Can Catastrophes Be Averted?

Although it’s said that fixed karma cannot be altered, with the power of samadhi even limitless offenses can be dispelled.

Cultivators should not be selfish, nor should they act only to protect themselves. They should work to benefit the whole world, putting personal interests aside. Instead of being enthralled with their own achievements, they should consider the big picture.

Mr. Dachuan Hu’s “Fantasy Poem” says it well:

Bobbing up and down, we lack a strong resolve for the Way.
Caught up in worldly entanglements, we feel sorry for ourselves.
There is no paradise within the four seas;
What place is there in the nine heavens to set our sorrows aside?

Bobbing up and down, we lack a strong resolve for the Way. People move up and down in the world; rising when they do good deeds of merit and virtue, and falling when they create unwholesome karma. In life after life, they drift and flounder in the sea of karma; being rocked by the waves of worldly affairs, it is hard to stand firm.

Caught up in worldly entanglements, we feel sorry for ourselves. Worldly affairs are like a huge net that binds people up. Fame-seekers are bound by the net of fame; money worshippers get caught in the net of wealth; and promiscuous individuals are trapped in the net of lust. In general, the net of the five desires – for wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep – confuses people and binds them so tightly that they can hardly breathe. Most people don’t even know they are caught in the net, and those who do cannot escape, so they can only sigh in self-pity.

There is no paradise within the four seas. Look around: you won’t find a peaceful place anywhere. All of humankind lives in fear from dawn to dusk. There are refugees everywhere. In many places people lack adequate food and clothing. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, floods, and other natural and man-made disasters happen one after another. How could one not feel scared?

What place is there in the nine heavens to set our sorrows aside? There isn’t any space within the nine heavens to store our cares and worries. Some people think the world is a happy place, but actually, we are in danger of being drowned or burned at any moment. Why should we be so attached to this world?

You have all heard of the recent eruption of Mount Saint Helens in Washington State. If the lava were piled up, it could reach as high as twelve miles. The ashes have scattered everywhere. From this eruption we can see how unsafe the world is. Living in these dangerous times, we should quickly bring forth the Bodhi resolve and seek the supreme Way.

Why haven’t there been any volcanic eruptions in California? One reason is that there are more Buddhists and more temples here. Disasters are imperceptibly transformed into auspiciousness. In 1968, astrologers, historians, prophets, and scientists in the United States all predicted that a major earthquake would occur in San Francisco that year. They said the earthquake would be so great that the entire city of San Francisco would fall into the Pacific Ocean. Fortunately, no earthquake occurred despite their predictions. There have been earthquake predictions every year since then. However, the great one hasn’t happened yet.

Recently, I have been worrying that the earthquake is really going to happen. That’s why the fourfold assembly of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, Gold Mountain Monastery, Tathagata Monastery, and Dharma Realm Buddhist University has gathered together to recite the Shurangama Mantra on Saturdays. With the power of the mantra we hope to avert the earthquake, dispel danger, transform big disasters into small ones, and make small ones disappear altogether.

Someone is asking, “Can catastrophes be averted?” Of course! Although it’s said that fixed karma cannot be altered, with the power of samadhi even limitless offenses can be dispelled.

A talk given in June 1980