All Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master, Dharma Masters, and All Good Knowing Advisors, Amituofo! Tonight is Qin Ben’s turn to come up here practice sharing the Dharma with assembly, please correct me, if I say any thing wrong.
The topic I want to share tonight is the three short sections from “Encouraging Words of Master Wei-Shan Lin You.” This article complements the Essentials of the Sramanera Vinaya and the Rules of Deportment text, providing content that is conducive for novice monks and nuns to recite and memorize. In Vietnam, for those people who leave the home life to become as Novice monk or Novice nun, for the first three or four years, they have to memorize three sutras and repeat from memory without book. They are called “the Buddha and Patriarch Three Sutras.” The first one is The Sutra in Forty-Two Sections. The Second one is The Sutra on the Buddha’s Bequeathed Teachings. The third one is The Encouraging Text of Wei Shan Da Shi.
Wei Shan Da Shi belonged to the fourth generation. After the sixth patriarch Hui Neng. The first one is Nan Yue Chan Master; second is Ma Zu Chan Master; third one is Bai Zhang Chan Master; and the fourth one is Wei Shan Chan Master. He was born in 771AD and passed away in 853AD. He left the home-life at the age fifteen in the district (home town). At the age of twenty three he came to Jiang Xi to study with Bai Zhang Chan Master. Master Bai Zhang just saw immediately accept and let him enter the assembly. Among the assembly, he was appointed to be the kitchen manager.
One day he stand in attendance by Bai Zhang Chan Master. Bai Zhang Chan Master asked: Who? He replied “Me. Ling You.” Bai Zhang Chan Master told him, “You go dig the furnace to see if there is any fire?” He went to dig for the furnace and replied, “No Fire.” Master Bai Zhang stood up and went to dig deeper in the furnace, and found a little fire. He held up to show Wei Shan Chan Master, and said, “you said ‘No fire’, what is this?” Suddenly, Wei Shan Chan Master got enlightened at this point.
有一天，他擔任百丈禪師侍者。 百丈禪師問他說：「誰？」 溈山禪師回答：「弟子靈祐」。百丈禪師告訴他：「你去挖火爐，看看還有沒有火？」 他去挖火爐，並回答說：「沒有火」。百丈禪師站起來，往火爐的深處撥去，發現有一點火，舉起來給他看，說道：「你說『没有火』，這是什麼?」溈山禪師當下就開悟了！
Under Chan Master Wei Shan’s Dharma assembly there were more than 1,500 Bhikshus gathering to cultivate. So he wrote this Encouraging Text to urge and teach the left home people to diligently
in cultivate to achieve enlightenment and transcend Birth and Death.
Text Passage: Our bodies were not born by themselves. Countless causes and conditions, including father’s essence and mother’s blood and our own former actions(Karma), came together to bring them into existence. Therefore, no one can escape the suffering of having the body. The four elements that support our bodies-Earth, Water, Fire, and Wind are not always in perfect harmony. Our bodies will not last forever.
Our existence is as impermanent as the morning dew, the tree at the edge of the river, the vine climbing alongside of the well. Beings who are alive in the morning have to die by evening. Days and Night pass quickly, old age and death are inescapable. How can you sit around and let your life trickle away meaninglessly?
When we decide to become a monk or a nun, we leave behind the opportunity to support our parents and serve our country. We do this because we are determined to practice wholeheartedly and realize complete liberation, to put aside old habits and learn the way to transcend Birth and Deaths.
At the beginning of this passage Chan Master Wei Shan said: Due to the constraints of karma, we must receive this body. After receiving this body, we have to endure the suffering of the body. Lso Tsu also said: Because I have a body, there is Great disaster. Lao Tsu saw that because we have a body, there will be disaster, but he did not mention the cause of having a body. Chan Master Wei Shan looked through the eyes of a Buddhist monk, he saw that the reason why our body is here is not by chance but because karma has drawn us here, it is impossible to avoid suffering.
He clearly pointed out the cause of suffering when carrying this body, no matter whether the body is rich or poor. All are suffering. This is the spiritual truth of the noble truth in Buddhism. If we still create the karma, we still receive a body, and with a body there is suffering, because this body is impermanent and perishable, fragile, no one can escape, whether a king or a beggar, intelligent, or dull. Having a body comes with all kinds of sufferings. Such as birth, old age, illness, and death, separation from love ones, meeting with enemies, wishes but not being achieved, …etc.
We have a body due to karma, so how do we have a body?
The father’s essence and mother’s blood combine to form the fetus, then karma leads the consciousness into the fetus. That fetus is slowly nourished by the four external elements through the mother’s breathing and food, gradually grows into a form with all the organs completed then leaving the mother’s womb and after leaving the mother’s womb, it is also nourished by the four external elements.
Although this body is supported by the four great elements for its existence. But these four elements often oppose each other. Because the Earth does not like wind, water does not like fire, fire meets water and fire goes out. The earth meets the wind and the earth trembles. If the four elements are out of balance, the body will not be at peace. When the wind is higher than the earth, the body aches. When the wind is lower than the earth, the breath is not clear. When there is too much water and little fire, the body becomes skinny.
Our lives not much different from the dew on the tips of the branches, just glitter and immediately dries up. Like a tree leans against a cliff, it only takes one gust of wind to topple into the water, there is no guarantee. Life is like the Vine climbing alongside the well .The Vine climbing alongside of the well. In the Buddhist scriptures, there was a person who committed a crime and received the death penalty. The king ordered two elephants to step on him to death. When two elephants came close to him, he started running.
While running on the way he saw a well, he immediately jumped down because he was afraid of being stepped on by the elephants. The man saw the vine climbing alongside of the well, so he grabbed the vine and slid down. Halfway there, he encountered three dragons spewing fire. He had to hold on tightly to the vine halfway. Then that person intended to lean on the edge of the well for safe support, but instead he saw four poisonous snakes sticking out their tongues. At that time, the condemned man was only wearing a dangling vine, unable to move up or down neither back or forth.
Unfortunately, there were two mice, one white and one black, taking turns gnawing (chewing) on the vine that was about to break. The life of a prisoner on death row is so fragile! However, while confused, he raised his face
d up and suddenly a swarm of bees flew by and dripped down five drops of honey into his mouth. The sweetness of honey made that person happy and forgot all the hardships and sufferings he was facing.
Try asking how confused that person was! The Buddha used this example to describe the passion of living beings. Two elephants chasing a criminal are examples of suffering and destruction, meaning impermanence is forcing people to death. The Vine climbing alongside the well symbolizes that human life is too fragile. Three fire-breathing dragons symbolize the three poisons .greed, anger, and ignorance that are burning people.
The four poisonous snakes represent the four elements, earth, water, wind, and fire. If they are not compatible, they can break up at any time. The two white and black mice biting the Vine are a metaphor for day and night, each passing moment means life get closer to the death. Five drops of honey metaphor for the five desires, wealth, form, fame, eating, sleeping, but people in their passion forget the great suffering of impermanence that is overwhelmingly raging.
All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas started from the skillful means of kindness to rescue living beings. In the Lotus Sutra, living beings are tempted to indulge in the five desires, like children in a house on fire, but they are always indulging in fun and do not realize it. The father wants to save his children from the fire, so he lures them out with special and beautiful toys. Because the children wanted those toys, they escaped from the burning house.
In this world, if anyone can realize this and know that they are deluded, it is possible that one day they will awaken. But those of us who are self-centered and satisfied in that situation will forever suffer in the cycle of Samsara and the suffering of the six paths. That’s why Patriarch Wei Shan wants to wake us up, especially monastics, to practice diligently to reach the goal of enlightenment and liberation.
To conclude tonight’s sharing, Qin Ben wish everyone in the next Amitabha Recitation session and the three-week
s meditation will be vigorous to find out the flame of our Buddha ’s nature that exists in each of us. Just like Bai Zhang Da Shi showed the Chan Master Wei Shan. Amitabha!