By Nhat Quan
There was a Buddhist who met and said to me:
- Teacher, I don't know why, now I see that the faith of Buddhists is so low!
Hearing that, I asked:
- Why do Buddhists say so?
That Buddhist replied:
- The reason is that I see Buddhists coming to the retreats to be present, then disappearing a little later...
Now I understand the reason why the Buddhists said that the faith of the Buddhists has declined.
In fact, the faith of those Buddhists did not decline, but their mindfulness and cultivation were not stable, so they were not happy. Because of not feeling happy, the practice has not shown consistency.
Indeed, peace and happiness, it is certainly not possible for new Buddhists to cultivate, or for those who are new to the Way. Because, when you practice, you have to practice, not just talk. Practicing in a verbal manner is practicing by mouth or practicing in a logical way for fun. Meanwhile, practicing according to the practice style is that you have to practice constantly:
- Chanting the Sutra
- Reciting Buddha
- Meditate …
When you first develop the mind to practice by chanting and reciting the Buddha's name, your neck will be dry, your voice will be hoarse, and your back will be sore when you sit for a long time. Through the method of sitting meditation, the legs hurt and the legs are tired. Only that much story, for those of you who have just started cultivating, is enough to feel miserable. Therefore, the saying that the joy of knowing cultivation can only be found in Buddhists who have already learned to practice, and must have a process of five years, ten years, or more. And those who just entered the monastery are not happy.
Now I ask, what time do you sleep at home, and what time do you wake up?
Talking about sleep, maybe people stay up all night to watch movies, until 2 or 3 am to go to bed, then when they wake up, it is definitely at least 9 or 10 am. However, in life in Zen monasteries, temples, and monasteries in Vietnam, at 3:30, four o'clock you are already awake.
And the second question: At home, how many hours do you chant, recite the Buddha's name, or meditate?
I don't dare to discuss it for those who have practiced for a long time, but for those who have just practiced for a long time, fifteen to thirty minutes is a lot. When freedom is lost, backaches, or aches and pains all over the body, suffering is certain. This shows that when you first develop the mind to cultivate, when you first know how to practice, it is very painful. That's why it's normal for Buddhists to come in for a little while and then disappear. But when there is mindfulness practice, and the practice time is considered an indispensable element, the practice time in retreats, or practice at home is never absent.
Now ask the truth, Are Buddhists who have practiced for a long time, happy or miserable?
Fun! It's true that the longer you practice, the merrier.
So in the beginning when you practice, the suffering, the pain comes. After practicing for a while, the pain will get used to it, and the pain will no longer be, the joy will begin to come. Indeed, joy comes on its own, like Zen Master Yan-T'ou. Before ordained, Zen Master Yan-T'ou was a general in the court, life was very happy, and everything had servants, he never touched his fingernails or strength at all. But when he was enlightened, he abandoned everything and entered the mountain to practice. One day, two bureaucrats came and saw his dire situation and said:
- Are you crazy? Are you crazy? Living a happy life, having a guard before and after, eating and sleeping, someone serves, but you give up everything to live a miserable life in the mountains?
Zen Master Yan-T'ou says:
- I'm crazy, but I'm awake. The rest of you who are awake are the crazy guys.
He said this to show you that he had fun while practicing. When there is joy, hardships are not a concern. I bring up this part to let you know so that while you are alive and healthy, you must know how to practice and equip yourself, As Kuei-shan Patriarch said:
- Waiting for thirst to dig a well is too late.
Indeed, when you don't know how to practice, or you hesitate to practice when you are sick and dying, you will not know where you will go in your future life. So you must know, impermanence neither wait nor forgives anyone, that's why you should take advantage, while you're still healthy, while you're alive, try to plant a good root, develop a good mind to practice, to when the time comes you will know the way to the Pure Lands of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
When there is practice when the minds have not yet come out of the ordinary body. At the time of death, the mind passes through the bardo of dharma. That is, when the consciousness leaves the mortal body, it becomes an independent body of consciousness and begins the journey seven times seven, which is forty-nine days. Especially for those who do not practice, the dharma of the true mind also exists but only for a moment and then disappears, so depending on where the karma leads, it goes there. As for those who have practice, it lasts for fourteen days, or more. This dharma-nature is what Buddhists practice every day, there are times when you have to face it. Especially when you practice continuously, you can face it many times. When practicing in a pure and quiet environment, if you practice with good conditions, you will encounter the true nature of the Dharma. Because the dharma is long-lasting, this person's mind is clear and chooses for you the next life. Of course, these people will give birth to the noble realm and good.
In many sutras, the Buddha said that when you practice, you are facing the dharma, with the mind. When you give up this body, it's true dharma exists for a very long time. The reason why you have to practice like this every day is to filter out the dirty mind, the bad mind. This part is very important for cultivators. That's why the ancients said:
- Break each part of ignorance to prove each part of dharma.
Every day you break a part of ignorance, you have a little more dharma. As the old saying goes:
- You eat a spoonful of rice is not full, you have to eat a second spoonful, then a cup, two cups, or three cups to be full.
Likewise, at the beginning of your practice, if you haven't seen anything, or haven't been happy, don't be discouraged, because everyone is new to the Way all are the same. Just like you know how to drive, when you sit in the car, you know how to turn on the engine and know how to drive, and the car runs immediately. And if you don't know how to drive, if you don't know how to turn on the engine, the car will stay in place. So you have to learn to drive slowly and then you also know how to drive. Like the Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng, when he heard a sutra he cut into about the true nature of the law, so he knew how birth and death go, how death and life lived, so he definitely went to the Fifth Patriarch Hongren to study the Way.
In this spirit, it is said that in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, in the monastery there is a large plot of land, from one to two hundred acres, the elderly when sick are not allowed to go to the hospital but are required to practice continuously to get rid of this body. When you sit still and pass away, you can leave at ease. There are times when you sit still, and deluded conceptualization and perversion of mind are gone. Deluded conceptualization is gone and clears all dharmas. When you experience that, you know that your mind is the Buddha. As long as you are so convinced, you are an enlightened Conscious Being. That is, you know your mind is pure, you have joy, then you have the conditions to share and teach others, it is called enlightenment Conscious beings. So a monk came and asked a Zen master:
- Why haven't you seen into one's own nature but made Good Knowledgeable?
He said:
- Only this person has faith is enough.
What's more, there are times when Buddhists have experience, develop a mind to practice the Dharma, and are qualified to guide and share with others. You are happy learning in such a way that you experience and practice the very roots of the Dharma. So you can practice any Dharma, but it is important that you liberate all your mental activities, that is:
- The mind of jealousy, the mind of selfishness, the mind of greed, the mind of scowl... must be let go.
When you practice, you still have the joy of letting go, because it doesn't do you any good. If you want to go away peacefully, and pure, you must practice now.
The principle of practice is to let go and do everything for others. For others means you bring peace, happiness, and benefits to others. You have to train your mind to be able to do this. This is also an Art of Living. Typically, the last time I gave a charity gift when I directly saw the recipient happy, I was also happy. And Buddhists who have contributed merit in this, although not directly seeing it, but listening to me tell it is also happy...
The spirit of the cultivator lies there. So, if you want to have the bardo of dharma lasting for fourteen or fifteen days or more, you have to practice. In everyday life, your mind must be peaceful, must be pure. Like when you are practicing, and listening to the Dharma if you die, it's better than you die at home. Like in 2012, there are some people who have heard that 2012 is the end of the world, so they are afraid. I said, you don't need to be afraid, you just concentrate at the temple, chanting or reciting the Buddha's name, if the end of the world comes, you will always go to the Buddha realm. That is, when you practice, you make a great vow, a compassionate vow, a vow to reside in the pure land of the Buddhas of the ten directions. Such as:
- Most Venerable Hsu-Yun, when he gave up this body, he vows returned to Tushita heaven.
- Venerable Chen Hsuan-Tsang vows to return to the Tusita heaven when he dies.
- Then Venerable Vasubandhu, Master Asanga, Mr. Buddhasimha, and Master T'ai-Hsu, practiced meditation but made a vow to return to the pure land.
Great Masters, only teach so, so Buddhists must understand that point and try to practice without any doubt. When you have happy mindfulness while practicing, at the time of death, in the first five days, in front of your consciousness will appear Buddhas one after another. Therefore, if your mind is pure, the pure lands of the ten directions will appear. Due to the original vow, you will be reborn in the pure land where you have made your vows.
The great bodhisattvas do not make a vow to the pure lands, but they make a compassionate vow to practice, called the arising of the mind to give birth to a body. For example, the 14th Lama also had the idea of being born, and as soon as he died, he was reborn in that area. As the venerable ones have taught:
- In the next life you can go to the West.
It's called arising of the mind to give birth to a body. According to some Venerable One called house robbery. That is, their consciousness does not enter the mother's womb, just waiting until someone's fetus is just born, they use the power to force the other person's consciousness to drift out and then they enter that newborn body. Only those with great ability can do so, like Master Tu Dao Hanh. This is called body borrowing.
As for the compassion and vows to save birth, they did not do that, but they observed the cause and effect, seeing which parents had a predestined relationship they entered. When they are born, they practice and they don't have much attachment to their parents, like Prabhapala Bodhisattva.
Bodhisattva Siddhartha when he was still in the Tusita heaven, he was Prabhapala Bodhisattva. Before coming down to this world, he entered the Dharma hall to enter samadhi and then descended to the earth, like the shadow of the moon in the sky. Looking down into the water you see the moon, but it is the shadow of the moon, not the real moon like in the sky, that is the power of the great Bodhisattva. Therefore, a monk, Dharma named Duc Thanh, came to ask King Tran Thai Tong:
- The World-Honored One had not yet left the Tusita heaven but had already entered his mother's womb. Not yet out of the womb, the mother has saved sentient beings all over the world, how is it?
At this time, King Tran Thai Tong said a verse:
- Thousands of rivers have water, thousands of moons appear,
If there is no cloud for a thousand miles, there is a sky for a thousand miles.
Indeed, when he entered the great concentration of samadhi, he was reborn in the world. In her mother's womb, Queen Maya, like a special palace in the heavenly palace, and all the great bodhisattvas gathered together to listen to the Dharma, listening to Bodhisattva Siddhartha speak the wonderful Dharma. Therefore, not yet coming out of the mother's womb, saving people is done.
Thus, you must have faith when you practice. Only then will you have happy thoughts while practicing, and benefit when you give up this body. The spirit of a cultivator is not that you wait for death to be liberated, but to liberate every thought and every thought in the present life.
As it was said once, when relinquishing this body, the first five days are very important:
- The first day is Vairocana Tathagata from space
Vairocana Tathagata means big sun, meaning your mind must be empty and pure.
- The second day is Aksobhya Tathagata from the Eastern universe, this is the unmoving Buddha land.
When your mind is still, naturally the realm you want to go to will appear. So when your mind is pure, the buddhas of the ten directions will appear. You already have the cause, the predestined relationship with the original vow, then you stay in that realm to continue your journey.
So when you understand a lot, practice a lot, don't be too arrogant. Because the Buddhas see bodhisattvas as children. The Bodhisattva sees the Arhat as a child. The Arahant sees Anagami, Sakrdagamin, and Srotapanna as children. The monks in the first row will see that you are children. Then now that you have cultivated a little, you look down, people who have never practiced cultivation do the same thing. Those who understand this must try to practice until you become a Buddha to fulfill your original vow. When you are greedy, angry, ignorant…. If you are not cleansed of defilements, you have not reached your original vow, you must make a vow. If you are born in this life, you must be born into a noble lineage that respects and believes in the Three Jewels and grows up to be ordained. So it's called:
- Born in the capital city,               
Growing up, meeting a good teacher, a good friend,
Having true faith, leaving home,
Studied religion from a young age.
Your practice is a part, you must have the willpower. Aspiration and vows are like ropes that lead you from getting lost. Seems so simple but very difficult. When you live healthy you see nothing, but when death comes you will find it is not easy.
- The third day is Ratnasambhava Tathagata from the southern universe.
The South belongs to the fire sign, the fire belongs to the heart. If your mind is pure, the realm of Ratnasambhava Tathagata appears.
- The fourth day is Amitabha Buddha from the Western universe.
- The fifth day is Amogha-siddhi Tathagata from the northern universe.
These five Buddhas will guide your consciousness to the pure land where they reside. If your mind is realized in this stage, it will go to the pure land of one of those five Buddhas. So you know, if any one of you is full of merit, or in other words, you have a pure mind, then depending on what realm you want to be in, you will go to that realm immediately, not waiting for forty-nine days. So you have to know how to live every day, naturally, your mind will be like that. Therefore, the Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng affirmed:
- Compassion is Avalokitesvara, equanimity is Mahasthama-prapta, diligence is Shakyamuni, and purity is Amitabha.
Thus, Buddhists know that the pure lands of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas appear from your mind. The Vimalakirti Sutra states:
- A pure mind means a pure Buddha land. If you want to be in a pure land, you must first purify your mind.
If you want the pure land of the Buddhas of the ten directions to be present, you must cultivate your mind and transform your mind. That is, you have to get rid of the distractions, the nooks and crannies in your mind must be clear. Practitioners must have the courage to do so. So walking, standing, lying down, sitting, you have to watch your mind.
Next, living in this ordinary life, Buddhists remember what you can give up, what you should give up, and what you can let go, you have to let go so that the last days of your life can be relaxed and peaceful. There are events that come to you, but you are still strong now, and the energy that you can't let go, when death comes, it's very difficult for you to let go.
In short, when you learn to practice, you will have immediate joy. Because even in this real life, your body is healthy, your mind is peaceful, and you don't have to worry about it, so when you die you know where you're going.
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