Talk for the Ceremony of Bathing the Buddha

Talk presented by Venerable Master Ren Jun
Report written by Chang Jie 05/16/2010

    On Sunday, May 16, 2010, Venerable Master Ren Jun gave a dharma talk to commemorate the Buddha's Birthday celebration at CMC. The following is the verse presented by Venerable Master:
Long ago Honorable Shakyamuni reached the perfection of purity,
so there is no need for us to bathe him.
Only because common people don't know how to purify themselves,
he gave us special teachings to purify our karma of body, speech and mind.
The five precepts let us develop upright character and cut off deviant paths;
the ten virtuous deeds help us to plant roots that will set us on the correct track.
Developing upright character and setting out on the right track ensures that we won't backslide,
and our karma of body, speech and mind will be firmly and unshakably set in purity.
The karma created by your body will help you be sound, sturdy and of great stature,
and you will not be led astray or fall into perversity;
always and everywhere practice diligently,
so that you are sincere and earnest and will cast away selfish aims.
The karma created by your speech will be gentle and kind and touch people's hearts.
If what you say can touch people's hearts, then you will be able to uplift them;
if you are able to uplift people, then you can help them succeed,
and the person who can help others succeed is someone who can deliver sentient beings.
The karma created by your mind will be clear and bright inside and out.
Inwardly, you will not be attached to a sense of self.
Outwardly your concern will be to help the world.
If you are someone who can bring relief to the suffering of the world,
then you are someone whom the world urgently needs.

    According to Venerable Master, if we are able to truly become human beings, we will be able to attain Buddhahood. Compared to all other sentient beings, human beings are the most precious, and the human body is the best. We must use our human bodies with full confidence and practice diligently so that we may attain highly and achieve Buddhahood. When we say we are delivered by Buddhas and bodhisattvas, it is actually people delivering other people. Every time and at every place that we meet people, we emanate the light of the Buddha- that is how we deliver all sentient beings.

    Since we have this precious human body, we must use it wisely in order to help others. The Buddhist sutras mention that it is very difficult to attain this human body. Now that we have attained it, if we use it for evil deeds, we are in the three deviant realms. Since we have this body, we have to use it for the greatest and purest mind, and with the most diligent effort, to practice hard to deliver all beings that we encounter. This is the best way to use this precious body. If we can do this lifetime after lifetime, we will be able to maintain this human body time after time until we attain Buddhahood. We make this great vow to come back again and again as human beings to deliver other human beings. That is how we repay Buddhas and bodhisattvas.

    Today we are celebrating the Buddha's Birthday and participate in the ceremony of bathing the Buddha. The Buddha already completed all merits and wisdom by eliminating all vexations completely. Shakyamuni Buddha does not need us to bathe him because he is already in the Pure Land with no defilements or vexations. The reason we have this ceremony of bathing the Buddha is because sentient beings don't know how to bathe. Ordinary sentient beings waste water and electricity, using hundreds of gallons of hot water to wash their bodies, but their minds are impure. Even though they think their bodies are clean, and therefore, they are clean, in fact, their minds are not pure, and they bathe with the purpose for selfish reasons.

    Because ordinary sentient beings do not know how to bathe themselves, Shakyamuni Buddha expounded the way and taught us how to bathe. There are three things: first, whatever we are doing that is not good, we should stop doing. Whatever is needed to be done that is good for all sentient beings, including our selves, should be done right away. When we do this, we purify our minds and bodies and deepen our understanding, practice, experience and attainment of the Buddha's teachings. Gradually, we may attain inner purity, are outwardly upright, and completely purify the three karmas that come from speech, body and mind.

    How do we purify ourselves and practice virtuous deeds? We first must take the five precepts. The fundamental function of the five precepts is to uplift our character so that it is healthy and virtuous. The basic principle of the five precepts is to stop doing that which is not good and do that which is good for ourselves and others. An example of living by the five precepts within the family is that husbands and wives will not do things that are not right. Couples will then be able to create families that uphold the precepts, respect each other, and be model families. Their children, in turn, will maintain healthy and harmonious families. If all families are like this, we will eventually create a healthy world. That is how we express true human character.

    The first of the five precepts is no killing. The Buddha dharma tells us that human beings cherish their own lives. They experience suffering and pain when they face calamities. Other sentient beings, such as animals, also experience fear and suffering when they face calamities. The Buddha dharma says that sentient beings should protect other sentient beings by not killing them. This is the fundamental reason behind compassion for other beings, because we as humans know how suffering feels.

    Not stealing simply means that if something is not ours, we do not take it. Some people are clever in business and use their minds to acquire millions and billions of dollars. If they give rise to arrogant minds, they may think that this money is their money because they earned it. They will use this money to indulge and pamper themselves. It can be said that these people are stealing because they have the ability to help people who are suffering and are not doing so. When they are not helping others, they are like beings that are half human and half-animal because they do not have compassion for other beings. People who have the ability to make a lot of money should also make offerings to help others who do not have. They not only accumulate great merits but also plant virtuous roots.

    The third precept is no sexual misconduct. Married couples especially need to pay attention to this precept. Newspapers publish stories about families that are broken as a result of one spouse who has an extramarital affair. This causes disharmony in the family and has an effect on the children who in turn are unable to have good families. Prostitution creates disharmony in society and degrades human character and have to be specially monitored by the police because of its negative impact on society. The fourth precept, no lying, states that we must be honest and truthful. We should not say empty words nor make promises that we cannot keep. This will help us to maintain good reputations and people may respect us accordingly.

    The fifth precept is to not take intoxicants. There are 36 different stories in the Buddhist scriptures related to drinking that tell us that drinking is not good for us because it affects our minds. Alcohol may cause us to do things we would not normally do and regret later on. It is important not to drink, especially when we are driving. We see situations where people drive under the influence, get into an accident, and lose their lives as a result. These people not only suffer physically, but their minds may cause them to enter the hell realms. Venerable Master admonished the audience to pay attention to this precept and said that it is best not to take even one drop of alcohol.

    After we take the five precepts, we should try to practice the ten virtuous deeds which are related to our body, speech and mind. When we practice the ten virtuous deeds, our minds will not give rise to greed, anger and ignorance. We will not kill, steal, or commit sexual misconduct with our bodies, and will not lie, speak frivolously or use divisive speech with our speech.

    Practicing the ten virtuous deeds can be foundation of bodhisattva practice and can be compared to a great tree with deep roots that is tall with large branches that extend widely and shade to cool sentient beings that are heated in their vexations. We may be able to move forward and not regress; this is because we are able to grow because we are firmly rooted, until one day, we may attain complete Buddhahood.

Once we study the Buddha dharma and uphold the five precepts very well, we will be able to establish a human character that is unshakeable. Then we will truly be on a path that brings light and brightness. We will be on a firm path; we will not be skewed to the right or left, nor will we fall down. This is the meaning of establishing right human character. Inwardly, we will be peaceful and calm, and outwardly, we will be upright. This will be revealed through our body, speech and mind. Our mind will be in accordance with the Buddhadharma, our speech will reflect the teachings of the Buddha, our bodies will show virtuous actions in accordance with the Buddhadharma.

    Karma is action expressed by our bodies. There are two types of actions: devious and virtuous. If we want to be true human beings, we must use our bodies wisely and well, so that our bodies will be strong and upright. Whatever we face, we can deal with uprightly and honestly, without avoiding it.

    Once we practice the five precepts and ten virtuous deeds so that we may become true human beings, our minds will be upright and not confused. We will gain benefit from the Dharma. Dharma means brightness, the way and attainment. When we understand the Dharma, we will forever be with the dharma and live uprightly on a path that is bright and honest. When we do this, we benefit by severing the cycle of life and death and are able to help and deliver suffering sentient beings.

    We should maintain strong, healthy physical bodies so that at all situations, we will be able to maintain clear minds without constant illusory, wandering thoughts. We should not sleep too much so as to avoid premature aging and stroke. Venerable Master who is 92 years old, demonstrated some physical exercises for maintaining good health. If we can maintain inner peace, harmony and express outwardly sincerity and honesty, we will be able to be rid of desire and self-centeredness. In order to be a human being, it is important that at every time and every place, we be honest and sincere in body, speech and mind. Whatever we do should not be out of our own greed or motivation; rather, we should completely dissolve self-centered motivation, greed and desire when performing deeds and actions. Then we will be able to upright and honest human beings.

    In Buddha dharma, there is a term called "love words." "Love" here does not mean affection from a self-centered point of view, but softness and kindness. If we are able to speak to others with sincerity and kindness, we will be able to touch others. Once their hearts are touched, their minds will be open. When their minds are open, they will be able to listen to and follow our guidance. Through our speech, we will be able to help and deliver sentient beings. They will practice and be able to become true human beings, and be able to help other sentient beings.

    Normally, we say Buddhas and bodhisattvas deliver sentient beings. In actuality, it is human beings who deliver other human beings. It is important that we treasure this human body and the quality of humankind, so that when we teach others the meaning of being a human being, we are able to help more people. We shouldn't lose our confidence and feel as though we are unable to deliver sentient beings, nor should we be overconfident and arrogant and look down on others. We should merely behave honestly and sincerely.

    In terms of thought karma, we should try to maintain inner and outer clarity by not having attachment to the self. Shakyamuni Buddha is also called the Great Hero because he completely shattered the so-called "great self" and saw through the cause of human suffering. The root of suffering is the self. We conduct evil deeds because of our sense of self. By shattering his sense of self and seeing through it, and shattering his attachments to our sense of self, Shakyamuni attained Buddhahood. Shakyamuni Buddha was able to expound and have infinite powers and abilities that ordinary humans do not have because he had shattered his sense of self. When we are able to let go and shatter our attachment to the great self, we will be able to learn from Shakyamuni Buddha, learn from the spirit of the Great Hero, and give rise to the great vow to deliver all sentient beings.

    Outwardly, our concern will be to help the world. If we can bring relief to the suffering of the world, then we will be someone whom the world urgently needs. Once we learn from the Buddhas and the bodhisattvas, we will be able to shatter our sense of self and make a great vow to deliver all sentient beings. After a long while, we will be able to accumulate powers and merits and be the type of human being that the world truly needs. We should do things that benefit the world and all other beings. When others shy away from doing the right thing, we will voluntarily do it wholeheartedly. In this way, we may become people that the world truly needs. Otherwise, we will just be wasting our lives, confused about our true purpose in life, like "worms eating rice," wasteful beings in this world wasting the resource of the world. Venerable Master encouraged the audience to make great vows to be human beings that the world really needs, to learn from the Buddhadharma, practice accordingly, and go out and do what the world truly needs.

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