The Importance of Cultivation

Instead of thinking about how hard the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas work, we only know how to toil for our children .

The true mind of living beings is no different from that of the Buddha’s. How come the Buddha has accomplished proper enlightenment, while we are still transmigrating in the six paths? Why are we still muddled and confused, obsessed with love all day long, unable to relinquish our attachments to our spouse and our children? Why are we always caught up in the six kinds of sense perception?

Some people regard their families as far more important than studying Buddhism, and they always say, “I have my responsibilities." Well, when you die, who is going to take care of your responsibilities? Your attitude shows a confusion of priorities. If you realize that you should cultivate, just cultivate. Why have so many unnecessary concerns?

A Sutra says: “The Buddha, the World Honored One, has infinite spiritual power and wisdom.” Spiritual power is itself wisdom. Wisdom guides spiritual power. Spiritual power and wisdom are two, and yet not two. If you lack wisdom, you will not have spiritual power either. These come from the adornment of merit and virtue.

“Living beings have only infinite karmic bonds and afflictions.” With careful reflection, we’ll see that our various relationships with people are actually karmic entanglements. Having recklessly created karmic affinities in the past, we are now dragged about by our karma. We may want to escape the Triple Realm, but our karma will not let us. We have a mixture of good and bad karma, pure and defiled karma, karma of self and of others, and right and wrong karma, and it all comes forth. Hindered by our afflictions and caught up in birth and death, we pass our days in confusion.

Do you want to cultivate? “The time isn’t right.”

Would you like to cultivate? “I’ll wait a little while.”

You keep procrastinating: “I’ll wait a few more years until the children have grown up.”

“I’ll wait a few more years until the children are married.”

“I’ll wait until I see my grandchildren.”

“I’ll wait until the grandchildren are married.”

“I haven’t seen my great grandchildren yet.”

When will it ever end? Don’t be taken in by the false happiness of the world. It is said,

Fame and benefit are trivial, but everybody craves them.
Birth and death are important, yet no one guards against them.

Many people worry that their children won’t have money to spend, so they struggle to build an empire for them. The result:

When one has great wealth and property,
One’s descendants will have great nerve:
Not afraid of anything under the sky,
They won’t stop until they have destroyed themselves and their families.
When one has little wealth and property,
One’s descendants will not be so bold.
Petty problems are easily solved;
With modest assets, they will suffer few calamities.

The more money we leave to our children, the easier it is for them to bring great misfortunes upon themselves. The less money, the fewer the problems. It is also said,

If the son is more capable than the father,
What need is there to leave him wealth?
If the son is weaker than the father,
What’s the use of leaving him money?

If your child is capable, why should you leave him money? If your child is weak, leaving him money only harms him, for he will use that money to eat, drink, be promiscuous, and gamble, generally leading a dissipated life.

“Although the nature of mind is basically the same, delusion and enlightenment are as far apart as the sky and a deep abyss.” Our minds are essentially the same as that of the Buddha. However, our delusion is worlds apart from the Buddha’s enlightenment. “Quietly reflecting upon this, shouldn’t we feel ashamed?” We are mindful of our sons and daughters, but not of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Instead of thinking about how hard the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas work, we only know how to toil for our children, sending them to universities so that they can earn doctorates and become super-achievers and high executives in the future. Then we will have chauffeured cars, gourmet food, fancy mansions, and all the luxury we could wish for.

“When you accomplish the cultivation of virtue, the virtue of your nature will manifest.” When you have virtue in your cultivation, your inherent wisdom and spiritual power will spontaneously manifest. There is a saying:

Intelligence is aided by hidden virtue.
Hidden virtue brings about intelligence.
People who do not believe in hidden virtue
Will be hindered by their own intelligence.

Hidden virtue refers to acts of merit and virtue done anonymously – invisible good deeds. This means secretly helping others without taking credit for it. It is said,

The goodness that we make known is not true goodness.
The evil that we fear will leak out is great evil.

Do not go around advertising and say, “Do you know that I built that temple in Thailand, repaired a bridge in Singapore, and built a pagoda in Hong Kong?”

How do I know where you got your money? Is it clean money? Did you steal or cheat to obtain it? If so, your merit and virtue won’t be sufficient to wipe out the offenses you committed. You cannot cheat the Buddha. You cannot go to the temple and say, “Lord Buddha, I will give you some money if you eradicate my offenses.” The Buddha doesn’t take bribes.

Therefore, a Sutra says, “Don’t disappoint the Buddha, and don’t let yourself down.”

A talk given on December8, 1979