(The first part of this lecture is dedicated to the merits of the Medicine Buddha and of chanting meditation. In the second part, Master JinBodhi answers questions written on student submitted cards.)
I was in Taiwan a few days ago, teaching a Chanting Meditation Program. I was aware that there were a large number of different belief systems present among the participants. Not different religions, per se. Rather, different styles of meditation. Still... everyone there was able to continue chanting without stopping or going hoarse for 6 hours a day, seven days straight. Normally, after about 2 hours using their voice in some way, like singing, people start having difficulties. The next day, their throat might feel swollen and sore.
I asked my students specifically if anyone was having that kind of problem—a throat that was sore, dry, or itchy. No one was.
In fact, most people commented that their throat felt great, and that their voice was unusually clear. That sort of stamina is a result of meditation practice—try just singing at home for 2 hours and you'll see what I mean. It's just not the same activity, so it will hurt.
You might be wondering if the people in that class weren't already really experienced in meditation practice. They weren't. It was just the act of meditating that brought them immediate benefit. But meditation helps in other ways as well.
Among the participants, there were people suffering from inflammation of the joints, rheumatoid arthritis, and illnesses of all kinds. Some had been treated medicinally, and as a result, the natural flow through their limbs had been blocked. For example, they may not have perspired since their treatment. But during the meditation or the dharma lectures, they started to sweat for the first time, either from the soles of their feet or their palms. That's an indication that the blockage had been removed and everything was flowing freely. When blockages like that are cleared, associated illnesses are too—like migraines and insomnia.
Some people believe that chanting mantras and singing songs are the same thing... but not to me, because I see the possibility of important benefits from the chanting of mantras. I'm going to chant now, and I invite you to join in if you can.
Dyeh-ya-tah ong bay-kan-dzeh, bay-kan-dzeh ma-ha bay-kan-dzeh lad-za samu ga-dyeh swo-ha...
In ancient times, far in the Eastern Pure Land there was a king whose dharma was infinitely powerful. If we commune with him, his energy brings us blessings on the physical level. We're supported by it. For that reason, regularly chanting his mantra brings greater fortune, especially in times of distress. It also lengthens our life span and brings contentment. Chanting it 1080 times in one day will maximize results.
If you don't know the mantra, you can get a recording of me chanting it. Make sure you don't lose your ticket, because the chant is written on it. Use it—it's very beneficial. The king I'm speaking of is the Medicine Buddha of course. He converts the spiritual to the physical, helping us to overcome the hardships of Samsara. It's particularly effective.
For example, if your child is having trouble sleeping at night, just chant this to him and it will help. If you feel that it isn't working when you chant it yourself, just play the recording of my chanting for him. You'll see results.
About two weeks ago, I ran into an individual in a Taiwanese restaurant. He'd never studied under me before, but one of his relatives had a CD of me chanting the Medicine Buddha's Heart Sutra. Now, he has a child, and his child cried all night. He was fine during the day, and slept well then, but at night he just cried and couldn't sleep. They'd seen doctors and had tests done to no avail. The doctors prescribed sedatives, but the child didn't tolerate them well. One night, he decided to play the CD to his son. He listened for 20 minutes, and he didn't cry. From that time on, not only does his son not cry, but he also sleeps on a normal schedule. This method of dealing with sleep disorders was actually quite well studied 10 years ago... though it wasn't this mantra that I was chanting at the time. Play it at night for family members or even for plants—do your own experiment. You'll see that they grow better, and that after 2 days, your family's hot-tempers will cool considerably. Just try it: test the benefits for yourself. And if it turns out that I'm right, you can use it as much as you want.
At this point master JinBodhi is handed question cards that have been filled out by participants.
◆ Do I have to be a vegetarian to self-cultivate?
This question is really common.
My answer is “not necessarily.” I think that the answer is clear when we're discussing “not killing,” but when that intersects with eating habits, then all kinds of traditional interpretations need to be addressed. There's “su” vegetarianism, which just means not eating meat, and then there's “hun,” which is not eating any meat, nor any pungent plants like garlic, onion, leek, etc. In the time of the Buddha, monks took bowls out with them every day to collect alms, and there was no distinction between “su” and “hun.” In Tibet there was even less distinction, and in the southern Buddhist traditions, like in Thailand, monks go out with big bowls like drums and collect whatever they can. People donate what they're able, and there is a big variety of foods by the end.
◆ When to meditate
People often ask me if it is better to meditate in the morning or at night. It is generally believed that it's better to meditate at night, because people calm as the night deepens. During the day, there is so much commotion, but around 10:30 at night there's less and less noise. It's easier to meditate when things are more tranquil. People who live with their families may be worried that by staying up and meditating, chanting or listening to meditation recordings, they'll disturb their family members who are trying to sleep. Of course, you can always try to find yourself a separate spot of some kind for your practice, but if your living quarters are a bit cramped, then wearing earphones to practice is a practical option for meditation with recordings.
◆ Why do people become more solemn the more they meditate?
People ask why it is that the more practitioners meditate, the more solemn they become.
Personally, I've never felt that was the case. The opposite in fact! I'd say that the more someone meditates, the more lively and vivacious they appear. Becoming solemn is good too... it's the result of reaching a particular state of meditation. Like those people seem to have only one expression, like a statue or painting of Buddha. But maintaining a solemn facial expression has no importance. The important thing is to develop an ever more discerning heart... one that can penetrate to the truth of matters. I rarely see frozen solemn faces... except maybe when I get mad.
◆ At the age of 20, I was diagnosed with depression and an anxiety disorder. Can I be treated with meditation?
20 is a great age. Life is at it's best before 30—it's a very care-free time. I wonder, have your parents dealt with depression themselves? What do you think causes your depression?
Maybe you think you're depressed because you're not a good student. Maybe you don't think you're responsible enough—not diligent enough? It's essential to note that people who suffer from depression often don't feel they have any real direction or purpose in life, so they find life choices really difficult to make.
Regardless of whether there are nervous conditions involved in depression, or if it's more a lack of responsibility... or if it is because of hardships, heart break or some other kind of shock to the system, it all relates to the brain. These problems result from the brain not getting enough nourishment. As a result, the mind is easily damaged and nervous illness is more likely.
When this sort of depression emerges in the 20s, it is simply a matter of needing to establish bigger and better life aspirations. If you set an aspiration and head towards its realization, then you won't be depressed anymore.
We are in the era of depression... there has never been more of it, but it will be an even bigger issue in the future. Why? Because we live in relative ease physical, we have more free time than ever before. In the past, a 12 or 13 year-old spent his days on the farm helping mom and dad with the work. He was exhausted at the end of every day, and there was no time for depression.
Another reason is technology use. People spend way more time cooped up in rooms, not going out or making real-life connections, because they can surf the web and communicate that way. They can even change who they are online! Men pretend to be women. Middle aged wives pretend to be young girls. People play games that way, like the Monkey Warrior of ancient tales... Someone who acts like that is someone who doesn't feel comfortable interacting with people normally. Why not exercise a little more instead? Participate in some competitions by joining a sports team or dance group? Anyone who isn't exercising is going to feel sluggish and less energetic. Their digestion will slow too, and their mental function. So, exercise is good for the mind... is livens everything up. For that reason it's a good idea to communicate less electronically. A lot of people don't exercise because of their work—so many people work on the computer all day. If that isn't the case for you, then you shouldn't be wasting away in front of a screen 24/7 by choice. If you do, depression will come quickly. If you can't muster the courage to get out and interact with real people, then you'll never make new friends. So take up some group sports or activities. Otherwise, do more housework when you are home... it's the kind of thing that there is never really any end to, and it is good for the development of your hand-eye coordination. Even your creative thinking skills! And on top of all that, it lightens the work load for your parents... which will lower theirstress levels. Habits like those can be part of your personal improvement. So, I hope that anyone who realizes that they are suffering from depression will take a little time to choose an action they are going to take, and that they then do it! It's thinking without acting all the time causes problems.
◆ Distinguishing greed from success-building.
People wonder where the difference lies between greedy behavior and success-building behavior.
The difference is challenging to explain.
To me, it lies in the thinking. If you are realizing your optimum potential, then it isn't greed. But when you go beyond optimum levels, then you've strayed into the domain of greed. When people set ideals for themselves that are too impractical, too unrealistic... the kind of aspirations that you can kill yourself working for but still never achieve, those kinds of aspirations are not the same as ones that are well thought-out. They are unenlightened, and confused. To blindly set an objective that doesn't take your abilities and energy into account is often the result of greed. As for what constitutes “success,” that's an individual matter... not a predetermined constant. Just like the concept of “failure.” I've established what they mean for me: as long as I am living, that's a success, and then when I pass on, I'll be liberated from Samsara. Also, in my mind, there is no such thing as “failure.” Think about that, and how it could apply to your own lives.
There are quite a number of people here from a variety of far off places.
After we are done with this activity, the advanced level class' session will begin. Our practice is like an elevator, each floor leads to the next in ever-rising succession. The more we meditate, the better, for our bodies and our minds. It's like a pagoda of many levels... the higher you go—the more you practice—the fewer concerns you'll have.
◆ What is the meaning of “Puti”
The term “puti” is of Sanskrit origin. It's the Chinese pronunciation of the word that's written as “bodhi” in English, which means “enlightenment.” So when we say “Puti Meditation” or “Puti Dharma,” they are terms for our branch of Buddhism... it's another way of saying “The Door to Enlightenment.” The intention of our branch is to help people separate themselves from suffering and to find joy... to allow people to overcome their problems with wisdom.
◆ Dealing with insomnia.
I was once approached by an individual who was hoping I could offer some help with their insomnia of 20 years.
As I see it, there is no other option than to come here to meditate and learn. I know that a lot of people here have dealt with insomnia, and been helped... even if it wasn't a 20 year-old problem. Sleep disorders can encourage a large variety of other illnesses, from halitosis, weakened vision and hearing, to headaches and migraines, stomach disorders, kidney dysfunction, and depression... Most insomnia is genetic in origin and it indicates an insufficient ability the brain to endure under certain conditions. Puti Meditation causes obvious improvements in this. That's because the brain is the very first thing that our meditation stimulates, and it's the first part of the body to be energized.
◆ Can meditation help with liver infections, like HAA+ hepatitis?
I can't honestly say that I know with 100% certainty, because I've never done a thorough study of it. What I do know is that hepatitis is very difficult to get better from. That's not to dash anyone's hopes, but to be honest. It's a tough one. It makes me think of septicaemia, blood poisoning. Both of these conditions are quite challenging.
Ten years ago, there was a sick boy that came here to meditate. He's passed on now. When he was meditating, things were good... but when he stopped things worsened. There was nothing I could do in this case, and I was really worried for him. Everyone's health is so different. We all have different bodies, genes—we've all made different mistakes in life. After this boy had been here meditating for a bit, he was improving, and so his mother decided to send him away to school in China. She told me that she and the boy's father were counting on his being able to go to university... that it was really important for them. Well the school they sent him too was strict, and there was a lot of pressure put on him from the teachers and the system itself. He wasn't able to keep up with his meditation, and stopped. Six months later, he wasn't with us anymore.
You see, meditation has real power to help you when you are ill. You can bear more in life... so you should meditate. I'm not implying that death can be avoided all the time with self-cultivation, but it canincrease your energy—it can augment your life force and lengthen your life. Moreover, it can greatly reduce the pain you are suffering from.
When I was in Korea, I met a woman who was suffering from horribly painful rheumatoid arthritis. Her face was knotted in discomfort all the time and it was so bad that it would make her cry out. For some reason, the later the day grew, the worse the pain was. She would wake up fine in the morning, but cope with gradually building pain all day until it peaked at about ten at night. There seemed to be no managing it. At that time, we were taking a stricter approach to instruction in Korea. When I was asked what she should do, I told her to kowtow every day, for eight hours a day. Nothing more, nothing less—just as you see people doing in Tibet. No need to count the number of times, just to do it for eight hours. She did. For six months. And she is completely cured, not even needing to take medication. Where she couldn't even use her hands to grasp things before, she is now able to work and even sew. She cooks too... I know because she prepared a great Korean meal for me.
It can be hard to determine what specific result a particular meditation method will have... and so many of them are really dull. Still, our Korean Mediation Hall is open 24-hours, and packed all the time. People schedule meditation sessions at midnight, at six in the morning, during the day and after work. It gives the impression that Koreans are very diligent when they decide to study something.
◆ The elimination of pain
Both chest pain around the heart and back pain, eh? Yesterday your face hurt and today it's your back. You have a lot of pain issues—the source, and to do whatever you need to do to keep meditating. Pain in the limbs tends to clear up within about a month. All you need to do is learn the meditation, which is easy, I assure you, and then to meditate for two hours every day. Does that seem like a long time? It's about the length of time it takes to sit and watch a movie. Do it, and it will make a huge difference.