Broadly Cultivated Offerings

(weekly Hankook, issue #849, March 1, 1981, Seoul)

Who is the thief wearing my noble robes and selling Buddha,
only to plant his own seeds of suffering?

In the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, the Buddha said that anyone who shaved his head, wore the noble robes, pretended to be a monk and sold the Buddha for a living was a thief. And according to the Surangama Sutra, the Buddha said that those who became monks and wore the robes, and who, rather than striving to become enlightened and guiding all sentient beings, used monkhood as a means of livelihood―those people were not his followers, nor were they monks. They were all thieves.
Living as a monk in a temple and trying to live by the Teachings of the Buddha is not an easy task. But it is essential to at least attempt to live according to the Teachings. And even if one is not totally successful at it, he should at the very least not go against the Teachings.
We are reminded of the words from the Sutra of Forty-Two Verses: “It is difficult to be born as a human, and it is equally as difficult to hear the Teachings of the Buddha.” So it is highly fortunate to be born as a human and to become a monk. but even if one ultimately cannot succeed on the path of a monk and lead others as is his duty, he should never resort to this form of thievery.
If we call one who makes a living by selling the Buddha a thief, then what should we call the place where he lives? Certainly not a temple; rather, a robber’s den. And the Buddha? He has become an agent for the thieves since he is being sold by them.
Here in Korea we have a large number of temples and a considerable number of monks and nuns. It would be hard to figure out how many such thieves there are, how many temples have become robbers’ dens, and how many Buddhas are being used as agents. To fail in your study and to fail as a monk is to sink into a state of hell in itself. But to use the Buddha―the greatest teacher the universe will ever know―as a means of livelihood is an entirely different matter.
To think that it is the result of ones karma to become such a thief and that one is bound to go to a hell anyway may be one thing. But how can anybody dare to make a living as a thief by intentionally selling the Buddha? We must all do our utmost to be careful not to use the noble Buddha as such an agent.
You see, there are all kinds of ways of selling the Buddha. And perhaps the most common way is through misrepresenting what we call Buddhist offerings. There are some who play the mokt’ak to the tune of “Come to know the world of Buddha. He will give you direction, he will bestow blessings upon you. If you come and make offerings, you will receive all this and more.”
The mokt’ak is the essential instrument used in spreading the Dharma. It is claimed that even confucius said, “Become the mokt’ak of the world.” By that he meant that we should spread the Buddhist way around the world so that everyone will lead a wholesome and proper life.
In contemporary Korea, however, there are some temples where the mokt’ak is being used to make money. To play the mokt’ak before the Buddha for people who pray for longevity and blessings has become a business. And that is selling the Buddha.
Everyone is familiar with that type of thinking; what is most important is to correct it. But some are making the situation even worse. They know that this is wrong, yet they do not correct it and continue to play the mokt’ak to this same tune. we are supposed to make Buddhist offerings in the way that the Buddha said we should.
Christians suffice with just one book, their Bible. But Buddhist Sutras number over 80,000, and just to be able to listen to them all would be practically impossible in a single lifetime. The number of Tripitaka Koreana woodblocks at Haein-sa is 81’340. How can anyone expect to read all of them? How are we supposed to be able to understand Buddhism if such a task is all but impossible, if the number of Sutras is so great? Since we can’t possibly read all the Sutras, we have to rely on established theories of study based on tradition for an understanding of Buddhism.
The most representative of the Sutras, and the most precious as far as the words of the Buddha are concerned, are the Avatamsaka Sutra and the Lotus Sutra. These are the “kings” of the Sutras. And the Avatamsaka Sutra is deeper and broader in Buddhist truth than even the Lotus Sutra. But where would you get the time to read all 80 boolts of the Avatamsaka Sutra?
The best thing to do is to read “practices of the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra”2 from the Avatamsaka Sutra, since this is often referred to as “the condensed Avatamsaka” All fundamental Buddhist truths are contained in this scripture, and all codes of behavior for the Buddhist can be found there.
Concerning Buddhist offerings, we find in this section “Samantabhadra’s Broadly Cultivated Offerings of the Ten Great Vows.” Let me quote from this:

People think that the greatest offering to the Buddha is to gather enough things to fill the sky, to light a candle with a wick as high as Mt. Sumeru, to bring an oceanful of oils, and to bow endlessly before the innumerable Buddhas.

That certainly would be one of the greatest offerings possible, and there would be great merit involved. But even greater is the Buddhist offering of Dharma. There are seven forms of Dharma offerings3, and the greatest of these is that of helping all forms of life. The Buddha said that helping other sentient beings even for a second was infinitely greater than bringing everything you can to the Buddha in a temple, chanting and praying.
To make a comparison, which would you rather do―spend a lot of money to set up shop and make little profit, or spend a little money to set up shop and make a large profit? The common sense answer is obvious. It costs a lot to bring all kinds of offerings to the temple; but the rewards are negligible when compared to the offering of common good, of helping other sentient beings even for a moment. This is considerably less effort, and certainly much less expensive. The gains to be made by doing so, as opposed to making expensive temple offerings, are incalculable.
The Buddha said, “If you truly believe in me and wish to follow me, don’t bring money to lay before me and then pray for longevity and blessings. If you really believe in me, then practice my teachings.” He was saying, in other words, to help all forms of life. So you see, we must cultivate our offerings on a scale far beyond ourselves and far beyond the temple
We can find other examples of Buddhist offerings in the “practices of the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra” as well. The Buddha said, “To give a starving, dying puppy on the road a handful of cold rice is of much greater merit than making all kinds of temple offerings and infinitely bowing before a Buddha.” Think about it. The Buddha said that the only true offerings were helping all forms of life and that you become a true follower of Buddha only by doing so.
Nowadays, 1 constantly tell students to make offerings. Their immediate reaction is, “we don’t have much spending money, so how are we suppose to make offerings?” This reaction illustrates the magnitude of misunderstanding the meaning of genuine offerings.
Helping others physically, psychologically, and even materially are all Buddhist offerings. If we all resolve to make offerings in these three ways, then the world will be filled with Buddhist offerings. The only reason that we don’t is because we’re all lazy and selfish. But you must realize that you must make offerings in this way to achieve Buddhahood.
When we have student retreats at the monastery, the students do 3,000 prostrations before coming up to see me at paengnyon-am to receive their koan. I tell thern that before they start on their koan they should learn how to make genuine offerings. And their eyes get really big. They think that l’m suggesting that they should empty their pockets and start bowing before the Buddha. Then I explain to them, as I have to you, what true Buddhist offerings are. They are all quite pleased!

The Problem of Pride

In making such offerings, however, you haye to be careful of one thing, and that is pride. To make an offering in the way I have described, and then to boast about it ruins the offering completely.
There are a lot of people who make offerings for their own ego, for their own public relations campaigns. That is not an offering, however; it’s merely making your own publicity materials. We should not ruin our offerings with our mouths. The Buddhist way is to make offerings anonymously. And Jesus said, “Don’t let the left hand know what the right hand is doing” I’m glad that more and more young people today are listening to this kind of thinking. I get letters from students who say that they will make offerings this way for the rest of their lives.
Let me tell you a story that happened shortly after the Korean war. I was staying in a temple called Songju-sa outside the city of Masan. Hanging on the front of the Buddha Hall was a big banner that read “Mr. Yoon So-and-So Financed Buddha Hall Restoration.” I asked who this Mr. Yoon was, and they said he ran an herb medicine shop in Masan, and that he had paid for the entire restoration out of his tremendous faith. I asked when he might be coming, and they said that if he knew I were there he would come immediately.
The next day, Mr. Yoon showed up to greet me. I told him that everyone was praising his outstanding faith, and that I, too, had been impressed when I first read the banner. You could tell by the glimmer in his eyes that he just loved the praise.
I then told him, however, that the banner was in the wrong place. banners were for lots of people to see, and if he hung it up there in the mountains, few people would see it. I told him to take the banner the following day to masan where he should hang it up in front of the railroad station. He got the message.
There’s another temple where they completed a project first before soliciting donations. They erected a new memorial tablet first, and then put up a banner. Then they waited for the funds to come in, which didn’t happen. The tablet just sat there getting weatherbeaten.
The monk involved said, “Gee,  guess I did it the worng way. But I didn’t know any different.”
I said, “Not knowing the differrnce is not the problrm. The problem is, how are you going to recifty the sitation?” He thought for a moment, took the banner down and tore it to pieces. He then set fire to it.
Once I gave a number of examples of these quiet offerings to students, and one student said, “Well, Sunim, you’re not making any offerings. Why are you telling us to?” May reply was that teaching how to make offerings was an offering in itself.
Even just 20 yeara ago there were hordes of poor people living on the outskirts of Seoul, Pusan and other major cities. Someone came to me who wanted to distribute food to these people, and he asked how he could go about this without anyone finding out.
I told him that first he should have a couple of people go to the area to do a survey and make a list of the needy. Then have a couple of other people go to the nearest rice shop, have tickets made, and arrange it so that the residents who brought tickets would get rice. Then have other people go around carrying rice to accact attention and distribute the tickets. Then have another group of people at the rice shop give rice to those who brought tickets and matched the list. If they kept changing the people all the time., no one would find out. I told him that if the residenta asked, the workers should merely reply that they were doing if for someone else.
At first, the needy didn;t believe that there was free rice, so they hesitated to go the shop. But after enough prodding, since the shop was close by, they went there and came home with rice. One day a kid coming home from school was heard to comment, “Somthing really weird is going on in our neigborhood. These strangers have come, they give rice tickets, and people are getting free rice so that they won’t go hungry. These strangers must have come from out of the sky!” there is always a way to remain anonymous.
Then once in Masan somebody anonymously provided a truckload of rice for the needy at the Harvest Moon Festival. The newspapers caught wind of it and wrote up a big story.
He came to see me, and I accused him of doing it intentionally to make headlines for himself. He insisted that it was not his intention, but that there was no way the reporters wouldn’t get wind of it. I told him that I was nevertheless suspicious of his motivations, and that he should have found a way of doing it so that he would have remained anonymous.
Many years ago there was an old benefactor in the countryside, and a youth of the village came to pay his respects to the man for his outstanding contributions. The youth said, “How noble you are! Being rich in itself is a great blessing, but what could be a greater blessing than sharing it with others?”
The man responded with, “You little creep! When did I ever help anybody? Helping somebody else is like having ringing ears. You know your ears are ringing, but nobody else does. Good works? Benevolence? What benevolence? If you’re going to talk about benevolence, get lost.”
This old benefactor is a perfect example of making true offerings. Helping others can be easy, or it can be difficult. But even more difficult is keeping quiet about it.
Women tend to be weaker physically and emotionally than men, and they like to chatter more. And it seems women like to brag more, too. I was asked why this was so, and my reply was that people carry weight according to their strength, and people wear clothing according to their height. Tall people have to have larger clothes, and shorter people have smaller clothes. This is equality. Strong people can exert their strength physically, but weaker people usually can only get on top of a situation by talking. So women have to be even more careful about bragging, especially about making offerings.

Buddhist Repentance, Prayer and Service

when Gandhi was in England, he studied Chrishanity and the Christian concept of love for fellow men. Later he studied Buddhism and discovered the Buddhist concept of love for all forms of life. He felt that although it was not proper to talk about other religions, if one made a comparison, Christianity was like a saucer of water and Buddhism was like an ocean.
The point is that Buddhism is not anthropocentric. It respects all forms of life. people, beasts, microbes-these are all subjects for Buddhist offerings. Helping all forms of life is the true Buddhist offering. It is genuine Buddhist practice, and it must become our personal practice. Only by doing so are we be able to avoid being classified as thieves by the Buddha.
After the Korean War, I spent some time at Pong-am-sa in the Mun-gyong area, and the late ven. Hyang-gok was staying there. He went to Pusan to deliver a Dharma lecture, and he talked about Buddhist offerings. He told the people assembled that a true offering was helping others, not playing the mokt’ak in a temple. He explained that a temple was the site where genuine offerings should be taught. He said that making offerings was something to be done outside of the temple, and he used examples from “Practices of the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra.” The people were quite delighted to hear all of this.
A few days after he returned to Pong-am-sa, a monk from Pusan came to see him. In those days the Chogye Sect had provincial organizations, and after ven. Hyang-gok had spoken in Pusan there evidently had been an emergency meeting at the Kyongnam provincial Chapter. The monk had quite a bit to say to Ven. Hyang-gok:
“I understand that you told the assembly that a temple was a place where people should learn how to make offerings outside the temple, and that true Buddhist offerings were done in the form of helping others. That amounts to telling them not to bring money to the temple. What are we monks supposed to do, starve to death? One monk was driven out of the temple and the place was in an uproar, all because of what you said. So please don’t ever say that again.”
A few days later, another monk came from the Chogye Headquarters in Seoul and said that in Seoul they had had a similar emergency meeting. Ven. Hyang-gok was quick in his response:
“Then what should I say instead? What you’re telling the people is that you have the powers of Buddha, so the more money they offer, the greater the blessings they’ll receive. Do you want me to go around saying things that will increase your income? Do you think you’re going to live for a thousand years, forever? It seems to me that sometime you’re going to die. What do you have against dying while teaching the words of the Buddha? Seems to me that that would be a rather glorious way to go. I don’t care what anyone else says―the only thing important to me is transmitting the Teachings. That’s all I can do, so leave me alone, and do as you like.”
You asked me to come here to speak to you today, and what do I do but give you a quick course on how to starve to death! You’re a bit worried, aren’t you?!
I’m sure there are other temples, not just Haein-sa, where people worry about this. But I’ve always tried to make what I think is an important point. It’s up to you whether you believe in Christianity or Buddhism or Taoism or nothing. But if you believe in Christianity, then you believe in Jesus, in what he taught and what he represents, and not just in the priest or minister. It’s the same with Buddhism-you’re supposed to believe in the Buddha, his Teachings, and what he represents, not just in the monks. If you believe just in the official representatives of a religion, you might wind up in a living hell rather than in heaven or paradise.
What I am telling today are not my own thoughts; I’m just transmitting to you what the Buddha said, so it’s okay for you to believe me!
You all know the old saying that if you’re pointing at the moon, you should see the moon, and not just your finger.
A monk is someone who learns the Teachings of the Buddha and who teaches how to make Buddhist offerings. A temple is a place where people are supposed to learn how to make genuine offerings. The subjects for your offerings are outside the temple, not inside. The subjects for offerings are not the temple Buddhas, but all living Buddhas outside the temple. We must cultivate our offerings on a broad scale, and that is how Buddhist offerings should be directed.
Monks should not be playing the mokt’ak and having people make offerings for longevity and blessings in front of the temple Buddha. Helping all forms of life is the only genuine Buddhist offering. we must understand this thoroughly, and we must practice it diligently. Only then will Buddhism start to grow new sprouts. I’d like to make some simple comparisons between Christianity and Buddhisrn because 1 think we have some things to learn from each another.
As far as doctrine is concerned, Buddhism and Christianity are beyond comparison, and quite a few scholars are coming to feel that way, too. Schopenhauer once said something to the effect that to compare Christianity to Buddhism was like throwing an egg at a boulder. And this is closer to the truth than it is an exaggeration, at least as far as doctrine is concerned. But today in Korea, in practice, it’s just the opposite.
The core of Mahayana Buddhism is selfless compassion for all that lives. But how many monks actually have this true sense of compassion? How many monks are actually helping others? In current terminology, this sense of compassion has been replaced by the word “service.” And it seems to me that monks have the least sense of service, while Christians are really doing a great deal of service. Let me give you an example.
I read an article somewhere about a place called Carmel Convent. On New Year’s Day, everyone drew lots for people who were in difficult straits―old folks, orphans, prisoners, and so on. If a person picked an old folks, home, that person had to pray for those people all day long each day for a full year. The same for someone who drew an orphanage or a prison. Their entire lives are centered around praying for others, not for themselves. This is the very basis of prayer, and these people are truly religious people. And how do they manage to live? They sell homemade candies and poultry for a living. They make their own livelihood, and pray only for others.
Well, what about Buddhism? If we must draw lines, Theravadins are basically concerned with their own enlightenment, while Mahayanists are sulpposed to live selflessly for all forms of life. And the real basis of Buddhism is Mahayana, not Theravadin. Yet few actually practice the mahayana way here in Korea. Those people in the convent rnake their own living but live for others. It’s not that there aren’t Buddhists like that today, but it seems that they are considerably fewer in number.
I’m not saying that we are supposed to follow the example of the Christians, because our doctrines are considerably different as are some of our methodologies. What I am saying, however, is that compassion for all forms of life is the very basis of Buddhism, and practicing this compassion is the genuine Buddhist offering around which we must center our very lives. And we must not think of it as “service,” “self-sacrifice,” or “love.” It should be done spontaneously, naturally and without a thought of the self, just as a mother cares for a child. If you applied medicine to a cut on your arm, would you consider that service or self-sacrifice or love? Of course not. In the same way, you should serve all forms of life.
Not too long ago a student came to see me at paengnyon-am, and I asked her what she thought about when she prostrated. Her response was that she was prostruting in hopes of becoming a person who helped others. I then asked her why she was going around in circles. “Don’t prostrate in hopes of becoming someone who helps others. Go out and make all forms of life happy, and then prostrate. And when you do prostrate, do it for all forms of life. That is quite different from prostrating just to become a person who helps others.”
The point is not to prostrate thoughtlessly. The point is to do everything, beginning with the first prostration, for all forms of life. And the next step is to pray for them every morning.
I make people who come to see me regularly do 108 prostrations before we meet. If you really want to help others, you should do 108 prostrations every morning, and do them for others. I, too, do 108 prostrations each morning. The condition is that, from the very start, I do not prostrate for myself. When you prostrate, recite a prayer from The 108 prastrations of Repentance 

Now that I have become religiously aware, I am worshipping, but not in the hopes of blessings for myself, nor to be liberated and sent to paradise. I am worshipping with the hope that all sentient beings will be enlightened simultaneously, and I transfer all personal rnerit to this end.

You should  both repent for and pray for all sentient beings, for all others. There is considerable rnerit in this, and this merit should also be transferred to all sentient beings. This transfer of merit is essential to the mahayana way. So you should add to your prayer:

And should there be any remaining merit, let none of it come to me. may it all be transferred to the Incomparable Eternal Dharma.

This exemplifies the Mahayana attitude of complete altruism. These methods of repentance and transference were developed in India, came through China, and firmly rooted themselves in Korea’s Shilla and Koryo dynasties. This was also practiced in all temples in China until communization. one doesn’t repent for one’s own misdoings, but for the misdeeds of all sentient beings and on behalf of all sentient beings. Then one prays for all sentient beings and transfers any and all personal merit to them all. This should be a basic attitude for all Buddhists. It should be their sense of mission, their very duty.
We also have another problem related to the Ven. Hyang-gok episode. Someone once asked me, “Sunim, you’re really frustrating me. I am the one who is hungry, and you’re telling me to go around feeding others? Am I supposed to starve to death?”
The principle of cause-and-effect is not something which applies only to Buddhists. It is basic universal law. If you plant green beans, you get green beans. If you plant red beans, you get red beans. If you sow good, you reap good, and if you sow misdeeds, you reap retribution.
Illness, poverty and all other forms of torment are retribution for previous misdoings, but people wonder what misdoings. Of course the average person has no recollection now, but all of these things are the culmination of your previous Karma in both this life and others. Present sufferings are for misdoings in the past.
On the other hand, good returns from good. So if you do good now, it will return to you in the future. Such things as helping others and praying for others will all return to you sometime in some form. So by praying for others, you’re actually praying for yourself in the same way that if you harm others, you’re actually harming yourself. And even if you do not wish to reap the rewards of helping others, there’s no way around it-merit will come to you. someone who helps to feed others is not going to starve. I think that the problem is that people, out of personal insecurities, are just arfaid of making that kind of commitment. They worry about their own stomachs first. But that is not the Mahayana way.
This is a very important point. If you pray for others in your daily life and help them, they become happy. And following this universal principle of cause-and-effect, all of this  happiness will return to you.
You can see the same principle at work in biology and in ecology. If something is about to attack something else, it often becomes victimized first. Everything comes back to you sooner or later. If you don’t care for your crops, you’re the one who winds up hungry. So don’t worry about whether you’re going to starve to death if you feed others first. use your energy to make offerings in the way that the Buddha taught.
Let me make this point with another story. Once there was a man who didn’t know how to make true offerings and whose life was filled with wrongdoings, so he went to a hell. At the gate he looked inside and saw others in terrible torment, and he had to close his eyes at this unbearable sight. Most people in the same situation would think, “This is awful. If I go in there, I’ll have to suffer the same way. How can I get out of this one?”
This man thought otherwise, however. He wondered if there were any way in which he could, even for just a few minutes, be tormented instead so that these sufferers could have a reprieve. He wondered if there was any way that he could alleviate their torment. At the very instant he had this genuine thought, the hell disappeared and he found himself in paradise. If you think good, then goodness, even paradise appears before you.
Nowadays a lot of people are doing all kinds of good works, but there are many monks in the mountains who are not so active in such service because of their intense training. So I have one request. Lets following the Teachings of the Buddha, and make true Buddhist offerings whenever and wherever we can. And at the pre-dawn service, lets add a simple line to our prayers:

May all that lives be happy,
May all that lives be happy,
May all that lives be happy.

If you chant this line three times every morning, you’ll feel something inexpressible. And whether you prostrate once, or twice or a thousand times, do it for all sentient beings. Help all sentient beings, and pray for all sentient beings. You have to become sorneone who lives selflessly for all sentient beings. Otherwise you become one of those thieves that the Buddha was talking about. So let’s all rnake broadly cultivated, genuine Buddhist offerings together.

On “Dharmas are neither produced nor extinguished”

(General Dharma Lecture, January 6, 1981, Haein-sa)

Dharmas are neither produced nor extinguished.
If you are aware of this, then all Buddhas are constantly before you.

This is a quote from the Avatamsaka Sutra. It is the very marrow of buddhism, sums up all of the Teachings of the Buddha, and is the very basis of Buddhism. If you should ask what it was that the Buddha became enlightened about, this is the answer. All the other Teachings of the Buddha are detailed explanations based around this one.
Most people think, however, that everything is mortal, that everything which is born must die. In fact, Buddhism teaches you that there is a continual cycle of birth, aging, suffering, and death. And if this is so, how could the Buddha say that all dharmas are neither produced nor extinguished? What is not mortal? We are surrounded by life that must die; so we wonder why the Buddha said this, and what he meant by it.
If you come to understand this one truth that all dharmas are neither produced nor extinguished, you will found the way, and there is nothing more to know. But it is coming to understand this truth that is so difficult, so everyone doubts the validity of the statement.
If it is true that all dharmas are neither produced nor extinguished, then what is the universe like? It’s the constantly abiding, the eternal. And this universe which is neither produced nor extinguished is called in Buddhism “the eternal Dharma realm,” “the constantly abiding realm.”
Let me quote the Lotus Sutra for you:

Since Dharma is always in its place,
the mundane world is also constantly abiding.

“Dharma” here is referring to this law of non-producing, non-extinguishing. The heavens of the Devas and the realms of the earthlings are all part of this non-producing, non-extinguishing. Everything is constantly abiding.
Everything appears to the eye to be in a process of birth and death, but that is not the actual case. It is a superficial observation. Actually, the entire universe is constantly abiding and indestructible. In Buddhism we call this Dharmakaya, the ultimate, the reality underlying all things. In the Avatamsaka Sutra, this is also referred to as unlimited causation, the unlimited influence of every thing on all things and all things on every thing. Everything is endlessly intertwined. And that is what is neither produced nor extinguished. Everything is harmoniously integrated in the universe. Regardless of the sometimes kaleidoscopic changes we see, everything is constantly abiding and eternal.
So by realizing this, you come to understand Buddhisrn and all your problems concerning Buddhism are solved. But if you don’t come to this realization, then you’ll never understand what Buddhism is all about.
People then naturally raise another question. If everyone is to make this realization, doesn’t that mean that everyone should go to a temple in the mountains, meditate and follow the path in the traditionally prescribed manner? That, of course, is highly unlikely. For those who cannot clearly understand this truth, however, let’s turn to modern science for a moment for an explanation. After all, isn’t this the age of science? But what does science have to do with “non-producing, non-extinguishing”?
There are innumerable philosophies and religions in this world of ours. But no other system has dealt with this non-producing, non-extinguishing issue so clearly and firmly as Buddhism. I guess you’d have to say that the historical Buddha has the copyright on this one! But science, evidently, has been trying to claim the copyright in recent decades.
How so? Through experiments, atomic physics has proved that nature is “non-producing, non-extinguishing.” Albert Einstein was the first to bring this to light in his Special Theory of Relativity.
Nature has two forms as perceived in traditional physics-energy and mass. In Einstein’s special theory, however, he stated that energy is mass and that mass is a form of energy. It was also explained that energy conserves itself; that is to say, energy never loses any of itself, it never decreases. And mass was thought to have remained unchanged as well in the sense that none of it ever got lost. Nowadays, however, energy and mass are no longer considered separate, and consequently they are both included in this same law of conservation.
Exploration of mass led to the discovery of molecules and subatomic particles; and energy is formless motion. But how could mass, a form, be interchangeable with something formless? Such a thing was inconceivable. So at the time of Einstein’s discovery, everyone thought that he was out of his mind.
Einstein certainly started lots of people thinking, and some people working. In the decades to follow, Einstein’s special theory has been proved innumerable times. Mass is a form of energy, energy is mass, and they are mutually convertible. And the first applications were, unfortunately, the atomic and hydrogen bombs.
Converting mass is called nuclear fission, and a tremendous amount of energy is released by this fission of atoms― that’s what we get with the atomic bombs. We can get similar results with nuclear fusion; by combining hydrogen and helium, we get hydrogen bombs. So through science, man has proved that energy and mass are mutually convertible, but man have proved it in a very disastrous manner. C. D. Anderson was the first physicist to succeed with these experiments of conversion, but his successes were not extensive. Then there was Emilio Segre of Italy who fled from Mussolini to the U.S. He was highly successful in a broad range of experiments of converting energy to mass and mass to energy.
Let’s make an easy analogy, one of water and ice. If water freezes, it becomes ice, but the water is not gone. In the same way, if the ice melts, is the ice gone? No. It has only converted itself into water. Water appears as ice, and ice appears as water. The water is ice, and the ice is water.
It`s the same with energy and mass. Energy appears as mass, and mass appears as energy– they are one and the same. This came to light first in the Special Theory of Relativity, but it also applies to quantum theory which eventually followed the efforts of Einstein.
What happens during such conversion? We think that when water becomes ice, the water is gone and ice has been produced. But actually the water is not gone; it has just transformed itself (non-extinguishing). And ice has not really been produced (non-producing) ; water has only changed form, converting into something else. This is a good example of non-producing, non-extinguishing.
It’s the same with energy and mass. They mutually convert, but there is not even the slightest increase or decrease in volume; and here we have the Buddhist “non-increasing, non-decreasing,” which is actually another way of saying “non-producing, non-extinguishing.”
Japanese physicists, well aware of traditional Buddhist thought and such teachings as “non-producing, non-extinguishing,” “non-increasing, non-decreasing,” were not surprised by such discoveries in atomic physics and quantum theory. But Western physicists, unfamiliar with Buddhist thought and terminology, thought that they had found something astounding. In fact, they had merely discovered what the Buddha had said so very long ago. The difference is merely in terminology.
The law of conservation specifies that there is no loss of either energy or mass. Again, this verifies the world of non-producing, non-extinguishing, non-increasing, non-decreasing. In Buddhism, this is the eternal Dharma realm. The Special Theory of Relativity makes the point that the universe is eternal, which in Buddhism is the constantly abiding realm, the eternal Dharma realm. Nature is composed of energy and mass which are non-producing, non-extinguishing, non-increasing, non-decreasing.
This is not to say, however, that “non-producing, non-extinguishing” would be a lie or a fantasy if Einstein had not presented his Special Theory of Relativity. With his eyes of wisdom, the Buddha became enlightened to this very fact that the universe is constantly abiding. It is, however, interesting to note that for thousands of years most people were unable to comprehend the meaning of this, and that it has taken science in this century to make it easier to understand for the average person.
Nowadays we hear a lot of people say that Buddhism is too difficult to comprehend, so I have taken the special theory of relativity to make Buddhism’s fundamental teaching a bit clearer for you, and I hope that it is of some help in your understanding.
Many people say that they really don’t know much about Buddhism, and that it seems too lofty, too deep, and too vast for them to comprehend. They think it seems too irrelevant to be compatible with modernity, and that you have about as much chance of understanding it as you do of getting a stroke of lightening to cook you a bean. But it is not all that difficult if you understand its basic foundation of non-producing, non-extinguishing in terms of the examples I have used.
In The Heart Sutra, we have another important phrases:

Form is no different from emptiness,
Emptiness is no different from form.
Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form.

This is another seemingly unsolvable riddle. How can form be emptiness? For example, can emptiness become a rock and can a rock become emptiness? No, of course they can’t become each other. Because they already are each other.
Take a rock as an example. lt is composed of molecular configurations, and the molecules are composed of atoms, which in turn are composed of electrons and neutrons, and particles. It is precisely these subatomic particles, however, which prove that form is emptiness and emptiness is form. In both nature and in experiments, when these particles are destroyed through collision, their masses can be transformed into kinetic energy. Matter is energy, and energy is matter, and they are constantly alternating. A rock is solid form to us, but it is composed, ultimately, of these subatomic particles which are constantly shifting bundles of energy. When they appear, we have form, and when they disappear, we have emptiness. So now you understand why, in Buddhism, we don’t talk about objects; rather, we talk about constantly changing events.
The deeper we investigate, the greater the proof of the validity of the Teachings.
People also speak of four-dimensional space-time continuum, another point brought up by the theory of relativity. Minkowski was first to present a mathematical formula to prove the point. In a lecture on the subject after completing the formula, he said something to the effect that existence transcends time and space, and that time and space could no longer be treated as separate entities. He felt that the age was coming when the two would be perceived as one.
Time and space cannot be considered as separate. If I say, “Today at Haein-sa…,” both concepts of “today” in time and “Haein-sa” in space are included. We are right here today, and we couldn`t be anywhere else at the same time. Previously, three-dimensional space was considered separate from time, as we tend to think in daily life. But they are not separate; they are united in a world which is now called the four-dimensional continuum.
In the Avatamsaka Sutra, we have another term, “the all-pervading Dharma realm” in which time and space are completely syncretized. This is what Minkowski was talking about, but he used a mathematical formula to prove the existence of this four-dimensional continuum.
I have covered “non-producing, non-extinguishing,” “non-increasing, non-decreasing” and the all-pervading Dharma realm. And these are what we are talking about when we talk of the Buddha’s Middle Way. When the Buddha gave his first sermon at the Deer Park after Enlightenment, among his first words were, “I have found Middle Way.” So this is where Buddhism begins.
The Middle Way is the art of syncretizing all contradictions. Usually people think in terms of “good” and “bad.” But The Middle Way is transcending these dualities. By transcending dualities, however, what do you have, “not good” and “not evil”? No. You have good and evil which are mutually convertible. Good is evil and evil is good, and they mutually convert. Think of this in terms of the interchange of form and formlessness.
The Middle Way is coming to see that everything is already syncretized, already united as one. Contradictions and dualities are transcended, and everything flows together just as energy and mass flow as one. There is a common misconception, however, that The Middle Way is a middle path between two extremes, which it is not. It is transcending such contradictions as “producing” and “extinguishing.” It integrates them so that producing is extinguishing and extinguishing is producing. when energy converts to mass, is energy extinguished and mass produced? No. Extinguishing is producing and producing is extinguishing. The extinguishing of energy is the producing of mass, and the extinguishing of mass is the producing of energy. They are syncretized and they are and one the same.
Let me talk about dualities for a moment in terms of being and non-being. The Middle Way is neither being nor non-being (“not being, not non-being”). It transcends being and non-being. Yet being and non-being exist (“also being, also non-being”). In other words, being and non-being as perceived on the three-dimensional level are syncretized on the four-dimensional continuum where they are mutually convertible. The Buddha said that The Middle Way was this syncretizing of being and non-being. At this level, being is non-being and non-being is being. Go back to “non-producing, non-extinguishing,”– they are not separate, but rather different forms of each other. The same with being and non-being. On the three-dimensional level, they are seen as dualities; on the four-dimensional continuum, they are syncretized into one and the same. Consequently, everything is unobstructed and free-flowing.
This has always been difficult for people to comprehend, and people thought the meaning was as elusive as a cloud in the sky. But the Special Theory of Relativity has made it much easier to grasp than a drifting cloud. Nowadays, however, there are few who try to grasp this and even fewer who actually do. And some people try to equate The Middle Way with Hegelian dialectical materialism, but dialectical materialism includes the contradiction of a separate time process, whereas in Buddhism all contradictions, dualities and opposites are integrated into one on the four-dimensional continuum.
So being is non-being, and non-being is being; right is wrong, and wrong is right. By applying this Middle Way, all arguments and conflicts, struggles and contradictions disappear. There is not a single reason for quarreling. And that is the state of paradise, of heaven, of the world of the Absolute. So we have, as 1 mentioned earlier from the Lotus Sutra:

Since Dharma is always in its place,
The mundane world is also constantly abiding.

You see, although we perceive the world as being filled with things which are being produced and being extinguished, this is not so in fundamental reality. Fundamental reality is the constantly abiding, the eternal, the state of non-producing and non-extinguishing.
Now you may ask where this principle of non-producing, non-extinguishing came from. It didn’t come from anywhere― the universe is non-producing, non-extinguishing. It is constantly abiding. If you come to understand the perfect oneness of everything through this “non-producing, non-extinguishing,” if you come to realize it fully and live accordingly, then you have no need of paradise or heaven. Wherever you are is the world of the Absolute.
Buddhism claims that all forms of life are absolute. If you open the Eyes in the way I have described, then you will come to see that this temporal world is in fact paradise. So you have no need to seek it elsewhere. Just try to open the Eyes. You will see that the sun brightens the entire universe. when you see this fundamental reality, do you need to chant to get to paradise, do you need to believe in Jesus to get to heaven? Wherever you are is paradise, heaven, the world of the Absolute.
The difference is this: if you open the Eyes, you are in the absolute world of non-producing, non-extinguishing; but if the Eyes are closed, you live in the world of producing and extinguishing, the world of life and death, the world of relative dualism, the darkness of the middle of the night.
I hope that today’s discourse will help all of you to open the Eyes completely. Let’s all try our best to accomplish this together.

Searchang for Water in water

(Vesak, May, 1987)

How nice to see you, Satan!
Let me tell you how much I sincerely respect you and worship you, since you are originally Noble Buddha. Unfortunately, however, both you and Buddha have been given such false names as “Satan” and “Buddha”.
People really hate you, they despise you. But that’s only because they don’t know who you really are. When people do realize who you are, such thoughts as “good” and “bad” “love” and “hate” disappear. Then people can clearly see that you are Buddha. And only then will they learn to treat both devils and saints as Buddhas, as their teachers, as their parents.

With this realization that you are fundamentally Buddha, relative opposites and conflicts disappear, and people come to know the real comfort and happiness of this world. They come to see that there are no such things as misfortune and anxiety, that these things exist only in our minds. The path is one of seeing you, Satan, as you really are, as Buddha.

When people come to see you as Buddha, they are delighted to see the whole world as it is, as One Buddha. It’s like seeing a magnificent lotus arise out of the mud-how beautiful!
What splendid Truth this is! And if people realize this, how can they look anywhere else for Truth? Looking for Truth other than this is like searching for water in water.
When people see you as you are, as Buddha, all problems become fundamentally resolved. It’s only when people see things in terms of “good” and “bad” that they really burn in hell.

When we no longer see good and evil as opposites, when we syncretize them into one, we come to see a world filled with blossoming lotuses. When we see the true noble nature of Satan, we then realize that each lotus is a Buddha and every place is a Buddhafield!

Take a good look at yourself

(Vesak, May, 1982)

Take a good look at yourself.
You are already saved. You are originally Buddha.
You are overflowing with happiness and glory. To talk of paradise or heaven is to be talking in your sleep.

Take a good look at yourself.
Transcend time and space, and you’ll see that you are eternal, you are infinite. Should the universe collapse and disappear, you would still be immovable. You are all forms and all formlessness in the universe, the universe itself. You are the twinkling stars and the dancing butterflies-you are everything.

Take a good look at yourself.
All truths are within you. To look for truth outside yourself is to search for water outside of the ocean.

Take a good look at yourself.
There is no death in eternity, but those who don’t know themselves worry about death. They fret about it, and they dread it.

Take a good look at yourself.
You are originally pure gold. But because you are blinded by personal profit and greed, you mistake this gold for alloy. Forget your selfishness and use all your energies to help others. If you remove all traces of greed and desire, the Eye of the Heart will open up and you’ll see yourself as you really are, as pure gold.

Take a good look at yourself.
Poverty and starvation are superficial realities; the poor and the starving are fundamentally noble and sublime. To feel sorry for people based on superficialities is a grave insult to them. We must learn to respect and serve everyone.

Take a good look at yourself.
This age of rampant materialism is harming you. You are the ocean itself, yet you are paying attention only to the spray from the waves. Dwell on the ocean, not on the spray.

Take a good look at yourself.
The Buddha did not appear in this world to save us. He came to teach us that we are already saved, originally saved. What a tremendous joy it is for us to live with this Truth-so let’s all bless everything together!

The True Nature of Life

(Vesak, May, 1981)

Let us respect all forms of life as we respect the Buddha, for the true form of everything in the universe is brighter than sunlight, clearer than the sky, and perfectly spotless.

Such terms as “evil” or “lowly” are but superficial judgments. Everything is Buddha, everything is magnificent, everything is sublime. So we should respect not just all other people, but all forms of life-even seemingly lowly flies and ants, and ferocious wolves and tigers-in the same way that we respect the Buddha. When we respect even the most vicious criminal in this way, we come to see life as it really is and we come to live in true fundamentality.

Everything in the endless universe is Buddha, and every nation is a Buddhafield. If you look into the true nature of reality, you will not find a trace of misery. You will find only eternal happiness everywhere.

So let’s respect all forms of life in the same way that we respect the Buddha.

Greedless Harmony

(New Year’s Message, January 1, 1988)

The sons and daughters of Buddha are free on the eternal path of liberation, and the sons and daughters of Confucius sing of the Great Age of Sages. The sons and daughters of Jesus are replete in their infinite glory, and the sons and daughters of Mohammed have hearts bursting with joy and happiness.

The world is a single home, and all of mankind is one. So let’s forget such useless discrimination as “self” and “others”, and forget national, racial and other barriers. Let’s treat those of other religious as members of our own, and those of other nations as our compatriots.

To harm others is to harm yourself, and to help others is to help yourself. Treat the sick as if they were yourself. Treat the sick as if they were yourself, and serve the anguished in every way that you can.

It is awful to disguise personal profit and greed as patriotism and fraternity, so let’s rid ourselves of this completely. With a pure heart, let’s all help one another and let’s all trust one another. Let’s respect one another and love one another, and let’s all harmonize as one.

As I sit leisurely without thoughts of “self” and “others”, plum blossoms begin to cast their fragrance into falling snow.

Listen to the Eternal sound of the Bell

(New Year’s Message, January 1, 1987)

The magnificent sound of the temple bell shakes the dawn and awakens all living creatures from a dream world. As the brilliant morning sun reddens the eastern horizon, wake up and listen to this bell. It’s clarity sings of eternity and infinity, and it resounds endlessly throughout the universe.

The sound of the bell tells us that all forms of existence are absolute, that they were absolute before the universe came about and that they will be absolute after the universe disappears.

The sound of the bell tells us that even the most wicked forms of life are fundamentally Buddha. Ferocious tigers and gentle dogs dance together at the sound of this bell. Poisonous snakes and playful toads, cats and mice all jump merrily together at the sound of this bell.

People of all races the young and the old, children and adults, males and females, the rich and the poor all join together in praise at the sound of this bell. When this bell resounds, all oppositions, all hostilities, all conflicts disappear. We all find our pure, fundamental nature, and we all embrace one another as a family.

Listen to the sound of this bell. As sit reverberates, the wooden roadside totems sing and people who are as cold as stone come to life. Everything in the immense universe moves happily at the sound of this bell, so happily that “heaven” and “paradise” become embarrassing terms.
If you can’t hear this sacred sound, it’s because you are deaf with desire and greed. Rid yourself of these temporal cravings, and listen to this eternal sound.

How hilarious! The planet earth is but an invisible speck of dust to most of the boundless universe; yet famous saints and scholars, men of talent, and historical heroes boast of one anothers greatness. There are no better examples of nonsense, of tiny bubbles of foam than the First Emperor of Chin, Alexander the Great, Napoleon and other world subjugators.

To those of you obsessed by greed and desire, who run recklessly in your pursuits―rid yourselves of these futile dreams, and listen closely to the eternal sound of this bell.

We are blessed by the cries of pairs of wild geese flying through a clear, moonlit night, and the universe is overflowing with the echoes of peace and freedom!

The Red Sun Rises High

(New Year’s Message, January 1, 1986)

The red sun rises up out of the dark night to brighten the universe, and joyful cliffs dance merrily at the sight. Cool, clear waters flow out of a boiling furnace, filling the sky and earth and quenching thirsty trees which begin to burst with colorful blossoms.

Lao-tzu and Confucius are shaking hands, the Buddha and Jesus are walking together, and songs of peace flow from from all directions. The noble and the evil have disappeared, and there is no trace of heaven and hell. “Amen” is being chanted in magnificent temples, while “Ohm” flows from splendid churches. In such a world, arguments of “black” and “white” “right” and “wrong” are unimaginable.

The Great Wall of China is but a toy on foam, and the great unification of the world, as sought by historical conquerors, is but kids, stuff. To those of you so filled with self-importance, who recklessly run about searching for more and more, please listen: you are dancing on the blade of a knife.
Fundamental oneness includes and transcends being and non-being. Abso rbing mind and matter, it syncretizes the self and others. Should the world as we know it come to an end, fundamental reality would still remains unmoved, stable and free. How heartbreaking that endless personal greed blocks people’s sight from this brilliant scene; how tragic that people continue to writhe in a world filled with darkness.

Our fundamental nature is covered with greed like a jewel covered with dust; yet no matter how thick the dust, the jewel remains unchanged. If you brush away the dust, the jewel will light up the world with its brilliance.
Toss away your unrealistic, futile greed in this dream world so that you can see the fundamental nature of Eternal Truth. The blindingly brilliant Great Light and the endless sound of cheer are shaking the mountains and rivers.

Let’s make friends with the twinkling stars, drink nectar poured from a golden vase into white jade cups, and sing songs of praise.

Look at the Great Light

(New Year’s Message, January 1, 1984)

As the brilliant sun rises in the blue sky, endless, eternal light pervades the entire universe.

Heaven and hell, the noble and the evil all come from this Great Light, and there is nothing in the universe which is not this Great Light. The flying birds, the crawling bugs, the flowing streams, the stoic boulders always speak loudly of this Light, and they all reflect the oneness of everything. This is both a noble and an awesome sight: even that which seems hopelessly pitiful to us is filled with this Light, and everything that exists is genuinely happy.

The Great Light has no color, yet it is all colors. It transcends past, present and future. It existed before the universe appeared and it will exist affer the universe is gone. And although this Great Light can be talked about for eons, it cannot be explained in words. Nor can it be seen with the most precise microscope or the most powerful telescope. It is simply magnificent beyond description, and it can be seen only with wisdom’s Eye.

Rampant intellectualism is as unhealthy an influence as rampant materialism  knowledge and academics which depart from our basic nature soil our fundamental hearts and bring about apostasy. Our basic nature is clearer than the sky and is no different from Buddha. But to manifest that nature we must rid ourselves of false knowledge and learning.

Even the most precious jewel obstructs a clear mirror; and the more dust that accumulates on a mirror, the duller the mirror’s reflection. Likewise, accumulated knowledge and learning darken the Eye. So let’s rid ourselves completely of knowledge and learning which darken this Eye, and return to our fundamental nature which is clearer than the sky itself.
Let’s all open the Eye so that we can clearly see the Great Light.

(New Year’s Message, January 1, 1982)

As the brilliantly rising New Year’s sun colors the clouds on the eastern horizon, everything in the universe overflows with joy and glory.

All universal law is Buddhist Dharma-indeed, there is nothing that is not. The towering mountains and the flowing rivers speak the mystical Dharma; the flying birds and the crawling beasts sing their songs of joy. Both the evil and the gentle are Buddha; both clear waters and muddy waters are streams of compassion. And the world is overflowing with the warm breezes of spring.

Every place to sit is a golden cushion, a jade stool, and we have  always been dancing to the tunes of beautiful nature. So raise your eyes and look before you: the endless light of the universe always shines brilliantly. Indeed, the universe itself is this Great Light. Let’s join hands and move forward together with all our might; for peace, the joy of freedom, and glory are right before us.

The seas of golden grains are our gardens, and the sounds of factory machines are the hope of our future. Let’s all raise our arms together, dance and sing in the beauty of nature, and bless every living thing!