[ Taken from “CATEGORY 14 – Philosophical Sayings about Worldly Matters” in the book H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III]
H.H. Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu Holiest Tathagata is the true incarnation of Dorje Chang Buddha. His Holiness possesses the state of realization and virtue that entails the Three Bodies and Four Wisdoms of a Buddha. His Holiness is able to “manifest the universe on the tip of a hair and store limitless worlds in a grain of sand.”In worldly terms, this state of realization and virtue is reflected in His Holiness’s profound and vast knowledge,noble moral character, mastery of both ancient and modern learning, and status as a great figure in contemporary times and the highest Buddha. His Holiness’s philosophical thoughts are truly comprehensive and deep, containing practical wisdom about worldly matters that benefit living beings. These philosophical sayings are different from profound Buddhist teachings contained in this book, such as the Sutra on Understanding and Realizing Definitive Truth, Debate Between a Monk and a Laywoman, “What is Cultivation?,” and the listed recorded discourses on the Buddha-dharma.
These maxims on worldly matters are one of His Holiness’s outstanding contributions to mankind. The tremendous erudition and nobility of H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III are reflected in his profound philosophical thoughts. The philosophical thoughts of H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III are based upon the supreme and holiest wisdom of this ancient Buddha, His Holiness’s thorough understanding of the ultimate truths of human life and the universe, and His Holiness’s practice of what he preaches. They express the highest level of civilization and morality. As a result, these philosophical thoughts are maxims containing the essence of truth. If one seriously studies them and deeply reflects upon them, one will reap tremendous educational benefits and mental development from the transcendent wisdom and moral integrity of H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III, who has fathomed the subtleties underlying all phenomena. That is one reason why these philosophical sayings have the ability to move and inspire others and why they are widely admired.
In response to the requests of many people and in order to facilitate learning and understanding, more than ten years ago the Office of the Secretary of Master Wan Ko Yee together with Yiyun Chen (who is an assistant researcher at the Sociology Research Institute within the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) selected from His Holiness’s writings some of His Holiness’s philosophical sayings and added to them brief commentaries. That was later made into a book that was published and distributed by China Social Sciences Academic Press. Out of caution, they requested that H.H. Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu Holiest Tathagata expound upon those philosophical sayings. The explanations H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III gave were extremely detailed and complete. None of those detailed explanations are included in this category.
We believe that these philosophical sayings are a cultural treasury. We hope that everyone will obtain from them abundant knowledge and a pure moral character. We hope that they will benefit mankind and provide mankind with good fortune and wisdom. If you study them with all your heart and mind and put them into practice, you will experience limitless beneficial effects. Because of limited space, we have included only one brief commentary of a philosophical saying as an example, although all of the original philosophical sayings themselves are included. In 2002, World Dharma Voice, Inc. in the United States republished and began distributing around the world a book in Chinese on philosophical sayings of H.H. Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu Holiness Tathagata entitledBrief Commentaries on Selected Philosophical Sayings of Master Wan Ko Yee.
I. A person is established in character only when he truly knows himself. Why? It is difficult for a person to be aware of his own flaws, just as he cannot see his own back, though it is in plain sight of other people. It is quite natural for a person to hide his own flaws, but overdoing it will alienate the person from those around him. When the person realizes this and feels ashamed, he turns to seek knowledge and adhere to moral integrity so as to establish his own character and win the respect and support of other people.
Brief Commentary on the first saying: One must know oneself before one can truly be a human being. What is the rationale behind this? Why must we know ourselves before we can truly call ourselves a human being? Although we all consider ourselves as human beings right now, the conduct of many of us is worse than that of animals. The essential character of some people cannot even be called the essential character of a true human being, because a lot of us fail to understand ourselves.
Only by understanding ourselves can we truly be a human being. We generally cannot see our own mistakes. Even if we see our own shortcomings, we forgive them. It is difficult to understand ourselves because we all hold our own individual internal principles and stubbornness. It is just like the fact that we cannot see our own backside. No matter how hard we try, we cannot lean our head back far enough to see our backside, but others can see it very easily and clearly. It is the same with our mistakes and shortcomings. We cannot see them, but outsiders can see them from every angle without us knowing it. So to make others like us, we have to hide our mistakes and conceal our flaws. It is human nature. Some people try too hard to hide their mistakes or flaws. Their strenuous and fierce efforts are excessive. In the long run, no one wants to be with them or work with them. People feel they are too selfish, too negative. If we can acknowledge our inadequacies,understand our mistakes and shortcomings, and try to acquire knowledge with a humble mind, then ourways will naturally comport with ethical standards. You can then become a true human being. When people witness your behavior and state of mind, they will naturally respect you and help you willingly. Therefore, by knowing yourself, you will be able to successfully develop yourself. By successfully developing yourself, you will then receive respect and support, and everything in the world will then be complete.
In a dispute about right and wrong, there is nothing worse than to stick to one’s position and continue arguing, thus compounding one’s wrong and finally getting into trouble. For this reason, one should not let oneself be overwhelmed by disputes.
Love and hate arise from a combination of causes. People cannot love a thing without seeing it, hearing about it or remembering it. Without one of the these experiences, there will be no feeling, whether love or hate.
It is exceedingly foolish for a person to claim that he possesses the ability to meet all social needs. Viewed against the background of the infinity of such needs, the ability of an individual is as insignificant as a speck of dust. Even in the one area of activity in which he claims superiority, the ability of an individual pales because there are always many others who can do better.
How much one learns from his teacher depends a great deal
on the guidance his teacher provides him. A good teacher,
therefore, should be a role model for his students in moral
integrity as well as scholarship, and his students should strive to
reach high levels through accumulating knowledge and attaining
moral integrity. In this manner learning is a part of the way to
The construction of a tall building begins with the laying of
groundwork from which it goes up floor by floor. Structures
resting on nothing are seen only in a mirage. Building up a
career is like putting up a building: what is needed are firm
steps taken one after another toward the goal and executed with
the support of true knowledge gained from experience. These
steps, aided by a defiance of obstacles, will eventually lead one to
One in good fortune should remember the days in woe. A
good soldier knows that battle victories are just as common as
defeats. It is too late to remember one’s umbrella when he is
caught in a downpour without it.
Profound wisdom and ability are the inner qualities of a
person who possesses them. A person lacking in these qualities
but trying to impress people that he is in possession of them is
not to be taken seriously. Bamboo with its hollow interior can
never support a building.
When one is held up by obstacles on his way to a
rendezvous, he should back down so that he may reach his
destination sooner. It is like driving a car in reverse gear; one
does that because he will be able to drive forward faster later on.
The one who is only good at reciting other’s works is
ignorant. The value in such works lies in their application to
reality. A brilliant university graduate, or a master of theFour
Books and Five Scriptures, without knowing how to put what he
has learned into practice, can hardly fend for himself and offers
no benefit to society. Only when the masterpieces are in put into
use can they be powerful in terms of social advancement. It is
only then that knowledge is transformed into a material force.
Undue haste causes delay, and procrastination causes loss.
With this point of view, one shall choose the Middle Way as a
principle. When a violin is tuned too low, its strings produce
disharmony, but when it’s tuned too high, the strings are likely to
What standards does one go by in choosing a person for a
particular undertaking? It is both weaknesses and strengths that
make a person what he is; these qualities are inseparable. Don’t
dismiss a candidate just because of his weaknesses, or you will
end up with no candidates at all. The wise thing to do is to give
him a chance to make the best of his strengths.
Deliberation is needed before one makes a move, but no
conclusion is to be drawn from deliberation alone. It has to be
tested in action. Suggested moves are not to be adopted in haste,
nor are they to be rejected out of hand; they are not to be
dismissed even when tests have proved them worthless, for in
this case an inquiry into their legitimacy has to be made. When a
rainbow is blocked from view by clouds, it does not mean that
there is no rainbow out there.
A person not appreciative of the good life he is living is one
who has forgotten his past miseries. A person in good health is
not aware of its blessings until he loses it.
A wise person knows that negative experiences in life are
just as useful as positive ones. That is why he remembers both of
them. Negative experiences are taken as warnings against erring
and positive ones as means to increase the well-being of others.
Such is the attitude of a wise person toward life experiences.
When a person says that he never errs, he is whitewashing his
error and thus erring.
What makes the sun the greatest thing man has ever known?
It is admired for providing light and warmth for all the beings
under it. A truly great person is one who is willing to sacrifice
his own benefit for the well-being of others.
There is nothing more foolish than for one to believe that all
one sees is reason and the universe is created from it. Whenever
one measures everything from one’s own standards, that person
is demonstrating ignorance.
Anger over other people’s faults is a demon. It torments the
person possessed by it while leaving the wrongdoers alone
The respect a person enjoys comes from his devotion to the
well-being of other people. A swimming pool is admired in
summer because it provides relief from the heat.
A city does not need all the food a province produces, but
that much food is far from enough to feed the whole country; it
needs all the food the country can produce. The strength of an
individual is nothing compared with collective strength.
What to do to beat your equal in battle? Attack him where he
is most vulnerable with concentrated force and victory will be
yours. A piece of wood with a sharp end can break another piece
of wood that is just as hard as the wood you use to attack.
Success in life depends not only on wisdom and ability but
also on time and opportunity. Given no time and opportunity,
wisdom and ability cannot come into play. Only when all the
elements meet will success be the result. This is the true way of
Intellectual and material resources work in opposite ways.
Intellectual resources are limitless; the more they are tapped, the
broader they grow in scope. Impermanent in nature and limited
in quantity, material resources last but a short time, and the
more they are consumed the sooner they are exhausted. The
truth is that the former is non-quantifiable and thus infinite and
everlasting while the latter is quantifiable and therefore
diminishing and exhaustible.
Exercise caution when everything goes your way; persevere
in what you do when nothing goes your way. In the former case,
lack of caution results in disasters; in the latter case,
perseverance will never go unrewarded.
A person grows wiser by learning from the setbacks he
suffered. True knowledge comes from one’s own experience.
Secondhand experience is worth little.
Nothing hurts more than conceit. Claim to know what you
actually do not and people will turn their back on you, leaving
you in the cold. How can you tell an honest person from a wise
person? An honest person is one who does not pretend to know
what he does not; a wise person is one who does not say more
than what the occasion demands. Both persons keep conceit
One owes one’s success to external factors that tap one’s
potential. A solitary piece of wood by itself can never make a
house, and it takes meticulous processing to reveal the beauty of
Be aware that regret is an enemy of success, or you will be
regretting day after day. The time spent on regretting could well
be used for action. Therefore, do not let action be replaced by
regretting. Once you realize that this is the Way, there will be no
time for regretting whatsoever.
A protracted dispute is wrong on both sides. Why? Entangled
in such a dispute, both sides see only the faults of the opposing
party and the merits of his own. Continuing dispute will but
increase the wrongdoing. When one realizes that the other party
is as annoyed as he is, one is apt to withdraw from the dispute.
Life is a long journey during which the traveler has to clear
many checkpoints before he reaches his destination. The things
he needs to conduct himself through them are his good name and
A gifted person needs only a few words to drive a point
home, while an empty person is long of speech but short of
persuasive power. Beware of a person without substance.
A tree exposed to the fury of the elements will grow tall and
strong. A tree kept indoors will be too weak to survive any harsh
environment even when its top touches the ceiling. A life of ease
and comfort produces only weaklings.
An error, detected but left uncorrected, will develop into a
fatal one due to the reluctance of its perpetrator to put it right.
But as it stands in the way to success, it has to be eliminated.
No pains, no gains. Hard work never goes unrewarded for it
always leads to gains. Pain is gain in disguise.
Moral excellence is the total addition of small good deeds.
Great roads are built when grains of sand are put together. To a
person aspiring to become virtuous, nothing that helps is too
trivial to claim his attention.
Excessive pride in one’s own merits is self-defeating, for it is
distasteful and leaves the person friendless.
Correct faith is the foundation of success. The way to
achieve success is to maintain true faith and translate it into
action. A person’s success is derived from the faith inside him.
A mean, inept person will become envious at other people’s
success. He will say scandalous things about them in an attempt
to cover up his own incompetence. In contrast, a person of high
morals will always respect successful people and take them as
Success is built on the experiences accumulated from
setbacks. Giving up hope in an adverse situation is foolish. By
pressing forward in the face of difficulties one will become wiser
and achieve success.
Why is sin more alluring to some people than virtue? Sins
allow indulgence in one’s selfish ambitions and look like a wider
road that is easier to walk; whereas virtues require high moral
stature and the sacrifice of one’s personal interest for the good
of the public and thus look like a narrower path to follow.
Richness comes from diligence. A rich person is one who is
diligent and who chooses a fit career with proper goals.
A spoiled seed will come to nothing; so will arrogance.
Modesty promises rich rewards in much the same way as strong
healthy seedlings promise a good harvest. Why? Arrogance leads
to inflated self-esteem that people find obnoxious, whereas
humility wins one popularity and support.
Success in life begins with faith. Faith leads to action and
action leads to results. Without faith, there will be no action, and
without action one gets nowhere.
It has been frequently claimed that knowledge is power, but
in reality it is not true. Knowledge is the ability to recognize and
distinguish things, while power is the outcome of the application
of knowledge. When knowledge is applied, power is accumulated.
A great lake accumulates water from hundreds of streams, but if
the waters are not diverted to the farmlands, there will be
drought and cracks will appear in the fields. Similarly, there will
be no power if knowledge is kept unused. Thus, one should not
equate knowledge with power.
What breaks ignorance? Books and the application of what
they teach. Ignorance, caused by a lack of understanding of the
ways things work, will give way to wisdom when knowledge from
books is applied to daily use under the intelligent guidance of a
Envy boomerangs, for it is a distasteful attitude and easily
detectable. It hurts its originators instead of those it is meant
Once you are set to achieve a goal, pursue it with
doggedness and refuse to be distracted by anything deceptively
attractive. A mountain climber should not stop to pick leaves and
branches on the way, or he will never reach the top. This applies
You will never get anything done by putting it off until next
time, because the next time may turn out to be a life time.
Unworthy knowledge will never bring out lofty ideas, and
vulgarness tends to generate wickedness, which is often
displayed in the form of envy. But envy hurts no one but its
originator, for the resentment it breeds always backfires.
One with a goal to reach needs guidance, but guidance
cannot replace the effort one has to make. Though the road
lanterns show your way, without stepping forward, you reach
nowhere. It is one’s own effort that is decisive.
Arrogant persons often demand respect with their power,
yet they are never respected wholeheartedly. Why? Power does
not equal truth, and demanding respect is merely evidence of
arrogance and stupidity. Genuine respect is built on moral
integrity and can stand the test of time.
Wisdom and ability come with the experience of what one is
conscious of, which is a process of transforming knowledge into
practice. It is these experiences that make one erudite.
The rigors of life are what a person wishing to become a
worthy member of society has to undergo. This process can be
compared to the smelting of rocks to extract the gold they
contain. Without being subjected to the heat, rocks will remain
just rocks and lie useless in the wilderness. Because the gold
requires hard work to extract, it has extra value. That is why
one should cherish the fortune he has won the hard way.
A person with a great deal of talent but little morality
achieves nothing. He tends to demonstrate his talent recklessly,
even at the expense of hurting others, and thus isolates himself
and loses support and help from others. Talent alone without
support and help is a sheer waste.
Some persons look handsome, and some don’t. The same can
be said of animals. What is the standard of beauty? In terms of
beauty, humans are much inferior to animals that possess
colorful furs or splendid plumes. When it comes to flying and
swimming humans are inferior to animals, too. Only with the
combination of intellect and morality can humans excel.
Opportunities promise success. Seize them the moment they
arise and make the best use of them. Don’t hesitate or they will
slip through your fingers. As the old saying goes, “Do it now or
never. Instant action is the best medicine for all illnesses.”It is
important to know that civilization forges ahead through
concerted, immediate action of all men.
Success belongs to those who work hard to win it, yet
excessive effort is self-defeating. Why? One gets impulsive when
one tries too hard. Ships sail on the wind, but their masts may
snap when the wind gets violent.
The strong are those blessed with the ability to survive
frustrations and defeats. Success does not belong to the weak
because they are not endowed with this ability. The world
changes so fast that no one is able to fully anticipate what is
going to happen next. But the ability to cope with an adverse
situation that may arise will put one on the winning side.
The gate to true knowledge is not through specialized
learning. This is the same in ancient academies and modern
universities. The gate to the treasury of true knowledge is the
combination of cultural learning and the awareness of the
material and ideological aspects of the society. Even with a
doctorate degree, but without the understanding of the essence
of society, one is only a bookworm and stays outside the gate to
A virtuous man does not hesitate to acknowledge his errors
and seeks ways to correct them. A selfish person often tries to
whitewash his wrongdoing with lame excuses. He does so
because his selfish motives leave him with nothing but such
It is wise to put your laurels in your storeroom. Resting on
them will prevent you from winning new ones. If everybody
becomes complacent and stops making progress, humanity will
The two opposites of good fortune and woe have one thing
in common: they are produced from one’s own deeds. Good
fortune favors those devoted to public interests, and woes come
to those who seek selfish gains at the expense of others. Fortune
is not one’s destiny, nor is woe one’s fate.
People of great versatility are exposed to more verbal
attacks than those are who do not possess this ability. It is so
because they have too many people to satisfy.
Beauty is a relative term, and like everything else, must be
kept in balance. A pretty woman, if excessively ornamented and
over-dressed, may ruin her natural prettiness. Of this woman
people may say, “She doesn’t deserve the finery. Give it to
another woman who does.”
Minor things are useful. Do not give them up because of
their insignificance or defects. Why? Because defects exist side
by side with merits. The right thing to do is to make the best use
of a thing’s merits and ignore its defects. Bulky logs can be used
as material for buildings and ships, but they are unfit to fuel a
cooking stove. For cooking fuel you need small pieces of
firewood or you go hungry.
Complacency and pessimism are enemies of success.
Complacency creates a false pride that inhibits one from
learning more, and pessimism leads to inaction that kills all the
possibilities of success.
The wicked always fein benignity to cover up their evil
deeds. The virtuous always speak truth with no fear of evil
powers. They are ready to acknowledge their errors because
they have confidence in their moral strength.
The road to happiness is often cut short by rivers, and the
bridges across them are often damaged. Happiness won’t be
yours if you do not think of a way to get across the rivers.
Success belongs to those who spare no toil and sweat to win it.
Castles are built on solid ground with solid work.
Those who make achievements start from experiencing all
kinds of sweet-sour or bitter-spicy tastes. How can one know
delicious food if one has not tasted the foul? Those raised on
syrups will never know what it is like to be frustrated and will
become arrogant. This arrogance will alienate them from other
people whose support and help they will need to achieve real
fame. A single lion can do nothing.
Buddhist teachings have nothing to do with supernatural
forces, fortune telling or the practice of “feng shui” and “yin
yang”. Such teachings are based on the law of cause and effect.
Buddhist teachings begin with observing precepts, obtaining
peacefulness of mind, and cultivating wisdom. It is followed by
practicing the four limitless states of mind: benevolence,
compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. Disciples are
tanght a love of their country, a love of the world, and service to
people without selfish attachments. The whole meaning of the
Buddhist teachings is to understand that everything is subtly
substantive, yet truly empty.
Do not join a crowd that scrambles to grab what looks like
to them something promising huge profits. If you do, you will
return fleeced. With everyone now throwing money into the real
estate business, there will be more new houses built than can be
sold in three years time. Think before you leap.
Habit grows into nature. This is the truth that applies to all
existences in the universe, from mighty objects to minor dust and
trifling minds. It is for this reason that men should establish
moral integrity and cultivate the habit of acquiring knowledge.
Merit and fault are initiated from a flash of mind. One’s
three karmas body, speech and mind are the basis for all
merits and faults. Being a worthy person, one should not be
tainted by selfish considerations but should do his best to serve
Everything is created from the mind
And consciousness is the root.
Stay away from fortune telling and witchcraft,
For they are superstition and defilement.
A decent person pursues virtue and knowledge
For they make him worthy.
To forgive is evidence of one’s virtue. Right or wrong,
success or failure will eventually become apparent to the public,
and those who trespassed against you will be ashamed of
What one has learned may dull one’s sensitivity to new
knowledge and throw one into the darkness of ignorance. If such
ignorance is not broken, one cannot hope to become intelligent,
still less reach the realm of wisdom.
When someone criticizes or slanders you, there must be
some mistakes you have made in handling things
inappropriately, or at least you have failed to win people’s
approval and respect for what you did. What you must do in this
case is to make full criticism of yourself.
Extraordinary feats always arouse instant enthusiasm in
those who want to be able to do the same. But their enthusiasm
will diminish with the passage of time until it evaporates. This
happens because they have not been able to make even a
beginning. The lesson: Act now or never.
The world is impermanent, and nothing exists forever.
Animate beings are destined to die, and those inanimate are
bound for destruction, because the creation of all things is based
on the composition of the necessary causes and conditions.
Formless and nameless, everything is illusory, and it comes and
goes following the pattern of cause and effect. That is why all’s
well that ends well, and all’s evil that ends evil.
(Translated by Jeffery Cheung)