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修行有四个阶段 The Four Stages of Cultivation
 
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修行有四个阶段

The Four Stages of Cultivation

皈依那天,看作我们的生日,把我们修行的阶段从那时候算起。

We could consider the day we took refuge as our birthday,

and start ounting the stages of our cultivation from there.

一年里头有「春、夏、秋、冬」这四季,这是人人所知道的事,然而大家是不是知道,在人生的路程上,也分为「生、老、病、死」这四个阶段?因为谁也免不了一死,所以,我们应好好地为自己的身后归宿打算一下,这就要修道了。从修行方面来说,也可分为「学、行、成、了」四个阶段:

In one year, there are the four seasons of spring, summer, fall and winter─that's common knowledge. But does everyone know that the journey of life is also divided into the four stages of birth, old age, sickness, and death? Since no one can avoid death, we should seriously be thinking about where we will go when our life ends. That means we have to cultivate the Way. Cultivation can also be divided into four stages: study, practice, attainment, and full realization.

人生由一至二十岁,可说是「学道」的时期,在这段时间,我们应好好地读书,或学佛法,这就等于《大学》中所说的「在明明德」一样,这时应把自己的光明德性弄明白。二十一至四十岁,是「行道」的时期,应该学以致用,把以前所学的,所明白的,用以普渡众生,匡扶世俗,这是《大学》中所说的「在亲民」。

The period from ages one to twenty can be considered the period of studying the Way. During this interval, we should be diligent in our academic studies or in our study of the Buddhadharma. This is equivalent to “illumining the bright virtue” spoken of in The Great Learning. At this time we should have a clear understanding of our bright inherent virtue. From the ages of twenty-one to forty is the period of practicing the Way. We should put what we have learned, what we have understood, into practice, in order to extensively save living beings and reform the world. In The Great Learning, this is called “renewing the people.”

四十一至六十岁,便到了「成道」的时候,这是《大学》中所说的「止于至善」。可是孔子所说的「至善」并不彻底,并不能达到真空、涅槃的境界,并不是究竟的,所以我们还要「了道」。在成道以后归于涅槃的境界,这要比儒教的三纲领:「明德、亲民、止于至善」更为圆融了。

From the ages of forty-one to sixty is the period of “attaining the Way.” This is spoken of in The Great Learning as “resting in the highest excellence.” However, what Confucius called “resting in the highest excellence” still isn't the end, for it doesn't reach the state of true emptiness and Nirvana. It's not ultimate. Therefore, we still have to achieve the full realization of the Way. After attaining the Way, we must still return to the state of Nirvana, which is more all-encompassing than the three Confucian principles of illumining virtue, renewing the people, and resting in the highest excellence.

也许有人会这样说:「我在一到二十岁的时期中还未信佛,这样说来学道的时期已经过去了,那么是不是没有机会学,也不用学了呢?」可是,我们要明白,方才所说的四个阶段的年期,只是一种理想,这并不是硬性的规定,所以我们可以把皈依那天,看作我们的生日,把我们修行的阶段从那时候算起。

Maybe some people will say, “When I was between the ages of one and twenty, I wasn't a Buddhist yet. Since the period for studying the Way has already passed, does it mean I have no chance to study, and that I don't need to study?” Well, you should understand that the ages for the four stages mentioned above are just ideals, not rigid definitions. So we could consider the day we took refuge as our birthday, and start counting the stages of our cultivation from there.

有些人又说:「我皈依了四、五年,可是一点佛法也没学到。」其实你皈依了四、五年,在佛教里只不过是一个四、五岁的小孩罢了!所以,我们不用引以为憾,说自己没有用。佛法深奥,只要你在皈依的二十年中努力去学道,那不是一样能有所成就吗?

Some people say, “I took refuge four or five years ago, but I haven't learned any Buddhadharma at all.” Actually, if you took refuge four or five years ago, you're merely a four or five year-old child in Buddhism. So there's no reason for us to lament that we're useless or that the Buddhadharma is too deep and abstruse. After you take refuge, if you diligently study the Way for the first twenty years, and diligently practice the Way for the next twenty years, won't you have achievements just the same?

或者老一辈的居士又会感慨地说:「我现在已八十岁啰!恐怕没有机会二十年又二十年地活下去吧?」一点也不错,「时光减处命光微」,时日确是无多了,那么你也可以把时间缩短了来算,譬如两个月修道,两个月行道,如此类推,只要肯下真心与决心,老当益壮,精进勇猛地一步一步做去,也是可以成功的,努力吧!

Perhaps the older generation of laypeople will sigh, “I'm already eighty, and may not live for that many more twenty years!” You are absolutely right, for “As time gets shorter, life is slipping away.” Indeed, there's not much time left, so you can shrink the time. For example, you can study the Way for two months, practice the Way for two months, and so on. As long as you are sincere and determined, growing younger with the years, proceeding step by step with vigor and courage, you can also succeed, so work hard!

一九五八年六月十五日下午开示

A talk given on the afternoon of June 15, 1958


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