Can be a Buddha
Amitabha Buddhist Society of Singapore, 25
Greetings everyone: today, several groups
of practitioners from mainland China, the US, and Taiwan are scheduled
to leave Singapore, so I would like to change the topic of this
morning・s talk and express my appreciation for everyone・s support
in organizing groups to make these frequent visits possible.
have not been here long, only a week or two, but you have seen our
conditions for learning and practice. Not everything has been satisfactory,
for doing everything perfectly is very difficult. During the time
of Buddha Shakyamuni, there were numerous diverse religious groups
as well as differences of opinions within the Sangha itself; hence,
their Buddhist community was also imperfect. The Buddha said it
was actually a great performance, that they were all manifestations
of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Some played negative roles, like Devadatta,
while others played positive roles; but those who are unawakened
did not realize this. From this example, we can see how Buddhas
guide sentient beings with both positive and negative examples.
Buddha taught in this way, as did the saints from various religions.
As Confucius often said, "Every group of three people has a
teacher we can learn from." When we include ourselves in a
group of three, there would be one person who is more virtuous and
one who is less virtuous. We emulate the former and observe the
latter to see if we have the same faults. If we do, we quickly correct
them. In this way, we learn from both. The same applies to situations,
either good or bad as both can help us to learn. Likewise, we make
use of favorable or unfavorable conditions and relationships with
others to help us achieve attainment in our practice of virtue.
Confucius said, "A benevolent person has no enemy. " This
is even truer in Buddhism.
to people from various religions. For example, last night at the
Singapore Buddhist Lodge, we attended the lecture given by a Sikh
Elder, Mr. Harban Singh. Are there any real differences between
the Sikh or other religious teachings and the educational teachings
of Confucius or Buddha Shakyamuni? Problems exist today because
we do not listen to one another - we envy one another, we surmise
and jump to the wrong conclusions. These lead to misunderstandings,
conflicts, and even wars among ethnic and religious groups. What
were the causes? People did not communicate. If we have frequent
visits and exchanges of ideas, there would be mutual understanding.
(As Mr. Singh elaborated on Sikh beliefs, we also explained that
we view Buddhism as an education rather than a religion.) If everyone
communicated like this, our problems would cease.
night, practitioners asked Mr. Singh some good questions. One person
asked, what was a Sikh・s highest goal in cultivation? He wisely
replied that the highest goal is to become one with God. Buddhists
do not speak of God but of perfect Enlightenment, to become one
with one・s mind and True Nature. What Buddhist practitioners call
mind and True Nature, religious followers call God. The words are
different, but the meaning is the same.
that God created everything. Buddhism does not mention God in this
context. Rather, we believe, as explained in the Flower Adornment
Sutra: "Everything arises from the mind and changes according
to our perceptions." We speak in terms of mind and consciousness;
others speak about God. When others ask us the ultimate goal of
our practice, we explain that it is to become Buddhas, for our bodies
and minds to combine with all sentient beings throughout the universe
to become one entity. We are speaking of the same thing.
say that the saints from all religions, who we call the founders
of religions, are messengers or embodiments of God. This is correct.
The God they speak of is what we call the True-Nature. We want to
be logical, mindful, and free of prejudices in our communication
with all religious groups.
that all sentient beings in the universe share a common life entity
that Buddhists call the Dharma-body: "All Buddhas from all
space and time share one Dharma-body." Thus, among religions,
there are no contradictions or conflicts but peaceful coexistence
and equality. When our minds reach the equal and non-discriminatory
state, we become Buddhas and we no longer have wandering discriminatory
thoughts or attachments. When such thoughts and attachments are
present, the mind is not in the state of equality.
further, all the saints in this world and beyond are manifestations
of God. But what about us mortal beings? We are also embodiments
of God! To use religious terms, everything created by God is his
manifestation. In Buddhist terms, everything in the universe is
the manifestation of the Dharma-body, which is the mind and consciousness.
Nothing exists outside the mind-consciousness. By deeply understanding
this principle, we reach the state of seeing our true-nature, which
also means having no obstruction in understanding all phenomena
of the universe. We then reach the state of not encountering any
hindrances at all as auspicious peace and harmony pervades the universe.
human beings of all diverse nationalities, races, and religions,
and other sentient beings coexisted peacefully. For all are part
of the same family. Like parents, children and siblings who have
respect and non-discriminatory unconditional love for one another.
To love all beings is to love ourselves. Thus, in Buddhism it is
said: "Unconditional compassion for all others, as we are all
one entity". Who really understands this truth? Buddha Shakyamuni
understood, Dharma-body Bodhisattvas understood, and as we learn
about the founders of religions, these saints understood.
we learn ten guiding principles for relating to others and circumstances.
These are the Four All-embracing Methods and the Six Paramitas.
How do husbands and wives get along? By practicing the Four All-embracing
Methods and the Six Paramitas. In this way, spouses and families
would live together harmoniously, society and nations would be stable
and prosperous, and the world would be peaceful. Why are we unable
to practice the Four All-embracing Methods and the Six Paramitas?
Because, we lack the right learning and cultivation. We cannot blame
ourselves for we did not receive such an education.
past, Confucius, Buddha Shakyamuni, great sages, and virtuous people
dedicated their lives to teaching people and enabling them to understand
the true reality of life and the universe. The Four All-embracing
Methods and the Six Paramitas are actually virtuous qualities of
our True Natures, what the True Natures are supposed to be; they
are natural qualities not opinions of the Buddha. We are at fault
if we cannot practice these principles with understanding, for we
are going against our True Nature.
lost our consciences, the intuitive ability to know right from wrong.
We originally had this ability in our True Nature. Thus, by nature
we are the same as Buddhas. In religious terms, we are the same
as God. However, we are now different because we have lost our True
do we have so many adversaries and where do they come from? They
come from misunderstandings. Once we thoroughly understand the true
reality, we would no longer have adversaries for they cannot exist
when the mind returns to its originally sincere, pure, non-discriminatory,
awakened and compassionate state. Even if someone physically hurt
us, like King Kali・s dismemberment of the Buddha in one of his
former lifetimes, would we as enlightened or awakened people harbor
any hatred? No! An awakened, understanding person would know that
the other party had misunderstood and would therefore be very caring.
Ill intentions and bad behavior arise from a lack of understanding.
the ancient Chinese and the saints teach "open communication."
In managing the country, a government that understands and governs
well will be supported by the people. How can a family be united?
By having open and honest communication, and by not hiding anything,
a family is assured of prospering. So, we must understand this major
principle of open communication.
results from a lack of interaction and communication. Discord between
spouses is also the result of the lack of communication and of having
secrets. Wives and husbands lie to one another and eventually the
family is torn apart. A family in which the siblings are suspicious,
envious and distrustful of each other will decline.
night, Mr. Singh told us two stories about honesty. In one story,
a thief was asked who he was. He honestly replied, "I・m a
thief." The guard did not believe a real thief would say this
and allowed him to enter the palace. The thief gathered many valuable
items, but before he left, he remembered that a saint had told him
that it was wrong to steal. He realized what he was doing was wrong,
put down the belongings and left empty handed.
and Confucianism both speak of sincerity. We read in Confucianism
of the sincere and honest mind. We read in Buddhism, that sincerity
means the true mind. The essential nature of the Bodhi mind is utmost
sincerity. What is the true mind? It is the presence of sincerity
and the absence of deceit. It is to be honest even after making
a mistake. This is how we will reach Enlightenment and become Buddhas.
However, we will not accomplish our goals if we do not admit our
mistakes and even try to conceal the truth. Even with good cultivation,
we will remain mired in reincarnation that we alone have created.
With utmost sincerity, reincarnation will disappear; with an illusory
mind reincarnation manifests. We learn from the sutras that reincarnation
is an illusory realm manifested from wandering discriminatory thoughts
and attachments. We have failed to transcend this illusory state
in countless lifetimes throughout infinite eons because we have
not severed our wandering discriminatory thoughts and attachments.
fortunately, we have encountered Buddhism and the teachings of saints
from many religions. After carefully absorbing what we have heard,
our problem lies in whether we can practice the teachings. By following
them, we would transcend to a higher level in this lifetime or as
we have learned from many religions, we would become a saint, not
to become God, but to become one with God, to possess the virtues
and conduct of saints.
around at our chaotic and unstable world. Yesterday, I had lunch
with Mr. Huang, the director of the London Buddhist Library, and
his wife before they left Singapore. He told me that London has
become very unsafe. Children kill their parents; students kill their
teachers or classmates. Similar worrisome occurrences are taking
place in the United States as well. There are frequent strikes in
the transportation and communication industries disrupting people・s
lives. Moral concepts are in a steep decline in western societies
and there is an urgent need for the education of morality and ethics.
Huang has edited a series of textbooks that are used in government
run schools. He will send a copy of the textbooks to us. This first
series is for elementary schools. He wants to continue with another
series for secondary schools and a third one for universities. Moral
education is urgently needed. The British government and the Prince
of Wales welcomed the introduction of these textbooks and actively
support this project.
I asked him if there was an inter-faith organization in Europe,
he replied that they have one that is similar to the Inter-religious
Organization here in Singapore. I asked if it was possible to communicate
with them in the hope that these organizations might begin a dialogue.
We could invite them to visit Singapore or the nine major religious
groups in Singapore could visit them. The purpose of the lunch with
Mr. Huang yesterday was primarily to discuss this idea. It is hoped
that all the religious leaders can communicate and meet often to
find ways to save this world from disasters, eliminate racial prejudices
and conflicts, and abolish religious misunderstanding and wars.
This is the way to nurture a stable and prosperous society, and
to bring true peace to the world. This work is urgently needed now.
asked, since there is only one God, why are there so many religions?
This is a very good question that many others have also asked. We
can better understand this by looking at history and geography.
Modern technology has advanced greatly from its inception approximately
one hundred years ago when aviation did not even exist. It would
take a few months for people to travel by steamship from China to
America and more than twenty days from Shanghai to Singapore.
hundred years ago, it took three or four months to sail from China
to America and without favorable winds the trip could last six months.
Because transportation and communication were inconvenient and slow,
people had limited contact with one another. The ancient Chinese
had a saying that if someone visited the provincial capitol, they
were considered to have seen the world. That was because people
were completely isolated from one another throughout their lives
and most never even left their town. Written communication primarily
relied on asking friends or relatives to pass on a letter until
it reached it recipient, which usually took weeks.
the Chinese War of Resistance against the Japanese invasion, I lived
in Anhui, China and my father worked in Fujian Province. We had
mail delivery, but it usually took two and sometimes even three
weeks for a letter to be delivered. An improvement over times past,
but it was still very slow. In that same amount of time, God can
manifest in many forms to teach different races. I believe that
this adaptation among various races with different cultures and
historical backgrounds resulted in different religions.
Buddha Shakyamuni taught sentient beings according to individual
needs and circumstances. Buddhas do not have a fixed way of teaching
and neither does God. They match their teaching to being・s needs.
We read of the thirty-two manifestations of Great Compassion Bodhisattva
in the "Universal Door Chapter." To those who can be liberated
through the manifestation of a Buddha, they will appear and teach
as a Buddha. Similarly, to those who can be liberated as Christians,
they will appear and teach as Jesus. And for those who can be liberated
as Sikhs, they will appear and teach as a Sikh. The form he or she
appears in will be the same as that of the group.
our last visit to Malaysia, we visited a Burmese temple and saw
twenty-some statues of Buddha Shakyamuni. Each had different features.
The first statue we saw had Indian features. The features of the
second Buddha were Nepalese. We also saw statues with Chinese, Japanese
and Korean features. This illustrates that wherever Buddha Shakyamuni
manifests, he assumes the same features as the local people and
adapts to local conditions, so they will feel comfortable with him.
Thus, he has no fixed form.
teaching given to any particular group must be adapted to their
capacity while according with the true reality. In religion, the
true reality at its highest level is to be one with God. We are
now witnessing this as we listen to lecturers from the different
religions. The truths and principles are the same; just the words
and presentations are different. Beginners and those with lower
abilities and understanding are taught how to change from bad to
good. Those with higher abilities and understanding are taught how
to change from having delusion to being awakened. The ultimate goal
is to help all beings change from being ordinary beings to becoming
sages. These three main guiding principles in Buddhism are present
in all religions.
people were not aware of this because they did not associate with
one another. In their conceit and arrogance, each thought that their
religion was the best and that all other teachings were improper
and inferior. Now that we are communicating, we realize that all
are equal. All is one, not two. Hence, we not only come together,
we are like sisters and brothers who have a shared mission. We cannot
continue to think only in terms of a small geographical area. In
the past, religious teachers would spend their entire lives within
this narrow scope, but no longer. Today, we must think globally.
If we think only in terms of my district, my religion or my group,
we will not survive. Such narrow-minded and selfish thinking leads
to misunderstandings, conflicts, wars and ultimately the Third World
War - nuclear war. Our world would be destroyed.
to expand our thinking. In our lectures, we have encouraged practitioners
to care about our world. Is this enough? No! Now we hear of the
possibility of interplanetary wars. We need to expand our hearts
further, to think not only of our planet Earth but also of the infinite
planets throughout the universe. Mahayana Buddhism teaches us that
our minds can encompass the universe. Only in this way, can our
problems be truly solved. If Buddhist practitioners cannot think
this broadly, and do not have this mind capacity, how can they become
Buddhas? This mind capacity is the Bodhi mind, the true mind. Originally,
our minds were this all-encompassing.
do all the sentient beings in the universe come from? They manifested
from our True Nature. Thus, it is said in Buddhism: "Nothing
exists outside the mind. The mind is not excluded from anything."
Once our the capacity of the mind is extended, higher spiritual
realms will materialize, and all resentment and hatred will dissolve.
Some practitioners have asked me how to cultivate the Paramita of
Patience. Upon reaching this higher spiritual state in practice,
the Paramita of Patience is non-existent because is there no attachment
to the form of patience. With the severing of wandering discriminatory
thoughts and attachments, all greed, anger, ignorance, arrogance,
right and wrong are all non-existent. In this state, we reach the
realm of inconceivable liberation described in the Flower Adornment
Sutra, that of absolute ultimate liberation. It is the highest enjoyment
in life. It is the life and enjoyment of a Dharma-body Bodhisattva.
What is Dharma-body? It is the state in which we unite our bodies
and minds with those of all the beings throughout the universe.
In that state, we are the Dharma-body for we change from ordinary
beings into sages and our every thought will no longer be just of
this earth but of all sentient beings in the universe.
Buddha taught us in the Infinite Life Sutra to: "dwell in the
wisdom of true reality." Only when we attain the aforementioned
state will we dwell in true wisdom. In this state, our benefit is
"to receive the teaching and uncover the true reality."
This is also the ultimate enjoyment in human life that Mr. Dong-Mei
Fang, a Professor of philosophy, spoke of. Benefiting others is
to "bring all sentient beings true benefits." In other
words, loving-kindness that is the sincere, non-discriminatory,
unselfish great caring for all sentient beings. All sentient beings
include plants, animals, as well as inanimate objects, and can be
expanded to include all natural phenomena. This happens because
everything arises from the gathering of affinities and conditions.
term "sentient being" has vast meanings. With sincere,
pure, non-discriminatory, and compassionate love, we give true benefits
to all. We learn that the Infinite Life Sutra is a good sutra, hard
to encounter in infinite eons. It tells us of the "three truths."
If we can carefully study and contemplate its essence and principles,
and compare these with the philosophies and conduct of the saints
and sages, we realize that such philosophies and conduct are the
same as the teachings in the "Infinite Life Sutra." Although
the words and practice may differ, careful observation shows that
the principles are the same. This is why in Buddhism; we say that
the saints of all religions are manifestations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
we realize this, it will become easy for us to accomplish the highest
level of Mahayana Buddhist practice. That which is the first of
the Ten Great Vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva: "To equally
respect all beings and things." We respect all sentient beings
the same way we respect the Buddhas. Last night, Mr. Singh said
that whenever they visit any other religious place or group, including
Buddhists, they show their respect. When we walk into their temples,
are we to do likewise? Certainly. I have visited Sikh temples and
paid my respects as they do, by prostrating. Their followers respected
me for doing so. Why? When I respect them, they in turn will respect
me. It is illogical to expect otherwise.
called Jesus the "messenger of God." We respect their
Bible. But some of them call us disbelievers only because they do
not know or understand us. The Infinite Life Sutra says that in
the past, moral values were not properly taught so we cannot blame
those who have come later. As we communicate and they read about
Buddhism, they will understand us better. How can we help them?
First, we need to respect them and take the initiative. This is
why every Sunday our Singapore Buddhist Lodge invites representatives
from religious groups to teach us about their beliefs. Their response
to our taking the initiative has been very good. In less than a
year, a Hindu group has invited us to lecture. Islamic organizations
have not only invited us to lecture but have held a forum with us.
Our contacts with the Catholics are even more frequent and our venerables
have also given lectures. They have now invited me to lecture on
the Rosary. I will not lecture on Buddhist sutras but on their sacred
texts. The Rosary is a prayer; a requirement for them like our morning
and evening ceremonies is for us. I have accepted their invitation
to lecture on the Rosary.
we will meet with every religion. First, we extend an invitation
to them and in return, they invite us. Our sole hope is that every
religion will open its church, mosque, and temple doors and welcome
all the other religions to give teachings. This is an inevitable
evolution of the twenty-first century. Our world is no longer comprised
of small self-contained societies or locally restricted areas. Keeping
to ourselves is wrong and is no longer an option.
Buddha explained in the Lotus Sutra, that we need to propagate Mahayana
Buddhism in this Dharma-Ending Age. He already knew that in this
time period, society would be democratic and liberal. While Theravada
Buddhism is more conservative and was suitable for earlier times,
Mahayana Buddhism is better suited to our times. In this progressively
liberal age, even some countries that have had a monarchistic form
of government are turning to democratic constitutional governments.
This is their only option in the face of modern political and social
changes. This trend goes well with the propagation of Mahayana Buddhism.
We wish to introduce its principles and practice to every religion
in the world. I sincerely respect their sacred texts as I respect
upholds the Old Testament. Christianity upholds the New Testament.
Catholicism regards the Old and the New Testaments as equally important.
These three religions share a very close relationship. In their
worship of one God, a few differences abound. In Judaism, God is
worshipped as supreme to Mother Mary and Jesus. In Catholicism,
Mother Mary and Jesus are equally supreme as are God and Jesus in
Christianity. The three religions differ primarily in this aspect.
Thus, this is like one family being divided into three parts. These
three primary religions are like brothers with the other religions
and Buddhism branching out from them like cousins and the whole
being one big family.
does not talk of brothers or cousins but of one common life entity.
As the Buddha said, "All sentient beings by nature can become
Buddhas." Buddhism provides us with a perfect and complete
explanation. It does not discriminate, saying that no one is inferior
to another, and that it regards all equally. It is stated in the
Infinite Life Sutra, "All will become Buddhas." We need
to work especially hard to seek the profound meanings within these
two phrases and achieve the state of mind of a Buddha. Only in this
way, can we truly become one entity with all Buddhas throughout
all space and time.
consider this as my way to bid farewell to the practitioners who
have traveled so far to visit me, a small token from me to all of
you. Thank you.