Forest Sangha Newsletter January 1991

The Real World; Ajahn Sumedho
Beginners' Minds: From newly-robed bhikkhus
Guidelines for Cultivation; Master Hsuan Hua
The Golden State; Amaro Bhikkhu
Sanghapala: an introduction; Marc Lieberman



Guidelines to Success in Cultivation

The Sangha at Amaravati was privileged recently to receive the Venerable Master Hua and the Dharma Delegation from the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Our esteemed visitors stayed for nearly a week, providing many occasions of inspiration. By way of tribute, the following teaching is presented, from Master Hua's Herein Lies the Treasure Trove, Volume II.

If you don't intend to seek the good, then the ghosts seeking revenge for offenses don't come to find you. But the more you want to be good, the more they come looking for you to get their revenge. This results from the karma you have created from limitless kalpas until now. Although you can't really say that there's any noticeable amount of good within our past actions, there's certainly a whole lot of bad karma that we have created. Where good and bad karma are mixed together, if one tries to cultivate the Way, then all of one's creditors will come and demand repayment. It's like someone who was originally very poor and who borrowed a lot of money that he hasn't managed to pay back. When he was poor and had no way of paying them back, his creditors didn't demand payment. But then that person strikes it rich, and his creditors know there's no better time to ask.

Therefore, when you cultivate the Way and run into some kind of adverse state, you should progress forward with greater vigor and courage. Never retreat from your resolve for Bodhi. And you should certainly repay all of the creditors who arrive demanding repayment.

How are you going to repay them? You can take all of the merit and virtue that you are creating and transfer it to those seeking revenge. When they receive that merit and virtue, they will escape from suffering and attain bliss, escape from birth and cast off death. You can't try and declare bankruptcy to avoid paying back what you owe. And so it is said that when you want to be a good person, your creditors will seek revenge. All those creditors are people to whom you owe something. Life after life, time after time, this process of creating debts has been going on, brought about by a variety of causes and conditions. You have no way of knowing for sure how much wrong you have done in the past. Disregarding past lives, just look at your present life - how many lives of other beings have you taken in this very lifetime, and how many unjust things have you done? You may say, 'I haven't done any major killing.' Well, maybe you haven't done any killing to speak of, but still, each and every person could easily have killed without being aware of it. If you haven't done any killing, you must still have taken many small lives. And even if you haven't done any large-scale killing, you still have thoughts of killing in your mind. Large lives would include cows, horses, pigs, dogs, chickens and the like. Then there are smaller living creatures, like frogs, mice, mosquitoes, ants, gnats - can you say that you have never killed any such little creature?

If you want to become a Buddha, You must first undergo the demons.

Even if you took life without realizing what you were doing at the time, so your offense was unintentional, still you have harmed living creatures and robbed them of their lives. Therefore, as soon as you decide to cultivate the Way, it's very possible that they will come and demand repayment. And there aren't just one or two debts like that - there's no way of knowing how many there are. They have mounted up day after day, month after month, accumulating lifetime after lifetime for limitless kalpas until now. It's impossible to describe them - they are so many. But you can't be unfair about it and say, 'Well I am cultivating, and I just won't recognize all those creditors who are seeking repayment for all the wrong I have done in the past.' If you think that way, you will never be able to accomplish the Way. You have not yet established a sense of justice within your own heart. How can one establish justice in one's heart? By recognizing that one has debts that must be repaid. If you recognize what you owe, then you will under- stand and repay those debts; when all your debts are repaid the account will close. And so it is said:
If you want to learn to be good, The resentful enemies from your past offences will seek you out.

That is because now you are a 'fat cat', and so all your poor friends are going to look you up; they all want to gain advantage from you.

If you want to become a Buddha, You must first undergo the demons.

Who helps Buddhas become Buddhas? Demons help them. If there weren't any demons, there wouldn't be any Buddhas. And it's just because there are demons that there are Buddhas. They come to test you. They help you to progress and take another step forward. Because, as it's said:
If you wish to see another thousand miles, Then go up another flight of stairs.

They come to see if you are really up to it - whether you've got true spirit. If you've got it, then in the face of a hundred hardships you won't retreat from your Bodhi resolve. The harder and more difficult it gets, the more determined you will be to cultivate. Then no matter what difficulty or opposition comes your way, you'll get through it with ease. you'll never feel there's anything unfair about your predicament; you'll never find fault with heaven or blame others. If you can be that way, then whether things go your way or not, you will be developing your skill in the Paramita of Patience. And if you perfect your skill in patience, then whatever demonic obstacles come along, you will own up to them, accept, and recognize them. You won't have enmity towards the demons. You will feel that if you yourself undergo a little bitterness, it won't matter. You will even make a vow to rescue the demons, so that they too will take refuge with the Triple Jewel and set their minds on Bodhi.

Never think that anything or anyone is an enemy. Don't harbor the least bit of vengeance in your thoughts. Then you can:
Change lances and spears into jade and cloth.

That is, change enmity and hatred into kindness and compassion. Look for the good side of everything, and don't just consider yourself as all-important. Don't always be arguing in your own defense, saying, 'Look at who I am. You are being so impolite to me!' We shouldn't have that kind of thought. If your affairs aren't going right, you should examine yourself and underhand that the problem lies within yourself. Always look for your own mistakes, not other's wrongs.

Truly recognise your own faults And don't discuss the faults of others. Other's faults are just my own - Being one with everyone is called Great Compassion.

Being one with everyone includes all living beings, not just Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. or Sound Hearers and Those Enlightened by Conditions. It also includes demons. It means being of the same substance with demons, too.


How can I be a grassblade?
Delicate but strong, firmly-rooted
yet always ready to bow to the
when asked by the slightest gust.

How might I be a blade of grass?
Yielding and receptive
but immovable from my chosen spot
in the garden of earth.

How can I not doubt, not cry?
enduring darkness and drought,
forgetting defeat to serve the sky
and grow in the light.

I honour the fields and the flowers, my hosts,
the birds who drink dew from my arms,
the food I am when I offer myself
in complete surrender

To insects, a friendly cow
or some other hungry beast.
They will chew and be nourished and I
will disappear without a trace.

Sister Medhanandi
Cultivators of the Way here, most of all, must not be selfish or seek for self benefit. Benefit others; do not harm others to benefit yourself. This is extremely important. And don't always look down on other people, being discontent with what others are doing and feeling that only you yourself right. Many people here in the past were like that, people who had that very fault. They didn't make it. Their failures can act like mirror for us all. Each of us should examine ourselves. Take a look at our past, at what we are doing right now, and consider the future. If we can be mindful in this way and never forget our good heart and virtue in the Way, then over time, very naturally our good roots will increase. And if our good roots increase, then our resolve for the Way will deepen. And if we make a big resolve for the Way, we will be able to practise the Bodhisattva Way and benefit all living beings. It is all connected.

You need not fear demons. When a demonic obstacle comes along, you shouldn't give up retreat, saying, 'I have been a left-home person for so many years lave been cultivating for so long, and I have accumulated so much merit virtue - how can I still have demonic obstacle?" You can't say that. Demonic obstacles are your tests.