Systematic and Practical
A Talk by the Buddhist Yogi
C. M. CHEN
Written Down by
REVEREND B. KANTIPALO
First Published in 1967
A. Mr. Chen's Thanks
"First, I should
like to thank you both," said Mr. Chen, addressing the listener and the
transcriber, "for your cooperation in writing this book." Mr. Chen
got up from his seat and took from the top of his cupboard a clockwork monkey
with dumb-bells in its hands. Winding up the toy, he said: "In a traveling
showman's troupe, there is always a monkey who dances, does tricks, and amuses
the people, earning money for the actors. I am like this monkey," said Mr.
Chen, laughing and watching the toy diligently exercise itself. "And you
hold the rope and play the music: just as there may be two actors, one the
younger and the other the older brother, so it is with you." Turning to
the transcriber, Mr. Chen said, "You are the younger brother, with much
work to do for our company." And to Bhante Sangharakshita: "You are the elder brother; you have
corrected my poor English, given us the correct Sanskrit words, and put my poems
into good meter and style."
"To both of you I
am very grateful and offer my thanks. Further, the parts we have played in the
writing of this book are like the different yanas: Bhante sits silently upon his chair and listens as the work
proceeds—he is the Vajrayana." Then the yogi
said, turning to the transcriber, "You have much work: you write, you
type, and often have come here yourself to correct the chapters. Your exertions
for the good of this book correspond to the Mahayana. And as for myself,"
said Mr. Chen, both humble and smiling, "I am the Hinayana.
I just talk to make you happy! I am like a Hinayana boy in his hermitage, sometimes doing a little meditation, but most of the time
Mr. Chen paused and then
added: "You have come from so far and go and I do indeed thank you for
such hard work. I have had nothing to do, only to talk."
book comes from my own words, I am far from being a holy person. Readers should
take note of what Confucius said in this matter: "One should go according
to the words, and not by the person who utters them." So if the words
themselves are good, and they bring about some good in this world, that is the
main thing, for I myself have no realization; these words are all the fruits of
others' realizations. What I have said in these talks is sometimes my own
opinion, but the wisdom of the ancient sages' experiences substantiates my
words. As for my own ideas, I do not claim that these are infallibly right, and
the readers of this book should choose by their own wisdom what is really the true Way.
B. The Whole Process of Meditation in Our
Three-in-One System Related to the Five Poisons
As a fitting
conclusion to our book, we give a simplified account of the whole system,
showing how through purification of the gross poisons effected by the five
meditations in the Hinayana, these passions (now
subtle) are sublimated in the voidness meditations of
the Mahayana, and finally transmuted into the functions of Buddhahood in the Vajrayana. One by one, we will take each of
the five Hinayana meditations (see Ch. VIII) and show
the gradual processing of the poisons in the different yanas.
This is on
the impurity of the body. Everyone is born from the craving for a body of
flesh. Craving for this physical body, one has impure lusts and passions.
Therefore, the first thing that is necessary to bring about cessation of the
pain (duhkha, experienced because of the passions),
is quite simple: RENUNCIATION. If one does not renounce the objects, both
mental and physical, upon which the passions arise, how will one get rid of
either these cravings or their accompanying sufferings?
renunciation comes purification, which is threefold: of the whole physical body
of its thirty-six parts (see Ch. IX, E, 1, a), and of one's volition towards
the body. The first is purified by meditations on the decay of the body and the
cemetery contemplations (for these, see Ch. VIII, G, 1), the second by contemplating
on all the impure parts which compose it, and the sharp driver of
"one's-own-body-view" is purified by seeing the body's voidness.
process is in the Hinayana where renunciation and
purification are very much stressed. (It is important to understand that none
of these body-meditations aim at "mortifying the flesh;" they are all
skillful means aiming at purification of the body so that one may progress to
higher stages of the Path. The body, which is not to be loved, must not be
mortified either—a species of self-hatred—but should be used as the vehicle for
To gain this,
the Hinayana meditations are not sufficient. They
only remove the sorrow of lust, so that one finds that the practices of the
Mahayana are necessary. These effect a sublimation of the body from being a
physical human body to becoming the Buddha-entity body.
nature of sunyata is the source of the Dharmakaya (the ultimate truth considered as an unmanifested body of the Buddhas);
the conditions of sunyata are the source of the Rupakaya (the manifested bodies of the Buddha). The
aspirant to Buddhahood has many long ages to labor
while slowly acquiring all the necessary sunyata-conditions
before he can actualize his aim (Full Enlightenment, Buddhahood, the Dharmakaya).
It is like
cooking food: it boils and becomes steam, but here we are not satisfied with
that steam—which after all still contains the smell of the food, nor can we
wait so long for the meal to be ready.
reason, we take up the Vajrayana, where we are at
once initiated into the actual position of consequence of Buddhahood.
To obtain the glorious body of Buddhahood (the Sambhogakaya, in which the Buddhas preach to the holy bodhisattvas), it is necessary to use one of the many
Tantric methods. One should not think that the highest body among these three,
the Dharmakaya, because it is inert and unmanifested, is something dead. No, indeed! All the
functions from the other two Buddha-bodies, the Sambhogakaya and the Nirmanakaya (appearance-body which is seen by
men and animals, as the earthly Buddhaforms), are the
complete salvation found only in the Vajrayana.
compassion for beings and the four kinds of boundless mind in the Hinayana teachings can check the sorrow of anger. The
method used in this yana to
control hatred is the observance of the moral precepts (and the vinaya for bhiksus)—really only
an outward suppression, together with these boundless mind meditations, which
will only subdue this sorrow. Because there is but little wisdom of sunyata taught in the Hinayana,
this process cannot be finished there.
we see that there are three steps of which the meditations above constitute the
first. Why must we go on? Hinayana sunyata teaching is not thorough-going enough to pull up
completely all the roots of anger. Some subtle fragments of this sorrow still
remain which will surely sprout again as soon as the conditions are favorable.
Thus we come to the Mahayana meditations of sunyata,
where inwardly one confirms the absence of a personal self and outwardly
abandons ideas of selfhood in phenomena. When both these types of non-self have
been realized, then it is easy to get rid of this sorrow.
This is a
kind of negative approach. The real question is: how can anger be transformed
into mercy? The same four boundless minds are practiced in Mahayana, conjoined
with sunyata, and then become truly boundless. When
they are truly boundless then real compassion emerges.
How is this?
Great compassion comes from the cultivation of bodhicitta,
and this in turn derives from sunyata. In sunyata there is no self and no others; neither of these
can be distinguished in the sunyata of the Dharmakaya. Most people do not recognize this, and make
divisions into "I" and "mine," and "you" and
"yours." From this false discrimination, anger is produced. But the
great compassion of the same entity arises in the opposite way, when one knows
the void nature of all persons and events and the impossibility in reality of
distinguishing any self or things.
something remains to be done, for one should not be content to do good to sentient beings by one's compassionate will alone;
one must give them some actual benefits. This is possible in the Vajrayana, where there are many methods in the position of
consequence. Here we find practical benefit for beings, by the functions of
salvation of Buddhahood. To save them all from the
woes of samsara is surely at once both the highest
good and the most complete transmutation of the poison of anger.
The samapatti on causation in the Hinayana is to cure the sorrows of self bound up with ignorance. The twelve factors of
dependent origination (pratityasamutpada) are very
much stressed as the system which explains the conditional nature of ignorance
(avidya). It is negative, since it lists all those
factors which lead to our continued life (and therefore suffering) in the world
of birth-and-death. This doctrine shows clearly how one action contains within
it the possibility of certain results and is thus a guide for the purification
of deeds created by mind, speech, and body.
The power of
meditation must reverse the usual order of the factors, so that a stopping of
one of these twelve factors automatically leads to the inhibition of the
following one. In this way, these factors—all depending on ignorance and
craving (trsna)—are destroyed one after another. This
system corresponds to the Four Noble Truths taught by the Buddha, but is not
deep enough to reveal Thatness (tathata)
which is the Lord's causation-teaching in the Mahayana.
In the Great
Vehicle, as we have seen many times, all sorrows are sublimated in sunyata. From the sunyata arises
knowledge of the causation by tathata. This is not
merely a stopping, but a discovery of the merits of Buddhahood from realization. At that time it is not only easy to attain arhatship, but more than this, one can become a prince of
the Buddha, a bodhisattva.
according to the holy salvation of Buddhahood, all
holy causation has some correspondence with all sentient beings, which are to
be saved in this life. This cannot be done in the Mahayana. The six perfections
(paramita) can only be regarded as skillful means for
those who wish to follow the Buddha as bodhisattvas. Even to reach up to the
first stage of bodhisattvahood is very difficult and
takes an immense amount of time, for so many things have to be done for
innumerable beings. Bodhisattvas find it impossible to make much progress in
merging their meditation in sunyata, as they are
overly preoccupied with actions. For this reason, they may even pass lives totaling
a kalpa of years and still fail to develop a deep sunyata-samatha; not having this, they can make but little
progress onwards to Buddhahood.
We see from
our examination that neither the causation of dharmas and human beings (in Hinayana), nor the Mahayana
causation-by-no-causation are easily integrated in the conditions of a
bodhisattva who wants quickly to experience the functions of salvation must use
the Vajra-vehicle. The methods there in the position
of consequence of Buddhahood make the ultimate
salvation of all beings possible. A Buddha, even while sitting down, may cause
many things to happen, for he can do everything for beings in the whole Dharmadhatu through his Vajrayana meditations.
This is on the
discrimination of the elements, and in the Hinayana it is the way to cure the sorrow of pride. Through its practice one comes to
know that the whole of one's personality is just five heaps, the first of which
is form or materiality (and in turn composed of the five elements), while the
other four heaps (of feelings, perceptions, mental tendencies, and
consciousness) are the mental components. Pride of self may definitely be
purified through this meditation, yet still one cannot positively use all six
elements. Therefore, one must pass on to Mahayana teachings, and ultimately to
should pay great attention to the three stages of our whole system of
meditation, and then it will be easy to see the most important point of this
book, which is my own opinion and one never talked about by the ancient sages,
either those of Tibet or China. Thus, all who read this book must not only
recognize the unity of the Buddhist tradition of meditation and wisdom but
practice accordingly, and moreover, practice thoroughly.
regards the time which should be spent in these various yanas: Hinayana meditations should be given three years'
continuous practice, and the same amount of time should be allowed for the
realization of sunyata in the Mahayana. Then at
least six years should be devoted to the Vajrayana for the attainment of Buddhahood. Altogether this
makes up a twelve-year meditation program for hermits and yogis who are really
serious about practice. From such concentrated attention to meditation, one
will surely attain Enlightenment in this life. (See Appendix I,
Part One, C, 7.)
It may happen
that one is fortunate enough to meet a Vajrayana guru
well-learned and experienced in the disciplines of all three vehicles. If so,
he may guide one through the whole system and one will be saved the trouble of
finding first Hinayana teachers, then going to others
for Mahayana teachings, and finally locating gurus for the Tantras.
Time is also saved in this way, as it is then not necessary to visit Hinayana lands and then those where the other yanas are taught.
unfortunately, we do not find in the book here a brief explanation on the Fifth
Meditation, Mindfulness of Breathing. Nevertheless, readers should be able to
find teachings on this from previous chapters.)
C. Good Wishes
we have a proverb: "Try to learn the highest and you will gain at least
the middle, but try only for middling attainments and you will gain only the
lowest." Therefore, we hope that to aid Westerners in this noble endeavor,
the Tantric doctrine will spread to the West and become firmly established
there. Buddhism is well-founded in any country where all three yanas are combined harmoniously in the whole system of
Buddhist teaching—may this be the case in Western lands!
Also, may the
reading and practice of the doctrines contained in this book lead to the long
life of all its readers; may they thus all quickly gain Full Enlightenment!
we hope that all learned and studious persons may pick up this book and by
reading its contents come to know the whole system of meditation in the
"three-yanas-in-one" and then decide to
practice what they have learned in theory.
is my earnest wish that the entire world may turn away from the blind path of
materialism towards the glorious bliss of bestowing the teachings of the
Buddha. May these Noble Teachings spread everywhere throughout the world,
and may this
Dharma of Enlightenment
preached by the
remain in this
world for a
very, very, long
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[Related works: Three-Yana Meditations in One System Related to the Five Poisons