Treatise on Response and Retribution
In the early part of the nineteenth century, Master Yin-Guang dedicated himself to advocating teaching on the Law of Cause and Effect. According to the principle of response and retribution (the Law of Cause and Effect), if we plant good seeds, we will obtain good results. If we plant bad seeds, we will definitely obtain bad results. This is the true principle of response and retribution. The ancient people have used the example of a growing plant to explain "request". A response would be the fruit.
If we pull on one of our hairs, it will affect our whole body. This one hair is so small, yet our whole body feels the discomfort. The removal of the hair is the request or action and the discomfort is the response. Thus, we understand, we cannot think that our thoughts, speech and actions are inconsequential. Even the weakest thought pervades the entire universe. Currently we are deluded, but are unaware of it. Just like this hair on our body, if we were to pull on it, the entire body will feel it. This is something we know.
This is our body, but we have yet to realize that all sentient beings in the universe are part of our pure Dharma body. We are one entity. Since we are one entity, the request and response are inconceivable. When there is a request, there will be an immediate response. Request and response are essentially cause and effect. The request from sentient beings is the cause. The response from Buddhas, Bodhisattvas or heavenly beings is the effect.
Understanding this principle and truth, we will know what ancient masters meant by "We reap what we sow". This metaphor is very profound. It tells us that by planting a good seed, we will harvest a good fruit or effect. If we plant a bad seed, bad consequences are sure to follow. From beginningless time, all sentient beings have committed more bad than good causes. Thus, in this lifetime, if we were to think calmly and carefully observe our surroundings, we will realize that there are more bad than good conditions.
Good conditions help us to achieve in our practice and virtuous conduct. Bad conditions increase our improper thoughts and bad conduct. From this, we will know what our future consequences will be. All these are the principles of request and response. Ancient people also often said, "Heaven's net has all-encompassing mesh. Nothing can pass through it". These words also explain the principle of request and response. This is the truth, the true reality.
The guiding principles of this treatise are contained in the opening sentences. "Neither disasters nor good fortunes will come without reasons and conditions, we incur them. The reward of good or bad is like the shadow accompanying the form." The rest of the text is the elaboration and explanation of these two lines, which will enable us to understand them more deeply. This will in turn help us to see whether our thoughts, speech and behavior accord with our virtuous nature. We can think and act in ways that accord with our virtuous nature. We should not think or act in a manner that does not accord with it.
Every individual has his or her retribution or reward, as does every family, society, country and even the world. No one can escape the Law of Cause and Effect.
Today, we understand that due to our shared karma, society is in turmoil and much of the world is in conflict. Knowing this, how can we resolve predestined disasters? If all of us are awakened and understand the true reality, resolutely refrain from all wrongdoings and practice all good deeds, let go of selfishness and work for the sake of society and all sentient beings, then these disasters can be resolved and eliminated.
Natural and human-made disasters are the results of our bad karmic deeds. If we stop committing bad karmic deeds, then not only will all human-made disasters be eliminated, but all natural disasters as well. How can we be freed from natural disasters? The Mahayana sutras state that "the environment changes according to our minds". Only with deep comprehension of this principle will we be able to believe and be willing to practice. There is much to learn about avoiding disasters, including principles and methods, all of which are contained within this book.
Master Chin Kung's commentaries on the Treatise on Response and Retribution.