Dharma Bliss Content:



Excerpts from
Open Your Eyes, Take A Look At The World
A Published Journal of Tour to Asia 1978

In scientific investigation, there is both theory and experimentation. In Buddhism, the two functions are fused. The sutras are the theory; your actual practice through cultivation is the experimentation.


Parallels between physical laws and Buddhism:

"The difference between material bodies and human beings is that with the former you work with unchanging variables; with human beings you work with an independent variable which I’ll call ‘human freedom’. The input may be the same, but the reaction of each mind is different."

Last night we discussed confused belief (superstition) at Klang. There is "confused belief" and "belief in confusion". In the former case there is still hope, for here, although people follow superstitious customs, they still have some faith, and their faith can be ameliorated into belief in something true. The latter case – the belief in confusion – is more serious, because it means belief in deviant knowledge and views – deliberate belief in improper dharmas.

Why are people so confused? Because they haven’t the faintest idea where they come from and where they’ll end up. You look at yourselves daily in the mirror and the reflection you see is not the real you. If you want the truth, you have to find out who you really are. Everybody is confused by the five desires: wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep. I bet there is no one amongst you who has not calculated about money: "How much money am I going to get from a job? What pretty wife or big house can I afford?" 


Cultivators should be in control of states;
States should not turn people.
Cultivators should not get angry;
No matter what state they encounter.


Do not live as if drunk and die as if in a dream. Find out who you really are. Start out by becoming a good person: be filial to your parents, reasonable with your husband or wife, trustworthy to your colleagues. Be an honest person in society; don’t live off the fat of others. Cultivating Buddhism is just this: in all you do, respectfully offer up the good, and do not do the least bit of evil. Right within everyday affairs makes you models. If each Buddhist can take on this responsibility, there is no fear that Buddhism will not flourish in the entire world."

When people have Om Mani Padme Hom mantra ghosts in their minds, then people are afraid of ghosts; when people have no ghosts in their minds, then the ghosts are afraid of people!


Question: "Where do people come from?"

Answer: Have you seen bugs in grains of rice? Originally there was nothing, then suddenly the bugs appear, as if from nowhere. People arise from real emptiness, according to a similar principle.


Ego dies hard

The "self" has a million transformations. Some are gross enough to detect right off the bat, some are very subtle: seeds of defilement hidden in the eighth consciousness that float around like dust particles in the air. Just as it is hard to perceive dust motes in empty space, it is equally as hard to perceive the almost imperceptible, crooked ways with which we cheat ourselves. And so we make excuses lifetime after lifetime, never really growing up.

The ego will try any trick to avoid direct confrontation with the truth: that the self is basically empty. I for one have had several close brushes with death already, and I’ve found that the "ego" is willing to commit suicide before it’ll own up on to the truth. It’s bad, a spoiled brat.

What is the antidote? Practicing the Three Studies of Non Outflow: Precepts, Concentration, and Wisdom. They are designed to directly plug the leaks caused by the three poisons: greed, anger, and stupidity.

Your mind is the world’s most subtle and delicate instrument. The more you plug up the leaks, the more precise and fine-honed your instrument becomes. It’s the archer who in the end makes himself the target.



Anger is another manifestation of ignorance, wu-ming (literally, "without light"). It is an ugly, writhing dragon, or a ripping hurricane, that hurls all beings into its mad, destructive violence. When you get angry with people, or direct hateful or jealous thoughts towards them, you kill them with your nature. The result is as lethal as if you were smiting them with a club or knife. When you get angry with yourself, you kill the living beings within your own nature. In either case it causes pain and offence karma.


A single thought of hatred arises,  A million doors of obstruction open up.


Back and forth we vacillate, suspended by a thin red thread - as thin as the single trace of a false thought. We perpetuate this song-and-dance number, perhaps for great aeons, ensnared in the prison of "self".

Yet, when you come right down to it, it’s still this desire business that is keeping us in tow. This is the worst addiction: we are desire junkies. Without any desire, there is no more world, no more the four marks of self, others, living beings, and a lifespan.

If you truly forget your offenses – truly – then both mind and offenses are extinguished. This is called real repentance and reform. (Sixth Patriarch)

How simple and condensed can the theory of Buddhism be? It is simply the study of the Truth. Surely, investigating Dhyana (Ch’an) is the most opportune dharma door for living beings of our age.

Question: "You say that in order to cultivate and end birth and death we have to cut off desire. What is meant by that, and how does one cut off desire?"

Answer: "What is your motive for asking this question? If you do not want to cut off desire, why bother to ask? Do you think this is just a joke?" "You don’t want to cut off desire, you can’t put it down, so why bother? Do you think cutting off desire is as easy as asking the question? Not to speak of you – a layperson – how many old monks haven’t cut it off!"

"So you think it only takes asking a question to cut off desire. You aren’t even qualified to ask! First you haven’t left the home life, and that is the number one pre-requisite which you have not fulfilled. Besides, you don’t really want to put it down."

A superior man has the knowledge of creating his own life. Your destiny is determined by you, blessings you seek for yourself. Disasters and blessings have no door, they arrive through your own beckoning. The retribution of good and evil follows one like a shadow.

Last night there was a question as to how the Dharma wheel is turned; actually, people turn the people-dharma wheel, dogs turn the dog-dharma wheel, and cats turn the cat-dharma wheel. If you understand, then the dharma you hear is one of wisdom. If you do not understand, the dharma you hear will be one of stupidity. These are very simple words, but if you truly carry them with you, they will be worth a lifetime use. If you understand, you will no longer do upside-down things, be turned by money and fame, and upon death go wailing with empty hands.

Birth and Death Blues:

For cultivators there is no moment for "laying back", no time to shoot the breeze or take a snooze, no vacations or sabbaticals. If there aren’t any tests at hand, you can be quite sure that something’s amiss: either you’ve fallen or you’re walking right into a storm. The harder you try to cut bad habits, the harder they flare up in protest.

What is Buddhadharma? Let me ask you, what isn’t Buddhadharma? All Dharmas are just the Buddhadharma. Just the everyday common affairs of eating, putting on clothes, sleeping – all this is part of the Buddhadharma. It is a pity that we are immersed every second in Buddhadharma and yet do not recognize it. We go outside seeking for the Dharma.

Q: "There are some families in which congenital diseases pass from one generation to the next, can this be explained by cause and effect?"

A: "Of course, heredity is just the same as cause and effect. If there were no cause planted before, there would be no effect. Heredity is just the transmission of the cause from generation to generation.

"Of course, compassion is not mere external show of kindness. The latter falls easily into the realm of artificiality. Compassion will arise by itself, as you understand more. As you mature spiritually, it flows out from your self-nature because then you are able to really see. The same goes for wisdom. Being able to say the right words at the right time, to be in perfect harmony with the occasion, this is part of genuine wisdom.

"Real eloquence is not something learned or copied from textbooks. It arises spontaneously from your self-nature. Whenever you try for an effect, that already is extra baggage, and your speech may end up having an adverse effect. You try to say something striking, and you end up muddling that issue or hurting peoples’ feelings. Don’t pretend; don’t try to make a good impression. Just be really true; everything else takes care of itself."

"When I help people, I don’t want it to be known that I am helping them. They need not thank me or become attached to any external aspects of Dharma. Real compassion is often silent."

If you are not selfish, you’ll immediately open up great wisdom."

Stupid or dull people, as dumb as clumps of wood or stone, do not think about money. But there are other types of people who do not think about money. They have transcended greed and are called "sages". Why don’t sages hanker after money? Because they are already rich in internal treasures. The reason why people grab onto any tiny bit of gain and are constantly on the lookout for good bargains is that they are poor. They feel as if they don’t have enough. They are always hungry. Such people are extremely pitiful, for they have lost track of their inner wealth.

"What is cultivation?" One way of putting it simply is that cultivation is the art of mindfulness. Honing the mind to a fine point, until it loses all sense of discrimination. Becoming one with everything.

Be prepared to lose your head when you cultivate. You can hide for aeons behind a false thought, your pen, clever words, your talents, or an attitude so deeply lodged that it’s hardly perceptible to your consciousness. But in the end you must see through the stage where all dharmas are empty and level.

Sometimes, the more you want to cultivate, the more exacting the tests become. Bodhisattvas come to test you on your very words. When the pressure is on, the vile, ugly aspects of your own nature may erupt like water from a punctured tank, and it’s at times oppressive and scary. You never had to face up to how unpretty you are. On such occasions, patience and samadhi (concentration) can soothe the pain. The fruits of cultivation are hard earned. Every bit is garnered from blood, sweat, and bitterness. No amount of smarts can cultivate for you, nor can your looks, your learning, your girlfriend or boyfriend. Cultivation is the complete do-it-yourself kit.

If you want to become a Buddha,
You may run into demons.
If you want to be good,
Your karmic obstacles catch up with you.

The Bodhisattva is extremely careful on the causal ground not to make mistakes so that on the effect ground he is no longer afraid - he figures he’s only reaping what he deserves.

Q: "Is there a God or not; how would you describe him?"

A: "If you say there is a God, then there is one; if you say there isn’t any God, then there isn’t any. Why? Because if in your mind there is a God, then he exists. If in your mind there is no God, then he doesn’t exist. You look all around you and you can’t see God, you can’t pin him down. Yet, many people believe in him because of faith. All dharmas are created from the mind alone."


Selfish: "Mosquitoes drink other peoples’ blood to satisfy their own hunger; they harm others in order to sustain themselves. This is just a carry-over from a habit of gross selfishness and self-seeking in their previous lives.


Jealousy: "By entertaining one bit of jealousy or resentment, you can fall into the limitless hells. After measureless kalpas of suffering you will be reborn as hungry ghosts. Having paid up your dues, you’ll gain rebirth in the path of animals. As what animals? As bugs, as dung beetles. Such is the retribution for being jealous."


"You should realize that karmic offenses are basically empty, but if you haven’t finished with them, you must pay up old debts. And, although karmic offenses do not have any visible form or shape, they are nonetheless carried within our eight consciousness-field, and so the verse says:

Vajra Bodhi Sea magazine coverEven after hundreds and thousands of kalpas,
The karma you’ve created is not forgotten,
When the proper conditions combine,
You’ll still have to undergo the retribution.


If one wishes to completely understand
All Buddhas of the three periods of time,
One should contemplate the nature of the Dharma Realm:
Everything’s made from the Mind alone.


"Cultivating the Way means not contending. Ultimately, there is no principle worth arguing about. Once you start comparing or arguing, you fall from the Path. You’ve brought forth the mark of self, the mark of others, the mark of living beings, and the mark of a life span."

Q: What do you mean by: Buddhism is science and science is just Buddhism?

A: Prof. Kuo K’ung: "When I say that Buddhism is science and science is just Buddhism, I enlarge both domains. Buddhism is the study of the truth of the mind – if expanded it also covers the study of all material bodies. Science is the study of the truth of material bodies – if enlarged its scope includes the study of the mind as well. Now, the Abbot says that science is included within Buddhism, something that most people find harder to understand. "Everything is made from the mind alone,’ so if you investigate things to the ultimate, there are really no material bodies, no science – there isn’t even a thing! Everything is empty, but from this emptiness arises existence. Now, in physics we can break down matter into more and more infinitesimal particles – from the atom, to the neutron, to the newly discovered J particle. You can say that this particle exists in a ‘field’. A ‘field’ is so wonderful because it defies normal description: if you say that it exists, then there is not a thing, if you say it does not exist, all things come from it."

In order to become a Buddha, you first have to become a self-reliant person. It means being master of your actions and responsible for your own whims and fantasies – the one who subdues your own mind. Nobody watches over you with a whip. The teacher shows the Way; we ourselves must walk the path.

  • "It’s not yet time," the master said. "Learn to be more patient with everything. What’s the use of hiding in a cell when you can’t face reality? Learn to live in harmony with everything and everyone around you. When you can do that, when you have some real gung fu, then you can enter into seclusion.

  • The real seclusion I seek is the ceasing of my mad mind. I thought I could go about it by first confining my body in a narrow space. Actually I should simply seal my mad, spinning mind from racing out at every impulse. The best "seclusion" is the seclusion of the heart, which means knowing who’s the real boss.

    It’s said that if your offenses weren’t heavy, you wouldn’t have been born in the Saha world; if your karma isn’t empty, you wouldn’t be born in the Pure Land. In one enlightened thought, one is the Buddha; in one confused thought, one is a living being. The only difference between a Buddha and a common person is that one has great wisdom and one has great stupidity. The reason why our wisdom-light is obstructed is because of our sense of self. We are so attached to this self, always claiming ‘I, me, mine’, yet at the time of death we’ll still have to put it down.

    Since you’re so attached to this ‘self’, let’s investigate and try to locate it now. In your entire body, every single part has its own name – a head is called a head, a hand a hand, a toe a toe – in fact, even the tiniest cell has its own name. Where can you find this thing called the ‘self’? Because of this ‘self’, you’re afraid of getting cold, becoming hungry, and all sorts of other things.

    If you have Way-virtue, if you practise meritorious deeds, even a piece of land with poor feng shuei will become good. Conversely, if you have no Way-virtue, even if you are offered land with prize feng shuei, it will still turn rotten.


    Most living beings never admit their own mistakes; 
    they’d rather blame the heavens or other people but not themselves.


    Of course there is a ‘soul’ within the Buddhist doctrine. We just use different terminology. We say ‘eighth consciousness’, or the ‘intermediate skandha body’. When one is confused, this entity is called a soul; when one is enlightened it is called the Buddha-nature. If in Buddhism we deny the existence of a soul, then there is no Buddhanature to speak of, and what use is there of studying to become a Buddha?

    Now, rather than having just one soul, most people have three hun and seven p’ai. The hun are yang and the p’ai are yin. The p’ai exist individually and resemble bodies of human beings, except none of them has the five faculties – one may only sport eyes, with no ears, nose, or mouth; another may have only a nose, without any of the other features, and so on. They borrow each other’s faculties and together make up the entity that we mistakenly call a soul. Actually, there are seven. Sometimes when people undergo extreme terror or shock, their souls may be ‘scattered’, or they are ‘scared out of their wits’, so to speak. One of their p’ai may flee or become lost, and these people end up becoming very dull, or abnormal, or insane. People who haven’t opened their five eyes cannot see this. But, in fact, inconceivable and uncanny things happen all the time, and if you will only believe what you personally witness, then you will miss out on a lot. Do not use the yardstick of a common person to measure the vastness of wisdom.

  • My life has a limit,
    and knowledge has no limit.
    Using that which is limited to fathom what is unlimited is exhausting indeed.

  • Even then, most people have an insatiable craving for knowledge. 
    However, if you haven’t dealt with this question of birth and death, 
    then no matter how much you learn, you will forget it upon your death.


    Therefore, it is much better to have real control over your birth and death. That’s being truly free. You can live as long as you wish, or when you become tired of this body you can go off to rebirth instantaneously with complete mastery. So, don’t be satisfied with a little accomplishment – aim for wisdom that is boundless.

    Your thoughts are directly linked to your world. If you have pure thoughts, Pure thoughts pure worldyour world will be pure; if you have defiled thoughts, your world will be defiled. Peaceful thoughts in the daytime mean peaceful dreams at night; scattered thoughts lead to scattered dreams or nightmares.

    If there is attachment, there is a burden. With even a single trace of attachment to Dharma, you’re stuck. You’re suspended in that space, you can’t move on and improve.

    All marks are false and empty; all words are false and empty. rock garden When the point is reached that the path of words is cut off, and the mind’s activities cease – only there can you find truth. Yet right within the false is the truth, and right within truth is the false. True and false do not obstruct one another; they are interpenetrating.

    Also, truth is not true of itself, and the false is not false of itself; rather, it is living beings that make it either true or false. Living beings are just Buddhas, sages, and gods. Living beings are temporarily attached to confusion and turn their backs from enlightenment. Once the confusion is peeled off, enlightenment is revealed therein: it is at no other place. Disregarding our family treasure we have become prodigal sons, willingly shuffling waste and collecting garbage.

    The path comes from practice; 
    Without practice there is no path.
    Virtue is cultivated;
    Without cultivation there is no virtue.

    Merit is established on the outside,
    Virtue is developed inside.
    If you establish merit on the outsdie,
    Your virtue inside will abound and you will be filled with your original wisdom and Dharma Bliss.

    Possessing virtue just means embracing loyalty, humanism, reason, and wisdom. Then a glow will exude from your entire body. People who cultivate have a lot of light about them. The harder you cultivate, the more light you have and your light speaks without need for words. When you truly fortify yourself with Way-virtue, you’ll achieve beauty, greatness, wisdom, and godliness.

    In all things you should keep your eye on the entire picture, the larger scope. There’s no room for petty concerns about one’s own benefit. Don’t be one who thrives on eating, sleeping, putting on clothes, and spends the rest of the time being jealous and obstructive.

    Re: comet Kohoutek. "Whenever comets of this sort appear they signify impending disasters; they arise due to the sum total of evil karma created by mankind…..The only way to avoid this disaster would be for someone to take on a strong bodhi resolve to avert the calamity for the sake of the entire world". Several months later a bhikshu commenced on a journey bowing once every three steps from San Francisco all the way to Seattle, a journey of over a thousand miles. Another bhikshu vowed to be his Dharma protector. As they were bowing, daily the comet drew nearer to the earth’s orbit. On the one hand, scientists were confidently predicting the comet’s arrival, on the other hand, two cultivators backed by a whole community were trying their best to drive the comet away!

    About a month before the comet actually withdrew, the Abbot announced one night at the assembly, "I have some good news for you. The comet is going to go back." Sure enough, a month later, just as it was nearing earth, Kohoutek suddenly retreated, disappearing as mysteriously as it had arrived. Only when the two monks had successfully completed their trip, and amidst celebrations at the World Peace Gathering at Seattle, did the Abbot publicly announce the reason for the comet’s sudden retreat. It was the sincerity of the two bowing monks, along with the cultivation of an entire community, which dispelled the imminent danger to all of mankind.

    Collective karma at work? When the mind is defiled, living beings’ actions and countries appear accordingly.

    Buddhist disciples should daily reflect: what contribution have I made towards Buddhism today? If we haven’t made any, we should be ashamed and quickly change!"

    Keep a straight mind that doesn’t dwell anywhere.

    If people hold precepts, give generously, practise in vigor, endure insults, cultivate concentration and wisdom, that itself is living out the Proper Dharma. There is no Proper Dharma Age or Dharma-Ending Age, per se; people make it so.

    "Now someone may wonder how we maintain a living. It comes through natural response with the Way. If you single-mindedly address yourself to the Way, other things will take care of themselves without your fussing over them."

    "…And, as usual, I didn’t have time to prepare beforehand. I’ve always relied on something outside of myself in everything I do, look for crutches or props, adding a head upon a head, not returning to my own wisdom, but searching away from the source."

    "…Some time later I discovered that most professors do not know anything about real Buddhism, and that books are insufficient guidelines. The Buddhism that Shakyamuni Buddha taught concerns the truth within the Mind."

    "The straightforward mind is the Bodhimanda"

    "…Thus, in everything we do, we must proceed along the Middle Way. With no greed there wouldn’t have been any ants. Disasters in the world start from one single thought of desire and selfishness. If we change our minds around, all disasters can be eradicated."

    Purity is true blessings
    and nobody enjoys it.
    Afflictions are offenses
    and people grab them up.

    Name and fame are small matters
     and all are fond of them;
    Birth and death are matters of great importance,
    And no one pays any attention to them.


    If we get rid of greed, anger and stupidity, quite naturally our precept power, concentration, and wisdom will surface. Once there is greed, there is selfishness. Why are you afflicted? Because you are selfish. You feel that people aren’t being good to you, and you blow up in anger. If you’re always mindful of others’ benefits and forget yourself, how can you possibly become afflicted?


    Always give away the good things to others;
    Don’t hoard them for yourself.
    Don’t seek name or recognition.
    And above all don’t be jealous and obstructive.


    Power Plants: Cultivators are power plants. Our function is to make electricity for the Universe. Bowing or sitting in full concentration you continue to build up energy that feeds the entire power grid. The more energy you churn up, the more you cannot afford to leak. You cannot eat too much, talk too much, think too much, and most of all, you cannot get angry. You’re now skating on thin ice with jewels in your hand. Providing the Universe with raw energy to run on, putting out good and pure vibrations – this is part of creating merit and virtue; you are a productive member in the league of living beings. But if you just prop up your feel, drink beer and watch television, that is cashing in on the collective blessings of our large family. You cannot expect to do this for too long. You suffer and other living beings suffer, and one day we’ll all become poor.


    "Take a look. Why do peoples’ hair turn white? Because they have too many false thoughts. There’s too much war going on inside themselves, and they exhaust their gasoline supply."

      Come back for more Dharma Essays.