◎ Is there no benefit in studying the Buddhadharma?
“I have studied, investigated, and listened to the Buddhadharma for a long, long time and I have not gained any benefit!” What benefit do you want? In fact, you have gained great benefit without knowing it. What kind of benefit have you gained?
When you study Buddhadharma here, you aren't out murdering people. Therefore, you are not among those murderers. Is that not a benefit? When you come here to attend Dharma lectures, you will not be found among thieves and burglars. If you don’t listen to lectures, you may get involved in theft, robbery, or even arson. Now that you study Buddhadharma, you are free from all these crimes. Wouldn’t you say that’s a benefit?
你現在學習佛法，身就不會去犯婬業，不會到外面去行婬欲。你沒有這種行為，在姦殺的罪犯裡又沒有你這 一份了。你做很多正當的事，這個罪犯裡你又沒有份了，這豈不是好處呢？你在這兒學佛法不會去打妄語，不會去外面欺騙人，那麼打妄語的罪犯裡又沒有你了，你 這就是口業清淨了。你再不喝酒，不抽菸，不吸毒，不吃種種迷魂藥了，你的意業也會清淨了，就會不貪，不瞋，不癡，因為你不吃那些迷人的東西，所以吸毒罪犯 裡面你也沒有一份了。
When learning Buddhadharma, you do not get involved in sexual misconduct. so you won’t commit crimes such as rape. You do many proper things so you will be free from all crimes. Isn’t that a benefit? When you study Buddhadharma, you won’t tell lies or go around cheating people. Then, you won’t commit the offense of lying. That is purifying your mouth karma. If you can go further to refrain from drinking, smoking, and taking drugs, then your mind karma would be purified too. Since you don’t consume those intoxicants, you wouldn’t be in the company of drug criminals either.
If purifying the three karmas is not a benefit of learning Buddhism, then what is it? If you don’t study the Buddhadharma, you may kill, or steal, or get involved in arson. Then the police will catch you and put you behind the bars, perhaps for life. Wouldn’t that be miserable? Since you are studying Buddhadharma, you are free from all these problems. If that is not a benefit, what is it then? Therefore, we should not grow weary of studying the Buddhadharma.
◎ Will "not receiving precepts" give you true freedom?
People with wrong views say, “Don’t take the precepts. What do you want to take them for? Why get some precepts to restrain you?” That is a wrong view. You think that not receiving precepts is being free. But it’s very easy to fall into the hells that way. That's where your so-called "true freedom” may lead you.
If you receive the precepts, you will have the protection of precepts. The precept marks, percept dharma, and precept substance will support you. You will not fall into the hells that easily. Even if you do fall into the hells, you will get out quickly. If you like to be free and don’t take precepts, then later when you fall into the hells, it's not for sure when you will come out.
你要是受過戒，墮地獄的時間，由很長的時間可以縮短。好像你犯了很大的法，被 警察捉住，因為你給總統做護衛、茶房，總統就寫字條叫人把你放出來，你很快就出來了。若是沒有這種關係，很久的時間也不能放出來，不知要拖延多久。這是同 一個道理，你有「戒」來保護你，它可以把你受很長罪的時間，縮為很短的時間。所以不要自作聰明，說不受戒是好的。
On the other hand if you have received precepts your time span in the hells can be shortened. It is like when someone who committed a major crime gets caught by the police. If the criminal had worked as a personal guard or an attendant for the president, then the president may write a note ordering that criminal's release. If the criminal doesn’t have such connection, he won’t be released for who knows how long. It is similar to that. When you have the protection of precepts, the long duration of your suffering can be greatly condensed. Therefore, don’t get smart and say, “It’s good not to receive the precepts.”
It’s good for you to receive the precepts. Let me say this to you, “Having taken the Buddha’s precepts, living beings enter the position of all Buddhas.” When living beings take the precepts of Buddhas, it’s the same as having entered the position of the Buddha. Therefore, don’t disparage the precepts or slander the Vinaya of the Buddha.
◎ What if I break the precepts?
「戒 為成佛之母」，想要成佛就要持戒，不能犯戒的。犯戒就好像船有窟窿，你說這個船是不是要沉到大海裡去？所以犯戒就好像船沉到大海一樣，所以不是受了戒不持 戒。你受了戒，就要守著戒；你不守著戒，那就是漏了。你這一漏，就成了有漏，不是無漏了。無漏就是你不破戒；你破了戒，就是漏。漏了怎麼辦？就要補。怎麼 補？就要做功德，用錢或是用力量來做功德，在三寶的面前立功德贖罪，你立功就沒有罪了。
Precepts are the mother of Buddhahood. If you want to become a Buddha, you must uphold precepts and not break them. Having transgressed the precepts is just like drifting in the ocean in a leaking boat. Won't the boat sink? Violating the precepts is just like causing the boat to sink in the ocean. When you have received the precepts, you must uphold them. If you don’t, it’s the same as having leaks. When you leak, you are not free of outflows. Having no outflows comes when we do not break the precepts; when you break the precepts, you have outflows. What should you do if that happens? You must mend the precepts. How? You may create merit and virtue either by making monetary donations or by doing volunteer work. By redeeming your offenses and establishing merit before the Triple Jewel, you will wipe out your offenses.
◎ The story of an old cultivator
以 前有個老修行，是在家人不是出家人。他受了五戒，另外又受了一個「食不語」的戒。可是他把五戒都犯了，就剩這個「食不語」的戒未犯。護這條戒的戒神就希望 他快點犯這條戒，祂也好走了，不保護他。但是這個人始終也不犯這條戒，吃飯的時候，他總不講話。以後這個戒神就給他托夢﹕「你什麼戒都犯了，為什麼吃飯這 個戒你不犯呢？你快點犯，我好離開你了。」
Once an old lay cultivator had received the five precepts and an additional rule of “keeping silent while eating.” However, later he broke all five precepts and only kept the rule of "keeping silent while eating." The precept-protecting spirit that protected this rule hoped that the lay person would violate it so that he could also leave. This person, nonetheless, never broke that rule. He always ate in silence.
Later, that precept spirit appeared in a dream, “You have transgressed all the precepts. Why haven’t you broken this rule of "keeping silent while eating"? Please break it quickly so I can leave.”
The old cultivator thought to himself, “I only hold this one rule of eating in silence and still I have that precept spirit protecting me.” Thereafter, he found a virtuous Dharma Master and received the five precepts again. Consequently, he cultivated and realized the Way. Each person has his own set of causes and conditions.
Therefore, receiving precepts is a very important matter in Buddhism.
◎ ManjusHri Bodhisattva's Precious Pearl
文 殊師利這位菩薩修菩薩行時不打妄語，也不殺生也不偷盜。總而言之，他謹守戒律。由什麼證明他守戒律而不偷盜呢？他有一次對其他的菩薩講：「我從一發心修行 就持不盜戒，所以現在我所有的東西就沒有人偷盜；不單沒有人偷盜，我就是把最值錢的東西放在地上，也沒有人會把它拿去。」
While Manjushri Bodhisattva was practicing the Bodhisattva Way, he never lied. Nor did he commit any offense involving killing or stealing. In general, he upheld the precepts strictly. How can we prove that he followed those rules and never stole things? Once, he told the other Bodhisattvas, “Ever since my initial resolve to cultivate, I have held the rule of not stealing. Therefore, my belongings will not be stolen by anyone. Not only will no one steal from me, even if I leave my most valuable possession out in the open, no one will walk away with it.”
Some Bodhisattvas didn’t believe him and said, “We would like to test your claim with an experiment. Leave your most valuable thing at the city gate, which is the busiest place. Leave it there for three days. If no one picks it up that will prove that your statement is true.”
Manjushri Bodhisattva agreed to try the experiment. Thereupon, he put his most precious pearl--all Bodhisattvas possess many precious and valuable things--at the city gate. Many people passed through the gate in the next three days and sure enough, no one picked it up. The other Bodhisattvas then knew that Manjushri Bodhisattva had truly upheld the precept against stealing.
◎ Don't act as your own defense attorney
Different people explain the same Buddhadharma in many different ways. Accordingly, the methods of cultivation are also different. Each person has his own interpretation. Therefore, there are many different viewpoints.
譬如真正修佛法的人，要不抽菸，不喝酒，不吃那麼多的肉。有的同是佛教裡面的人就說了：「佛講戒律教人不殺生，不 偷盜，不邪婬，不妄語，不喝酒，沒有叫人不抽菸，所以抽菸不在佛教的戒律以內。」這就是自己給自己講道理。根本抽菸的問題就在飲酒裡面，不過自己要給自己 做辯護律師，就說抽菸是不犯戒的。
For instance, true cultivators of Buddhadharma should not smoke, drink, or eat meat. But some Buddhists say, “The Buddha’s precepts prohibit people from killing, stealing, indulging in sexual misconduct, lying, or drinking. However, there’s no mention of smoking. Therefore, smoking is not included in the precepts.” This is a self-justification. Smoking is covered in the precept against drinking. They want to act as their own defense attorneys so they say smoking is not a violation of the precepts.
A person with true wisdom will not do anything improper. He will refrain from doing all manner of bad things, not just those mentioned in the precepts. We should change all our bad habits.
我們說不吃肉，不殺生，這個不殺生，也 包括了不吃肉；這個不吃肉，也包括了不殺生，因為你要不殺生就沒有肉吃了。有的佛教徒又說了﹕「佛沒教人不吃肉，只是教人不殺生。佛都允許人吃三淨肉-- 不見殺，不聞殺，不為我殺﹕吃三淨肉是可以的。」這也是自己口裡饞，捨不得這個肉味，所以這樣辯護。
Not killing includes not eating meat and not eating meat also includes not killing. That is because if we don’t kill, there will be no meat to eat. Some Buddhists say, “The Buddha prohibited people from killing, but not from eating meat. The Buddha allowed people to eat the meat that is pure in three ways: 1) One does not see the creature killed; 2) one does not hear the creature being killed; 3) the creature was not killed especially for oneself. Eating meat that is pure in these ways is permitted.” That is also a self-justification because the person basically cannot renounce meat.
I met a professor before who could not get by for one day without eating meat. He said, “Even the smell of meat would relieve my craving for it if I couldn’t get to taste it.” So you see, each person has his own ideas and views and they are all different.
In learning Buddhadharma, we must learn precepts, concentration, and wisdom.
Precepts help us to “refrain from all evil and do all good.” We refrain from doing whatever is bad, but we do all good things.
Concentration is the vigorous study of Chan meditation. Wisdom is the result of concentration, and concentration comes from upholding precepts. This is called the three non-outflow studies.
We must put an end to greed, hatred and delusion. Being free from greed, we will not fight. When we do not fight with others, we seek nothing. When we do not seek, we will be selfless. When we are selfless, we will not pursue personal advantage. All these are related. Studying Buddhadharma means following the teaching in a precise and honest manner. Don’t take chances and shortcuts, just cultivate honestly.
◎ What are PURE precepts?
You should pay attention to the word “pure.” What does “pure” mean? It means being pure and clean, free from all defilement. Not having the slightest defilement is the kind of purity in which not even a single thought arises.
Not killing includes purifying our thoughts. If we uphold precepts on the surface and claim that we don’t kill, but we complain about others constantly or get angry with people, we are still violating the precept against killing.
Not stealing includes mental states. We don’t have to steal physically. When we envy other’s wealth or talents, or become jealous of people, we transgress the precept against stealing.
Not committing sexual misconduct includes not having improper thoughts about the opposite sex. If we indulge in improper thoughts about the opposite sex, then we are being impure and breaking the precept.
Holding the precepts purely means leading a clean life without any defiled thoughts. That is to hold the precepts purely.