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"Believing and Practicing: So You Think You Are Good Enough?" by Yin Hwee (Chuan Yin)

One winter, I woke up early in the morning to do my daily routine of cleaning the shrine in my room. As I examined the Medicine Buddha crystal pagoda, I thought, “This looks pretty clean to me. Seemslike I don’t need to spend much time on it!” Then I had another thought. “Well, I have plenty of time to spare today. Why don’t I just clean it thoroughly till it sparkles?”

As I took the pagoda to wipe it, a ray of sunshine shone through the window, making the house brighter. I was surprised to see that the “clean” crystal pagoda was actually covered with dust. I imagined that if it had been a summer morning, I would have seen dust flying all around my house very clearly.

This was a “light bulb” moment for me. I realized that sunshine is like the light of the Buddha’s teachings. The Buddha reveals to us the root of mental disturbances and sufferings (the dust), and showed us the way to liberate ourselves (the cleaning). His teachings are a brighter, clearer, more complete view of life and the nature of the universe.

Under the dim light (lay person’s eyes), many people understand that there are consequences for committing bad actions. They think that as long as they do positive things and have a good heart, having faith in any religion is unimportant. Some people say, “It’s sufficient to believe in Buddha, there is no need to cling to becoming a vegetarian.” I once saw this kind of comment as a personal preference and I would respect other people’s choices. But after attending meditation classes at the Buddha Mind Monastery, and reading the Sutra of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, I realize that practicing Buddhism in addition to faith makes a huge difference.

Buddhism empowers us with the ability and strength to understand, train, and control our minds. By taking control of our minds with practice, we take control of our actions, too. Every thought in our minds counts. Every thought may be crucial to bring us closer to heaven or cost us a trillion years of suffering in hell. Therefore, we need to train ourselves to be the masters of our minds and be able to differentiate between the good thoughts and the bad thoughts that arise from moment to moment to bring about positive actions and prevent negative ones.

Simply abiding by the precepts is not enough. We should go deeper and understand why we should not have bad thoughts that would lead to bad actions in the first place. Although we might all appear to be good people under the dim light, we all still have room to improve under the Buddha’s light. This is why Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s vow to liberate all sentient beings is never ending. The sentient beings’ minds alternate between good and bad very fast, and cause them to go back and forth between the good realms and the lowly realms just as fast.

The Chung Tai Chan Monastery and all its meditation centers have the common goal with the Bodhisattvas to transfer the Buddha’s teachings to everyone within reach, using many methods that are convenient and acceptable to lay people. Their compassionate wish is for us to be able to understand and take control of our own mind, and have a pure mind like the Buddha.

If we do not believe in the Buddha and our Buddha nature, our world is in darkness. If we only believe in the Buddha and do not practice, our mind will still be in darkness, which will be a disappointment to our Dharma teachers. If we rely on our own understanding to practice Buddhism, we might get lost on our path and deviate from the truth. We should all accept the Buddhist monks’ and nuns’ teachings with humbleness and utmost respect, and practice diligently at the same time. We should be thankful that there is someone with higher wisdom here to help us live a better life. I am confident that following in their footsteps will lead us to a brighter, broader life, and ensure that we never get lost in the dark anymore.


 

 

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