Lotus Petals ~ FOURTH TALK

A man once went to catch wild horses, and when he returned home with the horses he had caught, his neighbours said: "Oh, you are very lucky". "Maybe", he said. A few days later, when he was taming the horses, one of them threw him to the ground, and his leg was broken. Then his neighbours said: "Oh, how unlucky you are.” "Maybe", he said. Some days after this, the king's soldiers came to conscript all able-bodied men to serve in the army, but because this man had a broken leg, they didn't take him. His neighbours said: "You are very lucky". Again, he said: "Maybe". This is a very good word ~ maybe.

We cannot see into the future, nobody knows what tomorrow holds. Someone told me the other day that he would be leaving here on 15-December to Australia. "Maybe", I said, "Not sure". Many refugees think only of the things they have lost, but seldom of the things they still have. It is like when there is lots of water: we use it to bathe and wash clothes, for cooking, and watering the garden, and we waste it, seldom take care of it. But when there is no water, oh! the word 'water' is on everyone's lips! And last week, somebody wanted to kill someone because they were out of water! When we have good things, we don't think of them, don't take care of them. It is only when we have lost them that we think of them; but then it is too late. It is like Freedom: Freedom is difficult to win and keep, but very easy to lose, as you know. You have lost your freedom once, but then regained it, at terrible cost, and now you should take great care of it. But many people do not understand what freedom means; they think it means they can do just whatever they want to do without taking other people into consideration. But it's not like that at all. I wouldn't like to live next-door to someone who plays his radio very loud all the time; it's not that I don't like music; I do. But there are times for music, and times for being quiet. And although one person may like music all the time, it doesn't mean that everyone else likes it. Perhaps some people like to study, or be quiet, or just to sleep. It is therefore inconsiderate towards other people to play music loud at any time, and would not be exercising freedom, but abusing it. The freedom of this world, you see, has limits. The Philippines has more freedom than Vietnam, the U.S. has more freedom than both, but even in the U.S., freedom has limits. Suppose you go to the U.S. and get wel-fare-money, but you think: "This welfare-money is not enough; I want to be rich, but how can I become rich on welfare or by working? I had better buy a gun and go to rob a bank". So you buy a gun and go to rob a bank, but get caught by the police. But then you say to the police: "Hey! What are you doing? America is supposed to be a free country, so I can do whatever I like. You must allow me to rob the bank!" Do you think the police would listen to you, and let you go? We must know the limits, and live within them; if we do not live within the limits, we must be prepared to accept the consequences, and not complain about them. You know, the reason why there are so many rules and laws is because people are not honest. If people were honest, there would not be so many laws. We all live as parts of society; society is made up of people like you and I, and each per-son is important, whether other people recognize him as important or not.

Individually, we could not produce all the things that we need every day far our survival. If we had to grow all our own food, for example, we would find it very difficult, and we certainly would not have the variety of food that we do have every day. We’d have to spend all our time growing food, and what about our clothes? We’d probably be wearing animal-skins, or leaves, or grass. And our houses would not even be as good as the ones we are living in now in the Camp. Surely, we wouldn’t have electricity, or running water. Yes, life would be very difficult if we had to do everything for ourselves. It is be-cause we live together with others, and work with them, that we benefit in many ways. So, although there are many things wrong with society, and many ways in which it can be improved, still there are many good things about it for which we should be grateful. But some people hate society so much that they do not want to contribute anything at all. The honest thing for such people to do, therefore, is to go away and live alone on a small island, because if they remain in society, living and enjoying the benefits, but con-tributing nothing, they are simply thieves. The benefits that we enjoy bring with them re-sponsibilities; they go together.

There was a boat on the open sea, and it was sinking, but while most of the people in it were at the front end, baling out the water, two men were sitting in the back end, and one said to the other: "It's good that the water is at their end, and not ours". They forgot that they were all in the same boat.

Everywhere should be regarded as our home, even if we stay in a place for only one day, and we should treat it accordingly. If we think: "It is not my country (or my house), so never mind", we will not take care of it. But if we think: "I am living here now", then it is our home, and we will take care of it.

In Bataan Camp, there are ten neighbourhoods where all the refugees live. But there are two extra neighbourhoods: Neighbourhood 11 is the place just outside the check-point where people go to buy beer illegally, because in Bataan, unlike here, beer is not al-lowed in the Camp. The other neighbourhood is a little different, and people stay there for a very long time. Neighbourhood 12 is the cemetery, and there are about 100 refu-gees who came to PRPC, expecting, like you, to be resettled in another country, but they will stay there a very long time because they were resettled sooner than they expected, and in a place they did not want to be: they died. I am booked to fly back to Manila to-morrow, but there is plenty of time for me to die before then. We do not need half-a-day to die; we can die in less than a second, so ....maybe....maybe... You know, if we breathe in, but do not breathe out, we die; if we breathe out, but not in, the same. Very easy, easy to die. But I think: "While I'm still alive, let me do something useful; instead of waiting and waiting for something to happen, let me make something happen". If you think you can do nothing to help yourselves and/or others, you are just as much victims of your own thinking as you are of the Communists, and maybe more so.

Most Buddhists misunderstand about Karma, so let me ask you a question about it. You are all afraid of my questions, I know, because they are not ordinary questions. But this one is ordinary, so fear not. Do you think that everything we have done in the past, good and bad, will surely come back to us? That is an ordinary question, is it not? What do you think ~ Yes or No? Who thinks 'Yes, it is sure to come back to us'? And who thinks 'No'? Somebody thinks 'Yes’; please, tell us why you think 'Yes'. Who is brave enough to tell? Next time I ask a question, nobody will put up their hands perhaps. Alright, who thinks No, and why? If you think 'something, you must know why you think it. "Well, we do something good or bad today, and if it returns tomorrow or after tomorrow, something like that, and we do not know when we will die, we really do not know. Maybe we will die first. Yes, maybe we will die before the bad things or the good things come back to us. So we do not know. But what about the next life? “I only know the present; I do not know what will happen tomorrow, so how can I know what will happen in my after-life?" Yes, but it is not a complete answer. You know, we all have many chains tying us up; we call them Chains of Ignorance, Not-Knowing. Many, many chains we have. But I think I can help you to cut one of these chains now, and it is a big one. Many people believe that they must receive the results of every action they have done, good or bad. If it were like that, then it would be useless to lead a religious life. If we must receive the results of every action, it would be a waste of time to follow the Way. It would be better just to live and enjoy ourselves in a selfish way, because we could never become free; it would be impossible to become free, because all the time, until we die, we are performing new actions, good and bad. If we were to receive the results of everything we have done and do, we would have to be reborn again and again and again, without end. Now, already you have forgotten the story of Angulimala ~ how many people did he kill? And how many times did he die after that? Someone says: "I'm not sure, but I think two times, and after he died, he lived again". No, he didn't. When he died, he was an Arahant, so was not born again. "Yes, I think he was an Arahant, but didn't he live again?" No, an Arahant is not reborn, because he has attained Nirvana. Why did Angulimala not need to be re-born again? Because it is possible to cut through all the chains, all the Karma ~ as Angulimala did ~ so that very little remains, and the little that does remain is the result of something very, very heavy before. But most of our Karma we can change, we can cut through. And it is by knowing this that we have greater capacity to change our lives; it makes us feel strong. If we think we cannot change our lives, we give up, and just lie down. Our lives are changed every moment, even without us trying to change; and if our lives are changed without us trying to change, how much more will they be changed if we try?

There was a teacher, a monk who had in his care a young boy of 8 years or so, and he was very fond of this boy. The teacher had some psychic power, and could see into people's karma. One day, looking into his student's karma, he saw that, because of something the boy had done long before, he would soon die, and that nothing he ~ the teacher ~ could do would prevent this. The teacher was very sad, so said to the boy: "It is time for you to have a holiday; you have not been home to visit your parents for a long time, so you should go". The young boy went off, and the teacher thought that that would be the last time he saw him, as he expected his karma to soon bring about his death. On the way, the boy came to a stream, which was swollen from rain the previous day, and was still rising. On the bank of the stream, he saw an ants' nest, with the ants running around frantically, fearful of being drowned. Feeling sorry for these tiny creatures, the boy built a wall of mud and stones around their nest, so it would not be flooded. Then he went on his way, and reached his home without anything else happening. He enjoyed his holiday at home, but after some time, he thought: "I've stayed here long enough, and should now go back to my teacher". So he said "Good-bye" to his parents, and set off. When his teacher saw him coming, he was very surprised and happy, and told the boy to tell him all about his holiday, hoping to learn what had happened to save the boy from his imminent karma. So the boy told him about his journey, and his stay at home, about what he had done, what nice food he had eaten, and so on, but he didn't tell about the ants as he considered this not very important, just a minor thing. And the teacher said: "That's very nice, and I'm glad you enjoyed yourself, but are you sure you have told me everything? Was there anything else that happened?" And then the boy remembered, and told him, about the ants. The teacher then understood: "This is what saved his life". The boy thought that it was just a small, ordinary action, but, you know, an act of com-passion is never a small unimportant action, but always a big one.

Let's compare our past bad actions to a glass of black ink. Let's consider that a person has done so much bad in the past. Some people feel that they have done so many bad things before that it's too late to change, that it's no use trying, because they cannot change all the bad they've done, so must just continue. That is wrong and weak thinking. If your bad actions can be compared to black ink, let us compare your good actions to water. Now, if you have a piece of cloth, a white handkerchief or something, and dip it into the glass of black ink, what colour would the cloth become? Black, of course. Okay, let's put the glass of ink into a pail of water, and then dip a white cloth into it. What colour would the cloth become? Black, but not very black. And if you then take this inky water, and throw it into the sea, and then dip your white cloth into the sea, what colour would your white cloth be? Maybe a little bit dirty, but it would not be black from the ink. So, with the good, we neutralize the bad. And you can do that here, in the present. Many of you have been here for a long time, some of you for four years, and people tend to be-come resigned to it, thinking that there is nothing they can do about it. "I do not know anyone in JVA (Joint Voluntary Agencies), or the Australian or Canadian delegations; so there's nothing I can do", they think. Again, that is not true, not true at all; there is a lot that you can do. It might seem that what you can do here will not affect your resettlement chances. But try to put more water in the ink. It is because we have so much ink that we fall into bad conditions. Everything changes. This is the foundation of Buddhism. The Law of Life is Change. We hate change when we are happy, but when we are sad and miserable, we think change is good. Remember: everything changes. You may just sit back and wait until something good from your past comes up, of course. That would be like a person getting on an escalator ~ a moving staircase ~ in a big department-store, and being carried up. But, if you try to do something here to improve your karma, that would be like getting on the escalator, and walking up it, too. If you walk up the escala-tor, instead of just letting it carry you up, you will get to the top much faster. But I think many people don't know what an escalator is. Are there any escalators in Vietnam? Maybe in the big stores of Saigon, but certainly not in the countryside. But maybe you have seen them in the movies.

Doing good has many effects. It has the immediate effect of making us feel: "I have done something useful and beneficial to others". Everything that we do affects others, whether we can see it or not. So you should not think that what you do will be of no use. Many people pray for help, but not many people know how to pray. When they pray, they focus their attention on a person or a being or a god, and narrow down the transmission. Of-ten, they look up to the sky while they pray; but what we here call 'up', to people on the other side of the Earth is 'down'. Actually, there is no up or down; if you could go into space on a space-ship, you would not know which way was up and which way was down. So, people send out their prayers to the sky above, thinking that that is the only direction they can get help or answers from. Also, people often ask in selfish ways; some people pray only when they are in danger or in need. I think that we are like radio-stations, sending out messages. A radio-station does not transmit only in a particular di-rection, but in all directions. Our prayers should be sent out in all directions, too, and we should be clear in our minds about what it is we want or need. There is no need to use many words; the shorter and more concentrated, the better. For example, if you really want to go to Australia, fix in your mind a picture of a map of Australia. But you cannot just go to Australia, because Australia is such a huge country; you could go to Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, or somewhere else, so you first decide which place you would like to go to, and see it on the map in your mind; see yourself going to the place you would like to go. If you would like to go to Perth, for example, see Perth on your map, and send out your message, strongly, in all directions: "I want to go to Perth", so wherever the Australian-delegation officers are, maybe they will catch your message somehow. If you are sending your message in that direction only, but the officers are not over there, it will not reach them. We must send out our messages in every direction, strong and clear. But this should be done only in special cases of need, like yours now, and not all the time for just whatever we want, like "I want a candy-bar" (or a hot-dog); not for things like that.

Also, we should not pray only for ourselves; remember that we share this Earth with many other people; if we pray for others around us, we also pray for ourselves at the same time. You know, Quan Am made a vow not to enter Nirvana until everyone else had gone first. We should not always think about ourselves; when we help others, we also help ourselves.

Are there any questions about Karma? Do you understand how you can change things? Some people say that, in this time, it is no longer possible to follow the Buddha's Way and reach the Goal. But I do not accept that, and I would say to people who think and say that: "Just because you have not reached the Goal does not mean to say that other people cannot reach it". It would be like a person who has never seen a ghost saying that there are no ghosts; he would not be qualified to say so. There are many people who have seen ghosts. Who would be qualified to talk about ghosts ~ the person who has seen, or the person who has not seen? It is silly to talk about things that we have no knowledge of people who are lazy and who do not want to make the effort to follow the Way repeat those stories; but a person who is not lazy says: "Well, I don't know. Maybe; let me try."

Now, the fruit that we eat: this has surely grown from seeds before it; we can deduce that. But will every seed in the fruit that we eat today grow and produce fruit in the fu-ture? Let's talk about beans ~ something very common. The beans that we eat came from seed, no? But when we eat these beans, surely they will not grow and produce more beans. We can look back from the present to the past, and say: "This fruit came from a seed", and be sure about that. But the seed that we have now, we cannot say for certain ~ 100% that it will grow and produce fruit. We can see from the present back to the past, but we cannot see from the present to the future.

Everything that happens is the result of many causes ~ just like your huts here are built of many poles, not just one. Everything has many causes. Usually, we can see only very few of the causes of anything, but we can be sure that there are many more. If we plant seeds today, we cannot be sure that they will grow. We can water them, and take care that birds don't eat them, or dogs scratch them up, but we cannot make them grow. Maybe they will grow, maybe not, because there are many other things necessary for them to grow. And the same with our actions: if there are the right conditions altogether for them to grow into results, then they will grow. Let us examine the action of killing: When we are walking along, sometimes we step on small insects, like ants, and they die, especially in the night, when we cannot see well. Do we kill them? No. Why? If we step on them, and they die, have we not killed them? Not necessarily. For the karma of killing to be complete, five factors must be present:

First: There must be a living being.
Second: It must be recognized to be a living being.
Third: There must be the intention to kill it.
Fourth: There must be the effort made to kill it.
Fifth: It must die as a result of that effort.

When all those five factors are complete, the karma of killing has been made. But if even one of them is absent, even though the being dies, killing has not been committed. How-ever, maybe another type of karma has been made; that would depend mainly upon the intention in the mind of the doer.

In India, there is a religion known as Jainism. It is an old religion, and began about the same time as Buddhism. Jainism teaches that everything we do, intentionally or uninten-tionally, will come back to us. So, even today, you can see some Jains wearing face-masks, like doctors, so that they will not unintentionally breathe in any small insects. Some of them also carry a broom with them to sweep the way before they walk, and fil-ter their water so that they won't drink in any small creatures.

But the Buddha's teachings about karma are not like this. Once, some monks went to visit the Buddha, but before they got to the place where He was, they saw a monk pac-ing slowly up and down in meditation, and they were surprised to see that, as he walked, he stepped on small insects like ants and beetles. They said: "Just look at this! Our first rule is not to kill anything. We must report this monk to the Buddha". So they found the Buddha, greeted Him respectfully, and after telling Him where they had come from, about their journey, and so on, they told Him about the monk. The Buddha then said: "But you do not know all the facts. That monk is blind, and cannot see where he is walk-ing. His blindness is the result of something he did long ago in a former lifetime. But now, in this life, he has attained Enlightenment, and is an Arahant". An Arahant is with-out intention of any kind; he makes no more karma. He does not kill because he has no intention to kill. This occasion gave the Buddha an opportunity to explain very clearly about Karma; He said: "It is intention that is Karma". So, without the intention to kill, there is no killing, even though there is death.

Do you have any more questions about this subject? It is an important subject. A Bud-dhist would not say that we are punished for our sins, but instead, that we are punished by our sins. There is a big difference here. No other questions about this? Any questions about anything else, then?

Some people have told me that they will be sad when I leave here tomorrow. I don't know why. You make me more important than I am. But after a few days, you will forget me, and that's okay; that's good; that's how it should be. My personality, my friendship, is very limited; don't become involved with that; it's not important at all. I'm not here to ex-tend my friendship to you; I want to give you something more important than that. During my wanderings, I have met many kind people who have helped me, and I'm very grateful for that, and remember them fondly. But there were also some bad people who helped me; perhaps they didn't know that they were helping me, but I got something from them, and so am grateful to the bad people, too. Actually, bad people are often good teachers; they teach us what not to do. The Communists are good teachers: they teach us not to be like them. Can you learn? If you can observe the bad things they do, and learn not to do those things yourselves, then you can benefit from them; but if you do the same kind of things that they have done and do, then you are even worse than theml If our minds and eyes are open, then we can learn from anyone and anything. It doesn't matter who we learn from so long as we learn. If you are lost in a forest, .and don't know the way out, you will ask anyone you meet there, "Please tell me the way out"; it doesn't matter who that person is, good or bad, young or old, male or female, educated or uneducated, as long as that person tells you the way out. So we should not be too much involved with personality. Our ability to speak is wonderful, but we do not remember all the people who helped us to learn our language, do we? Some, we do remember: our teachers, parents, brothers, sisters, friends, and so on, but there are many people who taught us some things who we do not remember. Well, it's not necessary to remember everyone who taught us something; what they taught us is more important. I came here to try to share something with you, and maybe to show you that there are different ways of look-ing at things. You should try to look at your situation in different ways, to see what you can make of it. It is like having a piece of cloth, let us say one square meter: from that meter of cloth, you cannot make a tent, you cannot make a long dress, or curtains for the whole house; but you do not throw it away as useless just because you cannot make such things from it, do you? You look at it to see what could be made from it. So, in this situation, see what you can make from it; Don't just sit around and wait for someone to come along and help you, but use your opportunities; there are many things that can be made from them.

Question: “Please explain more about Karma.”

Karma is inside our minds. The Mind has no size or shape, or colour, or weight; it cannot be seen or measured, but that doesn't mean that it's not there. In recent years, in the West, there have been many experiments done with hypnosis. Hypnosis means helping people to relax so completely that there is no tension or strain, no resistance, no control-ling of anything. In this state, people can be told to remember and re-live their past; they can be told: "Now you are ten years old, five years ...three years ...six months ...one month ...ten days ...What are you doing at that age?" They can be regressed to the mo-ment of their birth, and further back. They can explain what it was like when they were inside their mother's womb. Some people can be sent back to the moment of concep-tion. Some can even recall their previous life, or lives, under hypnosis, and can give in-formation that can later be verified. Under hypnosis, some people are able to speak fluently in languages that they have never learned before ~ at least, not in their present life.

There was an American by the name of Edgar Cayce, who, for many years of his life, until he died in 1945, was able to put himself under hypnosis, and having just the name and address of a person, he could see that person, even if he/she were thousands of miles away, as if they were in the same room together. And if the person were sick, this man Cayce could diagnose the sickness and prescribe a cure for it, even though he was not a doctor and knew nothing about medicine in his normal state of mind, and even though qualified doctors had failed to diagnose and cure that sickness. There were many cases of him diagnosing and curing sicknesses in this manner.

There was the case of a young man who had been diagnosed by a doctor as insane, and had been ordered sent to a mental institution. But his parents had heard of Edgar Cayce, and wrote to him asking him to try to help their son. Under hypnosis, Cayce could see the young man, and said: "One of his molar teeth is pressing on a nerve to the brain, and is causing the problem. Remove the tooth, and it will be alright". When the offending tooth was removed, the man was alright, just as Cayce had said.

Now, not only could this man diagnose and prescribe cures for diseases that doctors had been unable to cure, but he could see people's past lives, too. Sometimes, people would write to him and ask him to look back into their past lives to see what caused their present problems. And one person who had asked him was a young woman who would have been beautiful if she had not been so fat. So he looked back into her past, and found the cause of her problem. "You used to be a very beautiful athlete in a former life", he told her, "but you were too proud of this, and used to make fun of others who were not as beautiful as you. Your cruel laughter now comes back to you in this form".

Another person who was a victim of her own laughter was a young woman who suffered from TB of the hip. Cayce looked back into her past, and saw that she used to like to at-tend the Games in ancient Rome, where people were thrown to the lions in the arena, and tortured in other cruel ways; people attended these Games then as people now go to watch football-games. This woman had gone to the Games to enjoy the savage shows, and had laughed in particular when a young slave-girl had her side torn open by a lion. The result of her mocking laughter was the disease of her hip. So, we must be very careful when we laugh, not to hurt others by our laughter. I have often seen children tormenting other children who were poor, ugly, or deformed, causing them more suffer-ing thereby. That is a cause of future suffering for those tormentors, I feel. It is because we lack compassion that we laugh at others in such ways. We do not like others to laugh at us if/ when we are unfortunate, so we should never laugh at others. If we cannot help, we should not hinder. Our karma is really our life, our life is our karma; we reap what we have sown. Life is like a stream that flows on and on. Death is not the end, but only a transformation, a change of clothes, and the stream flows on until it reaches the Sea.

Question: “A person's physical body canes from the union of the male's sperm, and the female's egg. But what about the soul? Why does it come from?”

In Buddhism, we do not use the word 'soul' or 'spirit', and when we use the word 'heart' it does not mean the organ that pumps blood, but the emotional aspect of the mind as apart from the intellectual aspect; in reality, however, these two aspects are not sepa-rate, but complementary, like compassion and wisdom, and must be brought into bal-ance.

A human being is composed of two main parts: physical and mental, body and mind. If we examine them closely, we will see that, like everything else, they change constantly; we cannot find anything about 'us' that remains the same from moment-to-moment, and that does not change. Hence, Buddhism does not talk about 'soul', since that word is generally used to mean something immortal and unchanging, and Buddhism denies that there is anything of this nature in our physical-mental make-up. It teaches, instead, that there is a process of life ~ a process of evolution, if you like ~ by which we pass through a series of many lives, until finally, we attain Enlightenment, and are no more subject to Birth and Death. It should be stressed, however, that Enlightenment is not something of the ego, the self, the personality, but rather, liberation from such. However, at our stage of evolution, Enlightenment is not something that we can profitably talk about, and the beginning of life is an even less-profitable subject. Scientists are continually coming up with new hypotheses about the origin of life, the origin of the Universe. But the beginning of things is not to be imagined, let alone discovered and proved, because there is always something before everything, stretching back, like an endless chain, into Infinity. It is a waste of time trying to find out about the beginning, because our time, our life, is rapidly running out; we are not going to live forever. And if we knew about the past, who we were in our past lives, how life began, and so on, it would not change the present situa-tion. It might satisfy our curiosity a little, but it would not remove us from where we are now. The present is the most important time of all, because it is the only time we have. Use it wisely, therefore.

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