This Order is unique, and it will be so because of its very own special ways of benefitting people. The method of practice that you have heard from the learned Lama is excellent and should be adopted as part of the practice as it helps in developing the urge towards Enlightenment.
But karma has it that you are to develop yourself through ‘Activity’, by serving in the name of Kuan Shih Yin P’usa. Through this, awareness of the sufferings of people of all classes will be developed, through it, you will nurture compassionate thoughts and deeds, and you will then be practising the Bodhisattva Ideals directly. Do not change completely from the way that you have been taught although you are allowed to adopt certain features of practice as taught by other lineages.
Cultivation is a word deep with meaning which cannot really be described fully. There are those who spend their lifetimes in practices which are strict and severe, even with the greatest of purity, and there are those who have not been seen to practise according to the accepted practices that is termed ‘Dharma’. Can you say that only those of the first category have been known to be the sole successful ones? Think about that and realise that each being will come into a specific and unique path of practice that is designed to suit his need, and therefore the Buddha mentioned that there are numberless paths that lead to liberation.
What is most important is your own purity of mind and motivation which generates a great force to move you along the search for perfection. This is possible only when the dissatisfactoriness with cyclic existence has been realised and there is the genuine desire of developing yourself into a being who can assist everyone you meet, who are in a state of woe, most effectively, and the pure wish to seeing every being to be free from sufferings! Thus a way has been given to you which requires you to live as you have lived, and think as you have thought, and then to be ready to spend time and energy to develop ways and means to make life more meaningful and beneficially for others. Just this, has brought about so much to your past eight years, and it will develop more if you will surrender yourself fully, trusting the teachings that will come, and living as harmlessly as possible towards others! Just that is required of you, and your own karmic forces will come into play which will create newer dimensions in your life!
It is simple to practise in this room. The rules are the barest minimum and you have no need to learn to please anybody or exert your authority on others. Anyone who comes with faith shall receive blessings, anyone who comes with a mind to learn will receive some valuable guidance and anyone who wishes to join you in your weekly prayers for others well-being will only be benefitting himself! Let it be so, and even if wish that you could do more for others, you will have to wait for that thought-force to develop into positive karmic (force) in the future. Just praying the way you are doing, serving the way you are doing, is already a method of excellent practice - cultivation!
These are some of the things which all who are sincere in their hearts should observe:
1. Refrain from expectations of reward but have full faith and devotion in Dharma practice.
2. Refrain from deeds which cause harm to oneself and others.
3. Refrain from entertaining unwholesome thoughts that will soon become solid actions.
4. Refrain from egoistic thoughts and selfish desires but try to be humble and charitable.
5. Refrain from speaking ill of others, and, above all, their religions.
6. Refrain from unfruitful discussions which does the mind no good.
7. Refrain from breaking the simple precepts and even if you have done so reflect on its damaging influence to your practice.
8. Refrain from practising discrimination.
9. Refrain from giving way to unwholesome practices that hinder spiritual development.
These and all the things that you need to ‘refrain from’ are actually all very easy to observe and perceive. Make sure that you are not extreme in your views and practices or unpleasant side effects are bound to surface. Over the years you have seen several cases of those who prayed for all kinds of miracles that their own disappointments had led to unpleasant mental breakdowns. So deep practice which are wonderful for the spiritually advanced ones are dangerous for those who are weak-minded. Weak-mindedness does not mean stupidity but may include those who are unable even to understand what they really wanted up to those who seek blessings for gross and selfish reasons!
There are times when you will come across some who end themselves into hospitals with a troubled or deranged mind, and then you will find that their families will blame their religious practices or even the principal Deities for not offering protection and so on. Any number of reasons may be given for this consequence due to just as many factors. It is not the Gods or Bodhisattvas or Buddhas who are not protective, but due to their entering the practice without a moral mind or lack of understanding of what they are practising. One protects oneself through proper understanding, proper conduct and proper motivation. When these are present, all the protection that is needed will be present.
Entering a path with proper knowledge and the necessary guidance is like learning to swim in deep waters with realising the dangers of it. Those who sink or drown have been so affected by their own ignorance due to pride, hastiness and so on, which is also a direct result of their own inherent karma. It is quite impossible for a normal mind to understand why this or that should happen to one who is only trying to be good at something. Unless one has attained the Buddha mind, no answer will really be fully accepted!
You are the head of this Altar and you must do your best to show good examples of patience and right practice. It is difficult, but it has to be so. Those who come will not stay for more than a few years if they have not developed right view through the understanding of the Buddha Dharma. For this, the teachers have been caused to come to give teaching. Yet when teachers are here, how many attend with a view to learn? How many really treat such occasions as rare?
Because of this, there is no reason for you to grieve or to be happy with those who are here. You are merely offering them the service that will help them in their spiritual attainment and there is no way that you can will that they will practise. Practising virtues require great determination and perseverance which everyone naturally refrain from. To be kind and good is difficult indeed and you can only hope that through what you are doing, you can entice them to follow likewise. To be lazy and selfish does not require any effort or encouragement and so you should be happy that you have at least helped to plant some good seeds in their hearts, whenever they come! To have caused them to receive the Mani Mantra is already wonderful, if some have managed to accept it as a practice and learned to pay homage to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, you have already helped them to form roots. Their ‘growing’ will be dependent on their own efforts and intentions, you have done your part!
Certain few will come to you as disciples, and this is due to past karmic links and their own need to use this Altar as their grounds of spiritual practice. This does not mean that all will come off with flying colours so that you must be ready to accept some to do well while others fade away due to weak karmic roots and dispositions.
Whosoever who comes, welcome them if they are serious in practice but be firm with those who are here to disrupt others’ practice, otherwise they will suffer karmic-retributions of having caused others to move away from the practise of the Good Path. Herein lies your main difficulty in discerning who is genuine and who is not. For that you will have to accept all kinds of experiences that come your way. They are meant to educate you, to help you to react to all kinds of people, and to learn patience while at the same time wisdom is gradually won. With a calm mind, you will benefit by each incident, but if your mind is ruffled, you will end up in confusion.
The seat that is yours should not be sat on by any other except those whom you feel are here to give teachings that will benefit those who come. Even disciples should be seated by the side of it unless so directed. You may begin to introduce the observance of ‘Silence’ before and after the prayers so as to change the mind with good and healthy energy. Or you may cause them to learn how to think or contemplate by reading a verse of the Dharmapada. The excellence of religious practice is to learn how to appreciate Silence and to think for oneself! Those who practise it will undoubtedly develop into a new personality.
There is much to be done for the coming year. It is a year of great activity, both physically and mentally. To succeed, you must develop soundness of mental and physical health and you should know what is best to be done. Concentrate on Tuesdays and Thursdays and if you so wish, you may hold Saturday prayers only whenever there is a need to do so. This will leave you more time for Dharma study and other related activities that are to come. Just be what you are and make sure that practice here is pleasant for all who come!
Wednesday, 29th January 1986
12th Moon, 20th Day