Buddhism as an Education

The path to Enlightenment

Namo Amitabha

Amituofo Chanting(Tune 1)
Buddha gave various teachings to different people, always choosing the most appropriate one to suit the students' levels and needs. All the teachings from Buddha are sure paths leading to complete liberation, but which one is the best for ordinary people? The traditional choice is the practice of chanting "Amitabha." Even today it remains the most popular practice adopted by Buddhists all over the world.



Mahayana Doctrine
  The fundamental doctrine for Buddhism is the Four Noble Truths. It "...has always been the nucleus of this religion from its primitive states to the developed form of Mahayanism through its long history of twenty-four centuries." (Tachibana, 14). However, there are many other Buddhist doctrines besides the Four Noble Truths, one being the bodhisattva doctrine. Early Buddhism had the term referring to the belief in just one Buddha, but as time passed, the term came to encompass the belief in many Buddhas. Many forms of the religion uphold the bodhisattva doctrine, but the Mahayana bodhisattva doctrine differs from the rest in that "...the Mahayana insistence that the goal of all religious practice is buddhahood itself, making all those whose conceive of the aspiration to be liberated bodhisattvas, or future Buddhas." (Buddhism, 459)

  The Mahayana bodhisattva doctrine is centered around the goal of liberation from suffering. People who set their eyes on this goal commit themselves to ceaseless work for the benefit of others. They concentrate and aspire to reach perfect awakening, the bodhicita (Buddhism, 369). In trying to reach perfect awakening, these people are also pressing towards actually becoming bodhisattvas. As travelers walk along their paths, they are helped along by celestial bodhisattvas. "Celestial bodhisattvas are powerful beings far advanced in the path, so perfect that they are free from both rebirth and liberation, and can now choose freely if, when, and where they are to be reborn. They engage freely in the process of rebirth only to save living beings." (Buddhism, 369) Once people attain perfect awakening and become celestial bodhisattvas, they too, can help others along their paths.



What is Buddhism?
  Buddhism is a most profound and wholesome educational path taught by Shakyamuni Buddha to all people....... In his forty-nine years of teaching, Shakyamuni Buddha explains the true nature of life and the universe. "Life" refers to ourselves, and "universe" refers the environment in which we live....... Those who understand these truths are called Buddhas or Bodhisattvas. Those who do not understand are called worldly people....... Cultivation is the process of changing the way we think, speak, and act towards people and towards the universe from an erroneous way to a proper way....... The guidelines for cultivation are awareness, right understanding, and purity. Awareness is the opposite of delusion. Right understanding is the opposite of deviation. Purity is the opposite of pollution. These three qualities can be achieved by practicing the Three Learnings of self-discipline, concentration, and wisdom....... The Three Basic Conditions are the foundation of cultivation and study. When interacting with people, follow the Six Harmonies, and when dealing with society, practice the Six Principles. Follow the Vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva and focus your mind on attaining rebirth in the Pure Land. This completes the purpose of the Buddha's Teachings.



The Mahayana Buddhism
  The Mahayana is more of an umbrella body for a great variety of schools, from the Tantra school (the secret teaching of Yoga) well represented in Tibet and Nepal to the Pure Land sect, whose essential teaching is that salvation can be attained only through absolute trust in the saving power of Amitabha, longing to be reborn in his paradise through his grace, which are found in China, Korea and Japan. Ch'an and Zen Buddhism, of China and Japan, are meditation schools....... It is generally accepted, that what we know today as the Mahayana arose from the Mahasanghikas sect who were the earliest seceders, and the forerunners of the Mahayana. They took up the cause of their new sect with zeal and enthusiasm and in a few decades grew remarkably in power and popularity. They adapted the existing monastic rules and thus revolutionised the Buddhist Order of Monks. Moreover, they made alterations in the arrangements and interpretation of the Sutra (Discourses) and the Vinaya (Rules) texts. And they rejected certain portions of the canon, which had been accepted in the First Council...... According to it, the Buddhas are lokottara (supramundane) and are connected only externally with the worldly life. This conception of the Buddha contributed much to the growth of the Mahayana philosophy. The ideal of the Mahayana school is that of the Bodhisattva, a person who delays his or her own enlightenment in order to compassionately assist all other beings and ultimately attains to the highest Bodhi.

Chinese Buddhism: Mahayana Lineages Imported from India
  Madhyamika (San Lun, Ch.) Based on the Chinese translation of Nagarjuna's (second century) Madhyamika Karika and two other works of uncertain authorship, this lineage emphasized the notion of shunyata (emptiness) and wu (nonbeing). So rigorous was the teaching of this lineage, that it declared that the elements constituting perceived objects, when examined, are really no more than mental phenonena and have no true existence....... • Yogacara Founded in the third century by Maitreyanatha and made famous by Asanga and Vasubandhu in the fourth or fifth century, this school held that the source of all ideas is vijñana ("consciousness"), which is seen as the fundamental basis of existence. Ultimate Reality is therefore only perceived but has not real existence....... Indigenous Mahayana Lineages...... • T'ien T'ai Named after the mountains on which the founder Zhi Yi (d. 597 C.E.) resided, this lineage is based on a scheme of classification intended to integrate and harmonize the vast array of Buddhist scriptures and doctrines. This scheme of classification is based on the Buddhist doctrine of upaya ("skilful means"). The most important form of Buddhism for this lineage is the Mahayana devotionalism found in the Lotus Sutra....... • Avatamsaka (Hua Yen, Ch.) This lineage takes its name from the Avatamsaka Sutra, its central sacred text, and like the T'ien T'ai school is oriented towards a classification of sutras. Basic to this lineage is the assertion that all particulars are merely manifestations of the absolute mind and are therefore fundamentally the same....... • Pure Land (Amitabha) Based on the Sukhavati Vyuha ("Pure Land Sutra"), this lineage was founded in 402 C.E. by Hui Yuan. The Pure Land lineage held that the spiritual quality of the world has been in decline since its height during the lifetime of the Buddha and taught followers to cultivate through prayer and devotion a sincere intent to be reborn in the heavenly paradise of the Buddha Amitabha....... • Ch'an Its name is derived from the Sanskrit term dhyana ("meditation"), this lineage emphasises meditation as the only means to a spiritual awakening beyond words or thought, dispensing almost entirely with the teachings and practices of traditional Buddhism. Ch'an is thought to have been brought to China by the enigmatic South Indian monk Bodhidharma in about the year 500 C.E.



Mahayana Ethics
  Many religions seem to have certain ethics in common. For instance Buddhism shares the ethics of do not kill, do not steal, and so on with other religions such as Catholicism and Christianity. However, there are a set of ethics which set Buddhism apart from other religions. All forms of Buddhism pretty much retained similar codes of ethic. So what was seen in the early Theravada traditions can be seen in the Vajrayana and Mahayana traditions as well. However, the Vajrayana and Mahayana Buddhists developed certain aspects of ethics to a very great extent. Such is the case with Mahayana Buddhism and the bodhisattva ideal.

  "The Mahayanists developed the bodhisattva ideal to such an extent that it became the single most important element in Mahayana ethics." (Buddhism, 500) A Mahayanist’s purpose is to help others. "The bodhisattva’s salient trait is altruistic compassion for all sentient beings." (Buddhism, 501) In helping others, a Mahayanist aids others in achieving spiritual release and well as attaining material riches. In order to help others, though, a Mahayanist must refuse to enter nirvana (state of supreme happiness), for if he entered nirvana, he could be of no help to those who are still in samsara, who according to Donald K. Swearer, is the "cycle of birth, suffering , death, and rebirth." To prevent himself from entering nirvana, the Mahayanist takes a vow such as the following: "I shall not enter into final nirvana before all beings have been liberated." (Buddhism, 501) After taking the vow, the Mahayanist goes through disciplined development which lasts practically forever. During the course of development, the Mahayanist goes through successive rebirths, each time gaining more power, strength, and wisdom. This development continues, the Mahayanist all the while progressively reaching a state of perfection.



Pure Land Buddhism
  Pure Land Buddhism: The Path of Serene Trust ... Key Concepts

  In order to understand Pure Land Buddhism it is helpful to be familiar with some specific aspects of Buddhist teaching:

  MERIT AND ITS TRANSFER. There are benefits to be derived from the non-attached practices of Wisdom and Compassion; these practices include the Buddhist Precepts which are guidelines for enlightened living. These benefits, or "merit," may be accumulated and subsequently transferred to any or all sentient beings for their benefit (transpersonal) or rededicated so as to transform it into a benefit for one's self (personal)....... OTHER BUDDHAS. Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha of our age, is not the only Buddha to ever have existed. Indeed, all beings have the nature to become totally awakened to the Truth of the Universe. One of the first Buddhas other than Shakyamuni to be mentioned in the Buddhist tradition was the Buddha Maitreya, the next Buddha who will appear in our own world-system which is known as the Saha World. BUDDHA-REALMS or BUDDHA-FIELDS. Buddhas spread their influence over a system of worlds in which they teach Dharma and exert their benevolence. Shakyamuni is the Buddha of our own world system. Buddha-realms may be seen as both literal and metaphorical....... A BODHISATTVA'S RELATIONSHIP WITH A BUDDHA. Bodhisattvas are "Enlightenment Beings" who are on the path toward Nirvana, the end of suffering, the realm of Perfect Peace. They work not only for their own Enlightenment, but also for the Enlightenment of all sentient beings. Once Bodhisattvahood is attained, the Bodhisattva is instructed by a Buddha. Shakyamuni Buddha's teacher was the Buddha Dipamkara; in turn, Shakyamuni Buddha is the teacher of the Buddha to come, Maitreya.

  Shakyamuni Buddha taught about a Buddha named Amitabha ("Boundless Light," also known as Amitayus, or "Boundless Life") who presides over a Buddha-realm known as Sukhavati, a realm of rebirth in which all impediments to the attainment of final Enlightenment are nonexistent. This realm, or Pure Land (also known as the Realm of Bliss) is the result of the accumulated merit of the Bodhisattva Dharmakara, who practiced for eons before becoming the Buddha Amitabha. Dharmakara vowed that when he attained Buddhahood, the realm over which he would preside would include the finest features of all the other Buddha-realms. These other realms were revealed to Dharmakara by his teacher, the Buddha Lokesvararaja....... Pure Land Buddhism is described as the Path of Serene Trust, or "prasada" in Sanskrit. This term is broadly interpreted as "faith," and means that one has serene trust and confidence in the power and wisdom of Buddhas, or that one has the firm conviction that the Bodhisattva Vow made by all Buddhas, namely, to lead all sentient beings to Enlightenment, has been or will be fulfilled....... Praising a Buddha's virtues and keeping a Buddha in mind at all times has been practiced since the earliest days of Buddhism. Indeed, the act of taking refuge in the Buddha means to put one's trust in the Buddha as an honored teacher. In the Pratyutpanna Sutra, an early Buddhist text, Shakyamuni Buddha talks about the practice of Pratyutpanna Samadhi, in which one can directly perceive the Buddhas of the Ten Directions face to face....... The object of Pure Land Buddhism is rebirth into the Realm of Bliss. This may be seen as literal rebirth into the Buddha-realm called Sukhavati and/or as experiencing the direct realization of the realm of the Purified Mind, in which a person becomes one with the limitless Compassion and Widsom which are the prime characteristics of Buddha Amitabha. Pure Land Buddhism rests on the following tripod:

  Faith....... Aspiration or the Vow for Rebirth....... Practice, single-minded effort aimed at Buddha Remembrance Samadhi, "Buddhanusmrti" in Sanskrit, "Nien-Fo" in Chinese. Buddhanusmrti means "To stay mindful of the Buddha," and has been a central practice of Pure Land Buddhism since its beginnings. Nien-Fo also refers to the recitation of the Buddha's name, among other practices....... The Pure Land tripod of Faith, Aspiration and Practice was modified in 12th century Japan. The 18th vow of Dharmakara was interpreted to mean that one only need to recite Amitabha's name to attain rebirth (see next section). The teacher Shinran further narrowed this interpretation to say that the Nembutsu (Japanese for Nien-Fo) is recited until the Mind of Faith manifests itself, and that faith in Amida Buddha (the Japanese term for Amitabha) is sufficient for rebirth. The Japanese Pure Land schools are still characterized as "faith-only" schools, while classical Pure Land Buddhism still relies on the tripod of Faith, Aspiration and Practice as expedients.

The Vows
  Bodhisattva Dharmakara made 48 vows regarding the nature of his yet-to-be Buddha-realm. Among these are four very crucial vows, the 18th, 19th, 20th and 22nd. These vows are enumerated in the Larger Sukhavati Sutra, one of the three main Pure Land scriptures...... The 18th vow states that anyone who has vowed to be reborn into the Realm of Bliss and has dedicated their roots of merit to this rebirth will indeed be reborn there, even if this vow has been sincerely made as few as ten times. The 19th vow states that Amitabha Buddha will appear at the moment of death to one who cultivates virtue, resolves to seek awakening, and single-mindedly aspires to be reborn into the Realm of Bliss...... The 20th vow guarantees rebirth into the Realm of Bliss for those who have cultivated virtue, have sought awakening, and have single-mindedly aspired to be reborn into this realm...... The 22nd vow states that once reborn into the Realm of Bliss, one may either complete the Bodhisattva Path and attain Perfect Full Awakening, or may take what are known as the Vows of Samanthabhadra, namely to follow the full Bodhisattva Path and to return to the cycle of rebirth to save all sentient beings.

The Sutras
  The principal Pure Land sutras are: The Smaller Sukhavati Sutra, in which Shakyamuni Buddha speaks to his disciple Sariputra about the Realm of Bliss, giving a concise description of Amitabha's Buddha-realm. This is probably the most recited of the three main Pure Land sutras....... The Larger Sukhavati Sutra, in which Shakyamuni Buddha gives his disciple Ananda a detailed description of the Realm of Bliss. He also recounts the history of the Bodhisattva Dharmakara and describes the 48 vows in detail...... The Visualization Sutra or Kuan Wu-Liang-Shou-Fo Ching, which was composed in China. This sutra, also regarded as a meditation manual, gives a detailed description of the features of the Pure Land. This includes descriptions of the characteristics of Amitabha Buddha and the attendant Bodhisattvas: Avalokitesvara, representing engaged compassion, and Mahasthamaprapta, representing wisdom. Avalokitesvara means "Regarder of the Cries of the World," while Mahasthamaprapta means "The One Who Has Attained Great Strength."

  Whenever Pure Land Buddhism is discussed these two important concepts usually arise. Self-Power refers to to methods we practice on our own, the power of our own mind. Other-Power refers to the power of the vows of Amitabha Buddha which facilitate rebirth in the Realm of Bliss, as well as the manifestation of these vows through the transference of Amitabha's own merit to us...... In classical Pure Land Buddhism, Self-Power and Other-Power work together. Through recitation, meditation and visualization practices, vowing to be reborn and manifesting the mind of faith, we attain Buddha Remembrance Samadhi, uniting one's Self-Power with the Other-Power of Buddha Amitabha, the essence of Universal Compassion and Wisdom...... In Japanese Pure Land Buddhism however, there is an exclusive reliance on Other-Power. Reciting the Buddha's name with faith is all that is necessary, and Other-Power practices are seen as essentially useless. A person is totally reliant on the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha; essentially, the saying of the Buddha's name arises solely from the power of Amida's vows. This causes Japanese Pure Land to be more of a salvation-based form, unlike the classical Pure Land Buddhism that originally developed in China.

  Recitation is one of the central practices of Pure Land Buddhism. It involves the concentrated and heartfelt repetitive recitation of "Namo Amitabha Buddha" (Homage to the Buddha of Boundless Compassion and Wisdom). In Chinese this phrase is "Namo Omito-Fo," in Japanese, "Namu Amida Butsu."....... Recitation practice has long been recognized as an easy practice that carries with it the benefits of practice offered by the major schools of Buddhism: It encompasses the Meditation School because concentrated recitation enables us to rid ourselves of delusions and attachments....... It encompasses the Sutra Studies School because the sacred words "Amitabha Buddha" contain innumerable sublime meanings....... It encompasses the Discipline School because deep recitation purifies and stills the karmas of body, speech and thought....... It encompasses the Esoteric School because the recitation of the words "Amitabha Buddha" have the same effect as when one recites a mantra....... Visualization is another practice that is central to Pure Land Buddhism. Most of the visualizations are of Amitabha Buddha, the attendant Bodhisattvas and the Realm of Bliss itself. These visualizations, 16 in all, are described in detail in the Visualization Sutra....... Yet another practice is the reading of the Pure Land sutras. This practice assists us in keeping the name of Amitabha Buddha firmly in mind, as well as strengthening our resolve for rebirth.

  The elements of most Pure Land rituals are based on the Buddhist philosopher Vasubandhu's concept of the Five Gates of Mindfulness: Praise and Veneration. Visualization. Sutra Recitation. Making the Vow for Rebirth. Dedicating Merit....... One fact become undeniably clear: Pure Land practice can accommodate people of any and all capacities. This is why Pure Land Buddhism is a marvelous path for those who are seeking liberation in this modern age when there are so very many distractions and impediments to Enlightenment. Also, be sure to see our Daily Pure Land Practice page.

The Unified Practice
  The unified practice of Ch'an and Pure Land is the unified practice of Compassion and Widsom. Pure Land practice allows one to open up the heart, thus developing Compassion; Ch'an practice shows one how to concentrate the mind, thus developing Wisdom. When Compassion and Wisdom combine in a dynamic relationship, our True Mind is realized, our True Heart comes forth, and Enlightenment is assured (For a comparison of Ch'an/Zen and Pure Land, see Comparing the Paths....... The unified practice of Ch'an and Pure Land, known in Chinese as "Ch'an-ching I-chih," has a long history. As early as the 4th century C.E., the Chinese Ancestor Hui-Yuan (334-416), considered to the be first Pure Land Ancestor, incorporated meditative discipline into Pure Land practice....... Ancestor Tao-Hsin (580-651), the Fourth Ancestor of the Ch'an school, taught what he called the "Samadhi of Oneness," utilizing the recitation of the Buddha's name to pacify the mind. It should be noted that since this practice involved reciting the name of any Buddha, a practice dating back to the origins of Buddhism, it was not specifically designed to produce rebirth in the Realm of Bliss; but it did act as a bridge linking Ch'an and Nien-Fo practices. Tao-Hsin taught that the Pure Mind is the Pure Buddha Land....... The unified practice was also advocated by the Fifth Ch'an Ancestor Hung-Jen (601-674) who saw recitation as a good practice for beginners. Hung-Jen also advocated the visualization practices laid out in the Visualization Sutra....... Buddha recitation not concerned with rebirth was taught by a number of Hung-Jen's disciples including Fa-Chih (635-702), the Fourth Ancestor of the Ox-Head School of Ch'an. It was also put forth by the Ching-Chung School which was descended from Chih-Hsien, one of the Fifth Ch'an Ancestor's 10 eminent disciples, in the early 8th century C.E....... Descendents of Chih-hsien who advocated the unified practice included Wu-Hsiang, a former Korean prince who made invocational Nien-Fo practice a key part of the Dharma Transmission Ceremony. Although the practice was still not centered around Buddha Amitabha or rebirth in the Realm of Bliss, it marked the first time that Nien-Fo practice was explicitly adopted as part of a Ch'an school. Subsequent schools which taught Nien-Fo as part of their training included the Pao-T'ang School, the Hsuan-Shih Nien-Fo Ch'an School and the Nan-Shan Nien-Fo Ch'an School....... Ancestor Tz'u-Min (679-748) is said to have been the first Pure Land Ancestor to advocate harmonizing Pure Land practice and Ch'an. Tz'u-min developed his Pure Land faith after a pilgrimage to India, where he was inspired by stories centered around Buddha Amitabha and Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara....... The Ch'an Ancestor Pai-Chang Huai-Hai (720-814), who wrote the "20 Monastic Principles" which were the blueprint for Ch'an monastic practice, included "Recitation of the Name of Buddha Amitabha." Pai-Chang stated, "In religious practice, take Buddha Recitation as a sure method." The practice of chanting Amitabha's name during a Ch'an monk's funeral was also put forth by Master Pai-Chang....... The T'ang Hui-Ch'an Persecution (845 C.E.) and the Huei-Ch'ang and Shih-Tsung Persecutions of the late Chou Dynasty (10th century C.E.) served to bring Ch'an and Pure Land even closer together. These government crackdowns on Buddhist sects enervated the academically oriented Buddhist schools such as the T'ien-t'ai and Hua-yen sects....... Correspondingly, the rise of Neo-Confucianism drew many speculative thinkers away from those schools. But the Ch'an and Pure Land schools, marked by their emphasis on practice, their extreme degree of portability and their non-reliance on Imperial patronage, survived intact. By this time, the Ch'an school had incorporated true Nien-Fo Amitabha practices into its training regimens, and the Pure Land school had incorporated more meditational elements into its own system....... The Ch'an monk and Pure Land practitioner Yung-Ming Yen-Shou (905-975) is said to have been the key figure in the synthesis of Ch'an and Pure Land during this period. He taught that the Pure Land is the Realm of the Purified Mind....... The unified practices were taught in Vietnam by the Thao-Duong School, founded by the Chinese monk Ts'ao-Tang, who was taken to Vietnam as a prisoner of war in 1069 C.E. Other eminent Chinese monks who promoted unified practice were Chu-Hung (1535-1615) and Han-Shan (1546-1623)....... During the 17th century C.E., the monk Yin-Yuan Lung-Chi, known as Obaku in Japanese, brought the unified Ch'an/Pure Land practice to Japan. His school is known as the Obaku Zen School, and survives to this day as a minor sect in the shadow of the much more influential Soto and Rinzai Zen sects....... The unified practice of Ch'an and Pure Land continues to this day, although it was de-emphasized in the major Japanese Zen schools. The large Shin sect of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism discounts any efforts on one's own part to attain Enlightenment; superficially, Japanese "Other-Power" Pure Land Buddhism and "Self-Power" Zen Buddhism do not complement each other the way the Chinese Ch'an and Pure Land schools do. However, there are recent movements which may yet be influential in returning Japanese Zen to its syncretic roots....... In the 1970s, the formation of the Zen Shin Sangha by Rev. Koshin Ogui in Cleveland, Ohio was one of the first instances of a Shin Buddhist priest in the United States combining Japanese Zen and Pure Land practices. Similar movements have been reported in England, continental Europe and India....... As the esteemed Ch'an Master Hsu-Yun (1840-1959) put it, "All the Buddhas in every universe, past, present and future, preach the same Dharma. There is no difference between the methods advocated by Shakyamuni and Amitabha."....... Namo Amitabha Buddha!



Four Great Vows
  Ordinary-beings are innumerable I vow to liberate them all... Defilements are endless I vow to eliminate them all... Buddha's teachings are unlimited I vow to learn them all... The ways of enlightenment are supreme I vow to achieve them all....... I vow to liberate all ordinary-beings from my mind... I vow to eliminate all defilements from my mind... I vow to embrace every teaching of my self-nature... I vow to achieve the way of enlightenment from my self-nature.



Buddhism: A Method of Mind Training
  Buddhism: A Method of Mind Training / by Leonard A. Bullen Bodhi Leaves

  When you hear something about Buddhism in the daily news you usually think of it having a background of huge idols and yellow-robed monks, with a thick atmosphere of incense fumes. You never feel that there is anything in it for you, except, maybe, an exotic spectacle. But is that all there is in Buddhism? Do the news photographers take pictures of the real Buddhism? Do the glossy magazines show you the fundamentals, or only the externals? Let us see, then, what Buddhism really is, Buddhism as it was originally expounded and as it still exists underneath the external trappings and trimmings. Although generally regarded as a religion, Buddhism is basically a method of cultivating the mind. It is true that, with its monastic tradition and its emphasis on ethical factors, it possesses many of the surface characteristics that Westerners associate with religion. However, it is not theistic, since it affirms that the universe is governed by impersonal laws and not by any creator-god; it has no use for prayer, for the Buddha was a teacher and not a god; and it regards devotion not as a religious obligation but as a means of expressing gratitude to its founder and as a means of self-development. Thus it is not a religion at all from these points of view. Again, Buddhism knows faith only in the sense of confidence in the way recommended by the Buddha. A Buddhist is not expected to have faith or to believe in anything merely because the Buddha said it, or because it is written in the ancient books, or because it has been handed down by tradition, or because others believe it. He may, of course, agree with himself to take the Buddha-doctrine as a working hypothesis and to have confidence in it; but he is not expected to accept anything unless his reason accepts it. This does not mean that everything can be demonstrated rationally, for many points lie beyond the scope of the intellect and can be cognized only by the development of higher faculties. But the fact remains that there is no need for blind acceptance of anything in the Buddha-doctrine. Buddhism is a way of life based on the training of the mind. Its one ultimate aim is to show the way to complete liberation from suffering by the attainment of the Unconditioned, a state beyond the range of the normal untrained mind. Its immediate aim is to strike at the roots of suffering in everyday life. All human activity is directed, either immediately or remotely, towards the attainment of happiness in some form or other; or, to express the same thing in negative terms, all human activity is directed towards liberation from some kind of unsatisfactoriness or dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction, then, can be regarded as the starting point in human activity, with happiness as its ultimate goal. Dissatisfaction, the starting point in human activity, is also the starting point in Buddhism; and this point is expressed in the formula of the Four Basic Statements, which set out the fact of dissatisfaction, its cause, its cure, and the method of its cure. The First Basic Statement can be stated thus:

Dissatisfaction is Inescapable in En-Self-Ed Life
  In its original meaning, the word which is here rendered as "dissatisfaction" and which is often translated as "suffering" embraces the meanings not only of pain, sorrow, and displeasure, but also of everything that is unsatisfactory, ranging from acute physical pain and severe mental anguish to slight tiredness, boredom, or mild disappointment. Sometimes the term is rendered as "dissatisfaction" or "unsatisfactoriness"; in some contexts these are perhaps more accurate, while at other times the word "suffering" is more expressive. For this reason we shall use both "suffering" and "dissatisfaction" or "unsatisfactoriness" according to context. In some translations of the original texts it is stated that birth is suffering, sickness is suffering, old age is suffering, and pleasure is suffering. In English, this last statement fails to make sense; but if we restate it as "pleasure is unsatisfactory" it becomes more readily understandable, for all pleasure is impermanent and is eventually succeeded by its opposite, and from this point of view at least it is unsatisfactory. Now the Buddha-doctrine teaches that dissatisfaction or suffering is inescapable in en-self-ed life; and the term "en-self-ed life" needs some explanation. In brief, the doctrine teaches that the self, considered as a fixed, unchanging eternal soul, has no reality. The central core of every being is not an unchanging soul but a life-current, an ever-changing stream of energy which is never the same for two consecutive seconds. The self, considered as an eternal soul, therefore, is a delusion, and when regarded from the ultimate standpoint it has no reality; and it is only within this delusion of selfhood that ultimate suffering can exist. When the self-delusion is finally transcended and the final enlightenment is attained, the ultimate state which lies beyond the relative universe is reached. In this ultimate state, the Unconditioned, suffering is extinguished; but while any element of selfhood remains, even though it is a delusion, suffering remains potentially within it. We must understand, then, that the First Basic Statement does not mean that suffering is inescapable; it means that suffering is inescapable in enselfed life, or while the delusion of selfhood remains. We can now move on to the Second Basic Statement, which says:

The Origin of Dissatisfaction is Craving
  If you fall on a slippery floor and suffer from bruises, you say that the cause of your suffering is the slippery floor. In an immediate sense you are right, of course, and to say that the cause of your bruises is craving fails to make sense. But the Second Statement does not refer to individual cases or to immediate causes. It means that the integrating force that holds together the life-current is self-centered craving; for this life-current--this self-delusion--contains in itself the conditions for suffering, while the slippery floor is merely an occasion for suffering. It is obviously impossible, by the nature of the world we live in, to cure suffering by the removal of all the occasions for suffering; whereas it is possible in Buddhism to strike at its prime or fundamental cause. Therefore the Third Basic Statement states:

Liberation May be Achieved by Destroying Craving
  It is self-centered craving that holds together the forces which comprise the life-current, the stream of existence which we call the self; and it is only with self-delusion that unsatisfactoriness or suffering can exist. By the destruction of that which holds together the delusion of the self, the root cause of suffering is also destroyed. The ultimate aim of Buddhist practice, then, is to annihilate the self. This is where a great deal of misunderstanding arises, and naturally so; but once it is realized that to annihilate the self is to annihilate a delusion, this misunderstanding disappears. When the delusion is removed, the reality appears; so that to destroy delusion is to reveal the reality. The reality cannot be discovered while the delusion of self continues to obscure it. Now what is this reality which appears when the delusion is removed? The ultimate reality is the Unconditioned, called also the Unborn, the Unoriginated, the Uncreated, and the Uncompounded. We can, inadequately and not very accurately, describe it as a positive state of being. It is characterized by supreme bliss and complete freedom from suffering and is so utterly different from ordinary existence that no real description of it can be given. The Unconditioned can be indicated--up to a point--only by stating what it is not; for it is beyond words and beyond thought. Hence, in the Buddhist texts, the Unconditioned is often explained as the final elimination' from one's own mind, of greed, hatred and delusion. This, of course, also implies the perfection of the opposite positive qualities of selflessness, loving-kindness, and wisdom. The attainment of the Unconditioned is the ultimate aim of all Buddhist practice, and is the same as complete liberation from dissatisfaction or suffering. This brings us to the last of the Four Basic Statements:

The Way of Liberation is the Noble Eightfold Path
  The eight factors of the path are these: 1. Right understanding, a knowledge of the true nature of existence. 2. Right thought, thought free from sensuality, ill-will and cruelty. 3. Right speech, speech without falsity, gossip, harshness, and idle babble. 4. Right action, or the avoidance of killing, stealing and adultery. 5. Right livelihood, an occupation that harms no conscious living being. 6. Right effort, or the effort to destroy the defilements of the mind and to cultivate wholesome qualities. 7. Right mindfulness, the perfection of the normal faculty of attention. 8. Right concentration, the cultivation of a collected, focussed mind through meditation. Now you will see that in this Noble Eightfold Path there is nothing of an essentially religious nature; it is more a sort of moral psychology. But in the East as well as in the West people as a whole demand external show of some sort, and--on the outside at least--the non-essentials have assumed more importance than the essentials. While some external features in the practice of Buddhism must of necessity vary according to environment, the essential and constant characteristics of that practice are summed up in the following outline of the Noble Eightfold Path, the Middle Way between harmful extremes, as taught by the Buddha. Although it is convenient to speak of the various aspects of the eightfold path as eight steps, they are not to be regarded as separate steps, taken one after another. On the contrary, each one must be practised along with the others, and it might perhaps be better to think of them as if they were eight parallel lanes within the one road rather than eight successive steps. The first step of this path, right understanding, is primarily a matter of seeing things as they really are--or at least trying to do so without self-deceit or evasion. In another sense, right understanding commences as an intellectual appreciation of the nature of existence, and as such it can be regarded as the beginning of the path; but, when the path has been followed to the end, this merely intellectual appreciation is supplanted by a direct and penetrating discernment of the principles of the teaching first accepted intellectually. While right understanding can be regarded as the complete understanding of the Buddha doctrine, it is based on the recognition of three dominating characteristics of the relative universe, of the universe of time, form and matter. These three characteristics can briefly be set out in this way: 1. Impermanence: All things in the relative universe are unceasingly changing. 2. Dissatisfaction: Some degree of suffering or dissatisfaction is inherent in en-selfed life, or in life within the limitations of the relative universe and personal experience. 3. Egolessness: No being--no human being or any other sort of being--possesses a fixed, unchanging, eternal soul or self. Instead, every being consists of an ever-changing current of forces, an ever-changing flux of material and mental phenomena, like a river which is always moving and is never still for a single second. The self, then, is not a static entity but an ever-changing flux. This dynamic concept of existence is typical of deeper Buddhist thought; there is nothing static in life, and since it is ever-flowing you must learn to flow with it. Another aspect of right understanding is the recognition that the universe runs its course on the basis of a strict sequence of cause and effect, or of action and reaction, a sequence just as invariable and just as exact in the mental or moral realm as in the physical. In accordance with this law of moral action and reaction all morally good or wholesome will actions eventually bring to the doer happiness at some time, while unwholesome or morally bad will-actions bring suffering to the doer. The effects of wholesome and unwholesome will-actions--that is to say, the happiness and suffering that result from them--do not generally follow immediately; there is often a considerable time-lag, for the resultant happiness and suffering can arise only when appropriate conditions are present. The results may not appear within the present lifetime. Thus at death there is normally a balance of "merit" which has not yet brought about its experience of happiness; and at the same time there is also a balance of "demerit" which has not yet given rise to the suffering which is to be its inevitable result. After death, the body disintegrates, of course, but the life-current continues, not in the form of an unchanging soul, but in the form of an ever-changing stream of energy. Immediately after death a new being commences life to carry on this life current; but the new being is not necessarily a human being, and the instantaneous rebirth may take place on another plane of existence. But in any case, the new being is a direct sequel to the being that has just died. Thus the new being becomes an uninterrupted continuation of the old being, and the life-current is unbroken. The new being inherits the balance of merit built up by the old being, and this balance of merit will inevitably bring happiness at some future time. At the same time, the new being inherits the old being's balance of demerit, which will bring suffering at some time in the future. In effect, in the sense of continuity, the new being is the same as the old being. In just the same way--that is, in the sense of continuity only--an old man is the same as the young man he once was, the young man is the same as the boy he once was, and the boy is the same as the baby he once was. But the identity of the old man with the young man, and with the boy, and with the baby, is due only to continuity; there is no other identity. Everything in the universe changes from day to day and from moment to moment, so that every being at this moment is a slightly different being from that of the moment before; the only identity is due to continuity. In the same way, the being that is reborn is different from the previous one that died; but the identity due to continuity remains as before. These teachings are basic to the Buddha-doctrine--the illusory nature of the self, the law of action and reaction in the moral sphere, and the rebirth of the life-forces--but there is no need for anyone to accept anything that does not appeal to his reason. Acceptance of any particular teaching is unimportant; what is important is the continual effort to see things as they really are, without self-deceit or evasion. So much for a brief outline of the doctrine under the heading of right understanding. The second step, right thought or aim, is a matter of freeing the intellectual faculties from adverse emotional factors, such as sensuality, ill-will, and cruelty, which render wise and unbiased decisions impossible. Right speech, right action, and right livelihood together make up the moral section of the path, their function being to keep the defilements of the mind under control and to prevent them from reaching adverse expression. These defilements, however, cannot be completely eradicated by morality alone, and the other steps of the path must be applied to cleanse the mind completely of its defilements. Now in the next step--right effort--we enter the sphere of practical psychology, for right effort in this context means effort of will. In other words, the sixth step of the path is self-discipline, the training of the will in order to prevent and overcome those states of mind that retard development, and to arouse and cultivate those that bring about mental progress. The seventh step of the path is also one of practical psychology; this is the step called right mindfulness, and it consists of the fullest possible development of the ordinary faculty of attention. It is largely by the development of attention--expanded and intensified awareness--that the mind can eventually become capable of discerning things as they really are. The primary function of the, seventh step, right mindfulness, is to develop an increasing awareness of the unreality of the self. However, it functions also by continually improving the normal faculty of attention, thus equipping the mind better to meet the problems and stresses of the workaday world. In the Buddha-way, mindfulness consists of developing the faculty of attention so as to produce a constant awareness of all thoughts that arise, all words that are spoken, and all actions that are done, with a view to keeping them free from self-interest, from emotional bias, and from self-delusion.

  Right mindfulness has many applications in the sphere of everyday activities. For example, it can be employed to bring about a sharpened awareness, a clear comprehension, of the motives of these activities, and this clear comprehension of motive is extremely important. In right concentration, the last of the eight steps, the cultivation of higher mind-states--up to the meditative absorptions--is undertaken, and these higher mind-states serve to unify, purity, and strengthen the mind for the achievement of liberating insight. In this ultimate achievement the delusion of selfhood, with its craving and suffering, is transcended and extinguished. This penetrating insight is the ultimate goal of all Buddhist practices, and with it comes a direct insight into the true nature of life, culminating in realization of the Unconditioned. While the Unconditioned is the extinction of self, it is nevertheless not mere non-existence or annihilation, for the extinction of self is nothing but the extinction of a delusion. Every description of the Unconditioned must fail, for it lies not only beyond words but beyond even thought; and the only way to know it is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path to its end. This, then, is the original Buddhism; this is the Buddhism of the Noble Eightfold Path, of the path that leads from the bondage of self to liberating insight into reality.



The 37 Practices of Bodhisattvas
  I pay homage through my three doors, To my supreme teacher and protector, Chenrezig, Who while seeing all phenomena lack coming and going, Makes single-minded effort for the good of living beings. Perfect Buddhas, source of all well-being and happiness, Arise from accomplishing the excellent teachings, And this depends on knowing the practices, So I will explain the practices of Bodhisattvas.

  1. Having gained this rare ship of freedom and fortune, Hear, think and meditate unwaveringly night and day In order to free yourself and others from the ocean of cyclic existence -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 2. Attached to your loved ones you are stirred up like water. Hating your enemies you burn like fire. In the darkness of confusion, you forget what to adopt and discard. Give up your homeland -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas....... 3. By avoiding bad objects, disturbing emotions gradually decrease. Without distraction, virtuous activities naturally increase. With clarity of mind, conviction in teaching arises. Cultivate seclusion -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 4. Loved ones who have long kept company will part. Wealth created with difficulty will be left behind. Consciousness, the guest, will leave the guesthouse of the body. Let go of this life -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 5. When you keep their company your three poisons increase, Your activities of hearing thinking and meditating decline, And they make you lose your love and compassion. Give up bad friends -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 6. When you rely on them your faults come to an end And your good qualities grow like the waxing moon. Cherish spiritual teachers even more than your own body -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 7. Bound himself in the jail of cyclic existence, What worldly god can give you protection? Therefore when you seek refuge, take refuge in The Three Jewels which will not betray you -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 8. The Subduer said that all the unbearable suffering of bad rebirths Is the fruit of wrongdoing. Therefore, even at the cost of your life, never do wrong -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 9. Like dew on the tip of a blade of grass, pleasures of the three worlds Last only a while and then vanish. Aspire to the never-changing supreme state of liberation -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 10. When your mothers, who have loved you since time without beginning, Are suffering, what use is your own happiness? Therefore to free limitless living beings, Develop the altruistic intention -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 11. All suffering comes from the wish for your own happiness. Perfect Buddhas are born from the thought to help others. Therefore exchange your own happiness For the suffering of others -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 12. Even if someone out of strong desire Steals all of your wealth or has it stolen, Dedicate to him your body, your possessions And your virtue, past, present and future -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 13. Even if someone tries to cut off your head When you have not done the slightest thing wrong, Out of compassion take all his misdeeds Upon yourself -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas. 14. Even if someone broadcasts all kinds of unpleasant remarks About you throughout the three thousand worlds, In return, with a loving mind, Speak of his good qualities -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 15. Though someone may deride and speak bad words About you in a public gathering, Looking on him as a spiritual teacher, Bow to him with respect -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 16. Even if a person for whom you have cared Like your own child regards you as an enemy, Cherish him specially, like a mother Does her child who is stricken with sickness -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 17. If an equal or inferior person Disparages you out of pride, Place him, as you would your spiritual teacher, With respect on the crown of your head -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 18. Though you lack what you need and are constantly disparaged, Afflicted by dangerous sickness and spirits, Without discouragement take on the misdeeds And the pain of all living beings -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 19. Though you become famous and many bow to you, And you gain riches to equal Vaishravana's, See that worldly fortune is without essence, And do not be conceited -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 20. While the enemy of your own anger is not subdued Though you conquer external foes, they will only increase. Therefore with the militia of love and compassion Subdue your own mind -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas....... 21. Sensual pleasures are like saltwater: The more you indulge, the more thirst increases. Abandon at once those things which breed Clinging attachment -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas...... 22. Whatever appears is your own mind. Your mind from the start is free from fabricated extremes. Understanding this, do not take to mind [inherent] signs of subject and object. This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 23. When you encounter attractive objects, Though they seem beautiful Like a rainbow in summer, do not regard them as real, and give up attachment. This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 24. All forms of suffering are like a child's death in a dream. Holding illusory appearances to be true makes you weary. Therefore, when you meet with disagreeable circumstances, See them as illusory -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 25. When those who want enlightenment must give even their body, There is no need to mention external things. Therefore without hope of return or any fruition Give generously -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 26. Without ethics you cannot accomplish your own wellbeing, So wanting to accomplish others' is laughable. Therefore without worldly aspirations Safeguard your ethical discipline -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 27. To Bodhisattvas who want a wealth of virtue Those who harm are like a precious treasure. Therefore towards all cultivate patience Without hostility -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 28. Seeing even Hearers and Solitary Realizers, who accomplish only their own good, Strive as if to put out a fire on their head, For the sake of all beings make joyful effort Toward the source of all good qualities -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 29. Understanding that disturbing emotions are destroyed By special insight with calm abiding, Cultivate concentration which surpasses The four formless absorptions -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 30. Since five perfections without wisdom Cannot bring perfect enlightenment, Along with skillful means cultivate the wisdom which does not conceive the Three spheres [as real] -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 31. If you do not examine your errors, You may look like a practitioner but not act as one. Therefore, always examining your own errors, Rid yourself of them -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 32. If through the influence of disturbing emotions You point out the faults of another Bodhisattva, You yourself are diminished, so do not mention the faults Of those who have entered the Great Vehicle -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 33. Reward and respect cause us to quarrel And make hearing, thinking and meditating decline. For this reason give up attachment to the households of Friends, relations and benefactors -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas...... 34. Harsh words disturb the minds of others And cause deterioration in a Bodhisattva's conduct. Therefore give up harsh words Which are unpleasant to others -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 35. Habitual disturbing emotions are hard to stop through counter actions. Armed with antidotes, the guards of mindfulness and mental alertness Destroy disturbing emotions like attachment at once, as soon as they arise -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 36. In brief, whatever you are doing, Ask yourself, "What is the state of my mind?" With constant mindfulness and mental alertness Accomplish others' good -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 37. To remove the suffering of limitless beings, Understanding the purity of the three spheres, Dedicate the virtue from making such effort to enlightenment -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.....

  For all who want to train on the Bodhisattva path, I have written The Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas, Following what has been said by excellent ones, On the meaning of sutras, tantras and treatises. Though not poetically pleasing to scholars, Owing to my poor intelligence and lack of learning, I have relied on the sutras and the words of the excellent, So I think these Bodhisattva practices are without error. However, as the great deeds of Bodhisattvas, Are hard to fathom for one of my poor intelligence, I beg the excellent to forgive all faults, Such as contradictions and non sequiturs. Through the virtues from this may all living beings, Gain the ultimate and conventional altruistic intention, And thereby become like the Protector Chenrezig, Who dwells in neither extreme -- not in the world nor in peace. This was written for his own and others' benefit by the monk Togmay, an exponent of scripture and reasoning, in a cave in Ngulchu Rinchen.

  Gyelsay Togmay Sangpo (Geshe Sonam Rinchen) was the author of The Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas. He lived from 1295 to 1369, being born in southwestern Tibet near Sakya. This work by him is about training the mind. This means ridding ourselves completely of all disturbing emotions and their imprints. At the very least it should help us to prevent their coarser forms and gradually to decrease them.



  Confusion / by Ngakpa Rig'dzin Dorje

  "Confusion in dealing with the situation of life as a fixed thing seems to be a sane approach. So what seems to be insane is enlightenment". - Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

  When some monstrous towering tidal-wave of Form erupts out of Emptiness, and hurtles towards one up the narrow gulf of karmic vision; or implodes thunderously down into its own empty nature, sucking like a maelstrom at the quaking core of one's being; there is a choice. It is always the choiceless choice, between compassion and compulsion. One could simply remain in the clear open dimension in which one is not separate from the ocean, the wave and the maelstrom; because they are the self-luminous nature of Mind, which joyously communicates itself. Or one could follow the wavey grain of ingrained coping-strategy, up its ever-dry river-bed into the arid back-country of the Six Realms, where the ripples of one's wake coalesce, rebuild and relaunch the identical hungry wave of one's nightmares....... A Sanskrit scholar recently brought to my attention the word pritagjana, which he had found in the commentaries to the Prajnaparamita Sutras. It is a reference to unenlightened people, and it literally means 'separate people' or 'separation people'. In the words of the Heart Sutra, the heart of Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen: "Form is Emptiness; Emptiness is Form. Form is not other than Emptiness; Emptiness not other than Form." If one tends to lack confidence in the open dimension, the reflex is to look away from the vastness of one's inherent enlightenment, in the hope that one might be able to locate some more concrete form of security elsewhere. To possess that would mean separating Form from Emptiness, which is impossible; but the effort in itself is what curdles the ever-youthful freshness of ecstatic atheism into a search for happiness 'somewhere else'. This is taking refuge in activity which ironically divides one against oneself. Such is the characteristic nature of what is called samsara, 'circling'; because, as the English playwright Tom Stoppard put it, "A circle is the longest way back to the same place." There is no life-crisis which is not fundamentally this....... Whether Buddhism can offer any kind of resource in the circumstances has to depend, first of all, on whether one is a Buddhist. This is not an idle point: it depends on whether Buddhism is one's Refuge. "The Refuge that one may recite is not the Refuge itself". The ultimate Refuge would be never to lose confidence in self-knowing inseparable Mind-and-Space. Then, attraction, aversion or indifference could only arise as non-dual experience within the nature of mind, one's essential condition, beyond the tension of trying to keep subject and object divided. Only the liberated karmas of the Buddhas would then apply: increasing, pacifying, controlling and destroying, directed spontaneously towards whatever situation arose, whatever beings were in need. That option would be actual compassion, appropriate activity, the spontaneous, choiceless reflex of Wisdom-Mind.



Heart and Mind
  Among the Major Religious Traditions of the world, Buddhism has continued as a living tradition for over 2,500 years. It was founded in the East by Shakyamuni Buddha, yet that fact does not mean that Buddhism is simply an oriental custom or culture. From a Buddhist point of view, spirituality is basic and fundamental to all people without exception. Each person has the inherent potential to attain the highest possible sanity--the complete awakened mind. What is introduced through Buddhism is the means to recognize and experience this potential, no matter who we are. It is important to recognize that true spirituality can be assimilated into and permeate a culture, but on the other hand a particular set of customs and beliefs cannot become assimilated into what is spiritual. Since Buddhism addresses what is basically and fundamentally true of the phenomenal world and our own existence, it is not confined to a set of beliefs or customs designed for a particular group or locality....... There are two ways in which we can relate to the phenomenal world and to ourselves. One point of view is the way we normally perceive the phenomenal world and ourselves, and the other is the point of view of knowing things as they really are, fundamentally and ultimately. Most of the time our relationship to the world around us accords not with its basic nature but with our perceptions of it. We do not experience our own basic nature, the potential for the completely awakened state of mind; instead we experience only what we see. The result is that we experience tremendous conflict in our lives. No matter how hard we try to work things out, there is always disorder and dissatisfaction, always something missing. No matter how much we seem to have accomplished, there is still more to achieve. This dissatisfaction continues and its scale increases, because what we are fundamentally and how we perceive are not the same....... When we act according to our mistaken perception of the world and cling to it as fundamentally true, we react to chaos and dissatisfaction as if it came from the outside. We feel threatened or victimized by external situations, and feel that we must run away from the causes of dissatisfaction. Our confusion is compounded by the fact that we take these problems to be very real. We try many different means to escape, but never really think about the possibility of working with ourselves....... There might be a more workable situation if we began to work with our own existence rather than some external reference point. Our present situation includes both the object outside, something to be held by consciousness, and consciousness itself, which holds and acknowledges, accepts or rejects these objects. We fail to recognize this dual involvement of subject and object, fail to recognize that it is not simply the thing out there, on its own, that is threatening us and causing chaos, and so we blame the object as the cause of our chaos, our problems, our dissatisfactions. When we begin to have some sense of the relation between subject and object, we may begin to see that it is our own mental projections that are reflected back into our mind. Instead of recognizing them as our own, however, we think of them as problems existing outside of us and try to work them out externally. The fact that the chaos and dissatisfaction continue shows that going along with our perceptions is really mistaken....... The Tibetan word for Buddhism, nangpa, has the meaning of internalizing, indicating that we need to turn inward and work within ourselves. By doing so and gaining a clearer sense of who we really are, we develop a sense of our existence as it relates to all that surrounds us. If we look outside and try to figure out what is out there based on confused mental projections, we will never recognize who we are. What is fundamentally true is that the experience of pain or pleasure is not so much what is happening externally as it is what is happening internally: the experience of pain or pleasure is mainly a state of mind. Whether we experience the world as enlightened or confused depends on our state of mind....... Another cause of our confusion is a misunderstanding of how things originate. As far as our relationship to the world is concerned, this phenomenal world exists based on interdependent origination. Nothing whatsoever, not even the most minute particle, exists independently or permanently on its own. No matter how truly, how permanently, or how reliably an object may seem to exist, as far as the true nature of world and phenomena are concerned, it lacks true existence. This also applies to our own mind. When we relate to the phenomenal world from a point of view contrary to its real nature, we create problems for ourselves....... From a Buddhist point of view, any problem, any dissatisfaction comes directly from ourselves. We must understand this in order to establish a healthy basis for our lives and come to see dissatisfaction as an expression of our mental habits. We have become addicted to these patterns, because we have not recognized our own resources. We have inherited a basic richness and wealth, but through habitual clinging, we have acted contrary to who we are and what we have, and so experience conflict. It is like a child who has been spoiled: the child did not start out that way, but was exposed to all kinds of influences that made him or her into a spoiled child....... It is also interesting to recognize that we constantly go about making the claim that 'I' am doing this or that, but the basic expression of our life in the world is that we are completely powerless. We have no control, as our thinking and knowing mind is constantly distracted. We have no real knowledge or memory of what is happening. We are a machine run by the play of external phenomena, by the glamour of what we see, and yet we maintain the fixation that 'I' am doing it, that 'I' am in charge of any particular situation. When we have proper mindfulness--an alert and attentive mind--then we really begin to have power, in the sense that we understand what is happening within and around us. It is a matter of being alive or not being alive. The way we run our lives seems like an enormous joke, as if each one of us were a big, important leader in name and credentials, but had no power at all and didn't even know what was happening. We certainly do have a big name, 'I.' 'I' wants the world to know 'me' but it is all parroting, the machine is being operated from behind, because there is no alertness, no sense of being present or really alive. Our life is governed, dictated by our habits of confusion, obscuration, and distraction....... In order to change this situation, Buddhism introduces the skillful means of meditation practice. We must begin to learn to sit with ourselves and feel more comfortable with who we are. Meditation practice does not mean that we have something to meditate upon, or that something new or totally different is going to happen in our lives....... Meditation simply means cultivating a wholesome and sane habit, which becomes an antidote for the unwholesome, confused, destructive habits that we have developed. Meditation practice enables us to experience our own thinking and knowing. Meditation is mindfulness, and in order to experience this we must repeatedly apply the methods, because any habit, wholesome or unwholesome, is developed by repetition....... In short, Buddhism is something universal, based on what is fundamentally true of the world and ourselves, no matter who we are, what problems we might have, or what our particular historical background might be.

  This teaching was given by His Eminence at NY State University, Albany, on October 7, 1985. It was translated by Ngodup Burkhar and edited by Laura Roth, and appeared in Densal Vol. 7 No. 1.



  OM MANI PADME HUM / By His Holiness the Dalai Lama

  It is very good to recite the mantra Om mani padme hum, but while you are doing it, you should be thinking on its meaning, for the meaning of the six syllables is great and vast. The first, Om is composed of three letters, A, U, and M. These symbolize the practitioner's impure body, speech, and mind; they also symbolize the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha.......... Can impure body, speech, and mind be transformed into pure body, speech, and mind, or are they entirely separate? All Buddhas are cases of beings who were like ourselves and then in dependence on the path became enlightened; Buddhism does not assert that there is anyone who from the beginning is free from faults and possesses all good qualities. The development of pure body, speech, and mind comes from gradually leaving the impure states arid their being transformed into the pure.......... How is this done? The path is indicated by the next four syllables. Mani, meaning jewel, symbolizes the factors of method-the altruistic intention to become enlightened, compassion, and love. Just as a jewel is capable of removing poverty, so the altruistic mind of enlightenment is capable of removing the poverty, or difficulties, of cyclic existence and of solitary peace. Similarly, just as a jewel fulfills the wishes of sentient beings, so the altruistic intention to become enlightened fulfills the wishes of sentient beings.......... The two syllables, padme, meaning lotus, symbolize wisdom. Just as a lotus grows forth from mud but is not sullied by the faults of mud, so wisdom is capable of putting you in a situation of non-contradiction whereas there would be contradiction if you did not have wisdom. There is wisdom realizing impermanence, wisdom realizing that persons are empty, of being self-sufficient or substantially existent, wisdom that realizes the emptiness of duality-that is to say, of difference of entity between subject an object-and wisdom that realizes the emptiness of inherent existence. Though there are many different types of wisdom, the main of all these is the wisdom realizing emptiness.......... Purity must be achieved by an indivisible unity of method and wisdom, symbolized by the final syllable hum, which indicates indivisibility. According to the sutra system, this indivisibility of method and wisdom refers to wisdom affected by method and method affected by wisdom. In the mantra, or tantric, vehicle, it refers to one consciousness in which there is the full form of both wisdom and method as one undifferentiable entity. In terms of the seed syllables of the five Conqueror Buddhas, hum is the seed syllable of Akshobhya - the immovable, the unfluctuating, that which cannot be disturbed by anything.......... Thus the six syllables, om mani padme hum, mean that in dependence on the practice of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha. It is said that you should not seek for Buddhahood outside of yourself; the substances for the achievement of Buddhahood are within. As Maitreya says in his Sublime Continuum of the Great Vehicle (Uttaratantra), all beings naturally have the Buddha nature in their own continuum. We have within us the seed of purity, the essence of a One Gone Thus (Tathagatagarbha), that is to be transformed and fully developed into Buddhahood.



  The Dharma Tree / An Essay by Prof. R.P. Hayes

  This message is for relative beginners to Buddhism. It may be insufficiently sophisticated for the tastes of advanced practitioners, seasoned scholars and self-styled lobsters. It is also long, so you may wish to print it out and read it at your leisure....... Buddhism comes in a bewildering variety of schools and traditions, and a newcomer can spend quite some time being lost in apparently meaningless detail. Even after thirty years of studying Buddhism as an academic and practicing in several different traditions, I still find myself overwhelmed by the complexity of it all and have long since resigned myself to having a very superficial understanding of most of Buddhism and an only slightly less superficial understanding of a few specific traditions. So, since my understanding is superficial, it may be of some use to a few others who are also just beginning to scratch the surface....... It is helpful to think of Buddhism by picturing a very large and old tree. Such a tree usually has a single trunk, a number of main branches rising out of the trunk, some limbs on each branch, some twigs on each limb and some leaves on each twig. Beneath the surface of the earth is a root system that, like the part above the ground, branches into ever smaller units....... In imagining such a tree, think first of the single trunk that arises out of the roots and that supports all the many branches, limbs and twigs. This trunk is the action of going for refuge. It is the one thing that every Buddhist does, and it is the most important aspect of any Buddhist's study and practice. Every doctrine within Buddhism, every school and every practice can be seen as a particular outgrowth of this one essential action, which a Buddhist repeats again and again, namely, the action of going for refuge. In Pali this action is called sarana-gamana. Gamana means going. Sarana means shelter, support, help or guidance. Going for refuge to something means going to it for help and guidance and support. Almost invariably, it is something that one first does as a result of some crisis in one's life, some bit of unwelcome reality that one just cannot deal adequately with on one's own. So one turns to something outside oneself for help....... What makes a Buddhist a Buddhist is not just the fact of going for refuge. Most people go for refuge to something or another: acquaintances, alcohol, their careers, drugs, education, entertainment, experts, family, physical fitness clubs, psychiatrists, religion, sexual conquests, study, support groups, travel, or even the zoo. What makes a Buddhist a Buddhist is that he or she goes for refuge to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha....... The three principal roots of the tree, therefore, are the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. But there is not any one single meaning to any of these words. Each of them has many meanings to a Buddhist, so we can imagine each of the three main roots in the root system sending out branches. To describe each main root in detail is not necessary just now. Let's just sketch out each one briefly....... The central root is the Dharma. This word has several meanings. The most important meaning in a Buddhist context is Nirvana, which is seen by all Buddhists as the greatest possible good. Nirvana means the eradication (uprooting) of the root causes of all dissatisfaction. All Buddhists are striving for that final elimination of dissatisfaction. So that is the principal meaning of dharma. But the word Dharma also means that which helps one to achieve that final goal of Nirvana. What helps one to achieve that goal is a positive and healthy mentality; a single word for that is the word "virtue". So a secondary meaning of the word "dharma" is "virtue" in the sense of good character. But "dharma" also means that which helps one acquire virtue. So a tertiary meaning of "dharma" is a teaching. Any teachings that help one achieve Nirvana can be considered dharma, but usually Buddhists take refuge especially in the teachings preserved in the Sutras (recorded sermons and conversations of the Buddha and his most trusted male and female disciples) and in the Vinaya (the disciplinary code for monks and nuns, people who renounced the household life in order to dedicate all their time and energy to working for Dharma)....... The other two main roots are the Buddha and the Sangha. There are several different views about what exactly the nature of a Buddha is, but everyone agrees that there have been many Buddhas throughout history and that the most recent was Siddhartha Gautama (or in Pali, Siddhattha Gotama), also know as the silent sage (muni) of the Sakiya (Sanskrit, Shakya) people; the Sakiyas were a tribal people, probably racially and certainly culturally distinct from the Aryans. So when Siddhartha Gautama went into the cities of Benares and so forth in the Ganges valley, he probably looked and talked like a foreigner and acted in ways that people found a bit odd. There are several texts in which people comment on the fact that he is a barbarian and therefore unworthy of the kind of respect that one normally shows to civilized people. But, despite his foreign origins and a certain amount of prejudice against him, the Buddha managed to win the respect of quite a few important people, including several Kings and military leaders and wealthy merchants and learned scholars of his day. All of these people respected him as a teacher and guide. So when one goes for refuge to the Buddha, one honours him as the best teacher of human beings and gods, the finest man to walk on two feet. In other words, he is a Buddhist's principal role model....... The word "Sangha" means a group or community. The Sangha to which a Buddhist goes for refuge is the ariya-sangha, which means the Noble Community of people who have attained insight and virtue and who have either attained or come very close to attaining Nirvana. It is important to realize that not all members of the Noble Community are monks or nuns, and that not all monks or nuns are members of the Noble Community. So a Buddhist does not go for refuge to the community of monks or nuns or even to the community of people who declare themselves to be Buddhists, but to the community of all excellent people everywhere whose insight and purity of character is significantly superior to that of the average human being. The word "Sangha" can also refer to other communities, such as the community of monks (bhikkhu-sangha), the community of nuns (bhikkhuni-sangha), the community of householders who support the monks and nuns (upasaka-sangha) and to the entire community of people who heard the Buddha and formally went to him for refuge (savaka-sangha). Sometimes some Buddhists find it convenient to think of the community of Buddhists as a whole as a kind of concrete symbol of the much more abstract notion of the Noble Sangha of excellent people to which they go for refuge....... These three roots support the trunk of the tree, which is the single act of going for refuge, the essence of Buddhism as an organized religion. There are many different ways of going for refuge. Ultimately, you could say that there are as many ways as there have been individual Buddhists throughout the history of Buddhism, because ultimately going for refuge is an individual decision that each individual has to figure out how to put into practice is his or her life. We can think of the individual Buddhists as the leaves on the tree. Leaves grow on twigs attached to limbs that grow out of branches out of the main trunk. So now let's look at the main branches....... The branches of the tree can be seen as being based mostly on collections of books that are believed to contain teachings of the Buddha and his most trusted disciples (and disciples of his disciples down through the ages). One main branch was known as the Savaka (Sanskrit Shravaka) branch. These people chose to base their practice on doctrines that were believed by everyone to be the public teachings of the Buddha to his monks and lay disciples. At one time there were many limbs of this Savaka branch, but only one of them has lived to modern times. That is the limb known as Theravada, which means the teachings of the elders. An elder is a monk who has been ordained for a minimum of ten years and who is acknowledged to have attained insight. Officially, the Theravada school is based only on what has been transmitted by these elders down through the ages. This body of teachings have been preserved in a pali, a word that means a straight line. The English word "canon" comes from a Greek word meaning a straight line or a straight-edge, so early translators of Buddhist texts translated the word "pali" as "canon" and redundantly named the works of this school the Pali Canon. The language in which that canon is preserved is called the Pali language. While many Theravadin teachers admire and study and refer to individuals and writings that are not in the Pali canon, the framework within which all teachings are interpreted is provided by the Pali canon. The Theravada school exists nowadays in Sri Lanka (formerly called Ceylon), Myanmar (formerly called Burma), Thailand (formerly called Siam), Laos, Cambodia and parts of Vietnam....... A second branch of the tree is one that itself immediately branches into a lot of different limbs. What all the limbs on this branch have in common is that they accept the authority of texts that the Shravaka branch explicitly rejected as being the teachings of the historical Buddha. This branch can be called the Mahayana branch. The number of Mahayana texts is so large that no one can hope to read them all within a single lifetime, so usually Mahayana Buddhists specialize by focusing on just a few texts or sometimes only one text. The Zen school, for example, is said to have originally been based on the transmission of one text, called the Lankavatara Sutra (the full title of which means the introduction of the true dharma into Sri Lanka, a country that had both Theravada and Mahayana branches of Buddhism). The so-called Pure Land schools of Buddhism were based on texts describing beautiful realms into which one could be reborn in order to pursue dharma more easily than is possible in our difficult world. There are several twigs growing out of a limb known as Lotus Buddhism, which is based on the White Lotus of the True Dharma, a sutra that attempts to reconcile all the branches of Buddhism into one; one of the best known twigs on this limb is Nichiren Buddhism, out of which has grown a twiglet known as Soka Gakkai International, which has made quite an impact in the United States (and throughout the world) through its energetic proselytizing. Quite a lot of these limbs intertwine and grown together in various ways, rather like the tangled mess of a banyan tree or a briar patch....... Mahayana Buddhism once thrived in China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia. It is now very weak in China and has been for most of this century. It has completely disappeared from Indonesia, which is now a Muslim country. Only about one-third of the population of Korea is still Buddhist; the majority of Koreans are now Christians. In Vietnam, there is now one single form of Buddhism, which resulted from combining Theravada and Mahayana into a single school. It has been considerably weakened by all the wars and revolutions in that country, and by the recent passion for modernization. In Japan interest in Buddhism is rapidly declining in most sectors of the population and is being displaced by hundreds of so-called New Religions (some of which pay at least a token respect to something vaguely Buddhist in character). It is quite possible that Mahayana Buddhism could disappear from Asia within the next twenty-five years. Sadly, this once-strong and healthy branch is now rotting and may collapse of its own weight....... The third branch of the tree is the Vajra branch. (It might be more accurate to say this is a limb growing out of Mahayana, but it has become distinctive enough to be regarded now as a separate branch unto itself.) The word vajra means a clap of thunder. It also means a diamond. The texts upon which this branch is based are known as tantras, so this form of Buddhism is also called Tantric Buddhism. Tantras are usually written in a kind of code so that their meaning is not apparent to someone who has not been initiated into them. Unlike other forms of Buddhism, tantric Buddhism is therefore esoteric. One cannot study it or practice it without a special teacher, who confers special baptisms (abhisheka) that give people a special grace or power by which they can put the teachings into practice. Tantric Buddhism is the main form of Buddhism in Tibet and Mongolia (which got it from Tibet). There are also tantric forms of Buddhism in China, which in turn transmitted tantric forms to Vietnam, Korea and Japan. Even forms of Buddhism that are not strictly speaking purely tantric (if there is such a thing) have been influenced by tantric thinking and some tantric practices. So, for example, Vietnamese Buddhism is now a very interesting and healthy synthesis of Theravada, several limbs of Mahayana such as Zen and Pure Land and scholasticism, and tantric Buddhism. Korean Buddhism is now a synthesis of Zen, Pure Land and various scholastic forms of Mahayana Buddhism, with elements of tantra appearing here and there....... The roots, the single trunk and the branches have now all been explained. All that remains is to discuss what the whole tree is made of. It is made of two ingredients, wood and sap. The wood, which is the substantial core of all Buddhism, is Wisdom. The sap, which keeps the tree alive by transmitting nourishment from the deep roots to the individual leaves, is Compassion. Without the sap of compassion running throughout the tree, the whole tree would quickly die. Without the wood of wisdom, the sap would have no means of flowing and would quickly evaporate. So neither can be seen as more essential than the other. The two together are the life force of the tree of dharma.

  If I may, I would like to end by recommending two books, one that is full of information, and the other that has tips about practice. Both are easily ordered through your local bookstore or directly from their publisher, Windhorse Publications....... Andrew Skilton. "A Concise History of Buddhism." Windhorse Publications, 1994. [Offers an intelligent and readable thumbnail sketch of the different branches of Buddhism and their spread into different geographical areas within India and then outside India]...... Paramananda, "Changing Your Mind." Windhorse Publications, 1997. [A very readable, informative and practical guide to traditional Buddhist meditational practices, written especially for modern Westerners.]...... The address of Windhorse Publications in England is Unit 1-316 The Custard Factory Gibb Street Birmingham B9 4AA...... In America the address of the main distributor is: 14 Heartwood Circle Newmarket, NH 03957



Namo Amitabha

Life’s most awesome event is death, and death comes to all without regard to wealth, beauty, intelligence or fame. Death is inevitable, but how you die—terrified and confused, or with confidence and spiritual mastery—is within your control.