Systematic and Practical
THE EXACT DEFINITION OF SOME BUDDHIST TERMS CONCERNING MEDITATION
A Talk by the Buddhist Yogi
C. M. CHEN
Written Down by
REVEREND B. KANTIPALO
First Published in 1967
HOMAGE TO THE
MAHABODHISATTVAS MANJUGHOSA AND MAITREYA
DEFINITION OF SOME BUDDHIST TERMS CONCERNING MEDITATION
Today we hurry, as we
are a little late. Our time is short. The subject, we have been warned, is
extensive and knowledge of it a necessity. It is very important to know the
precise meaning of Buddhist terminology used in meditation, for three related
reasons: so that one may initially understand meditation; so that one's
practice progresses without needless obstacles; and, most vital, so that the
practice bears good fruits of realization.
As we approach the
hermitage, a curtain moves, a face is seen behind, the curtain falls back in to
place; Mr. Chen has seen us coming. An hour or so before, the yogi must have
finished his last afternoon practice, a one and a half hour period of certain
meditations and spiritual exercises usually completed upon the ringing of an alarm
wrist-watch at five o'clock. Now he greeted us just outside his door and said, "I
thought you were not coming." Bhante replies
that we must come as today's talk is fundamental to the idea of meditation
practice in Buddhism.
Smiling broadly, Mr.
Chen remarks that today there is no rain, and then inquires, "Did you get
any disease from your wet robes?" He feels the hem of Bhante's robe but today it is dry. A new tin of a Chinese jasmine tea was produced and
glasses of steaming green tea made ready.
Bhante quoted someone as having written about four
drinks characteristic of four great religions: wine is the drink of
Christianity, coffee that of Islam; the Hindu's drink
is milk, but Buddhists have tea. This observation cannot be discussed here;
suffice it to say that the Chinese tea of Buddhism is a clear, refreshing,
astringent drink. These attributes of tea rather fit with the Buddha's
teachings, for they too are clear; refreshing to those who drink them; and
undisguised by the worldly sugaring, present the world as it truly is: a bitter
drink but wholesome. For a long time Buddhist monks have used this tea for
shaking off drowsiness during meditation.
begin on today's subject we should notice the dedication to each chapter. Every
chapter will be headed by the worship of some Buddha or Bodhisattva. The first
is naturally dedicated to Sakyamuni and the Three
Jewels, as these are not only fundamental to the doctrines of all the schools,
but are also the basis of all the schools, and the basis of all their
practices. The second chapter opens with the homage to the Five Tathagatas, for it is here that our real talk on meditation
begins, and these Buddhas of meditation are the basis
of psychology and experience in the Mahayana. In this talk, our dedication is
to the two great Bodhisattvas, Manjughosa (He of
Gentle Voice) and Maitreya (the Loving One), who
represent the Dharma-nature (dharmata) and the
Dharma-signs (dharmalaksana) respectively.
is associated with Manjughosa Bodhisattva since upon
the first occasion of preaching the Mahayana, he was
present and understood the fundamental and unparticularized nature of the Dharma. All the Buddha-Dharma is based, of course, upon the dharmata and upon the philosophic foundation of this
chapter of our Dharma-book depend all the succeeding ones. Hence
our dedication to the first Bodhisattva. The link with Maitreya is that he descended from the heavens to teach the
doctrines of the Yogacara school,
and in this chapter we are concerned with the particulars of Dharma or
Dharma-signs, in the exact definition given to important terms.
Then Mr. Chen began the
this word "meditation" mean to most people? They think of sitting
down in a quiet place (probably in a comfortable armchair with a cup of tea and
a cigarette), and slowly turning things over in the mind. Their "meditation"
is just discursive cogitating around certain ideas, plans, situations, etc.
people may read a religious book or two on meditation and so gradually their
ideas of "meditation" become broader, eventually including everything
in this one word. This is not precise, for many meanings should be
distinguished, not only from the point of theory, but as a useful guide for one's
problem that arises, one should first settle the meanings of the terms involved
in it; when these are exactly defined, many difficulties disappear. At least
the situation becomes easier to deal with, since then one has certain handles,
the defined terms, on which to hold.
I am sorry to
say, however, that the Chinese language, while it is able to express profound
philosophy and may be used in a very poetic manner, lacks scientific precision.
English, on the other hand, is much more exact and definite in its terminology. Although Chinese is very good for poetry but not for logic,
we have to rely on it and on Tibetan for sutra translations no longer available
in Sanskrit. Apart from these texts there are schools of philosophy and
practice which developed in
such as the Tian Tai and Chan. They have of course
taken many things from the Chinese Tripitaka and
although its contents were very carefully translated from the Indian languages
by boards of officials, each with his own carefully defined function, still the
nature of the translations thus accomplished were limited by the Chinese
tongue. Therefore, we have to learn to distinguish the precise meaning of a
term, since under the Chinese word there may be grouped many meanings. The
application of this principle is: first learn the exact meanings of the terms, and
then understand with discrimination the actual practice of meditation to which
A. SOME TERMS CONCERNING THE PHILOSOPHY OF
1. Xin. The general meaning of this is "heart," but
a dictionary gives no less than nine meanings:
physical heart of flesh. This is equivalent to "hrdaya"
b. Think; a
thought. "If somebody has a thought, I shall try to guess it." runs a Chinese dictionary citation from an ancient
Distinguish. Vijnanavada says that here "discriminate"
should be understood.
Just as the heart is at the center of the body, so the word is used to mean the
center of any thing, place, circumstance, etc.
e. The thorn
of a tree.
f. Name of
one (Rohini, Jyesthaghni)
of the twenty-eight constellations (Naksatra)
according to Indian astronomy.
g. The stone
of a fruit.
original nature of everything, especially of humans.
The essential part, main part, or central idea of anything is called "Xin."
We see that
some of these meanings are connected with Buddhism and some are not. It would
be a simple matter if all Buddhists accepted each term as having one Buddhist
meaning, but we see that in Chinese this is not so, for followers of the Yogacara School understand the first definition as hrdaya, the second as citta (mind) and the third as mano-vijnana. But the
situation is more complicated since other schools take the meanings of Xin quite differently. The
uses this term to signify "nature, essence." Nor is that all, for
apart from the schools and their uses, Xin may have
quite distinct meanings in different yanas. After
discussing different types of meditation, then we shall settle the various
meanings of Xin according to context (see Appendix I,
Part Two, A. 6).
complicating factor is that the Chinese language has been greatly influenced by
Confucian teachings which have altered the connotation of many words from that
which a Buddhist text tries to express. This is further confusing, leading to
even worse mixtures of meanings unless great care is taken.
indeed is the task of a translator from Chinese into English! He has always to
watch that he: selects the correct meaning of a term; gives it the precise
shade of interpretation according to the individual schools' explanations;
knows clearly with which yana he is dealing; and, finally, disentangles himself from Confuscian influences.
If such are
the obstacles in the way of a scholar's correct understanding and
interpretation, what will be the condition of the unlearned layman? He may even
practice meditation, or at least read books upon it, but how great are the chances
of his making bad mistakes?
Although Buddhists mean quite different things by sunyata and akasa, both these are translated into Chinese by "Kong." Akasa, emptiness of space, space-element, should not
of course be confused with sunyata, and for "Kong"
in this sense we may find at least four distinct meanings:
a. What an
ordinary person means by "empty" or "vacant" (as an empty
house). This is sunyata in the sense of abhava, or privation. This meaning is not used in the
context of meditation although some deluded people imagine in their practice
that since their minds are merely vacant or empty as space, they have then
experienced the real meaning of sunyata. This is a
b. Sunyata thought of as outside or beyond form by some who
practice meditation. They take it to be quite separate from the five skandhas (form, feeling, perception, habitual tendencies,
and consciousness). These are grave delusions.
c. Sunyata thought of as a substantial "thing." Some
people think, "There must be such a thing upon which to meditate."
This is another meaning, but again a wrong one.
d. The real Buddhist
philosophy of Sunyata.
Chen here leaned forward and became very animated, emphasizing his points with
definite gestures of his hands, several times tapping on the arm of the chair
to call attention to important items. He picked up a cocoa tin as an object of
demonstration and a full flood of definitions regarding sunyata came from his lips, definitions he well knew, and not by bookish experience
alone. The transcriber had difficulty in capturing all the following on paper
and sometimes took the help of an interposed word or two from the listener.
understand that there is no void separate from form nor is there form apart
from the void. In every form sunyata, voidness, is completely identified with form (and feelings,
etc.; everything that I call "myself"). The five skandhas are neither the same as nor different from sunyata.
In the "exterior"
world, too, sunyata is everywhere and everything is sunyata. Some people have the idea that the void is got at
by analysis, but real sunyata is not discovered in
this way, and the results of such labors are only to know samskrta sunyata, the voidness of
all conditioned or compounded things. This type of analysis is popular among
the Yellow Sect (Gelugpa), but it is only for
convenience of explanation.
come from thinking that sunyata is more than the sum
of the parts of things (it is not more than the five skandhas),
or that because things are sunyata, that it is less
than them. No need to increase, no need to reduce: sunyata is just here.
He emphatically banged
the cocoa tin, and beamed at us, and went on:
not look for sunyata after long periods of meditation;
it may not appear at such a time.
also not think that because one can see it more clearly or less clearly, that sunyata increases or becomes less. Some think that a knowledge of the changeability of all things is experience
of the real void, but this is just an explanation of the void (viparinama-sunyata), and not its real essence.
The idea is
also widespread that there are some meditations which, if practiced, lead to
the development of sunyata (or to its realization),
but practices are not for this purpose and aim only at removing the obstacles
standing in the way of the appearance of the void. I have no meditative power
whereby sunyata is caused to
appear nor do I ever practice with this aim in mind. In all places, at all
times, for all beings and all things, sunyata is
there without any limitation at all. The Buddha can never increase sunyata and we, even if we do not perceive it, have no less sunyata than he.
Even in the Hinayana, all meditations must be based on sunyata, otherwise there is no liberation. No proper fruit
can be obtained from any Buddhist practice unless it is founded very thoroughly
upon the doctrine of the void.
know something of the sunyata of Buddhist philosophy,
we should also learn its different aspects. Sunyata itself is always the same, but it takes on different forms in its appearance.
In the exoteric philosophies of the first two yanas classifications of 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 11, 30, 60, and 80 forms are mentioned as
aids to help one fully realize true sunyata (see
Chapter X). Further, in the esoteric philosophy of the Vajrayana,
four kinds of voidness are given which correspond to
the four states of bliss (ananda—see Chapter XIII). These
must not be mixed with the sunyata of the other
vehicles. For instance, the mahasunyata of the Tantra is quite different from the void-category of the
same name in the Mahayana.
All this is
very important. It must be deeply understood.
western scholars who were considered very skilled in the explanation of sunyata made erroneous comparisons between definitions
which they imagined to be similar regarding the meanings of sunyata in Prajnaparamita and the esoteric meanings in Anuttarayoga. In this they were quite wrong. Please see my
work entitled "Discriminations between Buddhist and Hindu Tantras.")
B. SOME TERMS CONCERNING THE PROCESS OF
In the West,
many words are used as translations of the technical Buddhist terminology, the
most common being "concentration" and "meditation."
Generally, in Chinese works, the equivalent of the first is used for "dhyana" and of the second, for "samadhi." In most people's minds there is no clear
distinction between these two English words and with them are mixed "absorption"
and "contemplation"; in addition, they do not know the difference
between dhyana and samadhi.
Bhante here remarked that such confusion is not
surprising, as in Europe, every philosopher ascribes his own meaning to the
terms he uses, which can be very confusing unless one distinguishes carefully.
Now it is the same with translators and writers of books on Buddhism: there is
not yet, as grew up in China and Tibet, a recognized list of equivalences, so
they use their own terminology, a difficulty for beginners who may be confused
by this. In the Buddhist Sanskrit and Pali tradition,
it is quite different, each term having exact and recognized meanings, making
it much easier for those who want to study and practice.
1. Five terms
of great importance are: samatha, samapatti, samapanna, dhyana, and samadhi. The first one means the practice which calms the
mind's disturbances; in this stage thinking is not admitted. This leads on to samapatti, which is investigating the truth using the force
of samatha as one's instrument. If one uses the mind
to think with at this stage then it is not true samapatti.
(Note: Samapatti is used throughout this work as the
equivalent of vipasyana, clear insight.) When one
attains something close to the truth, this is called samapanna.
At that time the mind is not wandering, and examination of truth has become
very subtle, as object and subject are very nearly identified. States of
consciousness known before the actual attainment of Full Enlightenment samadhi are collectively termed dhyana.
They are all common or worldly concentrations experienced in connection with
the first three of the terms used here. They range from the first dhyana of form up to attainment of Arhat.
The latter must be included here since one has not yet experienced Full
Enlightenment, and samadhi-states only commence with
the possession of this in the Mahayana. Samadhi itself is when the subjective
searcher and the objective truth of the Dharmakaya are completely identified—and this comes only with the Full Enlightenment of a
Buddha. There are other definitions of samadhi given
in different books, where it is said that it may be a worldly meditation or the
same as the dhyanas. In these talks, however, we
shall use the scheme laid down here (see Appendix I, Part II, C. 5).
Bhadanta Nagarjuna in his Prajnaparamita Sastra comments that the first four states of concentration
are common to all religions. These are the four rupa (form) dhyanas quite commonly described by Hindu,
Sufi, and Christian saints. The second four are called the deeper or higher concentrations
(arupa-dhyana) and these Nagarjuna calls samadhis. But according to our system of three-yanas-in-one, only the final attainment is called samadhi and before this we only speak of three stages (samatha, samapatti, and samapanna), all of them covered by the general term "dhyana."
Our book on
meditation is made up of letters, words and phrases and these are described as "bodies"
(kaya) in the Idealist Schools. Similarly, the whole
process of meditation may be compared to a body: samatha is the feet, samapatti the body proper, and samadhi the head.
Mr. Chen then gave us a diagram to
clarify the relationships of these various terms.
2. There are
thus three parts in the meditation process:
foundation of samyag-drsti, Right View, which is initially
acquired through study and thoroughly learning the
meaning of the philosophical terms used. This is the "book-body" and
is in the causal position of meditation.
b. A start is
made with the first two parts of the "meditation" body, that is, the
concentrations which include samatha practice and samapatti. Many meditators confound the latter, or insight, with the attainment of complete samadhi (Full Enlightenment). Before this is reached, one
must go through the preceding stages, otherwise one's meditation is not a state
of samadhi at all, but of thinking that one is
meditating, a mere delusion born of imagination.
comes success, the head of the body—one's goal is achieved and samadhi attained.
summing up, three processes must be recognized: First, one acquires the
philosophic basis of meditation. This is the causal position, likened to a
seed. Next comes the actual process of going along the path wherein training in
quietude and near-attainment are included; this is the process of path or the
position of course, and is like the growth of a plant. Finally comes the resultant process, in which different degrees of samadhi are experienced. This is compared to the fruit of
the plant, or may be called the position of consequence. On this last stage,
there are many subjects to be dealt with, and this position will be mentioned
many times along with the growth of a plant, and the three names given them all
begin with the letter "C." These three C's (Cause, Course, and Consequence)
will be used again.
C. SOME TERMS CONCERNING THE CONTENT OF
1. There are
many kinds of meditation within the Triyana, and
success in these may be attained in different ways. The practice of the latter
will provide the subject matter for further chapters, while the categories of
the former will be listed here. Seven classes have been mentioned in the sutras
and have been explained thus:
mankind there are those who devote themselves to various practices promoting
the growth of goodness. By a little practice of meditation they attain, while
living, the heavens of sensual desire (kamavacara devas), into which states they arise after the death of
their human body. This is called "attainment by practice dhyana."
b. The gods
of form and of formlessness do not have to struggle or try to practice the
various stages of dhyana. Their whole lives already
are spent in these states since their minds' natural level is one of dhyanic concentration. This is "attainment by birth dhyana" (see also Chapter VII).
c. The next
is called "attainment by right thinking (or investigation) dhyana." The example here is of a man trying hard to
understand the real meaning of the twelve factors (nidana)
of pratityasamutpada leading to the attainment of Arhat.
d. By "keeping
a silent mind of sunyata dhyana."
This type of attainment applies to those who practice the sunyata truth.
may also arise by "keeping calmness on the functions of the truth dhyana." Examples of this are to be found in the Hua-yen school's meditations to be described later and
called the "Ten Mysterious Gates" (see Chapter XI, B).
f. By "relinquished-evil dhyana." The renunciation of all unwholesome
thought, speech, and action which is so much stressed in the Hinayana course leading to Arhatship.
attainment may result from the "forest of merits dhyana."
This is by
the practice of the six paramitas, which are like a
forest full of fruiting trees, whereby our merits become very strong.
This is just
to point out some good conditions for our foundations of practice and to make
it easy for us to understand the various conditions resulting in the attainment
of superior states of enlightenment.
other categories we may classify samadhi into three
great groups. These are, first, the "worldly or mundane concentrations"
which we call "dhyanas." Then come the supramundane states reaching up to the attainment of Arhat and called "beyond the world." Third, there
are those lokottara samadhis known as "utterly beyond the world."
used here, "world" means: from this earth up to life in the formless
heavens or down to suffering in the hells. Thus it is quite different from the "world"
described by non-Buddhists. They have confined the meaning of "world"
to the very earth on which we live.)
STATES OF DHYANA. These we may divide into two:
i. The first
is "fundamental taste dhyana." The name
implies that there are still some "tastes" experienced in
concentration. "Tastes" in this sense refers to the happiness, joy,
or good feeling to be found in those states, which lead, unless the meditator is careful, to attachment. Included under this
heading are the three groups of four, known collectively as the twelve gates of dhyana. They are: the four rupa-dhyanas,
the four Brahma-viharas, and the four arupa-dhyanas. (Another confusion becomes possible here, as
in Chinese the arupa-dhyana, "infinity of space"
(akasanantyayatana) is rendered by the same word "Kong,"
which, as we have seen, is also used for sunyata,
though in Sanskrit the quite different meanings of these terms are made clear
by using different words.) These twelve form a progressive series in the
unfolding of the mind. If one knows of the pleasures of the desire heavens and
finds them disturbing, then one practices the rupa-dhyanas.
Gaining access to these, the four boundless minds (loving-kindness, compassion,
sympathetic joy, and equanimity) of the Brahma-viharas become easy and establish one in a great state of welfare for oneself and all
others. If in turn one wishes to be beyond the subtle joys of rupavacara, and beyond the first three abodes of Brahma,
then it is not so difficult, as equanimity is the highest development of the
latter as well as the basis of the arupa-dhyanas. In
this way one progressively discards gross, then subtle, pleasures of the
senses; the idea of beings; and finally even the
subtlest element of form.
None of these dhyanas are specifically Buddhist, but they form the
foundations on which the unique meditations taught by the Buddha can rest.
These twelve are called "fundamental dhyana,"
as they are just a good basis for further meditation. They are also called "dhyana of obscurity" because they may be attained by
those having little or no idea of Buddhist philosophy and can be practiced
without the firm establishment of samyag drsti, Right View.
practice some pleasure is derived and this takes hold of the mind so as to act
as a klesa or defilement. Hence they are known as "dhyana of defilement."
practicing them, one may get some unclear insight and gain a worldly
indifference to good or bad. Therefore they can be called…
Mr. Chen paused a
moment, saying, "What is that Sanskrit word?" He wrinkled his
forehead in thought, and then suddenly rising and with no time to waste, he
almost ran into his shrine and living room and instantly reappeared with the
large Chinese Buddhist Dictionary in hand. Resting on his bamboo stool, he
smiled broadly. "Supposing someone invited me to preach…running…getting
dictionary…" He laughed heartily at the thought, and then continued poring
over the pages, making little dashes with his finger as he worked out the
number of strokes in the Chinese sign. Rapidly flicking over the pages he came
avyakrta (indeterminate). These dhyanas are therefore called "indeterminate dhyanas." Four criticisms have been given of these
twelve gates and, apart from the dangers described, their worst feature is that they do not necessarily lead to liberation.
second class of mundane practices is named "pure dhyana."
These are so called because all "tastes" and therefore dangers of
defilement are no longer experienced in them. Into this category are placed the
six meditation stages taught in the
and known as the
Six Mystic Gates. Besides these, the Sixteen Excellences (see Chapter IX)
should be mentioned here, all stages of meditation progressing from the Hinayana to the Mahayana. Some of them may be described
In none of
these dhyanas are Buddhist concentration and wisdom
balanced. There is always more stress on the former, while wisdom is
insufficient in power to effect liberation. What is present here is still only
half-matured wisdom, but by its development there is a basis for the growth of supramundane wisdom.
b. BEYOND THE
WORLD. Of the great divisions, the second is called "beyond the world"
(lokuttara), since to attain these dhyanas it is necessary to have cut off all worldly (laukika) attachments and to have experience of the
transcendental leading at least to Arhatship.
are the development of the Nine Thoughts of Impurity, sometimes called "the
Cemetery Contemplation" (see Chapter VIII, G.1.a.). Following
these come the Eight Thoughts of Renunciation (see Chapter VIII, G.1.), the Ten
All-Realms, and the Nine Degrees of Concentration (Chapter VII). But,
said Mr. Chen, these classifications are not very clear or precise. Not only do
they mix together Hinayana and Mahayana, but, as is
the tendency in the
, many factors are
repeated needlessly in different lists. I may talk separately of these on some
The Hinayana teaching of dhyana ends
at this point, and most of these categories will be explained in the chapters
on meditation in the Lesser Vehicle. The above meditations all concern the
practicing process and are therefore called "dhyanas."
So far, the
power has been developed whereby it is easy to enter equanimity but not to
leave it. Following upon these attainments come two Mahayana samadhi states, the first of which, the lion-like, gives
one the power to freely enter and leave Just as one
pleases, hence the name. The second is known as the excellent Samadhi, which is
a state beyond all entrance and exit. As these two states are very close to
final attainment (Full Enlightenment) and are in the position of consequence,
they are known as samadhis, rather than dhyanas.
various meditation states, the first three Hinayana groups are dhyanas of visualization with an outer
object, while the Nine Degrees are gross practice but inwardly turned with
subjective concentration. The lion-like samadhi is
said to be a subtle practice, while the excellent samadhi is transcendentally beyond practice. All those included here are only
meditations on the partial truth. They are transcendental from the viewpoint of
realization but examine only a part of the truth, not its totality.
mention here the
and note that
although its name is derived from the Sanskrit dhyana its practice is not to be confused with those worldly states. As it is a Vajrayana school, it encourages attainment of the Full
Enlightenment of Buddhahood in this very life. Placing
Chan together with the Diamond Vehicle is my idea, although in
always classed with the Mahayana. However, Bodhidharma,
the First Patriarch of Chan in
was also a Master of the Tantra. This may be
BEYOND THE WORLD. These meditations are so named since they are practiced by
Bodhisattvas. They are not known to those who adhere only to the Hinayana.
heading are found nine great dhyanas: the great dhyana, all-dhyana, every person dhyana, get rid of sorrow dhyana, great pleasure of here and hereafter dhyana, and pure dhyana. In the
section on meditations within the great vehicle, the meaning of these dhyanas will be made clear. They are only known to the
Mahayana and all of them are concentrations on the whole truth. As they belong
to the course position, they are called "dhyanas."
In our three
comprehensive classifications of samadhi, all the
states described are according to the exoteric teachings of the Hinayana and the Mahayana. A fourth category, the
instructions on samadhi given in the Tantras (which are esoteric), will be discussed later (see
D. SOME TERMS CONCERNING ILLNESSES OF DHYANA
RESTLESSNESS (anuddhatya). Mental
agitation in which the mind is grossly disturbed through over-spiritedness. In this state memories constantly arise by themselves like a fountain of inner
energy springing up. This disturbance may be interior, but often results from
the stimulation of the five sense bases. Its cure, briefly, is to be aware of
it at first and to treat it by concentrating on renunciation and impermanence.
DISTRACTION (viksepa). A tossing or floundering of
mind is meant here. This is essentially a subjective disturbance which ordinary
people would not discover easily or find wearisome; on the contrary, they are
often happy to experience it. This is because such a condition is normal for
them and so is hardly noticed, but for the meditator this disease can completely destroy his deep concentration (samatha).
One should instantly become aware of it and not let it continue.
3. SLOTH (styana). We should define this as low-spiritedness or the
state of being only half awake, which, if not recognized quickly, will lead us
soon to full sleep. Normally there are three stages from waking to sleeping:
a. the mind
becomes drowsy and unclear, and we cannot get clear ideas in order to
concentrate upon them,
b. we enter
into a dreamy half-sleep, and
c. we finally
lapse into complete sleep.
If we can
promptly discover the first of these, then we will not experience the second
and the third in concentration.
The cure for
slothfulness is the development of two factors:
consciousness (sampajanna). This is the knowledge
obtained of our activities by being more aware of them. With this clarity of
mind, we are able to distinguish the different stages and to stop them from
overpowering the mind. If this clear state is maintained it becomes:
mindfulness (samyak smrti)—but
this is to be practiced (as the sutras teach); otherwise it is just a word in a
E. SOME TERMS
CONCERNING THE REALIZATION OF MEDITATION
must be known thoroughly by a meditator or he may
easily go astray. Scholars who only study books and do not practice have little
enough understanding of the terms already described, but can have no insight at
all into those used in this section. For definitions of insight it will be best
to divide this subject into four, according to the different schools of
1. We may
distinguish three sorts of insight as described in the Vijnanavada or
a. The first
is called "nature insight," when intuitive understanding appears like
a reflection in a mirror seen very clearly and obviously; this is a vision
direct from the pure eighth consciousness. This is real and not false insight,
and with it one gains the assurance of realization, provided it is well
accompanied by the truth of Dharmakaya.
b. The second
is called "insight of shadow alone." In this there is no mirror, and what is seen is caused by delusions from the six
sense consciousnesses. It is deluding, very false and unreal, and is compared
to the horns of a hare, or to the hair of a tortoise. It should not be heeded
in any way.
c. The third
is difficult to understand, being called "bringing substance insight."
For instance, the seventh consciousness (klista-vijnana)
mistakenly thinks of the eighth as the self. Yet the pure eighth consciousness
insight is not quite false (as is the second type with a "self"), but
it is still not real insight as with the first type. However, it is possible to
transform it into true insight.
We must be
able to distinguish these three well, always knowing which is real and which
false. The first should be desired, the second renounced, and the third
2. There are
three kinds of spiritual qualities described in Yogacara:
a. Quality of
direct reasoning in theory and quality of direct insight in practice, (pratyaksa). The latter is direct knowledge in
concentration. This is real.
Comparative quality (by examples) in theory, and the second-moon-like insight
in trance. It is not quite real, but can be transmuted into reality.
quality. It is entirely unreal in practice. However, in theory, this third one
is called the "quality of the Buddhas'
kinds of qualities always correspond with the three insights mentioned above,
but the former three are practical whereas the latter are both practical and
logical (or theoretical). The meditator cannot be
covered by the false insight or by the false quality in his concentration,
provided that he is able to recognize them very well.
classification of insight, into four categories, comes from the Vajrayana. The categories are:
Recognition of the scholar whose insight is all based upon hearing (reading as
well) and thinking reflectively upon what he has heard. Technically these are
known as sutta-maya-prajna and cinta-maya-prajna,
both of which are worldly. Many "mouth-zenists"
take this recognition to be an immediate realization of Chan. This is quite
Transmitting knowledge of dhyana is the second. It is
only obtained after establishing firm ground in right views and seriously
practicing mediation. Known as bhavana-maya-prajna,
it is knowledge going beyond the world and pertains to the lokottara.
insight. After some practice, so that a little gross insight has been gained,
one experiences a little lightness of mind and the body a little empty but this
experience does not belong to sunyata and should not
be mistaken for it. It is equivalent to the bringing substance insight above.
d. Fourth is
insight of assurance-realization when one attains sunyata.
This is the same as the nature insight and immediate quality.
4. There are
three ranks of meditative insight taught in the Tibetan Tantra:
a. Nyang: the meditator sees a holy
appearance in his meditative light in a fully waking state.
b. Ta: the meditator sees the same sort of vision while drowsy.
visions seen in a dream state.
trustworthiness is in the order in which they are given here. According to
degree, the first is said to be completely reliable, the second to be half
reliable, and the last only one-third reliable.
After we had run through
all these categories, groups, and distinctions at great speed, Mr. Chen said, "Now
I must give you a general definition of Buddhist meditation."
F. THE DEFINITION OF BUDDHIST MEDITATION
It is the use
of concentrated force to investigate Buddhist philosophic truth and transform
it from abstract perception into a concrete inner realization, whereby
liberation from sorrows and false views, embodiment of nirvana, and the
functions of salvation are all attained. The aims of the three yanas are included in due order and here also are the Trikaya in which the salvation functions represent the
appearance-body, the embodiment of nirvana is the enjoyment-body, and the Dharmakaya is found in freedom from sorrows and false
is nine o'clock, three hours had sped by from our
beginning. We have finished and prepared to depart. We had, this evening, noted
an outline of the general terminology to be used but were sorry to have
disturbed Mr. Chen's routine by staying so long. Normally from seven to eight
in the evening he practices the Mantra-recitation of the Buddha Amitabha, this out of gratitude to all the countless
parents he has had in different lives, following which he does the pujas of his many protectors, reciting their mantras to act
as a safeguard in the hours of the night.
we returned with brisk steps to our vihara, carrying
another chapter containing the fruits of practice, we think of Mr. Chen
returning to his meditations, which (as he has written in a letter) are
performed out of compassion; he is devoted to the good "of all sentient
beings, as in different births they have all been our parents. May they receive
the Buddhas' Teaching of Meditation and practice it!
May they get Full Enlightenment before us!"
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