What is blissful culture? Why does humanity need a blissful culture?

The culture of purifying the human mind is blissful culture

Humanity is constantly seeking happiness in this world. However, no matter how hard it tries, it is somehow unable to find happiness. Instead, it encounters calamities and more calamities. In fact, all these calamities are the creation of the mind.

In the beginning of this earth, there were only the heavenly and human realms of existence. The realms of hell, hungry ghost, animal and asura did not exist. But, as humanity progressed through time, the human mind began to change. They developed more and more affinity for evil - greed, anger, ignorance, delusion and foolish thoughts which gave rise to the acts of killing, stealing and sexual misconduct. Happiness gradually diminished and the six realms of cyclic existence evolved out of humanity’s evil mind.

In today’s society, the unhappiness of human beings largely results from the countless evil deeds that he has committed. These evil deeds stem mainly from three karma - our bodily action, speech and thought. Thoughts are basically our thinking. If our thoughts are filled with evil thinkings, these will be manifested in our actions. For example, our unkind thoughts of someone may translate into harsh words from our mouth or even into a painful action with our hands. When we do these, we are creating evil karma.

Our thoughts generate greed, anger and delusions. Through our speech - in the form of telling lies, frivolous talk, slandering and rude or harsh speech; and through our bodily actions by way of killing, stealing and sexual misconduct. This is just a simple explanation. It would be endless to go into details. These three karma bring upon ourselves a lot of sufferings and unhappiness. Therefore, if humanity wants to achieve happiness in life, then he should try to eradicate all these evil deeds which stem from greed, anger, ignorance, killing, stealing and sexual misconduct.

Many religions teach us to do good and avoid doing bad. Buddhism, in particular, besides teaching us to refrain from all evil deeds and to do all good deeds, also teaches us to purify our minds. Once we have a healthy mental culture, naturally our minds will not be filled with greed, anger, ignorance, and other evil thoughts and actions. We must be aware that the mind controls our speech and actions, it all arises from our minds. Minds are also our thoughts. It is because humanity lacks wisdom and awareness that we are constantly deceived by our minds. We fail to understand the real meaning of karma, or cause and effect. We do not know if our actions will hurt ourselves or others; or if they are beneficial or harmful. Hence, unhappiness and sufferings follow.

Humanity wants happiness and dislikes sufferings. But, due to the lack of wisdom, we do not know how to free ourselves from our sufferings. However, if we learn from Buddha’s teachings - practise to purify the three karma of bodily actions, speech and thoughts, our wisdom can be cultivated. Once we have wisdom, whatever we think, speak and do, the actions will be beneficial to ourselves, to others and to the world. These eventually lead to happiness and the world will be filled with brightness and hope.

Henceforth, we can say that the culture of Buddhism is also Blissful Culture.

What is Human Bliss Culture?

The Culture of Buddhism is the Voice of Bliss

voice-budd2.jpg (8851 bytes) What is Human Bliss Culture? We should ask the question in reverse: "What is Human ‘Un-bliss’ Culture?" Since there is bliss culture, therefore there is ‘un-bliss’ culture. The world today has many teachings, including those that teach people to commit evil. Lets think it over. In fact, all humanity originally has bliss, why did it diminish? It is because we human beings destroy our bliss by not observing the rules and the precepts.
To use a simple illustration, it is like putting a tea cup at the centre of the table. It is very safe and beyond the reach of small children. If it is put along the edge of the table, then it is very vulnerable to falling and breakage. To replace the broken cup means having to sacrifice twice. If a child places the tea cup at the edge of the table, then the mother will quickly exhort him to move it to the centre. Adults understand the need to put it at the centre of the table, but young children don’t. In fact, this is a precept.

The regulations about what can or cannot be done are precepts. In fact, everyone needs to observe precepts and be good citizens. Good citizens need to abide by the laws, and that is observing the precepts. Therefore, Jen Chen Buddhism refer to precepts as ‘means of safeguarding blessings’. ‘Safeguarding blessings’ means safeguarding our own blessings, the blessings which resulted from the virtuous deeds committed in the past. This is analogous to putting the tea cup in the proper place. In fact, all the *Dharma Doors taught by Buddhism is the Voice of Bliss. This Voice of Bliss is spoken by Buddha for all of us. All the teachings of Buddha are meant for we, human beings, to attain the highest order of bliss. If everyone comes to learn Buddhism, cultivate and achieve the pure Nirvana, then, of course, that is the highest, fullest and most complete, and most ultimate bliss. Therefore, the culture of Buddhism is Bliss Culture.

In many countries, particularly Europe and America, people generally understand what is a Bliss Culture. But, they do not necessarily know what is Buddhism Culture. Therefore, we refer to ‘Buddhism Culture’ as ‘Bliss Culture’. The sutras expounded by Sakyamuni Buddha is the standard for Bliss Culture. And, when promoted in this manner, in time to come the entire humanity of the world will be able to pursue the principles that bring bliss as expounded by the Buddha.

* Dharma doors : The doctrines of Buddha regarded as the door to enlightenment; methods of cultivation.

The title of your Dharma talk is Human Bliss Culture; why then when you answer questions from the audience you did not mention Human Bliss Culture at all? Many of my friends here and I would like to know what is Human Bliss Culture.

The culture of Buddhism is Bliss Culture

It is because the bliss culture that you have in mind and what I have in mind are different. The bliss culture that you have in mind may be how to prosper with great wealth and fortune, or how to have a good wife in order for the family to have bliss. In this manner, the definition of bliss is too narrow! We need to know that the culture of Buddhism is the real bliss culture. If everybody is able to attain the ultimate Nirvana, then this is indeed the real bliss culture.

The purpose of our learning Buddhism is to distance from suffering and attain happiness. Many people think that to distance from suffering and attain happiness means going to the Western Pure Land. In fact, it is not only this. When we distance from suffering and attain happiness, we have to instantaneously distance from suffering, instantaneously attain happiness and liberation. Some people may be suspicious; how can liberation be attained so easily? In fact, it is very simple. If someone scolds you, and you apologize to him, then that is a small liberation. If someone hits you, and you retaliate; an eye for an eye, then isn’t that very miserable? What happen if that results in loss of life? Even though you are rude to me, I will still apologise very politely to you. Isn’t that being liberated? This is Jen Chen Buddhism’s teaching of liberation. If whilst alive, we cannot even attain small liberation’s like this, then what more to say of liberation after death? In the course of our daily lives, if we are liberated at every moment, then in time to come we will be able to attain the great liberation. Please think it over, isn’t this a very blissful? This is but to use a small matter to illustrate the path of liberation. If we are able to understand more of the Buddha-Dharma and apply them in our life, family, society, country, and to the extent of the entire humanity of the world, then isn’t this a great bliss culture? Therefore, we say that the culture of Buddhism is Bliss Culture.

In this complex society, how should humanity cultivate in order to achieve bliss?

Learning and Practising Buddhism is the Beginning of Bliss

How should human beings cultivate to achieve happiness and bliss? The scope of this question is too wide for us to deliberate. We have to phrase the question in reverse: what is the cause of human beings’ lack of happiness and bliss? To answer it simply, it is due to our unkind thoughts.
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Our mind is ever changing. Whether we ascend to heaven or descend to hell, is dependent on our actions which are created by our mind. Virtuous thoughts beget virtuous responses. When our thoughts turn evil, we will invariably face misery and misfortunes. Karma is created by our thoughts, words and deeds. The arising of our mind is translated into either actions or words. Foolish actions are preceded by foolish thoughts arising in our mind, and these result in suffering. Virtuous thoughts precede noble deeds and these shall reap joyous experiences. If whatever we do, we do them for our own benefit, out of selfish and egotistic reasons, or to suit our delusory habits, thinking that that is the way to pursue bliss and happiness, then in the end the exact opposite will happen. We put the blame on others, we are not aware that this is the result of our own ignorance and foolishness. If we do not awake to this reality, we will forever be unable to distance ourselves from suffering and attain happiness.

To cultivate is to get rid of our bad conduct and habits. Our conduct is manifested in our physical actions, speech and thoughts. If we often have wild thoughts, then we have to cultivate mental purity; if our words often harm others, then we have to cultivate purity in our speech; if we are always getting into fights, then we should cultivate purity in our physical actions. Some people have the notion that cultivation is a matter only for monks and nuns. In fact, cultivation is for the entire humanity; all human beings need to cultivate. So long as our conduct is poor, we need to cultivate. Just like a vehicle that has broken down, it needs to be repaired before it can be driven again. There are also others who think that cultivation means meditating in high mountains, and praying to the Buddha. This is not true. We need to cultivate amidst our activities. What is most important is to get rid of our self serving and evil habits. Just like "One who respects others shall receive respect himself; one who abuses others shall be abused himself; one who hurt others shall be hurt himself", if we will treat others with respect, others will accord us with the same respect. It is in this way that bliss begins.

One attribute of human beings is ignorance, the consequence of which leads to our misfortunes. If all human beings are able to learn and practise Buddhism, unfold our wisdom, use our wisdom to deal with others, practise the Bodhisattva path, are truly selfless and benefit the world at large in whatever we do, then surely we will be able to achieve bliss and happiness.

Thus, learning and practising Buddhism will enable every family, the society and all the inhabitants of this world to achieve bliss.

I am interested to learn Buddhism, but I am deterred by the need to observe so many precepts. What should I do?

To attain bliss one needs to observe the precepts

Are you a virtuous person or of bad character? If you are a virtuous person, then what concerns do you have about the precepts? It is the same as when you are a good citizen, then the laws of the country are not a hinderance to you. If a person is law abiding and upholds his duty, none of the laws will affect him. On the other hand, if he robs, kills and commits crimes, then naturaly he has to accept the consequences of the law of the country.

In fact, Buddhism originally did not have so many precepts or rules of conduct. Before these precepts were set by the Buddha, everybody was well behaved. Later, when the community of the Sangha was established, it grew in numbers and some members were not able to eradicate their self serving and evil habits. They could not live up to 
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expectations. Thus, the Sangha began to have precepts. With these, it became possible to uphold the dignity and harmony of the Sangha.

The monks of the Sangha have to observe two hundred and fifty precepts while the nuns have more than three hundred. Lay Buddhists of the society, however, do not really require so many precepts. They only need to observe Five Precepts: refrain from killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct and the consumption of intoxicants. If as a human being you cannot observe these Five Precepts, then you really have to examine yourself. On the other hand, if your conduct does not violate these Five Precepts, then what hinderances are these to you? In addition, one needs to take refuge in the Three Treasures: the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, and be a disciple of the Three Treasures. As for observing the Five Precepts, it is a separate matter. One can either observe them fully or even partially.

If, because of your business, you feel that you need to say things that are not true, then for a start you need not observe the precept of not lying. But, later when your friends find you untrustworthy and begin to avoid you, then you will realize that it is good to observe the precept of not lying. Then, you can begin to put it into practice.

As for refraining from consuming intoxicants such as alcholic drinks, if you feel that as a businessman you need to entertain your business associates and drink with them, then it is permissible. However, you should not over indulge to the extent that you become intoxicated and terminate your wisdom. Thus, precepts uphold our bliss. According to Jen Chen Buddhism, precepts are "methods of safeguarding blessings". When we know that observing the precepts will uphold the bliss, blessing and well being of the family, I believe each and everyone of us will observe them.

As for abstention from sexual misconduct, surely there should not be any other sexual relationships besides that between husband and wife. If one does not observe his role and flirts with other women, there will be a lot of trouble in the family when the wife finds out about it. Worse still, the consequences would be unthinkable should one contracts sexually transmitted diseases through his sexual misconduct. Thus, observing these precepts can indeed enable one’s family to be eternally beautiful and fulfilling, blissful and happy.

Why is it that despite being Buddhists, some families are still not blissful?

Cultivate blesssings and wisdom

Authentic Buddhists should be blissful.

There are many people who think they are Buddhists. Yet they are not. This may sound contradictory, but it is because many of us do not understand what Buddhism really is. Many people, are still lost despite being Buddhists. On the surface they appear to be staunch Buddhists, but they lack wisdom. Many people misunderstand praying to ghosts and deities, and objects such trees and stones to be Buddhism. How can they be blissful when they continue to be superstitious?

Authentic Buddhists who have taken refuge in the Three Treasures - the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, who follow what the Buddha taught, understand the Truth, diligently learn and practise Buddhism, eradicate their self serving and evil habits, eliminate superstitions and unfold their wisdom, are assured of bliss.

voice-budd3.jpg (12212 bytes) If, although you are a Buddhist and you continue to patronise the temples of ghosts and deities, mistaking them for Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, then that is wrong. Buddhism does not reject ghosts and deities because they too can become Buddhists. But, we should not worship them just because they can be Buddhists themselves. We need to know that ghosts and deities are sentient beings of the three evil realms. They descended to the
realm of ghosts because, in their previous lives in the human realm they were attached to greed and lust, they were misers who could not bear to give, and they worshipped the evil and other wayward superstitious ways of the ghosts and deities. Thus, they descended to the ghost realm when they died. Some of them may be better off then others. They may be more intelligent, had performed good deeds before and had more blessings. They become deities and are called blessed ghosts and deities. Similarly, some human beings are better off than others; they hold high offices or they may be very wealthy. However, ghosts and deities live in darkness. They do not have brightness. On the other hand, human beings belong to one of the three good realms. Because in their previous lives they practised the Five Precepts and performed the Ten Virtuous Deeds, therefore in their present lives they are reborn into the realm of human beings. If human beings mistake ghosts and deities for Bodhisattvas and worship them, then that is likened to mistaking a beggar for a rich man and pleading with him for help, protection, peace and prosperity. It is impossible for them to help and protect you because sentient beings of the three evil realms do not have blessings at all. They are in such desperate situations that they cannot even save themselves. Surely they cannot offer you any real assistance when you approach them for help. If we correct this erroneous and superstitious concept, we will return to the shore of enlightenment.

The most important thing for authentic Buddhists who are learning and practising Buddhism is to apply what the Buddha taught in our daily lives, create a Buddhist cultured family and way of life, and be with Buddha at every moment. In this way, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will naturally shelter us. Our wisdom will unfold, and with wisdom naturally bliss will follow.

It is hoped that every Buddhist will be able to apply the principles of Buddhism in their daily lives and practise diligently. Furthermore, we should not only seek the assistance of the Ksitigarbha (Ti-Zhang) Bodhisattva in reducing our negative karma, the Avalokitesvara (Kuan-Yin) Bodhisattva in reducing our suffering and difficulties, but also to pay reverence to Manjusri (Wen-Shu) Bodhisattva to cultivate according to the Dharma and to seek to unfold our wisdom. When we have wisdom, regardless of what we do or whom we deal with, be it our school works, occupation or bringing up our children, we will always be successful. At the same time we need to widely perform virtuous deeds, and nurture our blessings and morality. In this way, we will surely attain perfection and bliss.

What is the meaning of life?

A life pursuing bliss is most meaningful

Life has meanings that are both common and unique to each individual. The common meanings in life are living, survival, and pursuing bliss and happiness. However, some people may feel that survival in this manner is not easy. They are driven to doing bad, for example, robbing or swindling others. To them, such acts constitute their meaning of life. To others, the meaning of life is to be law abiding citizens, earning a righteous livelihood and supporting their family.

To a person of bad character, indulging in vices such as gambling and alcoholic drinks is meaningful. A farmer may feel that his occupation in providing food is most meaningful. A teacher may feel that educating the young is most meaningful. Yet, some may feel working hard for a living and to raise and support their family is most meaningful. Thus, due to the differences in an individual’s outlook, experience and environment, the meaning of life varies from person to person.

Buddhists may find it meaningful to learn and practise the Buddha’s teachings. Christians may feel that spending time praying to God is most meaningful. The meaning life is indeed very broad. There is no hard and fast rule to it. We may say that life should be lived meaningfully, yet, what is meaningful to us may not necessarily be meaningful to others.

Which ever the case, it is only when we are able to distance ourselves from suffering and attain a life of happiness and bliss that life is meaningful. To some, this may appear to be the standard objective since we all differ in our thoughts and therefore our pursuits in life are different. Furthermore, our experiences in life are different and therefore it is difficult to define a universal meaning of life.

Since we are learning Buddhism, we seek liberation, unfold our wisdom, emulate the practices of the Bodhisattvas and ultimately to attain the supreme enlightenment of Buddhahood. These are recognised pursuits of all Buddhists and thus it is the most meaningful life.

What kind of life is meaningful?

A Blissful Life Is Meaningful

If asked what is my purpose in life, I would say I want to promote a bliss culture. I want to spread the Dharma for the benefit of all sentient beings. I want to devote myself to Buddhism, practise Buddha’s teachings and follow the Bodhisattva path. This is my purpose in life.

Some people have no desire to be good, they want to steal or rob. If you ask him about his purpose of life, he will tell you life is meaningful if he can strike a "big one", or continue with his sinful ways. Then, there are those who are capable of earning money, and they would say, "I want to be the richest person in the world." These to them are very meaningful. Many people who are well off have no desire to be engaged in useful employment. I have been told of a very rich lady who travelled from country to country to "beg" for money. In reality she was already a multi-millionaire. Ask her what is her interest in life, and she would say she enjoys begging.

So, what kind of life is meaningful? Human beings have one common objective, and that is living. But to live meaningfully, we must pursue bliss. I believe that is also our common objective. What Buddhism teaches is a bliss culture, so let us promote this bliss culture so that everyone can achieve bliss and happiness. Thus, I feel that only a life that seeks bliss and happiness is truly meaningful.

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Copyright 2001. Jen Chen Buddhism Centre