• By Nhat Quan
    Good teachers and good friends in Buddhist terms you often hear are good knowledge. In Buddhist scriptures, it is often taught, and Venerable monks often encourage you to stay close to good teachers and good friends to learn. The opposite of a good teacher and a good friend is a bad teacher and a bad friend.
    Evil teachers are the type of teachers who use magic spells to deceive people. You have to be careful, they give you charms to cast spells on others, whether it works or not is unknown, but you are the one who gets caught in the spell first because they will threaten you that if you don't follow it, your family will be ruined. If you don't follow it, you will die on the spot. I see superstitious people often follow this path.
    I know a few people, they look very pitiful. They told me that I accidentally believed in that Teacher, but the Teacher threatened me, telling me to find five more ungodly people and then I would go to heaven. If you don't get that, you'll get hit by a car and die. Then she showed me the amulet and asked:
    - According to you, what should I do now?
    I burned it and told her I had burned it. Buddhists bow to the Medicine Buddha and he will save you. Don't be afraid.
    Because the theme is being close to good teachers and good friends, following this trend, the Patriarchs often teach:
    - When going far, you need to rely on good friends
    Always keep your eyes and ears clean;
    Somewhere, you also need to rely on good friends,
    Then every day you hear and learn something you've never heard before.
    That is important on the path of learning religion. As a practitioner, you must remember it all your life. If you hear about a place with a good Dharma practice, you should go there. When you hear about a place with a famous monk, you should go and study. Even though that place is difficult and miserable, if you learn, you should stay. On the contrary, elsewhere there is a better material life, but if one cannot study or practice, then one's efforts there will be considered in vain. Reality shows that where material life is too full, there are often many dangerous temptations. Where there is lack and difficulty, think about why there is lack and difficulty. According to the law of cause and effect taught by Buddha, it is that difficulty and deprivation that will overcome your negative karma. Because of bad karma in previous lives, now you have to be born in bad circumstances to respond to your bad karma. So, if you want to escape this situation, you must fix it so that you can overcome it.
    The Patriarchs also taught that:
    - Being close to good friends is like walking in falling dew, feeling cool.
    But people with evil karma cannot accept good friends, and cannot hear good friends, but they are more suitable for evil friends.
    On the path of practice, in the first step, you avoid evil and approach good. If you are close to evil friends, then your evil thoughts and actions will increase, because you are close to evil, hear and think evil things, so evil increases. Therefore, when you are close to evil people, and you can accept and hear them, you will know that your evil karma is still there. If there is no more evil karma, you hear evil and feel jarring and uncomfortable.
    So you have to be careful of what you see and what you hear, because when you see bad things, your bad mind will arise, and when you hear about bad things, your bad mind will increase even more.
    Cultivate in the religion, and meet friends of the religion, but beware that they are bad friends. Indeed, people go to many ashrams, so they know too many bad things about each ashram, meaning their minds already have bad karma. Good people sit and listen to the Dharma to believe and adjust their bodies and minds to become good, and bad people can sit and listen to the Dharma, but they try to look at this person and that person and they also hear bad things, and then, they come together to discuss bad things, so the bad things are multiplied. In an ashram, if there are just one or two bad people, it is enough to make this ashram a mess. Because they only see bad things, but they don't listen to the good things that teachers preach.
    The most dangerous thing is the person who goes to many ashrams and collects bad things, which is a ghost masquerading as a Buddhist. If monks and nuns still use charms, they are demon kings pretending to be monks. They are truly evil spirits, pretending to follow Buddha, monks and nuns also wear robes, and Buddhists also take refuge in the Three Jewels, but spread harm to people. If you are close to such people, your evil views will increase. If you happen to see or hear this evil, don't let it come to your mind, and don't be close to them anymore. Because if you keep listening, your evil will increase in the future, making you no longer close to the religion.
    Previously, there was a young boy who wanted to become a monk at Duoc Su Temple, so his mother also came, but every time she came, she said:
    - Someone is following me.
    At one point she said:
    - Someone opened the car door to take my things
    At one point she said:
    - Someone is trying to break my car window...
    Hearing that I said:
    - Duoc Su Temple has never had that happen, but why did it happen when you just arrived?
    Hearing me say that, she stopped talking. So she changed the story, saying it was her wallet so someone could take the money. She concluded that while cultivating, one is still greedy.
    Talking about greed may exist, but those are thieves and robbers, certainly not Buddhists who practice at the temple. They are bad person pretending to be Buddhists, entering the Temple to take advantage of the crowd, taking advantage of the Buddhists' loopholes to steal. People who don't know falsely say that cultivating is greedy, cultivating is bad, and saying things like the woman I just mentioned is not true.
    People who come to the temple to practice differ from those who go to the temple to steal. People who often steal often look for the organization's mistakes to stigmatize. Therefore, during the Dharma teaching or prayer time, they do not listen, do not focus on praying, but only look for bad things and keep these bad things in their hearts to multiply. Those people are evil teachers, are bad friends you must avoid.
    Discussing people who practice but are still greedy. Suppose there are 100 monks and nuns, but there is only one good monk or nun, then you can only rely on this one monk or nun. For example, in an agarwood forest, there is only one agarwood tree that radiates fragrance to the entire forest. Not all trees in the forest are agarwood. People who seek religion are like people who seek agarwood. If you try to find agarwood, you should also try to find good friends and preserve this friendship, but people are like rotten wood, you don't care.
    Talking about good teachers and good friends, evil teachers and bad friends, there are people who come to the temple to make offerings and devote themselves to taking care of and building the Three Jewels, that is a good person, who has a heart to care for the Three Jewels. Meanwhile, there are people who come to the Temple to make money, or embezzle, go shopping for the Temple, take money, and do anything for their own gain, those are bad people. You can distinguish three types of people:
    - Ordinary people, when the temple gives them money, they take that much to take care of the Three Jewels.
    - Evil people take a lot of money from the Temple but take little care of the Three Jewels.
    - Good people take little money from the temple but take care of the Three Jewels a lot.
    For good Buddhists, no matter how much they care for the temple, they still care enough. I say this to share with you, not to complain or blame you at all. There are Buddhists who took refuge at Duoc Su Temple. When they came back to visit Vietnam, they were afraid that the Pagoda would ask them to buy this or that, so they told their fellow practitioners not to let their Master know that they were going to Vietnam. Besides that, there are also Buddhists who did not take refuge at Duoc Su Pagoda, but before going to Vietnam, they asked the Teacher five times seven times:
    - If you need anything in Vietnam, I will buy it. Then when they came to Vietnam, they asked me what I needed and they bought it. No matter how much they buy, they don't mind.
    Here someone asked:
    - Why are there Buddhists who are loved and cooperated in all aspects by many people, but there are Buddhists who are not?
    After all, the important thing is the heart for religion, so it is right that many people cooperate. You should get close to good people, and see their deeds, so you can imitate them. Therefore, when you study Buddhism, you don't have to look for people who are old and have practiced for a long time. A novice practitioner, but his character is as respectable as a Bodhisattva, worthy of your study.
    Many times, there are people who have practiced for a long time and studied highly but have not been able to do as well as those who have a heart for religion. If you meet people who have the mind to practice and care about the religion, you should consider them as teachers. Studying people who are younger than you in life and religion is learning their hearts because they are good friends.
    On your path to practice, you need to be close to good friends, to easily learn from their good qualities. Meanwhile, it would be best if you stayed away from bad friends. Because they are close to bad people, they take a lot of everything and buy little for the temple. Near them, you will be affected by:
    - One is the arising of evil thoughts,
    - Second, if at some point you get greedy, you will steal like them.
    Stealing from the permanent residence, of the Sangha, will certainly have extremely bad and serious consequences. Being close to people with such greed will make you develop evil views and bad ideas, and of course, bad actions will follow. That's why when you first practice, you're not bad, or a little bad, but because you're around a lot of bad people, bad ideas are born and you become a bad person very easily, and a lot.
    Practicing according to Buddha and being close to good teachers and good friends is the key to keeping your ears and eyes clean, and never letting your mind become dirty. If you accidentally see a bad thing, don't let it be indifferent. If you hear an evil person say something sinful, you must bow down and repent. It is this practice that I often apply, which is bowing in repentance, bowing to the Buddhas, and taking the Buddha's image instead of the ghost image. When I bow to the Buddha, I see the Buddha's good form appear, and the evil spirits disappear.
    Bowing to the Buddha to the extent that evil words no longer ring in the ears, no longer exist in the heart, is the end of karma. To be like that, you must bring Buddha into your heart and look and you will only see good people. And when there is only good in your heart, then on the outside, everywhere you go will be good. If your heart is not good, even if you look for Buddha, you will still encounter evil demons, or evil demons pretending to be Buddha, which is extremely dangerous.
    Remember that people who use magic spells to force others to listen, but later resent it more. Those who practice and still use spells to tell others, for their own benefit, will receive evil karma. But the truth is, if you truly practice, you will have everything and not lack it.
    When your mind is clear and directed towards Buddha, you will be loved by many people, and beyond that, there will be Buddhas and Bodhisattvas protecting and helping you, those are good friends. Magic spells are evil friends. You should not be close to these evil friends. You can only be close to those who have a pure heart and do good deeds. If you are close to good friends, you will learn many good things. When you need something, and do something, people automatically want to help.
    And when they are willing to help, you should accept their kindness and don't accept anything that is not necessary. In this case, when you have good friends, your greed arises your karma is still there, and your mind is already evil, from which evil words and actions will appear, meaning your body, speech, and mind are all evil. So when you need something, but people don't satisfy you, you have the idea of convincing people, so that they don't give it away, then lend it anyway. So, once an evil thought has arisen, an evil appearance will follow, and the consequences will certainly never be good.
    You know that form comes from the mind. Buddhists who truly practice, often recite Buddha's name, and read sutras, the sutras and the image of Buddha will come alive in their hearts, and they will appear gentle and lovely. If they truly practice, at first they may be bad, or worse, but by bringing Buddha and sutras into their hearts, their hearts light up and bad thoughts disappear. Sometime later, when you meet them again, you don't expect them to change so quickly and so well. From poor people, working as hired laborers, they become rich, luxurious, or become kings or mandarins, it is thanks to the merit of their practice. Typically, Zen Master Van Hanh guided Ly Cong Uan to practice properly, from an orphan, he became a virtuous king.
    Worldly people are full of greed, anger, and ignorance, but thanks to practice, evil karma is transformed. Because they live with the Dharma, they change their bad nature and become good people, saints. But because you made a mistake and met an evil demon pretending to be a Buddha, it made you become bad. Therefore, you must know that you practice wrongly. Observe carefully to determine right and wrong. Practice correctly, and advance to the Sage. If you practice wrongly and become a demon, then the people around you are all bad people.
    In short, evil friends will invite you to meet evil teachers. When you encounter difficulties, they lead you to evil teachers and show you many dangerous things. Therefore, on your spiritual path, you need to stay away from bad teachers and evil friends and stay close to good teachers and good friends called good and wise friends. It is the masters who truly practice, with only one heart to save sentient beings and good friends, who practice the Dharma. These people will be truly good people who can teach and guide you to become a good person, a wise person, and even further, guide you to Buddha and Bodhisattva. Only then will you be able to sublimate your knowledge and morality, escape all disasters, and always live peacefully, be liberated, and benefit the world.
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