Chapter 12 - On The Foul Body

1. We are not born with material wealth, nor can we, or mega-millionairs for that matter, bring our assets along when we die. The only thing that will follow us through all lives is our own karma. So why waste valuable time pursuing material wealth? We should grasp the little time we have in human existence and start practicing as early as possible.

2. Relinquish all attachments to this foul body! The most important goal for practice is to liberate our minds, not to tend to the desires of our physical body and let it control our lives. Also, remember not to cling to the idea of attainment during practice. Whatever can be attained will vanish eventually, hence is not genuinely unmovable, as is our intrinsic nature.

3. Our body, just like a house, will eventually decay; however hard we try to mend it, it can never be free of problems. Let go of excessive concern about this body, do not be too fastidious about it; after all, it is only a phantasm. What we should do is to make the best use of this "illusive" body for "real" practice.

4. This foul body is just a temporary residence for us. Unfortunately, we all become strongly attached to it, and our greediness that arises due to our incessant pursuits to satisfy its cravings has in turn created immeasurable negative karma for us.

5. Diseases are inevitable with this illusory body of ours, but they are not as perilous as the ailments of delusion, greed, anger, and ignorance. The latter will keep us in the cycle of rebirths if we do not find a cure. The most effective prescription is reciting "Amitabha Buddha," and retaining right mindfulness at our deathbed is crucial. At that critical moment, if we can recite "Amitabha Buddha" distinctly and steadily, by the mercy of the Buddha we will be able to transcend the six divisions of rebirth. Otherwise, with our consciousness inverted, where will we end up after we die?

6. Very few people can enjoy blessed rewards throughout their lives. The extent of rewards you can enjoy is proportional to the degree of hardships you endure.

7. Master Hsu Yun used to live a very simple life. He wore clothes with multi-layered patches and could not even count on food for the next meal. But such hardships did not deter him from diligent practice. He has only one goal in mind: to be liberated from the cycle of birth and death.

8. If we wreck anything because of our carelessness, we are at fault and have to take the consequences.

9. Be careful on what you do for nothing is beyond the law of karma; even things as trivial as throwing away edible food or letting it spoil will have their consequences. Nobody can take the consequences for what you do, and there is no escape from the law of karma. "What you eat feed yourself only. Similarly, the matter of your own birth and death can only be taken care of by yourself."

10. Handle with care those papers printed or written with words. It would be better to burn them (than throw them into the garbage dump). This is also a virtue.

11. Practice relinquishing the attachments of your sense organs to the six gunas (sense objects). Otherwise, the thing you crave for will appear at your deathbed to distract you. If it prevails and your mind is inverted, you will remain in the cycle of rebirths. Practice relinquishing all your discriminations between self and others and your judgements of right or wrong. Then, when you are breathing your last, this practice will help you transcend your karmic obstructions and the cycle of birth and death.

12. Do not mistake this physical form of ours as the real "self." It is nothing but a temporary and illusive outer case bearing our karma. The real "self" is our "tathagata," or buddha-nature immanent within our minds, which can neither be born nor be destroyed (i.e. permanent, transcending birth and death). Therefore, we should, through diligent practice, retrieve this intrinsic nature and confront everything with our buddha-mind.

13. Monastic practitioners should concentrate on practice; nothing else should distract their attention. Lay people who do not realize the need for practice are living in inverted dreams, their fettered mind bugged by incessant vexations. They dream not only in their sleep but also while they are awake. Time passes as they watch their lives slip by, like watching a movie. To them, life is nothing but a longer dream.

14. It is not easy or just by coincidence that we acquire this human existence. Seize this opportunity and practice diligently so as to eradicate our sense of greed and free ourselves from the agony of birth, aging, disease, and death, hence the cycle of rebirths. With this human existence, we can either practice to attain buddhahood or bodhisattvahood, or generate negative karma that would lead to rebirth in the three evil divisions (beasts, hungry ghosts, and hell). Whether we will ascend or descend within the ten dharma realms depends on our conduct in this human rebirth. Therefore, human existence is a crucial turning point that should not be taken lightly, nor be wasted in vain.