Cultivating Virtue versus Creating Karma

Each of you should think for a moment: in the past, the Buddha had to cultivate limitless and boundless merit and virtue before he could become a Buddha.

Why haven't we become Buddhas? It's because we haven't cultivated limitless and boundless merit and virtue. Our merit and virtue are far less, because we cultivate on one hand and create karma on the other. So it is said, "What we cultivate is not as much as what we create."

From morning to night, we create karma with our body, with our mouth and with our mind. For example, in our thoughts, we often have idle thoughts about how bad people are, how others have wronged us, how others are not as good as we are, an so forth. As a result, we create a lot of evil karma with the greed, anger and stupidity in our thoughts. We also create karma with our mouth, always talking about others' rights and wrongs, constantly telling lies, saying indecent things, scolding people, backbiting, and so on. There are some people who don't seem to be able to survive for even a day without gossiping. If they don't tell lies for a day, they feel as uncomfortable as if they hadn't eaten. All day long, they need to gossip and lie in order to survive. Wouldn't you say that's strange? It's really hard to figure them out.

Yet the people who have this fault still refuse to admit is. They still want to cover it up, and they claim they haven't told any lies and don't have any desires. They put on a mask and cheat everyone. Actually, in this world, how can you succeed in cheating people? Not only can you not cheat others, you can't even cheat yourself. Why not? When you have idle thoughts, ask yourself if you are aware of them. If you are aware of them, that means you can't fool yourself. Since you can't cheat yourself, how can you cheat others? Only stupid people behave that way.

People who don't cultivate will put on a mask and in blind shamelessness do a lot of devious, improper deeds that break the rules. Yet they won't admit it. Because of this, they spend their whole life in a muddle, born drunk and dying in a dream, and not cultivating the least bit of merit and virtue. So how can they become Buddhas? They are 108,000 miles away from the Buddhas.

In other words, the merit and virtue we have cultivated is not as great as the offenses we have committed. You could say, "What we gain is not as much as what we lose," so how can we accomplish anything?

Talks on the Dharma, Vol. I, p.121