Author: Li-chen Chu
I recalled that before I learned the Buddha Dharma, every time when I heard others talking about the hells and causality in the Buddha Sutra, I felt very serious and even a little scary. But after attending the Dharma lectures of Sutra of the Original Vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, being under the teaching of the Teacher, Susan Duan, since 2016, my biggest gain is understanding that the hells exist not because the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas punish the sentient beings, but caused by the sentient beings themselves. The scriptures say “In each hell, there are hundreds of thousands of kinds of instruments of this karmic path, all made of copper, iron, stone, and fire”. The instruments of hells reflect that the state of heart while the sentient beings are making evil is cold and hard like copper, iron and stone, or hot as fire. From the scriptures, we knew that what we did to others will eventually come back to ourselves, then we know that what we did had made others equally painful and uncomfortable; therefore, we want to change (to save ourselves from suffering). And the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are actually here to help us free from suffering and gain true happiness by teaching us the Dharma which enables us to cease bad acts, do good deeds and make the bad karma mature later. There are even Buddhas and Bodhisattvas vow to save the sentient beings in hell, such as the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and many Ghost Kings. Seeing their great deeds, I was deeply touched by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas’ compassion and wisdom. Hence, I believe more in what the Teacher has said—the Dharma is the essential map of life.
I was shocked when I first heard the scriptures, because I felt that the Dharma was like the ocean which is so vast and boundless. For example, the scriptures say “The Buddha smiled”. The Teacher explained that it is because the Buddha knew the sentient beings can only get enlightened by themselves, and he did a lot but didn’t claim credit, so he can keep relax and smiling. Moreover, the Buddha's smile was already teaching the Dharma. I didn't expect that the simple two words actually contained so many meanings. If there was no guidance from the Teacher, how could I know! So I am deeply grateful for meeting the Teacher and having the chance to attend the Dharma Lectures. In addition, "The Buddha smiled" also made me reflect that although what the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have done for us sentient beings wisely were so amazing and incredible, they don’t claim any credit, so they can purely smile. On the contrary, when I face people around me, I always enlarge myself, thinking that I can influence others and everything is related to me, so I was always nervous and painful without smile. After knowing it, I can get over my anxiety and feel more comfortable.
The Teacher often says that she wants us to understand the reason behind things; therefore, she also teaches us the scriptures in such ways which are giving many examples of life to help us understand and asking questions from different ways to make sure that we understand correctly. It’s really a very new experience for me. In my past studies, I often thought that I have already learned as long as I understood the meaning of the words. As a result, all my studies were independent and could not be integrated. This series of lectures make me learn not only the meaning of the scriptures, but also the right methods of studying.
Besides, the Teacher’s lively speech always made me feel like I was in the Trayastrimsa Heaven (the place the Buddha teaches the Dharma) and listening to the Buddha speaking to me. The Buddha doesn’t preach but teaches the Dharma which always makes me feel his compassion for us sentient beings. In the scripture, we saw the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva weeping with tears when seeing the Shakyamuni Buddha, it taught me to remember the Teacher’s love and kindness with gratitude. And the Manjusri Bodhisattva and the Guanyin Bodhisattva who had already become Buddha long time ago don’t put on airs but assist the Shakyamuni Buddha to save the sentient beings; they taught me to cooperate with others and complement each other......It turns out that the Dharma is not only between the lines of scriptures, but also in the actual deeds of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
After studying the Dharma, I often feel frustrated and impatient with myself for being unable to do as the Teacher taught. However, the Teacher said our learning is like bathing in aroma of the Dharma, and changing the habits takes time. The Teacher also encourages us that the process is like walking up the spiral staircase, although it seems to go back to the original point, we are actually improving. I am deeply grateful to the Shakyamuni Buddha for giving us the Dharma. Additionally, I am deeply grateful to the patriarchs for their hard work to go on a pilgrimage for buddhist scriptures, translating, and making the Dharma spread. I am deeply grateful to the Teacher for her hard work in preparing the lectures and using the language we know to teach us the Dharma which can save us from the cycle of birth and death. I hope that I can learn the Dharma all the time, and I also hope that the sentient beings can also meet good teachers, be guided, hear the Dharma, be free from sufferings and gain true happiness.