The following is an interview with Elder Monk Yi Zhao who is the successor of the Dharma lineage of the Elder Monk Xu Yun. Yi Zhao is the 44th great master of the Lin Chi sect within Zen Buddhism. He is the highest master within Zen Buddhism in the world today. This interview is transcribed from the video tape of the Nectar Dharma Assembly conducted by Dharma King Yangwo Yisinubu.
QUESTION: Could you please briefly describe the wonderful occurrences that took place during the Buddhas Bestowing Nectar Dharma Assembly that you attended? ANSWER: We first saw the Dharma King. We then saw the Dharma King practice the Dharma to raise the consciousness of certain beings to higher realms of existence. We took a look and there were only a few wasps (yellow-jackets). After the Dharma King practiced the Dharma for a period of time, he said that he had already summoned many beings, such as solitary spirits, Kinnaras, etc. in order to raise their consciousness. When we went to take another look, we saw that there were many wasps. I do not know the exact number, but there must have been over ten thousand of them. During another period of time the Dharma King said that the raising of their consciousness is almost complete. Those wasps were specially benefited. Why were there all of those wasps? Certain solitary spirits, certain kinnaras and other beings took on the physical form of wasps, arrived at the scene and received the consciousness raising Dharma. What is receiving the consciousness raising Dharma?
We human beings must eat and drink in order to survive and grow. However, after those solitary spirits received the consciousness raising Dharma, they were able to take birth in a heavenly realm in the Western Paradise or in another buddha realm. We went over and took another look. We noticed that all of the wasps had departed. Why did none of them remain? They received the consciousness raising Dharma and were raised. Therefore, none of them remained, because they were liberated. This is what we first saw at the dharma assembly. The next part of the assembly was the “Buddhas Bestowing Nectar.” There were five or six of us. There were about a dozen monks and nuns. It was not only Chinese people who participated in this part of the assembly. There were even non-Chinese people there! At this time, a bowl was placed about 30 feet away from the Dharma King. What type of bowl was this? It was a crystal bowl. The crystal bowl was placed on the ground. The bowl was in the middle of two opposite lines of people. The bowl was not far from the two lines of people. Everyone sat on the ground and looked at the bowl. This crystal bowl had a lid and was a bit smaller than a washbowl.
There was another bowl that was small. Elder Wu Ming was asked to wash that small bowl with water. After he washed it, he was asked to wipe it dry. He wiped the inside of the bowl so well that not one drop of water remained. This bowl was then placed back inside of the crystal bowl. The Dharma King then told everybody to stare at the bowl. He said that our vision must remain fixed on the bowl. All of us began to stare at the bowl. After awhile, what did the bowl appear to contain? A meteor. Of course, it was not a real meteor. It seemed as if rain had fallen. What exactly was in the bowl? It was white. It descended with flashes of light. It took a while for it to descend. The Dharma King then told us to open the bowl and look inside. The small bowl was inside the crystal bowl, yet flashes of light could be seen within the crystal bowl. This interior bowl slowly became filled. What color was the substance that filled the bowl? It seemed to be white. It was not pure white. It looked like milk, but it was not milk. It was like that of the finest cream. It was a a very savory taste with a bit of sweetness. The Dharma King personally fed it to all of us during the Dharma Assembly. Rays of red light descended. Flashes of red light descended. The strange thing was that each person’s perception of the color of this light was different.
Why? Since each person’s level of cultivation and state of realization are different, there were differences in the supernormal states they perceived. I followed Elder Monk Xu Yun ever since I was young. I also met Master Tai Xu. The two of them practiced different dharma methods and therefore had different states of realization. I have met many practitioners of Buddhism such as those who practice the dharma of the Pure Land School, those who practice Zen meditation, etc. However, I have never seen the supernormal state of nectar descending from the sky. What about this time? This time, I personally saw it. I truly saw it. This is a very rare occurrence. I obtained a certain insight from this experience. Of course, people have different levels of realization. What did the Great Dharma King rely upon in his Tantric visualization? He relied upon our original nature in his visualization. The usefulness arose from the prajna of true emptiness. This even includes nectar bestowed from the sky. The light of the Tathagata descended out of emptiness. This was the wonderful effect of the Dharma King’s application of prajna.
What is Prajna? It is realization that all phenomena are empty. Things arise from true emptiness. Emptiness can bring about wonderful effects. Wonderful effects arise from prajna. All realities thus arise. All phenomena thus arise. Over the past several decades of my life, that was the only time when I actually saw the supernormal state of nectar descending from the sky. I have followed many great elderly monks when they practice the dharma in private. I could not see any effects. However, this time at the Dharma Assembly, I truly saw certain effects. Today I am describing to everybody the facts concerning nectar that descended from the sky. So that everybody will understand, I am not talking about exoteric Buddhism or esoteric Buddhism. I am saying that the wonderful effects of the buddha dharma are beyond logic and reason. If we cultivate ourselves sincerely, we certainly will experience these wonderful effects. Of course, if you meet a good teacher, your cultivation will progress rapidly. If you do not meet up with a good teacher, yet you still diligently cultivate yourself on your own, you will naturally encounter a good teacher in the future. These are my personal insights. Today I have briefly described nectar descending from the sky, which I personally saw. It truly occurred.
QUESTION: With respect to the effects of the nectar on you, after you ate the nectar, was there any great change in your state of realization?
ANSWER: After eating nectar one’s physical strength naturally increases and one’s internal practices are benefited. It helps one’s cultivation, no matter what method of cultivation one practices. Of course, this is something incredible. Whenever a thought arises in my mind, no matter what type of thought it may be, I will introspect upon it. I will immediately become vigilant. I will immediately introspect. If my mind has even just a little greed or anger, I will get rid of it. I feel better physically. Although I am now over 70 years old, my physical condition is not bad. It is a little better than before. I think that each person will experience different effects from having eaten nectar. Why? Each person’s karma is different and each person’s insights into life are different.
For example, fish see the ocean water as something to live in. Human beings view the ocean water as a means of eating, yet celestial beings see this body of water as colored glaze. Each person’s insights are different. Each person will experience different effects from having eaten nectar. Although the effects are different, the nectar will plant a certain seed within the person. Take for example, those who recite Amitabha Buddha’s name. Even though they continually recite Amitabha Buddha’s name, who knows when they will be able to obtain Buddhahood. However, some people recite Amitabha Buddha’s name only a few times or ten times, yet they are able to be reborn in the Western paradise. This is because the underlying karmic conditions of each person are different. Therefore, each person will experience different effects from having eaten nectar. Nevertheless, the nectar will provide each of them with benefits to further their liberation. These are my opinions, understandings, and feelings.
QUESTION: Did the lecture of the Great Dharma King provide you with any insight or great benefit?
ANSWER: What did the Great Dharma King speak about: Emptiness and prajna. Each sentence that he spoke contained prajna wisdom. It was not a general lecture. If it had been, then the words would have been simple. However, all of his words reflected prajna wisdom. That is, all phenomena arise out of emptiness. All of our thoughts of greed, hatred, ignorance, conceit, and doubt arise out of attachment to the concept of self or out of attachment to the concept that the things of the world are real. When these two attachments spur our thoughts, then the various afflictions arise. What type of affliction arises? Pleasure and suffering. From the perspective of our pure, original nature, pleasure and suffering are born of ignorance. Why? To do evil is suffering. One does evil due to the obscuration of ignorance. We can turn this around and speak of pleasure. There is an impure way of doing good. For example, when we do good, we might do so in order to be benefited in a future life. This is an impure way of doing good which leads to more suffering within cyclic existence.
This way of doing good is tainted. Why? When we do a good deed we must not have any attachment in our minds. If we have any attachment in our mind then we will not obtain liberation. Therefore, the Dharma King said that all phenomena are empty. Prajna is the most important thing in the nature of everything. We, if we can understand the Dharma King’s words that all phenomena are empty, then we can simply see the objective truth without giving rise to thoughts of suffering, pleasure, goodness, and evil. Everything arises from the coming together of the four great elements. We should realize prajna through understanding that true emptiness is the true nature of all phenomena. Wonderful effects are produced from true emptiness.
We should understand that all phenomena must go through the process of arising, existing, changing (deteriorating), and passing away. Living beings go through the process of birth, aging, sickness, and death. From where does this process originate? It originates from true emptiness. Using the prajna that has penetrated the empty nature of phenomena we can see the four great elements of earth, water, fire, and wind come together due to the maturing of certain conditions. The four great elements disperse when these conditions end. However, why do we become attached to the worldly phenomenon so as to give rise to all afflictions and all hindrances? We must rely upon the contemplation of prajna to eliminate all ignorance. we must use the flames of wisdom to burn away all negative karma created out of ignorance. every sentence spoken by the Dharma King was permeated with prajna. We will be tremendously benefited from reflecting upon his words. These are my impressions. In the future all one has to do is read just one of the Dharma King’s works and that will be enough. It will be sufficient to only focus on one method. Even if you only assimilate one sentence of the Dharma King’s words, the beneficial effects could last for your entire life or even last for an infinite amount of time in the future.
The original nature of all phenomena is emptiness. Our minds should not dwell on the past, present, or future. Our minds should not dwell on any phenomena or anything that exists in the external world. When we do not dwell on anything, what type of mind do we have? A pure mind. Our various views emanate from our consciousness and form the external environment. These views are based on ignorance. If based upon a pure mind, we are able to contemplate phenomena, yet not become attached to phenomena; abide in emptiness, yet not become attached to emptiness. If we are able to practice the total detachment of the Middle Way, then we can obtain liberation. Each sentence that the Dharma King spoke truly went to the heart of prajna. Each sentence has the potential to break our cycles of birth and death and totally eliminate our ignorance.
Elder Monk Yi Zhao left this world on January 5, 2013. Click for article on his passing.