Dharma Politics – Danger For Buddha’s Dharma**
15.10.2019, Vinh Nghiem pagoda, Ho Chi Minh city
Buddhism teaches us very clearly the difference between wisdom and ignorance, the difference between Dharma and non-Dharma, samsara and nirvana, good motivation and bad motivation. Therefore, if one considers oneself a Buddhist person one should try to learn what is the meaning of the teachings, to remember the meaning of the teaching, try to apply what one learns from Buddha‘s teachings. If one tries to study, but does not try to apply [what is leaned] then there is not much use. If one doesn’t apply, doesn’t put into action – action combined with knowledge – then it’s not much use too study much. Therefore, not knowledge but action – one’s putting understanding into conduct – is more important.
Vietnamese people have faith and devotion to Buddha’s Dharma. It is very good. In the history of the country [Vietnam] has been a Buddhist country, and this is something very good. It is very good that a lot of people have faith in the Buddha and Dharma. [Here] A lot of people try to understand Dharma better, try to study Dharma, to practice Dharma, which is very good. This is very important because by doing that one is able to accumulate good merits. And because when they have no belief in anything, that can be very dangerous. That can destroy the good seeds, many good tendencies. But with that kind of understanding, that kind of believing in Buddha, at least one is keeping good motivation, one is fixing one’s mistakes, easier than without understanding anything. Still, a lot of people have blind faith. Having too much faith or not clear faith, that can be also not good, maybe dangerous as well. Therefore, we have to develop faith through one’s own knowledge or understanding. Without correct understanding then one places too much belief in things, and it is not very good. Therefore, you take opportunities to study as much as you can. The purpose for us to study Dharma is to really have a clear understanding.
And when one can have that kind of wisdom, a clear understanding [we can see] faith sometimes is not enough, we need to have honesty. If one doesn’t have enough honesty then even though one is very faithful one can also approach difficulties or dangers.
Also, we need to develop the qualities for oneself to be a smart person. “Smart person” doesn’t mean “sneaky”. This means “honest” and very good person, very good Dharam practitioner. To be honest, faithful and smart. And if one has all these qualities, then one is a good dharma person. When there is no honesty, then person is not a good person. This is a basic understanding, a good foundation for us to be a good person. So it is important for us to understand what is honesty and what is dishonesty; and then we should not be a dishonest person at any time for any reason, under any circumstances.
As I said earlier we need to understand what is real Dharma and what is not Dharma. Dharma is something beyond worldly dharmas. Worldly dharmas is not the real Dharma. Therefore, as we are Dharma practitioners, we should have a deeper understanding, because without a deep understanding [of Dharma] there is a danger. Without understanding what is real Dharma, people often mix real Dharma with worldly dharmas. And people try to accomplish something which is worldly dharmas while they are thinking they are doing something for the real Dharma. So, it’s a big obstacle everywhere, not only in this country but across the world, including Tibet. Tibetan lamas mix Dharma things with non-Dharma stuffs. So sometimes it is difficult to do genuine, or very pure, Dharma things because our motivation grows with non-Dharma things, with the worldly dharma stuffs. Therefore, it is difficult for us to keep the pure Dharma in the mind. So, we still need to try to understand and try to do things in correct ways.
Buddha Shakyamuni said Buddhist teaching is destroyed by the Dharma people. There’re are outer and inner Dharma people. The inner people are very close to the Buddha, to the Dharma; Those people are monks and nuns. And there are many other [kind of] Dharma practitioners. But anyway, all of the people who follow the Buddha are Dharma people. Dharma people can be very dangerous to the Buddha’s teaching, because the Dharma people can destroy our tradition. Buddha said so. How can Dharma people destroy Buddhism? When dharma people have so much desire, so much ignorance, so much jealousy, they can be very dangerous for our own tradition. We can see actually a lot of people who are very jealous and they do a lot of Dharma politics. They try to use Dharma to do things for their own benefits. It’s obvious things nowadays. We can see, we can hear and that’s not very good. That’s very bad for the dharma
The reason for me, or for the Buddha, to say Dharma people can destroy dharma is that [Dharma] is based on the people’s devotion. The “Dharma politics” can destroy people’s devotion. When Dharma people have so much jealousy, ignorance, desire, particularly desire and jealousy, that can destroy people’s faith, people’s devotion to Buddha and Dharma. Because people do not understand what really Buddha is and what really Dharma is, therefore, people usually watch conduct of Dharma people. If the actions, if the conducts of Dharma people are bad, that can be a cause for these people to lose devotion in [Buddha’s] Dharma. Therefore, this kind of conduct, this kind of action, can destroy people’s positive qualities, positive motivation and positive mind. When people lose their faith and devotion in Buddha’s Dharma, that can destroy Buddha’s Dharma. When [Dharma] people have good conduct, have good actions, that can put some good seeds in people’s mind and that is developing Dharma, that is protecting Dharma. But when [Dharma] people do the opposite of that, then that can destroy the Dharma.
It is important to understand that Buddhism is not the external thing. It is something internal. Therefore, when the people do not have faith in Buddha, when people do not have any faith in Buddha’s Dharma, then there is no Buddha’s Dharma. Of course, Buddha’s Dharma is finished. As long as people keep some faith in Buddha’s Dharma, Buddha’s Dharma is still alive. Therefore, Buddha’s Dharma is internal thing, something to do with your understanding, with your devotion, with your believing.
The external thing is not very important. For example, temples, statues, stupas are not really Buddha’s Dharma. When people do not have any faith in the Buddha’s Dharma then temples, statues, stupas have no meaning. This is just something physical construction and no more than that, no more than a physical construction. But when people have some faith in the Buddha’s Dharma then these physical things, external things also, have some meaning, some use. For example, when you do prostration in front of the Buddha’s statue, you can accumulate great merits. That is not only because of the statue, but it’s because of your understanding, your devotion in the Buddha. Therefore, [there are] external things and internal things. Everything is based on people’s understanding, people’s devotion and people’s faith.
Buddha also taught us that as a Buddhist practitioner, we should understand what is good and what is not good. For example, a Dharma teacher is important but we have to understand what [teacher] is good or not good. The objects that you take refuge in should be good, should be pure. It is not something you can make up. It is not something you can think: “Oh, this may be good because I think this’s good.” It’s not good to do that. Therefore, Buddha said you should take refuge in Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. Nothing else but only Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. Why did Buddha say that? Because Buddha is pure, Dharma is pure, Sangha is pure. Their nature is pure. No obscuration, no negativity, therefore they are pure. But if you take refuge in some other beings like gods or others, then that is not good enough, because they are not pure. They are not liberated from samsara. They have a lot of obscurations and they have a strong ignorance in their mind.
So, Buddha says you should take refuge in Buddha, only Buddha, no other gods. Dharma, only Dharma because Dharma is naturally pure, Dharma is naturally free from attachment. And the Sangha is pure because they naturally follow the path of liberation. Therefore, these objects – the Three Jewels – are naturally pure. And it is OK to take refuge in [them] and nothing else.
Dharma people should try to understand Dharma in the correct way. Not blind faith, not jumping or following [someone] because someone said so and so. That is not a good way of practicing Dharma, not a good way of studying Dharma. Especially, in modern time, the condition for us to study Dharma is very good. We can study through internet, through many books, through many recordings. Nowadays, there are many options for us to listen to authentic teachers, teachings. Of course, as Dharma persons, it is important to study, to think and to meditate on all of these things. Only studying, only hearing is not enough, we have to use our own knowledge, our own wisdom to try to get the essence of that meaning [of teachings].
And not only that but also we have to meditate. To meditate on what we have learned, [on] the essence of the teachings given by the Buddha Shakyamuni. Most people in this world nowadays are busy to receive teachings from this lama, that teacher and other gurus, then they do not carefully or sincerely think about the meaning of the teaching – what they have heard, and even not meditate at all. People don’t really meditate. They don’t really meditate even though they said: “I meditated.” Actually, I don’t see people are really doing meditation; because they don’t know how to meditate correctly, because they don’t know how to think correctly, because they don’t have enough instructions. Therefore, they still, some of [them], lack conditions to meditate. So they don’t have improvement on the path on meditation. But as long as we are still alive, we still have energy to think, to meditate, we should try to meditate.
Because there’s no specific topic, this is a free talk, which is better for me. Because I can count what is important and I can remind you of the important things for you to be a Dharma practitioner, a Dharma person; for you to able to avoid what is the bad, what is dangerous for you to be a dharma practitioner. So, what I have mentioned today is important because this is happening now among the Buddhist groups, the Buddhist people and also there will be more problems like that within the Buddhist people. Therefore, we need to understand, we need to try to fix the problems. We need to try to protect oneself from being in that situation.
End of the excerpt
Transcript by Choying Drolma (Giáng Hương)
Excerpt from MP 3 15.10.2019: https://lienhoaquang.com/q_tgx2khd
** The title is created by the translator for the reader’s convenience. This is an excerpt from the Dharma lecture 15.10.2019 at Vinh Nghiem pagoda, Ho Chi Minh city.