(1) Buddha Dharma is the Light of Deliverance
Dear Dharma Friends! In this desolate and miserable period, it is precious to have such a valuable opportunity here and now to share Dharma with joyful hearts. We should all therefore greatly honor the benevolence of the Triple Gem and the compassion of the Buddha.
This is the first Dharma Talk I have given in Xin Yuan Monastery during this Chinese New Year. Thus I have taken "The Light" as the theme of my talk. I have seen so many people looking for brightness and hope in their lives. No doubt, living in the light is blissful and peaceful. However, the universe is full of gloom. Who, or what, can give us hope? The answer is the Buddha and the Dharma. In other words, brightness will only eventuate if one believes and practises the Dharma.
We often hear others commenting that the world is gloomy. Conflicts and violence are everywhere, and they create agitation and anguish. Buddhists understand these problems and seek for brightness within the dark.
From the perspective of Buddha-Dharma, the cause of darkness and chaos in this human world is grounded in the sentient beings themselves. We often think that we are very intelligent and capable. But in actual fact, we are not. We often mistake the bad deed for the good deed, and not many of us are interested in doing good. The activities that bring us suffering are often misconstrued as sources of excitement and happiness. Do you think then that human beings are really so clever and intelligent?
Let me take an example. Human beings are getting more knowledgeable nowadays. Science and technology are advancing. Harmful products are continuously being produced by these intelligent minds. What are the threats that they have brought to the mankind? Fear and worries consequently arise. Everyone fears the explosion of wars and nuclear weapons. This is a cogent evidence that our intellect is misleading us. Therefore various discoveries and so-called material "progress" may in fact harm us and leave us with a nagging sense of insecurity.
I am not condemning the advancement of science and technology, but demonstrating the ignorance of the human beings. We do not know how to make proper use of science; rather, we are being used by it. This is comparable to a kitchen-knife being used as a weapon to kill oneself rather as a cutting utensil for food. Because science is not used wisely, we end up living and groping in the dark in spite of our advanced science and technology. The Buddha Dharma points out the path to brightness whilst we are groping in the dark.
Amidst the darkness, feelings of fear and grief often engender illusions. We may either see nothing or perceive incorrectly. We may assume a rope as a snake; or mistake a shadow as a human body; or are headed in a wrong direction.
Religions in the world believe that they have shown humans the light and brightness of life. The worldly scholars also assume their own knowledge as the Universal Truth. But in fact, we can find the truth most clearly revealed in the Buddha Dharma, the teaching of the Buddha. Since Sakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment 2000 years ago, the bright light began to shine into our hearts and illuminate the whole universe. The "Amitabha Buddha", whose name everyone recites nowadays, means "Infinite Brightness". Buddha emits two lights to help sentient beings. They are the light of wisdom and the light of compassion. The light of wisdom shows us what has happened before this life and what will happen after this life. It enhance our understanding of skilful and unskilful actions, and tells us the causes of suffering. It also shows us the way to end suffering so that we will be liberated and happy. If we receive and follow the guidance of this light of wisdom, many mistakes can be avoided, and the significance of life will gradually be uncovered and understood. I have just mentioned that human intelligence is unreliable and man commits many mistakes. There is a saying of Sariputra, "If we are unable to live in the light of wisdom, it is just like a blind person who cannot see the light of the external world and who always lives in darkness."
The Buddha radiates not only the light of wisdom, but also the light of compassion, for the liberation of all beings. His salvation is proceeding everywhere, every moment. His care for us is far greater than the care we give to our children. If we receive the light of compassion radiated from the Buddha, feelings of peace and serenity will arise while anxiety and annoyance will disappear. This is like a child who walks alone on the street. His fear of being attacked by other naughty children will vanish as soon as his mother appears and he is safely in her company. This is the power of love from the mother. If one who purportedly practises Buddhism still immerses oneself in deep feelings of grief and anguish, this must reflect the fact that the inner self still lacks true faith, and that right understanding of Dharma has not yet been developed. Therefore, such a one has not yet received the light of compassion from the Buddha.
The light of compassion from the Buddha is illuminating everywhere. However, there are still some people who wonder why they are unable to receive it. This is just like one who closed the windows and curtains to prevent sunlight from shining into ones room. Those who have true faith in Buddha Dharma are freed from defilements and anxiety, and to them the light is illuminating. Others may not understand why, with their kindness and faith in Buddha, they are unable to receive the light. I have seen a common phenomenon occurring in our country, Taiwan. People pray for wealth and good fortune in front of the Buddha or a Bodhisattva. If their wishes are not fulfilled they will begin to blame the Buddha and Bodhisattva. What a wrong attitude! One should realize that true faith towards Buddha is not conditional upon environment and favors received. As long as firm and resolute faith exists, there will be an opportunity to receive the warmth of the light from the Buddha.
The Buddha appears in this world to teach us the Dharma and to radiate the light of wisdom and compassion, so that we may all live under this brightness and be benefitted in the following two regards:
1. Accomplishment in wholesome activities: What ever activity we perform, we need guidance. The warm light of Buddha-Dharma guides us to deliverance so that everyone may become happy and peaceful. All merits, and all large or minor activities, will be able to proceed to accomplishment under the illumination of the compassionate and wise lights of the Buddha.
2. Fullness of hope: Under the illumination of the light of wisdom and compassion, we have tremendous hope. Those who practise the Dharma will not easily give up and fear for failure because they have received the light of Buddha Dharma and have firm faith in a bright future.
Therefore, the causes of all problems in the world originate from ourselves. If everyone accepts the light from the Buddha, the light can also be transmitted to the others. When one has the right view, one can influence the others. This is how Buddha works for the salvation of the world. May I take this opportunity to wish everyone who listens to todays talk about the "Dharma as the Light of Deliverance", to accept the light of wisdom and compassion of the Buddha, and to have an infinite bright future.
[Recorded by Xiao Juan] (Translated by Loh Wai Heen, edited by Ke Rong, proofread by Shi Neng Rong. (21-10-96))