A SURE SIGN
OF THE PROPER DHARMA
The Venerable Masterís Lecture in Kaohsiung, Taiwan,
on November 9-10, 1988
Translated and copyright by the Buddhist Text Translation Society
NA MO SA DAN TUO
SU QIE DUO YE
E LA HE DI
SAN MIAO SAN PU TUO XIE
NA MO SA DAN TUO
FO TUO JU ZHI SHAI NI SHAN
NA MO SA PO
BO TUO BO DI
SA DUO PI BI
NA MO SA DUO NAN
SAN MIAO SAN PU TUO JU ZHI NAN
SUO SHE LA PO JIA
SENG QIE NAN
NA MO LU JI E LUO HAN DUO NAN
NA MO SU LU DUO BO NUO NAN
NA MO SUO JIE LI TUO QIE MI NAN
NA MO LU JI SAN MIAO QIE DUO NAN
SAN MIAO QIE BO LA
DI BO DUO NUO NAN
NA MO TI PO LI SHAI NAN
NA MO XI TUO YE
PI DI YE
TUO LA LI SHAI NAN
SHE PO NU
JIE LA HE
SUO HE SUO LA MO TUO NAN
NA MO BA LA HE MO NI
NA MO YIN TUO LA YE
I just recited the first twenty-eight lines of the Shurangama Mantra.
These twenty-eight lines tell us to take refuge in all the Buddhas, all
the Bodhisattvas, all the Hearers, all Those Enlightened by Conditions,
and all the gods throughout empty space and the Dharma Realm. The last
line, "Na mo yin tuo la ye," refers to what Chinese people call the Jade
Emperor. Those who do not understand the Buddhadharma say, "The Jade Emperor
belongs to Taoism. We shouldnít bow to him." They donít realize that the
Jade Emperor is just Lord Shakra. As Buddhist disciples, we should also
respect him and gather him in. This first section of the Shurangama Mantra
is the section for protecting and supporting the Triple Jewel. Therefore,
when this section is recited, all the demons, goblins, ghosts, and other
strange creatures flee far away. They retreat as far as they can go.
Therefore, in Buddhism it is said that if there is even one person
in the world who can recite the Shurangama Mantra, then the demons, goblins,
ghosts, and all the other weird creatures will not dare to openly show
themselves in the world. If not even one person can recite the Shurangama
Mantra from memory, then at that point all the demons, goblins, ghosts,
and all the other weird creatures will appear in the world. They will wreak
havoc, but no one will recognize them. Right now, since there are still
people who can recite the Shurangama Mantra, the demons, goblins, ghosts,
and all the other weird creatures donít dare to openly show themselves
in the world. There is a verse that expresses the meaning of this section
of the Mantra.
A thousand red lotuses protect oneís body.
As one sits astride a black unicorn.
Seeing this, the myriad demons go away to hide.
Dharma Master Ji Gong had this wonderful sound.
A thousand red lotuses protect oneís body. A thousand red lotuses come
to protect your body. As one sits astride a black unicorn. When you recite
the mantra, you are sitting astride a unicorn. Seeing this, the myriad
demons go away to hide. They all flee, because they are afraid to face
such awesome virtue.
We all know about the character Ji Gong in Buddhism. In his time, Ji
Gong used this section of mantra, so the verse says that Dharma Master
Ji Gong had this wonderful sound. This verse gives the general meaning
of this section of the Mantra text. If we were to go into detail, the Shurangama
Mantra is wonderful beyond words. Thus it is also said:
The esoteric wonder is inexhaustible;
it is truly difficult to fathom.
The secret words of Vajra come from the inherent nature.
The Shurangama Mantra contains miraculous wonders.
Cultivators and ordinary people can open
the Five Eyes and Six Penetrations.
The esoteric wonder is inexhaustible; it is truly difficult to fathom.
The Shurangama Mantra is extremely wonderful, and its transformations are
inconceivable. It is very difficult to fathom. The secret words of Vajra
come from the inherent nature. The secret words of Vajra, the Shurangama
Mantra, is the secret within the secret. It is Vajra that supports and
protects this mantra, which comes from our own Buddha-nature. The Shurangama
Mantra contains miraculous wonders. The Shurangama Mantra is also known
as a magical text. It is very miraculous and especially potent. Thatís
why itís said, "The Shurangama Mantra contains miraculous wonders." Cultivators
and ordinary people can open the Five Eyes and Six Penetrations. If you
constantly recite the Shurangama Mantra with single-minded concentration,
not thinking of anything else, you can attain the Five Eyes and the Six
Penetrations. You can experience inconceivable states and transformations
which are beyond the understanding of ordinary people. Therefore, I hope
everyone will study and recite the Shurangama Sutra and will recite the
Shurangama Mantra from memory.
Most scholars say the Shurangama Sutra is false and claim that it was
not spoken by the Buddha. They say they have various pieces of evidence
and documents to support their claim. This is all because they fear the
Shurangama Sutra and have no way to deal with the principles in the Shurangama
Sutra. What they fear most in the Shurangama Sutra are the Four Clear Instructions
on Purity. The Four Clear Instructions on Purity serve as a demon-spotting
mirror. All the demons, goblins, ghosts, and weird creatures are reflected
in their true form. Furthermore, the section on the Fifty Skandha-demons
exposes the celestial demons and externalists to the bone, enabling people
to recognize their demonic appearance. Anyone who can memorize the Shurangama
Sutra is a true disciple of the Buddha.
In the declining period of the Buddhadharma, the first Sutra to disappear
will be the Shurangama Sutra. Why will it disappear? Because these so-called
scholars, professors, and even left-home people all claim it is false.
Over time, their theory will become widespread, and people will all believe
what they say and take the Shurangama Sutra to be false. Even Buddhist
disciples will consider it false, and after a while the Sutra will disappear.
Thatís how the Sutras become extinct; people no longer study them, so they
In the Shurangama Sutra, the Four Clear Instructions on Purityówhich
explain killing, stealing, lust, and lyingóare absolutely accurate and
definite. Thatís why those scholars and professors fear the Four Clear
Instructions on Purity. They only want to listen to muddled instructions,
and they are terribly afraid of the Clear Instructions. If they admitted
that the Shurangama Sutra is true, they would have no ground to stand upon.
They would not be able to defend their smoking, drinking, and womanizing,
for everyone would know them for what they are. The principles of the Shurangama
Sutra are extremely accurate, extremely logical, and as clear as can be.
Thatís why the entire Shurangama Sutra is a demon-spotting mirror. When
this demon-spotting mirror is hung up, the demons, goblins, ghosts, and
weird creatures are frightened out of their wits.
If what I have just said about the Shurangama Sutra and the Shurangama
Mantra does not accord with the Buddhasí mind and the Sutraís meaning,
and if the Shurangama Sutra is really false, I am willing to stay forever
in the hells and never come out to see the people in the world. Although
I am a stupid person, I am not so foolish that I would want to go to the
hells and never come out. For that reason, you should all deeply believe
in the Shurangama Sutra and the Shurangama Mantra.
What I have just said is my vow. If what I said does not accord with
the Buddhasí mind, I am willing to go to the hells. I now request the infinite,
endless, eternally dwelling Buddhas, Dharma, and Sanghaóthe Triple Jewel
in the ten directions throughout empty space and the Dharma Realmóto silently
certify what I have said and to enable all living beings to quickly realize
the Buddha Way.
I also request the Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas in the ten directions;
the Sound Hearers and Those Enlightened by Conditions in the ten directions;
all the Worthies and Sages in the Sangha; and all the Dharma-protecting
gods of the Radiant Assembly to emit light and shine upon all living beings,
enabling them to leave suffering, attain bliss, and be liberated from birth
I also pray that all of you Good and Wise Advisors will instruct me
if I have said something that disagrees with the Buddhadharma. Although
I am not intelligent, I hope you will try to teach me. Since I am a very
stupid person with limited views, my words are far from perfect. Whether
you are a left-home person or a layperson, I hope you will kindly teach
me. I shall bow in respect and be grateful all my life.
If there is anyone who recites the Shurangama Sutra, I am willing to
serve and make offerings to such a cultivator all my life. When the Proper
Dharma prospers, the Shurangama prospers. When the Proper Dharma declines,
the Shurangama becomes extinct. From this, you should all realize how important
the Shurangama Sutra is in Buddhism.
"The Shurangama is for opening wisdom. The Dharma Flower is for becoming
a Buddha. The Avatamsaka is for teaching living beings." Therefore, in
America I started out by lecturing on the Shurangama Sutra to a group of
over thirty students from the University of Washington in Seattle. During
the ninety-six days of summer vacation, I lectured on the Shurangama Sutra
to those college students. During that time, there was only a half dayís
break on Saturdays. Aside from that, I lectured on the Sutra every day,
and they all took notes. In the beginning, I lectured once a day, and then
they studied on their own. After half a month, I assessed the time and
the length of the Shurangama Sutra. Fearing that I might not finish in
time, I began lecturing twice a day. After a while, I calculated again
and decided that I still would not be able to finish, so I started lecturing
three times a day. Finally, in the last half month or more, I lectured
four times a day.
During the Summer Shurangama Study and Cultivation Session, not only
did I lecture on the Sutra, I also cooked the meals, made tea, and did
the grocery shopping and everything else for them. You could say I single-handedly
took on all the monastic chores. Of course I could have asked the students
to take turns working, but I did not want to interfere with their cultivation
and study of the Sutra. So I didnít let a single person help. Although
I dare not say I was practicing the Bodhisattva Way, if people wanted to
study the Shurangama Sutra, I was willing to dedicate my life to serve
and support them. After ninety-six days, I finished lecturing on the Shurangama
Sutra. With the end of this lecture, people in America were beginning to
give recognition to Buddhism.
At the end of the Shurangama Sutra lecture series, five people left
the home-life. On New Yearís Day, I said to the assembly, "This year, five
lotuses will bloom in American Buddhism. In the future, these five lotuses
will spread Buddhism in the West." Thatís what I said then.
After they graduated from the Summer Shurangama Study and Cultivation
Session, five Americans left the home-life. I sent them to Hai Hui (Sea-like
Assembly) Monastery in Taiwan to receive the precepts. The Good and Wise
Advisors in Taiwan told them, "The present time is the Dharma-ending Age.
No one cultivates anymore. Youíre still eating one meal a day? Youíve been
cheated by your teacher." When my American disciples heard this, they thought,
"Oh, so weíve been cheated by our teacher. What should we do?" The Good
and Wise Advisors said, "Well, go ahead and eat. Drink wine and eat meat."
The five people started to have doubts about Buddhism. "Why did our teacher
teach us to eat one meal a day, and now they tell us we should eat in the
morning and evening as well? Whatís going on? There must be something wrong
here." Their minds were swayed and they wanted to start eating more meals,
but they had a meeting and decided to go back and make sure before they
did that. They also told the Good and Wise Advisors in Taiwan that they
slept sitting up. Some people in Taiwan told them, "You sleep sitting up?
People did that when the Buddha was in the world. Now the Buddha isnít
around anymore, so why do you do it? Itís really a case of Americans being
cheated by the Chinese."
What happened then? When they returned, they got mischievous. They
said, "In Taiwan, everyone eats three meals a day. We shouldnít eat just
one meal." They acted naughty with me. They said more, but I donít remember
that much. It took more than three months before their doubts were resolved.
At that time, some people in Taiwan would say, "Dharma Master Hsuan
Hua has taken some hippies as disciples in America. There are many hippies
hanging out in Golden Gate Park, and Dharma Master Hsuan Hua goes there
to meditate. When the hippies see him meditating, theyíre curious and go
up to talk to him. Then Dharma Master Hsuan Hua tells them to go visit
the temple. They go to the temple and find that the life-style there is
pretty similar to their hippie life-style, so they all leave the home-life."
There is another rumor in Taiwan: "You know what? Dharma Master Hsuan
Hua takes drugs with the hippies in America. The hippies take LSD and marijuana.
They can get high on just one capsule of LSD and feel as carefree as if
they were in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. But Dharma Master Hsuan Hua can
take more than ten capsules without being affected in the least. He doesnít
get high or feel as carefree as if he were in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
Thatís why all those hippies admire him and left the home-life under him.
Donít believe in him."
You can talk back and forth, but whether they are hippies or not does
not matter. He who works hard in cultivation is good. He who does not work
hard in cultivation is not good. If he is not a hippie, but he does not
cultivate, thatís not good. If he is a hippie and he cultivates, thatís
just as good. Therefore, in Buddhism, mere talking about cultivation doesnít
count. There must be real practice and real benefit. Donít just say, "I
have concentration. I have this samadhi or that samadhi." And another person
also comes up with another kind of samadhi.
Now I will tell everyone about some lines that I thought of:
Paying lip service to samadhi,
They say, "I am right and you are wrong."
In time, their original appearance is revealed,
And they are covered with offenses.
This is saying that people just pay lip service to Buddhism and treat
it as childís play. They talk carelessly without taking responsibility
for cause and effect. Who will fall into the Hell of Ripping Out Tongues?
Precisely that kind of person. When they get there, their tongues will
be ripped out and they wonít be able to talk anymore. In their minds they
will think, "What a mess Iím in. If I knew this was going to happen, I
wouldnít have fooled around like that."
They always paid lip service to samadhi, saying, "Iím right. Youíre
wrong about every-thing. Even if you were right, Iíd say you were wrong.
And if youíre wrong, I also say youíre wrong." Would you say that is just?
In everything, they say "I am right and you are wrong." In time, their
original appearance is revealed.
After a long distance, one will know
a horseís stamina.
After a long time, one will see
a personís heart.
In time, their true form is uncovered. And they are covered with offenses.
Their bodies are covered by offense karma. They enter the Hell of Ripping
Out Tongues without even realizing it.
"Dharma Master, donít scold people. As you speak the Dharma, why are
you scolding people?" you ask. I am not scolding anyone. I bow to the ants
and mosquitoes every day; how would I dare to scold people? But I cannot
refrain from telling the truth. The truth is just like that.
Let me tell you, itís just those people that criticize me who have
taught and helped me, making me the way I am today. So the people who criticize
and slander me are all my Good and Wise Advisors. They are all my teachers.
My teachers all pay lip service to Chan. I know how to do it because I
learned it from my teachers.
I have another verse:
All people are my teachers.
I am a teacher for all people.
I always teach myself.
I myself am always a teacher.
"All people are my teachers." Everyone is my teacher. As long as you
have blood and breath, I want to learn from you. If you are good, I learn
the good. If you are bad, I learn the bad. I want to learn until I am a
martial arts expert, skilled in all weapons. That way, when I am challenged
to a fight, I will have many winning moves. "I am a teacher for all people."
I am also everyoneís teacher. "I always teach myself." I am very often
a teacher for myself. I am also constantly a teacher for others. That way,
everyone can encourage one another to vigorously advance on the Bodhi Way.
Letís not linger in the Saha world, scheming and calculating about wins
and losses. Letís see who will reach the Land of Ultimate Bliss first!
Someone says, "Dharma Master, you keep arguing and refusing to admit
that you are scolding people. Do you admit it? If you admit that you are
scolding people, then you wonít scold them anymore. Right?" But the one
who scolds people is like "one who spits up into the skies, and gets the
spit back on his own face." We should like being scolded, because when
people scold us, they are giving us fertilizer. Our fields are not fertile,
so they need to be fertilized. Then our crops will be abundant and our
fruits will thrive.
"Dharma Master, you just said that all people are your teachers. But
there are good people and bad people, and if you take them all as teachers,
you will learn to be both good and bad," you object. You have mis-understood.
When I say "All people are my teachers," I mean that good people teach
me how I should be, and I learn to be like them. Bad people teach me how
I should not be, and I learn not to be like them. Thatís why all people
are my teachers.
"I always teach myself." We ourselves must always be alert and not
make mistakes, not act in ignorance. We should use bright wisdom in handling
all matters instead of using stupidity and ignorance to take care of things.
We must turn states around, rather than be turned by states. "Do not fail
to perform a good deed, thinking it is trivial. Do not perform an evil
deed, thinking it is insignificant." Donít think, "That good deed is trivial.
Iím not going to do it. That bad deed is really minor. Iíll go ahead and
do it. It doesnít matter." For example, you think, "Iím vegetarian, but
it wonít matter if I eat an egg." But in the future when you are reborn
as a chicken, you will know that it was because you ate chicken eggs. If
you are not clear in these small matters, then you are "mixing good and
evil, and the retribution will not be off." Itís not fun at all.
Iíve gone kind of crazy today, and I donít really know what Iím saying.
If I have offended you, please come up and give me a beating or scolding.
I will be very delighted.