Lotus Petals ~ THIRD TALK

Every diamond is a stone, but not every stone is a diamond. I am concerned more with diamonds than with stones. Diamonds are rare, and stones plentiful, but occasionally I do find a diamond.

You can take a horse to the water, but you cannot make it drink; it will drink only when it is ready to drink. If people choose to go to the Camp movies rather than listen to a Dharma-talk, it is up to them; it shows that they are yet ready, not ripe. Most movies that are shown here are silly movies: killing and violence, or for 'catching fish.' If people are satisfied with such, that is alright. If you give a diamond to a dog, it will only sniff it and go away; it is a waste to give diamonds to dogs.

Tomorrow, we shall hold a "Refuge Ceremony" for people who feel ready to take this important step. But I want anyone who wishes to Take Refuge to understand clearly first, and to be quite sure that they are ready, otherwise it has no meaning. Please do not be-lieve what I say. I want you to see and understand, so that you know, and not believe. You see, people believe all kinds of things, and some of these things are very stupid, and cause much trouble, because everybody thinks that they are right and others are wrong. They never bother to investigate or question, so how will they know what is right? That is not the Buddhist way. A Buddhist must understand clearly, so that every step that he takes is important, and brings him nearer to his goal. Beliefs change; they come and go. But Truth does not change, so that is what we must look for. Long, long ago, people in Europe believed that this Earth was flat, because that is what they were taught by the Church, and that if they sailed too far over the sea, they would fall off the edge of the Earth. They also believed that the Sun turned around the Earth, rising and setting every day. But now we know that this is not true. So beliefs change. We must try to understand what is true, not always to think that we know already, and that "I am right, and you are wrong." To think like this is wrong, so we must keep open minds. I try to show people different ways of looking at things, because often, we have fixed ideas and see things narrowly and unclearly.

Let me ask you a question: Do you think there is anyone who likes tooth-ache? What do you think? Yes or no. "Surely not!" Are you sure? What about the dentists? If there is no tooth-ache, they will have no money, and nothing to eat. Dentists like tooth-ache ~ other people’s tooth-ache ~ because it means money. Every coin has two sides; every dia-mond has many faces. So we must learn to see things in different ways, and not only from our own point of view. This is the way that we follow the Buddha's Teachings. From the very beginning, the Buddha's Way was a way of freedom; the Buddha never called anyone to believe Him or follow Him. He never said to people: "If you believe in me, you will go to Heaven, or Nirvana, but if you do not believe in me, you will go to Hell". Going to Heaven or Hell is not a matter of believing or disbelieving in the Buddha or in anyone else, but in what we do. What the Buddha said was: "Come and see, and test my teach-ings as a goldsmith would test gold."

Now, if you have some gold, and want to sell it, and take it to the jeweler and tell him: "This is pure gold, 100; please buy it from me," do you think he would believe you and pay you? Would he not first test it to see how much gold it contained, and when he knows if it is pure gold or not, then he would pay you accordingly? He would not believe you because probably, the gold would not be pure gold. So, in the same way, the Bud-dha told people to test His Teachings by applying them, then they would know for them-selves whether they work or not. If we do not apply them, but only believe, we will never know if they are true or not. This is what makes Buddhism different from other religions. Other religions tell you: "You must believe." But Buddhism ~ and Taoism, too ~ does not call people to believe. You know, strangely enough, it is the Western religions, or the re-ligions of the Middle-East, and not the Asian religions, that call people to believe. But many people all over the world are blinded by the material wealth and technology of the West, and think that everything from the West is best, and everything from the East is least, that is, inferior. They never understand anything. They have money in their eyes, and see everything in terms of money. Asian culture is much older, and richer, and deeper than Western culture. But many people do not know anything about it, and what a great pity this is. Some Asian people want so badly to be like Westerners; they adopt all the Western customs and fashions, dying their hair blonde or brown, putting on ugly clothes.

Some people have even asked me: "Do you know where I can get some medicine to make my skin white?"

And I replied: "Do you know what skin is for? Skin is for keeping the inside in and the outside out, nothing more."

"Oh, but white skin is more beautiful. I do not like to be brown." Very strange. Many Westerners go to the beach, take off their clothes and lie under the sun in order to be-come brown. Many Asian people will not go out in the sun for five minutes without an umbrella because they are afraid of becoming more brown. We should be happy that we have got skin, never mind about the color. So, do try to see what you have, and what you are, and you will probably find that you have much more than you thought you had, without changing your customs or your religion, or without trying to be someone else. Already, we are special people, just as we are, but we do not understand who we are, so we think we are ordinary. Are you special, or are you ordinary? Who thinks they are spe-cial? Nobody? Okay; only one? Why do you think you are special? He says he feels that religion is the basis of life. Alright, who thinks they are ordinary? Tell me why. (Discus-sion between listeners and speaker, inaudible on tape). Okay; are you the same as other people? Are you her? Are you him? Who are you? Is another person you? Can another person be you? Someone says: “Everybody has a mind.” Yes, everybody has a mind, but not everybody has your mind. Now, can anyone see for you? Can anyone eat for you? You know, sometimes I am tired and lazy, and do not want to take a bath, so I say to someone, "Please take a bath for me." Can do? I would still be dirty even if someone went to the bathroom and bathed two or three times. Can someone take a bath for you? Can anyone die for you? Impossible! Many people use religion to become more stupid. They tell you that they are 'saved.' Saved from what? I think perhaps you have heard this expression: "Are you saved?" they ask. What do they mean, 'saved'? Very funny. Does it mean that they will never die? Everyone dies, so where is the evidence that they are 'saved'? "Oh, I believe, I believe," they say. Yes, they believe, but they do not know, until they die. They are only victims and prisoners of their own ideas; they use religion to imprison themselves. This is the opposite of what the Buddha intended. Now, if you are tired of suffering, and have had enough, then you will begin to look for a way out, and you will know what to do and what not to do without needing anyone to tell you. You know, we do not depend upon ourselves enough; and really, we are the only person that we can depend upon. We always look outside ourselves for answers to our questions; we never look inside ourselves or listen to ourselves. People made this image, you know, and then we come and worship it, and put food before it. But has anyone ever seen the image reach down and take a banana and eat it? Never, because it is only a image, made of cement, by people; it is a symbol of something else, but a symbol is never the thing that it symbolizes. It is not "Quan Am;" Quan Am is nearer to us than that image. Do you know where? People who understand and follow "Mahayana," do not look for Quan Am outside themselves because they know that Quan Am outside of themselves is not the real one. Quan Am is inside our own hearts, and reveals 'herself' in kind actions. Someone who follows Mahayana shows Quan Am in the way they live. So Quan Am is not far away. When we are in danger, and pray to Quan Am, we are sending out signals and attracting goodness to ourselves; our prayers act like a magnet that pulls iron to it. A Bodhisattva does not need to be asked for help; if a Bodhisattva is able to help, he helps, immediately, without any hesitation. But we must make ourselves ready to be helped. If we surround ourselves with barbed-wire, nobody can get in to help us, so we have to remove all the barbed-wire, and all the obstacles that surround us, all negative and bad things, and do good, and this will attract more good to us. If you re-ceive something ~ for example, a money-order ~ do not use it all for yourself, but share some of it with others. The part that we share, we keep; it is like the seeds for a future harvest. The part that we keep for ourselves, we lose, eventually. So, whatever comes to you, share it, and you will see that you will never be without. As we give out, we make room inside ourselves for more things to come in. But if we only take in, and never give out, we soon reach the point where we cannot take any more in; it is like breathing: you can only breathe in a certain amount; you cannot continue breathing in and breathing in, but have to breathe out, and then you can breathe in again. Life is like that ~ a process of giving out, and taking in.

One time, in Bataan, an old woman brought a monkey to me. Someone had trapped it in the forest, and its hand had been cut off in the trap. The old woman had seen it for sale in the market, and had felt sorry for it, so instead of leaving it there for someone else to buy and eat, she bought it and brought it to the temple, where she knew no-one would kill it, and it would be safe. When I saw it, I was so sad: there were two bones sticking out of its wrist, and the stump was bloody and swollen. I thought: "This has been trapped by a refugee. How can anyone be so cruel? The refugees value their lives, and do not want anyone to hurt or kill them, but some of them think nothing about inflicting pain upon others". He had sold the monkey in the market for a few pesos, which would be soon spent. But the suffering that he caused to that poor monkey, who probably had a father and mother, family and friends in the forest ~ that pain would take a long time to fade. I took the monkey in, and tried to find a doctor to treat it, but could find none. I did not know what to do, so told someone to put it behind the temple, and give it food and drink, expecting it to die of its wound. But the monkey was wiser than I; it knew what to do when I did not. I have been to school, and studied many things, and travelled far and wide, but didn't know what to do; that monkey had not been to school, didn't know how to read or write, had never studied First Aid, but somehow, knew what to do to save its life. After a few days, I saw only one bone sticking out of its wrist; I do not know if it had slowly chewed off the other bone, or broken it off against the tree; but after a few more days, the other bone was also broken off, and then the flesh and skin began to grow over the wound until it was completely healed. Wonderful! I learned very much from this monkey; it was my teacher. How did it know how to do this? Nobody had ever taught it; something inside must have prompted it.

Now, have you seen birds building their nests? How do they know how to do it? Birds of the same species, of the same family, all build their nests in exactly the same way; they do not go to school to learn how to build nests, or read books, yet they know how. And a spider spinning its web ~ have you ever watched a spider spinning a web? It's fantastic! How does it know? And if these creatures know how to do things like that, is it not possi-ble that we also know things that we have not been taught? A little baby, as soon as it is born, knows how to get milk from its mother's breast. So there is part of us that knows many things without having been taught. And that faculty or ability is still in us. We should not think that all knowledge comes from outside of us, but should learn to depend more upon ourselves. The way to do this is to be quiet, and let something come out, to listen to our own heart speaking; but when we are busy all the time, it is very difficult to hear the inner voice speaking. You know, people spend most of their lives running, run-ning after pleasure, running away from pain; they are seldom still, and seldom happy. Observe how people go to see any movie that is showing in the Camp: it does not matter if they can understand it or not. They think the movie is shown only on the screen there, and do not know that the whole of fife is a movie. Life is a movie ~ moving ~ and we are all actors. If we know this, we do not need to go to the movies; we are in the movies, constantly. Sometimes we play the part of the hero, and sometimes the part of the vil-lain; many, many different parts we play, every day. If we know that we are acting in the movie, then we can begin to act in a way that we want to act; we can choose our parts; but if we do not know, somebody else will tell us how to act, what part to play.

Let me ask you another question: Do you like to suffer? No, of course not! Well, would you consider that fear ~ being afraid ~ is a kind of suffering? Yes, it is. Does anyone like to be afraid? Of course not, you will all say, but I'm not so sure. Why? Well, tell me: Have any of you ever been to see a Dracula movie? Yes, most people have. And was it free, or did you have to pay to see such a movie? You had to pay. And when you watched, such a movie, how did you feel? “Afraid.” What? You told me before that you didn't like to suffer, and now you have just told me that you paid to watch something that made you feel afraid! How strange! It means that you like to be afraid, ie, to suffer. Very strange, no? Part of us likes to suffer, and much of our suffering is self-caused; we do things that cause suffering to others, and eventually to ourselves. We suffer so much, until finally, we are sick of suffering, we feel we have had enough already, so we begin to look for a way out. If we are ready to get out of the Dracula movie, there is a way out, but it is not so easy; it is easier to get in than to get out; we need no assistance to get in, but do need it to get out. You know, in the movie-house it is very dark, and there is someone with a flash-light to show you the way to your seat. Now, the Buddha is like someone with a flash-light who shows you the way out, instead of in, but He does not take you out, or make you go out. He only shines the way out. If you are ready to go out, you go; but if you are not ready, or do not want to go out, you stay, and continue to watch the Dracula movie. So it is up to us; there is a way out, if we are ready to go out. That is why Bud-dhists Take Refuge. A Refuge is a state or a place of safety. There are Three Refuges for a Buddhist.

There was once an army general, powerful and wealthy, and he was a follower of a cer-tain religious teacher, but he was not quite satisfied with what he taught. He had heard about the Buddha, but had never been to listen to Him speak. He told his teacher: "I have heard so much about this Buddha, and would like to hear Him speak".

But his teacher discouraged him, saying: "Ah, do not waste your time; that fellow is noth-ing; he's just another of those wanderers". But the man could not be dissuaded, so went to the place mere the Buddha was preaching, and was so impressed that he wished to become a disciple.

The Buddha said, however: "This is the first time you have heard my teachings; you must go away and think about them first". But this answer only made the man more happy, and he said: "I am convinced already, and want to Take Refuge now".

Again the Buddha exhorted him: "Do not be in a hurry, but think clearly first".

The general then said: "I am a wealthy man, with power and position; if I’d gone to any other teacher and asked to become his follower, he would have accepted immediately, and probably would have had me taken round the town on the back of an elephant to show everyone: 'Look at my new disciple! See who is following me now!' But the Buddha does not do that; instead, he tells me to think clearly first, and will only accept me when I am quite sure and ready. So now I want to Take Refuge in the Buddha, in the Dharma, and in the Sangha. Please accept me as a lay-follower". And the Buddha then accepted him, but advised him to continue to respect and support his former teacher.

You see, the Buddha was not afraid of anyone finding out that what He taught was not true. If a person knows that what he teaches is not true, he cannot put it out in the open like that, but must hide or disguise it. The Buddha encouraged people to investigate and test everything, and until now, nobody has been able to prove that what the Buddha taught is untrue, because it is very clear, and here and now we must try to understand. His Teachings help us to live through all the difficulties of life. Now, Buddhism never teaches that it possesses all the answers to all the problems of life; it does not have all the answers to all the problems; it is a way by which we can find our own answers, and this is much better. That is the Dharma of the Buddha. But what is the Sangha? Not many people understand this. The word 'Sangha' has several meanings; it does not mean only the monks and nuns. By itself, it means 'group', 'community', or 'congrega-tion'. If we are talking about the monks or nuns, we must say 'Bhikkhu-Sangha', or 'Bhikkhuni-Sangha', and that is not the Sangha that we Take Refuge in. You see, monks and nuns are also people, and a person does not automatically become enlightened merely by shaving his head or putting on a robe; it's not so easy as that, monks and nuns can also make mistakes and do something wrong. So when people pay respect to the monks and nuns, they are not really paying respect to the person, but to the robe, which is like the Buddhist flag. If a monk or nun disrobes ~ quits the monkhood or nun-hood ~ people do not pay respect to him or her anymore. We have to be very careful about this, and understand it clearly. People with too much faith, and not enough wis-dom, sometimes respect the monks so much that it is as if they put them up in the sky, so high that they almost need a telescope to see them there. Then, after elevating them thus, if they see the monks doing even a small thing wrong, they become very disap-pointed, and in their estimation, the monks fall down. Why? Because they put the monks so high in the first place. This is very dangerous, therefore, and we lose the balance. You see, the monks also walk with their feet on the ground; they don't float along. So be careful about this.

There is another Sangha, what, in Sanskrit, is called 'Ariya Sangha', that is, those who have attained some 'fruit' of the Way, some Enlightenment; they have crossed the 'Stream of Becoming', and are going up the mountain. There are various levels of Enlightenment, of course, but those who have 'crossed the Stream' do not come down again, do not go lower. They can never become animals, or ghosts, or demons; they can never be reborn in Hell. But it is still possible for them to make mistakes, and do bad things; until a person reaches the level of Arahant, and is out of the Cycle of Becoming, he can still make mistakes, but cannot fall down lower. But, although he can still make mistakes, he cannot hide them, cannot tell lies and say: "No. I never did that". It is such people, people who have attained the various levels of Enlightenment, that constitute the Sangha ~ the Ariya, or 'Noble' Sangha ~ that we Take Refuge in. They can be monks or nuns, but not necessarily so; they can also be people like yourselves, living a family life. Many Buddhists think, quite wrongly: "Oh, I am not a monk (or nun); I cannot follow the Way". This is not true at all, but is often an excuse for not doing that they know they should as Buddhists.

It is not true; they also can follow the Way, if they wish to; they also can become mem-bers of the 'Noble Sangha'„ of those who follow the Way upwards.

So, those are the Three Refuges: the Buddha, as the Teacher, the Dharma, as His Teachings, and the Sangha, as all those who have followed the Dharma and have ob-tained some Fruit thereof.

Now, some people think: "This is a very difficult time in our world, it is very difficult to at-tain Enlightenment; there cannot be any more Enlightened people in the world at this time". But I don't accept this; I think there are always some people who are Enlightened, although there might not be very many right now. However, we should not let that stop us from trying to become Enlightened ourselves. Certainly, it should be said that the Way is hard; if you have ever climbed a tree or a mountain, you will know that it is much more difficult to climb than to fall down; it is very easy to fall down, is it not? But which is better? What do we want? We must be sure in our minds what we want from Buddhism. If you know that you really want to climb the mountain, that you want to get out of suffer-ing, out of the horror movie, then the Way is open. You know, as the Buddha was about to pass away, as He lay there in a very calm and peaceful position, He continued to teach until the very end, and some of His last words were: "Be an island unto your-selves. Be a lamp unto yourselves. Be a refuge unto yourselves. With the Dharma as your Refuge, do not go to any outside refuge".

Actually, there is only one Refuge, Three-in-One: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. The Buddha is the Teacher, the Revealer of the Dharma, and the Sangha are those who fol-low the Dharma. Only one, three-in-one. I told you that the statue of Quan Am is not Quan Am; Quan Am must be found inside us. We should not always ask Quan Am to help us, thinking only of ourselves, but should manifest Quan Am in our actions towards others. In the same way, we should show truth in our living, should be honest and straight; if a person is not honest, he will never find the Truth. So this is the key: become honest; it is not easy, but it is possible. Taking Refuge helps us to become firm on our way. When we Take Refuge with clear understanding, we make a connection with all the Buddhas, with all Enlightened people, and we make a commitment to try harder to follow the Way, so that there is a direction in our lives. We ally ourselves with the Buddhas and all those who follow the Way; henceforth, we are engaged in the same kind of work as They. We know which way we are going, instead of just wandering around without aim or purpose. So it is a serious step to take, and I want people who wish to take this step to understand clearly first. It should not be just, "Oh, something to do because my friend is doing it", or "Well, I haven’t done it before, so now I'll try it". No, it is not something like that. We should be careful, and if we are not sure, we shouldn't do it.

Now, a Buddhist has what are known as The Five Precepts. These are not command-ments, not rules that someone makes us follow, and the Buddha never said "You must follow these".

The First Precept is worded like this: I undertake the training-rule to abstain from killing living beings". This is because we see that all living things want to be happy, and do not want to suffer or die, just like us. (And the reason why Buddhists ~ but, unfortunately, only a few Buddhists ~ are vegetarians and abstain from meat, is not out of considera-tion for physical health, so that they will be strong, and their blood 'clean', or so that they can avoid high blood-pressure, nor do they abstain from meat in order to 'make merit', or to persuade the Buddha or Quan Am to help them. A Buddhist is not vegetarian for his own sake, but for the sake of the animals. It is his way of saying: "Stop the Killing! I do not agree with it!" Although it is a not-doing, a negative-doing, it has a positive effect, and helps to reduce the suffering in the world).
The Second Precept is: "I undertake to abstain from taking what is not given to me". This is because we respect other people, their rights, and their property, just as we would like others to respect us.

The Third Precept: "I undertake to abstain from sexual misconduct that causes pain to others". Rape and adultery are covered by this. If a person is married, that person should be satisfied with his/her partner. One husband or wife should be enough; so be-fore you get married, be sure that the person you are going to marry is the one you want.

The Fourth Precept is to abstain from False Speech. This doesn't mean only not telling lies, but includes such things as flattery, and harsh words. Sometimes, if we want some-thing from somebody, we use sweet words ~ "You are very nice, and kind, very hand-some", etc. ~ but if we do not want anything, the story is different; then we might say otherwise ~ "You are very selfish, stingy, not nice", etc. Lao Tse said: "Beautiful words are often not true; true words are often not beautiful". But often, we do not like to hear words that are not sugar-coated; we like everything sweet, and the truth suffers because of this. If someone says something bitter, something that is not sweet, to us, we become sad or angry, and seldom stop to consider whether it is true or not. This is silly. If what people say to us is true, we should be able to use it to our advantage; but if it is not true, never mind. If someone calls you a monkey, do you immediately grow a tail, and start climbing trees? If someone were to say to you: "Excuse me, you, have egg on your face", would you become angry, and think: "How dare he say such a thing to me?!" What would you do? Would you not immediately put your hand to your face, and find out if there was egg there or not? And, if there was, would you not thank your informant far pointing this out, and thus saving you some embarrassment? If it is true, accept it, and use it; if it's not true, disregard it. But words have limitless power to hurt, and we should be as careful as possible in using them.

Now, the most important thing for following the Way is to get our minds calm and clear, like focusing a camera: if the camera is not focused, the pictures we take with it will not be clear. To intoxicate ourselves makes the mind blurred and unclear. That is why the Fifth Precept is to abstain from drugs and intoxicants, which cause us to be careless. Many people say: "Oh, just a little won't do any harm", but very few people can stop at 'just a little', and go on to drink more, and more. There is a Japanese proverb about this: "The man takes a drink. The drink takes a drink. The drink takes the man". And so, the mind is easily clouded and blurred, and many bad and foolish things are done when people get drunk. Moreover, people pay to lose their minds, for alcohol is not cheap or free, is it?

So, these are the Five Precepts that a person voluntarily undertakes. And, though there may be times when he breaks them, and makes mistakes, he gets up and goes on again. They are guidelines to help him, like the lines on paper that we use to write by; when we know how to write straight, we do not need the lines anymore. Thus, these Precepts are there to help us; they cover our relationships with all living things, and are undertaken through understanding, not through fear of punishment if we break them. We follow them because we see others as ourselves. So, tomorrow, if anyone wants to Take Refuge, we will have a ceremony. I would like to add, however, that Taking Refuge brings with it a responsibility, and I exhort people who have children to take very great care of them, and guide them in the Buddhist Way. For example, anyone who Takes Refuge, and who has children, should explain to his or her children the importance of not shooting birds, catching fish, or killing any other living things; they should educate them about the sanctity of life.

(Question from the audience): "What is the difference between Mahayana Buddhism and Hinayana Buddhism?"

Mahayana and Hinayana are generally considered to be sects of Buddhism, but I do not see them as that; I look upon them as something quite different ~ as attitudes of mind: the Mahayana attitude being one that is unselfish, broad, and wide open, like an open lotus-flower. It means being consciously aware that we are parts ~ each one of us ~ of the society that we call the world, and living and striving to make this world a better place to live in. We are only passing through this world; none of us will stay here forever. No-body has a country; we might think we have, but that is because we do not understand things clearly. We are passing through, and we own nothing. We are pilgrims, on a jour-ney. But we have many false ideas, and the idea of nationality is one of them. Between Vietnam and Cambodia, for example, there is not a line drawn on the ground separating one from the other, nor a river or mountain-range dividing them. The division is artificial, man-made, not natural. People have created many divisions that do not exist in nature, and other people, like you and I, have accepted these divisions without question. In real-ity, we have no country; nobody does. In fact, we have nothing at all that we can call our own. We live in this world for just a short time, and then we die. And what nationality will we be when we are dead? We did not choose to be born where we were born, but had no choice about it, did we?

In the beginning, when we hear of the Dharma, and of how 'Life is Suffering', perhaps we get scared, and wish to escape from the Wheel of Birth and Death, so decide to follow the Way. But at this stage, we are concerned primarily with ourselves, so the good that we might do is motivated by self: I, me, and mine. I want to escape from suffering; I want to attain Enlightenment. Our goodness is good, but is not full; it is like the lotus-flower as a bud, not yet open. This might be termed the Hinayana stage, or attitude; it is limited by thoughts of self.

Later on, however, as we learn more about the Dharma, and begin to perceive the causes of suffering- ~ stupidity and selfishness ~ we become less afraid of suffering be-cause we know that we can do something about it; we are not helpless. We see that, just as suffering ~ like everything else ~ arises from causes, so, when the causes are re-moved, the effect also ceases. This knowledge is power, and means that we can do something not only for ourselves, but for others in the world around us. And it is with such understanding that Hinayana changes into Mahayana, our minds blossom, like the open lotus, and we begin to live for life. Let me tell you two short stories to illustrate this: I once asked my first Buddhist teacher ~ a Thai monk ~ what he would do if he saw a woman drowning, and could reach in and save her; would he do that? "Oh, cannot, can-not! A monk must not touch a woman!" he said.

"Then what would you do?"

"I would go to look for a stick or a piece of rope and pull her out with that". He would think only of keeping his rules strictly, and not of the drowning woman. Such an attitude is Hinayana, concerned primarily with self. According to his way, we could not say that he would be doing anything bad, but neither would he be doing anything good. If such a situation did arise, who would stop to think: "Oh, that is a woman, a dangerous creature of the opposite sex! I must not touch herl"?

One time, two monks were on a journey, and it was raining heavily. On their way, they had to cross a stream, which normally was not very deep, but because of the rain, they found the water quite high. This was not much of a problem for them, however, but on the bank of the swollen stream, they saw a beautiful girl, and she said to them: "Oh, Sirs, my mother is sick, and I must visit her, but the water is too deep, and I cannot cross. Would you please help me?"

"Certainly," said one of the monks, and picked her up and carried her across the stream, so that she didn't get wet. The girl thanked the monk, and they went their different ways. Upon reaching the monastery, the monks were assigned quarters, and lay down to sleep. One monk was soon asleep, but the other could not, sleep at all, until finally, in the midnight, he woke the other monk, and said to him: "Brother, I cannot sleep".

"Why not?" asked the other.

"Well, I am worried because you carried that beautiful girl, and you know we are not supposed to even touch a woman!"

"Oh, is that why you cannot sleep? I put the girl down at the stream, but you are still car-rying her". You see, the monk who carried the girl was thinking only of helping someone in need; he was displaying the Mahayana mind, while the other one was more con-cerned about his own personal discipline, and was showing the Hinayana mind.

The Buddha said: "If you have a cut on your hand, you should not work with poison, but if there is no cut, it is alright to do so". This means we should know our own minds, and do what needs to be done. Would it have been Mahayana if that monk had said to the girl at the stream: "I am a monk, and monks should not touch women. I am sorry, there-fore, and cannot help you", and left her standing there? So, there are different ways of looking at things. Mahayana means having an open mind, a mind that cares about oth-ers. Hinayana means thinking primarily about oneself. They are not visible things; you cannot see from a person's dress that he thinks with a Mahayana or a Hinayana mind. But it goes without saying, that when we Take Refuge, it should be with a Mahayana mind, with thoughts about others, and not just about oneself.

I could give you more examples about that, but let me just say here that the Buddha did not teach Mahayana or Hinayana; He taught a Way to Enlightenment. There are many sects of Buddhism, but at the heart of them all is Enlightenment.

Question: “What is Nirvana?”

Some people think that Nirvana must be like Heaven, but this is incorrect, because we can go to Heaven only after we die; not while we are alive. Nirvana, however, can be attained while living in this world; it is not a place where you can go, but a state of mind. Nirvana is Here-and-Now, not in another time or place; when we find It, it will be Here-and-Now, because actually, there is no other Time and Place; the only Time there is is Now, but it's not something we can talk about, because if we talk about now, it's not Now, the present, but already in the past. We can live Now, but cannot talk about it. Likewise, the only place you can be is Here; wherever you are, at any moment, is Here; you cannot be in any other place except Here.

Do you remember the story of Prince 5iddhartha ~ how old was he when he became the Buddha? Thirty-five. That is when He attained Nirvana. Enlightenment, or the attainment of Buddhahood, is Nirvana. And how old was He when He passed away? Eighty. Yes, you see, you understand. The Buddha attained Nirvana under the Bodhi-Tree, not when He passed away. Now, who knows where the Buddha was born? Buddhist youths do not know? Why not? Someone says he was born in Lumbini Gardens. Do you agree? Who was born in Lumbini Gardens? The Buddha? No, He wasn't; the Prince was born in Lumbini Gardens, not the Buddha. The Prince became the Buddha under the Bodhi-Tree, at the age of thirty-five; he wasn't born as the Buddha. The Buddha was not born and therefore, the Buddha did not die. Do you see my point here? What is born, must die; death is unavoidable for those who are born. What is not born does not ~ cannot ~ die. The state of Nirvana has several different names ~ but we must keep it in mind that the names are not the thing that we are talking about. Other names for the state of Nir-vana are: Enlightenment, the Unconditioned, Buddhahood, and Amata, which means 'Deathless'. Nirvana is therefore 'that which is not born, and does not die', does not come, and does not go. And it is this that we, as Buddhists, are looking for. But we must find it ourselves, because nobody, not even the Buddha, can give it to us. So it is use-less for us to pray for Nirvana, or pray to it; Nirvana is not a person, nor a conscious-ness; it will never answer our prayers. It is not a God, and no God has the capacity to bestow Nirvana on anyone; the Gods must also find Nirvana for themselves.

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