The opportunity to learn Buddhism means embarking on the path to transform yourself from a normal state to sainthood. Although learning Buddhism is easy, practicing self-cultivation can be difficult. Elevating your state of self-cultivation is like climbing stairs; every step is challenging and has its corresponding illusions and tests.

The key to obtaining enlightenment is to face all obstacles, grasp crucial opportunities, and continue walking steadily and firmly on the road of self-cultivation.

This teaching will lead you to understand suffering and

experiences in self-cultivation and learn about the Noble Eightfold Path. It will guide you to explore the secret to self-cultivation and even lead you to enter the highest state of practice. This is an in-depth guide to the process of enlightenment. Daily practice and your overall vow will help you to quickly accumulate merit, enhance wisdom, and move toward enlightenment.

【You will learn】

  • In-depth understanding of suffering and experience in self-cultivation.
  • Understand the Noble Eightfold Path
  • The secret to self-cultivation
  • Understand the highest level of practice
  • Ways to deal with suffering in life
  • How to practice in daily life

【Featured aphorisms】

  • Chanting with reverence and sincerity is the simplest way to cure the suffering in life.
  • In order to change your life from ordinary to Buddhahood, it is necessary to do what is hard to do, tolerate what is hard to endure, and honor your word.
  • Having a vow creates energy and wisdom.
  • The difference in one thought can be the difference between yin and yang, heaven and earth, rich and poor, and also the difference between life and death.
  • With compassion and righteous thoughts, you should always review whether you’ve practiced and helped others according to dharma; always remind yourself not to stray into wrong paths and evil thoughts while always encouraging yourself to move forward.
  • A truly motivated practitioner must have a broad mind, incomparable compassion, great tolerance, good presentation skills, a deep understanding of Buddhism, and the ability to influence others. They also need to help the Buddha manage and grow the Buddhist community in order to help more people.
  • Only with a compassionate mindset and diligent practice can you change your fate from ordinary to extraordinary, from
  • vulgar to good, and even from man to deity.
  • Diligence is the most crucial point in proving commitment and hard work.
  • Bodhisattva is about practicing and enlightening through self-disipline and then helping others achieve enlightenment.
  • If you really want to repay the Buddha, save more sentient beings.
  • The master who practices Buddhism and passes dharma down to you represents all dharma from the Buddha.


Please be seated. (Thank you, Master.)

In my past teachings, to benefit you, not myself, I limited the discussion of religion, culture, tradition and race to reduce mental barriers arising from the differences. Today’s class is different, it is about a deeper understanding of practice, dharma, dependent arising, and the sufferings of all sentient beings.

Buddha’s sutras talk about eight sufferings. Did I mention them? Yes. We often start with the sufferings of birth and aging. I talked about the suffering of birth yesterday. Then aging and illness. All get sick. Illness, even a cold, causes us discomfort. The most horrible pain which we have to face is our fear of death. Suffering experienced before, during, and a short time after death is extremely miserable. Be it cold, fear, reincarnation, or being sent to various places, all these are the pain of life.

Other sufferings? Please remind me of them. The suffering of leaving your loved ones. It is clear, suffering arises from love. After love comes separation. Departing from loved ones, separating from family, breaking up, divorcing. People go from being often together to being apart for a while or forever. People who see their elders pass away suffer very much. Also, people in love are afraid of losing it. Is this suffering? Others suffer without obtaining love. Some have never seen their fathers. Their peers have fathers, but they don’t. They suffer a lack of fatherly love, which sometimes affects them for life. Whether the absent father is alive or dead, growing up with a single parent creates a mental barrier. So many cases of this kind of suffering.

Next suffering? Not getting what one wants. You all get it. The next is that of being with the despised. This is very clear. What else? The flourishing of the five aggregates. First, what are the five aggregates? Form, feeling, perception, mental formation and consciousness, which are mentioned in The Heart Sutra. What do they mean? Where do they come from? Because of our senses — sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch and mind — we feel suffering from the five aggregates.

Form means matter. This is too big to be detailed about. All things and afflictions are related to form. Form doesn’t mean lust or love, but existence, or specific matters related to going from emptiness to existence and vice versa. It is a process of suffering. In the past, you were healthy, now you suffer from an illness. This is existence or occurrence. Why do these things happen? Sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch and mind.

The eight sufferings are unavoidable. One can’t do without eyes. One suffers more without eyes. Some say: If you don’t see, you will be calm. If you see nothing, it is frustration, not calm. If you can’t see what you want to see, you suffer. If you can’t hear what you want to hear, you suffer. The eight human sufferings cover all unavoidable afflictions in life. If we practice well, our mind can transform sufferings; we perceive the world as beautiful as the happy young people do; it is good.

If we study our mind and inner world, and the happenings of life, we realize happy things are easily forgotten while painful ones linger for a long time. Our first love, however long it lasted, when it ended the pain lasted longer than the relationship. You dated for three months, but suffered for three years. When you break up, the mental pain transfers to your body and every cell, it harms you. It lasts for a long time.

For many people after a breakup, what do they do? They heal their wounds. Once mental pain occurs, the emotional wound creates even greater pain. Levels of pain differ. Say, you are driving and crash, but the injury isn’t serious; the car is damaged and costs money. In contrast, that sort of frustration is much less than that of the lovelorn. So sufferings differ.

Buddhadharma summarizes human sufferings. Yesterday I discussed our inconceivable karmic bond with Buddhadharma. What we should do next is guide such bonded people through further practice. For my level, to guide you seems like boasting. But still I can try my best to tailor to your needs and guide you on how to practice and heed certain things.

In this sea of people… I forget the population of Earth. Who has the approximate number? It is about seven billion. How many truly have the chance to learn Buddhadharma? Anything can create the chance. Like this person, who came here after just hearing about the dharma and me. After he came, he found a reason to persist. He both practices and volunteers. Some came because of health issues. This reason is simple. No need to decide on staying. Finding no cure, he was drawn here. Hearing that this dharma school is good, no need to look for another reason. Such is a good cause, a great karmic bond.

There are three circumstances or levels: superior, middle and low. The superior ones are high-capacity people. They have great merit, blessings, and great karmic bond: Their lives are about to change. In my understanding and words, our present life was created by the past. But my future fate and life is determined by the present me. The current me is created by the past; the future me is created by current and future actions. Agreed?

Because we believe in causality. This sounds scientific. So our fate is not created by gods or by our parents who are prerequisites of our fate and lives. Emperor Qin Shihuang’s mom isn’t a god to him. If we compare their lives, the emperor’s parents only fulfilled a duty to give birth to a son who became a great emperor. Of course, they weren’t as great as the emperor himself.

Those at the highest of the three levels, the noble, superior ones, will change their lives the most. What is the biggest change? The change to a godlike life from an ordinary one. Roughly speaking. Do Buddhists become gods? If so, are those people still Buddhists? Please don’t bicker. I mean a superior state that transcends the human state. In Buddhism, such beings are called bodhisattvas, arhats, these are recognized states of practice. I describe it as a godlike life to help you understand.

An even higher life is a Buddha-like life. Is this possible to attain? Buddha said it is. To repeat what the Buddha said: “If I can become a Buddha, so can all sentient beings.” His statement is clear. Buddha is not like a god who claims he is relatively unique. Buddhahood is achieved through our action. To have great achievement, we need a strong foundation and a strict, rigid set of conditions. To make it happen, there are many requirements. We will talk about them later.

What about the middle level? Those at this level are connected to Buddha. They are willing to follow, be disciplined and practice. However, they ask to take breaks, and often make excuses. Say, when they are about to practice, troubles arise. They truly can’t practice. Sometimes it is their bad karma. They make a vow to practice, but die in an earthquake on the 1st day. They have no control. Or they have many kids; say, a father wants to practice, but he can’t. So he comes to worship occasionally. He has insight and truly vows to practice, but he has no time. Such people are at the middle level. They are willing to accept and act, but their circumstances don’t allow success.

The third level is the lowest. These people also accept Buddhism joyfully, but usually their overall state is poorer in terms of understanding and insight. When dealing with difficulties and disasters, and on holidays, they ask for Buddha’s blessing. They volunteer at ceremonies, but can’t sit for meditation. It is not that they’re not sincere, but their sincerity isn’t the purest. They can’t fully convince themselves, so they are behind.

They are followers of Buddhism and believe in the Buddha and his teachings, but they can’t practice deeply enough to change their lives and receive their big fate. What benefits do they get? Perhaps they turn misfortune to fortune, and though slow-witted, become clear-minded. Their life becomes easier: Being slow-witted, they couldn’t have found a job, but now they can find one. Things like that. But the changes in their life will be small.

These are the three levels. It has been like this since ancient times. So the practitioners at a superior level are hardworking, persisting in practice and study. According to my experience, it is like climbing flights of stairs. Let’s say that seven flights is our goal. But each flight takes a long time, people get tired from climbing one staircase. It is possible for them to take a few breaks during the process. A person with great karmic-bond is tired climbing up each floor. Say, the seventh-floor destination is ultimate enlightenment. A person actually gets a bit enlightened at every floor.

If a person stops at the first staircase, he joins those at the lowest level. Such people only get superficial Buddha-light and a little wisdom. They just stop and don’t further their practice. To them, the first floor is the seventh. Their “enlightenment” is like the blind men touching the elephant. Each of them only touched a part of it. One touched the tail and said it was like a piece of rope. One touched the leg and said it was like a pillar. One touched the nose and said it was a hose. They couldn’t get the whole image. But they believed they did. During practice, we should keep reminding ourselves. In Buddha’s teachings, he gave us many detailed reminders.

We just mentioned the eight human sufferings. These sufferings mainly come from our senses such as touch and perception. In my last class, we talked about how this world keeps changing between emptiness and existence. Is emptiness in the Universe truly a void? It is said that once we leave Earth, we enter a part of the Universe where no oxygen or life exists. Is this true? Maybe so. Fish need water to survive, right? But fish will die if they are in unsuitable water. If we put freshwater fish into the sea, they will die. If we put saltwater fish into fresh water, they will die.

In different spaces live different lives. The concept of life is beyond the scope of our feeling and perceiving: the feelings of eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind. You wonder why you can’t see, hear or feel life forms living in outer space, All these depend on feeling and perceiving. Humans have limited sensing abilities. Take our hearing for example. It is a lot less powerful than that of wild animals.

Many have pet cats or dogs, right? Compared to them, humans don’t hear well. Unlike humans, pets can’t communicate what they hear. Sometimes you see their reactions to what they hear, see, sense and perceive. The intensity of their perceiving is strong. Humans call it the sixth sense, or intuition. Intuition can’t be proved by science.

I had a dog once, a normal one; whenever I was returning home, he was waiting half an hour before my arrival. If my dad left the house to buy things, right before he returned, the dog would run outside. Mom said Dad would be home in 10 minutes. The dog knew. Whenever I saw the dog run out like a rocket for no apparent reason, his movements joyful, I knew Dad would be home soon.

In fact, all the daytime sounds in my village, those of animals, people working, and machines, might seem to make it hard for dogs to hear. But when my dog started to react, my dad was still five kilometers away. The village was not quiet during the day. How does a dog hear so acutely? We humans take it as intuition. Some say scientists don’t know what intuition is. Some think it doesn’t exist. Only the ignorant think this. If one never knows about TV, he would think TV shows don’t exist. It is just that we don’t know.

This world is vast, and life is a mystery. The processes of life’s creation and existence are mysterious. We don’t know about them. Do you know about Paul the Octopus, the animal that predicted the results of games including the World Cup? He was accurate, wasn’t he? He died from using all his energy to predict the outcome of human games. Many gamblers followed him; they bet lots of money on his predictions while many others went broke, lost family. Paul might have felt bad for them and committed suicide.

The octopus, a very strange sea animal, sort of like a ghost, could predict. I don’t know if Paul knew during the soccer games so many people bet on him. Some suffered from it and some enjoyed the bet. I am not sure if he understood the complicated humans. But he had intuition; he didn’t favor certain countries during tournaments, right? To an octopus, all countries are the same.

The world is full of wonder. In our practice, simply put, I would not pass on to you Buddhist rules, rituals, and will not discuss different schools so as to show off my grasp of Buddhadharma. You can read all that in a book. Flipping through sutras, the Tripitaka, you will find many Buddhist schools and their heirs clearly listed. But these have nothing to do with us reaching enlightenment. They only increase our barriers and burdens.

Simply put, we have solutions for human sufferings. A simple, special way I just taught, is the two words. Let’s review. (Reverence and sincerity.) Yes, reverence and sincerity. Some disciples will ask: Do they only apply to chanting? What about prostrating, practicing Greater Illumination, or offering incense? What about when facing others or Master? In fact, these two words are dharma treasures for all practices. So we can remember them easily. Reverence and sincerity. Practicing them well solves many problems. This is the first part.

The second is how we practice them. After practicing awhile, some decide to volunteer here while others just practice a lot; many give back in ways which are not glamorous. Many of us have family issues that keep coming up, and our urgent work also presses on us. When you want to volunteer at the center, but there are many issues at home, what do you do? The initial happiness, ease and reverence slowly fade. Your aspiration also fades. So does your reverence.

What happens next? Nothing looks right to you. Now Buddha is not like Buddha; both Master and dharma aren’t as they should be. Fellow practitioners are like devils. If the school’s master is full of faults and dharma brothers have bad habits too, if practitioners don’t seem like good people, how can we have reverence for those people?

But one kind of people practice sincerely. They usually keep practicing for a year. Do you know who they are? Some say they are those with reverence. Reverence will not last that long. What else? The power of vows. Two types of people can last. The first has a life-threatening illness. Every city I visit, I go to the parks and venues where people practice. In the early morning, seniors are often practicing while walking. I have said to them, “You are very diligent.” They have responded, “We have to be in order to live longer.” That is true.

In the morning, everyone really wants to sleep in, right? The alarm clocks of working people keep ringing. I saw an online video. The Internet is like TV, very convenient. An American invented an alarm-clock bed: Say, at 6 am, if the alarm can’t wake the person then the bed shakes. The person’s still asleep. The bed shaking doesn’t work. What then? The second trick is that in 5 minutes, water will pour down. This way works.

The inventor put a bucket above his bed; after 5 minutes, it will pour water on him. But then he put a tarp over his bed. He had a solution and a countermeasure. His fiancee filmed the whole thing and put it on the Web. It went viral, some wanted to buy the patent. Kids love to sleep. Who doesn’t? Some say they get up very early, it is really that they can’t fall asleep, which isn’t natural. They can sleep if they take pills. If they take fewer pills, they can’t. Two pills allow a one-hour sleep. It is unhealthy. So these people practice due to health issues.

There is another type of people. Those with aspirations. Vows remind them daily. So they create a daily routine. Let me share my experience. When I practiced as a teenager I didn’t want to get up. My health wasn’t good. When my health was good, I wasn’t lazy. I was stubborn and slow-witted. I liked to challenge myself. I thought it was impossible for me to practice Buddhadharma. If a person like me could learn it, a donkey could become a dragon.

So I practiced to change myself. I tried all kinds of ways to challenge myself. Say, I liked to yell at people, so I tried my best not to yell. I monitored how long I went without yelling. Also, if I didn’t get up early, I had to set a time at which I would be sleeping soundly and get up then to practice. If I couldn’t get up at the set time, then when I awoke I would use a hammer to hit my nails, making my fingers bleed.

I put a hammer near my bed, if I got up late, I would hit myself. At first, I was reluctant to hit hard. I hit softly, but it still hurt. The effect lasted a week. Then I had to hit myself again. I hit myself hard twice, and I changed for life. I never wake up late. So a dumb person uses a dumb method, but one that works, eh? I am honest, but the hammer is more honest. The hammer really worked. This is a small issue.

Many masters had bigger issues. How to fix them? By using one’s bones as pens and blood as ink to copy sutras. Some wrote on their body, Buddhists use tattoo, too. It is a reminder to oneself, a consistent one. There are many reminders. It doesn’t have to be a whole essay, just set one thought: I want to achieve enlightenment. These words are too easily said. They mean you have to do what ordinary people can’t: challenge yourself.

We are not masochists, but we want to change our lives and turn from ordinary to godlike, a future Buddha. You have to continue even when it is hard to go on, enduring the unendurable, and keep your promise. Create a new life schedule, a practice schedule, and then you can change. In a month, you will get used to the schedule. Don’t aim for short-term results, for you want to achieve enlightenment. Don’t say: I practiced for a month — Is my skin better? Are my legs better? Don’t aim for these goals.

As I taught last time, it is like our goal is to obtain the luminous pearl in the case. But we are distracted by the case, as a result, we take the case. The luminous pearl is still with me. It should have been yours. Which is more valuable? The pearl is priceless, the box is $20. You attached to the wrong thing. Your original goal is to get the pearl. Don’t seek small benefits, seek great ones. To achieve great benefits, we need help from a few things.

As Buddha told us, previously we mentioned the Six Perfections. I think they are insufficient. I remember that Buddha also talked about the eight aspects. They are called the Noble Eightfold Path. Please remember this. This Noble Eightfold Path counters the sources and occurrences of human suffering. We can start with one path at a time. But we should keep all eight in mind.

First: right view. Has anyone learned the Noble Eightfold Path? View is direction. The direction of the practice. It is the shore we are heading to. You haven’t been to the shore so you don’t know it, but your direction is right. You know the direction, the goal you will achieve, and where the destination is. Say, you just want to be a kind person. It is a compassionate direction, guided by the Buddha. In the future, you will become a better person. But you won’t be a perfect enlightened one.

So the greatness or level of our goals has a direct correlation with our future benefits and level of achievement in practice. Achievement is also related to our daily actions. Various levels of effort and time commitment yield various results. So the right view, or correct direction and goal, is the source of all future actions, a motivating power. So a saying goes: With vows, there is motivation, energy and wisdom.

The second thing is right thought, right intention. When thinking about matters, be they good or bad, don’t be judgmental or think wrongly. Measure what is good or bad. Sometimes it is hard to grasp it. According to my experience, if we want to be true children of the Buddha, and to become a Buddha in the future, we must use a compassionate heart and eye to view both good and bad matters. Viewing them this way, you will handle them this way. We should use compassion to control our behaviors, both mental and physical.

Thinking is a kind of behavior. Your mind is in motion. Thoughts also have direction. If we talk about horror stories, we tense up. If we talk about revenge on enemies, we think about it. So your way of thinking is most important. The difference between thoughts can be akin to yin and yang, Heaven and Earth, rich and poor, life and death. As it applies to two people, one is happy, prosperous, wonderful while the other is living in hell on Earth, in wretchedness. Two people live totally different lives; the miserable one’s life is hard.

The third thing is right speech. You have right intention and right aspiration; no matter what you face, good or bad — which is the short-term view — it doesn’t matter. Just think: “I am compassionate, I want to become a Buddha; at the very least I must be the kindest, most compassionate person.” We must speak compassionate words, and do compassionate deeds. We speak compassionate, soft words, those that can be easily accepted.

Try not to speak words that are mocking, words that sow discord, or words that defame, attack, curse or destroy. In the last class, I talked about a young girl who danced; her teacher’s careless words destroyed her dream and life. Everyone could make such a mistake. So be cautious as much as possible. Right speech is a specific behavior. We should be aware of shifts in our mind and physical behavior.

Next is right career or karma. Who can explain this? Anyone? Louder. (Action.) Why do we say karma is action? (Because your action creates karma; good action creates good karma, bad action creates bad karma.) Action is karma. Good answer.

Karma can refer to comprehensive behavior; every act of ours creates karma. An act that is neither good nor bad creates neutral karma. Karma is like shadows created by light or sunlight. Shadows are created by direct, side, or overhead light shining on us. Karma is like shadows that follow us around. So I see comprehensive behavior as karma, which is a common person’s understanding of it.

The second meaning of karma refers to self-cultivator’s career. First, do not do sinful jobs or careers, do charitable, good ones that benefit self, others and society. Although the world has its own laws, as a philosopher puts it, “existence is reasonable”. In terms of humans and society, good and evil do exist. As for our career and our specific behaviors, we must think about karma and consequence. The good or bad career or job creates good or bad results. This is the second understanding of karma.

The third is Buddhist practice and helping others. When we practice and help others, we must have right intention. Compassionate right intention. Constantly self-reflect, motivate yourselves to move forward, remind yourselves to practice, and help others. Never commit wrong acts or sinful thoughts. The three layers of career or karma can be practiced in the process of helping others. For practitioners, such a process is the best practice opportunity. Normally, it is not a process of perfect enlightenment. But most people, in the process of helping others, are perfecting their cultivation. So we should be cautious, yet also brave and hardworking, going forward.

We can’t stop just because we fear making mistakes. We still walk forward, ensuring we are on the right path. A practitioner with true aspiration should have a great compassionate heart, a broad mind, strong communication skills, deep understanding of Buddhadharma, charisma, and management skills so they can manage and develop the career. All these traits and abilities come from our aspiration and hardworking study. Only in this way can we succeed at this compassionate cause.

The next is right livelihood. I want to hear your understanding of right livelihood. Who can explain it? I can also learn. What kind of right livelihood? (Arising thoughts.) Arising thoughts. (Compassionate heart and thought.) Don’t we start with right view and thoughts? What you are talking about is the moment a thought arises. Who said it? Let me see your hand. Someone pointed at you. I know who you are. Not bad. It is basically correct. If you were aiming at a target, you hit the edge.

Anyone else? Different ideas? People with varied experiences have varied understanding; the simpler the words, the greater the need for deeper understanding. Anyone else want to give thoughts? (Childlike heart. Innocent child’s heart.) A relaxed, carefree heart of great freedom? This is also good. What else?

At this moment, we realize how little we read. We wish we had learned all this. My understanding may not seem right. There are three levels of practitioners. What transformation does Buddhadharma bring? For superior-level people, it is a change of seed. Tomorrow you change from ordinary to arhat, bodhisattva and buddha. Your parents give you a human seed, but through hard work, aspiration, practice, vow fulfillment and generosity, it can become a Buddha seed; tomorrow you can become a perfect Buddha. Has your fate changed?

Does a wayward, evil life qualify as right fate? No. But through the practice process, our fate starts correcting itself. Even if just to change your fate, you should do what Buddha teaches. Living with right intention and compassionate thought. Do not be lazy, live daily your aspirations and practices. Then our fate can turn from ordinary to extraordinary, from human to godlike.

It changes your feeling about fate: You go from being poor, sick and in pain to having health, wisdom and wealth. Of course, you may not get wealthy after learning Buddhadharma. I am talking about the mental state: There, you can achieve all you want and it is not hard to make money. With your elevated state of mind, what you create is not value for only self and family, but a bigger, compassionate value that brings blessings for all. Thus, your life undergoes a huge change.

So at this time, I believe “right livelihood” is a process and a goal of changing fate. My understanding might be shallow; as I said earlier, my understanding may not be correct. OK, next.

Right diligent practice on the Noble Eightfold Path. It means to walk the talk. But before some practitioners finish listening to requirements, they start to act. Say, I told a practitioner that I would be visiting him in four hours. “Can you prepare for me some food?” I asked. When I arrived at his place, he wasn’t there. After two hours, he showed up with rice. But when I opened the fridge, I found noodles and pancakes. I asked him, “Why did you go buy food and have me wait so long when there is food in your fridge?” He said, “Didn’t you want rice? We didn’t have any.” Pancakes and noodles are food, but he wasted so much time and I was so hungry waiting for him. He didn’t do the work well. He also felt annoyed, thinking I wanted rice not noodles or any other food.

Once in Vancouver, two people were fighting. The cause was simple. One person said, “If you do it again, I will hit you.” A passerby heard it and punched the first person. The first person had been talking on the phone; the passerby thought the guy was talking to him. So a mistake happened. I broke up the fight. “What is going on?” I asked. The second guy said the first guy wanted to hit him and the first guy said, “No. I was on the phone with my brother. He crashed my car, and I was yelling at him.” The second guy asked, “Why didn’t you make it clear?” The first guy said, “Before I could explain, I got hit in the nose. Your fist was faster than my mouth.” The guy jumped into action too fast.

Many are hardworking, but the outcome is wrong. With right intention and thought, we also need the correct practice method. Here a big issue arises: Who is your teacher? We don’t want to make it mysterious — your dharma king, your guru. Who is your teacher? Your teacher determines your right practice. If you find an unfit teacher… Maybe I might be such a teacher, but I think I am pretty good. If you find an unfit teacher, even if you push him to death or give him all your fortune he isn’t able to give anything.

If he doesn’t know, how can he teach? If you ask me to teach you German, you are hopeless. You are asking the impossible. So now it is time to see if you are fortunate to meet such a teacher. Some teachers are somewhat enlightened and compassionate, but not good enough to teach. Many have knowledge, but are not able to teach. They can do it for themselves. Every practitioner’s level is different. So a good teacher is important.

A good teacher should have right intention and right diligent practice. What is diligent practice? Why don’t we just call it practice, instead of diligent practice? It means essence: the best part left after refining. It is the most important part. Diamond is the essence of the mountain rocks. Gold is the essence of water. Diligent practice is the essence of practice; it means practicing hard repeatedly.

Say, Master requires a dharma practitioner, a disciple who wants to aspire, to achieve enlightenment, to reach perfect enlightenment, to become a buddha and bodhisattva or just a remarkable wise practitioner close to arhat status, then that disciple has to practice very hard. First, we need to practice daily. We must put in the time. At least three hours a day. This may be in conflict with your life chores.

A young couple, besides working, has to take care of children. People wonder: What should I do? Don’t ask Master. Decide for yourself. When one does something, he has to understand the key aspect of that. Diligent practice is the most aspiring, hardworking part of practice. In your life, you should find the key thing you need to do. Be clear about the main, most important thing. You can’t ask Master to decide for you.

Some throw their problems to Master. “Master, do I practice or get a divorce? You decide for me.” This pushes Master into hell. If Master advises divorce, he destroys a marriage and family happiness. If he advises against divorce, the person will say, “Sorry, Master, but I have no time to practice.” Then a future Buddha is halted. What to do? You should set your own aspirations and make the decisions about gain and loss. Decide what you need to do and what you need to give up. Weigh it yourself.

It is not just about practicing, it is about aspiring to have compassion and overcome laziness. You should keep your promises. Be the most conscientious practitioner. Of course, practice may not only include meditation but also, say, my teaching here, which is also practice. Wanting all beings to read about personal experiences of enlightenment and thus writing about your experiences is also a form of practice. It is both practice and helping others.

You want to be conscientious in every moment of practice. One mistake misguides all. Or, with some jobs, you may misguide those around you. So you should be strict with self-management. Endure the unendurable, and do things better. That is right diligent practice.

Now right equanimity or samadhi. Meditation is the most crucial part of Buddhadharma, and the foundation of many practices. Samadhi is the result of meditation. Samadhi is a mental state reached through meditation, an inconceivable state of calm. Samadhi is a deep meditative state. Ordinary meditators may not reach it. It is the deep meditative state that true practitioners with certain practice foundation may enter.

Samadhi has several levels. What do we get from it? Who knows? (Wisdom.) Quite correct. What else? (Energy.) Energy. Wisdom and energy are it. In the meditative state we often sense or learn what we can’t learn in normal, daily situations. Answers obtained in meditation don’t come from normal human thinking.

This reminds us to to enter it with right intention. This is indispensable to the attainment of perfect enlightenment. We can simplify practice, but meditation is a must. If Buddhadharma were missing meditation, I believe Buddhadharma wouldn’t exist. If we only stress meditation and not aspiration, we may see the world clearly but not ourselves. It is still not perfect. Meditation without aspiration is imperfect.

Meditation is a must in Buddhadharma. It brings us wisdom, insight, the Divine Eye by which to see through all, energy, and motivation to practice and help others. It helps tired people overcome fatigue and gain positive energy. This doesn’t mean all meditations are correct. Each school has its own methods. Many meditation methods can cause mental and physical illness. I have met many people who come here hoping to be corrected. It is important to learn a correct meditation. In Esoteric Buddhism and Theravada, many meditators have gone astray.

Let me give you a brief intro to Zen meditations. There are two major types. One focuses on breathing, it is also called “counting breaths”. Enter a calm state by counting breaths. The other involves visualization. The latter is what our school practices. I believe visualization meditation is the safest. Over 200 visualization meditations exist. Besides aspirations, specific meditations are vitally important.

Many Taoist methods have led people astray. They access qi that runs in the main meridians. I have practiced all of them. You may wonder why. All roads lead to Rome. With compassion, all these methods involve helping others. A compassionate person uses poison to cure cancer, right? What about a bad person? Everything that is useful in life could be used to kill others. Good or bad is determined by one’s mind.

The last one is right mindfulness. It refers to our arising thoughts when handling matters. We always remain compassionate. I am Buddha’s disciple; I should have right mind and intention, no negativity. No more details for now.

The Noble Eightfold Path reminds us to become a noble person. To transform our ordinary lives, we must learn to change. The Noble Eightfold Path is very important. Before we discussed the Noble Eightfold Path, we touched on the four easy-to-remember characters. They are more important.

Again, when you make an aspiration, first check if the aspiration is correct. Is it sufficient or noble? Check your aspiration first. If your aspiration is worldly, too small, low, problems arise. It is not punishment from Buddhadharma. The low pursuit is itself a thought creating karma, right? The karma punishes you. So check your aspiration.

After that, if your aspiration is noble, the path will be simple. Set up a daily practice schedule. You could even print it out. Tick off what you have done and rate yourself. “Did I do well?” If you did, give yourself 100 points; if not, score yourself accordingly. Summarize your progress once a month. Practice requires self-awareness.

Let me speak frankly: What is the highest level in Buddhist practice? Only after we understand this can we know how to make a vow. The highest level is Buddhahood. Everyone wants to achieve this, but you need a foundation. What is the foundation? Conditions necessary to becoming a Buddha.

Do you have an aspiration? Do you carry out your aspiration? How many people have you helped? If too few people, it is insufficient. Have I adhered to the no-killing rule? Have I adhered to no gossiping? I don’t slander, steal, engage in sexual misconduct or bad deeds, or hurt people. I should revere Buddha and Master. Strictly speaking about practice, more requirements exist. If you can’t meet the requirements, there will be impediments to Buddhahood.

Thus, we should practice the bodhisattva’s way. A bodhisattva is a person who enlightens self and others. To simplify things, I believe it is a Buddha; the person enlightening self and others is a Buddha. Bodhisattva is a step away from Buddha. This step is about merit and virtue. I might be wrong, for there is no absolute definition. Bear with me and correct me if I am wrong. This is the most fundamental point. Bodhisattvas practice to enlighten self and others. If I am enlightened, I will try all means to benefit others.

I describe them as people who pursue enlightenment and make others enlightened. That is a bodhisattva. That description is my own words. Such a pursuit requires a high mental state. You should pursue this state because helping others has the greatest merit. In Buddha’s teachings, dharma giving is greater than Mount Sumeru. To quantify it, it is more than the sand grains in the Ganges. When helping free others of afflictions, you teach them how to conduct themselves, handle matters, and make life wise and auspicious. The more helping, the more and faster merit and virtue accumulates for us. And the best foundation is laid for our future.

If you really want to pay Buddha back, help others. That is what I am doing. Why do I have no complaints or regrets? Because I feel I can never repay Buddha’s loving-kindness. There is no limit to helping people, unless you want to retire. If you don’t, then the mission never ends. Normal human missions have ends, but this work just increases as you do more. This is the bodhisattva’s way. It is also what Buddha expects.

If you haven’t had any aspirations, no matter. When you hear Master say it is a good thing, and you hadn’t thought about it, or you are afraid to do it, or not sure if you can achieve it, let me tell you: You can achieve it. If you truly have a sincere vow, you can achieve it. I am not sure anyone here wants to enlighten self and others? (Yes.) If you want to practice bodhisattva’s way, raise your hand. Wow, I am surprised. Thank you. Congratulations.

If you help others for three years and then go back to your old job, you will be different from your old self. When working with others, you would be the same or lower than your coworkers. You will find chatting with coworkers is boring; talking about materialistic pursuits and what they want is trivial, not noble. Some disciples have told me about this. I say, “Congratulations.” It means you have elevated. If you didn’t come here to practice and do good deeds, you would be the same or lower than your coworkers. If you feel they are in a low state, it is because you have become nobler.

We are not belittling others. We have to face the truth. Say, that woman’s pursuit is to buy a brand-name bag costing two months’ salary. But yours is to educate your kids. You don’t pursue money; you aim to improve society. So our mental state has elevated. When we look back, we feel pity for former coworkers. What do we do? We help them, but sometimes the closer people are to you the harder they are to help, as they already have a fixed image of you as being not noble.

It is even hard to help family, as silly things you have said and done have imprinted in their head. They don’t trust you. So what do you do? Help someone who didn’t know you before. There is no discrimination regarding becoming a Buddha. A prisoner can become a Buddha. People who are close to you have an image of you from the past because people remember and view you based on past experiences. If you become rich, don’t go to your hometown. People there might think you are a con artist.

Or your childhood friend may wonder how a bed-wetter can achieve enlightenment. “Pigs will fly if he can”, your friend may think. It is because of their image of the old you. Childhood friends and your spouse are the hardest to help. Your husband may wonder how a sheep can help a wolf. That is how hard it is. Better results arise from helping strangers.

We train ourselves to be courageous to help others. I remember when I first taught a disciple how to heal. He practiced hard. Someone in pain walked by. I told my disciple to help him. The disciple said he couldn’t. He was really scared. I said, “It is OK, I will be here. If the guy hits you, I will hit him back.” The disciple helped the guy. Of course the guy didn’t hit him. Humans are pitiful. My disciple feared getting hit even when he did good deeds. Humans are cowardly and complicated.

So we should have aspirations and right intention, and also know what it is to be a bodhisattva. If you want to become a Buddha, you must first become a bodhisattva to accumulate merit and virtue. When you have perfect merit and virtue, you will know what level you are at.

Let’s not say how many rituals you have done or how many deceased people you have freed from suffering, though these are helpful. The most precious acts in the human world are enlightening living beings, ceasing to kill, and becoming a Buddha and thus understanding good and bad. That is when you are changing. The seed of being a Buddha is planted deep in your heart and soul. You are filled with Buddha-nature.

When Buddha-nature reveals itself, all your thoughts and behaviors are in accordance with dharma and you work for a grand compassionate cause. In the process of a human becoming a Buddha, the most important thing we need is energy. Where does energy come from? Through a few things, specifically the Noble Eightfold Path we just mentioned. But it is still not perfect, not detailed.

From a different perspective, it is not as applicable as the Six Perfections. Let’s review them. Giving, keeping precepts, tolerance, diligent practice, meditation and wisdom. These six aspects tell us what we should do. They are easier to grasp. So we have to give and offer, practice meditation and tolerance. When helping people, you might get yelled at and feel embarrassed and stop. We should discard concerns about our image to achieve the Way. I don’t care about the superficial. Let go of your face or status. Don’t let image affect your true aspiration. Don’t let it block you from realizing your great vow.

It is difficult to teach this class. Teaching true Buddhadharma is not the same as telling a joke. There is great responsibility. I need to ensure I don’t mislead practitioners. I need to deliver the true dharma of Buddha. So I did careful preparation. The more preparation, the less ease of delivery. This is because of being overly conscientious. When we make a great vow, we should use our full awareness and think it over conscientiously. Should I make a great, noble vow?

I want to keep reminding you: Once you have set an aspiration, it is no longer a matter of your education level or how much wisdom you have. Buddhadharma is extraordinary and wondrous. It lies in aspiration, or daily arising thoughts. That is very important. The most important thing is your grand vow.

Some practitioners may be 70 or 80 years old. Some have written me: “Master, given my age, if I make the vow, I don’t have much time to help people.” I told them: When you make the vow, even if you don’t help that many people, you have helped many in your heart. Seven billion people in your heart bathe in Buddha-light. You have achieved the preliminary level. Buddha and bodhisattvas will receive you to the pure land when your time is ready. There you further your practice, you may come back to fulfill your vow.

I won’t comment on which dharma school is better or what their differences are. If we practice only for our own liberation, in Buddhist scriptures, what is the highest state for such an aspiration? We call it arhat. What does this mean? Anyone know? The person stops reincarnating. He is liberated from this world. He practices for such liberation.

But the greater vehicle is our Buddha-like compassion; we practice to come back. We don’t practice for ourselves, but for all sentient beings. We should make sure a bodhisattva’s heart is one with ours. Actually, a Buddha sits in our heart becoming one with our body. We are a bodhisattva. When I am eating, may all beings have food. When I practice, may all the merit and virtue benefit all sentient beings. May the world be in peace. May all have food and work. May all be kind.

You can’t say: May all believe in Buddhism. That is hard. That is a lie. May all have kind thoughts, and do less harm and fight less. That means no war, right? War is the most harmful event in the world. First, it is a waste of many lives; second, it is a waste of money. War burns money, so countries go broke from war.

What does it mean to help all beings? First, in our spiritual world, or in our thoughts, we already see all sentient beings as family. I want to share anything good with them. When disaster strikes, we wish everyone well. May no one be harmed by war or disasters or conflicts. Wish every family happiness and every country prosperity.

When a kind person has a vow, Heaven will inspire him. Please forgive any unintentional bragging. I have been in Taiwan for over 10 days. I have also been to Tainan and Gaoxiong. I heard people saying that it hasn’t rained for two months. The reservoir was almost dry. When I learned about this, I prayed.

I prayed: “Heaven, please let it rain. I revere you so much and there are so many bodhisattvas practicing Buddhadharma, doing good deeds. Why do you test them so hard? Those farmers suffer; their costs are high and the drought will kill crops and cause social instability. The president is upset.” It started raining in a day or two. Taipei had not seen rain in two months. What about the southern part? That long? Two months. The reservoir’s water level had dropped.

This might be a coincidence, but every time I go to a drought-stricken area, it rains. Los Angeles is dry, right? It rains when I go there. It is not because how well I practice, it is my vow — wherever I go, I take Buddha-light there and let people bask in Buddha-light and benefit from it. This is Buddha’s job. Every time I encounter drought, I talk to deities and ask for rain. “Please don’t hold back”, I tell them. “Make it rain where it is needed.” I communicate with deities this way. I did nothing else. Not by performing rituals. I seldom do that. I just chat with deities with my heart.

So we should have a true compassionate heart. When we practice, we should think: Be it meditation, GI, or chanting, we do it for world peace and so that all have food. An ordinary Buddhist will say, “That is crazy. Who thinks like that?” Most think, “I want great accomplishments and divine spiritual powers.” I want nothing. As I said, we practice to benefit all beings. This is the true path of bodhisattvas.

If you practice to obtain divine spiritual powers for yourself, to be better than Buddha, and smarter than Monkey King, you may go astray. So there is a fine line between good and bad in practice. With just a tiny waver, you may deviate. Is it a bad thing to pursue dharma power? Any answer? Is such a thought right or not? Those who believe it is correct, raise your hand. There are a few hands. OK. This is not correct. Not practicing for dharma power is the true great dharma practice.

Monkey King had 72 tricks and created havoc in Heaven but was imprisoned under a mountain. Because he served his master, he was set free. Did his master have dharma power? No. He might have tumbled off his horse. What are his tricks? He knows two tricks. Do you remember? First, chant mantras to Monkey King to control him. It is probably the same as nagging him. Nagging him until his head hurts. It is annoying. Many moms are like that. Whenever they nag, it is much worse than mantra chanting. Nagging seems to come naturally to women.

The second trick was his stubbornness. When he made up his mind, he didn’t change no matter what. Such was his master. That is true Buddhadharma, a true disciple. Alive or dead, a true Buddhist. We should have such spirit and aspiration. Spend your life practicing. Practice transforms our fate. A miserable fate versus a carefree, fortunate one. A miserable fate is full of pain. Practice at least changes our fate. It can also change our whole species. Practice creates such merit and virtue. We have to use our life and daily arising thoughts to protect and integrate it. Our daily accumulated practice brings this into reality.

But there is one reminder. We have talked a lot about Buddhadharma. Different masters’ teachings vary slightly. If there is a difference between your master’s and others’, whose do you follow? (My own master.) This issue exists. If you have decided on a master to follow, Buddha has arranged things well for us. He has a plan. If you decide to follow a master to learn Buddhadharma, you two have a special karmic bond — cherish it. How? Treat your master better than your parents. Your devotion to him is greater than to your parents.

On a serious note, which is hard for me to accept, your master is representative of all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Buddhadharma. You should revere him as Buddha or as even greater than Buddha. It sounds too much. Why do I say it? Say, here are the sutras. You study them yourself. If your master doesn’t teach you, you will never get it. Why? Some accomplished disciples said so. Your master transmits all his dharma to you, all the energy and wisdom he has obtained. His transmission is an act of giving.

In fact, it is not teaching, but giving. If he has practiced for 500 or 5,000 years, he gives you those years of merit, dharma power, wisdom, compassion, energy. You get them whether you practice or not. How can you get this giving? Once you open your reverent heart, you will receive it all. Once he transmits the dharma to you, you will wonder why so eloquently you give a speech, silver-tongued. You wonder if your mouth isn’t yours. Clearly structured and well expressed. Before you know it, your audience gets it.

Why? Because your master has given you his power, his merit and virtue. Why do I repeat this? If I accept disciples who don’t abandon their master and practice well, but they have sins and go to hell, I can’t go to the Pure Land. I am responsible for you, and I have to go where you go. If you drink molten metal, I would drink more than you. If you suffer, I suffer twice as much.

This is how Buddhadharma is passed on. If I am fragrant, you will smell and enjoy it. I have received compassion and I spread it to people with karmic-bond. Such a disciple is a great receiver, a true disciple. A disciple is “soaked” in compassion and wisdom. Buddhadharma spreads this way. Those who receive the fundamental teachings are the primary heirs who can influence a country or the whole Earth. Don’t underestimate yourself. That is how Buddhadharma is spread.

At a third-level retreat last year, I talked about how Bodhi Meditation Centers are expanding like spiderwebs. Why is this so? The area surrounding a flower is filled with fragrance. Everyone can smell sandalwood in this room. Our surroundings are filled with scent. When I chant, I see the sentient beings here, but in my mind all of Taiwan is listening, including gods, ghosts and animals; I protect all beings in Taiwan, urging them to follow goodness and compassion. May all people enjoy life and work.

My thoughts extend to the entire world. May all places, including locations of disciples, be launchpads of compassionate dharma and thought, magnifying it 100,000 or even a million times so as to give people auspiciousness. This is how it works. Allow the seed to grow into towering Bodhi tree. May the Bodhi tree’s compassionate fragrance scent the world. Every disciple is a representative of Buddha. Thus, our ancestor masters told practitioners that regardless of your master’s appearance, be it solemn, ugly or silly, you must see him as Buddha. You must revere him more than your parents. This is a reminder for you. The process by which great masters and I attained the Way is very important. This generational passing on of teachings is also very logical and reasonable.

Say, we receive something today that makes us overjoyed, such as winning the lottery. The Buddha has already seen it all. Before winning the lottery, you lacked the ability to manage large sums of wealth. You have never been in that situation before. If you accumulate money slowly, you have time to learn how to manage it. When a poor person suddenly wins the lottery and has a few million, how does he react? He can’t handle it. Sometimes, he develops mental problems. Statistics show that few lottery winners live well.

For the wealthiest in the world, some are innovative, some are charitable. What is common is that they are capable. Some of them see that money is nothing and donate their fortune to help others. They see life as a game and use the gain from the game to help others. Like Mr. Bill Gates, he is such a great leader. I truly admire him. If entrepreneurs are enlightened, their businesses will go global. Only a broad mind can take on a large business and be innovative.

People with Buddha-nature are everywhere. People with compassion and wisdom, in different times and spaces, guide all sentient beings and become a leader in their field. This is what a master does. Businessmen become enlightened masters. Enlightened ones become masters of all beings. This way the world will be wonderful. It is most difficult to govern the world with militarism, dictatorship and power. Such a government is like a weapon factory that brings danger to others and self.

I hope my disciples will practice with a true heart, a true vow like Guanyin Bodhisattva’s. My vow is to achieve 1,000 hand-and-eye All-Compassionate Guanyin Bodhisattva embodiment, with boundless dharma power. The hands and eyes are the disciples; wherever such a disciple is, he or she uses the compassion, wisdom and dharma power of Guanyin Bodhisattva to benefit all sentient beings in the 10 directions. This is true dharma of 1,000 hand-and-eye Guanyin Bodhisattva.

I want to remind you: Practicing and doing good deeds is not easy. Don’t think that me teaching here brings me glory. The honor belongs to the Buddha. But the pressure is not bearable for everyone. It is a huge responsibility, so you must have the right aspiration and intention. On your practice path, examine yourself daily: Practice at least two hours daily. A true practitioner would practice three hours daily. Only this way can we stop regression, and have enough energy and wisdom and become one with Master and Buddha. So once you truly have that aspiration, set up a practice schedule. Even if you volunteer for Bodhi during the day, you still need to practice in the evening.

Have I told you the story of my visiting a Muslim household. Anyone heard it? I was at an imam’s house. He was knowledgeable. The house was in a mountainous area. He knew I am a devoted Buddhist, and I was hoping to ask him some questions. He was very nice to me. I slept in a big earthen bed with his family. I slept late. He had luminous pearl chanting beads hanging on the wall. The family practiced chanting, and they liked chanting beads. The pearls shone brightly at night after they put out the oil lamps. I was looking at the pearls all night and couldn’t sleep. I finally fell asleep at dawn. Then, the family started their daily prostration.

The imam had gone to the mosque at 4 a.m. I was a teenager then. His wife got up at 5 a.m. and prostrated quietly beside me. One of their special practice methods was prostration. She was quiet so as not to wake me. She couldn’t go to the mosque because of being female. She was very faithful and practiced at home. I started to chat with them. “You guys wake up so early, I heard you prostrate five times a day. How do you do it?” The imam said he prostrated two to three times a day, 40 minutes or more each time. However busy she was, the wife prostrated at least once a day for health, for wisdom. She said, “When I am healthy, my brain works better.” The wife did all the farm work. The husband took care of the mosque. They had three kids.

Their minds were so clear. When I compared them to other villagers around there, I saw that Han villagers’ wisdom was not as developed as that of Muslims. Put aside the spiritual pursuit; the fact is, they kept their daily practice. Every believer must practice diligently. Five prostration sessions a day are set traditionally to make it easy for everyone to find a suitable time to practice. They can practice in the morning or after lunch. They must find some free time. However busy they are, they have to set a time to do their practice.

Generally speaking, compared to Han people, Muslims had better health. The degeneration of their brain and body is slower than that of Han people. Many Han people are not clear-minded at 50, and some are dull at 60. Many 70-year-old Muslims get new wives. Their brain and energy are very good. A huge difference.

Our daily practice is so important. Otherwise, you regress. Because you don’t cherish it. You slowly become lazy until you may not want to practice at all. Finally, you lose faith. This lifetime’s chance to learn Buddhadharma may be missed. What a pity! Our daily homework is very important. I also hope that every disciple says a prayer before meals, thanking Buddha. “I am about to eat. I hope all beings have food. May Buddha-light shine on the world. Wish for world peace. May all have work.” Think this way.

Also, think of the hungry ghosts. You might think they are scary. After your father dies, maybe he doesn’t go to Heaven but floats around feeling pain, hunger and lack of sunlight. Don’t you want to give him water? Are you afraid of him? He is not going to hurt you. Unless you can’t for cleanliness reasons, give them some food and water once in a while. The food and water has to be what we eat. Maintain this mindset, it is all part of self-cultivation. By helping others we increase our compassion. Why don’t we start doing such good deeds? Can you do it? (Yes.) Think about all sentient beings.

Every week has seven days including a worship day. Catholics go to church on Sundays. They gather to pray on the seventh day, and to read the Bible and worship God. Everyone goes and prays to God. We thank Buddha. They do better than us. Many Buddhists don’t incorporate reverence, belief and gratitude into their daily life. When we apply these daily, we will have more faith.

We are often touched by Christians. I was at a park in Taipei, practicing Energy Bagua. I saw a senior man holding flyers, bravely walk up to people. I was doing Energy Bagua. Most people wouldn’t disturb me. Instead, he came up to me and said, “Here, God loves you.” How should I respond? Keep the flyer. How can we reject God’s love? He was enjoying sending flyers, which many Buddhists can’t do.

When you practice like him, everyone will be compassionate and auspicious. The key in practice is that our inner compassion and wisdom grow. Our merit and virtue grow too. Donations for building a temple and going to dharma ceremonies bring merit and virtue too. But more comes from daily accumulation. Integrate your practice into your life.

When Theravada Buddhists are counting breaths, they are thinking of Buddha. Of all the practice methods, we should choose one. Some combine different methods and practice them together. Some dharma methods are OK, they qualify as Buddhadharma; some are not helpful. Some are foundational training, so are good only for a limited period. So when you follow me, practice what I teach you. Your heart and aspiration should be in a high state.

When there is a conflict of interest, we shouldn’t be greedy. Interest is both real and unreal. We talked about a certain state noted in The Heart Sutra: Existence and nothingness are interchangeable. Between owning and not owning the difference is one thought. Sometimes getting is actually losing. Sounds contradictory? It is always like this. You think you have received something, but at the same time you lose something precious.

The first two lines of The Heart Sutra mention the Bodhisattva of Perceiving Freedom. These lines are about visualization. Or about Guanyin Bodhisattva, who is in a meditative state of freedom full of the perfection of wisdom. This is the state called samadhi. In this state, you see the origin of all matters, which lies between existence and nothingness, the boundary or zero state between creation and destruction of matter. We think the zero state is empty, but it is not. In temperature, zero degrees doesn’t mean no temperature, It is still a temperature. Zero is between existence and nothingness.

When we view the matter macroscopically, existence and nothingness are determined by your mind. Attaching to the idea of owning may cause loss. Attaching to absolute loss may not be correct either. But learning Buddhadharma is a process of learning to let go. Giving and offering are letting go. How much to give? I should give my time, energy, money, house and wisdom to compassionate deeds. Learning Buddhadharma is learning to give or let go. Constantly let go.

But letting go essentially means you gain more. Like planting seeds, even if you don’t care about harvest, you surely gain more in the end. It is not absolute loss. When you do have more and you can give up more, you can experience the process. If this is Buddhadharma, it is also natural law. Learning Buddhadharma, you experience gain and loss. For example, after losing money to a conman, you regret not making a donation. Giving means to voluntarily give to those in need. Say, you are bound to lose one million; if you had given 500,000 away, at least that 500,000 isn’t conned away. Perhaps in time, because of your giving merit, you may gain five million. Twenty million might even be possible.

But when you are chasing money blindly, inauspicious things might happen. You might get conned out of money. It all comes down to merit and virtue. To a practitioner, it is all a manifestation of merit and virtue and a test as well. The test is this: You pursue money, and then you are made to lose it to see how you respond. Are you angry? Do you hate? In the process of going from hate, worry and jealousy to letting them go, you find that you have less or no greed. With this constant letting go, you can grow to have greater bearing capacity.

Say, if you hang a weight on a year-old sapling; 30 pounds bends it, 50 breaks it. A year is not enough; you want it to grow until it is 10 years old. Then, even if you hang 500 pounds on it, it won’t break. This is bearing capacity. The bearing capacity created by merit and virtue is directly related to beautiful blessings. Endurance is required to become Buddha. You don’t make a vow today and tomorrow achieve enlightenment. It is impossible. If it did happen, it means your previous life’s practice has accelerated your learning and enlightenment. It is because of your past-life practice.

A critical reminder to you: Enlightenment and applying it in life are different. At each stage an illusion arises. Illusion is that you believe you understand that stage’s teachings. Subsequently, a related test ensues. Many are serious tests of life and death. If you pass the test, it means that stage of your enlightenment is steady. Say, if you are at level three of enlightenment, afflictions related to level three will arise. If you deal with them well, you will enter the next level of practice.

If you don’t, you might go from three to zero, or hell, or become a mundane person, or worse. A mundane person still has hope to learn Buddhadharma; you might not. You might not even want to live due to the shock of the life-and-death testing process. This is a serious issue. Thus, true practice is the hardest. Easier said than done.

Now circle your waist, and relax your body. Do some closing exercises. While listening to my teaching, it is better if you are at ease in body and mind. If you have a stiff lower back, gently put your upper body downward. Then the stiffness is gone. The longer you sit, the more your legs hurt. But if you bend down, the pain is gone. I see that many can bend their body easily. Learning Buddhadharma is learning to be soft. Learn to be soft and at ease about matters. If you aren’t soft, it is tough to be at ease. Put your upper body downward and then sit up; the leg pain will be gone.

Now think things over and decide what you want to be in the future: a Buddha or a bodhisattva. Do you want to practice the bodhisattva’s way and be an embodiment of Guanyin Bodhisattva? Think about it. If you need to make a vow, make it now. Thank you.