佛鼓

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1989 / 8月

文‧林清玄 圖‧李淑玲


林清玄,民國四十二年生於高雄縣旗山鎮,曾任中國時報系的記者、主編、主筆及電影編劇、電視公司企劃,現專事寫作。得過國家文藝獎、中山文藝獎、吳三連文藝獎、金鼎獎、作家協會文學獎、吳魯芹散文獎、時報文學獎、中華文學獎、中央日報文學獎等十數次文學大獎。作品有散文、報導文學、藝術評論、劇本等四十餘部。


住在佛寺堙A為了看師父早課的儀禮,清晨四點就醒來了。走出屋外,月仍在中天,但在山邊極遠極遠的天空,有一些早起的晨曦正在雲的背後,使灰雲有了一種透明的趣味,灰色的內部也彷彿早就織好了金橙色的襯堙A好像一翻身就要金光萬道了。

鳥還沒有全醒,只偶爾傳來幾聲低啞的短啾,聽起來像是它們在春天的樹梢夜眠有夢,為夢所驚,短短的叫了一聲,翻個身,又睡去了。

最最鮮明的是醒在樹上一大簇一大簇的鳳凰花。這是南台灣的五月,鳳凰的美麗到了峰頂,似乎有人開了染坊,就那樣把整座山染紅了,即使在灰濛的清晨的寂靜堙A鳳凰花的色澤也是非常雄辯的。它不是純紅,但比純紅更明亮,也不是橙色,卻比橙色更豔麗。比起沈默站立的菩提樹,在寧靜中的鳳凰花是吵鬧的,好像在山上開了花市。

說菩提樹沈默也不盡然。經過了寒冷的冬季,菩提樹的葉子已經落盡,僅剩下一株株枯枝守候春天,在冥暗中看那些枯枝,格外有一種堅強不屈的姿勢,有一些生發得早的,則從頭到腳怒放著嫩芽,翠綠、透明、光滑、純淨,桃形葉片上的脈絡在黑夜的凝視中,片片了了分明。我想到,這樣平凡單純的樹竟是佛陀當年成道的地方,自己就在沈默的樹與精進的芽中深深的感動著。

這時,在寺廟的角落中響動了木板的啪啪聲,那是醒板,莊嚴、沈重的喚醒寺中的師父。醒板的聲音其實是極輕極輕的,一般凡夫在沈睡的時候不可能聽見,但出家人身心清淨,不要說是行板,怕是一根樹枝落地也是歷歷可聞的吧!

醒板拍過,天空逐漸有了清明的顏色,但仍是沒有聲息的,燕子的聲音開始多起來,像也是被醒板叫醒,準備一起做早課了。

然後鐘聲響了。

佛寺堛瘧謠n悠遠綿長,猶如可以穿山越嶺一般。它深深的滲入人心,帶來了一種警醒與沈靜的力量。鐘聲敲了幾下,我算到一半就糊塗了,只知道它先是沈重緩慢的咚嗡咚嗡咚嗡之聲,接著是一段較快的節奏,嗡聲滅去,僅剩咚咚的急響,最後又回到了明亮輕柔的鐘聲,在山中餘韻嬝嬝。

聽著這佛鐘,想起朋友送我們一卷見如法師唱念的「叩鐘偈」。那鐘的節奏是單純緩慢的,但我第一次在靜夜媗孕n鐘偈,險險落下淚來,人好像被甘露遍撒,初聞天籟,想到人間能有幾回聽這樣美的聲音,如何不為之動容呢?

晨鐘自與叩鐘偈不同。後來有師父告訴我,晨昏的大鐘共敲一百零八下,因為一百零八下正是一歲的意思。一年有十二個月,有二十四個節氣,有七十二候,加起來正合一百零八,就是要人歲歲年年日日時時都要警醒如鐘。但是另一個法師說一百零八是在斷一百零八種煩惱,鐘聲有它不可思議的力量。到底何者為是,我也不能明白,只知道聽那鐘聲有一種感覺,像是一條飄滿了落葉塵埃的山徑,突然被鐘聲清掃,使人有勇氣有精神爬到更高的地方,去看更遠的風景。

鐘聲還在空氣中震盪的時候,鼓響起來了。這時我正好走到「大悲殿」的前面,看到逐漸光明的鼓樓堹葭菑@位比丘尼,身材並不高大,與她面前的鼓幾乎不成比例,但她所擊的鼓竟完整的包圍了我的思維,甚至包圍了整個空間。她細緻的手掌,緊握鼓槌,充滿了自信,鼓槌在鼓上飛舞遊走,姿勢極為優美,或緩或急,或如迅雷,或如颱風……

我站在通往大悲殿的台階上看那小小的身影擊鼓,不禁癡了。那鼓,密時如雨,不能穿指;緩時如波濤,洶湧不絕;猛時若海嘯,標高數丈;輕時若微風,撫面輕柔;它急切的時候,好像聲聲喚著迷路歸家的母親的喊聲;它優雅的時候,自在得一如天空飄過的澄明的雲,可以飛到世界最遠的地方……那是人間的鼓聲,但好像不是人間,是來自天上或來自地心,或者來自更邈遠之處。

鼓聲歇止有一會兒,我才從沈醉的地方被叫醒。這時「維摩經」的一段經文突然閃照著我,文殊師利菩薩問維摩詰居士:「何等是菩薩入不二法門?」當場的五千個菩薩都寂靜等待維摩詰的回答,維摩詰怎麼回答呢,他默然不發一語,過了一會兒,文殊師利菩薩讚嘆的說:「善哉、善哉!乃至無有文字、語言,是真入不二法門」。

後來有法師說起維摩詰的這一次沈默,忍不住讚嘆的說:「維摩詰的一默,有如響雷。」誠然,當我聽完佛鼓的那一段沈默堙A幾乎體會到了維摩詰沈默一如響雷的境界了。

往昔在台北聽到日本「神鼓童」的表演時,我以為人間的鼓無有過於此者,真是神鼓!直到聽聞佛鼓,才知道有更高的世界。神鼓童是好,但氣喘咻咻,不比佛鼓的氣定神閒;神鼓童是苦練出來的,表達了人力的高峰,佛鼓則好像本來就在那堙A打鼓的比丘尼不是明星,只是單純的行者;神鼓童是藝術,為表演而鼓,佛鼓是降伏魔邪,度人出生死海,減少一切惡道之苦,為悲智行願而鼓,因此妙響雲集,不可思議。

最最重要的是,神鼓童講境界,既講境界就有個限度;佛是不講境界的,因而佛鼓無邊,不只醒人於迷,連鬼神也為之動容。

佛鼓敲完,早課才正式開始,我坐下來在台階上,聽著大悲殿堛爾g聲,靜靜的注視那面大鼓,靜靜的,只是靜靜的注視那面鼓,剛剛響過的鼓聲又如潮洶湧而來。

殿堛瑪P子也如潮的在面前穿梭細語,配著那鼓聲。

大悲殿的燕子

配著那鼓聲,殿堛瑪P子也如潮的在面前穿梭細語。

我說如潮,是形影不斷,音聲不斷的意思。大悲殿一路下來到女子佛學院的走廊、教室,密密麻麻的全是燕子的窩巢,每走一步抬頭,就有一兩個燕窩,有一些甚至完全包住了天花板上的吊燈,包到開燈而不見光。但是出家人慈悲為懷,全寶愛著燕子,在生命面前,燈算什麼呢?

我仔細的看那燕窩,發現燕窩是泥塑的長形居所,它隆起的形狀,很像舊時鄉居土I的地穴,看起來是相當牢靠的。每一個燕窩住了不少燕子,你看到一個頭鑽出來,一剪翅,一隻燕子飛遠了,接著另一隻鑽出頭來,一個窩總住著六七隻燕,是不小的家庭了。

幾乎是在佛鼓敲的同時,燕子開始傾巢而出。於是天空上同時有了一兩百隻燕子在叼啾,穿梭如網,那一大群燕子,玄黑色的背,乳白色的腹,剪刀一樣的翅膀和尾羽,在早晨剛亮的天空下有一種非凡的美麗。也有一部分熟練的從大悲殿的窗戶堶葆i飛出的戲耍,於是在莊嚴的誦經聲中,有一兩句是輕嫩的燕子的呢喃,顯得格外的活潑起來。

燕子回巢時也是一奇,俯衝進入屋簷時並未減緩速度,幾乎是在窩前緊急煞車,然後精準的鑽進窩堙A看起來饒有興味。

大悲殿媬P子的數目,或者燕子的年齡,師父也並不知。有一位師父說得好,她說:「你不問,我還以為它們一直是住這堛滿A好像也不曾把它們當燕子,而是當成鄰居。你不要小看了這些燕子,它們都會聽經的,每天早晚課,燕子總是準時的飛出來,天空全是燕子。平常,就稀稀疏疏了。」

至於如何集結這樣多的燕子,師父都說,佛寺的莊嚴清淨慈悲喜捨是有情生命全能感知的。這是人間最安全之地,所以大悲殿媮晹酗ㄙ儘綵媔]來的狗,經常蹲踞在殿前,殿側的大湖開滿紅白蓮花,湖中有不可數的游魚,據說聽到經聲時會浮到水面來。

過去深山叢林寺院,時常發生老虎、狐狸伏在殿下聽經的事。聽說過一個動人的故事,有一回一個法師誦經,七八隻老虎跑來聽,聽到一半有一隻打瞌睡,法師走過去拍拍它的臉頰說:「聽經的時候不要睡著了。」

我們無緣見老虎聞法,但有緣看到燕子禮佛、游魚出聽,不是一樣動人的嗎?

眾生如此,人何不能時時警醒呢?

木魚之眼

眾生如此,人何不能時時警醒呢?

談到警醒,在大雄寶殿、大智殿、大悲殿都有巨大的木魚,擺在佛案的左側,它巨大厚重,一人不能舉動,誦經時木魚聲穿插其間。我常覺得在法器堙A木魚是比較沈著的,單調的,不像鐘鼓磬鈸的聲音那樣清明動人,但為什麼木魚那麼重要?關鍵全在它的眼睛。

佛寺堛漱麭膠釣熇堙A一種是整條挺直的魚,與一般魚沒有兩樣,掛在庫堂,用粥飯時擊之;另一種是圓形的魚,連魚鱗也是圓形,放在佛案,誦經時叩之;這兩種不同形的魚有一個共同的特徵,就是眼睛奇大,與身體不成比例,有的木魚,魚眼大如拳頭。我不能明白為何魚有這麼大的眼睛,或者為什麼是木魚,不是木虎、木狗,或木鳥?問了寺堛漯k師。

法師說:「魚是永遠不閉眼睛的,晝夜常醒,用木魚做法器是為了警醒那些昏惰的人,尤其是叫修行的人志心於道,晝夜常醒。」

這下總算明白了木魚的巨眼,但是那麼長的時間做些什麼,總不能像魚一樣游來游去吧!

法師笑了起來:「晝夜長醒就是行住坐臥不忘修行,行法則不外六波羅蜜,一布施,二持戒,三忍辱,四精進,五禪定,六智慧,這些做起來,不要說晝夜長醒時間不夠,可能五百世也不夠用。」

木魚是為了警醒,假如一個人常自警醒,木魚就沒有用處了,我常常想,浩如瀚海的佛教經典,其實是在講心靈的種種塵垢和種種磨洗的方法,它只有一個目的,就是恢復人的本心裡明澈朗照的功能,磨洗成一面鏡子,使對人生宇宙的真理能了了分明。

磨洗不能只有方法,也要工具。現在寺院堛漲罋部B舍利子、鐘鼓魚磬、香花幢幡,無知的人目為是迷信的東西,卻正是磨洗心靈的工具,如果心靈完全清明,佛像也可以不要了,何況是木魚呢?

木魚做為磨洗心靈的工具是極有典型意義的,它用永不睡眠的眼睛告訴我們,修行是沒有止境的,心靈的磨洗也不能休息;住在清淨寺院堛漁v父,晝夜在清潔自己的內心世界,居住在五濁塵世的我們,不是更應該磨洗自己的心嗎?

因此我們不應忘了木魚,以及木魚的巨眼。

以木魚為例,在佛寺堙A凡人也常有能體會的智慧。

低頭看得破

在佛寺堙A凡人也常有能體會的智慧。

像我在寺堿搢鴗韖C和比丘尼穿的鞋子,就不時的納悶起來,那鞋其實是不實用的。

一雙僧鞋前後一共有六個破洞,那不是為了美觀,似乎也不是為了涼爽。因為,假如是為了涼爽,大部分的出家人穿鞋,堶掖ㄛ鴾F厚的布襪,何況一到了冬天就難以保障了。假如是為了美觀,也不然,一來出家只求潔淨,不講美觀;二來僧鞋的黑、灰、土三色都不是頂美的顏色。

有了,大概是為了省布,節儉守戒是出家人的本分。

也不是,因為僧鞋雖有六洞,製作上的布料和連著的布是一樣的,而且反而費工。

那麼,到底是為什麼,僧鞋要破六個洞呢?

我遇到了一位法師,光是一隻僧鞋的道理,他說了一個下午。

他說,僧鞋的破六個洞是要出家人「低頭看得破」。低頭是謙誠有禮,看得破是要看破眼耳鼻舌身意六根,是要看破色聲香味觸法六塵,以及參破六道輪迴,勘破貪嗔癡慢疑邪見六大煩惱。甚至也要看破人生的短暫,人身的渺小。

從積極的意義來說,這六個破洞是「六法戒」,就是不淫、不盜、不殺、不妄語、不飲酒、不非時食;是「六正行」,就是讀誦、觀察、禮拜、稱名、讚嘆、供養;以及是「六波羅蜜」:佈施、持戒、忍辱、精進、禪定、智慧……

小小一隻僧鞋就是天地無邊廣大了,讓我們不得不佩服出家人。出家人不穿皮製品,是因為非殺生不足以取皮革,出家人也不穿絲製品,因為一雙絲鞋,可能需要犧牲一千條蠶的性命呢!就是穿棉布鞋,規矩不少,智慧無量。

最後我請了一雙僧鞋回家,穿的時候我總是想:要低得下頭,要看得破!

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近期文章

EN

The Buddha Drum

Lin Ching-hsuan /photos courtesy of Lilian Lee /tr. by Hwang Ying-tsih

Staying in a Buddhist temple, I wake up at four in order to observe the master's early morning ceremony. Walking outside, I see the moon is still in the sky, but some of the early sun's rays are perceptible behind the clouds beyond the mountains, turning the gray clouds into a kind of transparent delight. It's almost as if golden linings had already been woven within the gray, and as soon as they are turned over, a myriad of golden rays will shoot forth.


The birds haven't fully awakened yet; only an occasional few short hoarse chirps are heard as they awaken from a night of dreaming in the treetops before they turn over and go back to sleep. What is most eye-catching are the clusters of flowers on the flame-in-the-forest trees which blossom all over the mountains of southern Taiwan in May. It's as if the owner of a dye shop has dyed the whole mountain red. In the misty morning silence the flame-in-the-forest trees proclaim their presence with brilliant blooms. They are not pure red but even brighter, nor are they orange but more radiant. Compared with the silent bodhi tree, the flame-in-the-forest trees create quite a stir, as if a flowershop had opened in the mountains.

The bodhi tree isn't completely silent. During the cold winter season it lost all its leaves, and only barren branches are left to wait for the spring. As I watch them, the withered branches seem especially strong and unyielding in the dark. Some of the branches bud early and are soon covered with tender green leaves, transparent, smooth and clean. The veins on each heart-shaped leaf are clear to the scrutiny of night. Realizing that it was under this simple common tree that Buddha obtained enlightenment, I am deeply touched by its silence and its developing buds.

At this time the sound of clappers can be heard from a corner of the temple. It is the waking clappers, the heavy, solemn sounds calling the masters to rise. The sound of the waking clappers is actually very low, which the ordinary people generally cannot hear as they sleep. The monks are tranquil and quiet in body and mind; to them, even a falling twig can be heard, not to mention the clappers.

Then the bell tolls.

The tolling of the temple bell reverberates endlessly over a great distance, crossing mountain after mountain, permeating human hearts bringing forth vigilance and serene strength. I don't know how many times the bell tolls; I count for a while, then lose track. I only know that the bell rings slowly and heavily at first and then grows more rapid. It ends by returning us to the original clear, gentle sounds that linger in the air. As I listen to the temple bell, I think of the text of "The Bell-Ringing Gatha" chanted by Master View-suchness that a friend sent to me. The rhythms of the bell are pure and slow, and it was on a quiet night that I first heard the chant. I felt like I was listening to heavenly music; I was so moved. I wondered how often in a life time one can hear such beautiful sounds.

The morning bell is certainly different from "The Bell-Ringing Gatha." A master later told me that the bell tolls 108 times every morning and another 108 times every evening, because 108 is symbolic of a whole year. There are twelve months, twenty-four fortnightly periods and seventy-two subperiods in a year which, when added together, equal 108, suggesting that we must be alert at all times. But another master said that 108 represents the cutting through the 108 kinds of affliction. The bell has powers beyond comprehension. I have no idea who is right. The only thing I know is that when I listen to the bells I am stirred. It is as if a moun tain path were swept clean of fallen leaves and dust by the tolling bell. It cheers people up and encourages them to climb higher and farther to get a better view.

While the sound of the bell still vibrates in the air, the drumming begins. Passing in front of the Hall of Supreme Mercy, I see a bikshuni in the drumtower which is now more clearly visible. She is not tall and seems small compared to the drum in front of her. But the drum she beats entirely enwraps my thought and all space itself. Full of confidence, she holds the drumstick tightly in her hands. Her gestures are beautiful, making the drumstick dance on the drum, sometimes slowly, sometimes rapidly, producing sounds like a sudden peal of thunder or a hurricane.

Standing on the stairway to the Hall of Supreme Mercy, looking at that small figure beating the drum, I am entirely prepossessed. The drumming when dense is like constant rain, fingers cannot even pass through it. When subsiding it comes like an endless rolling wave, and when violent it is like an immense tidal wave. When soft it is gentle as a breeze tenderly caressing one's face, and when anxious it sounds like the plaintive cries of a mother seeking her lost child. When elegant it is carefree as the thin clouds floating in the sky able to fly to the farthest places. The sound of the drum seems to come from another world, from heaven, from the heart of the earth, or from a faraway place.

The drum stops for a while and I awaken from my reveries. At that moment, a paragraph from the "Vimalakirtinirdesa Sutra" suddenly flashes in my mind. Manjusri Bodhisattva asked Vimalakirti, "What is Bodhisattva's one and only way of entering the gate of enlightenment?" There were five thousand Bodhisattvas at the assembly silently awaiting his answer. What was Vimalakirti's answer? He remained silent and did not utter a word. After a while, Manjusri said in praise of him, "Excellent! Excellent! This is really the true man's one and only way to enter the gate of enlightenment which no written words nor speech can explain." Later on, a master, full of admiration, compared Vimalakirti's silence to piercing thunder. Indeed my momentary speechlessness after listening to the drums was, I imagined, similar to Vimalakirti's silence which the master compared to piercing thunder.

A long time ago, I saw the Divine Drummer Boys perform in Taipei. I thought no drumming in the human world could equal theirs until hearing the Buddha Drum, then I realized there are still loftier states in the world. The Divine Drummer Boys are good, but their drumming has a panting noisy quality to it, totally unlike the calm ease with which the Buddha Drum is played. The Divine Drummer Boys went through the hardship of rigorous training, and as a result displayed great strength. The bikshuni who played the Buddha Drum is far more natural. The bikshuni is not a star, but a Buddhist disciple simply performing her duty. The Divine Drummer Boys' performance is a work of art. The Buddha Drum vanquishes demons, releases souls from the bitter sea of birth and death, lessens the sufferings from iniquities; it is beaten to fulfill vows of mercy and wisdom, therefore it is filled with wonders beyond compare.

What's most important is that the artistic effects achieved by the Divine Drummer Boys are limited. Whereas the Buddha doesn't strive to create an artistic effect as such, the Buddha Drum is limitless; it not only awakens people from ignorance but even touches the ghosts and spirits as well.

After the Buddha Drum ha ceased, the early service formally begins. I sit on the stairway, listening to the chanting of scriptures from the Hall of Supreme Mercy. Ever so silently I just sit staring at the big drum and again I hear that drum which had just thundered come again like surging waves. The swallows of the Hall also fly twittering back and forth coming in waves in time with the drum.

The Swallows at the Hall of Supreme Mercy

The swallows of the Hall also fly twittering back and forth coming in waves in time with the drum.

I say like waves meaning that their shadows and twitterings are unceasing. There are swallow nests thickly dotting the way all along the Hall of Supreme Mercy down to the courtyard and classrooms of the Girls' Buddhist College. At every step I see one or two swallow nests. They cover the hanging lamps, sometimes so completely that no light can be seen coming from the lamps. But the monks and nuns care for kindness and mercy; they love the swallows. Compared to a sentient being, who cares about a lamp?

I carefully observe the swallows' nests and discover that they are rectangular lodges made out of bits of mud. The nests are shaped like the long underground tunnels of moles I used to see out in the country. They look very sturdy. Several swallows live in each nest. You see a head poking out of the nest, then a pair of scissor wings as a swallow flies off, then immediately another pokes its head out. Six or seven swallows live in each nest; these are fairly large families.

Just as the Buddha drum is about to start, the swallows all fly out of their nests en masse. For a short while one or two hundred swallows fly in the sky, shuttling back and forth. The swallows have deep dark backs, milky white bellies and scissor-shaped wings and tails. In the morning sky, the swallows possess a kind of unusual beauty. Some swallows fly playfully in and out of the windows of the Hall of Supreme Mercy. A couple of twitters can be heard with the solemn chanting, apparently to liven it up a bit.

Seeing the swallows returning to their nests is also a marvellous sight. They dive and rush under the eaves without slowing down, slamming on the brakes at the last minute, and then shoot into the nest. It is very fascinating to watch.

None of the masters really knows how many swallows there are at the Hall of Supreme Mercy nor how old they are. One master explained, "If you hadn't asked I would have assumed that the swallows were here all year round. They seem more like neighbors than swallows. You can't look down on them, they all listen to us when we chant scriptures. Every day when it's time for morning and evening services, they all leave their nests and fill the sky, otherwise they are few and thinly scattered."

As to why so many swallows gather there, all the masters say that Buddhist temples are places of solemnity, tranquility, kindness and charity, which all sentient beings can sense. This is the safest place in the world. Sometimes dogs come from out of nowhere to sit in front of the Hall of Supreme Mercy. Beside the Hall is a large pond filled with red and white flowering waterlilies and countless fish. It is said that when sutras are going to be chanted the fish all rise to the surface to listen.

In the past, temples located deep in forests or mountains were often visited by tigers and foxes which came to listen to scriptures being chanted. There is a very touching tale about one of seven or eight tigers listening to a master's chanting. It is said one tiger fell asleep halfway through and the master walked up to him, patting his face, and said, "Don't fall asleep when listening to scripture chanting."

Unfortunately we don't see tigers listening to the truth but we do see swallows paying their respect to the Buddha as well as fish coming up to listen to the chanting. Aren't these also touching stories?

Since all living creatures are this way, why are not human beings more watchful?

The Eyes of the Wooden Fish

Since all living creatures are this way, why are not human beings more watchful?

Talking about being watchful, there are giant wooden fish in the Great and Mighty Hall, the Hall of Great Wisdom and the Hall of Supreme Mercy, sitting on the left side of the Buddhist table. The wooden fish is too big and heavy for one man to move. The rhythmic beat of the wooden fish runs off and on throughout the chanting of sutras. Of all the instruments used by Buddhists, I think the wooden fish is relatively calm and monotonous, not like Buddhist drums which are so clear and beautifully touching. The keynote of the wooden fish's significance is in its eyes.

There are two kinds of wooden fish in the temple. One is long like an ordinary fish, and is hung in the dining hall to call people at mealtimes. The other kind is round--even its scales are round--and is placed on the Buddhist table to use when scriptures are chanted. Both kinds of wooden fish have the same unusual big eyes which are out of proportion to the rest of their bodies. Some of the wooden fish have eyes as big as a fist. I don't understand why they have such big eyes or for that matter why they have to be wooden fish, and not wooden tigers, wooden dogs or wooden birds. To find out I ask a master in the temple.

"The fish never close their eyes day or night. To use wooden fish as a Buddhist percussion instrument is to admonish those who are confused and lazy, especially to teach those who are Buddhist practitioners that they have to exert themselves whole-heartedly in following the Buddhist Way, which requires constant watch-fulness," he said.

At last I understood the reason why the wooden fish have big eyes. But why do they have to keep their eyes open for such a long time? They are not like fish which constantly swim here and there!

Knowing my doubts, the master laughed, "To be wakeful day and night, that is to say, waking or sleeping, walking or sitting one must constantly practice the Rules of Deportment. These are no more than the Six Paramitas: Charity, Discipline, Patience, Diligence, Meditation, Wisdom. There is never enough time day and night to carry out all of them; there would probably not be enough time in five hundred generations."

The wooden fish is there to admonish. If one were always watchful, there would be no need for the wooden fish. I often think that the Buddhist scriptures, which are as voluminous as the open sea, record all the defilements of the human mind and all the ways of cleansing and polishing it. The only purpose is to recover man's natural state of complete enlightenment and to temper it into a mirror, so that one can understand the truth of the universe and life.

To clean and polish requires more than just methods; tools are also needed. The Buddhist images, relics, bells, drums, wooden fish, and banners used in temples, which are considered objects of superstition by ignorant people, are actually the tools used to polish and clean the human mind. If the human mind is inherently pure and bright, why is there a need for Buddha images much less wooden fish? To use wooden fish to temper one's mind has a very symbolic meaning. The never-sleeping eyes tell us that Buddhist cultivation is limitless and that the cleansing process is endless. The masters living in the tranquil temple purify their inner selves day and night. What about we who remain in the material world? Mustn't we polish and cleanse our minds even more?

Therefore, we cannot forget the wooden fish and its big eyes.

With the wooden fish as an example, in the temple, lay people too can attain enlightenment.

Bow One's Head and See Through

In the temple, lay people too can attain enlightenment.

When I was in the temple, I couldn't help being puzzled by the shoes that the monks and nuns wear. The shoes really are not very practical.

There are six holes in the shoes of every monk. They are not for making the shoes look good nor are they for coolness. Because if they were for coolness why then do most of the monks and nuns wear thick socks and what's more how can they keep their feet warm in the winter? And that they are for good looks makes no sense because those people who become monks do so seeking purity and not good looks, and the plain brown black and gray of the monks' shoes are not especially beautiful anyway.

Yes, perhaps not being wasteful, being frugal and saving are the duties of a monk or a nun.

Yet this is not the reason for the holes either, because making a monk's shoes with six holes in them would require the same amount of material but more work.

What then is the real reason for the six holes in a monk's shoes?

A master I meet takes a whole afternoon to explain the reason. He says that the six holes in the shoes of those who become monks mean "Bowing to see through." To bow is to be modest and polite; to see through is to see through the six sense organs: the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind; to see through the six objects of perceptions: sights, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch and dharmas; to see through the six conditions of sentient existence; to see through the six fundamental afflictions: desire, resentment, delusion, pride, doubt and false ideas; and even to see through the ideas that life is short and the body small.

The six holes represent the six precepts, which are not to commit adultery, not to steal, not to kill, not to speak falsely, not to drink wine nor eat after the midday meal; the six right actions, which are reading, reciting, studying, worshiping, invoking, praising and making offerings; and the six means of doing so: charity, discipline, patience, diligence, meditation and wisdom.

So the small shoes of monks and nuns are as vast as heaven and earth. For this we cannot help but respect them. They do not wear leather shoes because they do not believe in killing animals for their skins, nor do they wear silk products because the making of silk requires taking the lives of thousands of silk worms. They only wear cotton shoes following numerous rules and thereby gaining tremendous wisdom.

Lastly, I asked to buy a pair of cotton shoes to take home. As I wear them, I think of bowing to see through. . . .

 

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