Once there was a family. The patriarch of the family was called Abraham. He did very well in his spiritual practice and was God's friend. One day, God told him to leave his home town promising, "If you follow my instructions -- leave your home town, and do what I tell you to do -- I'll make you the father of many nations." This meant that God would make him the national father of many nations.
God also promised to give Abraham a son and many other children to make his family very big. Hes said, "You'll have numerous children, as many as the stars in the sky." However, at that time, Abraham and his wife were very old. Although they had faith in God, they wondered, "How can that be? We're too old to bear children."
Many years passed. Each night when Abraham looked at the stars in the sky, he remembered God's words and felt very annoyed. He thought that God might have been joking. Finally, Abraham and his wife gave up hope completely.
★The Child Given By GodHowever, unexpectedly, Abraham's wife conceived and gave birth to a boy. They rejoiced over his birth and named him Isaac. Many years later, Isaac became a big, tall, strong and handsome boy. Then God decided to test Abraham.
One day, God appeared to Abraham and said, "Abraham, I want you to take your only and most beloved son Isaac into the land of Moriah and offer him to me." Here, to "offer" means to kill or to sacrifice. Ancient people made sacrifices to gods or ghosts that way. Sometimes they sacrificed little boys or girls and sometimes cows, horses, pigs, et cetera.
Abraham couldn't believe this. He kept asking himself, "Does God really want me to kill my only son? Hes once promised me many children. How could Hes ever want to take away my only son?" He kept struggling within himself. However, he had learnt all his life to believe in God. Some people might believe in God only fifty percent, but he believed in God wholeheartedly. Therefore, the next morning, he prepared a lot of wood and matches, and then set out for Moriah with his son.
It took three days to get from their home to Moriah. They had to walk a long way to get there. With the passage of time, Abraham felt more and more pained and sad. Although he believed in God, he still struggled within and didn't have the heart to face the moment when they reached Moriah. Although he was hurting immensely, he didn't tell his son. No one knew about it except him.
★Abraham Offers God His Son When they were close to Moriah, his son Isaac asked him, "Father, we've prepared wood and matches in order to make an offering to God, but where's the lamb?" In the old times, people killed a lamb and burnt it to make an offering to God. That's why Isaac asked Abraham where the lamb was and why they had only wood and matches. At that time, his father sighed and replied, "Don't worry. God will Hirmself provide a lamb."
After they arrived at Moriah, they built an altar and piled the wood orderly. Then Abraham bound his son's arms and legs and placed him on the altar ready to sacrifice him. He told Isaac, "You're the lamb to sacrifice to God, because God wants you." Then he picked up the knife to slay his son.
However, at that moment, Abraham heard God call his name and say, "Abraham, don't kill him. Now I know that you truly have firm faith in me. This was only a test. Now I know to what extent you would follow my instructions. You don't need to kill your son. There's a lamb nearby. You may sacrifice that for me." That lamb was produced by God. God truly provided Hirmself with a lamb by producing one. So it wasn't a real lamb.
Abraham and his son were very glad and showed their gratitude to God. From then on, everything that God had promised Abraham came true. Abraham had many descendants, generation after generation. The story ends here.
Do you think that Abraham was a good father? (Audience: Yes.) It was very good to have such faith in God. Since all things are created by God, if God wants any of them back, we should return them to Hirm, for they belong to Hirm originally. Abraham and his wife were very old and had no hope of bearing any children, but they eventually had one. What a marvelous thing that was! The child was given by God. Since he came from God, why couldn't he go back to God? Right? (Audience: Yes.)
★The Lesson Of DetachmentWhy do most of us live in suffering? Because we hate to part with anything. We can't even part with a pair of ragged shoes, let alone our sons. Therefore, when we're separated from our lover or family, we are in a lot of pain and feel sad. That's because we don't understand that we'll all die sooner or later and no one can live forever. Even if we say that we love a person very dearly, if he dies tomorrow, will we die with him for love? (Audience: No.) Of course not! We should live on.
Among ancient romantic stories, there is one about a couple named Liang Shanbo and Juh Engtai (known as "the butterfly lovers"). It's said that they reincarnated seven times as human beings and wanted to get married during each lifetime, but they were always hindered. During their last lifetime together as human beings, even though they were not hindered, one of them died first and the other, due to extreme sorrow, fell ill and soon passed away too. Then they turned into two butterflies. They had to become butterflies to overcome the obstacles between them. That was a very difficult situation. Therefore, if we cling to anything, our souls are harmed and our freedom is limited. Being butterflies seems carefree, but how many of us would like to give up our precious human bodies and become butterflies? Those two turned into butterflies because they clung too much to their love. They both had very strong willpower, so they stuck together and became butterflies. Since they loved each other so much, God couldn't be too harsh on them, because if they had reincarnated as human beings again, they would definitely have suffered and been hindered again. They were destined not be together as human beings.
In these kinds of stories, people who are indebted to each other or have an adverse affinity with each other always like to stick together, while those who have a smooth affinity with each other don't like each other much. The person in front of your nose, you don't like him much, but rather like the one who lives in the mountains very far away. The worse the affinity we have with each other, the more we like each other. This is human nature. People like complicated things or things that they've obtained through fighting. Only then do they think that these things are valuable.
The reason why the world is full of suffering is because people don't understand that there's actually no suffering at all. Even when we lose our own lives, we shouldn't feel sad, let alone when others lose their lives. We've had many children, life after life. We also have had many spouses, life after life. Even when we don't have any, God will arrange one for us.
You can see that the world population has long been balanced between numbers of men and women. Don't think that there're more women than men. No, that's not true. It's possible that there're more women in this place and less in that place, but the total numbers of men and women in this world are balanced. For example, there're more women in one country, while there're more men in another country. There would no longer be any problem if they could get together. But there're problems because worldly people don't get together. It's not that God hasn't given us what we need.
It's said that during wars, many men are killed, but many more women will get pregnant and give birth to more male infants. Is that true? (Audience: Yes.) This is a statistical conclusion, which has been obtained after lengthy research. So there's always one man for one woman. That's why God has made the rule that no one can have more than one spouse at a time, because should you have two, someone else will have none. Or if you're too greedy and have two spouses in this lifetime, you may have none in your next lifetime, because you'll have to compensate. Therefore, God has said that each person should have one spouse only so that he/she can have one in his/her next lifetime.
It was possible that Liang Shanbo and Juh Engtai each had had two or three spouses in their previous lifetimes. As a result of the Law of Cause and Effect, they couldn't have any in their later lifetimes. They couldn't even marry their most beloved. This was due to the Law of Cause and Effect. If they wanted to break free from this retribution, they had to become another kind of sentient being. Since they had strong willpower to break free from the retribution, they became butterflies.
★Precepts Provide A Balanced Life For UsThe precepts are intended to enable us to live a balanced life and not have too much of everything this time and too little next time. This applies to eating or spending money. Don't consume anything too much, because you may run short of it tomorrow. Whatever we use, we should use only the proper amount of it. Similarly, the precepts are set up to enable us to balance the Yin and Yang. They're designed to save us from suffering, not to oppress or restrain us.
In the first story that I read to you about Adam and Eve, why did God withhold the apple from them? Because they had too many things already. The entire Garden of Eden had been given to them. The Garden of Eden refers to heaven, where there were all kinds of things. Adam and Eve didn't have to work or look for anything. They had enough of everything. However, consuming one apple made them suffer a lot.
If our so-called ancestors hadn't eaten that apple, we probably wouldn't have to suffer today. If they hadn't eaten the apple, they would have been pure and not aware of good and bad and had no discrimination.
They wanted to become like God. I don't know what's the good of becoming like God. Is it possible that God is a miserable person? I think that Hes is, because Hes had to create everything and take care of all the planets, all the people and all the sentient beings. Hes must be exhausted. Those who want to be God must be the most stupid.
So I advise you that you don't have to become God and you don't have to become a Buddha, as long as you're happy and peaceful, live moderately, and live with an ordinary mind. Why do you have to pray for eternal happiness? What for? The more we covet, the more we suffer. Yearning for anything is painful because we covet what we lack. Yet the more we covet, the more hurt we feel.
Take the romance of Liang Shanbo and Juh Engtai as an example. If they hadn't yearned to marry each other, they wouldn't have suffered. Why did it matter to marry? They could have taken their time looking for someone else. Even if they couldn't find anyone, it would have been fine for them to become a monk and nun. They suffered simply because they desired and coveted each other. Why bother?
Similarly, we spiritual practitioners shouldn't ask for too much. We should practice step by step. When the time is ripe, we'll have the results. Of course we must practice diligently. However, our sincerity is the most important. "The Buddha is in our hearts." When we're sincere, Hes will come out. If we do everything and even pursue spiritual practice for Hiers sake, we'll eventually get to know Hirm and become one with Hirm.
★Three Kinds Of PractitionersThere're three kinds of spiritual practitioners. The first kind believes in God and obeys God, the second kind works for God, and the third kind, the highest of all, becomes one with God. Those who are one with God or become God attain this state naturally, not because they expect it. They're very sincere, of course, but they aren't expecting anything. Sincerity is different than expectation. I don't know how to tell you the difference between them, but it comes naturally. It's difficult to explain this in words. Sometimes we may get confused and think that expectation is sincerity, but they're actually different.
The first kind of spiritual practitioner likes to worship God and obey God, and then they're satisfied. They're happy to be able to worship God every day and think that there's a God who's higher than them and is taking care of them. If they can pray to Hirm every day, they're happy and don't ask for other things. This is the first kind.
The second kind of spiritual practitioner recognizes God, so they like to work for God. Whatever they do is for God. However, after they work for a while, they become more fond of their work than of God. So they begin to find more and more work to do and forget that their goal is to work for God. This kind of spiritual practitioner can earn a lot of merit. They can do many good deeds to liberate sentient beings, such as giving lectures, building temples, becoming monks or nuns, et cetera.
However, after they have worked for a long time, people may worship them, adore them, and think that they're virtuous. People may keep praising them. The more people praise them, the more they indulge in their work. Gradually, they become attached to doing good deeds and hence are never able to become one with God. These two kinds of spiritual practitioner can't attain the highest level, because one is attached to worshipping God and the other is attached to working in order to please God.
The third kind of spiritual practitioner may also worship God and do good deeds to please Hirm, but they know that these things are only secondary. What interests them the most is: "Who is God?" They not only want to worship God, not only want to work for God to please Hirm, but also want to know who God is in order to get hold of Hirm. This kind of spiritual practitioner will ultimately become one with God. However, very few people can attain this level. It's easy to talk about it, but it's hard to realize it.
What we see in our meditation every day represents our inner qualities. If we see the light, we know that we're the light. If we see darkness, we know that our inner qualities are still in the dark. Therefore, we can't stop our spiritual practice even for one day. We must keep seeking, just like we must eat every day and can't stop eating for one day. Well, not eating for one day may be fine, but not for many days.
The same applies to spiritual practice. We may think that it's boring to be vegetarian and meditate for two and a half hours every day. However, we eat every day, why haven't we gotten tired of eating? The food is similar every day, but we still eat it, because our bodies need it to grow and our cells need it to be nourished. Similarly, we meditate for two and a half hours every day, we do the same every day, because our souls need this to develop.
Don't think that spiritual practice has to be complicated, and you should do this hand gesture today, that head gesture tomorrow, and another foot gesture the day after tomorrow in order to do spiritual practice. No, you don't have to. For example, it's good enough if our food is simple. The more sophisticated our food is, the more trouble we'll make for ourselves, because the purpose of eating is to nourish our bodies anyhow. The more sophisticated the food we eat, the heavier the karma we incur. Besides, sophisticated food may not really be good. Our stomachs may not be able to take it. So we won't digest it and then get ill.
When we encounter a painful situation in which we have to part with something that we cherish, we shouldn't sink into sadness. Instead, we should think, "Will I die if I don't have it?" or "Is there any substitute that may be better than it?" In fact, there is. Sometimes we think that the person whom we have is the best, but after he leaves, we'll eventually find another person who is better and more suitable for us. Is that not so? When we get hold of something, we forget to look at anything else. Actually it might have been better if we had taken time to search for something better.
★Attachment Is A Kind Of HabitThere's nothing that we really can't part with. We hold onto a thing because of habit and because we cling to it too much. When we stand in a place, we just stand there and don't want to move. When we get hold of a person, we just hold onto him and don't want to switch to another one. If two people get married and have a good relationship, of course they should be loyal to each other. However, if there is a problem such as he/she dies or one of them doesn't love the other anymore, the other person should retain an ordinary mind and shouldn't lose him/herself because of that person or because of anything.
When we're in grief, do we usually forget about our faith? Do we? (Audience: Yes.) If we grieve over the loss of a person, we may forget that all creation is one, that nothing has ever existed, and that everything is from the same origin. We shouldn't cling to the physical form of a person. When the form disappears, the person will go to another place and find himself another form.
For example, sometimes we love a rose or another kind of flower very dearly, and when the flower withers, we feel sorry. We can't bear to part with it and wish that it could exist forever. However, if every rose existed forever, how could there be more roses to come?
For another example, supposing there's a beautiful mango and we don't have the heart to eat it. We think that such a beautiful mango should swing on the branch forever; so we don't eat it. However, if we don't eat it, its seed can't fall onto the ground. When the mango tree gets old, it won't bear any more fruit, nor will we have another mango tree to replace it.
This applies to all other things in the world. We shouldn't grieve too much when we lose anything. It's possible that we'll get something more valuable tomorrow. There's a Chinese story about an old frontiersman who lost his horse. You're all very familiar with the story, but you still don't appreciate the value of pain and suffering.
Each time I've undergone surgery or gotten ill, my karma has been cleansed a lot. I' was very grateful! You may find this hard to believe. Sometimes I've even said, "If this can truly cleanse a lot of disasters, suffering and karma, let me get more illnesses." I was really glad. Of course when I was ill, I cried because it was very painful and couldn't stand it, but that didn't mean that I was unhappy or unwilling to accept it. No. Even though the pain was great, I was still willing to accept it.
When we're ill, it's truly the most glorious time of our lives. It can eliminate a lot of our darkness and heavy karma. If I hadn't had suffering, illness or pain in my life, I could not stand it, I could not digest the karma of sentient beings. Even if one has a lot of merit, one still cannot digest that much karma all at once. I could have repaid it slowly, but then when would I be finished with it? There're many sentient beings, I don't have enough time to do it slowly. So God has Hiers own system. Hes can help us to cleanse our karma. Since Hes has let us take along so much "garbage," Hes will help us once in a while by sending a "vehicle" or people to transport our "luggage". So when you have a disaster or illness, don't complain, but be grateful to God instead. Without suffering and illness, our spiritual level can't be elevated, because we have too much karma. Even if we have no karma ourselves, we're still carrying the karma of our ancestors.
Spoken By Supreme Master Ching Hai, Hsihu Center, Formosa June 10, 1990 (Originally In Chinese) News 85
Ngày xưa có một gia đình, trưởng tộc của gia đình này tên là Abraham. Ông tu hành rất cao và cũng là bạn của Thượng Đế.
có một ngày Thượng Đế nói ông nên rời khỏi quê hương và hứa rằng: "Nếu nhà ngươi theo các chỉ thị của ta, rời bỏ quê hương của nhà ngươi và làm theo những gì ta nói, thì ta sẽ cho ngươi làm lãnh tụ của nhiều quốc gia."
Ý nói là Thượng Đế sẽ cho ông làm quốc phụ của nhiều nước. Thượng Đế cũng hứa là sẽ cho ông một đứa con trai và nhiều con cái khác để thành một đại gia đình. Ngài nói: "Nhà ngươi sẽ có nhiều cháu chắt, đông như sao trên trời."
Lúc đó, Abraham và vợ ông đã quá già. Tuy ông bà rất tin tưởng nơi Thượng Đế, họ đã thắc mắc: "Làm sao điều này có thể xảy ra? Chúng ta đã quá già, đâu có thể sanh con được?"
Nhiều năm trôi qua, mỗi đêm khi nhìn lên bầu trời đầy sao xa, Abraham lại nhớ những lời hứa hẹn của Thượng Đế, rồi cảm thấy băn khoăn, nghĩ rằng Thượng Đế chỉ nói đùa với ông thôi! Cuối cùng, Abraham và vợ ông đã không còn hy vọng gì nữa.
Nhưng có một ngày, đột nhiên vợ ông mang thai và hạ sanh một đứa con trai. Ông bà rất vui mừng và đặt tên cho con trai là Isaac. Nhiều năm tiếp theo, Isaac trưởng thành, trở nên vạm vỡ, khỏe mạnh và đẹp trai. Rồi Thượng Đế muốn khảo nghiệm Abraham.
Có một ngày, Thượng Đế hiện ra và nói: "Abraham, ta muốn nhà ngươi mang đứa con duy nhất, yêu quý nhất của ngươi là Isaac đến một nơi gọi là Moriah, rồi cúng dường nó cho ta." Cúng dường ý nói là giết, đem đứa con trở thành vật tế hy sinh. Người cổ xưa đều cúng dường quỷ thần như vậy, có khi dùng đồng nam hoặc đồng nữ, có khi dùng bò, ngựa, heo v.v...
Abraham không thể nào tin được điều này. Ông tự hỏi: "Thượng Đế thật muốn giết đứa con duy nhất của ta sao? Ngày trước Ngài đã hứa là sẽ cho ta con cháu đầy đàn, sao bây giờ Ngài lại muốn giết đứa con duy nhất của ta?"
Ông bị giằng co. Nhưng cả cuộc đời của ông đã tin tưởng vào Thượng Đế. Người ta chỉ tin Thượng Đế một nửa, còn ông thì tin tưởng trọn vẹn nơi Thượng Đế. Cho nên sáng sớm hôm sau, ông chuẩn bị rất nhiều củi, mồi lửa và đem đứa con trai duy nhất đến nơi đó.
Từ nơi ông ở đến chỗ đó mất ba ngày đường, đường đi rất xa, rất xa mới đến được. Ngày đêm trôi qua, Abraham càng cảm thấy đau khổ và buồn bã, mặc dù ông rất tin tưởng nơi Thượng Đế. Ông vẫn cảm thấy giằng co, không can tâm trực diện với giây phút mà họ đến Moriah. Mặc dù ông rất đau đớn, nhưng ông không thố lộ một điều gì với Isaac. Không một ai biết gì về chuyện này ngoại trừ ông.
Khi sắp tới nơi, Issac mới hỏi ông: "Thưa cha, chúng ta đã chuẩn bị củi, mồi lửa để cúng dường cho Thượng Đế, nhưng con cừu đâu?"
Thời xưa họ thiêu sống cừu non để cúng dường Thượng Đế. Vì vậy Isaac đã hỏi cha nó cừu non đâu, mà tại sao chỉ có củi và lửa.
Lúc đó Abraham mới thở dài và trả lời: "Không sao đâu con! Thượng Đế sẽ tìm cho chúng ta một con cừu non."
Khi đến nơi, họ dựng lên một cái bàn thờ và mồi lửa đốt bốn phía chung quanh. Sau đó Abraham trói chân tay của Isaac lại, để nó lên trên bàn và sửa soạn cúng dường cho Thượng Đế.
Ông nói với Isaac: "Con là con cừu để cúng dường Thượng Đế. Ngài muốn con là vật cúng dường!" Sau đó ông cầm con dao lên để giết đứa con.
Nhưng đúng lúc đó, ông nghe tiếng Thượng Đế gọi tên ông và nói: "Abraham, hãy dừng tay! Giờ này ta đã biết lòng tin của ngươi nơi Thượng Đế rất là vững mạnh. Ngươi rất tin tưởng vào Thượng Đế. Đây chẳng qua là sự khảo nghiệm mà thôi! Ta đã hiểu lòng ngươi, biết nghe lời ta như thế nào. Ngươi không cần phải giết con ngươi. Cạnh đó có một con cừu, ngươi hãy dùng nó để cúng dường cho ta là được rồi!" Con cừu đó là do Thượng Đế hóa ra, cho nên Thượng Đế thật sẽ tự tìm con cừu của mình. Vì Ngài hóa ra nó mà, không phải là con cừu thật!
Lúc đó đương nhiên Abraham và đứa con trai Isaac rất mừng rỡ, và họ đã cảm tạ Thượng Đế. Cũng từ ngày đó, những lời hứa của Thượng Đế ban cho Abraham đều thành sự thực. Abraham có rất nhiều con cháu, đời này sang đời khác. Câu chuyện đến đây là hết.
Quý vị có thấy Abraham là người cha tốt không? Có thể tin tưởng Thượng Đế đến mức độ như vậy thật là quá tốt! Bởi vì bất cứ gì cũng là do Ngài tạo ra! Nếu Ngài muốn lấy lại thì cứ biếu cho Ngài, bởi vốn là của Ngài.
Quý vị thấy như Abraham và vợ ông, đã quá lớn tuổi, không có hy vọng gì để có con, kết quả lại sanh được một đứa con, thật là hy hữu! Đó là vì Thượng Đế muốn ban cho ông! Đến từ Thượng Đế tức nhiên là nên trở về với Thượng Đế, có gì là không được? Đúng không?
Tại sao đa số chúng ta sống trong đau khổ?
Bởi vì không xả bỏ được.
Xả bỏ không được bất cứ một thứ gì. Một đôi giày đã rách nát, chúng ta cũng không chịu bỏ đi, hà huống một đứa con!
Cho nên đôi lúc, khi cuộc tình của chúng ta chia lìa, khi gia đình phải cách biệt, thì chúng ta sẽ cảm thấy rất đau khổ, bi đát. Đó là tại chúng ta nghĩ không thông, không hiểu được là có một ngày mọi người chúng ta đều phải chết, không có ai có thể sống mãi được.
Ngay cả những người chúng ta rất thương yêu, hoặc rất yêu một người nào, nhưng nếu như ngày mai vạn nhất họ chết đi, quý vị có vì người đó mà chết theo không? (Dạ không.) Phải tiếp tục sống.
--Tây Hồ, Formosa, 1990 (Nguyên văn tiếng Trung Hoa)