比丘尼近祥講於2012年8月9日星期四晚 萬佛城大殿 A talk given by Bhikshuni Jin Xiang on August 9 (Thursday), 2012 at Buddha Hall of CTTB
All Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, the Venerable Master, all DMs, and friends in the Dharma, Amituofo, tonight is Jin Xiang’s turn to tie Dharma affinities with all of you.
Guan Yin Bodhisattva is one of the most remembered figures in the Buddhist world. Three celebrations a year attest to how this Bodhisattva is dearly regarded. Have you wondered how you remember somebody? For example, how do you remember your mother or a close friend? If we form a good relationship with somebody, we would remember that person for his or her kind acts or kind words. What if the question were turned around: how would you get other people to remember you? Or how did your past-life enemies remember you?
I notice that normally during a Dharma session, there are more plaques in the Rebirth Hall than in the Lengthening Life Hall. The plaques in the Rebirth Hall are for the deceased ones; they could be your ancestors from your father’s or mother’s side; they could be your good and wise advisors from past lives; they could be for a recently-deceased one so that he or she could be reborn in the Pure Land. It appears to me that one group of deceased ones for which people usually set up is past-life enemies. As I contemplate on the popularity of Guan Yin Bodhisattva, I realize that there are two aspects of establishing affinities with people, that is we establish connection with other people through enmity or through kind acts and words. We have these two choices, through hatred or through kindness.
In fact, kind words and beneficial acts are two of the four key methods of attracting living beings as prescribed by the Buddha. Guan Yin Bodhisattva is a specialist in forming good relationship with beings. Ordinarily, we describe a person who has this ability as a well-rounded person or an easy-going person. Guan Yin responds well to good and bad people equally, with the single purpose of enlightening them. You might say that it is not fair that evil and unwholesome people should receive help, and that they should receive appropriate retribution. But Guan Yin doesn’t care since his mind is unconditioned. In other words, he is unbiased and he has no expectation for reverence or thanks.
Here is a story to illustrate this. This story appeared in a book by a writer named John Blofeld in his 1977 book titled Compassion Yoga. The word yoga here means spiritual practice. The story was told to the author by a Taiwanese diplomat in Bangkok. This officer had learned how to recite Guan Yin‘s holy name in his young days because of his mother’s influence. His mother was a devoted wife and mother, besides being a wonderful person. After twenty years of marriage, she even provided her husband with two charming concubines. Even though she was not jealous for months, when one of the ladies took over and made herself the First Lady and humiliated his mother, the mother felt hurt. Feeling hurt, she turned to Guan Yin for solace and prayed to be reborn in Guan Yin’s paradise. Soon she passed away.
Because of this turn of events, this man turned against Guan Yin for taking his mother away, and he stopped chanting Guan Yin’s name. After the mourning period, he married a girl of whom his father did not approve. His “second mother” also made attempts to undermine his relationship with his wife. This only doubled the hatred he had harbored for his stepmother who drove his mother to death. And he became obsessed with getting rid of this “pretty monster.”
The following year, at the time of sweeping the ancestors’ tombs, the whole family went to a cemetery outside of Canton. They chose an isolated spot away from the crowd to have the meal. Out on a stroll nearby the area, the official quite by chance came upon his stepmother, giving him the perfect opportunity to get rid of her right then and there. As he got closer to her, she instinctively knew his intention, yet she did not scream or draw back. Instead she stood very still and with a smile said “Jiu ku jiu nan pu sa lai!” which means “Bodhisattva who saves [all] from suffering and who saves [all] from harm, come!”
Finding her praying, the man started to laugh with an open mouth, with his hands raised to grab her, but found himself paralyzed. His stepmother, with a smile, thanked him “for coming to her aid” and left him there. Within seconds, he regained his mobility. That woman, as cruel as she was, escaped from death by relying on Guan Yin’s power. Guan Yin’s compassion extends to the worst of evildoers, though of course Guan Yin never assists them in their pursuit of evil. Always she attempts to turn evil to good.
This official resumed his Guan Yin recitation that very day, thanking her for not committing the murder,
Another surprising thing was that the stepmother did not interfere between him and his wife any longer. Ever since her life was spared, she had committed no further vicious acts. It may be that the Bodhisattva has not only saved her life, but also drawn her away from the path of cruelty and malevolence.
As the story shows, we all have this good nature within us that needs to be invoked. When encountering oppressive conditions with others, how can we overcome them? One way is to look within us and change our faults first, then try to look for the good points in others. With our good hearts, wish the best for others. Share all the merits gained with our enemies. If we do not want to establish past-life enemies in our future lives, wouldn’t it be better off if we build good connections with people in this very life?
The chapter in the Lotus Sutra is called The Universal Door Chapter, because Guan Yin Bodhisattva is universal. Guan Yin Bodhisattva’s compassion encompasses time. He has been known for generations throughout centuries. He encompasses lands, as he is known everywhere, from China, Taiwan, Malaysia, to Sri Lanka, Burma, and the Americas. He encompasses all classes of sentient beings, because he connects with other Bodhisattvas, Arhats, gods, humans, and nonhumans. Guan Yin’s method is also universal, in that he realized awakening through the ear organ. The ear organ is called a perfect sense faculty, because it has the full range of being able to make contact with sounds, its sense object, in any direction—that is 360 degree all around. But what Guan Yin listens to is not the external sounds, but to his hearing nature.
The Universal Door Chapter is full of miracles that Guan Yin Bodhisattva performs with ease. But the miracles he performs are not conjured up randomly. They are performed with wisdom and through his vows. Guan Yin Bodhisattva does not grant wishes merely to fulfill people’s wishes. It is true that throughout time and history, the Bodhisattva never fails to grant wishes, but his ultimate goal is to take all of us ignorant beings to the ultimate shore of Nirvana.
The Universal Door Chapter has the following verses:
If someone is in trouble with the law,
And on the verge of being executed,
If he evokes the strength of Guan Yin,
The knives will break into pieces.
If someone is imprisoned, shackled, or chained,
Or if his hands and feet are in stocks,
If he evokes the strength of Guan Yin,
His bonds will open and he will be free.
The Universal Door Chapter of the Lotus Sutra contains principles that a logician may find it hard to grasp. How is it possible for Guan Yin Bodhisattva to break the knives, shackles, and chains? This is not ordinary tricks of a magician. It is only possible because Guan Yin Bodhisattva has broken the INNER knives, shackles and chains. Master Han Shan explained it this way: Bondage arises from greedy attachment. Since the Bodhisattva is freed from sense objects, they do not attract him. In other words, he cannot be bound by them. He has gone beyond form, feeling, cognition, karmic formation, and consciousness, which altogether make up our personality. We cannot forever dwell on the things that keep us in bondage. Like Guan Yin, let us reverse our hearing, listen to ourselves, and think everything over. May we all use our forgiving hearts to go beyond petty things and attain Bodhi, the highest of all aspirations.
在《普門品》裡有如下偈頌 [「若遭王難苦，臨刑欲壽終，念彼觀音力，刀尋段段壞。若囚禁枷鎖，手足被杻械，念彼觀音力，釋然得解脫。」這其中的境界，在邏輯上不能解釋。觀音菩薩如何把刀段段壞、枷鎖打開的呢？這可不是魔術師的小把戲。奇跡發生的原因是，觀世音菩薩已經衝破了內心的無明枷鎖和杻械，因此憨山大師在詩中寫道 ：「繫縛生於貪著，今既離塵，則自不著矣！」也就是說，觀世音菩薩不貪著，所以也不會受根塵的繫縛。他已經超越了色、受、想、行、識，這些構成人性格習氣的染污。我們不能永遠著住在那些繫縛我們的東西上，要向觀世音菩薩學習反聞聞自性，達到最高的境界 —— 證得菩提。