THE SORROWLESS FLOWERS
351.Priceless Message from the Buddha
352. The First Five Disciples of the Buddha
353. Six Stages of Bodhisattva Developments
354. Three Periods of Buddha’s Teachings
355. Points of Harmony
356. Four Fields of Grace
357. Ten Divine Powers of a Tathagata
358. The Buddha Nature
359. The Thus-Come One
361. Neither Birth Nor Death
362. Three-Thousand-Great Thousand World
363. Form is Emptiness and the Very Emptiness is Form
364. Forms and Trilaksana
351. Priceless Message from the Buddha
Priceless Message from the Buddha or the Four Noble Truths is one of the most important parts in the Buddha’s Teachings. The Buddha gave this message to suffering humanity for their guidance, to help them to be rid of the bondage of “Dukkha” and to attain happiness, both relative and absolute (relative happiness or worldly happiness, absolute happiness or Nirvana). These Truths are not the Buddha’s creation. He only re-discovered their existence. The Buddha said: “I am neither a vaguely so-called God nor an incarnation of any vaguely so-called God. I am only a man who re-discovers what had been covered for so long. I am only a man who attains enlightenment by completely comprehending all Noble Truths.” In fact, the Buddha is a man who deserves our respect and reverence not only as a teacher but also as a Saint. He was a man, but an extraordinary man, a unique being in the universe. All his achievements are attributed to his human effort and his human understanding. He achived the highest mental and intellectual attainments, reached the supreme purity and was perfect in the best qualities of human nature. He was an embodiment of compassion and wisdom, two noble principles in Buddhism. The Buddha never claimed to be a savior who tried to save ‘souls’ by means of a revelation of other religions. The Buddha’s message is simple but priceless to all of us: “Infinite potentialities are latent in man and that it must be man’s effort and endeavor to develop and unfold these possibilities. That is to say, in each man, there exists the Buddha-nature; however, deliverance and enlightenment lie fully within man’s effort and endeavor.”
352. The First Five Disciples of the Buddha
According to The Buddha and His Teaching, written by Most Venerable Narada, the first five disciples of the Buddha were Kondanna, Bhaddiya, Dasabala-Kasyapa, Mahanama, and Assaji. They were of the Brahmin clan. Kondanna was the youngest and cleverest of the eight brahmins who were summoned by King Suddhodana to name the infant prince. The other four were the sons of those older brahmins. All these five retired to the forest as ascetics in anticipation of the Bodhisattva while he was endeavouring to attain Buddhahood. When he gave up his useless penances and severe austerities and began to nourish the body sparingly to regain his lost strength, these favourite followers, disappointed at his change of method, deserted him and went to Isipatana. Soon after their departure the Bodhisattva attained Buddhahood. Right after his enlightenment, the Buddha started out to the Deer Park in Benares. The five ascetics saw him coming from afar decided not to pay him due respect as they miscontrued his discontinuance of rigid ascetic practices which proved absolutely futile during his struggle for enlightenment. They convinced one another as follow: “Friends, this ascetic Gotama is coming. He is luxurious. He has given up striving and has turned into a life of abundance. He should not be greeted and waited upon. His bowl and robe should not be taken. Nevertheless a seat should be prepared in case he wished to sit down with us.” However, when the Buddha continued to draw near, his august personality was such solemnly that they were compelled to receive him with due honour. One came forward and took his bowl and robe, another prepared a seat, and yet another prepared water for his washing of feet. Nevertheless, they addressed him by name and called him friend (avuso), a form of address applied generally to juniors and equals. At this time, the Buddha addressed them thus: “Do not, Bhikkhus, addressed the Tathagata by name, or by title “friend.” An Exalted One, O Bhikkhus, is the Tathagata. A fully enlightened one is he. Give ear, O Bhikkhus! Deathlessness has been attained. I shall instruct and teach the Dharma. If you act according to my instructions, you will before long realize, by your own intuitive wisdom, and live, attaining in this life itself, that supreme consummation of the holy life, for the sake of which sons of noble families rightly leave the household for homelessness.” Thereupon the five ascetics replied: “By that demeanour of yours, avuso Gotama, by that discipline, by those painful austerities, you did not attain to any superhuman specific knowledge and insight worthy of an Ariya. How will you, when you have become luxurious, have given up striving, and have turned into a life of abundance, gain nay such superhuman specific knowledge and insight worthy of an Ariya?” In further explanation, the Buddha said: “The Tathagata, O Bhikkhus, is not not luxurious, has not given up striving, and has not turned into a life of abundance. An exalted one is the Tathagata. A fully enlightened one is he. Give ear, O Bhikkhus! Deathlessness has been attained. I shall instruct and teach the Dharma. If you act according to my instructions, you will before long realize, by your own intuitive wisdom, and live, attaining in this life itself, that supreme consummation of the holy life, for the sake of which sons of noble families rightly leave the household for homelessness.” For the second time the prejudiced ascetics expressed their disappointment in the same manner. For the second time the Buddha reassured theom of his attainment to enlightenment. When the adamant ascetics refusing to believe him, expressed their view for the third time, the Buddha questioned them thus: “Do you know, O Bhikkhus, of an occasion when I ever spoke to you thus before?” The five ascetics replied: “Nay, indeed Lord!” The Buddha then repeated for the third time that he had gained enlightenment and that they also could realize the truth if they would act according to his instructions. It was indeeda frank utterance, issuing from the sacred lips of the Buddha. The cultured ascetics, though adamant in their views, were then fully convinced of the great achievements of the Buddha and of his competence to act as their moral guide and teacher. They believed his words and sat in silence to listen to his noble teaching. Three of the ascetics the Buddha instructed, while three went out for alms. With what the two ascetics brought from their almsround the six maintained themselves. The next day, two of the ascetics he instructed, while the other three ascetics went out for alms. With what the three brought back, six sustained themselves. And those five ascetics thus admonished and instructed by the Buddha, being themselves subject to birth, decay, death, sorrow, and passions, realized the real nature of life and, seeking out the birthless, decayless, diseaseless, deathless, sorrowless, passionless, incomparable supreme peace, Nirvana, attained the incomparable security, Nirvana, which is free from birth, decay, disease, death, sorrow, and passions. The knowledge arose in them that their deliverance was unshakable, that it was their last birth and that there would be no more of this state again. The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, which deals with the Four Noble Truths, was the first discourses delivered by the Buddha to them. After hearing it, Kondanna, the eldest, attained the first stage of sainthood. After receiving further instructions, the other four attained Sotapatti later. On hearing the Anattalakkhana Sutta, which deals with soullessness, all the five attained Arahantship, the final stage of sainthood.
353. Six Stages of Bodhisattva Developments
The six stages of Bodhisattva developments as defined in the T’ien-T’ai Perfect or Final Teaching, in contrast with the ordinary six developments as found in the Differentiated or Separated School. The first two stages are called “External or Common to all”. First, Theoretical stage, or the realization that all beings are of Buddha-nature. Next, the first step in practical advance; the apprehension of terms, that those who only hear and believe are in the Buddha-law and potentially Buddha. The last four stages are called the “Internal for all”. The third stage is the advance beyond terminology to meditation, or study and accordant action. The fourth stage is semblance stage, or approximation of truth and its progressive experiential proof. The fifth stage is destroy all ignorance and delusions to attain Perfect enlightenment (Fruition of holiness). The sixth stage is the real wisdom is gradually opened, the screen of ignorance is gradually rolled up, the mind is clearer and clearer to totally clear.
354. Three Periods of Buddha’s Teachings
The Teachings of the Buddha are divided into three periods (of Dharma). The first period is the Correct dharma. The correct dharma age is the era when the Buddha dwelled in the world. At that time the Buddha taught the Dharma, and there were genuine Arhats, great Bodhisattvas, and the sages who appeared as great disciples of the Buddha. The real period of Buddhism which lasted 500 years (some says 1,000 years) after the death of the Buddha (entered the Maha-Nirvana). Although the Buddha was no longer in existence, His Dharma and precepts were still properly practiced and upheld. Furthermore, there would be many Buddhists who had light karma and their mind were intrinsically good, therefore, many of them would attain enlightenment in their cultivation. From eighty to ninety out of one hundred cultivators would attain enlightenment. That is to say there were true and genuine practitioners who attained enlightenment. In the Lankavatara Sutra, the Buddha said: “Mahamati! When the right doctrine is comprehended, there will be no discontinuation of the Buddha-family.” The Correct Dharma Period is also a period when the right or true doctrines of the Buddha are utilized in cultivation such as the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. In the Mahamaya Sutra, the Buddha prophesied: “After I enter the Maha-Nirvana, one hundred years later, there will be a Bhikshu named Upagupta who will have the complete ability to speak, elucidate, and clarify the Dharma similar to Purna Maitrayaniputtra. He will aid and rescue infinite sentient beings. In the following one hundred years (two hundred years after the Buddha’s Maha-Nirvana), there will be a Bhikshu named Silananda, able to speak the crucial Dharma discerningly and will aid and save twelve million beings in this Jambudvipa continent (the earth). In the following one hundred years (or three hundred years after the Buddha’s Maha-Nirvana), there will be a Bhikshu named Hsin-Lien-Hua-Ran, who will speak the Dharma to aid and save five hundred thousand beings. One hundred years after Hsin-Lien-Hua-Ran (four hundred years after the Buddha’s Maha-Nirvana), there will be a Bhikshu named Niu-k’ou, who will speak the Dharma and rescue ten thousand beings. One hundred years after Niu-K’ou (five hundred years after the Buddha’s Maha-Nirvana), there will be a Bhikshu named Bao-T’ien, who will speak the Dharma to aid and save twenty thousand beings and influence infinite others to develop the Ultimate Bodhi Mind. After this time, the Proper Dharma Age will come to an end. Six hundred years after the Buddha’s Maha-Nirvana, ninety-six types of improper doctrines will arise, false teachings will be born to destroy the Proper Dharma. At that time, a Bhikshu named Asvaghosha will be born. This Bhikshu will use great wisdom to speak of the Dharma to combat these false religions. Seven hundred years after the Buddha’s Maha-Nirvana, there will born a Bhikshu named Nagarjuna; he will use the power of the Proper Prajna or great wisdom to destroy false views to light brightly the Buddha’s Dharma’s torch.” In the Dharmapada Sutra, the Buddha taught: “Long is the night to the wakeful; long is the road to him who is tired; long is samsara to the foolish who do not know true Law (Dharmapada 60). Eagerly try not to be heedless, follow the path of righteousness. He who observes this practice lives happily both in this world and in the next (Dharmapada 168). Follow the path of righteousness. Do not do evil. He who practices this, lives happily both in this world and in the next (Dharmapada 169).”
The Period of Semblance Dharma or the Semblance of Law period, or the formal period of Buddhism which lasted 1000 years after the real period. In this period, Monks, Nuns and Lay Buddhists still continue to practice properly the Dharma as the Buddha taught and are still able to penetrate the spiritual realm of samadhi even though fewer will attain enlightenment. The period of Counterfeit Law is the time when the truth preached by the Buddha still exists but is learned and practiced as a matter formality, and there is no longer enlightenment. In this period, Buddhist monks devote themselves to gaining a thorough knowledge of Buddhist doctrines and formalities and are proud of themselves for being learned. Some of them only keep the precepts and practice them with indifference to others, and lead religious lives aloof from the world. The rest are weak followers. In such a period, Buddhist monks have lost touch with the true life and soul of Buddhism. However, in this age, the Buddha’s Dharma and precepts left behind are destroyed by Evil-monks and Non-Buddhists who disguise themselves as Buddhist monks and nuns to destroy the teaching by falsely explaining and teaching the Buddha Dharma. Thus, the Dharma still exists and there are still cultivators, but very few attain enlightenment. Only seven or eight out of one hundred cultivators will attain enlightenment. According to the Mahamaya Sutra, about eight hundred years after the Buddha’s Maha-Nirvana, the majority of ordained Buddhists will be greedy for fame and fortune, will be lazy and not control their minds and consciences, lacking of self-mastery. About nine hundred years after the Buddha’s Maha-Nirvana, in the order of Bhikshus and Bhikshunis, the majority will be servants who abandon the secular life to become ordained Buddhists. One thousand years after the Buddha’s Maha-Nirvana, when Bhikshus hear of the practice of ‘Envisioning Impurity,’ and the dharma of ‘Breathing Meditation,’ they will get depressed and disenchanted having little desire to cultivate. Therefore, in one hundred thousand cultivators, only few will penetrate the proper Meditation State. From that time, gradually those of religious ranks will destroy the precepts, whether by drinking alcohol, killing, selling possessions and belongings of the Triple Jewels, or practicing impure conducts. If they have a son, they will let him become a Bhikshu, and if they have a daughter they will let her become a Bhikshuni, so they can continue to steal from and destroy Buddhism as well as using the good name of the Triple Jewels to reap self-benefits. These are signs of warning that the Buddha Dharma is nearing extinction. However, there are still some people who know how to uphold the proper precepts and conducts by diligently trying to maintain and propagate the proper doctrine.
Degenerate Age of Dharma means the final stage of Buddhist existence in the world, during which practice and adherence to monastic rules will gradually decline, even the external symbols of Buddhism will also disappear, and other signs in monasteries such as the appearance of evil monks, or married monks, or monks only in appearance, etc. However, some Buddhists still believe that during the “ending dharma age,” if you just remember one sentence of “Namo Amitabha Buddha,” and sincerely pratice it, you can be welcomed by such Buddha at the end of your life at the Western Paradise. The conditions at that paradise are optimal for sentient beings to continue to cultivate until they attain BuddhahoodDegeneration Age of Dharma means the final stage of Buddhist existence in the world, during which practice and adherence to monastic rules will gradually decline, even the external symbols of Buddhism will also disappear, and other signs in monasteries such as the appearance of evil monks, or married monks, or monks only in appearance, etc. However, some Buddhists still believe that during the “ending dharma age,” if you just remember one sentence of “Namo Amitabha Buddha,” and sincerely pratice it, you can be welcomed by such Buddha at the end of your life at the Western Paradise. The conditions at that paradise are optimal for sentient beings to continue to cultivate until they attain Buddhahood. The final period of teaching of Buddhism which lasted 3000 years after the formal period. Toward the end of this period, there won’t be any more teaching of Buddhism which means the Buddhadharma will end (vanish from the world) one day. However, Buddha Maitreya or Laughing (Happy) Buddha is to appear to restore all things. The last of the three periods (The Proper Dharma Age, The Dharma Semblance Age, and The Dharma Ending Age), the age of degeneration and extinction of the Buddha-law. In this age, the Dharma and precepts are weakened significantly. Many othe religions, non-Buddhists, and evil spirits will enter and blend in with Buddhism, destroying the Buddha Dharma. Thus, the Dharma still exists and there are cultivators, but very few practitioners are able to grasp fully the proper Dharma or awakened to the Way, much less attain enlightenment. In the Great Heap Sutra, the Buddha made this prophecy: “In the Dharma Ending Age, in hundreds of thousands and hundreds of thousands of cultivators, as the result, no one will attain enlightenment.” In the Dharma Extinction Sutra, the Buddha prophesized: “In the future, when my Dharma is about to end, in this world of the five turbidities, false religions will arise to become very powerful. During those times, the evil’s relatives will take form, appearing as Bhikshus, to destroy the Buddha Dharma. They will eat, sleep, and wear ordinary clothing of lay persons, fond of five exotic assorted colorings worn on their robes, instead of the three solid indigo blue, brown and gold colored robes which Bhikshus are supposed to wear. They eat meat, drink alcohol, kill, lust for fragrances and aromas, with non-helping conscience. Instead, they will become jealous of and hateful toward one another; this monk will hate or be jealous with the other monk, this monastery will hate or be jealous with the other monastery. At that time, Bodhisattvas, Pratyeka-buddhas, and Arhats who had vowed previously to protect and defend the Buddha-Dharma, will appear in life, taking on human form as Bhikshus or lay people. These saints will be devoted cultivators; their religious conduct and behavior will be very honorable, earning everyone’s admiration and respect. They will have virtuous qualities such as kindness and peace, have no impure thoughts, great tolerance, good will, help the old, the weak, the lonely, and often bring statues and sutras to encourage everyone to worship, read, and chant. They will teach sentient beings in a fair and objective manner and will cultivate many merits and virtuous practices. They will be altruistic always practicing the concept of ‘self-loss for others’ gain.’ With the appearance of such religious and virtuous people, other demonic Bhikshus will develop much hatred and jealousy. They will slander, make wicked and false accusations, do everything possible so these kind and virtuous people cannot live in peace. From that point forth, those demonic Bhikshus will become even more reckless and wild, never practicing Dharma, leaving temples to rot, ruined and desolate. Their only interest will be to build their private fortune, having careers that are unacceptable in Buddhism, such as burning mountains and forests, without a good conscience, killing and hurting many sentient beings. In such times, there will be many servants taking the opportunity to become Bhikshus and Bhikshunis; they will be neither religious nor virtuous. Instead, they will be lustful and greedy, where Bhikshus and Bhikshunis live with one another. The Buddha-Dharma will be destroyed in the hands of these people. Also, there will be many criminals entering the religious gate, increasing the consciousness of laziness and laxity, refusing to learn or to cultivate the Way. When the reading of precepts comes around the middle of every month, they will act passively, reluctantly, and refuse to listen carefully. If teaching and expounding the precepts and doctrines, they will go over them briefly, skipping different sections, refusing to state all of them. If reading and chanting sutra-poetry, and not familiar with the lines, words, or their deep meanings, they will refuse to search or ask for answers from those who have great wisdom, but instead they will be narcissistic and conceited, seek fame and praise, and think they are all-knowing. Even so, on the outside, they will act religious and virtuous, often prasing themselves, hoping everyone will make offerings or charitable donations to them. After these demonic Bhikshus die, they will be condemned into the realm of hell, hungry ghost, and animal, and must endure these conditions for many reincarnations. After repaying for these transgressions, they will be born as human beings, but far away from civilization, places that do not have the Triple Jewels. In the Dharma Extinction Sutra, the Buddha prophesized: “In the future, when my Dharma is about to end, in this world of the five turbidities, false religions will arise to become very powerful. During those times, the evil’s relatives will take form, appearing as Bhikshus, to destroy the Buddha Dharma. They will eat, sleep, and wear ordinary clothing of lay persons, fond of five exotic assorted colorings worn on their robes, instead of the three solid indigo blue, brown and gold colored robes which Bhikshus are supposed to wear. They eat meat, drink alcohol, kill, lust for fragrances and aromas, with non-helping conscience. Instead, they will become jealous of and hateful toward one another; this monk will hate or be jealous with the other monk, this monastery will hate or be jealous with the other monastery. At that time, Bodhisattvas, Pratyeka-buddhas, and Arhats who had vowed previously to protect and defend the Buddha-Dharma, will appear in life, taking on human form as Bhikshus or lay people. These saints will be devoted cultivators; their religious conduct and behavior will be very honorable, earning everyone’s admiration and respect. They will have virtuous qualities such as kindness and peace, have no impure thoughts, great tolerance, good will, help the old, the weak, the lonely, and often bring statues and sutras to encourage everyone to worship, read, and chant. They will teach sentient beings in a fair and objective manner and will cultivate many merits and virtuous practices. They will be altruistic always practicing the concept of ‘self-loss for others’ gain.’ With the appearance of such religious and virtuous people, other demonic Bhikshus will develop much hatred and jealousy. They will slander, make wicked and false accusations, do everything possible so these kind and virtuous people cannot live in peace. From that point forth, those demonic Bhikshus will become even more reckless and wild, never practicing Dharma, leaving temples to rot, ruined and desolate. Their only interest will be to build their private fortune, having careers that are unacceptable in Buddhism, such as burning mountains and forests, without a good conscience, killing and hurting many sentient beings. In such times, there will be many servants taking the opportunity to become Bhikshus and Bhikshunis; they will be neither religious nor virtuous. Instead, they will be lustful and greedy, where Bhikshus and Bhikshunis live with one another. The Buddha-Dharma will be destroyed in the hands of these people. Also, there will be many criminals entering the religious gate, increasing the consciousness of laziness and laxity, refusing to learn or to cultivate the Way. When the reading of precepts comes around the middle of every month, they will act passively, reluctantly, and refuse to listen carefully. If teaching and expounding the precepts and doctrines, they will go over them briefly, skipping different sections, refusing to state all of them. If reading and chanting sutra-poetry, and not familiar with the lines, words, or their deep meanings, they will refuse to search or ask for answers from those who have great wisdom, but instead they will be narcissistic and conceited, seek fame and praise, and think they are all-knowing. Even so, on the outside, they will act religious and virtuous, often prasing themselves, hoping everyone will make offerings or charitable donations to them. After these demonic Bhikshus die, they will be condemned into the realm of hell, hungry ghost, and animal, and must endure these conditions for many reincarnations. After repaying for these transgressions, they will be born as human beings, but far away from civilization, places that do not have the Triple Jewels. In the Great Compassion Sutra, the Buddha taught Ananda: “Look here Ananda! Two thousand five hundred years after I entered the Nirvana, those who maintain, practice according to the proper dharma teachings will gradually diminish; those who violate precepts, engage in activities contrary to the Dharma teachings will increase with each passing day. In such times, many Bhikshus will be mesmerized by fame and fortune, not cultivating their minds, bodies, and for wisdom. They will be greedy for Buddhist robes, bowls, food, medicine, housing, temple, and then become jealous, competing and insulting one another, taking one another to the authorities. In the age of the Dharma’s Decline, we must be true disciples of the Buddha. In the past, the Buddha and Patriarchs did not take it easy in their cultivation. Remember, this body is a stinking skin bag; it is only a false combination of the four elements. We have been slaves to our bodies for so long; we have committed too many offenses on its behalf. Now it is time for us to stop being slaves for this stinking body.
355. Six Points of Harmony
Six points of harmony are also called six points of reverent harmony or unity in a monastery. In the Middle Length Discourses, the Buddha taught: “O Bhiksus, there are six Dharmas that should be remembered, building up mutual love, mutual respect, leading to harmony, to no quarrel, to mutual understanding, to common aspiration. What are the six? Here O Bhiksus, the monk performs his bodily activities imbued with love towards his religious companions, in public as well as in private. This Dharma should be remembered, building up mutual love, mutual respect, leading to harmony, to no quarrel, to mutual understanding, to common aspiration. Again O Bhiksus, the monk performs his vocal and his mental activities imbued with love towards his religious companions, in public as well as in private. This Dharma should be remembered, building up mutual love, mutual respect, leading to harmony, to no quarrel, to mutual understanding, to common aspiration. Again O Bhiksus, anything that is accepted according to Dharma, lawfully, even offerings deposited in the begging bowl, the monk should not be the one who does not share them with his virtuous religious companions. This Dharma should be remembered… (repeat above statement)… to common aspiration. Again O Bhiksus, as to monastic rules, which are unbroken, unspoilt, unsullied, which have no impurities, leading to emancipation, praised by the wise, which are not be grasped at, leading to concentration, the monk should live in keeping with these rules along with his religious companions, in public as well as in private. This Dharma should be remembered… (repeat above statement)… to common aspiration. Again O Bhiksus, as to the views which belong to the Noble Ones, leading up towards helping those who practice them, putting an end to suffering, the monk should uphold these views along with his religious companions, in public as in private. This Dharma should be remembered, building up mutual love, mutual repsect, leading to harmony, to no quarrel, to mutual understanding, to common aspiration. O Bhiksus, these six Dharmas should be remembered, building up mutual love, mutual respect, leading to harmony, to no quarrel, to mutual understanding, to common aspiration. The six points of reverent harmony or unity in a monastery include bodily unity in form of worship, oral unity in chanting, mental unity in faith, moral unity in observing the commandments, doctrinal unity in views and explanationsDoctrinal unity in views and explanations, and economic unity in community of goods, deeds, studies or charity.
According to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta and Sangiti Sutta, there are six points of reverent harmony or unity in a monastery or convent (Sixfold rules of conduct for monks and nuns in a monastery). The first harmony is precept concord. Precept concord means moral unity in observing the commandments, or always observing precepts together. A monk who, in public and in private, keeps persistently, unbroken and unaltered those rules of conduct that are spotless, leading to liberation, praised by the wise, unstained and conducive to concentration. The second harmony is living concord. Living concord means bodily unity in form of worship, or always living together in peace. A monk who, in public and in private, shows loving-kindness to their fellows in acts of body. The third harmony is idea concord. Idea concord means doctrinal unity in views and explanations or always discussing and obsorbing the dharma together. A monk who, in public and in private, continues in that noble view that leads to liberation, to the utter destruction of suffering. The fourth harmony is beneficial concord. Beneficial concord means economic unity in community of goods, deeds, studies or charity. They share with their virtuous fellows whatever they receive as a rightful gift, including the contents of their alms-bowls, which they do not keep to themselves. The fifth harmony is speech concord. Speech concord means oral unity in chanting or never arguing. A monk who, in public and in private, shows loving-kindness to their fellows in acts of speech. The sixth harmony is thinking concord. Thinking concord means mental unity in faith or always being happy. A monk who, in public or in private, shows loving-kindness to their fellows in acts of thought.
356. Four Fields of Grace
The field of grace consists of parents, teachers, elders, monks, in return for the benefits they have conferred; one of the three blessing fields. According to The Infinite Life Sutra, filial piety toward one’s parents and support them, serve and respect one’s teachers and the elderly, maintain a compassionate heart, abstain from doing harm, and keep the ten commandments. The other two fields include the field of commandments for those who take refuge in the Triratna, observe other complete commandments, and never lower their dignity as well as miantaining a dignified conduct; and the field of practice for those who pursue the Buddha way (Awaken their minds a longing for Bodhi), deeply believe in the principle of cause and effect, recite and encourage others to recite Mahayana Sutras. Four Great Debts or four fields of grace include the debt to the Triple Jewel, the debt to our parents and teachers, the debt to our spiritual friends, and the debt to all sentient beings. The first debt is the debt to the Triple Jewel (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha). Through the Buddhadharma sentient beings thoroughly understand sutras, rules, and commentaries. Also through the Buddhadharma sentient beings can cultivate to achieve wisdom and realization. And the Sangha provide sentient beings opportunities to come to the Buddha’s truth. Sentient beings with few virtues and heavy karma, born in the Dharma Ending Age. It is extremely difficult to become a member of the Sangha. It is impossible to witness the Buddha’s Golden Body. Fortunately, owing to our planting good roots in former lives, we still are able to see the Buddha’s statues, still be able to hear and learn proper dharma. If we have not heard the proper dharma teaching, how would we know that we often receive the Buddha’s Blessings? For this grace, no ocean can compare and no mountain peak can measure. Thus, if we do not vow to develop Bodhi Mind, or to cultivate the Bodhisattva’s Way to attain Buddhahood, firmly maintain the proper dharma, vow to help and rescue all sentient beings, then even if flesh is shredded and bones are shattered to pieces, it still would not be enough to repay that great grace. The second debt is the debt to our parents and teachers. Parents give us lives; teachers teach us to follow the right ways. We should respect, serve and try to cultivate to repay the grace of the parents. Childbirth is a difficult and arduous process with nine months of the heavy weight of pregnancy, then much effort is required to raise us with a minimum of three years of breast feeding, staying up all night to cater our infantile needs, hand feeding as we get a little older. As we get older and become more mature, our parents invest all their hopes we will succeed as adults, both in life and religion. Unexpectedly, some of us leave home to take the religious path, proclaiming ourselves as Buddha’s messenger and, thus are unable to make offerings of food, drink nor can we help our parents with day to day subsistence. Even if they are living, we are unable to take care of them in their old age, and when they die we may not have the ability to guide their spirits. Upon a moment of reflection, we realize : “Our worlds are now ocean apart, as grave lies melancholy in tall grass.” If this is the case, such is a great mistake in life, such a mistake is not small in religion either. Thus, with both paths of life and religion, great mistakes have been made; there is no one to bear the consequences of our transgressions but ourselves. Thinking these thoughts, what can we do to compensate for such mistakes? Cultivate the Bodhisattva Way in hundreds and thousands of lifetimes. Vow to aid and rescue all sentient beings in the Three Worlds of the Ten Directions. If this is accomplished, not only our parents of this life, but our parents of many other lives will benefit to escape from the unwholesome paths. And not just the parents of one sentient being, but the parents of many sentient beings will benefit to escape from evil paths. Even though our parents give birth to our physical beings, if not the worldly teachers, we would not understand right from wrong, virtue, ethics, etc. If we do not know right from wrong, know how to be grateful, and have shame, then how are we any different from animals? If there were no spiritual teachers for guidance, obviously, we would not be able to understand the Buddha-Dharma. When we do not understand the Buddha-Dharma, the Doctrine of Cause and Effect, then how are we different from those who are ignorant and stupid? Now that we know a little bit of virtue, how to be grateful, having shame, and somewhat understand the Buddha-Dharma, where did such knowledge come from? Moreover, some of us are fortunate enough to become Bhiksus and Bhiksunis, showering ourselves with precepts, cultivating and understanding the virtuous practices, wearing the Buddhist robe, and gaining the respect of others. Thus none of this would happen if not for elder masters. Knowing this, if we pray for the “Lesser Fruits,” then we can benefit only ourselves. Therefore, we must develop the Great Bodhi Mind of a Maha-Bodhisattva to wish to rescue and aid all sentient beings. Only then would our worldly teachers truly benefit, and our Dharma Masters truly be happy. The third debt is the debt to our spiritual friends. The Buddha talked about being a Good Knowing Advisor in Buddhism as follows: “When speaking of the good knowledgeable advisors, this is referring to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Sound Hearers, Pratyeka-Buddhas, as well as those who have faith in the doctrine and sutras of Buddhism. The good knowledgeable advisors are those capable of teaching sentient beings to abandon the ten evils or ten unwholesome deeds, and to cultivate the ten wholesome deeds. Moreover, the good knowledgeable advisors’ speech is true to the dharma and their actions are genuine and consistent with their speech. Thus, not only do they not kill living creatures, they also tell others not to kill living things; not only will they have the proper view, they also will use that proper view to teach others. The good knowledgeable advisors always have the dharma of goodness, meaning whatever actions they may undertake, they do not seek for their own happiness, but for the happiness of all sentient beings. They do not speak of others’ mistakes, but speak of virtues and goodness. There are many advantages and benefits to being close to the good knowledgeable advisors, just as from the first to the fifteenth lunar calendar, the moon will gradually become larger, brighter and more complete. Similarly, the good knowledgeable advisors are able to help and influence the learners of the Way to abandon gradually the various unwholesome dharma and to increase greatly wholesome dharma. For these reasons, the debt to our spiritual friends is so great that we must cultivate develop the Great Bodhi Mind of a Maha-Bodhisattva to wish to rescue and aid all sentient beings. The fourth debt is the debt of all sentient beings and donators. From infinite eons to this day, from generation to generation, from one reincarnation to another, sentient beings and I have exchanged places with each other to take turns being relatives. Thus, in one life, we are family and in another we are strangers, but in the end we are all connected in the cycle of rebirths. Thus, though it is now a different life, our appearances have changed, having different names, families, and ignorance has caused us to forget; but knowing this concept, we realize we are all family, so how can we not demonstrate gratitude to all sentient beings? Those animals with fur, bearing horns and antlers in this life, it is possible we may have been their children in a former life. Insects such as butterflies, bees, worms, crickets of this life, may for all we know, be our parents of a former life. What about those who scream in agony in the realm of Hungry Ghosts; and those who cry in sufferings from the abyss of Hell. Even though our eyes cannot see and our ears cannot hear, they still pray and ask for our assistance. Therefore, the Bodhisattvas look upon bees and ants as their parents of the past; look upon animals as future Buddhas; have great compassion for those in the suffering realms, often finding ways to aid and rescue them; Remember the kindness of the past, and often think about finding ways to repay such kindness. Nowadays, especially Bhiksus and Bhiksunis who cultivate the Way are all dependent on the people who make charitable donations, from clothing, food, to medicine and blankets. These charitable people work hard, and yet they don’t have enough to live on. Bhiksus do nothing except enjoy the pleasure these gifts, how can Bhiksus find comfort in their doing so? People work assiduously to sew robes, not counting all the late nights. Bhiksus have abundance of robes, how dare we not appreciate them? Laypeople live in huts, never finding a moment of peace. Bhiksus live in high, big temples, relaxing all year round. How can Bhiksus be happy in receiving such gifts knowing laypeople have suffered so? Laypeople set aside their earnings and profits to provide services to Bhiksus. Does this make sense? Therefore, Bhiksus must think: “I must be determined to cultivate for enlightenment, practice to find the Budhist wisdom so charitable beings and sentient beings may benefit from it. If this is not the case, then every seed of rice and every inch of fabric shall have their appropriate debts. Reincarnated into the realm of animals, debts must be repaid. Besides, devout Buddhists should always remember the ten great graces of the Buddha. First, grace of Initial resolve to universalize (salvation). Second, grace of self-sacrifice in previous lives. Third, grace of complete altruism. Fourth, grace of descending into all the six states of existence for their salvation. Fifth, grace of relief of the living from distress and mortality. Sixth, grace of profound pity. Seventh, grace of revelation of himself in human and glorified form. Eighth, grace of teaching in accordance with the capacity of his hearers, first Hinayan, then Mahayana doctrine. Ninth, grace of revealing his nirvana to stimulate his disciples. Tenth, pitying thought for all creatures, in that dying at 80 instead of 100 he left twenty years of his own happiness to his disciples; and also the tripitaka for universal salvation.
357. Ten Divine Powers of a Tathagata
According to the Lotus Sutra, Chapter 21, there are ten divine powers of a Tathagata. First, divine power of putting forth His broad and far-stretched tongue. In all his preachings, the Buddha put forth “his broad and far-stretched tongue till it reached upward to the Brahma world.” This expression may strike us today as strange, but it comes from an old Indian custom. In ancient India, to put one’s tongue out was an action showing the truth of what one said. Through his first divine power, the Buddha revealed that all teachings that he had preached were true and would be so eternally. To use a common expression, he showed that he was never two-tongued in what he preached. Second, divine power of shinning beautiful light from his whole body. Sakyamuni Buddha revealed his divine power by radiating a beautiful light from his whole body, shinning everywhere throughout all directions of the universe. This mysterious phenomenon signifies that the truth is the light that dispels the darkness of illusion, darkness does not exist as a real entity. Darkness is only a nonlighted state and will disappear when light shines. The same thing can be said of illusion. Only the truth has real existence; illusion is unreal. Illusion is born from the state in which our minds do not yet realize the truth. Illusion will disappear from our minds when we realize the truth. Truth attracts Truth. They blend together and become one. The moment Sakyamuni Buddha radiated the sacred light from his body, the other Buddhas also in like manner radiated infinite light, which melted into one great light that shone everywhere throughout the universe. This means “Truth” will be spread everywhere, or all people from the Saha world will eventually become Buddhas. Third, divine power of preaching of the truth. The Buddha drew back his tongue, coughed simultaneously, and snapped his fingers in unison. The phrase “cough simultaneously” means that all the teachings are united into one, and the voices raised in a cough signify the preaching of the teaching. Fourth, divine power of spreading the Law and performing the Bodhivattva practice. When the Buddha made the next move: “snapped their fingers in unison,” with a special meaning: “Confirmation.” This action also came from an Indian custom. The Buddhas’ snapping their fingers in unison represent their assurance, “I give my words,” or “I promise to do it.” The description of all the Buddhas snapping their finger unision therefore signifies their solumn promise to spread the Law, in other words, their vow to perform the Bodhivattva practice. Fifth, devine power of earth shaking. When the Buddhas appear to preach, all their lands being shaken in six ways. Earthquakes in six directions, according to the Maha-Prajna Sutra. The six different kinds of shaking of the chiliocosm, or universe, when the Buddha entered into the samadhi of joyful wandering: when the East rose and the West sank; when the West rose and the east sank; when the South rose and the North sank; when the North rose and the South sank; when the surroundings (borders) rose the centre (middle) sank; when the Centre (middle) rose and the surroundings (borders) sank. Sixth, divine power of causing sentient beings happily obtaining that which they had never experienced before. When the Buddha preaches his teachings, all living beings, gods, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kimnaras, mahogaras, human and non-human beings, and other creatures, by the reason of the divine power of the Buddha, all saw this saha world the infinite, the boundless, hundred thousand myriad kotis of Buddhas, seated on the lion throne, under all the Jewel trees, and saw Sakyamuni together with the Tathagata Abundant Treasures, seated on lion thrones in the midst of the stupa, and also saw the infinite, the boundless, hundred thousand myriad kotis of Bodhisattva-mahasattvas, and the four groups of reverently surround Sakyamuni Buddha. After beholding this they were all greatly delighted, obtaining that which they had never experienced before. Seventh, Divine power of leading all sentient beings to be able to attain Nirvana in the future. When the Buddhas appear to preach the Lotus Sutra, all creatures, both human and non-human beings, were enabled to see the great assembly of Sakyamuni Buddha, together with the Tathagata Abundant Treasures and many other Buddhas. This state is called “All creatures universally see the great assembly of the Buddha surrounded by many other Buddhas.” And through this the Buddha wanted to send to all of us a message: “All creatures can equally realize the Buddha’s teachings.” However, their capacity to understand the teachings of Buddhism is different. Some can grasp them easily, while others find it very difficult to do so. That’s why tactful means to enlighten people are to be used in various ways according to their differing capacities. This is the present state of human beings, but in an eternal future, all of them will be able to attain enlightenment. Eighth, Divien power of preaching the sutras to save beings in the Saha World. When the Buddhas appear, all the gods in the sky sang with exalted voices: “Beyond these infinite, boundless, hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of asamkhyeya worlds, there is a realm named Saha. In its midst is a Buddha, whose name is Sakyamuni. Now, for the sake of all Bodhisattva-mahasattvas, he preaches the sutras to save beings.” Ninth, Divien power of making sentient beings to practice daily in accord with the Buddha’s mind. When the Buddhas appear, another mysterious phenomenon happens: “All gods from afar strewed the Saha world with various flowers, incense, garlands, canopies, as well as personal ornaments, gems, and wonderful things. This phenomenon means that, in the future, the practice of all people will make equal offerings to the Buddha. The greatest offering to the Buddha is to make all one’s daily practice in accord with the Buddha’s mind. Tenth, Divine power of making all worlds in the universe to be united without barrier as one Buddha-land. When the Buddhas appear, all the worlds in the universe will be united without barrier as one Buddha-land. The Saha world is said to be the realm of illusion, while the Pure Land is said to be a beautiful land with no suffering and hell to be a world of suffering. But if all living beings live perfectly for the sake of the truth by means of the Buddha’s teachings, this universe will be united into one Buddha-land with no distinction between the world of heaven, the Saha world, and the world of hell. Because the truth is one, all things will tend toward the truth sometime in the future and will contribute to creating a world of perfect harmony.
358. The Buddha Nature
According to the Mahayana view, Buddha-nature is the true, immutable, and eternal nature of all beings. According to almost all Mahayana sutras, all living beings have the Buddha-nature. The Buddha-nature dwells permanently and unalterably throughout all rebirths. That means all can become Buddhas. However, because of their polluted thinking and attachments, they fail to realize this very Buddha-nature. The seed of mindfulness and enlightenment in every person, representing our potential to become fully awake. Since all beings possess this Buddha-nature, it is possible for them to attain enlightenment and become a Buddha, regardless of what level of existence they are. Buddha-Nature, True Nature, or Wisdom Faculty (the substratum of perfection, of completeness, intrinsic to both sentient and insentient life). According to Zen teaching, every sentient being or thing has Buddha-nature, but not being aware of it or not living with this awareness as an awakened one does. According to Hakuin, a famous Japanese Zen master, Buddha-nature is identical with that which is called emptiness. Although the Buddha-nature is beyond all conception and imagination, it is possible for us to awaken to it because we ourselves are intrinsically Buddha-nature. In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha taught: “All sentient beings have the Buddha-nature innately.” Our entire religious life starts with this teaching. To become aware of one’s own Buddha-nature, bringing it to light from the depths of the mind, nurturing it, and developing it vigorously is the first step of one’s religious life. If one has the Buddha-nature himself, others must also have it. If one can realize with his whole heart that he has the Buddha-nature, he comes spontaneously to recognize that others equally possess it. Anyone who cannot recognize this has not truly realized his own Buddha-nature.
“Buddhata” is a Sanskrit term which means “Buddha-nature.” This Mahayana Buddhist term that refers to the final, unchanging nature of all reality. This is often equated with emptiness (sunyata) and defined as simply an absence of any fixed and determinate essence. According to this formulation, because sentient beings have no fixed essence, they are able to change, and thus have the potential to become Buddhas. The Buddha Nature is also called True Nature. The enlightened mind free from all illusion. The mind as the agent of knowledge, or enlightenment. In the Thirteen Patriarchs of Pureland Buddhism, the Tenth Patriarch Ching-She confirmed: “Mind, Buddha, and Sentient Beings, all three are not any different. Sentient beings are Buddhas yet to be attained, while Amitabha is Buddha who has attained. Enlightened Nature is one and not two. Even though we are delusional, blind, and ignorant, but even so our Enlightened Nature has never been disturbed. Thus, once seeing the light, all will return to the inherent enlightenment nature.” In other Mahayana traditions, however, particularly in East Asia, the concept is given a more substantialist formulation and is seen as the fundamental nature of all reality, an eternal essence that all beings possess, and in virtue of which they can all become Buddhas. In Japanese Zen tradition, for example, it is described as true self of every individual, and Zen has developed meditation techniques by which practitioners might develop experiential awareness of it. The concept is not found in Theravada Buddhism, which does not posit the idea that all beings have the potential to become Buddhas, rather, Nikaya Buddhist traditions hold that only certain exceptional individuals may become Buddhas and that others should be content to attain Nirvana as an Arhat or Pratyeka-Buddha.
Buddha-Nature, True Nature, or Wisdom Faculty (the substratum of perfection, of completeness, intrinsic to both sentient and insentient life). The seed of mindfulness and enlightenment in every person, representing our potential to become fully awakened and eventually a Buddha. The substratum of perfection, of completeness, intrinsic to both sentient and insentient life. The reason of Buddhahood consists in the destruction of the twofold klesa or evil passions. The Buddha-nature does not receive punishment in the hells because it is void of form, or spiritual or above the formal or material (only things with forms can enter the hells). Buddha-nature, which refers to living beings, and Dharma-nature, which concerns chiefly things in general, are practically one as either the state of enlightenment (as a result) or the potentiality of becoming enlightened (as a cause). The eternity of the Buddha-nature. The Buddha-nature is immortal and immutable. As the sands the Ganges which always arrange themselves along the stream, so does the essence of Buddhahood, always conform itself to the stream of Nirvana. All living beings have the Buddha-Nature, but they are unable to make this nature appear because of their desires, hatred, and ignorance. “Buddhata” is an important term in Zen Buddhism, which refers to one’s buddha-nature (buddhata), the fundamental reality that is obscured by attachment to conceptual thoughts and language. The term is used in one of the best-known Koans, “What is your original face before your parents were born? Buddha-nature is the state of nothingness. In Buddhism we always talk about returning to the origin. We want to return to the way we were originally. What were things like originally? There was nothing at all! Now we want to go back to the state of nothingness.
According to the Mahayana Buddhism, to see one’s own nature and become a Buddha, or to behold the Buddha-nature to reach the Buddhahood or to attain enlightenment. This is a very common saying of the Zen school or Intuitive school. To behold the Buddha-nature within oneself or to see into one’s own nature. Semantically “Beholding the Buddha-nature” and “Enlightenment” have virtually the same meaning and are often used interchangeably. In describing the enlightenment of the Buddha and the patriarchs, however, it is often used the word “Enlightenment” rather than “Beholding the Buddha-nature.” The term “enlightenment” implies a deeper experience. This is a common saying of the Ch’an (Zen) or Intuitive School. This is one of the eight fundamental principles, intuitional or relating to direct mental vision of the Zen School. Also according to the Mahayana Buddhism, those who did not cultivate good roots in their past lives, see neither nirmanakaya nor sambhogakaya of the Buddha. Due to clinging to discrimination, ordinary people and Hinayana see only the nirmanakaya or body of incarnation of the Buddha; while Bodhisattvas and Mahayana, without clinging to discrimination, see both the body of incarnation (nirmanakaya) and the spiritual body or body in bliss (sambhogakaya) of the Buddha.
359. The Thus-Come One
Devout Buddhists should always remember that Tathagata is neither a god nor the prophet of a god. In Mahayana Buddhism, Tathagata is the Buddha in his nirmanakaya, the intermediary between the essential and the phenomenal world. Tathagata also means “Absolute,” “Prajna” or “Emptiness—Shunyata.” The Tathagata who has gone beyond all plurality and categories of thought can be said to be neither permanent nor impermanent. He is untraceable. Permanent and impermanent can be applied only where there is duality, not in the case of non-dual. And because Tathata is the same in all manifestation, therefore all beings are potential Tathagatas. It is the Tathagata within us who makes us long for Nibbana and ultimately sets us free. Tathagata is one of the ten titles of the Buddha, which he himself used when speaking of himself or other Buddhas. He was born, lived and passed away. He left no room in His teaching for any other superstition. This event of the life of the Tathagata is human beings’ greatest impression and hope for everyone of us can hope that some day we can reach the same stage as the Tathagata did if we resolve to do our best to cultivate.
Long before our Buddha was born, there were many other Buddhas who found the path and showed it to people. These other Buddhas lived so long ago that we have no written histories about them, but they taught the people in those far off days the very same Truth that our Sakyamuni Buddha taught us almost twenty-six hundred years ago, for the Truths never change. “Tathagata” literally means one “thus come,” the “thus” or “thusness,” indicating the enlightened state. Therefore, Tathagata can be rendered as “Thus enlightened I come,” and would apply equally to all Buddhas other than Sakyamuni. The Thus-Come One also means one who has attained Supreme Enlightenment; one who has discovered (come to) Truth; one of the ten titles of the Buddha, which he himself used when speaking of himself or other Buddhas; those of the Tathagata order. “Tathagata” is a Sanskrit term for “Thus-gone-one.” An epithet of Buddhas, which signifies their attainment of awakening (Bodhi), a transcendental state that surpasses all mundane attainments. This term may be divided into either of the following formulas: tatha+gata, or tatha+agata. In the former case, it means “Như khứ,” and in the latter case “Như Lai.” A title of the Buddha, used by his followers and also by himself when speaking of himself. Tathagata also means the previous Buddhas have come and gone. According to the Middle Length Collections (Majjhimanikaya), Tathagata is a perfect being whose foot-prints or tracks are untraceable, who is above all the dichotomies of thought. According to the Dhammapada (254), the word Tathagata means ‘thus gone’ or ‘so gone,’ meaning ‘trackless,’ or whose track cannot be traced by any of the categories of thought. According to Nagarjuna in the Madhyamaka Philosophy, regardless the origin of the word ‘Tathagata,’ the function of it is clear. He descends on earth to impart the light of Truth to mankind and departs without any track. He is the embodiment of Tathata. When the Buddha is called Tathagata, his individual personality is ignored; he is treated as a type that appears from time to time in the world. He is the earthly manifestation of Dharma. Tathagata includes the Tathagata in bonds and tathagata unlimited and free from bonds. The Tathagata in bonds (limited and subject to the delusions and sufferings of life); or the fettered bhutatathata, the bhutatathata in limitations. Tathagata unlimited and free from bonds (not subject to the delusions and sufferings of life any more); or the unfettered or free bhutatathata, as contrast with fettered bhutatathata (Tại triền chân như).
Sunyata and Karuna are the essential characteristics of Tathagata. Sunyata here means Prajna or transcendental insight. Having Sunyata or Prajna, Tathagata is identical with Tathata or Sunya. Having Karuna, he is the saviour of all sentient beings. “Tathagata” means the true being of all. The true being of the Tathagata which is also the true being of all is not conceivable. In his ultimate nature, the Tathagata is ‘deep, immeasurable, unfathomable.’ The dharmas or elements of existence are indeterminable, because they are conditioned, because they are relative. The Tathagata is indeterminable, because, in his ultimate nature, he is not conditionally born. The indeterminability of the ultimate nature really means ‘the inapplicability of the ways of concepts.’ Thus, Nagarjuna in the Karika: “The Buddha is transcendental in regard to thoughts and words. He is not subject to birth and death. Those who describe the Buddha in the terms of conceptual categories are all victims of the worldly and verbalizing mind and are thus unable to see the Tathagata in his real nature.”
The absolute, the true nature of all things which is immutable, immovable and beyond all concepts and distinctions. A Sanskrit term for the innate potential for Buddhahood or Buddha-nature that is present in all sentient beings. Tathagatagarbha is the womb where the Tathagata is conceived and nourished and matured. Tathagatagarbha also means the Alayavijnana which fully purified of its habit-energy (vasana) and evil tendencies (daushthulya). According to the Mahayana Buddhism, everything has its own Buddha-nature in the dharmakaya. Tathagatagarbha is the cause of goods as well as evils which creates the various paths of existence. In some texts, Mahayana texts, for example, Tathagata-garbha is equated with emptiness (sunyata) and is based on the notion that since all beings, all phenomena lack inherent existence (svabhava) and are constantly changing in dependence upon causes and conditions there is no fixed essence. Thus Buddha-nature is not something that is developed through practices of meditation or as a result of meditation, but rather is one’s most basic nature, which is simply made manifest through removing the veils of ignorance that obscure it. However, meditation plays a crucial role in our cultivation life, for it’s a main tool that helps us to remove the beginningless veils of ignorance so that Buddha-nature can manifest. Matrix of Thus-come or Thus-gone or Tathagata-garbha has a twofold meaning: Thus-Come or Thus-Gone or Buddha concealed in the Womb (man’s nature), and the Buddha-nature as it is. Tathagata-garbha is the absolute, unitary storehouse of the universe, the primal source of all things. Therefore, the Tathagata is in the midst of the delusion of passions and desires; and the Tathagata is the source of all things(all created things are in the Tathagatagarbha, which is the womb that gives birth to them all), whether compatible or incomaptible, whether forces of purity or impurity, good or bad. The realm of the Tathagatagarbha which is another name for the Alayavijnana, is beyond the views based on the imagination of the Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas and philosophers. Tathagatagarbha is the womb where the Tathgata is conceived and nourished and matured. Tathagatagarbha also means the Alayavijnana which fully purified of its habit-energy (vasana) and evil tendencies (daushthulya). Tathagatagarbha also means Buddha-nature. According to the Mahayana Buddhism, everything has its own Buddha-nature in the dharmakaya. Tathagatagarbha is the cause of goods as well as evils which creates the various paths of existence.
361. Neither Birth Nor Death
This phrase means not changing in ‘going away or coming forth’, there is neither origination nor cessation. The phrase ‘going away’ expresses the idea of things disappearing, while the phrase ‘coming forth’ indicates that things appearing. The whole phrase “Neither birth nor death” means all things seem to be changing, but they appear to be doing so from a phenomenal and relative point of view. It is an accepted doctrine of the Prajna teaching and the ultimate doctrine of the Madhyamika school. Birth, creation, life, each is but a temporary term, in common statement it is called birth, in truth it is not birth; in the relative it is birth, in the absolute non-birth. When the Tathagata sees the real state of all things, they neither disappear, and they are immortal and eternal. When this idea applied to the human body, ‘coming forth’ means birth and ‘going away’ means death. Although man seems to be born, grow old, suffer from disease, and finally die, these phenomena are only produced by superficial changes in the substances that form the human body; true human life continues eternally. This confirms the Law of indestructibility of matter, through which science confirms that matter neither decreases nor disappears. The snow on the ground seems to melt away as the days go by, but in reality, it merely changes into water and sinks into the ground or evaporates into the air. The snow only changes its form; the quantity of fundamental elements that constitute it do not decrease, much less disappear. When water vapor in the air comes into contact with cold air as a condition or secondary cause, it becomes a tiny drop of water. These drops accumulate to form a cloud. When these tiny drops of water join to form large drops of water, they become rain and fall on the earth. They will fall not as rain but as snow when the temperature falls below a certain point. Thus though matter seems to disappear, in actual fact it does not disappear but only changes in form. The same can be said of man. In the sight of the Tathagata the birth and death of man are merely changes in form; man’s life itself remains eternally. Seen with the eye of the Buddha, man’s existence is “neither living nor dead.”
362. Three-Thousand-Great Thousand World
It is as a billion-world universe is not formed just by one condition, not by one phenomenon; it can be formed only by innumerable conditions, innumerable things. That is to say the rising and spreading of great clouds and showering of great rain produce four kinds of atmosphere, continuously making a basis. All are produced by the joint actions of sentient beings and by the roots of goodness of enlightened beings, enabling all sentient beings to get the use of what they need. Innumerable such causes and conditions form the universe. It is such by the nature of things, there is no producer or maker, no knower or creator, yet the worlds come to be. Over twenty-five centuries ago, the Buddha talked about the immensity and endlessness of the cosmos. The earth on which we are living is not unique. There are a great number of others, which are as numerous as the grains of sand in the Ganges River. Three-thousand-great-thousand world. Universe of the three kinds of thousands of worlds (The three-fold great thousand world system—Buddha world). Each big celestial world comprises one thousand million small worlds, each one has the same size as that of our earth. Furthermore, there are an infinite number of big celestial worlds in the cosmos. The Buddhist concept of time reveals that each world has four middle kalpas or cosmic periods, each middle kalpa has twenty small kalpas; each small kalpa has 16 million years. Therefore, the average life of a world is equal to 1,280,000,000 years. The ancient Indian belief “the universe comprises of many groups of thousands of worlds.” Also called A small Chiliocosm. A small chiliocosm, consisting of a thousand worlds each with its Mt. Sumeru, continents, seas and ring of iron mountains. However, according to Buddhist teachings, every world system has four great continents; a thousand world systems of four great continents comprise a “small world system, a thousand small world systems comprise a medium-sized world system, and a thousand medium-sized world systems comprise a great world system of a billion worlds (literally thousand times thousand times thousand worlds).
The T’ien-T’ai School sets forth a world system of ten realms. That is to say, the world of living beings is divided into ten realms, of which the higher four are saintly and the lower six are ordinary. Here the T’ien-T’ai School at once comes back to the ideation theory but expresses it somewhat differently. It is set forth that a conscious-instant or a moment of thought has 3,000 worlds immanent in it. This is a theory special to this school and is called “Three Thousand Originally Immanent,” or “Three Thousand Immanent in Principle,” or “Three Thousand Immanent in Nature” or sometimes “Three Thousand Perfectly Immanent.” The immanency, either original, theoretical, natural or perfect, conveys one and the same idea; namely, that the one moment of thought is itself 3,000 worlds. Some consider this to be the nearest approach to the idea of the Absolute, but if you consider the Absolute to be the source of all creation it is not exactly the Absolute. Or, it may be considered to be a form of ideation theory, but if one thinks that ideation manifests the outer world by the process of dichotomy it is quite different, for it does not mean that one instant of thought produces the 3,000 worlds, because a production is the beginning of a lengthwise motion, i.e., timely production. Nor does it mean that the 3,000 worlds are included in one instant of thought because an inclusion is a crosswise existence, i.e., existence in space. Although here the 3,000-world doctrine is expounded on the basis of ideation, it is not mere ideation, for all the dharmas of the universe are immanent in one thought-instant but are not reduce to thought or ideation.
363. Form is Emptiness and the Very Emptiness is Form
The Pali scripture declares six sense-organs, six sense-objects and six consciousnesses as well as five aggregates are Sunyata as “Eye is void of self and anything belonging to self; form is void from self and anything belonging to self; visual consciousness is void of self and anything belonging to self.” Matter is just the immaterial, the immaterial is just matter (form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form—Rupam eva sunyata, sunyataiva rupam). In the Heart Sutra, the Buddha told Sariputra: “Sariputra! This phenomenal world or form is emptiness, and emptiness is truly the phenomenal world. Emptiness is not different from the phenomenal world, the phenomenal world is not different from emptiness. What is the phenomenal world that is emptiness, what is emptiness that is the phenomenal world.” The Hrdaya Sutra expands this concept by emphasis that “Rupa does not differ from Sunya”, or “Sunya does not differ from rupa” and “Sunya of all things is not created, not annihilated, not impure, not pure, not increasing, and not decreasing.” It means that because rupa must have no nature of its own, it is produced by causes or depend on anything else, so rupa is sunyata or identical with void. Therefore, the perceived object, the perceiving subject and knowledge are mutually interdependent. The reality of one is dependent upon others; if one is false, the others must be false. The perceiving subject and knowledge of the external object must also be false. So what one perceives within or without is illusory. Therefore, there is nothing, creation and annihilation, pure and impure, increase and decrease and so on. However, in reality, we cannot say a thing to be either real or unreal at the same time. Here, Sunyata must be defined as Pratityasamutpada. There is the intimate connection that exists between causality and sunyata. The one presupposes the other; the two are inseparably connected. Sunyata is the logical consequence of the Buddha’s view of causality and effection. Sunyata is the central theme of the Mahayana philosophical system. This term has been used in the Prajna-paramita system to denote a stage where all viewpoints with regard to the real nature of mundane world are totally rejected. In other words, we may say that to have a viewpoint is to cling to a position and there can be various types of positions with regard to the real nature of things as Saddharma-Pundaria expressed: “Knowing that phenomena have no constant fixed nature, that the seeds of Buddhahood sprout through causation.”
364. Forms and Trilaksana
According to the Anattalakkhana Sutta, the Buddha taught: “O, Bhiksus, is the form not the self. If the form, o Bhiksus, were the self, the body would not be subject to disease and we should be able to say ‘Let my body be such and such a one, let my body not be such and such a one. But since this body, o Bhiksus, is not the self, therefore, the body is subject to disease, and we are not able to say ‘Let my body be such and such a one, let my body not be such and such a one.’” The Buddha further said: “Now what do you think, o Bhiksus, is the body permanent or perishable?” “It is perishable, Lord.” The Buddha added: “And that which is perishable, does that cause pain or joy?” “It causes pain, Lord.” “And that which is perishable, painful, subject to change, is it possible to regard that in this way: ‘This is mine, this am I, this is myself?’” “That is impossible, Lord.” By the method of analysis the Buddha pointed out to his disciples that attachment to things without a correct view as to their true nature is the cause of suffering. Impermanence and change are inherent in the nature of all things. This is their true nature and this is the correct view, and as long as we are at variance with it, we are bound to run into conflicts. We cannot alter or control the nature of things, and the result is disappointment or suffering. The only solution to this problem lies in correcting our own point of view.
Mandalas are both symbolic representations of the Buddhist world and meditational aids-testimony to the fact there is no clear divide in Buddhism between cosmology and psychology. As cosmograms they are maps of the universe, while as meditational aids they are psychological tools, which assist the meditator to experience different states of mind. By concentrating on a mandala (‘circle’ in Sanskrit) the individual can progress toward an understanding of the reality of the world as perceived by Buddhism. Mandalas, which take various forms, are often two-and three-dimensional. They range from temporary images in sand to paintings and vast stone structures. Simple colored discs can also serve as meditational aids. In the 9th century, Buddhist monument of Borobudur in Indonesia took the form of a Mandala. Its many terraces contain stone reliefs depicting the Buddha’s life-story. In Esoteric Buddhism, Mandala means a ritual or magic circle, or a diargram used in invocations, meditation and temple sevices.
Mandala is a ritual or magic circle, a plot or place of enlightenment, a round or square altar on which Buddhas or Bodhisattvas are placed. There are two groups of such, especially the Garbhadhatu and Vajradhatu groups of the Shingon sect: The Garbhadhatu representing the principle and cause; and the Vajradhatu representing the intelligence and the effect. A circular figure or diagram used in invocations, meditation and temple services in Tantric Buddhism. A symbolic representation of cosmic forces in two or three-dimensional form, which is considerably significant in the Tantric Buddhism in Tibet and means “center and periphery.” In Tantric Buddhism or the Vajrayana, the external world as well as the body and one’s own consciousness can be seen as mandalas. Mandalas are particularly important in Vajrayana, where they serve as the focus of meditative visualizations. Tantric practitioners usually initiate a mandala before engaging in a particular practice or ceremony. The basic form or structure of a mandala a circle outside a square palace with four gates in the four cardinal directions (North, south, West, East). Mandalas can be reperesented in four ways as follows: painted pictures, drawn with colored sands, represented by heaps of rice, constructed three-dimensionally.