Throughout the sutras, the Buddha tells mortals they can achieve enlightenment by performing such meritorious works as building monasteries, casting statues, burning incense, scattering flowers, lighting eternal lamps, practicing all six periods of the day and night, walking around stupas, observing fasts and worshiping. But if beholding the mind includes all other practices, then such works as these would appear redundant.
The sutras of the Buddha contain countless metaphors. Because mortals have shallow minds and don’t understand anything deep, the Buddha used the tangible to represent the sublime. People who seek blessings by concentrating on external works instead of internal cultivation are attempting the impossible. What you call a monastery, we call a sangharama, a place of purity. But whoever denies entry to the three poisons and keeps the gates of his senses pure, his body and mind still, inside and outside clean, builds a monastery.
Casting statues refers to all practices cultivated by those who seek enlightenment ….
And burning incense doesn’t mean ordinary material incense but the incense of the intangible dharma, which drives away filth, ignorance and evil deeds with its perfume ….
When the Buddha was in the world, he told his disciples to light such precious incense with the fire of awareness as an offering to the Buddhas of the ten directions. But people today don’t understand the tathagata’s real meaning. They use an ordinary flame to light material incense of sandalwood or frankincense hoping for some future blessing that never comes.
For scattering flowers the same holds true. This refers to speaking the dharma, or to scattering flowers of virtue, in order to benefit others and glorify the real self …. If you think the tathagata meant for people to harm plants by cutting off their bloom, you’re wrong. Those who observe the precepts don’t injure any of the myriad life forms of heaven and earth. If you hurt something by mistake, you suffer for it. But those who intentionally break the precepts by injuring the living for the sake of future blessings suffer even more. How could they let would-be blessings turn into sorrows?
The eternal lamp represents perfect awareness. …long ago, there was a Buddha named dipamkara, or lamplighter. This was the meaning of his name …. The light released by a Buddha from one curl between his brows can illuminate countless worlds. An oil lamp is no help ….
Practicing all six periods of the day and night means among the six senses constantly cultivating enlightenment and perservering in every form of awareness. Never relaxing control over the six senses is what’s meant by all six periods.
As for walking around stupas, the stupa is your body and mind. When your awareness circles your body and mind without stop, this is called walking around a stupa ….
The same holds true for observing a fast …. To fast means …to regulate your body and mind so that they’re not distracted or disturbed.
Also, once you stop eating the food of delusion, if you touch it again, you break your fast. And once you break it, you reap no blessing from it. The world is full of deluded people who don’t see this. They indulge their body and mind in all manner of evil. They give free rein to their passions and have no shame. And when they stop eating ordinary food, they call it fasting. How absurd!
It’s the same with worshiping. You have to understand the meaning and adapt to conditions. Meaning includes action and non-action …. Worship means reverence and humility. It means revering your real self and humbling delusions. If you can wipe out evil desires and harbor good thoughts, even if nothing shows, it’s worship ….
Those who fail to cultivate the inner meaning and concentrate instead on the outward expression never stop indulging in ignorance, hatred and evil while exhausting themselves to no avail. They can deceive others with postures, remain shameless before sages and vain before mortals, but they’ll never escape the wheel, much less achieve any merit.