Good morning, everyone! This is today's Dharma Espresso on “How to be Free from the Cycle of Birth and Death.”
We often recite the Great Compassion Mantra, like this:
"Na mo he la da nwo dwo la ye ye Na mo e li ye Pwo lu jye di shau bwo la ye Pu ti sha two pe ye Mwo he sha two pe ye Mwo he jya lu ni jya ye..."
These are the lines with the most mysterious, miraculous, and sacred meaning. "Na mo he la da nwo dwo la ye ye" means: I bow to and become the Three Jewels: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. It would be great if we can do that much. We wouldn't need to do anything else in this world. However, since we cannot become Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, the next line, "Na mo e li ye" is on how to liberate from the cycle of birth and death. This is the level of the sages, saints, and the Ten Grounds Bodhisattvas that I mentioned yesterday. They have liberated themselves from the suffering of the mundane world, and are no longer stuck in the cycle of birth and death.
What is the implication of birth and death? Nothing very farfetched. Birth and death are daily happenings that we get stuck in, attached to, and involved in, making it impossible for us to smile and feel peaceful. They are conflicts for us. If we're sitting in peace, we can't stand when someone comes to sit next to us and talks loudly. We think we'd enjoy going to a movie, but once we sit down, somebody behind us puts their feet on the back of our seat. We think we can enjoy our flight, but as soon as we settle down in our seat, two passengers next to us push our arms away from the armrests, or sometimes we can't find space in the overhead compartment for our carry-on bag. So many times things don't turn out the way we want, so we get upset. Very often, we tell our children one thing, and they do another. They don't think the way we do. The same thing goes with our spouse. We think they would understand what we say, but they don't at all, so the tug-of-war goes on and on. They are minor clashes, but we have to cope with them daily. Like a minor car crash, they are uncontrollable and can be explosive, taking away our peace.
Therefore, the second line is "Na mo e li ye" which means bowing to the exalted, those who have gone beyond birth and death. It means we should try to see through all knotty things, all problems in our life, all attachments in the cycle of birth and death. To get out of this cycle, we need to have a heart of kindness. What is this kindness? It is when we don't react, and don't have clashes. Normally, we react with each conflict. We'd snap back at each statement. People usually think that only smart folks can be so quick and clever. But we don't realize that, out of ten such smart retorts, eight of those reactions took place from our subconscious, from our habitual energy, and bad habits. Sometimes, those old bad habits and anger are now trying to fight back for venting, for revenge, so we can feel satisfied and pleased that we've made the other party suffer. The more our words hurt them, the more we gloat. Do you know that when we snap back, eight out of ten sentences we utter come from our irrational realm? Only two times out of ten do we come up with reasonable and wise utterances.
Thus, we should not let ourselves get stuck in that web of knots. There is a very easy way. We simply do these three important things:
First, practice smiling. Smile so that our heart can feel gentle again, and our actions become gentle also. Sometimes, we only have to move our lips a little while visualizing a smile in our heart, and we will see that the event begins to change.
Second, practice radiating gentleness from our heart. These gentle and peaceful waves don't belong to love or to forgiveness. They are more like acceptance, but not quite. That gentleness or peacefulness is a state of sunyata, or True Emptiness. When something happens in front of us, or when someone says something, if we can radiate that peaceful gentleness, that is True Emptiness, because it helps us from getting stuck in the entangled web. You can see that True Emptiness is amazing. It's a very serene and peaceful gentleness, our eyes can still look at the others' eyes, and we can still listen to them. Just like Confucius used to say, "See without getting stuck in what is seen; listen without getting stuck in what is heard." This implies that we have generated peace and calmness. Now we can learn one more thing. Besides radiating compassion and caring, we also radiate calmness and gentleness. Hence, our words are not reactive and scathing but very peaceful and gentle, like a breeze. That is the work of kindness, like what people often say: have the eye of kindness, not hurting or hitting back at anyone.
The line "Na mo e li ye" is indeed very profound since it helps us reach the state of peace and calmness, transcending from the dualistic web of knots. Usually, we should sit quietly and recite it. We don't have to recite the entire Great Compassion Mantra which may be too difficult for some people. We can just recite daily one short line, "Na mo e li ye." Remember to close our eyes and think: "May the divine power of this mantra help me enter the non-duality and leave the web of entanglement that I'm stuck in, so my heart can always feel peaceful, my words always stay gentle, and my actions remain calm and relaxed."
Do you see how wonderful that is? So why not recite the Great Compassion Mantra? For today, let's recite that short line only.
Thank you for enjoying this morning's Dharma Espresso. Have a joyful and peaceful day!
Dharma Master Heng Chang
(Translated and transcribed by Compassionate Service Society)