I read this out to the last Sunday Group before closing. I have carried a photocopy of this with me for many years and thought this was a good time to revisit it. Thank you to the OBC Journal for allowing me to share. I will just publish it complete.
During Rev. Seck Kim Seng’s visit to Shasta Abbey in 1974, he presented Rev. Roshi Jiyu – Kennett and the community with a beautiful Chinese calligraphy which he had lettered especially for us. What follows here is a slightly edited version of his explanation, originally appearing in the Journal of November 1974. – ed.
I would like to tell you directly and personally what I have written. These first four characters are your name, Zen Mission Society (the former name of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives). When Hui – Neng wanted to speak, he said to all the people, “You are very learned men.” Next I have written that I am going back to Malaysia and am leaving this as a reminder of my visit. The following column is a sentence from the smaller Sukhavati – Vyuha. Anyone who comes to the Pure Land is a very holy man. I came to see you because I wanted to know if you were holy men as in the Pure Land.
The next two columns are from the Hui – Neng Sutra. Before he gave the speech, Hui – Neng said, “Everyone has the Buddha Nature. This Buddha Nature is the seed of enlightenment and is naturally pure. If you make good use of the Buddha Nature, you can reach Buddhahood directly.” This means that we can all, everyone, become Buddha. The idea that all men have the Buddha Nature like Buddha is very important. Our Buddha Nature is pure; when we simply make good use of our Buddha Nature, then we can reach Buddhahood very easily.
The next two columns are from the Pari Nirvana Sutra. Shakyamuni was asked by a disciple, “While you are alive, you are our teacher, but when you enter Nirvana, who will teach us?” Shakyamuni answered, “When I enter into Nirvana, the Precepts are your teacher.” The Precepts are like a rule fixed by Shayamuni. They allow us to do or not to do, and are our guide in learning mindfulness. Everyone must follow the Precepts as their teacher, everyone must study the Sutras. The disciple asked again, “Shakyamuni, when you are alive, we follow you; if you go there, we go with you; if you stay here, we stay with you. But after you enter Nirvana, where are we to stay?” Shakyamuni said, “Remember the Four Plain Beads (also called the Four Views), that is, 1) the body is impure (i.e. has no substance, its Real Substance being the Buddha Nature which appears in all things); 2) sensation results in suffering; 3) mind is impermanent; and 4) things have no nature of their own.” The first means, do not dwell on your body; stay in mindfulness. Those who think I love my body” assume that they own their body. Then everything they do is infected with greed and hate. If you understand that the body is impure, then there is nothing for you to love.
The second is that sensation is the cause of suffering. That is why, in the Hui-Neng Sutra, Hui-Neng says that two is not the Buddha’s teaching. The teaching of the Buddha is only one. You only receive sensation when you are attached to the body. This body is made up of six organs (eye, ear, nose, tongue, touch, perceptions), and six senses (consciousness of each sense). For instance, the quality of the ear is sound: the ear is the organ; the sense is you hearing or taking notice. Suppose the sound is there and my ear is here. If I do not pay attention, perhaps taking great interest in you, then although the sound comes to my ear, I do not hear – because the consciousness is not directed to the sound.
These six organs, six qualities, six senses make up eighteen realms. From the time you get up in the morning to when you go to bed, at any moment, you cannot do anything without these eighteen realms. Ordinary people make two judgements: good and bad. Suppose I overhear you speaking well of me; then I am happy. If you speak badly of me, I get angry. If I visit you and you welcome me, then I feel very good; but if I go to your house and you are rude to me, I do not feel liked. If you are kind to me, then in the future I will welcome you to my house. If you are rude to me, then I may be rude to you and will not welcome you. Thus these two things, good and bad, dominate ordinary people.
But the Buddha is like a mirror. Whether something is good or bad, all is one. If you are good, I know you are good, but I do not feel happy; if you are bad, I know you are bad, but I do not feel angry. That means that the Buddha is very pure in mind. The Buddha is free of these two reactions because to Him it is all the same. That is why in Buddhism you do not think in nterms of what you will receive. Instead, be like a mirror. Shakyamuni Buddha is our model of a pure mind. The Budda’s action is based on knowing the good and the bad without reacting blindly. Remember that after Shakyamuni Buddha enters Nirvana, the teaching is everywhere you are, and you will be happy.
The next column says that in Buddhism there are two types of trainees: Arhat and Bodhisattva. The Arhat studies the Four Noble Truths: suffering, its cause, the end, and the way of suffering. The cause of suffering is in the past; our present suffering is the result of the past. We know the suffering. We have suffering because we have a body, because we have come to be reborn. And why are we reborn? Because of our past actions. But if we know the cause, we can stop the result. That is why knowing the cause leads to no rebirth, or Arhat Nirvana. The Four Noble Truths teach you to be released from rebirth via the Eightfold Path: correct understanding, correct thought, correct speech, correct action, correct livelihood, correct effort, correct mindfulness and correct concentration. If you follow this path, you will stop rebirth and enter Arhat Nirvana, but not Boidhisattva Nirvana.
Nirvana is of three kinds: 1) Arhat, 2) Bodhisattva, 3) Buddha (complete). Now the Arhat meditates, taking care of his various duties, doing no evil to others. But he does not do good; simply not doing evil is not the same as doing good. If a thief no longer steals, you cannot say he is a good man, just that he is not a bad man. To be a good man, then you must have charity and generosity. An Arhat is neither good nor bad. If you want to know Buddha, you must do good, you must be charitable.
In order to do good, the Bodhisattva will follow the Six Paramitas: charity, love, morality, energy, meditation, wisdom. That means you go among people who are ill with the six kinds of sickness. You are like a doctor using the Six Paramitas to cure their illness:
Greed – charity (generosity)
Hatred – love
Desires (lying, stealing, etc.) – morality
Laziness – energy
Confusion – meditation
Ignorance – wisdom
Like a doctor, you benefit others and progress up the ten stages of a Bodhisattva. A Bodhisattva progresses in his training as a doctor does until he graduates. Arhatship is like grade school from which one progreesses to university (Bodhisattva) until one becomes Buddha.
The next column means I want all of you to become Bodhisattvas. For a Bodhisattva, the most important Paramita is generosity. There are three kinds of gifts: 1) money, 2) life, 3) teaching. Money is not so meritorious; life is more so; teaching is the greatest. You must give teaching to others by spreading the teaching of the Buddha every day. The Six Paramitas are our occupation and duty. To teach, to cook and wash are our daily tasks.
I speak in broken English but I want you to understand that it is from heart to heart. Tomorrow I go back to Malaysia. love you all and hope you will become Buddha.