Many a time you will find them to be strong in faith for as long as they feel the benefits and then their natural tendencies take over again and they are back to searching again.
Today is a great day to make resolutions because the mood to do so is strong. People are ruled by habits and emotions but not many will have the ability to understand the meaning of life and so the indulging of religious practices are left to the times when they have problems which they cannot solve. Again and again this is how each being has behaved and witnessed by others, but nothing is being benefited at all. Those who hope to gain faith must hold nobler objectives than just thinking well of people and hoping to live a life free of causing harm to self and others.
New Year Day is just any other day if you are a true cultivator but a special day when you offer prayers or make resolutions on such a day. All who call themselves My devotees must be able to understand what it means to be one. It is not just prayers and holding a fair mind towards others; it is to reach out to those who need someone to give them help and strength; it is to really care for the plight of others and to realise the state one is in. There must be effort made in improving oneself and purifying one’s heart each moment of the day. It is not just accepting the good and bad to happen to you. More than that, one must be able to show strength in times of pains and disappointment without gritting his teeth and secretly yearn for immediate help. There must be no artificiality at all but the true understanding that since all things and situations must change, one must be able to patiently bear with bad times until it is over. Only when this is done may suffering be meaningful and appreciated so that one is no more careless with one’s life at any moment. Having suffered and understood what suffering is, a valuable lesson is learned and there is this yearning to be free from this world or any other realms where suffering can be seen. One becomes determined to abandon Samsara and is willing to go through strict disciplines in order to live fruitfully and beneficially. The idea of selfishness is gone and then the importance of self is no more stressed.
When the awakening to this truth is arrived at, one is able to see that others’ happiness are more important than one’s own because others are many compared to this ‘one self’ only. How much sufferings are felt by others will be your concern quite naturally so that you will naturally wish for their happiness each time you think of your own. And just as you do not wish others to hurt you, you will put away all ideas of harming anyone at all so that the sight of cruelty and the negative non-virtues of yourself and others will be revolting to you. Can this feeling be attained during your period of thinking or contemplation? Do you only hope for the best and good things to happen to you and others all the time? Having developed good aspirations, do you move towards making whatever you are wishing for to come about?
Leading others to pray to the Buddha is good practice but there is more to it than just giving guidance. You will have to learn to live according to the rule of practice so that your examples will be real life lessons for others. To be able to keep them interested in cultivation, you will need to do a lot of investigation of the Scriptures so that you are able to answer their questions whenever they get stuck in the rut and cannot move forward at all. So, one who is to lead must cultivate more strongly than others and must be prepared to face humiliation at times.
The days of prayer and worship are now and the immediate future. There will be much for all to pray for whether they are at the advantages point of life or not. This is not the golden age where blessings are easily obtained, this is the age of despair to the great majority of beings; this is the age of richness and wants; this is the age of tears to those who do not have the benefit of knowledge and faith. Only a limited few will live with sound knowledge and without much fears and sufferings. When one is introduced to practising kindliness, one is the fortunate one if he can uphold it. Those of you who are able to pray for others, to give help to others, should do so very willingly because you are the fortunate ones who are giving rather than receiving.
The way to progress spiritually is to be able to be by your own self to learn what life is really about without giving too much excuses. Practice means to have the ability to bear out all kinds of failures and to learn from them with strong hearts. It means that one will not be troubled by failures and will be ready to pursue again after some contemplation. Why is this Order called Kuan Yin Contemplative Order? It is not just a name, each word chosen has deep meaning but only when you put effort to find out their meanings by yourself! It is not just to contemplate deeply and to realise who Kuan Yin is. It is not just to learn contemplation with the natural guidance of Kuan Yin after having adored Her. It is not just to teach others to contemplate after one has learned how to contemplate. It is to be able to contemplate on the sufferings of all beings within the cyclic realms to the state that one is able to be completely dissatisfied with cyclic existences and very willingly be ready to abandon it; it is to be able to develop the meaning of Kuan Yin so as to act the part of Kuan Yin, it is to be able to contemplate on the cries of others and selflessly move over to save them; it is to be ready to suffer as one must suffer in the practice of mercy and compassion; it is endless in meanings but each one of you must be able to utilise your mind through the practice of contemplation and through your great trust in the saving power of Kuan Yin.
It is time that each one of you must learn to develop the habit of sitting and to contemplate with your whole heart and mind. It is time for a few to realise that to be here is not just for mere devotional worship and to give some little service to others; they must learn to get at the meaning of why they have been caused to become involved here and to be affiliated to an Order such as this. The day will come when others will question why this name has been selected and how it is so. It will be a great shame if disciples and members are not able to express the meaning meaningfully. It is time to think of how to improve one’s own quality of worship, and aspirations in cultivation. Never look to others for help all the time; do not be here just to be able to serve or to sit and pray as a group. This is a low level of practice and the real quality has not yet been realised. Do not worry whether the sick will come or not, nor how many people are around you. Just that when you are on the way to this shrine, your main purpose is to practise self-research and mental development so that the moment you are in this room, you are going to make it a matter of practising disciplines and to learn seriously either through self-practice or the help of others.
The holy images before you are not just statues that give you a sense of feeling religious, they are there to remind you what you must be some day through your great effort of practice. You have the precious opportunity to practice and to be with some people who also hold the same aspirations. You must not be the one to distract them if you do not feel at it on that day. When you practice laxity and indiscipline, you will be the cause of others’ failures too and you may reap bad karma. It is selfish for anyone to cause others’ practice to be weak by his bad examples. At all times, one must be doing something useful and beneficial to others, one must make oneself an example for others to follow. One must be able to show love and consideration to others and also to show respect to the Deities who are represented by the Images. Just because you cannot see with your spiritual eyes does not qualify you to show any disrespect. If only you are able to have clairvoyant eyes, you will not dare to move a muscle during your sitting because you will not dare to show all the disrespects that you have been practising. But it is good that you are only normal so that you will have the mind to attend to instead of all the great distractions that you can see. Do not see the world with the worldly eyes only; do not just be any other person but be one who, having have some knowledge of the truths of life, will pursue the true goal of liberation.
Doubting must come about during practice and when situations are not beneficial. Check against such doubting and try and reach the root of the cause so that this occasion of doubt will be the source of attaining some small enlightenment. Everything that happens to your life has some hidden meaning and advantage for you, but only if you are able to see it. This is the time for all to really correct their own weaknesses and all must not hold any wrong or bad views of others even if they do not act likewise to you. When you are able to place your palms together, to bow before the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, to call the name of Namo Kuan Shih Yin, you are already on the practice of reducing your past bad karma and gaining the path to cultivation as your right. Each time you see a Buddha image, some merits are gained, each time you place your clasped hands way on top of your forehead or the crown, you are showing respect and practising humility which will help you to develop better circumstances for your practice.
The Buddhas may not answer your requests as often as you like, the Bodhisattvas may not help you the way that you wish, but you have already planted good seeds for the future and you will have to wait patiently for these seeds to become fruitful someday just as your past seeds of goodness or evil are ripening now, within this life time. But you must be one who is ready to atone for the wrongs you have committed in the past, so that you will now only use these hands that you are placing together in the act of homage and respect to the Buddhas to do the acts that the Buddhas will approve. Henceforth, be ready to do only that which is good and reject that which is bad. You must refrain to cause harm to any living creature by laying hands on them without first putting the thought of harm that you will cause to your own self. When you think of Buddha and act for the sake of becoming a Buddha someday, those who become a part of your life in this lifetime will benefit by you. You will be creating affinities with the Buddhas and the lower beings, you will be doing self-cleansing, you will be the one who will be able to call on Kuan Shih Yin and ask Her to help the suffering ones, you will be the extra eyes and hands of the Lord of Thousand Eyes and Hands; you become ‘an aspect’ of Kuan Shih Yin; and you qualify to speak the Name without fear of soiling it at all, you have become the Name that you call!
You must be prepared to take the Great Vows with proper understanding. There are innumerable beings to save, there are uncountable evil passions to uproot and there are the Dharma Doors to enter which require extreme effort, then there must be the great motivation to attain the Way of the Buddha and not by repeating these vows, will you succeed. You must understand well the meaning of Suffering through your own experiences so that others’ sufferings are not meaningless to you. Your own sufferings and their causes must first of all be understood with wisdom and the day when you are put to test you should not moan like the ignorant ones and wonder why such pains should affect you. You must understand the past causes that have been planted which must bear fruit someday and you must patiently bear such effect of your own causes and understand that suffering will end suffering.
The disciple of Kuan Shih Yin must not be weak; must not hope and wish only for the easy way of practice. The harder the task, the better the way to improve your spiritual strength and more bad roots will be removed by them. Bodhisattvas must go through all kinds of experiences in order to understand their root causes so that you will fear them when you are put into a situation to act foolishly.
This is the year of learning, this is the year of going through unfamiliar experiences so that you will be moving into new grounds. Tread safely and do not rush to conclusions because outward appearances will always fool many. Use wisdom and be patient with yourself and others and make worship meaningful!
Thursday, 2nd February 1984
1st Moon, 1st Day (Spring Festival / Chinese New Year Day)