The First Sermon from the series:
The topic of this sermon is :
What is the Divine Path to Eternal Life?
Translated from the
Read by Nguyễn, Thuỳ Ngân
Tonight I / Bần Đạo (The Hộ Pháp refers to himself throughout as 'Bần Đạo' or 'poor monk') come to preach to you, so please sit and try to listen.
From tonight I would like to speak to you about the most important of topics. I need to address this issue over several nights in order to explain it comprehensively. Therefore, every fourth night I will come here and talk on this subject. I am doing this to make an essential and precious gift for the children of the Supreme Being - a cherished secret for them to keep at hand. With this you may, one day, find out how to attain the Way.
Tonight’s topic is: the Divine Path to Eternal Life (Con Đường Thiêng Liêng Hằng Sống).
What is this “Divine Path”? If our understanding is based on the true dharma of the Supreme Being / Đức Chí-Tôn, the “Divine Path to Eternal Life” is that path reserved for true souls to travel after they have left their physical bodies. By this path they make their way back towards the “Ultimate.” These true souls shall return to their spiritual domain, rising higher, or falling lower as their previous life’s merit dictates. If we wish to understand this path according to the Way of the Buddha, then the Divine Path to Eternal Life is known as the path of reincarnation .
This is a very difficult topic to speak about. If all the Children of the Supreme Being were to understand this path completely, a massive book would need to be written. Such a tome would comprise several thousand pages!
Therefore, Children of the Ultimate Being, you must try to listen. You must come here, pray, and make offerings (ie at the Great Divine Temple) then afterwards come and listen to these words. In the future you will not regret that you came. Nor should you complain in the future that I did not let you know in advance of the revelations of Cao Đài Religion. Only in Caodaism can the profoundest and loftiest of all the philosophies be unveiled. (It is by the special grace of the Supreme Being, for our religion today, that there are a few young men available who have tried to learn shorthand so that they can write down these words as they are being preached).
Remember! These words are not the words of a Phạm Công Tắc, they are the words of the Hộ Pháp who is Protector of the Dharma. The Hộ Pháp is speaking on behalf of the Supreme Being, so this is a message that the children of God must hear. That is why these words are so very precious.
I am extremely fortunate to have been selected by the Supreme Being as his Ambassador / Ngự Mã Quân (Translators note - "Ngự Mã Quân" was one official who accompanied the Emperor - it has relevance to Confucian Philosophy).. On behalf of Him, I am working to form the True Religion - this Caodai Religion - the religion that will replace all the religions that have ever been. Because the religions of today are no longer adequate in terms of human thought and consciousness, in other words their paths of progress have been closed off.
Do you remember some time ago when the Supreme Being selected Me for the position of Hộ Pháp? He taught Me how to be a medium and how to develop automatic writing , especially the "automatic writing " (chấp bút). With the "automatic writing " I was taught by the Supreme Being how to meditate. This higher meditation was slowly revealed to me the mystic meditation (nhập tịnh , internal alchemy) . This mystical meditation is not easy - a simple mistake or omission can ruin your whole life. To under-practise "mystical meditation" could leave you sleepy and nodding, to over practise could leave you mentally disturbed. When you practise correctly you need the Divine Beings on hand to help open your celestial eye (huệ quang khiếu/crown chakra, wisdom light chakra/pineal eye). When this happens your perispirit can exit its physical domain (xuất hồn). The path upon which your spirit returns home to the Supreme Being - this is the 'Divine Path of Eternal Life'. My Celestial Eye was opened by the Supreme Being, this allows me to meet with the Supreme Being and learn many secret and essential things from Heaven.
Today I am preaching about the Divine Path of Eternal Life, I would like to guide all the souls of the children of God back to Him by the very form of the teaching you are now listening to.
The Path that takes you back to heaven is not an easy path to travel, and your return will not be instant. As we desire to travel home to the Supreme Being, we must pass through many temples, many palaces. In each temple we will be confronted by strange things. In each palace we will face a different mystery. Yet we must struggle to understand them and pass beyond them. Only by desiring spiritual evolution can we progress along this Path to the Eternal - and return home to the Supreme Being! There is no happiness equal to this.
Even after a lifetime of cultivating the way, there is no guarantee that a soul will return. Over ten thousand years and a thousand lives if a soul never cultivates the Way it can never return. Brothers and Sisters, you must try to remember this. What is cultivation? The Cao-Đài Religion has already explained cultivation to you. I has already spoken of it a great deal. You must uphold the virtues (Lập Đức), do good works (Lập Công) and speak the words of the Great Way (Lập Ngôn).
Now I return to the topic of how we can, by desiring spiritual evolution, progress along the Divine Path to Eternal Life. A little while ago I mentioned that, by the special grace of the Supreme Being, I was granted the favour of an audience with the Supreme Being. Before this audience I was able to meet the Divine Beings in the realm of Eternal Life.
From tonight I am not really teaching you, I am only recounting what I have seen, heard and learnt when meeting the Divine Beings in the Spiritual Realm. Telling you this is also a way of allowing the children of the Supreme Being to visualize the spiritual realm in advance. This will save your soul from confusion in the event of your return.
As I talk, the Children of God must listen and imagine that you have a guide. Where ever you go the guide will explain the scene to you. For example when a foreigner comes to Vietnam, the visitor is provided with a guide to help explain the scenery.
Each soul on this planet, when leaving the physical body, must gather here at this Great Divine Temple, you must go from inside this building in order to reach other realms. Why must you enter this Great Divine Temple and not other temples? This Great Temple is a great examination centre. Just as every year the Government holds the baccalaureate, the location of your soul's elevation has already been decided. You must come here if you want to be qualified or valued. It is this Great Divine Temple that the Supreme Being has made for His children to uphold the virtues , do good works and speak the words of the Great Way and prove worthy of their return.
To enter the Great Divine Temple means entering the The Temple of the Divine Alliance and moving from there to the Religious Palace. In order to reach the Religious Palace you must make your way along the The Temple of Nine Degrees of Evolution. At each of the nine levels of the The Temple of Nine Degrees of Evolution your soul will be confronted and tested by the Divine Beings. Also, on each step, one of the Nine Female Buddhas (Cửu Vị Nữ Phật) will appear to offer mercy and guide the soul who begs for salvation. If you are not sure, Children of the Supreme Being, read again the prayers for the deceased nine days after death, after which one must recite eight more sets of nine-day prayers for the dead soul. What follows is the prayer of The Small Ceremony in the Middle of Mourning Period (said 281 days after death) , and finally the prayer of The Great Ceremony in the End of Mourning Period (said 581 days after death).
In the Cao-Đài Religion there are three methods of returning to the Supreme Being, and gaining a position in the spiritual hierarchy.
The first method - is for the soul to manifest inside a physical body that must follow the ranking of the Divine Masters of the Nine Heavens / Cửu Thiên Khai Hóa, - or following the Sacerdotal Council or the Executive Body / Cửu Trùng Đài . This method requires you to use your talents and abilities to contribute to the Religion (and thus to humanity) as a path for attaining the Way. This path leads from a normal believer / Đạo-Hữu, to Student -Priest / Lễ Sanh, and from Priest / Giáo Hữu to Bishop / Giáo Sư and so on… On this path you must serve from novitiate to intermediate and then to superior, these categories include practising vegetarianism from six days a month to ten days a month and then full time respectively. One must cultivate the way firstly within oneself, then within the family and the country, and finally for all humanity. When you follow the ranking of the Divine Masters of the Nine Heavens your soul must have confidence in it's own spiritual direction so that you can lead others towards their salvation. This is what makes the Cao-Đài Religion different from others. You must save yourself, your family, people outside your family, only then you can save all humanity. One must study in order to understand the Way. When you understand you must teach your family, but not just your family, you must teach the whole of humanity. One studies in order to understand the Way and this is to uphold the Religion's virtues. One then teaches the way to family, both immediate and extended, which contributes to the good work of the Religion. Ultimately one spreads the teachings of the Third Amnesty to save the whole of humanity. These three duties must be fulfilled in order for one to return to the Supreme Being along the path of the Divine Masters of the Nine Heavens .
The second method - To gain a ranking in the spiritual hierarchy by following the Twelve Spiritual Levels / Thập Nhị Đẳng Cấp Thiêng Liêng means that you must follow the Charity Body/ Hội Thánh Phước Thiện. Here, besides practising a vegetarian diet, following the religious laws, and also the true teachings of God the Father, one must use virtue to rise to a position.
In order to uphold the Religion's virtues one must start and serve from “Bright Virtue” / Minh Đức level which is first level of the twelve spiritual levels within the Charity Body ( Minh Đức, Tân Dân, Thính Thiện, Hành Thiện, Giáo Thiện, Chí Thiện . . . . etc . . . .).
What is upholding the Religion's virtues ? It is using love in order to save humanity, as God said "love is the key that opens the door of the Jade Palace.
Souls incarnate through life on this planet over the turbulent waves of the suffering that Buddha spoke of in the Four Noble Truths. In order to escape from suffering one must first endure suffering. By enduring suffering one can triumph over suffering. One who follows the Twelve Spiritual Levels shows others how to endure suffering in order to triumph over suffering. To show people how to endure suffering, firstly we must endure suffering ourselves. When you want to endure suffering there is nothing better than by using the virtue of love; therefore the first level of the twelve spiritual levels is “Bright Virtue” level.
Love enables one to endure suffering, loving your parents means that you must suffer as you serve and protect them in their old age. Loving your children means that you must work hard to take care of them as they grow. Loving the disabled and the destitute means trying to find a way to help them, finding this way also means suffering.
To endure suffering allows you to overcome it; but not just for one day, you must do this right to the end. For example you must look after your parents throughout their old age, and your children until they grow up. Yet these two things are easy when compared with the task of helping the whole community. When you look after the whole community suffering never stops, when you are finished taking care of one person, there are always others that you must deal with, this continues until the end of your life. By doing this, one can overcome suffering, and in doing this you will be able to return to the Supreme Being by way of the Twelve Spiritual Levels.
The third method - is entering a meditation centre for the practise of mystical meditation (Tu Chơn or Tịnh Luyện styles of meditation comprise the third method). Those who have followed the path of the nine spiritual levels or the path of Twelve Spiritual Levels and feel that they have fulfilled the 3 duties of contribute their good works to the Religion and its charity organisations, spread the word of the Third Amnesty, and uphold the Religion's virtues; or feel that they have already endured and overcome suffering, and still feel able to progress in their spiritual quest, can enter a meditation centre for the practise of mystical meditation. At the mediation centre adepts will learn the method of transforming matter into energy and energy into spirit . This is the unity of the three treasures that is a returning to the void.
Now we return back to our discussion of the Divine Path to Eternal Life. When we pass through the The Temple of Nine Degrees of Evolution and enter the Religious Palace / Cung Đạo suddenly we look up, we will no longer see the the Eight Trigrams Palace/ Bát Quái Đài, but the vast sea, which is so great, it is unimaginable. At this point we begin to walk the Divine Path to Eternal Life.
If you follow the path of Divine Masters of the Nine Heavens or the Twelve Spiritual Levels (Cửu Thiên Khai Hóa or the Thập Nhị Đẳng Cấp Thiêng Liêng) you will wait to the end of your life before returning to God the Father and return with both your perispirit and your soul. However today we can travel back to the Supreme Being by the perispirit for by a special favour of the Supreme Being, I have been permitted to travel by this shorter way.
We look up to see a vast sea, but in fact this is the sky of the universe, and there in the distance, sometimes visible, sometimes not, you can see a magnificent and beautiful palace. The moment you see it you want to rush toward it. But you realise that you don't know how to move, it is then that you realise that your astral body (Pháp-Thân/Dharmnakaya)) is attracted to this palace by an incredible force. You do not propel yourself yet you come, you move fast as though flying in an aeroplane.
When you arrive you see innumerable beings, human beings, coming and going, there are too many to count. The crowd is silent, very ordered and secure. This palace is called the Holy Palace, that is, the place where souls leave the spiritual realm (to journey back for reincarnation), it is also the place where souls are welcomed back after they have left their physical body.
It looks like an airport or a railway station, people are coming and going at an uncountable rate, leaving is sad, coming home is joyful, but the face of each soul, whether they are coming or going, carries the strain of a common worry. Those going down are worried, wondering if they can carry out the duties of the assignment given to them by the Supreme Being. Those coming home are also worried because they do not know if they have retained or lost their position in the hierarchy of the spiritual realm. They worry too much, so much worry, everybody is worried.
Next time, Bần Đạo will preach on the subjects of the Cung Thánh and the Cung Thừa-Thiên Hành-Hóa.
To be continued - Other sermons will be available soon.