounter hardships, fatigue, pain, lack of energy, and even doubt. If this is what you are experiencing, then you need to listen to this teaching. It will help you see through the truth of matters instead of reacting to your senses. As a result, you will be able to control your heart, strengthen your motivation for practice, and walk toward enlightenment step by step.

【You will learn】

  • The method to see through the truth of matters
  • The method to strengthen the motivation to practice

【Featured aphorism】

  • The most difficult thing to control is your heart.
  • Always have the aspiration to save all sentient beings; that way you will always have the motivation to practice.
  • A bodhisattva-level disciple who fully commits to self-cultivation should vow to save all sentient beings, liberate them from the sea of suffering and elevate them to the Pure Land.
  • Only when you commit to the greatest vow can your heart remain grounded and motivated.
  • The concept of saving all sentient beings lies in the fundamental belief that all sentient beings are equal.
  • It is necessary to develop the concept of saving all sentient beings and abstaining from discrimination in order to elevate yourself to see through the truth of matters.
  • Something that seems troublesome may be a good thing if you look at it from another perspective.
  • Some things are beautiful up close, ugly from a distance, and ominous from afar.
  • Entering a deep meditative state is about eliminating, lessening or even denying existing feelings and perceptions. This is the only possible way to achieve a state of emptiness.
  • Ultimate purity leads to the realm of great ease.
  • Just because you suffer today does not mean you will suffer tomorrow.
  • The characteristics of suffering and pain are fundamentally unreal.
  • Having righteous thoughts is the root of everything.
  • The ability to be non-discriminatory comes from transcending human judgment and thinking and transcending the limitations of eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind so that you can return to the origin of everything, including the Universe, to find the truth.
  • Facing all sentient beings with a sincere and respectful heart is the realm of a great bodhisattva and true compassion.
  • The ultimate truth is about being, not arising nor ceasing, not pure nor defiled, not more nor less and not fake nor
  • real. It’s fake yet real and true yet unreal.
  • Differences in time and space, distance, time, mood, and state of mind will differ in accordance with how the matter is perceived.


It is difficult to fully learn Buddhadharma. It is like driving to a place. Or, sometimes we can walk instead of driving. Many things are imperfect. Whether we walk or drive, my point is there is more than one way to a destination. Often, there are many ways. There are different paths; their conditions vary. Taking a wrong path could be a bad detour. Taking a right one is a shortcut that ensures our safe arrival.

Buddhadharma has many facets that are difficult to grasp. They contain too much information. They are as follows: First, your mind is difficult to manage. Second, it is difficult to know your master’s mind. Right? (Right.) Correct. It is even more difficult to grasp your mind at each stage of your cultivation. At a certain stage, it is hard to understand your master’s mind.

Even if you understand both, you may lack confidence and strength. Say, when we chant aloud, you might say, “Master, I can’t. No energy.” Something like that. Or you really want to carry something upstairs, but you just can’t find the strength. During your practice, you may know your master’s mind, and you try to connect with him, but you lack energy. You really want the connection, but you just can’t make it happen. You can’t find the utmost sincerity needed to become one with your master. You just can’t, and lack mental strength.

Other cases: “I know Master’s mind and my own, but I still have doubts.” The act of doubting is like… Today, if your master takes you to the level of bodhisattva, as stated in the sutras. You have arrived at that level. There are 10 levels of bodhisattva, reaching a certain state means advancing to a new level. All 10 levels are different. First, you arrive at the 1st level. You have all the aspiration, intention, reverence, merits, virtues, and you also make offerings, but insufficient.

You have arrived, but barely pass. Say, there are 8 requirements and you’ve achieved a pass in each of them; that is neither perfect nor complete. You are here, practicing, even if you are taken to the 3rd level. At the 10th level, the degree of realization and wisdom is very high. But one day, someone from another school says, “You haven’t attained true enlightenment. If you want true enlightenment, you need to drink broth from my master, eat meals from Master Zhang, and chant the mantra from Master Ma, otherwise you can’t achieve true enlightenment.” Thus, when your realization is incomplete, it is easy to have doubt. When your faith is not solid, it is easy to be tempted and led astray. That is why, practicing Buddhadharma is a mind cultivating process.

Martial art training is as follows: First, forms; second, force; third, qi (energy); fourth, mind; fifth, no-mind. Those are the 5 levels of martial art training. The highest level is mind, force and form, all arriving at the same time to produce the desired effect. So, those legendary martial artists, like those depicted and described in Louis Cha’s novels, may seem soft, frail, as if they have no bones or strength. Yet if they show even a hint of killing intent, like in movies, their opponents are dead meat. Although there is no visible cruelty in their moves, their opponent will be fatally injured.

A low-level martial artist, however, is merely a combo of qi, force and form. Those muscular martial artists are always clumsy at fighting, and easily beaten by those seemingly frail great masters. So what do seemingly soft masters use? They are at a much higher level, using their thoughts. In Buddhism, it is mind. The thoughts or intentions in martial arts are similar to aspiration, control, compassion, doubt, obstruction, anger and greed in Buddhism.

The most difficult thing to control is our mind, because humans are living, sentient beings. Humans are not machines. Once you have programmed a machine, it executes a task one step at a time. First step, it does this. Next, it does that. It is a fixed process. Once fixed, it can’t change. But living beings, especially intelligent humans, in a moment, can produce 3 perceptions. These mental activities are like thoughts and they happen simultaneously. It is very difficult to control our thinking process.

Thus, Buddha repeatedly reminds us in sutras not to trust our feelings. Consciousness comes from feelings. Feelings can range from, “I feel cold”, to “I feel very much at ease”. These are examples of feelings. And perception comes after feelings. For example, you feel cold; there are 2 parts to this. The first part is bodily feelings, which is more obvious and visible. Say, we see a light. First, we use our eyes to see it. After we have seen it, we then tell whether it is white or red. When you have reactions, it is “consciousness”. You are judging, analyzing, and concluding.

The process of feelings to perception is called consciousness. It is also called “feeling and perceiving”. Feeling first, then perceiving. The Heart Sutra says “no feeling, perceiving, mental formation and consciousness”. “Feeling” refers to sensation. “Perceiving” is thinking. Also, there is motion. This means motion in consciousness and body such as the flow of qi and the heartbeat. Consciousness is the conclusion after feeling. “No feeling or perceiving” leads you to a state of emptiness and letting go.

Have you experienced this state? Do you feel joyful? Or sad? If you can tell what you feel, such as “I feel happy now”, or “I don’t feel sad”, this is consciousness. At a higher level of meditation practice, you should give up such feelings. Don’t trust your feelings because they may be wrong. They may not be the truth. They may be both true and false. There are dialogues on this and Buddha’s teachings in The Diamond Sutra. This is directly related to the dharma we are practicing.

In The Heart Sutra, Buddha taught us: “no feeling, perceiving, mental formation and consciousness” and “no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no mind”. What do eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind do? They give us 6 senses, 6 forms and 8 forms of consciousness. I am not focusing on numbers here. To point out the categories of feeling and perceiving, we must let go of these, not attach.

As in our practice, our feeling and perceiving sometimes leads to wrong impressions. As Buddha said in The Diamond Sutra: “Future bodhisattvas, your key focus is how to maintain your motivation to self-cultivate. Forever have the wish to help all sentient beings. The wish must be extremely strong.” Buddha told us this in great detail. How great should your wish be? A truly aspired great bodhisattva-like disciple should aspire to help all sentient beings, all forms of life, be they born of a womb, egg, moisture, metamorphosis or dryness. That is, all forms of life in our world.

In our mind and thoughts, we should have a strong wish to transform, help, and deliver them all. To what degree? To the degree of liberating all souls from sufferings. Helping them to leave this world of suffering. Let all sentient beings be liberated to the extent that they are elevated to the Pure Land. We must have such a great, grand aspiration. Then we can have steady resolve, make a great effort and always be driven. Otherwise, we would waver.

In our life of helping sentient beings, we must let go of the name and form of all sentient beings. Among human beings, there are rich and poor, high and low, great and small, and different skin colors, as well as likes and dislikes. Thus, Buddha told us in The Diamond Sutra that we should not have a discriminating heart. Helping all sentient beings means all sentient beings are equal. All sentient beings are composed of 4 or 6 elements: earth, water, fire and wind.

These elements make up various life forms to constantly remind us that helping all sentient beings means that whether a being is human or not, whether it is from ocean or land, or covered in feathers or hide, it doesn’t matter, we should help them all. It is such a grand concept. Then we can help more and more. We should also eliminate discriminating thoughts. Only then will we elevate to a higher realm and see through truth and falsehood.

Let’s return to the topic of feeling and perceiving in body and mind. Where are these feelings from? They are from eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind. What else? With these, we then have feeling, perceiving, mental formations and consciousness. Thus we say, “My feelings lead to my thinking.” That is feeling, perception, mental formation and consciousness. In The Heart Sutra, Buddha tells us that humans rely on this process to tell good from bad. This might be right or wrong; it is not certain.

Because when we have reached the highest meditative state of perfect wisdom, we actually feel nothing, forget or ignore all feelings. These feelings are necessary steps during our practice. They are both true and false. One moment we may feel pain. But the reality is, by philosophical and natural law, that if we dissect this pain, we find that our feelings may not be real

(By firming motivation and transcending feelings, we can see through truth or falsehood.)

Young people often have acne. They hate it, and they are annoyed by it. Let’s view it from a health perspective. Many young people ask me this question: “Master, how can I get rid of my acne?” “Well, eat some cooling foods to reduce internal heat.” “Master, it worked.” But 15 days later, they say: “Master, I have got it again, the method stopped working.” It is not that it doesn’t work; it is that you are still alive.

Your internal heat rushes to your head, like a furnace burning every day. Your internal heat, agitation and flames of love, all these fires are burning inside you. Having a bit of acne is really nothing. But if you don’t know its use, your emotions will burn out of control. If you know how to use it, you could develop it into supernatural abilities. Someone asked me: “Master, most young people have acne on their faces. Is it good or bad?” You tell me. (Good.) Why? Don’t you want them to look better? Is it a good thing? Yes, I think so.

Otherwise, if those emotions fill their brain, they will lose their senses and kill or cause other kinds of violence, or rob banks, go street racing. How many youths kill for no reason? Just because of their impulses. What causes it? Internal heat. From their desires, passions and afflictive emotions. They could drive more slowly. But they rush as if their houses were on fire, and they have no choice but to rush. Where are they going? Lie on the grass doing nothing! Why do they drive like a criminal on the run? Agitation. What causes it? Desires, passions and afflictive emotions.

There is a girl who cared about her looks. But she had acne, which bothered her a lot. “I want to die. What can I do? I can’t find a boyfriend.” Well, getting a boyfriend is the next issue. It is a luxury. “I might as well tear off my face!” “Well, stop abusing yourself.” I told her I had a way. “The acne is there for a reason. Don’t let it grow on your face, but on your heart. Would that be better?” “If it grows on my heart, could my heart pump blood?” “No, but you’d look pretty.” “Well, no, I don’t want that.”

It seems young people are well educated. “Think about it, “if acne grows on your heart, kidneys, or other organs, is it good? (No.) So let acne be. Alright?” Drink some herbal tea, or apply ice cubes to your face, or soak your feet in cold water. What else can you do? Practice meditation, and wash your face more often. Use less oily facial cream and practice vegetarian diet. Eat less sugar. Because under your skin, in the acne, there are mites.

Acne is not an illness. It is caused by mites. Why are there mites? Because of eating too much fruit. Your flesh and blood become as sweet as fruits. Of course mites are attracted. They are like fruit worms in the human body. If you use medicated cream, they start to go away. But as soon as you stop, they will come back.

So let’s look into this incident. This girl’s acne made her miserable. Acne on her heart could make her die. So it was better that it was on her face. Some say it is better if it is on their back. Well, you have no control. It is not like planting. Regarding how to view a matter, when it is viewed one way, it is a problem, but viewed another way, it may be a good thing.

If acne forms nowhere, where would internal heat go? It may cause worse problems. Say, speeding, which could kill the driver and others. There was a rich kid who bought a sports car. He was driving at a high speed at a certain highway and hit a taxi. Several Japanese tourists died, and so did he. It was deemed a traffic accident, but what caused it? Internal turmoil. This turmoil is both a small and large matter. When it is big, it can harm others and oneself. When it is small, just drink some herbal tea.

Thus, whether a matter is good or bad depends on whether it is viewed with the short or long-term in mind. Viewed up close, it may look good; from far, ugly; from even farther, danger. If we rely on our sensory organs and feelings for analysis and judgment, it often results in fundamental mistakes.

Now, let’s return to the deep meditative state. In Sanskrit, it is called paramita. It is a deep state of meditation. In it, you will lessen or eliminate or negate all your senses, feelings and consciousness. Then you can return to the state of zero (origin). It is the boundary between right and wrong, good and bad, correct and incorrect. If we use our senses and feelings to judge, often we won’t get the truth. It either turns out incorrect or inaccurate.

Let’s return to the state of calm and purity. Besides calm and purity, Buddha gave that state several names. It is great freedom, also called sariputra. That is how it is called. It is described in The Heart Sutra. I believe what it does is that it reminds us to find the ultimate truth. That is, we shouldn’t rely on our senses and feelings, but lessen them. It is the zero point between emptiness and existence. We should abandon feelings and analysis.

A much deeper explanation is stated in The Heart Sutra: Perceive that all 5 aggregates are empty, no purity, no defilement, no arising, no ceasing, not good, not bad, no birth, no death, no hurting, no itching, no gain, no loss. There is not a word wasted here. I think Buddha was teaching us how to arrive at perfect enlightenment. It is not true emptiness; it is the fundamental point, also called the neutral point.

He told us to abandon our senses and feelings when analyzing and judging. He also said no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body or mind; no feeling, perception, mental formation or consciousness. We want nothing that is derived from the 5 senses and mind. How important is this? Buddha said that every Buddha realized achievement in this way.

Thus, when viewing matters through ordinary senses and feelings, it is hard to find the truth. Say, ocean waves start to get rough. They are 3 feet high, rocking the ship. It is normal for all aboard to feel terrified. Humans aren’t sea creatures. If they fall into the sea, they may drown. This is what we feel. Is it real? Beneath the surface, the sea may be calm. The agitation on the surface is temporary. That is a false form. But these true and false forms, it is not that they don’t kill or hurt. They still function.

Life is composed of the 4 elements, and of causes, conditions and karma. It seems this life is a false form. But life does come into being; it is relatively real. In this real form, we suffer from birth, aging, sickness and death. Those who suffer pain actually feel the suffering is “real”, right?

Just like, when you are having flu, you may have a high fever, or pain in your body or joints. That is real. It hurts so much that you can’t work. You can’t do anything and have to take painkillers. Some people suffer bone fractures in car accidents. Then they can’t walk, which causes inconveniences. They can’t work, not even going to the bathroom. They use crutches. If experience is false, pretend that it is not happening; all is well. No need for crutches, right? No, the bone is broken; it really hurts.

This causes confusion. Is the experience real or fake? It is both real and fake. It is life, it is being alive, but it is not permanent. Today’s pain may not be tomorrow’s. What if the pain is real today, but not there tomorrow? What if it hurts today, but is healed tomorrow? Thus, the concept of real versus fake. It is not that you are tricked by a fake form. Indeed, it did happen and it hurts; but tomorrow the pain may be gone. That is the meaning of “fake”. It is a way of thinking, not that something is fake, but that it is a process.

You have all carried heavy loads while walking. But you didn’t die from it. You are still alive today. When you had to carry it, you felt pain and exhausted. Especially when the elevator didn’t work, and you had to carry all your groceries upstairs. While doing that, you felt tired, hot, thirsty and angry; you felt terrible. During that time, you felt like hitting, cursing or even killing someone. But when you got home, you were met with smiles, served ice cream, and told you were beautiful. Then all your fatigue seemed to evaporate. You didn’t feel like cursing anymore. You probably felt pretty good. So, suffering has an “unreal” nature.

Buddha said that once great bodhisattvas had the motivation from their initial aspiration, they should renew it. We have all suffered. We know the tremendous burden of suffering. It makes us feel dreadful and helpless. How terrible it is to live in confusion. You may have forgotten your original vow. Our vows vary. Thus, we want to achieve supreme enlightenment in this life, especially in our dharma school. I encourage you to do so. Achieve it in this lifetime if you have the chance to cultivate.

Once you are enlightened, you will have achievement. Do you know how it is achieved? Enlightenment and achievement go hand in hand. If you understand, you’re enlightened. Then what do you do? “I will stop killing, and I will protect lives.” This means you are enlightened. Achievement shows how many lives you have protected, and how few mistakes you have made. How many people you have helped. Whether you reach Buddhahood or not, you have saved many lives, helped many people, made many stop doing bad deeds. How many people you have liberated from suffering.

But the help must be the right kind. Say, I give you a drug when you have a headache. It will stop the pain. But this isn’t helping, it is harming. We should have the right mind, right intention, and the right way. If I am a doctor trying to save a patient, I give him the right medication. That is the right way. But if I give a patient marijuana for a headache, stomach pain or weight loss, it might work. It does indeed relief our pain; but it will also cause harm. The intention was kind, but the action was wrong. So that is an evil deed.

We should be enlightened, and at the same time accumulate merit and virtue. Merit and virtue are the good deeds I have done since awakening. That is the accumulation. But merit and virtue are in different categories. My preference is this: Follow the Six Perfections. The concept of the Six Perfections encompasses profound insight and right view, or the fundamental right view. It’s the root of all matters. It’s like a magnifying glass and a microscope; it helps us to see the truth in everything. The state of right view is called paramita.

But where does paramita come from? From a deep meditative state, where there is no discrimination, no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body or mind, no human judgment nor analysis, that is, a return to the origin of the Universe, where one can see the true nature of everything. But this true nature isn’t realized through analysis or attachment to form. To achieve supreme enlightenment, the way is the same: no attachment to form. That’s what Buddha said.

Firstly, we do not rely on eyes, ears, nose, tongue, touch or mind. We do not judge or enjoy form, sound, smell, taste, touch, or objects of the mind. Form means all concrete objects. All objects that I can see, or feel through my sensory organs and mind. We should abandon all of them to progress toward the state of a supreme Bodhisattva, or even beyond that. The noble disciple Subhuti asked Buddha: “How can a bodhisattva attain true greatness?” Buddha replied that they must transcend everything. Transcend all those things we just talked about: form, sound, smell, taste, touch, and objects of the mind.

Do not blindly follow someone who looks like Buddha. You may be wrong. Say, today I like someone who is beautiful, whose looks are the kind I like. Disregard this feeling. Or, this person is ugly and I happen to like ugly people. Buddha said we should not cling to anything. But what if I cling to ugliness? That is also wrong. If a practitioner has reached a high level, I can smell his pleasant scent when I approach him. Right? Buddha said we should not rely on that. It is like a mirage; it is false.

Today, we are learning how to view the true nature of all matters. That is the first thing. Secondly, we should grasp the true nature of enlightenment. We must forever maintain our drive to stay on the right path. Therefore, we must abandon form, as it is both true and false, real and fake.

(Return to the origin of all matters. Ascertain the true nature of enlightenment.)

After we have understood the true meaning of worshiping statues of Buddha, we will understand its true nature. Now, the image of Buddha, as mentioned by Buddha — can we not worship it? Yes and no. I revere Buddha because I am grateful, I do Buddhist practice. Do we have attachments in life? Do we? (Yes.) Buddha said to the bodhisattva: “You should not cling to forms.” Does this mean Buddha was telling bodhisattvas to give up their faith and goal? Is this the case? I think this question can stump all Buddhists.

The essence of Buddha’s teachings is that all sentient beings are equal. Today I revere Buddha; tomorrow I can also revere an ordinary person. He will achieve enlightenment in future. I can revere anything. Say, there is a donkey walking by when I am doing prostration. Someone may say: “Master, don’t prostrate to a donkey.” But I will. The donkey is a sentient being. I praise him, bless him, and wish him to be a kind donkey, a wise donkey.

I also hope a better future awaits him, that he will be born a human in his next life, with the chance to achieve enlightenment. Wouldn’t that be a good thing? So, from today onwards, with a reverent heart, we revere everyone we meet, and have a mind of equality for everyone, including a donkey, puppy or chicken. If we revere and bless all, then we are truly in a great Bodhisattva’s mental state. That is true compassion.

Buddha also said that if you cling to true compassion, that is also false. That is a deeper concept; it’s more difficult to explain and understand. If you cling to true compassion, you might go to extremes, which is wrong. Buddha didn’t ask us not to attach. So why did he ask it of the bodhisattva? Isn’t there a purpose in dharma teaching? Isn’t it to help all beings achieve enlightenment? Thus, Buddha had a purpose in teaching dharma. It was Buddha’s intention to teach dharma. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have uttered any dharma, right?

So, did Buddha have attachment? (Yes.) To what did he attach? To helping people achieve enlightenment. He attached to helping all sentient beings achieve enlightenment and eliminate hell. That is Buddha’s purpose. Thus, Buddha was more attached to his vows. Then what is the true meaning of no-attachment? It is for us to see the true nature of all matters. Then we can find the true self and the nobler way of life.

Buddha foresaw what we would need on our life journey. It is impossible for Buddha to guide us every day. Because from the moment we are born, in every minute of our life, our thoughts and conduct are affected by our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, touch and mind, right? These senses affect us greatly in daily life. They are closest to us, inseparable from us. These feelings tell us we are still alive.

Regardless of how much Buddha guides us, we can’t succeed unless we possess higher wisdom to judge the true and false in the world. So Buddha taught us how to know the Way. When we deal with people and matters, we should always have compassion regardless we are a Buddha or not.

We said yesterday that many dharma teachers claim: “This school is wrong, stay away from it; this other one is evil, we should avoid it too.” Or someone thinks: “I am a male dharma teacher; and this beautiful woman is a temptation I should avoid.” I feel this is like making a layer cake, layer over layer, covering ourselves up, right? Is he a Buddhist practitioner? I think his behavior is strange. If you stay away from this and that, who will you help?

Buddha said we should know ourselves, and peel away selfish judgments and incorrect analysis. It is like in battles. In the Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the general Zhang Fei played a trick. Zhang Fei and his sworn brother, Liu Bei, along with many civilians, were fleeing from their enemies. Cao Cao’s soldiers were after them. Liu Bei had fewer soldiers, perhaps 8,000 to 10,000, accompanied by over hundreds of thousands of civilians who were herding their pigs and sheep as they fled.

They could only travel a few kilometers a day, because otherwise their pigs and chickens might run away, their eggs might break. Children needed to pee and be nursed. There were also many disabled people. How could they escape? Cao Cao’s horsemen were catching up to them. Zhang Fei’s duty was to protect his emperor.

The enemy drew near; they were approaching a bridge. There was a forest on Zhang Fei’s side of the bridge. Zhang Fei said, “This time I will be smart.” He dragged a big branch as he galloped into the woods, raising dust. That bridge was very famous; it was known as Dang Yang Bridge. Zhang Fei rode his black horse, held fast his iron staff, and yelled, “Come and see, here is the great bandit Zhang Fei. Buy your way through if you want to pass!”

His enemy approached and saw Zhang Fei alone guarding the bridge. Behind the tree, the first enemy soldier saw the dust-filled forest seemed tens of thousands of troops were hiding in there. The enemy soldier was a coward. When Zhang Fei yelled, his enemy was so scared that he fell off his horse and died on the spot. Seeing this, the soldiers said, “This guy is ferocious; one yell frightened our soldier to death.”

Don’t assume that thick dust hides troops. The truth is it is just a trick. That is why Buddha asked us to observe. He taught the great bodhisattvas: “if you really want to practice and achieve, ask whether these senses and feelings are real.” That enemy soldier was shocked to death. After he died, he may have realized it was a hoax. He might have thought, “You, Zhang Fei, you were just tricking me, you didn’t have a big army. You only had 20 or 30 men.” That was the truth.

Is what you see true? Of course, I am not saying everything is fake. Buddha wouldn’t say that. No arising, no ceasing. No purity, no defilement. No more, no less. No fake, no real. True and false. Real and fake. If you think it is real, then it is. But after, you will feel it is fake. Thus, real or fake, good or bad, pain or no pain, these all fluctuate from day to day. Something may seem tempting up close, but viewed from afar, it is worthless. If you taste one bite, it is delicious, but if you look from afar, it is bland. Many things are like that, aren’t they?

In different space-time continuums, at various distances, time, space, and in various states of mind, your feelings and consciousness may be different as well. Say, something is actually sour, but to you it tastes bitter. Your mindset is important. There are two kinds of true and false: The first is from the inner mind, the second is from the outer world. The two categories have their own true and false. When the two categories meet, is there anything real?

In battles we may easily fall into traps carelessly. Is what you see real? In a story in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Zhuge Liang couldn’t run away from his enemy since he had only a small number of soldiers, all of whom were old, weak, sick or wounded. So he had to use his “empty-city stratagem”. No other way. If caught, he and his soldiers would’ve been chopped up. Sima Yi led a troop of over 100,000 in pursuit of Zhuge Liang. Zhuge had only a small number of people; he had no chance of resisting.

He had to create an illusion. He had to make it look as if he could have ambushed 100,000 troops, and that his swords were incredibly sharp. And he made it look like nobody was inside. When the gate opened, Zhuge Liang was playing on the qin. Sima Yi listened to his music. “Wow, such peace and serenity! The calmer he is, the more powerful he must be. He is so calm, he must be well prepared and have laid an immense trap. If I go in, I will lose.”

Someone who knows nothing would simply rush in and kill Zhuge. Sima Yi’s knowledge of music betrayed him. “Such calm!” thought Sima Yi. He was oversensitive and was fooled. The fake was real in this case, right? Did Zhuge Liang have intent to kill? He was extremely fearful, and he had strong intention to kill. He had to protect himself against an impossible enemy. If he had a chance, he would surely destroy his enemy.

But when his intent to kill was at its peak, it was totally masked. Almost like a peasant spooling thread, gentle and effortless. A little more force would break the thread. While playing the qin, he was gentle, absorbed in it. He used all his heart to achieve that calm. Such is a case of true and false, real and fake.

So if Buddha were a military master today, he would tell his soldiers to feel and think conscientiously, and ultimately transcend judgment when viewing matters. But how? It is not easy. To rule the world, you do not necessarily need an army. If you want to kill, anything can be your weapon. Zhuge Liang’s zither and brooms served as powerful weapons. His cultivation of music became a powerful weapon, holding back 100,000 enemies. Thus, if we want to help people, what can’t be our tool and their best medicine? Anything can be used. Let’s leave this topic for now.

The true nature of many things is beyond our senses and perception. It is opposite our perception. You may make nothing out of something, or something out of nothing. This is a common problem for all sentient beings. Buddha reminded us in the sutras: Sentient beings often mix up right and wrong, which leads to wrongdoing.

To get the fundamental truth, Buddha teaches great bodhisattvas to recognize the world and have the firmest aspiration. There is a sutra called The Diamond Sutra. From The Diamond Sutra and The Heart Sutra, Buddha’s compassionate teachings, we can learn a great deal of precious truth.

(Follow Buddha’s guidance.
Apply higher wisdom.
Recognize the truth.
Strengthen our aspiration.)