In the history of Buddhism, there is a record of very many sages and Dharma masters of great virtue, who thought that in considering the very important matter of life and death it was vital to leave home, generate the Bodhi Mind and seek Supreme Enlightenment.  The Great Dharma Master Ou I (1595-1653) was a very famous, high-ranking monk in the Ming Dynasty.  When he was twenty-four years old, he began to think that the matter of birth and death was extremely important; so he decided to leave home, lead a tranquil life without worldly desires, and to seek the great way of Bodhi.  Furthermore, he understood that to generate and cultivate the Bodhi Mind, one must abandon all desire for fame and wealth and just engage in the action of spreading Dharma for the enlightenment and benefit of all sentient beings.  Also, he was aware that one must hold the Discipline, reciting the Buddha's name with total concentration and, by means of one's own Original Nature, understand the original intention of all the Buddhas.  To truly transmit and seal the Mind of Buddha, he knew, one must realize the suffering of all other sentient beings as one's own suffering and their happiness as one's own happiness.  Finally, he felt that one must take the Great Vow to benefit all people and to secure the prosperity of the Right Dharma and the survival and practice of the Vinaya in the world forever.

Also, Great Dharma Master Ou I realized, in his time, the respect for the Right Dharma was degenerating; therefore, he generated the Right Mind to save the Dharma from being lost.  His each and every word comes from the bottom of his heart, and each of his sentences speaks Truth only.  He not only alerted all the Buddhists of his own time to be more sincere in their practice and devotion, but also gave instruction to future generations.  Even now we read his Dharma words and message and are still reminded to be alerteverywhere and at all times.  In short, if we cannot rid ourselves of defilements, terminate our desires and reduce our ignorance and bad habits, we shall never escape from the Wheel of Birth-and-Death.

Great Dharma Master Ou I once said, "To leave home and seek the Tao of Bodhi, you must generate your True Mind."  To make the Buddhists of his time and those of future Sanghas aware, he said, "If one holds the Discipline firmly and sincerely to end the cycle of birth and death, then this holding of the Discipline can lead him to Enlightenment.  If the practicing of Ch'an is really done to end the cycle of birth and death, then this practicing of Ch'an can lead one to Enlightenment.  If one concentrates on and practices Dharma, then one achieve Enlightenment.  If people help and support each other, they can, thereby, also achieve Enlightenment.  All of the foregoing holds true because the causal ground is real and sincere."

In contrast, the Master also said, "If one wants to become a Vinaya master merely to hold the Discipline or if one wants to become a Dharma master merely to listen to the Sutras or if one wants to become a Ch'an master merely to investigate and practice Ch'an or if one wants to develop various supernatural powers merely to create blessings for himself, then holding the Discipline, listening to the Sutras, investigating and practicing Ch'an and developing superantural powers are all activities of the three evil paths."  Apropos of this, Great Dharma Master Chih Ch'e, of the T'ien T'ai School, has said, "To generate the Bodhi Mind merely for the benefits of fame and power is the cause that creates the three evil paths."  A slight error at the beginning results in a vast mistake at the end.  If there is a flaw at one point, the sweet dew will turn into poison.  Even now, in modern times, many people receive the rules of ordination, listen to and study the Sutras, investigate and practice Ch'an and create blessings for themselves„all of which they glibly say are done to end the cycle of birth and death.  However, many of them do not really feel any suffering in their minds about being bound to the Wheel of Birth-and-Death.  They see only the tiny flame turning their eyebrows, directly in front of them, meanwhile totally neglecting to be concerned about the danger of the conflagration of the birth-and-death condition raging all about them.

Since time without beginning, kalpa after kalpa, we have gone through birth after birth and death after death, and we have suffered many hardships in vain; but now, fortunately, we have become human beings and have become part of the Sangha.  However, even though we have already gone through much suffering and encountered many hardships, we still do not want to take the opportunity to reflect.  If this is the case, then how are we any different from a group of chattering, mindless swallows fluttering about chaotically in a great hall?

Now, it is almost the end of the year.  Very soon it will be the last day of December.  If you do not earn and save some money to pay your debts, how, then, will your receive your creditors when they come to collect their due?  How can you avoid or resist them?  If you have nothing to give them you will be worried, anxious and ill-at-ease.  Similarly, at the moment of death-i.e., the last day of December-of a human being, if there is no preparation to pay his moral debts and support himself in this great matter of life and death, then he will surely be in a great flurry of confusion and anxiety.  At that time, even if he calls on his father and mother, they will not be able to help him.  Then, when all kinds of evil karma suddenly appear in front of him, how can he possibly resist or escape?  In this light, I would like to urge all of you, in the great matter of your own birth and death, to understand that it is better to prepare early.

If all people can intuitively comprehend the reality of the cycle of birth and death, then they will be able to look through all the things of the world just as if they were merely flowers in the sky or the moon in water.  Thus, they would come to realize that everything in this world is an insubstantial illusion.  Nothing is real!  So how could they, then, any longer be attached, be love, to the illusory, temporal things of this world?

So please, just hold the Discipline and maintain your concentration while reciting Buddha's name wholeheartedly.  Also, look at your own faults and don't blame others.  Finally, but not least important, follow the ancient sages, not some facile, current, fashionable, shallow view.  Then wisdom will increase, bloom and flourish.  Then the cycle of birth and death will end forever.


Young Men's Buddhist Association of America 
Bronx, New York 
May, 1987