Chapter 121. Simultaneous Cultivations of Blessings & Wisdom
In Buddhist cultivations, there are several different dharma doors, but there are only two ways of cultivation: Cultivation of merits and cultivation of wisdom. Cultivate to gather merits (practices of blessing or sundry practices) includes various practices for a Buddhist such as practicing charity, distributing free sutras, building temples and stupas, keeping vegeterian diet and precepts, etc. Merit is the result of the voluntary performance of virtuous actions, also means field of merit, or field of happiness. All good deeds, or the blessing arising from good deeds. The karmic result of unselfish action either mental or physical. The blessing wealth, intelligence of human beings and celestial realms; therefore, they are temporary and subject to birth and death. Merit is the quality in us which ensures future benefits to us, material of spiritual. It is not difficult to perceive that to desire merit, to hoard, store, and accumulate merit, does, however meritorious it may be, imply a considerable degree of self-seeking. It has always been the tactics of the Buddhists to weaken the possessive instincts of the spiritually less-endowed members of the community by withdrawing them from such objects as wealth and family, and directing them instead towards one aim and object, i.e. the acquisition of merit. But that, of course, is good enough only on a fairly low spiritual level. At higher stages one will have to turn also against this form of possessiveness, one will have to be willing to give up one’s store of merit for the sake of the happiness of others. The Mahayana drew this conclusion and expected its followers to endow other beings with their own merit, or, as the Scriptures put it, ‘to turn over, or dedicate, their merit to the enlightenment of all beings.’ “Through the merit derived from all my good deeds I wish to appease the suffering of all creatures, to be the medicine, the physician, and the nurse of the sick as long as there is sickness. Through rains of food and drink I wish to extinguish the fire of hunger and thirst. I wish to be an exhaustible treasure to the poor, a servant who furnishes them with all they lack. My life, and all my re-birth, all my possessions, all the merit that I have acquired or will acquire, all that I abandon without hope of any gain for myself in order that the salvation of all beings might be promoted.”
Truly speaking, owing to the practice of wisdom, practitioners will attain a number of virtues that contribute a considerable part in the process of going beyond the six paths of the samsara. Virtue is practicing what is good like decreasing greed, anger and ignorance. Virtue is to improve oneself, which will help transcend birth and death and lead to Buddhahood. Merit is what one established by benefitting others, while virtue is what one practices to improve oneself such as decreasing greed, anger, and ignorance. Both merit and virtue should be cultivated side by side. These two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. However, there is a crucial difference. Merits are the blessings (wealth, intelligence, etc) of the human and celestial realms; therefore, they are temporary and subject to birth and death. Virtue, on the other hand, transcend birth and death and lead to Buddhahood. The same action of giving charity with the mind to obtain mundane rewards, you will get merit; however, if you give charity with the mind to decrease greed and stingy, you will obtain virtue. While blessing (merit) is obtained from doing the Buddha work, while virtue gained from one’s own practice and cultivation. If a person can sit stillness for the briefest time, he creates merit and virtue which will never disappear. Someone may say, ‘I will not create any more external merit and virtue; I am going to have only inner merit and virtue.’ It is totally wrong to think that way. A sincere Buddhist should cultivate both kinds of merit and virtue. When your merit and virtue are perfected and your blessings and wisdom are complete, you will be known as the ‘Doubly-Perfected Honored One.’ According to the Flatform Sutra, Chapter Three, the Master told Magistrate Wei, “Emperor Wu of Liang’s mind was wrong; he did not know the right Dharma. Building temples and giving sanction to the Sangha, practicing giving and arranging vegetarian feasts is called ‘seeking blessings.’ Do not mistake blessings for merit and virtue. Merit and virtue are in the Dharma body, not in the cultivation of blessings.” The Master further said, “Seeing your own nature is merit, and equanimity is virtue. To be unobstructed in every thought, constantly seeing the true, real, wonderful function of your original nature is called merit and virtue. Inner humility is merit and the outer practice of reverence is virtue. Your self-nature establishing the ten thousand dharmas is merit and the mind-substance separate from thought is virtue. Not being separate from the self-nature is merit, and the correct use of the undefiled self-nature is virtue. If you seek the merit and virtue of the Dharma body, simply act according to these principles, for this is true merit and virtue. Those who cultivate merit in their thoughts, do not slight others but always respect them. Those who slight others and do not cut off the ‘me and mine’ are without merit. The vain and unreal self-nature is without virtue, because of the ‘me and mine,’ because of the greatness of the ‘self,’ and because of the constant slighting of others. Good Knowing Advisors, continuity of thought is merit; the mind practicing equality and directness is virtue. Self-cultivation of one’s nature is merit and self-cultivation of the body is virtue. Good Knowing Advisors, merit and virtue should be seen within one’s own nature, not sought through giving and making offerings. That is the difference between blessings and merit and virtue.”
According to Buddhist teachings, the root or organ of wisdom or sense of wisdom is one of the five organs. The wisdom that people of religion must maintain. This is not a self-centered wisdom but the true wisdom that we obtain when we perfectly free ourselves from ego and illusion. So long as we have this wisdom, we will not take the wrong way. We can say the same thing of our belief in religion itself, not to mention in our daily lives. If we don’t cultivate with our wisdom, we will surely be attached to selfish, small desires. Eventually, we are apt to stray toward a mistaken religion. However, earnestly we may believe in it, endeavoring to practice its teaching, keeping it in mind, and devoting ourselves to it, we cannot be saved because of its basically wrong teaching, and we sink farther and farther into the world of illusion. There are many instances around us of people following such a course. Although “sense of wisdom” is mentioned as the last of the five organs leading man to good conduct, it should be the first in the order in which we enter a religious life.
For any Buddhist practitioners, Wisdom and Concentration play an extremely important role on the path of cultivation. Meditation and wisdom, two of the six paramitas; likened to the two hands, the left meditation, the right wisdom. According to the Flatform Sutra, Chapter Four, the Sixth, Patriarch instructed the assembly: “Good Knowing Advisors, this Dharma-door of mine has concentration and wisdom as its foundation. Great assembly, do not be confused and say that concentration and wisdom are different. Concentration and wisdom are one substance, not two. Concentration is the substance of wisdom, and wisdom is the function of concentration. Where there is wisdom, concentration is in the wisdom. Where there is concentration, wisdom is in the concentration. If you understand this principle, you understand the balanced study of concentration and wisdom. Students of the Way, do not say that first there is concentration, which produces wisdom, or that first there is wisdom, which produces concentration: do not say that the two are different. To hold this view implies a duality of dharma. If your speech is good, but your mind is not, then concentration and wisdom are useless because they are not equal. If mind and speech are both good, the inner and outer are alike, and concentration and wisdom are equal. Self-enlightenment, cultivation, and practice are not a matter for debate. If you debate which comes first, then you are similar to a confused man who does not cut off ideas of victory and defeat, but magnifies the notion of self and dharmas, and does not disassociate himself from the four marks. Good Knowing Advisors, what are concentration and wisdom like? They are like a lamp and its light. With the lamp, there is light. Without the lamp, there is darkness. The lamp is the substance of the light and the light is the function of the lamp. Although there are two names, there is one fundamental substance. The dharma of concentration and wisdom is also thus.”
Devout Buddhists should always remember that hinderers or barriers caused by passions and delusion which aid rebirth and hinder to arising of wisdom. Owing to the practice of all knowledge, the practice of the unexcelled knowledge and wisdom of Buddhas, nothing that we don’t know. Besides, owing to the practice of wisdom, practitioners will attain the wisdom eye that sees all things as unreal. With the wisdom-eye, a Bodhisattva takes in at a glance all the wonders and inconceivabilities of the spiritual realm to its deepest abyss. This also means to discern the entity of things and their real state. This, in a sense, a philosophical way of looking at things. A person with the eye of wisdom can observe things that are invisible to the average person and can perceive matters that are beyond imagination. He realizes that all things in this world are always changing and there is nothing existing in a fixed form. That is to say all things are impermanent, nothing in the universe is an isolated existence, having no relation to other things; everything exists in relationship with everything else like the meshes of a net, nothing has an ego. At the same time, practitioners will attain the force of wisdom or the ability to maintain clear wisdom or the power of wisdom (awareness) which rests on insight into the four noble truths and leads to the knowledge that liberates.
The goal of practicing of meditation is to attain wisdom. True wisdom arises from purity of mind. The real wisdom is not attained from reading and studying sutras or books; the wisdom we attain from reading and studying is only worldly knowledge and not true wisdom. Besides, practitioners who cultivate wisdom should always be clear and not be deluded on the law of cause and effect. Buddhist ancients often said: “Bodhisattvas fear (are afraid of) causes; living beings fear effects (results or consequences).” As a matter of fact, all those who cultivate wisdom know that both cause and effect are closely related as they co-exist mutually. Everything in this world is subject to the law of cause and effect. Everything is empty and impermanent, but the law of cause and effect never changes. Because Bodhisattvas, those who cultivate wisdom, are afraid of bad consequences in the future, not only they avoid planting evil-causes or evil karma in the present, but they also diligently cultivate to gradually diminish their karmic obstructions; at the same time to accumulate their virtues and merits, and ultimately to attain Buddhahood. However, sentient beings complete constantly to gather evil-causes; therefore, they must suffer evil effect. When ending the effect of their actions, they are not remorseful or willing to repent. Not only do they blame Heaven and other people, but they continue to create more evil karma in opposition and retaliation. Therefore, enemies and vengeance will continue to exist forever in this vicious cycle. From the beginningless time, due to our lack of wisdom, we perceive and behave foolishly, and thus suffer afflictions and sufferings. According to Buddhism, there are consequences, either good or bad, to our thoughts, words and actions. Some people believe that reasons that cause sufferings and afflictions come from external environments and conditions, but to Buddhism, these reasons lie within everyone of us. Devout Buddhists should always remember that sufferings and afflictions caused by ignorance, while the source of happiness and Nirvana is wisdom. For this reason, we must cultivate to transform these sufferings and afflictions into peace, mindfulness, happiness, and final goal of Nirvana. If we want to change direction away from greed, anger, delusion, arrogance, doubt, wrong views, killing, stealing, sexual misconducts, lying... the only way to achieve our goal is to attain a real wisdom. For with the real wisdom we can overcome the above mentioned ten evil robbers. The, our lives will become more pure and peaceful.
In Buddhism, Prajna is often interchanged with wisdom. Wisdom means knowledge, the science of the phenomenal, while prajna more generally to principles or morals. Wisdom is described as the understanding of the Four Noble Truths, the understanding of interdependent origination, and the like. The attainment of wisdom is the ability of transformation of these doctrinal items from mere objects of intellectual knowledge into real, personal experience. In other words, according to Buddhism, wisdom is the ability to change our knowledge of the four Noble Truths and the like from mere sutra learning into actual, living truth. To attain wisdom, we must first cultivate good conduct, then cultivate mental development. It should be noted that reading and understanding the meaning of a sutra doesn’t mean attaining wisdom. Wisdom means reading, understanding, and transforming doctrinal items from sutras into real, personal experience. Wisdom gives us the ability of “seeing the truth” or “seeing things as they really are” because the attainment of wisdom is not an intellectual or academic exercise, it is understanding or seeing these truths directly.
In Buddhism, wisdom is the highest virtue of all. It is usual to translate the Sanskrit term “Prajna” (pali-Panna) by “wisdom,” and that is not positively inaccurate. When we are dealing with the Buddhist tradition, however, we must always bear in mind that there Wisdom is taken in a special sense that is truly unique in the history of human thought. “Wisdom” is understood by Buddhists as the methodical contemplation of ‘Dharmas.’ This is clearly shown by Buddhaghosa’s formal and academic definition of the term: “Wisdom has the characteristic of penetrating into dharmas as they are themselves. It has the function of destroying the darkness of delusion which covers the own-being of dharmas. It has the mmanifestation of not being deluded. Because of the statement: ‘He who is concentrated knows, sees what really is,’ concentration is its direct and proximate cause.” Wisdom is a weapon of enlightening beings, dissolving all ignorance and afflictions. Enlightening Beings who abide by these can annihilate the afflictions, bondage, and compulsion accumulated by all sentient beings in the long night of ignorance. In short, practitioners who cultivate merits alongside wisdom will realize how this body of liberties and endowments is found but once, is difficult to obtain, and is easily lost; and partake of its essence, make it worthwhile, undistracted by the meaningless affairs of this life. Practitioners who cultivate merits alongside wisdom will always enthusiastically practice avoiding negative actions and always cultivate to accumulate virtues and finally reach the complete emancipation.
The Buddha taught that the ultimate perfect wisdom is innate. The Flower Adornment Sutra taught: “Every being possesses the same wisdom and virtuous capabilities as Buddhas.” However, why do we have not this wisdom now? It is because of wandering thoughts and attachments. Now we try to cultivate in order to restore that innate wisdom. If we have the real wisdom, our thoughts, speech and behavior will be correct; how can we suffer where there are no ill consequences to suffer from? Of course, what kind of life do we have if we don’t want to say a life of peace, mindfulness and happiness? Buddhist teachings show us that with a real wisdom, people can change lives of afflictions and sufferings into ones of peace, mindfulness and happiness. In summary, cultivation in Buddhism means to restore lives of wisdom, restore the ultimate and complete wisdom that the Buddha once did more than twenty-six centuries ago.
Finally, in Buddhist cultivations, merits and wisdom are two feet of a practitioner who is walking toward the Buddha-Land. If lack just one, that person immediately becomes disabled and will never be able to reach the Buddha-Land. As a matter of fact, according to Buddhist teachings, without purity of conduct there will be no calm equipoise of thought. In other words, if we don’t cultivate merits in our own body, our mind will wander around without the calm equipoise of thought there will be no completion of insight. The completion of insight (prajna) means the perfection of intellect and wisdom, i.e., perfect enlightenment. It is the result of self-creation and the ideal of the self-creating life. The code of conduct set forth by the Buddha is not a set of mere negative prohibitions, but an affirmation of doing good, a career paved with good intentions for the welfae of happiness of mankind. These moral principles aim at making society secure by promoting unity, harmony and mutual understanding among people. Devout Buddhists should always remember that Buddhist religion is the path of returning to self (looking inward), the goal of its education must be inward and not outward for appearances and matters. As mentioned above, the main causes of sufferings and afflictions are greed, anger, hatred, ignorance, pride, doubt, wrong views, killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and so on... and the ultimate goal of Buddhism is to help sentient beings, especially human beings, to observe and practice discipline, meditation, and wisdom so that we can eliminate these troubles so that if we are not able to become a Buddha, at least we can become a real Buddhist who has a peaceful, mindful and happy life. Chapter 122. Sentient Beings in the Six Paths
Sentient beings(1) in the six paths from hells to celestials include all the living beings and things. The living beings or the sentient are those with emotions and wisdom; while things, or insentient things are those without emotions nor wisdom. Therefore, sentient beings or those with emtions (the living) or those who possess consciousness; while insentient things or those without emotions. Insentient things survive through the means of their own beings, from sunlight, earth and air. Plants are not considered sentient beings because they do not possess consciousness. Conscious beings or sentient beings which possess magical and spiritual powers. All the living, which includes the vegetable kingdom; however, the term “sattva” limits the meaning to those endowed with reason, consciousness, and feeling(2); or those who are sentient, sensible, animate, and rational. According to Buddhism, any living being who has a consciousness(3), including those of the six realms (heaven, human, asura, animal, hungry ghost, and hell). All sentient beings can be said to have inherent enlightenment or Buddha-nature. The term “Living beings” refer to all creatures that possess life-force. Each individual living being comes into being as the result of a variety of different causes and conditions. The smallest living beings as ants, mosquitoes, or even the tiniest parasites are living beings. However, according to the popular meaning, the majority of conscious beings are ordinary people who always examine themselves and realize they are just unenlightened mortal filled with greed, hatred and ignorance, as well as an accumulation of infinite other transgressions in the past, present and future. From realizing this, they develop a sense of shame and then vow to change their way, be remorseful, repent, and give their best to cultivate with vigor such as chanting sutra, reciting the Buddha’s name, or sitting meditation, seeking to quickly end karmic obstructions and to attain enlightenment in a very near future.
In Buddhist philosophy, a sentient being is one who has a mind, that is, something that is aware of its surroundings and is capable of volitional activity. In Buddhist psychological literature, the minimum necessary requirements for something to be a sentient being are the five “omni-present mental factors” (sarvatraga): 1) feeling (vedana); 2) discrimination (samjna); 3) intention (cetana); 4) mental activity (manasikara); 5) contact (sparsa). Beings are different in various ways, including the good and bad seeds they possess. Each being creates karma and undergoes its individual retribution. This process evolves from distinctions that occur in the five skandhas. Every being is a combination of five elements: rupa, vedana, sanna, sankhara, and vinnana. Hence, one being is not essentially different from another, an ordinary man is not different from a perfect saint. But is the nature and proportion of each of the five constituents existing in an individual be taken into account, then one being is different from another, an ordinary man is different from a perfect saint. The combination of elements is the outcome of Karma and is happening every moment, implying that the disintegration of elements always precedes it. The elements in a combined state pass as an individual, and from time immemorial he works under misconception of a self and of things relating to a self. His vision being distorted or obscured by ignorance of the truth he can not perceive the momentary combination and disintegration of elements. On the other hand, he is subject to an inclination for them. A perfect man with his vision cleared by the Buddhist practices and culture realizes the real state of empirical things that an individual consists of the five elements and does not possess a permanent and unchanging entity called soul.
According to Buddhism, physically speaking, there are four kinds of beings, including living and non-living beings: flying, swimming, walking, and plants. Those with blood and breath are called animals, and plants refer to all kinds of grasses, trees, and flower-plants. Where do all those four kinds of beings come from? What is their origin? According to Buddhism, their origin is the Buddha-nature. If there was no Buddha-nature, everything would be annihilated. The Buddha-nature is the only thing that passes through ten thousand generations and all time without being destroyed. From the Buddha-nature come Bodhisattvas, Hearers (Enlightened to Conditions), gods, asuras, people, animals, ghosts, and hell-beings. Those are beings of the ten dharma realms, and the ten dharma realms are not apart from a single thought of the mind. This single thought of the mind is just the seed of the Buddha-nature. One true-thought is just another name for the Buddha-nature. Those living beings include beings which are born through the womb; those born through eggs; those born through moisture; and those born through transformation or metamorphoses such as a worm transforming to become a butterfly.
According to The Lankavatara Sutra, from the religious point of view, there are five orders of beings. First of all, those who belong to the Sravaka order are delighted at listening to such doctrines as concern the Skandhas, Dhatus, or Ayatanas, but take no special interest in the theory of causation, who have cut themselves loose from the bondage of evil passions but have not yet destroyed their habit-energy. They have attained the realization of Nirvana, abiding in which state they would declare that they have put an end to existence, their life of morality is now attained, all that is to be done is done, they would not be reborn. These have gained an insight into the non-existence of an ego-substance in a person but not yet into that in objects. These philosophical leaders who believe in a creator or in the ego-soul may also be classified under this order. Second, the Pratyekabuddha order comprises those who are intensely interested in anything that leads them to the realization of Pratyekabuddhahood. They would retire into solitude and have no attachment to worldly things. When they hear that the Buddha manifests himself in a variety of forms, sometimes in group, sometimes singly, exhibiting miraculous powers, they think these are meant for their own order, and immensely delighted in them they would follow and accept them. Third, those of the Tathagata order, or those who may listen to discourse on such subjects as manifestations of mind, or transcendental realm of the Alaya, from which starts this world of particulars, and yet they may not at all feel astonished or frightened. The Tathagata order may be again divided into three: those who gain an insight into the truth that there is no individual reality behind one perceives; those who know that there is an immediate perception of the truth in one’s inmost consciousness; those who perceive that besides this world there are a great number of Buddha-lands wide and far-extending. Fourth, those who belong to no definite order, or those who are of the indeterminate nature. For those who belong to it may take to either one of the above three orders according to their opportunities. Fifth, those who are altogether outside these orders. There is still another class of beings which cannot be comprised under any of the four already mentiond; for they have no desire whatever for emancipation, and without this desire no religious teaching can enter into any heart. They belong to the Icchantika order. Icchantika is a Sanskrit word which means “incomplete faith” and “lacking good roots.” A class of beings who have cut off all their virtuous roots (kusala mula) and so have no hope of attaining Buddhahood. The status of icchantikas was once an important topic of debate in East Asian Buddhism, with some groups claiming that they are unable to attain liberation, while others asserted that all beings, including icchantikas, have the buddha-nature, and so the virtuous roots may be re-established. Bhiksus who refuse to enter upon their Buddhahood in order to save all beings. Icchantika is one who cuts off his roots of goodness. The Atyantika are people who are extremely evil and wicked, having lost all senses of goodness. It is impossible to change, transform, or influence them to take a cultivated path. However, this also applied to a Bodhisattva who has made his vow not to become a Buddha until all beings are saved. In the Lankavatara Sutra, he Buddha reminded Mahamati: “Oh Mahamati, the Bodhisattva-icchantika knowing that all things are in Nirvana from the beginning refrains forever from entering into Nirvana. Two sub-classes, however, may be distinguished here. Those who have forsaken all roots of merit, or those who vilify the doctrines meant for the Bodhisattvas, saying that they are not in accordance with the sacred texts, rules of morality, and the doctrine of emancipation. Because of this vilification they forsake all the roots of merit and do not enter into Nirvana. Those who have vowed at the beginning to save all beings. They are Bodhisattvas who wish to lead all beings to Nirvana. Deny themselves of this bliss. They vowed in the beginning of their religious career that until everyone of their fellow-beings is led to enjoy the eternal happiness of Nirvana, they themselves would not leave this world of pain and suffering, but must strenuously and with every possible means work toward the completion of their mission. But as there will be no termination of life as long as the universe continues to exist, Bodhisattvas may have no chance for ever to rest themselves quietly with their work finished in the serenity of Nirvana. The time will come even to those who speak evil of the Bodhisattvayana when through the power of the Buddhas they finally embrace the Mahayana and by amassing stock of merit enter into Nirvana, for the Buddhas are always working for the benefit of all beings no matter what they are. But as for Bodhisattvas they never enter into Nirvana as they have a deep insight into the nature of things which are already in Nirvana even as they are. Thus, we know where Bodhisattvas stand in their never-ending task of leading all beings into the final abode of rest.
According to the Mahanidana sutta and the Sangiti Sutta in the Long Discourses of the Buddha, there are seven stations of consciousness: 1) There are beings different in body and different in perception, such as human beings, some evas and some states of woe. 2) There are beings different in body and alike in perception, such as the devas of Brhama’s retinue, born there (on account of having attained) the first jhana. 3) There are beings alike in body and different in perception, such as the Abhassara Devas. 4) There are beings alike in body and alike in perception, such as the Subhakinna devas. 5) There are beings who have completely transcended all perception of matter, by the vanishing of the perception of sense-reactions and by non-attention to the perception of variety; thinking: “Space is infinite,” they have attained to the Sphere of Infinite Space. 6) There are beings who, by transcending the Sphere of Infinite Space, thinking: “Consciousness is infinite,” have attained to the Sphere of Infinite Consciousness. 7) There are beings who, having transcended the Sphere of Infinite Consciousness, thinking: “There is nothing,” have attained to the Sphere of No-Thingness. There are seven stages of existence in a human world or in any desire world. They are being in the hells, animals, the hungry ghosts, the deva, the human beings, beings of karma, and beings in the intermediate stage. Besides, there are still seven other kinds of sentient beings: hells, hungry ghosts, animals, demons of higher order, humans, non-humans, and gods (a genius or higher spiritual being). According to the Lotus Sutra, there are still eight other beings: deva, naga, yaksa, asura, gadura, kinnara, gandharva, and mahogara.
According to Buddhist tradition, there are nine kinds of beings. First, sense-desire becoming, the kind of becoming possessed of sense-desires; second, fine-material becoming, the kind of becoming possessed of fine material; third, immaterial becoming, the kind of becoming possessed of immaterial; fourth, percipient becoming, the kind of becoming possessed of perception; fifth, non-percipient becoming, the kind of becoming possessed of non-perception; sixth, neither-percipient-nor-non-percipient becoming, the kind of becoming possessed of neither perception nor non-perception; seventh, one-constituent becoming, the kind of becoming possessed of one constituent; eighth, four-constituent becoming, the kind of becoming possessed of four constituents; ninth, five-constituent becoming, the kind of becoming possessed of five constituents. Also according to the Sangiti Sutta, there are nine more kinds of sentient beings:
1) Beings different in body and different in perception such as human beings, some devas and hells. 2) Beings different in body and alike in perception such as new-rebirth Brahma. 3) Beings are alike in body and different in perception such as Light-sound heavens (Abhasvara). 4) Beings alike in body and alike in perception such as Heavens of pure dwelling. 5) Beings in the realm of unconscious beings such as heavens of no-thought. 6) Beings who have attained the Sphere of Infinite Space. 7) Beings who have attained to the Sphere of Infinite Consciousness. 8) Beings who have attained to the Sphere of No-Thingness. 9) Beings who have attained to the Sphere of Neither-Perception-Nor-Non-Perception.
In the Surangama Sutra, book Seven, the Buddha reminded Ananda about the twelve categories of living beings: 1) Egg-born beings or beings born through egg. Through a continuous process of falseness, the upside-down state of movement occurs in this world. It unites with energy to become eighty-four thousand kinds of random thoughts that either fly or sink. From this there come into being the egg kalalas which multiply throughout the lands in the form of fish, birds, amphibians, and reptiles, so that their kinds abound. 2) Womb-born beings or beings born through womb. Through a continuous process of defilement, the upside-down state of desire occurs in this world. It unites with stimulation to become eighty-four thousand kinds of random thoughts that are either upright or perverse. From this there come into being the womb arbudas, which multiply throughout the world in the form of humans, animals, dragons, and immortals until their kinds abound. 3) Moisture-born beings or beings born through moisture. Through a continuous process of attachment, the upside-down state of inclination occurs in this world. It unites with warmth to become eighty-four thousand kinds of random thoughts that are vacillating and inverted. From this there come into being through moisture the appearance of peshis, which multiply throughout the lands in the form of insects and crawling invertebrates, until their kinds abound. 4) Transformation-born beings or beings born through transformation. Through a continuous process of change, the upside-down state of borrowing occurs in this world. It unites with contact to become eighty-four thousand kinds of random thoughts of new and old. From this there come into being through transformation the appearance of ghana, which multiply throughout the lands in the form of metamorphic flying and crawling creatures, until their kinds abound. 5) Form-born beings or beings born through form. Through a continuous process of restraint, the upside-down state of obstruction occurs in this world. It unites with attachment to become eighty-four thousand kinds of random thoughts of refinement and brilliance. From this there come into being the ghana of appearance that possess form, which multiply throughout the lands in the form of auspicious and inauspicious essences, until their kinds abound. 6) Formless-born beings or beings born through formlessness. Through a continuous process of annihilation and dispersion, the upside-down state of delusion occurs in this world. It unites with darkness to become eighty-four thousand kinds of random thoughts of obscurity and hiding. From this there come into being the ghana of formless beings, which multiply throughout the lands as those that are empty, dispersed, annihilated, and submerged until their kinds abound. 7) With thought-born beings or beings born with thoughts. Through a continuous process of illusory imaginings, the upside-down state of shadows occurs in this world. It unites with memory to become eighty-four thousand kinds of random thoughts that are hidden and bound up. From this there come into being the ghana of those with thought, which multiply throughout the lands in the form of spirits, ghosts, and weird essences, until their kinds abound. 8) Without thought-born beings or beings born without thought. Through a continuous process of dullness and slowness, the upside-down state of stupidity occurs in this world. It unites with obstinancy to become eighty-four thousand kinds of random thoughts that are dry and attenuated. From this there come into being the ghanas of those without thought, which multiply throughout the lands as their essence and spirit change into earth, wood, metal, or stone, until their kinds abound. 9) Not endowed with form-born beings or beings born not endowed with form. Through a continuous process of parasitic interaction, the upside-down state of simulation occurs in this world. It unites with defilement to become eighty-four thousand kinds of random thoughts of according and relying. From this there come into being those not totally endowed with form, who become ghana of form which multiply throughout the lands until their kinds abound, in such ways as jellyfish that use shrimp for eyes. 10) Not lacking form-born beings or beings born not toally lacking form. Through a continuous process of mutual enticement, an upside-down state of the nature occurs in this world. It unites with mantras to become eighty-four thousand kinds of random thoughts of beckoning and summoning. From this there come into being those not totally lacking form, who take ghana which are formless and multiply throughout the lands, until their kinds abound, as the hiden beings of mantras and incantations. 11) Not totally endowed with thought-born beings or beings born not totally endowed with thought. Through a continuous process of false unity, the upside-down state transgression occurs in this world. It unites with unlike formations to become eighty-four thousand kinds of random thoughts of reciprocal interchange. From this come into being those not totally endowed with thought, which become ghana possessing thought and which multiply throughout the lands until their kinds abound in such forms as the varata, which turns a different creature into its own species. 12) Not totally lacking thought-born beings or beings born through not totally lacking thought. Through a continuous proces of empty and harm, the upside-down state of killing occurs in this world. It unites with monstrosities to become eighty-four thousand kinds of random thoughts of devouring one’s father and mother. From this there come into being those not totally lacking thought, who take ghanas with no thought and multiply throughout the lands, until their kinds abound in such forms as the dirt owl, which hatches its young from clods and dirt, and which incubates a poisonous fruit to create its young. In each case, the young thereupon eat the parents. Notes:
1. The term “Living beings” refer to all creatures that possess life-force. Each individual living being comes into being as the result of a variety of different causes and conditions. The smallest living beings as ants, mosquitoes, or even the most tiniest parasites are living beings. Every being is a combination of five elements: rupa, vedana, sanna, sankhara, and vinnana. Hence, one being is not essentially different from another, an ordinary man is not different from a perfect saint. But is the nature and proportion of each of the five constituents existing in an individual be taken into account, then one being is different from another, an ordinary man is different from a perfect saint. The combination of elements is the outcome of Karma and is happening every moment, implying that the disintegration of elements always precedes it. The elements in a combined state pass as an individual, and from time immemorial he works under misconception of a self and of things relating to a self. His vision being distorted or obscured by ignorance of the truth he can not perceive the momentary combination and disintegration of elements. On the other hand, he is subject to an inclination for them. A perfect man with his vision cleared by the Buddhist practices and culture realizes the real state of empirical things that an individual consists of the five elements and does not possess a permanent and unchanging entity called soul.
2. Feeling is knowledge obtained by the senses, feeling sensation. It is defined as mental reaction to the object, but in general it means receptivity, or sensation. Feeling is also a mind which experiences either pleasure, unpleasure or indifference (pleasant, unpleasant, neither pleasant nor unpleasant). When we meet attractive objects, we develop pleasurable feelings and attachment which create karma for us to be reborn in samsara. In the contrary, when we meet undesirable objects, we develop painful or unpleasurable feelings which also create karma for us to be reborn in samsara. When we meet objects that are neither attractive nor unattractive, we develop indifferent feelings which develop ignorant self-grasping, also create karma for us to be reborn in samsara. All actions performed by our body, speech and mind are felt and experienced, Buddhism calls this “Feeling” and the Buddha confirmed in the Twelve Nidanas that “Feeling” creates karma, either positive or negative, which causes rebirths in samsara.
3. With regard to the psychological question, Buddhism does not admit the existence of a soul that is real and immortal, but a consciousness. Anatma or non-self refers to all things (sarva-dharma), organic and inorganic. In the case of human beings, there will accordingly to be no soul, no real self that is immortal. While in the case of things in general, there will be no noumenon, no essence which is unchangeable. Because there is no real self spatially, i.e., no substance, there will be no permanent, i.e., no duration. Therefore, no bliss, is to be found in the world.Chapter 123. Buddhist Councils A Summary of Buddhist Councils
The Buddha has passed away, but His sublime teaching still exists in its complete form. Although the Buddha’s Teachings were not recorded during His time, his disciples preserved them, by committing to memory and transmitted them orally from generation to generation. At the time of the Buddha, literacy was a privilege of the elite in India, and this another indication of the premium placed on democracy within the Buddhist tradition that literary formulation of the teaching was neglected for so long. Many people were not literate, so word of mouth was the universal medium for preservation and dissemination of the Dharma. Three months after the Buddha’s Parinirvana, there were some tendencies to misinterpret or attempts were being made to pollute His Pure Teaching; therefore, his disciples convened Councils for gathering Buddha’s sutras, or the collection and fixing of the Buddhist canon. In the development of Buddhism, several councils are known, the history of which remains partially obscure. These Councils were originally probably local assemblies of individual monastic communities that were later reported by tradition as general councils. In Buddhist history, there were four great councils inside of India and some other councils outside of India: The First Council
First council convoked by Mahakashyapa in the vicinity of Rajagriha right after Buddha’s Parinirvana. Mahakashyapa questioned Upali concerning the rules of discipline and Ananda concerning the doctrine. On the basis of Upali’s responses the Vinaya-Pitaka was set down, and on the basis of Ananda’s the Sutra-Pitaka. The text, upon which all had agreed, was then recited. In the Records of Fa-Hsien, he also reported the two Buddhist Councils and his narrative although brief, but may be more accurate than that of Hsuan-Tsang. He recorded: “Five to six li (Chinese mile) further west, in the cave of Saptaparna. Right after the Buddha’s Parinirvana, 500 Arhats made a compilation of Sacred Scriptures. During the time of recital three high seats were set up, nicely arranged and adorned. Mahakasyapa in the middle, Sariputra on the left and Maudgalyayana on the right. Of the five hundred Arhats, one was missing. Mahakasyapa presided the Council while Ananda stood outside the gate because he was not able to gain permission.
Three months after the passing of the Buddha (in about 543 B.C.), detecting tendencies within the Sangha toward loss of discipline, as well as misinterpreting His Pure Teaching, the First Council was organized by King Ajatasatru, and held at the Pippala cave, some said near the Saptaparni cave, at Rajagriha in Magadha. Even though the site and name of the cave have not yet been definitely identified. Nonetheless, there is no dispute about the fact that it is at Rajagrha that the First Council met. It is accepted by critical scholars that the First Council settled the Dharma and the Vinaya, and there is no ground for the view that Abhidharma formed part of the canon adopted at the First Council. In this Council, there were 500 Bhiksus, among them Maha-Kasyapa was the most respected and elderly monk, and two very important persons who specialized in the two different areas which are sutras and vinaya were present. One was Ananda and the other was Upali. Only these two sections, the Dharma and the Vinaya, were recited at the First Council. Though there were no differences of opinion on the Dharma, there was some discussion about the Vinaya rules. Before the Buddha’s Parinirvana, he had told Ananda that if the Sangha wished to amend or modify some minor rules, they could do so. However, on that occasion Ananda was so overpowered with grief because the Buddha was about to pass away, he forgot to ask the Master what the minor rules were. As the members of the Council were unable to agree as to what constituted the minor rules, Maha-Kasyapa finally ruled that no disciplinary rule laid down by the Buddha should be changed, and no new ones should be introduced. Maha-Kasyapa said: “If we changed the rules, people will say that the Buddha’s disciples changed the rules even before his funeral fire has ceased burning.” At the Council, the Dharma was divided into various parts and each part was assigned to an Elder and his pupils to commit to memory. The Dharma was then passed on from teacher to pupil orally. The Dharma was recited daily by groups of people who often cross check with each other to ensure that no omissions or additions were made. Historians agree that the oral tradition is more reliable that a report written by one person from his memory several years after the event. The historicity of this Council is doubted by many. Nevertheless, it is likely that the first collection of writings took place relatively early. At the end of the First Council, a monk named Purana was invited by the organizers to participate in the closing phases of the council, but he declined, saying that he would prefer to remember the teachings of the Buddha as he had heard it from the Buddha himself. This fact indicates the freedom of thought existed at the time of the beginning of Buddhist community.
Maha Kasyapa, the most respected and elderly monk, presided at the First Council. Then, Venerable Upali remembered and recited all the rules set forth by the Buddha (rules of the Order), including all rules for monks and nuns. Venerable Upali recited eighty times all these rules in 90 days. These rules include: Sarvastivada-Vinaya, Samghika-Vinaya, Dharmagupta-Vinaya, and Mahissasaka-Vinaya. Then, Venerable Ananda, the closest disciple and the attendant of the Buddha for 25 years. He was endowed with a remarkable memory. First Ananda was not admitted to the First Council. According to the Cullavagga, later other Bhikhus objected the decision. They strongly interceded for Ananda, though he had not attained Arhathood, because of the high moral standard he had reached and also because he had learnt the Dharma and vinaya from the Buddha himself. Ananda was eventually accepted by Mahakasyapa into the Council, and was able to recite what was spoken by the Buddha (sutras and doctrines), including the following sutras: Dirghagama Sutra, collection of Long Discourses; Madhyamaga Sutra, collection of Middle-Length Discourses; Anguttara-agama Sutra, collection of Gradual Sayings; Samyuktagama Sutra, collection of Kindred Sayings; Khuddaka-agama, collection of Smaller Collection. The Second Council
The second council was held in Vaishali, in 386 BC, about a century after the first one. It is considerably better documented in the texts than the first and is generally recognized as a historical event. The reason for the convocation of this council was disunity concerning matter of discipline between monks in Vaishali and disciples of Ananda’s. Monks in Vaishali had accepted gold and silver from lay adherents in violation of the Vinaya rules. Monks in Vaishali were also accused by Yasha, a student of Ananda’s, of nine other violations, including taking food at the wrong time, drinking alcohol, etc. On the other side, monks from Vaishali expelled Yasha from the community because of his accusations. Yasha then sought support from other influential monks and that was why the council was convoked.
The council composed of 700 monks, all arhat, took place in Vaishali. The monks of Vaishali were found guilty by a committee of four senior monks. Monks from Vaishali accepted the judgment of the Council. In the Records of Fa-Hsien, he recorded: “Three or four li further east of Vaisali stands a Stupa. Hundred years after the Buddha’s Parinirvana, some monks in Vaisali practiced ten rules against the monastic disciplines, contending that the Buddha had decreed these practices. At that time, the Arhats and monks who obsereved the rules, 700 in all, checked and collated the Vinaya Pitaka. People of later generations erected a Stupa over this place, which still exists.”
The Second Council was held at Vaisali 100 years after the passing of the Buddha. This Council was held to discuss some Vinaya rules (there was some disunity concerning matter of discipline). There was no need to change the rules three months after the Buddha’s Parinirvana because little or no political, economic or social changes took place during that short interval. But 100 years later, some monks saw the need to change certain minor rules One hundred years after the First Council, the Second Council was held to discuss some Vinaya rules. There was no need to change the rules three months after the Parinirvana of the Buddha bcause little or no political, economic or social changes took place during that short interval. But 100 years later, some monks saw the need to change certain minor rules. The Second Council is considerably better documented in the texts that the first and is generally recognized as a historical event. The Vaisali monks had accepted gold and silver from lay adherents in violation of the Vinaya rules. Moreover, they were accused by Yasha, a student of Ananda’s, of nine further violations, including taking food at the wrong time, separate observance of the Uposatha by monks of a community, and drinking alcoholic beverages.
The orthodox monks said that nothing should be changed, while the monks of the Vajji from Vaisali expelled Yasha from the community because of his accusations. They insisted on modifying some rules as follows: First, Singilonakappa, allowing monks and nuns to store salt in buffalo’s horns, while the orthodox monks considered carrying salt in a hollowed horn. This practice is contrary to Pacittiya 38, which prohibits (forbids) the storage of food and killing. Second, Dvangulakappa, allowing monks and nuns to eat in the afternoon: The practice of taking meals when the shadow is two fingers broad. This practice against Pacittiya 37 which forbids the taking of food after midday. Third, Gamantarakappa, allowing monks and nuns to eat the second time in a day: The practice of going to another village and taking the second meal there on the same day. This practice forbids in Pacittiya 35 which forbids over-eating. Fourth, Avasakappa, allow retreats for spiritual refreshment in a private place: The observance of the Uposatha ceremonies in various places in the same parish. This practice contravenes the Mahavagga rules of residence in a parish (sima). Fifth, Anumatikappa, allowing ordination to proceed even though there are not enough three superior monks and seven witnesses. Obtaining sanction for a deed after it is done. This also amounts to a breach of monastic discipline. Sixth, Acinakappa, allowing monks and nuns to follow their customs and habits (customary practices and precedents). This is also opposed to the rules. Seventh, Amathitakappa, allowing monks and nuns to drink unrefined milk after the meal. This practice is in contravention of Pacittiya 35 which prohibits over-eating. Eighth, Jalogim-patum, allow monks and nuns to drink the drinking of toddy. This practice is opposed to Pacittiya 51 which forbids the drinking of intoxicants. Ninth, Adasakam-nisidanam, allowing monks and nuns to sit down wherever they like to, not to follow rules set forth by the Buddha before. Allow using a rug which has no fringe. This is contrary to Pacittiya 89 which prohibits the use of borderless sheets. Tenth, Jataruparajatam, allowing monks and nuns to store gold and silver, and they are allowed to accept gold and silver. This practice is forbidden by rule 18 of the Nissaggiya-pacittiya.
The Venerable Yasha openly declared these practice to be unlawful. After the sentence of excommunication had been passed on him, he then went to Kausambi to seek support from influential monks in all areas to which Buddhism had spread (the western country of Avanti and of the southern country). He invited them to assemble and decide the question in order to stop the growth of irreligion and ensure the preservation of the Vinaya. Next, he proceeded to Mount Ahoganga where Sambhuta Sanavasi dwelt to show him the ten thesis advocated by the Vajjian monks. He asked the venerable to examine the question in earnest. About the same time, some sixty Arhats from the Western Country and eighty-eight from Avanti and the Southern Country came to assemble on Mount Ahoganga. These monks declared the question to be hard and subtle. They thought of the Venerable Revata who was at Soreyya and was celebrated for his learning and piety. So they proposed to met him and enlist his support. After a good deal of travelling they met the Venerable Revata at Sahajati. On the advice of Venerable Sambuta Sanavasi, Yasha approached the Venerable Revata and explained the issue to him. One by one, Bhikshu Yasha brought up the ten points and asked for his opinion. Each one of them was declared to be invalid by the Venerable Revata:
Meanwhile, the Vajjian monks were not idle. They also went to Sahajati in order to enlist the support of the Venerable Revata. They offered him a lot of presents, but he refused with thanks. They also induced his disciple, Uttara, to take up their cause, but he failed. At the suggestion of Revata, the monks proceeded to Vaisali in order to settle the dispute at the place of its origin. Finally a council composed of 700 monks, all arhats, also called the Council of the Theras. Bhikshu Ajita was appointed the seatregulator. The Venerable Sabbakami was elected president. The ten points were examined carefully one by one. After seeing these above ten changes were so unreasonable. The unanimous verdict of the assembly declared the conduct of the Vajjian monks to be unlawful. As a result, they (Vajjian monks of Vaisali) were found guilty by a committee composed of four monks from eastern and four from western regions, respectively. The Vaisali monks accepted this judgment without any opposition. The erring monks were declared in violation of the orthodox code of discipline and censured accordingly. Thus, in this council, rules of monastic discipline have remained virtually unchanged. Records of this council are found in both the Pali and Sanskrit versions of the Vinaya-Pitaka. The Second Council marked a division between the conservative and the liberal. It is said that Vajjian monks of Vaisali held another Council which was attended by ten thousand monks. It was called The Great Council (Mahasangiti). Even though it was called Mahasanghika, it was not yet known as Mahayana at that time). The Third Council
The Third Council was held at Pataliputra, sponsored by King Asoka, a celebrated Buddhist layman. There are no records of this council in the Vinaya-Pitaka. The reason for the convocation of this council was a disagreement over the nature of an arhat. A monk from Pataliputra, Mahadeva, put forward that an arhat is still subject to temptation and he is not yet free from ignorance; he is still subject to doubts concerning teaching. Also according to Mahadeva, an arhat can make progress on the path to enlightenment through the help of others. These differing views led to the division of the monks and the third council was convoked. However, the council only confirmed the differences instead of reconciling these differences. The Pali school in Ceylon did not accept this council. They accepted the council convoked by King Asoka in 244 BC. The reason for the convocation of the council in 244 BC was a conflict between monks regarding the entering the order of two kinds of monks: 1) who entered to practice Buddhism; 2) others who entered to enjoy certain privileges. Abhidharma of Theravada refuted the heretical views and the entire canon was read out.
A monk from Pataliputra, Mahadeva, put forward the following position: An arhat is still subject to temptation, that is, he can have nocturnal emissions. He is not yet free from ignorance. In addition, he is still subject to doubts concerning the teaching. Moreover, according to according to Mahadeva’s view, an arhat can make progress on the path to enlightenment through the helpof others and, through the utterance of certain sounds, he can further his concentration and thus advance on the path. Differing views on these points led to division of the monks into two camps: Those who affirmed these points of Mahadeva’s, and who believed themselves to be in the majority, called themselves Mahasanghika or Great Community. Their opponents, represented by the “elders,” who were distinguished by outstanding wisdom and virtue, called themselves Sthavira.
With the conversion of King Asoka, the material prosperity of the monasteries grew by leaps and bounds and the monks lived in ease and comfort. The heretics who had lost their income were attracted by these prospects to enter the Buddhist Order. They continued, however, to adhere to their old faiths and practices and preached their doctrines instead of the doctrines of the Buddha. This caused extreme distress to Thera Moggaliputta-Tissa who retired to a secluded retreat on Mount Ahoganga and stayed there for seven years. The number of heretics and false monks became far larger than that of the true believers. The result was that for seven years no Uposatha or retreat (Pavarana) ceremony was held in any of the monasteries. The community of the faithful monks refused to observe these festivals with the heretics. King Asoka was filled with distress at this failure of the Sangha and sent commands for the observance of the Uposatha. However, a grievous blunder was committed by the Minister who was entrusted with this task. His misunderstood the command and beheaded several monks for their refusal to carry out the King’s order. When this sad news reported to Asoka, he was seized with grief and apologized for this misdeed. He then invited Maggaliputta Tissa to hold the Third Council: Thus the Third Council was held by the need to establish the purity of the Canon which had been imperilled by the rise of different sects and their rival claims, teachings and practices.
Because of the above mentioned reasons that caused this division, King Asoka organized the Third Council (in the Third Century B.C.) at Pataliputra, the old capital of Ceylon. King Asoka himself assigned 60,000 monks to participate in this Council. To obey the order of King Asoka, Thera Tissa thereafter elected a thousand monks who were well versed in the three Pitakas to make a compilation of the true doctrine. The Council lasted for nine months to discuss the different opinion among the Bhiksus of different sects. At this Council the differences were not confined to the Vinaya but also connected with the Dharma. This was not a general Council, but rather a party meeting. At the end of this Council, the President of the Council, Moggaliputtra-Tissa, compiled a book called the Kathavatthu refuting the heretical, false views and theories held by some sects. The teaching approved and accepted by this Council was known as Theravada. The Abhidharma Pitaka was included at this Council: Upavasatha-Sila, and Tripitaka, Sutra, Vinaya, and Abhidharma.
One of the important results of thei Council was the dispatch of missionaries to different countries of the world for the propagation of Buddhism. After the Third Council, Asoka’s son, Venerable Mahinda, and the king’s daughter, Sanghamitta, brought the Tripitaka to Sri-Lanka, along with the commentaries that were recited at the Third Council. They were extraordinarily successful in this island. The texts brought to Sri-Lanka were preserved until today without losing a page. The text were written in Pali which was based on the Magadhi language spoken by the Buddha. There was nothing known as Mahayana at that time. Besides, from the edicts of King Asoka, we know of various Buddhist missions he sent to far-off countries in Asia, Afirca, and Europe. It is to a large extent due to these missionary activities that Buddhism became one of the most important religions of mankind. Between the first century B.C. to the first century A.D., the two terms Mahayna and Hinayana appeared in the Saddharma Pundarika Sutra or the Sutra of the Lotus of Good Law. About the Second Century A.D. Mahayana became clearly defined. Nagajuna developed the Mahayana philosophy of Sunyata and proved that everything is void in a small text called Madhyamika-karika. About the Fourth Century, there were Asanga and Vasubandhu who wrote enormous amount of works on Mahayana. After the First Century A.D., the Mahayanists took a definite stand and only then the terms of Mahayana and Hinayana were introduced. We must not confuse Hinayana with Theravada because the terms are not synonymous. Theravada Buddhism went to Sri-Lanka during the Third Century B.C. when there was no Mahayana at all. Hinayana sects developed in India and had an existent independent from the form of Buddhism existing in Sri-Lanka. The Fourth Council
This council had been convoked by the school of Sarvastivadin, under the reign of King Kanishka with the purpose to prevent the reformatory tendencies in the community. There were 500 arhats and 600 bodhisattvas attended this council. Later because of the great importance attained by the Sarvastivadin, this council was recognized as a Buddhist council. The fourth council seems also to have been the synod of a particular school, the Sarvastivadins, more than a general council. The fourth Great Council was held around 70 B.C. in Kashmir under the patronage of King Kanishka, but as the doctrine promulgated were exclusively Sarvastivada School. It is not recognized by the Theravada. The Council was held to discuss new interpretation of part of the Abhidharma that was intended to forestall reformatory tendencies. According to various sources, this Council was attended by 500 arhats as well as 600 Bodhisattvas. King Kanishka summoned this Council at the instigation of an old and learned monk named Parsva. The principal role is ascribed to Vasumitra, while Asvaghosa, who was invited from Saketa to help supervised the writing of the Mahavibhasa, a commentary on the Abhidharma. There is no evidence that Mahayana Buddhism was represented in this Council. However, because of the great importance later attained by the Sarvastivadins, this synod came to be evaluated as a Council having general authority: Sutra Pitaka, Vinaya Pitaka, and Abhidharma Pitaka. The Fifth Buddhist Council
The fifth council was held in 1871 at the instance of King Mindon of Burma. It is said that about 2,400 learned monks and teachers participated in the Council. The elders Jagarabhivamsa, Narindabhidhaja and Sumangala Sami presided in turn. The recitation and recording of the Tripitaka on marble continued for about five months in the royal palce and the Tipitika was carved on 729 marble slabs and preserved at Mandalay. It should be noted that various available editions of the Tripitaka were used for comparison and references in this Council. The Sixth Buddhist Council
The sixth Great Council was held in Rangoon in 1954. About 2,500 learned bhikkhus of the various countries of the world (from India, Burma, Ceylon, Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and Pakistan), among which 500 bhikshus from Burma, who were well versed in the study and practice of the teachings of the Buddha, were invited to take the responsibility for re-examining the text of the entire Pali canon. The Great Council was inaugurated in 1954, was to go on till the completion of its task at the full moon of Vaiskha in 1956, that is, 2,500th anniversary of the Buddha’s mahaparinirvana. The Seventh Buddhist Council and Other Councils
Many people believed that the fifth and the sixth councils were not necessary because after the Fourth Council, all Tripitaka scriptures were collected satisfactorily. Besides, there were many other Councils in Thailand and Ceylon, but they were not considered Councils in the true sense of the term. The seventh council was held during the reign of King Devanampiya Tissa (247-207 B.C.) under the presidentship of Venerable Arittha Thera. This Council was held after the arrival in the island of Buddhist missionaries, headed by Thera Mahinda, a son of Emperor Ashoka. According to tradition, sixty thousand Arhats took part in the assembly. Venerable Thera Arittha, a Simhalese Bhikshu, a great disciple of Thera Mahinda in the line of Simhalese Theras, recited the Canon. As mentioned in the Sangitivamsa, another Council was held during the reign of King Mahanama in 516 Buddhist calendar in which only the commentaries were translated from Sinhalese into Magadhi (Pali) by Bhadanta Buddhaghosa. Another Council was held in 1587 Buddhist Calendar in the reign of King Parakramabahu. The conference took place in the royal palce and lasted for one year. The Council was presided by Venerable Mahakapsyapa, and it is said to have revised only the commentaries of the tripitaka of the Mahatheras. Another Council took place in Thailand either in 2,000 or in 2,026 Buddhist Calendar, and it lasted for one year. In order to establish Buddhism on a firm basis, King Sridharmacakravarti Tilaka Rajadhiraja, the ruler of Northern Thailand called this Council in Chieng-Mai, his capital. Another Council was held in Thailand in 2331 Buddhist Calendar. After a war with its neighboring country, the old capital Ayuthia was destroyed by fire and many books and manuscripts of the Tripitaka were reduced to ashes. Moreover, the Sangha was disorganized and morally weakened by reason of prolonged hostility. Thus, King Rama I and his brother called for a Buddhist Council to restore the faith from everyone. Under the royal patronage, 218 elders and 32 lay scholars assembled together and continued the recitation of the Tripitaka for about a year. Chapter 124. Tripitaka
The Theravada canon written in Pali and the Mahayana canon written in Sanskrit. Three storehouses, or three baskets or collection of canon of Buddhist scriptures, consisting of three parts: The Vinaya-pitaka, Sutra pitaka, Abhidharma-pitaka. Tripitaka is a Sanskrit term meaning literally “three baskets.” It refers to the Buddhist canon, which is divided into three parts: sutras, vinaya, and sastras. The sutras contain all the Buddha’s as well as some of his great diciples’ lectures and teachings. The vinaya contains the precepts taught by the Buddha. And the sastras contain all discussions essays on issues related to the sutras.
The Sutra Pitaka consists chiefly of instructive discourses delivered by the Buddha to both the Sangha and the laity on various occasions. A few discourses expounded by great disciples such as the Venerable Sariputra, Moggallana, and Ananda, are incorporated and are accorded as much veneration as the word of the Buddha himself, since they were approved by him. Most of the sermons were intended mainly for the benefit of Bhikkhus, and they deal with the holy life and with the exposition of the doctrine. There are several other discourses which deal with both the material and the moral progress of his lay-followers. The Sigalaka Sutra, for example, deals mainly with the duties of a layman. There are also a few interesting talks given to children. The Sutra Pitaka may be compared to books of prescriptions, since the discourses were expounded on diverse occasions to suit the temperaments of various persons. There may be seemingly contradictory statements, but they should not be misconstrued, as they were uttered by the Buddha to suit a particular purpose; for instance, to the self-same question he would maintain silence, when the inquirer was merely foolishly inquisitive, or give a detailed reply when he knew the inquirer to be an earnest seeker after the truth.
Names of the sutras called by both the Theravada and Northern Schools, the Sutra Pitaka consists of five volumes. Names of the sutras called by the Mahayana: Digha-Nikaya, Majjhima Nikaya, Samyutta Nikaya, Anguttara Nikaya, and Khuddaka Nikaya. First, Digha-Nikaya (p): Collection of Long iscourses. A Pali term for “Long Discourses,” or Collection of Long Discourses (Dialogues). The term Nikaya is equivalent to Agama in Sanskrit. The first of the five sections of the Pali Canon’s Sutta-pitaka or Basket of Discourses, which contains thirty-four long discourses attributed to Sakyamuni Buddha, and sometime his immediate disciples. It is mostly the same as the Sanskrit Dirghagama in Mahayana sutras, now extant only in Chinese (twenty-seven discourses are common to both). Long-work Sutras or Long Collection, one of the oldest Buddhist sutras expounded by the Buddha Sakyamuni, explained the Buddha’s merits and virtues and the life of the historical Buddha, Buddhist philosophical theories, and theories particularly important for laypeople as parents, children, teachers, students, and so on. Second, Majjhima Nikaya (p): Collection of Middle-Length Discourses. Northern Schools call the Middle Length Discourses in the Pali Canon, or the Collection of Middle-Length Sayings. The Middle Length Discourses in the Pali Canon. The sutra preached by the Buddha about his life as well as those of his disciples’, fundamental doctrine of the Hinayana Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths and the Dependent Origination. This collection was recited by Sariputra at the First Buddhist Council. This is the second section of the Pali Sutta-Pitaka (Basket if Discourses), corresponding to the Sanskrit Madhyama-agama. It contains 152 sermons in Pali, most of which are attributed to Sakyamuni Buddha. Chinese translation of the lost Sanskrit version of 222 sutras, 97 are common to both. This collection was recited by Ananda at the first Buddhist Council. Third, Samyutta Nikaya (p): Collection of Kindred Sayings. The miscellaneous canon, at first said to relate to Bodhisattvas, but it contains miscellaneous works of Indian and Chinese authors, collection made under the Ming dynasty and supplements of the northern Chinese canon with their case marks from the southern canon. A Sanskrit term for “Connected Discourses.” This is the third of the five collections of discourses in the sutra-pitaka (sutta-pitaka) of the Pali Canon, which corresponds to the Samyuktagama of the Sanskrit Tripitaka. It contains fifty-six groups of sutras, which are arranged according to subject matter.The third of five main divisions of the Sutta Pitaka. It consists of numerous short texts dealing with incidents connected with the life and work of the Buddha. Fourth, Anguttara Nikaya (p): Collection of Gradual sayings. Numerical Arranged Subjects, 51 books. One of the four Agamas, the agama in which the sections each increase by one, e.g. the Anguttara Nikaya of the Hinayana; a branch of classifying subjects numerically. Anguttara is a Sanskrit term for “Increased-by-One-Discourses.” The fourth collection in the “Basket of Discourses” (Sutta-pitaka) of the Pail Canon. It contains sermons attributed to the Buddha, and sometimes his main disciples, that are arranged according to the number of items contained in the texts. These are numbered from one to eleven. Fifth, Khuddaka Nikaya (p): Smaller Collection. The Collection of Minor Discourses, the fifth part of the Sutra-pitaka consisting of fifteen short collections or sections, including the Dhammapada, the Udana, the Sutta Nipata, the Theragatha, the Therigatha, and the Jataka. First, Khuddaka Patha or Short texts. Collection of rules and prescriptions for ceremonies. Second, Dhammapada (p): Dhammapada or The Way of Truth. Cllection of 426 verses on the basis of Buddhist teaching, very famous in countries of Theravadan Buddhism. Third, Udana (p): Udana or Paeans of Joy. Eighty pithy sayings of the Buddha. Fourth, Itivuttaka (p): Itivuttaka or “Thus said” Discourses. Treatments of moral questions that are ascribed to the Buddha. Fifth, Sutta Nipata (p): Sutta-Nipata or Collected Discourses. One of the oldest part of the canonical literature, of high literary worth. Sixth, Vimana Vatthu (p): Vimanavatthu or Stories of Celestial Mansions. Collection of eighty three legends that show how one can achieve rebirth as a god or deva through virtuous deeds. Seventh, Peta Vatthu (p): Preta-Vatthu or Stories of Petas. Concerning rebirth as a hungry ghost after an unvirtuous life. Eighth, Theragatha (p): Thera-gatha or Psalms of the Brethren. Collection of 107 songs that are ascribed to the oldest monks in Buddhism. Ninth, Therigatha (p): Theri-gatha or Psalms of the Sisters. Seventy three songs of the female elders who became famous through their virtue. Tenth, Jataka (p): Birth Stories of the Bodhisattva. The birth stories detail the previous lives of the Buddha, his followers and foes. Eleventh, Niddesa (p): Nidessa, or commentary to the expositions in Sutta Nipata. Twelfth, Patisambhida (p): Book on Analytical Knowledge. Analytical treatments in the style of Abhidharma (Abhidharma-Patisambhidamagga). Thirteenth, Apadana (p): Apadana or stories of lives of Arahants. Stories about previous existences of monks, nuns and saints renowned for their beneficient actions. Fourteenth, Buddhavamsa (p): Buddhavamsa or history of the Buddha. Tales in verses about twenty four Buddhas who preceeded Sakyamuni Buddha. Fifteenth, Cariya Pitake (p): Chariya-Pitaka, or Modes of Conduct. Collection of tales that take up themes from the Jataka. They show how the Buddha in his previous existences realized the ten perfections (paramitas).
Talking about history of translation of sutras in China, Japan and Vietnam. The first basket is composed of the discourses of the Buddha and his disciples. The second basket contains accounts of the origins of the Buddhist Sangha as well as the rules of discipline regulating the lives of monks and nuns. The third part is a compendium of Buddhist psychology and philosophy. Chinese first canon was completed by the royal order of Liang-Wu-Ti of 5,400 volumes. Then the K’ai-Yuan catalogue contained 5,048 chuan or books. During the Sung Dynasty, another canon was completed with 5,714 volumes. The South Sung has 5,665 chuan or books. The another canon was completed by the royal order of the Yuan Dynasty of 5,397 volumes. Under the Ming Dynasty another canon was completed with 6,771 volumes. The Ts’ing has 8,460 chuan or books for the Ts’ing dynasty reprinted the Ming canon with supplement; and a new and much enlarged edition has recently been published in Sanghai and Tokyo. The oldest existing canon is believed to be the Korean with 6,467 volumes. The Japanese canon, based on those of the South Sung, has 5,665 chuan or books. Before nineteenth century, there was no need for Vietnam to translate the Tripitaka for it had the same written language with China. Until the end of the twentieth century, Vietnamese monks and nuns, both in Vietnam and abroad, started to translate the Tripitaka into Vietnamese.
According to Most Venerable Narada in The Buddha and His Teaching, the Vinaya Pitaka, which is regarded as the sheet anchor of the Holy Order, deals mainly with the rules and regulations of the Order of Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis. For nearly twenty years after the enlightenment of the Buddha, no definite rules were laid down for the control and discipline of the Sangha. Subsequently as occasion arose, the Buddha promulgated rules for the future discipline of the Sangha. Besides the history of the gradual development of the Sasana from its very inception, a brief account of the life and ministry of the Buddha, and details of the thee councils are some other additional relevant contents of the Vinaya Pitaka. Vinaya Pitaka mentions in details (fully describes) reasons for the promulgation of rules, their various implications, and specific Vinaya ceremonies of the Sangha. In summary, Vinaya Pitaka reveals useful information about ancient history, Indian customs, ancient arts and sciences. The Vinaya Pitaka consists of five books: Parajika or Major offences, Pacittiya or Minor offences, Mahavagga or Great Section, Cullavagga or Lesser Section, and Parivara or Epitome of the Vinaya.
Abhidharma or sastra, or commentaries. The Abhidhamma Pitaka is the most important and most interesting of the three, containing as it does the profound philosophy of the Buddha’s teaching in contrast to the simpler discourses in the Sutta Pitaka. Abhidhamma, the higher doctrine of the Buddha, expounds the quintessence of his profound teachings. According to some scholars, Abhidhamma is not a teaching of the Buddha, but is later elaboration of scholastic monks. Tradition, however, attributes the nucleus of the Abhidhamma to the Buddha himself. The Matika or Matrices of the Abhidhamma such as wholesome states (kusala dhamma), unwholesome states (akusala dhamma), and indeterminate states (abhyakata dhamma), etc., which have been elaborated in the six books, except the Kathavatthu, were expounded by the Buddha. Venerable Sariputta was assigned the honour of having explained all these topics in detail. Whoever the great author or authors may have been, it has to be admitted that the Abhidhamma must be the product of an intellectual genius comparable only to the Buddha. This is evident from the intricate and subtle Patthana Pakarana which describes in detail the various causal relations. To the wise truth-seekers, Abhidhamma is an indispensable gide and an intellectual treat. Here is found food for thought for original thinkers and for earnest students who wish to develop wisdom and lead an ideal Buddhist life. Abhidhamma is not a subject of fleeting interest designed for the superficial reader. Modern psychology, limited as it is, comes within the scope of Abhidhamma inasmuch as it deals with mind, thoughts, thought-processes, and mental properties; but it does not admit of a psyche or a soul. It teaches a psychology without a psyche. Consciousness (citta) is defined. Thoughts are analyzed and classified chiefly from an ethical standpoint. All mental properties (cetasika) are enumerated. The composition of each type of consciousness is set forth in detail. How thoughts arise is minutely described. Bhavanga and javana thought-moments. Irrelevent problems that interest students and scholars, but have no relation to one’s deliverance, are deliberately set aside. Abhidhamma does not attempt to give a systematized knowledge of mind and matter. It investigates these two composite factors of the so-called being, to help the understanding of things as they truly are. Mrs. Rhys Davids wrote about Abhidhamma as follows: “Abhidhamma deals with what we find within us, around us, and of what we aspire to find.” It is generally admitted by most exponents of the Dhamma that a knowledge of the Abhidhamma is essential to comprehend fully the teachings of the Buddha, as it represents the key that opens the door of reality. While the Sutta Pitaka contains the conventional teaching, the Abhidhamma Pitaka contains the ultimate teaching. Chapter 125. Four Magnanimous Vows
The magnanimous Vows mean the four universal vows of a Buddha or Bodhisattva (four magnanimous Vows or four all-encompassing vows). The four great vows are basically a Mahayana reinterpretation of the Four Holy Truths. In addition to ending one’s own suffering, one vows to end the suffering of all living beings. In addition to eliminating one’s own afflictions, one vows to end the inexhaustible afflictions of all living beings. In addition to learning only the single Dharma-door necessary for one’s own enlightenment, one vows to learn all the Dharma-doors, so that one can teach all living beings appropriately. Rather than being satisfied with reaching the stage of the Arhat, one vows to become a Buddha. However, it is not enough just to recite the vows. You have to return the light and think them over: The vows say that I will save countless number of beings. Have I done so? If I have, it should still be the same as if I had not saved them. Why? It is said that the Thus Come One saves all living beings, and yet not a single living being has been saved. This means that even though you have saved quite a few numbers of living beings, but do not attach to the mark of saving living beings. According to the Mahayana, the four great magnanimous vows, that are part of the Bodhisattva vow as they recited three times successively in a Zen monastery after ending the practice of sitting meditation. These vows are also recited at the end of any Buddhist ceremonies. First, Vow to save all living beings without limits: Sentient beings are numberless (countless), I vow to save them all. According to the Sixth Patriarch Hui-Neng Sutra, good knowing advisors, did all of you not just say, “I vow to take across the limitless beings? What does it mean? You should remember that it is not Hui-Neng who takes them across. Good Knowing Advisors, the ‘living beings’ within your mind are deviant and confused thoughts, deceitful and false thoughts, unwholesome thoughts, jealous thoughts, vicious thoughts: and these thoughts are ‘living beings’ The self-nature of each one of them must take itself across. That is true crossing over. What is meant by ‘the self-nature taking across?’ It is to take across by means of right views the living beings of deviant views, affliction, and delusion within your own mind. Once you have right views, use Prajna Wisdom to destroy the living beings of delusion, confusion, and falsehood. Each one takes itself across. Enlightenment takes confusion across, wisdom takes delusion across, goodness takes evil across. Such crossong over is a true crossing. Second, Vow to put an end to all passions and delusions, though inumerous: Afflictions (annoyances) are inexhaustible (endless), I vow to end (cut) them all. Also according to the Sixth Patriarch Hui-Neng Sutra, ‘I vow to cut off the inexhaustible afflictions.’ That is to use the Prajna Wisdom of your own self-nature to cast out the vain and false thoughts in your mind. Third, Vow to study and learn all methods and means without end: Schools and traditions are manifold, I vow to study them all—The teachings of Dharma are boundless, I vow to learn them all. Also according to the Sixth Patriarch Hui-Neng Sutra, ‘I vow to study the immeasurable Dharma-door.’ You must see your own nature and always practice the right Dharma. That is true study. Fourth, Vow to become perfect in the supreme Buddha-law: The Buddha-Way (Truth) is supreme (unsurpassed) , I vow to complete (realize) it. Also according to the Sixth Patriarch Hui-Neng Sutra, ‘I vow to realize the supreme Buddha Way,’ and with humble mind to always practice the true and proper. Separate yourself from both confusion and enlightenment, and always give rise to Prajna. When you cast out the true and the false, you see your nature and realize the Buddha-way at the very moment it is spoken of. Always be mindful; cultivate the Dharma that possesses the power of this vow.” Chapter 126. The Triple Worlds As A Burning House
The three realms of Desire, Form and Formless realms scorching sentient beings, such sufferings are limitless. The triple worlds as a burning house. In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha taught: “The three worlds are unsafe, much like a house on fire. Suffering is all pervasive, truly deserving to be terrified and frightened.” Sentient beings in the three worlds, especially those in the Saha World, are hampered constantly by afflictions and sufferings. Living crowded in the suffering conditions of this Saha World is similar to living in a house on fire, full of dangers, life can end at any moment. Even so, everyone is completely oblivious and unaware, but continues to live leisurely, chasing after the five desires, as if nothing was happening. Sincere Buddhists should always remember this and should always diligently cultivate to seek liberation. The burning house, one of the seven parables in the Wonder Lotus sutra, from which the owner tempts his heedless children by the device of the three kinds of carts (goat, deer and bullock), especially the white bullock cart. The three realms of Desire, Form and Formless realms scorching sentient beings, such sufferings are limitless. The triple worlds as a burning house. In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha taught: “The three worlds are unsafe, much like a house on fire. Suffering is all pervasive, truly deserving to be terrified and frightened.” Sentient beings in the three worlds, especially those in the Saha World, are hampered constantly by afflictions and sufferings. Living crowded in the suffering conditions of this Saha World is similar to living in a house on fire, full of dangers, life can end at any moment. Even so, everyone is completely oblivious and unaware, but continues to live leisurely, chasing after the five desires, as if nothing was happening. Sincere Buddhists should always remember this and should always diligently cultivate to seek liberation. Societies are filled with robberies, murders, rapes, frauds, deceptions, etc. All these continue without any foreseeable end. To speak of our individual mind, everyone is burdened with worries, sadness, depression, and anxieties, etc. In the Dharmapada Sutra, verse 146, the Buddha taught: “How can there be laughter, how can there be joy, when the whole world is burnt by the flames of passions and ignorance? When you are living in darkness, why wouldn’t you seek the light?” Chapter 127. Six Points of Harmony
Six points of harmony are also called six points of reverent harmony or unity in a monastery. In the Middle Length Discourses, the Buddha taught: “O Bhiksus, there are six Dharmas that should be remembered, building up mutual love, mutual respect, leading to harmony, to no quarrel, to mutual understanding, to common aspiration. What are the six? Here O Bhiksus, the monk performs his bodily activities imbued with love towards his religious companions, in public as well as in private. This Dharma should be remembered, building up mutual love, mutual respect, leading to harmony, to no quarrel, to mutual understanding, to common aspiration. Again O Bhiksus, the monk performs his vocal and his mental activities imbued with love towards his religious companions, in public as well as in private. This Dharma should be remembered, building up mutual love, mutual respect, leading to harmony, to no quarrel, to mutual understanding, to common aspiration. Again O Bhiksus, anything that is accepted according to Dharma, lawfully, even offerings deposited in the begging bowl, the monk should not be the one who does not share them with his virtuous religious companions. This Dharma should be remembered… (repeat above statement)… to common aspiration. Again O Bhiksus, as to monastic rules, which are unbroken, unspoilt, unsullied, which have no impurities, leading to emancipation, praised by the wise, which are not be grasped at, leading to concentration, the monk should live in keeping with these rules along with his religious companions, in public as well as in private. This Dharma should be remembered… (repeat above statement)… to common aspiration. Again O Bhiksus, as to the views which belong to the Noble Ones, leading up towards helping those who practice them, putting an end to suffering, the monk should uphold these views along with his religious companions, in public as in private. This Dharma should be remembered, building up mutual love, mutual repsect, leading to harmony, to no quarrel, to mutual understanding, to common aspiration. O Bhiksus, these six Dharmas should be remembered, building up mutual love, mutual respect, leading to harmony, to no quarrel, to mutual understanding, to common aspiration. The six points of reverent harmony or unity in a monastery include bodily unity in form of worship, oral unity in chanting, mental unity in faith, moral unity in observing the commandments, doctrinal unity in views and explanationsDoctrinal unity in views and explanations, and economic unity in community of goods, deeds, studies or charity.
According to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta and Sangiti Sutta, there are six points of reverent harmony or unity in a monastery or convent (Sixfold rules of conduct for monks and nuns in a monastery). The first harmony is precept concord: Precept concord means moral unity in observing the commandments, or always observing precepts together. A monk who, in public and in private, keeps persistently, unbroken and unaltered those rules of conduct that are spotless, leading to liberation, praised by the wise, unstained and conducive to concentration. The second harmony is living concord: Living concord means bodily unity in form of worship, or always living together in peace. A monk who, in public and in private, shows loving-kindness to their fellows in acts of body. The third harmony is idea concord: Idea concord means doctrinal unity in views and explanations or always discussing and obsorbing the dharma together. A monk who, in public and in private, continues in that noble view that leads to liberation, to the utter destruction of suffering. The fourth harmony is beneficial concord: Beneficial concord means economic unity in community of goods, deeds, studies or charity. They share with their virtuous fellows whatever they receive as a rightful gift, including the contents of their alms-bowls, which they do not keep to themselves. The fifth harmony is speech concord: Speech concord means oral unity in chanting or never arguing. A monk who, in public and in private, shows loving-kindness to their fellows in acts of speech. The sixth harmony is thinking concord: Thinking concord means mental unity in faith or always being happy. A monk who, in public or in private, shows loving-kindness to their fellows in acts of thought. Chapter 128. Subduing afflictions
Afflictions are distress, worldly cares, vexations, and as consequent reincarnation. They are such troubles as desire, hate, stupor, pride, doubt, erroneous views, etc., leading to painful results in future rebirths, for they are karma-messengers executing its purpose. Klesa also means “negative mental factors,” that lead beings to engage in non-virtuous actions, which produce karmic results. Afflictions are all defilements that dull the mind, the basis for all unwholesome actions that bind people to the cycle of rebirths. Afflictions also mean all defilements that dull the mind, the basis for all unwholesome actions as well as kinks that bind people to the cycle of rebirths. People also call Afflictions the thirst of Mara. In order to attain enlightenment, the number one priority is to eliminate these defilements by practicing meditation on a regular basis. Practitioners of mindfulness subdue afflictions in four basic ways: Subduing afflictions with the mind by going deep into meditation or Buddha recitation. Subduing afflictions with noumenon. When deluded thoughts arise which cannot be subdued with mind through meditation or Buddha recitation, we should move to the next step by visualizing principles. Whenever afflictions of greed develops, we should visualize the principles of impurity, suffering, impermanence and no-self. When anger arises, we should visualize the principles of compassion, forgiveness and emptiness of all dharmas. Subduing afflictions with phenomena. When meditation, Buddha recitation and Noumenon don’t work for someone with heavy karma, leaving phenomena (external form/leaving the scene) can be used. That is to say to leave the scene. When we know that anger or quarrel is about to burst out, we can leave the scene and slowly sip a glass of water to cool ourselves down. Subduing afflictions with repentance and recitation sutras, mantras, or reciting the noble name of Amitabha Buddha.
As a matter of fact, according to the Mahayana teaching, especially the T’ien-T’ai sect, afflictions are inseparable from Buddhahood. Affliction and Buddhahood are considered to be two sides of the same coin. The one is included in the other. When we realize that afflictions in themselves can have no real and independent existence, therefore, we don’t want to cling to anything, at that very moment, afflictions are bodhi without any difference. Once we thoroughly understand the real meaning of “Afflictions are bodhi”, we’ve already subdued our own afflictions. The Buddha witnessed that all sentient beings undergo great sufferings, so He resolved to leave the home-life, to cultivate and find the way to help sentient beings escape these sufferings. Afflictions manifest themselves through our ignorance. Sometimes they show in our appearance; sometimes they are hidden in our minds, etc. In our daily life, we cannot do without sufferings and afflictions. However, if we know how to cultivate, we always consider “afflictions is Bodhi”. If we know how to use it, affliction is Bodhi; on the contrary, if we do not know how to use it, then Bodhi becomes affliction. According to Late Most Venerable Hsuan-Hua in Talks on Dharma, volume 7, Bodhi is analogous to water, and affliction to ice. Ice and water are of the same substance; there is no difference. In freezing weather, water will freeze into ice, and in hot weather, ice will melt into water. When there are afflictions, water freezes into ice; and when the afflictions are gone, ice melts into water. It is to say, having afflictions is having the affliction-ice of ignorance; having no afflictions is having the Bodhi-water of wisdom. Chapter 129. Good and Evil
According to Buddhism, good is defined as to accord with the right, and bad is defined as to disobey the right. Due to the confused mixture of good and bad karma that we have created, sometimes we have wholesome thoughts and sometimes unwholesome ones. With wholesome thoughts, we vow to avoid evil and do good. With unwholesome thoughts, we are eager to do evil and avoid goodness. For endless eons we have been committing good and evil karmas, doing a few good deeds one day, committing some bad deeds the next day, and then some neutral deeds the day after that. Sincere Buddhists should be very careful in each and every action: walking, standing, lying, and sitting. We should have bright and pure thoughts at all times. At the same time, we should try our best to avoid dark and impure thoughts.
In the Dharmapada Sutra, the Buddha taught: “The evil-doer grieves in this world and in the next; he grieves in both. He grieves and suffers when he perceives the evil of his own deeds (Dharmapada 15). The virtuous man rejoices in this world, and in the next. He is happy in both worlds. He rejoices and delights when he perceives the purity of his own deeds (Dharmapada 16). The evil man suffers in this world and in the next. He suffers everywhere. He suffers whenever he thinks of the evil deeds he has done. Furthermore he suffers even more when he has gone to a woeful path (Dharmapada 17). The virtuous man is happy here in this world, and he is happy there in the next. He is happy everywhere. He is happy when he thinks of the good deeds he has done. Furthermore, he is even happier when he has gone to a blissful path (Dharmapada 18). Do not associate with wicked friends, do not associate with men of mean nature. Do associate with good friends, do associate with men of noble nature (78). Let’s hasten up to do good. Let’s restrain our minds from evil thoughts, for the minds of those who are slow in doing good actions delight in evil (Dharmapada 116). If a person commits evil, let him not do it again and again; he should not rejoice therein, sorrow is the outcome of evil (Dharmapada 117). If a person does a meritorious deed, he should do it habitually, he should find pleasures therein, happiness is the outcome of merit (Dharmapada 118). Even an evil-doer sees good as long as evil deed has not yet ripened; but when his evil deed has ripened, then he sees the evil results (Dharmapada 119). Even a good person sees evil as long as his good deed has not yet ripened; but when his good deed has ripened, then he sees the good results (Dharmapada 120). Do not disregard (underestimate) small evil, saying, “it will not matter to me.” By the falling of drop by drop, a water-jar is filled; likewise, the fool becomes full of evil, even if he gathers it little by little (Dharmapada 121). Do not disregard small good, saying, “it will not matter to me.” Even by the falling of drop by drop, a water-jar is filled; likewise, the wise man, gathers his merit little by little (Dharmapada 122). A merchant with great wealth but lacks of companions, avoids a dangerous route, just as one desiring to live avoids poison, one should shun evil things in the same manner (Dharmapada 123). With a hand without wound, one can touch poison; the poison does not afftect one who has no wound; nor is there ill for him who does no wrong (Dharmapada 124). Whoever harms a harmless person who is pure and guiltless, the evil falls back upon that fool, like dust thrown against the wind (Dharmapada 125). Some are born in a womb; evil-doers are reborn in hells; the righteous people go to blissful states; the undefiled ones pass away into Nirvana (Dharmapada 126). Neither in the sky, nor in mid-ocean, nor in mountain cave, nowhere on earth where one can escape from the consequences of his evil deeds (Dharmapada 127). A fool does not realize when he commits wrong deeds; by his own deeds the stupid man is tormented, like one is lighting fires wherein he must be burnt one day (Dharmapada 136). Even the royal chariot well-decorated becomes old, the body too will reach old age. Only the Dharma of the Good Ones does not decay. Thus the good people reveal to good people (151). Bad deeds are easy to do, but they are harmful, not beneficial to oneself. On the contrary, it is very difficult to do that which is beneficial and good for oneself (Dharmapada 163). The foolish man who slanders the teachings of the Arhats, of the righteous and the Noble Ones. He follows false doctrine, ripens like the kashta reed, only for its own destruction (Dharmapada 164). By oneself the evil is done, by oneself one is defiled or purified. Purity or impurity depend on oneself. No one can purify another (Dharmapada 165). Whosoever uses good deed, to cover evil deed being done. Such person outshines this world, like the moon free from the clouds (173). Being absent a long time, a man has returned home safe and sound; relatives, friends and acquaintances welcome him home. In the same way, good actions will welcome the well doer, who has gone from this world to the next world, just as relatives welcome a dear one who has come back (219 & 220). Even from afar the good ones shine, like the mountain of snow. The bad ones even here are not to be seen, like the arrows shot in the night (304). Better not to do evil deed, afterward evil deed brings up torment. Better to perform good deed, having done good deed there will be no torment (314).”
According to the Theravadan Buddhism, there are ten evil actions. All karmas are controlled by the threefold deed (body, speech, and mind). Three deeds of the body, four deeds of the mouth, and three deeds of the mind: killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, slandering, harsh language, greed, ill-will, and wrong views. First, taking the life of any beings, including human or animal. Killing means the destruction of any living being including animals of all kinds. To complete the offence of killing, five conditions are necessary: a being, consciousness that it is a being, intention of killing, effort of killing, and consequent death. Second, Stealing, all forms of acquiring for onself that which belongs to another. To complete the offence of stealing, five conditions are necessary: property of other people, consciousness that it is stealing, intention of stealing, effort of stealing, and consequent stealing. Third, sexual misconduct, including all forms of sex-indulgence, by action or thoughts wants. To complete the offence of sexual misconduct, three conditions are necessary: intent to enjoy the forbidden object, efforts of enjoyment of the object, and possession of the object. Fourth, lying or telling lie: To complete the offence of lying, four conditions are necessary: untruth, intention to deceive, effort, and communication of the matter to others. Fifth, slandering (to slander or speak with a double-tongue or to speak ill of one friend to another). To complete the offence of slandering, five conditions are necessary: division of people, intention to separate people, effort of division, and communication. Sixth, harsh language: The effects of harsh language are being detested by others although blameless. To complete the offence of harsh language, three conditions are necessary: someone to be abused, angry thought, and using abusive or harsh language. Seventh, frivolous talk and the effects of frivolous talk are disorderliness of the bodily organs and unacceptable speech. To complete the offence of frivolous talk, two conditions are necessary: inclination towards frivolous talk and speaking of frivolous talk. The evil karma of speech is the mightiest. We must know that evil speech is even more dangerous than fire because fire can only destroy all material possessions and treasures of this world, but the firece fire of evil speech not only burns all the Seven Treasures of Enlightened beings and all virtues of liberation, but it will also reflect on the evil karma vipaka in the future. Eighth, greed or covetousness: To complete the offence of covetousness, two conditions are necessary: another’s property and desire for another’s property. Ninth, ill-will: To complete the offence of ill-will, two conditions are necessary: another being and i intention of doing harm. Tenth, false view, which means seeing things wrongly without understanding what they truly are. To complete this false view two conditions are necessary: perverted manner in which an object is viewed and misunderstanding of the object according to that wrong view. Therefore, the Buddha taught: “Devout Buddhists should always remember in mind the followings: not to kill, not to steal, not to fornicate, not to lie, not to polish your words for personal advantages, not to slander nor double-tongued, not to use harsh speech (not be of evil speech), not to crave (desire, greed), not to be angry, and not to be ignorant (Stupid) or wrong views.” Chapter 130. Always Feel a Great Sense of Shame and Remorse for the Past Errors
Patience or forebearance of repentance or regret for error. This is one of the most wonderful methods of letting go in the path of cultivation because once we vow never to commit something again that means we let it go forever. From infinite reincarnations in the past to the present, we have existed in this cycle of rebirths. Because of ignorance and greediness for desires of talent, beauty, fame, food, sleep, wealth, and power, etc. which have masked and covered our true nature, causing us to to lose our ways and end up committing endless karmic transgressions. Moreover, because of our egotistical nature, we only hold to the concept of self and what belong to us, we are only concerned with benefiting ourselves but have absolutely no regards on how our actions may affect others. Thus, in this way, whether unintentionally or intentionally, we often bring pains and sufferings to countless sentient beings, committing infinite and endless unwholesome karma, consequently, creating countless enemies. Even the most precious Triple Jewels, we still make false accusations and slander. All such karmic transgressions are countless. Now we are fortunate enough, having a few good karma leftover from former lives, to be able to meet a good knowing advisor to guide and lead us, giving us the opportunity to understand the philosophy of Buddhism, begin to see clearly our former mistakes and offenses. Therefore, it is necessary to feel ashame, be remorseful, and bring forth the three karmas of body, speech and mind to repent sincerely. Repentance is one of the most entrances to the great enlightenment; for with it, the mind within is always stilled.
Repentance means repenting of past errors, feeling a great sense of shame and remorse for the transgressions we made in the past (repent misdeeds and mental hindrances or karmic obstacles). Reform means turning away from the future errors, resolving to improve oneslef and never making those mistakes again. Patience or forebearance of repentance or regret for error. In addition, repentance is the confession of our own past physical and mental misdeeds, our minds are purified by such repentance, and because it frees us from a sense of sin, we feel greatly refreshed. From infinite reincarnations in the past to the present, we have existed in this cycle of rebirths. Because of ignorance and greediness for desires of talent, beauty, fame, food, sleep, wealth, and power, etc. which have masked and covered our true nature, causing us to lose our ways and end up committing endless karmic transgressions. Moreover, because of our egotistical nature, we only hold to the concept of self and what belong to us, we are only concerned with benefitting to ourselves but have absolutely no regards on how our actions may affect others. Thus, in this way, whether unintentionally or intentionally, we often bring pains and sufferings to countless sentient beings, committing infinite and endless unwholesome karma, consequently, creating countless enemies. Even the most precious Triple Jewels, we still make false accusations and slander. All such karmic transgressions are countless. Now we are fortunate enough, having a few good karma leftover from former lives, to be able to meet a good knowing advisor to guide and lead us, giving us the opportunity to understand the philosophy of Buddhism, begin to see clearly our former mistakes and offenses. Sincere Buddhists should always remember that all bad deeds ended yesterday. Since today, we start a new day for our life. If we don’t diligently repent, then the karma from past offenses will continue to make us fall. Therefore, it is necessary to feel ashame, be remorseful, and bring forth the three karmas of body, speech and mind to repent sincerely. Repentance is one of the most important entrances to the great enlightenment; for with it, the mind within is always stilled. Repentance does not mean to compromise with oneself, not having a lukewarm or equivocal attitude, but polishing one’s Buddha-nature by gradually removing illusions and defilements from one’s mind. The practice of repentance consists in the Bodhisattva practice, through which one not only polishes his Buddha-nature but also renders service to others. Repentance is an indispensable requisite of religious life. It is to be hoped that all people will repeatedly perform repentance in their daily lives. Thus the Buddha taught in the Lotus Sutra: “If, in the future worlds, there be any who practices laws of repentance, know that such a man has put on the robes of shame, is protected and helped by the Buddhas, and will attain Perfect Enlightenment before long.”
Repentance of all offenses for “all such offenses, limitless and boundless.” Our offenses are not only beyond reckoning, they are indeed vast beyond all bounds. Now that we realize how deep our offenses are and how serious our obstructions are, we should sincerely repent before the Buddhas. In repentance, sincerity is essential. When we seek to repent and reform we must confess sincerely. If we are not sincere about repenting of our sins, then even after many eons as there are sands in a hundred million Ganges Rivers, the karma of our offenses will never be cancelled. Ancient virtues taught the following verse (in Chinese) of repentance:
For all the bad karmas created in the past,
Based upon beginningless greed, hatred and stupidity.
And born of body, mouth and mind,
I now repent and reform.
This verse of repentance not only allows us to repent of our offenses which have become obstructions, it also explains what caused us to create those offenses. Sincere Buddhists should always remember that whether it is the three offenses of killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct which we commit with our bodies; or the lying, frivolous talks, scolding, and backbiting committed in our speech; or the greed, hatred and stupidity in our mind, we must sincerely repent of them all. Otherwise, we will be sinking deeper and deeper in the sea of karmas as our offenses grow heavier.
The state of feeling of guilt presents when we have spoken or done something that cause suffering to others, even though they don’t know. Buddhists should not bear in their mind such feeling. Instead, we should genuinely remorse. Good Buddhists should always remember that unwholesome speeches and deeds will surely bear their bad fruits. Thus, whenever we have done something wrong, we should honestly admit and correct our wrong-doings. Externalists believe that there exists a so-called “Redeemer” in this world, but Buddhism does not stress on atonement. According to Buddhism, each person must work out his own salvation. We can help others by thought, words, and deeds, but cannot bear another’s results or take over consequences of another’s errors or misdeeds. However, Buddhism stresses on compassion of Bodhisattvas which help other beings relieve sufferings and afflictions. According to Buddhism, regret can be either a wholesome or unwholesome or neutral mind. Regret is a mind which feels sorrow or remorse about past actions. Regret for negative past actions (non-virtuous) is a positive regret; however, regret for positive past actions (virtuous) is a negative regret. According to Buddhism, sincere Buddhists should always repent misdeeds and mental hindrances means from beginningless kalpas in the past, we have created all measureless and boundless evil karma with our body, mouth and mind because of greed, hatred and ignorance. And due to the evil influence of the three poisons, our bodies engage in the karma of killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct. In our speech, we engage in lying, frivolous talks, scolding, backbiting, and so on. Now we bow before all Buddhas of ten directions that we completely purify these three karmas. Repent misdeeds and mental hindrances, the fourth of the ten conducts and vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva. Besides, the rules for repentance and confession is a regular confessional service for monks and nuns.
According to the Sutra In Forty-Two Sections, Chapter 5, the Buddha said: “If a person has many offenses and does not repent of them but merely stop thinking about them, the offenses will engulf him, just as water returning to the sea will gradually become deeper and broader. If a person has offenses and repents (practices good), the offenses will dissolve of themselves, just as a sick person begins to perspire and is gradually be cured.” In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha taught about repentance of the three major classes as follows: Suppose that a Sravaka breaks the threefold refuge, the five precepts, the eight precepts, the precepts of Bhikshus, of Bhikshunis, of Sramaneras, of Sramanerikas, and of Sikshamanas, and their dignified behavior, and also suppose that because of his foolishness, evil, and bad and false mind he infringes many precepts and the rules of dignified behavior. If he desires to rid himself of and destroy these errors, to become a Bhikshu again and to fulfill the laws of monks, he must diligently read the all the Vaipulya sutras (sutras of Great Extent), considering the profound Law of the Void of the first principle, and must bring this wisdom of the Void to his heart; know that in each one of his thoughts such a one will gradually end the defilement of all his longstanding sins without any remainder. This is called one who is perfect in the laws and precepts of monks and fulfills their dignified behavior. Such a one will be deserved to be served by all gods and men. Suppose any Upasaka violates his dignified behavior and does bad things. To do bad things means, namely, to proclaim the error and sins of the Buddha-laws, to discuss evil things perpetrated by the four groups, and not to feel shamed even in committing theft and adultery. If he desires to repent and rid himself of these sins, he must zealously read and recite the Vaipulya sutras and must think of the first principle. Suppose a king, a minister, a Brahman, and other citizens, an elder, a state official, all of these persons seek greedily and untiringly after desires, commit the five deadly sins, slander the the Vaipulya sutras, and perform the ten evil karma. Their recompense for these great evils will cause them to fall into evil paths faster than the breaking of a rainstorm. They will be sure to fall into the Avici hell. If they desire to rid themselves of and destroy these impediments of karmas, they must raise shame and repent all their sins. They want to rid themselves of karmas, they must constantly have the right mind, not slander the Three Treasures nor hinder the monks nor persecute anyone practicing brahma-conduct. They must support, pay homage to, and surely salute the keeper of the Great Vehicle; they must remember the profound doctrine of sutras and the Void of the first principle. They must discharge their filial duty to their fathers and mothers and to respect their teachers and seniors. They must rule their countries with the righteous law and not to oppress their people unjustly. They must issue within their states the ordinance of the six day of fasting and to cause their people to abstain from killing wherever their powers reach. They must believe deeply the causes and results of things, to have faith in the way of one reality, and to know that the Buddha is never extinct.
Buddhists should not commit offenses. On the contrary, we should create more merit and virtue to offset the offenses that we committed before. However, if we commit offenses, we should repent, for once repented, great offenses will be eradicated. What should devout Buddhists repent? We should tell all of our offenses in front of the fourfold assembly and vow not to repeat those offenses again. To be able to do this, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will support and help us eradicate our karmas, for our offenses from before were all committed unintentionally. If we already vowed to repent and we still deliberately commit the same offense again, repentance will not help. Our act will become fixed karma and in the future we will definitely receive the retribution. Devout Buddhists should not think that if we create offenses, we can simply repent to eradicate these offenses, and so keep on creating more offenses while continuously vowing to repent. In the future, the offenses accumulated will be as high as Mount Meru. This way, there is no way we can avoid falling into hells. Some people seek the presence of the Buddha to rid one of sinful thoughts and passions. To hold repentance before the mind until the sign of Buddha’s presence annihilates the sin. However, Zen practitioners should cultivate meditation and contemplation to prevent wrong thoughts and delusions that hinder the truth.
The Buddha taught: “The body is the origin of all sufferings, is the root of all tortures, punishments and karmic retributions in the three domains.” Because of ignorance and stupidity, sentient beings are only concerned with our bodies and have not the slightest care of other people’s bodies. We are only aware of our own sufferings, but completely oblivious of others’ pains and sufferings. We only know of our hopes for peace and happiness but unaware that others, too, have hope for peace and happiness. Moreover, because of ignorance and stupidity, we give rise to the mind of self and other, which gives rise to the perception of friends and strangers. Gradually over time, this perception sometimes develops into feuds and hatred among people, who become enemies for countless aeons (life after life, one reincarnation after reincarnation). There are three kinds of body karma: killing, stealing, and sexual misconducts. To repent the body karma, we should bow and prostrate our body to the Triple Jewels, and realize that our body is inherently impermanent, filled with sicknesses, constantly changing, and transforming. Thus, in the end, we cannot control and command it. We should never be so obssessed and overly concerned with our body and let it causes so many evil deeds. Also according to the Buddha, the mouth is the gate and door to all hateful retaliations. The karmic retribution for speech-karma is the greatest. Speech-karma gives rise to four great karmic offenses: lying, insulting, gossiping, and speaking with a double-tongue maner. Because of these four unwholesome speeches, sentient beings accumulate infinite and endless offenses ranging from speaking artificially, sweetly, manipulatively to speaking untruthfully, words and actions contradicting one another, etc. Once the mind of hatred arises, not mention strangers, even one’s parents, religious masters, etc., there is not an insult one will not speak. No malicious words will be spared, whether saying hateful words with intention of causing separation between two people, saying something happened when it didn’t or when it didn’t happened saying it did; thus speaking irresponsibly and chaotically without the slightest consideration of what is being said. Sincere Buddhists should always repent the body-karma by using the “mouth of transgressions” of the past to change it into praises and glorification of the virtuous practices of the Buddhas. Use that speech often to speak of kindness, encouraging others to cultivate the Way and change for the better, i.e. sitting meditation, Buddha-Recitation, or chanting sutras, etc. Thereafter, for the remainder of this life, vow not to use one mouth and tongue to speak vulgarly, disrespectfully, and before the Triple Jewels, sincerely confess and willingly admit to all offenses without concealment. Thus, use the same mouth and tongue which has created countless offenses in the past to give birth to infinite merits, virtues, and wholesome karma at the present. Sincere Buddhists should always remember that the mind consciousness is the reason to give rise to infinite offenses of the other five consciousnesses, from Sight, Hearing, Scent, Taste, and Touch Consciousnesses. The mind consciousness is similar to an order passed down from the King to his magistrates and chancellors. Eyes take great pleasure in looking and observing unwholesome things, ears take great pleasure in listening to melodious sounds, nose takes great pleasure in smelling aromas and fragrance, tongue takes great pleasure in speaking vulgarly and irresponsibly as well as finding joy in tasting the various delicacies, foods, and wines, etc; body takes great pleasure in feeling various sensations of warmth, coolness, softness, velvet clothing. Karmic offenses arise from these five consciousness come from their master, the Mind; the mind consciousness is solely responsible for all their actions. In the end, this will result in continual drowning in the three evil paths, enduring infinite pains and sufferings in hells, hungry ghosts, and animals. In the Dharmapada, the Buddha taught: “Guard one’s mind much like guarding a castle; protect the mind similar to protecting the eye ball. Mind is an enemy capable of destroying and eliminating all of the virtues and merits one has worked so hard to accumulate during one’s existence, or sometimes many lifetimes. To repent the mind-karma, sincere Buddhists should think that the three karmas of Greed, Hatred, and Ignorance of the mind are the roots and foundations of infinite karmic transgressions. The mind-karma is the web of ignorance which masks our wisdom and is the affliction and worry that cover our true nature. It should be feared and needs be avoided. Sincere Buddhists should use their heart and mind to sincerely confess and repent, be remorseful, and vow never again to commit such offenses. From infinite eons, because we have been drowning deeply in the concept of “Self,” ignorance has ruled and governed us. Thus, our body, speech, and mind have created infinite karmas and even great transgressions, such as being ungrateful and disloyal to our fathers, mothers, the Triple Jewels, etc, were not spared. Now that we are awakened, it is necessary to feel ashamed and be remorseful by using the same three karmas of body, speech, and mind to repent sincerely. Maitreya Bodhisattva, even as a “One-Birth Maha-Bodhisattva,” six times daily he still performs the repentance ceremony praying to eliminate binding ignorance quickly. As a Maha-Bodhisattva, his ‘binding ignorance’ is infinitesimal, yet He still repents to eliminate them. Sincere Buddhists should develop vow to feel ashamed and be remorseful by using the same three karmas of body, speech, and mind to repent sincerely, to make the Triple Jewels glorious, help and rescue sentient beings, in order to compensate and atone for past transgressions and repay the four-gratefuls including the Triple Jewels, parents, teachers of both life and religion, and all sentient beings. Body karma openly confess all transgressions, vow not to kill or prohibiting taking of life, not to steal or prohibiting stealing, not to commit adultery or prohibiting commiting adultery, and pray for them to disappear, and then use that body to practice wholesome actions, such as alms givings, offerings, etc. Speech karma openly confess all transgressions, vow not to lie, not to exaggerate, not to abuse (curse), not to have ambiguous talk, not to insult, not to exaggerate, not to speak with a double-tongue, and pray for them to disappear, and then use that speech to practice Buddha Recitation, chant sutras, speak wholesomely, etc. Mind Karma must be genuine, remorseful, vow not to be covetous, not to be malicious, not to be unbelief, not to be greedy, not to be hatred, not to be ignorant, vowing not to revert back to the old ways. When making confession, we should vow:
“I confess all my unwholesome deeds.
The ten non-virtues and the five heinous crimes.
Committed to date from time without beginning.
Through my mind overwhelmed by ignorance.”
In short, letting go will be naturally achieved when we always feel a great sense of shame and remorse for our past errors, because when we really see our wrongdoings, we will not continue to stubbornly attach to them any more. We, Buddhist practitioners, try to confess our negative actions committed from time without beginning. When we first took birth, given the countless number of bodies into which we have been born. According to Buddhism point of view, death is not an end but a means leading to another rebirth. The conscious mind only migrates from life to life. The starting point of such a process is impossible to retrace. However, our existence in samsara is not naturally infinite. It is possible to put an end to it. The only way to do is by realizing selflessness. As seed has no beginning but it is not naturally infinite, if we burn the seed we can destroy its potential to grow. That is the end of it. It is extremely difficult for us to remember the negative conduct of all our past lives, but we can think of negative deeds we have committed since such a time we can remember. When making confession, sincere Buddhists should always think about the non-virtuous deeds of countless past lives even though we cannot identify them. Confession is not a simple thing of narrating our negative deeds with no serious thought of repentance. The skillful way of making confessions is to do it with a real feeling of remorse.
Therefore, it becomes necessary to recollect our misdeeds so that one can think about them and feel sorry about them. This will lead you to expiate your crime. The innate nature of our mind is clear light. It is the very personification of perfection; however, this clear light is temporarily obscured. It is contaminated; beclouded by our own afflictive emotions. That is why we say in our confession that through our mind overwhelmed by ignorance we have committed since time without beginning unwholesome deeds. Due to our deluded mind, even in this present life, we are constantly operating with negative actions. We do not have much freedom from afflictive emotions. We are enslaved by them. We are prisoners of our own devices. For example, when anger rises in us, we become completely under the control of this afflictive emotion. It makes us think and act in ways we do not want to. If we step back and look in a mirror when we become angry, we will see what anger has done to us. We will see anger’s power to destroy us and others around us. We might wonder if it is indeed possible to expiate a non-virtuous deed such as one of these five heinous crimes. According to “Prasanghika Madhyamika,” any kind of negative deed can be expiated. This is a property of negativities. If we do not leave them unattended until they are ripen, we can purify them. Non-virtuous deeds are negative by nature but have the quality of being purified. There are people who believe that they can get away with whatever negative action they commit. They are those who do not believe in the law of cause and effect. We have no comment on these people. Sincere Buddhists should always remember that according to the law of cause and effect, the consequences of any kind of act one commits, virtuous or non-virtuous, must be faced by that same person. In other words, each person is responsible for his own actions. Chapter 131. Three Poisons of Lust-Anger-Ignorance
Poison is also called Defilement or Hindrances. These poisons are sources of all passions and delusions. The fundamental evils inherent in life which give rise to human suffering. The three poisons are regarded as the sources of all illusions and earthly desires. They pollute people’s lives. Poisons include harsh or stern words and misleading teaching. Poisons are also the turbidity of desire or the contamination of desire. The poison of desire or love which harms devotion to Buddhist practices. Besides, the poison of delusion, one of the three poisons, and the poison of touch, a term applied to woman. Three Poisons or three sources of all passions and delusions. The fundamental evils inherent in life which give rise to human suffering. The three poisons are regarded as the sources of all illusions and earthly desires. They pollute people’s lives. Broadly speaking, men worry about many things, there are 84,000 worries. But after analysis, we can say there are only 10 serious ones including the three evil roots of greed, hatred, and delusion. Three poisons of greed, hatred and ignorance do not only cause our afflictions, but also prevent us from tasting the pure and cool flavor of emancipation (liberation).
The First Poison of Greed: Greed or selfish desires mean wanting for more than we need or deserve, such as food, house, car, wealth, honors, etc. Eyes are longing for viewing beautiful forms without any satisfaction, ears are longing for melodious sounds, nose is longing for fragrance, tongue is longing for delicate tastes, body is longing for soothing touches, and mind is longing for various emotions of love and hate from self and others. Human beings’ greediness is like a barrel without bottom. It is just as the great ocean obtaining continuously the water from hundreds and thousands of large and small rivers and lakes everyday. In this Dharma Ending Age, sentient beings, especially human beings use every method to manipulate and harm one another. Sentient beings’ lives, especially, those of human beings’ are already filled with pain and sufferings, now there are even more pain and sufferings. Through tricks, expedients, and manipulations we try to reach our goal irrespective of whatever happens to others. Greed is a powerful mental force that drives people to fight, kill, cheat, lie and perform various forms of unwholesome deeds. Greed is the first of the three poisons. Coveting others’ possessions is when we plan how to procure something belonging to another person. While coveting is a mental action no one else can see, it can lead us to flatter, bribe, cheat or steal from others to obtain what we desire. Greed, the first unwholesome root, covers all degrees of selfish desire, longing, attachment, and clinging. Its characteristic is grasping an object. Its function is sticking, as meat sticks to a hot pan. It is manifested as not giving up. Its proximate cause is seeing enjoyment in things that lead to bondage. People usually have greed for wealth, sex, fame, food, sleep or greed for forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and objects of touch, and so on, and so on. According to Most Venerable in The Buddha and His Teachings, there are three conditions that are necessary to complete the evil of covetousness: first, another’s possession; second, adverting to it, thinking “would this be mine”; and third, to actually take another’s possession without permission. According to the Sangiti Sutta in the Long Discourses of the Buddha, there are five kinds of begrudging: first, begrudging as to dwelling-place; second, begrudging as to family; third, begrudging as to gains; fourth, begruding as to beauty; and fifth, begrudging as to Dhamma. There are also five kinds of selfishness: first, this abode (house or place) is mine and no one else’s; second, this almsgiving household is mine and no one else’s; third, I am the only one who receive this alms; fourth, I am the only one who deserve this praise; no one else who deserves this; and fifth, I am the only one who has the knowledge of truth, but I don’t want to share with any one else. According to The Path of Purification, there are five kinds of avarice: first, avarice about dwellings; second, avarice about families; third, avarice about gain; fourth, avarice about Dharma; and fifth, avarice about praise.
Craving (greed, affection, or desire) means desire for and love of the things of this life. Most people define happiness as the satisfaction of all desires. The desires are boundless, but our ability to realize them is not, and unfulfilled desires always create suffering. When desires are only partially fulfilled, we have a tendency to continue to pursue until a complete fulfillment is achieved. Thus, we create even more suffering for us and for others. We can only realize the true happiness and a peaceful state of mind when our desires are few. This is one of the great steps towards the shore of liberation. The Buddha taught: “Greed and desire are the cause of all unhappiness or suffering. Everything sooner or later must change, so do not become attached to anything. Instead devote yourself to clearing your mind and finding the truth, lasting happiness.” Knowing how to feel satisfied with few possessions help us destroy greed and desire. This means being content with material conditions that allow us to be healthy and strong enough to cultivate. This is an effective way to cut through the net of passions and desires, attain a peaceful state of mind and have more time to help others. The defilements we call lust or greed, anger and delusion, are just outward names and appearances, just as we call a house beautiful, ugly, big, small, etc. These are only appearances of things. If we want a big house, we call this one small. We creates such concepts because of our craving. Craving causes us to discriminate, while the truth is merely what is. Look at it this way. Are you a person? Yes. This is the appearance of things. But you are really only a combination of elements or a group of changing aggregates. If the mind is free it does not discriminate. No big and small, no you and me, nothing. We say ‘anatta’ or ‘not self’, but really, in the end, there is neither ‘atta’ nor ‘anatta’. Greed should be balanced by contemplation of loathsomeness. Attachment to bodily form is one extreme, and one should keep the opposite in mind. Examine the body as a corpse and see the process of decay, or think of the parts of the body, such as lungs, spleen, fat, feces, and so forth. Remembering these and visualizing the loathsome aspects of the body will free us from greed.
The Second Poison of Anger or Resentment: This is one of the three fires which burn in the mind until allowed to die for fuelling. Anger is one of the three poisons in Buddhism (greed, anger and ignorance). Anger is an emotional response to something that is inappropriate or unjust. If one does not obtain what one is greedy can lead to anger. Anger is an emotion involved in self-protection. However, according to Buddhist doctrines, anger manifests itself in a very crude manner, destroying the practitioner in a most effective way. The Buddha makes it very clear that with a heart filled with hatred and animosity, a man cannot understand and speak well. A man who nurtures displeasure and animosity cannot appease his hatred. Only with a mind delighted in harmlessness and with loving kindness towards all creatures in him hatred cannot be found. Thus, according to the Buddha’s teachings in the Dharmapada Sutra, to subdue anger and resentment, we must develop a compassionate mind by meditating on loving kindness, pity and compassion. According to Buddhism, the basis of anger is usually fear for when we get angry we feel we are not afraid any more, however, this is only a blind power. The energy of anger, if it’s not so destructive, it may not be of any constructive. In fact, extreme anger could eventually lead us even to taking our own life. Thus the Buddha taught: “When you are angry at someone, let step back and try to think about some of the positive qualities of that person. To be able to do this, your anger would be reduced by its own.”
The anger or dosa is the root of suffering and the rebirth in hell. Anger, ire, wrath, resentment, one of the six fundamental klesas. Anger happens when one represses the emotional feelings deep inside. This is one of the three poisons in Buddhism (greed, anger, ignorance). One of the three fires which burn in the mind until allowed to die for fuelling. Anger manifests itself in a very crude manner, destroying the practitioner in a most effective way. To subdue anger and resentment, we must develop a compassionate mind. According to Buddhist psychology, the mental factor of aversion is always linked to the experience of pain. One may be greedy and happy, but never angry and happy at the same time. Anyone who cultures hatred, anger, or malice, nurses revenge or keeps alive a grudge is bound to experience much suffering for he has laid hold a very potent source of it. Those who exercise their hatred on others as in killing, torturing or maiming may expect birth in a state, compared in the scriptural simile to a pitfull of glowing situations, where they will experience feelings which are exclusively painful, sharp, and severe. Only in such an environment will they be able to experience all the misery which they, by their own cruelty to others, have brought upon themselves. The Buddha taught: “Bandits who steal merits are of no comparison to hatred and anger. Because when hatred and anger arise, inevitable innumerable karma will be created. Immediately thereafter, hundreds and thousands of obstructions will appear, masking the proper teachings of enlightenment, burying and dimming the Buddha Nature. Therefore, A thought of hatred and anger had just barely risen, ten thousands of karmic doors will open immediately. It is to say with just one thought of hatred, one must endure all such obstructions and obstacles.”
According to Most Venerable Narada in The Buddha and His Teaching, there are two conditions that are necessary to complete the evil of ill-will: first, from another person; and second, from the thought of doing harm. Doso, the second unwholesome root, comprises all kinds and degrees of aversion, ill-will, anger, irritation, annoyance, and animosity. Its characteristic is ferosity. Its function is to spread, or burn up its own support, i.e. the mind and body in which it arises. It is manifested as persecuting, and its proximate cause is a ground for annoyance. Anger, Ill-will or hatred is one of the three poisons in Buddhism (greed, anger, ignorance). This is one of the three fires which burn in the mind until allowed to die for fuelling. Anger manifests itself in a very crude manner, destroying the practitioner in a most effective way. To subdue anger and resentment, we must develop a compassionate mind. According to Buddhist psychology, the mental factor of aversion is always linked to the experience of pain. One may be greedy and happy, but never angry and happy at the same time.
Anyone who cultures hatred, anger, or malice, nurses revenge or keeps alive a grudge is bound to experience much suffering for he has laid hold a very potent source of it. Those who exercise their hatred on others as in killing, torturing or maiming may expect birth in a state, compared in the scriptural simile to a pitfull of glowing situations, where they will experience feelings which are exclusively painful, sharp, and severe. Only in such an environment will they be able to experience all the misery which they, by their own cruelty to others, have brought upon themselves. It is a fire that burns in all human beings, causing a feeling of displeasure or hostility toward others. Angry people speak and act coarsely or pitiless, creating all kinds of sufferings. Of the three great poisons of Greed, Hatred and Ignorance, each has its own unique evil characteristic. However, of these poisons, hatred is unimaginably destructive and is the most powerful enemy of one’s cultivated path and wholesome conducts. The reason is that once hatred arises from within the mind, thousands of karmic obstructions will follow to appear immediately, impeding the practitioner from making progress on the cultivated path and learning of the philosophy of Buddhism.
Therefore, the ancient virtuous beings taught: “One vindictive thought just barely surfaced, ten thousands doors of obstructions are all open.” Supposing while you were practicing meditation, and your mind suddenly drifted to a person who has often insulted and mistreated you with bitter words. Because of these thoughts, you begin to feel sad, angry, and unable to maintain peace of mind; thus, even though your body is sitting there quietly, your mind is filled with afflictions and hatred. Some may go so far as leaving their seat, stopping meditation, abandoning whatever they are doing, and getting completely caught up in their afflictions. Furthermore, there are those who get so angry and so depressed to the point where they can’t eat and sleep; for their satisfaction, sometimes they wish their wicked friend to die right before their eyes. Through these, we know that hatred is capable of trampling the heart and mind, destroying people’s cultivated path, and preventing everyone from practicing wholesome deeds. Thus the Buddha taught the way to tame hatred in the Lotus Sutra as follows: “Use great compassion as a home, use peace and tolerance as the armor, use all the Dharma of Emptiness as the sitting throne.” We should think that when we have hatred and afflictions, the first thing that we should be aware of is we are bringing miseries on ourselves. The fire of hatred and afflictions internally burns at our soul, and externally influences our bodies, standing and sitting restlessly, crying, moaning, screaming, etc. In this way, not only are we unable to change and tame the enemy, but also unable to gain any peace and happiness for ourselves.
When angry states of mind arise strongly, balance them by developing feelings of loving-kindness. If someone does something bad or gets angry, do not get angry ourselves. If we do, we are being more ignorant than they. Be wise. Keep compassion in mind, for that person is suffering. Fill our mind with loving-kindness as if he was a dear brother. Concentrate on the feeling of loving-kindness as a meditation subject. Spread it to all beings in the world. Only through loving-kindness is hatred overcome. Also according to Most Venerable Narada in The Buddha and His Teachings, these are the inevitable consequences of ill-will: first, ugliness; second, manifold diseases; and third, detestable nature. In order to repent the mind of anger one must first repent the mind-karma. Sincere Buddhists should always remember that the mind consciousness is the reason to give rise to infinite offenses of the other five consciousnesses, from Sight, Hearing, Scent, Taste, and Touch Consciousnesses. The mind consciousness is similar to an order passed down from the King to his magistrates and chancellors. Eyes take great pleasure in looking and observing unwholesome things, ears take great pleasure in listening to melodious sounds, nose takes great pleasure in smelling aromas and fragrance, tongue takes great pleasure in speaking vulgarly and irresponsibly as well as finding joy in tasting the various delicacies, foods, and wines, etc; body takes great pleasure in feeling various sensations of warmth, coolnes, softness, velvet clothing. Karmic offenses arise from these five consciousness come from their master, the Mind; the mind consciousness is solely responsible for all their actions. In the end, this will result in continual drowning in the three evil paths, enduring infinite pains and sufferings in hells, hungry ghosts, and animals. In the Dharmapada, the Buddha taught: “Guard one’s mind much like guarding a castle; protect the mind similar to protecting the eye ball. Mind is an enemy capable of destroying and eliminating all of the virtues and merits one has worked so hard to accumulate during one’s existence, or sometimes many lifetimes. To repent the mind-karma, sincere Buddhists should think that the three karmas of Greed, Hatred, and Ignorance of the mind are the roots and foundations of infinite karmic transgressions. The mind-karma is the web of ignorance which masks our wisdom and is the affliction and worry that cover our true nature. It should be feared and needs be avoided. Sincere Buddhists should use their heart and mind to sincerely confess and repent, be remorseful, and vow never again to commit such offenses.
Talking about the attittude of acceptance or not acceptance of angry and displease, according to the Middle Length Discrouses, the Buddha taught: “Angry and displeased, brahmana Akkosaka-bharadvaja went to the Enlightened One, and there abused and reviled the Enlightened One in harsh and rude words. Being thus spoken the Enlightened One said to the brahmana: “What do you think Brahmana? Do your friends and acquaintances, do your blood relatives and guests pay a visit to you?” Akkosaka replied: “Yes, sometimes, friends and acquaintances, blood relatives and guests pay me a visit.” The Buddha said: “What do you think, o brahmana? Do you offer them food to chew, to eat and to taste?” Akkosaka replied: “Sometimes, I offer them food to chew, to eat and to taste.” The Buddha continued to ask: “O brahmana, if they do not accept them, to whom these foods come back? Brahmana replied: “If they do not accept them, these foods come back to us.” The Buddha continued to say: “In the same way, o brahmana! You have abused us who do not abuse. You have reviled us who do not revile. You have scolded us who do not scold. We do not accept them from you, so they are all for you. O brahmana, they are all for you. O brahmana, he who abuses back when abused at, who reviles back when reviled, who scolds back when scolded, o brahmana, this is called eating them together and sharing them together. We do not eat them with you. We do not share them with you. So they are all for you, o brahmana! They are all for you, o brahmana! Thus the Buddha always reminded his disciples: “Hatreds do not cease hatred; by love alone do they cease.” The Buddha continued to remind: “The more evil that comes to me, the more good will radiate from me, for I always return good for evil.” Some people believe that it’s not practical to return good for evil and they believe that “return swords for swords.” Yes, it’s easy to think and to do about “return sword for sword,” but in doing that we might get caught in the quagmire of troubles. It’s extremely difficult by returning good for evil. It’s extremely difficult to smile with the person who just raised his hand to beat us, but we are the Buddha’s disciples, we must listen to his teaching, we must return good for evil at all times, in all places and circumstances. The Buddha taught: “Bandits who steal merits are of no comparison to hatred and anger. Because when hatred and anger arise, inevitable innumerable karma will be created. Immediately thereafter, hundreds and thousands of obstructions will appear, masking the proper teachings of enlightenment, burying and dimming the Buddha Nature. Therefore, a thought of hatred and anger had just barely risen, ten thousands of karmic doors will open immediately. It is to say with just one thought of hatred, one must endure all such obstructions and obstacles.” In the Dharmapada Sutra, the Buddha taught: “He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me.” Hatred will never leave those who dwell on such thoughts (3). “He abused me, he hit me, he defeated me, he robbed me.” Hatred will leave those who do not harbor such thoughts (4). In this world, hatred never destroys (eliminates) hatred, only love does. This is an eternal law (5). One should give up anger; one should abandon pride. One should overcome all fetters. No suffering befall him who calls nothing his own (Dharmapada 221). He who controls his anger which arises as a rolling chariot. He is a true charioteer. Other people are only holding the rein (Dharmapada 222). Conquer anger by love; conquer evil by good; conquer stingy by giving; conquer the liar by truth (Dharmapada 223). One should speak the truth. One should not be angry. One should give when asked to. These are three good deeds that help carry men the realm of heaven (224). One should guard against the bodily anger, or physical action, and should control the body. One should give up evil conduct of the body. One should be of good bodily conduct (Dharmapada 231). One should guard against the anger of the tongue; one should control the tongue. One should give up evil conduct in speech. One should be of good conduct in speech (Dharmapada 232). One should guard against the anger of the mind; one should control the mind. One should give up evil conduct of the mind. One should practice virtue with the mind (Dharmapada 233).
The Third Poison of Ignorance: In Buddhism, Avidya is noncognizance of the four noble truths, the three precious ones (triratna), and the law of karma, etc. Avidya is the first link of conditionality (pratityasampada), which leads to entanglement of the world of samsara and the root of all unwholesome in the world. This is the primary factor that enmeshes (làm vướng víu) beings in the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. In a Buddhist sense, it refers to lack of understanding of the four noble truths (Arya-satya), the effects of actions (karma), dependent arising (pratitya-samutpada), and other key Buddhist doctrines. In Madhyamaka, “Avidya” refers to the determination of the mind through ideas and concepts that permit beings to construct an ideal world that confers upon the everyday world its forms and manifold quality, and that thus block vision of reality. “Avidya” is thus the nonrecognition of the true nature of the world, which is empty (shunyata), and the mistaken understanding of the nature of phenomena. Thus “avidya” has a double function: ignorance veils the true nature and also constructs the illusory appearance. “Avidya” characterizes the conventional reality. For the Sautrantikas and Vaibhashikas, “Avidya” means seeing the world as unitary and enduring, whereas in reality it is manifold and impermanent. “Avidya” confers substantiality on the world and its appearances. In the Yogachara’s view, “avidya” means seeing the object as a unit independent of consciousness, when in reality it is identical with it. Ignorance means Unenlightened, the first or last of the twelve nidanas. Ignorance is Illusion or darkness without illumination, the ignorance which mistakes seeming for being, or illusory phenomena for realities. Ignorance of the way of escape from sufferings, one of the three affluences that feed the stream of mortality or transmigration. Sometimes ignorance means “Maya” or “Illusion.” It means complete darkness without illumination. The ignorance which mistakes seeming for being, or illusory phenomena for realities. Ignorance is the main cause of our non-enlightenment. Ignorance os only a false mark, so it is subject to production, extinction, increase, decrease, defilement, purity, and so on. Ignorance is the main cause of our birth, old age, worry, grief, misery, and sickness, and death. Ignorance is one of the three fires which must be allowed to die out before Nirvana is attained. The erroneous state of mind which arises from belief in self. It is due to ignorance, people do not see things as they really are, and cannot distinguish between right and wrong. They become blind under the delusion of self, clinging to things which are impermanent, changeable, and perishable.
To refrain from greed, anger, jealousy, and other evil thoughts to which people are subject, we need strength of mind, strenuous effort and vigilance. When we are free from the city life, from nagging preoccupation with daily life, we are not tempted to lose control; but when we enter in the real society, it becomes an effort to check these troubles. Meditation will contribute an immense help to enable us to face all this with calm. The karma of greed, anger and delusion manifest themselves in many forms, which are impossible to describe fully. Buddhist practitioners get rid of greed-anger-ignorance also means we push away great obstacles on our own path of cultivation. This is one of the most wonderful methods of letting go for practitioners. Practitioners should always remember that the karma of greed, anger and delusion manifest themselves in many forms, which are impossible to describe fully. According to Most Venerable Thích Thiền Tâm in The Pure Land Buddhism in Theory and Practice, there are four basic ways to subdue them. Depending on the circumstances, the practitioner can use either one of these four methods to counteract the karma of greed, anger and delusion. The first method is “Suppressing afflictions with the mind”: There are only two points of divergence between the deluded and the enlightened, i.e., Buddhas and Bodhisattvas: purity is Buddhahood, defilement is the state of sentient beings. Because the Buddhas are in accord with the Pure Mind, they are enlightened, fully endowed with spiritual powers and wisdom. Because sentient beings are attached to worldly Dusts, they are deluded and revolve in the cycle of Birth and Death. To practice Pure Land is to go deep into the Buddha Recitation Samadhi, awakening to the Original Mind and attaining Buddhahood. Therefore, if any deluded, agitated thought develops during Buddha Recitation, it should be severed immediately, allowing us to return to the state of the Pure Mind. This is the method of counteracting afflictions with the mind. The second method is “Suppressing afflictions with noumenon”: When deluded thoughts arise which cannot be suppressed with the mind, we should move to the second stage and “visualize principles.” For example, whenever the affliction of greed develops, we should visualize the principles of impurity, suffering, impermanence, and no-self. Whenever the affliction of anger arises, we should visualize the principles of compassion, forgiveness and emptiness of all dharmas. The third method is “Supressing afflictions with phenomena”: People with heavy karma who cannot suppress their afflictions by visualizing principles alone, we should use “phenomena,” that is external forms. For example, individuals who are prone to anger and delusion and are aware of their shortcomings, should, when they are on the verge of bursting into a quarrel, immediately leave the scene and slowly sip a glass of cold water. Those heavily afflicted with the karma of lust-attachment who cannot suppress their afflictions through “visualization of principle,” should arrange to be near virtuous Elders and concentrate on Buddhist activities or distant travel, to overcome lust and memories gradually as mentioned in the saying “out of sight, out of mind.” This is because sentient beings’ minds closely parallel their surroundings and environment. If the surroundings disappear, the mind loses its anchor, and gradually, all memories fade away. The fourth method is “Suppressing afflictions with repentance and recitation”: In addition to the above three methods, which range from the subtle to the gross, there is also a fourth: repentance and the recitation of sutras, mantras and the Buddha’s name. If performed regularly, repentance and recitation eradicate bad karma and generate merit and wisdom. For this reason, many cultivators in times past, before receiving the precepts or embarking upon some great Dharma work such as building a temple or translating a sutra, would vow to recite the Great Compassion Mantra tens of thousands of times, or to recite the entire Larger Prajna Paramita Sutra, the longest sutra in the Buddha canon. In the past, during lay retreats, if a practitioner had heavy karmic obstructions and could not recite the Buddha’s name with a pure mind or clearly visualize Amitabha Buddha, the presiding Dharma Master would usually advise him to follow the practice of “bowing repentance with incense.” This method consists of lighting a long incense stick and respectfully bowing in repentance while uttering the Buddha’s name, until the stick is burnt out. There are cases of individuals with heavy karma who would spend the entire seven or twenty-one-day retreat doing nothing but "bowing with incense." In the Surangama Sutra, the Buddha taught: Habits of greed or covetousness results in the cold hells. According to the Surangama Sutra, book Eight, the Buddha reminded Ananda about the habit of greed as follows: “Habits of greed and intermingled scheming which give rise to a suction. When this suction becomes dominant and incessant, it produces intense cold and solid ice where freezing occurs, just as a sensation of cold is experienced when a person draws in a blast of wind through his mouth. Because these two habits clash together, there come into being chattering, whimpering, and shuddering; blue, red, and white lotuses; cold and ice; and other such expeirences.” Chapter 132. Restraint of the Six Faculties
Practitioners should always contemplate on the six faculties are the main reasons that cause human beings to fall into hells, to be reborn in the realm of the hungry ghosts, or animals, asuras, devas, or human beings, etc. It is agreeable that the six faculties that help us maintain our daily activities, but they are also the main factors that bring sufferings and afflictions to our body and mind. They are the main agents that cause us to create unwholesome karma, and eventually we will fall into evil ways because of them. Do not think that the eyes are that great, just because they help us see things. It is exactly because of their help that we give rise to all kinds of sufferings and afflictions. For instance, when we see an attractive person of the opposite sex, we become greedy for sex. If we do not get what we want, we will be afflicted; and if we get what we want, we will also be afflicted. The other faculties, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind are the same way. They make one give rise to many sufferings and afflictions. Therefore, the Buddha advised his disciples thus: “You should cultivate until you are unaware of heaven above, people in between, and earth below.” If we cultivate until the time heaven, earth, people, east, west, south, north, etc., can no longer impact our six faculties, then at that point we are liberated from all hindrances. The six sense-organs can be entrances to the hells; at the same time, they can be some of the most important entrances to the great enlightenment; for with them, we create karmas and sins, but also with them, we can practise the right way. According to the Sangiti Sutta in the Long Discourses of the Buddha, there are six roots or faculties (indriyani): Eye is one of the six senses on which one relies or from which knowledge is received. Ear is one of the six unions of the six sense organs with the six objects of the senses, the ears is in union with sound heard. Nose is in union with the smell smelt, this is one of the six unions of the six sense organs with the six objects of the senses. Tongue is in union with the taste tasted, this is one of the six unions of the six sense organs with the six objects of the senses. Body is in union with the thing touched, this is one of the six unions of the six sense organs with the six objects of the senses. And the Mind is in union with the dharma thought about. The Buddha said: “Karma that you have made for yourself can only disappear if you want it to. No one can make you want it to disappear. I have many kinds of medicine, but I can’t take it for you.” Therefore, we should be mindful of it throughout the day. But do not overdo it. Walk, eat, and act naturally, and then develop natural mindfulness of what is going on within ourselves. To force our meditation or force ourselves into awkward patterns is another form of craving. Patience and endurance are necessary. If we act naturally and are mindful, wisdom will come naturally. It is obvious that during meditation, the six organs are closed and purified in order to develop their unlimited power and interchange (in the case of Buddha). This full development enables the eye to see everything in a great chiliocosm from its highest heaven down to its lowest hells and all the beings past, present, and future with all the karma of each.
In the six sense-organs, thought, the mind-sense, the sixth of the senses, the perception of thinking or faculty of thinking or the thinking mind. According to Most Venerable Piyadassi in “The Buddha’s Ancient Path,” faculty of mind recognizes mental objects, we know, is not something tangible and perceptible like the other five faculties, which recognizes the external world. The eye cognizes the world of colors (vanna) or visible objects, the ear audible sounds, and so forth. The mind, however, cognizes the world of ideas and thoughts. Faculty of mind literally means “chief” or “lord”. Forms can only be seen by the faculty of the eye and not by the ear, hearing by the faculty of the ear, and so on. When it comes to the world of thoughts and ideas the faculty of the mind lord over the mental realm. The eye can not think thoughts, and collect ideas, but it is instrumental in seeing visible forms, the world of colors. Practitioners’s sense restraint is proper practice. We should be mindful of it throughout the day. But do not overdo it. Walk, eat, and act naturally, and then develop natural mindfulness of what is going on within ourselves. To force our meditation or force ourselves into awkward patterns is another form of craving. Patience and endurance are necessary. If we act naturally and are mindful, wisdom will come naturally. Besides, practicing meditation can lead to pure and objective observation and is intended to prevent emotions such as joy, sadness, love, jealousy, sympathy, antipathy, desire, hatred, etc. Practitioners always consider the six senses are objects of meditation practices. According to Bikkhu Piyananda in The Gems of Buddhism Wisdom, you must always be aware of the sense organs such as eye, ear, nose, tongue and body and the contact they are having with the outside world. You must be aware of the feelings that are arising as a result of this contact. Eye is now in contact with forms (rupa). Ear is now in contact with sound. Nose is now in conatct with smell. Tongue is now in contact with taste. Body is now in contact with touching. Mind is now in contact with all things (dharma). According to the Samannaphala Sutta in the Long Discourses of the Buddha, the Buddha taught about “a guardian of the sense-door.” How does a monk become a guardian of the sense-door? Here a monk, on seeing a visible object with the eye, does not grasp at its major signs or secondary characteristics. Because greed and sorrow, evil unskilled states, would overwhelm him if he dwelt leaving this eye-faculty unguarded, so he practises guading it, he protects the eye-faculty, develops restraint of the eye-faculty. On hearing a sound with the ear…; on smelling an odour with the nose…; on tasting a flavour with the tongue…; on feeling an object with the body…; on thinking a thought with the mind, he does not grasp at its major signs or secondary characteristics, he develops restraint of the mind-faculty. He experiences within himself the blameless bliss that comes from maintaining this Ariyan guarding of the faculties. In short, those who try to restraint the six senses are not only advancing on the path to Buddhahood, but they also have peace, mindfulness and happiness in their daily life. Chapter 133. Ignorance
The term “Ignorance” in Sanskrit language is ‘Avidya’ which means noncognizance. In Buddhism, Avidya is noncognizance of the four noble truths, the three precious ones (triratna), and the law of karma, etc. Avidya is the first link of conditionality (pratityasampada), which leads to entanglement of the world of samsara and the root of all unwholesome in the world. This is the primary factor that enmeshes (làm vướng víu) beings in the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. In a Buddhist sense, it refers to lack of understanding of the four noble truths (Arya-satya), the effects of actions (karma), dependent arising (pratitya-samutpada), and other key Buddhist doctrines. In Madhyamaka, “Avidya” refers to the determination of the mind through ideas and concepts that permit beings to construct an ideal world that confers upon the everyday world its forms and manifold quality, and that thus block vision of reality. “Avidya” is thus the nonrecognition of the true nature of the world, which is empty (shunyata), and the mistaken understanding of the nature of phenomena. Thus “avidya” has a double function: ignorance veils the true nature and also constructs the illusory appearance. “Avidya” characterizes the conventional reality. For the Sautrantikas and Vaibhashikas, “Avidya” means seeing the world as unitary and enduring, whereas in reality it is manifold and impermanent. “Avidya” confers substantiality on the world and its appearances. In the Yogachara’s view, “avidya” means seeing the object as a unit independent of consciousness, when in reality it is identical with it.
Ignorance means Unenlightened, the first or last of the twelve nidanas. Ignorance is Illusion or darkness without illumination, the ignorance which mistakes seeming for being, or illusory phenomena for realities. Ignorance of the way of escape from sufferings, one of the three affluences that feed the stream of mortality or transmigration.
Sometimes ignorance means “Maya” or “Illusion.” It means complete darkness without illumination. The ignorance which mistakes seeming for being, or illusory phenomena for realities. Ignorance is the main cause of our non-enlightenment. Ignorance os only a false mark, so it is subject to production, extinction, increase, decrease, defilement, purity, and so on. Ignorance is the main cause of our birth, old age, worry, grief, misery, and sickness, and death. Ignorance is one of the three fires which must be allowed to die out before Nirvana is attained. The erroneous state of mind which arises from belief in self.
In Zen, ignorance is not seeing things as they really are. It is failing to understand the truth about life. As long as we have not develop our minds to obtain wisdom, we remain ignorant of the tru nature of things. According to Buddhism, ignorance means regarding the self as real. Due to ignorance, people do not see things as they really are, and cannot distinguish between right and wrong. They become blind under the delusion of self, clinging to things which are impermanent, changeable, and perishable. Once anger arises, one has nothing but “ignorance.” In order to eliminate “ignorance,” you should meditate on causality. All of our psychological problems are rooted in ignorance, in delusion. Ignorance is the crowning corruption. Our greeds, hates, conceits and a host of other defilements go hand in hand with our ignorance. The solutions are to be found in the problems themselves and hence we should not run away from our problems. Analyze and scrutinize the problems, and you will see that they are human problems, so do not attribute them to non-humans. Our real problems can be solved only by giving up illusions and false concepts and bringing our lives into harmony with reality and this can be done only through meditation. Ignorance is also thoughts and impulses that try to draw us away from emancipation. If we wish to liberate ourselves from these hindrances, we should first recognize them through meditation. Just as the Buddha described in His discourses how He would exclaim, “Mara! I see you.” Zen practitioners should remember that the purpose of disciplined meditation practice is to eliminate ignorance, to open the essential nature of mind, and to stabilize awareness. Through meditation, we concentrate on things with an undistracted awareness. We are not thinking about anything, not analyzing, not getting lost in flux of things, but just seeing the nature of what is happening in the mind. Through practices of meditation, our mind becomes clearer and clearer; it is to say ‘ignorance’ is gradually eliminated through the course of meditation. If you think that your mind can only be opened by a certain master out there, you are never cultivating in accordance with Buddhism at all. If you think someone out there can eliminate ignorance for you, you are not a devout Buddhist. Chapter 134. Good Friends & Evil Friends
Good Friends: Good friends or Good-knowing advisors are anyone (Buddha, Bodhisattva, wise person, virtuous friends and even an evil being) who can help the practitioner progress along the path to Enlightenment. Good is kind and virtuous, Friend is a person who is worthy of giving others advice, Knowledgeable means having a broad and proper understanding of the truths, Awakened means no longer mesmerized by destinies of life. Thus, Good Knowledgeable (knowing) Friend or Advisor is a good person who has certain degree of knowledge of Buddhism and has the ability to benefit himself and others. A Good Knowledgeable (knowing) Friend is a friend in virtue, or a teacher who exemplifies the virtuous life and helps and inspires other to live a virtuous life too. A good friend who has a good and deep knowledge of the Buddha’s teaching and who is currently practicing the law. Someone with knowledge, wisdom and experience in Buddha’s teaching and practicing. A wise counsel, spiritual guide, or honest and pure friend in cultivation. The Buddha talked about being a Good Knowing Advisor in Buddhism as follows: “When speaking of the good knowledgeable advisors, this is referring to the Buddhas, Bodhisatvas, Sound Hearers, Pratyeka-Buddhas, as well as those who have faith in the doctrine and sutras of Buddhism. The good knowledgeable advisors are those capable of teaching sentient beings to abandon the ten evils or ten unwholesome deeds, and to cultivate the ten wholesome deeds. Moreover, the good knowledgeable advisors’ speech is true to the dharma and their actions are genuine and consistent with their speech. Thus, not only do they not kill living creatures, they also tell others not to kill living things; not only will they have the proper view, they also will use that proper view to teach others. The good knowledgeable advisors always have the dharma of goodness, meaning whatever actions they may undertake, they do not seek for their own happiness, but for the happiness of all sentient beings. They do not speak of others’ mistakes, but speak of virtues and goodness. There are many advantages and benefits to being close to the good knowledgeable advisors, just as from the first to the fifteenth lunar calendar, the moon will gradually become larger, brighter and more complete. Similarly, the good knowledgeable advisors are able to help and influence the learners of the Way to abandon gradually the various unwholesome dharma and to increase greatly wholesome dharma.
There are three types of good spiritual advisors: Teaching Spiritual Advisor is someone conversant with the Dharma and experienced in cultivation. The retreat members can have him follow their progress, guiding them throughout the retreat, or they can simply seek guidance before and after the retreat. When several persons hold a retreat together, they should ask a spiritual advisor to lead the retreat and give a daily fifteen-to-thirty-minute inspirational talk. Caretaking Spiritual Advisor refers to one or several persons assisting with outside daily chores such as preparing meals or cleaning up, so that on retreat can cultivate peacefully without distraction. Such persons are called “Retreat assistant.” Common Practice Spiritual Advisors are persons who practice the same method as the individual(s) on retreat. They keep an eye on one another, encouraging and urging each other on. These cultivators can either be participants in the same retreat or cultivators living nearby. In addition to keeping an eye out and urging the practitioners on, they can exchange ideas or experiences for the common good. This concept has been captured in a proverb: “Rice should be eaten with soup, practice should be conducted with friends.”
Nowadays, in order to have a right cultivation, Buddhist practitioners should be guided by a good advisor, who has a thorough understanding of the sutras and many years experience in meditation. This is one of the five necessary conditions for any Zen practitioners. If a Zen practitioner does not meet these five conditions, he is very easily subject to get harm from demon. According to the Kalyana-mitra Sutra, the Buddha taught, “Nowadays, if one wishes to find kind friends and virtuous teachers to learn and to be close to them, they may find these people in the shining examples in old books. Otherwise, if one searches among the living, it would be extraordinary hard to find a single person.” They also reminded us five things about good-knowing advisor as follows: Nowadays, in 1,000 people, there is one good person. In a thousand good people, there is one person who knows religion. In one thousand people who know religion, there is one person who has enough faith to practice religion. In one thousand people who practice religion, there is one person who cultivates in a genuine and honest manner. Thus, out of four thousand people, we would find only four good people.
Thus, the Buddha always encouraged his disciples to listen to Good Knowing Advisors without any doubt. Once we call someone our Good Knowing Advisors, we should truly listen to their advice. If Good Knowing Advisors say that cultivation requires arduous effort, we should truly believe it. If we believe completely, we will surely be able to understand the mind and see the nature, return to the origin and go back to the source. Devout Buddhists should always listen to the instructions of a Good Knowing Advisor. If he tells us to recite the Buddha’s name, we should follow the instructions and recite. If he tells us not to be distracted, then we should not be distracted. This is the essential secret of cultivation that we can benefit from our Good Knowing Advisors. The followings are the Buddha’s teachings on “Good Knowing Advisors” in the Dharmapada Sutra: Should you see an intelligent man who points out faults and blames what is blame-worthy, you should associate with such a wise person. It should be better, not worse for you to associate such a person (Dharmapada 76). Those who advise, teach or dissuade one from evil-doing, will be beloved and admired by the good, but they will be hated by the bad (Dharmapada 77). Do not associate or make friends with evil friends; do not associate with mean men. Associate with good friends; associate with noble men (Dharmapada 78). Those who drink the Dharma, live in happiness with a pacified mind; the wise man ever rejoices in the Dharma expounded by the sages (Dharmapada 79). If you get a prudent and good companion who is pure, wise and overcoming all dangers to walk with, let nothing hold you back. Let find delight and instruction in his companion (Dharmapada 328). If you do not get a prudent and good companion who is pure, wise and overcoming all dangers to walk with; then like a king who has renounced a conquered kingdom, you should walk alone as an elephant does in the elephant forest (Dharmapada 329). It is better to live alone than to be fellowship with the ignorant (the fool). To live alone doing no evil, just like an elephant roaming in the elephant forest (Dharmapada (330).”
Evil Friends: Evil people are coarse people who are always overwhelmed by anger and lacking loving-kindness that they cannot appreciate the difference between wholesome and unwholesome activities. They do not know the benefit or appropriateness of paying respect to persons worthy of respect, nor of learning about the Dharma, nor of actually cultivating. They may be hot-tempered, easily victimized by by anger and aversion. Their lives may be filled with rough and distasteful activities. What is the use of making friends with such people? On the contrary, good people have a deep considerateness and loving care for other beings. The warmth and love of their hearts is manifested in actions and speech. Refined people like these carry out their relationships with other people in sweet speech, beneficial action, and sharing a common aim. They always vow to give whatever they can give to benefit other people.
In the Dharmapada Sutra, the Buddha Taught: “If a traveler does not meet a companion who is better or at least equal, let him firmly pursue his solitary career, rather than being in fellowship with the foolish (Dharmapada 61). Those who advise, teach or dissuade one from evil-doing, will be beloved and admired by the good, but they will be hated by the bad (Dharmapada 77). Do not associate or make friends with evil friends; do not associate with mean men. Associate with good friends; associate with noble men (Dharmapada 78). He who companies with fools grieves for a long time. To be with the foolish is ever painful as with an enemy. To associate with the wise is ever happy like meeting with kinsfolk (Dharmapada 207).” Chapter 135. Buddha’s Enlightenment
After the visits to the scenes outside the royal palace, images of the old, the sick, and the dead always haunted the mind of the Prince. He thought that even his beautiful wife, his beloved son, and himself could not escape from the cycle of old age, sickness, and death. Human life was so short and illusionary. King Suddhodana, his father, guessed his thinking of renouncing the world; so, the king tried to build a summer palace for him and let him enjoy the material pleasure of singing, dancing, and other entertainment. However, no joys could arouse the interest of the Prince. The Prince always wanted to seek out ways and means of emancipation from the sufferings of life. One night, the Prince and Chandaka left the Royal Palace. The Prince walked out of the summer palace, went straight to the stables, mounted a horse, and started his unusual journey. So, Chandaka had no choice but going along with Him. The Prince rode his horse to the foot of a hill, he dismounted, gave all his precious dress, his crown and jewels, and told Chandaka to return to the royal palace.
In his search for enlightenment, the Prince Siddhartha Gautama joined five ascetics who were practicing the severest austerities in the hope of gaining ultimate insight. In their company Gautama learned to endure the most extreme self-mortification, becoming weak and frail through starvation and pain. Even the magnificent distinguishing marks that had adorned him since birth almost disappeared. Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who had known the greatest pleasure had now experienced its exact opposite. Eventually he came to realize that nothing would be gained from extreme deprivation. As the god Indra demonstrated to him, if the strings of a lute are too tight they will break, and if they are too slack they will not play: only if they are properly strung will music issue forth. Gautama understood that the same balance is necessary with humankind and resolved to end the useless life of extreme asceticism by bathing and receiving food. Observing this change, his five companions deserted him, believing that he had admitted defeat and was therefore unworthy of them.
The Buddha came to understand that renunciation itself could not bring about the cessation of suffering. He acknowledged that much can be gained from leading the simple life of an ascetic, but also taught that extreme austerities are not conducive to the path of liberation. At the end of six years of varied experiences, Gautama decided to pave his own way: a middle path between the extreme of self-indulgence and self-mortification. On the banks of the river Nairajana, he accepted an offering of rice-milk from a young girl named Sujata. He knew that enlightenment was near because the previous night he had had five premonitory dreams. He therefore divided Sujata’s offering into forty-nine mouthfuls, one for each of the days he knew he would spend in contemplation following the night of his enlightenment. “Roused like a lion,” he proceeded to what would later become known as the Bodhi Tree, in Bodh-Gaya. After surveying the four cardinal directions, he sat in the lotus position underneath the tree and vowed not to move until he had attained complete and final enlightenment. Rarely does a Bodhisattva become a Buddha, and the onset of such an event sends ripples all throughout the world system.
After abandoning asceticism, the Prince decided to totally change his way of practicing. He walked to Nairanjana River, and let the clear flowing water cleanse the dirt that had accumulated on his body for a long time. He decided to engage in ways to purify his inner heart, exterminate delusions, and expand his wisdom to understand the truth. However, the Prince was physically exhausted from his continuous practice of asceticism. After bathing, he was so weak and feeble that he fainted on the river bank. Fortunately, at that time, a shepherd girl named Nanda, who carried a bucket of cow’s milk on her head, passed by. She discovered the Prince and knew his condition was caused by extreme exhaustion. So she poured a bowl of milk for him to drink. Drinking the bowl of milk offered by the shepherd girl, the Prince found it tasted like sweet nectar. He felt more and more comfortable and he gradually recovered. After the Prince revived, he walked towards Kaudinya and other four people who had practiced asceticism with him in the past; however, all of them avoided him because they thought the Prince had been seduced by a beautiful maid. So he left the forest alone, crossed over Nairanjana River and walked to Gaya Hill. The Prince sat down on a stone seat under the umbrella-like bodhi tree. He decided to stay there to continue to practice meditation until he was able to attain enlightenment and emancipation. At that moment, a boy walked by with a bundle of grass on his shoulder. The boy offered a straw seat made from the grass he cut to the Prince for comfort. The Prince accepted the boy’s offering.
At the moment, mara, the demon of all demons, sensed that Gautama was about to escape from his power and gathered his troops to oust the Bodhisattva from his seat beneath the tree of enlightenment. The ensuing confrontation, in which Mara was soundly defeated. This is one of the great stories of the Buddhist tradition. Mara attacked the Bodhisattva with nine elemental weapons, but to no avail: whirlwinds faded away, flying rocks and flaming spears turned into lotus flowers, clouds of sand, ashes and mud were transformed into fragrant sandalwood and, finally, the darkest of darkness was outshone by the Bodhisattva. Enraged, Mara turned to the Buddha-to-be and demanded his seat. Gautama replied: “You have neither practiced the ten perfections, nor renounced the world, nor sought true knowledge and insight. This seat is not meant for you. I alone have the right to it.” With a furious rage, Mara flung his razor-edged disc at the Buddha-to-be, but it turned into a garland of flowers above his head. Then Gautama challenged Mara: if the demon believed that he entitled to occupy the seat of enlightenment, let him bring witnesses to his meritorious deeds. Mara turned to his fiendish companions, who submissively gave their testimony. He then asked the Bodhisattva who would bear witness for him. Gautama drew out his right hand, pointed it downward and said: “Let this great solid earth be my witness.” With this, a thunderous earthquake swept the universe and all the demons flew away. Even Mara’s great elephant, Girimekhala, knelt down before the Buddha-to-be.
After Mara’s defeat, the gods gathered around Gautama while he set his mind on enlightenment. In the first watch, the Bodhisattva experienced the four successive stages of meditation, or mental absorptions (dhyana). Freed from the shackles of conditioned thought, he could look upon his many previous existences, thereby gaining complete knowledge of himself. In the second watch of the night, he turned his divine eye to the universe and saw the entire world as though it were reflected in a spotless mirror. He saw the endless lives of many beings of the universe unfold according to the moral value of their deeds. Some were fortunate, others miserable; some were beautiful, others ugly; but none cease to turn in the endless cycle of birth and death. In the third watch of the night, Gautama turned his meditation to the real and essential nature of the world. He saw how everything rises and falls in tandem and how one thing always originates from another. Understanding this causal law of Dependent Origination, he finally beheld the key to breaking the endless of cycle of samsara, and with this understanding he reached perfection. It is said that he became tranquil like a fire when its flames have died down. In the fourth and final watch of the night, as dawn broke, the Bodhisattva’s great understanding enabled him to completely “blow out” (literal meaning of nirvana) the fires of greed, hatred and delusion that had previously tied him to rebirth and suffering. At the moment of becoming a Buddha, his entire knowledge crystallized into the Four Noble Truths. Although there are many accounts of the Buddha’s night of enlightenment, at times varying in detail, there is complete unanimity about the Four Noble Truths. They can be said to contain the entire teaching of the Buddha, and consequently of Buddhism, and the extent to which they are understood is an indication of progress along the path: “to know” in Buddhism is to comprehend and realize the Four Noble Truths. Only a Buddha has complete and final understanding of their subtlest meaning, which is equal to enlightenment and nirvana.
The Prince sat straight under the tree and made a solemn oath: “If I do not succeed in attaining enlightenment and emancipation, I will not rise from this seat.” The Prince sat like a rock with a mind unruffled like still water. He was unperturbed by any temptations. The Prince was even more and more steadfast in his resolve. His mind was more peaceful, and he entered into a state of utmost concentration (samadhi), having reached the realm of no-mind and no-thought. The Prince sat in a meditation pose under the Bodhi tree, warding off all worldly attachments. One night, there appeared a bright morning star. The Prince raised his head and discovered the star. He was instantly awakened to his true nature and thus attained supreme enlightenment, with his mind filled with great compassion and wisdom. He had become awakened to the universal truth. He had become the Buddha. The Enlightened One knew that all sentient beings were transmigrating in the six states of existence, each receiving different kinds of retribution. He also knew that all sentient beings possessed the same nature and wisdom as a Buddha, that they could all attain enlightenment, but that they were drowned in the sea of suffering and could not redeem themselves because they were immersed in ignorance.
After attaining the truth of life in the universe, and meditating for another 21 days under the Bodhi tree, the Buddha entered into the domain of unimpeded harmony and perfect homogeneity. So he rose from his seat and headed towards Kasi city to begin his preaching career to rescue the masses and benefit the living. Chapter 136. Eight Consciousnesses
“Vijnana” is another name for “Consciousness.” Theravada considered the six kinds of consciousness as “Vijnana.” Mahayana considered the eight kinds of consciousness as “Vijnana.” Externalists considered “vijnana” as a soul. Consciousness is another name for mind. Consciousness means the art of distinguishing, or perceiving, or recognizing, discerning, understanding, comprehending, distinction, intelligence, knowledge, learning. It is interpreted as the “mind,” mental discernment, perception, in contrast with the object discerned. According to Buddhism, our “Nature” is the “Buddha”. The “Consciousness” is the “Spirit”, the “Intention” or “Mano-vijnana” is the “Discriminating Mind”, and the “Mind” is what constantly engages in idle thinking. The “Nature” is originally perfect and bright, with no conception of self, others, beauty, or ugliness; no falling into numbers and discriminations. But as soon as there is “Consciousness”, one falls into numbers and discriminations. The “Intention” or “Mano-vijnana” also makes discriminations, and it is the sixth consciousness. It is relatively turbid, while the seventh and eighth consciousnesses are relatively more pure. There are eight kinds of consciousness: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind, klista-mano-vijnana, and alaya-vijnana. Fundamentally speaking, consciousness is not of eight kinds, although there are eight kinds in name. We could say there is a single headquarters with eight departments under it. Although there are eight departments, they are controlled by just one single headquarters. “Vijnana” translated as “consciousness” is the act of distinguishing or discerning including understanding, comprehending, recognizing, intelligence, knowledge. There are eight consciousnesses. The first five arise as a result of the interaction of the five sense organs (eye, ear, nose, tongue, and mind) and the five dusts (Gunas); the sixth consciousness comes into play, all kinds of feelings, opinions and judgments will be formed (the one that does all the differentiating); the seventh consciousness (Vijnana) is the center of ego; the eighth consiousness is the Alayagarbha (a lại da), the storehouse of consciousness, or the storehouse of all deeds or actions (karmas), whether they are good, bad or neutral. “Vijnana” also means cognition, discrimination, consciousness, but as any one of these does not cover the whole sense contained in Vijnana. “Vijnana” also means relative knowledge. This term is usually used as contrasted to Jnana in purely intellectual sense. Jnana is transcendental knowledge dealing with such subjects as immortality, non-relativity, the unattained, etc., whereas Vijnana is attached to duality of things.
When we talk about “Consciousnesses” we usually misunderstand with the sixth consciousness according to Buddhist psychology. In fact, there are six basic sense consciousnesses, and the sixth one being the mental consciousness. Buddhist psychology bases the perception process on six sense faculties: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch and thought. Each faculty relates to a sense organ (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind) and to a consciousness which functions specifically with that organ. The sixth consciousness, or the mind consciousness is not the mind, it is the function of the mind; it does not depend on any of the five sense faculties, but on the immediately preceding continuum of mind. Mental consciousness apprehends not only objects (form, sound, taste, smell and touch) in the present time, but it also apprehends objects and imagines in the past and even in the future, then it transfers these objects or imagines to the seventh consciousness, and in turn, the seventh consiousness will transfer these objects to the Alaya Consciousness. Let us examine the body and mind to see whether in either of them we can locate the self, we will find in neither of of them. Then, the so-called “Self” is just a term for a collection of physical and mental factors. Let us first look at the aggregate matter of form. The aggregate of form corresponds to what we would call material or physical factors. It includes not only our own bodies, but also the material objects that surround us, i.e., houses, soil, forests, and oceans, and so on. However, physical elements by themselves are not enough to produce experience. The simple contact between the eyes and visible objects, or between the ear and sound cannot result in experience without consciousness. Only the co-presence of consciousness together with the sense of organ and the object of the sense organ produces experience. In other words, it is when the eyes, the visible object and consciousness come together that the experience of a visible object is produced. Consciousness is therefore an extremely important element in the production of experience. Consciousness or the sixth sense, or the mind. This sense organ together with the other five sense organs of eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body to produce experience. The physical and mental factors of experience worked together to produce personal experience, and the nature of the five aggregates are in constant change. Therefore, according to the Buddha’s teachings, the truth of a man is selfless. The body and mind that man misunderstands of his ‘self’ is not his self, it is not his, and he is not it.” Devout Buddhists should grasp this idea firmly to establish an appropriate method of cultivation not only for the body, but also for the speech and mind. Besides, we also have the seventh consciousness, or the mano-vijnana, which is the transmitting consciousness that relays sensory information from the mind to the Alaya Consciousness, or the eighth consciousness which functions as a storehouse of all sensory information.
First, Eye Consciousness: The function of the eye consciousness is to perceive and apprehend visual forms. Without the eye consciousness we could not behold any visual form; however, the eye consciousness depends on the eye faculty. When the eye faculty and any form meet, the eye consciousness develops instantly. If the eye faculty and the form never meet, eye consciousness will never arise (a blind person who lacks the eye faculty, thus eye consciousness can never develop). Buddhist cultivators should always understand thoroughly this vital point to minimize the meeting between eye faculty and visual forms, so that no or very limited eye consciousness will ever arise. The Buddha reminded his disciples that meditation is the only means to limit or stop the arising of the eye consciousness.
Second, Ear Consciousness: The function of the ear consciousness is to perceive and apprehend sounds; however, ear consciousness depends on the ear faculty. Ear faculty and any sound meet, the ear consciousness develops instantly (in a deaf person, ear faculty and sounds never meet, therefore no ear consciousness will arise). Buddhist cultivators should always remember this and try to practise meditation stop or close the ear consciousness if possible.
Third, Smell Consciousness: The nose consciousness develops immediately from the dominant condition of the nose faculty when it focuses on smell. Nose consciousness completely dependents on the nose faculty. Someone who lacks smelling capability, nose faculty and smell never meet, therefore, nose consciousness will never arise. Buddhist cultivators should always practise meditation to stop or close the nose consciousness.
Fourth, Taste Consciousness: The tongue consciousness develops immediately through the dominant condition of the tongue when the tongue faculty focuses on a certain taste. At that very moment, we experience and distinguish between tastes and desire arises.
Fifth, Tacticle Sensation Consciousness: Body consciousness develops when the dominant condition in which the body faculty meets an object of touch. The location of the body faculty is throughout the entire body. Cognition of the objects of touch, one of the five forms of cognition. Here a monk, on touching a tangible object with the body, is neither pleased not displeased, but remains equable, mindful and clearly aware. This is one of the six stable states which the Buddha taught in the Sangiti Sutta in the Long Discourses.
Sixth, Mano Consciousness: The Mano Consciousness is the thinking consciousness that coordinates the perceptions of the sense organs. The mind consciousness, the sixth or the intellectual consciousness is not the mind, it’s the function of the mind. The sentient being’s mind is an ever-spinning whirlpool in which mental activities never cease. There are four stages of production, dwelling, change, and decay. A mind which does not depend on any of the five sense faculties, but on the immediately preceding continuum of mind. Mental consciousness apprehends not only objects (form, sound, taste, smell, touch) in the present time, but it also apprehends objects in the past and imagines objects even in the future. Mental consciousness will go with us from one life to another, while the first five consciousnesses are our temporary minds. Consciousness is also one of the five skandhas. The function of Manovijnana is by hypothesis to reflect on Manas, as the eye-vijnana reflects on the world of forms and the ear-vijnana on that of sounds; but in fact as soon as Manas evolves the dualism of subject and object out of the absolute unity of the Alaya, Manovijnana and indeed all the other Vijnanas begin to operate. Thus, in the Lankavatara Sutra, the Buddha said: “Buddhist Nirvana consists in turning away from the wrongfully discriminating Manovijnana. For with Manovijnana as cause (hetu) and support (alambana), there takes place the evolution of the seven Vijnanas. Further, when Manovijnana discerns and clings to an external world of particulars, all kinds of habit-energy (vasana) are generated therefrom, and by them the Alaya is nurtured. Together with the thought of “me and mine,” taking hold of it and clinging to it, and reflecting upon it, Manas thereby takes shape and is evolved. In substance (sarira), however, Manas and Manovijnana are not differentthe one from the other, they depend upon the Alaya as cause and support. And when an external world is tenaciously held as real which is no other than the presentation of one’s own mind, the mentation-system (citta-kalapa), mutually related, is evolved in its totality. Like the ocean waves, the Vijnanas set in motion by the wind of an external world which is the manifestation of one’s own mind, rise and cease. Therefore, the seven Vijnanas cease with the cessation of Manovijnana.” A mind which does not depend on any of the five sense faculties, but on the immediately preceding continuum of mind. Mental consciousness apprehends not only objects (form, sound, taste, smell, touch) in the present time, but it also apprehends objects in the past and imagines objects even in the future.
Mental consciousness will go with us from one life to another, while the first five consciousnesses are our temporary minds. Consciousness is also one of the five skandhas. Consciousness refers to the perception or discernment which occurs when our sense organs make contact with their respective objects. The first five consciousness correspond to the five senses. The sixth consciousness integrates the perceptions of the five senses into coherent images and make judgments about the external world. The seventh consciousness is the active center of reasoning, calculation, and construction or fabrication of individual objects. It is the source of clinging and craving, and thus the origin of self or ego and the cause of illusion that arises from assuming the apparent to be real. The terms “conscious” and “unconscious” are used with several different meanings. In one meaning, which might be called functional, “conscious” and “unconscious” refer to a subjective state within the individual. Saying that he is conscious of this or that psychic content means that he is aware of affects, of desires, of judgments, etc.
Seventh, Klistamanas Consciousness: “Klista-mano-vijnana” is a Sanskrit term for “sentience.” In Buddhism, it is called “mental faculty” for it constitutes man as an intelligent and moral being. It is commonly thought to be equated with the terms “citta” or “consciousness.” It is derived from the Sanskrit root “man,” which means “to think” or “to imagine” and is associated with intellectual activity of consciousness. This is the discriminating and constructive sense. It is more than the intellectually perceptive. It is the cause of all egoism (it creates the illusion of a subject “I” standing apart from the object world) and individualizing of men and things (all illusion arising from assuming the seeming as the real). The self-conscious defiled mind, which thinks, wills, and is the principal factor in the generation of subjectivity. It is a conveyor of the seed-essence of sensory experiences to the eighth level of subconsciousness. It is described as a sea in which currents of thought surge and seethe. It is the transmitting consciousness that relays sensory information from the mind or mano consciousness to the storehouse or Alaya-vijnana. According to The Lankavatara Sutra, this system of the five sense-vijnanas is in union with Manovijnana and this muatuality makes the system distinguish between what is good and what is not good. Manovijnana in union with the five sense-vijnanas grasps forms and appearances in their multitudinous apsect; and there is not a moment’s cessation of activity. This is called the momentary character of the Vijnanas. This system of vijnanas is stirred uninterruptedly and all the time like the waves of the great ocean. Klistamanas consciousness is the thinking consciousness that coordinates the perceptions of the sense organs. The mind consciousness, the sixth or the intellectual consciousness is not the mind, it’s the function of the mind. The sentient being’s mind is an ever-spinning whirlpool in which mental activities never cease. There are four stages of production, dwelling, change, and decay. A mind which does not depend on any of the five sense faculties, but on the immediately preceding continuum of mind. Mental consciousness apprehends not only objects (form, sound, taste, smell, touch) in the present time, but it also apprehends objects in the past and imagines objects even in the future. Mental consciousness will go with us from one life to another, while the first five consciousnesses are our temporary minds. Consciousness is also one of the five skandhas. This acts like the collection station for the first six consciousnesses. The seventh of the eight consciousnesses, which means thinking and measuring, or calculating. It is the active mind, or activity of mind, but is also used for the mind itself. The waves will be seen ruffling the surface of the ocean of Alayavijnana when the principle of individuation known as Vishaya blows over it like the wind. The waves thus started are this world of particulars where the intellect discriminates, the affection clings, and passions and desires struggle for existence and supremacy. This particularizing agency sits within the system of Vijnanas and is known as Manas; in fact it is when Manas begins to operate that a system of the Vijnanas manifests itself. They are thus called “object-discriminating-vijnana” (vastu-prativikalpa-vijnana). The function of Manas is essentially to reflect upon the Alaya and to creat and to discriminate subject and object from the pure oceans of the Alaya. The memory accumulated (ciyate) in the latter is now divided into dualities of all forms and all kinds. This is compared to the manifoldness of waves that stir up the ocean of Alaya. Manas is an evil spirit in one sense and a good one in another, for discrimination in itself is not evil, is not necessarily always false judgment (abhuta-parikalpa) or wrong reasoning (prapanca-daushthulya). But it grows to be the source of great calamity when it creates desires based upon its wrong judgments, such as when it believes in the reality of an ego-substance and becomes attached to it as the ultimate truth. For manas is not only a discriminating intelligence, but a willing agency, and consequently an actor. Manyana is a kind of intuition, the sense that there is a separate self which can exist independently of the rest of the world. This intuition is produced by habit and ignorance. Its illusory nature has been constructed by vijnapti, and it, in turn, becomes a basis for vijnapti. The object of this intuition is a distorted fragment of alaya which it considers to be a self, comprised of a body and a soul. It of course is never reality in itself, but just a representation of reality. In its role as a self as well as consciousness of the self, manyana is regarded as the basic obstacle to penetrating reality. Contemplation performed by vijnapti can remove the erroneous perceptions brought about by manas. The function of Manovijnana is by hypothesis to reflect on Manas, as the eye-vijnana reflects on the world of forms and the ear-vijnana on that of sounds; but in fact as soon as Manas evolves the dualism of subject and object out of the absolute unity of the Alaya, Manovijnana and indeed all the other Vijnanas begin to operate. Thus, in the Lankavatara Sutra, the Buddha said: “Buddhist Nirvana consists in turning away from the wrongfully discriminating Manovijnana. For with Manovijnana as cause (hetu) and support (alambana), there takes place the evolution of the seven Vijnanas. Further, when Manovijnana discerns and clings to an external world of particulars, all kinds of habit-energy (vasana) are generated therefrom, and by them the Alaya is nurtured. Together with the thought of “me and mine,” taking hold of it and clinging to it, and reflecting upon it, Manas thereby takes shape and is evolved. In substance (sarira), however, Manas and Manovijnana are not differentthe one from the other, they depend upon the Alaya as cause and support. And when an external world is tenaciously held as real which is no other than the presentation of one’s own mind, the mentation-system (citta-kalapa), mutually related, is evolved in its totality. Like the ocean waves, the Vijnanas set in motion by the wind of an external world which is the manifestation of one’s own mind, rise and cease. Therefore, the seven Vijnanas cease with the cessation of Manovijnana.”
Eighth, Alaya Vijnana: Alaya Vijnana, the receptacle intellect or consciousness, basic consciousness, Eighth consciousness, subconsciousness, and store consciousness. The storehouse consciousness or basis from which come all seeds of consciousness or from which it responds to causes and conditions, specific seeds are reconveyed by Manas to the six senses, precipitating new actions, which in turn produce other seeds. This process is simultaneous and endless. “Alayavijnana is also called “Open knowledge”, the store of knowledge where all is revealed, either good or bad. Alaya means a house or rather a home, which is in turn a place where all the valued things for use by us are kept and among which we dwell. Also called “Store consciousness,” “eighth consciousness,” or “karma repository.” All karma created in the present and previous lifetime is stored in the Alaya Consciousness. According to the Consciousness-Only, there are eight consciousnesses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, mind, Mana and Alaya). These consciousnesses enable sentient beings to discriminate between right and wrong of all dharmas (thoughts, feelings, physical things, etc). However, human beings have a deep consciousness which is called Alaya-consciousness which is the actual subject of rebirth, and is mistakenly taken to be an eternal soul or self by the other consciousnesses. It is in the Alaya-consciousness that the impressions of action and experience are stored in the form of ‘seeds’ and it is these seeds which engender further experiences according to the individual situation. According to Asvaghosa Bodhisattva in the Awakening of Faith and the Samparigraha, the Alaya or store id the consciousness in which the true and the false unite. When Alaya Consciousness becomes pure and taintless, it is Tathata (Thusness). Also known as Alayavijnana. In the Lankavatara Sutra, the Buddha told Mahamati: “Oh Mahamati! The Tathagata-garbha contains in itself causes alike good and not-good, and from which are generated all paths of existence. It is like an actor playing different characters without harboring any thought of ‘me and mine.’” Alaya means all-conserving. It is in company with the seven Vijnanas which are generated in the dwelling-house of ignorance. The function of Alayavijnana is to look into itself where all the memory (vasana) og the beginningless past is preserved in a way beyond consciousness (acintya) and ready for further evolution (parinama); but it has no active energy in itself; it never acts, it simply perceives, it is in this exactly like a mirror; it is again like the ocean, perfectly smooth with no waves disturbing its tranquillity; and it is pure and undefiled, which means that it is free from the dualism of subject and object. For it is the pure act of perceiving, with no differentiation yet of the knowing one and the known. According to Prof. Junjiro Takakusu in The Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy, when all things are reflected on our mind, our discriminating or imaginating power is already at work. This called our consciousness (vijnana). Since the consciousness co-ordinating all reflected elements stores them, it is called the store-consciousness or ideation-store. The ideation-store itself is an existence of causal combination, and in it the pure and tainted elements are causally combined or intermingled. When the ideation-store begins to move and descend to the everyday world, then we have the manifold existence that is only an imagined world. The ideation-store, which is the seed-consciousness, is the conscious center and the world manifested by ideation is its environment. It is only from the Buddha’s Perfect Enlightenment that pure ideation flashed out. This pure ideation can purify the tainted portion of the ideation-store and further develop its power of understanding. The world of imagination and the world of interdependence will be brought to the real truth (parinispanna). This having been attained, the seed-store, as consciousness, will disappear altogether and ultimately will reach the state where there is no distinction between subject and object. The knowledge so gained has no discrimination (Avikalpa-vijnana). This ultimate state is the Nirvana of No Abode (apratisthita-nirvana), that is to say, the attainment of perfect freedom, not being bound to one place. The function of Alayavijnana is to look into itself where all the memory (vasana) of the beginningless past is preserved in a way beyond consciousness (acintya) and ready for further evolution (parinama); but it has no active energy in itself; it never acts, it simply perceives, it is in this exactly like a mirror; it is again like the ocean, perfectly smooth with no waves disturbing its tranquillity; and it is pure and undefiled, which means that it is free from the dualismof subject and object. For it is the pure act of perceiving, with no differentiation yet of the knowing one and the known. The initiator of change, or the first power of change, or mutation, i.e. the alaya-vijnana, so called because other vijnanas are derived from it. An important doctrinal concept that is particularly important in the Yogacara tradition. This term is sometimes translated by Western scholars as “storehouse consciousness,” since it acts as the repository (kho) of the predisposition (thiên về) that one’s actions produce. It stores these predispositions until the conditions are right for them to manifest themselves. The Tibetan translators rendered (hoàn lại) it as “basis of all” because it serves as the basis for all of the phenomena of cyclic existence and nirvana. Through meditative practice and engaging in meritorious actions, one gradually replaces afflicted seeds with pure ones; when one has completely purified the continuum of the alaya-vijnana, it is referred to as the “purified consciousness.” Alaya means all-conserving mind. It is in company with the seven Vijnanas which are generated in the dwelling-house of ignorance. Alaya means the preconsciousness, or the eighth consciousness, or the store-consciousness. It is the central or universal consciousness which is the womb or store consciousness (the storehouse consciousness where all karmic seeds enter and cause all thought activities). All karma created in the present and previous lifetime is stored in the Alaya Consciousness. This is like a storage space receiving all information collected in the Mana consciousness. When a sentient being dies, the first seven consciousnesses die with it, but the Alaya-Consciousness carries on. It is the supreme ruler of one existence which ultimately determines where one will gain rebirth in the six realms of existence.