BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF GREAT
The Master's name was
Ever after, his skillful instructions in the style of the
The Master studied the Tripitaka by day and recited the
An essay he wrote called "An Exhortation to Bring Forth the Bodhi Resolve" encouraged the Four-fold Assembly in their cultivation. Many of the people who read this essay were moved to tears.
On the fourteenth day of the fourth lunar month during the twelfth year of the
Myriads of people attended the funeral of Great Master Sying An. Suddenly he opened his eyes and said, "I am going now and will come back soon. Birth and death are the important matter. Everyone should purify his mind and recite the
He put his palms together and recited the
His compassionate mind was so vast that he wrote an essay called "An Exhortation to Bring Forth The Bodhi-Resolve".
His vow power was so profound that he made forty-eight vows in all.
His practice and understanding of Buddhism were so real and true that his auspicious responses were beyond compare.
Therefore, the lineage of the
I, the unworthy Shr Syan, a lowly, ordinary Sanghan, weeping blood and bowing to the ground, exhort the great assembly and present-day men and women of pure faith: please listen and consider what I am about to say.
We have heard that resolving the mind is foremost among the essential doors for entering the Path, and that making vows is first among the crucial matters in cultivation. By making vows, we can save living beings. By resolving our minds, we can realize the
As the Flower Adornment Sutra says, "If you forget your resolve upon Bodhi, your cultivation of even wholesome dharmas becomes the karma of demons." That refers to forgetting your resolve upon Bodhi; it is even worse to never make the resolve.
Thus we know that anyone wishing to study the Vehicle of the Thus Come Ones must first make the vows of a Bodhisattva without delay.
But resolves and vows are
various and they have many aspects. If they are not pointed
out, how can we know what direction to take? I will now explain them in
general for the great assembly. There are eight aspects of a resolve: deviant,
proper, true, false, great, small, partial, and complete.
What is meant by deviant, proper, true, false, great, small, partial, and complete? A cultivator's resolve is deviant if in his practice he does not investigate his own mind but knows only about external matters. Perhaps he seeks benefit and offerings, likes fame and a good reputation, is greedy for objects of pleasure in the present, or he may hope for reward in the future. A resolve such as this is deviant.
When a cultivator seeks neither gain nor fame and has no greed either for pleasure or for rewards, but wishes only to settle the matter of birth and death, and to attain Bodhi, then his resolve is proper.
in moment after moment, he seeks the path of the
"When the realm of living beings has come to an end, then my vows will end. When the
sees living beings as existing outside of his mind; if
he does wish to save others and to realize Buddhahood,
but does not forget his own accumulation of merit and does not get rid of his
worldly knowledge and views, then his resolve is partial. If
he knows that his own nature is the same as living beings and, therefore, vows
to save them; if he knows that his own nature is the same as the Buddha path
and, therefore, vows to realize it; if he does not see even one dharma as
existing apart from the mind; if his mind is like empty space; if he makes vows
that are like empty space; if he cultivates practices that are like empty
space; if he attains a fruition like empty space, and yet does not grasp at the
characteristic of empty space, then his resolve is complete.
Having understood these eight different aspects of a resolve, we should know bow to investigate and contemplate them. Knowing how to investigate and contemplate them, we know which to keep and which to discard. Knowing which to keep and which to discard, we can then resolve our minds.
What does it mean to "investigate and contemplate them?" We must ask ourselves, "Which of these eight aspects does my resolve have? Is my resolve deviant or proper, true or false, great or small, partial or complete?" What does it mean to "keep or discard?" It means that we discard the deviant, the false, the small, and the partial, and that we keep the proper, the true, the great, and the complete. To resolve our minds in this way is truly and properly to resolve upon Bodhi.
The resolve upon Bodhi is the king among all good things. It can arise only due to certain causes and conditions. In general, there are ten causes and conditions, which will now be discussed. What are the ten?
first is mindfulness of the
The second is mindfulness of our parents' kindness.
The third is mindfulness of our teachers' and elders' kindness.
The fourth is mindfulness of donors' kindness.
The fifth is mindfulness of living beings' kindness.
The sixth is mindfulness of the suffering in birth and death.
The seventh is reverence for our own spiritual nature.
The eighth is repenting ofkarmic obstacles and reforming.
ninth is the wish for rebirth in the
The tenth is the wish to cause the Proper Dharma to remain in the world for a long time.
What is mindfulness of the
His kindness and his virtue are greater than the highest mountain. If I fail to make a vast and great resolve to cultivate the Bodhisattva Path and to establish the Buddhadharma in order to save living beings, even to the point that in making this effort my bones wear away and my body is wrecked, then how can I possibly hope to repay his kindness? This is the first cause and condition for resolving the mind upon Bodhi.
What is mindfulness of our parents' kindness? Alas for my parents! I was born through much toil. I was nurtured nine months in the womb and was suckled three years at the breast. My bottom was dried and my diapers were changed. I was fed delicacies while they foiled bitterly. Only then was I able to grow up. They hoped only that I might glorify and carry on the family name and continue the ritual offerings to our ancestors. But now I have left the home and family, and am gratuitously called a disciple of Shakyamuni and have dared to assume the title of Shramana. I neither offer delicacies to my parents nor sweep the ancestral graves. While they live, I cannot take care of their physical needs; after they depart, I cannot guide their souls. In this world, I have thereby hurt them greatly, and as they leave this world, I am of no real help. To cause them such a double loss is a serious offense. How can I possibly avoid the consequences!
I contemplate in this way: I must always cultivate the
This is the second cause and condition for resolving the mind upon Bodhi.
What is mindfulness of our teachers' and elders'
kindness? My parents bore me and raised me, but if not for my secular teachers
and elders, I would know nothing of propriety or righteousness. If not for my
world-transcending teachers and elders) I would understand nothing of the Buddhadharma. Qne who knows
nothing of propriety or righteousness is the same as an animal. One who
understands nothing of the Buddhadharma is no
different than an ordinary person. Now we know the
rudiments of propriety and righteousness and have a rough understanding of the Buddhadharma.
The kashaya sash covers our bodies; the various precepts permeate our being. We have obtained these through the deep kindness of our teachers and elders. If we seek a small accomplishment, we can benefit only ourselves. Within the Great Vehicle our wish is to benefit all people. In that way, we can benefit both secular and world-transcending teachers and elders.
This is the third cause and condition for resolving the mind upon Bodhi.
What is mindfulness of donors' kindness? None of the materials we use in
our daily lives belongs to us. Porridge and rice for our two
meals, clothing for the four seasons, medicines for our illnessesỞall
the expenses for our physical needsỞcome
through the strength of others. In order to provide for us, they work
hard to plow the fields, yet can barely provide for themselves, while we sit
comfortably to receive our food and still feel dissatisfied. Our donors spin
and weave without cease and still suffer hardship, while we are comfortable,
with more clothes than we can wear. We are even unaware that we should cherish
what we have.
They live to the ends of their days in poor and humble dwellings amid nerve-wracking clamor, while we dwell among vast courtyards and in vacant halls amid refinement and ease throughout the year. They offer the fruits of their labors to supply our idleness; how can our hearts be at peace? Is it reasonable to use others' goods to nourish our own bodies? If we fail to be both compassionate and wise and to adorn ourselves with both blessings and wisdom, so that the faithful donors are blessed with kindness and living beings receive bounty, then even one grain of rice or one inch of thread will incur a debt. It will be hard to escape an evil retribution.
This is the fourth cause and condition for resolving the mind upon Bodhi.
What is mindfulness of living beings' kindness? In life after life since
distant kalpas past, every living being and I have
been each other's father and mother. We have been kind to one another. Now
although the passage of time has separated us, and in our confusion
we do not recognize each other, it is only logical that we repay them for their
toil. How do we know that we were not sons in lives past of those who now wear
fur and are capped with horns? How do we know that
those who now crawl on the ground and fly in the air were not our fathers in
Our parents constantly looked after us, but we left them when we were young; we have grown up and have forgotten their faces. Even less do we remember our family and friends of lives past, and now it is difficult to remember if we were once named Smith or Jones. Now as they wail and cry out in the hells, or are born over and over again as hungry ghosts, who can know of their suffering and pain? They are starving; to whom can they appeal? I cannot see or hear them, but they must be seeking rescue and release. Only the Sutras could reveal this situation. Only the
For these reasons, Bodhisattvas observe that even grubs and ants were their parents in lives past and are
This is the fifth cause and condition for resolving the mind upon Bodhi.
What is mindfulness of the suffering of birth and death? Since distant kalpas past, living beings and I have always been involved
in birth and death and have not attained liberation. Whether
among people or in the heavens, in this world or in another, we have risen and
sunk myriads of times. .We ascend or fall in an
instantỞsuddenly a god, suddenly a human,
suddenly an animal, a hungry ghost, or a denizen of the hells.
We leave the black gate at dawn but return at night. We climb out of the pit of iron briefly but then fall back in again. As we ascend the mountain of knives, our bodies are slashed until not a bit of flesh remains. As we climb the tree of swords, our hearts are slit open. The hot iron does not cure hunger; swallowing it roasts the liver and intestines. The broth of boiling copper does not quench thirst; drinking it dissolves the flesh and bones. Sharp saws dismember the body; once cut, it comes back together again. Clever breezes fan the body; it dies but quickly returns to life. In the city of raging fire, we endure the sounds of bloodcurdling screams and wails. In the pot of boiling oil, we hear only cries of excruciating pain. The body begins to freeze and harden and resembles a blue lotus forming a bud. Then the flesh and veins crack open and the body looks like a red lotus in bloom.
In a single night, the denizens of the hells pass through ten thousand births and deaths. In a single morning, the sufferings in the hells are what humans would go through in a hundred years. The harried wardens of the hells become weary. Who believes that
The loved ones of yesteryear are now sworn enemies. Rivals of days past are now our blood relatives. Our mothers of past lives are our wives of the present. Our fathers-in-law of old are now our husbands. Those with knowledge of past lives recognize these changes; they feel shame and embarrassment. Those with the Heavenly Eye see these situations; they find them laughable and pathetic.
Amid excrement and filth we pass nine difficult months. We emerge from the path of pus and blood in a pitiable state. When young, we know nothing and cannot tell east from west. As adults, we become more aware, but our greed and desire arise. In an instant, old age and illness overtake us; suddenly death arrives. Amid the blaze of wind and fire, our spirit becomes disordered; our essence and blood are exhausted. Our flesh and skin wither and dry up. We feel as if iron needles are piercing our every pore and as if knives are hacking our every orifice.
When the spirit leaves the body at death, it feels more pain than does a live turtle having its shell ripped off before it is thrown in the pot.
mind has no fixed purpose. It flits hurriedly from place to place like a
traveling peddler. Our bodies have no fixed shapes. We continually exchange
them as if we were moving from room to room in a house. We have had and lost
more bodies than there are particles of dust in a billion worlds. We have cried
more tears at parting than all the water in the billows of the four seas. The
stacks of bones rise higher than mountain peaks. The heaps of corpses are more vast than the earth.
It is only to be feared that one mistake has led to another for ten thousand kalpas, through thousands of lives. A human body is hard to obtain and easy to lose. Good times soon pass and cannot be brought back. The road is dark and gloomy, and separations last a long time. I must endure evil retribution in the Three Paths alone. The pain is unspeakable; who would stand in for me? Even discussing this subject chills my heart.
We, therefore, must halt the flow of birth and death, get out of the ocean of love and desire, save ourselves and save others, and together reach the other shore. Of all things from the beginning of time past, this is the most extraordinary achievement, yet one only needs to begin.
This is the sixth cause and condition for resolving the mind upon Bodhi.
What is reverence for our own spiritual nature? It is that in the
present, single thought, I can immediately be one with the Thus Come One, Shakyamuni, without any difference at all. Why is it, then,
that the World Honored One realized proper enlightenment an infinite number of kalpas ago, yet we are still muddled, confused, and upside
down, still only ordinary people?
It is as if we had dropped a priceless pearl into a mud puddle, considering it as worthless as a broken tile, neither cherishing nor esteeming it. We should, therefore, use an infinite number of wholesome Dharmas as an antidote to our afflictions. By cultivating virtue, we gain merit, and the virtue of our nature can then appear. Thus we wash the pearl and set it up high, where it releases a penetrating radiance that outshines everything. Then we can say that we have not been ungrateful to the
This is the seventh cause and condition for resolving the mind upon Bodhi.
What is repenting of karmic obstacles and reforming? The sutras say that
to commit one duskrita causes us to fall into the Nirtaka Hell for a period equal to a five-hundred-year
lifespan in the Heaven of Four Kings. Duskrita are
small offenses, yet we receive such retribution. Serious offenses evoke even
more suffering; the retribution they bring is indescribable.
We constantly break the precepts by everything we do in our daily lives. With each meal we take and with each drop we drink, we transgress the sila. A single day's transgressions are beyond reckoning. How much more numerous are the transgressions committed during kalpa after kalpa! They are indescribably many.
Moreover, it is said, "Often people who receive the Five Precepts nine will transgress them." Few admit their errors; most conceal them. The Five Precepts are the Vpasaka Precepts; yet we fail to perfectly uphold even these, not to mention the Shramanera, Bhikshu, and Bodhisattva Precepts.
If you ask our titles, we will reply, "We are Bhikshus." But in fact, we do not even come up to being Upasakas. How can we fail to be ashamed?
We should know that receiving the
If we fail to have pity on ourselves and others, if we fail to have compassion for ourselves and for others, if we fail to be harmonious and sincere in word and deed, if we fail to sigh and weep, if we fail to painfully seek repentance and reform together with all living beings everywhere, then our evil retributions due from thousands of lifetimes throughout tens of thousands of kalpas will be difficult to escape.
This is the eighth cause and condition for resolving the mind upon Bodhi.
What is the wish for rebirth in the
The Sutra says, however, that we cannot be reborn there if our good deeds are few. Only through many acts deserving of blessings can we be successful. They say that none of the many acts deserving of blessings equals maintaining the recitation of
Thus, we may practice mindfulness of the
Therefore, plant a Bodhi seed. Till with the plow of mindfulness of the
This is the ninth cause and condition for resolving the mind upon Bodhi.
What is the wish to cause the Proper Dharma to remain long in the world?
Our World Honored One, for our sakes, cultivated the Bodhi
Path for an infinite number of kalpas. He could
practice what was difficult to practice and could endure what was difficult to
endure. His causes were perfect, his results were complete; thus, he became a
The Proper Dharma Age and Dharma Semblance Age have already ended. Now we are in the Dharma Ending Age; there are teachings but no adherents. No one can distinguish the deviant from the proper; no one can tell right from wrong. We compete and struggle with each other. We pursue fame and fortune. Look around: the deluge has spread throughout the world.
No one knows who the
pain is, therefore, unbearable. I have no recourse but to immediately forget my
baseness and quickly make the great resolve. Although I cannot reverse the fate
of the Dharma's end in the present, I certainly must
plan to protect and uphold the Proper Dharma in the future.
Therefore good friends, gather together at the Way Place, perform the Karmavachana, and establish Dharma assemblies. Make the forty-eight vows; make vow after vow to save living beings. Make a deep resolve that will last for hundreds of thousands of kalpas; in thought after thought, resolve to be a
From this day to the end of future time, vow to return to the peace of the Pure Land at the end of every life, to ascend to the nine grades of lotuses, and to then come back to the Saha World. Make the
This is the tenth cause and condition for resolving the mind upon Bodhi.
Thus we know the ten conditions and are fully aware of the eight dharmas. We consequently have a gateway to progress and a basis for our development.
We have a human body and live in a favorable country. Our six sense organs are intact and our bodies are healthy. We have complete faith, and fortunately we are without demonic obstacles. Furthermore, we Sanghans have been able to leave the home-life and to receive the complete precepts. We have found a Way Place and have heard the Buddhadharma. We have looked reverently upon the
I hope only that the great assembly will sympathize with my simple-minded sincerity and share my earnest intent. Let us take these vows together. Let us make this resolve together. Whoever has not yet made the resolve should do so now. Whoever has already made the resolve should bolster it. Those who have already bolstered it should continue to advance.
Do not fear difficulty and make a cowardly retreat. Do not consider this matter easy and frivolously waste time. Do not wish for quick results and fail to persevere. Do not become lax and fail in your courage. Do not become dispirited and fail to rouse yourself. Do not let procrastination cause you to delay. Do not let stupidity and dullness keep you from making the resolve. Do not assume that you have shallow roots and are, therefore, unworthy of taking part.
For example, after a tree is planted, the once-shallow roots deepen every day. Similarly, as a knife is sharpened, the blade which was once dull becomes sharp. Because the roots are shallow, would we choose not to plant the tree and allow it to wither away? That the knife is dull is no reason not to sharpen it and to set it aside as useless.
Moreover, if we feel that cultivation makes us suffer, it is because we do not know that laxity will make us suffer even more. Cultivation entails a brief period of diligent toil, but it yields peace and joy for kalpas without end. One lifetime of laxity and of shirking work results in suffering for many lifetimes to come.
Furthermore, with the
Since time without beginning, we have been muddled and confused. It is useless to remonstrate with ourselves about the past, but we can wake up now, and in the future we can make amends.
Since we are confused and not yet enlightened, we are certainly to be pitied. But if we know that we should cultivate yet we fail to practice, we are especially pathetic. If we fear the suffering in the hells, we will naturally be vigorous. If we remember the imminence of death, we will not become lazy. Moreover, we must take the Buddhadharma as our whip and find good friends to urge us on. For this short time, do not leave them. Rely on them to the end of your life. Then you need not fear retreat.
Do not say that one thought is a small matter. Do not feel that vows are empty and useless. If our resolves are true, then we can realize our goals. When our vows are vast in scope, then our practice will go deep. Empty space is not big, but the king of resolves is big. Vajra is not durable, but vow-power is the supremely durable.
Great assembly! If indeed you can accept my words, then from now on, all pledge fraternity in the retinue of Bodhi and sign a compact of kinship in a lotus society. We vow to be reborn together in the
How do we know that our future perfection of the thirty-two marks and adornments of the hundred blessings does not begin on this day that we resolve our minds and make our vows? I hope that the members of the great assembly will urge each other on. What good fortune! How lucky we are!