HOMAGE TO ALL THE BUDDHAS, BODHISATTVAS, AND
ARHATS OF THE DHARMA-ASSEMBLIES OF THE AVATAMSAKA SUTRA, OF THE SADDHARMA PUNDARIKA
SUTRA AND OF THE AMITAYUR-SAMAPATTI SUTRA
MEDITATIONS OF THE CHINESE MAHAYANA SCHOOLS
After the writer's
, rumors of war were thick in the air. Yet this day was
also one of celebration for the Nepalese people, so that a more pleasant
atmosphere prevailed, with traditional chants being sung by groups of young
people wandering through the streets. Outside Mr. Chen's back
window, too, clustered a number of small boys and girls eagerly awaiting the
distribution of some largesse. When "pice"
(pennies) or crystal sugar was handed to them by the yogi through his open
window, they became vociferous indeed, each one demanding more for himself and pushing others away. However much was given,
some always remained who denied at the tops of their voices that they had
received their share. Finally, the malcontents still protesting, they had to be
shooed away, Mr. Chen remarking that even small children were hard to satisfy
these days. "They always want MORE," he said, a statement applying to
most people in this materialistic age.
Coming to our subject,
Mr. Chen first gave the chapter title and then the homage which he proceeded to
A. Our Homage
It is made in
this way since we shall talk about the three schools based upon these sutras.
And the Idealist School in addition.
teachings of the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and sravakas in the Avatamsaka Sutra,
the doctrines of the Hua Yan School are derived, and
are called by them the "Round and Perfect Doctrines." In this
teaching there is no limitation in time. The past, present and future all
appear in one moment, when neither the past vanishes nor the future is unborn.
The space of the universe and the three periods of time from the Buddha-world
are named "Lotus-treasury." This is, in fact, the fourth dimension
taught only in Buddhism; science of the present day, although it has some
theories regarding space-time, has not yet dreamed of the Buddhist conception.
We should deeply honor the Buddhas and bodhisattvas who have taught this doctrine in the grand assembly described
in the Avatamsaka Sutra.
Patriarch of Tian Tai, Zhi Yi, saw in his meditation the Dharma Assembly of the Saddharma-Pundarika Sutra appear. "The assembly of the Lotus Sutra is still here, and has not
disappeared," he exclaimed, though his guru warned him that his experience
was only preliminary to a thorough realization of the Dharma-Lotus samadhi in which Lord Buddha preached this sutra. This
assembly is assuredly still present, to be seen by those who practice these
meditations earnestly. All of us should have a reverence for this august
assembly that we too may have direct knowledge of it.
Dharma-assemblies (such as the one in the Amitayus Sutra)
have inspired other sages; this we may find from their biographies. Here we
should only recognize that every Dharma-assembly always remains in the
meditation of yogis who know the doctrine taught in the Avatamsaka Sutra.
three Dharma-assemblies we may see parallels with our system of the three-yanas-in-one.
of the Amitayur Samapatti Sutra
corresponds to the Hinayana. How? To come to know
this assembly through one's meditations, the world has to be renounced, so that
one can get to Sukhavati (the
). The importance of
renunciation both in the Hinayana and in this
meditation makes this correspondence clear.
of the Dharma-Lotus Sutra stressed the Mahayana aspect. This sutra is the main
canon of the
in which many Mahayana doctrines of samatha and samapatti were established.
The Avatamsaka Sutra and its assembly have some relationship to
the Vajrayana. In fact, this sutra is sometimes
called the "tantra of exoteric Buddhism."
In it many causations of mystic samapatti are
described, and this process, though not these particular examples, is taken up
and extensively used in the visualizations of esoteric tantra or Vajrayana.
It is true
that all these Dharma assemblies belong to the Mahayana, but there are still
correspondences in our three-ways-in-one, as our homage is given with these in
B. Meditations of the
and its meditations originated with the monk Du Shun and the method generally
is called Dharmadhatu samapatti.
This venerable patriarch was not only well practiced in the meditations he
described, he had attained to their realization. Sad to say, few of his
followers have practiced these methods and most of the great masters of this
school have only had a good knowledge of the deep philosophy. I doubt very much
whether there is anyone practicing these meditations in
present time. The school has mostly been one of study and profound scholarship.
Shun was different, however, and wrote a concentrated but extensive book from
his experience in which the principles of the Dharmadhatu philosophy in the Avatamsaka Sutra are systematized.
As this commentary is a long and difficult work, a disciple of his, called Zhi Yan, gathered these principles into the ten mystic
gates. After him came Xian Shou, who improved the
formulation of the doctrine. His teachings are called the "new doctrines
of the mystic gates," and we shall proceed according to these. I have
reduced these ten gates to only six, and shall give my reasons for doing so
First, let me
introduce the ten gates. These, whether taken as ten or as six, are individual
These are the
ten mystic gates of causative functions of truth which belong to the
foundation of Buddhist Tantra. (See also Takakusu, The Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy.)
a. First is
the mystic gate of perfect yoga, of the co-relation and co-existence of all
things both in space and time. Phenomena appear to be spatially separate but
are from the view point of the Dharmadhatu—the
ultimate truth—all united in one. The same applies to time: the past, present,
and future seem to be distinct but in fact each of the three times includes the
b. Second is
the mystic gate of sovereign power, without restraint in measure. Whether broad
or narrow, the power and action of all beings interpenetrates without
restraint: even insignificant actions include all actions.
c. The third
mystic gate is that of sovereign power in the capacity of one and many, which
may contain each other in different forms. This applies equally to dissimilar
d. Fourth is
the mystic gate of sovereign power in connection with all the dharmas. All dharmas are without
ultimate differences and that which is composed of dharmas,
that is, the entity of all things and beings, therefore contains no
distinctions or identification of a self or an ego. Realizing the truth of
this, one arrives at perfect harmony.
e. The fifth
mystic gate is that of performance of manifestation, either as appearance or
disappearance. What is seen and what is not seen are complementary factors
forming, when taken together, the unity of ultimate truth.
f. Sixth is
the mystic gate of the subtle existence interpenetrating all the gross things. Realizing this truth, one gains
knowledge of the interpenetration of subtle events with the gross phenomena of
our usual perception.
g. The mystic
gate of the region of Indra's net is seventh. In one
jewel of the net, the light from all the other jewels is reflected. Each dharma
in the world, a real event, reflects all the other phenomena.
h. The mystic
gate of the truth comprehended in all phenomena. In all phenomenal events the
truth is seen, and in the truth are all phenomenal events.
i. The ninth
mystic gate is that of the various performances of separated dharmas in the ten periods, three in the past, three in the
present, and three in the future, plus one period including all of them. All these
periods, while appearing distinct, in truth interpenetrate to form one whole, and this applies to all beings and events in the three
j. The mystic
gate of the perfect and bright virtues of the master and his family is the
tenth. In this, the virtues of what is chief supplement those of the subsidiary
factors and vice versa. "The master" may here mean the eighth
consciousness and his "family" are the sense-consciousnesses and the
these ten mystic gates of causative truth has many powerful mystic functions.
The samapatti force thus may make all offerings,
praise, worshipping, mantra, and yantra. Karmas of
salvation may appear in unlimited quantities, in unspeakable forms, in various
good ways, and in deepest devotions, by all of which the spiritual foods for
enlightenment are quickly gathered.
Now let us
examine these. Among them, the seventh gate, called "Indrajala Dharmadhatu," is only a simile and therefore
this "meditation" has no particular object. The meditator should recognize the truth of this simile and apply it in his practice of the
Here Mr. Chen criticized
on one point:
They have a volition to make every list ten in number. Even if this
number is not warranted, the required number of points will be added or
subtracted to make ten. For instance, counting the five sense organs and the
four limbs of the human body, it will be hard to find ten, so the Hua Yan might add a tail to make up this round number! I do
not like this tendency.
the eighth gate, if examined, seems to be theoretical, epistemological, not a
practical object for meditation. It is a reason for the other gates and so is
unnecessary in our list for meditation.
the ten points seem multiplied and should be reduced to only one. Such are
numbers two, three, and six.
points remain, and these are quite enough for the purposes of meditation. They
all have very profound meanings which can only be properly realized through
practicing these meditations. As we have already seen, in almost every ritual
of the tantra, the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra's practice is mentioned and we too should follow his example. It is said in the sutra
that he visualized countless seated Buddhas. Each of
their lands contained innumerable specks of dust and in each one of these he
saw a Buddha preaching in his pure land.
2. How Are
All These Gates of Mystic Practice Possible?
give these ten reasons, as follows:
because all beings and things are manifested from the Tathagatagarbha (the "womb" of the Tathagatas).
because all beings and all things lack a determinate nature; all move freely,
selflessness being the ultimate truth.
because causation (the conditions of dharma) is interdependent and
because dharma-nature (dharmata) or the Buddha-nature
(Buddhasvabhava) is possessed by all; thus they are
similar and penetrate one another.
because the phenomenal world is said to be like a dream or magical creation,
and thus the World of One Truth can be molded in any
way without restraint.
because the phenomenal world is said to be like a shadow and thus the World of One
Truth can be molded in any way.
in the Buddhas' Enlightenment the causes of
production are known to be boundless, so the effects are manifold and
limitless, but they do not hinder each other; rather, they cooperate to form a
because the Buddha's assurance of ultimate Enlightenment is perfect, and so the
transformation of the meditative world is at his will. Whoever joins this
meditation shares it, too.
because the functions of the Buddha's profound meditation cause the
transformation of the meditative world to be at his will.
because the supernatural power originating from deliverance, so the
transformation of the meditative world is free (corrected from Takakusu).
There is a
meditation verse of twelve lines known as the "Ripple-and-Vortex
Stanza," which illustrates the total meditation of this school.
Mr. Chen translated this
line by line from a Chinese sastra of the
written by Du Shun:
"To recognize the
relativity of truth,
One should meditate the Tathata pervading the body and its outside.
Sentient beings and
non-sentient beings are one entity;
All are like the Dharmadhatu, fully present in all places.
Only use the one mind to
meditate on the one object;
All subjects are
recognized perfectly at the same time.
In one subject is
contained all the wisdom;
In all the wisdoms there
are all the Dharmadhatus.
In one mind, continually
meditate through many kalpas;
Every kalpa of this one mind includes them all.
Time and space are just
like Indra's Net, infinitely multiplying everything;
All the Buddha's wisdom
penetrates everything without obstruction."
To have some
understanding of this, we should know that the word "one" used in the
fifth line is not to be taken in the sense of mathematics, but as the
continuous perfectly concentrated "one" of samatha.
This is quite different from ideas of "one" here and "one"
there (separate individual "ones"), for in Hua Yan, one is equal to many and yet still is one. The meditator must recognize this to understand the stanza properly and meditate on it
correctly. (In Tian Tai it is said that this one mind
contains three great chiliocosms.)
The method of
practice here is that first the meditator memorizes
the whole stanza and repeats it continuously—it is no use reading it from an
open book placed in front of one's seat. The stanza must appear in the mind as
a whole, not sentence by sentence. Before this can occur, it is necessary to
develop a deep samatha, and then take up this stanza
as described above. In this meditation, sunyata of
nature and its conditions are identified.
concludes our brief survey of Hua Yan meditations.
C. Meditations of the
patriarch of this school, Zhi Yi, wrote altogether
four books about samatha and samapatti.
The first is very bulky, a work in many volumes entitled "Round, Perfect,
and Immediate Meditations" (or, "Great Samatha and Samapatti"). This is one of the most learned
works produced by any Chinese sage, the material for which was gathered from
the Tripitakas of the Hinayana and Mahayana, but it seems for most people to be too learned and too large to
be practical. Because of this, the Venerable Zhi Yi
wrote the more concise Gradual Meditations (or Dhyana Paramita). Another work of his is Uncertain (or
Irregular) Meditations. Lastly and most helpfully, Small Meditations was
written. This has been translated into English and may be found entitled "Dhyana for Beginners" in Dwight Goddard's A Buddhist
the meditations practiced in Tian Tai, I want first
to say something about the school itself and its founder. Unfortunately, Zhi Yi lived around
.E., before the Samdhinirmocana Sutra was translated in
Thus he was unable to quote this valuable sutra, which deals largely with the
order of practice in meditation, so the sequences that he gives in his own
works are not as perfect as might be desired.
should we introduce his works and school to the West? He has carefully gathered
all the information he had upon the subjects of samatha and samapatti and classified it systematically;
indeed, the credit must go to him for being the first great master in
this. He used all the translations available up to his time and his work is an
example of very thorough compilation. In it, he has dealt with all aspects of
the practice of meditation: how to meditate, how to rid oneself of obstacles,
how to know demons, and so on. Above all, he was quite well practiced himself
in meditation, instructed his disciples in it, and thus in the
the practice of meditation has always been well stressed. By this, of course,
we do not mean that meditation is confined to the Tian Tai. Every school has its meditations. It is said in the bodhisattva precepts
that a wisdom-being must meditate three times a day on sunyata (see also Ch. VI, B, 2, b). This is a practice of the
. We should know that unless works
of this sort are done regularly, there can be no practical method of Buddhadharma. Therefore, the great merit of the Tian Tai lies in its thorough treatises upon meditation
which were compiled before those of any other school.
mentioned before, the Sandhinirmocana Sutra was not
translated until nearly 200 years after Zhi Yi's
death and it is in this sutra that we find the essence of yoga. According to
this work, then, Zhi Yi made some unavoidable
mistakes, particularly not distinguishing clearly between samatha and samapatti.
For the sake
of simplicity, and due to the fact that an English translation is available,
let us examine his small work, which outlines the Tian Tai meditations.
Practice of Samatha
three meanings of this, according to Zhi Yi:
a. To hold
the mind firmly on one object, and if it wanders away, to establish it upon
some central point in the middle or lower part of the body (see Ch. VII, G).
(This definition of samatha is common also to
b. To control
the mind so that whenever it wanders away, it is put back upon one particular
thought, the object of one's meditation (which thought itself may later be
c. Samatha on the entity of reality, meaning one practices
meditating on sunyata or on the lack of self-nature
definition bears a little criticism. When a person first practices meditation,
he or she cannot immediately meditate upon reality. It is proper first to
practice samatha and then come to samapatti.
Now, this third meditation is a mixture, a samapatti meditation under a samatha heading. In Zhi Yi's book, he has written on this sort of "samatha":
it (meditation) can be done by recalling the true nature of all objects of
thought. We should recall that every object of thought arises from causes and
conditions and therefore has no self-nature of its own." (Dhyana for Beginners, VI, 1, (1), (a)).
This, we can
see quite clearly, is really samapatti.
Practice of Samapatti
Two types are
given by the venerable Zhi Yi:
"Medicinal" meditations to cure specific ills (just as we have
already found in the five Hinayana samapattis: see Ch. VIII).
b. Samapatti on truth (i.e., voidness).
we find him advocating five kinds of meditation:
a. For the
rough mind (the three samathas already mentioned).
b. Cures for
the sleepy and disturbed mind.
the practice of samatha and sometimes that of samapatti.
d. Cures for
subtle obstacles occurring in the meditating mind.
in which dhyana (from samatha)
and prajna (from samapatti)
lists before us (all compiled from his instructions) some criticism of his
method seems required. We notice that he advocates mixing samatha and samapatti, and does not ask the meditator first to develop a firm samatha.
But if one sometimes practices the one and sometimes the other, then one cannot
win accomplishment in either.
Zhi Yi does not
seem to distinguish very well between the samapatti of samatha and the samapatti of samapatti; thus he advocates us to practice samapatti to cure the sleepy mind, and while I do not deny
that this may have some effect, it is not based upon a previous accomplishment
in samatha, so no real insight can result.
Also, he says
that if while we practice samapatti the mind is
disturbed, then we should apply "stopping" (that is, revert to samatha). If one does this, the samapatti practice will be broken up, and no insight will result. Instead of this, one
should practice samapatti continuously so that the
force of its accumulation leads to the fruit of insight.
applies to samatha: continuous practice is necessary
for effective results.
it should be pointed out that the Buddha never spoke as Zhi Yi advises, nor does any recognized sastra recommend this mixed practice. Samapatti is not a medicine for lapsed samatha and one should
not use it as such. If one continually changes from one to the other, avoiding
first the sleepy and then the disturbed mind, neither samatha nor samapatti can fructify, and neither type of
diseased mind can be cured.
confusing instructions seem to have been an obstacle to the attainment of deep
meditation by many of the patriarchs and yogis of this school. This we may see
clearly enough from the emphasis that some of them have laid upon the repetition of Amitabha Buddha's name, even
upon their death-beds practicing this samatha of
On the other
hand, if one first gains accomplishment in samatha and then takes up samapatti, then one can easily
succeed. With the samatha force, it is quite possible
to see disturbances arising in samapatti as the truth
itself (samapatti of samapatti,
see Ch. VII, H). One also knows that the sleepy mind is void. Above all, if one
has real accomplishment in samatha, then these two
hindrances will never arise.
reasons given above, we should read his work carefully and take whatever
material from it as appears to be consistent with the usual practice of samatha and samapatti in the
Buddha's teachings. What is written in this book is in accordance with the
Lord's teachings in the Sandhinirmocana Sutra and
there, as in many other places, he says that one must have success in samatha before samapatti.
concerns sitting practice, but Zhi Yi also says some
useful things regarding practice in daily life. But note: one should first gain
proficiency in the sitting practices, and then one will be able to apply his
advice in daily life. This is very important for the Western person, as it
seems that he or she very often wants to practice the other way around,
beginning one's practice in daily life without adequate preparation in sitting.
If we try to do things in this wrong fashion then still the disturbed mind, the
sleepy mind, and all the other samatha obstacles will
hinder us. The trouble is that people do not want to work so much in training,
but would rather try to apply meditation in day-to-day life, to make it easier,
but that is in fact nearer to the position of consequence. Few people really
want to sit still and practice for hours, days, weeks, months, or years; and
who wants to renounce, or to lead a hermit's life, or to be confined by one's
teacher—ugh! It is no doubt much easier to say, "My daily life is my
meditation." (or "Daily life is Zen,"
which one hears now as a pseudo-zen slogan in the
West). This is easily said but difficult to do (see also Ch. XV).
does Zhi Yi give for daily-life meditations? First he
gives the well-known Buddhist classification of bodily positions into four:
walking (not "acting," as in the translation), standing, sitting, and
reclining, to which he adds "doing things" and "speaking."
Here again some remarks seem called for in view of his explanation (see Dhyana for Beginners, VI, 2, (1)—(6)).
walking, he first examines the sila involved and this
clearly is not a part of meditation, simply a self-examination.
After this comes a sentence mentioning "concentrate the mind on the pure activity" and this indicates samatha practice while walking. Later in the same passage, it is said that this mental
walking action "and all that eventuates from its activity have no reality
that can be taken hold of. When this is fully
understood..." and we have come now to a samapatti on walking. But all this, sila, samatha, and samapatti are
included under a heading which Zhi Yi calls
"stopping (samatha) under conditions of
action." Readers and meditators should with care
discriminate his advice into these categories, so that they are not led astray
by his unfortunate tendency to mix up subjects.
said Mr. Chen consulting his Chinese text of Zhi Yi's
book, "that something has been changed in the translation; at any rate, my
reading of the text on walking would be like this:
'When walking in a
natural manner, one goes straight, not looking here and there, nor allowing any
delusion to arise; such is walking samatha.'"
with the practice of tranquility, Zhi Yi applies samapatti to develop insight on each of
these actions. Standing, sitting, and reclining are treated similarly. Again,
we should notice that under the practice of "stopping" at the time of
reclining, where Zhi Yi says, "We should recall
..." he is truly dealing with a samapatti process. What we have said here applies also to the sections on "doing
things" and on speaking.
have a chance to read this book, which is readily available, there seems no
point in paraphrasing it. Here we have only given some examples of this curious
doctrine of mixed tranquility and insight which is
characteristic of this master's writings, along with our comments where these
are necessary to help provide a clear and certain way.
D. Meditation in the Pure
1. Sixteen Meditations
Of the three
sutras particularly revered by this school, we are concerned with only one, the Amitayur Samapatti Sutra which describes sixteen meditations to be visualized.
work is usually called the Amitayur Dhyana Sutra, but Mr. Chen emphatically pointed out that
this is a mistranslation of the Chinese and that in any case, the meditations
contained in it are not dhyanas but rather samapatti.)
Visualization of the sunset, as the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha is situated in the West. This practice causes the idea of impermanence
to arise—a good connection with the Hinayana meditations.
of water. This is changed into ice, which in turn is transformed into a
covering of white gems over the ground.
Visualizing this results in one seeing the golden
ground of the
Visualizing the jewel-trees of Sukhavati as described
in this sutra.
e. Seeing the
precious pools of clear water possessing eight virtues.
gem-studded storied palaces and pavilions.
h. The figure
of Amitabha Buddha appearing in bhiksu-robes
(representing the nirmanakaya).
i. His sambhogakaya (with a crown, necklace and ornaments, all jeweled), and the Dharmakaya (formless in exoteric Buddhist practice).
j. His first
attendant, Mahasattva Guan Yin (Avalokitesvara).
k. His second
attendant, Mahasattva Vajrapani.
meditation on all these things taken together.
first on the Buddha and then on his surroundings. (The
reverse of the preceding meditations).
highest stage of attainment, when the Buddha accompanied by his bodhisattvas
comes to meet the practitioner.
intermediate stage, when Avalokitesvara and Vajrapani come alone.
p. The stage
of least attainment, when in meditation one sees only the lotus prepared for
are only twelve meditations here; there is no need for the last four. The last
three are not practices at all, but realizations, but they are treated as
meditations in the sutra, and by this tradition the
always speaks of "sixteen samapattis."
2. These may
seem like the practices of the Vajrayana; what are
a. These Pure
Land meditations do not require an initiation (abhiseka)
before they can be practiced. They are just performed according to the sutra,
which all may read and practice without any ritual empowerment (though one
should, of course, have guidance from someone already well-practiced in them).
b. In these,
one just meditates on Amitabha Buddha as appearing in
front of oneself. In the Vajrayana one becomes, one
is the object (Buddha, bodhisattva, etc.) of meditation.
c. There is
no mantra in these meditations—one just repeats Amitabha's name: "Namo Amitabhaya Buddhaya," or in the Chinese form, "Na Mo A Mi Tuo Fo."
d. The mandala is not created according to the right order (with
certain symbols of truth), but just goes according to the sutra's description.
In the sutra, one finds elaborate details given (for instance, on the sevenfold
rows of jewel-trees), but the mandalas described in
the Tantras are well-arranged to correspond closely
to symbolic representations of complete truth and the different wisdoms. In the
sutra it is just as though the Buddha is simply introducing a visitor to the
Pure Land: "Here are jewel-trees, here are precious pavilions," and
so forth, but the mandalas described in the Vajrayana texts are like very complete and systematic
e. First, to
meditate on a sunset is a doctrine related to Hinayana practice and no such object is used in the Vajrayana.
"total" meditations (l and m) concern sunyata nature (the Buddha-form) and sunyata conditions (his
surroundings) and this is, therefore, a practice of the Mahayana and not of the Vajrayana.
always mistaken by scholars to be a school of learning and not one of practice.
Even the followers of this school themselves think only of learning the
doctrine and of becoming scholars with much knowledge of philosophical
subtleties, but few have any thought of following the Buddha. To correct this
wrong tendency, I have introduced these five meditations which indeed have not
been mentioned by many others. Xuan Zang transmitted knowledge of them to Kui Ji, his chief disciple, and he in turn taught them to
his students. However, neither the great master nor those who have followed him
practiced them, and they are not well known or to be found in common books. To
understand them, one should know of the four parts into which this school
divides consciousness: form-consciousness (of "exterior" objects),
view-consciousness (when one thinks about them), and two further—self-witness
consciousness and the witness of self-witness consciousness. The meditations
based upon these four are, in order of increasing subtlety:
1. The first
step, "to get rid of the false and to keep the real consciousness."
This means that one should not care for objects in one's surrounding
(form-consciousness); these should be renounced, while inward concentration
should be guarded and developed. Think only of this view-consciousness and not
of anything else.
2. The second
step is also a renunciation. One should "renounce the perverted
(view-consciousness) and take only the pure consciousness." In the first
meditation one renounces the consciousness of outer objects, and here one goes
further, giving up inner reflection upon them.
"Reduce the branch to the root." By this we mean including the branch
(the form-and-view-consciousnesses renounced) in the root,
that is, keeping the king of consciousness. The former are the two parts
already mentioned and the latter is the self-witness consciousness.
"Hiding the family and manifesting the master." The
"family" here means all the dharmas (fifty-one in number in this system) and the "master" is the eighth (alaya) consciousnesses. This fourth stage is known also as
proving the self-witness of consciousness.
5. "To disappear form and to manifest nature brightly." The
meaning of this is that the first two natures (or types of truth: parikalpita—imaginary nature, and paratantra—dependently
conditional nature) are both destroyed, while the ultimate nature of truth (parinispanna) remains.
process is fully accomplished, then one attains full enlightenment. But sadly,
even the great and learned Xuan Zang,
the founder of this school in
and his highest disciples, were not accomplished in the meditations on the
school they taught. As the patriarch was a scholar, so his disciples have also
been only scholars.
Mr. Chen then related
that a recent lay-guru of this school (which was revived recently in China),
Mr. Ou Yang Jing Wu, although himself very learned in
Mind-only doctrines, had scolded his disciples for holding a rosary in the
hand. "You are here to learn, not to practice," was this guru's
This reminded the yogi
of another incident which he then related:
ago, a German Buddhist professor came to
and there met a Chinese scholar. The former said to Zhou
Xiang Guang, "To learn Buddhism is one thing,
but to follow the Buddha is quite another." He thought that these two
things must be distinguished and pointed out that to study Buddhism one must
discriminate and question, but, he said, to follow the
Buddha one must only have faith. After this, Dr. Zhou wrote and asked me if
this was right. In a long letter I had to reply, "No." In Buddhism
there is no learning unconnected with practice, and everything learned in true
Buddhism must be of a practical nature.
If one likes
this school and its approach to Enlightenment, then these meditations must
accompany one's studies.
meditations of the Mahayana, the main practices were described in the last
chapter and this one is really supplementary.
The Hua Yan is very important and if this is learned, as well
as the meditation on dependent origination in sunyata found in the last chapter, then these two will nicely complement each other.
Du Shun, who
was an emanation of Manjusri, read the Avatamsaka Sutra carefully many times, and from the
description given there of the fifty-three powerful gurus with their
supernormal powers and mystic wonders, with great wisdom reduced all this into
some systematic principles. He took principles from phenomena described therein
and got at the source of them, and the resulting system is a very notable
invention of Chinese philosophy. In my opinion, there are only two such great
contributions of Chinese Buddhist thought—Dharmadhatu samapatti and Chan. The latter is somewhat known in
the West, though only in theory as very few if any have practiced it, but Hua Yan ideas are hardly even known, let alone practiced. Du Shun's great commentary on the Avatamsaka Sutra should be translated for its very profound approach to be appreciated. To
meditate on sunyata is one thing, but to receive some sunyata realization is quite another. It is here that
the ten mystic gates can be of great help. Furthermore, the entire Hua Yan approach is very important as an introduction to,
and for gaining insight into, the Vajrayana.
Although in Tian Tai one does find some mistakes, the whole system is
concentrated upon meditation, so most of the rules it lays down may be
followed; however, one should be a little careful, as in the places indicated
by us. Patriarch Zhi Yi's larger works on meditation
must also be translated for the benefit of Western Buddhists.
As so many
people have so many business affairs to attend to these days, and as so few are
able to renounce their ties and become bhiksus, the
may be much
appreciated. If first a deep and steady samatha is
developed, and then these meditations are taken up, one will as a result
receive a good birth in the
even if one cannot
devote one's whole life to meditation.
There are two
good foundations employed in
meditation: Hinayana renunciation and Mahayana bodhicitta.
To gain good results in these practices, one must cultivate a mind of
renunciation freed from attachment to things of daily life. If one is without
repulsion for this world, one will never get to that one (Sukhavati).
At least the renunciation must be established firmly in the mind, even if not
this strong emphasis on giving up and also the decided tendency to think of
obtaining nirvana without returning to this world, this school has been labeled by some as "Hinayana."
This is quite wrong, but we see here that the second foundation is needed. The
followers of the
should have good bodhicitta and so desire to come
back to this world. Without bodhicitta and
realization in sunyata, a person cannot in any case
receive birth there. (We say "birth" but the
is not within the three realms; it is in sunyata and
one can get there only if one thoroughly practices the voidness meditations.) Further, Amitabha is a Buddha of
goodwill and it is only possible to see him if one has a well-developed bodhicitta. Notice that all this is based upon the Mahayana.
Nowadays, many persons who seek for birth there have not practiced bodhicitta sufficiently. In fact, this school has often
been taken too lightly—as an easy way. What has been said here may help correct
this false impression.
I know that
the sutra states that only ten repetitions of Amitabha's name are sufficient for salvation, but even during life the conditions in which
those ten are to be made are not so easy (especially at the very time of dying,
these conditions are impossible for most people). There is a story about this:
lived a lama who had for many years repeated Amitabha's name and Om Mani Padme Hum, the mantra of Avalokitesvara. He had also developed a very fine bodhicitta with the sincere desire to go to hell to save
all beings there. Because of the concentrated way in which he had repeated the
name, at the lama's death, Amitabha with all his
attending bodhisattvas came to greet him. The lama told him: "Although I
repeated your name, I do not want to go to share the pleasures of Buddhahood. I wish only to go to hell and suffer there with
the beings in pain for their salvation." Thus he refused his lotus in the
But Amitabha said to him: "You should first get
Full Enlightenment in my
, and then you will
be able to do every good thing to save others."
Unless he had
a great bodhicitta, the lama would not have been
admitted by Amitabha.
another story dealing with the
and this may be
Tai Xu's highest disciple was called Mr. Tang Da Yuan, a professor at the
and he always followed his master to the lectures he gave. He had a very great
faith and respect for this guru, and was deeply learned in the
. Mr. Tang's son followed his
father in the study of Buddhism and the whole family lived in the Buddhist
Association formed by the Venerable Tai Xu.
Unfortunately, the son died young, but his father did not want to bury him. He
arranged the corpse in the hall of the University and while his friends and
students came and went, he behaved as though one demented. He told them,
"You should not think that my son is dead! You must think that he is
alive! Everything is interdependent consciousness, so think like this and then
my son will live!" For some hours he acted as though mad and went around
asking everybody to think in this way.
This is where
can be taken in the wrong way.
This is a warning to those who are scholars only. I would say to them,
"Don't be only scholars. You will not grasp the real truth. Instead of
understanding the complete meaning of the words, you only become a slave to
them! Don't be just scholars, but choose some meditations as those given in
this book, and practice them!"
meditations of the previous chapter are practiced, then they form the mainstream,
and those listed here are all tributaries; there is certainly no need to
practice all of them. Indeed, from the prajnaparamita,
one can go straight on to the Vajrayana.
"It is sad to
record that in
said Mr. Chen before he again bid us goodbye, "few indeed were practicing meditation."
All the more reason for
readers of this book to practice hard!