Sweet Dew of Dharma

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  1. External conditions are ever-changing, yet all changes follow one underlying principle. As long as our mind is in command, we will have the power to transform external conditions, turning misfortune into blessings, difficulties into opportunities.
  2. When this mind is master of itself, all the actions of our daily life will be perfectly appropriate. When we are able to see through our own delusions and let go, our minds will achieve peace and tranquility.
  3. Buddhism teaches Dependent Arising, which means everything happens due to the coming together of specific causes and conditions. To accomplish anything, the right conditions must be present. However, we do not wait for this to happen; we should strive to create and develop them ourselves. Therefore, we say, “before we become a buddha, first make good karma with people.”
  4. In our daily life, our six senses come into contact with external objects every moment. When we encounter objects to our liking, greed and craving immediately arise. Therefore, we need to always reflect and examine our thoughts.  When an affliction arises, detect it and turn it around right way, so we can maintain this present mind in constant samadhi and wisdom.
  5. “One who respects others will always be respected. One who loves others will always be loved.” Compassion helps us transcend the notions of self and others, and resolve hostility. As Buddhist practitioners, we especially need to cultivate compassion. As a sutra states, “Behold the friendly and the hostile equally; neither harbor grudges nor despise malicious people.” Let us broaden our minds to practice the bodhisattva way and liberate all sentient beings.
  6. Ordinary beings have many karmic habits and make frequent missteps in speech and behavior. The way to rectify this is to observe the precepts. By observing one precept, we overcome one karmic habit; by overcoming one karmic habit, we purge one affliction, and with the purging of all afflictions, the Way will manifest.
  7. Giving praise and rejoicing in others’ merits not only eliminate envy but also generate great virtue and blessings, which are shared by the givers, receivers and supporters alike.
  8. Cultivation is simply to “become skillful with the unfamiliar and become unskillful with the familiar.” Learn to disengage from past delusions and conflicts, and become skillful at various forms of cultivation such as meditation and sutra recitation. Step by step, through commitment and patience, the sweet fruit will come with hard work. This is the best way to cultivate.
  9. The bodhi path is a path of merit as well as wisdom. Merit is doing good deeds. Wisdom is doing good deeds and cultivating compassion without attachment, without the notions of self and others. With wisdom, the bodhi mind will manifest.
  10. Giving can eliminate greed and hatred, remove karmic obstacles, and increase merit and wisdom. Giving can also help others overcome their difficulties, leading to the opportunity to hear the Dharma, and eventually uproot their afflictions. Therefore, giving not only benefits ourselves and others, but also fulfills the bodhi path.
  11. Be true in all our endeavors.  In studying, cultivating merits, learning the Dharma, or Zen meditation, be honest and sincere. When we apply this principle in our daily life and Buddhist practice, we are truly cultivating merit and wisdom.
  12. “When at rest, rest all thoughts; when in action, perfect all actions.” We must abide in right mindfulness: think only good thoughts, say only kind words, do only good deeds. Rest when it is time to rest; act when it is time to act. Practice good deeds without attachment, and then return to the state of no-thought. With confidence and commitment in this teaching, we will always make progress in our practice.
  13. To avoid bad karma, we must understand the principle of causality. Be diligent in doing good deeds and correcting misdeeds. This is the way to free our mind from bad thoughts, from affliction and worries, from gains and losses. Our mind will shine in radiance and our health will improve. 
  14. The Chan patriarchs said: “stand firm and stay firm.” Standing firm means after one has realized and found a footing in the “non-arising mind” in which no thought is raised, one firmly dwells in this realization, whether things are going well or getting rough. Staying firm means to practice regularly so one can maintain the state of non-arising. This is cultivation.
  15. The Buddha Dharma teaches us that our mind is the Dharma Realms; a dark mindset fills the entire Dharma Realm with darkness. There is both good and evil in our mind; however, within a single thought, the mind is enlightened, and the darkness of tens, hundreds and even thousands of years will be dispelled without a trace.
  16. Buddhist cultivation requires long term commitment. Buddhahood is attained through persistence and mastery of the six paramitas and the eighty-four 
    thousand Dharma teachings. If one is motivated for one day and slack off for ten days, lacking commitment and diligence, nothing can be accomplished.
  17. Giving praise to others help eliminate impure speech. Rejoicing in others’ success or good deeds overcomes our jealousy. If we all uphold pure speech, learn from and commend others’ merits, and practice charitable giving and kind words, our society will be filled with harmony.
  18. Being content is superior to being rich. The discontented, albeit having wealth, are always in distress. The minds of the contented are at ease every moment — this is true wealth. 
  19. The Middle Way means the Chan mind. It is inexpressible, yet what is spoken is right to the point. It is inconceivable, yet the wisdom flows without rumination. Whatever one effortlessly touches is the Way. Such is the wondrous power of Chan. 
  20. Cultivation is a process of self-examining, and not of quibbling about others’ faults, or judging others’ right and wrong. If we are being slandered, do not get annoyed, angry, or complain. Remember “rumors are stopped by the wise”; the truth will surface in time.
  21. To attain samadhi means to always maintain mindfulness. Wherever you are, that is where your mind should be. Adhere to this principle in life: “In quiet meditation, reflect on our own deeds; in conversation, never gossip about others’ faults.” Always examine our own mistakes and correct them as soon as we discover them.
  22. Right faith is faith grounded on wisdom. Like a bird with two wings, right faith can fly us from the shore of samsara to the shore of nirvana, from the darkness of ignorance to the light of bodhi.
  23. There is a saying: “If one cannot tolerate the small aggravations, one will upset the whole plan.” Tolerance brings peace; it is a crucial Buddhist practice. In our everyday life, we may encounter positive or negative situations any time; face them with tolerance and patience, then we will progress in our cultivation.
  24. When thoughts arise in our minds, we need to distinguish between the “visitors” and the “master.” The visitors are our delusive thoughts, coming and going endlessly, like dust in the air. The “master” is that which recognizes the delusive thoughts, like the empty space in which the dust floats, boundless, always unmoving.
  25. To cultivate the Way is to realize the Way. This begins with awakening to the present mind. Then we practice being the mind’s master, whether we are moving or sitting, resting or working. When afflictions arise, transform or dissolve them. As afflictions are eradicated in due course, the bodhi mind, the pure mind, will manifest.
  26. “A thousand-mile journey begins with the first step.” The first step is the present mind; apart from it there is no other mind. Deluded or awakened, it is just this mind.
  27. “Spring is the time to plan your year. Morning the time to plan your day. Diligence is the way to lead your life.” Success is achieved only with effort; there is no free lunch in life. Not only should we work hard, we should also put our efforts in the right direction, so we do not detour or take the wrong path.
  28. Foremost in the Buddhist practice is learning how to let go. When we can let go of all our afflictions and attachments, our mind will be free. Freedom of mind is liberation.
  29. A practitioner should reflect inward and examine each moment. Is it wholesome thought? An unwholesome thought? A mixed thought? Or is there no thought? Check how many faults and bad habits we still need to remedy. If we have done wrong, repent and amend right away.
  30. To change our fate, we should focus on the cause instead of the outcome. The Buddhist teaching of causality tells us that what happens in our lives come from our own efforts. Understanding causality means we can create our own destiny.
  31. Blessings come from doing good deeds and making beneficent connections with others. If our past deeds have brought us hardships, now is the time to be diligent —turn misfortune into blessings, and open up a world of new opportunities for ourselves.
  32. A Zen master once said, “Be unmoved by the wind of joy, unstirred by the wind of anger.” Observe that all phenomena are illusive manifestations of causes and conditions. Unmoved by external circumstances, this present mind will have the power of stillness and wisdom, attaining self-mastery and liberation.
  33. “Fear not a thought arising, but a thought undetected.” When a bad thought arises, see through it right away. Having committed bad deeds, turn around immediately onto the path of virtue, vowing never to make the same mistakes again. This way, every step will take our life toward a brighter future, leading ultimately to liberation.
  34. Cultivation is not the study of doctrines, nor should it do without the doctrines.  Without the teachings as a guide, we can easily stray from the right path or mistake some small insight as true enlightenment. When our minds are troubled, studying sutras or attending Dharma lectures can correct our views, calm our minds, and quickly turn our afflictions around.
  35. The ultimate repentance is to realize the true nature of the mind and abide by it each moment. This will cleanse all sins.  Hence the saying “one light dispels the darkness of a thousand years.”
  36. Enlightenment is the realization of the original mind, that all is just as it is. Zen cultivation is the practice of overcoming defilements, to ultimately just letting be. Therefore, true cultivation is non-cultivation. No matter what the circumstance, at work or at rest, facing prosperity or adversity, during daytime or nighttime, we can always practice Zen.
  37. Maintain a mind free of attachment. Neither enjoy praise nor resent defamation. Do not crave, cling, grasp or reject. Let the bodhi mind manifest at all times—this is true bodhisattva practice.
  38. Frequently peer inward, reflect, and reform with a mind of compassion, respect, tolerance, and harmony. By taking a step back, you instead expand your horizons. Truly transforming yourself in this way, you will discover that everyday is a good day, any time is the right time, and that there is reward in every endeavor.
  39. The sutra says, “The Buddha Dharma is here in this world. There is no enlightenment apart from this world.” Practicing Buddhism empowers us to deal with any circumstance through observation and mindfulness, leading to enlightenment.
  40. “Be mindful of the buddha of our original nature. Read the sutra that is wordless.” Whether we are chanting the Buddha’s name or reciting a sutra, the purpose is to overcome our afflictions and ignorance. What is most important is to realize that there is a wordless sutra within each of us—our intrinsic, pure awareness.
  41. In meditation, we let our thoughts settle.  Do not let the mind wander or become drowsy.  Be aware of each thought.  Neither delight in something good nor worry about something frightening.  Remember, “All forms are illusions.”  Maintain mindfulness without clinging to the duality of existence and emptiness.
  42. Maintain a mind that is clear, lucid, still, and free from discrimination. A mind of stillness is samadhi. A mind of clarity and reason is wisdom. The oneness of samadhi and wisdom is the supreme bodhi mind.
  43. Be mindful each moment. Do not dwell in the past, present or future. The past is past, to linger on it is pointless. the future has yet to come, to speculate on it is wishful thinking. To worry about the present is to be trapped in fleeting, inconsequential thoughts.
  44. We should act mindfully, knowing when to advance and when to retreat. If we do not advance when conditions are right, we lose opportunities. If we do not retreat when it is time, we invite disgrace. Making the right decision requires wisdom.
  45. The core of Buddhism is human beings; the core of human beings is the mind; the core of the mind is pure awareness, which makes enlightenment possible. With this understanding, life has direction and purpose; it is no longer occupied by worries and meaninglessness.
  46. To recite the Buddha’s name is to invoke our original nature. By invoking the Buddha’s name, we bring forth the Buddha of our original nature. That is the true meaning of reciting the Buddha’s name.
  47. We have a wordless sutra within our mind. By upholding and reciting the physical sutra with words, we evoke the sutra of our original nature, uncover our own inherent treasure, and truly attain an unwavering faith in the Buddha Dharma.
  48. The aim of practicing Buddhism is to free the mind from the influence of external circumstances and maintain peace and serenity within.
  49. If we lack samadhi power and wisdom, are swayed by the external environment, and give rise to vexations, we will never clearly see the reality of all phenomena. Therefore, we must cultivate samadhi (meditative concentration). With samadhi, we will always be in command, and have the wisdom to know when to advance or retreat, to engage or let go.
  50. If we can gather inward the six senses: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind, and no longer cling to external circumstances, our delusions and discriminations will diminish and we will naturally be in accord with our pure, original nature.
  51. In practicing Buddhism, we begin with “initial faith.” When we have gradually established “right view”, we will have “right faith.” Having the right faith, our cultivation will be fruitful so we will attain “deep faith”, then our bodhi mind will never regress.
  52. An upstanding, unblemished character is the greatest blessing. A purified mind has the highest wisdom. Using blessings and wisdom to live, work, and study, we will succeed in our careers, perfect our virtues, and complete our Buddhist path.
  53. If we practice the Way step-by-step, constantly cultivate blessings and wisdom, unify samadhi and wisdom, and employ both compassion and discernment, we will become just like the Buddha, attaining perfection in all virtues, blessings, samadhi, and wisdom.
  54. The sutra says, “If we practice without giving rise to the bodhi mind, it is like farming without planting seeds.” All Buddhas and bodhisattvas have great compassion as the foundation. Great compassion gives rise to the bodhi mind, and the bodhi mind gives rise to supreme enlightenment. Therefore, in our cultivation, we must first develop a mind of compassion.
  55. By constantly maintaining our mindfulness, we will have wisdom, samadhi power, and always be our own master.
  56. In cultivating the Way, we should not seek and grasp externally; instead, we should probe within to see whether our mind has given rise to vexations. We should constantly harbor a compassionate mind, be lenient toward others, yet be self-disciplined, frequently reflect upon and examine ourselves.
  57. A great compassionate mind is the Buddha mind. The spirit of Buddhism is compassion and equality. To achieve a mind of compassion and equality: first, we should not kill; second, we should save lives; third, we should practice vegetarianism. If we carry out all these, our compassionate mind will manifest.
  58. To practice Buddhism is to learn from the Buddha, to emulate his purity of body, speech, and mind. When we have achieved the highest and most perfect standard in our cultivation, we will attain the Buddha’s compassion, wisdom, and samadhi power.
  59. All sentient beings have the Buddha nature within. Therefore, besides cherishing our own life, we should also respect the lives of all sentient beings.
  60. “Mountain pilgrimage” is a diligent practice of body and mind. The body prostrates every three steps. The mouth recites the Buddha’s name. The mind is also mindful of the Buddha’s name. Diligence of the three karmas of body, speech, and mind can eradicate and transform bad karma. Blessings and wisdom will then increase and everything will be auspicious.
  61. The bodhisattva is not just a kind of form or appearance, but is the pure intention to benefit all sentient beings.
  62. When this mind is master of itself, all the actions of our daily life will be perfectly appropriate.
  63. By treating all people with a mind of compassion, respect, and equality, we can share the brightness and joy of the Dharma with everyone. That is the bodhisattva way.
  64. A mind of contentment, tranquility, and clarity is true wealth and honor.
  65. When we are able to see through our own delusions and let go, our mind will achieve peace and tranquility.
  66. To practice the bodhisattva way means that we act with a compassionate mind in every situation to benefit all sentient beings.
  67. When we realize our original mind and nature through the Zen practice, our existence will be replete with infinite life, brightness, and wisdom, and we can transcend impermanence and the cycle of birth and death.
  68. To extinguish the vexations in our mind is enlightenment.
  69. By respecting others, we elevate our own mind, and live in harmony with each other.
  70. When we have developed a mind of compassion, our mind will be filled with harmony and brightness.
  71. In cultivation, we must endure the feelings of solitude. While this mind is immersed in perfect stillness and clarity, it is Bodhi and Nirvana. The virtuous ancients said, “When sensual pleasures pass away, feelings of desolation arise. When states of pure solitude are prolonged, inner joy increases.”
  72. “With a mind at peace, the thatched hut is safe. With a serene nature, the vegetable roots are fragrant.” If you can harness your ever-clinging mind, abide in the original mind, the original nature, then your mind will naturally be peaceful and serene.
  73. “The bodhisattvas dread the cause. Mundane beings dread the retribution.” We should be true and down to earth in all our undertakings. Ask only how much we cultivate, not how much we shall harvest. Work diligently on the right causes, and then you will surely succeed. Conversely, success is unlikely if you aim too high but overlook the groundwork.
  74. We should pursue a spiritual life. A mind of contentment and tranquility is the true blessing, prosperity, and happiness in life.
  75. Harboring no thoughts, the mind of the present is unborn and undying. Do not give rise to thoughts of purity or impurity, gain or loss. The mind is as it is. “The myriad phenomena all derive from this mind of non-dwelling.” This is the true reality.
  76. “No-thought” is neither being ignorant nor having no consciousness like a stone. It refers to a mind that is clear and lucid, free from any trace of delusion.
  77. Any suffering and affliction, when recognized and clearly observed through wisdom, can be converted into happiness, serenity, and freedom. From affliction to happiness is merely a single turn of thought.
  78. There is an ancient saying, “The old man lost his horse; maybe it was a blessing in disguise.” Any bad situation may turn out to be the opposite. If we keep calm and persevere, we always have a chance to change the outcome of our future.
  79. Frequently examine ourselves for faults and shortcomings; immediately correct them if any are found. By sweeping away the garbage in our mind—our afflictions and ignorance, our mind can be like a clear mirror, a pool of pure, still water.
  80. Wisdom and virtue are inherent in our original nature. If one can be free from thoughts of delusion and attachment, one can realize the nature of mind this very moment. This is because it is ever present, always within us. This is the truth realized by the Buddha under the bodhi tree.
  81. Sentient and non-sentient beings arise from causes and conditions, and their nature is emptiness. When conditions come together, things manifest; when conditions fall apart, things return to emptiness. Without the confluence of causes and conditions, no phenomenon, no dharmas, can manifest.
  82. Whether things are going great or becoming frustrating, whether the situation is for or against you, the mind should not be moved the slightest. Maintain the “ordinary mind”, which is a mind of wisdom. Ordinary mind means the mind is unmoved and in “suchness”; wisdom mind means the mind is clear, lucid, seeing things as they are.
  83. There are eighty-four thousand Dharma doors in Buddhism, like eighty-four thousand keys; our minds are locked by the burden of defilements, so we need these eighty-four thousand keys to open them.
  84. The myriad phenomena of the world are all impermanent, always arising and ceasing. In Buddhist cultivation we need to discover what is neither arising nor ceasing. Amidst all this impermanence, only the original nature of the mind is neither arising nor ceasing. 
  85. “A room in darkness for a thousand years is lit just by a single lamp.” The wise are able to shatter the darkness of ignorance and confusion, not by an electrical lamp, but by the light of wisdom. This wisdom light is just this very mind with which Shifu is speaking and everyone is listening. This mind should always abide in right mindfulness, be still in suchness, and be clear and aware.