Comprehension of Buddhist Doctrines and
the Actual Practice of Ch’an
By Maha Acarya Yang
(A talk given by Maha Acarya Yang Fo Xing to students in Beijing University)
The Diamond Sutra (Vajracchedika-Prajna-Paramita Sutra) is the guiding sutra for Ch’an practitioners in their cultivation. In An Outline of the Diamond Sutra written by Maha Acarya Feng Da An, after the Buddha had answered Subhuti’s question, he spoke about the guiding principles for the three kinds of Samadhi - the Samadhi of Great Loving-kindness, the Samadhi of Great Compassion and the Samadhi of Great Joy. (The first section of the sutra is called Request and it begins with the verse “At the time, the Venerable Subhuti who was in the assembly rose from his seat” and ends with “Yes indeed, World Honored One. I am delighted and wish to listen.” The section on Great Loving-kindness begins with “The Buddha told Subhuti: “All Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas, should subdue their mind like this” and ends with “If a Bodhisattva has a perception of a self, a person, a living being and a life span, he is not a Bodhisattva.” The section on Great Compassion begins with “Moreover, Subhuti, as to Dharmas, a Bodhisattva should not cling to anything when giving” and ends with “A Bodhisattva should act according to these instructions.” The section on Great Joy begins with “Subhuti, what do you think?” and ends with “All phenomena are illusive. If one sees all phenomena as no-phenomena, he sees Tathagata.”) Subhuti at once reached the sublime internal state and penetrated the profound essence of Buddha’s teachings. He knew that ordinary people couldn’t appreciate the wonderful purport, so he spoke to the Buddha: “World Honored One, will there be people who, when they hear these teachings, have real faith and confidence in them?” The Buddha replied: “Subhuti, don’t say that. Five hundred years after the Buddha passed away, there will be people who observe the precepts and cultivate merits and wisdom. When such people hear those words, they will believe them and accept them as true. You should know that such people have not planted good roots with just one, two, three, four or five Buddhas, but they have planted good roots at immeasurable places of tens of millions of Buddhas. Anyone who, for only a second, gives rise to pure and clear confidence upon hearing these words of the Tathagata, the Tathagata sees and knows that person, and she or he will attain boundless merits and virtues. Why? Because the kind of person will have no perception of a self, a person, a living being, a life span or Dharma and Not-Dharma.”
The above-cited passage is the Lamp of Dharma for Ch’an practitioners to have Right Doctrines and Right Practice.
Both the Ch’an School and the Esoteric School are Oneyana. From the above-cited text, Oneyana practitioners should realize that they must meet the following three conditions in order to accomplish their goals easily.
1. Natural capacity (spiritual capacity). This refers to practitioners’ good roots planted by all Buddhas. It can also be described as genes. Whether one can make quick progress in the path of cultivation is closely related to his natural capacity. The Buddha said that if people believe in the words spoken in the Diamond Sutra and accept them as true, such people haven’t planted good roots with just one, two, three, four or five Buddhas, but they have planted good roots at immeasurable places of tens of millions of Buddhas. Those who have come for our lecture tonight also planted such good roots in their previous lives.
2. To observe the precepts and repent over the past evil-doings.
Before his Parinirvana, Shakyamuni Buddha told his disciples to treat the precepts (Pratimoksa) as their Gurus. In order to keep the precepts well, practitioners should have Pure Heart, Heart with Utmost Sincerity, Heart of Diligent Practice and the Heart of Repaying Four Kinds of Kindness.
a. Pure Heart. First of all, Ch’an practitioners must refrain from having deluded ideas, sever all selfish desires and deliver sentient beings with pure heart and compassion.
b. Heart with Utmost Sincerity. Bodhidharma’s instruction to Hui Ke is a good example. He said: “A practitioner cannot expect to receive the unsurpassable Dharma teachings with little virtue, superficial wisdom, self-conceit and arrogance. He is only wishfully thinking if he harbours such thoughts.” In order to hear the supreme Buddhist Dharma, Hui Ke cut off his arm, Nagakanya offered her precious pearl to the Buddha and one reincarnation of Shakyamuni Buddha would rather sacrifice his life for the other half of a Dharma verse. In the Vimalakirti Sutra Layman Vimalakirti also advised seeker of the spiritual path to risk his life for the Dharma. All these actions are proofs of utmost sincerity. A Chinese proverb goes “One’s utmost sincerity can penetrate even the hardest rock”.
c. Heart of Diligent Practice. This means that practitioners must be diligent and persistent in his cultivation. He should keep on practicing even after he has reached certain stages. In our life, as even in the case of learning a foreign language, we also must be persistent in order to be successful.
d. The Heart of Repaying Four Kinds of Kindness. Four Kinds of Kindness refer to the kindness of the Three Gems (Triratna), of one’s country, of one’s parents and of living beings. On the contrary, if a person is ungrateful, he cannot be regarded as a good man. How can he practice Buddhism? Therefore, a Ch’an practitioner can easily progress in his path of cultivation only if he starts his practice with keeping the precepts and having the Heart of Repaying Four Kinds of Kindness.
3. Practitioners must cultivate both merits and wisdom. Just as the Diamond Sutra quotes: “If there will be people who keep the precepts and cultivate both merits and wisdom…” it’s truly important for practitioners to accumulate merits and improve their wisdom. It’s the Age of the End of the Dharma now and sentient beings lack merits. There are many Buddhist practitioners but a few of them can meet these three requirements. Many people recite the verse from the Diamond Sutra “They believe such words and accept them as true”. However, few of them can reach the stage where their comprehension of Buddhist doctrines corresponds to their actual practice and thus prove the fact that words from the sutra embody the truth. There are two reasons for their failure to do so. The first one is that they don’t meet these three requirements and the other is that they don’t practice in proper ways as required by the school.
The guiding principles indispensable to one’s practice as instructed by Maha Acarya Feng Da An are quoted hereafter.
1. The practice of Buddhism will have true effect when there lives an enlightened Transferer of Buddhas’ Energy (the one who is able to obtain the Buddhas’ Energy of the ten directions and confer it on sentient beings). Otherwise, no matter how diligent practitioners are, they can only have superficial understanding of Buddhist doctrines with no hope of attaining fruition. (The author’s comment: Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are immeasurable and boundless. Sentient beings are also countless and infinite. As a result, the power of blessings from Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is scattered. Therefore, there should be a qualified Transferer of Buddhas’ Energy who can gather the energies of all Buddhas and confer them upon practitioners. My Guru Maha Acarya Feng Da An once told me: “You don’t need to have such a high regard of me. You only need to take me as a Power Transferring Box.” The function of a Power Transferring Box is to change the low power pressure into high power pressure in order to bless practitioners. When Shakyamuni Buddha was living in this world, he was such a transferer. This explained why so many people attained fruition when they heard the Buddha’s preaching of Dharma. After the Buddha’s Parinirvana, enlightened masters should strengthen the Buddhas’ Energies to bless practitioners. Both Hui Neng and Shen Xiu were disciples of the Fifth Patriarch of the Ch’an School. However, as Hui Neng was an enlightened master and Shen Xiu hadn’t realized his self-nature, Hui Neng’s disciples practiced the Sudden School and Shen Xiu’s followers cultivated the Gradual School. Consequently, forty-three of Hui Neng’s disciples got enlightened. Later, for the same reason, eighty-seven of Ma Zu’s (Hui Neng’s Dharma successor) students realized their self-nature. However, in this century, there have been few patriarchs to function as Transferers of Buddhas’ Energies. Accordingly, the number of people who realize the self-nature is small because most practitioners still rely on their consciousness in practice.)
2. As for practitioners of Oneyana Sudden School, their comprehension of Buddhist doctrines comes from their actual practice. They focus their spiritual cultivation on actual practice with their comprehension of Buddhist doctrines complementing it. With progress in actual practice, comprehension of the teachings will deepen accordingly. The higher stage they attain in actual practice, the better their comprehension will be. Practice without comprehension of Buddhist doctrines is a Worldly Religion while comprehension of such teachings without actual practice is mere philosophy. Their comprehension of Buddhist teachings corresponds to their actual practice and they are accomplished both in exoteric and esoteric practice and doctrines. They are able to obtain Buddhas’ Energies of the ten directions and confer them upon practitioners. As a result, when they give Buddhist teachings to people when conditions arise, these teachings are appropriate to people’s understanding and in accordance with the Buddhist truth. (The author’s comment: A typical example is the Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng - an illiterate who could expound Buddhist sutras. Once, a Bhikkuni called Wu Jin Zang asked Hui Neng the meaning of certain words. The Sixth Patriarch said: “I am illiterate. But if you wish to know the purport of this work, please ask.” The Bhikkuni wondered: “How can you grasp the meaning of the text when you do not even know the words?” The Sixth Patriarch replied: “The profundity of the teachings of all the Buddhas has nothing to do with the written language. When one knows his own heart, he will realize his own Essence of Mind (True Nature).” My Guru told me that if one practiced Cundi Ritual and reached the highest attainment, he could enter Dharma Flower Samadhi and then the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra would become his words. On the contrary, the practice without comprehension of Buddhist teachings is a Worldly Religion. For example, there are certain Buddhist temples in China where Buddhist ceremonies like praying for merits and for the deceased are conducted all the year round. Buddhist monks have no time to practice or study Buddhist teachings. They also take market economy and economic benefits into consideration, so what they practice is Worldly Religion. On the other hand, comprehension of Buddhist teachings without actual practice is mere philosophy because philosophers speculate universal phenomena with their consciousness. The Sixth Patriarch said: “The reason why Sravakas, Pratyeka Buddhas and Bodhisattvas cannot comprehend conjecture the Buddha Wisdom is because they speculate on it. They may combine their efforts to speculate. But the more they speculate, the farther they are from the truth.” Practitioners can only stay in the preliminary level if they rely on their mind in practicing Buddhism.
3. Ordinary sentient beings only have the External Six Sense Organs. What they can see is Chen Shen (literally, Dust Body) or the Physical Body, so the world they perceive is nothing but the illusory world comprised by the Six Defilements. When devoted practitioners subdue their consciousness, they can enter the two kinds of Internal Pure Consciousness and thus achieve experience Gen Shen (literally, Root Body or Original Body). Thus, when they are in the state of this internal realization of Alaya Form, sentient beings perceived by them is different from what people see with the flesh eyes. Practitioners with high natural capacity to practice Oneyana can realize their self-nature quickly). At this stage, in Samadhi they feel that both the physical body and Gen Shen no longer exist, the physical body is the Dharmakaya and the filthy land is no different from pure land. In order to understand the three kinds of bodies mentioned above, practitioners can use the first six senses to see the physical body (Chen Shen). For Gen Shen (Root Body), they should subdue the first six senses and the physical body to rely on the two kinds of pure internal consciousness --- the seventh and eighth consciousness. For Dharmakaya, they must eradicate both the first six senses together with the two kinds of pure internal consciousness (at this stage, in Samadhi they feel that both Chen Shen and Gen Shen vanish) and penetrate the Dharmakaya with Great Awakening.
(The author’s comment: Chen Shen is our physical body composed by Alaya Vijnana and the four great elements. The four great elements are earth, water, fire and wind. Earth refers to our flesh and bones. Water refers to the blood. Fire refers to our body temperature that should be maintained at about 37℃. Wind refers to the breath. The physical body is illusive, perishable and easily defiled by ignorance or the environment. One Chinese proverb can well prove this truth “One blends with the color of his company”. On the other hand, our ignorance also permeates into other people’s bodies. So this physical body is compared to Chen Shen (The Dust Body). Dust refers to defilements.
We seldom hear the term Gen Shen because it is the intermediate stage of practice. I would like to tell you a true story about Ch’an masters. Master Ma Zu had one disciple called Deng Yin Feng. After staying with Ma Zu for some time, he attained certain internal realizations. So, he decided to leave Ma Zu for further instruction from Ch’an Master Shi Tou (These two words literally mean stone in Chinese). Ma Zu advised him: “The Stone is slippery. You cannot seek your instructions there.” Deng Yin Feng replied: “I only join in the fun on occasion. I don’t care if it is slippery or not.” Hearing these words, Ma Zu said: “In this way, go and have a try.” Upon meeting Master Shi Tou, Deng Yin Feng circumambulated him three times, put his staff on the ground and then inquired: “Master, what’s this?” Shi Tou answered: “Heaven! Heaven! Heaven!” Deng Yin Feng was at a loss, so he asked again. However, he was given the same answer. Deng had to travel back to Ma Zu. Master Ma Zu suggested: “Next time when he says heaven, you just need to utter the sounds Chi Chi Chi.” With Ma Zu’s support, Deng Yin Feng journeyed back to Shi Tou. He circumambulated Master Shi Tou three times and put his staff on the ground. Thinking he would be given the same answer, Deng started: “Master, what’s this?” To his surprise, Shi Tou uttered: “Chi! Chi! Chi!” (This shows that Shi Tou was an accomplished Ch’an master. Even at a long distance away, he could know what Ma Zu told Deng Yin Feng to do. As a matter of fact, these two great masters could read each other’s mind and they cooperated to instruct Deng in his Ch’an practice.) With no words to reply, Deng Yin Feng returned to Ma Zu again. Ma Zu said: “I had told you already that the Stone was too slippery to seek instruction from.” At last, Deng Yin Feng got enlightened through contemplating on Shi Tou’s words. He became a remarkable person. Once, two armies were fighting a battle. He flew into the sky and manifested himself as a heavenly soldier to stop the battle. As a result, both troops withdrew and the war ended. When he approached death, he asked his disciples: “Some people passed into Nirvana in sitting posture and some in reclining posture. Was there anyone who died handstand?” His disciples replied: “We have never heard of such things.” At once he stood upside down and passed away. His body remained handstand for several days until his sister came. She reproached: “Why are you still showing off?” All of a sudden, he fell down on the ground.
My Guru Maha Acarya Feng Da An wrote one stanza after he internally attained to the state of Gen Shen
“Supporting the sky and penetrating the earth extends a hidden dragon
Down to the bottom of the earth and up to the top of heaven
Internally Samadhi achieved and Gen Shen agile
The only reliance to handle worldly affairs flexibly is Prajna”
The esoteric meaning of the poem is: when a Ch’an practitioner gets the blessings of an enlightened master, he can experience bright and clear Energy Current (Li Xian in Chinese) gushing forth from Ming Gen (literally Source/Root of Life, about 5cm below one’s navel) to the top of the head. The Energy Current turns brighter and brighter. This is the state of Gen Shen. In Samadhi, he no longer feels the existence of the physical body. The clear and bright Energy Current extends down to the bottom of the earth and up to the top of heaven. In the story mentioned above, Deng Yin Feng had internally realized the state of Gen Shen. He used the staff as a symbol of Energy Current and intended to get Shi Tou’s instruction. However, the Energy Current he experienced was still inside his physical body. So, Shi Tou said: “Heaven! Heaven! Heaven!” These words actually advised him to develop and extend his Energy Current upward. Heaven refers to the Heavenly Realms above the human world, comprised by Caturmaharajayika, Trayastrimsa, Yama, Tusita, Nirmanarati, Paranirmitavasavartin, the First Dhyana Heaven, the Second Dhyana Heaven, the Third Dhyana Heaven and the Fourth Dhyana Heaven. When the Energy Current reaches the top of Heaven and the bottom of the earth, its great power will make a practitioner sever the Innate Attachment to Ego so he could attain Suchness as Intrinsic Void. The stanza written by the Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng also refers to the state of Suchness as Intrinsic Void. (“Fundamentally Bodhi is no tree. Nor the clean mirror a stand. Since everything is primordially empty. What is there for dust to cling to?”) In Buddhism, such a state is called as the Seventh Stage of Bodhisattva Development, i.e., Duramgama (proceeding afar), which actually means that the Energy Current penetrates the top of Heaven and the bottom of the earth. It is so long that people call it the Stage of Proceeding afar. (Yuan Xing Di in Chinese). This is the intermediate stage of Ch’an practice. The highest stage of Ch’an practice is the realization of the Dharmakaya. My Guru wrote a stanza after he attained Dharmakaya
“From Ju Dian (Ming Gen) bursts forth the great and powerful nature
The physical body is immediately transformed into the Samantabhadra Body
The Fourth Patriarch Nagabodhi had the compassionate wish
To stay in the world for a millenium to benefit the later generations.”
I will explain the stanza here. Ming Gen is the location for human consciousness. Consciousness is Alaya Vijnana. Mankind is insignificant in the universe because of their limitations in the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, the body, the mind, Manas and Alaya Vijnana that plays the major role. Alaya Vijnana is located inside the physical body. Accordingly, the physical body is very small when it is perceived through one’s consciousness. However, when one practices to a stage where he can receive all Buddhas’ Energies, such energies will flow from the top of the head to Ming Gen, thus breaking the confinement of the eight kinds of consciousness. In an instant, in Samadhi, he experiences that both the physical body and Gen Shen vanish. He only feels that he penetrates the ten directions of worlds. This body is called as the Samantabhadra Body. So my Guru wrote, “The physical body is immediately transformed into the Samantabhadra Body”. When one attains this Samantabhadra Body, in Samadhi this Body and his Essence of Mind (True Nature) are in Oneness This Body is the Essence of Mind (True Nature) and The Essence of Mind (True Nature) is the Body. They are in complete unity. The practitioner experiences complete agility, tranquility, brightness and great bliss. After my Guru realized this state in his practice, he changed the name of his residence into the Samantabhadra Bodhimandala (Place for Practice). He even wrote one stanza which quotes:
“Having realized Suchness and the Pure Dharmakaya
This One body is now complete with Three Uses
The loving-kindness of this old man
Is great and boundless (great and boundless is the compassionate wish forever) forever.”
When the physical body is transformed into Dharmakaya, the impermanent becomes permanent, the filthy land is turned into pure land and illusive happiness becomes true happiness. Up to now, one has reached the state of Dharmakaya. There is nothing that he cannot penetrate into when conditions arise and there is nothing that he doesn’t with the shines of his Great Awakening. This is called Dharmakaya.
4. The Sixth Patriarch said: “The reason why Sravakas, Pratyeka Buddhas and Bodhisattvas cannot comprehend the Buddha wisdom is because they speculate on it. They may combine their efforts to speculate. But the more they speculate, the farther they are from the truth.”
These sentences tell Ch’an practitioners not to cultivate their practice by relying on their consciousness. Otherwise, they cannot comprehend Buddha wisdom no matter how hard they practice. For instance, such people cannot understand Gen Shen and Dharmakaya as mentioned above.
The Dharma teachings given by the Sixth Patriarch and Maha Acarya Feng Da An are concise and important guiding principles for practitioners to comprehend Buddhist teachings and apply them to actual practice. If Oneyana practitioners can meet the three requirements as stated in the Diamond Sutra, appreciate the wonderful purport of the Dharma teachings given by the Sixth Patriarch and Maha Acarya Feng Da An, naturally they can believe the words spoken in the Diamond Sutra and accept them as true.
Buddhist practitioners have always held the Diamond Sutra in high respect. Many people uphold, recite, copy, explain and annotate it. But a few can really penetrate its essence because they try to speculate on the literal meaning of the text. For, example, in the chapter The Great Loving-kindness of an Outline of the Diamond Sutra, the Buddha said to Subhuti: “all Bodhisattvas and Mahasattvas should subdue their mind like this…Why? Because if a Bodhisattva still clings to the false perception of a self, a person, a living being and a life span, he is not a true Bodhisattva.” This passage from the sutra is indeed profound and can’t be comprehended through pondering on its surface meaning. A practitioner can truly and thoroughly appreciate its esoteric meaning only after he has brought forth Bodhicitta (the heart of enlightenment) and entered the Samadhi of Great Loving-kindness in cultivating the Boundless Heart of Loving-kindness. After one has entered the Samadhi of Great Loving-kindness he reaches the stage of Bodhisattvas and Mahasattvas. So in the first chapter of the Diamond Sutra, the Buddha called practitioners Good Men and Women. As their practice deepened, the Buddha referred to them as Bodhisattvas and Mahasattvas in this part of the text. The Six Senses, Attachment to Ego, Ignorance and the seeds in Alaya Vijnana interact with one another. Thus, sentient beings form the illusive perception of a self, a person, a living being… Practitioners can subdue their mind after they have entered the Samadhi of the Great Loving-kindness in their practice. At this stage, the eight kinds of consciousness will vanish without leaving a trace, and the bright and pure light of the Great Loving-kindness will radiate over all Dharmadhatu. Consequently, when the consciousness is subdued, the true wisdom surfaces. In Samadhi, they can put all the phenomena together to their true nature, and penetrate the true nature of all sentient beings and all the nature are merged in Oneness. They experience complete agility, tranquility, brightness and great bliss. Having no perception of a self, a person and a living being is also what the Sixth Patriarch described as “No- phenomena as the true nature of Dharmadhatu.” The perception of a self actually results from the limitation of the eight kinds of consciousness. When practitioners enter the Samadhi of Great Loving-kindness, they can subdue these kinds of consciousness and what they experience in Samadhi is the state of complete tranquility, brightness, agility and great bliss without the perception of a self, a person and a living being. In the all-pervading radiance of the Great Mirror Wisdom, they can penetrate all the phenomena of the past, the present and the future at the same time. They have no perception of time, so the Buddha said there was no life span. For example, there are twenty-six letters in English. If an ordinary person starts reading letters from A to B, when he recites B, A is in the past while C is in the future. However, when one is accomplished in his practice, all letters are present at the same time with no past or the future. As there is no distinction of time, there is no form of life span. The esoteric meaning of the above-cited passage must be appreciated through one’s real practice and internal realizations. It’s beyond the understanding of people who try to catch its literal meanings. Therefore, the Sixth Patriarch’s words were quite to the point when he said that: “The reason why Sravakas, Pratyeka Buddhas and Bodhisattvas cannot comprehend the Buddha wisdom is because they speculate on it. They may combine their efforts to speculate, but the more they speculate, the farther they are from the truth.”
All sentient beings have Buddha nature. Albert Einstein had good roots and exceptional wisdom. He said: “For us physicists with beliefs, the distinction of the past, the present and the future is only a misperception and it is even an obstinate view.” His words conform to one verse from the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Sutra “Dharma Abode and Dharma Status (Both of them are names for Suchness), all phenomena in the world are permanent”. But Einstein could only understand it through deduction in mathematical logic. Practitioners who have entered the Samadhi of Great Loving-kindness can actually prove the truth of this Dharma teaching in their practice.
The verse “Dharma Abode and Dharma Status, all worldly phenomena are permanent” seems to contradict the stanza from the Diamond Sutra “All Conditioned Dharmas are like a dream, an illusion, a bubble or a shadow. Like dew or like a lightning flash. Contemplate them like this.” We should understand the above cited two quotations in this way. “Dharma Abode and Dharma Status, all worldly phenomena in the world are permanent” talks about Asamskrta Dharmas which are not subject to causes or conditions. It describes the internal realization when one doesn’t have the perception of time. The stanza from the Diamond Sutra expounds on the Conditioned Dharmas, which result from the law of Karma. As conditions are changeable and impermanent, the Buddha said: “All Conditioned Dharmas are like a dream, an illusion, a bubble or a shadow.” However, if the practitioner can attain the internal realization in which he experiences no perception of time, all phenomena become permanent instead of being changeable or perishable. There used to be a Ch’an Master called De Shan. When he heard that practitioners of the Southern School could become Buddhas in this single lifetime, he flew into a rage. He thought to himself: “We cannot become Buddhas even after we have cultivated our practice for three great Asanga Kalpas. How can the Southern barbarians boast they can reach Buddhahood in this life?” He decided to destroy the temple in the South where one could realize the self-nature in this lifetime, so he took with him his annotations to the Diamond Sutra entitled Qing Long Shou Chao with the intention of having a debate with Ch’an master Long Tan. Long Tan had the supernatural power to read people’s mind. He knew that De Shan was on his way to the temple, so he asked one female disciple to wait for De Shan by the roadside. She disguised herself as a vender to sell fried pancakes. Master De Shan was both hungry and thirsty after he traveled for a long time. Seeing a woman selling fried pancakes, he wanted to buy some as Dian Xin (refreshments. literally meaning pointing the mind/heart in Chinese). But the woman was mischievous. She said: “These pancakes are offered to great masters. If you can answer my question, you are then a great master and I will give them to you free. If you cannot come up with a good answer, I will burn the book Qing Long Shou Chao in your hand.” De Shan thought to himself in a slighting manner “How can a woman have any achievement?” He then told her that she could raise her question. The woman proceeded: “The Diamond Sutra quotes “The past mind cannot be grasped, neither can the present mind or the future mind.” Since the mind cannot be grasped, why do you buy the fried pancakes as Dian Xin?” (pointing the mind). De Shan was speechless. As he couldn’t answer this question, the woman burned his book Qing Long Shou Chao without hesitation. How can practitioners understand the verse from the Diamond Sutra that the past, present and future mind cannot be grasped? When they attain the internal realization in which they experience no perception of time, and when in the all-pervading radiance of the Great Mirror Wisdom they penetrate all the phenomena of the past, present and the future, they can understand the esoteric meaning of this verse.
People without good roots are not interested in Buddhist sutras. Even some who recite the Diamond Sutra would have doubts about some sentences and words in the sutra. I used to have doubts about the sentences spoken by the Buddha to Subhuti. The words quote: “Anyone who, for only a second, gives rise to pure and clear confidence upon hearing these words of the Tathagata, the Tathagata sees and knows that person, and she or he will attain boundless merits and virtue”. But all my doubts were resolved by two experiences.
Once in the past I went to the Guan Yin Mansion in Guangzhou to listen to the explanation of the Vimalakirti Sutra given by Dharma Master Fa Ke from Hong Kong. The Dharma master said that Manjusri Bodhisattva and Layman Vimalakirti kept on discussing Buddhism. At that time, Sariputra thought to himself: “It’s time to eat. You two sages keep on discussing like this, when can we have our meals?” Layman Vimalakirti said immediately: “Sariputra, you come for the Dharma or for food?” Sariputra was embarrassed, so he answered: “I come for the Dharma, not for food.” Vimalakirti continued to say: “A seeker who is seeking for the Dharma should risk his for it, let alone food!” I was deeply touched by such words and I have been a vegetarian ever since. I was only 18 years old at that time.
During the so-called Great Cultural Revolution, my mother went to Guangzhou to pay her respect to Maha Acarya Feng Da An. Maha Acarya Feng Da An told me that she had good natural capacity. If she ate meat and five kinds of forbidden pungent roots, she could only be reborn in the Lotus Heavenly Realm. If she became a vegetarian, she would definitely be reborn in the Buddhas’ Pure Land. I was then a teacher in Dong Guan city. After my return from Guangzhou, my mother started taking vegetarian food. I always went to market to buy eggs without sperms. At that time, vegetarians or Buddhists would be regarded as “monsters” and were criticized severely at public meetings. Once on my way to the market, I met a lady in charge of the community where we lived. She said: “Oh, Mr.Yang, you go to the market again for eggs.” I was startled by her words, fearing that she would know I was a vegetarian. I was in a dilemma for I didn’t know whether my mother should take vegetarian food or not. I had not told my Guru what was in my mind. Dong Guan is 60 kilometres away from Guangzhou. Maha Acarya Feng Da An couldn’t have known what I was worried about. But when I went to Guangzhou, Maha Acarya Feng Da An said to me suddenly: “The question of life and death is the most important thing in life. Your mother should take vegetarian food strictly. Although she takes vegetarian foods on designated days, it is harmful to her if she eats flesh and the five pungent roots at other times. You can tell other people that eggs are nutritious and easy to be digested.” It was that time that I was convinced the Tathagata knows and sees all. When sentient beings give rise to a thought, he knows it immediately.
In the instruction given by Maha Acarya Feng Da An, ordinary sentient beings have the external Six Senses. The Six Senses refer to the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, the body and the consciousness, which plays the major role.
Mankind can distinguish and discover the objective law of all the phenomena in the universe. Therefore, human mind (or consciousness) is the source of all the cultures in the world, and it brought about the miracles and wonders in the development of science and technology. However, all these developments are still within the confinements of the Six Defilements and they are relative. The material civilization has caused heavy pollution to the environment, seriously contaminating the water and air indispensable to mankind. Many species of life become extinct. Fatal diseases caused by the pollution increase rapidly and people’s heart is also defiled. Pornographic books and movies are seen everywhere. Gambling and drug-taking become rife. Violence in the family, killing of family members, youth problems frequently take place. Terrorists, robbers and bandits are rampant. Sometimes, hooligans commit crimes in busy commercial centers and no one helps the victims despite their crying for help. All these phenomena not only scare people but also make them have no sense of security. The orthodox teachings of Buddhism can’t play the role in purifying people’s mind. On the contrary, heterodox teachings and masters are swindling and bluffing around, trying to confuse people’s mind and defame the orthodox Buddhist teachings. As a result, many upright and kind-hearted people are eager to learn the orthodox teachings of Buddhism because these teachings can really pure people’s mind and help stabilize the country. However, Buddhist practitioners must accomplish their practice in order to convince the worldly people of the benefits of Buddhism.
A workman must first sharpen his tools if he is to do his work well. Science attaches great importance to experiments while Buddhism requires actual practice. The process of practice is the process to “subdue one’s mind like this” as stated in the Diamond Sutra. The two words “like this” denote the idea of “(to subdue one’s mind) with the power of my merits and virtues, the power of blessings from the Buddhas and the power of nourishing from the Dharmadhatu”. If practitioners try to understand Buddhist doctrines through pondering on the literal meanings of the words, their comprehension is still within the limits of the Six Defilements no matter how highly educated they are or how eloquent they are in giving Dharma talks. They are only in the preliminary stage of practice. When they enter Samadhi and don’t feel the existence of the physical body, they can achieve Gen Shen and have reached the second stage of practice. When in Samadhi, they feel that both the physical body and Gen Shen are no longer in existence, they have attained the Dharmakaya. Only then have they reached the highest stage of practice. This teaching has been mentioned in the preceding passage.
Practitioners will have internal realizations in their practice. It’s the Age of the End of Dharma now and heterodox people and Maras take this opportunity to confuse people’s mind by disguising themselves as Buddhism practitioners. Therefore, practitioners must be able to distinguish the true internal realizations from the false ones. How can they make this distinction? If their realizations are true, their virtues, wisdom and power of concentration will improve. They can even make noticeable progress. In the Introduction to the Buddhism Monthly The Comprehensive Voice, Maha Acarya Feng Da An wrote: “Guangdong province is famous in the world for spreading the Oneyana teachings. People, Buddhist practitioners or not, the monks or the laity, as long as they can penetrate the Wonderful Purport and merge it with their true nature and body in Oneness, they can handle all the mundane affairs flexibly and with perfection. They can even use it to benefit sentient beings. As for Buddhist practitioners who have attained the Wonderful Purport, Vinaya practitioners will naturally penetrate the essence of precepts, and whatever they do will conform to Pratimoksa; Pure Land practitioners will definitely be reborn in the Buddha’s Pure Land; the Sunya School practitioners will correspond to the True Reality; Dharmalaksana practitioners will attain to the highest stage of practice with perfection; Dharmata practitioners will penetrate the origin of Dharma; esoteric practitioners will achieve Siddhi; even the Four Fruitions of Triyana teachings can quickly and completely abandon their Hinayana views and bring forth the heart of enlightenment (Bodhicitta). As for non-Buddhist practitioners who have penetrated the Wonderful Purport of Oneyana, the Confucians will become sages; the Taoists will reach a state higher than that of Gods and Celestials; emperors and kings will become so benevolent that the whole country will benefit; scholars will become the most intelligent people: generals will devote their lives to protecting the country and its people; officials will truly love the people and vow not to take bribes; even the ordinary people can be more and more loyal, filial, upright, righteous and honest. When one is virtuous, it can make him benevolent. If one’s heart is defiled, it can purify the polluted heart. Blessed is the Miraculous Usage of the supreme Buddhist Dharma.!”
On the contrary, if the realizations are false or illusory, the practitioners will become attached to fame, gains and other people’s veneration. For example, a man said that he was greater than Shakyamuni Buddha was. Such words clearly show that he is an evil Mara. He is Li Hong Zhi -- the founder of the so-called Fa Lun Da Fa. Arrogant and boastful, he tries to cheat the public by his claptrap. He even encourages his followers to cause great public disorder and chaos. This action exposes his lack of virtues. His words contradict the unsurpassable wonderful purport of the Diamond Sutra. He doesn’t allow his followers to take medicine when they are sick and it proves the fact that he doesn’t have much wisdom. Some people have mental illusions and thus become insane after practicing his so-called Qi Gong practice. This shows that their concentration is heretic and evil. Practitioners shouldn’t go astray to the wrong path and become the victims.
Enlightened masters can transfer Buddhas’ Energy of the ten directions and confer it upon practitioners. Their Suchness can penetrate practitioners’ ignorance and rid them of their previous karmic obstructions so as to get enlightened. On the contrary, evil or heterodox masters’ turbid energy will defile practitioners’ mind and Suchness, thus making them even more deluded. There are two examples to illustrate this point.
March this year, Mr.Li from Da Lian told me: “I used to receive initiation from a heterodox master for two hours. My mind became dazed and my intelligence clearly went down. When I asked him why I would react like that, he said that the reactions were normal in the preliminary stage of practice.”
In the middle of nineteen eighties, after people were allowed to practice Buddhism in China, some people in Beijing gave initiation. A group of young people from Guangzhou went to Beijing. After the initiation, two people became mad. One man who was from another city threw a ball made of coal at his “master” and it hit him on the forehead. Another young man from Guangzhou got crazy and Mr.He who went there with him had to accompany him everywhere. When they went to the street, he wouldn’t take the pedestrians’ walk with Mr.He and said: “You take your path in the nether world and I will take mine in this world.” Then, he ran to the fence of the vehicles’ lane and jumped from one side to another as if he were a hurdlist. Mr.He was scared.
Practitioners must attach importance to the theory of permeation. (Readers can refer to The Gate Mantra and the Three Stages of Ch’an Practice published in the Buddhist journal Chen Na.) Maha Acarya Feng Da An once told me a story.
Zhang Mu Zhi was good at drawing pictures of horses. In order to observe the habits, actions and facial expressions of horses, he lived in the stable. He knew everything about the horses so well that the horses he drew were vivid and true to life. However, the turbid energy of the horses kept on permeating into his Alaya Vijnana. As a result, he was reborn as a horse after he died. (The author’s comment: Please refer to the book The Fundamental Tenets of The Divine Eye written by Maha Acarya Feng Da An).
Many smart people in this world end up with no accomplishment because they have no aspirations in life. Some might tread evil paths. Such people are victims of their own cleverness. Likewise, some people with high natural capacity also achieve nothing because they have no clear aim, strong determination and perseverance. This is a pity indeed.
Ambitious people with high aspirations in life must bear the following 14 rules in mind in order to be successful in this life.
They must have clear aim, right attitude, concentration of mind, strong determination, diligent practice and perseverance. They should keep on improving; not to be defiled by favorable conditions and not to wavered by unfavorable conditions. The more adverse the environments are, the further they should advance. The lonelier they are, the more diligent they should be. They have to carry on this practice ceaselessly even after they have reached enlightenment and accomplished their goals.
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