Attending to the Dharma to Enter the Path -Ven. Yin-Shun ( How to HEAR/Listen to the Dharma)


Attending to the Dharma to Enter the Path

Ven. Master Yin-Shun

 

( How to HEAR/Listen to the Dharma)

After taking refuge, one should hear more of the true Dharma, for only by doing so can one enter into the Buddhist way. Some people think: “The Buddha Dharma should be practiced. What is the use of hearing the Dharma? In the assembly of Surangama, the honorable Ananda was always hearing, yet was unable to attain enlightenment, and he was incapable of avoiding Matangi’s enticement.” They do not know that the honorable Ananda’s problem was with “always hearing” was actually not a problem of hearing the Dharma. All the scriptures say that that if one wants to learn and practice th Buddha Dharma, hearing the Dharma is a must. If one does not hear any of it, how can one learn about emancipation from birth and death , about the most blissful land and Amitabha Buddha, about the way to self-realization, about the true Dharma of Buddhism? If one does not listen to or hear anything, one will not even know about taking refuge in the Three Treasures!

click here to read pages 29-46 /Attending to the Dharma to Enter the Path

Chapter 2 form The Way to Buddhahood by Ven. Master Yin-shun



Let Us Part Ways- Original Letter to Elder Master Yin Kuang


Letter 8

~Let Us Part Ways~

(Original Letter to Elder Master Yin Kuang)

It took some ten years of Buddha Recitation for me to know something of its

wonderful meaning. I venture to think that the Pure Land method, as taught in such

writings as your Pure Land letters, is, in general, an expedient for ordinary people

of limited capacities. However, if people like ourselves, who are fully literate and accustomed

to exercising our minds, follow this method, we certainly cannot be reborn

in the Pure Land! According to my limited understanding, those who recite the Buddha’s

name seeking rebirth in the Pure Land should first understand “who is reciting

the Buddha’s name,” because only when we discover the real Master will Buddha

Recitation have meaning and rebirth be assured. This does not apply only to Buddha

Recitation. Anyone who recites sutras or recites mantras should also follow this path.

Nowadays, those who teach Buddha Recitation say that we should recite in a

mature way with an utterly focussed, “as if dead” mind in order to achieve rebirth

in the Pure Land. Do they not realize that if we are not clear as to “who is reciting

the Buddha’s name,” we cannot recite in a mature way with an “as if dead” mind?

Even if we were to recite one hundred thousand times each day, such recitation

would have no relationship to the issue of Birth and Death.

Some people even add that “ancient Masters generally concentrate on oral

recitation rather than meditation on the Buddha’s name.” I, on the contrary, would

say: “ the ancients practiced oral recitation only after they had achieved success in

meditation – those of limited capacities should not try to emulate them.” It is really

too bad that, these days, nine out of ten practitioners fail to understand this point.

I always do my utmost to caution people about this, but some laymen even think

that I have wrong views. Understanding the subtle meaning of the Dharma has sunk

to such depths that we can only lament and deplore the situation!

I am baring my heart to you today, and would beg you, Master, to certify my

understanding and expand on this truth. This is for the benefit of everyone, and

certainly not this writer alone.

Answer:

I cannot exhaust my praise nor commend you and your friends enough for the

thoughts behind your letter! You have very good intentions, wishing everyone to see

his Original Nature so as to achieve rebirth in the upper lotus grades. The Meditation

Sutra teaches:

Recite the Mahayana sutras, understand the Supreme Meaning, develop the

Bodhi Mind, counsel and exhort others to cultivate.

This must certainly be your intention.

Nevertheless, the Dharma should be adapted to the level of the listener. If

through failure to examine his level, you administer the wrong remedy, you will be

no different from an incompetent physician who kills his patients with the wrong

medicine. You should know that although the two Dharma methods, Pure Land

and Zen, have the same root and the same source, their methods of cultivation are

different.

The main tenet of Zen is to see one’s Original Nature, while the teachings of

Pure Land are Faith, Vows and Reciting the Buddha’s name to achieve rebirth in

the Pure Land. If most people today were of high capacities, your words would indeed

be extremely beneficial. However, on close examination, those of high capacities

are few and far between, while those of moderate and low capacities form the vast

majority. This being the case, failing to teach people to develop Faith and Vows

seeking rebirth in the Pure Land, while advising them to meditate on the Buddha’s

name [as a koan] is utterly detrimental.

This is because, while awakening to the Way through meditation on the

Buddha’s name would be a fortunate development, an utterly sincere Vow for

rebirth in the Pure Land would still be necessary.

Meanwhile, if meditation is unsuccessful and the mind constantly grasps at

the koan “who is reciting the Buddha’s name,” correspondence between the

practitioner and the Buddha will be extremely difficult to realize and the benefit of

the “welcoming and escorting” Vow will be lost.

Those who really know “who is reciting the Buddha’s name” are precisely those

who have already awakened and clearly seen their True Nature. Nowadays, how

many practitioners can meditate to the point of awakening to the Way (Great

Awakening)?

However, let us not speak about others. Even you and your friends have not

reached that level. How do I know? It is because if you had, you would never have

dared to make such statements as these in your letter: “the Pure Land method is an

expedient for ordinary people of limited capacities …; not knowing who is reciting

the Buddha’s name is not reciting in a mature way with an as-if-dead mind …;

reciting a hundred thousand times a day has no relationship to the issue of Birth

and Death …; the ancients practiced oral recitation only after they had achieved

success in meditation – those of limited capacities should not try to emulate them …”

In truth, while your intention is to benefit yourself and others equally, through

your words you have not only erred yourself, you have led others astray as well.

From now on, please desist from such talk. Otherwise, you will slam the door on and

bury the all-embracing method of the Buddhas to rescue sentient beings everywhere

– preventing this method from being known far and wide. Such a transgression is

tantamount to vilifying the Buddhas, the Dharma and the Sangha. You should be

careful indeed!

Since your understanding of the Dharma is not skillfully adapted to people’s

capacities, in that you attempt to bring a high-level Dharma to everyone, it is, in

the end, a one-sided (biased) attachment – and a great mistake! Not realizing this,

you think that you have correctly understood the subtle meaning of the Dharma

and therefore seek my certification. This monk, although lowly and not erudite,

would not dare to commend, acquiesce in and support such a request, which would

cause all of us to fall into the error of vilifying the Three Treasures!

If you do not believe the words of this old monk, let us part ways once and for all.

I would not dare try forcing others to abandon their own ideas and understanding

to follow my lowly thoughts. It is only because of your letter that I have reluctantly

offered some frank though limited views.\

I hope that you will reflect deeply on this letter.

Investigating The Mind -Ajahn Sumedho


Chapter 1 from the book The Way It Is

Ajahn Sumedho

INVESTIGATING
THE MIND

The root of suffering is what we call avijja — not knowing, or ignorance of the way things really are. This basic ignorance is one of not understanding our true nature. We suffer because of views and opinions, habits and conditions which we do not understand. We live our lives in a state of ignorance, not understanding the way things are.

If you listen to yourself very much you can sometimes hear such statements as, I should do this but I shouldn’t do that, I should be this way, I shouldn’t be that way,’ or that the, world should be other than it is, our parents should be this way or that way, and shouldn’t be the way they are. So we have this particular verb tense ringing through our minds because we have an idea of what shouldn’t be or should be. In meditation listen to that opinion within yourself of what should be and what shouldn’t be, just listen to it.

Our tendency is to try to become something, and so we set a goal, create an ideal of what we would like to become. Maybe we think society should be other than it is. People should be kind, generous, understanding, loving, there should be brotherhood and people shouldn’t be selfish. The government should have wise leaders, the world should be at peace and so forth. But the world is as it is at this moment in time and things are as they are. When we don’t understand this then we are struggling. So listen inwardly to yourselves, to the constant crying, ‘I am this way, I am not this way,’ and penetrate this ‘I am, I am not’ with awareness.

We tend to just react and take it for granted that all the ‘I am’ and ‘I am not’ is the truth. We create ourselves as a personality and attach to our memories. We remember the things we learned, we remember what we’ve done — generally the more extreme things; we tend to forget more ordinary things. So if we do unkind, cruel, foolish things then we have unpleasant memories in our lives, we feel ashamed or guilty. If we do good things, charitable things, kind things, then we have good memories in our lives. When you start reflecting on this, then you are going to be more careful about what you do and what you say, because if you have lived your life foolishly, acting on impulse out of desire for immediate gratification, or out of an intention to hurt or cause disharmony or exploit others, you are going to be faced with a mind filled with very unpleasant memories.

People who have led very selfish lives have to drink a lot, or take drugs, to keep themselves constantly occupied so that they don’t have to look at the memories that come up in the mind.

In the awakening process of meditation we are bringing awareness to the conditions of the mind here and now, just by being aware of this sense of ‘I am, I am not’. Contemplate the feelings of pain or pleasure the memories, thoughts and opinions as impermanent, anicca. The characteristic of transiency is common to all conditions. How many of you spent the day really investigating this in every possible way while sitting, standing or lying down? Investigate what you see with your eye, hear with your ear, taste with your tongue, smell with your nose, feel and experience with your body, think with your mind.

The thought ‘I am’ is an impermanent condition. The thought ‘I am not’ is an impermanent condition. Thoughts, memories, consciousness of thinking, the body itself, our emotions — all conditions change. In the practice of meditation you’ve got to be quite serious, brave and courageous. You’ve got to really investigate, dare to look at even the most unpleasant conditions in life, rather than try to escape to seek tranquillity, or to forget about everything. In vipassana the practice is one of looking into suffering; it’s a confrontation with ourselves, with what we think of ourselves, with our memories, and our emotions, pleasant, unpleasant or indifferent. In other words when these things arise and we are aware of suffering, rather than rejecting, repressing or ignoring this, we take the opportunity to examine it.

So suffering is our teacher. It’s teaching us, so we have to learn the lesson by studying suffering itself. It always amazes me how some people think they never suffer. They think, ‘I don’t suffer. I don’t know why Buddhists talk about suffering all the time. I feel wonderful, full of beauty and joy. I’m so happy all the time. I find life one fantastic experience, interesting, fascinating and never-ending delight.’ These people just tend to accept that side of life and reject the other because inevitably what delights us disappears and then we are sorry. Our desire to be in a constant state of delight leads us into all kinds of problems, difficulties and situations. Suffering is not just because of massive things like having terminal cancer, or losing someone you love; suffering can occur around what is very ordinary, like the four postures of sitting, standing, walking, lying down. Nothing extreme in that.

We contemplate the normal breath, and the ordinary consciousness. In order to understand, existence, we contemplate ordinary feelings, memories and thoughts rather than grasp hold of fantastic ideas and thoughts to understand the extremes of existence. So we’re not getting involved with speculation about the ultimate purpose of life, God, the devil, heaven and hell, what happens when we die or reincarnation. In Buddhist meditation you just observe the here and now. The birth and death that’s going on here and now is the beginning and ending of the most ordinary things.

Contemplate beginning. When you think of birth you think of ‘I was born’, but that is the great birth of the body, which we can’t remember. The ordinary birth of ‘me’ which we experience, in daily life is ‘I want, I don’t want, I like, I don’t like.’ That’s a birth, or seeking to be happy. We contemplate the ordinary hell of our own anger, the anger that arises, the heat of the body, the aversion, the hatred we feel in the mind. We contemplate the ordinary heaven we experience, the happy states, the bliss, the lightness, the beauty in the here and now. Or just the dull state of mind, that kind of limbo, neither happy nor unhappy, but dull, bored and indifferent. In Buddhist meditation we watch these within ourselves.

We contemplate our own desire for power and control, to be in control of someone else, to become famous, or to become someone who is on top. How many of you, when you find out someone is more gifted than you are, want to put them down? This is jealousy. What we have to do in our meditation practice is see the ordinary jealousies, or the hatred we might feel for someone who might take advantage of us, or annoys us; the greed or lust we might feel for someone who attracts us. Our own mind is like a mirror which reflects the universe and you watch the reflection. Before, we would take these reflections for reality so that we became entranced, repelled or indifferent to them. But in vipassana we just observe that all these reflections are just changing conditions. We begin to see them as an object rather than as a self, whereas when we’re ignorant we tend to seek identity with them.

So in practice we are looking at the universe as it is being reflected in our minds. It does not matter what anyone else happens to experience; one meditator will sit here and experience all sorts of brilliant lights, colours, fascinating images, Buddhas, celestial beings, even smell wonderful odours, and hear divine sounds, and think, ‘What a wonderful meditation, such brilliance came, “the radiance” — a divine being came like a radiant angel, touched me and I felt this ecstasy. The most wonderful ecstatic experience of my whole life…waited my whole life for this experience.’ Meanwhile the next one is thinking, ‘Why doesn’t something like that ever happen to me. I sat for a whole hour in pain with an aching back, depressed, wanting to run away, wondering why on earth I’d come to this retreat anyway.’ Another person might say, ‘I can’t stand all those people who have those silly ideas and fantasies, they disgust me, they just develop this terrible hatred and aversion in me. I hate the Buddha image sitting in the window, want to smash it. I hate Buddhism and meditation!’

Now which of these three people is the good meditator? Compare the one who sees devas dancing in heaven, the one that is bored, indifferent and dull, or the one full of hatred and aversion? Devas and angels dancing in the celestial realms are anicca, are impermanent. Boredom is anicca, impermanent. Hatred and aversion is anicca, impermanent. So the good meditator, the one who is practising in the right way is looking at the impermanent nature of these conditions.

When you talk to someone who sees devas and experiences bright lights, you start doubting your own practice and think, ‘But maybe I am not capable of enlightenment. Maybe I am not meditating right.’ Doubt itself is impermanent. Whatever arises passes away. So the good meditator is the one who sees the impermanent nature of bliss and ecstasy, or experiences dullness, experiences anger, hatred and aversion, and reflects on the impermanent nature of those qualities, when sitting, walking or lying down.

What is your tendency? Are you very positive about everything? ‘I like everybody here. I believe in the teachings of the Buddha, I believe in the Dhamma.’ — That’s a faith kind of mind. It believes, and that kind of mind can create and experience blissful things very quickly. You find that some of the farmers in Thailand, people who have hardly any worldly knowledge, who can hardly read and write, can sometimes experience blissful states, experience lights and see devas and all that, and who believe in them. When you believe in devas, you see them. When you believe in lights and celestial realms, you’ll see them. You believe that Buddha is going to save you, Buddha will come and save you. What you believe in happens to you. You believe in ghosts, fairies, elves, you don’t doubt those things, you find those things happening to you. But they are still anicca, impermanent, transient and not self.

Most people don’t believe in fairies and devas and think such things are silly. This is the negative kind of mind, the one that’s suspicious and doubtful, does not believe in anything. ‘I don’t believe in fairies and devas. I don’t believe in any of that kind of thing. Ridiculous! Show me a fairy.’ So the very suspicious and sceptical mind never sees such things.

There is faith, there is doubt. In Buddhist practice, we examine the belief and doubt that we experience in our mind, and we see that these are conditions changing.

I have contemplated doubt itself, as a sign. I’d ask myself a question like, ‘Who am I?’ and then I’d listen for the answer — something like,’Sumedho Bhikkhu’. Then I’d think, ‘That’s not the answer, who are you really?’ I’d see the struggle, the habitual reaction to find an answer to the question. But I would not accept any conceptual answer. ‘Who is it sitting here? What is this? What’s this here? Who is thinking anyway? What is it that thinks?’ When a state of uncertainty or doubt would arise I would just look at that uncertainty of doubt as a sign, because the mind stops there and goes blank, and then emptiness arises.

I found it a useful way of emptying the mind by asking myself unanswerable questions, which would cause doubt to arise. Doubt is an impermanent condition. Form, the known, is impermanent; not knowing is impermanent. Some days I would just go out and look at Nature, observe myself just standing here, looking at the ground. I’d ask myself, ‘Is the ground separate from myself?’ ‘ What is that, who is that who sees the ground?’ Is that ground with those leaves, are those leaves in my mind or outside my mind?’ ‘What is it that sees, is it the eyeball?’ If I took my eyeball out would it be separated from myself, taken out of the socket, would I still see those leaves? Or is that ground there when I’m not looking at it?,’ ‘Who is the one that’s conscious of this anyway?’ And sound. I did some experiments with sound because the objects of sight have a certain solidity like this room — it seems fairly permanent, you know, for today at least. But sound is truly anicca – try to get hold of sound and hold it.

Investigating my senses in this way — can my eyes hear sound? If I cut off my ears and ear drums, will there be any sound? Can I see and hear in exactly the same moment? All sense organs and their objects are impermanent, changing conditions. Think right now, ‘Where is your mother? Where is my mother right now?’ If I think of her in her flat in California it’s a concept in the mind. Even if I think ‘California is over there’, that’s still the mind thinking over there’. Mother is a concept isn’t it? So where is the mother right now? She is in the mind: when the word ‘mother’ comes up, you hear the word as a sound and it brings up a mental image or a memory or a feeling of like or dislike or indifference.

All concepts in the mind which we take for reality are to be investigated: know what concepts do to the mind. Notice the pleasure you get from thinking about certain concepts and the displeasure that other concepts bring. You have prejudices, biases, about race, nationality — these are all concepts, or conceptional proliferations. Men have certain attitudes and biases about women, and women have certain attitudes and biases about men: this is just inherent in those identities. But in meditation, ‘female’ is a concept, and ‘male’ is a concept, a feeling, a perception in the mind. So in this practice of vipassana you are penetrating with insight into the nature of all conditions, coarse or refined. Insight breaks down the illusions that these concepts give us, the illusions that they are real.

Now talking like this, people might question: ‘How do you live in this society then, if it’s all unreal?’ The Buddha made a very clear distinction between conventional reality and ultimate reality. On the conventional level of existence you use conventions that bring harmony to yourself and to the society you live in. What kind of conventions bring harmony? Well, things like being good, being mindful, not doing things that cause disharmony, such as stealing, cheating others, exploiting others. Having respect for other beings, having compassion, being observant, trying to help: all these conventions bring harmony.

So in the Buddhist teaching on the conventional level we live in a way that is to do good and refrain from doing evil with the body and speech. So it’s not as if we are rejecting the conventional world ‘I want nothing to do with it because its an illusion’- that’s another illusion. Thinking that the conventional world is an illusion is another thought.

In our practice, we see that thought is thought, ‘the world is an illusion’ is a thought. ‘ the world is not an illusion,’ ia a thught. But here and now, be aware that all we are conscious of is changing. Live mindfully, put effort and concentration into what you do, whether you’re sitting, walking, laying down or working. Whether yu’re a man or a woman, a secretary. housewife of labourer or executive or whatever, apply effort and concentration. Do good and refrain from doing evil. This is how a Buddhist lives within the conventional forms of society. But they are no longer deluded by the body or the society, or the things that go on in society, because a Buddhist is one who examines and investagates the universe by investigating their own body.

Ajahn Sumedho


Do Not Concern Yourself – Master Chu-hung


Do Not Concern Yourself
To Wu Ta-chun from Master Chu-hung

“Do not concern yourself with whether or not you will become enlightened.
Do  not concern  yourself with existence and non-existence, with inside and outside and in-between.
Do  not  concern  yourself  with stopping”  [shammata/samatha]and “observing”  [vipashyana/vipasyana].
Do not concern yourself with whether [this method of reciting the buddha-name] is the same or not the same as  other Buddhist methods.
If the feeling of doubt does not arise, do not concern yourself with who it is or who it is not [who is reciting the buddha-name]. Simply go on reciting the buddha-name with unified mind and unified intent without a break, pure and unmixed.”

Repentance


Repentance

By Master Yin-Shun

The non-Buddhist or free thinkers always feel that it is an act of superstition when they see Buddhists repent or chant. To repent is to admit one’s mistake. Everyone of us, from the past until the present, have committed countless wrong and evil deeds. We have left behind the karma that brings us sufferings and obstructs our progress towards enlightenment and freedom. In order to reduce and get rid of this karma that is obstructing and bringing suffering to us, we should repent in front of the Buddha or the Sangha and admit our mistakes, so that the past evil karma can be reduced. There are methods of repentance in Buddhism and these are equivalent to the confession’ in Christianity.

This practice is very important for us to progress further along the path of Buddhahood. One must repent for oneself with great sincerity. Then this repentance can be beneficial and comply with the teaching of the Buddha.

People generally do not know how to repent. So, what should we do? The great masters in the past thus compiled some procedures and observances that one could follow if one wants to repent. They taught us to chant word by word, contemplate and understand the teaching behind it. The services of repentance teaches us how to pay respect to the Buddha, seeking for the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas, loving kindness and compassionate protection. We should admit our own mistakes, knowing that killing, stealing and adultery are evil deeds, sincerely repenting our past evil deeds and be determined to practice for a better future. These are the procedures of repentance taught by the great masters in the past. However, the most important aim of these services is to develop one’s mind to correcting oneself and repent sincerely for one’s past evil deeds.

Some people cannot even read the readily written procedures, hence, they invite the monks or nuns to lead them during the repentance. As time passes, it gradually turns out to be that these people do not even know that they should repent, and only employ the monks and nuns to repent for them. Some, when their parents or family members pass away, in order to release the past evil karma of the parents and the other family members, invite the monks or nuns to do a repentance service for them. They hope that relying on the merits of the Triple Gem, the death may be relieved from the realms of suffering. However, sometimes they do not understand the real purpose of the teaching and only emphasise on how big the ceremony should be; or do it for the sake of tradition, and spend money to employ the monks or nuns to do the services for them. They do not have faith in Buddhism, and do not show any sincerity in repenting themselves. In this case the purpose of these repentance services will not be achieved.

Gradually, the purpose of the services for repentance becomes vague. The Buddhist devotees do not repent and request the monks or nuns to do everything for them, As a result, the monks and nuns are busy with all these services all day; to do the service for this family today, and the next family tomorrow. And these services become the only activity in some of the monasteries, with the main task of the monks and nuns being neglected. This is one of the causes of lack of faith in Buddhism nowadays.

Repentance has to come from within. If one repents sincerely, even for just an hour, it has better merits than inviting a lot of people and conducting a few days services but not repenting oneself. If one understands this theory, and would like to show one’s filial piety to the one’s parents, the best merit will be to do the repentance oneself. It is not right to regard the services of repentance or other services as the occupation of the monks or nuns, as this will not bring any good to the society, but creates more misunderstanding and defamation for Buddhism.

By Master Yin-Shun

https://amitabhabuddha.wordpress.com/miao-yun-by-ven-master-yin-shun/common-buddhist-misunderstandings/

Chapter 6 Common Buddhist Misunderstandings ( Suffering/Emptiness/Out Wordly ‘Supra-mundane’ and other misunderstandings) from the Selected Translations of Miao Yun ,Book 1
(Master Yin Shun’s English translations)

____________________________________________________________________________

Discourse on Repentance 1

AT ONE TIME there was a large gathering of literary men and commoners gathered from Kwong-chow, Shiu-chow and other places, to listen to the Patriarch’s words at his monastery of Tso-kai. The Patriarch ascended his platform and delivered the following address:–

Come, good people. In Buddhism we should start from our Essence of Mind. Let us purify our minds always and from one momentary sensation to another. Let us follow the Path by our own effort, recognise our own Essence-body, realise that our own mind is Buddha, and free ourselves by a voluntary observance of the disciplinary rules,–then this gathering will not be in vain. You have all come from distant places: and your gathering here shows the affinity that exists among us. Let us now sit down together in the Indian fashion for Dhyana, while I first lead you in the ritual of Repentance (Ksamayati).

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When they were seated the Patriarch continued:–The first is the Sila Incense (Behavior), which symbolises that our minds are free from all taint of misdeeds, evil, jealousy, avarice, anger, spoilation and hatred. The second is Samadhi Incense, which symbolises that our mind is serene under all circumstances–favorable or unfavorable. The third is Prajna Incense, which means that our minds are free from all impediments; that we constantly seek to realise our Mind-essence with wisdom; that we refrain from all evil; that we do all kinds of good acts with no attachment to the fruit of such action; and that we are respectful toward our superiors, considerate of our inferiors, and sympathetic for the destitute and those in trouble. The fourth is the Incense of Liberation, which means that our minds are in such a perfectly free state that they cling to nothing and bother themselves neither with good nor evil. The fifth is the Incense of “Knowledge gained because of the attainment of Liberation.” When our minds cling to neither good nor evil, we should take care not to let them go to the other extreme of vacuity and remain in a state of inertia. At this point we should study and seek to broaden our knowledge so that we can understand our own minds, thoroughly understand the principles of Buddhism, be considerate of others in our dealings with them, get rid of the idea of “self” and “existence,” and realise that up to the time when we obtain enlightenment (Bodhi) our true nature (Tathata) is immutable.

Learned Audience:–This five-fold Incense perfumes us from within; we should not seek it without. Now I want to explain to you this Ritual of Repentance

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which is designed to expiate our sins whether committed in the present, the past or future lives; and whether physical, or by word, or by thought. (In Buddhist thought, sin is considered not in a legal sense as something to be punished, or forgiven, or atoned for by sacrifice, but in its cause-and-effect aspect of Karma and its maturing.)

Please follow me carefully and repeat together what I am going to say. May we, disciples (from such and such a village), be always free from the taint of ignorance and delusion. We repent of all our past, present and future sins and evil deeds committed under delusion or in ignorance. May their karma be expiated at once and may they never rise again.

May we, disciples (from such and such a village), be always free from taint of arrogance and dishonesty. We repent of all our past, present and future evil deeds done in an arrogant or dishonest spirit. May their karma be expiated at once and may they never rise again.

May we, disciples (from such and such a village), be always free from taint of envy and jealousy. We repent of all our past, present and future evil deeds done in an envious or jealous spirit. May their karma be expiated at once and may they never rise again.

As you will notice, there are two aspects to this repentance ritual: One refers to repentance for past sin; we ought to repent for all our past sins and evil deeds committed under delusion or ignorance, arrogance or dishonesty, jealousy or envy, so as to put an end to all of them. This is one aspect of repentance. The other aspect refers to future conduct. Having realised the

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evil nature of our transgression we make a vow that hereafter we will put an end to all evil deeds committed under delusion or ignorance, arrogance or dishonesty, envy or jealousy, and that we will never sin again. This is the second aspect of repentance. On account of ignorance and delusion, common people do not always appreciate that in repentance they must not only feel sorry for their past sins, but must also refrain from sinning in the future. Since they often take no heed as to their future conduct, they commit the same sins over again almost before the past ones are expiated. How can we call that repentance?

Learned Audience: Having repented of our sins, we should take the following all-embracing vows: Listen very carefully:–

Our Mind-essence is potential of an infinite number of sentient beings. We vow to bring them all unto deliverance.

We vow to get rid of the evil passions of our minds, inexhaustible though they seem.

We vow to learn the countless systems of Dharma in our Mind-essence.

We vow to attain the Supreme Buddhahood of our Mind-essence.

We have now vowed to deliver an infinite number of sentient beings; but what does that mean? It does not mean that I, Hui-neng is going to deliver them. And who are these sentient beings, potential within our minds? They are the delusive mind, the deceitful mind, the evil mind, and such like–all these are sentient beings. Each of them has to be delivered by oneself by means of his own Essence of Mind; only by his own deliverance, is it genuine.

p. 261

Now, what does it mean, “delivering oneself by one’s own Essence of Mind?’ It means the deliverance of the ignorant, delusive, and the vexatious beings that spring up within our own mind, by means of Right Views. With the aid of Right Views and Prajna, the barriers thrown up by these delusive and ignorant beings may be broken down; so that each of us will be in a position to deliver himself by his own efforts. The false will be delivered by truthfulness; the delusive by enlightenment; the ignorant by wisdom; and the malevolent by benevolence; such is genuine deliverance.

As to the vow; “to get rid of the inexhaustible evil passions,” that refers to the transcendence of our unreliable and illusive thinking faculty by the transcendental Wisdom (Prajna) of our Mind-essence. As to the vow: “to learn the countless systems of Dharma”; there will be no true knowledge until we have been brought face to face with our Essence of Mind, by our conforming to the orthodox Dharma on all occasions. As to the vow, “to attain Supreme Buddahood”; I wish to point out that when we are able to control our mind to follow the true and orthodox Dharma on all occasions, and when Prajna always rises in our minds, so that we can hold aloof from both ignorance and enlightenment, and can do away with falsehood as well as truth, then we may consider ourselves as having realised our Buddha-nature, or, in other words, having attained Buddhahood.

Learned Audience: we should always bear in mind that we are following the Path for thereby strength is added to our vows. Now, since we have all taken the four-fold vows, I will teach you the Ritual of the threefold Guidance.

p. 262

We take “Enlightenment” as our Guide, because it is the fruit of both merit (Punya) and Wisdom (Prajna).

We take “Orthodoxy” as our Guide, because it is the best way to get rid of desire.

We take “Purity” as our Guide, because it is the noblest quality of mankind.

Hereafter let Shakyamuni, the Enlightened One, be our guide and on no account should we listen to the suggestions of Mara, the evil one, of any heretic. We should testify to ourselves by constantly appealing to the “Three Gems” or our Essence of Mind, in which I advise you to take refuge. They are:

Buddha, which stands for Enlightenment;
Dharma, which stands for Orthodoxy;
Sangha, which stands for Purity
.

To take refuge in Enlightenment so that evil and delusive notions do not arise, so that desire decreases, discontent becomes unknown, and lust and greed no longer bind us–this is the fruitage of Punya and Prajna. To take refuge in Orthodoxy so that from momentary sensation to another we will be free from wrong views–this is the best means of getting rid of desires. To take refuge in Purity so that no matter under what circumstance we may be, we will not become contaminated by wearisome sense objects, by craving nor by desire–this is the noblest quality of mankind. To practise the “Three-fold Guidance” as thus outlined means to take refuge in one’s Mind-essence. Ignorant people often take the “Three-fold Guidance” without understanding it. They say that they take

p. 263

refuge in Buddha: do they know where he is? If they cannot conceive Buddha, how can they take refuge in him? Would not such an assertion amount to self-deception? Each of you should examine this point for himself, so that his energy may not be misapplied through ignorance. The Sutra distinctly says that each should take refuge in the Buddha within himself. It does not refer to any other Buddhas, hence if we do not take refuge in the Buddha of our own Mind-essence, there is nowhere else for us to go. Having cleared this point, let each of us take refuge in the “Three jewels” of his own mind. Within, each should control his own mind; without, each should be respectful toward others–this is the way to take refuge within ourselves.

I have a stanza, the reciting and practising of which will at once dispel the delusions and expiate the sins accumulated during many kalpas. This is the stanza:–

People under delusion accumulate tainted merit but tread not the Path.
They are under the illusion that to accumulate merit and to tread the Path are one and the same thing.
Their merit for alms-giving and offerings may be infinite,
But they fail to realise that the ultimate source of sin lies in the greed, hatred and infatuation within their own mind.
They expect to expiate their sin by the accumulation of merit,
Without knowing that the felicities to be gained thereby in future lives
, p. 264
Have nothing to do with expiation of sin.
If we get rid of the sin within our own mind
Then it is a case of true repentance.
One who realises suddenly what constitutes true repentance in the Mahayana sense,
And who ceases to do evil and practises righteousness, is free from sin
.

*

Essence of Mind (Tathata) is the real Buddha,
While heretical views and the three poisonous elements are Mara.
Enlightened by Right Views, we call forth the Buddha within us.
When our nature is dominated by the three poisonous elements, as the result of heretical views,
We are said to be possessed by Mara;
But when Right Views free our minds of these poison elements,
Mara will, be transformed into a real Buddha.
A follower of the Path who keeps constant watch on his Mind-essence
Is in the same class with the many Buddhas.
Our Patriarchs transmitted no other system but this of “Sudden Enlightenment.”
If you are seeking Dharmakaya,
Search for it apart from the world of things and phenomena,
Then your mind will be pure and free.
Exert yourself in order to come face to face with Mind-essence and relax not;
For death may come suddenly and put an end to your earthly existence
.

p. 265

Learned Audience:–All of you should recite this stanza and put it into practice. If you succeed in realising Essence of Mind, then you may think of yourselves as being in my presence though you may be a thousand miles away. But should you be unable to do so, though we were face to face with each other, we would really be thousands of miles apart. In that case what is the use of your taking the trouble to come here from such a long distance? Take good care of yourselves. I bid you good-bye.

A BUDDHIST BIBLE by BY DWIGHT GODDARD 1932

Entrance to the Way -Master Hsu Yun


Entrance to the Way – Master Hsu Yun

So many people enter the hall to practice.
How many of them carry that long sword
The sword of Heavenly Reliance?

Everything has to be hacked to pieces.
Saints, demons, everything!
Blood has to be splattered all over the mansions of heaven.

That’s the Direct Teaching!
Pull down those golden locked gates to the Profound
That guard the Entrance to the Way.

Be fierce when you sit! Make your sitting a blade that hacks through the
wilderness of incomprehension.
Let your eye pierce the Emptiness!
Expose that True Face
The One that was yours before your mother gave birth.

 

Mistakes in Practice by Shunryu Suzuki


Mistakes in Practice by Shunryu Suzuki

 

It is when your practice is rather greedy that you become discouraged with it. So you should be grateful that you have a sign or a warning signal to show you the weak point in your practice.

There are several poor ways of practice which you should understand. Usually when you practice zazen, you become very idealistic, and you set up an ideal or goal which you strive to attain and fulfill. But as I have often said, this is absurd. When you are idealistic, you have some gaining idea within yourself; by the time you attain your ideal or goal, your gaining idea will create another ideal.

So as long as your practice is based on a gaining idea, and you practice zazen in an idealistic way, you will have no time actually to attain your ideal.

Moreover, you will be sacrificing the meat of your practice. Because your attainment is always ahead, you will always be sacrificing yourself now for some ideal in the future. You end up with nothing. This is absurd; it is not adequate practice at all. But even worse than this idealistic attitude is to practice zazen in competition with someone else. This is a poor, shabby kind of practice.

Our Soto way puts an emphasis on shikan taza, or “just sitting.” Actually we do not have any particular name for our practice; when we practice zazen we just practice it, and whether we find joy in our practice or not, we just do it…



Total Immersion -Unknown


Total Immersion – Unknown

A Master once described the journey to Enlightenment as “ like filling a sieve with water”. When a woman questioned this Master on his meaning, he gave her a sieve and a cup, and they went to the sea, where he asked her to fill the sieve with water. She poured a cupful of water into the sieve . It was instantly gone . “Spiritual practice is the same,” the Master explained, “ if we stand on the rock of ‘I’ , and try to ladle the divine realization in. That’s not the way to fill the sieve with water, nor the self with divine life.” He took the sieve and threw it into the sea, where it sank. “Now it’s full of water, and will remain so. That’s spiritual practice. It is not ladling cupfuls into the individuality, but becoming totally immersed in the sea of divine life. “

~Unknown, from the book 1001 Pearls of Buddhist Wisdom /Selected by the Buddhist Society/

Samadhi quote – Hui Neng


 

 

 

“When our mind works freely without any hindrance, and is at liberty to ‘come’ or to ‘go’, we attain Samadhi of Prajna, or liberation. Such a state is called the function of ‘thoughtlessness’. But to refrain from thinking of anything, so that all thoughts are suppressed, is to be Dharma-ridden, and this is an erroneous view.”

— Hui-Neng

When the teachings ‘click’ -Sogyal Rinpoche


When the teachings “click” for you somewhere deep in your heart and mind, then you really have the View. Whatever difficulties you face, you will find you have some kind of serenity, stability, and understanding, and an internal mechanism- you could call it an “ inner transformer”- that works for you, to protect you from falling prey to wrong views. In that View, you will have discovered a “wisdom guide’ of your own, always at hand to advise you, support you, and remind you of the truth. Confusion will still arise, that’s only normal, but with a crucial difference: No longer will you focus on it in a blinded and obsessive way, but you will look on it with humor, perspective, and compassion.
~ Sogyal Rinpoche

The Way Of Faith ~ by Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai


The Way Of Faith ~ by Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai

Those who take refuge in the three treasures, the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, are called the disciples of Buddha. The disciples of Buddha observe the four parts of mind-control—the precepts, faith, offering and wisdom.
The disciples of Buddha practise the five precepts: not to kill, not to steel, not to commit adultery, not to lie, and not to take intoxicants of any kind.
The disciples of Buddha have faith in the Buddha’s perfect wisdom. They try to keep away from greediness and selfishness and to practice offering. They understand the law of cause and effect, keeping in mind the transiency of life and conform to the norm of wisdom.

A tree leaning toward the east will naturally fall eastward and so those who listen to the Buddha’s teaching and maintain faith in it will surely be born in the Buddha’s Pure Land.
It had rightly been said that those who believe in the three treasures of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha are called the disciples of Buddha.

The Buddha is the one who attained perfect Enlightenment and used his attainment to emancipate and bless all mankind. The Dharma is the truth, the spirit of Enlightenment and the teaching that explains it. The Sangha is the perfect brotherhood of believers in the Buddha and Dharma.
We speak of Buddhahood, the Dharma and the Brotherhood as though they are three different things, but they are really one. Buddha is manifested in His Dharma and is realized by the Brotherhood. Therefore, to believe in the Dharma and to cherish the Brotherhood is to have faith in the Buddha, and to have faith in the Buddha means to believe in the Dharma and to cherish the Brotherhood.
Therefore, people are emancipated and enlightened simply by having faith in the Buddha. Buddha is the perfectly Enlightened One and He loves everyone as though each were His only child. So if anyone regards Buddha as his own parent, he identifies himself with Buddha and attains Enlightenment.
Those who thus regard Buddha will be supported by His wisdom and perfumed by His grace.

Nothing in the world brings greater benefit than to believe in Buddha. Just hearing Buddha’s name, believing and being pleased even for a moment, is incomparably rewarding.
Therefore, one must please oneself by seeking the teaching of Buddha in spite of the conflagration that fills all the world.

It will be hard to meet a teacher who can explain the Dharma; it will be harder to meet a Buddha; but it will be hardest to believe in His teachings.
But now that you have met the Buddha, who is hard to meet, and have had it explained to you what is hard to hear, you ought to rejoice and believe and have faith in Buddha.
On the long journey of human life, faith is the best of companions; it is the best refreshment on the journey and it is the greatest possession.

Click here for a free copy of The Teachings of Buddha by Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai

Bodhidharma and Hui Neng


Bodhidharma was a great master from suthern India. He first arrived in China by sea in the Song Dynasty. Later, in the Liang Dyansaty, he crossed the Yangtze River and arived in Loyang, the capital of Bei Wei Dyansty. He went to the Shao Lin Monastery in Songshan. There is a lengend that he meditated and contemplated in front of a wall there for nine years. As a result, he became known as the “Brahmana (Holy One) who gazes at the wall.”

He taught the Mahayana way of meditation and did not emphasis on the studies of doctrines and sutras. He did not show much interest in Buddhist rituals or ceremonies. His emphasis was to practice meditation. His teachings were based on the Lankavatara Sutra, which emphasises on the “Direct exploration of the human mind, penetration of the truth and attainment of Buddhahood.”

However , this method is very deep and profound. It is not easy to practice. Only a few people, such as Venerable Hui Ke, managed to learn the method from him.

In the Tang Dynasty, Bodhidharma’s method of meditation had passed down to its fifth generation. It was mastered by Venerable Hong Ren of the Dong Shan Monastery in Huangmei. By that time, the meditatin method was reasonably well develooped.

Chan Master Hui Neng

Lu Hui Neng from Lingnan came to the Dong Shan Monastery. There he worked and practiced at the same time. He was illiterate and had not studied the doctrines. However, he practised meditation and contemplated whole heartedly. During one examination, he created the following poem:

There is no true Bodhi tree,

Nor is there a true mirror stand

Since all is empty in nature,

Where is there for dust to land?

This poem gained the praise of Venerable Hong Ren. He felt that Hui Neng has mastered the principle of Bodhidharma’s teaching. After Hui Neng returned to the south, he resided at the Nab Hua Monastery in Caoxi Shan and propagated the meditation method of Bodhidharma and the method of “Sudden Enlightenment”. From then on, the School of Chan became popular. It became the most powerful and most influential school in Chinese Buddhism. Hui Neng gained the title of the Sixth Patriarch. He is regarded as a great Master who exerted the most significant influence on Chinese Buddhism and culture.

Source: From Selected Translations of Miao Yun Part 4 ( Revised Edition) Venerable Yin-shun
see Hwa Tsang Buddhist Monastery for more information on Miao Yun publications.

Karma


“ How people treat me is their Karma, how I respond is mine.” –truthful Buddhist quote

photo: WN / Yeshe Choesang A Tibetan monk with his national flag sit with mouths covered to symbolize Chinese silencing in Dharamshala, India

What is Karma?

The Pali term Karma literally means action or doing. Any kind of intentional action whether mental, verbal, or physical, is regarded as Karma. It covers all that is included in the phrase “thought, word and deed”. Generally speaking, all good and bad action constitutes Karma. In its ultimate sense Karma means all moral and immoral volition. Involuntary, unintentional or unconscious actions, though technically deeds, do not constitute Karma, because volition, the most important factor in determining Karma, is absent.

The Buddha says:

“I declare, O Bhikkhus, that volition is Karma. Having willed one acts by body, speech, and thought.” (Anguttara Nikaya)

Every volitional action of individuals, save those of Buddhas and Arahants, is called Karma. The exception made in their case is because they are delivered from both good and evil; they have eradicated ignorance and craving, the roots of Karma.

“Destroyed are their germinal seeds (Khina bija); selfish desires no longer grow,” states the Ratana Sutta of Sutta nipata.

This does not mean that the Buddha and Arahantas are passive. They are tirelessly active in working for the real well being and happiness of all. Their deeds ordinarily accepted as good or moral, lack creative power as regards themselves. Understanding things as they truly are, they have finally shattered their cosmic fetters – the chain of cause and effect.

Karma does not necessarily mean past actions. It embraces both past and present deeds. Hence in one sense, we are the result of what we were; we will be the result of what we are. In another sense, it should be added, we are not totally the result of what we were; we will not absolutely be the result of what we are. The present is no doubt the offspring of the past and is the present of the future, but the present is not always a true index of either the past or the future; so complex is the working of Karma.

It is this doctrine of Karma that the mother teaches her child when she says “Be good and you will be happy and we will love you; but if you are bad, you will be unhappy and we will not love you.” In short, Karma is the law of cause and effect in the ethical realm.


Words from Ven. Ji Xing


Words from Ven. Ji Xing on Anger

Posted on January 19, 2010 written by bychancebuddhism
Ven. Ji-Xing
Venerable Ji-Xing

When I last saw the Venerable Ji Xing speak (in 2009), he uttered a well-known quotation that caught my attention. It is simple; “Don’t let someone you hate ‘rent a room’ for free in your mind!” When you let that occur, someone can ‘remote control you’ from wherever they happen to be.

The Venerable also told an interesting story about a blustery person who came to visit him to seek advice, who quickly became angry with the questions he asked. To this the Venerable replied, “A child in primary school knows how to be happy . . . “. At this, the person visiting him became even angrier, until they finally understood.

In short, be free of hatred and anger, as they part of the root of all suffering. In one final comment one the subject, he had everyone in the room do a simple exercise; “Look to your right, and pat the person next to you. Tell them, it is okay, you should not suffer anymore. Then look to your left, and do the same thing. Finally, take both your hands and pat yourself on your shoulders, ‘It is okay, you should not suffer anymore’.”

Do Not Concern Yourself


Do Not Concern Yourself
To Wu Ta-chun from Master Chu-hung

“Do not concern yourself with whether or not you will become enlightened.
Do  not concern  yourself with existence and non-existence, with inside and outside and in-between.
Do  not  concern  yourself  with  “stopping” [shammata/samatha]and “observing” [vipashyana/vipasyana].
Do not concern yourself with whether [this method of reciting the buddha-name] is the same or not the same as other Buddhist methods.
If the feeling of doubt does not arise, do not concern yourself with who it is or who it is not [who is reciting the buddha-name]. Simply go on reciting the buddha-name with unified mind and unified intent without a break, pure and unmixed.”

The Heart Sutra ( English)


The Heart Sutra is very popular among Mahayana Buddhists both for its brevity and depth of meaning.

The Maha
Prajna Paramita
Hrdaya Sutra

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva
when practicing deeply the Prajna Paramita
perceives that all five skandhas are empty
and is saved from all suffering and distress.

Shariputra,
form does not differ from emptiness,
emptiness does not differ from form.
That which is form is emptiness,
that which is emptiness form.

The same is true of feelings,
perceptions, impulses, consciousness.

Shariputra,
all dharmas are marked with emptiness;
they do not appear or disappear,
are not tainted or pure,
do not increase or decrease.

Therefore, in emptiness no form, no feelings,
perceptions, impulses, consciousness.

No eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind;
no color, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch,
no object of mind;
no realm of eyes
and so forth until no realm of mind consciousness.

No ignorance and also no extinction of it,
and so forth until no old age and death
and also no extinction of them.

No suffering, no origination,
no stopping, no path, no cognition,
also no attainment with nothing to attain.

The Bodhisattva depends on Prajna Paramita
and the mind is no hindrance;
without any hindrance no fears exist.
Far apart from every perverted view one dwells in Nirvana.

In the three worlds
all Buddhas depend on Prajna Paramita
and attain Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi.

Therefore know that Prajna Paramita
is the great transcendent mantra,
is the great bright mantra,
is the utmost mantra,
is the supreme mantra
which is able to relieve all suffering
and is true, not false.
So proclaim the Prajna Paramita mantra,
proclaim the mantra which says:

gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha
gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha
gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha.

Planting Flowers on a Rock


Planting Flowers on a Rock

Dharma Discourse by John Daido Loori Roshi True Dharma Eye, Case 232

Originally posted by my most beloved, T. Mujin _/\_

The Commentary

Keeping silent and refraining from discussing the Way is a truly extraordinary practice. This is hearing what is impossible to hear, encountering what is impossible to encounter. Yet, even if all contrivances are cut off, there is still the pit of liberation called “dharma attachment.” Even if we try to establish classes or stages, we should understand that fundamentally there are no boundaries or edges to be found. Yaoshan understands that the ineffable truth that Shitou is pointing to is not to be discerned by conscious cognition of sound and form, nor is it to be found by going beyond sound and form. This being the case, you tell me, where is it to be found? If you wish to understand these great adepts, you must first see into the place where “even a needle cannot enter” and then realize the place that’s “just like planting flowers on a rock.” Without relying on seeing and hearing, and without trying to know objects, we should observe and realize that which is underneath it all.

The Capping Verse

Cease from following after sound and form,

refrain from going beyond sound and form.

The spring breeze unknowingly rousts out the hibernating tree frogs—

cherry blossoms, wordlessly, open a path.

One day, Yaoshan was sitting on a rock when Shitou asked him, “What are you doing here?” and Yaoshan said, “I’m not doing a thing.” Shitou said, “Then you’re just sitting leisurely.” Yaoshan responded, “If I was sitting leisurely, I’d be doing something.” “You say you’re not doing anything, what is it that you’re not doing?” Shitou insisted. Yaoshan said, “A thousand sages don’t know.” Shitou then praised Yaoshan with a verse:

Long abiding together,

Not knowing its name.

Just going on practicing like this.

Since ancient times, the sages don’t know.

Will searching everywhere now make it known?

But that was not the end of the story, for out of this dialogue evolved the koan that we are dealing with here. Yaoshan was an eighth century Chinese master who succeeded Shitou, the author of the Identity of Relative and Absolute. In this dialogue, Shitou is testing Yaoshan by saying, “Words and actions have nothing to do with the truth.” The commentary picks up on this line with: “Keeping silent and refraining from discussing the Way is a truly extraordinary practice. This is hearing what is impossible to hear, encountering what is impossible to encounter.”

A few years ago, I was deeply struck by this practice of keeping silent and refraining from discussing the Way when I visited the Abbey of Gethsemani, the Trappist community where Thomas Merton lived and practiced. The vow of silence is very much present at Gethsemani. I went there as part of a group of fifty monastics from various traditions who were getting together as part of an interreligious encounter. And although we did not speak to the monks of the Abbey, I got a sense of the incredible power of their practice, simply as I passed them silently in the hall.

I must admit that I had gone to this conference prepared to be bored senseless, but instead what happened was that I had my heart ripped open by the participants: Buddhist, Christian, Theravadin, Chan Buddhist, Zen Buddhist, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant. It was clear to me that all of them had spent years in deep study and practice. It was evident in the way they spoke, the way they interacted with one another, and it was especially evident in the questions they asked of themselves and each other—questions that really needed to be asked. I was especially impressed by a Tibetan Buddhist nun who has launched a battle to start a women’s lineage. It doesn’t exist. It hasn’t existed for hundreds of years, but she is determined to make it happen. She also told me that twenty years earlier she’d made a vow when she put on her robes that she would never take them off to get a job, to support herself; that if the dharma didn’t take care of her, then she would just starve to death or rot wherever she was. And she’s kept that vow for all these years. She practices constantly.

Some of the hard questions we asked each other about spiritual practice in the 21st century were things like, What good is a monastery? What good is a monastic? What good is a practitioner? What do they do? What’s their role or responsibility in society? Indeed, the question we should ask ourselves is, What should Zen Mountain Monastery be doing in relationship to society? How should we address war, peace, the environment, poverty, media violence, personal and structural violence, suffering, alienation, greed, and consumerism?

One of the monks I met had been ordained for thirty years, but before that he’d gotten a degree in law. He said when he first arrived, the abbot of his monastery looked at his application, looked at him and said, “Now, what would a monk want with a law degree?” But as it turns out, they’ve used his skills numerous times. One of the things he did was defend our friend, Joan Chittister, who was called to an inquisition in Rome. I don’t know what the charges were, but evidently she’s very liberal and Rome nailed her, so this lawyer monk was called to defend her. They won.

Later, that very same lawyer spoke up during a discussion about the causes of structural violence and how institutions help to create it. He said, “It’s not about greed, it’s not about consumerism. It’s about patriarchy.” Suddenly, all these quiet nuns were up and talking. It was a very lively discussion. Later, I did worry that once this encounter got published as a book half of my friends were going to end up excommunicated. I’m not sure how they handled that.

So, on one hand, we have “keeping silent and refraining from discussing the Way is truly an extraordinary practice. This is hearing what is impossible to hear, encountering what’s impossible to encounter.” If our minds are filled with noise, how will we be able to hear what is impossible to hear? Obviously, we won’t. The definition of the term “mystical” says: “Having a spiritual meaning that is neither apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intellect. It is direct subjective communication with ultimate reality.” It’s the kind of communication that we can’t process intellectually. We can’t see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, touch it, or think it. It is very subtle and slippery, impossible to nail down or explain. Yet we’re somehow aware of its presence, and it has a real impact on us. And in order to perceive it, we need to make room for it. We need to be quiet, open, and receptive. That’s the only way we’ll ever access the mystery of this human life.

“Yet, if even all contrivances are cut off, there is still the pit of liberation called ‘dharma attachment.’” That’s the other extreme—complete renunciation, cutting ourselves off from the world, from communication, from any kind of activity. This is what Yunmen called one of the two sicknesses of our practice. Needless to say, in order to function in the world we have to get ourselves out of the pit of liberation. As I have said countless times, it’s not enough to get to the top of the mountain. You have to keep going down the other side and back into the marketplace, where your life takes place.

“Even if we try to establish classes or stages, we should understand that fundamentally there are no boundaries or edges to be found.” There’s the rub. We love to establish classes or stages, but the fact is that there are none. But then people ask, why do we have a hierarchy? Why do we have seniority and the different colored robes and the ten stages of practice and on and on? Call it upaya, skillful means. But ultimately, there is no distinction between buddhas and ordinary beings, between a rank beginner and the person who’s completed her training. In terms of the precepts, the tenth grave precept explicitly says that to even give rise to the thought that there’s a distinction between buddhas and ordinary beings violates the precept.

The commentary continues: “Yaoshan understands that the ineffable truth that Shitou is pointing to is not to be discerned by conscious cognition of sound and form, nor is it to be found by going beyond sound and form.” That’s what we try to do, we try to grasp the teachings with our minds. In the realm of the mystery, there is neither inside nor outside. There’s no way to approach the truth, to grasp it or understand it. It exists thus! But if it’s not discerned by conscious cognition of sound and form and it is not found by going beyond sound and form, then where is it to be found? How is it to be found?

Master Dogen says, “Seeing forms with the whole body and mind, hearing sounds with the whole body and mind, one understands them intimately.” When we practice this wholehearted way of attending and experiencing as we move through our daily lives—when we make direct contact with reality—we go beyond an ordinary way of seeing, of being, and touch the sacred dimension of our lives. At the turn of the nineteenth century, Evelyn Underhill wrote in her book Mysticism:

Contemplation is the mystic’s medium. It is an extreme form of that withdrawal of attention from the external world and total dedication of the mind which also, in various degrees and ways, conditions the creative activity of musician, painter and poet: releasing the faculty by which he can apprehend the good and beautiful and enter into communion with the real.

“Entering into communion with the real” does not mean entering some kind of esoteric state of mind. It is your mind, right here, right now. To contemplate is to use your ability to see directly, intimately, and to express through the creative process and your life what you see—not what you think you see, but what actually is.

Open Up the Darkness


Open Up the Darkness

To Ch’in Kuang-liang, Layman Jen-nan of Wu-chiang

The saying goes, “Open up the darkness, and release the karmic bonds.”
If you understand, then the darkness is the light, and the karmic bonds are nothing but liberation.
If you do not understand, then constantly gather in the mind and recite the buddha-name. After a long time you will become quiet and steady, and you will spontaneously be able to generate wisdom.

-Master Chu-hung

 

Throw Everything into the Ocean


Throw Everything into the Ocean

You must believe that everything is due to past causes. Throw everything into the ocean: not only favorable events and adversities, and your failures and successes, but even life and death.
Do not be worried or afraid. Gather up your body and mind, turn your awareness around and reflect within on the fundamental meditation point: Who is reciting the buddha-name?This is the most important thing to remember!

-Master Chu-hung

Remembering Buddha



Remembering Buddha


The Pure Land teaching began with the World Honored One Shakyamuni Buddha, and has been disseminated through the generations of sage worthies.
They have divided the one gate of buddha-remembrance into four types: buddha-remembrance through reciting the name [of Amitabha Buddha], buddha-remembrance through contemplating the image [of Amitabha  Buddha],  buddha-remembrance  through contemplating the concept [of Buddha], and reality-aspect (real mark) buddha-remembrance.
Though there are differences among the four types, ultimately  they  all  go  back  to  reality-aspect buddha-remembrance. Moreover, the first three types can be grouped as two:  contemplating the concept, and reciting the name.   [Buddha-remembrance through] contemplating the concept is explained in detail in the Sixteen Contemplations Sutra (Meditation Sutra).Here I will discuss reciting the name. The Amitabha Sutrasays:

If a person recites the name of Amitabha Buddha singlemindedly for [a period of from] one or two up to seven days without allowing anything to confuse the mind, at the end of that person’s life Amitabha Buddha and a multitude of holy ones will appear before him. As the person dies, his mind will not be deluded, and he will attain rebirth in Amitabha Buddha’s land of ultimate bliss.

This is the great [scriptural] source from which for myriad  generations  has  come  [the  practice  of] buddha-remembrance by reciting the name, the wondrous teaching personally communicated from the golden mouth [of Buddha]. An ancient worthy said:

As they contemplate the subtleties of the inner truth of phenomena, the minds of sentient beings are mixed [with other concerns than truth]. Since they practice contemplation with mixed minds, the contemplative state of mind is hard to achieve.  The Great Sage [Buddha] took pity on them, and encouraged them to concentrate on the recitation of the buddha-name. Because it is easy to invoke the buddha-name, there starts  to  be  some  continuity  [to  their buddha-remembrance].

This teaches that the work of buddha-remembrance through reciting the name is most essential for being born in the Pure Land. If by reciting the name one arrives at the reality-aspect, then this has the same efficacy as subtle contemplation. Beings of the highest caliber must not doubt this.
All you children of Buddha here today, [I tell you this]: in the gate of repentance, everyone must repent — even the sages of the vehicles of the disciples [sravakas] and the solitary [pratyeka] buddhas, even the great beings of complete  mind  [bodhisattvas],  even  those  of enlightenment equal to the buddhas, all must still repent. Since they all must equally repent, don’t they all have to be born in the Pure Land? How much the more so for those at the stage of ordinary mortals and those in the stages of study!
To all of you here today, disciples and others, whatever plane of existence you are in, I respectfully offer [this teaching] to you: all of you must wholeheartedly invoke the buddha-name, and seek birth in the Pure Land. I hope that Buddha’s compassion will extend down specially to you, and gather you in and save you.

Namo Amituofo


Amitabha Sutra is the popular colloquial name for the Shorter Sukhavativyuha Sutra or the Buddha’s Discourse of the Amitabha Sutra, is a Mahayana Buddhist text. It is one of the primary sutras recited and upheld in the Pure Land Buddhist schools.

It was translated from Sanskrit into Chinese by the Tripitaka Master Kumarajiva in 402, but may have existed in India as early as year 100, and composed in Prakrit language. The bulk of the text, considerably shorter than other Pure Land sutras, consists of a discourse which the Buddha gave at Jeta Grove in Sravasti to his disciple Shariputra. The talk concerned the wondrous adornments that await the righteous in the Western Pure Land, as well as the beings that reside there, including the buddha Amitabha. The text also describes what one must do to be reborn there.

In Pure Land and Chan Buddhism, the sutra is often recited as part of the evening service, and is also recited as practice for practitioners. It is also frequently recited at Buddhist funeral services, in the hope that the merit generated by reciting the sutra may be transmitted to the departed.

Amitabha is the principal buddha in the Pure Land sect, a branch of Buddhism practiced mainly in East Asia. According to these scriptures, Amitābha possesses infinite merits resulting from good deeds over countless past lives as a bodhisattva named Dharmakaya. “Amitabha” is translatable as “Infinite Light,” hence Amitabha is often called “The Buddha of Infinite Light.”

No-self, Impermanence, Nirvana

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