1991 佛七講話-1 Day 1
Ven. Zhiyu’s Dharma Talks for Buddha Recitation Seven-Day Retreat, First Term, 1991
Pay Reverence to Three Jewels and Filial Piety to Parents
To seek rebirth in the Pure Land of Amitābha Buddha, keep these important things in mind: pay reverence to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha—the Three Jewels—and fulfill filial duties to your parents. For we owe them a great deal of gratitude.
In the mundane world, parents deserve most gratitude of ours; transmundanely, we owe most gratitude to the Three Jewels. Parents give birth to our physical bodies; the Three Jewels raise our wisdom. In comparison, we owe the Three Jewels even more; therefore we should pay reverence to them in the first place. The physical body stays in the cycle of birth and death, but the life of wisdom goes beyond transmigration. Therefore we especially owe gratitude to the Three Jewels. Pay reverence to the Three Jewels and fulfill filial duties, then you are prospectively to be reborn to the Pure Land.
Now, how to pay reverence to the Three Jewels? How to fulfill filial duties to your parents? To pay reverence to the Three Jewels and fulfill filial duties to your parents, you should refrain from evildoing, perform good deeds, and purify your own mind. To refrain from evildoing means not commit the seven physical and verbal acts. The seven bodily and verbal acts refer to killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, insult, frivolous speech, and divisive talk. It is evil to commit these seven items, therefore they are called seven evil acts; if not, all the good deeds are already performed. Therefore, not to commit killing, stealing, improper sexual activity, lying, insult, frivolous speech and divisive talk is exactly to refrain from evildoing and perform good deeds at the same time. As for mental evils, if you do not give rise to greed, hatred, and delusion, you are keeping your mind pure.
Therefore, refraining from evildoing, performing good deeds, and purifying your own mind are actually the purification of the Three Karmas in bodily actions, speech, and thought. Karma sometimes refers to the seven evil acts alone; as for greed, hatred and delusion, they are also called perplexity. Perplexity and evil actions surely causes suffering; in suffering one cannot obtain rebirth to the Pure Land. For this reason, if you want to be born to the Pure Land, you ought to have your three karmas purified.
In comparison, mental karmas of greed, hatred, and delusion are all pervasive; bodily karmas of killing, stealing and sexual misconduct are the gravest, less than which are verbal karmas of lying, insult, frivolous speech and divisive talk.
A mental karma just arisen is called an “action of intention,” which has not appeared in behavior or speech yet. When the karma is carried out in physical deeds or speech, it is called an “intended action,” and will bring about retribution. There are two kinds of retribution—good karmas and evil karmas—and they are all confined in the Desire Realm.
An action of intention not yet turning into behavior or speech will not result in retribution, but there is one thing—it continues birth and death, inescapable, causing incessant rounds of existence in Six Destinies. So watch you do not commit mental evils. Be careful that concerning mental activities you do not think about right against wrong; to refrain from bodily and verbal evils, you should avoid making confrontations.
When arising, it is the mental activities of greed, hatred, and delusion that give rise to the seven evil acts; to rid, you first cut off the seven evils, and then greed, hatred, and delusion. This is just roughly speaking, though, for in each of the seven evils always consist greed, hatred, and delusion.
In your daily life, do avoid these ten evils. One thing you ought to note: to prevent physical evils, you should pay prostration homage to Buddha—to Amitābha Buddha—since in doing so you naturally ward off killing, stealing and improper sexual activities; to prevent verbal evils, recite Amitābha Buddha; to prevent mental evils, contemplate on Amitābha Buddha. Practicing in this way, you can keep all your three karmas pure, and accumulate an infinite amount of merit.
In this seven-day retreat, you kept reciting the name of and paying prostration homage to Amitābha Buddha all the time. But the point is you should be mindful of Amitābha Buddha. If you do not have Amitābha Buddha in your mind, you are only chanting with your tongue. Therefore what is crucial is that you should recollect the Buddha whole-heartedly. Do not just pay lip service without Buddha in mind. Your mind with the Buddha in it is the Buddha itself.
How to do to have Buddha in mind? Be pious. Recall Amitābha Buddha as if you are longing for your parents, calling after calling, and, unless Amitābha Buddha appears, you would never stop. It is exactly the way for practice during the seven-day retreat.
When you return home, watch that in your daily life you do not let your mind wander around. If you feel like thinking, think about merit, about benefiting sentient beings, so as to prevent mental evils; calculating solely for your own interests leads to offense in mental karma. Upon commitment of mental karma, continues the cycle of birth and death—the fragmentary and transformational birth-and-death.
In the cycle of fragmentary birth and death, you receive retributions in Six Destinies. In the cycle of transformational birth and death, one thing is obvious: you feel burdened, as if a heavy load in your mind. This burden originates from three sources: greed, hatred, and delusion. Try to recollect something that you feel upset about; isn’t it true that the more you think about it, the angrier you will get? Everything comes to an end if you stop thinking. This is apparent when talking about mental karma.
This burden will turn into action or speech when it gets heavy enough. Take two people in fight for example, they did not beat each other at the very beginning, they just thought. And the more they thought, the madder they got, until finally, when anger culminated, they burst into a fight.
The solution is to “pull off the firewood under the caldron”—to remove the root cause. How to do that? You need to know that though you do not carry it out in physical action or speech, mental karma still causes birth and death to go on; since you are in the cycle of birth and death, you are not to be admitted to the Pure Land. So, always think about benefits for sentient beings and about merit. If you are able to refrain from committing mental karma for seven days, you certainly will not create physical and verbal karmas; without physical and verbal karmas, you deserve no retribution, and will obtain rebirth in the Pure Land.
The long and short of it, to obtain rebirth in the Pure Land or not is the creation of your mind alone. Therefore, “The unwholesome deeds committed in the past are due to greed, hatred, and delusion with no beginning”— greed, hatred, and delusion are the root; “they derive from the body, speech, and mind” —the Three Karmas have been aroused; during these seven days, everyone should, “for all of which I hereby repent.”
Now, let’s recite Amitābha Buddha.