A SURE SIGN
OF THE PROPER DHARMA
The Venerable Masterís Lecture in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, on
November 9-10, 1988
Translated and copyright by the Buddhist Text Translation Society
NA MO SA DAN TUO
SU QIE DUO YE
E LA HE DI
SAN PU TUO XIE
NA MO SA DAN TUO
FO TUO JU ZHI SHAI NI SHAN
NA MO SA
BO TUO BO DI
SA DUO PI BI
NA MO SA DUO NAN
SAN MIAO SAN PU
TUO JU ZHI NAN
SUO SHE LA PO JIA
SENG QIE NAN
NA MO LU JI E LUO HAN
NA MO SU LU DUO BO NUO NAN
NA MO SUO JIE LI TUO QIE MI NAN
NA MO LU JI SAN MIAO QIE DUO NAN
SAN MIAO QIE BO LA
DI BO DUO NUO
NA MO TI PO LI SHAI NAN
NA MO XI TUO YE
PI DI YE
TUO LA LI
SHE PO NU
JIE LA HE
SUO HE SUO LA MO TUO NAN
NA MO BA
LA HE MO NI
NA MO YIN TUO LA YE
I just recited the first twenty-eight
lines of the Shurangama Mantra. These twenty-eight lines tell us to take refuge
in all the Buddhas, all the Bodhisattvas, all the Hearers, all Those Enlightened
by Conditions, and all the gods throughout empty space and the Dharma Realm. The
last line, "Na mo yin tuo la ye," refers to what Chinese people call the Jade
Emperor. Those who do not understand the Buddhadharma say, "The Jade Emperor
belongs to Taoism. We shouldnít bow to him." They donít realize that the Jade
Emperor is just Lord Shakra. As Buddhist disciples, we should also respect him
and gather him in. This first section of the Shurangama Mantra is the section
for protecting and supporting the Triple Jewel. Therefore, when this section is
recited, all the demons, goblins, ghosts, and other strange creatures flee far
away. They retreat as far as they can go.
Therefore, in Buddhism it is said
that if there is even one person in the world who can recite the Shurangama
Mantra, then the demons, goblins, ghosts, and all the other weird creatures will
not dare to openly show themselves in the world. If not even one person can
recite the Shurangama Mantra from memory, then at that point all the demons,
goblins, ghosts, and all the other weird creatures will appear in the world.
They will wreak havoc, but no one will recognize them. Right now, since there
are still people who can recite the Shurangama Mantra, the demons, goblins,
ghosts, and all the other weird creatures donít dare to openly show themselves
in the world. There is a verse that expresses the meaning of this section of the
A thousand red lotuses protect oneís body.
As one sits astride a
Seeing this, the myriad demons go away to hide.
Master Ji Gong had this wonderful sound.
A thousand red lotuses protect
oneís body. A thousand red lotuses come to protect your body. As one sits
astride a black unicorn. When you recite the mantra, you are sitting astride a
unicorn. Seeing this, the myriad demons go away to hide. They all flee, because
they are afraid to face such awesome virtue.
We all know about the character
Ji Gong in Buddhism. In his time, Ji Gong used this section of mantra, so the
verse says that Dharma Master Ji Gong had this wonderful sound. This verse gives
the general meaning of this section of the Mantra text. If we were to go into
detail, the Shurangama Mantra is wonderful beyond words. Thus it is also said:
The esoteric wonder is inexhaustible;
it is truly difficult
The secret words of Vajra come from the inherent nature.
Shurangama Mantra contains miraculous wonders.
Cultivators and ordinary
people can open
the Five Eyes and Six Penetrations.
esoteric wonder is inexhaustible; it is truly difficult to fathom. The
Shurangama Mantra is extremely wonderful, and its transformations are
inconceivable. It is very difficult to fathom. The secret words of Vajra come
from the inherent nature. The secret words of Vajra, the Shurangama Mantra, is
the secret within the secret. It is Vajra that supports and protects this
mantra, which comes from our own Buddha-nature. The Shurangama Mantra contains
miraculous wonders. The Shurangama Mantra is also known as a magical text. It is
very miraculous and especially potent. Thatís why itís said, "The Shurangama
Mantra contains miraculous wonders." Cultivators and ordinary people can open
the Five Eyes and Six Penetrations. If you constantly recite the Shurangama
Mantra with single-minded concentration, not thinking of anything else, you can
attain the Five Eyes and the Six Penetrations. You can experience inconceivable
states and transformations which are beyond the understanding of ordinary
people. Therefore, I hope everyone will study and recite the Shurangama Sutra
and will recite the Shurangama Mantra from memory.
Most scholars say the
Shurangama Sutra is false and claim that it was not spoken by the Buddha. They
say they have various pieces of evidence and documents to support their claim.
This is all because they fear the Shurangama Sutra and have no way to deal with
the principles in the Shurangama Sutra. What they fear most in the Shurangama
Sutra are the Four Clear Instructions on Purity. The Four Clear Instructions on
Purity serve as a demon-spotting mirror. All the demons, goblins, ghosts, and
weird creatures are reflected in their true form. Furthermore, the section on
the Fifty Skandha-demons exposes the celestial demons and externalists to the
bone, enabling people to recognize their demonic appearance. Anyone who can
memorize the Shurangama Sutra is a true disciple of the Buddha.
declining period of the Buddhadharma, the first Sutra to disappear will be the
Shurangama Sutra. Why will it disappear? Because these so-called scholars,
professors, and even left-home people all claim it is false. Over time, their
theory will become widespread, and people will all believe what they say and
take the Shurangama Sutra to be false. Even Buddhist disciples will consider it
false, and after a while the Sutra will disappear. Thatís how the Sutras become
extinct; people no longer study them, so they disappear.
In the Shurangama
Sutra, the Four Clear Instructions on Purityówhich explain killing, stealing,
lust, and lyingóare absolutely accurate and definite. Thatís why those scholars
and professors fear the Four Clear Instructions on Purity. They only want to
listen to muddled instructions, and they are terribly afraid of the Clear
Instructions. If they admitted that the Shurangama Sutra is true, they would
have no ground to stand upon. They would not be able to defend their smoking,
drinking, and womanizing, for everyone would know them for what they are. The
principles of the Shurangama Sutra are extremely accurate, extremely logical,
and as clear as can be. Thatís why the entire Shurangama Sutra is a
demon-spotting mirror. When this demon-spotting mirror is hung up, the demons,
goblins, ghosts, and weird creatures are frightened out of their wits.
what I have just said about the Shurangama Sutra and the Shurangama Mantra does
not accord with the Buddhasí mind and the Sutraís meaning, and if the Shurangama
Sutra is really false, I am willing to stay forever in the hells and never come
out to see the people in the world. Although I am a stupid person, I am not so
foolish that I would want to go to the hells and never come out. For that
reason, you should all deeply believe in the Shurangama Sutra and the Shurangama
What I have just said is my vow. If what I said does not accord with
the Buddhasí mind, I am willing to go to the hells. I now request the infinite,
endless, eternally dwelling Buddhas, Dharma, and Sanghaóthe Triple Jewel in the
ten directions throughout empty space and the Dharma Realmóto silently certify
what I have said and to enable all living beings to quickly realize the Buddha
I also request the Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas in the ten directions; the
Sound Hearers and Those Enlightened by Conditions in the ten directions; all the
Worthies and Sages in the Sangha; and all the Dharma-protecting gods of the
Radiant Assembly to emit light and shine upon all living beings, enabling them
to leave suffering, attain bliss, and be liberated from birth and death.
also pray that all of you Good and Wise Advisors will instruct me if I have said
something that disagrees with the Buddhadharma. Although I am not intelligent, I
hope you will try to teach me. Since I am a very stupid person with limited
views, my words are far from perfect. Whether you are a left-home person or a
layperson, I hope you will kindly teach me. I shall bow in respect and be
grateful all my life.
If there is anyone who recites the Shurangama Sutra, I
am willing to serve and make offerings to such a cultivator all my life. When
the Proper Dharma prospers, the Shurangama prospers. When the Proper Dharma
declines, the Shurangama becomes extinct. From this, you should all realize how
important the Shurangama Sutra is in Buddhism.
"The Shurangama is for
opening wisdom. The Dharma Flower is for becoming a Buddha. The Avatamsaka is
for teaching living beings." Therefore, in America I started out by lecturing on
the Shurangama Sutra to a group of over thirty students from the University of
Washington in Seattle. During the ninety-six days of summer vacation, I lectured
on the Shurangama Sutra to those college students. During that time, there was
only a half dayís break on Saturdays. Aside from that, I lectured on the Sutra
every day, and they all took notes. In the beginning, I lectured once a day, and
then they studied on their own. After half a month, I assessed the time and the
length of the Shurangama Sutra. Fearing that I might not finish in time, I began
lecturing twice a day. After a while, I calculated again and decided that I
still would not be able to finish, so I started lecturing three times a day.
Finally, in the last half month or more, I lectured four times a day.
the Summer Shurangama Study and Cultivation Session, not only did I lecture on
the Sutra, I also cooked the meals, made tea, and did the grocery shopping and
everything else for them. You could say I single-handedly took on all the
monastic chores. Of course I could have asked the students to take turns
working, but I did not want to interfere with their cultivation and study of the
Sutra. So I didnít let a single person help. Although I dare not say I was
practicing the Bodhisattva Way, if people wanted to study the Shurangama Sutra,
I was willing to dedicate my life to serve and support them. After ninety-six
days, I finished lecturing on the Shurangama Sutra. With the end of this
lecture, people in America were beginning to give recognition to Buddhism.
At the end of the Shurangama Sutra lecture series, five people left the
home-life. On New Yearís Day, I said to the assembly, "This year, five lotuses
will bloom in American Buddhism. In the future, these five lotuses will spread
Buddhism in the West." Thatís what I said then.
After they graduated from
the Summer Shurangama Study and Cultivation Session, five Americans left the
home-life. I sent them to Hai Hui (Sea-like Assembly) Monastery in Taiwan to
receive the precepts. The Good and Wise Advisors in Taiwan told them, "The
present time is the Dharma-ending Age. No one cultivates anymore. Youíre still
eating one meal a day? Youíve been cheated by your teacher." When my American
disciples heard this, they thought, "Oh, so weíve been cheated by our teacher.
What should we do?" The Good and Wise Advisors said, "Well, go ahead and eat.
Drink wine and eat meat." The five people started to have doubts about Buddhism.
"Why did our teacher teach us to eat one meal a day, and now they tell us we
should eat in the morning and evening as well? Whatís going on? There must be
something wrong here." Their minds were swayed and they wanted to start eating
more meals, but they had a meeting and decided to go back and make sure before
they did that. They also told the Good and Wise Advisors in Taiwan that they
slept sitting up. Some people in Taiwan told them, "You sleep sitting up? People
did that when the Buddha was in the world. Now the Buddha isnít around anymore,
so why do you do it? Itís really a case of Americans being cheated by the
What happened then? When they returned, they got mischievous. They
said, "In Taiwan, everyone eats three meals a day. We shouldnít eat just one
meal." They acted naughty with me. They said more, but I donít remember that
much. It took more than three months before their doubts were resolved.
that time, some people in Taiwan would say, "Dharma Master Hsuan Hua has taken
some hippies as disciples in America. There are many hippies hanging out in
Golden Gate Park, and Dharma Master Hsuan Hua goes there to meditate. When the
hippies see him meditating, theyíre curious and go up to talk to him. Then
Dharma Master Hsuan Hua tells them to go visit the temple. They go to the temple
and find that the life-style there is pretty similar to their hippie life-style,
so they all leave the home-life."
There is another rumor in Taiwan: "You
know what? Dharma Master Hsuan Hua takes drugs with the hippies in America. The
hippies take LSD and marijuana. They can get high on just one capsule of LSD and
feel as carefree as if they were in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. But Dharma
Master Hsuan Hua can take more than ten capsules without being affected in the
least. He doesnít get high or feel as carefree as if he were in the Land of
Ultimate Bliss. Thatís why all those hippies admire him and left the home-life
under him. Donít believe in him."
You can talk back and forth, but whether
they are hippies or not does not matter. He who works hard in cultivation is
good. He who does not work hard in cultivation is not good. If he is not a
hippie, but he does not cultivate, thatís not good. If he is a hippie and he
cultivates, thatís just as good. Therefore, in Buddhism, mere talking about
cultivation doesnít count. There must be real practice and real benefit. Donít
just say, "I have concentration. I have this samadhi or that samadhi." And
another person also comes up with another kind of samadhi.
Now I will tell
everyone about some lines that I thought of:
Paying lip service to samadhi,
They say, "I am right and you are wrong."
In time, their original
appearance is revealed,
And they are covered with offenses.
is saying that people just pay lip service to Buddhism and treat it as childís
play. They talk carelessly without taking responsibility for cause and effect.
Who will fall into the Hell of Ripping Out Tongues? Precisely that kind of
person. When they get there, their tongues will be ripped out and they wonít be
able to talk anymore. In their minds they will think, "What a mess Iím in. If I
knew this was going to happen, I wouldnít have fooled around like that."
They always paid lip service to samadhi, saying, "Iím right. Youíre wrong
about every-thing. Even if you were right, Iíd say you were wrong. And if youíre
wrong, I also say youíre wrong." Would you say that is just? In everything, they
say "I am right and you are wrong." In time, their original appearance is
After a long distance, one will know
After a long time, one will see
a personís heart.
In time, their true form is uncovered. And they are covered with offenses.
Their bodies are covered by offense karma. They enter the Hell of Ripping Out
Tongues without even realizing it.
"Dharma Master, donít scold people. As
you speak the Dharma, why are you scolding people?" you ask. I am not scolding
anyone. I bow to the ants and mosquitoes every day; how would I dare to scold
people? But I cannot refrain from telling the truth. The truth is just like
Let me tell you, itís just those people that criticize me who have
taught and helped me, making me the way I am today. So the people who criticize
and slander me are all my Good and Wise Advisors. They are all my teachers. My
teachers all pay lip service to Chan. I know how to do it because I learned it
from my teachers.
I have another verse:
All people are my teachers.
I am a teacher for all people.
I always teach myself.
I myself am
always a teacher.
"All people are my teachers." Everyone is my teacher. As
long as you have blood and breath, I want to learn from you. If you are good, I
learn the good. If you are bad, I learn the bad. I want to learn until I am a
martial arts expert, skilled in all weapons. That way, when I am challenged to a
fight, I will have many winning moves. "I am a teacher for all people." I am
also everyoneís teacher. "I always teach myself." I am very often a teacher for
myself. I am also constantly a teacher for others. That way, everyone can
encourage one another to vigorously advance on the Bodhi Way. Letís not linger
in the Saha world, scheming and calculating about wins and losses. Letís see who
will reach the Land of Ultimate Bliss first!
Someone says, "Dharma Master,
you keep arguing and refusing to admit that you are scolding people. Do you
admit it? If you admit that you are scolding people, then you wonít scold them
anymore. Right?" But the one who scolds people is like "one who spits up into
the skies, and gets the spit back on his own face." We should like being
scolded, because when people scold us, they are giving us fertilizer. Our fields
are not fertile, so they need to be fertilized. Then our crops will be abundant
and our fruits will thrive.
"Dharma Master, you just said that all people
are your teachers. But there are good people and bad people, and if you take
them all as teachers, you will learn to be both good and bad," you object. You
have mis-understood. When I say "All people are my teachers," I mean that good
people teach me how I should be, and I learn to be like them. Bad people teach
me how I should not be, and I learn not to be like them. Thatís why all people
are my teachers.
"I always teach myself." We ourselves must always be alert
and not make mistakes, not act in ignorance. We should use bright wisdom in
handling all matters instead of using stupidity and ignorance to take care of
things. We must turn states around, rather than be turned by states. "Do not
fail to perform a good deed, thinking it is trivial. Do not perform an evil
deed, thinking it is insignificant." Donít think, "That good deed is trivial.
Iím not going to do it. That bad deed is really minor. Iíll go ahead and do it.
It doesnít matter." For example, you think, "Iím vegetarian, but it wonít matter
if I eat an egg." But in the future when you are reborn as a chicken, you will
know that it was because you ate chicken eggs. If you are not clear in these
small matters, then you are "mixing good and evil, and the retribution will not
be off." Itís not fun at all.
Iíve gone kind of crazy today, and I donít
really know what Iím saying. If I have offended you, please come up and give me
a beating or scolding. I will be very delighted.