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Blog » Sweet Dews Of Dharma Talks » 2009 » A Great Treasure in Your Nature

A Great Treasure in Your Nature 2013-01-10


A talk by DM Heng Je at GSM on November 26, 2009


We are here today to bow to the Jewelled Repentance of Emperor Liang.  I’d like to ask you:  What are we repenting for?  Why do we have to repent? We have come to the monastery saying, “I am a Buddhist. I came here to study Buddhism, to cultivate, and to study the dharma.” Why do we do so?


The reason we study Buddhism is because we all have the Buddha nature, which may also be called the inherent nature of True Thusness, the Matrix of the Thus Come One, and many other names. Our inherent nature, or the Buddha nature, is the Buddha.  Just now someone said that we wished to accomplish the Way and  become a Buddha.  Why?  
Because in our mind, there is a very big, infinitely great treasure with which one can be liberated and attain joy, yet we don’t recognize it.
Because of the initial thought, the nature turns into the consciousness, our false mind; it keeps running outside.  During the Emperor Liang’s Jewelled Repentance, much of the text states “from the time there is consciousness to this day.”  Do you all remember this line? Some of you mentioned we should purify our karma created from body, mouth and mind, and not create evil karma.  This is because the Matrix of the Thus Come One does not stay in its original state. When the false thinking turns the Buddha nature into the consciousness and within it we have created a lot of offences, we undergo a lot of suffering and it seems endless.  The false keeps revolving and does not stop.
We think we can see, hear, smell, taste, have awareness, and then there are things to be seen, to be heard, to be smelt, to be tasted.  They are so real.  We don’t know the reality exactly because our ability to see and the objects we see meet together, and we start making distinctions.  This awareness is very shallow compared to our Buddha nature. You could say it is virtually blind, deaf, unable to smell, and unaware. Our inherent nature is all pervasive; it is a great treasure.  It is independent. It does not depend upon any sense organs of eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind nor does it depend on any sense objects of form, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch or mental objects, yet it knows, sees, hears, and has awareness.
I like the phrase ‘the nature is independent.’ What do you think?  Failing to recognize this, our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind keep seeking outside for sights, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch, and mental objects. We think that happiness comes from outside, that we need to continuously exploit opportunities to maintain our status, and that all the answers are outside. When you understand the independence of the Matrix of the Thus Come One, you don’t have to suffer outside.  All you need to do is to turn around and realize what is inside.
I suppose you remember the principle introduced in the Shurangama Sutra. The Matrix of the Thus Come One has three characteristics. What is the first one? The empty Matrix of the Thus Come One.  There is nothing in it. What does it mean? Within the Matrix of the Thus Come One, there is no awakening or delusion, no coming or going, no birth or death.  No arhats or bodhisattvas, no Chan Master Jigung or Patriarch Bodhidharma, no him, you or me.  Perhaps you’ll say, “Dharma Master, I’m not going to cultivate anymore, for I’ll gain nothing in the end!”
For the sake of rebuilding your monastery, many of you have been very vigorous in reciting the Great Compassion Mantra, the Shurangama Mantra, and Amitabha Buddha’s name, bowing to the Buddhas, bowing in repentance, etc.  Why are you working so hard? It’s to keep your mind focused and sincere and to know everything outside is false.  In the world, anyone you see, anything whatsoever you come in contact with, exists because of conditions. Conditioned things are not everlasting. When the conditions that allow something to happen come together, it appears. After the process of coming into being, dwelling, changing, and vanishing is through, it is gone. So, when we do our practices, we have to realize that people, things, matters and even dharmas, are conditioned phenomena, not everlasting but illusory. When you recognize that they are false, you will be able to remove them from your mind; once the false is removed, the True Thusness will come forth.
The Matrix of the Thus Come One has been here unmoving.  It does not come or go.  Why can’t we see it?  It’s because of our moving mind which keeps exploiting outside.  Why do the Dharma Masters here say that you should not be turned by tastes, sounds, or forms? It’s to teach you to pay attention to your inherent nature. 
We are all endowed with the Matrix of the Thus Come One and can become Buddhas, but we are ill. Our illness is that we want to exploit outside. We make distinctions and are dependent, so our inherent nature cannot manifest.  In our cultivation, therefore, it is important to put to rest the exploiting mind. We should stop getting so excited and curious about sights, sounds, tastes, smells, objects of touch and mental objects. If we can manage to stop, we will feel a little bit of strength from our cultivation and from the Dharma.
The Dharma is always there and speaking to us, yet we have not paid attention; we have not practiced it.  If we practice and benefit from the Dharma, and our mind dwells on the Dharma, our mind will become inwardly focused and concentrated.  The inherent nature will manifest to us and we will know the benefits of cultivation.  The path of cultivation is like this, very simple and clear.  
Endowed with the Buddha nature, we have the potential to become Buddhas. When? It depends on when we can quiet this exploitative mind.  Patriarch Bodhidharma spoke of how to gain merit sitting in Chan:  “Not seeking externally, not grasping internally, with the mind like a wall, one can enter the Way.” When the mind is not constantly seeking outside, it becomes quiet outside as well as inside. The breath is well regulated and the mind becomes a wall. Guard your mind like a solid wall, so nothing comes in or goes out.  In this way, you can enter the Way.
Do not worry that it is difficult to practice that way. Even though we have not seen our inherent nature, it is emitting light at our six sense organs all the time; it’s always with you and not running away.
We are endowed with the Buddha nature and can become Buddhas. How do we recover our nature?  First, we must stop seeking. What is the second one? (Get rid of hatred and renounce delusion) Very good. We must eliminate lust, hatred and delusion. 
In the simplest terms, that means no clinging. Because of lust, hatred and delusion, we get attached. We keep making distinctions of man and woman, self and others, good or bad.
Today we heard a story of Chan Master Zhi Gong and Emperor Liang.  I’ll tell another story about them.
Once Emperor Liang went hunting and found a 500 year old meditator. This person had sat in meditation for five hundred years. Thinking he had hit the jackpot, the Emperor invited him back to the palace. Chan Master Zhi Gong came to the palace often. The Emperor was curious about whose skill was better and gave them a test. He invited the two cultivators to take a bath. Many maids in the nude were sent to attend upon them. This 500 year old meditator started to sit in meditation, closing his eyes and remaining still. The Chan Master was still talking in a jovial mood, totally at ease. Later, the old meditator couldn’t stand it anymore, so he pushed the maids away and quickly ran out.  Chan Master Zhi Gong had the real skill. This skill does not come in one or two days. Do not expect that by bowing in repentance for a week, your mind will be cleansed.  How could Chan Master Zhi Gong remain unmoved? He simply had no likes or dislikes. It does not work in cultivation to insist on a fixed way of doing things.
We cannot cheat others. This old meditator, who had sat for five hundred years, had not uprooted the source of illness. I feel this is the most difficult part in cultivation. For many lives and eons, lust, hatred and delusion have been deep in our nature.  How should we dig them up? We have to examine ourselves in each state that manifests: Has a dish tempted me? Was I taken in by someone’s words?  Did I have a grand or agonizing time because of something? We have to apply effort honestly to empty every one of them. You cannot cheat others or yourself.  When you empty them all from your mind, it means your mind become a single thought, a single taste, a single sound, a single fragrance.  It is one: free of good or bad, likes or dislikes, wanting to have or not.  Everything is okay.  When everything is okay, you attain single-mindedness in reciting the Buddha’s name, in chan meditation, in bowing in repentance, and in whatever you do. 
Q:  What does it mean to say our nature is not dependent upon anything?
A: Our nature does not depend upon sense organs or sense objects, and it has awareness. I’ll give you an example. You are in San Jose. Without needing to make a call, you can know what someone is doing somewhere else, say your children are in New York, or Africa, or Taiwan or Malaysia. They do not need to call you; you will just know what they are doing. There’s no need to contemplate. As soon as you think, “What are they doing?” you will know. That’s due to our independent nature. The first time I met with the Venerable Master, I found that he knew everything without needing to be informed by others. Since I became his monastic disciple, I have realized that every one of us is transparent. The Venerable Master would know what you said and what you thought about him.
If we could realize the empty Matrix of the Thus Come One, wonderful existence would come into being from this genuine emptiness. I’ve noticed this in my fellow sisters and the Venerable Master, that when someone starts paying attention to the inherent nature and lets the nature function, not relying on external conditions, this cultivator is always joyous, and the strength is inconceivable.
Q: You mentioned that there were three characteristics of the inherent nature in the Shurangama Sutra. You said the first one.
A:  The second is ‘not empty’ and the third is ‘empty and yet not empty.’
The empty and yet not empty is the middle way.  In our inherent nature, there is nothing and from the nothingness there are infinite possibilities.  For example, space is empty and yet all phenomena may appear in it depending on conditions.  Those phenomena are not real; however, emptiness and forms can coexist. Right within the form, there is emptiness; and emptiness is not apart from form.  This is the middle way.  Everything can be explained by the primary principle of the Middle Way. There is no duality, or rather, there is a balance between the two sides. There is no leaning to either side.
Someone was speaking about the repentance text, which reminds me of the text we read this morning.  We talked about how to stop the seeking mind.  How do we do it? It’s very clear in the sixth roll. We all have the Buddha nature, so we should be at ease and joyful; however, we have many obstacles.  The title of this roll is “Untie the bonds with your enemies.” Near the end of the roll, it says we have the obstacles of not seeing the Buddha, not hearing the Dharma, not bringing forth the Bodhi resolve and many other obstacles.  Because of these obstacles, our cultivation becomes difficult. If you can read the repentance text well, without the obstacles, you don’t need a good and wise friend to promote you or bless you; you will be at ease, liberated, compassionate, joyful, and giving. You will have great fearlessness. All the spiritual powers and many other things are within. Personally, I like the text we read this morning very much.
Are you all tired of sitting? I have another two words for you. Let me remind you of this simple practice: keep filial compliance in your mind all the time.  In terms of Dharma, being filial means correctly reflecting on and contemplating all people and matters.  Contemplate that everything arises from the Buddha nature, that we all have the Buddha nature, including those working and interacting with us.  No matter what you do, you should know it’s from the Buddha nature. Contemplate this way for everything.
What is compliance? It means realizing and entering all the stages of bodhisattvas without abandoning any.  To become a Buddha, we have to go through a total of 55 stages: the Ten Faiths, Ten Dwellings, Ten Practices, Ten Transferences, Ten Grounds, Four Wondrous and Perfect Additional Practices, Equal Enlightenment and Wonderful Enlightenment. In evolving from an ordinary person to a Buddha, you have to realize them all without any abandonment.  We ordinary people make distinctions and talk about likes and dislikes. I don’t want to cultivate this; I want to cultivate that. I am going to liberate this person but not that one. We are unable to stop making distinctions.
How can you be compliant? Cultivate what you don’t like to cultivate. When you see someone you don’t feel like talking with or seeing, regard him patiently without personal opinions. It’s hard to remember many dharmas, so I only offer these two words to you. In any circumstances, if you practice filial compliance, you will be able to pass the test.  Even if you do well, don’t be too pleased or too wild and arrogant. Remember to contemplate properly. Everything goes smoothly for you because you have done good deeds. Contemplate this way, and you will be able to follow what a Buddha does, respect and praise the future Buddhas around you; even if they are yakshas or ferocious people, you can still praise and respect them. The Ten Great Vows are not patented by Universal Worthy Bodhisattva. They teach us to practice in our daily life. For example, how can you request the Buddha to dwell in the world? Where is the Buddha? It’s within.  If there is no Buddha within and you don’t have a Buddha mind, how can you ever become a Buddha?
Q:  Is the consciousness apart from our true mind?
A:  How far is the consciousness from the True Suchness? This will be a good conclusion for my talk. 
Being deluded, we are using the consciousness which is a very shallow part of the mind; we are awakened when we realize the Buddha mind.  It is not two things. The mind contains the myriad phenomena; the myriad phenomena arise from the mind.  All dharmas are not separated from the mind. Why do you have the question: Is it really the case that everything comes from the mind? It’s because you don’t recognize your mind and are not able to use it. When your mind is clear, free of distinctions and clinging, your pure mind can create everything. Say you wish to build a certain monastery, a certain type of family, or a particular school, and you want certain kinds of people to come to cultivate with you, or certain types of teachers and students to come, you might fulfill all your wishes. Of course, when we fail to see the mind and realize the nature, everything will be created by our karma.
We have all kinds of dualistic views in our consciousness; we are constantly calculating. When we are able to stop calculating, there is the one Trueness, the single flavor, the single sound I talked about earlier. If you really understand the Buddhadharma, you can all become Buddhas, Bodhisattvas. There are many spiritual penetrations and other wondrous qualities in your inherent nature waiting for you to explore. Now we already feel our life is full because we get to eat several times a day, we feel life is colorful.  If you know that there is a great treasure in your nature waiting for you to discover, how could you not be vigorous?