At the very start, before heaven and earth came into being, there weren't any people. There was no earth, no living beings, or anything called a world. Basically, none of these things existed at all. And then, at the onset of the kalpa when things were coming into being, people gradually came to exist. Ultimately, where do they come from? Some say that people evolved from monkeys. But what do the monkeys evolve from? If people evolved from monkeys, then why are there no people evolving from monkeys right now? This is really strange. People who propagate this kind of theory basically don't have any understanding. They are just trying to set up some special theory. So there's the theory of evolution which says that people came from monkeys, why couldn't it be the case that people evolved from mice? Or caterpillars? Why couldn't we say that mice evolved from people or caterpillars evolved from people?
The origin is the Buddha Nature
In general, there can be said to be four kinds of beings - flying, swimming, walking, and plants. Those with blood and breath are called animals, and the plants refers to all kinds of grasses and trees and flowers. Where do all of those four kinds of beings come from? What is their origin? Their origin is the Buddhanature. If there was no Buddhanature, everything would be annihilated. The Buddhanature is the only thing that passes through ten thousand generations and all time without being destroyed. From the Buddhanature comes Bodhisattvas, Sound Hearers, Those Enlightened to Conditions, gods, asuras, people, animals, ghosts, and hell beings. Those are the beings of the Ten Dharma Realms, and the Ten Dharma Realms are not apart from a single thought of the mind. This single thought of the mind is just the seed of the Buddhanature. It's just another name for the Buddhanature - the one true thought.
So, people are transformed from the Buddhas and animals are those who have fallen from the realm of humans. This is all explained very clearly in the Ten Dharm Realms. Stupid people say that the origin of humans is the monkey and there are others who say that people came from pigs. For example, some cultures still worship animal gods. They are a result of only knowing a little bit and not understanding the complete picture, with such ideas, the world catapults in confusion and chaos. People who believe in such things write books and set up theories, they categorize everything to fit into their theories, claiming this to be this and that to be that. So we have science and philosophy - everything is put in its own little niche. But ultimately, what's this all about? It's a case of not having anything to do and looking for something to do. People like that are not able to simply sit around, so after they eat their fill, they go about setting up their own theories to confuse people by. This is why most people are so perplexed.
Where did humans come from?
Ultimately, where did humans come from? How did they come about? In investigating this question, we might consider how chickens came about. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? If you don't have a chicken, then there's no way you can have an egg, and if you don't have an egg, how can a chicken hatch? So this problem has no solution. As far as people are concerned, were there women first, or were there men first? If you claim that the men came first, how do you explain that men are born from women? And, without women, how can there be any men? If you claim that the women were first to appear, how can you explain that both men and women are required to produce more people? Without a man, how can another woman be conceived? In investigating this question, it is impossible to come up with a clear solution. This is because all of this began so very long ago, we've all forgotten.
Ultimately, what's the answer? Well, ultimately, everything comes from the Buddhanature. Everything comes into being naturally: from nothing something manifests and that something transforms once more into nothing. This happens without end, over and over again; an infinite on-going series of production and transformation.
Buddha Nature can make things appear from nothing
For example, the bugs that appear in the dry rice: basically, the rice just sits there in the bag without any worms, but suddenly they appear. You may ask how they come about, if originally there weren't any worms. Rice is not sentient, it's not alive, so how is it the case that it can produce bugs since bugs are creatures with feeling? Here is a case of something devoid of feeling producing something that has feeling. Investigate this problem to its ultimate point. Consider how it will be when heaven and earth are destroyed by the "death ray" (laser), to the point that the world and all of humanity are completely annihilated. There will still be the spiritual souls of those living beings who once dwelled in the world. The Buddhanature will continue to exist. And it is the Buddhanature that can make things appear from nothing, for it can create mankind and all living beings. And so, even if you insist this is not the case and say, "It's certain that people evolved from monkeys," your theory just won't stand.
Buddha Nature: from nothing comes something, and something returns to nothing
Take a look at Americans. They have their own habit patterns. And so do the people of Russia. And the same goes for the French, English, and so on. "But," you say, "In America, there are all kinds of people." Yes, that's true, they branch out into many sub-cultures. Since there are so many kinds of people, how can you say that mankind evolved from only one particular kind of creature? The people of each and every country have a generally different appearance. There are yellow people, white people, black people, red people, and brown people, where did the black people come from? Where did the white people come from? Where did the yellow people originate from and where did the red people and the brown people come from? If you discuss this back and forth you won't be able to pin-point a particular origin. But you can explain it all by returning it to the Buddhanature: from nothing comes something and something returns to nothing. The transformations continue endlessly, over and over again. This is the source behind it all.
Cultivation for returning to the original Buddha Nature
Now this is a theory that can hold up. But although this theory is one that holds true, very few people have the wisdom to reach an understanding of it. People are transformed from nothing; we manifest from out of nothing. That is the nature of all living beings. They appear from nothing. Originally, living beings did not exist, but then they came about through transformation. In cultivating the Way, we want to get back to the place where from something we become nothing. This is called "going back to the origin and returning to the sources" -returning to the original Buddhanature. "What good is there to this?" you ask. Well, what good is there in being a person? If you return to the original nature you can quickly accomplish the Buddha Way. Even if heaven and earth were to no longer exist, the Buddha-nature would still be ever-present. And even if all of mankind were finished off by the "death ray," the Buddhanature would still abide, be forever indestructible.
Bugs inside the rice bag
Why did I bring this up tonight? Today is Earth Store Bodhisattva's birthday and his vow power has spurred me on to speak a bit of true principle for all of you. So don't think that everything I say is very ordinary. Don't think that what I tell you is commonplace, because I am outlining the basic principles that explain what people and living beings are all about. This is the principle of transforming something from nothing, and transforming back to nothing again. If you don't believe this, how can you explain that bugs can grow from rice? You may say,"Well, there are certain causes and conditions that bring this about." People in this world are just like those bugs, except that our attachments are stronger and our magical nature is greater. But we cannot begin to compare ourselves with the Buddha. We are just as far from being Buddhas as those bugs are from being people. Compared to the Buddha, we are just like those bugs. When people look at those bugs which grow from the rice we think of them as being really pitiful, that they don't have any purpose in life. Well, the Buddha sees us as just as pitiful. We see that these bugs go through life without knowing anything; they are born unaware of anything and then they die. This principle holds true for us as well. You should all look into this. It's really quite interesting. If you understand this principle, then you can cultivate the Way. So in your cultivation, every day you should be very level and balanced in everything you do.
What does it mean to be balanced? For instance, when you read in the Sutras that "afflictions are just Bodhi and birth and death are just Nirvana," you may find it easy to understand this principle and think this is an easy thing to do. But you can't actually realize this truth. For example, when you read that afflictions are just Bodhi, you think, "afflictions are just Bodhi and since I have afflictions, that's just Bodhi; if I didn't have any afflictions then I wouldn't have any Bodhi." This is not what is meant here. You must change those afflictions and then they will become Bodhi. When you have afflictions, if you can recognize them, then you won't have any afflictions anymore. That's Bodhi. It's not that you put down your afflictions and look for something else that is Bodhi. If you don't have any afflictions, then basically there is nothing whatsoever, so where can the dust alight?
Wake up from your dream
When riding on a donkey, don't go looking for the donkey. You need to be balanced. You need to remain level and quiescent at all times so that you don't stir up the slightest wave in your self-nature, and this is the state where afflictions are just Bodhi and birth and death are just Nirvana. If you aren't worried about birth and death and don't see them as a problem, if you feel that if you live you live and if you die you die, that if there's food to eat you eat, and if there's clothes to wear you wear them, and otherwise, it doesn't matter whether or not you eat or wear clothes — if you are not attached to any of this — that is the state of birth and death just being Nirvana. So don't be so attached and drag around those fetters and chains on your body. What fetters and chains? All your bad habits and faults. Those are your fetters. If you hold on to those fetters, you can't lift up your legs and you can't get to the other shore. The words I am speaking now are very simple, but the meaning is very profound. Don't think that you are so clever and think, "I understand everything that you are saying." If you really understand it all then I can speak Buddhadharma to you and we can investigate how to cultivate the Way. But only if you truly understand. If you don't truly understand, then you still have problems with regard to fame and benefit. You still can't put them down. You can't put down name and you can't put down gain. You see everything as being too important, so how can I talk to you about true Buddhadharma? How can I investigate with you the cultivation of the Way? You should all wake up from your dream! Wake up from your dream!