THE ESSENCE OF MAHAYANA PRACTICE (with Annotation)

BY MASTER BODHIDHARMA

Translated from Chinese by the Chung Tai Translation Committee


COMPLETE TITLE: "GREAT MASTER BODHIDHARMAS ESSENTIAL DISCOURSE ON

ENTERING THE MAHAYANA PATH BY PRINCIPLE AND BY PRACTICE"


Page 2

What is the practice of accepting adversity? When suffering, a practitioner of the Way should reflect: “For innumerable kalpas, I have pursued the trivial instead of the essential, drifted through all spheres of existence, created much animosity and hatred, maligned and harmed others endlessly. Even though now I have done no wrong, I am reaping the karmic consequences of past transgressions. It is something that neither gods nor men can foresee or impose upon me. Therefore I should accept it willingly, without any resentment or objection.” The sutra says, “Face hardships without distress.” How? With thorough insight. With this understanding in mind, you are in accord with the Principle, advancing on the path through the experience of adversity. This is called the practice of accepting adversity.

 

云何報冤行。謂修道行人,若受苦時,當自念言。我往昔無數劫中,棄本從末,流浪諸有,多起冤憎,違害無限。今雖無犯,是我宿殃,惡業果熟,非天非人所能見與,甘心甘受,都無冤訴。經云:逢苦不憂。何以故。識達故。此心生時,與理相應,體冤進道。故說言報冤行。

[Annotation]

Reflect: When something unpleasant happens, we should try to be calm and remember the Dharma teaching instead of reacting with imprudence.

Kalpa: A kalpa is a very long period of time. Formally, a large kalpa is a cycle of the universe, which consists of four stages: birth (of the universe or a “Buddha-land”), stability, disintegration, and void. The universe is then recreated (and destroyed), over and over again, by our collective karma. Innumerable kalpas: for all these countless lifetimes in the past.

Trivial/essential: Without knowing the true nature of life and the “self,” people go on endless pursuit of things that are ultimately of no consequence. What is most meaningful in your life? Are you working on it or pursuing trivial matters?

Spheres of existence: A sentient being can take rebirth in any one of the six spheres/planes of existence in the Triple Realm: as a deva (a celestial being), an asura (powerful like a deva but more aggressive and jealous), a human being, an animal, a hungry ghost, or a being in hell, all depending on one’s karma (actions, deeds).

Animosity … harm: Due to our ignorance of the Way, we have intentionally or unintentionally created much harm to others in every lifetime, not to mention countless lifetimes! By the Principle of Causality, we really have no grounds to feel resentment for the suffering we are currently facing.

Karmic consequence: Karma means action. Actions have corresponding consequences. Actions that benefit others bring blessings and happiness, actions that harm others bring suffering. One is subject to the consequences of one’s own karma.

Transgression: An act against the natural law; an act that harms others.

Gods: In Buddhism there is no creator God, but there are devas or celestial beings who are born with more powers and blessings than human beings due to superior deeds in their past. Some can see into one’s past or future. However, one’s fate is determined by one’s own karma.

Thorough insight: One can face hardships without distress if one fully understands Causality and the teaching already mentioned above. People resent their fate because they do not have this insight. With the insight of “accepting adversity,” one can turn suffering into spiritual progress.


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