Monday, November 27, 2006

Commentary to the Heart Sutra Part 3

A Bodhisattva, relying on this Prajna Paramita, is free from all hindrances as they too, are empty.

1. The Prajna Paramita that can be relied on is not the real Prajna Paramita. If a Bodhisattva needs to rely on anything at all, then we should kick him out of the window! We ourselves are Prajna Paramita; complete with all Dharmas, lacking in nothing. Why speak as if it is something outside for us to depend on? If we think that there is something to rely on, then we will forever be seeking external objects & be blind to our own Buddha-nature. This is the path of Samsara.

Ven Linji once went to visit Bodhidharma's tomb. The keeper asked him:
"Does the Ven wish to pray to the Buddha first, or to the Patriach (Bodhidharma)?"
Linji: "I will neither pray to the Buddha, nor to the Patriach."
Keeper: "What grievances to you have with the Buddha & the Patriach?"
At this point, Linji laughed, shook down his sleeves and left, leaving the keeper in puzzlement.

The Buddha & the Patriach both taught us to look within our own minds for the Truth; how could Linji do otherwise?

2. The hindrances generally refer to (a) sensual desire, (b) ill-will, (c) sloth & torpor, (d) restlessness & remorse, (e) sceptical doubt. They hinder one from seeing the true nature of the mind, for they are manifestations of Avijja. But if a person can in an instant, realize directly that there is no mind, then what can these hindrances hinder? That's why the 6th Patriach said that:

"Bodhi has no tree,
The Bright Mirror is not a stand;
Intrinsically there is nothing,
Where can dust alight?"

If one has a mind, one is sure to have mental dust; when one has mental dust, one is sure to have 84,000 kinds of kleshas. One may sweep off the dust now & then, but after a while new dust gathers once more. This is just another a never-ending cycle which is not in line with the Dharma. Like trying to cut a fountain of water with a sword, you will never succeed as new water constantly flows out from the source. Why not go directly to the source? That is the only way to go!

Free from all fear and apart from inverted views, he reaches Final Nirvana.

1. This fear refers to the fear of birth & death, the fear of suffering. When one realizes all encompassing emptiness, birth & death becomes non-dual with cessation. Whether one comes or goes, the Buddha-nature remains unmoved. Like an illusionary man created by an illusionist, the illusionist feels no fear at all with the arising & dissappearing of the illusion. This is because he knows that the man is intrinsically unreal.

2. Inverted views refer to the 62 wrong views, consisting of the 5 aggregates considered under the 3 eras of past, present & future. In the past, each aggregate may be permanant, impermanant, both & neither (5 x 4). In the present, each aggregate may be finite, infinite, both or neither (5 x 4). In the future, each aggregate may continue, discontinue, both or neither (5 x 4). That adds up to 60. Plus the 2 views that the body & mind is either united or separate, we have the 62 wrong views. However after one sees the Buddha-nature, the 5 aggregates return to emptiness, as well as all concepts of time & space. Thus all the 62 wrong views can no longer be established.

3. Final Nirvana refers to Parinirvana or Nirvana without remainder. Contrary to what most people understand, Parinirvana does not refer to the manifestation of death of the enlightened ones, but the Unborn & Undying virtue of the Buddha-nature. Thus the Vimalakirti sutra says:

"All Dharmas fundamentally do not arise,
And thus they also do not enter into cessation;
That is the meaning of Nirvana."

The Parinirvana Sutra says:

"The teaching of Impermanance,
Still falls under the realm of duality;
Only when duality is no more,
Can one realize the bliss of Nirvana."

As such, all duality, birth & death & the 5 aggregates are absorbed back into the Absolute & simply become means for the Dharma to reveal itself to sentient beings. That is why the enlightened being lives in complete freedom, doing anything he wishes, preaching only when the opportunity arises & passing away in any manner & at any time he chooses. Like a jester, the Bodhisattva displays various activities among the world as if they are games, but in these games contain the direction that leads beings to the highest truth.

In the past Ven Long Tan went to study Zen with Ven Tian Huang. After staying for a long time, Long Tan asked Tian Huang:
"Master, after coming here, I've yet to receive any instruction from you."
Huang: "Since you came here, I've never neglected instructing you in the essence of the mind before."
Tan: "Where have you given me any instructions?"
Huang: "When you bring me a cup of tea, I drink it. When you bring me my meals, I eat them. When you salute me, I nod my head. Where have I not given you instructions?"
Tan lowered his head to think about what his master said. At this point Huang shouted:
"To see the Truth, you must see it right now! If you try to think then it is already gone!"
Tan attained enlightenment upon hearing these words.

Thus you see that there is not a single moment that the Bodhisattva does not teach the Dharma, but sentient beings simply could not catch the hint!

All Buddhas of the 3 eras (past, present and future) also rely on Prajna Paramita to attain anuttara-samya-ksambodhi (complete enlightenment).

1. What are the Buddhas of the 3 eras? The past thought does not arise is the past Buddha. The present thought does not stay is the present Buddha. The future thought does not cease is the future Buddha. The Diamond Sutra says:

"The past mind cannot be found,
The present mind cannot be found;
The future mind also cannot be found."

That which neither arises, abides nor ceases is the true Buddha - your own Buddha-nature.

2. The Buddhas do not rely on Prajna Paramita. Why? They themselves are Prajna, they themselves are Paramita! If they still need to rely on anything at all, then they cannot be called Buddhas.

In the Manjusri Prajna Paramita Sutra, the Buddha asked Manjusri:
"Have you gained all-prevading wisdom?"
Manjusri: "I myself am this all-pervading wisdom. Why would I need to seek it anywhere else?"

This sutra is full of traps. If you are not sharp enough, you will fall right into them and cannot escape.

3. There's no Dharma called anuttara-samya-ksambodhi or complete enlightenment. What more for its attainment? All there exist are names without any real meaning at all. The Buddha said:

"If I have gained any Dharma at all from Dipankara Buddha, then Dipankara Buddha would never have given me his prophecy (of future Buddhahood)."

Nothing gained, nothing attained, nothing lost, nothing denied. That is the true meaning of complete enlightenment.

Therefore know that Prajna Paramita is the great divine mantra,

1. Mantra are syllables & words of Truth that contain immense power, able to alter the conventional laws of reality when spoken by the right person. The Nobles Ones, sometimes even ordinary people, were able to perform what we perceive as miracles by reciting certain words of Truth. However, in this case, Mantra refer to all the inconceivable Dharma that issue forth from our Buddha-nature. This Mantra is wordless, formless, featureless and One with the Absolute. The sutras say:

"Only the Enlightened & other Enlightened Ones can know it."

2. Great divine mantra refers to the supernormal powers of the Buddha-nature. Traditionally, there are 6 supernormal powers. But these powers have a different meaning when discerned by Prajna Paramita. Ven Huihai once said:

"The Divine & Complete Buddha-nature,
Is omnipresent in all the infinite world systems;
Be there mountains, rivers, rocks or walls,
It comes & goes without obstruction."

i) Divine eye - all that one sees is the unborn & undying nature of the mind. The scriptures say:

"See that the mind is without appearance, see that the Buddha is no different."

ii) Divine ear - all that one hears is the Dharma of the Absolute. The scriptures say:

"The grass, the birds & the forests; all of them can recite the Dharma."

iii) Knowledge of the minds of others - knowing that all the minds of sentient beings are no different from the minds of the Buddhas. Upon his enlightenment, the Buddha exclaimed:

"Wonder of wonders! All sentient beings possess the wisdom-virtue of the Tathagata, yet they cannot see it due to their own kleshas!"

iv) Transformation at will - the complete freedom of the Buddha-nature to reveal itself through any worldly or non-wordly means. The scriptures say:

"Every plant & tree, every grain of sand & stone;
Not a single object here is apart from the Bodhisattva's manifestations."

v) Knowledge of past lives & future destiny - knowing that all the Buddhas & Patriaches of the past, present & future have & will continue to walk the same path, understand the same Truth & preach the same doctrine; for there is no Dharma other than the Mind. The scriptures say:

"All the Buddhas of the 3 eras, share the same Dharmakaya."

vi) Freedom without remainder from the wheel of Samsara - understanding without a doubt that the Mind is Samsara, the Mind is Nirvana, the Mind neither comes nor goes, increases of decreases. No less than the dissolving of all duality & complete realization of emptiness. The Dhammapada says:

"Dwelling in the cave (of the heart),
The mind, without form, wanders far and alone.
Those who subdue this mind,
Are liberated from the bonds of Mara."

These are the 6 supernormal powers of the Buddha-nature, the great divine mantra.

the great bright mantra, the supreme mantra, the incomparable mantra.

1. Bright in this verse refers to the brightness of 3 Vijja or super knowledges. What are these 3? They are actually part of the 6 supernormal powers explained earlier, namely:

i) Divine Eye
ii) Knowledge of past lives & future destiny
iii) Freedom without remainder from Samsara

The difference between the power & the knowledge is that the latter is far more penetrative than the former, because is no longer hindered by coarse or even subtle kleshas, thereby regaining its full clarity. Worldly yogis, rishis & devas may also have supernormal powers, but only the enlightened ones possess the 3 super knowledges. In the case of Prajna Paramita, however, there is no such difference. The powers & knowledges of the Buddha-nature are completely One.

Once there was a Rishi who have attained the 5 supernormal powers asking the Buddha: "World-honoured One, you possess the 6 supernormal powers, whereas I only have 5 powers. What is the 6th power?"
The Buddha suddenly exclaimed: "Rishi!"
The Rishi answered: "Yes, lord?"
Buddha: "That power; why do you ask me?"

The 6th Power, the 3rd Knowledge, Prajna Paramita, all refer to the same thing. Do you know what is it?

2. Supreme refers to the omnipresent quality of Prajna Paramita. There is nothing above it or outside of it. Like the Avatamsaka Sutra said:

"Such as the True Thusness, which is present in all places.
Transference of good roots is likewise,
In a single thought moment, it reaches all world systems."

Because the nature of the mind is such, it can reach places like the Pure Land of Amitabha in a single instant, even though it is "10 billion world systems" away from our Saha world. If the mind was not so, then all our practices would have been in vain. Thus, you can see that space & distance are merely illusions.

3. Incomparable refers to the quality of omniscience. Because all Buddhas & sentient beings share the same Buddha-nature, they also share the same infinite wisdom. In terms of the Absolute, the mind, the Buddhas & sentient beings are One. Why is this so? Because in the Absoulte there is no Mind, no Buddhas & no sentient beings. Thus the scriptures say:

"Prajna in Unknowing,
Yet there is nothing it does not know.
Prajna is Unseeing,
Yet there is nothing it does not see."

Profound indeed is Prajna Paramita. There is nothing comparable to it in the entire Dharmadhatu. If you can see directly into where there is no mind, then this whole universe will become your playground.

Able to remove all suffering, because it is one with reality & free from all falsehood.

1. It removes all suffering because it shatters false clinging to a sufferer. When there is no sufferer, where can you find suffering?

Once Ven Baizhang & Ven Mazu were strolling together in an open field. Suddenly a bunch of wild geese flew by overhead. Mazu asked Baizhang:
"What are those?"
Baizhang: "Wild geese."
Mazu: "Where are they now?"
Baizhang: "Flew away."
Suddenly, Mazu pinched Baizhang's nose as hard as he possibly could. Baizhang screamed in pain!
Mazu: "Clearly still around! Since when did it flew away?"
Baizhang was immediately awakened after hearing these words.

Baizhang realized at that point that which does not suffer. Can you also see it?

2. What does it mean by being real & free from falsehood? Ven Xuanjue said:

"The freed cultivator who ceases all learning & becomes non-active,
Does not remove false thought nor does he seek reality.
The nature of fundamental ignorance is the Buddha-nature,
The illusionary & empty body is the Dharma body (Dharmakaya)."

All falsehood becomes reality in the absence of discrimination. Why? Because both falsehood & reality is not apart from emptiness. As such, there is neither falsehood nor reality - that is the true reality! Besides this true reality, I still have one more piece of Dharma to share with you. What is it? The tree behind my house is almost 90 feet tall.

To recite the Prajna-paramita mantra, say it thus:
"Ga-te, ga-te, para-ga-te, para-sam-ga-te, bodhi svaha."

Ah yes, the final part of the Heart Sutra, to recite that which is beyond words. Ga-te is a Sanskrit word meaning "Gone". Gone where? Gone to where there is neither coming nor going, where there is no birth & death, no entanglement & no liberation. Para-gate means "Gone beyond" & Para-sam-gate means "Totally gone beyond". Bodhi means enlightenment, svaha means to acheive. The whole verse of mantra means "To achieve enlightenment when you have totally gone beyond". The key word here is Ga-te. All the rest are merely emphasis words for the word Ga-te. If people ask you whether there is a single word that contains the essense of the whoe Heart Sutra, say there is none. But if they are still not satisfied, tell them it is the word Ga-te. If they ask for instruction on how to practice, tell them to meditate on the meaning of Ga-te. This is the final skillful means taught by the Heart Sutra. Remember it well!

With that, we have come to the end of this commentary. Although not a single word has been said, may it still be beneficial to all beings who bother to read it. May the blessings of all Buddhas be unto you all.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Commentary to the Heart Sutra Part 2

Shariputra, all Dharmas are empty. They are beyond birth and death, impurity or purity, increase or decrease;

1. Shariputra, all Dharmas are empty - of things that owe their existence to causes & conditions, they are empty of any real nature, like illusions, like mirages, like echos. Whether they last one split second, or even if they last thousands of kalpas, in the end all dissolve back into emptiness. The Diamond Sutra said:

"Of all conditioned things,
They are like dreams, bubbles, shadows;
Like dew & like lightning,
So should you perceive them."

Because they are empty, they cannot be grasped to. That which cannot be grasped is no different from the Buddha-nature.

2. They are beyond birth & death, impurity or purity, increase or decrease - the body of the Buddha is adamantine in nature. It is fundamentally unborn, & thus also undying. Being free from impurity, thus it also need no purity. Originally perfect, how can there be any increase or decrease? What is this Buddha body? None other than your own true mind! The 6th Patriach said:

"Who would have thought that the Self-nature, is intrinsically pure!

Who would have thought that the Self-nature, is intrinsically free from birth & death!

Who would have thought that the Self-nature, is intrinsically self-sufficient!

Who would have thought that the Self-nature, is intrinsically immovable!

Who would have thought that the Self-nature,can produce all Dharmas!"

Absolute is the Buddha-nature; Relative are birth, death, impurity, purity, increase & decrease. There is no room for the Relative in the Absolute, because all relative things that come into contact with the absolute are transformed into the absolute. Like snow flakes melting into a burning stove, or like smelling only the fragrance of jasmine when you enter a jasmine grove. The Buddha-nature is called Absolute as it is the ultimate reality. It stands on its own without need for any relative truths or what is known as duality. That which is non-dual is the Prajna Paramita of the Buddhas.

Because in emptiness there is no form, no feeling, perception, habit and consciousness. No eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind. No vision, sound, smell, taste, touch, and thought. No sphere of vision and so forth, not even a sphere of consciousness.

1. Because in emptiness - refers to the Absolute, the Buddha-nature, the true mind. There is nothing outside of it, yet it is neither within, without or in-between.

Ven Guishen once asked Ven Wenyi:
"See that big rock in the garden. You said that everything is within the mind; so is that rock within your mind, or without?"
Wenyi: "Within my mind."
Guishen: "You are a wandering monk & should travel light. Why carry such a big rock in your mind when you travel about?"

Wenyi was not able to reply. He stay with Guishen for more than a month to contemplate, but could not come to any realization. Finally when he ran out of answers completely, Guishen gave him a relevation:

"If we talk about the Dharma, everything is in the present moment."

Wenyi attained enlightenment upon hearing that, & went on to become the founder of the Fayan branch of Chan Buddhism.

2. There is no form, no feeling, perception, habit and consciousness - the 5 aggregates cannot stand within the Absolute.

3. No eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind - refers to our 6 sense organs.

4. No vision, sound, smell, taste, touch, and thought - refers to the 6 sense objects.

5. No sphere of seeing and so forth, not even a sphere of consciousness - refers to the 6 sense spheres. When you break down the aggregates into subject & object, you get these 18 spheres. The 6 sense organs are the subject of Form, & the 6 sense objects are the object. When they interact with each other, you get the 6 sense spheres. From their interaction produces feeling, perception, habit & consciouness. No matter how you break them down, they still cannot stand within the Absolute. Mind, Buddha, Sentient beings; these are merely false names & also have no place in the Buddha-nature. Thus Ven Zhaozhou said:

"I don't like to hear the word Buddha!"

That being said, know that the nature of these 5 aggregates & 18 spheres are not apart from the Buddha-nature. Because they are empty, they are also non-arising & non-ceasing. Before we are enlightened, these aggregates & spheres are ruled by Avijja, creating all sorts of karma which causes Samsaric suffering. But after we are enlightened, they are dissolved back into the Absolute & simply become instruments for the Buddha-nature to reveal itself. Thus Ven Baozhi said:

"The Great Way is right before you,
Yet it is difficult for you to see it;
If you wish to know the body of the Great Way,
Do not seek them apart from form, sound & language."

The body of the Dharma cannot be grapsed, just as the body of all things are empty and also cannot be grasped. Thus it is called "Nothing". Yet within this nothing contains infinite wisdom & applications. Whether body or application, they are still One & the same thing, don't you see?

No ignorance or its extinction, not even aging and death and their extinction.

1. This verse refers to the 12 causal links of existence, namely: avijja (ignorance) - mental formations - consciousness - mind & matter - 6 sense bases - contact - feeling - craving - clinging - becoming - birth - aging & death. These links binds us to the wheel of samsara, leading us through the never-ending cycle of birth & death. The root cause of these 12 links is Avijja & it has been obscuring the Buddha-nature since time immemorial. Like the Buddha-nature, Avijja is without a beginning. But unlike the Buddha-nature, it can come to an end. Once Avijja is shattered, all the 12 causal links collapses; for they too cannot stand within the Absolute. Despite having obscured the true mind for so long, Avijja could not affect the purity of the Buddha-nature even one bit. All the infinite past lives of samsaric wandering appear to be like yesterday night's dreams. Once Avijja is shattered, there is no chance of it ever coming back, just as an enlightened person will never become deluded again. The Sutra of Complete Enlightenment says:

"Good man, it is like refining a piece of gold ore. The gold within does not come from refining, but once gold ore is refined into pure gold, it never becomes ore again. No matter how much time have passed, the nature of gold does not deteoriate. Thus you should not say it is not perfect from the beginning. The Complete Enlightenment of the Buddhas is no different."

Gold ore refers to the Buddha-nature obscured by Avijja, & pure gold refers to the Buddha-nature itself.

2. Those who realize enlightenment by themselves, breaking Avijja without any guidance are called Paccekas or Solitary Buddhas. Although they are enlightened, their enlightenment is incomplete because they still have a subtle clinging to the aspect of cessation in the Buddha-nature. They see only the body of emptiness, but they do not see its infinite applications. Thus they become stagnant, losing their inherent Prajna and are unable to preach the Dharma to others. Although the scriptures say they are superior to the Savakas, in the eyes of the Absolute they are no different - both are rotten seeds, content with dwelling in illusionary cities instead of the true mansion of the Tathagatas. Thus the Lotus Sutra says:

"In all the Buddha-lands,
There is only One vehicle;
Neither a second or third exists,
For they are only skillful means."

What is that One vehicle? None other than your present mind!

No suffering, no origin of suffering, no extinction and no path.

1. This refers to the 4 Noble Truths. But they too cannot stand within the Absolute. Why is this so? Because Suffering can only be ebstablished upon a Sufferer. When you cannot find a self or even a no-self, what more for the concept of a sufferer? Thus you see that the Noble Truths that the Savakas rely upon to reach Nibbana are by themselves without any real nature, what more for the fruits of their path? That's why when Emperor Liang Wudi asked Bodhidharma:

"What is the highest meaning of the Noble Truths?"
His reply was: "Vast emptiness, nothing noble."
Wudi: "Who is the one speaking to me then?"
Bodhidharma: "I do not know."

Bodhidharma honestly revealed the Absolute to Wudi, but alas, he was not able to understand it.
No wisdom and no attainment; there is nothing to attain.

1. If the Absolute can have wisdom & attainment, then it is not the Absolute. The wisdom of the Buddha-nature is the wisdom of non-wisdom, which cannot be attained as it is inherent within the Buddha-nature itself. Our true nature is non-abiding, & therefore it is able to penetrate all things in all time & space. When we use it, we give it a false name called "Prajna"; when we don't use it, it is nameless, formless, & beyond all dual conceptions. If we have to name this body, we simply call it "Paramita", which is also another false name. But in reality there is neither Prajna nor Paramita for they are One & the same thing. In the Vimalakirti Sutra, Shariputra asked the Devi:

"Devi, how soon will you attain perfect enlightenment?"
Devi: "At such time as you, Elder, become an ordinary being once again, then will I attain perfect enlightenment."
Shariputra: "Devi, it is impossible that I should become an ordinary being once again."
Devi: "Just so, Ven Shariputra, it is impossible that I should attain perfect enlightenment! Why? Because perfect enlightenment is not something that can be attained."
Shariputra: "But the Buddhas of the past, present & future who have attained perfect enlightenment are as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. What will you say of them?"
Devi: "Ven Shariputra, the expression, 'the Buddhas of the past, present and future' is merely a conventional expression spoken in line with worldy thinking. It does not mean enlightenment is tied to the past, present or future. But tell me, Elder, have you attained arahatship?"
Shariputra: "It is attained, because there is nothing to attain."
Devi: "Just so, all Buddhas & Bodhisattvas attain perfect enlightenment because there is nothing to be attained."

Only when there is no wisdom & no attainment, can one truly see what is Prajna Paramita.

(to be continued..)

Commentary to the Heart Sutra Part 1

Homage to all the Buddhas & Bodhisattvas in the 10 directions. May they forgive & offer me repentance if I misunderstand their teachings; but if I may comment in accordance to the supreme Dharma, let this merit be transfered to all sentient beings in the entire Dharmadhatu, such that they may see their very true minds.

Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu.

Prajna Paramita Hridaya Sutra

1. What is Prajna? Prajna is often translated as wisdom. This wisdom is not ordinary worldly wisdom, but the wisdom to see all things as they really are. The scriptures say:

"Prajna does not know, yet there is nothing it does not know.
Prajna does not see, yet there is nothing it does not see."

The body of Prajna is empty like the void, yet in this void contains infinite applications.

"Able to differentiate all phenomena,
Yet remaining unmoved in the Utmost Meaning."

Prajna differentiates all things that comes into contact with it, yet it remains unattached to all things. This is the pure awareness quality of all Buddhas which Avalokitesvara wants all of us to discover in our own mind, which is also the central theme of the Heart Sutra.

2. Paramita - often translated as perfection, or crossing to the other shore.

"This shore" refers to samsara, suffering or delusion.
"Other shore" refers to nirvana, bliss or awakening.

But in reality there's neither "this shore" or "other shore". There is only one shore, the shore of the Buddha-nature, the shore of the Absolute that is freed from all duality. No samsara, no nibbana, no suffering, no bliss, no delusion, no awakening - that is the true Paramita, the true perfection & crossing to the other shore.

3. Hridaya - translated as essence, heart or mind. In Chinese, the character for heart & mind is the same & refers to the same thing.

"Heaven & hell is in the Mind, & so is Nirvana."

The mind is the origin & end of all things. Mind itself is the Buddha, mind itself is the Dharma; when they work in harmony you get the Sangha. When the mind returns in its original state of emptiness, it is called Paramita. From this state of emptiness one sees & knows all phenomena, that is called Prajna. In reality Prajna & Paramita is one & the same thing. Prajna is the Dharma, Paramita is the Buddha. When you combine them you have the Sangha. All these names are just different aspects of the one true Mind!

The whole Heart Sutra could have ended right here. That is all there is to teach. Like the 6th Patriarch said when he first started to preach: Maha Prajna Paramita. He fell silent after that. But seeing that nobody could understand that was all there is to it, he had no choice but to add:

"The Self-nature of Bodhi,
Is fundamentally pure;
With this very mind,
Enter straight into Buddhahood."

4. Which brings us to the term Sutra. Sutra means scripture or thread. Because sentient beings could not grasp the meaning of the wordless, the Buddhas need to use all sort of words as skillful means to refer people to this meaning, which Hui Neng described as "fingers pointing to the moon". The whole Tripitaka & the entire collection of scriptures in the Mahayana Canon are fingers. They exist because people can't see the moon by themselves. If they finally see the moon, then all these billions of words become useless.

Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, deep in the practice of Prajna-paramita,

1. Yes Avalokitesvara is being long-winded like an old lady here, but he has no choice as people in the assembly could not understand what she wanted to teach. Bodhisattva means a being on the path to Buddhahood, a person seeking Bodhi. He is tricking us here, bcos Avalokitesvara knows very well that Bodhi or enlightenment could not be sought. Seeking brings us even further from our true mind; either u see it or u don't! He IS a Buddha, yet he goes around pretending to be a "Bodhisattva". Shame on him.

2. Avalokitesvara means he who observes the world with freedom (观自在 Guanzizai), or he who listens to the sounds of the world (观世音 Guanshiyin), commonly know as Guanyin. He is the embodiment of compassion in the Buddha-nature. This compassion is greater than the worldy humanism of Confucius & even the godly love of Jesus. How is that so? This compassion is one with the void, devoid of subject & object, self & other, giver & taker. It is what the scriptures described as:

Unconditioned Love, Non-dual Compassion.

This kind of enlightened compassion is untiring & everlasting, surpassing all love arising from religious or humanistic beliefs.

3. Deep in the practice of Prajna Paramita indeed! What does he think Prajna is? A swimming pool? Prajna is empty like space and physical concepts like "deep" & "shallow" does not exist. It is neither within, without, or in between. It cannot even be grasped, what more be practiced? Simply abandon all false thoughts & Prajna Paramita is right there! Being beyond both the mundane & supramundane knowledges, how can it be confined to worldy concepts of practice & progress? Another trick, ha!

Clearly sees that the 5 aggregates are empty, and thus passes beyond all suffering and distress.

1. clearly sees - here it is not the eye that see, but the mind. The scriptures say:

Neither seeing nor not seeing, that is the Buddha eye.

Thus understand that the nature of the mind & the nature of seeing is one. Seeing is mind, mind is seeing. Without mind there is no seeing, and vice versa.

2. the 5 aggregates - defined as form, feeling, perception, habit & consciousness. These are the components that make up a sentient being's world, what we cling to as Self. Form is the physical elements, the rest of the aggregates are the mind. For eg. a cake is form, our eyes that see it is also form. Being happy, being sad or being neutral towards having a cake, that is feeling. Recognizing that it is a cake is perception. Keeping our attention on the cake is habit. Mentally knowing that you have seen a cake is consciouness.

3. are empty - the nature of form, feeling, perception, habit & consciousness are fundamentally void. Being void it neither arises nor ceases. How can they be separated from the Buddha-nature? How can they be apart from Nirvana?

"All Dharmas do not arise,
All Dharmas do not cease,
If you can see likewise,
All Buddhas appear as you please."

4. passes beyond all suffering and distress - there is nobody at all! There are only physical & mental components which by themselves are just neutral faculties. Who is there to suffer then? Suffering arises only due to our own clinging. Being blinded by Avijja or root ignorance, we conjure up false feelings of craving or aversion towards form, which lead to birth & death. But if we can give up all these false feelings, the mind will simply return to its original equanimity. This is what Avalokitesvara meant by passing beyond all suffering. A cake is just a cake. What is there to be happy or sad about?

"When the mind arises all Dharmas arise,
When the mind ceases all Dharmas cease."

Shariputra, form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. The same is true of feeling, perception, habit and consciousness.

1. Shariputra - the Buddha's Chief Disciple, foremost in wisdom. Though he is wisest among the Sravakas, in the Prajna Paramita Sutras, Shariputra often ends up as the whipping boy. Why? Because 1 million Shariputras cannot fathom the Prajna wisdom of the Buddhas. The problem with Sravakas lie with their limited capacity. How are they limited? Sravakas have abandoned all clinging to Self, but they are not able to give up clinging to Nirvana. They are averse to birth & death and would rather stay indefinitely in the bliss of cessation. That is why when Shariputra sat in meditation in the forest, Vimalakirti came along and admonished him. Wise as Shariputra is, his wisdom is limited and the limited cannot fill up the Absolute no matter how many millions of times it mulitplies itself. Thus the Sutra of Complete Enlightenment said:

"Good man, the heart of complete enlightenment of all Buddhas is devoid of Bodhi & Nirvana; neither is there a concept of attaining or not attaining Buddhahood, not even a concept of false Samsara or not Samsara exists. Good man, even all the enlightened Sravaka Arahants, with their mind, body & speech gone into extinction, cannot fathom the Nirvana that I have attained on my own. What more for ordinary beings, with their conventional thinking, trying to define the completely enlightened state of the Tathagata?"

2. Form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form - What is form, what is emptiness? In the past there was a wise sage who wanted to teach his son the the meaning of reality. He told his son to pluck a fruit from a big Banyan tree. The son did as he was told, & the sage asked him to open the fruit and see what was inside. When his son found some tiny seeds inside, the sage again asked him to split the seeds & check what was inside. The son managed to split the seeds after some effort and found that there was nothing inside! The sage then said:

"Dear son, the essence of life of this big Banyan tree is hidden within this tiny seed, yet there is nothing inside it. The nature of all existence is also like that, hidden within that subtle nothingness. That is the real you; you are not apart from that nothingness."

All forms come into being due to the combination of various conditions. They may appear different from each other, yet when split up into its most basic component, one cannot find anything within them. How then are they different from emptiness? You see a beautiful car, or a nubile young lady; your mind urges you to possess them because you cling to its present form. But if the car is suddenly wrecked, or the young lady suddenly turns into a wrinkled, old hag - where does your urge dissappear to?

3. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form - When your mind arises, form also arises. That is form. Seeing the true nature of form, & understanding that there is nothing to grasp to, the mind ceases. That is emptiness. From emptiness can arise infinite Dharmas, that is form. From infinite Dharmas all return to its source of nothingness, that is emptiness. When you see you own Buddha-nature, you also see that there is no form, no emptiness, no mind. From there, mind is form, mind is emptiness, mind is everything, mind is nothing. Form, emptiness, everything & nothing, these are only false names. There is no Dharma other than the Mind. That is the meaning of form is emptiness.

4. The same is true of feeling, perception, habit & consciousness - If form itself has no real substance, what more for the feeling, perception, habit & consciousness that arise because of form? The Avatamsaka Sutra said:

"Why speak of the various aggregates,
What nature do these aggregates have?
Such a nature cannot be destroyed,
Thus it is known as the Unborn."

The nature of the 5 aggregates is not apart from the Unborn. Why must you add false thoughts to them and create your own suffering? The 6th Patriach said:

"Aggregates & the world,
Ordinary beings see them as dual;
The wise man clearly understands,
That their nature is non-dual.
This nature which is non-dual,
Is none other than the Buddha-nature."

The only difference between an ordinary being & a wise man is that the former chases after form, whereas the wise man does not. If you stop chasing after form, then you too will not be far from Nirvana.

(to be continued..)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Monk who cuts off his own penis

Recently there was such an article in the papers:

[BANGKOK (Reuters) - A Thai Buddhist monk cut off his penis with a machete because he had an erection during meditation and declined to have it reattached, saying he had renounced all earthly cares, a doctor and a newspaper said on Wednesday.

The 35-year-old monk, whose name was withheld for privacy reasons, allowed medical staff at Maharaj hospital, 780 km (480 miles) south of Bangkok to dress his wound, but refused reattachment, hospital chief Prawing Euanontouch said.

"We cleaned up the wound, gave him some stitches, but he declined to have it reattached because he said had abandoned everything," Prawing told Reuters by telephone.

Prawing declined to comment on the monk's erection, which Bangkok-based Kom Chad Luk tabloid reported on its Web site.]

How foolish this monk is. The Vinaya mentioned that:

[Now at that time a certain monk, tormented by dissatisfaction, cut off his own male organ. They told this matter to the Buddha. He said: "This foolish man, monks, cut off one thing when another should have been cut off. Monks, one should not cut off one's own male organ. Whoever should cut it off, there is a grave offence."]

Besides breaking a serious Vinaya rule, this kind of self-mutilation is totally futile. The Bodhisattvas can give up life & limb for the sake of the Dharma, but never for such a ignorant purpose like trying to cut off one's desires. First of all, we must examine the causes of an erection. If it was physiological, then there's nothing to fuss about as it is just a sign of the body's natural blood circulation cycle. If it was mental, triggered by thoughts of lust, then would cutting off one's penis stop one from thinking?

Instead of trying to understand with the source of lust in the mind, this monk became poisoned by his own aversion & ignorance, leading to such an extreme act. The Buddha's teachings are for one to cut off one's attachment, not to cut off one's body parts! As for dealing with thoughts of lust, there are many kinds of Asubha meditation that use decaying corpses as a subject of contemplation to counter strong craving towards the physical body. Instead of going for the proper solution, the Thai monk completely misunderstood the Buddha's teachings and did something that he would surely regret for the rest of his life.

The problem with many people is that when they try to get rid of a defilement, they end up having another defilement. This is like using dirty water to mop a dirty floor - the floor still remains dirty.

In the past there was a Lama who was very good at the Asubha meditation method of contemplating on the skeleton. He had developed disgust for the physical body, thinking that he had thus freed himself from the shackles of lust. Manjusri knew of this and devised a method to test whether the Lama had indeed attain such freedom. So he manifested himself as a beautiful young lass and went to visit this Lama. "She" intentionally used all sorts of ways to seduce him and test his mental strength.

At first, this Lama remained unmoved. But Manjusri had unlimited powers of knowing the minds of others, and was able to detect some subtle weaknesses in the Lama's mind. As the seduction went on, the Lama's resolve finally wore down and he started to feel very aroused. Realizing that he was about to lose it, the Lama had no choice but to flee. Manjusri kept chasing him, until the Lama became exhausted and begged the girl to let him off. At this point, Manjusri appeared in his true form and admonished the Lama saying:

"If you are a slave to lust, you cannot escape the wheel of suffering; but if you are a slave to aversion, you also can never attain enlightenment! Only when you transcend this duality can you understand the true meaning of the Dharma."

Thereupon the Lama finally realized his mistake and expressed profound gratitude for the Bodhisattva's instruction. Take heed, everyone! Do not repeat the mistakes of the Thai monk or the Lama. Always bear in mind the emptiness of all Dharmas and do not seek solutions outside of your own mind. This is the teaching of Manjusri.