“Why do we read about other's lives? What have their lives got anything to do with us? What are useful from the life of the Buddha that we can learn to better our lives?”
These were some of the questions asked by Venerable Jue Di before starting her Dharma Talk, “Buddha's Life, Our Life” to some fifty devotees on the evening of 19 May 2017, at Fo Guang Shan Singapore. The Venerable engaged the audience through interesting slides, some with carefully chosen pictures with hidden meanings to evoke different depths of understandings from the audience.
She told the audience to refer to the Buddhist Canon, also known as “Tripiṭaka” or “Da Zhang Jing” as a biography of the Buddha and also a chronological summary found in the Appendix of the book, “Humanistic Buddhism: Holding True to the Original Intents of Buddha” by Venerable Master Hsing Yun.
She started the evening talk with defining the Buddha as the Enlightened One and emphasized that everyone is Buddhas, having the intrinsic Buddha's nature. She reminded everyone's declarations of “I am Buddha” during the Refuge Taking ceremony, and urged them to live their lives as close to a Buddha and even as a Buddha.
She also mentioned that Buddhism is the religion of enlightenment and venerating to the Buddha is a personification of wisdom and compassion. Venerable Jue Di mentioned about the blissful life of Prince Siddhartha until he encountered the four sights, Old Age, Sickness, Death and Practitioner during his trips outside his palace. The significances of these four sights led to a moment of existential realization from the prince, relating “Old Age” to “Impermance”, “Sickness” to “Suffering”, “Death” to “Mortality”, and “Practitioner” to “Deliverance”. With various causes and conditions, everyone went through “Four Core Courses” in life, namely “Birth”, “Old Age”, “Sickness” and “Death”, with “Old Age” as an optional course. Nevertheless, the audience was encouraged to take charge of themselves to accept various changes and to transform within themselves to lead more fulfilled lives.
Despite having everything, the prince decided to renounce to search for answers, and started practising asceticism for six years. After little successes, he altered his practices to overcome his inner demons and hindrances: “five sensory desires”, namely sight, sound, smell, taste and physical feelings, “ill will”, “slot and torpor”, “restlessness”, “remorse” and lastly “doubt”.
When Prince Siddhartha became the Buddha, he realised the knowledge of his past lives, knowledge of karma, cause and effect, knowledge of the end of afflictions, and also the “Four Noble Truths”, the “Noble Eightfold Paths”, “Dependent Origination” and all sentient beings have Buddha natures. He taught his five companions who become his disciples and started turning the Dharma Wheel with the Three Jewels of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha and later establishing the Sanga community.
The Buddha's teachings differ from other teachings and focused on “rely on oneself”, “reply on the Dharma” and “rely on nothing else”, and having faith in oneself to discover one's compassions and wisdom. She went into the Four Reliances, “Rely on the Dharma, not on people”, “Rely on the meaning, not on words”, “Rely on the ultimate meaning, not on conventional meanings” and “Rely on Prajna, not on knowledge”.
The talk took a turn after a brief mention of Buddha's Nirvana when Venerable Jue Di began relating the Buddha's life to the audience's daily lives. She began with defining “happiness” with the five desires arising from the five sensory organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body) and the desires for wealth, sexual love, fame, food and sleep. She added that Buddhism was not to direct towards these secular, temporary happiness but instead towards true happiness that transcend all desires, likes and dislikes, and biasness.
Moving on, the Venerable cited various Buddha's stories and touched on lessons on “Equality”, “Honesty”, “Peace and Ceasing War”, “Dieting” and “Family Issues” for the audience to apply in their daily lives. She rehashed on the “Four Core Courses” and described in details that even Buddha went through them. She added that everyone can choose “Joy”, “Anger”, “Sorrow” or/and “Happiness” to lead their lives. In addition, instead of living with “I want what I want when I want it”, she encouraged the audience to live with the Six Points of Reverent Harmony: “Harmony of Physical Being, Speech, Thought, Discipline, View and Welfare”, and the Six Perfections: “Giving, Morality, Patience, Diligence, Meditative Concentration, Wisdom”.
Lastly, Venerable Jue Di reminded everyoneto be masters of their lives. Instead of expecting things to change according to indivduals' preferences, she urged everyone to let go. Only with embracing changes, one can then be free of entanglements and liberate oneself to switch on the lights and bring brillances in their own lives.