Cause and Effect

At the time of Buddha, a farmer asked to be ordained as a monk. Shariputra did not see his merit. But, with a great, compassionate mind, the Buddha took his hand and said, “I will give you ordination. You do have a seed to attain arhatship….”

The Buddha explained, “Thousands and thousands of kalpas ago, this man was born as a fly. He was sitting on a pile of cow dung when a sudden rush of water caught the cow dung, along with the fly, and sent them into the river. Downstream, someone had placed a prayer wheel in the water, and that cow dung and fly swirled around and around it. Because of that circumambulation, this man now has a seed to attain arhatship in this lifetime.”

Cause and result are so subtle that only omniscient wisdom can perceive every detail. That is why we must be very careful that our actions are truly beneficial.

Reciting just one mantra, protecting the life of even one small bug, giving a small thing–we should not ignore such actions by saying, “This is nothing; it makes no difference if I do it or not.” Many small actions will gather and swell like the ocean. These are not merely Buddhist beliefs; these are the causes that create our world no matter who we are. Our study and practice give us the opportunity to understand this and to be sincere with ourselves even in small things.

~ From “A Complete Guide to the Buddhist Path” by Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen, edited by Khenmo Trinlay Chodron

The Ghost and the Master

Long ago, Great Master Hui Ming visited Mt. Meng. There he met a ghost who used to be a fine scholar. Even though a ghost he still uttered poems. After meeting Master Hui Ming, the ghostly poet composed one:

Dreams are long here in this wild
and forlorn desolation.
I have become too languid to care about
success or failure, about past and present,
Or how many bunches of grass I have pulled
and bouquets of flowers I have picked.
The bitter rain and biting wind
almost break my heart.
I flit in and out with the fireflies during
the dark of the night.
My shadow of a form I hide
when cocks crow at first light.
My only regret is not having cultivated
the mind-ground from the start.
Hence my fall into the realm of phantoms.
Oh, the tears roll down my face.

After the ghost sang the poem the Great Master Hui Ming taught the Dharma for him. As a result the former scholar-ghost left his realm and was reborn in a higher one.

Celebrating Differences

Because of the varying capacities and inclinations of beings the Buddhas have taught various methods of practice and philosophy. If we follow one of these and yet belittle others, we abandon the Dharma and consequently the Buddhas as well.

Question: Does Your Holiness think that the various world religions were founded by emanations of the Buddhas manifesting in accordance with the mentalities of the specific societies?

Answer: This is highly possible. The founder of any religion could be an emanation of a particular Buddha. It is for this very reason that we should treat all religions with deep respect.

Question: Then why do these different religions so often fight with one another?

Answer: This is a different matter. For a truly religious person there is never any basis for quarrel or dispute. Yet it is a fact that there have been so-called religious wars. However, the people involved in these were not practising religion but were merely using religion as an instrument of power. The actual motivation was selfish, not spiritual. Religious wars are not a question of contradictions between religions at all.

Leaving aside the disparities between the doctrines of different religions, there are many ostensible contradictions within the teachings of Buddha.
So what is a Buddha’s purpose in teaching? It is neither to boast nor to demonstrate how much he knows, but to benefit others. Also, he is not concerned with those of his generation alone but with many generations and different kinds of people. Therefore, his teachings must have many different levels of meaning, some often seemingly contradictory. Knowing this, there is never a valid reason for religious quarrels and disputes.”

~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama

A Story About Mantras

There is a story I would like to tell you about a woman who practices the invocation of the Buddha Amitabha’s name. She is very tough, and she practices the invocation three times daily, using a wooden drum and a bell, reciting, “Namo Amitabha Buddha” for one hour each time. When she arrives at one thousand times, she invites the bell to sound. (In Vietnamese, we don’t say “strike” or “hit” a bell.) Although she has been doing this for ten years, her personality has not changed. She is still quite mean, shouting at people all the time.

A friend wanted to teach her a lesson, so one afternoon when she had just lit the incense, invited the bell to sound three times, and was beginning to recite “Namo Amitabha Buddha,” he came to her door, and said, “Mrs. Nguyen, Mrs. Nguyen!” She found it very annoying because this was her time of practice, but he just stood at the front gate shouting her name. She said to herself, “I have to struggle against my anger, so I will ignore that,” and she went on, “Namo Amitabha Buddha, Namo Amitabha Buddha.”

The gentleman continued to shout her name, and her anger became more and more oppressive. She struggled against it, wondering, “Should I stop my recitation and go and give him a piece of my mind?” But she continued chanting, and she struggled very hard. Fire mounted in her, but she still tried to chant “Namo Amitabha Buddha.” The gentleman knew it, and he continued to shout, “Mrs. Nguyen! Mrs. Nguyen!”

She could not bear it any longer. She threw away the bell and the drum. She slammed the door, went out to the gate and said, “Why, why do you behave like that? Why do you call my name hundreds of times like that?” The gentleman smiled at her and said, “I just called your name for ten minutes, and you are so angry. You have been calling the Buddha’s name for ten years. Think how angry he must be!

~ Told by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh

Two Monks And a Lady

Two Buddhist Monks were on a journey, one was a senior monk, the other a junior monk. During their journey they approached a raging river and on the river bank stood a young lady. She was clearly concerned about how she would get to the other side of the river without drowning.

The junior monk walked straight past her without giving it a thought and he crossed the river. The senior monk picked up the woman and carried her across the river. He placed her down, they parted ways with woman and on they went with the journey.

As the journey went on, the senior monk could see some concern on the junior monk’s mind, he asked what was wrong. The junior monk replied, “how could you carry her like that? You know we can’t touch women, it’s against our way of life”. The senior monk answered, “I left the woman at the rivers edge a long way back, why are you still carrying her?”

The moral of that buddhist monk story: The senior monk had broken rules but for good reason. Once the purpose was fulfilled he put her down and continued on. He never gave it a further thought. The junior monk however did not touch the woman but he had brought up the actions of the senior monk when it was an action of the past. Therefore the junior monk was carrying the burden of what the senior monk had done as emotional baggage.

We have little use for the past except for the purpose of learning from our experiences, good and bad. Just like in the Buddhist monk story, we need to let go of any burden the past may place on us. It’s happened, it’s over, it cannot be changed, we can only move forward and create a compelling future.

Chocolate Cake

When you were a child you loved and craved chocolate and cake, and you thought:
“When I’m old like my parents, I’ll have all the chocolate and cake I want, and then I’ll be happy.”

Now you have so much chocolate and cake, but you’re bored. So you decide that since this doesn’t make you happy you’ll get a car, a house, a television, a husband or wife – then you’ll be happy.

So now you have everything, but there are more problems: The car is a problem, the house is a problem, the husband or wife is a problem, the children are a problem. You realize, Oh, this is not satisfaction.

Lord Buddha is saying that you only have to know what you are, how you exist; that’s all.

Just understand your mind: how it works, how attachment and desire arise, how ignorance arises, where emotions come from. It is sufficient to know the nature of all that; just that gives so much happiness and peace. Your life changes completely; everything gets turned upside down; what you interpreted as horrible becomes beautiful.

How to check the mind?
Just watch how your mind perceives or interprets any object that it contacts; what feeling – comfortable or uncomfortable – arises.
Then you check: When I perceive this kind of view, this feeling arises, that emotion comes, I discriminate in such a way.
This is how to check the mind; that’s all. It’s very simple.

~ Adapted from a talk given in April 1975

Do You Still Get Angry?

One day Buddha was walking through a village. A very angry and rude young man came up and began insulting him. “You have no right teaching others,” he shouted. “You are as stupid as everyone else. You are nothing but a fake.”

Buddha was not upset by these insults. Instead he asked the young man “Tell me, if you buy a gift for someone, and that person does not take it, to whom does the gift belong?”

The man was surprised to be asked such a strange question and answered, “It would belong to me, because I bought the gift.”

The Buddha smiled and said, “That is correct. And it is exactly the same with your anger. If you become angry with me and I do not get insulted, then the anger falls back on you. You are then the only one who becomes unhappy, not me. All you have done is hurt yourself.”
“If you want to stop hurting yourself, you must get rid of your anger and become loving instead. When you hate others, you yourself become unhappy. But when you love others, everyone is happy.”