Chapter 13: The Seduction of a Monk
|Chapter 13: The Seduction of a Monk
*Book 152: Living this Moment of Illumination
*Written by Master Sheng-yen Lu
*Translated by Haiyan Shen
*Edited by Victor Hazen
*Proofread by Dance Smith
When I was young, I had already heard the story of `the seduction of a monk.` This story has quite vigilantly remained in my mind and it cannot be forgotten or erased. I`m hoping that through this story, practitioners wil be more observant of precepts.
The situation of `the seduction of a monk` is as follows:
There was a monk who persistently carried out ascetic practices, and fully endured hardships and difficulty. He lived and practiced in solitude in a hut on a high mountain.
The monk lived twenty years of his life in obscurity. He ate only wild fruits and wild herbs. His clothes were worn out, and they barely covered his body.
Later, someone detected this monk on the mountain. One person revealed it to ten people, and ten people revealed it to a hundred people. People thought they couldn`t be compared with the monk and his ascetic practice. This monk had not even stepped down from the mountain for twenty years, and had suffered so much. It is especially difficult to resolve the problems of solitary living. Yet, he even managed to survive the cold winters. All of this caused the people to admire him greatly.
Someone said that the monk lived with tigers and snakes, and the tigers and snakes did not harm the monk. They even became his dharma protectors.
After this news had spread around, people of the foothills began to come to visit the monk. At first there was no road. Gradually, a winding footpath was formed, leading directly to where the monk lived. Later on, as there had been so many people walking on it, the road`s condition improved.
The monk`s residence also improved a lot. The people of the foothills were also planning to build a big temple for the monk in order to allow more people to follow the monk and his practice.
The reputation of the monk`s morality and virtue was spreading further and further. It took only a few years before he was famous far and near. Everyone was sure that he was a highly accomplished monk.
There lived a Yuan-wai at the foot of the mountain. A Yuan-wai refers to a landlord with money and power. He had lots of money and great power.
Every year at the time of his birthday, all the noblemen of the locality would gather together, and large crowds would come to celebrate the Yuan-wai`s birthday. Even crowds from neighboring communities would come to join the celebration, so the town had a festive atmosphere like a Chinese New Year celebration.
That year, like the years before, Yuan-wai arranged a day-long banquet to receive the crowds who came to congratulate him.
But this yea, Yuan-wai noticed that there were less people present. They were only coming in twos and threes.
Even the highly priviledged and respected people in town did not appear, which surprised Yuan-wai greatly.
People weren`t coming to his celebration because the highly accomplished monk was holding a ceremony. In the eyes of the people, the monk had already surpassed the Yuan-wai and had become a figure of leadership. His exclamation of the Dharma was like a whirlwind, and there were numerous legendary stories about him. He was respected and admired by the people, and they rushed in swarms to attend the ceremony he held.
The image of the highly accomplished monk was clear and distinct. His purity in maintaining precepts was exemplary and his moral character was lofty. Whenever someone of high esteem arrived in town, he would immediately become the monk`s disciple.
This monk shone like a star.
In these circumstances, the Yuan-wai felt neglected. In the past, the Yuan-wai was the rich man of the foothills, respected and admired by everyone. He often did good deeds, and had won himself a good reputation among the general public. Everyone said that he was a kind person.
However, this so-called highly accomplished monk on the mountain did not even spend one penny, and only through word of mouth had attracted all the crowds to his place. Yuan-wai felt that he himself had become diminished, and his reputation was warped.
While people praised the highly accomplished monk in front of Yuan-wai, he did not reveal any signs of jealousy. However, in private, he bitterly resented the monk.
`One night a carriage was sent to the highly accomplished monk, in which sat a woman who was as beautiful as flower and jade, and who was accompanied by several maidens.
This beautiful woman came to listen to the highly accomplished monk`s discourse.
This beautiful woman claimed that she was the wife of an official in a neighboring county. Her manner was graceful and elegant. Her eyebrows were thin and curved like the moon, and her eyes were filled with a lovely expression. She had a tiny nose and a tiny mouth. When she opened her mouth, her voice was like an oriole singing. When this wife of an official walked, the bells and the ornaments she wore jingled, and she swayed enticingly. This lady was beautiful and attractive.
The highly accomplished monk gave a discourse with his eyes gazing down.
When the highly accomplished monk was finished expounding the Dharma and was about to enter his chamber, the beautiful woman and her maidens, thinking that his talk was remarkable, insisted that he should continue to expound the Dharma. Therefore, the highly accomplished monk began to talk about what had caused the Buddha to renounce the world. His talk touched the beautiful woman so deeply that she became tearful.
The highly accomplished monk kept talking until sunset, and the beautiful woman and her maidens still wished for him to continue.
It became dark, and the mountain road was quite bumpy. This official`s wife had originally planned to go back down the mountain soon after listening to the monk`s talk. But her interest was so unexpectedly aroused by listening to his talk that she didn`t even notice the sunset. Time had flown by very fast.
When the sun went down, the surroundings on the mountain became dark. The cries of birds and beasts rose and fell alternately. Everyone knew of the roughness of the mountain road, and thus the official`s wife and her maidens had to stay on the mountaintop for the night.
For twenty years this highly accomplished monk had been living alone, practicing in his simple and crude hut. Later, his disciples increased and they helped the master build a lecture hall. The lecture hall was a grand Buddha hall, and on its left and right sides there were a few wing-rooms. These rooms were only occupied when there was a ceremony. Otherwise, nobody was there, and the highly accomplished monk continued to live a solitary life.
The beautiful official`s wife and her maidens wanted to stay for the night, which was, of course, not a problem. The official`s wife stayed in the right wing-room, and the left wing-room was for the maidens.
That night everyone went to bed early.
It wasn`t until midnight that there was a knocking sound on the door of the hut in which the highly accomplished monk lived. The noise was low, but urgent.
The highly accomplished monk opened the door, and there stood that charming and lovely beautiful woman. But her complexion was pale, her face filled with a helpless and painful expression, as if she were ill. The beautiful woman pressed her head with her hands, apparently suffering from some great pain.
The monk was alarmed. `What is wrong with you?`
`Let me in first, for it is too windy outside!`
The monk let her enter the room without a second thought. The monk poured a cup of tea for her, and the woman began to calm down.
The woman said, `Master, please help me!`
`Of course I will help you, but I`m not a doctor.`
`You can save a disciple.`
`If I can save you, I certainly will!`
At that point, the beautiful woman began to tell him that she had an inherent and very strange disease. She had this disease since she was young. When she became sick, she would have a terrible headache, so painful that she would roll all over the ground.
The method of curing this disease was very simple. It required a man`s belly button to touch her own belly button. Strangely enough, by such a touch, her headache would disappear. Before, her father had been able to help her. After she became married, her husband was the only one who could save her.
With tears in her eyes, the beautiful woman exclaimed, `I haven`t had this illness for a long time, but tonight, it seems to me that my illness is going to break out. Therefore I`m coming here to ask master for help.`
The monk said, `There is no other man here!`
The beautiful woman acted like a pampered child, and said charmingly, `It is because there is no other man that I have come to ask master for help!
All of a sudden the woman cried in misery and fainted on the floor. She really began rolling upon the ground, holding her head with her hands. She appeared to be in extreme misery.
The highly accomplished monk was dumbfounded. If he didn`t help, how could he bear to see this beautiful woman in front of him suffering from the terrible illness of a headache? How could he not help? If he helped, he would have to take off his pants and use his own belly button to touch the woman`s belly button.
The highly accomplished monk saw that the beautiful woman before him, as sick as she was, appeared lovely as she was rolling around on the ground. Her long hair was spilled out and flying about, her clothes were scattered, and her skin was exposed. It was white and oily, and soft and smooth. Her breasts, slim waist, round hips, and two jade-like legs could arouse an ordinary man`s endless sexual desire.
The highly accomplished monk thought:
I`m not harboring any sexual pleasure for one instant. I`ll immediately withdraw after one touch, which couldn`t harm anyone. Saving a person`s life surpasses building a seven-storied pagoda. I can`t think too much about what may happen to me later!
Therefore, the highly accomplished monk took off his pants, and used his belly button to touch the belly button of that beautiful woman.
To actually touch her belly button was not easy, and after just one touch, she was indeed better.
The beautiful woman`s two hands and two legs tightly entangled the highly accomplished monk.
The woman became an octopus, entangling the highly accomplished monk so tightly that he could barely breathe!
The Leng-yen Sutra stipulates: `The Tathagatas of the ten directions regard sexual lust as sexual fire. When the bodhisattva recognizes sexual desire, he avoids it as if it`s a firetrap. If one doesn`t eliminate sexual desire, then for the meditation practicioner, it is like trying to cook sands and rocks into rice. It can only be called hot sand, even after hundreds and thousands of kalpas.`
After a few days, a messenger sent by the Yuan-wai delivered a letter to the highly accomplished monk on the mountain. The letter had only a ragged verse:
Beating the drum in the morning, and striking the bell at dusk,
The highly accomplished monk was famous for his cultivation.
It`s a tragic pity that the sarira of his accomplishment,
That can endure for hundreds of years,
Has flowed into the double petals of the lotus flower.
The highly accomplished monk read this verse and his facial color completely changed.
The highly accomplished monk was filled with regret. He tried to sort out his thoughts: `How come I couldn`t see through it all at that moment?`
`Haven`t our masters taught us to do so?`
`When I saw that beautiful woman lying there, I should have seen her as a corpse that cannot move, and whose bones are stiff, and who is without consciousness. That beautiful woman actually has nothing in her head and is without wisdom. What is there about her that I can be attracted to?
`When I saw the white and smooth skin of that beautiful woman, I should have recognized that there were just muscles and blood under her skin, with thick blood running inside, and rotten flesh wrapped around her bones. What is there about her that I can be attracted to?
`When I saw that woman as beautiful as flowers and the moon, I should have known that she is actually a skeleton`s skull. Black smoke comes out of her head, hollow eyeholes, sunken nostrils, and yellow teeth. What is there about her that I can be attracted to?
`When I saw that beautiful woman with a slim waist, I should have seen that as her skin rots it will become infected As her intestines and stomach rot, yellow fluids will flow out, with an unbearable stench. That fragrant and shiny slim waist and its elegant, twisting movements are in fact not so pretty. What is there about her that I can be attracted to?
`When I saw that beautiful woman`s body rolling around, I should have known that her bones are like a machine, inside are bones and joints, and her body is like a beehive, stinging everywhere. Of those few frightening white bones, what can I be attracted to?
`When I saw all of that beautiful woman`s body, I should have seen how it consisted only of rotten flesh, or veins, or dry bones without any skin and flesh. Her veins are rotten and destroyed, and her bones and joints are scattered throughout. All of her body will generate worms, and it will shrivel on the ground, becoming black and decomposed. Since it is too ugly to look at, what can I be attracted to?
`Since there is nothing about her that I can be attracted to, why should I give myself the trouble!`
In all seriousness, it was not the highly accomplished monk who got himself into trouble. It was that evil and devious woman with her beauty, approaching and seducing him.
The highly accomplished monk blamed himself:
`How could I, who have practiced so many years, preserving my moral integrity through living in solitude, do such an immoral and shameful thing that was extremely dirty and evil?`
`I gave the root of my life source, under the circumstance of loosing self-control, to the mouth of the poisonous snake of that woman`s yin element. How ignorant I was to allow my yang essence to feed the mouth of a snake!`
Thinking about this, the highly accomplished monk felt terribly unsettled. His hair stood on end and he was horrified. But it was too late for regret.
The Sutra of Forty-two Chapters advises:
`When seeing women, a man should regard an older woman as his mother, an adult woman as his older sister, and a young girl as his younger sister. By such a manner of thinking, one arouses a mind of liberation, and all evil thoughts are extinguished.`
The Sutra of Fan-wang states:
`All men are my father, all women are my mother. My life is derived from them. I should arouse a mind of filial piety, and the mind of kindness and compassion.`
Later, the highly accomplished monk realized:
That beautiful woman was not the so-called official`s wife, and she was also not a woman from a good family, but a well-known prostitute.
It was the Yuan-wai who paid her a lot of money to send her here.
Yuan-wai, with several other advisors, carefully planned the whole thing. Everything was planned to proceed just as it had. The purpose was to seduce the monk.
After that, they would publicize that the highly accomplished monk allowed himself to indulge in sexual pleasure, and that he secretly had a love affair with a woman. He had violated the Tao and morality, and he had degraded Buddhism and his root teachers. Buddhism`s founders had no more face or integrity. The monk would have a stained reputation throughout the country.
The highly accomplished monk deeply blamed himself that, as a practitioner who had lived secluded from sexual affairs, he had destroyed his own life of practice in one step.
How terrible is this destruction of a practitioner!
How can one not feel sad!
How can one not feel fear!
It is frightening indeed! It is frightening indeed!
The most shocking thing was that the highly accomplished monk hung himself and died.
It was said that after the highly accomplished monk committed suicide, the wife of the Yuan-wai unexpectedly gave birth to a son. After the son grew up, he spent all of the Yuan-wai`s fortune, which forced the Yuan-wai out on the street to become a beggar.
The beautiful woman became ill, and her whole body rotted to death.
The people who were involved in the conspiracy went mad and ran away.
With regard to this story of the seduction of the monk, I have the following views:
Although the state attained by the highly accomplished monk was not bad, the level of his practice was still undetermined. There are varying degrees of difference, in terms of the states of concentration in Buddhism.
When one still has thoughts of sexual desire, one can easily be influenced by situations in the outside environment which arouse one`s craving for sexual pleasure. One should practice `the contemplation of impurity` and `the contemplation of the skeleton` so that thoughts of sexual desire will not arise.
Although one no longer has thoughts of sexual desire, one still has to strengthen this cessation of thinking about sexual desire, which means that one should consistently have no such thoughts. One should continue to practice `the contemplation of impurity` and `the contemplation of the skeleton` in order for the craving for sexual desire to never be able to arise.
One needs to allow one`s own mind to reside firmly in the pure and tranquil light, in untainted purity and serenity, wonderful peace and bliss, and in treasured freedom. This great bliss of light is actualized by one`s body and mind, which enables one to dwell peacefully in perfection. One attains an experience of knowing that this is the body with great bliss of perfection. When one reaches this state, any external temptation or influence will have no effect.
One realizes that form is emptiness.
One realizes that consciousness is nothingness.
One realizes that form is nothing whatsoever.
One attains the state of neither thought nor non-thought.
One attains the meditation of complete extinction.
Frankly speaking, I, Living Buddha Sheng-yen Lu, have already traversed the third state. This state is called `the great bliss of light`. What is great bliss? This is experienced by one`s own body and mind. This kind of bliss is eternal and will not disappear, being far superior to and surpassing the mundane pleasures between men and women. The mundane pleasures of men and women result from the outflow of essence, and my bliss will never result in any outflow. The non-outflow of essence is called great bliss.
What is light? Light is gradually created when one`s body and mind become pure. This light is free. It can be as small as one grain, or it can be as big as Mount Sumeru. It can be the self-mastery of all things, it can traverse the infinite, and it can always be spontaneous. Everything is pure and tranquil and clean and serene, without any stain.
Thus, I entered the state of:
With regard to the highly accomplished monk, because he could not tolerate the damage to his reputation, he could no longer endure life, and he committed suicide. I cannot understand!
Hadn`t the highly accomplished monk understood that taking one`s own life equals killing a Buddha, for everyone contains innate Buddha-nature, and everyone is a future Buddha. Committing suicide is equivalent to killing a Buddha.
Killing a Buddha, killing one`s father, killing one`s mother, killing a monk, killing an acarya (master), and killing a sage (including an arhat and a bodhisattva), are the seven grave offences.
The destruction of life belongs to the sins called parajika (the four gravest offences for a monk). Such an offence of abandoning the Buddha-dharma is the sin of the guillotine, which is the hopeless and unforgivable sin.
In my view, the highly accomplished monk had two ways to go:
1. The monk who has violated precepts - if he has violated precepts, he is considered to be the monk who violated precepts. Violating precepts is violating precepts; the monk must not violate the precepts again. He should remain immovable regarding external degeneration, scandal, ridicule, and suffering, and must diligently practice the actual state of concentration with the great bliss of light.
He should contemplate on the Buddha`s story of causes and conditions in the Buddha`s own previous lifetime. The Buddha had also once been a monk who had violated the precepts and had committed adultery.
The attainment of the Path is by means of diligent practice, not by means of laziness. One must be more and more diligent and stay away from play and entertainment.
2. The return to mundane life - If one realizes that one has violated precepts, and it is hard to remain as a monk who has violated precepts, one still should not seek out the solution of committing suicide. If, indeed, one cannot face everyone as a monk, then one can become a layperson again. To become a layperson does not mean that one can, from that moment onwards, go along with prevailing customs, enjoying singing, dancing, prostitution, and music. It does not mean that one can eat meat and drink alcohol, make money, play and entertain, and enjoy wealth and rank.
It only means that one can continue to practice, but with a status of a layman. Perhaps one can liberate more sentient beings. One can be ashamed of oneself and have regrets, but one does not have to go lax!
With regard to people such as that prostitute, Yuan-wai, and so forth, they ought to remember an ancient verse:
`One would rather stir the water of thousands of rivers, but do not stir the mind of a practitioner.`
`The most evil karma one can commit is to destroy another`s integrity. During one`s life, one will suffer various kinds of retributions such as misfortune, a shorter lifespan, the death of one`s son, and being without an heir. After one dies, one`s soul will definitely suffer forever.`
The Yuan-wai only suffered the retribution of his fortune being exhausted, and thus wandered about the streets homeless. This was, really, a light retribution.
The prostitute was too ignorant, and as a result she acquired a strange sickness, and she rotted to death. Upon death, she would certainly go to an evil hell as the retribution for her ignorance.
As for those advisors who went mad and ran away, what they suffered was an immediate retribution of the present. There are many such people who have nothing to do but follow along to create trouble.
As for the highly accomplished monk in the story of the seduction of the monk, after he committed suicide by hanging himself, his soul must be in a very tragic state! His karmic offence was quite heavy!
An ancient virtuous man, whose name is Wang Chou, teaches:
`Among all the evil karmas, the easiest one to commit is sexual debauchery. Nothing can be worse than this karma that destroys morality and attracts disasters. It is commonly said that sexual lust is the primary evil among ten thousands of evils. If we consider the evil karmas of the mundane world that are so numerous, why is it that sex is the primary evil? This is because when sexual thoughts arise, they incur all other thoughts to join them. If devious karma has not ripened into situations of debauchery, one`s false thoughts will arise. When one tries to seduce someone, the mind of harming others is aroused. When two people conspire to harm each other, the mind of hatred is aroused. When one is trapped by sexual lust, the mind of greed for love arises. When one envies what other people have, the mind of poisonous jealousy arises. When one conspires to take another person`s love, the mind of killing arises. One`s sense of shame and moral principle is completely lost. Various evil karmas are generated, and various good intentions die out. Therefore, of the ten thousands of evils, the primary evil is sexual desire. When one fleeting sexual thought arises, one`s light is already covered, and one`s heart is already inverted! In this world, there has been an honest and good man who was heirless; a talented man of letters who was down in luck throughout his whole life. All of these are caused by this sickness of sexual desire. When one`s own sexual thoughts arise, one should cut them off at once in order to eliminate the devious karma as the root sickness. Heaven does not speak of the lust of beauty, but speaks of seeing another`s beauty. This is because if one`s mind of lust is aroused, this is already an offence that cannot escape punishment.`
When I read the text written by the ancient virtuous man, I felt a great dread of mind and body!
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