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Blog » Sweet Dews Of Dharma Talks » 2022 » Viewing the World’s Calamities Through the Lens of the Shurangama Sutra (II)

Viewing the World’s Calamities Through the Lens of the Shurangama Sutra (II)2022-01-22


A Dharma Talk Given by Dharma Master Heng Yun in the Online Sunday Evening Lecture Series on June 6, 2021 English Translated by Bhikshuni Jin Jing and Bhikshuni Heng Ching

Today we want to discuss habits of animosity. This refers to someone who harbors hatred and has a lot of resentment. Let’s read the sutra.


The seventh consists of habits of animosity and interconnected enmity which give rise to grievances. From this there come into being flying rocks, thrown stones, caskets and closets, cages on wheels, jars and containers, and bags and rods. It is like someone harming others secretly — he harbors, cherishes, and nurtures evil.

Because these two habits swallow one another up, there come into being tossing and pitching, seizing and apprehending, striking and shooting, casting away and pinching, and other such experiences. Therefore the Buddhas in the ten directions will regard the Habits of Animosity and name it a “disobedient and harmful ghost.” Bodhisattvas see animosity or regard animosity as they would as drinking poisonous wine.

Let’s now explain the text. This is the habit of animosity, also referred to as resentment, which is the seventh of the Ten Habitual Causes. The Ten Habitual Causes and the habit of animosity are interconnected by enmity, which gives rise to grievances.

This includes people who do not like each other – they feel like, “I don’t like you, and you don’t like me”—and then from there, these people constantly wrongfully accuse each other.

In Chinese, such people are described as always “holding objects in their mouths,” like little birds that peck at things with their beaks. They are always holding onto something and bearing these resentments without ever letting them go.

From this, there come into being flying rocks, thrown stones, caskets and closets, cages on wheels, jars and containers, and bags and rods. Flying rocks indicate that this habit of animosity is quite deep. When such living beings pass away, they are reborn in the Flying Rock Hells where flying rocks will strike them.

Thrown stones means that small stones pelt those offenders.

Caskets and closets described the offenders being boxed in caskets and closets.

Cages on wheels illustrate that the offenders are locked in some kind of cage that is placed on a wheeled chart.

Jars and containers are containers like big urns. The offenders are placed in a big urn that then have fires set underneath them.

Bags and rods. The offenders, or we can say the ghosts, will be put into a cloth bag, and then the bag will be thrown onto the floor. These sufferings are harsh and vicious to witness.

These two habits swallow one another up, which refer to your past and current habits. If your past habits are strong, then you will be pulled along by them if your current habits of this life are not as strong. Or it could be that your habits from past lives were not so heavy, but in this life you are really unaware of them, thus allowing the habits to get increasingly worse and more ingrained. So this is what is meant by the two habits swallow one another.

Thus, because of these two habits there comes into being, tossing and pitching, seizing and apprehending. Offenders are thrown back and forth, and then seized again. “Tossing and pitching” describes the offenders being tossed or pitched into the air, and then shot by spears or arrows.

Therefore, the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions look upon animosity and name it a ‘disobedient and harmful ghost.’ Disobedient people always oppose other people’s opinions.

Therefore, Bodhisattvas regard animosity as they would drinking poisonous wine. Poisonous wine refers to a kind of wine made from a poison from the feather of a bird. This poison is quite strong, for once you dip the feather into wine, it becomes poisonous. There is no medicine to counteract this poison; no medicine can save a person’s life once they are poisoned.


If it was greed for animosity that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters degeneration, and he is called a pestilence ghost…

The retribution of a pestilence ghost found in degeneration is finished when the degeneration is complete, and it is reborn in the world, usually as a species of tapeworm…

When tapeworms and their like have paid back their debts, they regain their original form and are born as people, but among those who are lowly.

At the end of each section, we have three ellipses to indicate that these three paragraphs are not connected. I just extracted them here to explain these habits of animosity.

If it was greed for animosity that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters degeneration, and he is called a pestilence ghost. The retribution of a pestilence ghost is found in degeneration—when the retribution is over, such ghosts will be reborn in the world again usually as a species of tapeworm. When the tapeworms have paid back their debts, then they will become humans. If they are born in the human path, they will be among those who are very lowly.

Once they finish undergoing the retribution in the hells, if they have habits of animosity, they are reborn in the path of ghosts, as a pestilence ghost that spreads plagues.

Let’s look at Venerable Master’s commentary on this section if it was greed for animosity.

If it was greed for animosity that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters degeneration. “Animosity” means that he constantly thinks about past things with resentment. Since he always wants to get even with people, he commits offenses. From these crimes, he falls into the Relentless Hells.

After the offenses are paid for and have disappeared, the criminal is free. But his freedom is such that when he encounters degeneration, he takes shape perhaps as a debilitated person or a kind of animal that is feeble and old. He borrows the physical forms of such beings and becomes a pestilence ghost. Sometimes, rather than taking over a debilitated person, he possesses a person who becomes debilitated. This kind of ghost is terrible and fierce. It can wipe out a human life as easily as pulling something out of its pocket.

Here, the Venerable Master mentioned pandemics. He said, “When a pandemic prevails, there are all kinds of contagious sicknesses around. Any kind of sickness is dictated by a ghost. So when a global pandemic happens, those kinds of ghosts and demons are many in number.”

He said, “Why is there such a disaster? It is because people’s hearts are no longer good but evil.” This is because of our negative karma from killing, stealing, committing sexual misconduct, lying, and taking intoxicants. “People also waste too much food, so as a consequence, we suffer the result of having nothing to eat.” The pandemic has also caused food shortages, similar to famines experienced after a plague of locusts, we don’t have enough food to eat. “Therefore, do not waste food. This kind of pestilence comes from living being’s karmic obstacles. It is our karma that attracts such disasters.”

Next we continue to see what creates animosity. Ten kinds of evil habits will create animosity. So which kind of animosity creates the strongest karmic retribution?


Moreover, Ananda, if while repaying his past debts by undergoing rebirth as an animal, such a living being pays back more than he owed, he will then be reborn as a human to rectify the excess.

If he is a person with strength, blessings, and virtue, then once he is in the human realm, he will not have to lose his human rebirth after what is owed to him is restored. But if he lacks blessings, then he will return to the animal realm to continue repaying his debts.

Ananda, you should know that once the debt is paid, whether with money, material goods, or manual labor, the process of repayment naturally comes to an end.

But if in the process he took the lives of other beings or ate their flesh, then he continues in the same way—passing through kalpas as many as motes of fine dust, taking turns devouring and being slaughtered in a cycle that sends him up and down endlessly—there is no way to put a stop to it, except through shamatha or through a Buddha’s coming to the world.

Moreover, Ananda, if while repaying his past debts by undergoing retribution as an animal — If the offender was reborn as an animal, then while in the animal path, he will become a cow or a horse to pay back his debts.

For instance, let’s say a person is repaying his debts in the form of an animal , and only needs to work for a hundred days, but the collecting party made the animal work for one hundred and fifty days, then this animal did fifty days of extra work for the debt collector.

So when the animal becomes a human being again, he will be reborn and try to get repayment for the fifty days of extra work that he did.

If the debt collector has power, blessings and virtue, then once he is in the human realm, he will not lose his human form, and he will pay back what he has taken too much of as a human. But if the collecting party has no blessings or virtue, he will be reborn in the animal path and will collect back the extra amount that he paid in the past when he becomes an animal.

When the money or the labor that was owed is fully paid back, then the cycle will stop naturally. But if you kill the other person during the time you are repaying the debt—if you devour his flesh, or take the lives of other beings or eat their flesh—then you will continue on in the same way, passing through kalpas as many motes of dust in a relentless cycle of slaughtering and devouring .

This is what it meant by the killing and devouring of one other without stop.

This is a mutual cycle like a revolving wheel. Sometimes that person is in a higher realm, and at other times, he is in a lower one. For instance, if in this life I devour more of your flesh than I am supposed to, then in the next life I should eat less of you. We will kill and eat each other in life after life in the revolving wheel of reincarnation without cease.

When will it ever stop? If they encounter shamatha such as the Great Shurangama Samadhi, which is extremely solid and strong, that could stop it. Or if the Buddha comes into the world, he can with his great compassion, great power, and great virtue help resolve this kind of animosity.

So, why won’t it stop? It’s because this kind of accumulated animosity is just too great. What is the greatest kind of accumulated animosity? It comes from killing, eating meat and abortion. If the victim is vulnerable, and unable to fight back,then its accumulated resentment will be hard to calm and reconcile. If the animosity increasingly accumulates, then eventually it will escalate to become poisonous energy and hostility that spreads everywhere.

So that is why it is said, “For hundreds of thousands of years, the stew in the pot has boiled up resentment. Its vengeful broth is ocean deep and impossible to calm.”

There is another passage in the Shurangama Sutra which states:

A person eats a sheep. The sheep dies and becomes a person. The person dies and becomes a sheep, and it goes on that way through ten births and more. Through death after death and birth after birth, they come back to eat one another. The evil karma becomes innate and exhausts the bounds of the future. And the basis for all of this is stealing and greed.

Here it says, “A person eats a sheep.” The sheep here represents all kinds of animals and their flesh which has been consumed. If this sheep in the past had plenty of good roots, then it will be reborn as a human in its next life. On the other hand, if the person who eats meat does not have enough blessings or virtue, he will be reborn as a sheep or another kind of animal. And then, he will be devoured by the living being who once was a sheep in that previous life (whom has now taken human form) which he had eaten in the past.

“Death after death, birth after birth, these beings mutually are born and then die and come back to eat one another. All of this evil, negative karma that was produced becomes innate and exhausts the bounds of the future. When you eat these animals, they say, “I never gave you permission to eat my flesh!” —therefore this karma originates from theft and greed.

So, in 1988, Venerable Master was blessing people and on this one occasion he said (to his disciples), “Okay, if you want to come, then all of you can come.” So we went to see what happened.These were true and actual events that made deep impression in my mind.

The first one, was the butcher in flowery clothes. He was wearing a black and white floral pattern, and he was a little bit on the heavy side. He walked up to Venerable Master and he said, “I am a butcher. This is my profession, but I don’t want to be a butcher anymore. But, if I quit being a butcher, it will be hard to make a living. What should I do?” So the Venerable Master said, “In your past life, you were a pig, and I suggest that you quickly quit your profession right now.”

Another incident, was one involving a mother that brought her seven or eight-year-old daughter. And when she came, the daughter was moving around non-stop, just moving and moving. So the mother did not know what to do with this little girl. So she wanted Venerable Master to help her. Venerable Master took a look at them and said, “I really can’t help you. In the past life you were a person who used sorcery to cast hexes and this little girl was once the object of one of your hexes. So I can’t really help you.” So the mother was very disappointed, turned around, took the girl and started to leave. And then Venerable Master paused and said, “Wait! Come back!” So they came back. Venerable Master used his walking cane to hit the girl on the head once. So then the little girl stopped moving around. The mother was very thankful and so grateful to Venerable Master. Then the little girl turned around and said to Venerable Master, “Bye-bye!”

In this picture, there is a little angel ready to descend to be reborn in the human realm, but then a pair of hands kill it. This pair of hands represents abortion, because abortions are too barbaric to illustrate. Eventually, this angel becomes a little lonely ghost. No one pays attention to him, and even the sun takes pity on him.

So this little ghost gets really, really mad. The Venerable Master said this. He said, “Regarding abortion, it is an inhumane act! Think about it, if you kill a child even before he or she is born, would you say the retribution of such a conduct is severe or not?” Isn’t this serious?

I have encountered and witnessed people who have to suffer abortion-related retributions. One time a layperson came to me. She told me that her mother had cancer and was at the end of her life. She said, “Oh, Dharma Master, Dharma Master, what do I do about my mother? My mom seems to have become three people. Sometimes she will be like a little boy who is very angry at me. At other times, she becomes a little girl who will say nice things to me. And sometimes, she is my mother.” I asked, “Did your mother have abortions in the past?” She went home and asked her mother about this, and it turned out that her mother did indeed have two abortions in the past, one was a little girl and the other was a little boy. When a person becomes elderly, or when their body is weak and their energy is not as strong, all this negative yin energy will come to find them.

The following is from a conversation between the Venerable Master and Cardinal Yubin in 1974 or 1975. The Master said,

“Today, Cardinal Yubin said that he opposes abortion. Many people probably learn from ‘drunken’ philosophies and agree to abortion. But abortion is inhuman. Therefore, no matter whether you are young or old, whether you are old-fashioned, or modern, you should not support this dharma. This dharma does not accord with human nature. Cardinal Yu said, ‘Abortion is like killing the sprouts of humanity.’ Babies are the sprouts of the humanity. Killing human sprouts is inhumane. He is right. I agree with him.”

There is a saying, “Your sons and daughters are your old karmic debts.” They are here to claim or repay debts. If there were no karmic debts, they would not come to you. If your parents are very kind toward you, they have come to repay their debt to you. Likewise, if a child is very filial and kind to their parents, the child is repaying their debt to the parents. But, if parents owe some karmic debts to their children, then the children will come to collect the debt from their parents. If there is kindness between the parents and children, but then you have an abortion, this kindness turns into animosity and resentment. Let’s say that if the children come to collect debts and they already harbor animosity or resentment towards you, but on top of this, you also have an abortion, and thus kill them, then you then add more resentment to that which was originally there. Thus, the sutra text says, “This kind of animosity goes on for life after life without stopping.”

So, “Do not harbor resentment inside, and do not create the causes of resentment for other living beings.” This kind of resentment is strong. Killing creates strong resentment, and it is the same with abortions. This kind of resentment or animosity is just way too deep.

Thus we need to “sever the root causes that create disasters so that we don’t taste the bitter fruit of these calamities.” The Covid-19 pandemic is an example of one of these kinds of calamities which we are currently experiencing.