Lotus Petals ~ SECOND TALK
many faces do you have? Only one, you would say; but
that is not true. We all have many faces: happy faces
and sad faces, angry faces and kind faces, jealous
faces and bored faces; so many kinds faces we have
~ not just one. Do we know all the faces that we have?
Have you noticed when we take photos, if we take a
nice one of ourselves we like to print copies and
give them to our friends. But if the photos are ugly,
we do not make copies of them. We want people to see
our beautiful faces.
We all have great capacity to do good and
to do evil. Now you think: "Oh, I am very sad
because the Communists have thrown me out of my homeland
The Communists are very bad!" When we have no
power or position, we complain about people who do
have, and say: "If I were powerful and rich,
I would use my power and wealth to help others."
But if we became powerful and rich, the situation
might be quite different, because power, position
and wealth are like whisky: they make people drunk.
And then it is easy to forget earlier good intentions.
Power is very sweet, and many people like to have
high positions, but few people know how to use them
wisely. Instead of using them well, they use them
in the wrong manner, and this causes trouble and brings
Even religion is commonly used in the wrong
way. Religion is like fire: if you know how to use
it properly, it is very useful, very good; but if
you do not know how to use it, it can be very dangerous
and destructive. Many people consider their religion
is the best, better than all others. A Buddhist should
never say that ~ that Buddhism is the best religion
~ because such an idea causes a lot of trouble. You
will notice that it is people who do not really understand
or practice their religion who say such things ~ that
their religion is bet-ter than others. We do not say
that Buddhism is better than other religions; what
we say is that Buddhism is different from other religions.
But when we say it is different, we do not mean that
it is better or worse than other religions; something
that is different cannot be compared with anything
else. We can compare things that are the same, but
things that are different we cannot compare. A rose
is not a lotus. A rose is a rose, and a lotus is a
lotus. It would be incorrect to compare a rose with
a lotus because they are different. A rose is not
better than a lotus, and a lotus is not better than
a rose. Perhaps you like roses more than lotuses,
or lotuses more than roses, but that is just an opinion;
it does not make one or the other better. Religion
is not something to make comparisons about, either,
but something to be lived; religion is supposed to
make people better than they are, but the way that
many people use it does not make them better; in fact,
it makes them worse; they often become more proud,
selfish, and stupid thereby. .
People have used religion in many wrong ways.
They have used it to make competition between each
other, and to make themselves feel superior. They
have even used it to make wars, and have called these
'Holy Wars,' or 'Religious Wars.' But how can war
ever be holy or religious? War is evil. Some people
use religion to hate, and turn them-selves into demons
(e.g. Khomeini in Iran), to become more ignorant,
instead of more enlightened. Not understanding the
meaning of religion, they make it into something of
superstition and stupidity; they use it to divide
people, instead of to unite. And really, all that
many people have is just a name: Buddhist, Christian,
Muslim, etc., and the name is nothing at all. It is
better to know nothing, if what you know is wrong.
So before we think about changing the world, we should
change ourselves first, that is, we should use our
religion in order to gain Enlightenment. It is not
enough just to call oneself a Buddhist.
(Question from the audience: Someone is asking
how a Buddhist behaves in this world towards demon-people:
"Is it right to destroy demons?" he asks.
"Can affection and enlightenment be brought to
such people? What is the correct attitude and action
to reach the Buddhist goal?"
This is why we need wisdom, and that is not
really something that can be taught to an-other, but
has to be acquired through our own meditation, reflection,
and experience. We may spend our whole life trying
to change the world, and by the time we die, the world
will have been changed very little or nothing thereby.
According to Buddhism, there is to be found no lasting
peace in the world outside; the only peace and freedom
is to be found inside our minds. In the nature around
us, we do not find birds, animals, or fish making
wars like human beings do, because they do not have
the capacity that human beings have; if they had the
same capacity, for good and evil, perhaps they would
do the same. We have to know and understand our own
capacity, and what we are going to use it for.
I met a young man this afternoon, and it
was a very pleasant meeting. I asked him "How
long have you been here?" He told me "One
year," but added, "I love to stay here,
and I would like to stay here forever to help my poor,
suffering people. I need little, and I do not want
I said, "That is very nice to hear.
You are rich, aren't you?"
He said, "No, I am very poor."
"No, you are rich, because you need
and want little." A person who wants much, even
if he has much money, is poor. The young man had little;
he said he needed little, and wanted little, and therefore
he is rich, while at the same time, he is poor. Contentment
is wealth, while greed is poverty. There are many
ways of approaching life. There are al-ways demons
in the world. What are we going to do with such people?
Are we going to be demons in our dealings with them?
It is very easy to be so; it is very easy for us to
become demons, too. But is there another way by which
we can deal with such people?
Once, there was a young man, a good, intelligent
person, who went to study meditation and spiritual
practices with a teacher in the mountains. This teacher
was not a monk, but had a wife and children. The young
man ~ whose name was Ahimsaka, which meant 'Non-Violence'
~ quickly learned anything that the teacher taught
him, and soon became the teacher's favorite disciple,
and this made the other disciples jealous. They were
not happy with Ahimsaka; so they thought of a way
to discredit him in the eyes of the teacher. They
waited in the garden behind a big tree until they
saw the teacher coming, and then they began to speak
in loud voices. One of them said: "This Ahimsaka
is very bad; he is having an affair with our teacher's
wife." As they had intended, the teacher heard
this. At first, he didn't believe it, as he was very
fond of Ahimsaka, but the seed had been sown, and
as the days passed he continued to think about it;
finally he came to believe it must be true.
He thought: "Now I must destroy Ahimsaka."
So he called him, and said to him: "You have
learned very quickly here, and there is only one more
thing that I can teach you. But before I can teach
you this, you must bring me one thousand fore-fingers
from the right hands of people you have killed."
Ahimsaka was shocked when he heard this,
as he was not a bad man, but he thought: "If
that is the only way I can get this teaching, I must
do it." So he took a sword, and a bow-and-arrows,
and went into the forest to wait for people to come
by, and, as travelers passed through the forest alone
or in small groups, he attacked and killed them; then
he cut off their right fore-fingers, and hung them
on a string around his neck. Soon, every-one in the
country-side around knew that there was a terrible
murderer in the forest, and nobody went that way anymore.
So he started to attack small villages, and sometimes
killed all the inhabitants therein. The king of that
area sent his soldiers out to catch him, but Ahimsaka
was very strong and fierce, and killed all the soldiers,
too. And so, his reputation spread, and people began
to call him 'Angulimala', which meant 'Garland of
Fingers'. His killing went on and on, until he had
999 fingers around his neck, and he needed just one
Now, it just so happened that the Buddha
was visiting that area, and 'saw' Angulimala during
His early-morning meditation. He also 'saw' Angulimala's
mother, on her way to the forest to try to persuade
her son to give up his evil ways, and the Buddha knew
that, if nothing happened to prevent it, Angulimala
would kill his own mother in order to com-plete his
bloody garland. So the Buddha quickly made His way
to that place, and put Himself between Angulimala
and his mother. Upon seeing the Buddha, Angulimala
turned away from his mother, and began to run towards
the Buddha, who turned, and walked slowly away. Angulimala
was very surprised that, although he was running very
quickly, he could not catch up with the Buddha: Stopping,
he called out: "Stop, monk, stop!"
The Buddha continued to walk slowly, and
said: "I have stopped, Angulimala. It is you
who have not stopped".
And Angulimala thought: "What does he
mean? He says he has stopped, but he is still walking,
and he says I have not stopped, but I am standing
still. What can he mean? These monks are usually honest
people, and don't tell lies. What does he mean?"
And then he understood the Buddha's meaning ~ that
the Buddha had stopped turning the Wheel of Birth
and Death, while he had not. So Angulimala was converted
from his evil ways, and asked the Buddha to accept
him as a monk.
Shortly afterwards, the king of that country,
who was a supporter of the Buddha, came to visit the
Buddha in the forest, and began to tell Him about
the wicked murderer who had killed so many people;
the Buddha listened to him, and then said: "What
would you say, 0 king, if you knew that Angulimala
was here now?"
"What!" the king said in fright,
The Buddha said: "This is Angulimala."
The king was surprised, and said: "Angulimala
has become a monk? Well, in that case, allow me to
be his supporter, too." The king had such confidence
in the Buddha that he thought: "If this murderer
has been tamed and converted by the Buddha, it must
Angulimala was a very good monk, following
the Way diligently, so that it was not long before
he attained Enlightenment himself. Then, one day,
he went out for alms in a town nearby, and the people
there recognized him. "Look!" they said,
"That is Angulimala, disguised as a monk! He
is coming to kill us and our children again! Let us
kill him first!" So they took sticks and stones
and beat him until they thought he was dead, and left
him lying in a pool of blood. But he was not yet dead,
and when he had recovered con-sciousness, he made
his way back to the forest where the Buddha was. There
This story illustrates how even bad people,
people who have done much evil, can also attain Enlightenment.
Buddhism teaches that everyone has Buddha-nature;
anyone can become a Buddha. There is not only one
Buddha; there have been many before, and there will
be many more in the future. The word 'Buddha' is not
a name, but a title, and it means 'One Who is Awake.'
We are not Buddha because we are sleeping, but it
is pos-sible for us to wake up, and when we do, we
will be Buddhas. We are sleeping because we do not
know what is true; if we know what is true, we are
awake. So a bad man can become a good man. We are
stupid if we hate people who hurt us; by our hatred,
we hurt ourselves also. People who hurt others are
stupid, because they will suffer them-selves afterwards.
We should keep in mind that there is goodness in all
people, and try, by some means, to bring out the goodness
in others, as well as in ourselves.
Some years ago, before I became a monk, I
used to stay in a temple in Malaysia. The chief monk
liked me because I worked hard in the temple, but
one of the other monks disliked me as a result. He
used to scold me and blame me to other people. It
also seemed he had some psychic-power which he would
sometimes use against people he didn’t like.
It would have been easy to have become angry with
him and scold him back, but I didn’t do so.
I was not happy there, and considered leaving and
going elsewhere. But one morning, as I was cleaning
the altar, and putting fresh flowers there, I thought
of another way, the way of judo, which is a way of
overcoming someone by using his own strength against
him, instead of using one's own strength. So I prepared
an extra dish of flowers, took it to his room, and
knocked on the door. When he opened it, without saying
anything, I offered the flowers to him, and he accepted
them, also without a word. He was never angry with
me after that, and later, when I left that temple,
he gave me $50! If I had become angry with him and
scolded him, he would have hated me more. But be-cause
I knew there are other ways, I was able to win him
~ not defeat him, but win him. I felt good, and he
felt good, and we both benefited.
There was once a convicted murderer who had
been in jail for many years. He hated everyone ~ the
jailors, and also the other prisoners ~ so he had
to be kept alone, in a small cell, and was not allowed
outside. One day, a sparrow flew in through the window,
and he caught it, and was about to crush it to death,
but stopped, and thought: "This bird is also
a prisoner now, just like me. I don't like being a
prisoner, and neither does this bird." So, instead
of killing it, he kept it and fed it, and it became
tame, and didn't fly away. This man had never known
love in his life before, but it came in at his window
in the form of a little bird. And it changed him completely,
so that he became a very good person. The jailors
had never seen such a change in a prisoner before,
and he was al-lowed to go out inside the prison, where
he was able to influence other prisoners to be-come
We often say that 'So-and-so is no good;
he is very bad,' but we should be very careful what
we say; just because a person does bad things, that
doesn't mean that he is a bad person; it means that
he is foolish. There is no-one who has never done
anything bad; we have all done bad, and sometimes
we still do bad. And that is where religion comes
in: we use religion to become better. We do not know
how much good, and how much bad there is in our minds,
or in the minds of other people. A person might do
bad today, but tomorrow, he might become enlightened;
nobody knows. So we should be intelligent, and look
for ways to show people the goodness in themselves.
People kill and destroy and do bad things because
they do not understand. It is very easy to kill and
destroy; we do not need intelligence for that. This
building here: it took a long time to build, but in
one second, with a bomb, it can be destroyed. But
which is better: creation, or destruction? Everyone
would like to live in a nice house; nobody wants to
have his house destroyed. We should understand ourselves
first, and then we will know how to help others to
Someone is asking about Enlightenment ~ What
does Enlightenment mean? Well, there are many kinds
of Enlightenment, many degrees, as on a thermometer.
All of us are enlightened to some degree. I will tell
you how enlightenment arises. Suppose you have a problem
~ a mathematical problem, for example ~ and you try
to work it out, and try, and try, but cannot get the
answer, until you get tired of it, and get frustrated,
so you leave it and go to do something else, to eat
something, or play guitar, listen to music, etc. And
suddenly, when you are not thinking about the problem
at all, the answer comes! And you think: "Wow!
So easy! Why couldn't I think of it before?"
Maybe you couldn't think of it because you were trying
too hard, and looking with a mind full of ideas. When
the mind is already full, there is no room for anything
else. Another exam-ple: you are trying to think of
the name of someone you met before, but cannot get
it, and later, when you are doing something else,
the name comes to you. That is a form of enlightenment;
enlightenment comes in such a way. It is the sort
of thing that could make even a blind man say: "Oh,
yes! I see!"
Do you know what are icebergs? Well, our
mind is like an iceberg: the greater part of it is
beneath the surface, and cannot be seen; we consciously
use only a small part of our minds, and that part
sleeps when we go to bed at night; but the greater
part of our minds ~ the subconscious never sleeps;
it is always awake. So when we think about something
very much, very deeply, with the smaller part of the
mind ~ the conscious part ~ it is taken over by the
subconscious, so that, even when the conscious mind
is asleep, the subconscious is still thinking about
things. And it is from the subconscious that the an-swers
to our problems come when we are no longer looking
for them. It is in the deeper part of the mind, too,
that the seed of Buddha-hood or Enlightenment is hidden.
Enlight-enment does not come to us from outside, but
from inside our own minds. It is there al-ready, just
waiting to come out, but is buried beneath lots of
rubbish. That is why it is very important for us to
be quiet at times, to let the mind settle down, because
the mind is usually disturbed, like muddy water, unclear.
You cannot make your mind clear by saying: "Now
I will make my mind clear," just like you cannot
make muddy water clear by stirring it up. But, just
as when you leave muddy water to settle, it becomes
clear, so also is it with the mind; you cannot make
your mind quiet, but you can allow it to become quiet.
You can make your mind disturbed and unclear, but
you cannot make it clear. Meditation can help the
mind become clear; by being aware of things in and
around us, the mind may become quiet. Chanting is
one way to help the mind become quiet; it is very
important to some Buddhists, while to others, not;
that is just according to their per-sonal preferences.
The Buddha did not chant, but spoke in a common language
so that ordinary people could understand Him. So,
chanting is not absolutely essential; if you want
to chant, that's fine, but if you don't want to, that's
also alright. Many people misun-derstand about chanting,
and think that it is prayer, but it is not; it is
a recitation of the scriptures, that is, of the Buddha's
Teachings, the real value of which, of course, lies
in understanding and applying them, not in chanting
them. There are some results of chanting, of course,
even if you don't understand the words that you are
using; but com-pared to understanding and applying
the Teachings, the merit from chanting is very little.
For 500 years after the Buddha passed away,
there were no written records of what He had said.
His Teachings were passed on orally from person to
person, and memorized. Having taught for 45 years,
there was a great deal to be remembered, and people
who had to work for a living and take care of their
families did not have the time necessary to remember
these prodigious Teachings. This became the duty of
the monks and nuns, because they had time, they didn't
have families; they didn't have to work for a living,
and could devote themselves to remembering the Teachings,
and to pass them on. For 500 years they were passed
on in that manner, until they were written down. The
easiest way to remember these things by heart was
to give them a kind of tune; if they are just spoken,
it is more difficult to remember them, but with a
kind of rhythm, it is easier. That is how chanting
of the Teachings originated. As to these instruments
that you use here ~ toc-toc-toc, ding ~ they were
not used in India at all, but originated in China,
where the temples were so large, and so many people
attended the ceremonies, that, in times when there
were no microphones, the people at the rear couldn’t
hear where the people at the front were up to. Therefore,
what you call the 'wooden-fish' was invented and used,
so that the people could all chant in unison.
Let me say again: Chanting is useful, but
is no substitute for understanding the meaning.
This morning, someone came to see me to ask
about a part of the scriptures that she has chanted
every evening for many years. I was rather surprised
by this question be-cause I have never been asked
this before. Hundreds ~ thousands ~ of people recite
regularly, but not many ever ask questions about it.
Not many people understand the language of the chanting,
because it is in old Vietnamese, not modern; moreover,
it in-cludes many Chinese and some Sanskrit words
that are not translated to Vietnamese, so how can
you understand it if you have not studied it? One
example, one word: "Nam-mo." Maybe none
of you knows what it means, although you have heard
it and chanted it thousands and thousands of times.
Vietnam got this word from China, but it’s not
a Chi-nese word, either, but Sanskrit, from India.
So it came from India, through China, to Vietnam,
and now it comes to Philippines, still untranslated.
It means 'Homage' or 'Praise,' or 'Respect.' So when
we say "Nam-mo Bon Su Thich Ca Mau Ni Phat",
it means: "Homage to the Great Teacher, the Sage
of the Sakya People, the Buddha."