The Awakening Of Faith In Mahayana
The Essence Itself and the Attributes of Suchness, or The Meanings of Maha
A. The Greatness of the Essence of Suchness
The essence of Suchness knows no increase or decrease in ordinary men, the Hinayanists, the Bodhisattvas, or the Buddhas. It was not brought into existence in the beginning nor will it cease to be at the end of time; it is eternal through and through.
B. The Greatness of the Attributes of Suchness
From the beginning, Suchness in its nature is fully provided with all excellent qualities; namely, it is endowed with the light of great wisdom, the qualities of illuminating the entire universe, of true cognition and mind pure in its self-nature; of eternity, bliss, Self, and purity; of refreshing coolness, immutability, and freedom. It is endowed with these excellent qualities, which outnumber the sands of the Ganges, which are not independent of, disjointed from, or different from the essence of Suchness, and which are supra-rational attributes of Buddhahood. ["Supra" means "greater then, or transcending.] Since it is endowed completely with all these, and is not lacking anything, it is called the Tathagata-garbha when latent and also the Dharmakaya of the Tathágata.
Question: It was explained before that the essence of Suchness is undifferentiated and devoid of all characteristics. Why is it, then, that you have described its essence as having these various excellent qualities? Answer: Though it has, in reality, all these excellent qualities, it does not have any characteristics of differentiation; it retains its identity and is of one flavor; Suchness is solely one. Question: What does this mean? Answer: Since it is devoid of individuation, it is free from the characteristics of individuation; thus it is one without any second. Question: Then how can you speak of differentiation [i.e., the plurality of the characteristics of Suchness]? Answer: In contrast to the characteristics of the phenomena of the "activating mind" the characteristics of Suchness can be inferred. Question: How can they be inferred? Answer: All things are originally of the mind only; they in fact transcend thoughts.
Nevertheless, the deluded mind, in non-enlightenment, gives rise to irrelevant thoughts and predicates the world of objects. This being the case, we define this mentality as "the state of being destitute of wisdom (avidya: ignorance)." The essential nature of Mind is immutable in that it does not give rise to any deluded thoughts, and therefore, is the very opposite of ignorance; hence, it is spoken of as having the characteristic of "the light of great wisdom." When there is a particular perceiving act of the mind, objects other than the objects being perceived will remain unperceived. The essential nature of Mind is free from any partial perceiving; hence, Suchness is spoken of as having the characteristic of "illuminating the entire universe."
When the mind is in motion [stirred by ignorance], it is characterized by illusions and defilements, outnumbering the sands of the Ganges, such as lack of true cognition, absence of self-nature, impermanence, bliss-less-ness, impurity, fever, anxiety, deterioration, mutation, and lack of freedom. By contrast to this, the essential nature of Mind, however, is motionless [i.e., undisturbed by ignorance]; therefore, it can be inferred that it must have various pure and excellent qualities, outnumbering the sands of the Ganges. But if the mind gives rise to irrelevant thoughts and further predicates the world of objects, it will continue to lack these qualities. All these numberless excellent qualities of the pure principle are none other than those of One Mind, and there is nothing to be sought after anew by thought. Thus, that which is fully endowed with them is called the Dharmakaya when manifested and the Tathágata-garbha when latent.
C. The Greatness of the Influences of Suchness
The Buddha-Tathágatas, while in the stages of Bodhisattva-hood, exercised great compassion, practiced paramitas, and accepted and transformed sentient beings. They took great vows, desiring to liberate all sentient beings through countless aeons until the end of future time, for they regarded all sentient beings as they regarded themselves. And yet, they never regarded them as separate sentient beings. Why? Because they truly knew that all sentient beings and they themselves were identical in Suchness and that there could be no distinction between them. Because they possessed such great wisdom, which could be applied to expedient means in quest of enlightenment, they extinguished their ignorance and perceived the original Dharmakaya. Spontaneously performing incomprehensible activities, exercising manifold influences, they pervade everywhere in their identity with Suchness. Nevertheless, they reveal no marks of their influences that can be traced as such. Why, because the Buddha-Tathágatas are no other than the Dharmakaya itself, and the embodiment of wisdom. They belong to the realm of the absolute truth, which transcends the world where the relative truth operates. They are free from any conventional activities. And yet, because of the fact that sentient beings receive benefit through seeing or hearing about them, their influences [i.e., of Suchness] can be spoken of in relative terms. The influences of Suchness are of two kinds. The first is that which is conceived by the mind of ordinary men and the followers of Hinayana [i.e., the influence of Suchness as reflected] in the "object-discriminating consciousness." This is called the influence of Suchness in the form of the "Transformation-body" (Nirmanakaya). Because they do not know that it is projected by the "evolving mind," they regard it as coming from without; they assume that it has a corporeal limitation because their understanding is limited. The second is that which is conceived by the mind of the Bodhisattvas, from the first stage of aspiration to the highest stage, [i.e., the influence of Suchness as reflected] in the mentality, which regards external objects as unreal. This is called the influence of Suchness in the form of the "Bliss-body" (Sambhogakaya). It has an infinite number of corporeal forms, each form has an infinite number of major marks, and each major mark has an infinite number of subtle marks. The land where it has its abode has innumerable adornments. It manifests itself without any bounds; its manifestations are inexhaustible and free from any limitations. It manifests itself in accordance with the needs of sentient beings; and yet it always remains firm without destroying or losing itself. These excellent qualities were perfected by the pure permeation acquired by the practice of paramitas and the supra-rational permeation of Suchness. Since the influence is endowed with infinite attributes of bliss, it is spoken of as the "Bliss-body." What is seen by ordinary men is only the coarse corporeal forms of the manifestation of Suchness. Depending upon where one is in the six transmigratory states, his vision of it will differ. The visions of it conceived by the unenlightened beings are not in a form of Bliss; this is the reason why it is called the "Transformation-body" [i.e., the body appearing in the likeness of the conceiver]. The Bodhisattvas in their first stage of aspiration and the others, because of their deep faith in Suchness, have a partial insight into the nature of the influence of Suchness. They know that the things of the Bliss-body, such as its corporeal forms, major marks, adornments, etc., do not come from without or go away, that they are free from limitations, and that they are envisioned by mind alone and are not independent of Suchness. These Bodhisattvas, however, are not free from dualistic thinking, since they have yet to enter into the stage where they gain complete realization of the Dharmakaya. If they advance to the "stage of pure-heartedness," the forms they see will be subtler and the influences of Suchness will be more excellent than ever. When they leave the last stage of Bodhisattva-hood, they will perfect their insight into Suchness. When they become free from the "activating mind" they will be free from the perceiving of duality. The Dharmakaya of the Buddhas knows no such thing as distinguishing this from that.
Question: If the Dharmakaya of the Buddhas is free from the manifestation of corporeal form, how can it appear in corporeal form? Answer: Since the Dharmakaya is the essence of corporeal form; it is capable of appearing in corporeal form. The reason this is said is that from the beginning corporeal form and Mind have been non-dual. Since the essential nature of corporeal form is identical with wisdom, the essence of corporeal form, which has yet to be divided into tangible forms, is called the "wisdom-body." Since the essential nature of wisdom is identical with corporeal form, the essence of corporeal form, which has yet to be divided into tangible forms, is called Dharmakaya pervading everywhere. Its manifested corporeal forms have no limitations. It can be freely manifested as an infinite number of Bodhisattvas, Buddhas of Bliss-body, and adornments in the ten quarters of the universe. Each of them has neither limitation nor interference. All of these are incomprehensible to the dualistic thinking of the deluded mind and consciousness, for they result from the free influence of Suchness.
From Samsára to Nirvana
Lastly, how to enter into the realm of Suchness from the realm of samsára will be revealed. Examining the five components, we find that they may be reduced to matter (object) and mind (subject). The objects of the five senses and of the mind are in the final analysis beyond what they are thought to be. And the mind itself is devoid of any form or mark and is, therefore, unobtainable as such, no matter where one may seek it. Just as a man, because he has lost his way, mistakes the east for the west, though the actual directions have not changed place, so people, because of their ignorance, assume Mind (Suchness) to be what they think it to be, though Mind in fact is unaffected even if it is falsely predicated. If a man is able to observe and understand that Mind is beyond what it is thought to be, then he will be able to conform to and enter the realm of Suchness.
CHAPTER TWO The Correction of Evil Attachments
All evil attachments originate from biased views; if a man is free from bias, he will be free from evil attachments. There are two kinds of biased view: one is the biased view held by those who are not free from the belief in atman [i.e., ordinary men]; the other is the biased view held by those who believe that the components of the world are real [i.e., the Hinayanists].
I. The Biased Views Held by Ordinary Men
There are five kinds of biased views held by ordinary men, which may be discussed. Hearing that it is explained in the sutra that the Dharmakaya of the Tathágata is, in the final analysis, quiescent, like empty space, ordinary men think that the nature of the Tathágata is, indeed, the same as empty space, for they do not know that the purpose of the sutra is to uproot their adherence.
Question: How is this to be corrected? Answer: The way to correct this error is to understand clearly that "empty space" is a delusive concept, the substance of which is nonexistent and unreal. It is merely predicated in relation to its correlative corporeal objects. If it is taken as a being termed non-being, a negative being, then it should be discarded, because it causes the mind to remain in samsára. In fact there are no external corporeal objects, because all objects are originally of the mind. And as long as there are no corporeal objects at all, "empty space" cannot be maintained. All objects are of the mind alone; but when illusions arise objects, which are regarded as real appear. When the mind is free from its deluded activities, then all objects imagined as real vanish of themselves. What is real, the one and true Mind, pervades everywhere. This is the final meaning of the Tathágata’s great and comprehensive wisdom. The Dharmakaya is, indeed, unlike "empty space." Hearing that it is explained in the sutra that all things in the world, in the final analysis, are empty in their substance, and that nirvana or the principle of Suchness is also absolutely empty from the beginning and devoid of any characteristics, they, not knowing that the purpose of the sutra is to uproot their adherence, think that the essential nature of Suchness or nirvana is simply empty.
Question: How is this to be corrected? Answer: The way to correct this error is to make clear that Suchness or the Dharmakaya is not empty, but is endowed with numberless excellent qualities. Hearing that it is explained in the sutra that there is no increase or decrease in the Tathágata-garbha and that it is provided in its essence with all excellent qualities, they, not being able to understand this, think that in the Tathágata-garbha there is plurality of mind and matter.
Question: How is this to be corrected? Answer: They should be instructed that the statement in the sutra that "there is no increase or decrease in the Tathagata-garbha" is made only in accordance with the absolute aspect of Suchness, and the statement that "it is provided with all excellent qualities" is made in accordance with the pluralistic outlook held by the defiled minds in samsára. Hearing that it is explained in the sutra that all defiled states of samsára in the world exist on the ground of the Tathagata-garbha and that they are therefore not independent of Suchness, they, not understanding this, think that the Tathagata-garbha literally contains in itself all the defiled states of samsára in the world.
Question: How is this to be corrected? Answer: In order to correct this error it should be understood that the Tathágata-garbha, from the beginning, contains only pure excellent qualities which, outnumbering the sands of the Ganges, are not independent of, severed from, or different from Suchness; that the soiled states of defilement which, outnumbering the sands of the Ganges, are not independent of, severed from, or different from Suchness; that the soiled states of defilement which, outnumbering the sands of the Ganges, merely exist in illusion; are, from the beginning, nonexistent; and from the beginning-less beginning have never been united with the Tathágata-garbha. It has never happened that the Tathágata-garbha contained deluded states in its essence and that it induced itself to realize Suchness in order to extinguish forever its deluded states. Hearing that it is explained in the sutra that on the ground of the Tathágata-garbha there is samsára as well as the attainment of nirvana, they, without understanding this, think that there is a beginning for sentient beings. Since they suppose a beginning, they suppose also that the nirvana attained by the Tathágata has an end and that he will in turn become a sentient being.
Question: How is this to be corrected? Answer: The way to correct this error is to explain that the Tathagata-garbha has no beginning, and that therefore ignorance has no beginning. If anyone asserts that sentient beings came into existence outside this triple world, he holds the view given in the scriptures of the heretics. Again, the Tathágata-garbha does not have an end; and the nirvana attained by the Buddhas, being one with it, likewise has no end.
II. The Biased Views Held by the Hinayanists
Because of their inferior capacity, the Tathágata preached to the Hinayanists only the doctrine of the nonexistence of atman and did not preach his doctrines in their entirety; as a result, the Hinayanists have come to believe that the five components, the constituents of samsaric existence, are real; being terrified at the thought of being subject to birth and death, they erroneously attach themselves to nirvana.
Question: How is this to be corrected? Answer: The way to correct this error is to make clear that the five components are unborn in their essential nature and, therefore, are imperishable - that what is made of the five components is, from the beginning, in nirvana. Finally, in order to be completely free from erroneous attachments, one should know that both the defiled and the pure states are relative and have no particular marks of their own-being that can be discussed. Thus, all things from the beginning are neither matter nor mind, neither wisdom nor consciousness, neither being nor non-being; they are ultimately inexplicable. And yet they are still spoken of. It should be understood that the Tathágatas, applying their expedient means, make use of conventional speech in a provisional manner in order to guide people, so that they can be free from their deluded thoughts and can return to Suchness; for if anyone thinks of anything as real and absolute in its own right, he causes his mind to be trapped in samsára and consequently he cannot enter the state filled with true insight [i.e., enlightenment].
Analyses of the Types of Aspiration for Enlightenment, or The Meanings of Yana
All Bodhisattvas aspire to the enlightenment (or bodhi; in Chinese, the word is Tao) realized by all the Buddhas, disciplining themselves to this end, and advancing toward it. Briefly, three types of aspiration for enlightenment can be distinguished. The first is the aspiration for enlightenment through the perfection of faith. The second is the aspiration for enlightenment through understanding and through deeds. The third is the aspiration for enlightenment through insight.
I. The Aspiration for Enlightenment through the Perfection of Faith
Question: By whom and through what kind of discipline can faith be perfected so that the aspiration for enlightenment may be developed? Answer: Among those who belong to the group of the undetermined, there are some who, by virtue of their excellent capacity for goodness developed through permeation, believe in the law of retribution of karma and observe the ten precepts. They loathe the suffering of samsára and wish to seek the supreme enlightenment. Having been able to meet the Buddhas, they serve them, honor them, and practice the faith. Their faith will be perfected after ten thousand aeons. Their aspiration for enlightenment will be developed either through the instruction of the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas, or because of their great compassion toward their suffering fellow beings, or from their desire to preserve the good teaching from extinction. Those who are thus able to develop their aspiration through the perfection of faith will enter the group of the determined and will never retrogress. They are called the ones who are united with the correct cause for enlightenment and who abide among those who belong to the Tathágata family. There are, however, people among those who belong to the group of the undetermined whose capacity for goodness is slight and whose defilements, having accumulated from the far distant past, are deep-rooted. Though they may also meet the Buddhas and honor them, they will develop the potentiality merely to be born as men, as dwellers in heaven, or as followers of the Hinayana. Even if they should seek after the Mahayana, they would sometimes progress and sometimes regress because of the inconsistent nature of their capacity. And also there are some who honor the Buddhas and who, before ten thousand aeons have passed, will develop an aspiration because of some favorable circumstances. These circumstances may be the viewing of the Buddhas' corporeal forms, the honoring of monks, the receiving of instructions from the followers of the Hinayana, or the imitation of others' aspiration. But these types of aspiration are all inconsistent, for if the men who hold them meet with unfavorable circumstances they will relapse and fall back into the stage of attainment of the followers of the Hinayana. Now, in developing the aspiration for enlightenment through the perfection of faith, what kind of mind is to be cultivated? Briefly speaking, three kinds can be discussed. The first is the mind characterized by straightforwardness, for it correctly meditates on the principle of Suchness. The second is the mind of profoundness, for there is no limit to its joyful accumulation of all kinds of goodness. The third is the mind filled with great compassion, for it wishes to uproot the sufferings of all sentient beings.
Question: Earlier it has been explained that the World of Reality is one, and that the essence of the Buddhas has no duality. Why is it that people do not meditate of their own accord on Suchness alone, but must learn to practice good deeds? Answer: Just as a precious gem is bright and pure in its essence but is marred by impurities, so is a man. Even if he meditates on his precious nature, unless he polishes it in various ways by expedient means, he will never be able to purify it. The principle of Suchness in men is absolutely pure in its essential nature, but is filled with immeasurable impurity of defilements. Even if a man meditates on Suchness, unless he makes an effort to be permeated by it in various ways by applying expedient means, he certainly cannot become pure. Since the state of impurity is limitless, pervading throughout all states of being, it is necessary to counteract and purify it by means of the practice of all kinds of good deeds. If a man does so, he will naturally return to the principle of Suchness. As to the expedient means, there are, in short, four kinds: The first is the fundamental means to be practiced. That is to say, a man is to meditate on the fact that all things in their essential nature are unborn, divorcing himself from deluded views so that he does not abide in samsára. At the same time he is to meditate on the fact that all things are the products of the union of the primary and coordinating causes, and that the effect of karma will never be lost. Accordingly he is to cultivate great compassion, practice meritorious deeds, and accept and transform sentient beings equally without abiding in nirvana, for he is to conform himself to the functions of the essential nature of Reality (dharmata) which knows no fixation. The second is the means of stopping evils. The practice of developing a sense of shame and repentance can stop all evils and prevent them from growing, for one is to conform oneself to the faultlessness of the essential nature of Reality. The third is the means of increasing the capacity for goodness that has already been developed. That is to say, a man should diligently honor and pay homage to the Three treasures, and should praise, rejoice in, and beseech the Buddhas. Because of the sincerity of his love and respect for the Three Treasures, his faith will be strengthened and he will be able to seek the unsurpassed enlightenment. Furthermore, being protected by the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, he will be able to wipe out the hindrances of evil karma. His capacity for goodness will not retrogress because he will be conforming himself to the essential nature of Reality, which is free from hindrances produced by stupidity. The fourth is the means of the great vow of universal salvation. This is to take a vow that one will liberate all sentient beings, down to the last one, no matter how long it may take to cause them to attain the perfect nirvana, for one will be conforming oneself to the essential nature of Reality which is characterized by the absence of discontinuity. The essential nature of Reality is all embracing, and pervades all sentient beings; it is everywhere the same and one without duality, it does not distinguish this from that, because it is, in the final analysis, in the state of quiescence. When a Bodhisattva develops this aspiration for enlightenment through faith, he will be able, to a certain extent, to realize the Dharmakaya. Because of this realization of the Dharmakaya, and because he is led by the force of the vow that he made to liberate all sentient beings, he is able to present eight types of manifestation of himself for the benefit of all sentient beings. These are: the descent from the Tushita heaven; the entrance into a human womb; the stay in the womb; the birth; the renunciation; the attainment of enlightenment; the turning of the wheel of the Dharma (doctrine); and the entrance into nirvana. However, such a Bodhisattva cannot be said to have perfectly realized the Dharmakaya, for he has not yet completely destroyed the out-flowing evil karma, which has been accumulated from his numberless existences in the past. He must suffer some slight misery deriving from the state of his birth. However, this is due not to his being fettered by karma, but to his freely made decision to carry out the great vow of universal salvation in order to understand the suffering of others. It is said in a sutra that there are some Bodhisattvas of this kind who may regress and fall into evil states of existence, but this does not refer to a real regression. It says this merely in order to frighten and stir the heroism of the newly initiated Bodhisattvas who have not yet joined the group of the determined, and who may be indolent. Furthermore, as soon as this aspiration has been aroused in the Bodhisattvas, they leave cowardice far behind them and are not afraid even of falling into the stage of the followers of the Hinayana. Even though they hear that they must suffer extreme hardship for innumerable aeons before they may attain nirvana, they do not feel any fear, for they believe and know that from the beginning all things are of themselves in nirvana.
II. The Aspiration for Enlightenment through Understanding and Deeds
It should be understood that this type of aspiration is even more excellent than the former. Because the Bodhisattvas who cherish this aspiration are those who are about to finish the first term of the incalculable aeons since the time when they first had the correct faith, they have come to have a profound understanding of the principle of Suchness and to entertain no attachment to their attainments obtained through discipline. Knowing that the essential nature of Reality is free from covetousness, they, in conformity to it, devote themselves to the perfection of charity. Knowing that the essential nature of Reality is free from the defilements, which originate from the desires of the five senses, they, in conformity to it, devote themselves to the perfection of precepts. Knowing that the essential nature of Reality is without suffering and free from anger and anxiety, they, in conformity to it, devote themselves to the perfection of forbearance. Knowing that the essential nature of Reality does not have any distinction of body and mind and is free from indolence, they, in conformity to it, devote themselves to the perfection of zeal. Knowing that the essential nature of Reality is always calm and free from confusion in its essence, they, in conformity to it, devote themselves to the perfection of meditation. Knowing that the essential nature of Reality is always characterized by gnosis and is free from ignorance, they, in conformity to it, devote themselves to the perfection of wisdom.
III. The Aspiration for Enlightenment through Insight
As for the Bodhisattvas of this group, who range from the "stage of pure-heartedness" to the "last stage of Bodhisattva-hood", what object do they realize? They realize Suchness. We speak of it as an object because of the "evolving mind" but in fact there is no object in this realization that can be stated in terms of a subject-object relationship. There is only the insight into Suchness transcending both the seer and the seen; we call this the experience of the Dharmakaya. The Bodhisattvas of this group can, in an instant of thought, go to all worlds of the universe, honor the Buddhas, and ask them to turn the wheel of the Dharma. In order to guide and benefit all men, they do not rely on words. Sometimes, for the sake of weak-willed men, they show how to attain perfect enlightenment quickly by skipping over the stages of the Bodhisattva. And sometimes, for the sake of indolent men, they say that men may attain enlightenment at the end of numberless aeons. Thus they can demonstrate innumerable expedient means and supra-rational feats. But in reality all these Bodhisattvas are the same in that they are alike in their lineage, their capacity, their aspiration, and their realization of Suchness; therefore, there is no such thing as skipping over the stages, for all Bodhisattvas must pass through the three terms of innumerable aeons before they can fully attain enlightenment. However, because of the differences in the various beings, there are also different ways of teaching them what to practice. The characteristics of the aspiration for enlightenment entertained by a Bodhisattva belonging to this group can be identified in terms of the three subtle modes of mind. The first is the true mind, for it is free from false intellectual discrimination. The second is the mind capable of applying expedient means, for it pervades everywhere spontaneously and benefits sentient beings. The third is the mind subject to the influence of karma operating in subconscious-ness, for it appears and disappears in the subtlest ways. Again, a Bodhisattva of this group, when he brings his excellent qualities to perfection, manifests himself in the heaven of Akanishta (the highest heaven in the world of form according to the cosmology of Indian Buddhism) as the highest physical being in the world. Through wisdom united with original enlightenment of Suchness in an instant of thought, he suddenly extinguishes ignorance. Then he is called the one who has obtained all-embracing knowledge. Performing supra-rational acts spontaneously, he can manifest himself everywhere in the universe and benefit all sentient beings.
Question: Since space is infinite, worlds are infinite. Since worlds are infinite, beings are infinite. Since beings are infinite, the variety of their mentalities must also be infinite. The objects of the senses and the mind must therefore be limitless, and it is difficult to know and understand them all. If ignorance is destroyed, there will be no thoughts in the mind. How then can a comprehension that has no content be called "all-embracing knowledge"? Answer:All objects are originally of One Mind and are beyond thought determination. Because unenlightened people perceive objects in their illusion, they impose limitations in their mind. Since they erroneously develop these thought determinations, which do not correspond to Reality (dharmata), they are unable to reach any inclusive comprehension. The Buddha-Tathágatas are free from all perverse views and thoughts that block correct vision; therefore, there are no corners into which their comprehension does not penetrate. Their Mind is true and real; therefore, it is no other than the essential nature of all things. The Buddhas, because of their very nature, can shed light on all objects conceived in illusion. They are endowed with an influence of great wisdom that functions as the application of innumerable expedient means. Accommodating themselves to the capacity of understanding of various sentient beings, they can reveal to them the manifold meanings of the doctrine. This is the reason they may be called those who have "all-embracing knowledge."
Question: If the Buddhas are able to perform spontaneous acts, to manifest themselves everywhere, and to benefit all sentient beings, then the sentient beings should all be able, by seeing their physical forms, by witnessing their miracles, or by hearing their preaching, to gain benefit. Why is it then that most people in this world have not been able to see the Buddhas?Answer: The Dharmakaya of all the Buddhas, being one and the same everywhere, is omnipresent. Since the Buddhas are free from any fixation of thought, their acts are said to be "spontaneous." They reveal themselves in accordance with the mentalities of all the various sentient beings. The mind of the sentient being is like a mirror. Just as a mirror cannot reflect images if it is coated with dirt, so the Dharmakaya cannot appear in the mind of the sentient being if it is coated with the dirt of defilements.
On Faith and Practice
Having already discussed interpretation, we will now present a discussion of faith and practice. This discussion is intended for those who have not yet joined the group of beings who are determined to attain enlightenment.
On Four Faiths
Question: What kind of faith should a man have and how should he practice it? Answer:Briefly, there are four kinds of faith. The first is the faith in the Ultimate Source. Because of this faith a man comes to meditate with joy on the principle of Suchness. The second is the faith in the numberless excellent qualities of the Buddhas. Because of this faith a man comes to meditate on them always, to draw near to them in fellowship, to honor them, and to respect them, developing his capacity for goodness and seeking after the all-embracing knowledge. The third is the faith in the great benefits of the Dharma (Teaching). Because of this faith a man comes constantly to remember and practice various disciplines leading to enlightenment. The fourth is the faith in the Sangha (or Buddhist Community) whose members are able to devote themselves to the practice of benefiting both themselves and others. Because of this faith a man comes to approach constantly and with joy the assembly of Bodhisattvas and to seek instruction from them in the correct practice.
On Five Practices
There are five ways of practice, which will enable a man to perfect his faith. They are the practices of charity, observance of precepts, patience, zeal, and cessation of illusions and clear observation.
Question: How should a man practice charity? Answer: If he sees anyone coming to him begging, he should give him the wealth and other things in his possession in so far as he is able; thus, while freeing himself from greed and avarice, he causes the beggar to be joyful. Or, if he sees one who is in hardship, in fear, or in grave danger, he should, according to his ability and understanding, explain it by the use of expedient means. In doing so, however, he should not expect any fame, material gain, or respect, but he should think only of benefiting himself and others alike and of extending the merit that he gains from the practice of charity toward the attainment of enlightenment.
Question: How should he practice the observance of precepts? Answer: He is not to kill, to steal, to commit adultery, to be double-tongued, to slander, to lie, or to utter exaggerated speech. He is to free himself from greed, jealousy, cheating, deceit, flattery, crookedness, anger, hatred, and perverse views. If he happens to be a monk or nun who has renounced family life, he should also, in order to cut off and suppress defilements, keep himself away from the hustle and bustle of the world and, always residing in solitude, should learn to be content with the least desire and should practice vigorous ascetic disciplines. He should be frightened and filled with awe by any slight fault and should feel shame and repent. He should not take lightly any of the Tathágata’s precepts. He should guard himself from slander and from showing dislike so as not to rouse people in their delusion to commit any offense or sin.
Question: How should he practice patience? Answer: He should be patient with the vexatious acts of others and should not harbor thoughts of vengeance, and he should also be patient in matters of gain or loss, honor or dishonor, praise or blame, suffering or joy, etc.
Question: How should he practice zeal? Answer: He should not be sluggish in doing good, he should be firm in his resolution, and he should purge himself of cowardice. He should remember that from the far distant past he has been tormented in vain by all of the great sufferings of body and mind. Because of this he should diligently practice various meritorious acts, benefiting himself and others, and liberate himself quickly from suffering. Even if a man practices faith, because he is greatly hindered by the evil karma derived from the grave sins of previous lives, he may be troubled by the evil Tempter (Mara) and his demons, or entangled in all sorts of worldly affairs, or afflicted by the suffering of disease. There are a great many hindrances of this kind. He should, therefore, be courageous and zealous, and at the six four-hour intervals of the day and night should pay homage to the Buddhas, repent with sincere heart, beseech the Buddhas for their guidance, rejoice in the happiness of others, and direct all the merits thus acquired to the attainment of enlightenment. If he never abandons these practices, he will be able to avoid the various hindrances as his capacity for goodness increases.
Question: How should he practice cessation and clear observation? Answer: What is called "cessation" means to put a stop to all characteristics (lakshana) of the world of sense objects and of the mind, because it means to follow the samatha (tranquility) method of meditation. What is called "clear observation" means to perceive distinctly the characteristics of the causally conditioned phenomena (samsára), because it means to follow the vipassana (discerning) method of meditation.
Question: How should he follow these? Answer: He should step by step practice these two aspects and not separate one from the other, for only then will both be perfected.
The Practice of Cessation
Should there be a man who desires to practice "cessation", he should stay in a quiet place and sit erect in an even temper. His attention should be focused neither on breathing nor on any form or color, nor on empty space, earth, water, fire, wind, nor even on what has been seen, heard, remembered, or conceived. All thoughts, as soon as they are conjured up, are to be discarded, and even the thought of discarding them is to be put away, for all things are essentially in the state of transcending thoughts, and are not to be created from moment to moment nor to be extinguished from moment to moment; thus one is to conform to the essential nature of Reality (dharmata) through this practice of cessation. And it is not that he should first meditate on the objects of the senses in the external world and then negate them with his mind, the mind that has meditated on them. If the mind wanders away, it should be brought back and fixed in "correct thought." It should be understood that this "correct thought" is the thought that whatever is, is mind only and that there is no external world of objects as conceived; even this mind is devoid of any marks of its own which would indicate its substantiality and therefore is not substantially conceivable as such at any moment. Even if he arises from his sitting position and engages in other activities, such as going, coming, advancing, or standing still, he should at all times be mindful of the application of expedient means of perfecting "cessation," conform to the immobile principle of the essential nature of Reality, and observe and examine the resulting experiences. When this discipline is well mastered after a long period of practice, the ideations of his mind will be arrested. Because of this, his power of executing "cessation" will gradually be intensified and become highly effective, so that he will conform himself to, and be able to be absorbed into, the "concentration (samádhi) of Suchness." Then his defilements, deep though they may be, will be suppressed and his faith strengthened; he will quickly attain the state in which there will be no retrogression. But those who are skeptical, who lack faith, who speak ill of the teaching of the Buddha, who have committed grave sins, who are hindered by their evil karma, or who are arrogant or indolent are to be excluded; these people are incapable of being absorbed into the samádhi of Suchness. Next, as a result of this samádhi, a man realizes the oneness of the World of Reality (Dharmadhatu), i.e., the sameness everywhere and non-duality of the Dharmakaya of all the Buddhas and the bodies of sentient beings. This is called "the samádhi of one movement." It should be understood that the samádhi of Suchness is the foundation of all other samádhi; if a man keeps practicing it, then he will gradually be able to develop countless other kinds of samádhi. If there is a man who lacks the capacity for goodness, he will be confused by the evil Tempter, by heretics and by demons. Sometimes these beings will appear in dreadful forms while he is sitting in meditation, and at other times they will manifest themselves in the shapes of handsome men and women. In such a case he should meditate on the principle of "Mind only," and then these objects will vanish and will not trouble him any longer. Sometimes they may appear as the images of heavenly beings or Bodhisattvas, and assume also the figure of the Tathágata, furnished with all the major and minor marks; or they may expound the spells or preach charity, the precepts, patience, zeal, meditation, and wisdom; or they may discourse on how the true nirvana is the state of universal emptiness, of the nonexistence of characteristics, vows, hatreds, affections, causes, and effects; and of absolute nothingness. They may also teach him the knowledge of his own past and future states of existence, the method of reading other men's minds, and perfect mastery of speech, causing him to be covetous and attached to worldly fame and profit; or they may cause him to be frequently moved to joy and anger and thus to have unsteadiness of character, being at times very kind-hearted, very drowsy, very ill, or lazy-minded; or at other times becoming suddenly zealous, and then afterward lapsing into negligence; or developing a lack of faith, a great deal of doubt, and a great deal of anxiety; or abandoning his fundamental excellent practices toward religious perfection and devoting himself to miscellaneous religious acts, or being attached to worldly affairs which involve him in many ways; or sometimes they may cause him to experience a certain semblance of various kinds of samádhi, which are all the attainments of heretics and are not the true samádhi; or sometimes they may cause him to remain in samádhi for one, two, three, or up to seven days, feeling comfort in his body and joy in his mind, being neither hungry nor thirsty, partaking of natural, fragrant, and delicious drinks and foods, which induce him to increase his attachment to them; or at other times they may cause him to eat without any restraint, now a great deal, now only a little, so that the color of his face changes accordingly. For these reasons, he who practices "cessation" should be discreet and observant, lest his mind fall into the net of evil doctrine. He should be diligent in abiding in "correct thought," neither grasping nor attaching himself to anything; if he does so, he will be able to keep himself far away from the hindrance of these evil influences. He should know that the samádhi of the heretics is not free from perverse views, craving, and arrogance, for the heretics are covetously attached to fame, profit, and the respect of the world. The samádhi of Suchness is the samádhi in which one is not arrested by the activity of viewing a subject nor by the experiencing of objects in the midst of meditation, even after concentration one will be neither indolent nor arrogant and one's defilements will gradually decrease. There has never been a case in which an ordinary man, without having practiced this samádhi, was still able to join the group that is entitled to become Tathágatas. Those who practice the various types of Dhyana (meditation) and samádhi which are popular in the world will develop much attachment to their flavors and will be bound to the triple world because of their perverse view that atman is real. They are therefore the same as heretics, for as they depart from the protection of their good spiritual friends, they turn to heretical views. Next, he who practices this samádhi diligently and whole-heartedly will gain ten kinds of advantages in this life. First, the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas of the ten directions will always protect him. Second, the Tempter and his evil demons will not frighten him. Third, he will not be deluded or confused by the ninety-five kinds of heretics and wicked spirits. Fourth, he will keep himself far away from slanderers of the profound teaching of the Buddha, and will gradually diminish the hindrances derived from grave sins. Fifth, he will destroy all doubts and wrong views on enlightenment. Sixth, his faith in the Realm of the Tathágata will grow. Seventh, he will be free from sorrow and remorse and in the midst of samsára will be full of vigor and undaunted. Eighth, having a gentle heart and forsaking arrogance, he will not be vexed by others. Ninth, even if he has not yet experienced samádhi, he will be able to decrease his defilements in all places and at all times, and he will not take pleasure in the world. Tenth, if he experiences samádhi, he will not be startled by any sound from without. Now, if he practices "cessation" only, then his mind will be sunk in self-complacency and he will be slothful; he will not delight in performing good acts but will keep himself far away from the exercise of great compassion. It is, therefore, necessary to practice "clear observation" as well.
The Practice of Clear Observation
He who practices "clear observation" should observe that all conditioned phenomena in the world are un-stationary and are subject to instantaneous transformation and destruction; that all activities of the mind arise and are extinguished from moment to moment; and that, therefore, all of these induce suffering. He should observe that all that had been conceived in the past was as hazy as a dream, that all that is being conceived in the present is like a flash of lightning, and that all that will be conceived in the future will be like clouds that rise up suddenly. He should also observe that the physical existences of all living beings in the world are impure and that among these various filthy things there is not a single one that can be sought after with joy. He should reflect in the following way: all living beings, from the beginning-less beginning, because they are permeated by ignorance, have allowed their mind to remain in samsára; they have already suffered all the great miseries of the body and mind, they are at present under incalculable pressure and constraint, and their sufferings in the future will likewise be limitless. These sufferings are difficult to forsake, difficult to shake off, and yet these beings are unaware that they are in such a state; for this, they are greatly to be pitied. After reflecting in this way, he should pluck up his courage and make a great vow to this effect: may my mind be free from discriminations so that I may practice all of the various meritorious acts everywhere in the ten directions; may I, to the end of the future, by applying limitless expedient means, help all suffering sentient beings so that they may obtain the bliss of nirvana, the ultimate goal. Having made such a vow, he must, in accordance with his capacity and without faltering, practice every kind of good at all times and all places and not be slothful in his mind. Except when he sits in concentration in the practice of "cessation," he should at all times reflect upon what should be done and what should not be done. Whether walking, standing, sitting, lying, or rising, he should practice both "cessation" and "clear observation" side by side. That is to say, he is to meditate upon the fact that things are unborn in their essential nature; but at the same time he is to meditate upon the fact that good and evil karma, produced by the combination of the primary cause and the coordinating causes, and the retributions of karma in terms of pleasure, pain, etc., are neither lost nor destroyed. Though he is to meditate on the retribution of good and evil karma produced by the primary and coordinating causes [i.e., he is to practice "clear observation"], he is also to meditate on the fact that the essential nature of things is unobtainable by intellectual analysis.
The practice of "cessation" will enable ordinary men to cure themselves of their attachments to the world, and will enable the followers of the Hinayana to forsake their views, which derive from cowardice. The practice of "clear observation" will cure the followers of the Hinayana of the fault of having narrow and inferior minds, which bring forth no great compassion, and will free ordinary men from their failure to cultivate the capacity for goodness. For these reasons, both "cessation" and "clear observation" are complementary and inseparable. If the two are not practiced together, then one cannot enter the path to enlightenment. Next, suppose there is a man who learns this teaching for the first time and wishes to seek the correct faith but lacks courage and strength. Because he lives in this world of suffering, he fears that he will not always be able to meet the Buddhas and honor them personally, and that, faith being difficult to perfect, he will be inclined to fall back. He should know that the Tathágatas have an excellent expedient means by which they can protect his faith: that is, through the strength of wholehearted meditation on the Buddha, he will in fulfillment of his wishes be able to be born in the Buddha-land beyond, to see the Buddha always, and to be forever separated from the evil states of existence. It is as the sutra says: "If a man meditates wholly on Amitabha Buddha in the world of the Western Paradise and wishes to be born in that world, directing all the goodness he has cultivated toward that goal, then he will be born there." Because he will see the Buddha at all times, he will never fall back. If he meditates on the Dharmakaya, the Suchness of the Buddha, and with diligence keeps practicing the meditation; he will be able to be born there in the end because he abides in the correct samádhi.
Encouragement of Practice and the Benefits Thereof
As has already been explained in the preceding sections, the Mahayana is the secret treasury of the Buddhas. Should there be a man who wishes to obtain correct faith in the profound Realm of the Tathágata and to enter the path of Mahayana, putting far away from himself any slandering of the teaching of Buddha, he should lay hold of this treatise, deliberate on it, and practice it; in the end he will be able to reach the unsurpassed enlightenment. If a man, after having heard this teaching, does not feel any fear or weakness, it should be known that such a man is certain to carry on the lineage of the Buddha and to receive the prediction of the Buddha that he will obtain enlightenment. Even if a man were able to reform all living beings throughout all the systems in the universe and to induce them to practice the ten precepts, he still would not be superior to a man who reflects correctly upon this teaching even for the time spent on a single meal, for the excellent qualities which the latter is able to obtain are unspeakably superior to those which the former may obtain. If a man takes hold of this treatise and reflects on and practices the teachings given in it only for one day and one night, the excellent qualities he will gain will be boundless and indescribable. Even if all the Buddhas of the ten directions were to praise these excellent qualities for incalculably long periods of time, they could never reach the end of their praise, for the excellent qualities of the Reality (dharmata) are infinite and the excellent qualities gained by this man will accordingly be boundless. If, however, there is a man who slanders and does not believe in this treatise, for an incalculable number of aeons he will undergo immense suffering for his fault. Therefore all people should reverently believe in it and not slander it, for slander and lack of faith will gravely injure one as well as others and will lead to the destruction of the lineage of the Three Treasures. Through this teaching all Tathágatas have gained nirvana, and through the practice of it all Bodhisattvas have obtained Buddha-wisdom. It should be known that it was by means of this teaching that the Bodhisattvas in the past were able to perfect their pure faith; that it is by means of this teaching that the Bodhisattvas of the present are perfecting their pure faith; and that it is by means of this teaching that the Bodhisattvas of the future will perfect their pure faith. Therefore men should diligently study and practice it.
Profound and comprehensive are the great principles of the Buddha, which I have now summarized as faithfully as possible. May whatever excellent qualities I have gained from this endeavor in accordance with Reality be extended for the benefit of all beings!