Bright Wisdom –
Cultivation of the Heart
March 1st, 2008
English Tao Class
Kuang Ming Saint Tao Temple
• Background on Bright Wisdom
• Five W’s of Cultivation
• Importance of the Heart
• Ways to cultivate our Heart
– Be one with your True Self
– Have an unattached and grateful heart
• Form and formless
• Embracing suffering
• Good or Bad
• Anger and inner peace
• Collection of teachings and wisdom from our Holy
– 10 different chapters on various topics relating to Tao and
• Relates to everyone
– It reaches all people, independent of culture, background,
– Simple yet profound concepts that help us become awakened
• Wisdom that is applicable to our daily lives
– Interacting with people, dealing with situations, and internal
What is Cultivation
• Implies Change
– “Cultivation is to correct the evil thoughts, and recover the inherent
conscience and the intrinsic ethics.”
• We all have a set of intrinsic set of ethics and principles
– Saving a drowning child
• We also have an innate perfect wisdom
– Find a different way to save the child if you can’t swim.
– Nurturing the seed of Enlightenment that is inside all of us
• Like the pure lotus flower that grows in muddled water, it uses its
environment to nurture itself, but is not tainted by it.
• Use our environment to nurture our internal virtues
• “Applying the teachings to our daily lives is cultivation”
– Cultivation is not just about knowing the teachings, that’s knowledge.
– Cultivation is to be disciplined to apply the teachings in all aspects of
our lives when appropriate and not only when it’s it convenient
• To be a better person; to change for the better
– To rid our bad habits
• Humility to admit we’re not perfect, but have the faith that we can change
• To find the Truth that shows us the way
– To be happy, free, and at peace in all that we do; Enlightened
– Not here to hope or pray that all of our problems will go away, but to learn to
overcome any problem that Life may throw our way.
– Reveal the wisdom to overcome any difficulties that we may encounter
• Help bring harmony to the world
– Our actions and lack of affect one another and the world that we live in.
• Improving ourselves, impact one another, and help change the world
– “Don’t be shy and not come to temple. By coming, we are helping one another”
• Even if your initial motivation is for the delicious vegetarian food afterwards.
• Opportunity to listen, lecture, cook, clean, share, bond, support
• Remember to seize the opportunity to contribute to it so that we can all benefit
Who is Cultivating?
• “The biggest obstacle in cultivation now is that people only ask others to
change instead of asking oneself. Before asking others, ask yourself first
whether you have done it yourself. Also, you should ask and reflect on
yourself first instead of blaming others or exterior factors.”
– We are very generous in our advice to others, but are not willing to follow our
– See other people’s faults very clearly, but are not able to see our own
– Let others be a mirror/reminder to ourselves of what we should or shouldn’t do.
– Encourage others to cultivate by first being role models ourselves
– Reflect and see more our own faults instead of concentrating on the imperfection
• Eating Candy
– Woman and son visiting Ghandi, and asked him to please tell her son to stop eating candy.
– "Come back in three days and I will grant your request”
– Three days later, she came back with her son, and Ghandi knelt down beside the boy and
advised him to stop eating candy. The boy then promised he would stop.
– The woman asked Ghandi why he did not do this on their first visit, three days earlier.
– Ghandi replied, "Three days ago, I had not stopped eating candy."
When and Where to Cultivate?
• “Cultivation is everywhere and at all times, practicing and applying the teachings to
all that we do. Cultivation is not in the temples or in front of people, but when you
are alone and when you face every situation. It is part of your everyday life.”
– Come to temple to learn the Truth from the teachings and lectures.
– Very few opportunities to cultivate in temple because people are on their best behavior
– It is in the real world outside of temple that we are truly tested
• Like gold, our impurities are shed in the constant flames of fire
• Story of the Candles
– A small candle is in a room full of other big candles and asks a Big candle “What is light?”
– Because small candle is surrounded by many big candles in a room, there is constant light
• Similar to a fish asking what is water, or us asking what is air
– Big candle takes small candle to a dark room and says to small candle “When you see darkness, then you
will know what is light.”
• When fish is out of water, or when we lack oxygen, we become aware of its existence
– Being surrounded by big candles, the small candle can’t see the light emitted by itself
• Being surrounded by fellow sincere and senior Tao cultivators, we forgot we have a light inside too
– Only when we are out in the world and are faced with obstacles are our true colors, or light,
• Cultivation is come to temple to learn the teachings but apply them to our daily lives
Importance of Heart
• “Should you not have the rightness of heart, rightness of body,
rightness of speech, rightness of action, even the correct path will
become a crooked one.”
– Even if we’ve received Tao and come to the temple every month, the
path will be wrong if the our heart is not righteous.
– Even though our actions may seem like the correct path, but if our
heart is not genuine or sincere, then the path will be crooked
• Coming to temple to take advantage of others or helping others in exchange
for favors in the future -> greed and reciprocation
• The path, or actions, does not dictate the righteousness of the
heart, but rather it is the heart that determines the righteousness of
– The Path is correct only if the heart is correct AND our actions follow it
– Cultivate our heart, and not only of our actions and appearances
True versus Human Heart
• “Don’t mislead your heart with form; don’t use the
human heart for cultivation. Instead, use the heart of
Tao to cultivate the human heart.”
– Conduct normal activities with a holy heart -> holy affair
• Sincerely and selflessly caring for family and friends
– Conduct holy activities with a human heart -> worldly affair
• “Caring” for Tao members with the expectation that others will help you or
– “Worldly” implies personal desires, while “Holy” implies actions
which are selfless and for the benefit of others.
– Holy isn’t necessarily temple-related, while Worldly doesn’t
exclude temple activities.
Be Thy True Self
• “Behave and do things well, and your path will always be true.”
– Behave according to what your heart knows is true and good
• Includes fulfilling your responsibilities in the role you’re in
– Not be guided or affected by what people may think or what society
has sets as a standard because that will always change.
• Be true to ourselves and our heart before we can be true to others
– Not required to be an expert, but rather doing things to the best of your
• “Be guided by the Tao that is in you and your path will be true.”
– Tao = true and selfless heart; Path = actions, or life; True =
meaningful and bright
– “Be guided by the true and selfless heart that is in you and your actions
will be meaningful and bright.”
– Our path should be guided by our True and selfless heart, not our
Be one with our Heart
• “Your heart, mind, words, and deeds have to match and
– Consistent with our True heart
– Story of the diligent monk and the layman
• L: “Are you very diligent in your cultivation?” M says, “Of course”
• L: “To what extent or extreme are you diligent in your cultivation?”
• M: “When I am hungry, I will eat. When I am sleepy, I will sleep”
• L: “Isn’t that what a normal person does anyways?”
• M: “Of course there is a difference. When a normal person eats, he
is not eating as he is enslaved by his desires for better food and
fortune. When he is sleeping, he is thinking about matters such as
having a better house, better clothes, or better person to
accompany him. That is a big difference”
– Though the actions are the same, but the heart of a layman and
a cultivator is very different
Unattached to Form: Greed/Desires
• “Do not pursue fame and wealth as you will be trapped by them. Even if it
is but one penny, you too will be confined. The more desires you have, the
more you will pursue them as desires are limitless. Only when you let go of
these desires will you be liberated. Then can you understand how to
cultivate and know the essence of being free and at ease.”
– A child wanting toys, adult wanting more possessions and wealth.
– Trapped by our endless desires because they begin to dictate our sense of
• If I don’t earn this much or have this item, then I will feel poor or inadequate.
• People in history are not defined by their possessions but their actions.
– Buddha’s and Bodhisattva’s gave up their worldly possessions to seek something
more real and ever-lasting
• Enlightenment and salvation, not how much wealth they had or didn’t have
– Having money in itself isn’t a bad thing. Money has its function and purpose in
• How we utilize money to help ourselves and the lives of others.
• Instead of being a slave to it and letting it dictate our sense of happiness and purpose.
• Stone cutter story
– Stone cutter dissatisfied with himself and his position
– Wealth merchant: fine possessions and important visitors.
– Official: attendants and escorted by soldiers, and bowed to by everyone
– Sun: looked up and saw the sun shine proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence.
– Clouds: Black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer
shine on the people
– Wind: Found that he was being pushed away by an even greater force and realized it was
– Stone: Ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew - a
– Rock: Heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel and felt himself being changed.
– "What could be more powerful than I, the rock?" he thought
– He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stone cutter.
• Desires for possessions, fame, power are endless
• Recognize and let go of our desires so that we are not trapped in its never-ending
– To employ and use things, and not be employed by them
– Master of our environment, instead of being a slave to our desires
Unattached to Formless
• “People keep in their hearts the problems of the past, the imperfections of
the present, and believe that the future is hopeless. These are called the
‘Three hearts’. To be truly pure and tranquil in your mind and free from all
the attachments, you must not dwell on the past, present, or future.”
– Unattached to results of the past, good and bad
• Accept that what has happened and can not be changed.
• Learn from it so that you don’t make the same mistakes again
– Like a farmer who has sown the land with some good and bad seed, he/she will learn from it
and replant the field the next season with the more good ones.
• Regrets are a form of attachment to the past
– Instead of going on 10, went on the 60 freeway to avoid the traffic
– The alternate result may or may not necessarily have a different or better result
• Learn to accept and let go of what we can not change
– Unattached to the challenges or problems of the present
• Caught-up in the problems itself that we are not able to see the solution clearly
• Attached to our biases and our narrow and singular perspectives
– Think out of the box instead of limiting ourselves
• Challenge is caused by our attachment/fear of the possibility of an undesirable result
– Have faith that everything happens for the best; Story of the farmer and his horse
Unattached to Formless
• Unattached to our expectations for the future
– Worried about what may or may not happen
• Not able to sleep at night because we are worried about giving a
lecture/speech and forgetting some details.
• It’s OK if we do forget.
– Probably a sign that it’s not that important or that it was meant for the next time
– Additional details might sometimes obscure the message we’re trying to convey
– People might not be paying attention when we are discussing it, etc.
– Can’t predict the future, so might as well go with the flow
• Be one with it
• A Taoist story of an old man who accidentally fell into the river rapids that
led to a high and dangerous waterfall. Miraculously, he came out alive and
unharmed downstream at the bottom of the falls.
• "I accommodated myself to the water, not the water to me. Without
thinking, I allowed myself to be shaped by it. Plunging into the swirl, I came
out with the swirl. That is how I survived.“
• Not worried about if he will come out of it or not, or try to go against it
• “Whenever we face difficulties in our daily life, remember to face it with a
grateful heart. No matter what the problems are, whether you like it or
loathe it, you should face it with a heart of gratitude.”
– Easiest to be grateful when we’re not in the midst of our problems or when the result is
what we want
– Dislike dealing with difficult people at work?
• Not wanting to wake up in the morning and go to work
• An opportunity to learn and practice dealing with more difficult situations in the future
• Get paid to make yourself better as a person and as an employee.
– A grateful heart will help us see things in a different perspective
• Difficult person see things in a way that we do not understand
• Help us cultivate our wisdom and patience to embrace others and new ideas
• Other things to be grateful for:
– The opportunity and ability to help others, instead of always being helped
• Story of the 2 spirits of the Underworld
• Life where you are frequently receiving or frequently giving
– What we don’t have, as they remind us to cherish what we do have
– Our imperfections, as they remind us of our humility and equality
• “The most miserable suffering in life is not death, but rather being
lost and attached.”
– There will be a time when we will lose people close to us that it seems
– Reminder to cherish and be grateful of those around us.
– The closer we hold them to our hearts, the more we seem to suffer it seems.
– The suffering is heavily due to our attachment to the physical body and form,
and not necessarily for the well-being of the person
• Dying from cancer or in excruciating pain
– We know our bodies won’t last forever, so it is not a matter of if, but when
• Why be attached to something that is only going through its natural process?
– It is the fear of the unknown, of where we are headed after death
• If we knew that the person was going to a better and everlasting place after death,
wouldn’t we be happy for them instead of asking them to stay with us?
– Our own suffering is due to our attachment to the temporary, physical body and
the fear of the unknown are the causes of this suffering.
Embrace Suffering with a Big Heart
• To be a cup or to be a lake
– There was once a Master Monk who was accompanied by a disgruntled student.
– The Master asked his disciple to go buy a bag of salt and asked his unhappy student to grab
a handful of salt and to put it in a cup of water and to drink it.
– Then the master asks the student, “how does it taste?”
– “Very bitter” said the student and he spit out the rest of the water from his mouth.
– The master then proceeded to ask the student to pour the entire bag of salt into a nearby
lake and to taste the water from the lake.
– So the student does so and the master then asked, “how does it taste now?”
– “Very Refreshing,” replied the student.
– The Master asks the student, “Did you taste the salt at all?” “Not at all,” said the student
– At that moment, the Master shared the following with the student:
• “Life’s sufferings are like the salt -- Not too many and not too little. In our lives, the amount of pain
and suffering that we will encounter is the same.
• BUT, the impact those sufferings depends solely on how large of the container or space we put it in.”
• Whenever you feel unhappy or feel like you’re in suffering, open your heart so that it
is not the size of a cup, but rather the size of a lake.
• Anger only hurts you and the people in your surrounding
and usually not the person that you're mad at.
• Cause of anger is usually due to differences in opinion or
• “Argument implies a desire to win, which strengthens
egotism and ties us to the belief in the notion of a Self.”
– Angry when our heart if full of Self, and we become attached to a
particular point of view (My View) versus all the other (Wrong) views.
– Story of Four at dawn and Three at dusk
• Zoo keeper gives to the monkeys 4 bananas at dawn and 3 at dusk
• Monkeys revolt when they are given 3 bananas at dawn and 4 at dusk
– Is it any different in the end?
• Two ways, or views, of the same thing: 7 bananas per day
• The difference is in the point of view, and our attachment to them
Obtaining Inner Peace
• “If your heart is unbalanced and not at peace, then you will be
– Getting cut-off in traffic
• Unbalanced/Ego: Angry and upset at the crazy driver for almost getting
HIM/HER into an accident! Tell others that they need to drive better.
• Balanced/Peace: Grateful it didn’t cause an accident and nobody was hurt
– Remind him/herself that they’ve made the same mistake before unintentionally,
and to avoid these actions in the future now that we know the other perspective
– The same events may or may not anger us depending on the state of
– See things in a different perspective and reflect on own cultivation ->
balance and peaceful heart
– See things in your own perspective and dwell onto others’ lack of
cultivation -> unbalanced heart
Good or Bad
• “Nothing is either good or bad, it all depends on your
thought. So don’t be attached to the notion of good or
– Giving money to the less fortunate
• Be grateful that we are not in a similar position and have the good fortune to share
– Helping homeless in Berkeley
• Presumptuous to assume that I understood what he needed and not food/rest
• Upset at the unexpected result -> did not accept our charity and was not grateful
– Offer others what they need instead of what we want to offer; Help others in the
way that they can accept instead of in the way that we are willing to offer
• When they are cold, clothe them; hungry, feed them; down, lift them
– Our notion of good or bad is often associated with our attachment to the result
• Unexpected result -> disappointed or blame others for not fulfilling it as we wanted
• Expected result -> Ego that you were the main cause of the “good” result
– There isn’t an absolute good or bad, it all depends on your perspective
• Remember the story of the Farmer and the horse
No Absolute Good or Bad
• Story of the monk and the lady near the river
– Two traveling monks reached a river where they met a young woman. Wary of
the current, she asked if they could carry her across. One of the monks
hesitated, but the other quickly picked her up onto his shoulders, transported her
across the water, and put her down on the other bank. She thanked him and
– As the monks continued on their way, one monk asks, "Brother, our spiritual
training teaches us to avoid any contact with women, but you picked that her up
on your shoulders and carried her!"
– "Brother," the second monk replied, "I set her down on the other side a while
ago, while you are still carrying her until now.”
• There is no absolute good or bad, but rather our attachment to the idea of
good or bad in our heart.
– Second Monk is only doing what his heart tells him he should do
• Help others regardless if it’s a man or woman, young or old, ugly or beautiful
– Not attached to the form and acted true to his heart
• Not advocating the discard of all rules and regulation, but rather we need to
understand the meaning of the rules and apply them appropriately and
wisely instead of always following them blindly
Cultivation in a Nutshell
• Be sincere in our hearts, thoughts, words, and our
actions so that we are one with our True Self on all
• Don’t be attached to our expectations, results, or point
• Have faith that everything happens for the best, even if
we can’t see it yet.
• Maintain a cool, unattached heart to see all things and
perspectives without bias
• Have a warm heart of gratitude to embrace all beings