Nếu quyết tâm đạt đến thành công đủ mạnh, thất bại sẽ không bao giờ đánh gục được tôi. (Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.)Og Mandino
Mỗi ngày, hãy mang đến niềm vui cho ít nhất một người. Nếu không thể làm một điều tốt đẹp, hãy nói một lời tử tế. Nếu không nói được một lời tử tế, hãy nghĩ đến một việc tốt lành. (Try to make at least one person happy every day. If you cannot do a kind deed, speak a kind word. If you cannot speak a kind word, think a kind thought.)Lawrence G. Lovasik
Chớ khinh tội nhỏ, cho rằng không hại; giọt nước tuy nhỏ, dần đầy hồ to! (Do not belittle any small evil and say that no ill comes about therefrom. Small is a drop of water, yet it fills a big vessel.)Kinh Đại Bát Niết-bàn
Đừng cố trở nên một người thành đạt, tốt hơn nên cố gắng trở thành một người có phẩm giá. (Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.)Albert Einstein
Ta sẽ có được sức mạnh của sự cám dỗ mà ta cưỡng lại được. (We gain the strength of the temptation we resist.)Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nếu người có lỗi mà tự biết sai lầm, bỏ dữ làm lành thì tội tự tiêu diệt, như bệnh toát ra mồ hôi, dần dần được thuyên giảm.Kinh Bốn mươi hai chương
"Nó mắng tôi, đánh tôi, Nó thắng tôi, cướp tôi." Ai ôm hiềm hận ấy, hận thù không thể nguôi.Kinh Pháp cú (Kệ số 3)
Kẻ ngốc nghếch truy tìm hạnh phúc ở xa xôi, người khôn ngoan gieo trồng hạnh phúc ngay dưới chân mình. (The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet. )James Oppenheim
Chúng ta có lỗi về những điều tốt mà ta đã không làm. (Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.)Voltaire
Hãy sống tốt bất cứ khi nào có thể, và điều đó ai cũng làm được cả.Đức Đạt-lai Lạt-ma XIV

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Essential Summaries of Buddhist Teachings
»» Chapter 71 - Chapter 90

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Phật Giáo Yếu Lược - Chương 71 - Chương 90

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Chapter 71. Six Realms of the Samsara and Four Realms of the Saints

Six stages of rebirth for ordinary people, as contrasted with the four saints. The Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Sound Hearers, and Those Enlightened by Conditions are the Four Dharma Realms of Sages. The gods, human beings, asuras, animals, hungry ghosts, and hells make up the Six Dharma Realms of Ordinary Beings. The Six Common Realms are the Three Good Realms of gods, humans, and asuras; and the Three Evil Realms of hell-beings, hungry ghosts, and animals. If one plants the causes for the Three Good Realms, one is reborn in these realms. The same applies to the Three Evil realms. This principle of cause and effect is the basic Buddhist theory; it is not a superstition. This principle is always correct and never off by the least bit. According to the T’ien-T’ai Sect, these ten realms are mutually immanent and mutually inclusive, each one having in it the remaining nine realms. For example, the realm of men will include the other nine from Buddha to Hell, and so will any of the ten realms. Even the realm of Buddhas includes the nature of hell and all the rest, because a Buddha, though not hellish himself, intends to save the depraved or hellish beings, and therefore also has hell in his mind. In this sense, the realm of the Buddhas, too, includes the other nine realms. According to Buddhism, all these ten dharma realms originate from the single thought which is existing in our mind. Thus, ancient virtues taught: “All of these ten realms-a single thought, are not apart from your present thought. If you can understand that thought, you immediately reach the other shore.” That is to say, the ten Dharma Realms are not beyond our present thought. If we can understand that thought, we immediately become enlightened. According to the Avatamsaka Sutra, “The myriad dharmas are made from the mind alone.” The Buddha is created by our mind. If our mind cultivates the Buddhahood, then we will accomplish the Buddha Way. If our mind is delighted by Bodhisattvas, then we will practice the Bodhisattva Path and become a Bodhisattva. But if our mind wishes to fall into the hells and we will head in the direction of the hells; eventually we will have to fall into the hells without any doubt. That is why it is said “The Ten Dharma Realms are not beyond a single thought.”

According to the Sangiti Sutta in the Long Discourses of the Buddha, there are six realms of the samsara or the realms of the unenlightened. All creatures in these realms are tied to the ceaseless round of birth-and-death, that is, to the law of causation, according to which existence on any one of these planes are determined by antecedent actions. In Buddhism these planes are depicted as the spokes or segments of the “wheel of life.” This wheel is set in motion by actions stemming from our basic ignorance of the true nature of existence and by karmic propensities from an incalculable past, and kept revolving by our craving for the pleasures of the senses and by our clinging to them, which leads to an unending cycle of births, deaths, and rebirths to which we remain bound. These are six paths, or six ways or conditions of sentient existence, or six miserable states (sentient beings revolve in the cycle of Birth and Death, along the six paths, life after life. These are paths of hell-dwellers, hungry ghosts, animals, titanic demons or asuras, human beings and celestials).

The six realms of the samsara include the three lower gatis, or three evil paths; and the three upper gatis, or three good paths. The three lower gatis include hells, hungry ghosts and animals: First, the Realm of Hells: The Sanscrit term forthe realm of hells is “Naraka-gati”. This is the state of being miserable of being in hells. This is the lowest and most miserable condition of existence. Sentient being (alaya-consciousness) is condemned to stay in Hell due to his worse karma. In the hellish path, the sufferings there are so great that no words can describe them. In Buddhism, Naraka-gati symbolizes ignorance, greed and aggression. Depraved men or “hellish beings” who are in the lowest stage. Second, the State of Hungry Ghosts: The Sanscrit term for the state of hungry ghosts is “Preta-gati”. This realm of starved ghosts where greedy, selfish and deceitful souls are reborn. In the path of hungry ghosts, beings have ugly, smelly bodies, with bellies as big as drums and throats as small as needles, while flames shoot out of their mouths. They are subject to hunger and thirst for incalculable eons. Hungry ghosts symbolize greed, departed beings, otherwise called “hungry spirits.” Besides, hungry ghosta also include “asura” or fighting spirits, though partially heavenly, they are placed in the lower realm. Third, the Animality: Also called the state of animals, the Sanscrit term is Tiryagyoni. The animals’ realm reserved for those souls who are dull-witted, depraved, or have committed fornication. The path of animals, such as buffaloes, cattle, donkeys and horses, is subject to heavy toil. Other domestic animals, such as goats, pigs, chicken and ducks, are subject to be killed to make food for human beings. Still other animals suffer from stupidity, living in filth, and killing one another for food. These beings symbolize ignorance or innocent in nature, including the whole animal kingdom. The three upper gatis, or three good paths: Among the three upper gatis, rebirth in the celestial or human paths is difficult, while descend into Asura path and other three lower gatis is easy and common. First, the Asura: The Sanscrit term for the Asura is “Asura”. This is the state of angry demons. Asuras’ realm where those who are wicked, hot-tempered, violent or are initiated into paganism (the path of asuras is filled with quarrelling and acrimonious competition). Second, the State of Human-Beings: The Sanscrit term forthe state of human-beings is “Manusya-gati”. This is our earth, place where those who keep the basic five precepts are reborn. Human beings are neutral in nature, and symbolizing social virtue. Third, the Celestials: Also called the state of gods, the Sanscrit term is “Deva-gati”. The Gods’ realm is reserved to those who observe the five basic commandments and have practiced the Ten Meritorious Action and abstained to do the Ten Evil Deeds. Although the celestial path is blessed with more happiness than our world, it is still marked by the five signs of decay and the things that go against our wishes. Heavenly beings, though superhuman in nature they cannot get perfectly enlightened without the teaching of the Buddha. Celestials symbole meditation abstractions.

The four realms of enlightened existence, sometimes called the “four holy states.” Unlike those in the lower six realms, the enlightened know the joy of inward peace and creative freedom because, having overcome their ignorance and delusion through knowledge, they are freed from enslavement to karmic propensities arising from past delusive actions, and no longer sow seeds which will bar fruit in the form of new karmic bondage. Enlightenment, however, does not suspend the law of cause and effect. When the enlightened man cuts his finger it bleeds, when he eats bad food his stomach aches. He too cannot escape the consequences of his actions. The difference is that because he accepts, that is, he sees into his karma he is no longer bound by it, but moves freely within it. The Four Saints include Sound-Hearers, Pratyeka Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas: First, a Sound-Hearer: A sound-hearer is a direct disciple of the Buddha. A hearer or a voice-hearer who also undertakes the practice and becomes a Sramanera or a student who seeks personal enlightenment and an attains this only by listening to the teaching and gaining insight into the four noble truths, so that he can cultivate to reach his supreme goal of nirvana without earthly remainder. Vehicle or class of the hearers, the first of the three vehicles that can lead to the attainment of nirnava. Sravakayana generally refers to the Buddhists who don’t belong to the Mahayana. Second, a Pratyeka-Buddha: Also called a lonely enlightened one, who cultivates and gets enlightenment for himself, not teaching others. A Pratyeka Buddha is the solitary (awakened) sage of Indian life whose ideal was incompatible with that of the Bodhisattva, in that he walked alone, and having attained his Enlightenment, passed into Nirvana, indifferent to the woes of men. He attains enlightenment through the insight of the twelve nidanas by himself (independently of a teacher and attainment of his enlightenment rather than that of others). In summary, Pratyeka-buddha is one who lives in seclusion and obtains emancipation for himself only. Third, a Bodhisattva or a Would-Be Buddha: According to the Mahaprajnaparamita sastra, Bodhi means the way of all the Buddhas, and Sattva means the essence and character of the good dharma. Bodhisattvas are those who always have the mind to help every being to cross the stream of birth and death. A Bodhisattva is a conscious being of or for the great intelligence, or enlightenment. The Bodhisattva seeks supreme enlightenment not for himself alone but for all sentient beings. Fourth, a Buddha: A Buddha is who is not inside the circle of ten, but as he advents among men to preach his doctrine he is now partially included in it.

Chapter 72. Salvation of Sentient Beings

Salvation may be understood as the deliverance of someone from destruction, sufferings, afflictions, and so on, and to bring that person to the state of being safe from destructive forces, natural or supernatural. To other religions, salvation means deliverance from sin and death, and admission to a so-called “Eternal Paradise”. These are religions of deliverance because they give promise of some form of deliverance. They believe that a person’s will is important, but grace is more necessary and important to salvation. Those who wish to be saved must believe that they see a supernatural salvation of an almighty creator in their lives. In Buddhism, the concept of salvation is strange to all sincere Buddhists. One time, the Buddha told His disciples: “The only reason I have come into the world is to teach others. However, one very important thing is that you should never accept what I say as true simply because I have said it. Rather, you should test the teachings yourselves to see if they are true or not. If you find that they are true and helpful, then practice them. But do not do so merely our of respect for me. You are your own savior and no one else can do that for you.” One other time, the Buddha gently patted the crazy elephant and turned to tell Ananda: “The only way to destroy hatred is with love. Hatred cannot be defeated with more hatred. This is a very important lesson to learn.” Before Nirvana, the Buddha himself advised his disciples: “When I am gone, let my teachings be your guide. If you have understood them in your heart, you have no more need of me. Remember what I have taught you. Craving and desire are the cause of all sufferings and afflictions. Everything sooner or later must change, so do not become attached to anything. Instead devote yourselves to clearing your minds and finding true and lasting happiness.” These are the Buddha’s golden speeches on some of the concepts of salvation.

There are four reasons for a Buddha’s appearing in the world: The first reason is Introduction: To disclose, or to open up treasury of truth, or to introduce and open the Buddhas’ views and knowledge to sentient beings; so they can follow, learn, understand the truths, and clearly distinguish right from wrong. The second reason is Guidance: To display or to indicate the meanings of Buddhas’ teachings, or to teach sentient beings to learn and patice the views and knowledge introduced by Buddhas, to help them know clearly the proper path from the inproper path, right from wrong, in order to eliminate the various false views and knowledge. The third reason is Awaken: Awaken means to realize or to cause men to apprehend it, or to be awakened to the Buddha Dharmas, avoid false doctrines in order to escape from sufferings of births and deaths in the three evil paths of hell, hungry ghost, and animal, and be able to be reborn in the more peaceful and happier realms of heaven and human. The fourth reason is Penetration: To enter, or to lead them into it, or to penetrate deeply into the enlightenment fruit of the saintly beings, being able to transcend and to find liberation from the cycle of rebirths.

Four ways the Buddha used to save sentient beings: According to Tao-Ch’o (562-645), one of the foremost devotees of the Pure Land school, in his Book of Peace and Happiness, one of the principal sources of the Pure Land doctrine. All the Buddhas save sentient beings in four ways. First, by oral teachings such recorded in the twelve divisions of Buddhist literature. Second, by their physical features of supernatural beauty. Third, by their wonderful powers and virtues and transformations. Fourth, by recitating of their names, which when uttered by beings, will remove obstacles and result their rebirth in the presence of the Buddha. It is difficult for ordinary people like us to understand the teaching with infinite compassion of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Sometimes, they uses their speech to preach the dharma, but a lot of times they use their way of life such as retreating in peace, strictly following the precepts to show and inspire others to cultivate the way. “Temporary manifestation for saving beings” means temporarily appear to save sentient beings. The power of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to transform themselves into any kind of temporal body in order to aid beings.

Buddhas and Bodhisattvas also save all sentient beings by “Breaking (disproving) the false and making manifest the right”: According to the Madhyamika School, the doctrine of the school has three main aspects, the first aspect is the “refutation itself of a wrong view, at the same time, the elucidation of a right view.” Refutation is necessary to save all sentient beings who are drowned in the sea of attachment while elucidation is also important in order to propagate the teaching of the Buddha. Refutation of all wrong views, refutation means to refute all views based on attachment. Also views such as the ‘self’ or atman, the theory of Brahmanic philosophers. The pluralistic doctrines of the Buddhist Abhidharma schools (Vaibhasika, Kosa, etc) and the dogmatic principles of Mahayana teachers are never passed without a detailed refutation. The Realistic or all exists, and the Nihilistic or nothing exists are equally condemned. Elucidation of the good cause means elucidation of a right view. According to Prof. Takakusu in The Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy, the Madhyamika School strongly believed that the truth can be attained only by negation or refutation of wrong views within and without Buddhism, and of errors of both the Great and Small Vehicles. When retaining wrong views or error, one will be blind to reason. How can a blind man get a right view without which the two extremes can never be avoided? The end of verbal refutation is the dawn of the Middle Path. Refutation and refutation only, can lead to the ultimate truth. The Middle Path, which is devoid of name and character is really the way of elucidation of a right view.

Chapter 73. The Last Teachings of the Buddha

Beneath the Sala Trees at Kusinagara, the Buddha taught his last words to his disciples as follows: Make yourself a light. Rely upon yourself, do not depend upon anyone else. Make my teachings your light. Rely on them; do not rely on any other teaching. Consider your body, think of its impurity. Consider your body, knowing that both its pains and its delight are alike causes of suffering, how can you indulge in its desires? Consider your “self,” think of its transciency, how can you fall into delusion about it and cherish pride and selfishness, knowing that they must end in inevitable suffering and afflictions? Consider substances, can you find among them any enduring “self” ? Are they aggregates that sooner or later will break apart and be scattered? Do not be confused by the universality of suffering, but follow my teaching, even after my death, and you will be rid of pain. Do this and you will indeed be my disciples. My disciples, the teachings that I have given you are never be forgotten or abandoned. They are always to be treasured, they are to be thought about, they are to be practiced. If you follow these teachings, you will always be happy. My disciples, the point of the teachings is to control your own mind. Keep your mind from greed, and you will keep your behavior right; keep your mind pure and your words faithful. By always thinking about the transciency of your life, you will be able to resist greed and anger, and will be able to avoid all evils. If you find your mind tempted and so entangled in greed, you must try to suppress and control the temptation; be the master of your own mind. A man’s mind may make him a Buddha, or it may make him a beast. Misled by error, one becomes a demon; enlightened, one become a Buddha. Therefore, control your mind and do not let it deviate from the right path. You should respect each other, follow my teachings, and refrain from disputes. You should not like water and oil, repel each other, but should like milk and water, mingle together. My disciples, you should always study together, learn together, practise my teachings together. Do not waste your mind and time in idleness and quarreling. Enjoy the blossoms of Enlightenment in their season and harvest the fruit of the right path. My disciples, the teachings which I have given you, I gained by following the path myself. You should follow these teachings and conform to their spirit on every occasion. My disciples, if you neglect them, it means that you have never really met me. It means that you are far from me, even if you are actually with me. But if you accept and practice my teachings, then you are very near to me, even though you are far away. My disciples, my end is approaching, our parting is near, but do not lament. Life is ever changing; none can escape the disolution of the body. This I am now to show by my own death, my body falling apart like a dilapidated cart. Do not vainly lament, but realize that nothing is permanent and learn from it the emptiness of human life. Do not cherish the unworthy desire that the changeable might become unchanging. My disciples, you should always remember that the demon of worldly desires is always seeking chances to deceive the mind. If a viper lives in your room and you wish to have a peaceful sleep, you must first chase it out. You must break the bonds of worldly passions and drive them away as you would a viper. You must positively protect your own mind. My disciples, my last moment has come, do not forget that death is only the end of the physical body. The body was born from parents and was nourished by food; just as inevitable are sickness and death. But the true Buddha is not a human body: it is Enlightenment. A human body must die, but the Wisdom of Enlightenment will exist forever in the truth of the Dharma, and in the practice of the Dharma. He who sees merely my body does not see me. Only he who accepts and practies my teaching truly sees me. After my death, the Dharma shall be your teacher. Follow the Dharma and you will be true to me. During the last forty-five years of my life, I have withheld nothing from my teachings. There is no secret teaching, no hidden meaning; everything has been taught openly and clearly. My dear disciples, this is the end. In a moment, I shall be passing into Nirvana. This is my last instruction.

The Last Teachings of the Buddha were recorded by his disciples in the sutra on the last instructions, the sutra on transforming teaching handed down or bequeathed by the Buddha. The Buddha said: “I am neither a vaguely so-called God nor an incarnation of any vaguely so-called God. I am only a man who re-discovers what had been covered for so long. I am only a man who attains enlightenment by completely comprehending all Noble Truths.” In fact, the Buddha is a man who deserves our respect and reverence not only as a teacher but also as a Saint. He was a man, but an extraordinary man, a unique being in the universe. All his achievements are attributed to his human effort and his human understanding. He achieved the highest mental and intellectual attainments, reached the supreme purity and was perfect in the best qualities of human nature. He was an embodiment of compassion and wisdom, two noble principles in Buddhism. The Buddha never claimed to be a savior who tried to save ‘souls’ by means of a revelation of other religions. The Buddha’s message is simple but priceless to all of us: “Infinite potentialities are latent in man and that it must be man’s effort and endeavor to develop and unfold these possibilities. That is to say, in each man, there exists the Buddha-nature; however, deliverance and enlightenment lie fully within man’s effort and endeavor.”

When it was about time for Him to enter Nirvana, the Buddha uttered His last words: “Nothing in this world is precious. The human body will disintegrate. Ony is Dharma precious. Only is Truth everlasting.” When the day of the Buddha’s passing away was drawing near, and the Bhiksus were reluctant for the parting. The Buddha instructed them saying: “The Buddha’s incarnation body cannot say in the world forever. This is the natural law. But my dharma can live on for a long time. You should observe and practice according to my teachings.” Ananda and others then consulted the Buddha on four things of the Buddha’s disciples after the Buddha’s passing away. Right before entering Nirvana, beneath the Sala Trees at Kusinagara, the Buddha taught his last words to his disciples as follows: First, make yourself a light. Rely upon yourself, do not depend upon anyone else. Second, make my teachings your light. Rely on them; do not rely on any other teaching. Third, consider your body, think of its impurity. Fourth, consider your body, knowing that both its pains and its delight are alike causes of suffering, how can you indulge in its desires? Fifth, consider your “self,” think of its transciency, how can you fall into delusion about it and cherish pride and selfishness, knowing that they must end in inevitable suffering and afflictions? Sixth, consider substances, can you find among them any enduring “self”? Are they aggregates that sooner or later will break apart and be scattered? Seventh, do not be confused by the universality of suffering, but follow my teaching, even after my death, and you will be rid of pain. Do this and you will indeed be my disciples. Eighth, my disciples, the teachings that I have given you are never be forgotten or abandoned. They are always to be treasured, they are to be thought about, they are to be practiced. If you follow these teachings, you will always be happy. Ninth, my disciples, the point of the teachings is to control your own mind. Keep your mind from greed, and you will keep your behavior right; keep your mind pure and your words faithful. By always thinking about the transciency of your life, you will be able to resist greed and anger, and will be able to avoid all evils. Tenth, if you find your mind tempted and so entangled in greed, you must try to suppress and control the temptation; be the master of your own mind. Eleventh, a man’s mind may make him a Buddha, or it may make him a beast. Misled by error, one becomes a demon; enlightened, one become a Buddha. Therefore, control your mind and do not let it deviate from the right path. Twelfth, you should respect each other, follow my teachings, and refrain from disputes. You should not like water and oil, repel each other, but should like milk and water, mingle together. Thirteenth, my disciples, you should always study together, learn together, practise my teachings together. Do not waste your mind and time in idleness and quarreling. Enjoy the blossoms of Enlightenment in their season and harvest the fruit of the right path. Fourteenth, my disciples, the teachings which I have given you, I gained by following the path myself. You should follow these teachings and conform to their spirit on every occasion. Fifteenth, my disciples, if you neglect them, it means that you have never really met me. It means that you are far from me, even if you are actually with me. But if you accept and practice my teachings, then you are very near to me, even though you are far away. Sixteenth, my disciples, my end is approaching, our parting is near, but do not lament. Life is ever changing; none can escape the disolution of the body. This I am now to show by my own death, my body falling apart like a dilapidated cart. Seventeenth, do not vainly lament, but realize that nothing is permanent and learn from it the emptiness of human life. Do not cherish the unworthy desire that the changeable might become unchanging. Eighteenth, my disciples, you should always remember that the demon of worldly desires is always seeking chances to deceive the mind. If a viper lives in your room and you wish to have a peaceful sleep, you must first chase it out.

You must break the bonds of worldly passions and drive them away as you would a viper. You must positively protect your own mind. Nineteenth, my disciples, my last moment has come, do not forget that death is only the end of the physical body. The body was born from parents and was nourished by food; just as inevitable are sickness and death. Twentieth, but the true Buddha is not a human body: it is Enlightenment. A human body must die, but the Wisdom of Enlightenment will exist forever in the truth of the Dharma, and in the practice of the Dharma. He who sees merely my body does not see me. Only he who accepts and practies my teaching truly sees me. Twenty-first, after my death, the Dharma shall be your teacher. Follow the Dharma and you will be true to me: Twenty-Second, during the last forty-five years of my life, I have withheld nothing from my teachings. There is no secret teaching, no hidden meaning; everything has been taught openly and clearly. My dear disciples, this is the end. In a moment, I shall be passing into Nirvana. This is my last instruction.

According to the Mahaparinirvana Sutra in the Digha Nikaya, volume 16, the Buddha compassionately reminded Ananda: “It is through not understanding the Four Noble Truths, o Bhiksus, that we have had to wander so long in this weary path of rebirth, both you and I!” On his last days, the Buddha always reminded his disciples to be mindful and self-possessed in learning the Three-fold training “Such is right conduct, such is concentration, and such is wisdom.” In His last instructions to the Order, the Buddha told Ananda: “The Tathagata does not think that he should lead the Order or the Order is dependent on Him. Therefore, Ananda, be lamps to yourselves. Be a refuge to yourselves. Go to no external refuge. Hold fast to the Dharma as a lamp. Hold fast to the Dharma as a refuge. And how, O Ananda, is a Bhiksu to be a lamp to himself, a refuge to himself, going to no external refuge, holding fast to the Dharma as a lamp? Herein, a Bhiksu lives diligent, mindful, and self-possessed, overcoming desire and grief in the world, reflecting on the body, feeling, and mind and mental objects.” In Kusinagara, the Buddha told his last disciple, Subhadda: “O Subhadda, in whatever doctrine, the Noble Eightfold Path is not found, neither is there found the first Samana, nor the second, nor the third, nor the fourth. Now in this doctrine and discipline, O Subhadda, there is the Noble Eightfold Path, and in it too, are found the first, the second, the third and the fourth Samanas. The other teachers’ schools are empty of Samanas. If, O Subhadda, the disciples live rightly, the world would not be void with Arahants. Void of true Saints are the system of other teachers. But in this one, may the Bhiksus live the perfect life, so that the world would not be without saints.” Then the Buddha turned to everyone and said his final exhortation: “Remember what I have taught you. Craving and desire are the cause of all unhappiness. Everything sooner or later must change, so do not become attached to anything. Instead, devote yourself to clearing your mind and finding true and lasting happiness. Behold now, O Bhiksus, I exhort you! Subject to change are all component things! Strive on with diligence!”

Chapter 74. The Priceless Message from the Buddha

After attaining enlightenement and more than four decades of spreading message of the truth regarding the Four Noble Truths (More information in Chapter 15, page 107). This message is one of the most important parts in the Buddha’s Teachings. The Buddha gave this message to suffering humanity for their guidance, to help them to be rid of the bondage of “Dukkha” and to attain happiness, both relative and absolute (relative happiness or worldly happiness, absolute happiness or Nirvana). These Truths are not the Buddha’s creation. He only re-discovered their existence. The Buddha said: “I am neither a vaguely so-called God nor an incarnation of any vaguely so-called God. I am only a man who re-discovers what had been covered for so long. I am only a man who attains enlightenment by completely comprehending all Noble Truths.” In fact, the Buddha is a man who deserves our respect and reverence not only as a teacher but also as a Saint. He was a man, but an extraordinary man, a unique being in the universe. All his achievements are attributed to his human effort and his human understanding. He achived the highest mental and intellectual attainments, reached the supreme purity and was perfect in the best qualities of human nature. He was an embodiment of compassion and wisdom, two noble principles in Buddhism. The Buddha never claimed to be a savior who tried to save ‘souls’ by means of a revelation of other religions. The Buddha’s message is simple but priceless to all of us: “Infinite potentialities are latent in man and that it must be man’s effort and endeavor to develop and unfold these possibilities. That is to say, in each man, there exists the Buddha-nature; however, deliverance and enlightenment lie fully within man’s effort and endeavor.”

Chapter 75. The Twelve Vows of Bhaishajya-Guru-Buddha

According to The Medicine Buddha Sutra, the Buddha said to Manjusri Bodhisattva: “East of this world, past countless Buddha-lands, more numerous than the grains of sand in ten Ganges Rivers, there exists a world called Pure Lapis Lazuli. The Buddha of that world is called the Medicine Buddha Lapis Lazuli Radiance Tathagata, Arhat, the Perfectly Enlightened, Perfect in Mind and Deed, Well Gone, Knower of the World, Unsurpassed Being, Tamer of Passions, Teacher of Gods and Men, Buddha, World Honoured One. When the World Honoured Medicine Buddha was treading the Bodhisattva path, he solemnly made Twelve Great Vows to grant sentient beings whatever they desired. Sakyamuni Buddha confirmed Manjusri Bodhisattva: “I cannot possibly describe them all, not even if I were to speak for an eon or more. However, this Buddha-land is utterly pure. You will find no temptations, no Evil Paths nor even cries of suffering there.” The Medicine Buddha Sutra also stresses on the merits and virtues of Bhaisaya-Guru and encourages sentient beings to have faith in this Buddha so that they ca be reborn in the Eastern Paradise; however, the sutra never denies the Western Paradise. Sakyamuni Buddha told Manjusri in the Medicine Buddha Sutra as follows: “There are living beings who don’t distinguish good from evil, who indulge in greed and stinginess, and who know nothing of giving or its rewards. They are stupid, ignorant, and lack the foundation of faith. They accumulate much wealth and many treasures and ardently guard them. When they see a beggar coming, they feel displeased. When they have to practice an act of charity that does not benefit themselves, they feel as though they were cutting a piece of flesh from their body, and they suffer deep and painful regret. There are other innumerable avaricious and miserly living beings who hoard money and necessities that they don’t use even for themselves, how much less for their parents, wives, or servants, or for beggars! At the end of their lives, such beings will be reborn among the hungry ghosts or animals. If they heard the name of that Buddha, Medicine Master Vaidurya Light Tathagata, in their former human existence, and they recall that Tathagata’s name for the briefest moment while they are in the evil destinies, they will immediately be reborn in the human realm. Moreover, they will remember their past lives and will dread the sufferings of the evil destinies. They will not delight in worldly pleasures, but will rejoice in giving and praise others who give. They will not begrudge giving whatever they have. Gradually, to those who come to beg, they will be able to give away their own head, eyes, hands, and even their entire body, to say nothing of their money and property! These beings will drift endlessly in the realms of hells, ghosts or animal, but they have a chance to hear His name. There are beings who, although they study under the Tathagata, nonetheless violate the precepts. Others, although they do not violate the precepts, nonetheless, transgress the rules and regulations. Others, although they do not violate the precepts or rules and regulations, nonetheless destroy their own proper views, nonetheless neglect learning, so they are unable to understand the profound meaning of the Sutras that the Buddha speaks. Others, although they are learned, nonetheless give rise to overweening pride. Shadowed by overweening pride, they justify themselves and disparage others, slander the Proper Dharma, and join the retinue of demons. Such fools act on their misguided views and further, cause immeasurable millions of beings to fall into pits of great danger. These beings will drift endlessly in the realms of the hells, hungry ghosts, and animals. But if they hear the name of Medicine Master Vaidurya Light Tathagata, they will be able to renounce their evil practices and cultivate wholesome Dharmas, and thereby avoid falling into the evil destinies. If those who have fallen into the evil destinies because they could not renounce their evil practices and cultivate wholesome Dharmas, by the awesome power of the past vows of that Tathagata, get to hear his naem for only a moment, then after they pass out of that existence, they will be reborn again as human beings. They will hold proper views and will be ever vigorous. Their minds will be regulated and joyful, enabling them to renounce their families and leave the householder’s life. They will take up and maintain study of the Tathagata’s Dharma without any violation. They will understand profound meanings and yet be free from overweening pride. They will not slander the Proper Dharma and will never join the ranks of demons. They will progressively cultivate the practices of Bodhisattvas and will soon bring them to perfection. There are sentient beings who harbor stinginess, greed and jealousy, who praise themselves and disparage others, they will fall into the three evil destinies for countless thousands of years where they will undergo intense suffering. After undergoing intense suffering, at the end of their lives they will be reborn in the world as oxen, horses, camels, and donkeys that are constantly beaten, afflicted by thirst and hunger, and made to carry heavy burdens along the roads. Or they may be reborn among lowly people, as slaves or servants who are always ordered around by others and who never for a moment have freedom. If such beings, in their former lives as humans, heard the name of the World Honored One, Medicine Master Vaidurya Light Tathagata, and by this good cause are able to remember it and sincerely take refuge with that Buddha, then, by means of the Buddha’s spiritual power, they will be liberated from all sufferings. They will be endowed with keen faculties, and they will be wise and erudite (learn broadly). They will always seek the supreme Dharmas and encounter good friends. They will eternally sever the nets of demons and smash the shell of ignorance. They will dry up the river of afflictions and be liberated from birth, old age, sickness, death, anxiety, grief, suffering, and vexation (depression). There are beings who delight in perversity and engage in legal dispute, bringing troubles to others as well as themselves. In their actions, speech, and thoughts, they create and increase evil karma. They are never willing to benefit or forgive others, they scheme to harm one another instead. They pray and bow to the spirits of the mountains, forests, trees, and graves. They kill living beings in order to make sacrifices of blood and flesh to the Yaksa and Raksasa ghosts. They write down the names of their enemies and make images of them, and then they bewitch those names and images with evil mantras. They summon paralysis ghosts, or command corpse-raising ghosts to kill or injure their enemies. However, if the victims hear the name of Medicine Master Vaidurya Light Tathagata, then all those evil things will lose their power to do harm. The evildoers will become kind to one another. They will attain benefit, peace, and happiness and no longer cherish thoughts of malice, affliction, or enmity. Everyone will rejoice and feel content with what they have. Instead of encroaching upon each other, they seek to benefit one another. There are people among the fourfold assembly of Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas, as well as other good men and women of pure faith, who accept and uphold the eight precepts either for one year or for three months, practicing and studying them. With these good roots, they may vow to be reborn in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss where the Buddha of Limitless Life dwells, to hear the Proper Dharmas, but their resolve may not be firm. However, if they hear the name of the World Honored One, Medicine Master Vaidurya Light Tathagata, then as the end of their lives draws near, before them will appear eight great Bodhisattvas, whose names are: Manjusri, Avalokitesvara (the one who observes the sounds of the world), Great Strength Bodhisattva, Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva, Jewelled Udumbara Flower, Medicine King, Medicine Superior, and Maitreya Bodhisattva. Those eight great Bodhisattvas will appear in space to show them the way, and they will naturaly be born by transformation in that land, amid precious flowers. Or they may be born in the Heavens due to this cause. Although reborn in the heavens, their original good roots will not be exhausted and so they will not fall into the evil destinies again. When their life in the heavens ends, they will be born among people again. They may be wheel-turning kings, reigning over the four continents with awesome virtue and ease, bringing uncountable hundreds of thousands of living beings to abide i the practice of the ten good deeds. Or they may be born as ksatriyas, Brahmans, laymen, or sons of honorable families. They will be wealthy, with storehouses filled to overflowing. Handsome in appearance, they will be surrounded by a great retinue of relatives. They will be intelligent and wise, courageous and valiant, like great and awesome knights. If a woman hears the name of the World Honored One, Medicine Master Vaidurya Light Tathagata, and sincerely cherishes it, in the future she will never be born as a female.

Besides, Bhaishajya-Guru-Buddha also has twelve great vows: The First great Vow: I vow that in a future life, when I have attained Supreme, Perfect Enlightenment, my brilliant rays will radiate to all beings or to shine upon all beings with the light from my body, illuminating infinite, countless boundless realms. This body will be adorned with the Thirty-Two Marks of Greatness and Eighty Auspicious Characteristics. Furthermore, I will enable all sentient beings to become just like me. The Second Great Vow: I vow that in a future life, when I have attained Supreme Enlightenment, my body, inside and out, will radiate far and wide the clarity and flawless purity of lapis lazuli. This body will be adorned with superlative virtues and dwell peacefully in the midst of a web of light more magnificent than the sun or moon. The light will awaken the minds of all beings dwelling in darkness, enabling them to engage in their pursuits according to their wishes. The Third Great Vow: I vow that in a future life, when I have attained Supreme Enlightenment, I will, with infinite wisdom and skillful means, provide all sentient beings with an inexhaustible quantity of goods to meet their material needs. They will never want for anything. The Fourth Great Vow: I vow that in a future life, when I have attained Supreme Enlightenment, I will set all who follow heretical ways upon the path to Enlightenment. Likewise, I will set those who follow the Sravaka and Pratyeka-Buddha ways onto the Mahayana path. The Fifth Great Vow: I vow that in a future life, when I have attained Supreme Enlightenment, I will help all the countless sentient beings who cultivate the path of morality in accordance with my Dharma to observe the rules of conduct (Precepts) to perfection, in conformity with the Three Root Precepts. Even those guilty of disparaging or violating the Precepts will regain their purity upon hearing my name, and avoid descending upon the Evil Paths. The Sixth Great Vow: I vow that in a future life, when I have attained Supreme Enlightenment, sentient beings with imperfect bodies, whose senses are deficient, who are ugly, stupid, blind, deaf, mute, crippled, hunchbacked, leprous, insane or suffering from various other illnesses, will, upon hearing my name, acquire well-formed bodies, endowed with intelligence, with all senses intact. They will be free of illness and suffering. The Seventh Great Vow: I vow that in a future life, when I have attained Supreme Enlightenment, sentient beings afflicted with various illnesses, with no one to help them, nowhere to turn, no physicians, no medicine, no family, no home, who are destitute and miserable, will, as soon as my name passes through their ears, be relieved of all their illnesses. With mind and body peaceful and contented, they will enjoy home, family and property in abundance and eventually realize Unsurpassed Supreme Enlightenment. The Eighth Great Vow:

I vow that in a future life, when I have attained Supreme Enlightenment, those women who are extremely disgusted with ‘hundred afflictions that befall women’ and wish abandon their female form, will, upon hearing my name, all be reborn as men. They will be endowed with noble features and eventually realize Unsurpassed Supreme Enlightenment. The Ninth Great Vow: I vow that in a future life, when I have attained Supreme Enlightenment, I will help all sentient beings escape from the demons’ net and free themselves from the bonds of heretical paths. Should they be caught in the thicket of wrong views, I will lead them to correct views, gradually inducing them to cultivate the practices of Bodhisattvas and swiftly realize Supreme, Perfect Enlightenment. The Tenth Great Vow: I vow that in a future life, when I have attained Supreme Enlightenement, those sentient beings who are shackled, beaten, imprisoned, condemned to death or otherwise subjected to countless miseries and humiliations by royal decree, and who are suffering in body and mind from this oppression, need only hear my name to be freed from all these afflictions, thanks to the awesome power of my merits and virtues. The Eleventh Great Vow: I vow that in a future life, when I have attained Supreme Enlightenment, if sentient beings who are tormented by hunger and thirst, to the point of creating evil karma in their attempts to survive, should succeed in hearing my name, recite it singlemindedly and hold fast to it, I will first satisfy them with most exquisite food and drink. Ultimately, it is through the flavor of the Dharma that I will establish them in the realm of peace and happiness. The Twelfth Great Vow: I vow that in a future life, when I have attained Supreme Enlightenment, if sentient beings who are utterly destitute, lacking clothes to protect them from mosquitos and flies, heat and cold, and are suffering day and night, should hear my name, recite it singlemindedly and hold fast to it, their wishes will be fulfilled. They will immediately receive all manner of exquisite clothing, precious adornments, flower garlands and incense powder, and will enjoy music and entertainment to their heart’s content.

Chapter 76. The Twelve Vows of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva

The Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara has, since the time without beginning, been a Buddha with the name of True Dharma Light. While residing in the Land of Eternal Stillness, because of Her boundless concern and compasion, She also appears in all lands and realms. Standing beside Amitabha Buddha, She also manifests Herself everywhere, as Buddha, Bodhisattva, Arhat, Pratyeka Buddha, or takes the form of various beings along the Six Paths in the Dharma Realm of the ten directions. She accomplishes whatever deeds are of benefit to sentient beings and takes whatever form is necessary to rescue them and teach them the Dharma. Like Buddhas, Bodhisattvas are very numerous. Among the creations of the mythological imagination of the Buddhism of Faith, Avalokitesvara is the most outstanding. By the power of his magic, and by his infinite care and skill in his “salvation of all those who are suffering.” A Sanskrit term for “Lord who Looks Down.” A Bodhisattva who stands on the left side of Amitabha Buddha. This is the most important Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism. He is the embodiment of compassion (karuna), which along with wisdom (prajna) is one of the two main characteristics of the awakened mind of a Buddha. His name literally means “the Lord who Look Down,” implying that he views the sufferings and afflictions of sentient beings with compassion. He figures prominently in many Mahayana sutras, e.g., several Perfection of Wisdom sutras, the Sukhavati-Vyuha, in which he is said to be one of the Bodhisattvas in the Pure Lan of Amitabha, and the Saddharma-Pundarika, which has an entire chapter in which he is the main figure. In this sutra, he is described as the savior of beings in trouble. It is said that by merely remembering his name with devotion one can be saved in times of distress. In early East Asian Buddhist depictions, up to the early Sung Dynasty, he is portrayed as a male, but since at least the tenth century the image of a female in a white robe (Pai-I-Kuan-Yin) has predominated in East Asia. In Tibet Avalokitesvara Spyan ras gzigs dbang phyug is viewed as the country’s patron deity, one of physical enamanations is the Dalai Lamas incarnational line. Furthermore, he is is one of the eight great Bodhisattvas in Mahayana traditional Buddhism, and one whose activities involve the active practice of compassion in saving sentient beings. The mantra of “Om Mani Pad mi Hum” is directly associated with Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. In Tibentan Buddhism, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva is considered to be the main patron Bodhisattva, and the Dalai Lama is viewed as his incarnate manifestation. According to Eitel in The Dictionary of Chinese-English Buddhist Terms, Avalokitesvara is one who contemplates the world’s sounds, originally represented as a male, the images are now generally those of a female figure. The meaning of the term is in doubt. Kuan-Yin is one of the triad of Amitabha, is represented on his left, and is also represented as crowned with Amida; but there are as many as thirty-two different forms of Kuan-Yin, sometimes with a bird, a vase, a willow wand, a pearl, a thousand eyes and hands, etc. and when as bestower of children, carrying a child. The island of P’u-T’o (Potala) is the chief center of Kuan-Yin worship, where she is the protector of all in distress, especially of those who go to sea. Chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutras devoted to Kuan-Yin, and is the principal scriptures of the cult. Kuan-Yin is sometimes confounded (bị lầm lẫn) with Amitabha and Maitreya. According to other Buddhist sources, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva is one of the four greatest important Bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism. He is a Bodhisattva of Great Compassion and Observer of the Sounds of the World. He is also known as the Contemplator of Self-Mastery. He is the disciple and future successor of Amitabha Buddha in the Western Pure Land. Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva also has various titles such as: Kuan-Yin, Kuan-Yin Bodhisattva, Regarder or Observer of the world’s sounds or cries (sounds that enlighten the world), the Sovereign Beholder of the world, the Sovereign Beholder, not associated with sounds or cries, One Thousand Hands and Eyes Bodhisattva, and so on. World Voice-Seeing Bodhisattva, one of the great bodhisattvas of the Mahayana Buddhism.

Avalokitesvara contemplates the sound of the world. She can manifest herself in any conceivable form to bring help wherever it is needed. Bodhisattva of compassion and deep listening. Also called Kuan Shi Yin, the Bodhisattva of compassion. One of the three Pure Land Sages (Buddhas and Bodhisattvas). The others being Buddha Amitabha and Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta. Among Buddhism mythological works, works on Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva are the most outstanding. By the power of his magic, and by his infinite care and skill he affords safety to those who are anxious. The word Avalokitesvara is a compound of the word “ishvara” means “Lord or Sovereign,” and of “avalokita” which means he who looks down with compassion, i.e., on beings suffering in this world. According to Edward Conze in Buddhism: Its Essence and Development, Avalokitesvara personifies compassion. The texts and images suggest that in India one may distinguish three stages in his development. At first, he is a member of a trinity, consisting of Amitayus, Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta. This Trinity has many counterparts in Iranian religion, i.e., in the Mithras cult and Zervanism, a Persian religion which recognized Infinite Time (Zervan Akarana=Amita-ayus) as the fundamental principle. Assimilated by Buddhism, Avalokitesvara becomes a great Bodhisattva, so great that he is nearly as perfect as a Buddha. He possesses a great miraculous power to help in all kinds of dangers and difficulties. In the second stage, Avalokitesvara acquires a number of cosmic functions and features. He hold the world in his hand, he is immensely big, 800,000 myriads of miles, each of the pores of his skin conceals a world system. He is the Lord and Sovereign of the world. From his eyes come the sun and the moon, from his mouth the winds, from his ffet the earth. In all these respects, Avalokitesvara resembles the Hindu God, Brahma. Finally, in the third stage, at a time when the magical elements of Buddhism come to the fore, he becomes a great magician who owes his power to his mantras, and he adopts many of the characteristics of Siva. This is the Tantric Avalokitesvara. Avalokitesvara, the “Bodhisattva who Looks Down” on us with compassion, is one of the most popular Mahayana Bodhisattvas. Revered as the embodiment of compassion, he is frequently depicted with eleven heads and 1,000 arms, all of which are used in his dispensation of aid. Avalokitesvara is an attendant of the Buddha Amitabha, who rules over Sukhavati, the Pure Land of the West. Amitabha is one of the most important of the many Buddhas who resides in the different Buddha fields of Mahayana Buddhism. Avalokitesvara finds many ways to help, not least by assuming a variety of forms, including those of a disciple, a monk, a god or a Tara. According to Tibetan Buddhism, Tara, an important female bodhisattva in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, was born from a teardrop of his compassion, and the Dalai Lamas are sometimes said to be successive reincarnations of Avalokitesvara. The cult of Avalokitesvara has inspired some of the most beautiful works of religious art in Asian Buddhism. In the 10th century, Chinese Buddhists started painting images of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva with ten arms. Four of these ten arms hold the sun, moon, a mace and a trident; and the remaining six are in the distinctive gesture (mudra) of giving, banishing fear and offering. According to Chinese Mahayana Buddhism, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara is often depicted with one thousand hands, each hand containing its own eye, to indicate the vows and powers of the Bodhisattva to see all those suffering in the world and reach into the world and pull them out of their suffering. The texts and the images suggest that in India one may distinguish three stages in his development. At first, he is a member of a Trinity, consisting of Amitayus, Avalokitesvara and Mahasthama-prapta (the one who has attained great strength). This Trinity has many counterparts in Iranian religion, i.e., in the Mithras cult in Zervanism, a Persian religion which recognized Infinite Time (Zervan Akarana=Amitayus) as the fundamental principle. Assimilated by Buddhism, Avalokitesvara becomes a great Bodhisattva, so great that he is nearly as perfect as a Buddha. He possesses a great miraculous power to help in all kinds of dangers and difficulties. In the second stage, Avalokitesvara acquires a number of cosmic functions and features. He “holds the world in his hand,” he is immensely big-- “800,000 myriads of miles”-- “each of the pores of his skin conceals a world system.” He is the Lord and Sovereign of the world. From his eyes come the sun and the moon, from his mouth the winds, from his feet the earth. In all these respects Avalokitesvara resembles the Hindu God, Brahma. Finally, in the third stage, at a time when the magical elements of Buddhism come to the fore, he becomes a great magician who owes his power to his mantras, and he adopts many of the characteristics of Shiva. This is the Tantric Avalokitesvara.

Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara can be described as a single moon in the sky appears in ten thousand rivers and lakes. From the oceans to the tiniest dewdrops, wherever there is limpid water, the moon appears. However, if the water is turbid or muddy, the image of the moon will be blurred or hidden. Our Mind-Nature is similar to the water. If sentient beings concentrate singlemindedly on the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, She employs all kinds of expedients, favorable and unfavorable, hidden or overt, to bring them benefits. If, on the other hand, the cultivator is not utterly sincere and singleminded in his recitation, his mind-water will be turbid and it will be difficult for him to obtain a response. Moreover, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara’s methods are boundless and all-encompassing. She preaches every kind of method to teach and transform sentient beings in accordance with their individual capacities and nature, without insisting on any particular Dharma method. Therefore, Her approach is called “Universal Door.” Besides, she also has twelve specific vows to save sentient beings: The First Great Vow: Namo, the Greatly Enlightened, well known for great spiritual freedom, the Avalokitesvara Tathagata’s vow of immense propagation. The Second Great Vow: Namo, single-minded in liberation, Avalokitesvara Tathagata’s vow to often dwell in Southern Ocean. The Third Great Vow: Namo, the dweller of Saha World, the Underworld, Avalokitesvara Tathagata’s vow to follow the prayer sounds of sentient beings to alleviate pains and sufferings. The Fourth Great Vow: Namo, the destroyer of evil spirits and demons, Avalaokitesvara Tathagata’s vow to eliminate dangers. The Fifth Great Vow: Namo, the holy water bottle and willow branch, Avalokitesvara Tathagata’s vow to provide comfort and purification of sentient beings’ minds with sweet holy water. The Sixth Great Vow: Namo, the greatly compassionate and forgiving Avalkitesvara Tathagata’s vow often to carry out conducts with complete fairness and equality. The Seventh Great Vow: Namo, in all times without abandonment, Avalokitesvara Tathagata’s vow to try to eliminate the three realm. The Eighth Great Vow: Namo, Potala Mountain, essential to worship, Avalokitesvara Tathagata’s vow to break from the bondage of shackles and chains to find liberation. The Ninth Great Vow: Namo, the creator of the dharma-vessel traveling the ocean of sufferings, Avalokitesvara Tathagata’s vow to rescue and aid all sentient beings. The Tenth Great Vow: Namo, the holder of flags and parasols, Avalokitesvara Tathagata’s vow to protect and deliver sentient beings to the Western Pure Land. The eleventh Great Vow: Namo, the world of the Infinite Life Buddha, Avalokitesvara Tathagata’s vow to have Amitabha Buddha give the prophecy of Buddhahood. The Twelfth Great Vow: Namo, the incomparable adorning body in the three worlds, Avalokitesvara Tathagata’s vow to complete the twelve vows to rescue sentient beings.

Chapter 77. Cultivation of Practices of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva

Samantabhadra is name of a Bodhisattva who is All-pervadingly Good or whose Beneficence is Everywhere. One of the most important bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism. He also embodies calm action, compassion, and deep-seated wisdom. He is venerated as the protector of all those who teach the dharma and is regarded as an embodiment of the wisdom of essential sameness and difference. He often appears riding a white six-tusked elephant (the elephant being noted for its tranquility and wisdom) with Manjusri (Manjushri) on the right side of Sakyamuni. He is also called Universal sagacity, or lord of the fundamental law, the dhyana, and the practice of all Buddhas. He represents the fundamental law, and is the patron of the Lotus Sutra and its devotees, and has close connection with the Hua-Yen Sutra. His region is in the east. An important figure of the Mahayana Buddhism. As a Bodhisattva in early Mahayana texts, he is said to be the protector of those who propagate the Dharma, and he often portrayed with Vairocana. Iconographically, he is often shown riding on a white elephant with six tusks, and he commonly holds a lotus, a wish-fulfilling jewel, or a scroll. In Vajrayana he is often said to be the “primordial buddha” (Adi-Buddha) and the embodiment of the “truth body” (Dharma-kaya). Bodhisattva Samantabhadra’s ten vows: First is to worship and respect all Buddhas: By the vow to pay reverence to all the Buddhas is meant that a Bodhisattva will pay reverence to an inconceivable number of Buddhas in the past, present and future with his pure body, speech and mind. He will salute every one of them without feeling fatigue until the end of the universe. Second is to make praise to The Thus Come Ones: By the vow to praise all the Tathagatas is meant that a Bodhisattva will always praise an innumerable number of Tathagatas in the past, present and future. A Bodhisattva will present himself before each one of these Buddhas with a deep understanding and a clear perception. The ocean of merits of the Tathagata will then be praised with an exquisite and eloquent tongue, each tongue expressing a sea of inexhaustible voices, and each voice articulating a sea of words in every form possible. A Bodhisattva will go on to praise the Buddhas without feeling fatigue and without cessation until the end of the world. Third is to practice profoundly (vastly) the giving offerings: By the vow to make all kinds of offerings to the Buddhas is meant that a Bodhisattva will always make offerings to an inconceivable number of Buddhas in the past, present, and future. The offering consists of flowers, wreaths, music, umbrellas, garments, and all kinds of incense and ointment, and many other things, and all these offerings in such a large quantity as is equal to clouds or to a mountain. A Bodhisattva will also burn before every one of the innumerable Buddhas all sorts of oil in such a measure as compares to an ocean. But of all the offerings one could thus make to a Buddha the best is that of the Dharma, which is to say, disciplining oneself according to the teaching, benefitting all beings, accepting all beings, suffering pains for all beings, maturing every root of goodness, carrying out all the works of a Bodhisattva, and at the same time not keeping himself away from the thought of enlightenment. The material offerings, no matter how big, are not equal even to an infinitesimal fraction of the moral offerings (dharmapuja), because all Buddhas are born of moral offerings, because these are the true offerings, because the practicing of the Dharma means the perfection of an offering one could make to a Buddha. A Bodhisattva will continuously make offerings to every one of the innumerable Buddhas without feeling fatigue. Fourth is to repent and reform all karmic hindrances (faults): The vow to repent all one’s own sins (committed by oneself) and thereby to get rid of one’s karma-hindrance is necessary because whatever sins committed by us are due to our greed, anger, and ignorance done by the body, speech, and mind. Now we make full confession and repent. According to the Buddha, all these sins, if they were really substantial, are thought to have filled the universe to its utmost ends and even over-flowing. Now a Bodhisattva vows to repent without reserve from the depth of his heart, vowing that such sins will never be committed again by him, for from now on, he will always abide in the pure precepts amass every sort of merit. And of this he will never get tired even to the end of the world. Fifth is to rejoice and follow in merit and virtue: By the vow to compliantly rejoice in merit and virtue is meant that a Bodhisattva should always be in sympathy with all beings for whatever good things they think, or feel, or do. All the Buddhas had gone through untold hardships before they attained full enlightenment. Since their first awakening of the thought of enlightenment, they never hesitated to accumulate all the merit that tended towards the attainment of the goal of their life, they never raised a thought of egotism even when they had to sacrifice their life and all that belonged to them. Now a Bodhisattva vows to feel a sympathetic joy for all these doings of the Buddhas. He does this not only with the Buddhas, but for every possible deed of merit, however significant, executed by any being in the path of existence, of any class of truth-seekers. A Bodhisattva with this vow will never be tired of putting it into practice till the end of the world. Sixth is to request that the Dharma wheel be turned: Request the turning of the Dharma Wheel, by the vow that a Bodhisattva will ask every one of the inconceivable number of Buddhas to revolve the Wheel of the Dharma, without feeling tired and without cease until the end of the world. Seventh is to request that the Buddha remain in the world: Request the Buddhas dwell in the world, a Bodhisattva vows to ask every one of the inconceivable number of Buddhas not to enter into Nirvana if any is so disposed. He will ask this even of any Bodhisattvas, Arhats, Sravakas, or Pratyekabuddhas; for he wishes these superior beings to continue to live in the world and keep on benefitting all beings. He will keep requesting this until the end of the world. Eighth is to follow the Buddha’s teaching always: Follow the Buddhas in study, a Bodhisattva vows to learn from the life of a Buddha who in this Saha World ever since his awakening of the thought of enlightenment have never ceased from exercising himself ungrudgingly, not even sparing his own life, for the sake of universal salvation. His reverential attitude towards the Dharma had been such as to make paper of his skin, a brush of his bones, and ink of his blood wherewith he copied the Buddhist sutras to the amount of Mount Sumeru. He cared not even for his life, how much less much less for the throne, for the palaces, gardens, villages, and other external things! By practicing every form of mortification he finally attained supreme enlightenment under the Bodhi-tree. After this, he manifested all kinds of psychical powers, all kinds of transformations, all aspects of the Buddha-body, and placed himself sometimes among Bodhisattvas, sometimes among Sravakas, and Pratyekabuddhas, sometimes among Kshatriyas, among Brahmans, householders, lay-disciples, and sometimes among Devas, Nagas, human beings, and non-human-beings. Whenever he has found, he preached with perfect eloquence, with a voice like thunder, in order to bring all beings into maturity according to their aspirations. Finally, he showed himself as entering into Nirvana. All these phases of the life of a Buddha, the Bodhisattva is determined to learn as models for his own life. A Bodhisattva should always follow the Buddha’s teaching without feeling tired, until the end of the world. Ninth is to constantly accord with all living beings: To forever accord with living beings, in this universe, life manifests itself in innumerable forms, each one differing from another in the way of its birth, in form, in the duration of life, in name, in mental disposition, in intelligence, in aspiration, in inclination, in demeanor, in garment, in food, in social life, in the mode of dwelling, etc. However, no matter how different they are, the Bodhisattva vows to live in accordance with the laws that govern everyone of these beings in order to serve them, to minister to their needs, to revere them as his parents, as his teachers, or Arahts, or as Tathagatas, making no distinction among them in this respect. If they are sick, he will be a good physician for them; if they go astray, he will show them the right path; if they are sunk in poverty, he will supply them with a treasure; thus uniformly giving benefits to all beings according to their needs, because a Bodhisattva is convinced that by serving all beings, he is serving all the Buddhas, that by revering all beings, by making them glad, he is revering and gladdening all the Buddhas. A great compassion heart is the substance of Tathagatahood and it is because of all beings that this compassionate heart is awakened, and because of this compassionate heart the thought of enlightenment is awakened, and because of this awakening supreme enlightenment is attained. A Bodhisattva vows to forever accord with all beings without feeling tired until the end of the world. Tenth is to transfer all merit and virtue universally: To universally transfer all merit and virtue. Whatever merits the Bodhisattva acquires by paying sincere respect to all the Buddhas and also by practicing all kinds of meritorious deeds as above mentioned, they will all be turned over to the benefits of all beings in the entire universe. He will thus turn all his merits towards making beings feel at ease, free from diseases, turn away from evil doings, practice all deeds of goodness, so that every possible evil may be suppressed and the right road to Nirvana be opened for the gods and men. If there be any beings who are suffering the results of their evil karma committed in the past, the Bodhisattva will be ready to sacrifice himself and bear the pains for the miserable creatures in order to release them from karma and finally make them realize supreme enlightenment. A Bodhisattva vows to transfer all merit and virtue universally without feeling tired until the end of the world.

Chapter 78. Amitabha Buddha With His Forty-Eight All-Encompassing Vows

Amitabha vowed to become the source of unlimited Light and Boundless Life, freeing and radiating the treasure of his wisdom and virtue, enlightening all lands and emancipating all suffering people. These are ten of the most important vows in the Amitabha’s forty-eight vows. As we have seen that the Amitabha or Amitayus, or Infinite Light and Infinite Life, is a Buddha realized from the istorical Buddha Sakyamuni. If the Buddha is purely idealized he wil be simply the Infinite in principle. The Infinite will then be identical with Thusness. The Infinite, if depicted in reference to space, will be the Infinite Light, and if depicted in reference to time, the Ithenite Life. He always vows in the Pure Land, there will be no inferior modes or evil path of existence; in the Pure Land, there will be no women, as all women who are reborn there will transform at the moment of death into men; there will be no differences in appearance there, every being is to have 32 marks of perfection; every being in the Pure Land posseses perfect knowledge of all past existences; every being possesses a Divine eye; every being possesses a Divine Ear; every being possesses the ability to move about by supernatural means; every being possesses the ability to know the thoughts of others; all beings of the worlds in all ten directions, upon hearing the name of Amitabha, will arouse Bodhicitta and vow to be reborn in the Western Pure Land after death. Amitabha and all saints will appear at the moment of their death to all beings who have aroused Bodhicitta through hearing his name (this is the most important vow). All beings who through hearing his name have directed their minds toward rebirth in his Pure Land and have accumulated wholesome karmic merits will be reborn in the Western Paradise. After rebirth in the Pure Land, only one further rebirth will be necessary before entry into Nirvana, no more falling back into lower paths. Because according to the Longer Amitabha Sutra or the Infinite Life Sutra, in his previous lifetimes, Amitabha Buddha has made forty-eight profound, all-encompassing vows. The general tenor of these vows is best exemplified in the eighteenth and eleventh vows. Sentient beings in the Saha World recite Amitabha Buddha’s name with a wish to be reborn in the Pure Land because Amitabha Buddha has adorned the Western Pure Land with forty-eight lofty Vows. These vows (particularly the eighteenth Vow of “welcoming and escorting”) embrace all sentient beings, from Bodhisattvas to common beings full of evil transgressions.

The forty-eight vows of Amitabha that he would not enter into his final nirvana or heaven, unless all beings share it. The vows which Amitabha Buddha made while still engaged in Bodhisattva practice as Bodhisattva Dharmakara. According to Longer Amitabha Sutra, Bodhisattva Dharmakara wished to create a splendid Buddha land in which he would live when he attained Buddhahood. Also according to Amitabha Sutra (The Sutra of Infinite Life), Amitabha Buddha is foremost. This is because of the power of his vows. This power is so great that when you singlemindedly recite “Nam Mo Amitabha Buddha,” after death you can be reborn in the Western Pure Land, and become a Buddha from there. All you need to do is recite the Buddha’s name. These are original vows of Dharmakara, the would-be Buddha, or even to Sakyamuni Buddha himself, is fully expressed in the forty-eight vows in the text. Vows numbered 12 and and 13 refer to the Infinite Light and the Infinite Life. “If he cannot get such aspects of Infinite Light and Life, he will not be a Buddha.” If he becomes a Buddha he can constitute a Buddha Land as he likes. A Buddha, of course, lives in the ‘Nirvana of No Abode,’ and hence he can live anywhere and everywhere. His vow is to establish the Land of Bliss for the sake of all beings. An ideal land with adornments, ideal plants, ideal lakes for receiving all pious aspirants. The eighteenth vow which is regarded as most important, promises a birth in His Land of Bliss to those who have a perfect reliance on the Buddha, believing with serene heart and repeating the Buddha’s name. The nineteenth vow promises a welcome by the Buddha himself on the eve of death to those who perform meritorious deeds. The twentieth vow further indicates that anyone who repeats his name with the object of winning a rebirth in His Land will also be received. First, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if there would still be the planes (realms) of hell-dwellers, hungry ghosts, and animals in my land (When I become a Buddha, if, in my land, there are still the planes of hell-dwellers, hungry ghosts, or animals, I will not ultimately take up supreme enlightenment). Second, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if any sentient beings, especially the devas and humans from my land would fall to the three miserable planes (realms) of existence in other lands. Third, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if the sentient beings, especially the devas and humans in my land would not be endowed with a complexion of genuine gold. Fourth, I shall not attend supreme enlightenment if there would be such distinctions as good and ugly appearances among the sentient beings in my land, especially among the devas and humans. Fifth, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if any sentient beings in my land, especially the devas and humans, would fail to achieve the power to remember the past lives of himself and others, even events that happened hundreds of thousands of millions of billions of myriads of kalpas ago. Sixth, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if any sentient beings in my land, especially the devas and humans, would not be endowed with the deva-eye, enabling him to see hundreds of thousands of millions of billions of myriads of Buddha-lands. Seventh, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if any sentient beings in my land, especially the devas and humans, would fail to obtain the deva-ear, enabling him to hear the Dharma expounded by another Buddha hundreds of thousands of millions of billions of myriads of leagues away. Eighth, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if any sentient beings in my land, especiall the devas and humans, would not be endowed with the power of knowing others’ minds, so that he would not know the mentalities of the sentient beings in hundreds of thousands of millions of billions of myriads of other Buddha-lands. Ninth, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if any sentient beings in my land, especially the devas and humans, would fail to achieve the perfect mastery of the power to appear anywhere at will, so that he would not be able to traverse hundreds of thousands of millions of billions of myriads of Buddha-lands in a flash of thought. Tenth, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if any sentient beings in my land, especially the devas and humas, would entertain even a single the notion of “I” and “mine.”

Eleventh, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if any sentient beings in my land, especially the devas and humans, would not certainly achieve supreme enlightenment and realize great nirvana. Twelfth, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if my light would be so limited as to be unable to illuminate hundreds of thousands of millions of billions of myriads (or any number) of Buddha-lands. Thirteenth, I shall not attaint enlightenment if my life span would be limited to even hundreds of thousands of millions of billions of myriads of kalpas, or any countable number of kalpas. Fourteenth, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if anyone would be able to know number of Sravakas in my land. Even if all sentient beings and Pratyeka-buddhas in a billion-world universe exercised their utmost counting power to count together for hundreds of thousands of years, they would not be able to know it. Fifteenth, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if any sentient beings in my land would have a limited life span, except those who are born due to their vows. Sixteenth, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if any sentient beings in my lands, especially the devas and humans, would have a bad reputation. Seventeenth, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if my land would not be praised and acclaimed by inumerable Buddhas in countless Buddha-lands. Eighteenth, when I realize supreme enlightenment, there will be sentient beings in the Buddha-lands who, after hearing my name, dictate their good roots to be born in my land in thought after thought. Even if they had only ten such thoughts, they will be born in my land, except for those who have performed karmas leading to Uninterrupted Hell and those who speak ill of the true Dharma or saints. If this would not be the case, I shall not attain enlightenment. Nineteenth, when I become a Buddha, I shall appear with an assembly of monks at the deathbeds of sentient beings of other Buddha-lands who have brought forth bodhicitta, who think of my land with a pure mind, and who dedicate their good roots to birth in the Land of Utmost Bliss. I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if I would fail to do so. Twentieth, when I become a Buddha, all the sentient beings in countless Buddha-lands, who, having heard my name and dedicated their good roots to be born in the Land of Utmost Bliss, will be born there. Otherwise, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment. Twenty-first, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if any bodhisattva in my land would fail to achieve the thirty-two auspicious signs. Twenty-second, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if any Bodhisattvas in my land on their way to great bodhi would fail to reach the stage of being only one lifetime away from Buddhahood. This excludes those Bodhisattvas with great vows who wear the armor of vigor for the sake of sentient beings; who strive to do beneficial deeds and cultivate great nirvana; who perform the deeds of a Bodhisattva throughout all Buddha-lands and make offerings to all Buddhas, the Tathagatas; and who establish as many sentient beings as the sands of the Ganges in supreme enlightenment. This also excludes those who seek liberation by following the path of Samantabhadra, devoting themselves to Bodhisattvas’ practices even more than those who have attained the stage of being only one lifetime away from Buddhahood. Twenty-third, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if the Bodhisattvas in my land would not, by the awesome power of the Buddha, be able to make offerings to countless hundreds of thousands of millions of billions of myriads of Buddhas in other Buddha-lands every morning return to their own land before mealtime. Twenty-fourth, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if the Bodhisattvas in my land would not possess every variety of offering they need to plan good roots in various Buddha-lands. Twenty-fifth, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if the Bodhisattvas in my land would not be skilled in expounding the essence of the Dharma in harmony with all-knowing wisdom. Twenty-sixth, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if the Bodhisattvas in my land would not have enormous strength of a Narayana. Twenty-seventh, when I become a Buddha, no one will be able to describe completely the articles of adornment in my land; even one with the deva-eye will not be able to know all their varieties of shape, color, and brillance. If anyone could know and describe them all, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment. Twenty-eighth, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if in my land there would be Bodhisattvas with inferior roots of virtue who could not know the numerous kinds of trees, four hundred thousand leagues high, which will abound in my land. Twenty-ninth, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if those sentient beings in my land who read and recite sutras and explain them to others would not acquire superb eloquence. Thirtieth, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if any Bodhisattva in my land would be unable to achieve limitless eloquence. Thirty-first, when I become a Buddha, my land will be unequaled in brightness and purity; it will clearly illuminate countless, numberless Buddha-lands, inconceivable in number, just as a clear mirror reveals one’s features. If this would not be so, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment. Thirty-second, when I become a Buddha, there will be inumerable kinds of incense on land and in air within the borders of my land, and there wil be hundreds of thousands of millions of billions of myriads of precious censers, from which will rise the fragrance of the incense, permeating all of space. The incense will be superior to the most cherished incense of humans and gods, and wil be used as an offering to Tathagatas and Bodhisattvas. If this would not be the case, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment. Thirty-third, when I become a Buddha, sentient beings in countless realms, inconceivable and unequaled in number, throughout the ten directions who are touched by the awesome light of the Buddha will feel more secure and joyful in body and mind than other humans or gods. Otherwise, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment. Thirty-fourth, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment If Bodhisattvas in countless Buddha-lands, inconceivable and unequaled in number, would not realize the truth of non-arising and acquire dharanis after they hear my name. Thirty-fifth, when I become a Buddha, all the women in numberless Buddha-lands, inconceivable and unequaled in number, who, after hearing my name, acquire pure faith, bring forth bodhicitta, and are tired of the female body, will rid themselves of the female body in their future lives. If this would not be the case, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment (I refuse to enter into final nirvana or final joy until every woman who calls on my name rejoices in enlightenment and who, hating her woman’s body, has ceased to be reborn as a woman). Thirty-sixth, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if Bodhisattvas in countless Buddha-lands, inconceivable and unequaled in number, who attain doctrine of non-arising after hearing my name would fail to cultivate superb, pure conduct until they attain great bodhi. Thirty-seventh, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if, when I become a Buddha, humans and gods would not pay homage to all the Bodhisattvas of numberless Buddha-lands who, after hearing my name, prostrate themselves in obeisance to me and cultivate the deeds of Bodhisattva with a pure mind. Thirty-eighth, when I become a Buddha, sentient beings in my land will obtain the clothing they need as soon as they think of it, just as a man will be spontaneously clad in a monastic robe when the Buddha says, “Welcome, monk!” If this would not be the case, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment. Thirty-ninth, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if any sentient beings in my land would not at birth obtain the necessities of life and become secure, pure, and blissful in mind, like a monk who has ended all defilements. Fortieth, when I become a Buddha, if sentient beings in my land wish to see other superbly adorned, pure Buddha-lands, these lands will immediately appear to them among the precious trees, just as one’s face appears in a clear mirror. If this would not be the case, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment. Forty-first, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if any sentient beings in any other Buddha-lands, after hearing my name and before attaining bodhi, would be born with incomplete organs or organs restricted in function. Forty-second, when I become a Buddha, any Bodhisattva in any other Buddha-lands, after hearing my name, will be able to know distinctly the name of superb samadhis. While in remaining in samadhi, they will be able to make offerings to countless, numberless Buddhas, inconceivable and unequaled in number, in a moment, and will be able to realize great samadhis instantly. If this would not be the case, I shall not attained supreme enlightenment. Forty-third, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if, when I become Buddha, any Bodhisattva in any other Buddha-lands who has heard my name would not be born in a noble family after death. Forty-fourth, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if when become a Buddha, any Bodhisattva in any other Buddha-lands would not immediately cultivate the Bodhisattva practices, become purified and joyful, abide in equality, and possess all good roots after he hears my name. Forty-fifth, when I become a Buddha, Bodhisattvas in other Buddha-lands will achieve the Samadhi of Equality after hearing my name and will, without regression, abide in this samadhi and make constant offerings to an inumerable, unequaled number of Buddhas until those Bodhisattvas attain bodhi. If this would not be the case, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment. Forty-sixth, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if Bodhisattvas in my land would not hear at will the Dharma they wish to hear. Forty-seventh, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if, when I become a Buddha, any Bodhisattva in any other Buddha-lands would regress from the path to supreme enlightenment after he hears my name. Forty-eighth, I shall not attain supreme enlightenment if, when I become a Buddha, any Bodhisattva in any other Buddha-lands would not acquire the first, the second or the third realization as soon as he heard my name, or would not instantly attain nonregression with regard to Buddha-Dharmas.

Chapter 79. The Mind of Enlightenment

Bodhicitta, or the ‘Thought of Enlightenment’ is an important concept in both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. Though not directly mentioned, the idea is explicit in the Theravada Buddhism. It was in Mahayana, however, that the Bodhicitta concept developed along both ethical and metaphysical lines and this development is found in Vajrayana too, wherein it also came to be regarded as a state of ‘great bliss’. In Mahayana it developed along with pantheistic lines, for it was held that Bodhicitta is latent in all beings and that it is merely a manifestation of the Dharmakaya, or Bhutatathata in the human heart. Though the term Bodhicitta does not occur in Pali, this concept is found in Pali canonical literature where, for example, we are told how Gautama after renouncing household life resolved to strive to put an end to all the sufferings. It is this comprehension that came to be known as the Enlightenment, and Gautama came to be known as the Enlightened One, the Buddha. Bodhi Mind, or the altruistic mind of enlightenment is a mind which wishes to achieve attainment of enlightenment for self, spontaneously achieve enlightenment for all other sentient beings. The spirit of Enlightenment, the aspiration to achieve it, the Mind set on Enlightenment. Bodhicitta is defined as the altruistic intention to become fully enlightened for the benefit of all sentient beings. The attainment of enlightenment is necessary for not only in order to be capable of benefitting others, but also for the perfection of our own nature. Bodhi mind is the gateway to Enlightenment and attainment of Buddha. An intrinsic wisdom or the inherently enlightened heart-mind, or the aspiration toward perfect enlightenment. The Buddha taught: “All sentient beings are perfectly equal in that they all possess the Buddha nature. This means that we all have the Bodhi seed or the seed of kindness of a Buddha, and the compassion of a Buddha towards all living beings, and therefore the potential for enlightenment and for perfection lies in each one of us. According to the Avatamsaka Sutra, the Buddha taught: “Good Buddhists! In Bodhisattvas arise the Bodhi-mind, the mind of great compassion, for the salvation of all beings; the mind of great kindness, for the unity with all beings; the mind of happiness, to stop the mass misery of all beings; the altruistic mind, to repulse all that is not good; the mind of mercy, to protect from all fears; the unobstructed mind, to get rid of all obstacles; the broad mind, to pervade all universes; the infinite mind, to pervade all spaces; the undefiled mind, to manifest the vision of all Buddhas; the purified mind, to penetrate all knowledge of past, present and future; the mind of knowledge, to remove all obstructive knowledge and enter the ocean of all-knowing knowledge. Just as someone in water is in no danger from fire, the Bodhisattva who is soaked in the virtue of the aspiration for enlightenment or Bodhi mind, is in no danger from the fire of knowledge of individual liberation. Just as a diamond, even if cracked, relieves poverty, in the same way the diamond of the Bodhi mind, even if split, relieves the poverty of the mundane whirl. Just as a person who takes the elixir of life lives for a long time and does not grow weak, the Bodhisattva who uses the elexir of the Bodhi mind goes around the mundane whirl for countless eons without becoming exhausted and without being stained by the ills of the mundane whirl. The awakened or enlightened mind is the mind that perceives the real behind the seeming, believes in moral consequences, and that all have the Buddha-nature, and aims at Buddhahood. The spirit of enlightenment, the aspiration to achieve it, the mind set on Enlightenment. It involves two parallel aspects: The determination to achieve Buddhahood (above is to seek Bodhi), below is to save or transform all beings (the aspiration to rescue all sentient beings). The Mahavairocana Sutra says: “The Bodhi Mind is the cause, great Compassion is the root, skillful means are the ultimate.” For example, if a person is to travel far, he should first determine the goal of the trip, then understand its purpose, and lastly, choose such expedient means of locomotion as automobiles, ships, or planes to set out on his journey. It is the same for the cultivator. He should first take Supreme Enlightenment as his ultimate goal, and the compassionate mind which benefits himself and others as the purpose of his cultivation, and then, depending on his references and capacities, choose a method, Zen, Pure Land or Esoterism, as an expendient for practice. Expedients, or skillful means, refer, in a broader sense, to flexible wisdom adapted to circumstances, the application of all actions and practices, whether favorable or unfavorable, to the practice of the Bodhisattva Way. For this reason, the Bodhi Mind is the goal that the cultivator should clearly understand before he sets out to practice. The Avatamsaka Sutra says: “To neglect the Bodhi Mind when practicing good deeds is the action of demons.” This teaching is very true indeed. For example, if someone begins walking without knowing the destination or goal of his journey, isn’t his trip bound to be circuitous , tiring and useless? It is the same for the cultivator. If he expends a great deal of effort but forgets the goal of attaining Buddhahood to benefit himself and others, all his efforts will merely bring merits in the human and celestial realms. In the end he will still be deluded and revolved in the cycle of Birth and Death, undergoing immense suffering. If this is not the action of demons, what, then, is it? For this reason, developing the Supreme Bodhi Mind to benefit oneself and others should be recognized as a crucial step. According to Most Venerable Thích Thiền Tâm in The Pure Land Buddhism in Theory and Practice, exchanging the virtues of Buddha Recitation for the petty merits and blessings of this world is certainly not consonant with the intentions of the Buddhas. Therefore, practitioners should recite the name of Amitabha Buddha for the purpose of escaping the cycle of Birth and Death. However, if we were to practice Buddha Recitation for the sake of our own salvation alone, we would only fulfill a small part of the Buddhas’ intentions. What, then, is the ultimate intention of the Buddhas? The ultimate intention of the Buddhas is for all sentient beings to escape the cycle of Birth and Death and to become enlightened, as they are. Thus, those who recite Amitabha Buddha’s name should develop the Bodhi-Mind or the Aspiration for Supreme Enlightenment. The word “Bodhi” means “enlightened.” There are three main stages of Enlightenment: The Enlightenment of the Sravakas or Hearers, the Enlightenment of the Pratyeka Buddhas or the Self-Awakened, and the Buddha Bodhi. The Enlightenment of the Buddhas. What Pure Land practitioners who develop the Bodhi Mind are seeking is precisely the Enlightenment of the Buddhas. This stage of Buddhahood is the highest, transcending those of the Sravakas and Pratyeka Buddhas, and is therefore called Supreme Enlightenment or Supreme Bodhi. This Supreme Bodhi Mind contains two principal seeds, compassion and wisdom, from which emanates the great undertaking of rescuing oneself and all other sentient beings. Awakening the Bodhi Mind, as indicated earlier, can be summarized in the four Bodhisattva vows as follows: “Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them all. Afflictions are inexhaustible, I vow to end them all. Dharma foors are boundless, I vow to master them all. Buddhahood is unsurpassable, I vow to attain it.” However, according to Most Venerable Thích Thiền Tâm in the Pure Land Buddhism in Theory and Practice, it is not enough simply to say “ I have developed the Bodhis Mind,” or to recite the above verses every day. To really develop the Bodhi Mind, the practitioner should, in his cultivation, meditate on and act in accordance with the essence of the vows. There are cultivators, clergy and lay people alike, who, each day, after reciting the sutras and the Buddha’s name, kneel down to read the transference verses: “I wish to rid myself of the three obstructions and sever afflictions” However, their actual behavior is different, today they are greedy, tomorrow they become angry and bear grudges, the day after tomorrow it is delusion and laziness, the day after that it is belittling, criticzing and slandering others. The next day they are involved in arguments and disputes, leading to sadness and resentment on both sides. Under these circumstances, how can they rid themselves of the three obstructions and sever afflictions? In general, most of us merely engage in external forms of cultivation, while paying lip service to “opening the mind.” Thus, the fires of greed, anger and delusion continue to flare up, preventing us from tasting the pure and cool flavor of emancipation as taught by the Buddhas. Therefore, we have to pose the question, “How can we awaken the Bodhi Mind?” In order to develop a true Bodhi Mind, we should ponder and meditate on the following six critical points. Most of us merely engage in external forms of cultivation, while paying lip service to “opening the mind.” Thus, the fire of greed, anger and delusion continue to flare up, preventing us from tasting the pure and cool flavor of emancipation as taught by the Buddhas. According to Most Venerable Thích Thiền Tâm in The Pure Land Buddhism in Theory and Practice, we should pose the question of “How can we awaken the Bodhi Mind” or we should ponder and meditate on the following six points to develop a true Bodhi Mind: the Enlightened Mind, the Mind of Equanimity, Mind of Compassion, the Mind of Joy, the Mind of Repentance and Vows, and the Mind of no Retreat.

Chapter 80. Enlightenment

The term Enlightenment is from the Sanskrit word of “Bodhi” from the root “Bodha” which means knowing, understanding, and illumination. Buddhiboddhavya also means knowing and knowable. To enlighten means to awaken in regard to the real in contrast to the seeming, as to awake from a deep sleep. To enlighten also means to realize, to perceive, or to apprehend illusions which are harmful to good deeds, or the intuitive awareness or cognition of the Dharma-Nature, the realization of ultimate reality. According to Buddhism, enlightenment is the great avenue that leads practitioners to Nirvana. The concept of “Bodhi” in Sanskrit has no equivalent in Vietnamese nor in English, only the word “Lóe sáng,” “Bừng sáng,” “Enlightenment is the most appropriate term for the term Bodhi in Sanskrit. A person awakens the true nature of the all things means he awakens to a nowness of emptiness. The emptiness experienced here here is no nihilistic emptiness; rather it is something unperceivable, unthinkable, unfeelable for it is endless and beyond existence and nonexistence. Emptiness is no object that could be experienced by a subject, a subject itself must dissolve in it (the emptiness) to attain a true enlightenment. In real Buddhism, without this experience, there would be no Buddhism. Enlightenment is the most intimate individual experience and therefore cannot be expressed in words or described in any manner. All that one can do in the way of communicating the experience to others is to suggest or indicate, and this only tentatively. The one who has had it understands readily enough when such indication are given, but when we try to have a glimpse of it through the indices given we utterly fail. In Zen, the term “enlightenment” is used for direct apprehension of truth. It literally means “seeing nature,” and is said to be awareness of one’s true nature in an insight that transcends words and conceptual thought. It is equated with “Satori” in some Zen contexts, but in others “kensho” is described as an initial awakening that must be developed through further training, while “satori” is associated with the awakening of Buddhas and the patriarchs of Zen. Enlightenment also means to see the nature, or awakening, or seeing into your True-nature and at the same time seeing into the ultimate nature of the universe and all things (This is another way of speaking of the experience of enlightenment or self-realization. Awakening to one’s true nature and hence of the nature of all existence). It is the sudden realization that “I have been complete and perfect from the very beginning. How wonderful, hoe miraculous!” If it is true awakening, its substance will always be the same for whoever experiences it, whether he be the Sakyamuni Buddha, the Amitabha Buddha, or any one of you. But this does not mean that we can all experience awakening to the same degree, for in the clarity, the depth, and the completeness of the experience there are great difference.

Enlightenment in Buddhism means we must strive to cultivate until we begin to get a glimmer that the problem in life is not outside ourselves, then we have really stepped on the path of cultivation. Only when that awakening starts, we can really see that life can be more open and joyful than we had ever thought possible. In Zen, enlightenment is not something we can achieve, but it is the absence of something. All our life, we have been running east and west to look for something, pursuing some goal. True enlightenment is dropping all that. However, it is easy to say and difficult to do. The practice has to be done by each individual, and no-one can do it for us, no exception! Even though we read thousands of sutras in thousands of years, it will not do anything for us. We all have to practice, and we have to practice with all our efforts for the rest of our life. The term ‘Enlightenment’ is very important in the Zen sects because theultimate goal of Zen discipline is to attain what is known as ‘enlightenment.’ Enlightenment is the state of consciousness in which Noble Wisdom realizes its own inner nature. And this self-realization constitutes the truth of Zen, which is emancipation (moksha) and freedom (vasavartin).

Enlightenment is the whole of Zen. Zen starts with it and ends with it. When there is no enlightenment, there is no Zen. Enlightenment is the measure of Zen, as is announced by a master. Enlightenment is not a state of mere quietude, it is not tranquilization, it is an inner experience which has no trace of knowledge of discrimination; there must be a certain awakening from the relative field of consciousness, a certain turning-away from the ordinary form of experience which characterizes our everyday life. In other words, true enlightenment means the nature of one’s own self-being is fully realized. The technical Mahayana term for it is ‘Paravritti,’ turning back, or turning over at the basis of consciousness. By this entirety of one’s mental construction goes through a complete change. Enlightenment is the most intimate individual experience and therefore cannot be expressed in words or described in any manner. All that one can do in the way of communicating the experience to others is to suggest or indicate, and this only tentatively. The one who has had it understands readily enough when such indication are given, but when we try to have a glimpse of it through the indices given we utterly fail.

“Satori” is a Japanese term for “Awakening.” In Japanese, it literally means “to know.” In Zen, this refers to non-conceptual, direct apprehension of the nature of reality, because it is said to transcend words and concepts. It is often equated with another term “Chien-Hsing” in Chinese, both of which signify the experience of awakening to truth, but which are not considered to be the end of the path; rather, the experience must be deepened by further meditation training. In Zen, the state of satori means the state of the Buddha-mind or consciousness of pure consciousness itself. However, go back to the time of the Buddha, Prince Siddhartha, beneath the Bodhi Tree, attained Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi. What did he attain? Very simple, He attained the Truth, the Eternal Truth. The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Noble Path are what the Buddha found. Devout Buddhists who want to attain the same peace and happiness, have no other route but cultivating in accordance with these Truths. That is to say, we must learn about these Truths and walk the Path the Buddha showed. As the Buddha told his disciples: “All I did can be done by every one of you; you can find Nirvana and attain joy and happiness any time you give up the false self and destroy the ignorance in your minds.”

According to the Samanaphalasuttanta, the Buddha taught the followings on the experience of enlightenment: “With his heart thus serene, made pure, translucent, cultured, devoid of evil, supple, ready to act, firm, and imperturbable, he directs and bends down to the knowledge of the destruction of the defilements. He knows as it really is: ‘this is pain’, ‘this is the origin of pain’, this is the cessation of pain’, and ‘this is the Way that leads to the cessation of pain’. He also knows as it realy is: ‘this is affliction’, ‘this is the origin of affliction’, this is the cessation of affliction’, and ‘this is the Way that leads to the cessation of affliction’. To him, thus knowing, thus seeing, the heart is set free from the defilement of lusts, of existence, of ignorance... In him, thus set free, there arises the knowledge of his emancipation, and he knows: ‘Rebirth has been destroyed. The higher life has been fulfilled. What had to be done has been accomplished. After this present life there will be no more life beyond!’ However, the dharma which I have realized is indeed profound, difficult to perceive, difficult to comprehend, tranquil, exalted, not within the sphere of logic, subtle, and is to be understood by the wise. Sentient beings are attached to material pleasures. This causally connected ‘Dependent Arising’ is a subject which is difficult to comprehend. And Nirvana, the cessation of the conditioned, the abandoning of all passions, the destruction of craving, the non-attachment, and the cessation is also a matter not easily comprehensible.” It is quite clear that “Satori” is the true fulfillment of the state of a perfect normal state of mind in which you will be more satisfied, more peaceful, fuller of joy than anything you ever experienced before. So, “Satori” is a state in which the person is completely tuned to the reality outside and inside of him, a state in which he is fully aware of it and fully grasped it. He is aware of it that is, not in his brain nor any part of his organism, but as the whole man. He is aware of it; not as of an object over there which he grasps with his thought, but it, the flower, the dog, or the man in its or his full reality. He who awakes is open and responsive to the world, and he can be open and responsive because he has given up holding on to himself as a thing, and thus has become empty and ready to receive. To be enlightened means “the full awakening of the total personality to reality.”

Enlightenment is the perfect normal state of mind even the final aim of Zen is the experience of enlightenment, called “Satori.” Satori is not an abnormal state of mind; it is not a trance in which reality disappears. It is not a narcissistic state of mind, as it can be seen in some religious manifestations. If anything, it is a perfect normal state of mind. As Joshu declared, “Zen is your everyday thought,” it all depends on the adjustment of the hinge, whether the door opens in or opens out. Satori has a peculiar effect on the person who experiences it. All your mental activities will now be working in a different key, which will be more satisfying, more peaceful, fuller of joy than anything you ever experienced before. The tone of life will be altered. There is something rejuvenating in the possession of Zen. The spring flowers will look prettier, and the mountain stream runs cooler and more transparent. Enlightenment is the full awakening to reality. It is very important to understand that the state of enlightenment is not a state of dissociation or of a trance in which one believes oneself to be awakened, when one is actually deeply asleep. The Western psychologist, of course, will be prone to believe that “satori” is just a subjective state, an auto-induced sort of trance. A satori is the acquisition of a new viewpoint. The full awakening to reality means to have attained fully “productive orientation.” That means not to relate oneself to the world receptively, exploitatively, hoardingly, or in a marketing fashion, but creatively and actively. In the state of full productiveness, there are no veils which separate me from “not me.” The object is not an object anymore; it does not stand against me, but is with me. The rose I see is not an object for my thought, in the manner that when I say “I see a rose” I only state that the object, a rose, falls under the category “rose,” but in the manner that “a rose is a rose.” The state of productiveness is at the same time the state of highest activity; I see the object without distortions by my greed and fear. I see it as it or he is, not as I wish it or him to be or not to be. In this mode of perception there are no parataxic distortions. There is complete aliveness, and the synthesis is of subjectivity-objectivity. I experience intensely yet the object is left to be what it is. I bring it to life, and it brings me to life. Satori appears mysterious only to the person who is not aware to what degree his perception of the world is purely mental, or parataxical. If one is aware of this, one is also aware of a different awareness, that which one can also call a fully realistic one. One may have only experienced glimpses of it, yet one can imagine what it is. One day Hsuan-Chieh went to Cao-Xi to visit the Sixth Patriarch. Upon his first meeting with Hui Neng, Hsuan-Chieh struck his staff on the ground and circled the Sixth Patriarch three times, then stood there upright. The Sixth Patriarch said, “This monk possesses the three thousand noble characteristics and the eighty thousand fine attributes. Oh monk! Where have you come from? How have you attained such self-possession?” Hsuan-Chieh replied, “The great matter of birth and death does not tarry.” The Sixth Patriarch said, “Then why not embody what is not born and attain what is not hurried?” Hsuan-Chieh said, “What is embodied is not subject to birth. What is attained is fundamentally unmoving.” The Sixth Patriarch said, “Just so! Just so!” Upon hearing these words, everyone among the congregation of monks was astounded. Hsuan-Chieh then formally paid his respect to the Sixth Patriarch.

He then advised that he was immediately departing. The Sixth Patriarch said, “Don’t go so quickly!” Hsuan-Chieh said, “Fundamentally there is nothing moving. So how can something be too quick?” The Sixth Patriarch said, “How can one know there’s no movement?” Hsuan-Chieh said, “The distinction is completely of the master’s own making.” The Sixth Patriarch said, “You have fully attained the meaning of what is unborn.” Hsuan-Chieh said, “So, does what is unborn have a meaning?” The Sixth Patriarch said, “Who makes a distinction about whether there is a meaning or not?” Hsuan-Chieh said, “Distinctions are meaningless.” The Sixth Patriarch shouted, “Excellent! Excellent! Now, just stay here a single night!” Thus people referred to Hsuan-Chieh as the “Overnight Guest.” The next day Hsuan-Chieh descended the mountainand returned to Wen-Chou, where Zen students gathered to study with him.

Chapter 81. Emancipation

In Buddhism, “Emancipation” 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 emancipate from the round of birth and death means to deliverance from all the trammels of life, the bondage of the passion and reincarnation. Final emancipation or liberation, eternal liberation, release from worldly existence or the cycle of birth and death. Emancipation 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). In Buddhism, it is not the Buddha who delivers men, but he teaches them to deliver themselves, even as he delivered himself. Above all, for Buddhist pracitioners, emancipation denotes nirvana. 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.

Chapter 82. Birth and Death & Rebirth According to Buddhist Point of View

Talking about Birth and Death, in Buddhist belief, birth and death are only two points in the cycle of “Birth and Death”. The passing away from one body to be reborn in another body. Where the being will be reborn depends on his accumulated good or bad karma. There is no transmigration of soul or any substance from one body to another. What really happens is that the last active thought (Javana) process of dying man releases certain forces which vary in accordance with the purity of the five thought moments in that series. These forces are called karma vega or karmic energy which attracts itself to a material layer produced by parents in the mother’s womb. The material aggregates in this germinal compound must possess such characteristics as are suitable for the reception of that particular type of karmic energy. Attraction in this manner of various types of physical aggregates produced by parents occurs through the operation of death and gives a favourable rebirth to the dying man. An unwholesome thought gives an unfavourable rebirth. Each and every type of sentient being will have different appearance whether it be beautiful or ugly, superior or inferior. This is determined and is manifested based solely on the various karma sentient beings created while alive with their antecedent bodies. The original word for reincarnation is translated as transmigration. The passing away from one body to be reborn in another body. Where the being will be reborn depends on his accumulated good or bad karma. The belief that living beings, including man, have a series of bodily lives, only ceasing when they no longer base their happiness on any of the objects of the world. This come about when the Buddha-nature is found. This belief is very common to all Buddhists.

Birth and Death or Rebirth is the result of karma. The doctrine of rebirth is upheld by all traditional schools of Buddhism. According to this doctrine, sentient beings (sattva) are caught up in a continuous round of birth, death, and rebirth, and their present state of existence is conditioned by their past volitional actions or karma. In Buddhist belief, there is no transmigration of soul or any substance from one body to another. What really happens is that the last active thought (Javana) process of dying man releases certain forces which vary in accordance with the purity of the five thought moments in that series. These forces are called karma vega or karmic energy which attracts itself to a material layer produced by parents in the mother’s’womb. The material aggregates in this germinal compound must possess such characteristics as are suitable for the reception of that particular type of karmic energy. Attraction in this manner of various types of physical aggregates produced by parents occurs through the operation of death and gives a favourable rebirth to the dying man. An unwholesome thought gives an unfavourable rebirth. Each and every type of sentient being will have different appearance whether it be beautiful or ugly, superior or inferior. This is determined and is manifested based solely on the various karma sentient beings created while alive with their antecedent bodies. Since the cycle inevitably involves suffering and death, Buddhism assumes that escape from it is a desirable goal. This is achieved by engaging in cultivating oneself, and the most important of which is meditation. The doctrine of rebirth has become problematic for many contemporary Buddhists, particularly for converts to Buddhism in Western countries whose culture does not accept the notion of rebirth. However, this doctrine is extremely important in Buddhism, for all sincere attitudes of cultivation originated from the thorough understanding of this doctrine.

Rebirth is the recombination of mind and matter. After passing away of the physical body or the matter, the mental forces or the mind recombine and assume a new combination in a different material form and condition in another existence. Rebirth is the result of karma. In Buddhist belief, there is no transmigration of soul or any substance from one body to another. What really happens is that the last active thought (Javana) process of dying man releases certain forces which vary in accordance with the purity of the five thought moments in that series. These forces are called karma vega or karmic energy which attracts itself to a material layer produced by parents in the mother’s’womb. The material aggregates in this germinal compound must possess such characteristics as are suitable for the reception of that particular type of karmic energy. Attraction in this manner of various types of physical aggregates produced by parents occurs through the operation of death and gives a favourable rebirth to the dying man. An unwholesome thought gives an unfavourable rebirth. Each and every type of sentient being will have different appearance whether it be beautiful or ugly, superior or inferior. This is determined and is manifested based solely on the various karma sentient beings created while alive with their antecedent bodies.

Birth and Death also mean “Reincarnation”, which means going around as the wheel turns around. The state of transmigration or samsara, where beings repeat cycles of birth and death according to the law of karma. What happens to us after death? Buddhism teaches that we remain for some time in the state of intermediate existence in this world after death, and when this time is over, in accordance with the karma that we have accumulated in our previous life, we are reborn in another appropriate world. Buddhism also divides this other world into the following realms: hell, hungry ghosts, animals, demons, human beings, heavens, sravakas, pratyeka-buddhas, bodhisattvas, and buddhas. If we die in an unenlightened state, our minds (consciousnesses) will return to the former state of ignorance, and we will be reborn in the six worlds of illusion and suffering, and will again reach old age and death through the stages mentioned above. And we will repeat this round over and over to an indefinite time. This perpetual repetition of birth and death is called “Transmigration.” But if we purify our minds by hearing the Buddha’s teachings and practicing the Bodhisattva-way, the state of ignorance is annihilated and our minds can be reborn in a better world. So, whether the world is Samsara or Nirvana depends entirely on our state of mind. If our mind is enlightened, then this world is Nirvana; if our mind is unenlightened, then this world is Samsara. Thus the Buddha taught: “For those who strive to cultivate, samsara is Nirvana, Nirvana is samsara.”

According to the Buddhist tradition, on the night of His enlightenment, the Buddha provided us with testimony on the matter of birth, death and rebirth. He acquired three varieties of knowledge and the first of these was the detailed knowledge of His past lives. He was able to recollect the conditions in which He had been born in His past lives. Besides the Buddha’s testimony, His eminent disciples were also able to recollect their past lives. Ananda, for example, acquired the ability to recollect his past life soon after his ordination. Similarly, throughout the history of Buddhism, so many Zen masters and Saints have been able to recollect their past lives. In Buddhism, the process of “birth, death, and rebirth” is part of the continuous process of change. In fact, we are not only reborn at the time of death, we are born, died, and reborn at every moment. This process is no difference from the process of change in our body, for example, the majority of the cells in the human body die and are replaced many times during the course of one’s life. The Buddha observed that disturbing attitudes and karma cause our minds to take one rebirth after another. At the time of death, we ordinary people usually crave for our bodies. We are afraid to lose our bodies and to be separated from everything around us. When it becomes obvious that we are departing from this body and life, we try to grasp for another body. The state of transmigration or samsara, where beings repeat cycles of birth and death according to the law of karma. Living beings are absolutely free to choose their own future. If they wish to be reborn in the Western Pureland, they can make a vow to that effect, then, vigorously recite the name of the Buddhas. If they prefer the hells, they simply do evil deeds and they will fall into the hells for sure. All life, all phenomena have birth and death, beginning and end. The Madhyamika school deny this in the absolute, but recognize it in the relative. The Madhyamika-Sastra believed that all things coming into existence and ceasing to exist, past and future, are merely relative terms and not true in reality. Birth and death is a grove for Enlightening Beings because they do not reject it. This is one of the ten kinds of grove of Great Enlightening Beings. Enlightening Beings who abide by these can achieve the Buddhas’ unexcelled peaceful, happy action, free from sorrow and afflication. Birth-and-death is a weapon of enlightening beings because they continue enlightening practices and teach sentient beings. Enlightening Beings who abide by these can annihilate the afflictions, bondage, and compulsion accumulated by all sentient beings in the long night of ignorance. The birth and death of saints, i.e. without action and transformation, or effortless mortality, or transformation such as that of Bodhisattva. Time flies really fast. The years and months have gone by really fast too. In the same way, people progress from birth to old age and death without being aware of it. Birth, old age, sickness, and death come in quick succession as we pass the years in muddled confusion. If we do not wake up to our own birth and death, then, having been born muddled, we will also die muddled according to the law of karma. What a meaningless life!

Talking about Rebirth, the Buddha taught: “Not in the sky, nor in mid-ocean, nor in a mountain cave, nowhere on earth where one can escape from death (Dharmapada 128).” Rebirth is the result of karma. The doctrine of rebirth is upheld by all traditional schools of Buddhism. According to this doctrine, sentient beings (sattva) are caught up in a continuous round of birth, death, and rebirth, and their present state of existence is conditioned by their past volitional actions or karma. In Buddhist belief, there is no transmigration of soul or any substance from one body to another. According to the Buddha, rebirth takes place instantaneously after death, consciousness having the nature of arising and passing away unceasingly. There is no interval between death and the next birth. One moment we are dead and the next moment rebirth takes place, either in the human plane, the celestial plane, or the hell plane, the hungry ghost plane, the animal plane and the demon plane. What really happens is that the last active thought (Javana) process of dying man releases certain forces which vary in accordance with the purity of the five thought moments in that series. These forces are called karma vega or karmic energy which attracts itself to a material layer produced by parents in the mother’s’womb. The material aggregates in this germinal compound must possess such characteristics as are suitable for the reception of that particular type of karmic energy. Attraction in this manner of various types of physical aggregates produced by parents occurs through the operation of death and gives a favourable rebirth to the dying man. An unwholesome thought gives an unfavourable rebirth. Each and every type of sentient being will have different appearance whether it be beautiful or ugly, superior or inferior. This is determined and is manifested based solely on the various karma sentient beings created while alive with their antecedent bodies. Since the cycle inevitably involves suffering and death, Buddhism assumes that escape from it is a desirable goal. This is achieved by engaging in cultivating oneself, and the most important of which is meditation. The doctrine of rebirth has become problematic for many contemporary Buddhists, particularly for converts to Buddhism in Western countries whose culture does not accept the notion of rebirth. However, this doctrine is extremely important in Buddhism, for all sincere attitudes of cultivation originated from the thorough understanding of this doctrine.

The original word for reincarnation is translated as transmigration. The passing away from one body to be reborn in another body. Where the being will be reborn depends on his accumulated good or bad karma. The belief that living beings, including man, have a series of bodily lives, only ceasing when they no longer base their happiness on any of the objects of the world. This come about when the Buddha-nature is found. This belief is very common to all Buddhists. Rebirth is the recombination of mind and matter. After passing away of the physical body or the matter, the mental forces or the mind recombine and assume a new combination in a different material form and condition in another existence. Rebirth is the result of karma. In Buddhist belief, there is no transmigration of soul or any substance from one body to another. What really happens is that the last active thought (Javana) process of dying man releases certain forces which vary in accordance with the purity of the five thought moments in that series. These forces are called karma vega or karmic energy which attracts itself to a material layer produced by parents in the mother’s’womb. The material aggregates in this germinal compound must possess such characteristics as are suitable for the reception of that particular type of karmic energy. Attraction in this manner of various types of physical aggregates produced by parents occurs through the operation of death and gives a favourable rebirth to the dying man. An unwholesome thought gives an unfavourable rebirth. Each and every type of sentient being will have different appearance whether it be beautiful or ugly, superior or inferior. This is determined and is manifested based solely on the various karma sentient beings created while alive with their antecedent bodies.

According to the Sangiti Sutta in the Long Discourses of the Buddha, there are four forms of birth by which the beings of the six modes of existence can be reborn (all births take place in four forms and in each case causing a sentient being to enter one of the six gati or paths of transmigration). The first type of birth is “Birth from the womb”, or uterine birth or womb-born, as with mammalia. This is one of the four modes of yoni. Uterine birth is a form of viviparous birth, as with mammalia. Before the differentiation of the sexes birth is supposed to have been transformation. In Buddhism, the term is also applied to beings enclosed in unopened lotuses in paradise, who have not had faith in the Amitabha but trusted to their own strength to attain salvation; there they remain for proportionate periods, happy, but without the presence of the Buddha, or Bodhisattvas, or the sacred host, and do not hear their teaching. The condition is also known as the womb-place. The second type of birth is “Egg-born”, or birth from eggs, as with birds. Egg-born, or birth from eggs. Oviparious, as is the case with chicken, goose, birds, etc. The third type of birth is the “Moisture or water born,” as with worms and fishes. Moist and Wet Conditions Born or, spawn-born, or birth from moisture (wetness). Moisture or water-born, as is the case with worms, fishes, shrimps, etc. The fourth type of birth is the “Metamorphic,” as with moths from the chrysalis. Birth by transformation as in the case of deities and superior beings of the Pure Lands. It is said that such beings, after the end of their previous lifetime, suddenly appear in this fashion due to their karma, without the help of parents or any other intermediary agency. Metamorphosis, as is the case with maggot transforms into fly, moths from the chrysalis, caterpillar becomes butterfly, or deities and superior beings of the Pure Land. It is said that such beings, after the end of their previous lifetime, suddenly appear in this fashion due to their karma, without the help of parents or any other intermediary agency. One of the four forms of birth. Any form of existence by which required form is attained in an instant in full maturity. By this birth bodhisattvas residing in Tusita can appear on earth any time at will to save beings (the dhyani-buddhas and bodhisattvas are also of such miraculous origin). Form of metamorphic birth, as with moths, asuras, hungry ghosts, and inhabitants of hells, and the Pure Lands, or first newly evolved world. One of the four forms of birth, which is by transforming, without parentage, attained in an instant in full maturity.

Rebirth in hells where beings undergo sufferings at all times. This is one of the eight conditions or circumstances in which it is difficult to see a Buddha or hear his dharma; or eight special types of adversities that prevent the practice of the Dharma. Rebirth as a hungry ghost, or the ghost-world, where beings never feel comfortable with non-stop greed. This is one of the eight conditions or circumstances in which it is difficult to see a Buddha or hear his dharma; or eight special types of adversities that prevent the practice of the Dharma. Rebirth in an animal realm where beings has no ability and knowledge to practice dharma. Rebirth in the men realm includes rebirth with impaired, or deficient faculties such as the blind, the deaf, the dumb and the cripple. This is one of the eight conditions or circumstances in which it is difficult to see a Buddha or hear his dharma; or eight special types of adversities that prevent the practice of the Dharma, or rebirth as a man in the intermediate period between Sakyamuni Buddha and his successor, or life in a realm wherein there is no Tathagata, or in the intermediate period between a Buddha and his successor. During this period of time, people spent all the time to gossip or to argue for or their own views on what they heard about Buddha dharma, but not practicing. This is one of the conditions or circumstances in which it is difficult to see a Buddha or hear his dharma; or eight special types of adversities that prevent the practice of the Dharma. Besides, sentient beings can be reborn among rich and honorable men; or be reborn as worldly philosophers (intelligent and well educated in mundane sense) who think that they know everything and don’t want to study or practise anymore, especially practicing dharmas. This is one of the eight conditions or circumstances in which it is difficult to see a Buddha or hear his dharma; or eight special types of adversities that prevent the practice of the Dharma. Sentient beings can be reborn among men, become monks, and obtain the truth. Sentient beings can be reborn in Uttarakuru (Northern continent) where life is always pleasant and desires that beings have no motivation to practice the dharma. This is one of the eight conditions or circumstances in which it is difficult to see a Buddha or hear his dharma; or eight special types of adversities that prevent the practice of the Dharma. Sentient beings can be reborn in the heavens from the Four Dhyana Heavens to the Four Heavenly Kings, such as the Suyama-heavens, the Indra heavens, the Tusita Heaven, the nirmanarati heaven, the Brahma-heavens, the paranirmita-vasavartin, any long-life gods or heavens, or the heavens of the four deva kings.

According to Tantric traditions, through his deep insight into how things exist, the Buddha observed that disturbing attitudes and karma cause our minds to take one rebirth after another. At the time of death, ordinary beings crave and grasp for bodies and at the same time afraid to lose bodies and separated from everything around us. When it becomes obvious that we’re departing from this body and life, we grasp for another body. The two attachments of craving and grasping act as the cooperative conditions for karmic imprints to ripen at the time of death. As these karmic imprints start to mature, our minds are attracted to other bodies and we seek to take rebirth in them. In the case of a human rebirth, after passing through an immediate state between one life and the next, our consciousness then enters a fertilized egg. We develop the aggregates of a human being, a human body and mind. In this new rebirth, we perceive people and things through our senses. Experiencing pleasant or unpleasant feelings from them, we generate attachment, aversion or indifference. These motivations cause us to act, and our actions leave more imprints on our mindstreams, and at the time of death, we’re again propelled to take rebirth in another body. This cycle of rebirth is called “Samsara.” Samsara isn’t a place, nor is it a world. It is a cyclic existence. It is our situation of taking one rebirth after another under the control of disturbing attitudes and karmic actions. Thus, our own energy causes us to be reborn who we are, in our present circumstance. However, karma isn’t “cast in concrete,” and our lives aren’t predetermined. Which karmic imprints ripen depends on our environment and our state of mind. In addition, we have the ability to control our actions, and thus shape our future. This is the law of karma, which is the functioning of cause and effect within our mindstreams. Whether we experience pain or pleasure depends on what we have done in the past. Our previous actions or karma were motivated by our minds. In this way, our minds are the principal creator of our experience.

The idea of rebirth is not unique to Buddhism, but it plays an important role in both its doctrine and its practice. The Buddha himself is said to have attained nirvana after a long series of rebirths, and on the night of his enlightenment, according to the Pali Canon, he remembered more than 100,000 previous lives. All beings are continuously reborn in a seemingly endless cycle of birth and death. Just as a person’s birth is not the beginning of his or her fortunes, so death is not the end, because all beings ‘wander’ through successive incarnations: gods can become humans, humans can become gods, animals or hell beings, animals can become humans or ‘hungry ghosts,’ and so on. Advanced beings, such as Bodhisattvas, are able to avoid disadvantageous rebirths, but only Buddhas and arhats are fully liberated from samsara, because after their last lives they will never again be reborn. The countless sentient beings who pass through samsara are accommodated in successive world systems “as numerous as there are sands on the banks of the Ganges.” Each world system is divided into three “spheres of existence. The crudest of these spheres is the World of Sense-Desire, governed by the five senses and inhabited by lesser gods or devas, humans, animals and the various hell beings. More refined is the World of Pure Form, where the greater gods dwell. This sphere corresponds to the four meditational absorptions and its beings are without the sense of touch, taste and smell. The most refined samsaric sphere of existence is the Formless World, a purely mental realm, devoid of physical. Accomplished great gods are born here, but even these rebirths end, because although these gods have reached “summits of existence,” they have not attained nirvana. Each of the world systems lasts incalculable aeons: the Samyutta Nikaya of the Pali Canon, part of the Buddha’s discourses, explained that if a mountain of granite, seven miles high, were stroked every century with a piece of silk, it would be worn away before such a great aeon would pass. Not every form of Buddhism subscribes to this exact cosmology, but all agree that rebirth is not a haphazard process. Just as a physical object is governed by a causal physical law, so a person’s “spiritual” development is governed by a natural law, karma, which is inherent in the cosmos. According to the law of karma, every action or deed “ripens” as a certain of result. This law in itself is neither normal nor retributive but merely a feature of the constituent elements of samsara. Without karma any talk of enlightenment would be senseless: one could not strive toward enlightenment if there were no way to affect one’s development. Karma operates on intentional deeds and creates residual impressions or tendencies that bear fruit or “ripen” with time. Its effects are not limited to the present life but unfold over longer periods by creating favorable or unfavorable rebirths. In the Milindapanha, around the first or second century A.D., a dialogue between the monk Nagasena and king Milinda. Nagasena explains that deeds are linked to their outcomes in the same way that a mango tree’s seed is linked to its fruit. A man who steals from another man’s tree deserves a beating, even though he did not take the seed of the tree, because the stolen fruit could not have grown if the seed had not been planted. The outcome of karma can be affected by good or bad deeds. Which bring about favorable or unfavorable results. This gives rise to the psychological and ethical dimensions of karma. Every intentional deed is accompanied by a different kind of state of mind. If these states of mind are rooted in empathy, wisdom and lack of greed, then they are considered morally unwholesome, and can lead to bad karma. For example, although generosity is a morally wholesome deed, it is the attitude behind the deed, be it mere friendliness or deep compassion, that determines the “karmic seed” which will generate the deed’s “fruit.” Ultimately, the goal of Buddhism is to teach sentient beings gradually to extinguish the fires of hatred, delusion and greed, thereby ceasing to generate bad karmic seeds, and finally, in realizing nirvana, to blow them out completely (nirvana literally means “blow out.”). We take rebirth according to our karma. If we have led a good life we will generally get a good rebirth. A wholesome state of mind at the death moment is likely to be enabling a good rebirth to come about. If we have led an evil life, then a bad rebirth is more than likely to come about. But whenever we may be reborn, we will not be there forever. On the expiry of our lifespan, we die and undergo new rebirth. Deaths and rebirths keep repeating forever in a cycle that we call “the cycle of birth and death.” Karma underscores the importance of human life, because most good or bad deeds are performed in the human realm. Gods enjoy the fruit of their previous good deeds, while those reborn in the sub-human realms have little scope for making virtuous deeds. As karma runs its course, these less fortunate beings may eventually obtain a more advantageous rebirth.

Chapter 83. Pleasant Practices

Peace can exist only in the present moment. It is ridiculous to say, “Wait until I finish this, then I will be free to live in peace.” What is “this?” A degree, a job, a house, a car, the payment of a debt? If you think that way, peace will never come. There is always another “this” that will follow the present one. According to Buddhism, if you are not living in peace at this moment, you will never be able to. If you truly want to be at peace, you must be at peace right now. Otherwise, there is only “the hope of peace some day.” According to the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha gave instructions to all Bodhisattvas on Pleasant practices as follows. First, Pleasant practice of the body: To attain a happy contentment by proper direction of the deeds of the body. The Buddha taught the pleasant practice of the body by dividing it into two parts, a Bodhisattva’s spheres of action and of intimacy. A Bodhisattva’s sphere of action means his fundamental attitude as the basis of his personal behavior. A Bodhisattva is patient, gentle, and agreeable, and is neither hasty nor overbearing, his mind is always unperturbed. Unlike ordinary people, he is not conceited or boastful about his own good works. He must see all things in their reality. He never take a partial view of things. He acts toward all people with the same compassion and never making show of it.

The Buddha teaches a Bodhisattva’s sphere of intimacy by dividing it into ten areas: 1) A Bodhisattva is not intimate with men of high position and influence in order to gain some benefit, nor does he compromise his preaching of the Law to them through excessive familiarity with them. 2) A Bodhisattva is not intimate with heretics, composers of worldly literature or poetry, nor with those who chase for worldly life, nor with those who don’t care about life. Thus, a Bodhisattva must always be on the “Middle Way,” not adversely affected by the impurity of the above mentioned people. 3) A Bodhisattva does not resort to brutal sports, such as boxing and wrestling, nor the various juggling performances of dancers and others. 4) A Bodhisattva does not consort personally with those who kill creatures to make a living, such as butchers, fishermen, and hunters, and does not develop a callous attitude toward engaging in cruel conduct. 5) A Bodhisattva does not consort with monks and nuns who seek peace and happiness for themselves and don’t care about other people, and who satisfy with their own personal isolation from earthly existence. 6) Moreover, he does not become infected by their selfish ideas, nor develop a tendency to compromise with them in listening to the laws preached by them. If they come to him to hear the Law, he takes the opportunity to preach it, expect nothing in return. 7) When he preaches the Law to women, he does not display an appearance capable of arousing passionate thoughts, and he maintains a correct mental attitude with great strictness. 8) He does not become friendly with any hermaphrodite. This means that he needs to take a very prudent attitude when he teaches such a deformed person. 9) He does not enter the homes of others alone. If for some reason he must do so, then he thinks single-mindedly of the Buddha. This is the Buddha’s admonition to the Bodhisattva to go everywhere together with the Buddha. 10) If he preaches the Law to lay women, he does not display his teeth in smile nor let his breast be seen. He takes no pleasure in keeping young pupils and children by his side. On the contrary, the Buddha admonishes the Bodhisattva ever to prefer meditation and seclusion and also to cultivate and control his mind. Second, Pleasant practice of the mouth of a Bodhisattva: According to the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha gave instructions to all Bodhisattvas on Pleasant practice of the mouth as follows: “First, a Bodhisattva takes no pleasure in telling of the errors of other people or of the sutras; second, he does not despite other preachers; third, he does not speak of the good and evil, the merits and demerits of other people, nor does he single out any Sravakas or Pratyeka-buddhas by name, nor does he broadcast their errors and sins; fourth, in the same way, he do not praise their virtues, nor does he beget a jealous mind. If he maintains a cheerful and open mind in this way, those who hear the teaching will offer him no opposition. To those who ask difficult questions, he does not answer with the law of the small vehicle but only with the Great vehicle, and he explains the Law to them so that they may obtain perfect knowledge.” Third, Pleasant practice of the mind of a Bodhisattva: According to the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha gave eight advices to all Bodhisattvas as follows: “First, a Bodhisattva does not harbor an envious or deceitful mind. Second, he does not slight or abuse other learners of the Buddha-way even if they are beginners, nor does he seek out their excesses and shortcomings. Third, if there are people who seek the Bodhisattva-way, he does not distress them, causing them to feel doubt and regret, nor does he say discouraging things to them. Fourth, he should not indulge in discussions about the laws or engage in dispute but should devote himself to cultivation of the practice to save all living beings. Fifth, he should think of saving all living beings from the sufferings through his great compassion. Sixth, he should think of the Buddhas as benevolent fathers. Seventh, he should always think of the Bodhisattvas as his great teachers. Eighth, he should preach the Law equally to all living beings.” Fourth, Pleasant practice of the vow of a Bodhisattva: The Buddha gave instructions to all Bodhisattvas on Pleasant practice of the vow as follows: “The pleasant practice of the vow means to have a spirit of great compassion. A Bodhisattva should beget a spirit of great charity toward both laymen and monks, and should have a spirit of great compassion for those who are not yet Bodhisattvas but are satisfied with their selfish idea of saving only themselves. He also should decide that, though those people have not inquired for, nor believed in, nor understood the Buddha’s teaching in this sutra, when he has attained Perfect Enlightenment through his transcendental powers and powers of wisdom he will lead them to abide in this Law.”

Chapter 84. A Dead Lion is Destroyed by Worms Produced Within Itself

According to the Buddha’s prediction, the fate of Buddhism is just the same as worms inside a dead lion. No animal eats a dead lion, but it is destroyed by worms produced within itself, so no outside force can destroy Buddhism, only evil monks within it can destroy it. Buddhism so far persisted for almost 26 centuries and during that period it has undergone so many ups and downs with profound and radical changes. The innovations of each new phase were backed up by the production of a fresh canonical literature which, although clearly composed many centuries after the Buddha’s Nirvana, claims to be the word of the Buddha Himself. In fact, Buddhist theories are connected by many transitions, which lead from one to the other and which only close study can detect. In Buddhism, there is really no innovation, what seems so is in fact a subtle adaptation of pre-existing ideas.

The first period is that of the old or original Buddhism. During the first 500 years of Buddhism it remained almost purely Indian. The first period focused on psychological issues, which concerned with individuals gaining control over their own minds, and psychological analysis is the method by which self-control is sought. The ideal of practitioners in this period is an Arhat, or a person who has non-attachment, in whom all craving is extinct and who will no more be reborn in the Samsara. The Early Sangha soon established a regular Uposatha meetings, which helped unify and regulate the life of the community of monks. During the first five hundred years of its life, several large meetings or Buddhist Councils, in which matters of greater importance were discussed and clarified. The second period is the period of the development of Mahayana Buddhism. Around 700 years after the Buddha’s Nirvana, Buddhism began to develop in Eastern Asian countries. The second period focused on ontological issues. During this period people discussed about the nature of true reality and the realization in oneself of that true nature of things is held to be decisive for emancipation. The goal of practitioners in the second period is the Bodhisattva, a person who wishes to save all sentient beings and who hopes ultimately to become a Buddha. That is to say they want to transform all beings by developing their Buddha-nature and causing them to obtain enlightenment. The third period is the period of the Tantra and Zen. Around 11 or 12 centuries after the Buddha’s Nirvana, many centers of Buddhist thought were established outside India, especially in China. The third period focused on cosmic issues. In this period people see adjustment and harmony with the cosmos as the clue to enlightenment and they use age-old magical and occult methods to achieve it. Practitioners in this period want to be so much in harmony with the cosmos that they are under no constraint whatsoever and as free as agent who is able to manipulate the cosmic forces both inside and outside himself. The fourth period is considered the period of the recent one thousand years, Buddhism started to develop, slowly but very surely, to European countries. This is the period of a complete Buddhism, and there is no need to add up any new thought or doctrine. However, this is the marking period of degeneration of Buddhism from all over the world. Buddhist theories have been degenerated with time. After each period spiritual practices will be diminished. During the period of the most recent one thousand years, spiritual practices will be near extinction.

Even though Hinduism lost its influence when Buddhism gained its popularity since the sixth century B.C. Hinduism always tried to intermingle theories of Hinduism and Buddhism, which is extremely difficult for an ordinary person to distinguish the differences. For instance, according to Hindu teachings and its castes, every person has a specific place in life and specific responsibilities. However, it intermingles with the theory of “Karma” in Buddhism by saying this: “Each person is born where he is, and with particular abilities that he has, because of past actions and attitudes.” Hindus also believe in the law of karma. Complete faith and fidelity to the theory of karma and reincarnation, with rebirth in heaven seen as the final goal of earthly life. There is a universla law, which operates throughout all life. Whatever is sown must be reaped sometime and somewhere. This is the law: every action, every intention to act, every attitude bears its own fruit. A man becomes good by good deeds and bad by bad deeds. It is to say each person is fully responsible for his own condition, and cannot put the blame on anyone else. You are what you are because of what you have done in the past. To a Hindu the past, of course, would include all previous lives or existences. They tried not to emphasize on the caste system because it totally contradicts with what they want to show Buddhist followers: Hindu theories and Buddhist theories are almost the same. Therefore, even the Palas, who regarded themselves as Buddhists, also prided themselves on their full observance of caste dharma, the Hindu relations governing all aspects of social interaction. The development of the Trantric Buddhism, which gave rise to a host of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, must have made Buddhism seem little difference to the outsider or non-specialist from orthodox Hinduism, with its multiplicity of deities. Before the invasion of Muslim military in the eleventh century, there was even some degree an absorption of Buddhism by Hinduism, i.e. considering the Buddha as a Visnu.

From the very beginning, Buddhism seemed to be a religion of royal familes. Besides, the profundity of Buddhist teachings separated itself with the public and caused it to become a religion for intellectual people only. Under the sponsorship of the Gupta and Pala patron kings, Nalanda was supported to build by one hundred villages, and offered free training to more than ten thousand students, both Buddhists and non-Buddhists. In fact, the support of royalty was itself ambiguous in its benefits. Nalanda, so heavily sponsored by Harsa, was later neglected by the Pala dynasty, who instead favored the monastic universities that they themselves had founded, Vikramasila and Odantapura. According to Andrew Skilton in “A Concise History of Buddhism”, while Buddhism had become increasingly associated with centralized, monastic learning, Hinduism remained based in the village, the brahmin priest ministering to the religious needs of his fellow householders. The Buddhists by contrast, were free from any immediate economic dependence on the communities around them through the cumulative effect of generous endowments from past lay followers and royal patrons. Perhaps they lost touch to some degree with popular culture, ceasing to proselytize, and turning inward towards subtle philosophical debate and Tantric ritual. Even the Hindu ascetics were mere wanderers, as had been the first Buddhists, and thus were free from this independence upon monastic organization and the necessary royal patronage which had become the lot of the Buddhists.

However, the problems of “Using Religion as only a Stepping Stone for one’s own business” of a few of monks and nuns is one of the main causes of the degeneration of Buddhism in India. First, the misusing of the donation of a few of Monks and Nuns. Quite a few evil monks and nuns, instead of devoting their time to cultivate and to help other Buddhists to cultivate, they utlize their time to plan on how to squeeze money out of sincere donators so that they can build big temples and big Buddha statues. They even spend the donating money to care for their families and relatives. Their evil acts without any conscience cause sincere Buddhists to lose their good faith in Buddhism. Second, the Misunderstanding of the Buddha-dharma and Real Cultivation of a few of Monks and Nuns. According to the Buddha, the Buddha-dharma is simply worldly dharma in which we turn ourselves around. It is the dharma that most ordinary people are unwilling to use. Worldly people are sinking and floating in the worldly dharma; they are always busy running here and there, constantly hurried and agitated. The source of all these activities is invarably selfishness, motivated by a concern to protect their own lives and properties. Buddha-dharma, on the other hand, is unselfish and public-spirited, and springs from a wish to benefit others. Sincere cultivators always think of others’ welfare. Sincere cultivators always forget their own “Ego”. They always give up their own interests in service to others, and never bring uncomfortable circumstances and afflictions to others. However, most people fail to clearly understand the basic ideas that the Buddha once preached. As a result as we can see now, within Buddhist circles we find struggle and contention, troubles and hassles, quarrels and strife. These problems seem to be no different from that of ordinary people, if we do not want to say worst than what we can find in worldly life. Such people cultivate Buddhism on the one hand and create offenses on the other hand. They do some good deeds, and immediately destroy the merit and virtue they have just earned. Instead of advancing the good cause of Buddhism, such people actually harm it. The Buddha referred such people as “Parasites in the lion, feeding off the lion’s flesh.” The Buddha predicted all these problems, thus He concluded that it would be pointless to try to teach others about his enlightenment, but the great god Brahma Sahampati intervened and implored the Buddha to share his discoveries with humankind.

Besides, Hinduism underwent a resurgence before the Muslim invasion also played a big role in the degeneration of Buddhism in India.. Before the Muslim invasion, it seems that Hinduism underwent a resurgence, and they spreaded of Vaisnavism in the South, Saivism in Kasmir, and philosophers hostile to Buddhism, such as Sankara and Kuarila, teaching across the country and gathering a considerable number of followers. Around the eighth century, Muslim military started to invade India. They destroyed the town and the Buddhist university at Valabhi. However, Muslim military was stopped by local Indian rulers. Four centuries later (the twelfth century), the Turkish military made a gradual advance into the mainland, and successive kingdoms fell to their troops. The Muslims extended their destruction presence across the whole of the north of the subcontinent. In 1197, Nalanda was sacked. Vikramasila followed suit in 1203. Muslim historians record that the universities, standing out upon the northern Indian plains, were initially mistaken for fortresses, and were cruelly ravaged, the library burnt, and the occupants murdered before they could even explain who and what they were. Soon after that the Ganges basin, the traditional heartland of Buddhism, was under the control of Muslim rulers. However, a majority of Buddhist institutions and Buddhist communities in southern India survived for several more centuries, until slow succumbing to resurgent Saivism from the eighth or ninth centuries onwards. There is evidence to show that Theravada Buddhism survived in Kamataka until at least the sixteenth century and Tamil Nadu until as late as the seventeenth century.

Chapter 85. Ultimate and Conventional Truths

There are two truths, conventional or relative truth, and ultimate truth. By coming to know our everyday world of lived experience, we realize what is known as the world of conventional reality, where the causal principle operates, this is what we call conventional truth (samvaharasatya). If we accept the reality of this world as conventional, then we can accept the empty nature of this world which, according to Buddhism, is the ultimate truth (paramaithasatya). According to Prof. Junjiro Takakusu in The Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy, this is one of the three truths of the T’ien-T’ai School, the other two are the truth of void and the truth of temporariness. According to this school the three truths are three in one, one in three. The principle is one but the method of explanation is threefold. Each one of the three has the value of all. Things are only mean or middle. The same will be the case when we argue by means of the middle truth. The middle does not mean that it is between the non-existence and temporary existence. In fact, it is over and above the two; nor it is identical with the two, because the true state means that the middle is the very state of being void and temporary. Absolute truth or the Highest truth. This is one of the four types of siddhanta, the highest Siddhanta or Truth, the highest universal gift of Buddha, his teaching which awakens the highest capacity in all beings to attain salvation. This is also one of the two truths, the highest truth, the supreme truth or reality, the ultimate meaning, the paramount truth in contrast with the seeming; also called Veritable truth, sage-truth, surpassing truth, nirvana, bhutatathata, madhya, sunyata, etc (the other siddhantas include Mundane or ordinary modes of expression, Individual treatment, adapting his teaching to the capacity of his hearers, and Diagnostic treatment of their moral diseases). Absolute reality is also the true nature of all things. The pure ideation can purify the tainted portion of the ideation-store (Alaya-vijnana) and further develop its power of understanding. The world of imagination and the world of interdependence will be brought to the real truth (Parinispanna).

Ultimate Truth means the correct dogma or averment of the enlightened. The ultimate truth is the realization that worldly things are non-existent like an illusion or an echo. However, transcendental truth cannot be attained without resorting to conventional truth. Conventional truth is only a mean, while transcendental truth is the end. It was by the higher truth that the Buddha preached that all elements are of universal relativity or void (sarva-sunyata). For those who are attached to Realism, the doctrine of non-existence is proclaimed in the way of the higher truth in order to teach them the nameless and characterless state. According to the Madhyamika Sastra, the Buddhas in the past proclaimed their teachings to the people by means of the twofold truth, in order to lead people to a right way. Though we may speak of existence, it is temporary and not fixed. Even non-existence or void is temporary and not fixed. So there is neither a real existence nor a real void. Being or non-being is only an outcome of causal relation and, therefore, unreal. Thus the ideal of the two extremes of being and non-being is removed. Therefore, when we deal with the worldly truth, the phenomenal world can be assumed without disturbing the noumenal state. Likewise, when we deal with the higher truth, the noumenal state can be attained without stirring the world of mere name. Non-existence is at the same time existence, and existence in turn is non-existence. Form or matter is the same time the void, and the void is at the same time form or matter.

According to relative truth all things exist, but in absolute truth nothing is; in absolute truth one sees that all things are devoid of self-nature; however, in relative truth, a perception where there is no self-nature. The relative truth is also called the truth of the unreal, which is subject to change, manifests ‘stillness but is always illuminating,’ which means that it is immanent in everything. Pure Land thinkers accepted the legitimacy of conventional truth as an expression of ultimate truth and as a vehicle to reach Ultimate Truth. This method of basing on form helps cultivators reach the Buddhahood, which is formless. The absolute truth or the ultimate Truth or the supreme truth. Ultimate truth means the final nature of reality, which is unconditioned (asamskrta) and which neither is produced nor ceases. It is equated with emptiness (sunyata) and truth body (dharma-kaya) and is contrasted with conventional truths (samvrti-satya), which are produced and ceased by causes and conditions and impermanence (anitya). The Ultimate Truth or the absolute Truth (Bhutatathata or Tathata), transcending dichotomies, as taught by the Buddhas. The absolute truth, or the truth of the void, manifest’s illumination but is always still,’ and this is absolutely inexplicable. The absolute truth is also called the Ultimate Truth according to the Madhyamika Sastra. Ultimate Truth means the correct dogma or averment of the enlightened. According to the Madhyamika Sastra, the Buddhas in the past proclaimed their teachings to the people by means of the twofold truth, in order to lead people to a right way. The ultimate truth is the realization that worldly things are non-existent like an illusion or an echo. However, transcendental truth cannot be attained without resorting to conventional truth. Conventional truth is only a mean, while transcendental truth is the end. It was by the higher truth that the Buddha preached that all elements are of universal relativity or void (sarva-sunyata). For those who are attached to Realism, the doctrine of non-existence is proclaimed in the way of the higher truth in order to teach them the nameless and characterless state.

Relative truth is also called the Conventional Truth, superficial truth, or ordinary ideas of things. Relative or conventional truth of the mundane world subject to delusion. Relative or conventional truth of the mundane world subject to delusion. Common or ordinary statement, as if phenomena were real. According to the Madhyamika Sastra, the Buddhas in the past proclaimed their teachings to the people by means of the twofold truth, in order to lead people to a right way. Conventional truth refers to ignorance or delusion which envelops reality and gives a false impression. It was by the worldly truth that the Buddha preached that all elements have come into being through causation. For those who are attached to Nihilism, the theory of existence is taught in the way of the worldly truth. According to the Madhyamaka philosophy, Nagarjuna says phenomena have reality of a sort. They are samvrti-satya, they are the appearance of Reality. Appearance points to that which appears. Samvrti is appearance, cover or veil, which covers the absolute reality. In short, that which covers all round is samvrti, samvrti is primal ignorance (ajnana) which covers the real nature of all things. Samvrti or pragmatic reality is the means (upaya) for reaching Absolute Reality (paramartha). Without a recourse to pragmatic reality, the absolute truth cannot be taught. Without knowing the absolute truth, nirvana cannot be attained. Thus, in the Madhyamika-karika, Nagarjuna confirmed: “From the relative standpoint, the theory of Dependent Origination (Pratitya-samutpada) explains worldly phenomena, but from the absolute standpoint, it means non-origination at all times and is equated with nirvana or sunyata.”

According to Prof. Junjiro Takakusu in The Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy, if you suppose noumenon to be such an abiding substance, you will be misled altogether; therefore, the T’ien-T’ai School sets forth the threefold truth. According to this school the three truths are three in one, one in three. The principle is one but the method of explanation is threefold. Each one of the three has the value of all. The truth of void in which all things have no reality and, therefore, are void. Therefore, when our argument is based on the void, we deny the existence of both the temporary and the middle, since we consider the void as transcending all. Thus, the three will all be void. And, when one is void, all will be void (When one is void, all will be void; when one is temporary, all is temporary; when one is middle, all will be middle). They are also called the identical void, identical temporary and identical middle. It is also said to be the perfectly harmonious triple truth or the absolute triple truth. We should not consider the three truths as separate because the three penetrate one another and are found perfectly harmonized and united together. A thing is void but is also temporarily existent. It is temporary because it is void, and the fact that everything is void and at the same time temporary is the middle truth. The truth of temporariness in which although things are present at the moment, they have temporary existence. The same will be the case when we argue by means of the temporary truth. The truth of mean in which only mean or middle is recognized. The same will be the case when we argue by means of the middle truth. The middle does not mean that it is between the non-existence and temporary existence. In fact, it is over and above the two; nor it is identical with the two, because the true state means that the middle is the very state of being void and temporary.

According to Nagarjuna Bodhisattva in the Madhyamika Sastra, the Middle Path of the Twofold Truth is expounded by the “five terms”. They are the one-sided worldly truth, the one-sided higher truth, the middle path of worldly truth, the middle path of the higher truth, and the union of both popular and higher truths. First, the one-sided worldly truth which maintains the theory of the real production and the real extinction of the phenomenal world. Second, the one-sided higher truth which adheres to the theory of the non-production and non-extinction of the phenomenal world. Third, the middle path of worldly truth which sees that there is a temporary production and temporary extinction of phenomenon. Fourth, the middle path of the higher truth which sees there is neither contemporary production nor contemporary extinction. Fifth, the union of both popular and higher truths which considers that there is neither production-and-extinction nor non-production-and non-extinction, it is the middle path elucidated by the union of both popular and higher truths.

Devout Buddhists should always remember that we must verify the Truth by means of recourse to personal experience. According to the Kesaputtiya Sutra, the Buddha advised the Kalamas on how to verify the Truth as follows: “Do not accept anything merely on the basis of purported authority, nor to accept anything simply because it is written in sacred books, nor to accept anything on the basis of common opinion, nor because it seems reasonable, nor yet again because of reverence for a teacher. Do not accept even my teachings without verification of its truth through your personal experience. I recommend all of you to test whatever you hear in the light of your own experience. Only when you yourselves know that such and such things are harmful, then you should abandon them. Contrarily, when you yourselves see that certain things are beneficial and peaceful, then you should seek to cultivate them.”

Chapter 86. The First Absolute Truth

The truth is the true principle, or the principle of truth, or the absolute apart from phenomena. The truth is the destructive cause of pain. In Buddhism, the truth is the asseveration or categories of reality. Truth in reality, opposite of ordinary or worldly truth (Thế đế) or ordinary categories; they are those of the sage, or man of insight, in contrast with those of the common man, who knows only appearance and not reality. Besides, in Buddhism, the Four Truths, or four Noble Truths, or four Philosophies are a critical example of “Truth”. A fundamental doctrine of Buddhism which clarifies the cause of suffering and the way to emancipation. Sakyamuni Buddha is said to have expounded the Four Noble Truths in the Deer Park in Sarnath during his first sermon after attaining Buddhahood. The Buddha organized these ideas into the Fourfold Truth as follows: “Life consists entirely of suffering; suffering has causes; the causes of suffering can be extinguished; and there exists a way to extinguish the cause.” According to Buddhism, the truth is the PATH that leads to the cessation of suffering (the way of cure) or the truth of the right way. The way of such extinction: To practice the Eight-fold Noble Truths. Buddha taught: “Whoever accepts the four dogmas, and practises the Eighfold Noble Path will put an end to births and deaths.” In the Dhammapada Sutta, the Buddha taught: “In the untruth the foolish see the truth, while the truth is seen as the untruth. Those who harbor such wrong thoughts never realize the truth (Dharmapada 11). What is truth regarded as truth, what is untruth regarded as untruth. Those who harbor such right thoughts realize the truth (Dharmapada 12).”

There are two kinds of truth (Twofold Truth). They are Changeless essence and Ever-changing forms. First, the changeless essence or substance. Second, ever-changing forms of truth. Its conditioned or ever-changing forms, as in the phenomenal world. Besides, there are also Inexpressible and Expressed in words: First, the inexpressible absolute, only mentally conceivable. Second, expressible absolute. These are aspects expressed in words: There are also Void and Absolute. First, the absolute as the void (space, the sky, the clear mirror). Second, the absolute in manifestation or phenomenal (images in the mirror). The womb of the universe in which are all potentialities. There are also Nature in Bonds and Nature set free: First, the Buddha nature in bonds. Second, the Buddha nature set free by the manifestation of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas. There are also the Defiled and the Purified: First, the Buddha-nature defiled, as unenlightened man (water lily with its roots in the mud). Second, the pure Buddha-nature, purified or bright as the full moon.

Besides, in this world, there are four more truths: First, all living beings rise from ignorance. Second, all objects of desire are impermanent, uncertain and suffering. Third, all existing things are also impermanent, uncertain and suffering. Fourth, nothing that can be called an “ego,” and there is no such thing as “mine” in the world. There are also eight truths: First, common postulates on reality, considering the nominal as real. Second, common doctrinal postulates (the five skandhas). Third, abstract postulates (the four Noble Truths). Fourth, temporal postulates in regard to the spiritual in the material. Fifth, postulates on constitution and function of the five skandhas. Sixth, postulates on cause and effect. Seventh, postulates o the void or the immaterial. Eighth, postulates on the pure inexpressible ultimate or absolute. According to the Mahayana Buddhist traditions, there are also nine truths or postulates: truth on impermanence, truth on suffering, truth on the void (voidness or unreality of things), truth on no permanent ego or soul, love of existence or possession resulting in suffering, fear of being without existence or possession also resulting in suffering, truth on cutting of suffering and its cause, truth on Nirvana with remainder still to be worked out, and complete Nirvana.

Chapter 87. Skill in Means

“Skill in means” in Buddhism means expediency, method, contrivance, or method.” Expediency and skill, adaptable, suited to conditions, opportunist, the adaptation of teaching to the capacity of the hearer. Means or methods which Buddhas and Bodhisattvas utilize to expound dharma to make it easy for others to understand and practice to reach enlightenment. A means or expedient is a way which one uses to reach one’s aim. Extraordinary Skilful Means is a good and virtuous practice which Buddhas and Maha-Bodhisattvas use to follow and adapt to the individual capacity, personality, and inclination of sentient beings to aid and transform them from unenlightened to enlightened beings. Practitioners who possess wisdom are no longer attached to forms and appearances; because forms and appearances are only expedients for them to advance in cultivation to obtain the Buddhahood. In short, skill in means is the ability to adapt Buddhist teachings and practices to level of understanding of one’s audience. This is particularly important in Mahayana, where “skill in means” is said to be one of the most important abilities developed by Bodhisattvas. It is the seventh of the ten paramitas.

Skill in means or method. Means or methods which Buddhas and bodhisattvas utilize to expound dharma to make it easy for others to understand and practice to reach enlightenment. A means or expedient is a way which one uses to reach one’s aim. According to Great Master Tarthang Tulku, one of the most famous masters of the Nyingmapa Sect, “We have a responsibility to work, to exercise our talents and abilities, to contribute our energy to life. Our nature is creative, and by expressing it we constantly generate more enthusiasm and creativity, stimulating an on-going process of enjoyment in the world around us. Working willingly, with our full energy and enthusiasm, is our way of contributing to life. Working in this way is working with skillful means.” In Buddhism, skill in means means expediency, method, or contrivance. Skill-in-means or adaptable methods are used for convenience to the place or situation, that are suited to the condition. There are several interpretations. Phương is interpreted as method, mode or plan; and Tiện is interpreted as convenient for use; so Phương Tiện means a convenient or expedient method which is suitable to different sentient beings. Phương means correct, Tiện means strategically; Phương tiện means strategically correct. Skill in means also means partial, temporary, or relative teaching of knowledge of reality, in contrast with prajna, and absolute truth, or reality instead of the seeming.

Skill in means is one of the ten paramitas which the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas use as the method of expedient teaching to save sentient beings. This is the most important of the four supplementary paramitas. The term is a translation of the Sanskrit term “Upaya,” which means a mode of approach, an expedient, stratagem, device. “Upaya” also means to teach according to the capacity of the hearer, by any suitable method. The Buddha used expedient or partial method in his teaching until near the end of his days, when he enlarged it to the revelation of reality. In Saddharma Pundarika Sutra, Chapter II, “Expedient Means,” in which the meaning of “Upaya-kausalya” is elucidated through the doctrine of Three Vehicles (Triyanas) of Sravaka-yana, Pratyeka-buddha-yana, and Bodhisattva-yana in order to respond to different temperaments of listeners. Expedient means is the way in which the Bodhisattvas act for saving the beings effectively. Expedient means is not the crafty method of achieving one’s objective. It is imbued with the morality of compassionate action with the purpose of bringing forth merit.

Extraordinary Skilful Means is a good and virtuous practice which Buddhas and Maha-Bodhisattvas use to follow and adapt to the individual capacity, personality, and inclination of sentient beings to aid and transform them from unenlightened to enlightened beings. Practitioners who possess wisdom are no longer attached to forms and appearances; because forms and appearances are only expedients for them to advance in cultivation to obtain the Buddhahood. Skill in means is a weapon of enlightening beings, manifesting in all places. Great Enlightening Beings unite expedient means with transcendent wisdom. Enlightening Beings who abide by these can annihilate the afflictions, bondage, and compulsion accumulated by all sentient beings in the long night of ignorance. Because of the different situations that arise, one has to use methods suited to the particular time and place. Expedient dharma implies that the methods are not constant and changing, but rather impromptu methods set up for a special purpose. Through those expedient methods or strategies, Buddhas or Bodhisattvas can help rescue and lead other beings to Enlightenment. According to Lama Tarthang Tulku in the “Skillful Means”, skillful means is a three-step process that can be applied to any situations or circumstances in our lives. The first step is to become aware of the reality of our difficulties, not simply by intellectual acknowledgement, but by honest observation of ourselves. Only in this way will we find the motivation to take the next step: making a firm resolve to change. When we have clearly seen the nature of our problems and have begun to change them, we can share what we have learned with others. This sharing can be the most satisfying experience of all, for there is a deep and lasting joy in seeing others find the means to make their lives fulfilling and productive. When we use skillful means to realize and strengthen our positive qualities at work, we tap the precious resources that lie awaiting discovery within us. Each of us has the potential to create peace and beauty in the universe. As we develop our abilities and make an effort to share them with others, we can deeply appreciate their value. This deep appreciation makes life truly worth living, for we bring love and joy into all of our actions and experience. By learning to use skillful means in all that we do, we can transform daily existence into a source of enjoyment and accomplishment that surpasses even our most beautiful dreams.

Chapter 88. Periods of Sakyamuni’s Teachings

When the Buddha taught the reality of the skandhas and elements, but denied the common belief in real personality (thực ngã) as a permanent soul. This period is represented by the four Agamas (A Hàm) and other Hinayana Sutras. When the Budha negated the idea of the reality of things (Thực pháp) and advocate that all was unreal. This period is represented by Prajna Sutras (Bát Nhã). When the Buddha taught, “the mind or spirit is real, while things are unreal.” This perios represented by the Wonder Lotus Sutras. The San-Lun School divided the Buddha’s sacred teaching into three wheels of the law (dharma-cakra): First, the root wheel is the Avatamsaka (Wreath). Second, the branch wheel is all Hinayana and Mahayana texts. Third, the wheel that contracts all the branches so as to bring them back to the root, i.e., the Lotus. According to the original Buddhist tradition in China, there are three Dharma-cakra: First, the Tripitaka doctrine (the orthodox of Hinayana). The Pitaka, i.e. Tripitaka School, one of the four divisions of the T’ien-T’ai. It is the Hinayana school of the Sravaka and Pratyeka-buddha types, based on the Tripitaka and its four dogmas, with the Bodhisattva doctrine as an unimportant side issue. It is also divided into four others: the reality of things, the unreality of things, both the reality and the unreality of things, neither the reality nor the unreality of things. Second, the intermediate, or interrelated doctrine (Hinayana-cum-Mahayana). The second stage in the T’ien-T’ai four periods of teaching, which held the doctrine of “Void,” but had not arrived at the doctrine of the “Mean.” Third, the differentiated or separated doctrine (Early Mahayana as a cult or development, as distinct from Hinayana). The different teaching of the Avatamsaka sect and Lotus sect is founded on One Vehicle, the Buddha Vehicle. The Lotus school asserts that the Three Vehicles are really the One Vehicle, the Hua-Yen school that the One Vehicle differs from the Three Vehicles; hence the Lotus school is called the Unitary, while the Hua-Yen school is the Differentiating school. The T’ien-T’ai school divided the Buddha’s Teachings into four periods. The first period is the Tripitaka Teaching, or the Pitaka School was that of Hinayana. The second period is the Interrelated Teaching, or intermediate school, was the first stage of Mahayana, having in it elements of all the three vehicles (sravaka, pratyekabuddha, and bodhisattva). Its developing doctrine linked it with Hinayana on the one hand and on the other hand with the two further developments of the “separate” or “differentiated” Mahayana teaching, and perfect teaching. The third period is the Differentiated Teaching: The different teaching of the Avatamsaka sect and Lotus sect is founded on One Vehicle, the Buddha Vehicle. The Lotus school asserts that the Three Vehicles are really the One Vehicle, the Hua-Yen school that the One Vehicle differs from the Three Vehicles; hence the Lotus school is called the Unitary, while the Hua-Yen school is the Differentiating school. The fourth period is the Complete, Perfect, or Final Teaching; a name for the esoteric teachings.

In the centuries that followed the Buddha’s death, various attempts were made to organize and formulate his teachings. Different systems appeared, basing themselves on the recorded scriptures, each purporting to express the Buddha’s intended meaning from the time of his enlightenment until his nirvana. The reason of his teachings of different sutras is for the benefits of many different living beings, but the purpose of his doctrine was always the same. The Buddha’s first preaching (Fresh milk): This period is called Avatamsaka (Hoa Nghiêm) for sravakas and pratyeka-buddhas. This period is divided into three divisions each of seven days, after his enlightenment, when he preached the content of the Avatamsaka Sutra. According to the T’ien-T’ai sect, the Avatamsaka Sutra was delivered by Sakyamuni Buddha immediately after his enlightenment; however, this is questionable because the Hua-Yen Sutra is a Mahayana creation. The second period is the Agamas or the coagulated milk for the Hinayana. The twelve years of the Buddha’s preaching of Agamas in the Deer Park. The third period is the Vaipulyas or the Vaipulya period for the Mahayana. The eight years of preaching Mahayana-cum-Hinayana doctrines. The fourth period is the Prajna or the ghola or butter for the Mahayana. Twenty two years of his preaching the prajna or wisdom sutra. The fifth period is the Lotus and Nirvana, or the sarpirmanda or clarified butter for the Mahayana. The eight years of his preaching of Lotus sutra, and in a day and a night, the Nirvana sutra.

The Hua-Yen Sect divided the Buddha’s Teachings into five parts or the five divisions of Buddhism. There are two groups: the first group is from Tu-Shun down to Hsien-Shou, and the second group is from Kuei-Feng. The first period of the Buddha’s teachings, the Doctrine of the Small Vehicle or Hinayana (Theravada): The Hinayana corresponds to the Agama sutras which interpret that the self is without substance, the separate elements or dharmas are real, and nirvana is their total annihilation. This doctrine refers to the teaching of the four Agamas. Although they deny the existence of the personal self (pudgala-sunyata), they are realistic and admit the existence of all separate elements (dharma). They hold that Nirvana is total extinction, and yet they do not understand much of the unreality of all elements (dharma-sunyata). As to the causation theory, they attribute it to action-influence. The second period of the Buddha’s teachings, the Elementary Doctrine of the Great Vehicle (Mahayana): The primary or elementary stage of Mahayana is divided into many sections. Since neither admits the existence of the Buddha-nature (Buddha-svabhava) in all beings, both are considered to be elementary: The first branch is the elementary doctrine which based on the specific character of all elements (dharma-laksana), e.g., the Idealistic School or Dharmalaksana. Realistic Mahayana which analyzes the specific and distinct character of the dharmas, found in the Yogachara Sutras. Second, the Dharmalaksana School which sets forth the theory of causation by ideation-store (Alaya-vijnana) on the basis of phenomenal charateristics (laksana) and does not recognize the unity of fact and principle. Also, since it maintains the basic distinction of five species of men, it does not admit that all men can attain Buddhahood. The third branch, the elementary doctrine which based on negation of all elements or dharma-sunyata, e.g., San-Lun School. This is the Idealistic Mahayana that holds all dharmas are non-substantial, found in Prajna or Wisdom Sutras. The fourth branch, the San-Lun which holds the one-sided view of “Void” on the basis of “own nature” or no abiding nature, but admitting the unity of being and non-being, it affirms that men of the three vehicles and the five species are all able to attain Buddhahood. The third period of the Buddha’s teachings, the Final Mahayana teaching, or the Mahayana in its final stage which teaches the Bhutatathata and universal Buddhahood, or the essentially true nature of all things and the ability of all beings to attain Buddhahood. This is the final metaphysical concepts of Mahayana, as presented in the Lankavatara Sutra, the Mahaparinirvana text, and the Awakening of Faith, etc. This doctrine asserts that all living beings have Buddha-nature and can attain Buddhahood. The T’ien-T’ai School adheres to this doctrine. By this teaching the Ultimate Truth of Mahayana is expounded. Therefore, it is called the Doctrine of Maturity. As it agrees with reality, it also called the True Doctrine. In the elementary doctrine, fact and principle were always separate, while in this final doctrine, fact is always identified with principle, or in short, the two are one. The causation theory by Matrix of the Thuscome is special to this doctrine. It is also called the theory of causation by Thusness or Tathata. The fourth period of the Buddha’s teachings, the Abrupt Doctrine of the Great Vehicle: This means the training without word or order, directly appealing to one’s own insight. This teaching emphasized on one’s own insight by which one can attain enlightenment all at once. All words and speech will stop at once. Reason will present itself in its purity and action will always comply with wisdom and knowledge. The Mahayana immediate, abrupt, direct, sudden, or intuitive school, by right concentration of thought, or faith , apart from good works (deeds). This teaching expounds the abrupt realization of the ultimate truth without relying upon verbal explanations or progression through various stages of practice, found in Vimalakirti Sutra. This doctrine holds that if thought ceases to arise in one’s mind, the man is a Buddha. Such an attainment may be gained through silence as shown by Vimalakirti, a saintly layman in Vaisali, or through meditation as in the case of Bodhidharma, the founder of Chinese Ch’an School. The fifth period of the Buddha’s teachings, the Round Doctrine of the Great Vehicle or the Perfect teaching expounds the One Vehicle, or the Buddha Vehicle. The complete or perfect teaching of the Hua-Yen, combining the rest into one all-embracing vehicle, found in the Avatamsaka and Lotus Sutras. There are two grades of the round or perfect doctrine, one of which is the Vehicle of the Identical Doctrine (Nhất Thừa Đồng Giáo), in which the One Vehicle is taught an identical or similar method with the other three Vehicles. The One Vehicle of the Avatamsaka School is inclusive of all Vehicles. However, for the convenience the three vehicles are taught to prepare the aspirants. The three flow out of the One Vehicle and are taught in the identical method as the one. The these Vehicles recognized by the Avatamsaka School: Hinayana. the Gradual Mahayana, the Elementary Mahayana, the Final Mahayana, and the Abrupt Doctrine of the Great Vehicle. Next, the One Vehicle of the Distinct Doctrine in which the One Vehicle is set forth entirely distinct or independent from the other Vehicles, as in the case of the teaching of the Avatamsaka School, in which the doctrine of the world of totalistic harmony mutually relating and penetrating is set forth. The One Vehicle is higher than the other three. The One Vehicle is real while the three are considered as temporary. While according to Kuei-Feng, he divided the Buddha’s teachings into five periods, which were totally different from which of Tu-Shun. The first period of the Buddha’s teachings, the rebirth as human beings for those who keep the five commandments and as devas for those who keep the ten commandments. The second period of the Buddha’s teachings, the Doctrine of the Small Vehicle or Hinayana. The third period of the Buddha’s teachings, the elementary doctrine of the Great Vehicle (Mahayana) based on the specific character of all elements (dharma-laksana). The fourth period of the Buddha’s teachings, the elementary doctrine of the Great Vehicle (Mahayana) based on negation of all elements or dharma-sunyata. The fifth period of the Buddha’s teachings, the one vehicle which reveals the universal Buddha-nature. It includes the Mahayana in its final stage, the immediate and the complete or perfect teaching of the Hua-Yen.

Chapter 89. Dharmakaya

The Buddha’s true body or Dharmakaya is usually rendered “Law-body” where Dharma is understood in the sense of “law,” “organization,” “systematization,” or “regulative principle.” But really in Buddhism, Dharma has a very much more comprehensive meaning. Especially when Dharma is coupled with Kaya. Dharmakaya implies the notion of personality. The highest reality is not a mere abstraction, it is very much alive with sense and awareness and intelligence, and, above all, with love purged of human infirmities and defilements. Dharma body, the embodiment of truth and Law, the spiritual of true body, the transformation Body of the Buddha. The Body-of-form of all Buddhas which is manifested for the sake of men who cannot yet approach the Dharmakaya. Also called the formless true body of Buddhahood. The first of the Trikaya. Dharmakaya or the law body is an important conception in Buddhist doctrine of reality, or things. According to Zen Master D.T. Suzuki in the Essence of Buddhism, the Dharmakaya is not the owner of wisdom and compassion, he is the Wisdom or the Compassion, as either phase of his being is emphasized for some special reason. We shall miss the point entirely if we take him as somewhat resembling or reflecting the human conception of man. He has no body in the sense we have a human body. He is spirit, he is the field of action, if we can use this form of expression, where wisdom and compassion are fused together, are transformed into each other, and become the principle of vitality in the world of sense-intellect. According to the Madhyamaka philosophy, Dharma is the essence of being, the ultimate Reality, the Absolute. The Dharmakaya is the esential nature of the Buddha. As Dharmakaya, the Buddha experiences his identity with Dharma or the Absolute and his unity with all beings. The Dharmakaya is a knowing and loving, an inexhaustible fountain head of love and compassion. When the Buddha’s disciple, Vakkali, was on his death, he addressed his desire to see the Buddha in person. On that occasion, the Buddha remarked: “He who sees the Dharma sees Me. He who sees Me sees the Dharma.”

According to Buddhist traditions, there are two kinds of Dharmakaya: First, the unity of dharmakaya. Second, the diversity of dharmakaya. There are also other two kinds of Dharmakaya. According to Prof. Junjiro Takakusu in The Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy, Dharmakaya has two senses: First, the Scripture-body: Scripture-body means that the teaching remains as representative of the body after the Buddha’s demise. Second, the Ideal-body: The Ideal-body means the Enlightenment as a Formless-body. Beside the above mentioned Dharmakayas, there are still other Dharmakayas such as: The embodiment or totality, or nature of the Dharmakaya which includes the Hinayana Buddha-nature and the Mahayana Buddha-nature. The Buddha-nature in Hinayana of which absolute side is described as not discussed, being synonymous with the five divisions of the commandments, meditation, wisdom, release, and doctrine. The Mahayana Buddha-nature comprises of the Buddha-nature that the Madhyamika School of Nagarjuna defines as the absolute or ultimate reality as the formless which contains all forms, the essence of being, the noumenon of the other two manifestations of the Triratna. The Dharmalaksana School defines the nature of the dharmakaya as: The nature or essence of the whole Triratna, and the particular form of the Dharma in that trinity. The One-Vehicle Schools represented by the Hua-Yen and T’ien-T’ai sects, consider the nature of the dharmakaya to be the Bhutatathata, noumenon and wisdom being one and undivided. The Shingon sect takes the six elements as the nature of dharmakaya which takes the sixth elements (earth, water, fire, air, space) as noumenon or fundamental Dharmakaya; and takes mind (intelligence or knowledge) as the wisdom dharmakaya. Besides, there are other Dharmakayas, i.e., the Sarira, the spiritual relics of the Buddha, his sutras, or verses, his doctrine and immutable law.Dharmakaya in its phenomenal character, conceived as becoming, as expressing itself in the stream of being. The Dharmakaya Tathagata, the Buddha who reveals the spiritual body.

According to the T’ien-T’ai Sect, there are five kinds of a Buddha’s dharmakaya: First, the spiritual body of wisdom. Second, Sambhogakay: The spiritual body of all virtuous achievement. Third, Nirmakaya: The body of incarnation in the world. The spiritual body of incarnation in the world. Fourth, Nirmakaya: The body of unlimited power of transformation. Fifth, Dharmakaya: The body of unlimited space. According to the Flower Adornment Sutra, there are five kinds of a Buddha’s dharmakaya: First, the body or person of Buddha born from the dharma-nature. Second, the dharmakaya evolved by Buddha-virtue, or achievement. Third, the dharmakaya with unlimited powers of transformation. Fourth, the real dharmakaya. Fifth, the universal dharmakaya: The dharmakaya as being like space which enfolds all things, omniscient and pure.

Chapter 90. To Be on a Vegetarian Diet or Eating Meat?

“Meat Eating” in the Buddhist Point of View: In the Buddhist precept of prohibiting killing, one might expect that Buddhists would also enjoin (bắt phải theo) vegetarianism. However, according to the Pali Canon, which is collected by early Theravada schools and is believed by the current only exisitng Theravada, there are several places in which the subject is raised, and in all of them the Buddha explicitly refuses to require that monks abstain from meat. They said as mendicants, the monks subsisted on alms food, and the Vinaya repeatedly indicates that they are to eat whatever is given to them, viewing it only as a means to sustain life. Refusing alms food deprives the donor of an opportunity for making merit, and it also leads to negative feelings toward the Samgha from people whose offerings are refused. There are, however, some restrictions. Certain types of meat are forbidden, including human flesh, as well as meat from dogs, snakes, elephants, horses, and carnivores (loài ăn thịt sống). The Vinaya-Pitaka (IV. 237) states that monks can only eat meat that is “pure in the three respects,” which means that they must not have seen, heard, or suspected that an animal was killed for them. The Vinaya commentary explains that if a monk is suspicious of the origin of meat, he should inquire how it was obtained. Reasons for suspicion include evidence of hunting, absence of a butcher nearby, or the bad character of a donor. If these conditions are met, however, the monk is “blameless.” If a donor kills, or causes someone else to kill an animal to feed monks, this results in negative karma for the giver. The Pali Canon also reports that the Buddha’s cousin Devadatta specifically asked him to make vegetarianism compulsory, but he refused to do so, only allowing that it was acceptable as an optional ascetic practice. These examples indicate that the Buddha and his followers would have frequently eaten meat on their begging rounds. This does not mean, however, that the killing of animals is condoned (được tha thứ). Occupations that involve killing, such as butchery, are condemned as examples of “wrong livelihood,” and in Buddhist countries today these tasks are commonly performed by non-Buddhists. Those who perform them are often treated as being karmically polluted. With regard to the consumption of meat as food, Buddhists themselves are divided into groups. One group regards eating meat as being no less wicked than the act of slaughter. It holds that, if meat was not used as food, there would be no cause for the destruction of animals, hence consumption of meat is directly responsible for their slaughter and is therefore wrong. Another group regards the consumption of meat is allowed by the Buddha. They claim that the Vinaya or diciplinary rule allows monks to eat meat under several conditions, called “three kinds of clean flesh,” “five kinds of clean flesh,” or “nine kinds of clean flesh.” No matter what you say, eating flesh still means eating flesh. Buddhists, especially, monks and nuns should show their loving-kindness and compassion to all sentient beings. Monks and nuns should try their best to prevent killing, and not to be the cause of killing through the form of offering of a so-called ‘clean flesh.’

In Theravada countries, vegetarianism is widely admired, but seldom practiced. Most laypeople eat meat, but there are certain observance days during which many people avoid it. In these countries, it is generally thought that is better to eat less intelligent animals, such as fish, and to eat small animals, rather than large ones. However, in Tibet the prevailing (thắng thế) philosophy is just the opposite: Tibetans generally believe that it is better to eat larger animals, since a single large animals can be used to feed many people, and they don’t need to kill so many small ones. There are, however, a number of Mahayana texts that argue against eating meat, emphasizing that it is incompatible with the Bodhisattva practices of generating compassion toward all sentient beings and viewing them as one’s former mothers. The Mahaparinirvana-Sutra, for example, states that meat-eating “extinguishes the seed of great compassion,” and in it the Buddha orders his followers to adopt a vegetarian diet. The Lankavatara Sutra also has a chapter in which the Buddha mentions eight reasons why a Buddhist, especially a monk or a nun should not eat meat. He mentions that in early days of Buddhism, most of Buddhists’ ability of understanding his profound teachings is very limited so he did not want to force them to follow strict discipline right away. But to this moment, the Buddha must remind all of his followers that if they still believe in the rule of “cause and effect,” they should minimize their “meat eating” for there is a cause, no matter what kind of cause it is, there will be surely an effect, without any exception. The Buddha further reminded, “Buddhists should always remember that all beings in past lives were at least once one’s fathers, mothers, relatives, and friends.” In addition that the smell of carnivores frightens beings and leads to a bad reputation; that eating meat interferes with meditative practice; that eating meat leads to bad dreams and anxiety; that it leads to bad rebirths; and that even if one only eats meat that was not explicitly killed for oneself, one is still participating in the process of of killing and thus promotes the suffering of sentient beings. The Mahaparinirvana-Sutra, Lankavatara Sutra and other Mahayana sutras were widely popular in East Asia, and this may partly account for the fact that most monasteries in China, Korea and Vietnam are strictly vegetarian. In Japan, vegetarianism is often viewed as admirable by Buddhists, and is formally practiced in most Zen monasteries. Vegetarianism is also enjoined in the supplementary monastic code known as the Brahma-jala-sutra, which is widely influential in East Asia. An early East Asian example of this attitude is the proclamation by Emperor Wu in 511 prohibiting meat eating and hunting. Vegetarianism is always practiced by some pious laypeople in East Asia and is often seen as being entailed (kết quả của) by the precept prohibiting killing. In Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhism, however, vegetarianism is seldom practiced. The Dalai Lama has urged Tibetans to eat less meat, and if still eating meat, they should eat larger animals in order to reduce the number of deaths, but is not a vegetarian himself. In the harsh environment of Tibet, vegetarianism was not feasible, since the soil and climate could not support large-scale agriculture, so only a few lamas have adopted a vegetarian diet in exile. The question of how monks and nuns can clearly expound the Buddha teachings so that Buddhists can view that according to the rule of “cause and effect,” or “karma,” all sentient beings as their fathers, mothers, relatives, or friends. However, most lamas either avoid the subject or advise students to chant Mantras to help the animals achieve a better rebirth. There is considerable uneasiness concerning this subject among Tibetan Buddhist teachers, most of whom would clearly prefer to avoid it altogether. As the remarks above indicate, there is no unanimity among Buddhists regarding the eating of meat, and there is a wide variety of opinions in Buddhist canonical literature.

Clean and Unclean Flesh: Pure flesh, or clean flesh or pure meat to a monk. In early time of Buddhism, the Buddha always emphasizes “Compassion.” All Buddhists, including monks and nuns, should know what he means. If you say you are compassionate to all sentient beings and you are still eating meat every day (especially monks and nuns), what does “compassion” mean? At the time of the Buddha, the reason why the Buddha allowed monks and nuns to eat whatever lay people offered because there was huge drought in India that caused the disappearance of most vegetables. That was why the Buddha allowed monks and nuns to eat what he called “Three kinds of clean flesh.” As long as a monk does not kill an animal himself or the animal has not been killed specifically for him, or he does not see or is not aware of it being killed specifically for him, or he does not hear it cries. Other words, the meat is considered clean when the Monk has not seen the animal killed (or the animal’s slaughter is not witnessed by the consumer); has not heard the animal killed (or the sound of the animal’s slaughter is not heard by the consumer); and has not doubt about the animal killed to offer to the monk’s meal (or the animal is not slaughtered for the consumer). On the contrary, the meat is considered unclean when the Monk has seen the animal killed; has heard the animal killed; and has doubted that the animal killed to offer to him. Besides, the meant is also considered clean when the creatures that have died a natural death; and the creatures that have been killed by other creatures. Or the creatures not killed for us; or naturally dried meat; or things not seasonable or at the right time. That was the time of the Buddha when one could not find any vegetables. What about now, we do not lack vegetables and a varieties of fruits and vegetables contain adequate vitamins for a human body. Be careful!!!

Eight Reasons for Those Who Practice Bodhisattvahood Not Eating Animal Food: There exist some sects that do not forbid flesh. They argue that meat was permitted by the Buddha during His time, but forbidden in Mahayana under the Bodhisattva cult. According to Zen Master Suzuki in Studies in The Lankavatara Sutra, there are eight reasons for not eating animal food as recounted in The Lankavatara Sutra: First, all sentient beings are constantly going through a cycle of transmigration and stand to one another in every possible form of relationship. Some of these are living at present even as the lower animals. While they so differ from us now, they all are of the same kind as ourselves. To take their lives and eat their flesh is like eating our own. Human feelings cannot stand this unless one is quite callous. When this fact is realized even the Rakshasas may cease from eating meat. The Bodhisattva who regards all beings as if they were his only child cannot indulge in flesh-eating. Second, the essence of Bodhisattvaship is a great compassionate heart, for without this the Bodhisattva loses his being. Therefore, he who regards others as if they were himself, and whose pitying thought is to benefit others as well as himself, ought not to eat meat. He is willing for the sake of the truth to sacrifice himself, his body, his life, his property; he has no greed for anything; and full of compassion towards all sentient beings and ready to store up good merit, pure and free from wrong discrimination, how can he have any longing for meat? How can he be affected by the evil habits of the carnivorous races? Third, this cruel habit of eating meat causes an entire transformation in the features of a Bodhisattva, whose skin emits an offensive and poisonous odour. The animals are keen enough to sense the approach of such a person, a person who is like a Rakshasa himself, and would be frightened and run away from him. He who walks in compassion, therefore, ought not to eat meat. Fourth, the mission of a Bodhisattva is to create among his fellow-beings a kindly heart and friendly regard for Buddhist teaching. If they see him eating meat and causing terror among animals, their hearts will naturally turn away from him and from the teaching he professes. They will then loose faith in Buddhism. Fifth, if a Bodhisattva eats meat, he cannot attain the end he wishes; for he will be alienated by the Devas, the heavenly beings who are his spiritual sympathizers and protectors. His mouth will smell bad; he may not sleep soundly; when he awakes he is not refreshed; his dreams are filled with inauspicious omens; when he is in a deserted place, all alone in the woods, he will be haunted by evil spirits; he will be nervous, excitable at least provocations; he will be sickly, have no proper taste, digestion, nor assimilation; the course of his spiritual discipline will be constantly interrupted. Therefore, he who is intent on benefitting himself and others in their spiritual progress, ought not to think of partaking of animal flesh. Sixth, animal food is filthy, not at all clean as a nourishing agency for the Bodhisattva. It readily decays, putrefies (spoils), and taints. It is filled with pollutions, and the odour of it when burned is enough to injure anybody with refined taste for things spiritual. Seventh, the eater of meat shares in this pollution, spiritualy. Once King Sinhasaudasa who was fond of eating meat began to eat human flesh, and this alienated the affections of his people. He was thrown out of his own kingdom. Sakrendra, a celestial being, once turned himself into a hawk and chased a dove because of his past taint as a meat-eater. Meat-eating not only thus pollutes the life of the individual concerned, but also his descendants. Eighth, the proper food of a Bodhisattva, as was adopted by all the previous saintly followers of truth, is rice, barley, wheat, all kinds of beans, clarified butter, oil, honey, molasses and sugar prepared in various ways. Where no meat is eaten, there will be no butchers taking the lives of living creatures, and no unsympathetic deeds will be committed in the world.

To Be on a Vegetarian Diet: Buddhist doctrine always emphasizes on the four sublime states of boundless loving-kindness, boundless compassion, boundless joy and boundless equanimity. Buddhists hold life to be sacred. They do not, therefore, kill or harm any sentient beings. And thus, most of Mahayana Buddhists vow to be vegetarians. Buddhists should not kill living beings to eat. Killing or slaughtering is the first of the five precepts. Killing animals for food is among the worst transgression in Buddhism. According to Tantric Buddhism, in the sutras, the Buddhist scriptures, Buddha once said to Ananda: “Ananda, if there is nobody, there is no dharma. If there is no food, there is no dharma. If there are no clothes, there is no dharma. Take care of your body, for the sake of the dharma.” Relating with the body is extremely important in the tantric tradition. However, we don’t make a personal trip out of it. We could become a vegetarian and sneer at meat eaters. We could wear pure cotton and renounce wearing any leather. Or we could decide to search for a country to live in that is free from pollution. But any of those approaches could be going too far. When someone becomes a vegetarian, he stops eating meat, but he might take a bloodthirsty delight in peeling bananas and crunching his teeth into peaches and cooking eggplants as meat substitutes. So our attempts to relate with the body can become very complicated. We’re not particularly advocating eating meat. Rather, we are pointing out that we do not accept our body as it is, and we do not accept our world.

We are always searching for some way to have an easy ride. When we feel unhappy or uncomfortable, we think that we would like to go somewhere else, up or down or wherever. Some people call it hell, some people call it heaven, but whatever it is, we would like to have an easy ride somewhere.

The Buddha did not feel justified in prescribing a vegetarian diet for his disciples among the monks. What he did was to advise them to avoid eating meat because for whatever reason, eating meat means to support ‘killing,’ and animals had to be slaughtered only to feed them. Thus, before His parinirvana, the Buddha advised his disciples (monks and nuns) to practice vegetarianism. However, the Buddha did not insist his lay disciples to adhere to a vegetarian diet. Buddhists should practice vegetarianism methodically and gradually. We should not give up right away the habit of eating meat and fish to have vegetarian diet. Instead, we should gradually reduce the amount of meat and fish, then, start eating vegetables two days a month, then four days, ten days, and more, etc. Eating a vegetarian diet is not only a form of cultivating compassion and equality, but it is also free us from many diseases. Furthermore, such a diet can provide us with a lot of vitamins, and easy to digest. We should not judge the purity and impurity of a man simply by observing what he eats. Through his own evil thoughts and actions, man makes himself impure. Those who eat vegetables and abstain from animal flesh are praiseworthy. Those who still eat meat should be cautious, for no matter what you say, you are still eating sentient beings’ flesh. You can say “I don’t hear,” or “I don’t see” the animal was killed for my food, but are you sure that the purpose of killing is not the purpose of obtaining food for you? Be careful!!!

Vegetarian Days: In Buddhism, ideally speaking, Buddhists should be lifetime vegetarians; however, this is very difficult for lay people. So certain days out of each month are denoted as a day not to eat meat. The reason behind this is simple. The Buddha taught that each sentient being, including animals, values life, so not to eat meat is to practice being compassionate. Vegetarian Days of the month are the first, the fourteenth, the fifteenth, and the thirtieth lunar calendar. Besides, vegetarian days also include days of offerings to the dead, ceremonial days, or the day lay Buddhists strictly follow the eight commandments in one day and one night. Furthermore, there are also nine days of abstinence on which no food is eaten after twelve o’clock and all the commandments must be observed. On these days Indras and the four deva-kings investigate the conduct of men. Nine days of abstinence include every day of the three months: the first, the fifth, and the ninth month, every day of the first month, every day of the fifth month, everyday of the ninth month; and other months each month six days as follow: the 8th, the 9th, the 14th, the 23rd, the 29th, and the 30th.

Besides the above mentioned vegetarian days, devout Buddhists don’t eat meat on the “Thirty Worshipping Days” because these days of the month on which a particular Buddha or Bodhisattva is worshipped, he is being in special charge of mundane affairs on that day (lunar calendar). These Thirty Worshipping Days include: Dhyana-Light Buddha on the first day of the month; Dipankara Buddha on the second day of the month; Prabhutaratna on the third day of the month; Aksobhya Buddha on the fourth day of the month; Maitreya Bodhisattva on the fifth of the month; Twenty Thousand-Lamp Buddha on the sixth day of the month; Thirty Thousand-Lamp Buddha on the seventh day of the month; Bhaisajyaraja-Samudgata Buddha on the eighth day of the month; Mahabhijna-Jnanabhibhu Buddha on the ninth day of the month; Candra-Surya-Pradipa Buddha on the tenth day of the month; Delightful Buddha, the eleventh day of the month; Unconquerable Buddha on the twelfth day of the month; Akasagarbha Bodhisattva (Bodhisattva of Space) on the thirteenth day of the month; Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, the fourteenth day of the month; Amitabha Buddha on the fifteenth of the month; Dharani Bodhisattva on the sixteenth of the month; Nagarjuna Bodhisattva on the seventeenth of the month; Kuan-Yin or Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva on the eighteenth of the month; The Sun-Light Bodhisattva on the nineteenth of the month; The Moon-Light Bodhisattva on the twentieth of the month; Infinite Resolve Bodhisattva on the twenty-first day of the month; Abhayandada Bodhisattva on the twenty-second day of the month; Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva on the twenty-third day of the month; Earth-Store Bodhisattva on the twenty-fourth of the month; Manjusri Bodhisattva on the twenty-fifth of the month; Supreme Bhaisajyaraja-samudgata Bodhisattva on the twenty-sixth day of the month; Vairocana Buddha on the twenty-seventh day of the month (same as in #28); Vairocana Buddha on the twenty-eighth of the month (same as in #27); Bhaisajyaraja-samudgata Bodhisattva on the twenty-ninth day of the month; and Sakyamuni Buddha on the thirtieth of the month.


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