Ngu dốt không đáng xấu hổ bằng kẻ không chịu học. (Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.)Benjamin Franklin
Bậc trí bảo vệ thân, bảo vệ luôn lời nói, bảo vệ cả tâm tư, ba nghiệp khéo bảo vệ.Kinh Pháp Cú (Kệ số 234)
Chúng ta thay đổi cuộc đời này từ việc thay đổi trái tim mình. (You change your life by changing your heart.)Max Lucado
Cỏ làm hại ruộng vườn, sân làm hại người đời. Bố thí người ly sân, do vậy được quả lớn.Kinh Pháp Cú (Kệ số 357)
Cách tốt nhất để tìm thấy chính mình là quên mình để phụng sự người khác. (The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. )Mahatma Gandhi
Vui thay, chúng ta sống, Không hận, giữa hận thù! Giữa những người thù hận, Ta sống, không hận thù!Kinh Pháp Cú (Kệ số 197)
Trời không giúp những ai không tự giúp mình. (Heaven never helps the man who will not act. )Sophocles
Cách tốt nhất để tiêu diệt một kẻ thù là làm cho kẻ ấy trở thành một người bạn. (The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.)Abraham Lincoln
Thành công không phải điểm cuối cùng, thất bại không phải là kết thúc, chính sự dũng cảm tiếp tục công việc mới là điều quan trọng. (Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.)Winston Churchill
Thành công có nghĩa là đóng góp nhiều hơn cho cuộc đời so với những gì cuộc đời mang đến cho bạn. (To do more for the world than the world does for you, that is success. )Henry Ford

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Essential Summaries of Buddhist Teachings
»» Chapter 20 - Chapter 39

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Phật Giáo Yếu Lược - Chương 20 - Chương 39

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Chapter 20. The Truth of “Cause and Effect”

Cause is a primary force that produces an effect; effect is a result of that primary force. The law of causation governs everything in the universe without exception. Law of cause and effect or the relation between cause and effect in the sense of the Buddhist law of “Karma”. The law of causation (reality itself as cause and effect in momentary operation). Every action which is a cause will have a result or an effect. Likewise every resultant action or effect has its cause. The law of cause and effect is a fundamental concept within Buddhism governing all situations. The Moral Causation in Buddhism means that a deed, good or bad, or indifferent, brings its own result on the doer. Good people are happy and bad ones unhappy. But in most cases “happiness” is understood not in its moral or spiritual sense but in the sense of material prosperity, social position, or political influence. For instance, kingship is considered the reward of one’s having faithfully practiced the ten deeds of goodness. If one meets a tragic death, he is thought to have committed something bad in his past lives even when he might have spent a blameless life in the present one. Causality is a natural law, mentioning the relationship between cause and effect. All things come into being not without cause, since if there is no cause, there is no effect and vice-versa. As so sow, so shall you reap. Cause and effect never conflict with each other. In other words, cause and effect are always consistent with each other. If we want to have beans, we must sow bean seeds. If we want to have oranges, we must sow orange seeds. If wild weeds are planted, then it’s unreasonable for one to hope to harvest edible fruits. One cause cannot have any effect. To produce an effect, it is necessary to have some specific conditions. For instance, a grain of rice cannot produce a rice plant without the presence of sunlight, soil, water, and care. In the cause there is the effect; in the effect there is the cause. From the current cause, we can see the future effect and from the present effect we discerned the past cause. The development process from cause to effect is sometimes quick, sometimes slow. Sometimes cause and effect are simultaneous like that of beating a drum and hearing its sound. Sometimes cause and effect are three or four months away like that of the grain of rice. It takes about three to four, or five to six months from a rice seed to a young rice plant, then to a rice plant that can produce rice.

Sometimes it takes about ten years for a cause to turn into an effect. For instance, from the time the schoolboy enters the elementary school to the time he graduates a four-year college, it takes him at least 14 years. Other causes may involve more time to produce effects, may be the whole life or two lives. By understanding and believing in the law of causality, Buddhists will not become superstitious, or alarmed, and rely passively on heaven authority. He knows that his life depends on his karmas. If he truly believes in such a causal mecahnism, he strives to accomplish good deeds, which can reduce and alleviate the effect of his bad karmas. If he continues to live a good life, devoting his time and effort to practicing Buddhist teachings, he can eliminate all of his bad karmas. He knows that he is the only driving force of his success or failure, so he will be discouraged, put the blame on others, or rely on them. He will put more effort into performing his duties satisfactorily. Realizing the value of the law of causality, he always cares for what he thinks, tells or does in order to avoid bad karma.

Some people believe in Christianity, and according to the Christian, the theistic position that man’s destiny is basically determined for him by God. God determines if a man deserves heaven or hell; he may even decide each man’s earthly destiny. Some other people believe in fatalism that each of us has a fate which we cannot change and about which we can do nothing. They believe that ‘Whatever will be will be.’ In this philosophy the agent that determines destiny is not a God, but rather a mysterious impersonal power called ‘Fate’ which transcend our understanding. Still some other people believe the exact opposite, they believe in indeterminism: everything happens by accident. They believe that if man is lucky, he will achieve happiness or success; if he is unlucky, he will suffer or fail, but whatever he receives, he receives not through any process of determination but by accident, by sheer coincidence. In Christianity, the Christian worships God and prays to Him in order to obtain forgiveness from the results his evil actions hold out for him. Buddhism differs from Christianity in that it sees the root cause of all evil in “ignorance” and not in “sin”, in an act of intellectual misapprehension and not in an act of volition and rebellion. As a practical definition of ignorance, we are offered the four perverted views which make us seek for permanence in what is inherently impermanent, ease in what is inseparable from suffering, selfhood in what is not linked to any self, and delight in what is essentially repulsive and disgusting. According to the Karma Law in Buddhism, the present is a shadow of the past, the future a shadow of the present. Hence our action in the present is most important, for what we do in the present determines the course of our future development. For this reason, Zen practitioners should always apply their minds to the present so that they may advance on the way. According to the Buddhist doctrine of rebirth, the causal relation between action and its results holds not only with regard to the present life but also with regard to past and future lives. This universal law of cause and effect is non-negotiable. Just as we cannot run away from our own shadows, so we cannot run away from the results of our actions. They will pursue us no matter where we hide. Besides, the Buddha also taught that negative or unwholesome mind creates negative or unwholesome thoughts (anger, hatred, harmful thoughts, wrong views, etc), speech (lying, harsh speech, double-tongued, etc), as well as deeds which are the causes of our sufferings, confusion and misery. Unwholesome or negative mind will destroy our inner peace and tranquility.

Catholicism contradicts itself with the words in the Bible: “Ye shall reap what ye shall sow” and the theory of forgiveness through the gace of Christ or God. The sentence “Reap what you sow” is precisely in accordance with the natural law of karma, while the grace of forgiveness completely denies this law. But in Buddhism, no one can forgive a person for his transgression. If he commits an evil deed, he has to reap the bad consequences, for all is governed by universal law and not by any arbitrary creator. According to Buddhism, the pain or pleasure resulting in this life from the practices or causes and retributions of a previous life. Therefore, ancient virtues said: “If we wish to know what our lives were like in the past, just look at the retributions we are experiencing currently in this life. If we wish to know what retributions will happen to us in the future, just look and examine the actions we have created or are creating in this life.” If we understand clearly this theory, then in our daily activities, sincere Buddhists are able to avoid unwholesome deeds and practice wholesome deeds. Every action which is a cause will have a result or an effect. Likewise, every resultant action has its cause. The law of cause and effect is a fundamental concept within Buddhism governing all situation. Buddhists believe in a just rational of karma that operates automatically and speak in terms of cause and effect instead of rewards and punishments. Every action which is a cause will have a result or an effect. Likewise every resultant action has its cause. The law of cause and effect is a fundamental concept within Buddhism goverining all situation. Buddhists believe in a just rational of karma that operates automatically and speak in terms of cause and effect instead of rewards and punishments. It’s a fundamental principle for all living beings and all things that if one sows good deeds, he will surely reap a good harvest; if he sows bad deeds, he must inevitably reap a bad harvest. Though the results may appear quickly or slowly, everyone will be sure to receive the results that accord with their actions. Anyone who has deeply understood this principle will never do evil.

According to Buddhism, every action which is a cause will have a result or an effect. Likewise every resultant action or effect has its cause. The law of cause and effect is a fundamental concept within Buddhism governing all situations. The Moral Causation in Buddhism means that a deed, good or bad, or indifferent, brings its own result on the doer. Good people are happy and bad ones unhappy. But in most cases “happiness” is understood not in its moral or spiritual sense but in the sense of material prosperity, social position, or political influence. For instance, kingship is considered the reward of one’s having faithfully practiced the ten deeds of goodness. If one meets a tragic death, he is thought to have committed something bad in his past lives even when he might have spent a blameless life in the present one. Causality is a natural law, mentioning the relationship between cause and effect. All things come into being not without cause, since if there is no cause, there is no effect and vice-versa. As so sow, so shall you reap. Cause and effect never conflict with each other. In other words, cause and effect are always consistent with each other. If we want to have beans, we must sow bean seeds. If we want to have oranges, we must sow orange seeds. If wild weeds are planted, then it’s unreasonable for one to hope to harvest edible fruits. One cause cannot have any effect. To produce an effect, it is necessary to have some specific conditions. For instance, a grain of rice cannot produce a rice plant without the presence of sunlight, soil, water, and care. In the cause there is the effect; in the effect there is the cause. From the current cause, we can see the future effect and from the present effect we discerned the past cause. The development process from cause to effect is sometimes quick, sometimes slow. Sometimes cause and effect are simultaneous like that of beating a drum and hearing its sound. Sometimes cause and effect are three or four months away like that of the grain of rice. It takes about three to four, or five to six months from a rice seed to a young rice plant, then to a rice plant that can produce rice. Sometimes it takes about ten years for a cause to turn into an effect. For instance, from the time the schoolboy enters the elementary school to the time he graduates a four-year college, it takes him at least 14 years. Other causes may involve more time to produce effects, may be the whole life or two lives.

Chapter 21. The Truth of Karma or Actions & Retributions

From morning to night, we create karma with our body, with our mouth, and with our mind. In our thoughts, we always think that people are bad. In our mouth, we always talk about other people’s rights and wrongs, tell lies, say indecent things, scold people, backbite, and so on. Karma is one of the fundamental doctrines of Buddhism. Everything that we encounter in this life, good or bad, sweet or bitter, is a result of what we did in the past or from what we have done recently in this life. Good karma produces happiness; bad karma produces pain and suffering. So, what is karma? Karma is a Sanskrit word, literally means a deed or an action and a reaction, the continuing process of cause and effect. Moral or any good or bad action (however, the word ‘karma’ is usually used in the sense of evil bent or mind resulting from past wrongful actions) taken while living which causes corresponding future retribution, either good or evil transmigration (action and reaction, the continuing process of cause and effect). Karma is neither fatalism nor a doctrine of predetermination. Our present life is formed and created through our actions and thoughts in our previous lives. Our present life and circumstances are the product of our past thoughts and actions, and in the same way our deeds in this life will fashion our future mode of existence. According to the definition of the karma, the past influences the present but does not dominate it, for karma is past as well as present. However, both past and present influence the future. The past is a background against which life goes on from moment to moment. The future is yet to be. Only the present moment exists and the responsibility of using the present moment for good or bad lies with each individual. A karma can by created by body, speech, or mind. There are good karma, evil karma, and indifferent karma. All kinds of karma are accumulated by the Alayavijnana and Manas. Karma can be cultivated through religious practice (good), and uncultivated. For Sentient being has lived through inumerable reincarnations, each has boundless karma. Whatever kind of karma is, a result would be followed accordingly, sooner or later. No one can escape the result of his own karma.

“Karma” is a Sanskrit term which means “Action, good or bad,” including attachments, aversions, defilements, anger, jealousy, etc. Karma is created (formed) by that being’s conceptions (samskara). This potential directs one behavior and steers the motives for all present and future deeds. In Buddhism, karma arises from three factors: body, speech and mind. For instance, when you are speaking, you create a verbal act. When you do something, you create a physical act. And when you are thinking, you may create some mental actions. Mental actions are actions that have no physical or verbal manifestations. Buddhist ethical theory is primarily with volitional actions, that is, those actions that result from deliberate choice for such actions set in motion a series of events that inevitably produce concordant results. These results may be either pleasant or unpleasant, depending on the original votion. In some cases the results of actions are experienced immediately, and in others they are only manifested at a later time. Some karmic results do not accrue (dồn lại) until a future life. Karmas are actions that lead to both immediate and long range results. All good and evil actions taken while living. Action and appropriate result of action. Karma is not limited by time or space. An individual is coming into physical life with a karma (character and environment resulting from his action in the past). Briefly, “karma” means “deed.” It is produced by all deeds we do. Any deed is invariably accompanied by a result. All that we are at the present moment is the result of the karma that we have produced in the past. Karma is complex and serious. Our deeds, however triffling, leave traces physically, mentally, and environmentally. The traces left in our minds include memory, knowledge, habit, intelligence, and character. They are produced by the accumulation of our experiences and deeds over a long period of time. The traces that our deeds leave on our body can be seen easily, but only part of traces in our minds remain on the surface of our mind, the rest of them are hidden depths of our minds, or sunk in the subconscious mind. This is the complexity and seriousness of the Karma.

According to Buddhism, a “karma” is not a fate or a destiny; neither is it a simple, unconscious, and involuntary action. On the contrary, it is an intentional, conscious, deliberate, and willful action. Also according to Buddhism, any actions will lead to similar results without any exception. It is to say, “As one sows, so shall one reap.” According to one’s action, so shall be the fruit. If we do a wholesome action, we will get a wholesome fruit. If we do an unwholesome action, we will get an unwholesome result. Devout Buddhists should try to understand the law of karma. Once we understand that in our own life every action will have a similar and equal reaction, and once we understand that we will experience the effect of that action, we will refrain from committing unwholesome deeds. Karma is a product of body, speech and mind; while recompense is a product or result of karma. Karma is like a seed sown, and recompense is like a tree grown with fruits. When the body does good things, the mouth speaks good words, the mind thinks of good ideas, then the karma is a good seed. In the contrary, the karma is an evil seed. According to the Buddhist doctrines, every action produces an effect and it is a cause first and effect afterwards. We therefore speak of “Karma” as the “Law of Cause and Effect.” There is no end to the result of an action if there is no end to the Karma. Life in nowadays society, it is extremely difficult for us not to create any karma; however, we should be very careful about our actions, so that their effect will be only good. Thus the Buddha taught: “To lead a good life, you Buddhists should make every effort to control the activities of your body, speech, and mind. Do not let these activities hurt you and others.” Recompense corresponds Karma without any exception. Naturally, good seed will produce a healthy tree and delicious fruits, while bad seed gives worse tree and fruits. Therefore, unless we clearly understand and diligently cultivate the laws of cause and effect, or karma and result, we cannot control our lives and experience a life the way we wish to. According to the Buddha-Dharma, no gods, nor heavenly deities, nor demons can assert their powers on us, we are totally free to build our lives the way we wish. According to Buddhist doctrines, karma is always just. It neither loves nor hates, neither rewards nor punishes. Karma and Recompense is simply the Law of Cause and Effect. If we accumulate good karma, the result will surely be happy and joyous. No demons can harm us. In the contrary, if we create evil karma, no matter how much and earnestly we pray for help, the result will surely be bitter and painful, no gods can save us.

According to Buddhism, man is the creator of his own life and his own destiny. All the good and bad that comes our way in life is the result of our own actions reacting upon us. Our joys and sorrows are the effects of which our actions, both in the distant and the immediate past, are the causes. And what we do in the present will determine what we become in the future. Since man is the creator of his own life, to enjoy a happy and peaceful life he must be a good creator, that is, he must create good karma. Good karma comes ultimately from a good mind, from a pure and calm mind. The law of karma binds together the past, present, and future lives of an individual through the course of his transmigration. To understand how such a connection is possible between the experiences and actions of an individual in successive lives, we must take a brief look at the Buddhist analysis of consciousness. According to the Buddhist philosophy of consciousness, the Vijnanavada school, there are eight kinds of consciousness. The first five are the eye, ear, nose, tongue and body consciousnesses. These make possible the awareness of the five kinds of external sense data through the five sense-organs. The sixth consciousness is the intellectual consciousness, the faculty of judgment which discerns, compares, and distinguishes the sense-data and ideas. The seventh consciousness, called the manas, is the ego-consciousness, the inward awareness of oneself as an ego and the clinging to discrimination between oneself and others. Even when the first six kinds of consciousness are not functioning, for example, in deep sleep, the seventh consciousness is still present, and if threatened, this consciousness, through the impulse of self-protection, will cause us to awaken. The eighth consciousness is called Alaya-vijnana, the storehouse-consciousness. Because this consciousness is so deep, it is very difficult to understand. The alaya-vijnana is a repository which stores all the impressions of our deeds and experiences. Everything we see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and do deposits, so to speak, a seed is a nucleus of karmic energy. Since the alaya hoards all the seeds of our past actions, it is the architect of our destiny. Our life and character reflect the seeds in our store-consciousness. If we deposit bad seeds, i.e., perform more evil actions, we will become bad persons. Since Buddhism places ultimate responsibility for our life in our own hands, if we want our hands to mold our life in a better way, we must launch our minds in a better direction, for it is the mind which controls the hands which mold our life. However, sometimes we know someone who is virtuous, gentle, kind, loving and wise, and yet his life is filled with troubles from morning to night. Why is this? What happens to our theory that good acts lead to happiness and bad acts to suffering? To understand this, we must realize that the fruits of karma do not necessarily mature in the same lifetime in which the karma is originally accumulated. Karma may bring about its consequences in the next life or in succeeding lives. If a person was good in a previous life, he may enjoy happiness and prosperity in this life even though his conduct now is bad. And a person who is very virtuous now may still meet a lot of trouble because of bad karma from a past life. It is like planting different kinds of seeds; some will come to flower very fast, others will take a long time, maybe years. The law of cause and effect does not come about at different times, in different forms and at different locations. While some of our experiences are due to karma in the present life, others may be due to karma from previous lives. In the present life, we receive the results of our actions done in past lives as well as in the present. And what we reap in the future will be the result of what we do in the present. The doctrine of karma is not merely a doctrine of cause and effect, but of action and reaction. The doctrine holds that every action willfully performed by an agent, be it of thought, word, or deed, tends to react upon that agent. The law of karma is a natural law, and its operation cannot be suspended by any power of a deity. Our action brings about their natural results. Recognizing this, Buddhists do not pray to a god for mercy but rather regulate their actions to bring them into harmony with the universal law. If they do evil, they try to discover their mistakes and rectify their ways; and if they do good, they try to maintain and develop that good. Buddhists should not worry about the past, but rather be concerned about what we are doing in the present. Instead of running around seeking salvation, we should try to sow good seeds in the present and leave the results to the law of karma. The theory of karma in Buddhism makes man and no one else the architect of his own destiny. From moment to moment we are producing and creating our own destiny through our thought, our speech and our deeds. Thus the ancient said: “Sow a thought and reap an act; sow an act and reap a habit; sow a habit and reap a character; sow a character and reap a destiny.”

The karma that we have now is very deep-rooted and complex, and includes the former karma that human beings have accumulated since their beginning. We also possess the “former karma” that we have produced ourselves in previous existences and to some extent the “former karma” that our ancestors have produced (for those who were born in the same family, from generation to generation, or in the same country, would bear the same kinds of karma to some extent). And of course we possess the “present karma” that we have produced ourselves in this life. Is it possible for an ordinary person to become free from these karmas and enter the mental state of perfect freedom, escape from the world of illusion, by means of his own wisdom? This is clearly out of the question. What then, if anything, can we do about it? All that one has experienced, thought and felt in the past remains in the depths of one’s subconscious mind. Psychologists recognize that the subconscious mind not only exerts a great influence on man’s character and his mental functions but even causes various disorders. because it is normally beyond our reach, we cannot control the subconscious mind by mere reflection and meditation.

When we plant a black-pepper seed, black-pepper plant grows and we will reap black-pepper, not oranges. Similarly, when we act positively, happiness follows, not suffering. When we act destructively, misery comes, not happiness. Just as small seed can grow into a huge tree with much fruit, small actions can bring large result. Therefore, we should try to avoid even small negative actions and to create small negative ones. If the cause isn’t created, the result does not occur. If no seed is planted, nothing grows. The person who hasn’t created the cause to be killed, won’t be even if he or she is in a car crash. According to the Buddha, man makes his own destiny. He should not blame anyone for his troubles since he alone is responsible for his own life, for either better or worse. Your difficulties and troubles are actually self-caused. They arise from actions rooted in greed, hatred and delusion. In fact, suffering is the price you pay for craving for existence and sensual pleasures. The price which comes as physical pain and mental agony is a heavy one to pay. It is like paying monthly payment for the brand new Chevrolet Corvette you own. The payment is the physical pain and mental agony you undergo, while the Corvette is your physical body through which you experience the worldly pleasures of the senses. You have to pay the price for the enjoyment: nothing is really free of charge unfortunately. If we act positively, the happy result will eventually occur. When we do negative actions, the imprints aren’t lost even though they may not bring their results immediately. Devout Buddhists should always remember that, “the river’s and ocean’s water may dry up, mountain may waste away, the actions done in former lives are never lost; on the contrary, they come to fruit though aeons after aeons pass, until at last the debt is paid.” Body, speech, and mind all make karma when we cling. We create habits that can make us suffer in the future. This is the fruit of our attachment, of our past defilement. Remember, not only body but also speech and mental action can make conditions for future results. If we did some act of kindness in the past and remember it today, we will be happy, and this happy state of mind is the result of past karma. In other words, all things conditioned by cause, both long-term and moment-to-moment.

According to Buddhist tradition, there are two kinds of karma: intentional karma and unintentional karma. Intentional karma which bears much heavier karma vipaka (phala). Unintentional karma which bears lighter karma vipaka. There are also two other kinds of karma: the wholesome and the unwholesome. Wholesome (good) karma such as giving charity, kind speech, helping others, etc. Unwholesome (bad) karma such as killing, stealing, lying and slandering. According to Prof. Junjiro Takakusu in the Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy, there are two kinds of action and action-influence. The first type of karma is the drawing action. Drawing action causes a being to be born as a man, as a deva, or as an animal; no other force can draw a living being into a particular form of life. The second type of karma is the fulfilling action. After the kind of life has been determined, the fulfilling action completes the formal quality of the living being so that it will be a thorough specimen of the kind. There are two kinds of action-influence. The first kind of action-influence is individual action-influence which creates the individual being. Individual action-influence or individual karmas are those actions that sentient beings act individually. The second kind of action-influence is common action-influence creates the universe itself. The common-action-influence karma involved in this world system is not just that of human beings, but of every type of sentient being in the system. Also according to the Buddhist tradition, there are three kinds of karma: action (behavior) of the body, behavior of the speech, and behavior of the mind. There are three other kinds of karma: present life happy karma, present life unhappy karma, and karma of an imperturbable nature. There are still three other kinds of karma: karma of ordinary rebirth, karma of Hinayana Nirvana, and karma of Mahayana Nirvana. There are still three other kinds of karma: good karmas, bad karmas, and neutral karmas. There are still three other kinds of karma, which also called three stages of karma. The first stage of karma is the past karma. Past karma is the cause for some results (effects) reaped in the present life. The second stage of karma is the present karma with present results. Present karma is the cause for some results (effects) reaped in the present life (present deeds and their consequences in this life). The second stage of karma is the present karma with future results. Present karma (deed) is the cause for some or all results reaped in the next or future lives. Present deeds and their next life consequences (present deeds and consequences after next life).

According to the Sangiti Sutta in the Long Discourses of the Buddha, there are four kinds of kamma. The first kind of karma is the black kamma, or evil deeds with black results. The second kind of karma is the bright kamma with bright result. The third kind of karma is the black-and-bright kamma with black-and-bright result. The fourth kind of karma is the kamma that is neither black nor bright, with neither black nor bright result, leading to the destruction of kamma. According to Mahayana Buddhism, there are four kinds of karmas. The first kind of karma is the accumulated karma, which results from many former lives. The second kind of karma is the repeated karma, which forms during the present life. The third kind of karma is the most dominant karma which is able to subjugate other karmas. The fourth kind of karma is the Near-Death Karma which is very strong. According to the Abhidharma, there are four types of kamma (karma): good karmas, bad karmas, neutral karmas, and karmas in the state of cessation. Especially, karmas in the state of cessation is the state of the activity’s having ceased, and this remains in the mental continuum. This state of cessation is an affirming negative, an absence which includes something positive. It is a potency which is not just the mere cessation of the action, but has the capacity of producing an effect in the future. These states of cessation are capable of regenerating moment by moment until an effect is produced. No matter how much time passes, when it meets with the proper conditions, it fructifies or matures. If one has not engaged in a means to cause the potency to be reduced, such as confession and intention of restraint in committing these bad actions again, then these karmas will just remain. There are still four other kinds of karma: productive kamma, suportive kamma, obstructive kamma, and destructive kamma.

When a disciple came to the Buddha penitent over past misdeeds, the Buddha did not promise any forgiveness, for He knew that each must reap the results of the seeds that he had sown. Instead He explained: “If you know that what you have done is wrong and harmful, from now on do not do it again. If you know that what you have done is right and profitable, continue to do it. Destroy bad karma and cultivate good karma. You should realize that what you are in the present is a shadow of what you were in the past, and what you will be in the future is a shadow of what you are now in the present. You should always apply your mind to the present so that you may advance on the way.” In the Anguttara Nikaya Sutra, the Buddha taught: “Oh Bhikkhus! Mental volition is what I call action or karma. Having volition one acts by body, speech and thought.” In the Dhammapada Sutta, the Buddha taught: “Of all dharmas, mind is the forerunner, mind is chief. We are what we think, we have become what we thought (what we are today came from our thoughts of yesterday). If we speak or act with a deluded mind or evil thoughts, suffering or pain follows us, as the wheel follows the hoof of the draught-ox (Dharmapada 1). Of all dharmas, mind is the forerunner, mind is chief. We are what we think, we have become what we thought. If we speak or act with a pure mind or thought, happiness and joy follows us, as our own shadow that never leaves (Dharmapada 2). The deed is not well done of which a man must repent, and the reward of which he receives, weeping, with tearful face; one reaps the fruit thereof (Dhammapada 67). The deed is well done when, after having done it, one repents not, and when, with joy and pleasure, one reaps the fruit thereof (Dhammapada 68). As long as the evil deed done does not bear fruit, the fool thinks it is as sweet as honey; but when it ripens, then he comes to grief (Dhammapada 69). Those Arhats whose mind is calm, whose speech and deed are calm. They have also obtained right knowing, they have thus become quiet men (Dhammapada 96). Let’s hasten up to do good. Let’s restrain our minds from evil thoughts, for the minds of those who are slow in doing good actions delight in evil (Dhammapada 116). If a person commits evil, let him not do it again and again; he should not rejoice therein, sorrow is the outcome of evil (Dhammapada 117). If a person does a meritorious deed, he should do it habitually, he should find pleasures therein, happiness is the outcome of merit (Dhammapada 118). Even an evil-doer sees good as long as evil deed has not yet ripened; but when his evil deed has ripened, then he sees the evil results (Dhammapada 119). Even a good person sees evil as long as his good deed has not yet ripened; but when his good deed has ripened, then he sees the good results (Dhammapada 120). Do not disregard (underestimate) small evil, saying, “it will not matter to me.” By the falling of drop by drop, a water-jar is filled; likewise, the fool becomes full of evil, even if he gathers it little by little (Dhammapada 121). Do not disregard small good, saying, “it will not matter to me.” Even by the falling of drop by drop, a water-jar is filled; likewise, the wise man, gathers his merit little by little (Dhammapada 122). An evil deed is better not done, a misdeed will bring future suffering. A good deed is better done now, for after doing it one does not grieve (Dhammapada 314). All conditioned things are without a real self. One who perceives this with wisdom, ceases grief and achieves liberation. This is the path of purity.” (Dharmapada 279).”

According to the Earth-Store Bodhisattva Sutra, the Earth-Store Bodhisattva advises sentient beings based on their circumstances: “If Earth Store Bodhisattva meets those who take life, he speaks of a retribution of a short lifespan. If he meets robbers and petty thieves, he speaks of a retribution of poverty and acute suffering. If he meets those who commit sexual misconduct, he speaks of the retribution of being born as pigeons and as mandrin ducks and drakes. If he meets those of harsh speech, he speaks of the retribution of a quarreling family. If he meets slanderers, he speaks of the retribution of a tongueless and cankerous mouth. If he meets those with anger and hatred, he speaks of being ugly and crippled. If he meets those who are stingy, he speaks of frustrated desires. If he meets gluttons, he speaks of the retribution of hunger, thirst and sicknesses (illnesses) of the throat. If he meets those who enjoy hunting, he speaks of a frightening insanity and disastrous fate. If he meets those who rebel against their parens, he speaks of the retribution of being killed in natural disasters. If he meets those who set fire to mountains or forests, he speaks of the retribution of seeking to commit suicide in the confusion of insanity.

If he meets malicious parents or step-parents, he speaks of the retribution of being flogged in future lives. If he meets those who net and trap young animals, he speaks of the retribution of being separated from their own children. If he meets those who slander the Triple Jewel, he speaks of the retribution of being blind, deaf or mute. If he meets those who slight the Dharma and regard the teachings with arrogance, he speaks of the retribution of dwelling in the evil paths forever. If he meets those who destroy or misuse possessions of the permanently dwelling, he speaks of the retribution of revolving in the hells for millions of kalpas. If he meets those wo defile the pure conduct of others and falsely accuse the Sangha, he speaks of the retribution of an eternity in the animal realm. If he meets those who scald, burn, behead, chop up or othewise harm living beings, he speaks of the retribution of repayment in kind. If he meets those who violate precepts and the regulations of pure eating, he speaks of the retribution of being born as birds and beasts suffering from hunger and thirst. If he meets those who are arrogant and haughty, he speaks of the retribution of being servile and of low classes. If he meets those whose double-tongued behavior causes dissension and discord, he speaks of retribution of tonguelessness (being mute) and speech impediments. If he meets those of deviant view, he speaks of the retribution of rebirth in the frontier regions.

Chapter 22. The Theory of Causation

I. An Overview of the Theory of Causation:

Just consider that billions of years ago, the earth had no life; volcanoes poured forth torrents of lava, and vapor and gas filled the sky. However, when the earth cooled about two billions years ago, microscopic one-celled living creatures were produced. It goes without saying that they were produced through the working of the Law. They were born when the energy of “sunyata” forming the foundation of lava, gas, and vapor came into contact with appropriate conditions or a secondary cause. It is the Law that provided the conditions for the generation of life. Therefore, we realize that the Law is not cold, a mere abstract rule, but is full of vivid power causing everything to exist and live. Conversely, everything has the power of desiring to exist and to live. During the first two billions years of the development of the earth, even lava, gas, and vapor possessed the urge to live. That is why one-celled living creatures were generated from them when the conditions were right. These infinitesimal creatures endured all kinds of trials, including extreme heat and cold, tremendous floods, and torrential rains, for about two billions years, and continued to live. Moreover, they gradually evolved into more sophisticated forms, culminating in man. This evolution was caused by the urge to live of these first microscopic creatures. Life had mind, through which it desired to live, from the time even before it existed on earth. Such a will exists in everything in the universe. This will exists in man today. From the scientific point of view, man is formed by a combination of elementary particles; and if we analyze this still more deeply, we see that man is an accumulation of energy. Therefore, the mind desiring to live must surely exist in man.

We all know what dependent means, and what origination or arising means. However, according to the Buddha, the theory of independent origination was very deep. Many people believe that the theory of indepedent origination is one of the most difficult subjects in Buddhism. As a matter of fact, on one occasion Ananda remarked that despite its apparent difficulty, the teaching of indepedent origination was actually quite simple; and the Buddha rebuked Ananda saying that in fact the teaching of independent origination was very deep, not that simple. However, the theory of independent origination in Buddhism is very clear and easy to understand. The Buddha gave two examples to make it clear for the Assembly. The Buddha has said the flame in an oil lamp burns dependent upon the oil and the wick. When the oil and the wick are present, the flame in an oil lamp burns. Besides, the wind factor is also important, if the wind blows strongly, the oil lamp cannot continue to burn. The second example on the sprout. The sprout is not only dependent on the seed, but also dependent on earth, water, air and sunlight. Therefore, there is no existing phenomenon that is not effect of dependent origination. All these phenomena cannot arise without a cause and one or more conditions. All things in the phenomenal world are brought into being by the combination of various cause and conditions (Twelve links of Dependent Origination), they are relative and without substantially or self-entity. The Buddha always expressed that his experience of enlightenment in one of two ways: either in terms of having understood the Four Noble Truths, or in terms of having understood interindependent origination. Buddhist practitioners who want to attain enlightenment, must understand the meaning of these truths.

According to Buddhism, whoever perceives the interdependent nature of reality sees the Dharma, and whoever sees the Dharma sees the Buddha. The principle of interdependent origination means that all conditioned things, phenomena, or events in the universe come into being only as a result of the interaction of various causes and conditions. Buddhism does not accept the argument that things can arise from nowhere, with no cause and conditions; nor does it accept another argument that things can arise on account of an almighty creator. According to Buddhism, all material objects are composed by parts to make the whole, and the whole depends upon the existence of part to exist. In other words, all things and events (everything) arise solely as a result of the mere coming together of the many factors which make them up. Therefore, there is nothing that has any independent or intrinsic identity of its own in this universe. However, this is not to say that things do not exist; thing do exist, but they do not have an independent or autonomous reality. When we understand the principle of interdependent origination or the fundamental insight into the nature or reality, we will realize that everything we perceive and experience arises as a result of the interaction and coming together of causes and conditions. In other words, when we thoroughly understand the principle of interdependent origination, we also understand the law of cause and effect.

Dependent Arising is an essential corollary to the second and third of the Four Noble Truths, and is not, as some are inclined to think, a later addition to the teaching of the Buddha. This Dependent Arising, this doctrine of conditionality, is often explained severely practical terms, but it is not a mere pragmatical teaching, though it may appear to be so, owing to the shortness of the explanations. Those conversant with the Buddhist Canon know that in the doctrine of Dependent Arising is found that which brings out the basic principles of knowledge and wisdom in the Dhamma. In this teaching of the conditionality of everything in the world, can be realized the essence of the Buddha’s outlook on life. This conditionality goes on uninterrupted and uncontrolled by self-agency or external agency of any sort. The doctrine of conditionality can not be labelled as determinism, because in this teaching both the physical environment and the moral causation (psychological causation) of the individual function together. The physical world influences man’s mind, and mind, on the other hand, influences the physical world, obviously in a higher degree, for as the Buddha taught in the Samyutta-Nikaya: “The world is led by the mind.” If we fail to understand the real significance and application to life of the Dependent Arising, we mistake it for a mechanical law of casuality or even a simple simultaneous arising, a first beginning of all things, animate and inanimate. As there is no origination out of nothing in Buddhist thought, Dependent Arising shows the impossibility of a first cause. The first beginning of existence, of the life stream of living beings is inconceivable and as the Buddha says in the Samyutta-Nikaya: “Notions and speculations concerning the world may lead to mental derangement. O Monks! This wheel of existence, this cycle of continuity is without a visible end, and the first beginning of beings wandering and hurrying round, wrapt in ignorance and fettered by craving is not to be perceived.” In fact, it is impossible to conceive of a first beginning. None can trace the ultimate origin of anything, not even of a grain of sand, let alone of human beings. It is useless and meaningless to seek a beginning in a beginningless past. Life is not an identity, it is a becoming. It is a flux of physiological and psychological changes.

Twenty-five centuries ago, the Buddha said: “Humanity and the world are the cause and conditions to be linked and to become.” His words have denied the prsence of a Creator or God. Hey give us a scientific and objective outlook of the present world, related to the law of Conditioning. It means that everything is dependent upon conditions to come into being or survive. In other words, there is nothing that can be self-creating and self-existing, independent from others. All sentient beings, objects, elements, etc., in this world are determined by the law of conditioning, under the form of formation, stabilization, deterioration, and annihilation. Man is a small cosmos. He comes into being not by himself but by the activation of the law of transformation. The meaning of the Twelve Conditions of Cause-and-Effect are extremely deep and profound. They are important doors for cultivators to step into the realm of enlightenment, liberation from the cycle of birth, death, bondage, sufferings, and afflictions from the three worlds and six paths, and to attain Pratyeka-Buddhahood.

Buddhism does not agree with the existence of a so-called “self,” nor a so-called Creator. But this doesn’t mean that all beings and things do not exist. They do not exist with a substratum or a permanent essence in them, as people often think, but according to Buddhism beings and things do exist as causal relatives or combinations. All becomings, either personal or universal, originate from the principle of causation, and exist in causal combinations. The center of causation is one’s own action, and the action will leave it latent energy which decides the ensuing existence. Accordingly, our past forms our present, and the present forms the future. In this world, we are continuously creating and changing ourselves as a whole. According to the Madhyamaka philosophy, the doctrine of causal law (Pratityasamutpada) is exceedingly important in Buddhism. It is the causal law both of the universe and the lives of individuals. It is important from two points of view. Firstly, it gives a very clear idea of the impermanent and conditioned nature of all phenomena. Secondly, it shows how birth, old age, death and all the miseries of phenomenal existence arise in dependence upon conditions, and how all the miseries cease in the absence of these conditions. The rise and subsidence of the elements of existence is not the correct interpretation of the causal law.

These definitions on the principle of causation are based on the interpretation of Prof. Junjiro Takakusu in The Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy. Conditioned things arise from the secondary causes, in contrast with arising from the primal nature or bhutatatha (Tánh giác). Second, everything arises from conditions and not being spontaneous and self-contained has no separate and independent nature. Third, Buddhism does not give importance to the idea of the Root-Principle or the First Cause as other systems of philosophy often do; nor does it discuss the idea of cosmology. Naturally such a branch of philosophy as theology did not have grounds to develop in Buddhism. One should not expect any discussion of theology from a Buddhist philosopher. As for the problem of creation, Budhism is ready to accept any theory that science may advance, for Buddhism does not recognize any conflict between religion and science. Fourth, according to Buddhism, human beings and all living things are self-created or self-creating. The universe is not homocentric; it is a co-creation of all beings. Naturally such a branch of philosophy as theology did not have grounds to develop in Buddhism. One should not expect any discussion of theology from a Buddhist philosopher. As for the problem of creation, Budhism is ready to accept any theory that science may advance, for Buddhism does not recognize any conflict between religion and science. According to Buddhism, human beings and all living things are self-created or self-creating. The universe is not homocentric; it is a co-creation of all beings. Buddhism does not believe that all things came from one cause, but holds that everything is inevitably created out of more than two causes. The creations or becomings of the antecedent causes continue in time-series, past, present and future, like a chain. This chain is divided into twelve divisions and is called the Twelve Divisioned Cycle of Causation and Becomings. Since these divisions are interdependent, the process is called Dependent Production or Chain of causation. The formula of this theory is as follows: From the existence of this, that becomes; from the happening of this, that happens. From the non-existence of this, that does not become; from the non-happening of this, that does not happen.

According to the Madhyamaka philosophy, the doctrine of causal law (Pratityasamutpada) is exceedingly important in Buddhism. It is the causal law both of the universe and the lives of individuals. It is important from two points of view. Firstly, it gives a very clear idea of the impermanent and conditioned nature of all phenomena. Secondly, it shows how birth, old age, death and all the miseries of phenomenal existence arise in dependence upon conditions, and how all the miseries cease in the absence of these conditions. The rise and subsidence of the elements of existence is not the correct interpretation of the causal law. According to the Madhyamaka philosophy, the causal law (pratityasamutpada) does not mean the principle of temporal sequence, but the principle of essential dependence of things on each other. In one word, it is the principle of relativity. Relativity is the most important discovery of modern science. What science has discovered today, the Buddha had discovered more than two thousand five hundred years before. In interpreting the causal law as essential dependence of things on each other or relativity of things, the Madhyamaka means to controvert another doctrine of the Hinayanists. The Hinayanists had analyzed all phenomena into elements (dharmas) and believed that these elements had a separate reality of their own. The Madhyamika says that the very doctrine of the causal law declares that all the dharmas are relative, they have no separate reality of their own. Without a separate reality is synonymous with devoid of real (sunyata), or independent existence. Phenomena are devoid of independent reality. The most importance of the causal law lies in its teaching that all phenomenal existence, all entities in the world are conditioned, are devoid of real (sunya), independent existence (svabhava). There is no real, dependent existence of entities. All the concrete content belongs to the interplay of countless conditions. Nagarjuna sums up his teaching about the causal law in the following words: “Since there is no elements of existence (dharma) which comes into manifestation without conditions, therefore there is no dharma which is not ‘sunya,’ or devoid of real independent existence.”

II. Four Typical Types of Causation:

According to Prof. Junjiro Takakusu in The Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy, all schools of Mahayana believe in the Principle of Causation. The theory of causation by Dharmadhatu is the climax of all the causation theories; it is actually the conclusion of the theory of causation origination, as it is the universal causation and is already within the theory of universal immanence, pansophism, cosmotheism, or whatever it may be called. The causation theory was explained first by action-influence, but as action originates in ideation, we had, secondly, the theory of causation by ideation-store. Since the ideation-store as the repository of seed-energy must originate from something else, we had, thirdly, the causation theory explained by the expression “Matrix of the Thus-come” (Tathagata-garbha) or Thusness. This curious term means that which conceals the Buddha. Because of concealment it has an impure side, but because of Buddhahood it has a pure side as well. It is a synonym of Thusness (Tathatva or Tathata, not Tattva=Thisness or Thatness) which has in its broadest sense both pure and impure nature. Through the energy of pure and impure causes it manifests the specific character of becoming as birth and death, or as good and evil. Thusness pervades all beings, or better, all beings are in the state of Thusness. Here, as the fourth stage, the causation theory by Dharmadhatu (universe) is set forth. It is the causation by all beings themselves and is the creation of the universe itself, or we can call it the causation by the common action-influence of all beings. Intensively considered the universe will be a manifestation of Thusness or the Matrix of Tathagata (Thus-come). But extensively considered it is the causation of the universe by the universe itself and nothing more. There are many different kinds of Categories of Causation. Belows are four typical ones:

The first category is the “Causation by Action-influence”: Causation by action-influence is depicted in the Wheel of Life. There is law and order in the progress of cause and effect. This is the theory of causal Sequence. In the Twelve Divisioned Cycle of Causations and Becomings, it is impossible to point out which one is the first cause, because the twelve make a continuous circle which is called the Wheel of Life. People are accustomed to regard time as progressing in a straight line from the infinite past through present to infinite future. Buddhism, however, regards time as a circle with no beginning or end. Time is relative. The death of a living being is not the end; at once another life begins to go through a similar process of birth and death, and thus repeats the round of life over and over again. In this way a living being, when considered in relation to time, forms an endless continuum. It is impossible to define what a living being is, for it is always changing and progressing through the Divisions or Stages of Life. The whole series of stages must be taken in their entirety as representing the one individual being. Thus, a living being, when regarded in relation to space, forms a complex of five elements. The Wheel of Life is a clever representation of the Buddhis conception of a living being in relation to both space and time. The Wheel of Life is a circle with no beginning, but it is customary to begin its exposition at Blindness (unconscious state). Blindness is only a continuation of Death. At death the body is abandoned, but Blindness remains as the crystalization of the effects of the actions performed during life. This Blidness is often termed Ignorance; but this ignorance should not be thought of as the antonym of knowing; it must include in its meaning both knowing and not knowing, blindness or blind mind, unconsciousness. Blindness leads to blind activity. The energy or the effect of this blind activity is the next stage, Motive or Will to Live. This Will to Live is not the kind of will which is used in the term “free will;” it is rather a blind motive toward life or the blind desire to live. Blindness and Will to Live are called the Two Causes of the pst. They are causes when regarded subjectively from the present; but objectively regarded, the life in the past is a whole life just as much as is the life of the present.

The second category is the “Causation by the Ideation-Store”: Causation by the Ideation-store is used to explain the origin of action. Actions or karma are divided into three groups, i.e., those by the body, those by speech and those by volition. When one makes up one’s mind to do something, one is responsible for it and is liable to retribution, because volition is a mind-action even if it is not expressed in speech or manifested in physical action. But the mind being the inmost recess of all actions, the causation ought to be attributed to the mind-store or Ideation-store. The Buddhist ideation theory divides the mind into eight faculties, i.e., the eye-sense, the ear-sense, the nose-sense, the tongue-sense, the body-sense, the co-ordinating sense-center or the sixth mano-vijnana, the individualizing thought-center of egotism or the seventh manas-vijnana, and the storing-center of ideation or the eighth alaya-vjnana, or Ideation-store. Of these eight faculties, the seventh and the eighth require explanation. The seventh, the Individualizing Center of Egotism is the center where all the selfish ideas, egotistic, opinions, arrogance, self-love, illusions, and delusions arise. The eighth, the Storing Center of Ideation, is where the ‘seeds’ of all manifestations are deposited and later expressed in manifestations. Buddhism holds that the origin of all things and events is the effect of ideation. Every seed lies in the Storing Center and when it sprouts out into the object-world a reflection returns as a new seed. That is, the mind reahces out into the outer world and, perceiving objects, puts new ideas into the mind-store. Again, this new seed sprouts out to reflect back a still newer seed. Thus the seeds accumulate and all are stored there together. When they are latent, we call them seeds, but when active we call them manifestations. The old seeds, the manifestations and the new seeds are mutually dependent upon each other, forming a cycle which forever repeats the same process. This is called the Chain of Causation by Ideation. That which makes the seed or subconscious thought sprout out into actual manifestation, that is, the motive force which makes the chain of causation move, is nothing but ideation. It is easy to see from this theory of Causation by Ideation that Delusion, Action and Suffering originate from mind-action, or ideation. The Storing Center of Ideation is carried across rebirth to determine what the next form of life will be. This Storing Center might be regarded as similar to the soul in other forms of religion. According to the Buddhist doctrine, however, what is reborn is not the soul, but is the result of the actions performed in the preceding life. In Buddhism the existence of the soul is denied.

The third category is the “Causation By Thusness”: Causation by Thusness is used to explain the origin of the ideation-store. The ideation-store of a human being is determined by his nature as a human being and this nature is a particular dynamic form of Thusness. One should not ask where Thusness or Matrix of Thus-come originates, because it is the noumenon, the ultimate indescribable Thusness. Thusness or suchness, is the only term which can be used to express the ultimate indefinable reality. It is otherwise called the Matrix of Thus-come. Thus-come is Buddha-nature hidden in ordinary human nature. “Thus-come” is a designation of the Buddha employed by himself instead of “I” or “we,” but not without special meaning. After he had attained Enlightenment, he met the five ascetics with whom he had formerly shared his forest life. These five ascetics addressed him saying “Friend Gotama.” The Buddha admonished them, sayingthat they ought not treat the Thus-come (thus enlightened I come) as their friend and their equal, because he was now the Enlightened One, the Victorious, All-wise One. When he had ‘thus come’ in his present position as the instructor of all men and even of devas, they should treat him as the Blesed One and not as an old friend. Again, when the Buddha went back to Kapilavastu, his former home, he did not go to the palace of his father, but lived in the banyan grove outside the town, and as usual went out to beg daily. Suddhodana, his king-father, could not bear the idea of his own son, the prince, begging on the streets of Kapilavastu. At once, the king visited the Buddha in the grove and entreated him to return to the palace. The Buddha answered him in the following words: “If I were still your heir, I should return to the palace to share the comfort with you, but my lineage has changed. I am now a successor to the Buddhas of the past, all of whom have ‘thus gone’ (Tathagata) as I am doing at present, living in the woods and begging. So your Majesty must excuse me.” The king understood the words perfectly and became a pupil of the Buddha at once. Thus come and thus gone have practically the same meaning. The Buddha used them both and usually in their plural forms. Sometimes the words were used for a sentient being who thus come, i.e., comes in the contrary way. Thus-come and Thus-gone can therefore be used in two senses: ‘The one who is enlightened but comes in an ordinary way’ or ‘The one who comes in an ordinary way simply.’ Now, Thusness or the Matrix of Thus-come or Thus-gone means the true state of all things in the universe, the source of an Enlightened One, the basis of enlightenment. When static, it is Enlightenment itself, with no relation to time or space; but, when dynamic, it is in human form assuming an ordinary way and feature of life. Thusness and the Matrix of Thus-come are practically one and the same, the ultimate truth. In Mahayana the ultimate truth is called Suchness or Thusness. We are now in a position to explain the Theory of Causation by Thusness. Thusness in its static sense is spaceless, timeless, all-equal, without beginning or end, formless, colorless, because the thing itself without its manifestation cannot be sensed or described. Thusness in its dynamic sense can assume any form ; when driven by a pure cause it takes a lofty form; when driven by a tainted cause it takes a depraved form. Thusness, therefore, is of two states. The one is the Thusness itself; the other is its manifestation, its state of life and death.

The fourth category is the “Causation by the Universal Principle”: Dharmadhatu means the elements of the principle and has two aspects: the state of Thusness or noumenon and the world of phenomenal manifestation. In this causation theory it is usually used in the latter sense, but in speaking of the odeal world as realized, the former sense is to be applied. Buddhism holds that nothing was created singly or individually. All things in the universe, matter and mind, arose simultaneously, all things in it depending upon one another, the influence of each mutually permeating and thereby making a universal symphony of harmonious totality. If one item were lacking, the universe would not be complete; without the rest, one item cannot be. When the whole cosmos arrives at a harmony of perfection, it is called the ‘Universe One and True,’ or the ‘Lotus Store.’ In this ideal universe all beings will be in perfect harmony, each finding no obstruction in the existence and activity of another. Although the idea of the interdependence and simultaneous rise of all things is called the Theory of Universal Causation, the nature of the rise being universal, it is rather a philosophy of the totality of all existence than a philosophy of origination.

Chapter 23. The Principle of True Reality

According to Buddhism, thusness is the ultimate foundation of Buddhist thought concerning the real state of all that exists. It is natural for people to seek first the innermost essence among the outward appearance of all things or to seek an unchanging fact among many changing things. Failing in this, people try to distinguish the unknowable from the knowable, the real from the apparent, or the thing-in-itself from the thing-for-us. This effort, too, will end in failure, for what they select as the real or the thing-in-itself is utterly beyond human knowledge. Such efforts may be called the search for the world-principle or for the life-principle. The method of search and the resulting theories are various. Some are monistic or pantheistic, while others are dualistic or pluralistic. Against all these views Buddhism stands aloof by itself. Buddhism is atheistic, there is no doubt about it. When questioned about the First Cause or Principle, the Buddha always remained reticent. As to the life-principle, he denied the existence of an ego or soul or any kind of thing which one may call the real self, as we have discussed. To see the true nature or the true state of all things is not to find one in many or one before many, nor is it to distinguish unity from diversity or the static from the dynamic. According to Prof. Junjiro Takakusu in The Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy, the true reality means the true state without any special condition. It is, in fact, the true reality without a reality, i.e., without any specific character or nature. It is very difficult for the human mind to understand this idea of reality in which there is no substance at all. The idea of an abiding substance with changing qualities is very deeply rooted in our habits of thought. Buddhist schools, no matter what they are, Hinayana or Mahayana, realistic or idealistic, are utterly free from such a habit of thought and all maintain the theory of pure change without substratum. When any Buddhist speaks of the true state of reality he means the state without a specific nature. According to the general views of the Hinayana, the state without any specific condition is Nirvana, because Nirvana is perfect freedom from bondage. The Realistic School (Sarvastivada), belonging to the Hinayana, goes a step further and assumes that selflessness, impermanence and Nirvana (flamelessness) are the true state of all things. Nihilistic School (Satyasiddhi) holds that all things, matter and mind, are void or unreal and that nothing exists even in Nirvana. The Mahayana teaches, on the other hand, that the truth can be discovered only by negative views of becoming, and, on the other hand, holds that true perfection can be realized negatively in the denial of the illusory and causal nature of existence. The Wreath School of the Mahayana thinks that the ideal world, or the World One-and-True, is without any independent individual. The Lotus School identifies the manifested state as it is and the true entity immanent-in-nature. On the whole, to see only the fact that a flower is falling is, after all, a one-sided view according to the theory of impermanence. We ought to see that immanent in the fact of a flower’s falling there lies the fact of a flower’s blooming, and also immanent in the blooming of the flower there is the fact of its falling. Thus the opposition of falling (extinction) and blooming (becoming) is synthesized and we form the view of reciprocal identification which is an unbiased view of the mean, or Middle Path. This amounts to saying that we see inaction in action and action in inaction, immotion in motion and motion in inmotion, calm in wave and wave in calm. We thus arrive at the true state of all things, i.e., the Middle Path. Anh this is what is meant by Thusness or Suchness. When the view is negatively expressed it indicates the true negation or Void, because any special state of thing is denied altogether. Such is considered to be the ultimate idea of Buddhist philosophy. When the ultimate principle is considered from the universal point of view, it is called “the Realm of Principle” (Dharmadhatu), but when it is considered from the personal point of view, it is named “the Matrix of Thus-come or Thus-gone” (Tathagata-garbha). Other ways of expressing this same idea are: the Buddha-nature (Buddhata or Buddha-svabhava), and the Spiritual or Law-body (Dharmakaya). These are all practically synonymous. Without knowing the principle of Thusness or Void in the highest sense of the word, one can in no way understand the Mahayana doctrine. The word ‘void’ in its highest sense does not mean ‘nothingness,’ but indicates ‘devoid of special conditions,’ or ‘unconditioned’.

Chapter 24. The Principle of Totality

According to Buddhism, totality means a complete combination. The totality means the absolute in the relative and vice-versa. The identity of apparent contraries; perfect harmony among all differences. As in water and waves. Waves are one with waves, and water is one with water, and water and wave are one. As in affliction (passion) and enlightenment. As in transmigration of life and death and nirvana. As in life and death. All are of the same fundamental nature, all are bhutatathata, bhutatathata is all. The three dogmas of the T’ien-T’ai Perfect School, as combined, as one and the same, as a unity. The principle each phenomenon expresses is the triple truth of harmony, as void, as temporary and as mean, i.e., noumenon originally immanent, perfectly immanent, immanency in principle and immanency in nature. According to Prof. Junjiro Takakusu in The Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy, three prongs established by the T’ien-T’ai sect is the system of threefold observation is based on the philosophy of Nagarjuna, who lived in south-eastern India about the second century A.D.

First, the Emptiness: Unreality, that things do not exist in reality. Sunya (universality) annihilates all relatives. The ‘Empty’ mode destroys the illusion of sensuous perception and constructs supreme knowledge (prajna). Talking about entering emptiness from conventional existence, at this first level of contemplation, “conventional existence” refers to the ordinary, mistaken perception of phenomena as existing substantially and “entering emptiness” means to negate the existence of independent substantial Being in these phenomena. Thus, as Chih-I says, “When one encounters emptiness, one perceives not only emptiness but also knows the true nature of conventional existence.” Second, the Borrowed Form: Reality, things exist though in “derived” or “borrowed” form, consisting of elements which are permanent. Particularity establishes all relativities. The ‘Hypothetical’ mode does away with the defilement of the world and establishes salvation from all evils. Talking about entering conventional existence from emptiness, at this second level of contemplation, “conventional existence” refers to correct understanding and positive acceptance of objective phenomena as interdependently and conditionallyco-arisen. Emptiness here refers to a mistaken attachment to the concept of emptiness, or a misunderstanding of emptiness as merely a nihilistic nothingness. As Chih-I says, “If one understands (enters) emptiness, one understands that there is no ‘emptiness’. Thus one must ‘re-enter’ conventional existence. One should know that this contemplation is done for the sake of saving sentient beings, and know that true reality is not substantial (true) reality but an expedient means which appears conventionally. Therefore it is called ‘from emptiness’. One differentiates the medicine according to the disease without making conceptual discriminations. Therefore it is called ‘entering conventional existence’.” Third, the Middle: The “middle” doctrine of the Madhyamaka School, which denies both positions in the interests of he transcendental, or absolute. The middle path transcends and unites all relativities. The ‘Medial’ mode destroys hallucination arising from ignorance (avidya) and establishes the enlightened mind. Talking about the contemplation of the Middle Path of supreme meaning, this refers to the highest level of contemplation wherein one simultaneously and correctly perceives the validity of both emptiness and conventional existence. As Chih-I says: “First, to contemplate and attain insight concerning the emptiness of conventional existence is to empty samsara of substantial Being. Next, to contemplate and attain insight concerning the emptiness of emptiness is to empty nirvana. Thus both extremes are negated. This is called the contemplation of two sides of emptiness as a way of expedient means in order to attain encounter with the Middle Path... The first contemplation utilizes emptiness, and the later contemplation utilizes conventional existence. This is an expedient means recognizing the reality of both in an extreme way, but when one enters the Middle Path, both of the two truths are illuminated simultaneously and as identical and synonymous.”

Chapter 25. The Principle of Perfect Freedom

In Buddhism, “Moksha” means to release from the round of birth and death. The liberation the experiencing of which is the goal of all Buddhists and all meditative training in Buddhism. Liberation is also used as a synonym for enlightenment. To Deliverance means to release from all the trammels of life, the bondage of the passion and reincarnation. To Deliverance means to attain Final emancipation or liberation, eternal liberation, release from worldly existence or the cycle of birth and death. Liberation (Moksha) means the escaping from bonds and the obtaining of freedom, freedom from transmigration, from karma, from illusion, from suffering of the burning house in the three realms (lokiya). Liberation or release from suffering through knowledge of the cause of sufering and the cessation of suffering, through realization of the four noble truths to eliminate defilements. Vimukti is the extinction of all illusions and pasions. It is liberation from the karmic cycle of life and death and the realization of nirvana. Generally speaking, all teachings of the Buddha are aimed at releasing human beings’ sufferings and afflictions in this very life. They have a function of helping individual see the way to make arise the skilful thought, and to release the evil thought. For example, using compassion to release ill-will; using detachment or greedilessness to release greediness; using wisdom or non-illusion to release illusion; using perception to release selfishness; using impermanence and suffering to release “conceit.” For lay people who still have duties to do in daily life for themselves and their families, work, religion, and country, the Buddha specifically introduced different means and methods, especially the Buddha’s teachings in the Advices to Lay People (Sigalaka) Sutra. The Buddha also introduced other methods of cultivation: “To abandon four wrong deeds of not taking life, not taking what is not given, not committing sexual misconduct, not lying, not doing what is caused by attachment, ill-will, or fear, not to waste one’s substance by the six ways of not drinking alcohol, not haunting the streets at unfitting time, not attending nonesense affairs, not gambling, not keeping bad company, and not staying idle. In addition, lay people should always live in the six good relationships of their families and society: between parents and children, between husband and wife, between teacher and student, among relatives and neighbors, between monks and lay people, between employer and employee, etc. These relationships should be based on human love, loyalty, sincerity, gratitude, mutual acceptance, mutual understanding and mutual respect because they relate closely to individuals’ happiness in the present. Thus, the Buddha’s Dharma is called the Dharma of liberation.

To understand Buddhism properly we must begin at the end of the Buddha’s career. The year 486 B.C. or thereabouts saw the conclusion of the Buddha’s activity as a teacher in India. The death of the Buddha is called, as is well known, ‘Nirvana,’ or ‘the state of the fire blown out.’ When a fire is blown out, nothing remain to be seen. So the Buddha was considered to have enetered into an invisible state which can in no way be depicted in word or in form. Just prior to his attaining Nirvana, in the Sala grove of Kusinagara, the Buddha spoke to His disciples to the following effect: “Do not wail saying ‘Our Teacher has pased away, and we have no one to follow.’ What I have taught, the Dharma (ideal) with the disciplinary (Vinaya) rules, will be your teacher after my departure. If you adhere to them and practice them uninterruptedly, is it not the same as if my Dharma-body (Dharmakaya) remained here forever?” In spite of these thoughtful instructions some of his disciples were expressing a dissenting idea even before his funeral. It was natural, therefore, for the mindful elders to think of calling a council of elders in order to preserve the orthodox teaching of the Buddha. They consulted King Ajatasatru who at once ordered the eighteen monasteries around his capital to be repaired for housing the members of the coming Council of Rajagriha. When the time arrived five hundred selected elders met together. Ananda rehearsed the Dharmas (sutras) while Upali explained the origin of each of the Vinaya rules. There was no necessity of rehearsing the Vinaya rules themselves since they had been compiled during the Buddha’s lifetime for weekly convocation for confessions. At the council a fine collection of the Dharma and the Vinaya was made, the number of Sutras was decided, and the history of the disciplinary rules was compiled. The result of the elders’ activity was acknowledged as an authority by those who had a formalistic and realistic tendency. There were , however, some who differed from them in their opinion. Purana, for instance, was skilled in preaching. Purana was in a bamboo grove near Rajagriha during the council, and, being asked by some layman, is said to have answered: “The council may produce a fine collection. But I will keep to what I heard from my teacher myself. So we may presume that there were some who had idealistic and free-thinking tendencies.

Chapter 26. Phenomenalism in Buddhism

Reality, in contrast with unreal or false; absolute fundamental reality, the ultimate, the absolute; the Dharmakaya, or the Bhutatathata. In Buddhist practice, practitioners can aim at the ultimate, the absolute, the Dharmakaya, or the Bhutatathata without renouncing the mark of the world. When working at cultivation, we, Buddhist practitioners, should dig into it with all our minds and hearts. Whether we are happy or sad or angry, in pure or defiled places, drinking tea or eating dinner, at home with wife and children, meeting guests, on duty in the office, attending a party or a festival, or active in any other way, we should consider these circumstances as good opportunities for us to practice, we should always be alert and mindful of the practice. Formerly the High Commissioner, Li Wen He, gained thorough Enlightenment while he was holding this high position in the government. Yang Wen Kung gained his Zen awakening while he was working in the Royal Institute of Study. Chang Wu Yuen gained his Enlightenment while he held the office of Commissioner of Transport in Chiang Hsi Province. These three great laymen have indeed set us an example of the realization of Truth without renouncing the world. In order to gain their enlightenment, they did not struggle to shun their wives and children, resign from their offices and positions, gnaw the roots of vegetables, practice ascetism and frugality, avoid disturbance, and seek quiet and seclusion. These laymen require much more energy to get the Work done because of the unfavorable conditions under which they must work; but they proved to us that this Work could be accomplished under any circumstances.

The concept that the world is immanent in one moment of thought is the philosophy of immanence, phenomena being identical with conscious action. It may be called ‘phenomenology,’ each phenomenon, matter or mind, expressing its own principle or nature. According to Most Venerable U. Thittila in the Gems of Buddhism Wisdom, although Buddhism teaches that karma is the chief cause of the unevenesses in the world, yet it does not support fatalism or the doctrine of predestination, nor does it stubbornly hold the view that everything is due to past actions. The Law of Cause and Effect described in Buddhist philosohy is one of the five orders which are laws in themselves and operate in the universe. First, the law of physical inorganic order or seasonal phenomena of winds and rains. The unerring order of seasons, characteristic seasonal changes and events, causes of winds and rains, nature of heat, etc., belong to this group. Second, the law of physical organic order or germs and seeds. The scientific theory of cells and genes and physical similarity of twins, i.e., rice produced from rice seed, sugar from sugar cane or honey, and peculiar characteristics of certain fruits, etc. Third, the law of order of act and result. Desirable and undesirable acts produce corresponding good and bad results. As surely as water seeks its own level so does kamma, given opportunity, produce its inevitable result, not in the form of a reward or punishment but as an innate sequence. The sequence of deed and effect is as natural and necessary as the way of the moon and stars. Fourth, the law of gravitation and other similar laws of nature, or the order of the norm. Fifth, the law of the mind or the psychic law. The process of consciousness, arising and perishing of consciousness, constituents of consciousness, power of mind, or all psychic phenomena which are inexplicable to modern science, etc.

Talking about the absolute truth or light of the Buddha, according to the Vimalakirti Sutra, Chapter Twelve, the Buddha then asked Vimalakirti: “You spoke of coming here to see the Tathagata, but how do you see Him impartially?” Vimalakirti replied: “Seeing reality in one’s body is how to see the Buddha. I see the Tathagata did not come in the past, will not go in the future, and does not stay in the present. The Tathagata is seen neither in form (rupa, the first aggregate) nor in the extinction of form nor in the underlying nature of form. Neither is He seen in responsiveness (vedana), conception (sanjna), discrimination (samskara) and consciousness (vijnana) (i.e. the four other aggregates), their extinction and their underlying natures. The Tathagata is not created by the four elements (earth, water, fire and air), for He is (immaterial) like space. He does not come from the union of the six entrances (i.e. the six sense organs) for He is beyond eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and intellect. He is beyond the three worlds (of desire, form and formlessness) for He is free from the three defilements (desire, hate and stupidity). He is in line with the three gates to nirvana and has achieved the three states of enlightenment (or three insights) which do not differ from (the underlying nature of) unenlightenment. He is neither unity nor diversity, neither selfness nor otherness, neither form nor formlessness, neither on this shore (of enlightenment) nor in mid-stream when converting living beings. He looks into the nirvanic condition (of stillness and extinction of worldly existence) but does not dwell in its permanent extinction. He is neither this nor that and cannot be revealed by these two extremes. He cannot be known by intellect or perceived by consciousness. He is neither bright nor obscure. He is nameless and formless, being neither strong nor weak, neither clean nor unclean, neither in a given place nor outside of it, and neither mundane nor supramundane. He can neither be pointed out nor spoken of. He is neither charitable nor selfish; he neither keeps nor breaks the precepts; is beyond patience and anger, diligence and remissness, stillness and disturbance. He is neither intelligent nor stupid, and neither honest nor deceitful. He neither comes nor goes and neither enters nor leaves. He is beyond the paths of word and speech. He is neither the field of blessedness nor its opposite, neither worthy nor unworthy of worship and offerings. He can be neither seized nor released and is beyond ‘is’ and ‘is not’. He is equal to reality and to the nature of Dharma (Dharmata) and cannot be designated and estimated, for he is beyond figuring and measuring. He is neither large nor small, is neither visible nor audible, can neither be felt nor known, is free from all ties and bondage, is equal to the All-knowledge and to the (underlying) nature of all living beings, and cannot be differentiated from all things. He is beyond gain and loss, free from defilement and troubles (klesa), beyond creating and giving rise (to anything), beyond birth and death, beyond fear and worry, beyond like and dislike, and beyond existence in the past, future and present. He cannot be revealed by word, speech, discerning and pointing. World Honoured One, the body of the Tathagata being such, seeing Him as above-mentioned is correct whereas seeing Him otherwise is wrong.”

Chapter 27. Faith in Buddhism

A basic belief in Buddhism is that the world is filled with sufferings and afflictions that are caused by the desires, angers and ignorance, pride, doubt, and wrong views. If the above mentioned troubles could be removed, then the sufferings and afflictions would naturally end. However, removing the above mentioned troubles does not mean that we chase after worldly pleasures, nor does it means pessimism. According to the Buddha, most of daily life’s troubles are caused by attachment. We get angry, we worry, we become greedy and complain bitterly. All these causes of unhappiness, tension, stubbornness and sadness are due to attachment. Thus if we want to end sufferings and afflictions, we must end attachment, no exception. However, to end attachment is not easy for in order to end attachment we must conquest ourselves. Thus the Buddha taught in the Dharmapada Sutra: “The greates of conquests is not the subjugation of others but of the self. Even though a man conquers thousands of men in battle, he who conquers himself is the greatest of conquerors.” In fact, the ultimate goal of a Buddhist is to look inward to find his own Buddha and not outward. Thus, the goal of a Buddhist is the development of self-dependency, the ability to set oneself free of sufferings and afflictions. Buddhism is strongly against a blind belief on other forces of salvation with no basic factors. The Buddha always reminded his disciples: “You should reject blind belief. Do not judge by hearsay, not on mere assertion, not on authority of so-called sacred scriptures. Do not hurrily judge according to appearances, not believe anything because an ascetic or a teacher has said it.”

With Buddhism, to believe religion without understanding it thoroughly, it’s a blind faith, or it’s not different from superstition. Even though understanding but understanding without finding to see if it’s right or wrong, in accordance or not in accordance with truth, with reality, it’s also a form of superstition or wrong belief. Believe that when you sow a seed of hot-pepper, you will have a hot-pepper tree and eventually you will reap hot-pepper fruit. However, even though you have already sown the seed of hot-pepper, but you realize that you don’t like to eat fruit that is hot, you stop fertilizing and watering the hot-pepper tree, the tree will wither and die, and will not produce any fruit. Similarly, if you know an action is bad and unwholesome, you refuse to act, of course you will not receive any bad or unwholesome consequence. The Buddha refuses to believe that whatever happens to a person, either good or bad, is due to chance, fate or fortune. Everything that happens has a specific cause or causes and there must be some tight relationships between the cause and the effect. Those who want to believe in Buddhism should not rush to become a Buddhist with the wrong understanding or blind belief in Buddhism. You should take your time to do more researches, to ask questions, and to consider carefully before making your final decision. Religions that worship god have always considered reason and wisdom as the enemy of faith and dogma for them there exist only “believe” or “not believe” and nothing else. In fact, if we accept that there exists a so-called almighty god, we cannot accept any of the findings of modern science; neither Darwin’s science of biological evolution nor the theories of the nature and evolution of the universe coming from modern physics. They believe that a so-called creator god invented humankind and the universe all at once and that these three realms of god, man and universe, all are separate. However, modern science agrees with what the Buddha taught almost twenty-six centuries ago, and proves that the universe as one infinite process of change. Furthermore, the belief of salvation by god caused a serious danger to the whole world, especially from the first century to the end of the nineteenth century, for those who believe in the salvation of god believe that they must impose salvation on others. For this reason, Catholic countries sent their troops and priests all over the world to save others by force. And as a result, millions of people got killed or slaughtered and subjugated in the name of god. Buddhism is in contrast with other religions that believe in god. Buddhism teaches that one must develop wisdom. However, wisdom in Buddhism is not simply believing in what we are told or taught. True wisdom is to directly see and understand for ourselves. With this wisdom, people will have an open mind that listens to others’ points of view rather than being closed-minded; people will also carefully examine fatcs that contradicts their belief rather than blindly believing. Sincere Buddhists never believe in the law of eternity. The Buddha accepts the law of impermanence or change and denies the existence of eternal substances. Matter and spirit are false abstractions that, in reality, are only changing factors or dharmas which are connected and which arise in functional dependence on each other. Thus, Buddhist faith means that the devotee accepts the Buddha as a Teacher and a Guide, His doctrine as way of life, and the Sangha community as the examplars of this way of life. According to Buddhist point of view in faith, everyone is completely free to make his own choice in faith, no one has the right to interfere with other people’s choice. Let’s take a close look in the Buddha’s teaching in the Kalama Sutra: “Nothing should be accepted merely on the ground of tradition or the authority of the teacher, or because it is the view of a large number of people, distinguished or otherwise. Everything should be weighed, examined and judged according to whether it is true or false in the light of one’s own true benefits. If considered wrong, they should not be rejected but left for further considerations.” Therefore, we see clearly that Buddhism is based on personal expeirence, rationalism, practice, morality, and insight. There is no need to propitiate gods or masters. There is no blind adherence to a faith, rigid dogmas, rituals, holy scriptures, or myths. The Buddha always confirmed his disciples that a salvation can only be gained by man and by man only during his life without the least help from a so-called god or gods.

The Buddha taught us to try to recognize truth, so we can understand our fear, to lessen our desires, to eliminate our selfishness, and to calmly and courageously accept things we cannot change. He replaced fear, not with blindly and irrational belief but with rational understanding which corresponds to the truth. Furthermore, Buddhists do not believe in god because there does not seem to be any concrete evidence to support this idea. Who can answer questions on god? Who is god? Is god masculine or feminine or neuter? Who can provide ample evidence with real, concrete, substantial or irrefutable facts to prove the existence of god? So far, no one can. Buddhists suspend judgment until such evidence is forthcoming. Besides, such belief in god is not necessary for a really meaningful and happy life. If you believe that god make your life meaningful and happy, so be it. But remember, more than two-thirds of the world do not believe in god and who can say that they don’t have a meaningful and happy life? And who dare to say that those who believe in god, all have a meaningful and happy life? If you believe that god help you overcome disabilities and difficulties, so be it. But Buddhists do not accept the theological concept of salvation. In the contrary, based on the Buddha’s own experience, he showed us that each human being had the capacity to purify the body and the mind, develop infinitive love and compassion and perfect understanding. He shifted the gods and heavens to the self-heart and encouraged us to find solution to our problems through self-understanding. Finally, such myths of god and creation concept has been superseded by scientific facts. Science has explained the origin of the universe completely without recourse to the god-idea.

Buddhism considers human’s liberation the priority. Once the Buddha was asked by a monk named Malunkyaputta, whether the world was eternal or not eternal, whether the world was finite or infinite, whether the soul was one thing and the body another, whether a Buddha existed after death or did not exist after death, and so on, and so on. The Buddha flatly refused to discuss such metaphysics, and instead gave him a parable. “It is as if a man had been wounded by an arrow thickly smeared with poison, and yet he were to say, ‘I will not have this arrow pulled out until I know by what man I was wounded,’ or ‘I will not have this arrow pulled out until I know of what the arrow with which I was wounded was made.’” As a practical man he should of course get himself treated by the physician at once, without demanding these unnecessary details which would not help him in the least. This was the attitude of the Buddha toward the metaphysical speculation which do not in any way help improve ourselves in our cultivation. The Buddha would say, “Do not go by reasoning, nor by argument.” Besides, Buddhism does not accept such practices as fortune telling, wearing magic charms for protection, fixing lucky sites for building, prophesying and fixing lucky days, etc. All these practices are considered useless superstitions in Buddhism. However, because of greed, fear and ignorance, some Buddhists still try to stick to these superstituous practices. As soon as people understand the Buddha’s teachings, they realize that a pure heart can protect them much better than empty words of fortune telling, or wearing nonsense charms, or ambiguous chanted words and they are no longer rely on such meaningless things. In Buddhism, liberation is a motto which heightens (elevates) the unfettered spirit beyond the irrational wall of conventional restriction in which the faith of each individual must be chosen by that individual and by no one else. However, the Buddha always emphasized “Try to understand thoroughly before believing, even with my teachings, for acting freely and without knowing the real meaning of whatever you act sometimes you unintentionally destroy valuable traditions of yourselves. This is the same as a diamond being thrown into the dirt.” The Buddha continued to advise: “When you do anything you should think of its consequence.” Nowadays, more than 2,500 years after the Buddha’s time, all scientists believe that every event that takes place in the world is subject to the law of cause and effect. In other words, cause is the activity and effect is the result of the activity. The Buddha described the world as an unending flux of becoming. All is changeable, continuous transformation, ceaseless mutation, and a moving stream. Everything exists from moment to moment. Everything is recurring rotation of coming into being and then passing out of existence. Everything is moving from formation to destruction, from birth to death. The matter of material forms are also a continuous movement or change towards decay. This teaching of the impermanent nature of everything is one of the most important points of view of Buddhism. Nothing on earth partakes of the character of absolute reality. That is to say there will be no destruction of what is formed is impossible. Whatever is subject to origination is subject to destruction. Change is the very constituent of reality. In daily life, things move and change between extremes and contrasts, i.e., rise and fall, success and failure, gain and loss, honor and contempt, praise and blame, and so on. No one can be sure that a “rise” does not follow with a “fall”, a success does not follow with a failure, a gain with a loss, an honor with a contempt, and a praise with a blame. To thoroughly understand this rule of change or impermanence, Buddhists are no longer dominated by happiness, sorrow, delight, despair, disappointment, satisfaction, self-confidence and fear.

In the noble teachings of the Buddha, it is honesty, kindness, understanding, patience, generosity, forgiveness, loyalty and other good qualities that truly protect us and give us true happiness and prosperity. A man who possesses the above mentioned characteristics, that man is travelling on the Path to the Buddha’s Land. It is true that Buddhahood cannot be found outside. It has no limit and not be confined in the East, West, South or North. It is in fact, in every man’s mind. In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha taught: “Once upon a time, there was a father who was very old and death was hovering on him. He had a little son and wanted him to be well off in the future. He hid a very valuable diamond between the hems of his son’s shirt and then gave him some advice. After his father’s passing away, the son forgot completely about the hidden diamond. He became poor, wandering here and there to beg for help, met with nothing but refusal. One day, he suddenly remembered about the hidden treasure left by his father, from thence he became a rich man and no longer depended on others for help.”

Most of us are agreed to the fact that among all living beings, human beings are unique beings who can understand what we are and what we should be. Compared to other beings, man is most complete and superior not only in the mentality and thinking, but also in the ability of organization of social life. Human beings’ life cannot be substituted nor repeated nor determined by someone else. Once we are born in this world, we have to live our own life, a meaningful and worth living life. Thus the ancient said: “Man is the most sacred and superior animal.” And the Buddha taught in the Upasaka Sutra: “In all beings, man is endowed with all necessary faculties, intelligence. Besides man’s conditions are not too miserable as those beings in hell, not too much pleasure as those beings in heaven. And above all, man’s mind is not so ignorant as that of the animals.” So man has the ability to build and improve his own life to the degree of perfection.

Chapter 28. Metaphysical Issues in Buddhism

In Buddhism, Buddha was not interested in the elements comprising human beings, nor in metaphysical theories of existence. He was more concerned about how he himself existed in this moment. That was his point. Bread is made from flour. How flour becomes bread when put in the oven was for Buddha the most important thing. How we become enlightened was his main interest. The enlightened person is some perfect, desirable character, for himself and for others. Buddha wanted to find out how human beings develop this ideal character, how various sages in the past became sages. In order to find out how dough became perfect bread, he made it over and over again, until he became quite successful. That was his practice.

According to the Buddha, such metaphysical issues only confuse man and upset his mental equilibrium. Their solution surely will not free mankind from misery and ill. That was why the Buddha hesitated to answer such questions, and at times refrained from explaining those which were often wrongly formulated. The Buddha was a practical teacher. His sole aim was to explain in all its detail the problem of Dukkha, suffering, the universal fact of life, to make people feel its full force, and to convince them of it. He has definitely told us what he explains and what he does not explain. Even questions relating to the past and the future, the Buddha’s answers were very clear: “Let be the past, let be the future, I will teach you the Dhamma.” The Buddha always emphasized: “When this is, that comes to be. With the arising of this, that arises. When this is not, that does not come to be. With the cessation of this, that ceases.” This in a nutshell is the Buddhist doctrine of conditionality or Dependent Arising (paticca samuppada). And this forms the foundation of the Four Noble Truths, the central conception of Buddhism.

However, in Zen, it has a supernatural and mystic side which is an essential part of its nature. Without this it could not be the religion that basically it still is, and it would lose its position as the most humorous actor in the Buddhist play. In many Zen antics we can see the Zen way of performing miracles and its cynical manner of poking fun at them. Tao-tsung was the teacher of Yun-mên. It was he who opened the mind of Yun-mên by hurting his leg. Later Tao-tsung returned to his native town of Mu-chou, as his mother was very old and needed someone to take care of her. From then on he stayed with his mother and earned a living by making straw sandals. At that time a great rebellion broke out, led by a man called Huang-Tsao. As the insurgent army approached Mu-chou, Tao-tsung went to the city gate and hung a big sandal upon it. When Huang-Tsao’s army reached the gate they could not force it open, no matter how hard they tried. Huang-Tsao remarked resignedly to his men: “There must be a great sage living in this town. We had better leave it alone.” Saying so, he led his army away and Mu-chou was saved from being sacked. Zen master Mu-kuang She, name of a Chinese Zen master in the ninth century. We do not have detailed documents on this Zen Master; however, there is a dialogue between him and Zen master Huang-po in The Records of the Transmission of the Lamp (Ch’uan-Teng-Lu), Volume IX. While on his journey to Mount T’ien-T’ai, Mu-kuang She met Zen master Huang-Po. They talked and laugh, just as though they were old friends who had long known one another. Their eyes gleamed with delight as they then set off traveling together. Coming to the fast rapids of a stream, they removed their hats and took up staffs to walk across. Mu-kuang She tried to lead Huang-Po across, saying: “Come over! Come over!” Huang-Po said: “If Elder Brother wants to go across, then go ahead.” Mu-kuang She then began walking across the top of the water, just as though it were dry land. Mu-kuang She turned to Huang-Po and said: “Come across! Come across!” Huang-Po yelled: Ah! You self-saving fellow! If I had known this before I would have chopped off your legs!” Mu-kuang She cried out: “You’re truly a vessel for the Mahayana, I can’t compare with you!” And so saying, he vanished. Despite all their mockery and dislike of wonder-working acts and supernatural powers, the accomplished Zen masters were by no means incapable of performing them. They could do so if they deemed it necessary for a worthwhile purpose. These miracle powers are simply the natural by-products of true Enlightenment. A perfectly enlightened being must possess them, otherwise his Enlightenment can at most be considered as only partial. The story of Zen master P’u Hua is another typical example of supernatural and mystic side of the nature of Zen.

Chapter 29. Buddhism and Buddha’s Statues and Images

Image is one of the needs to remember the Buddha. However, it is impossible to express the Buddha in physical form because he is nothing but the attributes of awakening, enlightening, wisdom, compassion, loving-kindness, joy, equanimity, etc. However, if we don’t express Him in a perfect statue, what else can we do with these symbols? We should express these symbols in the most ideal human forms, namely in the image of the Buddha when He acquired the ultimate enlightenment. So the Buddha’s image should be in the attitude of calmness and indifference to pleasure and pain. People often feel the need to remember the things they love and respect in a form that they can see. For instance, a photograph is kept in order to remember a loved one. The national flag is a reminder of the loyalty people feel towards their country. The photograph and national flag are examples of symbols in remembrance of the qualities of the people or things that are being represented. They form the focal point of one’s feelings of love, respect and loyalty. In the same way, the shrine found in Buddhist homes or monasteries is a focal point of Buddhist observances. At the center of the shrine, there is usually an image of the Buddha. The image may be made of a variety of materials such as marble, gold, wood or clay. The image is a symbol that helps to remember the noble qualities of the Buddha. The shrine may also have such objects as a volume of Buddhist scripture to represent the Dharma. Some shrines may display other items such as images, pictures or photographs of Buddhist monks and masters to represent the Sangha. When Buddhists stand before a shrine, the objects they see on it help to remind them of the qualities that are found in the Buddha and the Sangha. This inspires them to work towards cultivating these qualities in themselves.

According to Prof. Junjiro Takakusu in The Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy, none of the earlier sculptures of sanchi and Barhut represent the Buddha in huma figure. It is remarkable to us that the principle events of the Buddha’s life have been fully given in sculture without a figure of the hero. How was that possible? The Buddha at birthis represented by a full blooming lotus; the Buddha in Enlightenment by the Bodhi tree with a rail around it; the Buddha in his first preaching by a wheel, above which a tri-ratna mark is sometimes added; the Buddha in his beggng round, or mendicancy, by a bowl; and the like. If suggestion be a means of true art, the early Buddhist artists understood it perfectly and utilized the idea skilfully for practical purposes. However, all this does not necessarily mean that the elders did not represent the Buddha at all during his lifetime, for there is a legend which tells of their making an image for the purpose of offering veneration during the Buddha’s absence. They were formalistic and realistic, and so if the Buddha was actually before them, they had a right to depict him in painting or sculture. Now that he had passed into Nirvana, however, it was improper to represent the one who no longer really lived. It was after a considerable development of the Gandhara art that the southern school of Buddhism began to have images of Buddha. This was believed at about the same time when the Buddha’s teachings were committed to writing, i.e., 80 B.C. The elders of idealistic and free-thinking tendencies, whom we might regard as the foreunners of the Mahayana, would not hold any meetings for the rehearsal of the Buddha’s sermons, nor would they enlarge upon their Vinaya rules beyond what was laid down by the Buddha himself. They would commit those sacred words to memory or to writing as they pleased. They did not hesitate in using their talents in painting or sculture to depict the Buddha’s image according to their own ideal of beauty and perfection, as they did in the Gandhara art. The trend of the free-thinking mind can also be seen in the metaphysical treatises of the Optionalists (Vaibhasikas), in which several opinions about dharmas or higher dharmas (abhidharmas) are gathered together and some optional ones have been selected and recommended for study. Though the Vaishasika School belonged to the Hinayana, it already betrayed a tendency toward the free-thinking school. Such free-thinking people would be bold in exegesis, erudition, annotation, or in forming and expressing opinion. This, however, does not mean that they departed from the original teachings of the Buddha.

Nowadays, besides the two great statues of the Buddha in Afghanistan which were destroyed by the Taliban in 2002, there are still several big Buddha statues in the world, among them are the two most famous statues in Japan: 1) a huge statue of Varocana housed in the Todaiji Temple in Nara, commissioned (ủy thác) by emperor Shomu (724-748), it was consecrated (dâng cúng) in 751; and 2) an image of Amitabha Buddha, which was financed by donations gathered by Joko and constructed in 1252. It was originally housed in Kotokuin Temple, but the building was destroyed by a tidal wave in 1495. The image was left intact, but an earthquake in 1923 damaged its base. Extensive repair work was conducted on it in 1960-1961.

Chapter 30. Buddhism and the Concept of First Cause

For Buddhism, there must be a cause which is a primary force that produces an effect; effect is a result of that primary force. The law of causation governs everything in the universe without exception. According to Buddhism, “cosmic principle” means the “absolute truth” manifests itself spontaneously and unobstructedly in endlessly varied ways in the phenomenal world, always in a fashion consonant with the given circumstances. Therefore, Buddhism does not recognize a so-called first cause. If one posits a first cause, one is justified in asking for the cause of that “First Cause”, for nothing can escape the law of “condition and cause” which is patent in the world to all but those who will not see. However, a man who attributes beings and events to an omnipotent Creator-God would emphatically say: “It is God’s will, it is sacrilege to question the Authority.” Does not this God-idea stifle the human liberty to investigate, to analyze, to scrutinize, to see what is beyond this naked eye, and so retards insight. It is important to understand that craving is not regarded as the First Cause; for according to Buddhism, there is not First Cause, but beginningless causes and effects and nothing else ruling the universe. Things are neither due to one single cause nor are they causeless, but according to the formula of Dependent Arising, things are multiple caused. Craving, like all other things, physical or mental, is also conditioned, interdependent and relative. It is neither a beginning nor an end in itself. Though craving is cited as the proximate cause of suffering, it is not independent, but interdependent. Dependent on feeling or sensation arises craving, feeling dependent on contact and so forth.

Chapter 31. The Concept of a Soul in Buddhism

In Buddhist thought, there is no so-called “Soul”. Birth precedes death, and death also precedes birth, so that the pair follow each other in bewildering succession. There is no so-called “Soul”, “Self”, or “Fixed entity” that passes from birth to birth. Though man comprises a psycho-physical unit of mind and matter, the “psyche” or “mind” is not a soul or self, in the sense of an enduring entity, something ready-made and permanent. It is a force, a dynamic continuum capable of storing up memories not only of this life, but also of past lives. The mind or psyche is no more a fixed entity. The Buddha stressed that the so-called “being” or “individual” is nothing but a combination of physical and mental forces, or energies, a change with continuity. Someone may ask, if there is no transmigrating permanent soul or self to reincarnate, then what is it that reborn? According to Buddhism, there is no permanent substance of the nature of Self or Soul that reincarnates or transmigrates. It is impossible to conceive of anything that continues without change. All is in a state of flux. What we call life here is the functioning of the five aggregates of grasping, or the functioning of mind and body which are only energies or forces. They are never the same for two consecutive moments, and in the conflux of mind and body we do not see anything permanent. The grown-up man is neither the child nor quite a different person; there is only a relationship of continuity. The conflux of mind and body or mental and physical energy is not lost at death, for no force or energy is ever lost. It undergoes change. It resets, reforms in new conditions. With regard to the psychological question, Buddhism does not admit the existenceof a soul that is real and immortal. Anatma or non-self refers to all things (sarva-dharma), organic and inorganic. In the case of human beings, Buddhism believes that there will accordingly to be no soul, no real self that is immortal. While in the case of things in general, there will be no noumenon, no essence which is unchangeable. Because there is no real self spatially, i.e., no substance, there will be no permanent, i.e., no duration. Therefore, no bliss, is to be found in the world.

Chapter 32. Education in Buddhism

The goal of any Buddhist cultivator is to achieve self-enlightening (examine with one’s own intelligence, and not depending upon another), enlightening or awakening of others, then achieve the final accomplishment, that is to become a Buddha. Devout Buddhists should always remember that the goal of Buddhist education is to help sentient beings become Buddhas, or at least become real Buddhists, and not aiming at socializing human beings as worldly people. Because Buddhism is a religion of returning to self (looking inward), the goal of its education must be inward and not outward for appearances and matters. As mentioned above, the main causes of sufferings and afflictions are greed, anger, hatred, ignorance, pride, doubt, wrong views, killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and so on... and the ultimate goal of Buddhism is to help sentient beings, especially, human beings to eliminate these troubles so that if we are not able to become a Buddha, at least we can become a real Buddhist. Therefore, the goal of Buddhist education is freeing cultivators from being led by these troubles so that they could see Reality and the Truth as it is. The Buddha taught that man of this present moment is the result of millions and millions of his past thoughts and actions, and not ready-made as a cake or a piece of candy. Man’s character is determined by his own thinking, thus man is not perfect by nature. In order to become perfect, man has to educate and train himself. Among other sentient beings, human beings have the ability to think and to reason, and the intelligence to educate and build their life a better one. However, in order to achieve a better or a perfect life, Buddhist or non-Buddhist has no other ways but educating himself with the five precepts (not killing, not stealing, not committing sexual misconduct, not lying and not drinking alcohol or doing drugs), the four noble truths and the eightfole noble path (right view, right thinking, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration)... that is to say education in morality. Besides, the core of Buddhism is the law of “Cause and Effect” so Buddhist education cannot miss this law. Devout Buddhists should always remember that “If this is, that comes to be; from the arising of this, that arises. If this is not, that does not come to be; from the ceasing of this, that ceases.” Buddhist education helps point out to everybody that the law of “Cause and Effect” is for everybody, from normal people to saints. If you sow good deeds, you’ll reap good results. In the contrary, if you sow bad deeds, you’ll reap bad results without any exception. Therefore, according to the Buddhits education, whichever causes increases of greed, anger, ignorance, pride, doubt, wrong views, killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying... is bad and we should stay away from; and whichever helps decreasing or stopping the above mentioned troubles is good and we should pursue. Whatever we say, devout Buddhists should always remember that Buddhism is not a mere system of doctrine, it is a way of life. If we educate ourselves the way the Buddha taught, we would surely have a peaceful, mindful and happy life.

Buddhists always need two ways of education. The first way is secular education and the second one is religious education. These two ways are considered as the two wings for a bird. Without two wings, no bird can fly. Similarly, without these two ways of education, Buddhists would lead to a poor and obscure life, not only in the secular world but also in the spiritual life. Secular education will help us with an appropriate profession to support our family while religious education will help us lead a true happy life. As a matter of fact, religious education is extremely necessary, for it teaches us how to think and act in order to be good and happy. Besides, it also helps us love and understand the meaning of life so that we are able to adjust ourselves to its laws in any circumstances. After experiencing six years in ascetic practices, the Buddha advised his followers to follow the middle path. He taught: “Buddhists should always make best use of their secular life while cultivating the path of true happiness in this world and hereafter.”

Chapter 33. Buddhism and Ancestor Worship

According to our old customs, Buddhists worship ancestors to show our appreciations. According to Buddhism, worshiping ancestors, with the hope of relieving their karma, is not a bad custom. Buddhists diligently cultivate is the best way to show our appreciations to our ancestors. However, some Buddhists misunderstand about Buddhism and consider the worshiping the most important issue in Buddhism. According to the public belief, when there is a passing away person in a family, people usually perform a memorial ceremony on behalf of a deceased on what is believed by Buddhists to be the final day of the Bardo Period (in the intermediate state between death and rebirth).

Vietnamese people have the custom of Ancestor worship for a very long time. Vietnamese people have long believed in the existence of the soul or consciousness after death. Ancestors are thought to watch over and to support their living descendants. Thus, living descendants always worship their ancestors with ultimate respect. Vietnamese people celebrate death anniversary, not only for their deceased parents, but also for their grand-parents, great grand-parents, and great-great grand-parents. They can celebrate with a party or with the simpliest ancestral ritual of burning incense and bowing before their ancestors’ altars or before their ancestors’ portraits. In some families, besides placing offerings of food and drink in front of the altar, they also have the custom to burn paper money for their ancestors. In addition, in some areas in Central Vietnam, there still exist some Clan Temples which worship ancestors of the same surnames. It is no doubt that ancestor worship has helped our people maintain unity and continuity (maintaining generations). According to our old customs, Buddhists worship ancestors to show our appreciations. According to Buddhism, worshiping ancestors, with the hope of relieving their karma, is not a bad custom. Buddhists diligently cultivate is the best way to show our appreciations to our ancestors. However, some Buddhists misunderstand about Buddhism and consider the worshiping the most important issue in Buddhism. Buddhism never encourage Buddhists to worship their ancestors blindly. On the contrary, Buddhism always promotes ancestor worship reasonably by the practice of chanting sutras for the dead, hoping to relieve their karma. Besides, usually on 15th of the third lunar month, people celebrate the “Shing Ming” festival to honour their ancestors and departed spirits. East Asian peoples such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, often celebrate this festival by going to the cemetery to cut grasses, clean and offer food and fruits on their ancestors’ tombs. According to Buddhist traditions, Buddhists also have the custom of worshipping the Buddha. In India, after the Buddha’s parinirvana, Buddhists give the Buddha all the honours due to a Hindu Incarnate God. They began to worship the image of the Buddha for the same reasons as the Hindu, namely to stimulate feeling and meditation.

Vietnamese people have long believed in the existence of a consciousness after death. Ancestors are thought to watch over and to support their living descendants. Thus, living descendants always worship their ancestors with ultimate respect. Vietnamese people celebrate death anniversary, not only for their deceased parents, but also for their grand-parents, great grand-parents, and great-great grand-parents. They can celebrate with a party or with the simpliest ancestral ritual of burning incense and bowing before their ancestors’ altars or before their ancestors’ portraits. In some families, beside placing offerings of food and drink in front of the altar, they also have the custom to burn paper money for their ancestors. In addition, in some areas in Central Vietnam, there still exist some Clan Temples which worship ancestors of the same surnames. It is no doubt that ancestor worship has helped our people maintain unity and continuity (maintaining generations). Buddhism always promotes ancestor worship by the practice of chanting sutras for the dead, hoping to relieve their karma.

Chapter 34. Buddhism and Prostrating

It is now everyone accepted that the worship of idols among the Hindus is as old as 500 to 450 B.C. Nowadays, in Ceylon, Burma, China, Vietnam, and other Buddhist countries, people worship the Buddha’s image in the same fashion as the Hindus do in India, by offering flowers, food, cloth, incense and prayers. They also act in the making of an image is the painting of the eyes, a magical rite as in India. They believe that to do this the image is vivified into godship. However, sincere Buddhists should always remember that the Buddha never approved of the idea of installing his image for worship in stupas. Devout Buddhists not only not to take the image as visible representations of God, but also not to consider that the idol contains in its substance any protion of all-pervading divinity. Buddhists should reverence the Buddha’s statue and other related precious dharma things as momentoes of the greatest, wisest, most benevolent and compassionate man in this world. To us, the Buddha seems more to be revered and beloved than any great men. Devout Buddhists should always remember that from the beginning, the Buddha condemned the observance of ceremonies and other external practices, which only tend to increase our spiritual blindness and our clinging to more superstitions. Buddhists offer flowers and incense to the Buddha as an outward form of respect to the Buddha. When we offer flowers, we think that as those flowers fade we also fade and die; therefore, there is nothing in this world for us to cling on. However, when offering to the Buddha, Buddhists take five kinds of incense or fragrance, corresponding with the five kinds of dharmakaya (five attributes of dharmakaya or spiritual body of the Tathagata): the dharmakaya is above all moral conditions, the dharmakaya is tranquil and apart from all false ideas, the dharmakaya is wise and omniscient, the dharmakaya is free, unlimited, unconditioned, which is the state of nirvana, and the dharmakaya has perfect knowledge.

According to Buddhism, bowing with the meaning of honor and respect, or having regard and consideration for someone. In Buddhism, prostration is an act of paying homage to an elder, a master, a nun, a monk, a Bodhisattva, or a Buddha. However, the best way to respect the Buddha is to follow his advice: “Not to do evil, to do good things, and to purify one’s mind.” Besides, bowing or field of reverence is one of the extraordinary methods of cultivation. Worship and support of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The field of religion and reverence of the Buddhas, the saints, the priesthood as a means to obtain blessing. When receiving something from someone, a Bhiksu or Bhiksuni should bow in a manner of “honor and respect”, joining his or her palms like a lotus bud. Practically speaking, bowing is a very important outward form of the practice that should be done correctly. Bring the forehead all the way to the floor. Have elbows near the knees about three inches apart. We use outward form to train ourselves, to harmonize body and mind. Do not make mistake of watching how others bow. Judging others will only increase our pride. Watch ourselves instead. Bow often; get rid of our pride. Theoretically speaking, ancient virtues taught: “Pay homage while abiding nowhere, and transform beings to go to rebirth in the Pure Land.” Bow slowly, mindful of our body. It is a good remedy for our conceit. We should bow often. When we bow three times, we can keep in mind the qualities of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, that is, the qualities of purity, radiance, and peace. We bow as if not bowing for merit and virtue. That is to say, after we have done something, do not be attached to the merit and virtue that we have created. That is called “True Bowing”. There are many different kinds of bowing. The first kind is the salutation with joined hands or the Joining Together of the Palms: To bring the ten fingers or two palms together, the “mother” of all manual signs. Salutation with joined hands, or joining the palms together when saluting. The open hands placed side by side and slightly hollowed (as if by a beggar to receive food; hence when raised to the forehead, a mark of supplication) reverence, salutation. “Anajali” is a Sanskrit term meaning to bring the ten fingers or two palms together. In “Anajali”, we place our palm together to express our reliance, thankfulness, and Oneness with the Buddha. The right hand symbolizes the Buddha and the left hand the human being. When they are placed together, we feel that the Buddha is in us and we are in the Buddha. “Anajali” is a symbol of the perfect unity of men and the Buddha. Besides, the open hands placed side by side and slightly hollowed (as if by a beggar to receive food; hence when raised to the forehead, is also a mark of supplication) reverence, salutation. The second type is Bowing with the Buddha Recitation: This is one of the ten kinds of oral recitation. This technique consists of making bows as we recite the Buddha’s name. Either we recite once before each bow or we bow as we recite, regardless of the number of recitations. The bowing should be supple yet deliberate, complimenting recitation, bowing and reciting perfectly synchronized. If we add a sincere and earnest mind, body, speech and mind are gathered together. Except for the words Amitabha Buddha, there is not the slightest deluded thought. This method has the ability to destroy the karma of drowsiness. Its benefits are very great, because the practitioner engages in recitation with his body, speech and mind. A lay practitioner of old used to follow this method, and each day and night, he would bow and recite and average of one thousand times. However, this practice is the particular domain of those with strong mind-power. Lacking this quality, it is difficult to persevere, because with extended bowing, the body easily grows weary, leading to discouragement. Therefore, this method is normally used in conjunction with other methods and is not practiced in exclusively. The third type of bowing is the Prostrations Every Third Step: According to the Vajrayana tradition, “Prostrations every third step” means going around the central Lhasa temple, made by prostrations every third step, to get rid of evils or obtain blessing. The fourth type of bowing is the Embrace the Feet: To embrace the feet, i.e. Buddha’s feet in reverence or pleading. To bow the head and face in reverence, to fall prostrate in reverence. According to Buddhist tradition since the time of the Buddha, a Buddhist would embrace the Buddha’s feet in reverence or pleading, or to extend the arms in that posture. The fifth type of bowing is the Pradaksina: “Pradaksina” is a Sanskrit term for “Circumambulation.” Circumambulation with the right shoulder towards the object of homage. This is one of the most common merit-making activities throughout the Buddhist world, popular among both monastics and laypeople. It takes different forms, but its central practice is walking a circular route around a holy place in a clockwise direction, an exception to this is the non-Buddhist Tibetan Bon Po tradition, whose members circumambulate in a counter-clockwise. The probable reason for the clockwise orientation for Buddhists is the Indian notion that the left hand is ritually impure. Besides, there are nine other ways of showing respect in India. According to Hsuan-Tsang, there are nine ways of showing respect in Indian at his time. They were saluting by asking about welfare (speaking softly), saluting by bowing the head, saluting by holding high hands, saluting by bowing head with folded hands, saluting by bending the knee, saluting by kneeling, saluting by placing two hands and knees on the ground, saluting by placing two elbows and knees on the ground, and saluting by humbly and submissively prostrating the whole body on the ground.

According to Buddhism, when prostrating, one must wholeheartedly have Physical-Verbal-Mental Prostrations. First, Physical Prostration: Physical prostration is primarily an act of paying homage with the body. It could assume various forms. For Buddhists there is a particular way of prostration by joining the palms as a bud of a lotus flower. Besides, to bow down one’s head before is also an act of physical respect. Second, Verbal Homage: There are many different ways of verbal homage, i.e., repeating mantras is one of them. Recitation of the Buddha’s name is another. Vow to seek refuge in a Buddha when seeing an image of that Buddha is also an act of paying homage through speech. Third, Mental Prostration: Mental prostration is very important. You may not be physically prostrating os using verbal expressions in respect but there is no telling how strong your inner mental respect may be. According to the Tibetan Tradition, people protrate the original teacher with many meanings. First, Vajra holder, at your lotus feet I prostrate. Your compassion grants even the sphere of bliss. The supreme state of the three kayas, in an instant Guru with a jewel-like body. Second, we prostrate at your feet holy Refuge Protector. You are the wisdom-knowledge of all infinite Conquerors appearing in any way that subdues. With supreme skilful means, you manifest as a saffron-robed monk. Third, we prostrate at your feet venerable Guru. You eliminated all faults and their instincts and are a treasury of infinite precious qualities. Sole source of benefit and bliss without exception. Fourth, we prostrate to you kind Guru. Teacher of gods and all, in nature all Buddhas, the source of 84,000 pure dharmas, your tower above the whole host of Aryas. Fifth, we prostrate manifesting as many bodies as atoms of the world. To Gurus dwelling in the three times and ten directions, the three supreme Jewels and all worthy of homage with faith, conviction and an ocean of lyric praise. Besides, Devout Buddhists should always bow and prostrate to the Buddha. Action in all Buddha-lands, honoring all Buddhas, one of the ten kinds of action of Great Enlightening Beings. Enlightening Beings who abide by these can achieve the action of Buddhas that has no coming or going. Bodhisattvas take honoring the Buddhas as a reliance because their faith is purified. This is one of the ten kinds of reliance of Great Enlightening Beings. According to The Flower Adornment Sutra, chapter 38 (Detachment from the World), the Great Enlightening Being Universally Good told Unversal Wisdom that Offsprings of Buddha, Great Enlightening Beings have ten kinds of reliance which help them be able to obtain abodes of the unexcelled great knowledge of Buddhas. Sincere Buddhists should follow good example of Great Enlightening Beings, honor and provide for all Buddhas. Bowing and postration to the Buddha are humble expressions of respect and appreciation for the historical Buddha, our Teacher, who understood the Truth of the universe and our nature. Based upon his kindness and compassion to liberate all sentient beings from suffering, the Buddha serves as an excellent model for humanity. Therefore, in bowing before the Buddha, we also reminded of our own Buddha nature. We humbly examine our mind, and renew our vow to remove any obstacles from our mind and life which prevent us from becoming a fully enlightened Buddha, manifesting the kindness compassion and wisdom our Teacher has shown to us, in order to benefit all sentient beings. When we bow to the Buddhas, we should concentrate singlemindedly and show respect with our bodies. Bowing to the Buddhas can eradicate obstructions which result from offenses. It is said, “To bow before the Buddhas can eradicate offenses as numerous as the grains of sand in the Ganges, for if offenses were solid objects they would fill up worlds as numerous as the Ganges’ sands.” This is the first of the ten conducts and vows of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva (Universal Worthy Bodhisattva), means to have a mind of deep faith and understanding of all Buddhas as if they were before our eyes, and to keep our body, mouth and mind karma completely. The realm of space is inexhausted, our worshiping and respecting all Buddhas never end; the realm of living beings is inexhausted and the afflictions of living beings are inexhaustible, our worshiping and respecting all Buddhas never end. Bowing is a very important outward form of the practice that should be done correctly. Bring the forehead all the way to the floor. Have elbows near the knees about three inches apart. Bow slowly, mindful of our body. It is a good remedy for our conceit. We should bow often. When we bow three times, we can keep in mind the qualities of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, that is, the qualities of purity, radiance, and peace. We use outward form to train ourselves, to harmonize body and mind. Do not make mistake of watching how others bow. Judging others will only increase our pride. Watch ourselves instead. Bow often; get rid of our pride. Bowing and Prostrating is also one of the ten kinds of oral recitation. This technique consists of making bows as we recite the Buddha’s name. Either we recite once before each bow or we bow as we recite, regardless of the number of recitations. The bowing should be supple yet deliberate, complimenting recitation, bowing and reciting perfectly synchronized. If we add a sincere and earnest mind, body, speech and mind are gathered together. Except for the words Amitabha Buddha, there is not the slightest deluded thought. This method has the ability to destroy the karma of drowsiness. Its benefits are very great, because the practitioner engages in recitation with his body, speech and mind. A lay practitioner of old used to follow this method, and each day and night, he would bow and recite and average of one thousand times. However, this practice is the particular domain of those with strong mind-power. Lacking this quality, it is difficult to persevere, because with extended bowing, the body easily grows weary, leading to discouragement. Therefore, this method is normally used in conjunction with other methods and is not practiced in exclusively.

In Buddhism, To make an image; the first one made of the image of the Buddha is attributed to Udayana, king of Kausambi, a contemporary of Sakyamuni, who is said to have made an image of the Buddha after his nirvana, in sandalwood, 5 feet high. People believe that when they make a statue of the Buddha, in the next lives they will have a clear vision, they will not be born in the evil places, they will always be born in a noble and good family, they will be very wealthy, and they will be able to revere the Triple Jewel, and so on. In fact, according tot the Buddha, sincere Buddhists need no semblance or appearance. Before reaching the stage of Bodhisattvahood known as Joy, a Bodhisattva enters into the realm of no-shadows. A Bodhisattva on going up to the seventh stage, a Bodhisattva still has a trace of mindfulness, but at the eighth the state of imagelessness or no conscious strivings obtains. It is by means of Prajna that the Imagelessness and the supernatural glory are realized. Sincere Buddhists should always remember that the number of statues we make doesn’t matter, it does matter how we cultivate to improve ourselves in this very life. Sincere Buddhists should always remember that worshipping the image of the Buddha to pay respect to what the image stand for, not to worship the image itself. Sincere Buddhists should always remember that worshipping the image of the Buddha to pay respect to what the image stand for, not to worship the image itself. According to the Earth Store Bodhisattva Sutra, Chapter 13, the Buddha told Empty Space Treasure Bodhisattva! If gods, dragons, or spirits of the present or future hear Earth Store’s name, bow to his image, or merely hear of his past vows, deeds, and practices, and then praise him and gaze at and worship him, they will benefit in seven ways: they will quickly reach the Sages’ ground; their evil karma will be eradicated; all the Buddhas will protect and be near them; they will not retreat from Bodhi; their inherent powers will increase; they will know their past lives; and they will ultimately realize Buddhahood. According to the Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva, Chapter eleven, the Dharma Protection of an Earth Spirit, the Earth Spirit Firm and Stable spoke to the Buddha and said: “World Honored One! As I regard the living beings of the present and future, I see those who make shrines of clay, stone, bamboo, or wood and set them on pure ground in the southern part of their dwellings. They place within the shrines an image of Earth Store Bodhisattva, either sculpted, painted, or made of gold, silver, copper, or iron. They then burn incense, make offerings, behold, worship, and praise him. Such people will receive ten kinds of benefits. What are these ten?” First, their lands will be fertile. Second, their families and homes will always be peaceful. Third, their deceased ancestors will be born in the heavens. Fourth, those still alive will have benefit and will have their lifespan increased. Fifth, they will obtain what they want. Sixth, they will not encounter the disasters of water and fire. Seventh, they will avoid unforeseen calamities. Eighth, their nightmares will cease. Ninth, they will be protected by spirits during their comings and goings. Tenth, they will encounter many causes of Sagehood. Besides, according to the Earth Store Bodhisattva Sutra, Chapter 13, the Buddha told Empty Space Treasure Bodhisattva: “Listen attentively! Listen attentively! I shall enumerate them and describe them to you. If there are good men or women in the future who see Earth Store Bodhisattva’s image, or who hear this sutra or read or recite it; who use incense, flowers, food and drink, clothing, or gems as offerings; or if they praise , gaze upon, and worship him, they will benefit in twenty-eight ways: gods and dragons will be mindful of them and protect them; the fruits of their goodness will increase daily; they will accumulate superior causes of Sagehood; they will not retreat from Bodhi; their food and drink will be abundant; epidemics will not touch them; they will not encounter disasters of fire and water; they will not have any difficulties with thieves or armed robbers; they will be respected by all who see them; they will be aided by ghosts and spirits; women will be reborn as men; if born as women, they will be daughters of kings and ministers; they will have handsome features; they will often be born in the heavens; they may be emperors or kings; they will know their past lives; they will attain whatever they seek; their families will be happy; all disasters will be eradicated; các nghiệp về ác đạo đều trừ hẳn: they will eternally be apart from bad karmic paths; they will always arrive at their destination; at night their dreams will be peaceful and happy; their deceased ancestors will leave suffering behind; they will receive the blessings from their past lives to aid their rebirth; they will be praised by the sages; they will be intelligent and they will have sharp faculties; they will have magnanimous, kind and sympathetic (compassionate) hearts; and finally they will ultimately realize Buddhahood.

Chapter 35. Buddhism and Beauty

Many people, especially people from the western world, have a misconception of Buddhism. They suggest that Buddhism is a religion of pessimism. They suggest that Buddhism stresses on impermanence, suffering and egolessness so there is no so-called “Beauty” in Buddhism. In fact, the Buddha never criticized “Beauty” in any of his lectures. A Buddhist never avoids objects of beauty, nor does he run away from these things. He only refrains from making them the basis for strong and individual likes and dislikes. He always keeps in mind the Buddha’s Teaching: “Whatever there is in the world, pleasant and lovable, we have a tendency to attach to them, and we develop a dislike towards their opposites.” Keep this in mind, the Buddhist recognizes beauty where the senses can perceive it. But in beauty he also sees its own change and destruction. He always remember what the Buddha said with regard to all component things, that they come into being, undergo change and aredestroyed. Therefore the wise man acquires a great depth of vision. His admiration for the beauty is not coloured by a greed for acquisition and possession. To Buddhists, the shape or color of the face doesn’t matter because it’s only temporary with time. A young, beautiful face of today may someday become an old ugly face with wrinkles and dots all over. To Buddhists, no matter how beautiful or ugly their face may be, they focus on cultivating love, that love will give them an inward eternal charm, a real beauty to all Buddhists.

According to extant records of the earliest Buddhist community, iconographic representation was discouraged by Sakyamuni Buddha and his followers, who wanted to prevent the development of cults that focus on the figure of the Buddha, rather than on the doctrines and practices he taught. In addition, the central focus of the monastic community was introspective meditation, rather than external symbolism. As Buddhism grew and attracted more followers, artistic representations began to appear. There was, however, an initial reclutance to represent the Buddha directly, and so he was often depicted in aniconic motifs, such as his footsprints (buddha-pada) or the Bodhi Tree (Bodhi-Vrksa). The most widespread aniconic representation of the Buddha was in the form of reliquaries called “Stupas.” These continue to be popular throughout the Buddhist world, and a plethora of styles has developed. In Indian Buddhism it was commonly thought that they physically represented the Buddha, and some texts indicate that it was widely believed that venerating a stupa was equivalent to venerating the Buddha himself. Iconic representations began to appear on stupas some time after the reign of Asoka (272- 236 B.C.), and a number of figures are found on stupas at Bharhut, Sanci, and Amaravati. These monuments have carved depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha. Around the end of the first century, artists began to fashion representations of the Buddha, and the Buddha dispersed symbol in Buddhist art all over the world. The earliest known examples of the Buddha image borrowed motifs from non-Buddhist traditions, since there was at that time no accepted notion regarding how he should be represented. Artists in Mathura, present-day north central India, for example, adopted imagery from the depiction of Yaksas, and in Gandhara, present-day Afghanistan, artists appear to have been influenced by Greek art. As Buddhism spread to other parts of the world this trend continued, and the Buddha image has acquired the characteristics and artistic motifs of the local populations of every Buddhist society. Despite Buddhism’s initial rejection of artistic representation, Buddhist art flourished both in India and throughout Asia. With the development of tantric Buddhism in India, art and imagery also became integrated into meditative practice. As tantric Buddhism spread to Tibet, Mongolia, China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam, elaborate use of imagery became widespread in many quarters.

Chapter 36. Is Buddhism Pessimism or Optimism?

There are some people who regard this life as a life of suffering or pessimists may be tolerated as long as they are simply feeling dissatisfied with this life, but when they begin to give up this life as hopeless and try to escape to a better life by practicing austerities or self-mortifications, then they are to be abhorred. Some people believe that Buddhism is pessimistic because its significant viewpoint on the idea that there is nothing but hardship in this world, even pleasures end in hardship. It is totally wrong thinking that way. Buddhism believes that in this present life, there are both pleasures and hardships. He who regards life as entirely pleasure will suffer when the so-called “happiness” ceases to exist. The Buddha believes that happiness and sufferings intertwine in our daily life. If one is ignorant of the fact that pleasures can cause hardships, one will be disappointed when that fact presents itself. Thus the Buddha teaches that one should regard hardship as hardship, accepting it as a fact and finding way to oppose it. Hence his emphasis on perserverance, fortitude, and forebearance, the latter being one of the six Perfections. In short, according to the Buddhist view, there are both pleasures and hardships in life, but one must not be discouraged when hardship comes, or lose oneself in rapture of joy when pleasure comes. Both pleasures and hardships must be taken alike with caution for we know that pleasures end in hardship. From this understanding, sincere Buddhists will be determined to cultivate diligently to turn both worldly pleasures and hardships to an eternally transcendental joy. It is to say that we are not bound to both worldly pleasures and hardships at all times. They come and go naturally. We are always live a life without worries, without afflictions because we know for sure that everything will pass. The Buddhist point of view on both optimism and pessimism is very clear: Buddhism is not optimistic nor pessimistic on human life. Two extremes of both optimism and pessimism are prevented by the moderate doctrine of Buddhism.

Chapter 37. Buddhism and Philosophy

The word philosophy comes from two words ‘philo’ which means ‘love’ and ‘sophia’ which means ‘wisdom’. So philosophy is the love of wisdom or love and wisdom, both meanings describing Buddhism perfectly. Buddhism teaches that we should try to develop our intellectual capacity to the fullest so that we can understand clearly. It also teaches us to develop loving kindness and compassion so that we can become (be like) a true friend to all beings. So Buddhism is a philosophy but not just a philosophy. It is the supreme philosophy. As to whether Buddhism is a philosophy, that depends upon the definition of the word; and whether it is possible to give the definition that will cover all existing systems of philosophical thought is doubtful. Etymologically philosophy means to love (Gr. Philein) wisdom (sophia). Philosophy has been both the seeking of wisdom and the wisdom sought. In Indian thought, philosophy should be to find out the ultimate truth. Buddhism also advocates the search for truth. But it is no mere speculative reasoning, a theoretical structure, a mere acquiring and storing of knowledge. The Buddha emphasizes the practical aspect of his teaching, the application of knowledge to life, looking into life and not merely at it. For the Buddha, the entire teaching is just the understanding of the unsatisfactory nature of all phenomenal existence and the cultivation of the path leading away from this unsatisfactoriness.

Buddhism means wisdom, therefore, Buddhism never accept superstitions (venerating the head of tiger, and buffalo, the snake and centipede deities, the Lares, consulting fortunteller, reading the horoscope, etc.); however, superstitious beliefs and rituals are adopted to decorate a religion in order to attract the multitude. But after some time, the creeper which is planted to decorate the shrine outgrows and outshines the shrine, with the result that religious tenets are relegated to be the background and superstitious beliefs and rituals become predominent. The Buddha taught us to try to understand our fear, to lessen our desires and to calmly and courageously accept things we cannot change. He replaced fear, not with blindly and irrational belief but with rational understanding which corresponds to the truth. Furthermore, Buddhists do not believe in god because there does not seem to be any concrete evidence to support this idea. Who can answer questions on god? Who is god? Is god masculine or feminine or neuter? Who can provide ample evidence with real, concrete, substantial or irrefutable facts to prove the existence of god? So far, no one can. Buddhists suspend judgment until such evidence is forthcoming. Besides, such belief in god is not necessary for a really meaningful and happy life. If you believe that god make your life meaningful and happy, so be it. But remember, more than two-thirds of the world do not believe in god and who can say that they don’t have a meaningful and happy life? And who dare to say that those who believe in god, all have a meaningful and happy life? If you believe that god help you overcome disabilities and difficulties, so be it. But Buddhists do not accept the theological concept of salvation. In the contrary, based on the Buddha’s own experience, he showed us that each human being had the capacity to purify the body and the mind, develop infinitive love and compassion and perfect understanding. He shifted the gods and heavens to the self-heart and encouraged us to find solution to our problems through self-understanding. Finally, such myths of god and creation concept has been superseded by scientific facts. Science has explained the origin of the universe completely without recourse to the god-idea. In Buddhism, faith in supernatural power is only a need to sooth the people in distressed situations. In extremely distressed situations, people have a tendency to turn to faith, or exterior power for support, consolation and blessing. Buddhism, on the contrary, is indifferent metaphysical and supernatural questions for Buddhism maintains and upholds the ability and intellectual capacity of man. In Buddhism, man must not be passive and dependent on others. In Buddhism, man has his own responsibility to free himself. Thus the Buddha taught in the Nirvana Sutra: “You must light the torch for yourselves. The Buddha is one who leads the way. The goal of liberation can be reached only by you yourselves and nobody else.” Buddhists never believe in the belief which is not based on reason or fact but on association of imaginations or magics. If you can show us (Buddhists) a careful study of the existence of a god written by a scientist, we will concede that belief in god is not fabulous. But we (Buddhists) have never heard of any research on god, and scientists simply wouldn’t bother to study such impossible things, so I say there is no evidence for the existence of god. A long long time ago, when people had no knowledge of science, people were unable to explain the origin of the universe, so they turned to god as a creator of the universe, but in the twenty first century, scientists have explained very clearly on the origin of the universe without recourse to the god-idea. Thus we must see that our inability to explain the origin of the universe does not prove the existence of god or gods. Thus the Buddha always reminded his disciples: “Do not rush to believe in anything without examining carefully, even my teachings.” Besides, the Buddha advised his disciples not to exercise psychic power in order to convert people with blind faith. He was referring to the miraculous power to walk on water, to exercise spirits, raise the dead and perform the so-called supernatural practices. He was also referring to the miracles of prophesy such as thought-reading, sooth-saying, fortune-telling, and so on. When people with blind faith see the performance of such powers, their faith deepens; however, this belief is not true belief because it does not come from their own realization of the truth, but due to the blind faith.With the Buddha, the miracle of realization is a real miracle. When a person knows that he is greedy, angry, ignorant, pride of his own self, and full of wrong views, etc, and he is willing to end these wrong and unwholesome actions, he really realizes a miracle for his own life. When a murderer, a thief, a terrorist, a drunkard or an adulterer is made to realize that what he had been doing is wrong and gives up his bad, immoral and harmful way of life, this change can be regarded as a real miracle. According to Buddhism, there exists a real miracle when we clearly see life is no more than a process from coming into being, to formation, changing and destruction with full of sufferings and afflictions. Therefore, in no way we can avoid both the process formation and destruction and sufferings and afflictions. The more we try to avoid our problems or the more we try not to think about our problems, the more we accumulate problems inside ourselves. When we clearly understand the true nature of sufferings and afflictions, we’ll be able to deal with them more effectively. Also according to Buddhist points of view, all the causes of sufferings and afflictions are ignorance, craving and hatred. These are the “three poisons of the mind”. Only by generating insight into the true nature of reality, we may be able to eliminate ignorance, able to achieve a completely purified state of mind, able to see right from wrong, good from bad, as well as other harmful anger and hatred in our daily life. Of course, each one of us wishes to be free from sufferings and afflictions, for these are the first factors for a happy life. However, as long as we still rely on someone else to save us by eliminating the problems for us, we still fear , avoid and try not to engage to confront our own problems, and therefore, problems never voluntarily leave us. According to Buddhist points of view, sufferings and afflictions may be arisen as a result of our past karma. Understand this concept, we will never try to blame our problems on others. There is no reason for us to be too strick on ourselves, as human beings, we are all imperfect. Every one of us has at least once done some thing wrong. The important thing is whether or not we recognize and admit our wrong-doings that we have done in the past. If we admit that we’re mistaken, there will be room for correction.

Buddhism is a philosophy that teaches people to live a happy life. It’s also a religion that teaches people to end the cycle of birth and death. The main teachings of the Buddha focus on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Noble Path. They are called “Noble” because they enoble one who understand them and they are called “Truths” because they correspond with reality. Buddhists neither believe in negative thoughts nor do they believe in pessimistic ideas. In the contrary, Buddhists believe in facts, irrefutable facts, facts that all know, that all have aimed to experience and that all are striving to reach. Those who believe in god or gods usually claim that before an individual is created, he does not exist, then he comes into being through the will of a god. He lives his life and then according to what he believes during his life, he either goes to eternal heaven or eternal hell. Some believe that they come into being at conception due to natural causes, live and then die or cease to exist, that’s it! Buddhism does not accept either of these concepts. According to the first explanation, if there exists a so-called almighty god who creates all beings with all his loving kindness and compassion, it is difficult to explain why so many people are born with the most dreadful deformities, or why so many people are born in poverty and hunger. It is nonsense and unjust for those who must fall into eternal hells because they do not believe and submit themselves to such a so-called almighty god. The second explanation is more reasonable, but it still leaves several unanswered questions. Yes, conception due to natural causes, but how can a phenomenon so amazingly complex as consciousness develop from the simple meeting of two cells, the egg and the sperm? Buddhism agrees on natural causes; however, it offers more satisfactory explanation of where man came from and where he is going after his death. When we die, the mind, with all the tendencies, preferences, abilities and characteristics that have been developed and conditioned in this life, re-establishes itself in a fertilized egg. Thus the individual grows, is reborn and develops a personality conditioned by the mental characteristics that have been carried over by the new environment. The personality will change and be modified by conscious effort and conditioning factors like education, parential influence and society and once again at death, re-establish itself in a new fertilized egg. This process of dying and being reborn will continue until the conditions that cause it, craving and ignorance, cease. When they do, instead of being reborn, the mind attains a state called Nirvana and this is the ultimate goal of Buddhism.

A religion, especially an advanced religion like Buddhism, includes philosophy, morality, and ethics. Indeed, Buddhism can be said to consist almost entirely of the teaching of philosophy and morality. However, when we make a profound study of the teaching, we find there is something beyond this that touches our hearts directly. It is like a light that envelops us warmly and shines brightly, illuminating our way. It is something that enlivens us and allows us to develop fully according to our true potential. In other words, Buddhism is the teaching within the minds of all living beings. We can call all the truth, the Buddha’s teaching or it can be called no teaching at all because it’s the truth, it goes beyond human words. However, sincere Buddhists should always remember that the mind, the Buddha, and living beings are one and undifferentiated. Thus, no matter what religion you belong to, as long as you are a living being, Buddhism counts you as part of it for all living beings have the Buddha-nature.

According to Most Venerable Piyadassi in “The Buddha’s Ancient Path,” some prefer to call the teaching of the Buddha a religion, others call it a philosophy, still others think of it as both religion and philosophy. It may, however, be more correct to call it a “Way of Life”. But that does not mean that Buddhism is nothing more than an ethical code. Far from it, it is a way of moral, spiritual and intellectual training leading to a complete freedom of mind. The Buddha himself called his teaching “Dhamma-Vinaya”, the Doctrine and the Discipline. But Buddhism, in the strictest sense of the word, can not be called a religion, for if by religion is meant “action of conduct indicating belief in, reverence for, and desire to please, a divine ruling power; the exercise or practice of rites or observances implying this...; recognition on the part of man of some higher unseen power as having control of his destiny, and as being entitled to obedience, reverence, and worship.” Buddhism certainly is not such a religion. In Buddhist thought, there is no awareness or conviction of the existence of a Creator of any form who rewards and punishes the good and ill deeds of the creatures of his creation. A Buddhist takes refuge in the Buddha, but not in the hope that he will be saved by the Master. There is no such guarantee, the Buddha is only a teacher who points out the way and guides the followers to their individual deliverance.

Though we call the teaching of the Buddha “Buddhism”, thus including it among the “isms” and “ologies”, it does not really matter what we label it. Call it religion, philosophy, Buddhism, or by any other name you like. These labels are of little significance to one who goes in search of truth and deliverance. To the Buddha, man is a supreme being, thus, he taught: “Be your own torch and your own refuge. Do not seek refuge in any other person.” This was the Buddha’s truthful word. He also said: “All realizations come from effort and intelligence that derive from one’s own experience. Man is the master of his destiny, since he can make his life better or worse. If he tries his best to cultivate, he can become a Buddha”.

Chapter 38. Resolve in Buddhism

“Prani (Praniddhana)” is a Sanskrit term for “Aspiration”. In general, this term refers to the fulfillment of religious vows and developing a correct attitude toward religious practice. A bodhisattva vow, which is the first step on the way to enlightenment A vow to onself as self-dedication, usually bodhisattva vows above to seek Bodhi and below to save beings or to save all beings before benefiting from his own enlightenment or entering into nirvana. In Mahayana Buddhism, “Praniddhana” is the seventh in the tenfold list of Paramitas that a Bodhisattva cultivates during the path to Buddhahood. Vow is something that comes from the heart and soul, a deep rooted promise, swearing to be unrelenting in seeking to attain a goal. This is having a certain mind-set or something one wishes to achieve and never give up until the objective is realized. Thus, there there should be absolutely no reason whatsoever that should cause one to regress or give up that vow or promise. Sincere Buddhists should vow to follow the teachings to sultivate to become Buddhas, then to use the magnificent Dharma of enlightenment of the Buddhas and vow to give them to all sentient beings to abandon their ignorance to cross over to enlightenment, to abandon delusion to follow truths. According to the Pureland Buddhism, Vow is to wish sincerely, praying to find liberation from the sufferings of this saha World, to gain rebirth to the peaceful Ultimate Bliss World. According to the Pure Land Sect, devout Buddhists should make vow to benefit self and others, and to fulfil the vow so as to be born in the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha. This is the third of the five doors or ways of entering the Pure Land. Devoted Buddhists should always vow: “Awaken mind with a longing for Bodhicitta, deeply believe in the law of Cause and Effect, recite Mahayana sutras, encourage other cultivators and save other sentient beings.”

The power of vows eradicates heavy karma, wipes away all illnesses of mind and body at their karmic source, subdues demons and can move gods and humans to respect. Thus, devoted Buddhists should be issued from the realm of the Buddha-teaching, always accomplish the preservation of the Buddha-teaching, vow to sustain the lineage of Buddhas, be oriented toward rebirth in the family of Buddhas, and seek omniscient knowledge. All Buddhists want to cross the sea of sufferings and afflictions while vows are like a boat which can carry them across the sea of birth and death to the other shore of Nirvana. Some Buddhists learn to practice special vows from Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, Medicine Buddha or Amitabha Buddha, etc. This is good, but these vows are still their special vows. We must make our own vows. When set up our own vows that means we have our own aim to reach in cultivation. Besides, once we have made our vows, even if we want to slack off in our cultivation, we won’t dare, because the vows were already sealed in our mind.

According to the Pure Land Sect, there are two main aspects to making the joyous vows of “rescuing oneself and others.” The first is that the practitioner should clearly realize the goal of rebirth; and the second is that the practitioner wants to ensure of rebirth in the Pure Land. The goal of our cultivation is to seek escape from suffering for him/herself and all sentient beings. He/She should think thus: ‘My own strength is limited, I am still bound by karma; moreover, in this evil, defiled life, the circumstances and conditions leading to afflictions are overpowering. That is why other sentient beings and myself are drowning in the river of delusion, wandering along the evil paths from time immemorial. The wheel of birth and death is spinning without end; how can I find a way to rescue myself and others in a safe, sure manner? There is but one solution, it is to seek rebirh in the Pure Land, draw close to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and relying on the supremely auspicious environment of that realm, engaging in cultivation and attain the Tolerance of Non-Birth. Only then can I enter the evil world to rescue sentient beings. The Treatise on Rebirth states: “To develop the Bodhi-Mind is precisely to seek Buddhahood; to seek Buddhahood is to develop the Mind of rescuing sentient beings; and the Mind of rescuing sentient beings is none other than the Mind that gathers all beings and helps them achieve rebirth in the Pure Land. Moreover, to ensure rebirth, we should perfect two practices; first is abandoning the three things that hinder enlightenment, second is abiding by the three things that foster enlightenment. How can we abandon the things that hinder enlightenment and abide by the things that foster enlightenment? It is precisely by seeking rebirth in the Western Pure Land, remaining constantly near the Buddhas and cultivating the Dharmas until Tolerance of Non-Birth is reached. At that point, we may sail the boat of great vows at will, enter the sea of Birth and Death and rescue sentient beings with wisdom and compassion ‘adapting to conditions but fundamentally unchanging,’ free and unimpeded. The practitioner must abandon the three things that hinder enlightenment: the mind of seeking our own peace and happiness, ego-grasping and attachment to our own bodies. The practitioner should follow the path of wisdom and leave all such thoughts far behind; the mind of abandoning and failing to rescue sentient beings from suffering. The practitioner should follow the path of compassion and leave all such thoughts far behind; the mind of exclusively seeking respect and offerings, without seeking ways to benefit sentient beings and bring them peace and happiness. The practitioner should follow the path of expendients and leave all such thoughts far behind. The practitioner must obtain the three things that foster enlightenment:

1) Undefiled Pure Mind of not seeking personal happiness, that is enlightenment is the state of undefiled purity. If we seek after personal pleasure, body and Mind are defiled and obstruct the path of enlightenment. Therefore, the undefiled Pure Mind is called consonant with enlightenment. 2) Pure Mind at Peace, or the mind that seeks to rescue all sentient beings from suffering. This is because Bodhi is the undefiled Pure Mind which gives peace and happiness to sentient beings. If we are not rescuing sentient beings and helping them escape the sufferings of Birth and death, we are going to counter to Bodhi path. Therefore, a Mind focussed on saving others, bringing them peace and happiness, is call consonant with enlightenment. 3) A ‘Blissful Pure Mind,’ or the mind that seeks to help sentient beings achieve Great Nirvana. Because Great Nirvana is the ultimate, eternally blissful realm. If we do not help sentient beings achieve it, we obstruct the Bodhi path. Hence the Mind which seeks to help sentient beings attain eternal bliss is called consonant with enlightenment. The cultivator should contemplate the wholesome characteristics of the Pure Land and auspicious features of Amitabha Buddha: The cultivator should contemplate the auspicious features of Amitabha Buddha. Amitabha Buddha possesses a resplendent, golden Reward Body, replete with 84,000 major characteristics, each characteristic having 84,000 minor auspicious signs, each sign beaming 84,000 rays of light which illuminate the entire Dharma Realm and gather in those sentient beings who recite the Buddha’s name. The Western Pure Land is adorned with seven treasures, as explained in the Pure Land sutras. In addition, when practicing charity, keeping the precepts and performing all kinds of good deeds, Pure Land practitioners should always dedicate the merits toward rebirth in the Pure Land for themselves and all other sentient beings.

Besides, practitioners should also vow to attain bodhi, and save all beings to the other shore. The Bodhisattva pranidhana was inspired by his recognition of the terrible suffering of the world. There are four magnanimous Vows or four all-encompassing vows, while Amitabha Buddha has forty-eight vows. According to Mahayana tradition, there are three great Bodhisattvas: Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, and Samantabhadra who represent respectively the great compassion, wisdom and vows of all Buddhas. In the vows of Bodhisattvas, the compassionate zeal of the ideal Bodhisattva whose only concern in life is to relieve the pains and burdens of all sentient beings, and to bestow upon them true happiness through the achievement of Buddhahood. A Bodhisattva is aspirant of the achievement of perfect wisdom in a ruesome world of beings that know no solution because of the frame of their unrestive mind. The Bodhisattva has perfect insight into the conditioned world. It is because of the luminosity which he bears toward all out of his boundless openness. The “Sundry Practices” is the method in which the cultivator engages in many practices seeking rebirth in the Pure Land. Thus, in the Avatamsaka Sutra, the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra advises and urges the youth Sudhana (Good Wealth) and the Ocean-Wide Great Assembly to seek rebirth throught the Ten Great Vows. Each Vow contains the clause: “When the realm of empty space is exhausted, my Vows will be exhausted.

But because the realm of empty space is inexhaustible, my Vows will never end. In the same way, when the realm of living beings, the karma of living beings, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, my Vows will be exhausted. But the realms of living beings, the karma of living beings, and the afflictions of living beings are inexhaustible. Therefore, my Vows are inexhaustible. They continue in thought after thought without cease. My body, mouth and mind never tire of doing these deeds. At the time of death, when all family and possessions are left behind and all faculties disintegrate, only these great vows will follow close behind, and in an instant, the practitioner will be reborn in the Pure Land. Besides, practitioners should be filial toward their parents and support them; serve and respect their teachers and elders; be of compassionate heart and abstain from doing harm; and cultivate the ten virtuous actions. They should accept and hold on to their refuge in the Three Jewels; perfectly observe all moral precepts and not lower their dignity nor neglect ceremonial observances. They should awaken in their Minds a longing for Bodhi, deeply believe in the principle of cause and effect, recite Mahayana sutras, persuade and encourage other practitioners. Furthermore, those who perform good deeds, carrying them out to perfection and transferring the merits with a Mind of faith and vows, can all achieve rebirth as well. These meritorious acts include erecting temples, stupas and statues of the Buddhas, worshipping the Buddhas, burning incense, offering flowers, donating pennants and other decorations to Buddhist temples, making offerings of food to the clergy, practicing charity, etc.

Chapter 39. World of Peace and War In Buddhist Point of View

According to Buddhist point of view, to establish a better world, a world of peace, harmony and mutual love between peoples, we must begin by cultivating ourselves. For the collective karma of the world is nothing but a reflection of the individual karma of the individuals that make up the world. To cultivate our karma we must begin with the mind. Also according to Buddhism, all kinds of action are nothing but outward expressions of what transpires in the mind. If our minds are filled with hatred, what will happen? We will make many enemies. But if our minds are filled with love, we will make many friends. What stirs in the mind reveals itself outwardly in the world. Thus everything depends upon the mind of man. Confucius expresses the same idea when he says: “If there be righteousness in the mind, there will be beauty in the character. If there be beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there be harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there be order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.” Therefore, according to the Buddhist point of view, if we wish to have a peaceful world, we must first begin to improve ourselves; we must cultivate our persons and rectify our minds. If we improve ourselves, then we can build up a happy and harmonious family life. When a nation is made up of harmonious families, then the nation will be well-ordered. And with well-ordered nations, we can establish peace in the world. According to Buddhism, the way to peace lies through peace: we must develop peace within ourselves if we hope to establish peace in the world. The condition of the world is the product of the deeds, words, and thoughts of the people that make up the world. If everyone practices better action, better speech, and better thought, then the world will be much better.

Buddhists should always follow the teachings of the Buddha, especially the first precept of “prohibiting killing.” In more than 2,500 years of Buddhist history, there were some cases of fighting between monks, or fighting with civil authorities in Tibet and Japan However, invasion in the name of religion is unknown in Buddhism (one country invades other countries to spread a religion never happens in any Buddhist countries). In the past, reasons for monks in Tibet fought with other monks and with civil authorities were mainly concerned with money and power, not with the propagation of Buddhism. The same reasons for the fighting among monks and civil authorities in Japan. In Sri Lanka, king Dutthagamani launched battles to fight against Damilas dynasty of the Tamils who tried to invade Ceyland at the time, king Dutthagamani never put forward any battles with the intention of invasion of the continent of India for the spreading of Buddhism. The Buddha teaches us not to kill, but he never teaches us not to fight against enemies to protect our country.


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