Should one find a man who points out faults and who reproves, let him follow such a wise and sagacious person as one would a guide to hidden treasure. It is always better, and never worse, to cultivate such an association.
– Sakyamuni Buddha
(Dhammapada, Verse 76)
In the ‘Treatise Of The Spirit Peak Sect’《灵峰宗论》by the Ninth Patriarch Of The Pure Land Tradition Great Master Ouyi (净土宗九祖蕅益大师) are the following teachings on ‘Three Diseases, Three Evils, Three Mistakes’ (三病, 三恶, 三错), with notes on them:
Treatise: (末法中病，有三不可救，喜守不喜攻，喜略不喜广，喜同不喜异。) ‘In the Dharma-Ending Age [which is now, when the general quality of the Buddha’s teachings being taught, learnt, practised and realised declines], there are three [spiritual] diseases, that cannot [or are hard to] be saved from [unless one sees their harm and repents] –
[A1.1] the liking of [personal] defensiveness; not liking [others’ corrective and constructive] criticism,
[A2.1] the liking of brevity [or only short and summarised teachings, which might prove inadequate for effective learning and practice]; not liking [teachings with] broadness [and depth, in scope and profundity], and
[A3.1] the liking of similarities [between the learnt and what one already knows only]; not liking differences [which might be what one truly needs to learn for practice].’
Notes: Those heavily infected with such diseases tend not to see that this is the Dharma-Ending Age, as warned by Sakyamuni Buddha, thus not mindful of their negative impact, neglecting these reminders.
[A1.2] When one’s ego is in the way, which sustains needless defensive mechanisms, one will never be able to learn, even when others offer right and useful teachings, that seem to go against the grain of one’s ego. The Dharma is for undermining the ego while revealing the truth. If the ego is too big however, the truth will be eclipsed and unseen.
[A2.2] When one lacks diligence, while wrongly assuming oneself to already know a lot, one’s Dharma learning will be scattered and superficial, thus lacking substance in theory, what more practice.
[A3.2] When learning, it is precisely for what not yet known, which will be different, not what already known, which is always the same!
Treatise: (交友有三大恶，喜顺不喜逆，喜口是而心非，喜不如不喜胜。) ‘When making friends, there are three great evils [to be avoided] –
[B1.1] the liking of [those with] submissiveness [to one’s views only]; not liking [those with] opposition, [even if their views are right],
[B2.1] the liking to say “yes”; yet with the mind meaning “no”, and
[B3.1] the liking of those inferior [to oneself]; not liking those superior [whom one should learn from].’
Notes: Especially in this Dharma-Ending Age, when the misguided who misguide more and more are multiplying, while good-knowing (spiritual) friends (善知识) are rare and precious, we should be wise in discerning the differences between the duo, so as to cherish good-knowing friends personally, and to be good-knowing friends to the misguided.
[B1.2] When one likes only the totally agreeable, who always submit to one’s views, even when wrong, one might as well befriend one’s image in a mirror! (Yet, even the image is laterally inverted; different!) Instead of garnering support for one’s right views, without opening the heart and mind to listen to other views, one might end up fortifying one’s delusions.
[B2.2] When one lacks sincerity and honesty in communication, how can one ever guide or be guided to truth (i.e. wisdom of all) and goodness (i.e. compassion for all)?
[B3.2] When one prefers to associate only with the spiritually inferior to feed and inflate one’s ego, instead of with the superior to emulate their good examples, one remains, to that extent inferior.
Treatise: (学问有三大错，好多不好精，逐末不求本，求解不求证。) ‘When learning, there are three great mistakes [to be avoided] –
[C1.1] being fond of [learning] much [but in bits and pieces]; not fond of mastery [of one main Dharma door for progressing towards Buddhahood],
[C2.1] the pursuing of the [incidental] end [result]; not seeking the [fundamental] root [which should be firmly established, for reaching the ideal result], and
[C3.1] the seeking of [only theoretical] explanation; not seeking confirmation [or verification by practical realisation].’
[C1.2] As life is short and unpredictable, what more being in the Dharma-Ending Age already, we should have a strong sense of urgency, to wisely choose one main Dharma method to focus upon for learning and practice. The most skilful means in our time would be the Pure Land Dharma door (净土法门), as taught by Sakyamuni Buddha in the Immeasurable Life Sutra (无量寿经), where he mentioned that he will ensure that this sutra’s teachings will be the longest lasting in our world (as they are the most feasible for fruitful practice), even to outlive this Dharma-Ending Age by 100 years. If instead, one still spends the rest of this short life picking up fragments of various teachings somewhat randomly, without clear synthesis and application for actual spiritual benefits, Buddhahood will remain a distant goal.
[C2.2] We should also diligently learn as systematically and comprehensively for methodical practice as possible, through proper classes by specialised and thus qualified teachers’ instead of pining for spiritual fruits, without sowing and nourishing the seed of down-to-earth practice well.
[C3.2] Of course, we must not be satisfied with mere Dharma theory understood, no matter how profound, for we must put it into practice to realise its truths personally. Otherwise, we will remain unenlightened!
In the world of the future, when the paths of the sutras [to enlightenment] are destroyed and ended, I, with loving-kindness, compassion and empathy, will specially retain this sutra, to dwell for one hundred years [longer]. If there are such beings, who encounter this sutra, they can, as they wish, according to their aspirations, all attain deliverance.
– Sakyamuni Buddha
(Immeasurable Life Sutra)
In the Dharma Ending Age [now], when 100 million of 100 million people cultivate practise [of the Dharma], it is rare that one will attain the path [to liberation]; Only relying on mindfulness of Buddha, is it possible to be liberated from [the cycle of] birth and death.
– Mahavaipulya-mahasanni-pata Sutra