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Universal Worthy's Conduct and Vows

Chapter Forty



I will now give you and example of how causes and conditions are at work. There was once a man who acquired great wealth as a rice merchant. In China, rice is sold by the pound. The wealthy man added water to his rice to increase its weight and size. To one hundred pounds of rice he added ten to twenty pounds of water. The rice looked larger and weighed more, but when it dried out, it was not so large. He made a lot of money doing business like this.

He also sold liquor short in the same way. He thought, "If a person drinks liquor, I should make money off of him. If he has the money to but a drink, there's no reason why I shouldn't get a little more of it. If he doesn't have money, of course, then he can't buy it." At that time there was a distilled liquor called kao-liang. To every bottle of this liquor he added two ounces of water, and because each bottle had that much less liquor, he made a lot of money.

This wealthy man had three sons. Because he loved wealth, he named his eldest son gold and his second son Silver. His third son he named Karmic Obstructions. It is not known how great his fortune was; it was too great to calculate.

When he became old, he contracted a fatal illness. He tried to find a doctor to cure him, but the doctors all threw up their hands and said it was hopeless. One said, "If you have good things to eat, you should eat them now because your time is near"

The man thought, "I have so much money it seems pointless to die like this. I'll have a talk with my favorite son and ask him to die with me."

He called his eldest son Gold to him and said, "do you know that for my entire life I have loved you the most?"

His son said, "I know. You've been very good to me. As my father you have given me much money, and I will inherit all of your wealth. I know you've been good to me."

His father said, "I'm about to die, but I love you and can't bear to separate from you. will you die with me?"

His eldest son said, "Your illness has driven you mad. How can I die with you? Perhaps you are joking. Please don't joke like this. You must be telling a really big joke."

His father said, "I'm serious. I'm not joking. Now, can you die with me?"

The eldest son said, "No. I have a wife and children. If I die, what will become of them?"

His father said, "I've loved you so much, and yet when I ask you to die with me, you don't dare to do so. Well, if you won't come along, quickly go and fetch Silver for me."

The he talked to Silver. "I have treated your elder brother better than you, but I've discovered that he isn't the least bit filial towards me. I feel that you are the one real filial son, and that you will listen to my instructions and request. I'm about to die. Can you die with me?

Silver replied, "If Gold won't die with you, how could I possibly do it? If you are going to die, then hurry up and die, but I won't die with you." Then he spat on the ground and said, "Father, you are senile. You have truly lost control. I'm still young. I don't feel that I've lived long enough, and you ask me to die with you. You are totally unreasonable. to have old people like you living in the world is a big waste." Not only would his son not die with his father, but he scolded him as well

The wealthy man said, "If you won't die with me, I'll talk to my youngest son Karmic Obstructions." And he called for his third son.

"Karmic Obstructions, I'm about to die. Can you accompany me in death?"

Karmic Obstructions replied, "Of course. I'd be most happy to do this. I'll accompany you and follow you to wherever you go."

Then the wealthy man thought, "He's really not too bad. At least I have one son who will be buried with me." Then he felt very satisfied.

But what happened when Karmic Obstructions went with his father to see King Yama? King Yama asked the man, "When you were alive, did you add water to your rice and liquor before selling them?"

The wealthy man replied, "Never. I would never do such a dishonest thing."

When Karmic Obstructions heard his father's reply he said, "Yes, you did. Every time you sold rice or wine, I saw you add water to them. You are not taking responsibility for your actions when you say you didn't do this."

His son had gone along to testify as a witness of all the bad things his father had done. His father had no grounds for appeal, and as a result, he fell into the hells.

He said to his son, "You came along to testify against me, to say that I committed offenses, not to say that I did virtuous deeds. What kind of a son are you? If I had known you were going to be like this, I would never have asked you to accompany me. It would have been a lot better if you had never come. Now I've ended up in the hells. Even though I don't have a defense lawyer, I can speak for myself, and if you hadn't come along, King Yama wouldn't have known the difference. But you testified against me." Then the wealthy man was filled with regret. There is a saying,

In the future nothing will come along with you.
Neither Gold nor Silver will be willing to go.
Only your Karma will follow you.

He could not take anything. Gold and Silver were unwilling to go, and only Karmic Obstructions went along with the once very wealthy man.

When King Yama is deciding your fate,
Karma tells it like it is.

When King Yama asks you what you did during your life, your karmic obstructions will tell the truth. Karmic obstructions are very fierce. They are the result of the things that you do. If you do good, then you have good karma, but if you do evil, then you have evil karma. The good that you do is called good karma, and the evil is called evil karma. It is bad karma that constitutes your karmic obstructions.

Explaining this reminds me of another short story. It occurred when I was very young, while I was still a Shramanera. At Chinese New Year, people always write matched couplets on red paper and hang them on either side of the main entrance of their residence. We also did this at the Monastery. Someone might write, "May everything be auspicious in accord with your wishes." It has always some form of an auspicious verse.

At that time I wrote "Wisdom like the sea" very quickly with force. When a fellow Dharma brother, who was also a Shramanera, saw these four words, he really like them, and recited, "Wisdom like the sea, wisdom like the sea, wisdom like the sea," over and over again. when I had heard him do this one time too many, it really irritated me, and so I said, "The power of your karma is like the sea."

When he heard this he really got upset. He was angry enough to hit me. He said, "Why do you say the power of my karma is like the sea? How can you say the power of my karma is like the sea?" He acted as if he were going to hit me.

I replied, "Don't get upset. You will certainly like what I have to say, and you'll agree with me. When I said that the power of your karma is like the sea, you shouldn't have gotten mad; you should have thanked me."

He retorted, "Ha! That's really senseless. You say the power of my karma is like the sea, and I should thank you? You don't make any sense."

I said, "Listen to the rest of the explanation."

He said, "What have you got to explain?"

I said, "What do you think karma is?"

He said, "Karma is what people do."

I said, "There is good karma and bad karma. I meant the power of your good karma is like the sea. How do you feel now?" He just gazed off into emptiness and had nothing to say. I continued, "I neither spoke of your good karma nor your bad karma. Why did you get angry? My meaning is that your good karma is like the sea. Now what do you think?"

He said, "Oh, non problem. I'm sorry." He apologized, admitted he was wrong, and repented. Look how wonderful this is! Just one word makes the difference. By adding the word "good," suddenly his great anger vanished. Don't you think this is strange? this is called the wonderful Dharma. Being off by one word, not clearly saying the word "good," caused him to get angry. But when I added that word, he became happy. If you are off by one word, you can cause people to become happy or to get angry.

I told him, "Since I've said this to you, you should invite me to lunch."

He said, "Okay, okay," and he asked me to lunch. Look at this. The minds of living beings are very strange. With one word, they can go from one extreme to the other. The power of karma is just like this.

There is another story that comes from my Shramanera days. One day I was carrying a roll of paper, and I met a person who liked to know about other people's business.

He asked me, "What is it you have there? What are you carrying?"

I replied, "This is a bill of sale. I have just sold you."

He got mad. Because he liked to get angry, I would do something occasionally that would stir him up. This time I told him that I had sold him, and that this was the bill of sale.

He got made. "How can you sell me? Huh? How can you sell me? What authority do you have to sell me?"

I said, "Of course I have the authority to sell you. And since I've sold you, you should be happy, because I couldn't sell you if you didn't like it. but I have a special authority to sell you."

He got even angrier. "What kind of special authority?" He was really upset.

I told him, "If there is someone who wants to buy you, you should certainly be happy when I sell you."

He said, "That doesn't make any sense. If you sold me to someone, how could I possibly be happy about it? Explain yourself."

I said, "I'll explain it to you. I sold you to Shakyamuni Buddha, to always be a monk."

He was dumbstruck. His eyes froze and he stared at me without moving.

I said, "Is this agreeable to you? Are you happy?"

He replied, "That's fine. You can do that."

This is what happened to me when I was very young. At that time I was full of mischief.

Look into this. The situation here is the same as in the previous story. Even though I sold him he was happy. This is also the wonderful Dharma, so do not take it as just a joke.

I have explained "delusion" and "karma" in general, and now I will discuss "demon-states." If you do not cultivate the Way, demons will not come after you. But if you do cultivate, then demons will find you. Why? Demons are just like bandits. Bandits do not rob poor people, because they know that poor people have nothing worth stealing. When you do not cultivate the Way, you are like a poor person, but to cultivate the Way is like getting rich. If you are rich, then day and night the bandits will wait for the opportunity to rob you. Thus there are demons when you cultivate the Way. It is said,

Demons polish the True Way;
With the True Way, demons come.
The more they polish, the brighter you become;
The brighter you become, the more you should be polished,
Polished like the autumn moon
Which shines on the hordes of demons in space.
Illuminated, the demonic hordes disperse,
And the original Buddha appears.

This verse says that demons polish a person who cultivates the True Way. If you have even the slightest bit of sincerity and honesty, demons will come to polish and test you. Therefore, the next line says that with the True Way, demons come. If you truly cultivate, then there will be demons. The more you are polished, the brighter your light becomes; the brighter you become, the more you should be polished. The demons test you again and again until your light shines like the autumn moon, the full, bright, harvest moon. This light then illuminates all of the hordes of demons. If you have true and actual wisdom, you can illuminate the hordes of demons. You will recognize all of them. And when a demon comes, you will recognize it. When the demonic hordes are illuminated, they disperse. Illuminating the demonic hordes refers to the light of your wisdom which illuminates the demons so they all run away. Then the original Buddha appears--the original Buddha comes forth.

When you cultivate the Way and accomplish something, demonic obstacles will arise. For example, let us discuss keeping the precepts. You may not want to break the precepts, but you break them nonetheless. You do not wish to kill, but without being aware of it, you find yourself killing and breaking that precept. You do not wish to steal, but without knowing it, you break this precept. You do not wish to break the precept against sexual misconduct, but without any self-awareness, you find yourself breaking this precept.

What does it mean do to these things without knowing it, without awareness? It means that you are confused, and from this confused state comes ignorance; because of ignorance you forget everything. For example, you might forget that you have taken the precepts and that you are a vegetarian, and so you eat meat and break the precept. You do not intent to lie, but your ignorance comes forth and you lie. You do not intend to drink wine, but your ignorance comes forth and you take a drink. These are all situations in which your ignorance covers over your wisdom, and because you are without wisdom, you break the precepts.

When you first develop some concentration power from your meditation, you discover that relationships between men and women are not so good and you think, "I don't want to get involved in that any more." You have obtained a little concentration power, and from this concentration comes wisdom; you wish to put an end to sexual desire. If you do not want to put an end to sexual desire, then nothing happens; as soon as you wish to cut if off, however, the demons of sexual desire come forth. What do they do? When you are asleep, they may become all kinds of beautiful women. Not just one kind; they will manifest as the kind you like the best and try to seduce you. This is what happens with men. For women, they will manifest as all kinds of handsome men to tempt you. They test you in your dreams, when you do not have control, and you break the precepts in your dreams. When you do not have enough strength in your concentration, you do not have wisdom.

You do not have to be dreaming for this to happen, for demons come to test you in a waking state as well. If you have no concentration power, the demons will not bother you, but if you wish to cultivate, all kinds of demonic states can occur. If you are a man, your old girlfriend may come around, or if you are a women, your old boyfriend might come to see you, and without knowing it, you break a precept. Breaking precepts just shows a lack of concentration power. When you are without concentration, you are stupid, without any wisdom. Because ignorance covers over your wisdom, you break the precepts.

Demonic states can arise when you are meditating as well, when you are engaged in daily Ch'an practice. Perhaps you see all kinds of incredible things, or perhaps you feel that you have spiritual penetrations, or perhaps you feel that your body is the same as empty space, as large as empty space. The Shurangama Sutra talks about these states in the Fifty Skandha Demons Section of the Sutra. All of these are demonic states.

Some time ago there was an old cultivator who practiced meditation to cultivate the Way. When he was just about to enter samadhi, he saw a rock weighing a few tons suspended over his head by a fine rope. A mouse clutched the rope and was chewing on it. If the rope were to break, it would certainly crush the old cultivator to death. If he had become startled or had run away when he saw this state, he would have gone wrong and joined the demons. The demon king would have had control over him. But his mind was like still water, and he thought, "If you fall on my head and crush me to death, I won't pay any attention to you. Even if I die, I will still continue to meditate here." After this, he entered samadhi, and as a result, no large boulder crushed him. If he had become frightened, he could have gone down the wrong road.

Further, when Shakyamuni Buddha was just about to perfect the Way and become a Buddha, the demon king and his multitudes became uneasy. The demon king said, "Prince Gautama is about to become a Buddha. We should prevent him from accomplishing the Way."

The demon king tried to think of a wonderful method to stop Prince Gautama He thought and thought, and when he had come to the point where he could think no more, and he felt that there was no way, some of his demon daughters arrived.

They asked, "Father, why are you so distraught?"

The demon king answered, "Prince Gautama is about to become a Buddha. I don't want this to happen, because if he becomes a Buddha, our retinue will lose its power. I'm trying to think of a way to stop him."

His daughters said, "We can defile his mind and cause him to have thoughts of sexual desire."

Then the demon women got ready to break up Shakyamuni Buddha's cultivation of the Way. These demon women were extremely beautiful. When they went to where Shakyamuni Buddha was, they were very seductive, and tried to cause Shakyamuni Buddha to have thoughts of sexual desire. But, face to face with them, Shakyamuni Buddha remained in a state of unmoving suchness.

He thought to himself, "Now you think you are really beautiful, but in the future your hair will turn white, and your skin will wrinkle up like a chicken's. In the future, you will be very ugly."

When he had these thoughts, the demon women all of a sudden saw themselves becoming old. They could not see or hear clearly, and they saw themselves looking like a bunch of old hags. They became very ashamed and ran off.

Many, many demonic states can be discussed. No matter what state cultivators of the Way meet, they must not be moved. If you are not moved, then you have some power of concentration. Concentration power can transform a lack of concentration. Dhyana Samadhi can transform a state of scattered ignorance. If you have concentration, you will not make a mistake and enter a demonic state. This is called breaking up the states of demons.

Amid all worldly paths, I will be freed. One obtains liberation within the past of the world and reaches a state of non-attachment and liberation. The paths of the world are the ways of the world. Within worldly dharma you can escape from the world. You can escape from the world while you are in the world. How can you do this? Do not have attachments. If you can leave your attachments behind, then you can obtain liberation.

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