Before I was born, who was I?
After I am born, who am I?
Respect yourself, and everyone will respect you.
Understand yourself, and everyone will understand you.
There are mirrors all around you:
Strive to see and understand yourself.
Strive to have the heart of a Buddha.
Stop doing bad things, only do good.
Do whatever you can to help others.
In these ways you help yourself.
Help yourself, and you help the world.
Buddhism was born in Nepal about 2500 years ago. It spread to India some 400 years later, and 1500 years ago, it appeared in China. Chan Buddhism is said to have originated at Shaolin Temple, and its spiritual founder was an Indian prince named Bodhidharma, or as he was known to the Chinese, Da Mo. It is characterized by a rejection of much of the protocol associated with other sects of Buddhism and is oriented around the practice of meditation. In Chan, the Temple is everywhere, and one can pray anywhere, meditate in any position, and it emphasizes the idea of personal awakening and understanding. Chan is the spiritual parent of Japanese Zen Buddhism.
What does “Amituofo” or “Amitabha” mean?
Amituofo means a multitude of things, depending on how it is used. It can be a greeting, a salutation, a blessing, or it can mean “please” or “I’m sorry.” You can use it to express anything from your heart. Literally, it is the name of a Buddha, the “Amita” Buddha (“fo” being the Chinese word for Buddha). It is pronounced “Ah-mee-twoh-foh”. “Amituofo” is the Chinese transliteration of the Sanskrit “Amitabha”.
Why do we say “Amituofo” 3 times at the beginning and end of every class?
The first is to pay respect to Buddha, “Fo”.
The second is for dharma, “Fa” the way or the philosophy.
The third is for sangha “Seng”, the monastic community or family, as well as one’s master – even including mastering yourself.
What is “Action Meditation”?
Action meditation, or “dong chan” in Chinese, can be everything and anything we do. Play some music, speak, eat, go swimming, go climb a tree, go climb a mountain, walk upside-down, play basketball, make dinner, make love – any action you can think of that you can express in your beautiful life – that’s action meditation. There are a million different doors for a million different people to walk through in their lives, and a million different ways for a million different people to meditate in their lives.
Sitting meditation probably may not be good for some people, just like everyone likes different food and has different tastes. I can just sit there watching TV, and without warming up kiss my foot. It feels so good, so fresh and so clean – that’s my action meditation. Maybe you’ll never be able to do this kind of action meditation, or maybe you can. That’s why you have to be yourself. You can’t copy other people. You can borrow somebody else’s philosophy to use in your life, but you can’t live completely like somebody else.
Even now, in the 21st century, there are many monks, masters, or instructors who still just use one way to teach many people, to cross their legs and sit in the lotus position doing sitting meditation. Not everybody is flexible enough to put their legs together and sit there like that. They sit there for 15-20 minutes and their joints begin to ache, their knees, ankles, lower back, and neck get tired and uncomfortable. Why do you want to do sitting meditation when you’re torturing yourself, creating a problem for your life?
You can extend your leg to meditate, you can do splits if you want to. You can do Luohan Sleeping style to meditate, you can do headstands to meditate. Try different ways. Find yourself.
What does it mean to be a monk?
This is the source of confusion for many people who have a distorted view of what constitutes monkhood. In some types of Buddhism, there are 250 different rules for monks, 500 for those who wish to be nuns. One may wear the robes, shave one’s head, not speak a word, not look left or right, eat a restricted diet, and follow all 250 rules. But anyone can shave his head and wear the robes — this does not make him a monk. Some so-called monks might be strict in their practice but may be so for the wrong reasons. These people are not honest with themselves.
The Chinese word for monk is “heshang” (huh-shahng). The character “he” has the meaning here of the word “heqi” – friendly and amiable. The left side of the character means harmony, life. The right side is a pictograph of a mouth. Your mouth is not just only for eating good food, drinking good drinks, and making love – You also need to use it to speak with people and make wonderful relations between them. Use it to give people the knowledge and philosophy to help themselves and help the world. At the same time, the mouth can be used negatively to speak horrible things that can destroy people. When you’re healthy, it’s from what you eat and how you speak. When you’re sick, it’s from the same things. You must know how to use your chi positively. Shang means “gaoshang” – noble. It means a high level, different from others. To become a heshang, it is not necessary to shave your head, not necessary to wear the monk robes, and not necessary to live inside the monastery. Everywhere is your home, everywhere is your temple. You are the temple.
If you shave your head and wear the monk robes, but do things like eat meat, drink, be with women, underneath the table, out of sight, not wanting people to see or know about it, you’re cheating yourself. You’re not being honest with yourself. You’re not being yourself. Why are you doing that? If you do those things, but are open about it, honest with yourself and others, that’s beautiful. Express your beautiful life fully and honestly.
Why are Shaolin Monks allowed to eat meat and drink wine?
Shaolin Monks have been highly respected in their exploits outside the Temple, but no more so than at the end of the Sui Dynasty (581- 618), when the king of the Qin State, Li Shimin, needed to protect himself from the emperor of a rival state. Thirteen Shaolin monks rescued the nephew of the Emperor Li, and in the process, obtained the seal of the rival emperor. Later, Li became the first Emperor of the Tang Dynasty, and in gratitude to Shaolin, he granted the monks there the privilege of eating meat and drinking wine.
Shaolin Temple is unique among Buddhist temples throughout the world. Shaolin Temple monks practice physical as well as mental philosophy every day for many hours, and need protein to maintain their strong minds and strong bodies. Everything has life, everything has chi. In the last few hundred years, technology has helped scientists, doctors, and professors find out many things, what’s real, and what isn’t real. When you eat vegetables, you are also taking life. When you drink water, you kill many lives just from one sip. When you walk down the street, many little creatures walk all over your body, upside-down or horizontally. You don’t realize every day how many lives you kill just from doing these simple things! If you have a lovely heart and peaceful mind, you have to use them to help other people, yourself, and the world. That’s why I made the simple rules for my followers now in the modern world – “Only do good things, don’t do bad. Do whatever you can to help others. In these ways, you help yourself. Help yourself, and you help the world.” Whatever you eat or drink, it doesn’t matter. Understand yourself.
Do I have to change religions to train?
You don’t need to change anything. Stay believing whatever you believe, whether it’s in God, Jesus, Moses, Muhammad or anyone else. I believe in them all. I believe in all of the religion’s special leaders, they all teach people to be good people, to only do good things, not to do bad, and to help other people. All of them just have different names, I believe in them all, love them all, and I believe they love us too. When you come to the Temple, you don’t need to change what you believe, change religions, shave your head, or become a vegetarian. I do not teach Chinese philosophy, I teach International philosophy. I encourage my students, disciples, and followers to go to church, go to monasteries, go to mosques, to open their minds and open their hearts. Learn all of the philosophies and combine them together – that’s your philosophy. Just like in the martial arts world, there are many styles, karate, tae kwon do, jiu jitsu, muay thai, and hundreds more. Whatever style you practice, it doesn’t matter – learn all of the styles, combine them together, and that’s your style. That way, you can get the knowledge for yourself, and share it with other people.