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Bodhisattvas Asks for Clarification

Chapter Ten




At that time, Wisdom Leader Bodhisattva answered the questions asked by Manjushri Bodhisattva in verse. Wisdom Leader Bodhisattva said: Disciple of the Buddha, how rare you are! One such as you is truly rare and hard to find, for you are the leader of the Bodhisattvas with your great wisdom. You know what is on sentient beings’ minds. You are representing sentient beings in coming to ask about these dharma doors, because you are very clear about what is on their minds. As to the principle of which the Humane One asks, / Listen well as I now explain. Listen closely on behalf of all beings as I explain this to you.

In ages past and times to come, / As well as in the present—in the three periods of time--no guiding master, that is, no Buddha, speaks only a single dharma. The Buddhas always expound numerous dharmas, as many as 84,000 different dharma doors. Buddhas never expound only a single dharma door and never only praise wisdom exclusively. To help beings attain the Way. There is no Buddha who only speaks one kind of dharma to help beings attain perfect enlightenment.

The Buddha knows sentient beings’ minds. The Thus Come One completely perceives and understands all the various thoughts that beings have. He knows that all sentient beings are uniquely different in nature. Their inborn dispositions are each different. Each being has its own nature. Some enjoy this kind of dharma; others enjoy that kind of dharma. Every being prefers a different dharma door. And why is that? It is because their natures are different.

Based on what they need to be saved, whatever they need to become liberated, the Buddha will physically manifest the corresponding form and speak the Dharma for them, thereby liberating them. He speaks Dharma for them accordingly. The Buddha speaks the Dharma for sentient beings according to their faculties and dispositions. That is, “He observes their potentials and bestows the teaching. He speaks the Dharma according to the needs of each person.”

What does this consist of? To those who are stingy, you cannot speak any other dharma door for them; you must tell them about the dharma door of giving. He praises giving. He teaches them to give, and encourages them to practice charity. But you have to know that you cannot speak the Dharma and tell a stingy person to practice giving as soon as you meet her. She definitely will not do it. Why not? She will not understand this dharma immediately. She does not initially know that giving is a way to create blessings. Nor does she understand that when she gives to others, she is just giving to herself, because she is planting fields of blessings for herself. And if you tell her that giving is a way of planting blessings, she will probably not accept that right away either. What must you do then? If you want to transform that kind of person, you have to set a personal example. You yourself have to give first. When the person sees you, she will certainly find it laughable. In what way? She will say, “What a fool you are! Why are you giving your money and wealth away to others?” At that point, you can explain to her the many benefits of giving, and inspire her to follow your example.

To those who transgress rules, he praises morality. When you see someone who does not uphold the precepts, you should praise the precepts to him. However, it should not be that the first thing you say to him is, “It is good to hold the precepts. It is not good to transgress them.” When he hears you say that, he will think, “Hey, why do you have to point out my faults?” And then he will not want to be friends with you. You have to approach this gradually, and set an example by holding the precepts yourself.

It should not be that when you see someone transgressing the precepts, you right away tell him that it is not good to transgress the precepts, for then he will think that you are pointing out his faults and will not want to be around you.

To those with much anger, he praises tolerance. “Much anger” refers to a big temper. This refers to someone who hates others. When a person hates someone, he may think, “May heaven strike him down and the earth destroy him. How can the earth destroy a person? There could be an earthquake and the earth could split open and swallow the person up. The person gets buried alive. That is the hope of someone who hates another person. Or he may think, “That person is just awful. If he takes the train, let him get killed in a train collision. If he takes a plane, let the plane fall to the earth so that he dies. If he takes a bus, let the bus fall into a gorge so that his body is smashed to bits. If he rides in a car, let him die in a car crash.” Those are the thoughts of someone who hates a person. If you meet such a person full of hate, you should not go up to him and preach about the faults of hatred and the virtues of patience and tolerance. You have to wait for the right opportunity, and see that he is ready to believe you, before you speak. As it is said, “Wait till the time is right before you speak. Accept only that which is proper to take. Laugh only when it is time to be happy.” If you laugh at an inappropriate time, people will think you are crazy. Thus, with hateful people, you should praise tolerance.

To those who like to be lazy, he praises vigor. When you encounter a lazy person who does not cultivate or apply himself, who spends each day doing nothing but eat, put on clothes, and sleep, you should not criticize him and say, “You cannot be so lazy. At Gold Mountain Monastery we get up at a little past three o’clock in the morning. It is simply not acceptable for you to be such a bum.” If you say that, he will quit cultivating altogether. Since he is lazy by nature, he will no longer recite the Buddha’s name, read the sutras, or study the Buddhadharma. Because your comment angered him, he will never, ever want to study the Buddhadharma and will detest you as well. And so, when you meet a person given to laxness, how should you be? You should gradually help him to do a little work. If he does not want to do it, then you do it for him. After you have done this for a while, he will be influenced by you, as in the saying, “Those who draw near rouge turn red. Those who get near ink turn black.” If you are near rouge, you will bit by bit be dyed red. If you are near black ink, after a long time you will turn black. And so you should be vigorous, but pay no attention to whether other people are lazy or not.

Some of my disciples study how to have big tempers, and when others see what big tempers they have, they assume the disciples must have learned it from the Master. Because if they had not learned it from their Master, how could they have managed to get such huge tempers? These disciples do not know how to study anything else. They are unable to learn to open great wisdom; they are unable to learn to have patience and vigor, samadhi, and wisdom. They are unable to study those dharma doors. They only know how to learn to be angry and to lose their tempers. I welcome anyone to leave the home life and enter monastic life. But it seems that those who become monastic turn out to be tigers. With tigers to the left of him and tigers to the right of him, the Teacher will be bitten to death, and this is a very perilous situation. But I want to tame these tigers, to teach them restraint, and to advise them not lose their tempers. No matter what offenses you made as a layperson, you must change and become good. It cannot be the case that as a layperson your faults were few, but now that you are a monastic your faults multiply. That will not do. Moreover, as monastics you specialize in pointing out other people’s faults and how other people are wrong. But this is a complete mistake. I always tell you:

Truly recognize your own faults,
And do not discuss the faults of others.
Others’ faults are just my own.
Being one with all is called Great Compassion.

You do nothing else but talked about other people’s faults. Consider instead that others’ faults are just our own. Others’ mistakes are as if our own mistakes. Being of one substance with all is called Great Compassion. You need to have a mind of great compassion. Without a mind of great compassion, there will never be a time in your cultivation that you reach any accomplishment.

“To those who like to be lazy, he praises vigor.” When you make praises, you should be true and sincere, and not simply spout phrases. And after making praises, you must actually put into practice with your own person what you praise; demonstrate it for others, and be an example and a model. You should set a good example for them. You do not want to be a bad example, so that other people will follow your style and learn how to make offenses.

To the scattered, he praises dhyana concentration. The mind of this kind of person is scattered,and she has no discipline or control over her thoughts. To this kind of person, you should teach dhyana-samadhi. But you cannot only praise dhyana-samadhi, you have to actually practice it yourself. To the foolish he praises wisdom. If you come across a foolish person, you should teach him to study the Buddhadharma, to read the sutras, and recite mantras, and eventually he will be able to obtain great wisdom. But you should never say to such a person, “Oh, you are so dumb! Why not study the Buddhadharma?” That would make him want to study even less!

To the inhumane he praises sympathetic kindness. If you encounter someone who is not humane toward others, who is not kindly or friendly toward others, you should teach and transform him so that he will cultivate kindness and compassion and conduct himself in a gentle and sympathetic manner toward sentient beings.

To the angry and malicious, he praises great compassion. To someone who enjoys hurting others, who likes to kill people or other kinds of sentient beings, or who enjoys hunting animals, you teach her to be kind and compassionate. You might say, for example, “To be one with all is called great compassion. You and I both share the same kinds of feelings. We all wish to live and do not wish to die, and so if you kill someone, it will make him very unhappy.” Therefore, we should praise great compassion, and truly cultivate the dharma of great compassion.


To the sorrowful, he praises sympathetic joy.
To the crooked-minded he praises renunciation.
One should cultivate successively in this way,
Gradually perfecting all the Buddhas’ Dharmas. 


To the sorrowful, he praises sympathetic joy. Sorrowful refers to being sad and grief-stricken and having an inclination to cry all the time. Such a person does not like to be happy. He is depressed about everything. This kind of person is like the people of the state of Qi in ancient China who had a lot of worries. What were they worried about? They were concerned that they did not know when the sky would collapse, and when the sun might disappear. They were as we are now. When we have nothing to worry about, we deliberately find something to worry about. For example, some people worry about who will be elected as the next President. Or someone might worry, “When will my ten-year-old child graduate from the University?” They think these things are worth worrying about. All kinds of things that basically do not warrant worrying about, such a person will find a way to worry about. If you meet up with this kind of person, you should praise the dharma door of happiness—only being happy all the time, and never being sad. It is said:

The ancient immortals had no other method,
Than to only give rise to joy, and never be sad.

They always exuded happiness and never became sad. There is another ancient saying:

Gentle breeze, bright moon in a clear sky:
The grass and trees happily flourish.
Fierce winds and driving rain:
All the birds are cold and miserable.

When the moonlight is really bright, “The grass and trees happily flourish.” The vegetation and trees thrive, and appear to be delighted. “Fierce winds and driving rain.” This kind of rainstorm is like when a person loses his temper, and this kind of wind is like a tornado that rips everything up. It is not only people who get depressed; birds can become sad, too. “All the birds are cold and miserable.” Animals that fly can also become really gloomy; watch how they huddle together in the cold, as if they were whimpering. Because the situation is like this, it is said:

Heaven and earth cannot go a single day without being in harmony.

It cannot be that a moment passes by without this harmonious energy prevailing. Harmonious energy makes everything auspicious; hostile energy brings about calamities.

People’s hearts cannot go a moment without the spirit of happiness.

Within people’s hearts, there must always be happiness. People should not allow themselves to get melancholy. And so for people who tend to be sad, you can speak this kind of dharma.

To the crooked-minded, he praises renunciation. This kind of person is not honest and straightforward. It is said that “the straight mind is the Bodhimanda.” But a crooked mind is one that curves and deviates and is not direct, not frank. No matter what he is involved in doing, a crooked-minded person does not want people to know what he is up to. In teaching this kind of person, you praise renunciation. That is, to renounce—give up—that crooked, deviant mind, and instead use an honest and straightforward mind. To repeat, “the straight mind is the bodhimanda.” To be a human being, one must speak honestly.

The foregoing lines of verse discussed the Four Unlimited Aspects of Mind, the dharmas of kindness, compassion, joy, and giving (or renunciation).

One should cultivate successively in this way. You should cultivate the dharmas that have just been discussed—the Six Paramitas and the Four Unlimited Aspects of Mind—kindness, compassion, joy, and giving. That means you practice according to these dharma doors, without being greedy for quick results. You should not have the attitude, “I do not need to cultivate any dharma door to become a Buddha.” It cannot be done that way. You need to cultivate step by step. Gradually perfecting all Buddhas’ Dharmas.

 In that way, you must gradually, little by little, perfect the Dharmas of all the Buddhas.


As one first must set the foundation,
In order to build a palace,
So, too, giving and precepts are
Basic for all Bodhisattva practices. 


Wishing to construct a large building, one must first set a good foundation. If the foundation is not made well, then the building one wishes to construct will not be a success, because soon after a building is raised on top of a poorly-made foundation, it will fall apart. Without a good, solid foundation, the walls of a building could collapse at any time. To make the foundation good and solid, in preparation to raise, for example, a multi-storied building, first an excavation is made, in which reinforcing steel bars are arranged and set in concrete. Then, when the walls are raised to the top, say for a high-rise—no matter how many stories you want to erect— even if you want to build a palace, with a good foundation, the superstructure will be able to stand. However, if the foundation is not made well, then your palace will not be a success.

So, too, giving and precepts are a foundation. And so first you need to cultivate giving, as well as upholding the precepts. These are likened to the foundation that must first be constructed when one wishes to raise a building. Giving and precepts are the foundation for the cultivator of the Way. You need to do a good job of them.

They are basic for all Bodhisattva practices. These two—giving and precepts—are the basis for the multitude of practices along the Bodhisattva Way. And so they definitely must be done well. Because you certainly want to make this foundation firm and solid, so that later you will be able to have accomplishment in the Way.

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