六祖慧能大师的功德观
文|朱运涛

佛教是很讲求功德的,“功德”是佛教中一个经常被提到的话语概念,是许多佛教信徒追求的人生目标。佛教所说“功德”即是指功能福德,是行善后所获的果报,也是在持诵经典供养诸佛所获得的果报。例如慧远认为:“功德者,亦名福德,福谓福利,善能资润福利行人,故名为福⋯⋯功谓功能,善有资润利益之功,故名为功”。“言功德,功谓功能,善有资润福利之功,故名为功;此功是其善行家德,名为功德。”

佛教最基本的经典《金刚经》中有对功德的说法:“持功德分第十五:须菩提,以要言之,是经有不可思议,不可称量无边功德。如来为发大乘者说,为发最上乘者说。若有人能受持、读诵、广为人说,如来悉知是人,悉见是人,皆得成就不可量、不可称、无有边、不可思议功德。”

关于功德的最著名的一个故事是达摩初见梁武帝的对话:“祖泛重溟,凡三周寒暑,达与南海,实梁普通七年庚子岁,九月二十一日也。广州刺史萧昂,具礼迎供。表闻武帝,帝遣使斋诏迎请,以十月一日至金陵,帝问曰:‘朕即位以来造寺、写经、度僧不可胜计,有何功德?’ 祖曰:‘并无功德。’帝问曰:‘何以无功德?’祖曰:‘此但人天小果有漏之因,如影随形,虽有非实。’帝曰:‘如何是真功德?’祖曰:‘净智妙圆,体自空寂,如是功德,不以世求。’”崇信佛教的梁武帝见到达摩时就问自己造寺、写经、度僧的行为有什么功德。而达摩却认为是没有功德,因为这种行为只是人天小果有漏之因,虽然可以见到,却不是真实的。

在禅宗另外一部经典《坛经》中,有对这个故事详细的义解。《坛经》疑问品第三:“公曰:弟子闻,达摩初化梁武帝,帝问云:朕一生造寺度僧布施设斋有何功德?达摩言:实无功德。弟子未达此理,愿和尚为说。师曰:实无功德。勿疑先圣之言。武帝心邪,不知正法。造寺、度僧、布施、设斋,名为求福,不可将福便为功德。功德在法身中,不在修福。”

慧能认为梁武帝度僧造寺等行为只是求福,但福不等于功德。功德在“法身”即自我的本性中。“见性是功,平等是德。念念无滞,常见本性,真实妙用,名为功德”。慧能大师认为真正的功德是彻见本性,认识到人人具有平等的佛性,不拘滞于妄念而能常常见到自己本性。“内心谦下是功,外行与礼是德,自性建立万法是功,心体离念是德。不离自性是功,应用无染是德。若觅功德法身,但依此作,是真功德。”慧能将功和德分开,功分为几种,包括内心谦下、自性建立万法、不离自性,而德也分几种:外行与礼、心体离念、应用无染。只要做到这几种,就是真的功德了。

“若修功德之人,心既不轻,常行普敬⋯⋯自性虚妄不实,即自无德,为无我自大,常轻一切故。善知 识,念念无间是功,心行平直是德。自修性是功,自修身是德。善知识,功德需自性内见,不是布施、供养之所求也,是以福德和功德别。”这里慧能对如何修功德进行了详细的解释。他认为,修功德之人应该内心很重 视功德,常怀敬畏普化之心。如果心里常常轻视别人,自我的观念不断,就是没有功德。而如果认为自己的本性是虚妄的、不真实的,这也是没有功德的,这就是为什么自我会盲目自大。每一个心念都不脱离自性是功,心行平直无碍是德。对自身的本性修养是功,对身体的修养是德。功德要从自性中去体现,而不是供养、布施等所求的。这就是福德和功德的区别。如果能看到自己的本性,不执著于心念,真实妙用,并能谦虚谨慎,符合礼节就是功德。不能轻视别人而自大自负,应该修身养性,珍视自身本性,心中做到刚正平直,离染脱念,就是真正的功德了。

中国禅宗重视人的心性,以“直证本心,顿悟成佛”为宗旨。慧能开创的南宗是中国禅宗的一个宗派,主张以智慧说心性,强调心性本觉,提倡明心见性、顿悟成佛,不但破除了对佛祖的外在权威的迷信和崇拜,而回归自心、见识本性,又将解脱思想和现实人生结合起来,将修道融化在日常生活中,并重视本身道德修养,将修身和修道提升到同样重要的位置。因此,慧能对佛教中功德的获得方式,也就很自然的回注到对自身本性的识见和对本身道德的重视,即所谓“心行平直是功,自修身是德”。

现代社会,佛教信仰颇有复兴之势,但人们更多的是烧香拜佛,或捐献善款,或投资建庙,所修的佛庙宫殿气势辉弘,耗资巨大,所捐的善款动辄成千上万,但是很多人带有很强的功利性,有的求子求孙,有的求官发财,也有的为消灾赎罪,这就像千年前的梁武帝认为的只要度僧、布施就可求得佛的保佑一样,如果从禅宗的观点来看,是没有什么功德的。带有强烈的功利目的的布施是有悖于佛法大义的,不是真实的布施,而只是虚妄的行为,自然得不到其追求的福报,许多人在心里上产生怀疑情绪,同时佛教也在一定程度上失去了僧众应有的信心和尊重。更有甚者,有人籍信众寻求心灵安慰和解脱的心理,借用寺院、佛法等公开敛财,助纣为虐,从根本上丧失了佛教超度人心,与人为善的宗旨了。因此,我们应该纠正这种错误的功德观,大力宣扬六祖大师回归本性,平直无屈的功德观,弘扬佛法正义,为信众真正指出寻求正果,获得真正的功德之路,为众生造福,为社会造福。

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What is wisdom? It is as explained in the perfection of supreme knowledge teachings: all phenomena are free from elaborations, and when the perceiving subject as well becomes equally free from elaborations, that is wisdom. In particular, the wisdom of the Buddha consists in the pacification of the elaborations and their habitual tendencies in relation to suchness. It is the inseparability of the expanse and wisdom. It is free from singularity and multiplicity, quality and qualified. It realises the non-duality of subjects and objects. In it all phenomena — saṃsāra and nirvāṇa, faults and qualities, and so on — are always undifferentiable and equal. Outside of that, there is no way to posit wisdom.

— 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje

Endless Lifetimes, Endless Benefit
by Bethany Saltman

Bethany Saltman talks with Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo about rebirth, merit, and the Bodhisattva vow.

Venerable Tenzin Palmo is best known as the British nun who meditated in a Himalayan cave for twelve years, as described in the popular book, Cave in the Snow, by Vicki MacKenzie. Though she left retreat in 1988, she still finds herself describing that solitary life to others, and sometimes defending it. Her one request in granting this interview was: “Please, let’s not talk about the cave.”

Born in London, Tenzin Palmo was drawn to Buddhism from an early age, and in 1964, at age twenty, she sailed to India. There she met her guru, the eighth Khamtrül Rinpoche, and became one of the first Western women to be ordained in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Before he passed away in 1980, Khamtrül Rinpoche asked Tenzin Palmo to start a nunnery, a request echoed more than a decade later by the lamas of his monastery in Tashi Jong in northern India. In 1993, Tenzin Palmo committed herself to the task of building a nunnery for women from Tibet and the Himalayan border regions. She now lives most of the year in Tashi Jong, where she has set up temporary quarters for the Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery. There she trains and educates nuns who might not otherwise have the opportunity to devote their lives to the dharma. She is also committed to reviving the tradition of female yogis, or togdenma, the training for which is “long, rigorous, and austere.” Several months of the year, Tenzin Palmo travels to raise funds for the nunnery, which is still under construction.

One might imagine someone like Tenzin Palmo — someone who was drawn to such extreme solitary practice — as aloof or somehow disconnected. On the contrary, she is easy to talk to, funny, opinionated, and surprisingly worldly. While her wisdom illuminates difficult concepts like rebirth and merit, what is particularly refreshing is her passionate devotion to her Bodhisattva vow — “to genuinely benefit other beings, endlessly, endlessly, endlessly.” As she makes very clear, “It’s not a quickie.”

— Bethany Saltman

How do you understand your rebirth as a female in England?

Well, it wouldn’t have been very much use being reborn in Tibet. I mean, look what happened to Tibet. It made a lot more sense, I think, to be born in the West. Why I got reborn as a female, I don’t know, but I think in my past life I must have had some sympathy for the female. But I certainly wasn’t a female last time, which was why I felt so strange in a female body when it first came.

When “it” first came?

I mean that I didn’t understand why I was in this body. When I heard that our bodies change when we got older, I thought, “Oh good, now I’ll get back to being a boy again.” But it didn’t happen like that. Now I’m glad that I’m female. I think we females have a lot of work to do for other females. So it’s good to have a female body this time.

So what do you know of your past life?

Not much. I’m not really interested. Definitely I was a disciple of my lama, which is why faith arose on just hearing his name. The day of my twenty-first birthday, he came to the Young Lamas’ Home School, where I was teaching English. I was very excited. But when I went in to see him, I was so frightened that I just stared at his feet, at his shoes. I couldn’t even look at him. So I had no idea what he looked like, whether he was old or young, fat or thin. I just knew he was my lama. I must be the only one to ever ask a lama to give them refuge without knowing what the lama looked like.

When I did look at him, I had a very strong feeling of meeting someone whom I had known for a long time. It felt like, “Oh, how lovely to see you again.” The deepest thing inside of me had suddenly taken external form. It was very strong and very simple at the same time. I never doubted, for one second, that this was my lama. Nor did he. So when I said I wanted to take refuge, he just said, “Of course,” even though we had just met. And when I said I wanted to become a nun he said, “Of course, of course! What else would you like to do?” He also said that in past lives he was always able to keep me very close to him, but that in this lifetime, as I had a female body, it would be more difficult.

It was very painful when my lama died, incredibly painful. He was only forty-eight, so we weren’t expecting it.

How did he die?

He had heart problems, and he died in Bhutan. When Tibetan lamas die they stay in a realisation of clear light nature of the mind for several days or weeks, and so he was in samadhi for quite some time while they worked out where his body would be taken. During that time the body is sitting up in meditation and it becomes very youthful and beautiful.

Did you see him like that?

I didn’t, because he was in Bhutan, but I have seen other bodies in samadhi; the body often gives off a very beautiful perfume and doesn’t decay at all. It remains perfect. And apparently, though I have never myself felt it, if you feel the heart region, it’s still warm. The brain is dead, but the heart region is still warm and the body stays very beautiful. If you pray and meditate in the presence of a person in samadhi, it’s a great blessing because at that time the lama’s mind is in a state of the clear light nature of death. Tibetans are very skillful at that. They have many teachings on how to die consciously, and how to remain in the clear light. It works — you can see it. They can stay in that state for hours, days, or weeks.

What is it like for you to work with your teacher in his next incarnation, now that he’s a different person, a young boy?

He’s not such a young boy anymore; he’s twenty-four. But he is a different person. He’s very quiet, very grounded, very centred. He doesn’t speak much. There are times when he is just there, as a lama, and then suddenly he looks at me and [snap], my whole body is filled with an electric current and a sense of certainty.

When you met him for the first time, what were your feelings? Did you have trouble relating to him as a child?

I was afraid to go and see him. He was not quite three years old. I was very frightened, partly because I was sure that when he saw me he would think, “Oh, what a funny-looking thing,” and burst into tears, and then I’d feel upset.

Because you’re a woman?

Yes, because I am a Western nun and he had never seen one, and I was concerned how a child would react to something strange. I kept putting it off and then finally I thought, I’ve got to go see him. So I went up and, as I was prostrating, he looked at me and said to his attendant, “It’s my nun! It’s my nun! Look, look.” He was jumping up and down and laughing and so happy. I burst into tears! [Laughs] I was the one who started crying, and then he became worried because I was crying, so tears started running down his cheeks. The two of us were just a riot. We then spent the whole morning playing together and we had a great time running around. His attendant later told me he was a very quiet child, who usually didn’t play with strangers.

He had his own little seat with a table in front, where he would sit cross-legged. When people came he would just sit there, often for hours, and he wasn’t even three yet! He would bless them and give them food. His attendants said they hadn’t taught him this. When people left, he’d ask, “Have they gone?” They’d say, “Yes, Rinpoche,” and then he’d get down and start playing with his toys. When somebody else would come, he’d drop his toys and go and sit back down again. You can’t teach someone that, not at that age. There’s an inherent knowing what to do.

When you see these genuine incarnations when they’re tiny children, and see how much they already know, how much they remember, how much they are lamas, then you really have to believe in this whole tulku system. It’s not just training. If you see young tulkus when they’re with other young monks, it’s like in a Broadway show or something, where the main character is spotlighted and the others kind of fade into the background. You think, “Who is that tulku?” Because that’s all you see, even though they’re all dressed the same and they’re all the same age. It’s like the tulku is illumined. They don’t look like the other ones.

Why are they all boys?

I asked my lama that and he said that his sister, at the time of her birth, had more auspicious signs than he did. You know, Tibetans have a big thing about signs when the mother is pregnant and at the time of birth. He said, “My sister, when she was going to be born, had more signs than I did, and everyone got very excited. Then when it was a girl, they said, ‘Oops, mistake.’” Now if she had been a boy, they would have looked after her, sent her to a good monastery, tried to find out who she was, and so forth. She would have been properly trained and been able to benefit other beings. But because she was a girl—with the way things were in Tibet — she was nothing. She was ignored. She wasn’t educated. Instead, she was married off at the right time. He said this happened again and again. He said, therefore, because of the social culture of Tibet, it just didn’t make sense to come back as a girl. The only way girls could come back and actually have a chance was to be reborn in very high lama families. That way they could get education and training and eventually function as lamas. But ordinary women wouldn’t have that opportunity. Even as nuns they don’t have the opportunity because they’re not educated.

So were people mistaken about your lama’s sister?

No, I think it was a tulku trying to break the mould. But you can’t.

Do you think it will ever be broken?

Certainly in the Tibetan communities in exile, the girls are being educated the same as the boys. And now the nuns are being given the same kind of monastic education as the monks. So if there is someone with potential, hopefully it will flower and they will have the kind of training that will enable them to benefit others. But still, almost all the tulkus being born are men.

At Zen Mountain Monastery we are studying one of Master Dogen’s fascicles, Jinzu (Spiritual Power), and the whole sangha is wrestling with this right now. The question that Daido Roshi keeps putting to us is this: Layman Pang said that my wondrous functioning is chopping wood and carrying water. So the question is, what’s the difference between somebody who is chopping wood and carrying water as activity that needs to happen to keep the fire burning, and someone who does that as a realisation of spiritual power?

I think the difference is that when an ordinary person drinks tea, we just drink tea. When an enlightened being drinks tea, that being drinks tea from a state of recognised primordial awareness, and that’s very different. Someone once said to me, “How is that when you and I and drink coffee, we just drink coffee, and when Rinpoche drinks coffee, it’s Buddha activity?” It’s true. If you’re in the presence of a genuine master, without even doing anything the master affects you at a profound level. It’s natural, spontaneous activity. Buddha activity doesn’t mean radiating light and elevating yourself up a thousand feet in the air. That’s not the point. The point, as Zen is always saying, and Tibetans understand this very well also, is that every activity becomes perfect Buddha activity. And anyone sensitive feels that at a very profound level.

Do you think this kind of awareness is particularly difficult for Western students?

I think the problem with Western students is that they’re very ambitious. One needs to learn the path without the goal — the feeling that wherever you are, that’s where you are and, at that moment, it is a completely perfect place to be. Enjoy the flowers at your feet. Western Tibetan Buddhists are always looking out at the distant snow peaks and they lose sight of the flowers along the path. It’s Buddhahood or bust! Actually we’ve got countless lifetimes, so relax.

I would like to ask you about the Bodhisattva vow. You said in one of your talks that the only way the Bodhisattva ideal can work is if we have the understanding of many lifetimes. But if we say we have many lifetimes, can this lead to practitioners saying, “Well, I guess I don’t really need to work too hard”?

No, we have to work very hard at it, because this precious life is our opportunity. It’s important to realise that the coming together of so many forces at this time is very rare. We’re human beings, and that in itself is a rare opportunity. We are not one of the millions and millions of other beings that are not human. So here you are, you are a human being. You’re educated. You’re in a country where, despite everything, you do have the freedom to practice what you want to practice. You have met with the dharma. All these are very rare events.

If I were to say, “Forget it, I give up,” what might happen in my next lifetime?

Who knows where you would be reborn? If you lose interest in the dharma you might be reborn anywhere in the world, and not in a place where you are likely to meet with the dharma again. And then what? Then you’re completely off the path.

How is the dharma’s understanding of merit different from thinking that if I’m a good girl in this life, then I will go to heaven?

But we don’t want to go to heaven. We want to be reborn so that we can keep going and realise the dharma so as to benefit other beings endlessly. It’s a very different thing. We’re not collecting merit scores for ourselves. We’re making merit so that we can be reborn in a situation where we can really live to benefit others, and ourselves, again and again and again, more and more and more every time. We are in a position to deepen our understanding to be of genuine benefit to other beings.

What is your understanding of merit in terms of being a monastic or a layperson?

I think it’s a meritorious action to become a monk or a nun, provided that your motivation is pure. If you become a monastic because you think it’s an easy life, because you’re going to be fed and sheltered and people will respect you, then that is not a very meritorious motivation. If you become a monk or a nun because this will give you the freedom to study and practice and benefit both yourself and others, then that is a very meritorious action.

Do monastics accrue more merit than someone who decides to stay a layperson because she thinks she will benefit more beings working in a hospital, or a school?

I do think that when someone decides to devote oneself entirely to spiritual life, that that is more meritorious.

And working in the world with children, with people who are ill, you don’t see that as dharma activity?

It is dharma activity, but the problem is our inherent ignorance keeps us in samsara and unable to really, on a deep level, benefit ourselves and others. For example, some students went to Milarepa and said, “We should stop living in caves and meditating and instead go out and help beings as Bodhisattvas.” Milarepa replied that as long as space exists, so long will there be beings for you to help. First you have to help yourself. So, for example, say you wanted to be a doctor and you think to yourself, “I’ve got all these beings. They’re sick, they’re dying, and I’ve got to go out and help them.” Then you grab a bag full of scalpels and medicine and rush off. But even though your motivation is very pure, you end up harming beings because you don’t know what you’re doing. If you say, “No, I can’t take time to study, all these beings are dying, I’ve got to go out and help them,” your motivation is good but it lacks wisdom. However, if you take the time to really study how to be a proper doctor, then there are endless beings out there whom you could help.

So from a Buddhist point of view, the first thing is to help yourself, to get your own mind together, and to really understand how to benefit beings, not just on the physical level, but on all levels. Then there are endless beings you can benefit.

In terms of merit, what about the koan where Emperor Wu asked Bodhidharma, “What merit have I attained?” And Bodhidharma said, “No merit whatsoever”?

That’s from the point of view of emptiness, where there is neither merit nor no merit.

And so, what about that?

Yes, from the point of view of emptiness there is neither being nor non-being. But we’re not dealing with the point of view of emptiness; we’re dealing with the point of view of our relative being. Our relative being is what rules our relative world. So from the point of view of the relative world, merit is very important, because merit clears away obstacles. Why do some people, when they want to practice, keep coming up against problems and obstacles — inner and outer obstacles? It’s because of the lack of merit. Merit soothes things; it clears you. It’s like oil that gets things working nicely.

I feel I’ve had many incarnations since I was born thirty-five years ago. That is my understanding of rebirth — that it’s happening constantly.

That’s also true. We’re reborn every second, every moment. It’s on many levels.

And what about the feeling that I am not a completely different person than I was yesterday? Is that my delusion?

That is ego-clinging, yes. But on a relative level, you need to have a sense of identity; otherwise you’d fall apart, wouldn’t you? To be enlightened doesn’t mean you end up stupefied and unable to function.

So what does it mean?

[Sighs] To be completely enlightened means that you’re a Buddha. I don’t speak of enlightenment.

Has anybody been completely enlightened since the Buddha?

There are certain people who some think are enlightened. The problem with the word “enlightenment” is what you mean by it. A Zen master gave an example, which Huineng and others would have repudiated, but it explains what we mean by enlightened and enlightenment. It’s about using the mind as a mirror, and having dust. This is a good example because it shows what we’re talking about. If you put a little pin in the middle and you make a little space, a little circle, then the nature of the mirror shines through. Now you know the mind is not dust, that behind that dust there is this mirror like nature of the mind. If it’s a big enough hole, you might be so transfixed by the hole that you don’t notice the rest of the dust. So you think you’re enlightened. But as my lama said, when you realise the intrinsic nature of the mind, then you start to meditate. That’s not the end; it’s the beginning. It’s only when all the dust is gone from the mirror, and there is only mirror, that we’re really enlightened. So that’s a lot of work. Some people get very deep experiences and they think they’re enlightened. But that’s not enlightenment; that’s just some realisation. Realisation is wonderful, but you have to expand it until there’s not a single defilement left in the mind and the mind is completely open and spacious. Even in that condition, you still use the relative mind. The Buddha himself said, “I still use conceptual thinking, but I’m not formed by it.”

How do you think you have affected the world by re-entering after many years in retreat and sharing your knowledge with us?

I don’t think I’ve changed anything, but I hope that by my talks I have encouraged people in their practice. That’s as much as any of us can do. Most of the people I talk to are not going to go off and live in a cave. Why should they? So I talk about how people can stop separating dharma practice — going on retreats, going to dharma centres, hearing talks, reading books — from family and social life, which they consider ordinary, mundane activity. We need to transform those ordinary, daily activities into dharma practice, because otherwise nothing is going to move. It’s very important to realise that with the right attitude, a little awareness, and skillful means, we can transform everything — all our joys and sorrows. The dharma is every breath we take, every thought we think, every word we speak, if we do it with awareness and an open, caring heart.

Lotus 175.

So if we love someone, we should train in being able to listen. By listening with calm and understanding, we can ease the suffering of another person. An hour spent in this way can already relieve a great deal of another person’s pain.

— Thich Nhat Hanh

善良与软弱无关
学诚法师

《道德经》中说:“上士闻道,勤而行之;中士闻道,若存若亡;下士闻道,大笑之。不笑不足以为道。”明智的行为通常被愚者嘲笑,智者所喜。我们是希望成为智者之友,还是获得愚者之赞呢?

凡夫不坚定于善,就会被烦恼所黏缚。善法不可不执,但不能着相,菩萨无住生心,而非无心,是精深微妙的智慧境界。对于绝大多数人而言,最迫切需要解决的问题不是“执着”,而是不知道该追求什么、坚持什么。

有一种大胆叫鲁莽,有一种大胆叫勇敢;有一种胆小叫软弱,有一种胆小叫谨慎。胆大、胆小不是关键因素,有没有智慧才是最重要的:做每一件事情,都知道自己的目的、行为的善恶、当下的条件及做事的方法。

善良与软弱无关,相反,它是一种力量。软弱恰恰是因为善良的力量不足、不纯正、不坚定、不持久。要想令善的力量增长、强大,需要学习、实践,提升智慧。

能接受逆境,必定是内心有极为坚强的力量,“无欲则刚”;对欲望的追逐、与他人的攀比等,才是真正令我们软弱的原因。所以,如果内心强大,就不会随外境而转。觉得自己窝囊,是因为内心缺失宗旨而被动面对境界,无力控制局面,更无力控制自己的心。

善是自己愿意、欢喜去做利人助人之事,软弱是自己不得不去做不愿意做的事。工作中,自己能够做得到的,力所能及的帮助别人;做不到的,也没有必要强求承担。开发出自己的主观意识来,高高兴兴的行善助人,坦然明确的拒绝能力之外的事,做一个自信、善良、豁达的人。

对自己所走的路失去了信心,心就会抗拒、徘徊,行为就会软弱无力,一切看似合理的理由都是在找借口而已。我们做一件事,最重要的不是兴趣,而是意义。越是有意义的事情,困难会越多,这就要靠我们的愿力与智慧去面对,愿力决定始终,智慧决定成败。勿忘初心。

内心的阳光没有开发出来,就会胆怯、软弱。慢慢修行,用正知见、慈悲心来充实自己的内心,开发光明,渐渐就会无所畏惧。

忍辱不是软弱的表现,而是有力量和理智的表现。绝大多数人都误解了忍辱的意义,真正的忍辱是超越表面的逆境,升华内心的悲智,如烈火出真金。

善不一定就会被恶利用,如果善的力量足够强,就可以影响、转化恶的力量。善良无私不等于软弱可欺,真能做到无我,对境必有智慧。

佛教所说的忍辱与阿Q精神,外表有一部分相似,内涵却有云泥之别。前者是基于长远因果的智慧和内心调伏烦恼的力量,后者是愚痴的自我麻醉;前者清楚的知道自己的行为是为什么,能如何利益自他,后者是软弱无力的无奈之举。

善良若缺乏了正念,便会软弱无力,难以持久。正念,就是明白自己为什么要做这件事;善良若缺乏了智慧,便会处处矛盾,难以利他。智慧,就是明白每一个行为会带来什么结果。正念与智慧,都需要通过听闻佛法而慢慢培养、增长。而一个真正具足正念与智慧的人,必定会无条件的善良。

诿罪掠功乃小人事。若自己遇到不公平之境遇,便也效学成为无良无品之人,才是真的软弱无力;坚持自己做人的原则不仅不是懦弱,反而是一种力量。

软弱,是因为内心没有力量;没有力量,是因为没有方向、没有心量。反之,一个强大坚定的人,一定有清晰的目标,他不会总是被动地担忧别人的欺辱,而是主动去思考如何能够帮助到更多人。

没有正念支持的善念,是犹豫不决、软弱无力的,禁不起风吹雨打。自己的痛苦并不是源于善良,而是源于缺乏信心与正念。培养信心不易,但真正有信心,就会充满勇气,坦然平静,就会有真正的快乐。

君子争罪,路便越走越宽;小人争对,事却越办越难。很多时候,忍一时、退一步并非软弱,识得大体,不必在小处争利斗气。

向往美好、扬清涤浊之心人人有之,但决不能仅止于愤怒与悲伤。每个人都不是社会的旁观者,而是其中的一份子,改变世界,从改变自己开始。发大愿心,超越愤怒与悲伤,改变自己的冷漠和软弱,坚持自己的善良和勇气,用行动去改变,去建设。

让人们胆怯而软弱的,都是内心的妄想;心无挂碍,无有恐怖。

You are not here to change the world. The world is here to change you.

— Shantideva

The Wheel Of Existence
by Geshe Sonam Rinchen

The Buddha’s supreme disciples Shariputra and Maudgalyayana are said to have visited various otherworldly realms, including the hell realms. On their return they described six states of existence to the Buddha’s followers and spoke about the four noble truths, explaining the process of taking rebirth in a way that made a profound impact on their listeners. The Buddha knew that they would not always be present to do this, so he arranged for images depicting this process — the twelve links of dependent arising — to be painted in the porches of temples. In each temple a monk was given the task of explaining these paintings and their import to those who were interested. Even today many Tibetan temples contain an image of the wheel of existence painted on the walls at the entrance.

In this depiction, the twelve links are shown as part of the wheel or circle of existence, which is held by the Lord of Death, who appears as an ogre. He grips the wheel with the long claws of his front and hind paws, holding it against his belly and chest. The top of the wheel is in his mouth. At the hub are three creatures: a pig, a bird, and a snake, denoting ignorance, desire, and anger, respectively. They are at the centre of the wheel because these three main disturbing emotions are the primary causes that keep us in cyclic existence.

The snake and the bird seem to be coming out of the pig’s mouth because ignorance is the principal of these three disturbing states of mind.

The wheel is divided into sections of which the three lower ones show the realms of hell beings, hungry spirits, and animals. These segments signify the suffering of pain. There are three upper sections representing the human realm, the abodes of the gods belonging to the desire realm, and those of the gods belonging to the form realm. The first two represent the suffering of change, while the latter represents the pervasive suffering of conditioning.

The different kinds of suffering have been caused by contaminated actions underlain by the disturbing emotions. To show how this happens, the twelve links of dependent arising — ignorance, formative action, consciousness, name and form, the six sources, contact, feeling, craving, grasping, existence, birth, and ageing and death — are painted around the rim of the wheel.

The scenes within each section show what living beings experience in that particular kind of rebirth. The fact that the Lord of Death holds the wheel of existence in his mouth signifies impermanence and that everything is subject to transience. Up above is the moon, symbolising the third noble truth, true cessation of suffering. Below that is the Buddha pointing to this moon to remind us that he has shown us the path to liberation and has taught the four truths in an unerring way. His presence is a sign that we cannot reach freedom without understanding what needs to be practised and what must be avoided. For this we depend on him and our spiritual teachers, who communicate to us what he taught. At the bottom of the painting there are usually some lines explaining the process that keeps us in cyclic existence and how that process can be reversed. These lines indicate the key insights that we need to gain while we practice the fourth noble truth, the true paths.

In paintings of the wheel of existence certain images are traditionally used to symbolise each of the twelve links, though these may vary.

(1) The initial ignorance that starts the whole process off each time is shown as a blind old woman. She is not only unable to see what lies before her but wanders around lost. This illustrates how our inability to understand reality causes us to wander powerlessly through the three states of existence — the desire, form, and formless realms.

(2) Formative action is a potter making pots and also sometimes the potter’s wheel. The potter turns the wheel and produces different kinds of pots. Formative action is of different kinds — virtuous, non-virtuous, and unfluctuating. These actions result in the different kinds of rebirth.

(3) Consciousness is a monkey in a house with six windows through which the monkey looks out. These windows symbolise our six faculties, through which we experience pleasure and pain.

(4) Name and form are a boat which conveys the idea of travelling from one life to another. This link is also sometimes represented by a tripod covered with cloth, like a shelter we might make on a hot day. The tripod cannot balance on two legs but needs all three to stand. The three are interdependent. Similarly the five aggregates that make up name and form are interdependent and cannot exist on their own. Moreover, the existence of the person depends on them. When we think about this, it helps us to understand lack of independence and to gain a correct understanding of reality — that things are empty of inherent existence and are all dependently existent.

(5) The six sources are an empty house or empty town. Sometimes from the outside a house appears to be inhabited, but when we enter it, we realise it is empty. The empty house indicates that in the womb the different faculties gradually develop, but consciousness is not yet functioning in conjunction with them. The mental faculty is present from the outset, but the other five faculties develop as the fetus grows. They are unable to experience their objects until the link of contact occurs. The empty house also stands for selflessness. The six faculties come into being through the force of past actions, but they are not the objects of use or possessions of an intrinsically existent self.

(6) Contact is a couple engaged in sexual union. To have intercourse their bodies must touch. For contact to occur, an object of perception, a faculty, and a consciousness must come together.

(7) Feeling is a person whose eye is pierced by an arrow. Just as we would feel intense pain the moment that happened, so when the quality of an object is discerned, pleasurable, painful, or neutral sensations or feelings immediately follow.

(8) Craving is a person drinking beer. Alcoholics never feel satisfied no matter how much they drink. On the contrary, their craving for alcohol simply increases. They will drink away their wealth, property, and possessions. Similarly desire keeps growing. We crave different kinds of feelings and wish not to be separated from pleasurable ones, to be free from unpleasant and painful ones as quickly as possible, and for neutral feelings not to decline. Craving keeps growing and makes us perform all kinds of negative actions that bring us suffering.

(9) Grasping is a monkey sitting in a tree full of ripe fruit. While it eats one fruit, it is already reaching out to take another. It is consumed by greed and cannot be satisfied. Grasping is reaching out for the aggregates of the next life.

(10) Existence is a woman who is nine months pregnant and whose baby is fully grown in the womb, about to be born. Existence occurs when the imprint of a former action has been fully activated through craving and grasping and everything is ready to produce the next rebirth.

(11) Birth is a woman holding her newly born child, while (12) ageing and death are shown as someone who is no longer young carrying a corpse.

The usual way in which the twelve links are enumerated, which emphasise the relationships between the links, differs from the order in which they actually occur. The first three links begin the process. Then the eighth, ninth, and tenth occur, followed by the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh. The eleventh occurs simultaneously with the fourth and marks the point of conception. Regarding the twelfth link, ageing begins the moment after conception and thus inevitably precedes death.

Most of us have not done much philosophical speculation about our own origins or those of the world but we do hold some hazy ideas about what is responsible for our experiences of suffering or happiness. Usually we attribute them to external factors and circumstances or we may go a little beyond our everyday material world and attribute them to spirit influences, the phases of the moon, the astrological position of constellations, and so forth. Many people regard misfortune as some kind of punishment. The Buddha encouraged us to look within and think more deeply about what is responsible for our present condition. He pointed out that as long as we continue to be born as a result of our ignorance and the compulsive actions which stem from it, we cannot escape the many kinds of physical and mental suffering that are their inevitable consequence.

Wheel Of Life 11