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Buddhism of Wisdom & Faith: Pure Land Principles and Practice
Dharma Master Thich Thien Tam
Translated and edited by the Van Hien Study Group
Sutra Translation Committee of the United States and Canada
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Also called "store consciousness, "eighth consciousness," or "karma repository." See also "Eight consciousnesses."
All karma created in the present and previous lifetimes is stored here. The alaya consciousness is regarded as that which undergoes the cycle of birth and death ... All the actions and experiences of life that take place through the first seven consciousnesses are accumulated as karma in this alaya consciousness, which at the same time exerts an influence on the workings of the seven consciousnesses. (A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts.)
Amitabha (Amida,Amita, Amitayus).
Amitabha is the most commonly used name for the Buddha of Infinite Light and Infinite Life. A transhistorical Buddha venerated by all Mahayana schools (T'ien T'ai, Esoteric, Zen ...) and, particularly, Pure Land. Presides over the Western Pure Land (Land of Ultimate Bliss), where anyone can be reborn through utterly sincere recitation of His name, particularly at the time of death.
Amitabha Buddha at the highest or noumenon level represents the True Mind, the Self-Nature common to the Buddhas and sentient beings -- all-encompassing and all-inclusive. This deeper understanding provides the rationale for the harmonization of Zen and Pure Land, two of the most popular schools of Mahayana Buddhism. See also "Buddha Recitation" "Mind," "Pure Land."
See "Three Pure Land Sutras."
Arhatship is the highest rank attained by Sravakas. An Arhat is a Buddhist saint who has attained liberation from the cycle of Birth and Death, generally through living a monastic life in accordance with the Buddhas' teachings. This is the goal of Theravadin practice, as contrasted with Bodhisattvahood in Mahayana practice. (A Dictionary of Buddhism.) See also "Sravakas."
In the Four Noble truths, Buddha Sakyamuni taught that attachment to self is the root cause of suffering:From craving [attachment] springs grief, from craving springs fear; For him who is wholly free from craving, there is no grief, much less fear. (Dhammapada Sutra. In Narada Maha Thera, The Buddha and His Teachings.)For the seasoned practitioner, even the Dharma must not become an attachment. As an analogy, to clean one's shirt, it is necessary to use soap. However, if the soap is not then rinsed out, the garment will not be truly clean. Similarly, the practitioner's mind will not be fully liberated until he severs attachment to everything, including the Dharma itself.
If you don't have attachments, naturally you're liberated ... In ancient times, there was an old cultivator who asked for instructions from a monk, "Great Monk, let me ask you, how can I attain liberation?" The Great monk said, "Who tied you up?" This old cultivator answered "Nobody tied me up." The monk said, "Then why do you seek liberation?" (Hsuan Hua, tr., Flower Adornment Sutra, "Pure Conduct," chap. 11.)
Also called Kuan Yin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Usually recognizable by the small Buddha adorning Her crown.
Avatamsaka (Flower Ornament) Sutra.
The basic text of the Avatamsaka School. It is one of the longest sutras in the Buddhist Canon and records the highest teaching of Buddha Sakyamuni, immediately after Enlightenment. It is traditionally believed that the Sutra was taught to the Bodhisattvas and other high spiritual beings while the Buddha was in samadhi. The Sutra has been described as the "epitome of Buddhist thought, Buddhist sentiment and Buddhist experience" and is quoted by all schools of Mahayana Buddhism, in particular, Pure Land and Zen.
Awakening vs. Enlightenment.
A clear distinction should be made between awakening to the Way (Great Awakening) and attaining the Way (attaining Enlightenment). (Note: There are many degrees of Awakening and Enlightenment. Attaining the Enlightenment of the Arhats, Pratyeka Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, etc. is different from attaining Supreme Enlightenment, i.e., Buddhahood.)
To experience a Great Awakening is to achieve (through Zen meditation, Buddha Recitation, etc.) a complete and deep realization of what it means to be a Buddha and how to reach Buddhahood. It is to see one's Nature, comprehend the True Nature of things, the Truth. However, only after becoming a Buddha can one be said to have truly attained Supreme Enlightenment (attained the Way).
A metaphor appearing in the sutras is that of a glass of water containing sediments. As long as the glass is undisturbed, the sediments remain at the bottom and the water is clear. However, as soon as the glass is shaken, the water becomes turbid. Likewise, when a practitioner experiences a Great Awakening (awakens to the Way), his afflictions (greed, anger and delusion) are temporarily suppressed but not yet eliminated. To achieve Supreme Enlightenment (i.e., to be rid of all afflictions, to discard all sediments) is the ultimate goal. Only then can he completely trust his mind and actions. Before then, he should adhere to the precepts, keep a close watch on his mind and thoughts, like a cat stalking a mouse, ready to pounce on evil thoughts as soon as they arise. To do otherwise is to court certain failure, as stories upon stories of errant monks, roshis and gurus demonstrate.
To make sure that his disciple would reach the great ocean and not be misled by smaller bodies of water, a Zen Master explained the difference between rivers, lakes and seas, the characteristics of fresh water, salt water, etc. Finally, he took the disciple to the highest mountain peak in the area and pointed to the ocean in the distance. For the first time, glimpsing the ocean with his own eyes, the disciple experienced a Great Awakening. However, only after he followed the long, arduous path and actually reached the ocean, tasting its waters, did he achieve Enlightenment.
Awakening of the Faith (Treatise).
A major commentary by the Patriarch Asvaghosha (1st/2nd cent.), which presents the fundamental principles of Mahayana Buddhism. Several translations exist in English.
The intermediate stage between death and rebirth.
Sanskrit for Enlightenment.
Bodhi Mind, (Bodhicitta,Great Mind).
The spirit of Enlightenment, the aspiration to achieve it, the Mind set on Enlightenment. It involves two parallel aspects: i) the determination to achieve Buddhahood and ii) the aspiration to rescue all sentient beings.
Those who aspire to Supreme Enlightenment and Buddhahood for themselves and all beings. The word Bodhisattva can therefore stand for a realized being such as Avalokitesvara or Samantabhadra but also for anyone who has developed the Bodhi Mind, the aspiration to save oneself and others.
See "Ten Grounds."
Brahma Net Sutra (Brahmajala Sutra).
This is a sutra of major significance in Mahayana Buddhism. In addition to containing the ten major precepts of Mahayana (not to kill, steal, lie, etc.) the Sutra also contains forty-eight less important injunctions. These fifty-eight major and minor precepts constitute the Bodhisattva Precepts, taken by most Mahayana monks and nuns and certain advanced lay practitioners.
The following terms refer to the same thing: Self-Nature, True Nature, Original Nature, Dharma Nature, True Mark, True Mind, True Emptiness, True Thusness, Dharma Body, Original Face, Emptiness, Prajna, Nirvana, etc.
According to the Mahayana view, [buddha-nature] is the true, immutable, and eternal nature of all beings. Since all beings possess buddha-nature, it is possible for them to attain enlightenment and become a buddha, regardless of what level of existence they occupy ...
The answer to the question whether buddha-nature is immanent in beings is an essential determining factor for the association of a given school with Theravada or Mahayana, the two great currents within Buddhism. In Theravada this notion is unknown; here the potential to become a buddha is not ascribed to every being. By contrast the Mahayana sees the attainment of buddhahood as the highest goal; it can be attained through the inherent buddha-nature of every being through appropriate spiritual practice. (Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen.)
General term for a number of practices, such as i) oral recitation of Amitabha Buddha's name and ii) visualization/contemplation of His auspicious marks and those of the Pure Land.
In reciting the buddha-name you use your own mind to be mindful of your own true self: how could this be considered seeking outside yourself? (Cited in J.C. Cleary, Meditating with koans.)
Reciting the buddha-name proceeds from the mind. The mind remembers Buddha and does not forget. That's why it is called buddha remembrance, or reciting the buddha-name mindfully. (Cited in J.C. Cleary, Pure Land, Pure Mind.)
Describes all the various phenomena in the world -- made up of separate, discrete elements, "with outflows," with no intrinsic nature of their own. Conditioned merits and virtues lead to rebirth within samsara, whereas unconditioned merits and virtues are the causes of liberation from Birth and Death. See also "Outflows," "Unconditioned."
See "Alaya consciousness" and "Eight consciousnesses."
Dedication of Merit.
See "Transference of Merit."
Definitive (Ultimate) Meaning.
See "Two Truths."
See "Dharma-Ending Age."
"Delusion refers to belief in something that contradicts reality. In Buddhism, delusion is ... a lack of awareness of the true nature or Buddha nature of things, or of the true meaning of existence.
"According to the Buddhist outlook, we are deluded by our senses -- among which intellect (discriminating, discursive thought) is included as a sixth sense. Consciousness, attached to the senses, leads us into error by causing us to take the world of appearances for the world of reality; whereas in fact it is only a limited and fleeting aspect of reality." (Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen.)
Delusions of Views and Thought.
Delusion of views refers to greed and lust for externals (clothing, food, sleep, etc.) which are viewed as real rather than empty in their true nature.The delusion of thought consists in being confused about principles and giving rise to discrimination ... Thought delusions are unclear, muddled thoughts, taking what is wrong as right, and what is right as wrong.Delusions of views, simply put, are delusions connected with seeing and grasping at the gross level. Delusions of thought are afflictions at the subtle level.
(Master Hsuan Hua)
Evil influences which hinder cultivation. These can take an infinite number of forms, including evil beings or hallucinations. Disease and death, as well as the three poisons of greed, anger and delusion are also equated to demons, as they disturb the mind.
The Nirvana Sutra lists four types of demon: i) greed, anger and delusion; ii) the five skandas, or obstructions caused by physical and mental functions; iii) death; iv) the demon of the Sixth Heaven (Realm of Desire).
The Self-Nature has been described in Mahayana sutras as a house full of gold and jewelry. To preserve the riches, i.e., to keep the mind calm, empty and still, we should shut the doors to the three thieves of greed, anger and delusion.
Letting the mind wander opens the house to "demons," that is, hallucinations and harm. Thus, Zen practitioners are taught that, while in meditation, "Encountering demons, kill the demons, encountering Buddhas, kill the Buddhas." Both demons and Buddhas are mind-made, Mind-Only.
For a detailed discussion of demons, see Master Thich Thien Tam, Buddhism of Wisdom and Faith, sect. 51.
a) The teachings of the Buddhas (generally capitalized in English); b) duty, law, doctrine; c) things, events, phenomena, everything.
School, method, tradition.
Dharma-Ending Age, Degenerate Age.
The present spiritually degenerate era, twenty-six centuries after the demise of Sakyamuni Buddha.
The concept of decline, dissension and schism within the Dharma after the passing of the Buddha is a general teaching of Buddhism and a corollary to the Truth of Impermanence. See, for example, the Diamond Sutra (sect. 6 in the translation by A.F. Price and Wong Mou-lam).
The time following Buddha Sakyamuni's demise is divided into three periods: i) the Perfect Age of the Dharma, lasting 500 years, when the Buddha's teaching (usually meditation) was correctly practiced and Enlightenment often attained; ii) the Dharma Semblance Age, lasting about 1,000 years, when a form of the teaching was practiced but Enlightenment seldom attained; iii) the Dharma-Ending Age, lasting some ten thousand years, when a diluted form of the teaching exists and Enlightenment is rarely attained.
The intrinsic nature of all things. Used interchangeably with "emptiness," "reality." See also "Buddha Nature," "True Thusness."
Dharma Realm (Cosmos, Dharmadhatu, realm of reality, realm of Truth).
The term has several meanings in the sutras: i) the infinite universe, consisting of worlds upon worlds ad infinitum; ii) the nature or essence of all things; iii) the Mind.
Sakyamuni Buddha taught three "Dharma seals," or criteria, to determine the genuineness of Buddhist teachings, namely, impermanence, suffering, no-self. A fourth criterion, emptiness, is also mentioned in the sutras. Thus, the Truth of Impermanence is basic to Buddhism ... After seeing an old man, a sick man and a corpse, the young prince Siddhartha (Sakyamuni Buddha) decided to leave the royal life to become an ascetic.
An interesting corollary of the concept of Dharma seals is that much of the current speculation about whether or not this or that sutra is genuine is, in a sense, moot. A sutra is a sutra because it contains the words of the Buddhas or because the ideas expressed in it conform to the Dharma seals. An example of the latter is the Platform Sutra, which records the words of the Sixth Patriarch of Zen.
The Bodhisattva who later became Amitabha Buddha, as related in the Longer Amitabha Sutra. The Bodhisattva Dharmakara is famous for forty-eight Vows, particularly the eighteenth, which promises rebirth in the Pure Land to anyone who recites His name with utmost sincerity and faith at the time of death.
"An independent part of the Prajnaparamita Sutra, which attained great importance, particularly in East Asia. It shows that all phenomenal appearances are not ultimate reality but rather illusions, projections of one's own mind ... The work is called Diamond Sutra because it is 'sharp like a diamond that cuts away all unnecessary conceptualizations and brings one to the further shore of enlightenment."' (Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen.) See also "Prajnaparamita Sutras."
Difficult Path of Practice (Path of the Sages, Self-Power Path).
According to Pure Land teaching, all conventional Buddhist ways of practice and cultivation (Zen, Theravada, the Vinaya School ...), which emphasize self-power and self-reliance. This is contrasted to the Easy Path of Practice, that is, the Pure Land method, which relies on both self-power and other-power (the power and assistance of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas).
Dusts (Worldly Dusts).
A metaphor for all the mundane things that can cloud our bright Self-Nature. These include form, sound, scent, taste, touch, dharmas (external opinions and views). These dusts correspond to the five senses and the discriminating, everyday mind (the sixth sense, in Buddhism).
Easy Path of Practice.
Refers to Pure Land practice. The Easy Path involves reliance on the power of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, in particular Buddha Amitabha ("other-power") in addition to one's own cultivation ("self-power"). Usually contrasted with primary reliance on self-power (Difficult Path of Practice), taught in other Buddhist schools.
Equal reliance on self-power and other-power distinguishes the Pure Land School from most other schools of Buddhism. The distinction is, however, a matter of emphasis, as all schools of Buddhism rely, to a greater or lesser extent, on both self-power and other-power.
The eight conditions under which it is difficult to meet Buddhas and Bodhisattvas or hear the Dharma: 1. rebirth in the hells; 2. rebirth as a hungry ghost; 3. rebirth as an animal; 4. rebirth in Uttarakuru (a world where life is so pleasant that people have no motivation to practice the Dharma); 5. rebirth in any long-life heaven (where one is also not motivated to seek the Dharma); 6. rebirth with impaired faculties; 7. rebirth as an intelligent, educated person in the mundane sense (as such an individual often looks down on religion and on the Dharma); and 8. rebirth in the intermediate period between a Buddha and his successor (e.g., our current period). Thus, even rebirth under "favorable" circumstances (fourth and seventh conditions, for example) may constitute adversity with respect to the Buddha Dharma. (After G.C.C. Chang.)
The term "consciousness" refers to the perception or discernment which occurs when our sense organs make contact with their respective objects. They are: 1) sight consciousness; 2) hearing consciousness; 3) scent consciousness; 4) taste consciousness; 5) touch consciousness; 6) mind consciousness (Mano consciousness or ordinary mind); 7) klistamanas consciousness (defiled mind); 8) Alaya consciousness. The first five consciousnesses correspond to the five senses. The sixth consciousness "integrates the perceptions of the five senses into coherent images and makes judgments about the external world ..." (A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts.) "The seventh consciousness is the active center of reasoning calculation, and construction or fabrication of individual objects. It is the source of clinging and craving, and thus the origin of the sense of self or ego and the cause of all illusion that arises from assuming the apparent to be real ..." (Sung-peng Hsu.) For the eighth or Alaya consciousness, see "Alaya consciousness."
Birth, old age, disease, death, separation from loved ones, meeting with the uncongenial, unfulfilled wishes and the suffering associated with the five raging skandas. (For a detailed exposition of the eight sufferings, see Thich Thien Tam, Buddhism of Wisdom and Faith, sect. 5.)
Connotes "first, Void in the sense of antithesis of being; second, the state of being 'devoid' of specific character; third, Void in the highest sense, or Transcendental Void, i.e., all oppositions synthesized ...; and fourth, the Absolute Void or the Unconditioned." (Vergilius Ferm, ed. An Encyclopedia of Religions.)
Contrasted with "hollow emptiness," or "stubborn emptiness," which is one-sided and leads to nihilism (the belief that nothing exists after death). Thus, we have the Mahayana expression, "True Emptiness, Wonderful Existence" -- True Emptiness is not empty!
See "Awakening vs. Enlightenment."
The paths of hells, hungry ghosts, animality. These paths can be taken as states of mind; i.e., when someone has a vicious thought of maiming or killing another, he is effectively reborn, for that moment, in the hells.
Expedient means (Skillful means, Skill-in-means,Upaya).
Refers to strategies, methods, devices, targeted to the capacities, circumstances, likes and dislikes of each sentient being, so as to rescue him and lead him to Enlightenment. "Thus, all particular formulations of the Teaching are just provisional expedients to communicate the Truth (Dharma) in specific contexts." (J.C. Cleary.) "The Buddha's words were medicines for a given sickness at a given time," always infinitely adaptable to the conditions of the audience.
Literally, followers of non-Buddhist paths. This term is generally used by Buddhists with reference to followers of other religions.
Five Desires (Five Sensual Pleasures).
Desires connected with the five senses, i.e., form, sound, aroma, taste and touch.
Five Grave Offenses (Five Deadly Sins).
Offenses which cause rebirth in the Uninterrupted Hell. They are: killing one's father, one's mother, or an Arhat, causing dissension within the Sangha, causing the Buddhas to bleed.
Basic meditations usually associated with Theravada Buddhism (meditation on impurities of the body, on compassion, on the twelve links of conditional existence, on the auspicious marks of the Buddhas and as well as counting the breath).
Five Periods and Eight Teachings.
All the teachings of Buddha Sakyamuni during His entire lifetime, as categorized by the T'ien-T'ai school.
See "Ten Virtues."
Five Signs of Decay.
Refers to symptoms of imminent death and rebirth in a lower realm, experienced by celestials and deities at the end of their transcendental lives, such as body odor, restlessness, etc. Please note that celestials and deities are still within the realm of Birth and Death. The Pure Land, being a Buddha land, is beyond Birth and Death.
Also translated as "components" or "aggregates." They represent body and mind. The five skandas are form, feeling, conception, impulse and consciousness. For example, form is the physical body, consciousness is the faculty of awareness. The best known reference to the five skandas is found in the Heart Sutra. By realizing that they are intrinsically empty, the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara has escaped all suffering. Note the difference between intellectual understanding of this principle and truly internalizing it (a good driver slams on the brakes when another car cuts in front of him, without stopping to think about it). Only by internalizing the Truth of Emptiness, through assiduous cultivation, can suffering be transcended.
Five Turbidities (Corruptions, Defilements,Depravities, Filth,Impurities).
They are: 1. the defilement of views, when incorrect, perverse thoughts and ideas are predominant; 2. the defilement of passions, when all kinds of transgressions are exalted; 3. the defilement of the human condition, when people are usually dissatisfied and unhappy; 4. the defilement of the life-span, when the human life-span as a whole decreases; 5. the defilement of the world-age, when war and natural disasters are rife. Please note that these conditions, viewed from a Buddhist angle, can constitute aids to Enlightenment, as they may spur practitioners to more earnest cultivation. (After G.C.C.Chang.)
Flower Store World.
The entire cosmos, consisting of worlds upon worlds ad infinitum, as described in the Avatamsaka Sutra. It is the realm of Vairocana Buddha, the transcendental aspect of Buddha Sakyamuni and of all Buddhas. The Saha World, the Western Pure Land and, for that matter, all lands and realms are within the Flower Store World.
Earth, water, wind and fire.
Refers to four levels of Enlightenment, culminating in Arhatship. Arhats are no longer subject to rebirth in samsara, i.e., in the cycle of Birth and Death.
Four Great Debts.
The debt to the Triple Jewel, the debt to our parents and teachers, the debt to our spiritual friends, and finally, the debt we owe to all sentient beings.
a) existence; b) non-existence; c) both existence and non-existence; d) neither. The 100 errors are derived from these propositions.
The Assembly of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen.
Good Spiritual Advisor.
Guru, virtuous friend, wise person, Bodhisattva, Buddha -- anyone (even an evil being!) who can help the practitioner progress along the path to Enlightenment. This notwithstanding, wisdom should be the primary factor in the selection of such an advisor: the advisor must have wisdom, and both advisor and practitioner must exercise wisdom in selecting one another.
See "Awakening vs. Enlightenment."
See "Ten Grounds."
See "Sixth Patriarch."
One of the key concepts in Buddhism.
Things in the phenomenal world are not real or substantial, as ordinary people regard them to be. They are transient, momentary, indefinite, insubstantial, and subject to constant alteration. In reality, they are like phantoms or hallucinations. (G.C.C. Chang).
Phenomenal "existence," as commonly perceived by the senses, is illusory; it is not real inasmuch as, though it exists, its existence is not permanent or absolute. Nothing belonging to it has an enduring entity or "nature" of its own; everything is dependent upon a combination of fluctuating conditions and factors for its seeming "existence" at any given moment." (Fung Yu-Lan.)
Thus, we have the expression, "illusory but not non-existent."
Insight into Non-arising of the Dharmas.
See "Tolerance of Non-Birth."
Action leading to future retribution or reward, in the current or future lifetimes.
Common karma: the difference between personal and common karma can be seen in the following example: Suppose a country goes to war to gain certain economic advantages and in the process, numerous soldiers and civilians are killed-or maimed. If a particular citizen volunteers for military service and actually participates in the carnage, he commits a personal karma of killing. Other citizens, however, even if opposed to the war, may benefit directly or indirectly (e.g., through economic gain). They are thus said to share in the common karma of killing of their country.
Fixed karma: in principle, all karma is subject to change. Fixed karma, however, is karma which can only be changed in extraordinary circumstances, because it derives from an evil act committed simultaneously with mind, speech and body. An example of fixed karma would be a premeditated crime (versus a crime of passion).
"The shortest measure of time; sixty ksana equal one finger-snap, ninety a thought, 4,500 a minute." (Charles Luk.)
The only sutra recommended by Bodhidharma, the First Zen Patriarch in China. It is a key Zen text, along with the Diamond Sutra (recommended by the Sixth Patriarch), the Surangama Sutra, the Vimalakirti Sutra, the Avatamsaka Sutra ... The last four sutras are referred to frequently in Pure Land commentaries.
The nine possible degrees of rebirth in the Western Pure Land. The more merits and virtues the practitioner accumulates, the higher the grade.
A major Buddhist text and one of the most widely read sutras in the present day.One of the earliest and most richly descriptive of the Mahayana sutras of Indian origin. It became important for the shaping of the Buddhist tradition in East Asia, in particular because of its teaching of the One Vehicle under which are subsumed the usual Hinayana [Theravada] and Mahayana divisions. It is the main text of the Tendai [T'ien T'ai] school.This School has a historically close relationship with the Pure Land School. Thus, Master T'ai Hsu taught that the Lotus Sutra and the Amitabha Sutras were closely connected, differing only in length.
Mahasthamaprapta (Shih Chih, Seishi).
One of the three sages in Pure Land Buddhism, recognizable by the water jar (jeweled pitcher) adorning Her crown. Usually represented in female form in East Asian iconography. Amitabha Buddha is frequently depicted standing between the Bodhisattvas Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta.
Characteristics, forms, physiognomy. Marks are contrasted with essence, in the same way that phenomena are contrasted with noumenon. True Mark stands for True Form, True Nature, Buddha Nature, always unchanging. The True Mark of all phenomena is like space: always existing but really empty; although empty, really existing. The True Mark of the Triple World is No-Birth/No-Death, not existent/not non-existent, not like this/not like that. True Mark is also called "Self-Nature," "Dharma Body," the "Unconditioned," "True Thusness," "Nirvana," "Dharma Realm." See also "Noumenon/Phenomena."
One of the three core sutras of the Pure Land school. It teaches sixteen methods of visualizing Amitabha Buddha, the Bodhisattvas and the Pure Land. This sutra stresses the element of meditation in Pure Land. See also "Three Pure Land Sutras," "Vaidehi," "Visualization."
Merit and Virtue.
These two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. However, there is a crucial difference: merits are the blessings (wealth, intelligence, etc.) of the human and celestial realms; therefore, they are temporary and subject to Birth and Death. Virtues, on the other hand, transcend Birth and Death and lead to Buddhahood. Four virtues are mentioned in Pure Land Buddhism: eternity; happiness; True Self; purity.
An identical action (e.g., charity) can lead either to merit or virtue, depending on the mind of the practitioner, that is, on whether he is seeking mundane rewards (merit) or transcendence (virtue). Thus, the Pure Land cultivator should not seek merits for by doing so, he would, in effect, be choosing to remain within samsara. This would be counter to his very wish to escape Birth and Death.
Middle Way (Madhyamika).
The way between and above all extremes, such as hedonism or asceticism, existence or emptiness, eternalism or nihilism, samsara or Nirvana, etc. The Middle Way is a basic tenet of Buddhism. See also "Nagarjuna."
Key concept in all Buddhist teaching.Frequent term in Zen, used in two senses: (1) the mind-ground, the One Mind ... the buddha-mind, the mind of thusness ... (2) false mind, the ordinary mind dominated by conditioning, desire, aversion, ignorance, and false sense of self, the mind of delusion ... (J.C. Cleary, A Buddha from Korea.)The ordinary, deluded mind (thought) includes feelings, impressions, conceptions, consciousness, etc. The Self-Nature True Mind is the fundamental nature, the Original Face, reality, etc. As an analogy, the Self-Nature True Mind is to mind what water is to waves -- the two cannot be dissociated. They are the same but they are also different.
To approach the sutras "making discriminations and nurturing attachments" is no different from the Zen allegory of a person attempting to lift a chair while seated on it. If he would only get off the chair, he could raise it easily.
Similarly, the practitioner truly understands the Dharma only to the extent that he "suspends the operation of the discriminating intellect, the faculty of the internal dialogue through which people from moment to moment define and perpetuate their customary world of perception." (J.C. Cleary, Pure Land, Pure Mind, Introduction.)
See also the following passage:The mind ... "creates" the world in the sense that it invests the phenomenal world with value. The remedy to this situation, according to Buddhism, is to still the mind, to stop it from making discriminations and nurturing attachments toward certain phenomena and feelings of aversion toward others. When this state of calmness of mind is achieved the darkness of ignorance and passion will be dispelled and the mind can perceive the underlying unity of the absolute. The individual will then have achieved the state of enlightenment and will be freed from the cycle of birth and death, because such a person is now totally indifferent to them both. (Burton Watson, The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-Chi.)
See "Yogacara School."
Mindfulness of the Buddha.
Synonymous with Buddha Recitation. See "Buddha Recitation."
(2nd/3rd cent.) "One of the most important philosophers of Buddhism and the founder of the Madhyamika school. Nagarjuna's major accomplishment was his systematization ... of the teaching presented in the Prajnaparamita Sutras. Nagarjuna's methodological approach of rejecting all opposites is the basis of the Middle Way ..." (Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen.) See also "Middle Way."
Nature and Marks.
All realms in the cosmos, with the exception of the Buddha realms.
"A term used to describe the nature of Nirvana. In Mahayana Buddhism generally, No-Birth signifies the 'extinction' of the discursive thinking by which we conceive of things as arising and perishing, forming attachments to them." (Ryukoku University.) See also "Tolerance of Non-Birth."
Key Buddhist truth. Can be understood as not two and not one -- transcending two and one. Equivalent to Reality, Truth, Emptiness.
Noumenon: principle, essence of things, always one and indivisible. Phenomena: All things and events. Used in plural form to contrast with noumenon."Noumenon" (principle) is reason, the realm of enlightenment, and belongs to the sphere of "nature." "Phenomena" are expedients, practices, deeds, "form," and fall under the heading of "marks." However, in the end, phenomena are noumenon, nature is mark, and both belong to the same truth-like Nature, all-illuminating, all-pervading. In cultivation, noumenon and phenomena are the two sides of a coin, interacting with one another and helping one another. (Thich Thien Tam )Thus, for example, the word "Buddha" can mean the Buddha with His thirty-two auspicious marks (phenomena) or, at a higher level, the True Nature inherent in all sentient beings (noumenon). See also "Marks."
Ocean Seal Samadhi.
A state of concentration of the highest level, mentioned, inter alia, in the Avatamsaka Sutra. The mind is likened to the ocean, which, when calm and without a single wave, can reflect everything throughout the cosmos, past, present and future.
Ocean-Wide Lotus Assembly.
The Lotus Assembly represents the gathering of Buddha Amitabha, the Bodhisattvas, the sages and saints and all other superior beings in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. This Assembly is "Ocean-Wide" as the participants are infinite in number -- spreading as far and wide as the ocean. The term Ocean-Wide Assembly is generally associated with the Avatamsaka Sutra, a text particularly prized by the Pure Land and Zen schools alike.
A Bodhisattva who is one lifetime away from Buddhahood. The best known example is the Bodhisattva Maitreya.
One-pointedness of mind.
Singlemindedness or singleminded concentration.
See "Buddha Nature."
See "Easy Path of Practice."
A metaphor for Enlightenment and Buddhahood.
"With outflows" = leaking, i.e., mundane or conditioned. "Without outflows" = without leakage, transcendental or unconditioned. See also "Conditioned," "Unconditioned."
Means "the perfection of" or "reaching the other shore" (Enlightenment) as contrasted with this shore of suffering and mortality. The paramitas are usually six in number (charity, discipline, forbearance, diligent practice, concentration, wisdom) or expanded to ten (adding expedients, vows, power and knowledge). Mahayana emphasizes the paramita of expedients, or skill-in-means.
Path of Sages.
See "Difficult Path of Practice."
Perfect Teaching (Round Teaching).
Supreme teaching of the Buddhas, as expressed in the Avatamsaka and Lotus Sutras.
See "Sixth Patriarch."
"Term for a series of about forty Mahayana sutras gathered together under this name because they all deal with the realization of prajna [intuitive wisdom] ... Best known in the West are theDiamond Sutra and the Heart Sutra. Their most important interpreter was Nagarjuna." (Shambhala Dictionary.) The Truth of sunyata, or emptiness, is central to these sutras, which teach non-attachment to self or dharmas. See also "Diamond Sutra."
"These buddhas become fully enlightened ... by meditating on the principle of causality. Unlike the Perfect Buddhas, however, they do not exert themselves to teach others" (A. Buzo and T. Prince).
Generic term for the realms of the Buddhas. In this text it denotes the Land of Ultimate Bliss or Western Land of Amitabha Buddha. It is not a realm of enjoyment, but rather an ideal place of cultivation, beyond the Triple Realm and samsara, where those who are reborn are no longer subject to retrogression. This is the key distinction between the Western Pure Land and such realms as the Tusita Heaven. There are two conceptions of the Pure Land: as different and apart from the Saha World and as one with and the same as the Saha World. When the mind is pure and undefiled, any land or environment becomes a pure land Vimalakirti, Avatamsaka Sutras...). See also "Triple Realm."
Pure Land School.
When Mahayana Buddhism spread to China, Pure Land ideas found fertile ground for development. In the fourth century, the movement crystallized with the formation of the Lotus Society, founded by Master Hui Yuan (334-416), the first Pure Land Patriarch. The school was formalized under the Patriarchs T'an Luan (Donran) and Shan Tao (Zendo). Master Shan Tao's teachings, in particular, greatly influenced the development of Japanese Pure Land, associated with Honen Shonin (Jodo school) and his disciple, Shinran Shonin (Jodo Shinshu school) in the 12th and 13th centuries. Jodo Shinshu, or Shin Buddhism, places overwhelming emphasis on the element of faith.[Pure Land comprises the schools] of East Asia which emphasize aspects of Mahayana Buddhism stressing faith in Amida, meditation on and recitation of his name, and the religious goal of being reborn in his "Pure Land" or "Western Paradise." (Keith Crim.)Note: An early form of Buddha Recitation can be found in the Nikayas of the Pali Canon:In the Nikayas, the Buddha ... advised his disciples to think of him and his virtues as if they saw his body before their eyes, whereby they would be enabled to accumulate merit and attain Nirvana or be saved from transmigrating in the evil paths ... (D.T. Suzuki, The Eastern Buddhist. Vol.3,No.4,p.317.)
Pure Land Sutras.
See "Three Pure Land Sutras."
World of Endurance. Refers to this world of ours, filled with suffering and afflictions, yet gladly endured by its inhabitants.
Meditative absorption. "Usually denotes the particular final stage of pure concentration." There are many degrees and types of samadhi (Buddha Recitation, Ocean Seal, Pratyutpanna ...)
Also called Universal Worthy or, in Japanese, Fugen. A major Bodhisattva, who personifies the transcendental practices and vows of the Buddhas (as compared to the Bodhisattva Manjusri, who represents transcendental wisdom). Usually depicted seated on an elephant with six tusks (six paramitas). Best known for his "Ten Great Vows."
"Tranquility and contemplation; stopping evil thoughts and meditating on the truth." (Hisao Inagaki.)
Cycle of rebirths; realms of Birth and Death.
Major disciple of Sakyamuni Buddha, foremost in wisdom among His Arhat disciples.
See "Difficult Path of Practice."
Gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, agate, red pearl and carnelian. They represent the seven powers of faith, perseverance, sense of shame, avoidance of wrongdoing, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom.
See "One-pointedness of mind."
North, South, East, West, above and below, i.e., all directions. In the Avatamsaka Sutra, they are expanded to include points of the compass in between and are referred to as the Ten Directions.
The paths within the realm of Birth and Death. Includes the three Evil Paths (hells, hungry ghosts, animality) and the paths of humans, asuras and celestials. These paths can be understood as states of mind. See also "Evil Paths."
Refers to Master Hui Neng (638-713), the Sixth Patriarch of the Chinese Zen school and author of the Platform Sutra.
See "Expedient Means."
Also called miraculous power. Includes, inter alia, the ability to see all forms (deva eye), to hear all sounds (deva ear), to know the thoughts of others, to be anywhere and do anything at will.
"Lit., 'voice-hearers': those who follow [Theravada] and eventually become arhats as a result of listening to the buddhas and following their teachings" (A. Buzo and T. Prince.) See also "Arhat."
One of Buddha Sakyamuni's major disciples. Foremost among Arhats in understanding the doctrine of the Void (Emptiness). However, the Buddha predicted in the Lotus Sutra, chapter 6, that he would achieve Buddhahood with the title Name-and-Form Buddha, thus demonstrating that Emptiness is Form and Form is Emptiness -- the two are not different (Heart Sutra.)
Sudden (Abrupt) Teaching.
A teaching which enables one to attain Enlightenment immediately. It is usually associated with the Avatamsaka Sutra.
Sudhana (Good Wealth).
The main protagonist in the next-to-last and longest chapter of the Avatamsaka Sutra. Seeking Enlightenment, he visited and studied with fifty-three spiritual advisors and became the equal of the Buddhas in one lifetime. Both his first advisor and his last advisor (Samantabhadra) taught him the Pure Land path.
See "Eight Sufferings."
Also called Heroic Gate Sutra.The "Sutra of the Heroic One" exercised a great influence on the development of Mahayana Buddhism in China [and neighboring countries]. It emphasizes the power of samadhi, through which enlightenment can be attained, and explains the various methods of emptiness meditation through the practice of which everyone ... can realize ... enlightenment ... The Sutra is particularly popular in Zen. (Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen.)
Usually translated as "Thus Come One."He who came as did all Buddhas, who took the absolute way of cause and effect, and attained to perfect wisdom; one of the highest titles of a Buddha (Charles Luk).
Ten Evil Acts (Ten Evil Deeds, Ten Sins).
1. Killing; 2. stealing; 3. sexual misconduct; 4. lying; 5. slander; 6. coarse language; 7. empty chatter; 8. covetousness; 9. angry speech; 10. wrong views. (Note: taking intoxicants is not included in this formulation.) See also "Ten Virtues."
Ten Great Vows.
The famous vows of the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra in the Avatamsaka Sutra. These vows represent the quintessence of this Sutra and are the basis of all Mahayana practice. Studying the vows and putting them into practice is tantamount to studying the Avatamsaka Sutra and practicing its teachings. See also "Samantabhadra."
Ten Grounds (Bodhisattva Grounds, Ten Stages).
According to the Mahayana sutras, there are a total of 52 (or 53) levels of attainment before a cultivator achieves Buddhahood. The 41st to 50th levels constitute the Ten Grounds. Above these are the levels of Equal Enlightenment, Wonderful Enlightenment (and Buddhahood).
Ten Mysterious Gates (Ten Esoteric Doors, Ten Mysteries, Ten Profound Propositions).
Ten aspects of the interrelationship of all phenomena, as seen from the enlightened point of view. To explain such relationship and harmony,The [Avatamsaka] School advances the Ten Profound Propositions: 1) All things are co-existent, corresponding to one another. 2) The intension and extension of one thing involve those of others without any obstacle. 3) The One and the Many are mutually inclusive. 4) All things are identical with one another. 5) The hidden and the manifested mutually perfect each other. 6) All minute and abstruse things mutually penetrate one another. 7) All things reflect one another. 8) Truth is manifested in facts and facts are the source of Enlightenment. 9) The past, present and future are inter-penetrating. 10) All things are manifestations and transformations of the mind." (Vergilius Ferm )
See "Ten Virtues."
"Ten recitations" refers to the Ten Recitations method, based on the lowest grade of rebirth described in the Meditation Sutra. It is taught to persons busy with mundane activities, so that they, too, can practice Buddha Recitation and achieve rebirth in the Pure Land. The method consists of uttering Amitabha Buddha's name approximately ten times each time one inhales or exhales. The real intent behind this practice is to use the breath to concentrate the mind. Depending on the cultivator's breath span, he may recite more than ten utterances or fewer. After ten inhalations/exhalations (or some fifty to one hundred utterances in total) the cultivator should proceed to transfer the merits accrued toward rebirth in the Pure Land.
See "Ten Grounds."
Ten Thousand Conducts.
All the countless activities and cultivation practices of the Bodhisattvas.
Ten Virtues (Ten Good Deeds, Ten Precepts).
Abstaining from the Ten Evil Acts. The Ten Virtues include an expanded version of the Five Precepts of body and mouth (not to kill, steal, engage in illicit sex, lie, engage in slander, coarse language or chatter) with the addition of the virtues of the mind (elimination of greed, anger and delusion). See also "Ten Evil Acts."
In the first lifetime, the practitioner engages in mundane good deeds which bring ephemeral worldly blessings (wealth, power, authority, etc.) in the second lifetime. Since power tends to corrupt, he is likely to create evil karma, resulting in retribution in the third lifetime. Thus, good deeds in the first lifetime are potential "enemies" of the third lifetime.
To ensure that mundane good deeds do not become "enemies," the practitioner should dedicate all merits to a transcendental goal, i.e., to become Bodhisattvas or Buddhas or, in Pure Land teaching, to achieve rebirth in the Pure Land -- a Buddha land beyond Birth and Death.
In a mundane context, these three lifetimes can be conceived of as three generations. Thus, the patriarch of a prominent family, through hard work and luck, amasses great power, fortune and influence (first lifetime). His children are then able to enjoy a leisurely, and, too often, dissipated life (second lifetime). By the generation of the grandchildren, the family's fortune and good reputation have all but disappeared (third lifetime).
Three Doors to Liberation.
"Liberation is possible only through these three realizations: 1) All things are devoid of a self (emptiness). 2) There are no objects to be perceived by sense-organs (signlessness). 3) No wish of any kind whatsoever remains in the ... [practitioner's] mind, for he no longer needs to strive for anything (wishlessness)." (G.C.C. Chang.)
Three Evil Paths.
See "Evil Paths."
Three Pure Land Sutras.
Pure Land Buddhism is based on three basic sutras:
a) Amitabha Sutra (or Shorter Amitabha Sutra, or Smaller Sukhavati-Vyuha, or the Sutra of Amida);
b) Longer Amitabha Sutra (or Larger Sukhavati-Vyuha, or the Teaching of Infinite Life);
c) Meditation Sutra (or the Meditation on the Buddha of Infinite Life, or the Amitayus Dhyana Sutra).
Sometimes the last chapter of the Avatamsaka Sutra ("The Practices and Vows of the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra") is considered the fourth basic sutra of the Pure Land tradition. Note: in Pure Land, the Longer Amitabha Sutra is considered a shorter form of the Lotus Sutra.
Three Treasures (Triple Jewel)
The Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha (community of monks).
T'ien T'ai (Tendai) School.
A major school that takes the Lotus Sutra as its principal text. Historically, it has had a close relationship with Pure Land. See also "Lotus Sutra."
Tolerance of Non-Birth.
"Tolerance" (insight) that comes from the knowledge that all phenomena are unborn. Sometimes translated as "insight into the non-origination of all existence/non-origination of the dharmas."A Mahayana Buddhist term for the insight into emptiness, the non-origination or birthlessness of things or beings realized by Bodhisattvas who have attained the eighth Stage [Ground] of the path to Buddhahood. When a Bodhisattva realizes this insight he has attained the stage of non-retrogression. (Ryukoku University.)The Pure Land School teaches that anyone reborn in the Pure Land attains the Tolerance of Non-Birth and reaches the stage of non-retrogression, never to fall back into samsara. See also "Non-Birth."
See "Triple Realm."
Transference of Merit.
The concept of merit transference, or sharing one's own merits and virtues with others, is reflected in the following passage:Some of us may ask whether the effect of [evil] karma can be ... [changed] by repeating the name of Kuan-Yin. This question is tied up with that of rebirth in Sukhavati [the Pure Land] and it may be answered by saying that invocation of Kuan-Yin's name forms another cause which will right away offset the previous karma. We know, for example, that if there is a dark, heavy cloud above, the chances are that it will rain. But we also know that if a strong wind should blow, the cloud will be carried away somewhere else and we will not feel the rain. Similarly, the addition of one big factor can alter the whole course of karma ...
It is only by accepting the idea of life as one whole that both Theravadins and Mahayanists can advocate the practice of transference of merit to others. With the case of Kuan-Yin then, by calling on Her name we identify ourselves with Her and as a result of this identification Her merits flow over to us. These merits which are now ours then counterbalance our bad karma and save us from calamity. The law of cause and effect still stands good. All that has happened is that a powerful and immensely good karma has overshadowed the weaker one. (Lecture on Kuan-Yin by Tech Eng Soon - Penang Buddhist Association, c. 1960. Pamphlet.)
See "Three Treasures."
Triple Realm (Three Realms, Three Worlds).
The realms of desire (our world), form (realms of the lesser deities) and formlessness (realms of the higher deities). The Western Pure Land is outside the Triple Realm, beyond samsara and retrogression. See also "Pure Land."
True Thusness (True Suchness).
Equivalent to Buddha Nature, Dharma Body, etc. See also "Buddha Nature," "Dharma Nature."
1) Relative or conventional, everyday truth of the mundane world subject to delusion and dichotomies and 2) the Ultimate Truth, transcending dichotomies, as taught by the Buddhas.According to Buddhism, there are two kinds of Truth, the Absolute and the Relative. The Absolute Truth (of the Void) manifests "illumination but is always still," and this is absolutely inexplicable. On the other hand, the Relative Truth (of the Unreal) manifests "stillness but is always illuminating," which means that it is immanent in everything. (Hsu Heng Chi/P.H. Wei.)Pure Land thinkers such as the Patriarch Tao Ch'o accepted "the legitimacy of Conventional Truth as an expression of Ultimate Truth and as a vehicle to reach Ultimate Truth. Even though all form is nonform, it is acceptable and necessary to use form within the limits of causality, because its use is an expedient means of saving others out of one's compassion for them and because, even for the unenlightened, the use of form can lead to the revelation of form as nonform" (David Chappell). Thus to reach Buddhahood, which is formless, the cultivator can practice the Pure Land method based on form.
Anything "without outflows," i.e., free of the three marks of greed, anger and delusion. See also "Conditioned,""Outflows."
The Queen of King Bimbisara of Magadha, India. It was in response to her entreaties that Buddha Sakyamuni preached the Meditation Sutra, which teaches a series of sixteen visualizations (of Amitabha Buddha, the Pure Land ...) leading to rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
The main Buddha in the Avatamsaka Sutra. Represents the Dharma Body of Buddha Sakyamuni and all Buddhas. His Pure Land is the Flower Store World, i.e., the entire cosmos.
Also called Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra. A key Mahayana sutra particularly popular with Zen and to a lesser extent Pure Land followers. The main protagonist is a layman named Vimalakirti who is the equal of many Bodhisattvas in wisdom, eloquence, etc. He explained the teaching of Emptiness in terms of non-duality ... "The true nature of things is beyond the limiting concepts imposed by words." Thus, when asked by Manjusri to define the non-dual Truth, Vimalakirti simply remained silent.
See "Merit and Virtue."
See Meditation Sutra for explanation.The visualizations [in the Meditation Sutra] are distinguished into sixteen kinds [shifting from earthly scenes to Pure Land scenes at Visualization 3]: (1) visualization of the sun, (2) visualization of water, (3) visualization of the ground [in the Pure Land], (4) visualization of the trees, (5) visualization of the lake[s], (6) unified visualization of the [50 billion] storied-pavilions, trees, lakes, and so forth, (7) visualization of the [lotus throne of Amitabha Buddha], (8) visualization of the images of the Buddha [Amitabha] and Bodhisattvas [Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta], (9) visualization of the [Reward body of Amitabha Buddha, i.e., the form in which He appears in the Pure Land], (10) visualization of Avalokitesvara, (11) visualization of Mahasthamaprapta, (12) visualization of one's own rebirth, (13) [see below], (14) visualization of the rebirth of the highest grades, (15) visualization of the rebirth of the middle grades and (16) visualization of the rebirth of the lowest grades. (K.K. Tanaka, The Dawn of Chinese Pure Land Doctrine.)The 13th Visualization has been summarized as follows:If one cannot visualize the [Reward body of Amitabha Buddha], focus on the small body, which is sixteen cubits high (the traditional height of Sakyamuni while he dwelt on earth); contemplate an intermingling of the [Reward] and small bodies.Visualizations 14-16 refer to the nine lotus grades (of rebirth), divided into three sets of three grades each.
(Joji Okazaki, p. 52.)
The path leading to Supreme Enlightenment, to Buddhahood.
The life of a Buddha or Bodhistattva which is sustained by wisdom, just as the life of an ordinary being is sustained by food.
Another name for the Mind-Only school, founded in the fourth century by the brothers Asanga and Vasubandhu.
A major school of Mahayana Buddhism, with several branches. One of its most popular techniques is meditation on koans, which leads to the generation of the Great Doubt. According to this method:The master gives the student a koan to think about, resolve, and then report back on to the master. Concentration intensifies as the student first tries to solve the koan intellectually. This initial effort proves impossible, however, for a koan cannot be solved rationally. Indeed, it is a kind of spoof on the human intellect. Concentration and irrationality -- these two elements constitute the charracteristic psychic situation that engulfs the student wrestling with a koan. As this persistent effort to concentrate intellectually becomes unbearable, anxiety sets in. The entirety of one's consciousness and psychic life is now filled with one thought. The exertion of the search is like wrestling with a deadly enemy or trying to make one's way through a ring of flames. Such assaults on the fortress of human reason inevitably give rise to a distrust of all rational perception. This gnawing doubt [Great Doubt], combined with a futile search for a way out, creates a state of extreme and intense yearning for deliverance. The state may persist for days, weeks or even years; eventually the tension has to break. (Dumoulin. Zen Buddhism, Vol. I, p. 253.)
Realms of worlds in empty space might reach an end,
And living beings, karma and afflictions be extinguished;
But they will never be exhausted,
And neither will my vows.
The Vows of Samantabhadra