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Like Lotus, Rising Out of Mud

June 3rd, 2015

When interacting with people, every person serves as a mirror of reflection. Thus, establishing good relationship with everyone is essential in spiritual cultivation. This is because before becoming a Buddha, one must first develop moral virtue and form good affinities with others.

Most people are fond of lotus but not the mud where it grows from. However, had it not been for the mud, how are we going to get the lotus? Similarly, people love to plead to Bodhisattvas to comply with their wishes, yet they are frightened to walk the Bodhisattva Path themselves. This is because a Living Bodhisattva needs to go among the masses and be tested with various hardships, difficulties, misunderstandings, criticisms, accusations and even humiliations.

If one is able to see through all these very clearly, one would be at peace at all times. Otherwise, one gets emotionally agitated and afflicted easily. The Bodhisattva Path is indeed not easy to tread, unlike chanting, recitations, repentance and so on.

Why is it important to serve in the multitude? In this defiled world, people’s bad habitual tendencies are very common, just like the mud where the lotus grows in. In spite of this, Bodhisattvas still dedicate themselves willingly to helping people, in order to reach out to the suffering and advance in the path of enlightenment. As expounded in the Lotus Sutra, Bodhisattvas strive for the well-being of all to eventually attain Buddhahood.

This explains why a Bodhisattva is born in the human world to become a Buddha. The whole idea is to go and help others out of compassion, be it in the form of charity, construction of infrastructure, environmental protection, medical service, disaster relief and so on. Besides, a Bodhisattva also blends into society to invite more to perform kindness, as well as, inspire love in more people. Be it teaching the rich to help the poor, or helping the poor to see abundance, these are forming good affinities with all beings.

Doing good deeds will help turn animosity into affinity. Whether our life is beset with misfortunes or blessed with good fortunes, the situation depends on our past karma. Hence, live in harmony with everyone in our Bodhisattva practice.

 Bodhisattvas arise because of the needs of suffering beings. A stupendous task no being could perform, other than a Bodhisattva, who has strenuously qualified himself to becoming a Buddha with his final birth in the human world. By being sensitive to the needs of the suffering beings, it opens up their heart and allows the Dharma to flow in.

For Tzu Chi volunteers to deliver people from suffering, great compassion must be applied with true wisdom. Through hands-on experience, one will be able to see the profound Buddhist teachings of utilizing both compassion and wisdom interactively.

To accommodate people with different levels of receptive ability, a Buddha is able to teach a being at the right time, using suitable means and according to one’s condition for learning Buddhism. Nonetheless, all skilful teachings lead to ultimate awakening.

The Bodhisattva Path also leads to ultimate awakening. To walk the Bodhisattva Path, one must pave a path of giving and benefitting others selflessly. Through “faith, understanding, practice and realization”, coupled with “listening, contemplation and action” experienced from helping others, one will see the Dharma. Hence, the best cultivation ground is where people are.

First, we must have “faith” in the teachings and “understand” the Dharma. If we begin to “understand” it, we will “practise” it. And if we “practise” it, we will begin to “realize” it. I was with the Master once and she said, “Recitations and obeisance performed are not meant for the Buddha to take us somewhere, which is merely escaping into a fantasy beyond certainty.”

When Sariputra vowed to practise the Bodhisattva Way, he saw a young man crying sadly one day as a monk’s eyeball was needed to cure his mother’s disease. Sariputra then dug out his left eyeball and gave it to the young man. However, the young man exclaimed that only the right eyeball can cure his mother. Determined to help, Sariputra bravely dug out his right eyeball. The young man took the eyeball and upon smelling it, threw it on the ground claiming that it was too smelly.

Sariputra felt hurt and thought it was difficult to save all beings and be a Bodhisattva, thus he retreated to the practice of self-salvation. This is also common in today’s Buddhist practice where many have withdrawn from walking the Bodhisattva Path.

During the Buddha’s time, why were disciples not pursuing the Bodhisattva Path? Some disciples were Heads of Sangha and role models for others. They feared that changing their course would lead to followers losing their faith. They were also advanced in years and believed they were incapable of enlightening all beings. In addition, they were breaker of bonds; and as lotuses do not grow on higher ground, they did not think of bringing forth a greater resolve for perfect enlightenment.

Subhuti, Katyayana, Mahakasyapa and Maudgalyayana were disciples of the Buddha for many years. They understood the Buddhadharma at a very high level and destroyed the fetters of “being”. Although rejoicing enthusiastically in the supreme teaching on perfect enlightenment, they were contented with their attainment and did not yearn further to liberate all beings due to old age.

When the Buddha preached the Lotus Sutra seven years prior to Parinirvana some 2,500 years ago, His disciples were old. Contrary to this, the current defiled world has offered the best opportunity for spiritual cultivation.

Master has thus reminded all disciples to make good use of the time, place and people around us to practise the profound Dharma taught 2,500 years ago and to aspire to reach the ultimate pinnacle of Buddhahood.

 Lotus Sutra is most precious in shedding light on the Bodhisattva practice. See the Dharma not just by hearing the teachings in temples, but to see the Dharma everywhere and in everyone around us.

When interacting with people, every person serves as a mirror of reflection. Thus, establishing good relationship with everyone is essential in spiritual cultivation. This is because before becoming a Buddha, one must first develop moral virtue and form good affinities with others.

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