Since limitless kalpas up to present, we had too many bad habits and shortcomings. We do not know to repent and reform; we do not know to cultivate. Consequentially, day by day, our bad habits increase, our wisdom decreases, and our karmic offenses grow heavier. Therefore, it makes it harder for us to cultivate. If we want to learn to cultivate well, it is also not easy. If we want to leave the home-life, it's even more difficult. We are unable to break free from the various sinister affinities that bind us up. In the causal ground, we have unknowingly created many karmic offenses with no fear of retribution. So when we want to cultivate the Way, causes and conditions arise from every direction to obstruct us. Obstructions could arise from family situations, national circumstances or our own actions, hindering us to cultivate.
Hence, if you truly want to cultivate, it's as difficult as ascending to the heavens. Now, if it's that difficult, does it mean we shouldn't cultivate? Not at all. The more difficult it is, the more we have to cultivate. We must overcome the difficulties. Not taking a flying somersault to break free from our tribulations, we will never be able to break through our karmic obstructions. Therefore, we have to cultivate the ability to endure what others cannot endure, to yield where others cannot, to practice what others cannot, to do what others cannot, to eat what others cannot, and to tolerate what others cannot. If we can continuously do this tenaciously for days and months on end, we can augment our wholesome merit and virtue a bit, and reduce our offenses and evil deeds a bit. Thus, enabling our wisdom to grow day by day, and our karmic obstacles to lessen.
Since we accumulated our karmic obstacles bit by bit in the past, now we have to reduce them bit by bit as well. It is like the gradual changes in temperature that comes with the change in seasons. Approaching winter, the weather starts to turn cold. The temperature drops gradually each day until winter arrives. After reaching the coldest point, the temperature slowly rises. But it doesn't warm up instantly. Each day becomes warmer than the day before, until the summer heat arrives. During hot weather, the air is less dense and is analogous to a time when our karmic obstacles are less; the cold weather is analogous to a time when our karmic obstacles are heavy. These are just analogies.
As we are here cultivating, whether investigating Chan or reciting the Buddha's name, or whatever you choose, find something to do so your mind won't be idle and start having random thoughts. Instead of wasting your time on random thoughts, you should recite the Buddha's name, hold mantras, or recite sutras. Don't let your time pass in vain. If you let your mind casually indulge in random thoughts, you're wasting a lot of energy without accomplishing anything."It's hard to obtain a human body. It's hard to be able to hear the Buddhadharma. It's hard to be born in a Buddha land. It's hard to meet a Good and Wise Advisor. It's hard to encounter a good Way-place." Without a good Way-place, you won't be able to cultivate even if you want to. A good Way-place is essential. Now at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, we have a place for holding Chan Sessions, a place for reciting the Buddha's name, a place for bowing repentances. You can do anything you like, as long as you cultivate and seriously apply effort and not waste time.
Whoever is willing to cultivate the Way diligently, I am willing to be your Dharma protector to aid you in applying effort. That's because when I first wanted to work hard on cultivation, I couldn't find a good place where I could do it. Every place I went required an initial round of training in performing a lot of detailed, superficial work. For example, in the Chan Hall, you need to learn to use the hand bell, hit the boards, serve as a proctor who makes rounds, pour tea for people to drink, collect the teacups, and a whole bunch of ancillary duties. In as much as you want to apply effort in cultivation, your effort went to trifling matters of serving tea, collecting teacups, making rounds as a proctor, and hitting the bell, boards, wooden fish, and drum. These ancillary tasks took at least three weeks to learn, and usually the Chan Session only lasted a week or two. These miscellaneous tasks were more than enough to consume your time and effort.
(To be continued ...)