Mahayana Meditations

Chapter X, Sections III, IV, V, Vl, and X of Buddhist Meditation: Systematic and Practical

By C. M. Chen as written down by Rev. Kantipalo

I. Mahayana (also known as Paramitayana) is not Negativism, and the Six Paramitas are not Merit-Accumulations for going to Heavens.

A. Even a scholar as famous as Takakusa treats the Prajnaparamita philosophy as negativisma common mistake (see Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy.) In China, the San-Lun School which was based upon the Three Shastras (the Madhyamika Shastra and Dvadasa Dvara both by Nagarjuna and the Sata Shastra of Aryadeva) used these works just for the purpose of argument and by the nature of the propositions, these were in negative form. They employed these Shastras and their contents just for argument but we have quite a different purpose. We shall use them as the basis of meditation practices.

The eight negative conditions formulated by Nagarjuna are excellent as a means for investigating the truth. They are also good principles for refuting outsiders and converting them to Saddharma. Besides this they have another practical value which directly concerns us. They are good formulas for samapatti upon the truth when, after continual negation, one gains the position of consequence and positive truth appears naturally. So from this point, their value is very definitely positive, not negative, and it is quite wrong to regard them as the latter. Despite this, ancient and modern scholars have all treated these statements as a negativism, not giving any meditation upon them, only theories. So tonight we shall give some meditations not to be found in any book.

Prajnaparamita itself should not be confused with the San-Lun School which existed only to study this corpus of texts and to engage in dialectic battles, but not as a practical school, not having set up any methods of meditation.

Contrast this with Bhadanta Nagarjuna who not only used his philosophy to debate with outsiders but also applied it to meditate on truth and, Mr. Chen added, he was fully accomplished in Sunyata realization.

As a complete contrast, our yogi cited the example of Hsuan Tsang: although he was deeply learned in the Yogacara School and of course knew of its meditations, still he did not practice these and had no realization on this. Just after translating the Prajnaparamita he died, but from this work obtained many blessings.

From all this we may see that Sunyavada is a positive philosophy, not merely a negative dialectic when it is actually practiced; when, in other words, it is used for meditation.

B. When merits are always accompanied by Sunyata, they become very great. They are in fact then transcendent merits. Accompanied by Sunyata, merits do not get results in the worldly heavens but produce fruits for the great Bodhi Path leading to Nirvana.

Nowadays there are many good persons who do not understand this. They do something according to the first three paramitas but if they do not meditate on Sunyata and then act accordingly, then this merit will only carry them into a higher state in Samsara. They may think that they are Bodhisattvas but really this is not so. They are really just the same as common men who do something good to get to heaven.

To give an example: In two almsgivings of the same quality and quantity, one donor has the force of Sunyata meditations to accompany his actionshis merit will accumulate to aid him onwards to Nirvana. The other who does not have this must go to heaven for his deeds. Whether one will get rebirth in the heaven states or go on to Nirvana is entirely according to this knowledge of meditation.

C. The Four Boundless Minds. We have left these aside so far as they belong to mathematic, not to philosophic boundlessness in the sunyata sense. In the Hinayana it is admitted that they are meditations for heaven, not even for Arahathood. In their practice there is still a subject (one who practices), an object (the person toward whom one practices), and the good deeds one does (the friendliness, compassion, etc. cultivated), and all these lead to heavenly attainment.

With the realization of sunyata, it is quite different as the subject is void, also the object and so too are all deeds done, consequently the merits are not for heavenly fruit.  

II. The Practical Method of Mahayana Sunyata Meditations

I have arranged these into four classes:

1) Meditations of Sunyata. Within these there are four methods.

a. According to the four phrases found in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra:

Not born from a self,
Not born from another,
Not born from both,
Not born without a condition.
When the practitioner has attained a good posture and has gotten some firm attainment in Samatha, he should then think of these four phrases. The last one is very important but one should only practice it after having inquired into the first three. From inquiry into them one will not get any answer though successively wrong views will be cut down. But at the fourth stage one will realize sunyata which is not negative only but appears to be manifested from the gathering of many conditions.

b. Meditations on The Eight Negatives. These are:

No productionno extinction,
No annihilationno permanence,
No unityno diversity,
No comingno departure.
Here we should distinguish what is the purpose of these opposite arguments. In the first two we find clearly enough the nature of Nirvana defined, is this not enough? Why should one proceed to the other pairs?

First, we should confirm the nature of Nirvana, hence "Nir" equals "no production" and "vana" is "no extinction." When then do we come to the second pair? Some persons agree with the first two statements but hold extreme wrong views either of annihilation or of permanence. For them this statement has been formulated pointing out the errors of the extremes. Particularly strong is the wrong view of permanence but, said Mr. Chen, if something exists which is permanent now, then in the past also it must have been stable for one cannot have an impermanent permanence. But if we examine closely all of our knowledge, we do not find any support for a permanent permanenceall in fact is impermanent. This second pair besides refuting these extreme views, is also useful to the attainment of the nature of conditions in sunyata through this meditation.

Why then, "no unity, no diversity?" Because some persons have the idea of a Monism, and from this One First Cause all the many things have their source. But the many things with which we are acquainted with in Samsara are continually changing; so how can their origin remain unchanged? Is it possible to have a relationship of an unchanging One Cause and ten thousand changing things? This pair is used to show the inconsistency and untenability of such a position thereby refuting the outsiders who hold it.

Why does one next come to the statement of "coming and going?" Some people do not like to formulate their religion philosophically, they only have blind faith in a Creator God. We have come from him, and so they say if we believe in him, we will go back to him. To save those holding this false view and to correct their blind faith, one should see this pair of opposites. But all this is for conversion and debate as indeed it was used by the scholars of the San-Lun School. Of course it is good for these purposes but what is its possible application for our meditations? The answer to this question is not to be found in any ancient book but in my opinion it is like this:

  1. For the first two: If one meditates on these after, of course, having completed the preparations given in the previous chapters, then one will get some sign of Unabiding Nirvana. If this is an extinction, then there can be no production of a sign. But then one who has realized this Nirvana comes to some function of salvation, and then it cannot be called "no-production." So this pair of opposites are identified, in No-Abiding Nirvana.
  2. Regarding the second pair: Meditate on these two and gain some practical knowledge of the nature of causation. If causes do not gather together, then nothing can be produced, then there is no annihilation, but if causes are collected together, then some functions will occur from their interactionthen there is no permanence. Function according to conditions is changeable, but even so, according to the laws of cause and effect we cannot call it annihilation.
  3. On the third pair: When we meditate on these and get some attainment we shall know how to abide in the same entity with all sentient beings. Then it is possible to develop the Great Compassion of the same entity which arises without reference to specific conditions. Too many scholars studying the Sunyata doctrines neglect compassion, so one should practice meditation to see that others are not the same in condition as me, yet not different in entity from me. In this meditation, one recognizes the same entity, but at the same time sees that you are you and I am 1. But, said our yogi with great compassion, one may recognize this same entity but so many others do notone feels great pity for them.
  4. As for the fourth pair: This is to gain an insight into simultaneity. If one meditates on these, then one gains freedom from the limitations of time for we must know that all the three times are the same entity in Sunyata. Truth is to be found in a fourth dimension beyond space and time and if we would know it, we must free ourselves from their limitations. Time, after all is quite relativetoday is the yesterday of tomorrow and is also the tomorrow of yesterday. In Sunyata meditation, yesterday has no going and tomorrow has no coming; the three times all become the same and besides knowing well the present, one may easily have foresight into the future, or cause the events of the distant past to be remembered in the presentas Lord Buddha often did. For such a one there is no limit. He can make the future into the past and the past into the future and many wonderful supernatural powers occur.

These are the possibilities for our own meditations but nobody has given instructions like this before. One might well ask, why? To me it is very wonderful. There have been so many "Bodhisattvas" but they have not set forth such meditations. Mr. Chen laughed at this strange circumstance and then repeated: Yes, wonderful. And difficult to understand. There was, as we have mentioned, the sutra and shastra study school for the Prajnaparamita but not one devoted to its practice. Such a state of affairs is very extraordinary and I am sorry to have to report that it is so. Therefore, we must set up such practices for the real practitioners who wish to follow this way.

c. The four voidnesses are listed in the diagram accompanying this chapter and regarding these: The first meditation is on the Sunyata of self, the second on the Sunyata of others; the third on the Sunyata of non-dharma and the fourth meditation is on the Sunyata of dharma-laksana.

While there are many classifications of sunyata, some present it with too many aspects which may be confusing to the neophyte, while others present it under one or two headings and are useful only for the wise: this classification of Sunyata is neither too many nor too few and fits well into our scheme of the three-in-one yanas.

To explain these further, our yogi said: First, one investigates oneself and cannot find there any abiding entityone is void of self either in body or in mind. For the next meditation, one looks into what is other than myself.?This refers to other people all of whom are seen after examination to be void of self. One looks at people with whom one has widely differing relationships and notices that whether it is one's wife who is loved, or one's enemy who is hatedall are Sunyata in nature. Non-dharma voidness upon which one meditates next includes many spiritual events occurring during meditation, such as seeing a light or hearing a voice. Even such insubstantial things as these, together with time, direction and other non-material dharmas are all Sunyata. Finally, the fourth meditation on dharma form applies to all material dharma such as form, color, and so on; these are all void in their nature. Under these four aspects every phenomenon has been included and with practice, their void nature can be known. But we must beware of the mistake of thinking of them simply as no-thing.

d. The last method is the meditation on the mind in the three times. Neither in the past, in the present, nor in the future is the mind attainable. This meditation is given according to the Diamond Sutra.

These four meditations are on the nature of Sunyata but not on its conditions, so now we come to a consideration of these.

2) Meditations on Dependent Conditions of Sunyata

a. According to the translation of the Diamond Sutra made by Kumarajiva (one of the six translations of this Sutra into Chinese and probably the most used and most popular), six similes are given which illustrate our point. In other translations more than six occur, but these six seem to be quite sufficient. One should think about all these six things as manifestations of Sunyata and neither regard them as nothing nor as things?possessed of self or essential nature. These are suitable for neophytes to practice and they are easy to meditate upon either after the completion of the Hinayana practices or alongside them.

"So should one view what is conditioned..." (from the Diamond Sutra as translated by E. Conze):

  1. As a dream: There is nothing one can hold to when one awakens after a dream but still one may remember some of its details. The voidness of its nature is the inability to grasp anything therein; and the haveness of its conditions is having such conditions gathered which produce that particular dream.
  2. As an illusion (maya): A magician produces some phenomena which to ordinary people not knowing his method may seem to be real; this is the haveness of conditions. If you examine carefully what he is doing then you understand that his production of people and places is not realthis is the voidness of their nature.
  3. As a bubble: Outside, it is round as a ball, but inside quite empty. The outer appearance is the haveness of conditions and the inside the voidness of nature. In the Vajrayana, this particular method is further developed in meditations on the body as a bubble.
  4. As a shadow: Our shadow never leaves us and we can see it quite plainly but cannot ever catch it. Seeing that it has happened is its haveness while being unable to catch it is its voidness. Reflections in a mirror are very similar to this example.
  5. As dew: Dew is like a bubble; it comes quickly and disappears quickly. When it occurs, it is white and wet but when it dries there is nothing remaining. Even when we see its whiteness and wetness, its conditions of haveness, these contain within them the possibility of dryingand this is its void nature. This is a good example for impermanence of Sunyata.
  6. As lightning: This very suddenly appears and disappears. It seems to be something bright but when it has gone, nothing remains. Its bright appearance is its haveness of conditions and its disappearance, leaving nothing, is its void nature. Here again we see very clearly the impermanence doctrine linked to Sunyata.

b. Meditations according to the Ten Mystic Gates of Hua Yen are suited to skilled practitioners and are not for new students. Only the former can gain through them the understanding of mystic causation. They have been established by the Venerable Tu Shun, a great enlightened monk and an emanation of Manjusri.

These meditations upon mystic causation if practiced to attainment level are productive of many supernormal powers. Why was it that the Buddha possessed such an ability with these? Because no subtle fetters remained to block their development as he attained the full length, depth and breadth of Sunyata and all the mystic conditions were fully gathered. In order that readers might at this stage understand a little of what is meant by this term, Mr. Chen demonstrated two instances. He said: "Through the eye of a needle the greatest mountain may be seen in its entirety with all its snows and rocks," and then holding up one finger before his eye he emphasized: "and where is the height of the highest peaks? They are only this high!" Then he spoke a little on the famous Buddhist simile of Mount Meru and the grain of mustard seed. "That little seed contains neither more nor less of Sunyata within it than the whole of the mighty mountain at the center of the Buddhist cosmos, that speck contains all voidness and in it all the Dharma nature is to be found."

Upon another occasion, our yogi related the words of an ancient Dharma Master who answered the question of a Confucian scholar and governor of that province, puzzled about the same enigma of the mustard grain and Mount Meru, in this way: "You have studied and remembered so many books all of which could not be stored in only one room, but you have managed to store them all in your small skull. How?"

3) Meditations on the Karmas of Great Compassion coming out of Sunyata.

a. Following on from one's Sunyata meditations, meditate upon the victorious significance of the Bodhicitta. We know three kinds of Bodhi-heart, the first two of which are also possessed by the Hinayana. They are: the Bodhicitta of Will and the Bodhicitta of Conduct. The third one is found only in the Mahayana and is described as Sunyata which is a source of the Bodhicitta. From the entity of the Sunyata we know the nature of the Dharmakaya. We know that every person has the same Dharmakaya. As a result of our realization, we are, so to speak, joined into the same body with all sentient beings. From this Dharmakaya no one may be excluded, not even wicked persons. From this realization arises the Great Compassion unconditioned by thoughts of individuals.

This Compassion is a very important condition for the first three paramitas and if one has not experienced it, these perfections cannot be completed. For what reason should I give alms? From Compassion based upon the Dharmakaya. Why should I maintain a pure morality? Realization of this same Dharmakaya. Under all circumstances, why should I be patient? All beings share this same Dharmakaya and knowing this, one can have nothing but Compassion for them.

The Bible has a passage illustrating my meaning rather well:

"But now they are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee again, the head to the feet, I have no need of you." (I Corinthians 12:20-1).

The body spoken of here is one of flesh but we are talking of the Dharmakaya in the Sunyata sense. This example is just for ease of understanding not for illustrating exactly the same thing.

If one meditates thus, the Bodhicitta will increase and one will do everything with patience.

b. To meditate on the three wheels of every action (trimandala) according to the Sunyata doctrine. The example often given was then quoted by Mr. Chen: When giving alms, the subject, object and the thing given, each of these three 'wheels' should be seen as void. That is to say, no giver is anywhere perceived as we have meditated upon Sunyata of the self; no one is seen who received the alms since the Sunyata of others has also been recognized; and since we have meditated on the Sunyata of dharmalaksana, no essential nature is seen in the object given.

These same three wheels are applicable to all the paramitas and indeed they are not fully perfected unless this trimandala applies to them quite naturally. They should also be applied to every action in life not only while one is seated in meditation. Upon everything one should meditate in this way until this becomes an habitual tendency of the mind. Suppose that after meditation one intends to have lunch: The I?that is going to eat is void, the food to be eaten is also void, and the method of taking itagain void; all three are of Sunyata. It may be easy to remember this method if one thinks of the three as parts of speech, that is, subject, object, and verb; giver, receiver, giving; eater, food, eating, etc.

The cultivation of this aspect of Sunyata is very necessary for the complete fulfillment of the first three paramitas and, as I have warned before, without the wisdom to perceive this, one only accumulates merits to go to the heavens. If there is any thought of my merits?or the good of others?then this indicates that one has no proper attainment in Sunyata, for a real sage has no such ideas.

4) Meditations on Breathing and Sunyata.

Two different methods may be given:

a. Breathing with the action of the Bodhicitta. When breathing out, one distributes all one's merits to others, while on the in breath, all evil, painful things of others are drawn into the body and the force of them used to destroy the concept of self within. This is good practice to gather both merit and wisdom.

b. Breath outdo not think of any dharma. Breath indo not think of any skandha.

Outside no self, inside no self. The breath itself is sunyata, it is mind, it is wisdom. At this stage do not make any distinction, all should be identified. When one attains the cessation of the inner energy then one should no longer think about in and out, just carry on with the Sunyata meditation concentrating undistractedly upon this.

The ten meditations of the practical method which we have divided into four classes are now completed. To reiterate what these are: 1. The Four Not-Borns; 2. Meditations on the Eight Negatives; 3. The Four Voidnesses; 4. Meditation on the Unattainability of the Mind in the Three Times; 5. Meditation on the Six Similes of the Diamond Sutra; 6. Meditations on the Ten Mystic Gates of Hua Yen; 7. The Karma of Great Compassion; 8. Meditation on the Three Wheels (Trimandala); 9. Breathing with Bodhicitta; 10. Breathing on no Dharma, no Skandha.  

III. Details on the Sunyata Meditations

Here we will explain the diagram below. This one newly produced by Mr. Chen was handed to the writer and it was explained by the simile of a stone thrown into a clam pond. The waves resulting from such an action were then explained by Mr. Chen as follows:

A. First Circle: From the entity of Sunyata arises the Victorious Significance of the Bodhicitta. Why does this come first? Because the victorious significance is Sunyata itself, hence in the diagram these two are shown within the same circle. Why Bodhicitta? Because Sunyata is the nature of Dharmakaya and this is the entity of all sentient beings with the practitioner himself, and upon this relation of identity arises the Bodhicitta without other worldly conditions. This is the first becoming of Sunyata.

Sometimes if one's meditation is inspired by the Dharmakaya then one may get some tears though these come neither from sympathy nor from pain but from this kind of Bodhicitta in Sunyata. After Full Enlightenment, the Buddha himself recognized that every sentient being had for a long time occupied this Dharmakaya, but their minds not being in the Sunyata meditation, they failed to recognize this fact. So there comes out of the Bodhicitta a great compassion for them. All this is within the first ring-wave of Sunyata.

B. Second Circle: From the Bodhictta as a source and with the realization of Sunyata, comes out a wave, a wave of the great Compassion of the same entity. This Compassion is only great and only produced in those who attain Sunyata; otherwise it is only the merciful mind with reference to specific beings. The attainment represented by this circle may be held while in sitting practice but not when one is going here and there. This is the second becoming of Sunyata.

C. Third Circle: Acting out in one's life the first three paramitas in perfect relation to the three wheels of Sunyata is possible for the Nirmanakaya Buddhas alone. But for the Bodhisattva who must do everything for beings, he indeed should practice over a very long time, said Mr. Chen earnestly. Hence the Bodhisattva takes a very long time to reach final attainment. Even a wisdom being good at meditation practice and already upon the third and forth stages or bhumis must do everything for all, well-accompanied by patience and from so much activity naturally many obstructions come. This will continue to be his position until the eighth stage is reached when a Bodhisattva gains the patience of the unborn Sunyata and may then do all these things easily. A neophyte Bodhisattva is one in name only, or rather in great good will and determination only, even though he has the Bodhicitta.

Bodhisattvas who are nowhere near the eighth stage, indeed not yet attained the first, are quite inexperienced to accommodate the Three Wheels closely with the Three Paramitas. Their meditative force is not strong enough and this makes the wisdom-beings faring a long one, very long.

While recounting this part of the Bodhisattva's progress, Mr. Chen wept, evidently recalling this not merely as facts learned from books but from his own experience. We come then, he said, to the fourth circle.

D. Fourth Circle: In this, the foundations of salvation are enlarged and the five poisons are used well-accompanied by the five wisdoms. One who seeks the functions of Full Enlightenment must take a progressive way and come to the Vajrayana. There are some secret methods in the position of Consequence of Buddhahood taught in this vehicle. The time taken to achieve perfection is lessened and the way of salvation to final success is shortened.

Knowing the above becomings of Sunyata and practising them, there can no longer be any sense of abstractness.?From successful practice will come a concrete realization.?If one recognizes very well these meditations, that is, if one only gets some knowledge, some good right view, apart from accomplishment, then this alone is a very rare thing, very precious.

But one must hold these teachings in the mind so that the balancing forces of mercy and wisdom are identified. Most people are one sided: if they are good, they lack wisdom, whereas the wise are weak in compassion. In our meditations on the Bodhicitta the very good nature or compassion is balanced with the very clever or the wisdom aspect.

Elizabeth Wordsworth has a little poem to illustrate our point. The writer here disentangled the following lines of this English jingle from amid the complexities of a page of Mr. Chen's notebook packed with Chinese characters:

If all the good people were clever,
And all clever people were good,
The world would be nicer than ever
We thought that it possibly could.
But somehow tis seldom or never,
The two hit it off as they should;
The good are so harsh to the clever;
The clever so rude to the good!
It proves in a worldly sense that the good and the wise tendencies in man are not properly identified. Through the meditations described here a little recognition of both these ideas will be gained and thus they may be harmonized.

In Tibet there is a warning about these two things: One is told on one hand to hold the highest idea (or the sublime theory), while on the other to hold to the widest good (or ample practice), and to have either without the other means that they have not been identified.

Here is a good story on this point, and our yogi proceeded to relate it: In the Yellow Party (Gelugpa) there is always much emphasis placed on the acquisition of merits by the doing of many good works. Once there lived a Bhikshu following the tradition of this school who had done very many good deeds and had practiced for a long time the ritual of Avalokitesvara Mahabodhisattva, but in spite of all his labors he had not realized Sunyata. It is said in the very instructions which he so diligently practiced that as the rituals and meditations are interconnected, so, by the performance of one side, the other would be realized. Still with so many merits accumulated, he had not yet any realization. One day he was printing a Sutra of Avalokitesvara when suddenly he made a vow, "If what the books say is true about merits, and I have done so many, then when I throw up this printing block, may it stay up above my head ! If the truth is otherwise, may it fall down." So he threw the carved block into the air and immediately there appeared the great Bodhisattva Manjusri who reverently received the block into both his hands. The Bodhisattva then addressed the good Bhikshu, saying: "I never left merits in my wisdom. I was never parted from them. Go on, you should go on!" At that moment the Bhikshu attained realization of Sunyata.

It is a good story for us and shows us that Avalokitesvara, the great Bodhisattva of Compassion was never parted from wisdom, while Manjusri, the Mahabodhisattva of Wisdom, never left merits.

If some person asks me: "I have not yet been able to identify these two principles, so which way, that of wisdom or that of compassion, should I practice first?" I should answer in this way: "If you have wisdom enough, just follow the course of meditations found in this book. If your wisdom is not sufficient yet to recognize these meditations as the right way, then first engage in the performance of many good deeds for the accumulation of merits after which you will gain a great increase of understanding." 

IV. Daily Lessons of Meditation arranged for both Hermit and Ordinary Meditator

First, for the full-time practitioner of meditation, I have organized the hermit's practice times with meditations in the following order:

Early Morning Practice? Sittings
1. Breathing with the action of the Bodhicitta (9)
2. Breathing on no Dharma, no Skandha (10)
Before Noon? Sittings
3. The Four Non-Borns (1)
4. Karma of Great Compassion (7)
5. Eight Negatives (2)
Afternoon? Sittings
6. The Four Voidnesses (3)
7. Three Wheels (8)
8. Ten Mystic Gates of Hua-Yen (6)
Night? Sittings
9. Unattainability of Mind in the Three Times (4)
10. Six Similes of the Diamond Sutra (5).
Thus all the Sunyata meditations are arranged within one day of the meditator's practice. Notice that it ends with meditation on the simile of the dream. The meditator should hold on to this until he enters a dream state and recognizes it even while he is dreaming as Sunyata. These meditations are especially balanced to include both meditations on the Sunyata of nature (voidness) and on the Sunyata of condition (haveness).

The scheme outlined here is for the person in whom the wisdom and compassion tendencies are more or less balanced but it should be adapted in the case of those having one-sided characters. Thus, if a person has more wisdom than mercy, let him replace the Four Non-Borns (1) and the Unattainability of Mind (4) by greater emphasis on the Karma of Great Compassion (7) and the Three Wheels (8). In one who is opposite in nature, having more compassion than wisdom, he should drop the Three Wheels (8) and concentrate more upon the Four Voidnesses (3). So much for the hermit.

If we consider the ordinary person with no time to spare for hermit life, how should he be advised? First, he should get up a little earlier than most people, at least half an hour and preferably more before others wake up or he will be disturbed by them. He should close his room as though it was a hermitage and instruct his family that he is not to be disturbed on any account, even if the sky is falling down. They should not even knock on his door and be careful to keep quiet. Then first he should make some offering to the Buddha such as the traditional candle, incense and flowers, and then kneel down and humbly worship the Enlightened One three times. After that he should recite the following confession and entreaty, and our yogi wept many tears as he recited this to us:

"I am sincerely sorry. I am just like a deer with many wounds from a hunger, such are my many unskillful deeds. Please keep me, O Exalted One, safe from the beasts of prey of greed, hatred and delusion at least for this half-hour.

During the day I am like a dog forever biting upon a dry bone and getting nothing but the blood of my own lips. I ought not to live in this way but I have no choice as there are others in the family to support. So many of my hours are as the dog's concern with the dry bonewasted; but this time is of real benefit. Please help and protect me so that I may be able to renounce fully."

Very earnestly and with tears he should continue thus:

"I am like a little maggot in a cesspool for all the day long I do nothing but pursue excrement. My time is given over only to the gain of worldly wealth. Please help me to get some spiritual food so that my meditation may progress to the attainment of Enlightenment."

After his puja which should establish him in a good state of mind for meditation, he must sit in the position we have described before. A short time with earnest meditation and concentrated endeavor is much better than a life-time spent as a hermit in name only, deficient of the proper conduct.

As regards this lesson, the ordinary person should take these meditations in rotation, maintaining the same sequence as we have given here. Before commencing each meditation, one of the breath-and-Sunyata practices should be used for a few minutes to gain a deep Samatha. As there are two of these meditations, they may be used as preliminaries on alternate days. Thus there will be a complete cycle of these meditations every eight days.  

V. Why do we say that Mahayana Meditations are Sublimated by Sunyata?

This is because if the wisdom of Sunyata can be attained, one will get the realization of Buddhahood. Even if we cannot meditate on Sunyata, we may gain some intellectual understanding of Full Enlightenment and still recognize what is to be sublimated. In this sublimation process, the Buddha nature will get rid of the five illnesses or errors.

A. Five Negative Errors Corrected:

  1. One will renounce the lowest mind which compares oneself with others and from the comparison concludes, "I am inferior." This is completely gotten rid of, for once one knows the Buddha nature, then one occupies it.
  2. One is rid of the proud mind towards those of lower castes, class, occupation or position. They also have the Buddha nature so what distinction can one make?
  3. All vacant maya-like volitions which mistake the false for the realall these will be given up when one knows that very person possesses the Buddha nature.
  4. You will not say anything bad concerning the Dharma of Reality. No abuse can come from your lips once you have known the Buddha nature.
  5. You will not hold to a self?of any description once the Buddha nature is realized since it is no-self.
B. From this process there are still five positive virtues to be gained:
  1. Right Diligence. Some persons although they are diligent, their effort all concerns self-centered aims and objects. While one's diligence is of this kind, even practising for a long time one will not get to the goal: if it is right diligent practice for the Buddha nature and therefore Dharma-centered, then neither time nor energy are wasted. Perfect diligence is possessed by one who knows the Buddha nature.
  2. Sadly, even most Buddhists do not recognize the Buddha nature and only do good things for the benefit of what they mistakenly believe to be a self. As this is so, warned Mr. Chen, their goal can only be heaven.

  3. Right Reverence to the Three Gems. An ordinary person worships a God or gods just for his own advantage, or again to benefit what he thinks of as belonging to himself?(family, etc.) But one should not blindly worship gods for selfish motives, but rather know the Buddha nature and when this is accomplished, then one will obtain from it an incomparable bestowal of power into which no self or selfishness enters.
  4. If the Buddha nature is recognized, then one knows also Prajnaparamita. This is the opposite way round to our meditation.
  5. One will get some mundane wisdom. That is, wisdom connected with the world but not of the Buddha, wisdom of the conditions of Sunyata (haveness), not of the nature of Sunyata (voidness).
  6. A Great Merciful Mindthat is, the Compassion of the same entity naturally arises when the Buddha nature is known.
C. Further, we should understand our progress in a systematic way with the help of the diagram in the last section.

From the purification of the Hinayana in the Position of Course where insight into the Buddha nature is obtained, to come finally to the ultimate function in the Vajrayana of Buddhahood in the Position of Consequence. This is the whole system of Enlightenment. Now we are at the second stage and the third will come in our chapters on the Vajrayana.  

VI. What Realization should we get before we enter the Vajrayana?

In my opinion, in following the Mahayana Path, before we get the First Stage, there is only some Feeling Insight from the practice of meditation.

But if we have known all the experiences listed below, then the Vajrayana may be entered. It is much better to practice first the Hinayana and the Mahayana rather than plunge straight into the Diamond Vehicle. Even though one's training is not yet completed in these yanas of Cause, still one may, provided that good foundations for practice have been laid, go on to the Vajrayana because there also some doctrines of the Hinayana and Mahayana are mentioned. But it must be admitted that most of the Tibetan teachers do not pay much attention to them and this neglect of the lower yanas should NOT be imitated elsewhere.

As we have mentioned before, the First Stage of Bodhisattva Path need not first be attained before making a start with the tantric teachings, but all the following experiences, which are much easier to come by should be known by one undertaking the tantric methods:

  1. In the wisdom gained through practice one gets some Right View of Sunyata. This is a very important thing emphasized by Mr. Chen.
  2. One should at least recognize (but not necessarily realize) the Sunyata of conditions mentioned in the Hua-Yen teachings while practising the samapatti on the Dharmadhatu.
  3. He should recognize Kung-ans (Koans) in the Chan School.
  4. He should know how expedient means of Bodhi come from Sunyata wisdom.
  5. One should not hate Samsara, nor love Nirvana.
  6. After practising Sunyata meditation, his body is somehow superfluous and he no longer always identifies the body with himself?and so is not attached to it.
  7. In his dreams he sees things covered by paper, inside which there is nothing and outside which there is only the paper shell. Or again, he may be always flying in his dreams as his body has become very light after Sunyata realization.
  8. One experiences the Merciful Mind arising from the Sunyata wisdom.
  9. There is no doubt on the profound view from which one may gather the widest good conduct. One knows Sunyata as Sunyata and merits as merits without the doubts illustrated by the good Bhikshu in our story.
  10. All the first three paramitas become very easy to perform.
  11. One sees everyone only as shadows.
  12. Not much attention is given toward worldly reputation and wealth, and such things as gain and loss affect one only very slightly.
  13. Though one does many good things which benefit others, one does not hold on to them as merits.
  14. One has been inspired by the eight different groups of deities and is protected by them. In this way one gains some conditions to help others.
  15. From the Wisdom of Non-guru one gets some direct instruction.
  16. One always feels light and at ease both in mind and body.
All these are not attained in the First Stage but one who has practiced as I have outlined here will already be inspired by his experience of Sunyata acquired through the Mahayana meditations. If all these sixteen experiences are attained, they are quite sufficient to act as a Sunyata foundation to go on to Vajrayana.

(Note Well: Nobody should try these meditations by themselves but should first practice the Purification meditations given in earlier chapters of Buddhist Meditation: Systematic and Practical. Attempts to practice Sunyata disciplines without proper guidance may well be dangerous.)

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