本来面目
文|刘先和

本来面目一词是佛教修持中的一个常用语,是指人之自性,生命的本性,亦即佛性。这个本来面目人人具足,然从古到今能亲见者为数并不多,为什么?释迦牟尼佛一语道破:“原来众生实平等无异,皆有佛性,能入佛不可思议解脱之境,如今却被愚痴妄想所盖,不见自性真心,恒作种种颠倒执着,以致轮转生死海中,受大苦恼,久不能出,真是可怜可惜!”众生与佛的根本差别就在于此,见本来面目者,佛;未见本来面目者,众生。

因为学佛修持才知道这个道理,一旦亲见本来面目生命就获得解脱,具有大智大慧,就彻底了知自然与生命的一切奥秘,即成佛道,于是无数佛法修持者一生都竭尽全力在找生命的本来面目。然不知,若是找,永远也找不到。因为以妄找妄,终生在妄中打转,与本来面目无缘。六祖惠能对此一针见血地指出:“离道别觅道,终身不见道。波波度一生,到头还自懊”。故而找本来面目这一方法乃是佛法修持中的一大忌。

另有不少人想见本来面目不用找的方法,而是求。求菩萨,求佛,在他们看来生命的本来面目在菩萨那里,在佛那里,只要一心磕头,烧香跪拜求菩萨,求佛就可以从佛菩萨那里得到本来面目。殊不知,这不仅是妄想,还有几分迷信。六祖对此指出:“佛向性中求,莫向身外求。”故而求这一法,也是个修持中的一大忌。

还要一类人,他们深知本来面目人人具有这个理,故而知道本来面目不用找,不用求,就躺在这个理上,终身受用这个理,靠这个理说教一生,吃佛饭。一生被佛理转,被佛经转。对 此六祖指出:“口诵心行,即是转经。口诵心不行,即是被经转。”这种人虽通佛理然不行证,终身也只是在佛门外绕圈子。

到底如何才是亲见本来面目的正信之法,六祖悟道后第一次向人说法时说得十分明朗:“不思善,不思恶,正与么时,那个是明上座本来面目。”这“不思”就是禅宗一向主张的“歇即菩提。”方法如此之简单,然人们就是歇不下来,不是思善就是思恶,心无安宁之时。六祖这一教导,既有理又含行,通此理还得行此证,方有佛果。

如何亲见本来面目,佛在《金刚经》经中也向众生教了一大绝招,即:“应无所住而生其 心。”六祖就是听师说经,当听到这一句时大悟佛法。应无所住,这道理太直白、太简单了,几乎简单得不能再简单了,然众生怎么也做不到,妄心不是被外境所动就是被内缘所牵。懂了理又做不到,这就说明懂理还得行证。

见本来面目的方法如此之简单,然而我们就是做不到,其根本原因是什么?这是个大问 题,是修持人必须认识的首要问题。其因就在于我们根器太小、太劣。小就小在业障太深,劣就劣在习气太重。故虚云和尚说:“讲起办道,诸佛菩萨只叫除习气,有习气就是众生,无习气就是圣贤”。这段教诲告诉我们,佛法的修持着力点是在于除习气。

要除习气必须做到两点:一是消业;二是不造业。如何消业,方法有两个,即:用觉悟消;用忏悔消。佛在《金刚经》中说:“若善男子。善女人。受持读诵此经。若为人轻贱。是人先世罪业。应堕恶道。以今世人轻贱故。先世罪业即为消灭。当得阿耨多罗三藐三菩提。” 对于如何消业,六祖说:“今与汝等授无相忏悔,灭三世罪,令得三业清净。善知识!各随语一时道:弟子等从前念、今念及后念,念念不被愚迷染;从前所有恶业愚迷等罪,悉皆忏悔,愿一时消灭,永不复起。弟子等从前念、今念及后念,念念不被骄诳染;从前所有恶业骄诳等罪,悉皆忏悔,愿一时消灭,永不复起。弟子等从前念、今念及后念,念念不被嫉妒染:从前所有恶业嫉妒等罪,悉皆忏悔,愿一时消灭,永不复起。”受持读诵佛经,行无相忏悔如何就能消业呢?这是一个必须明白的问题。习气是一种能量,是业的能量,然一个人因为读佛经有了觉悟,这个觉悟同样是一种能量,一种智慧的能量,一种觉醒的能量。恰如一个人身处黑暗时,突然见到光明,原来的黑暗还在吗!同理无相忏悔也是一种能量,是一种正能量,既然具有正能量,一切邪恶自然无存。故六祖说:“但向心中除罪缘,名自性中真忏悔。忽悟大乘真忏悔,除邪行正即无罪。”

如何能不造业,尤其不造令生命受束缚的业呢?众所周知,一切业都是生命的身、口、意所造。要不造业就得不贪、不痴、不嗔。如今我们身处末法时期,最大习气就是贪。贪五蕴受用,贪一切现代物质文明所带来的生活福利。以饮食为例,饮食本是为了生命的生存所需,如佛在《佛遗教经》中所言:“汝等比丘,受诸饮食,当如服药。于好于恶,勿持增减。趣得支身,以除饥渴。”然而我们世人将饮食作为一种享受,一种世间乐趣,以“饮食文化”、“饮食营养”等名,而吃遍海、陆、空种种生物,以此满足自己妄心所欲。由此增生六道轮回的业 障,人类的共业所作,也为人类自身增添无数灾难。对此我们必得加大佛法修持,解脱我们对物欲的纠缠和依恋,去除贪婪,并以脱贪为首去除贪、嗔、痴三毒,才是唯一的出离之路。

六祖在向弟子们讲述何名清净法身佛时曾教导说:“世人性本清净,万法从自性生。思量一切恶事,即生恶行;思量一切善事,即生善行。如是诸法,在自性中,如天常清,日月常明,为浮云盖覆,上明下暗,忽遇风吹云散,上下俱明,万象皆现。世人性常浮游,如彼天云。善知识!智如日,慧如月,智慧常明,于外着境,被妄念浮云盖覆,自性不得明朗。 若遇善知识,闻真正法,自除迷妄,内外明彻,于自性中,万法皆现,见性之人,亦复如是,此名清净法身佛。”这就是见本来面目之途,故六祖又说:“学道常于自性观,即与诸佛同一类;吾祖惟传此顿法,普愿见性同一体。”见本来面目的理义与方法佛陀都讲得十分透彻,余下的全靠我们自己。

愿天下一切有缘人都亲见本来面目!

The Absolute is not an object of the mind. It is beyond mind. It cannot be understood by the mind. It is incomprehensible.

— Shantideva

Directly Experience the Nature of Mind

by Thrangu Rinpoche

The two meditation practices of shamatha and vipashyana each have their place within Mahamudra practice, but they do not have the same objective. Shamatha’s aim is temporary, immediate. When our minds are disturbed or restless, they are not at peace. Cultivating the settled state of shamatha, we find that we are able to be more steady, more tranquil. That is the purpose of shamatha. Shamatha is not sufficient unto itself to attain enlightenment, but it is a support for Mahamudra practice and is therefore imperative.

What then is vipashyana, which literally means “clear seeing,” in the context of Mahamudra? First of all, we have bewildered ourselves into samsara. During this confused state, we do not see clearly the true nature of things, what reality is. The practice of vipashyana develops the ability to see clearly the actual state of affairs, to see the basic condition of what is. Training in vipashyana eliminates negative emotions and clarifies our lack of knowing, our ignorance. It also deepens our insight and wisdom.

Right now, while adrift on samsara’s ocean, we are confused about what is real, about the nature of things. In this state, there are many worries and a lot of fear and uneasiness. To be free of these we need to be free of the bewilderment and confusion. When you are free of confusion, the uneasiness, worry and fear evaporate all by themselves. For example, if there is a rope lying on the ground and someone mistakes it for a poisonous snake, he will be frightened. He worries about the snake and it creates a lot of anxiety. This uneasiness continues until he discovers that it is actually not a snake, but simply a rope. It was merely a mistake. The moment we realise the rope is just a rope, not a snake, our uneasiness, fear and anxiety disappear. In the same way, upon seeing the natural state of what is, all the suffering, fear and confused worries that we are so engrossed in will disappear. The focal point of vipashyana training is seeing what is real.

THE PATHS OF REASONING AND DIRECT PERCEPTION 

The pivotal difference between the path of reasoning and the path of direct perception is whether our attention faces out, away from itself, or whether the mind faces itself, looking into itself. The path of reasoning is always concerned with looking at something “out there.” It examines using the power of reason until we are convinced that what we are looking at is by nature empty, devoid of an independent identity. Whether on a coarse or subtle level, it is definitely empty. However, no matter how long and how thoroughly we convince ourselves that things are by nature empty, every time we stub our toe on something it hurts. We are still obstructed; we cannot move our hands straight through things, even though we understand their emptiness. The path of reasoning alone does not dissolve the mental habitual tendency to experience a solid reality that we have developed over beginningless lifetimes.

It is not that a particular practice transforms the five aggregates — forms, sensations, perceptions, formations and consciousnesses — into emptiness. Instead it is a matter of acknowledging how all phenomena are empty by nature. This is how the Buddha taught in the sutras. A person presented with such a teaching may often understand the words and trust the teachings, but personally he does not experience that that is how it really is. Nagarjuna kindly devised the Middle Way techniques of intellectual reasoning in order to help us understand and gain conviction. By analysing the five aggregates one after the other, one eventually is convinced, “Oh, it really is true! All phenomena actually are empty by nature!”

While we use many tools to reach such an understanding, the reasoning of dependent origination is very simple to understand. For example, when standing on one side of a valley you say that you stand on “this” side, and across the valley is the “other” side. However, if you walk across the valley you will again describe it as “this” side, though it was the “other” side before. In the same way, when comparing a short object to a longer one, we agree that one is shorter and the other longer. Nevertheless, that is not fixed because if you compare the longer one to something even longer, it is then the shorter one. In other words, it is impossible to pin down a reality for such values; they are merely labels or projections created by our own minds.

We superimpose labels onto temporary gatherings of parts, which in themselves are only other labels superimposed on a further gathering of smaller parts. Each thing only seems to be a singular entity. It appears as if we have a body and that there are material things. Yet, just because something appears to be, because something is experienced, does not mean that it truly exists. For example, if you gaze at the ocean when it is calm on a clear night you can see the moon and stars in it. But if you sent out a ship, cast nets and tried to gather up the moon and stars, would you be able to? No, you would find that there is nothing to catch. That is how it is: things are experienced and seem to be, while in reality they have no true existence. This quality of being devoid of true existence is, in a word, emptiness. This is the approach of using reasoning to understand emptiness.

Using reasoning is not the same as seeing the emptiness of things directly and is said to be a longer path. Within the framework of meditation, the intellectual certainty of thinking that all things really are emptiness is not a convenient method of training; it takes a long time. That is why the Prajnaparamita scriptures mention that a Buddha attains true and complete enlightenment after accumulating merit over three incalculable eons. Yet, the Vajrayana teachings declare that in one body and one lifetime you can reach the unified level of a vajra-holder; in other words, you can attain complete enlightenment in this very life. Though they would appear to contradict each other, both statements are true. If one uses reasoning and accumulates merit alone, it does take three incalculable eons to reach true and complete enlightenment. Nevertheless, by having the nature of mind pointed out to you directly and taking the path of direct perception, you can reach the unified level of a vajra-holder within this same body and lifetime.

Taking direct perception as the path, using actual insight, is the way of the mind looking into itself. Instead of looking outward, one turns the attention back upon itself. Often we assume that mind is a powerful and concrete “thing” we walk around with inside. But in reality it is just an empty form. When looking into it directly to see what it is, we do not need to think of it as being empty and infer emptiness through reasoning. It is possible to see the emptiness of this mind directly. Instead of merely thinking of it, we can have a special experience — an extraordinary experience — and discover, “Oh, yes, it really is empty!” It is no longer just a conclusion we postulate. We see it clearly and directly. This is how the great masters of India and Tibet reached accomplishment.

Instead of inferring the emptiness of external phenomena through reasoning, the Mahamudra tradition taught by Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa and Milarepa shows us how to directly experience emptiness as an actuality. Since we habitually perceive external objects as always having concrete existence, we do not directly experience them as being empty of true existence. It is not very practical to become convinced of the emptiness of external objects such as mountains, houses, walls, trees, and so forth. Instead, we should look into our own mind. When we truly see our mind’s nature, we find it has no concrete identity whatsoever. This is the main point of using direct perception: look directly into your own mind, see in actuality that it is empty, and then continue training in that.

This mind, the perceiver, does experience a variety of moods. There are feelings of being happy, sad, exhilarated, depressed, angry, attached, jealous, proud or close-minded; sometimes one feels blissful, sometimes clear or without thoughts. A large variety of different feelings can occupy this mind. However, when we use the instructions and look into what the mind itself really is, it is not very difficult to directly perceive the true nature of mind. Not only is it quite simple to do, but it is extremely beneficial as well.

We usually believe that all of these different moods are provoked by a material cause in the external environment, but this is not so. All of these states are based on the perceiver, the mind itself. Therefore, look into this mind and discover that it is totally devoid of any concrete identity. You will see that the mental states of anger or attachment, all the mental poisons, immediately subside and dissolve — and this is extremely beneficial.

To conclude this section, I will restate my previous point. On the one hand, we hear that to awaken to true and complete enlightenment, it is necessary to perfect the accumulations of merit through three incalculable eons. Then on the other hand, we hear that it is possible to attain the unified level of a vajra-holder within this same body and lifetime. These two statements appear to contradict one another. Truthfully, there is no way one could be enlightened in one lifetime if one had to gather accumulations of merit throughout three incalculable eons. However, if one could be enlightened in a single lifetime then there seems to be no need to perfect the accumulation of merit throughout three incalculable eons. Actually, both are right in that it does take a very long time if one takes the path of reasoning. Whereas it is possible to attain enlightenment within a single lifetime if one follows the tradition of the pith instructions, using direct perception as the path.

ESTABLISHING THE IDENTITY OF MIND AND THE VARIOUS PERCEPTIONS 

It should be clear now that our use of the term vipashyana refers to direct perception. To attain this direct perception, we must undertake two tasks: first, gain certainty about the identity of mind; second, gain certainty about the identity of mind’s expression, which includes thought and perceptions. Put another way, we need to investigate three aspects: mind, thought and perception.

The first of these — mind — is when one is not involved in any thoughts, neither blatant thought states nor subtle ones. Its ongoing sense of being present is not interrupted in any way. This quality is called cognisance, or salcha in Tibetan. Salcha means there is a readiness to perceive, a readiness to think, to experience, that does not simply disappear. Since we do not turn to stone or into a corpse when we are not occupied by thinking, there must be an ongoing continuity of mind, an ongoing cognisance.

Next are thoughts, or namtok. There are many different types of thoughts, some subtle, like ideas or assumptions, and others quite strong, like anger or joy. We may think that mind and thoughts are the same, but they are not.

The third one, perceptions, or nangwa, actually has two aspects. One is the perception of so-called external objects through seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touch. Let us set those aside for the time being, though, as they are not the basis for the training at this point. The other aspect of perception deals with what occurs to the sixth consciousness: mental images. These mental impressions are not perceived through the senses but somehow occur to the mind in the form of memories, something imagined or thought of. Nevertheless, each of these mental impressions feels as if it is sight, sound, smell, taste or texture. Usually, we do not pay attention to any of this — it just happens and we are caught up in it; for example, when we are daydreaming or fantasising.

It is important to become clear about what mind, thoughts and perceptions actually are — not in a theoretical way but in actuality. In the past, we may not have paid much attention to mind’s way of being when not occupied with thoughts or perceptions. We may not have looked into what the mind itself — that which experiences or perceives — actually consists of and, therefore, we may not be certain of it. When there are thoughts, mental images or perceptions, the usual habit is simply to lose control and be caught up in the show. We continually get absorbed in what is going on, instead of taking a good, clear look at the perceiving mind. We tend not to be aware that we are thinking or daydreaming; we tend to be in a rather vague, hazy state. Meditation training lets these thoughts and mental images become quite vivid. They can become as clear as day. At this point, we should take a good look and in an experiential way personally establish what their actual nature or identity is.

We use the word examine repeatedly. When you establish the nature of things by means of reason, examining refers to intellectual analysis; but that is not what we are talking about now. Unlike an intellectual investigation, examining should be understood as simply looking at how things actually are.

ESTABLISHING THE IDENTITY OF MIND — THE BASIS 

The Mahamudra sense of vipashyana does not mean to examine concepts, but to look into what the mind actually is, namely a sense of being awake and conscious, continuously present and very clear. Whenever we do look, no matter when, we cannot help but discover that mind has no form, colour or shape — none at all. Then we may wonder, “Does that mean that there is no mind? Does the mind not exist?” If there were no consciousness in the body, the body would be a corpse. Yet we can see and hear, and we can understand what we are reading — so we are not dead, that’s for sure. The truth is that while mind is empty — it has no shape, colour or form — it also has the ability to cognise; it has a knowing quality. The fact is that these two aspects, being empty and able to know, are an indivisible unity.

Mind does exist as a continuing presence of cognisance. We are not suddenly extinct because there are no thoughts; there is something ongoing, a quality of being able to perceive. What exactly is this mind? What does it look like? If mind exists, then in what mode does it exist? Does the mind have a particular form, shape, colour and so forth? We should simply take a close look at what it is that perceives and what it looks like, then try to find out exactly what it is.

The second question is, where is this mind, this perceiver, located? Is it inside or outside of the body? If outside, then exactly where? Is it in any particular object? If it is in the body, then exactly where? Does it pervade throughout the body — head, arms, legs, etc.? Or is it in a particular part — the head or torso, the upper part or the lower part? In this way, we investigate until we become clear about the exact shape, location and nature of this perceiving mind. Then if we do not actually find any entity or location, we may conclude that mind is empty. There are different ways in which something can be empty. It could simply be absent, in the sense that there is no mind. However, we have not totally disappeared; we still perceive and there is still some experience taking place, so you cannot say that mind is simply empty. Though this mind is empty it is still able to experience. So what is this emptiness of mind?

By investigating in this way, we do not have to find something that is empty or cognisant or that has a shape, colour or location. That is not the point. The point is simply to investigate and see it for what it is — however that might be. Whether we discover that the perceiver is empty, cognisant or devoid of any concreteness, it is fine. We should simply become clear about how it is and be certain — not as a theory, but as an actual experience.

If we look for a perceiver, we won’t find one. We do think, but if we look into the thinker, trying to find that which thinks, we do not find it. Yet, at the same time, we do see and we do think. The reality is that seeing occurs without a seer and thinking without a thinker. This is just how it is; this is the nature of the mind. The Heart Sutra sums this up by saying that “form is emptiness,” because whatever we look at is, by nature, devoid of true existence. At the same time, emptiness is also form, because the form only occurs as emptiness. Emptiness is no other than form and form is no other than emptiness. This may appear to apply only to other things, but when applied to the mind, the perceiver, one can also see that the perceiver is emptiness and emptiness is also the perceiver. Mind is no other than emptiness; emptiness is no other than mind. This is not just a concept; it is our basic state.

The reality of our mind may seem very deep and difficult to understand, but it may also be something very simple and easy because this mind is not somewhere else. It is not somebody else’s mind. It is your own mind. It is right here; therefore, it is something that you can know. When you look into it, you can see that not only is mind empty, it also knows; it is cognisant. All the Buddhist scriptures, their commentaries and the songs of realisation by the great siddhas express this as the “indivisible unity of emptiness and cognisance,” or “undivided empty perceiving,” or “unity of empty cognisance.” No matter how it is described, this is how our basic nature really is. It is not our making. It is not the result of practice. It is simply the way it has always been.

The trouble is that for beginningless lifetimes we have been so occupied with other things that we have never really paid any attention to it — otherwise we would have already seen that this is how it is. Now, due to favorable circumstances, you are able to hear the Buddha’s words, read the statements made by sublime beings, and receive a spiritual teacher’s guidance. As you start to investigate how the mind is, when you follow their advice, you can discover how mind really is.

ESTABLISHING THE IDENTITY OF THOUGHTS AND PERCEPTIONS — THE EXPRESSION

Having briefly covered establishing the identity of mind, we will now discuss establishing the identity of thoughts and perceptions, which are the expressions of mind. Though empty of any concrete identity, mind’s unobstructed clarity does manifest as thoughts and perceptions.

Thoughts can be of many types and, in this context, include emotions. The Abhidharma teachings give a list known as the fifty-one mental events. You may have noticed thangka paintings depicting Vajrayogini wearing a garland of fifty-one freshly cut-off heads to illustrate the need to immediately sever any obvious thoughts that arise. Blatant thoughts include hate, obsessive attachment, compassion and moods such as feeling hazy or very clear. When these arise, either on their own or by us provoking them in order to have something to investigate, we do not need to analyse why we are angry. Instead, immediately upon the arising of a strong thought or emotion, look into where it is, what its identity is and what it is made of. Also, when it arises you should try to find the direction it came from, and when it subsides, where it goes. Whether it is a thought, emotion, feeling or mood, the principle is the same: look into where it comes from, where it abides and where it goes. By investigating in this way, you will find that no real “thing” came from anywhere. Right now the feeling, thought or emotion does not remain anywhere, nor does it actually exist in any concrete way, and, finally, no “thing” actually disappears.

No matter what the thought or emotion may be, we should look into it. But we will fail to find any “thing” — we can’t find where it is, what it looks like or what it is made of.

This failure is neither because we are incapable of looking nor because we have been unsuccessful in finding it, but simply because any movement of the mind is empty of a concrete identity. There is no substance to it, whether it is anger, fear, joy or sorrow — all are merely empty movements of the mind. We discover that looking into thoughts is no different from looking into the quiet mind. The identity of calm mind is empty cognisance and when we look into a thought movement, we also see an empty cognisance. The great masters of the past phrased it like this: “Look into the quiet mind when quiet and look into the moving mind when moving.” We discover that mind and thoughts — the basis and the expression — have the same identity: empty cognisance.

The same holds true for sensory perceptions and memories. The Buddhist teachings define two aspects of reality: relative truth and ultimate truth. From the relative point of view, we cannot deny that there are mental images and memories, but from the point of view of the ultimate truth, we are forced to admit that they do not exist. This appears to be a contradiction. However, while experientially such images do occur to us, when we investigate what they really are, there is no thing to find, no location for them, and no identity or substance from which they are made.

You might wonder what is the use of understanding that our thoughts and perceptions are all by nature empty of any concrete identity. Sometimes we get so happy. It feels so wonderful and we love it; we cling wholeheartedly to whatever we experience or whatever we think of. At other times it is very painful and we feel like we can’t take it. This is simply due to attaching some solid identity to our thoughts and perceptions. These experiences are not so overwhelming once we clearly see the reality of these thoughts and perceptions — that their identity is not real or concrete. They become much lighter and do not weigh us down so much anymore. That is the immediate benefit. The lasting benefit is that our experience and understanding of the natural state of mind becomes clearer and clearer, more and more stable.

In this method, we do not become clear about what mind, thoughts and mental impressions are by intellectually building a theory of what they must be like and then forcing our experience to agree with our preconceived ideas. Instead, we go about it in an experiential way. We simply allow mind, thoughts or mental perceptions to be whatever they are and then look at them, investigate them. With no need to maintain any set notions about how they must be and forcing them to fit such a description, simply take a close look at the situation as it is. This is neither very complicated nor strenuous, because you are not looking into something other, but rather into this very mind that you already have right here. All you need to do is look at what it actually is. You do not have to imagine any inaccessible thoughts; simply look at your available thoughts and emotions, investigate where they are and what they are made of. The same goes for any mental impressions — simply investigate what they are as they occur. That is the training. Please spend some time giving mind, thoughts and mental impressions a close look and establish some certainty about what they actually are.

Here we have dealt with establishing the identity of mind, thoughts and mental impressions. We could have decided that mind, thoughts and mental impressions are empty, or perhaps not empty. Either way, in the context of Mahamudra training, one should not create any ideas about them. Instead, one should get to know them as they are, without any concepts as handles, by simply looking closely into them. One should not try to infer their nature, but rather see what the nature of mind, thoughts and perceptions actually is through direct experience. When we speak of “establishing their nature” or “cutting through misconceptions about mind, thoughts and perceptions,” therefore, we are referring to attaining clarity or certainty through personal experience. It means to see for ourselves, without any preconceived ideas.

The humanity witnessed, during the 20th century, events and catastrophes unprecedented at any other time. It pushed entire living beings on planet earth to the threshold of annihilation. The boundless hopes and expectations given to the humanity by advancement of science and technology were blown up by human greed beyond belief. On the other hand, violence, destruction, population explosion, ever increasing gap between haves and haves not, environment degradation, civilisational conflict etc. are threatening the very existence of living beings. The modern science and technology does not offer any effective recourse to these challenges. In a global scenario such as this, to stick to a firm righteous way of life appears to me the greatest achievement of an individual life.

— 5th Samdhong Rinpoche, Lobsang Tenzin

佛教所说的“因果”论有哪些特点
演培法师

佛法所说的因果法则,是遍通一切的,就是宇宙间的万事万物,大至整个世界,小至一粒微尘,无不笼罩在因果的关系网中,没有因果关系的,可说一法也没有。不但佛法是这样讲,就是世人也有说到,世间一切法,各各有其因果。佛法虽纵横的广谈因果,但佛法是以有情生命为说明的中心,所以一论及因果时,总是侧重于有情所造的善恶因果,因为有了有情,自然就有世界,而且世界的清净或染污,完全系于有情业力的染净。如说:“世间为‘有情业力’所成的,为有情存在的必然形态,如有色即有空。所以虽差别而说为有情与世间,而实是有情的世间,总是从有情去说明世间”。

佛法所说的因果,既以有情为主体,而人类又为有情的中心,所以佛法所说的因果律,特别注重人类思想行为的因果法则,亦即是要人类有情,在这现实世间,如何做个好人,而时刻的注意自己的思想行为的活动,不要让他向不道德的方面发展。因此,我们起个念头,或者发一行为,就得想想这是否有益于自己或社会人群?假定出发于正确思想而采取的良善行为活动,就不妨循着这个路线走去,不然的话,损人而不利己,就不应当去做。所以吾人行为的或善或恶,既不是神意的规定,亦不是宿命的安排,更不是机运如此,而是由自己内心的选择,要怎样的去做,就怎样去做的,造因既可听由自己的选择,则为善为恶当然要由自己负责,而所受的苦乐自亦无用怨天尤人!

佛法的因果律,前面说过,异常的广泛。如以十法界说,六凡法界的众生,固然没有不在因果律中,造不同的因,受不同的果,就是出世的四圣法界,亦无不是由因果律而如此的。如说修四圣谛为因,而得声闻道果,修十二因缘为因,而得缘觉道果等。于十法界中,佛法是以佛法界为最高的,但崇高而伟大的佛陀,亦不能超越因果律的范围以外。我们常说:佛是真理的体悟者,自由的实现者,具有无量无边不可思议的殊胜功德,但这不是无因无缘自然得来的,而是经过长时期修持以及度化众生所得的结果。佛不特不能超越因果,亦复不能改变因果,所以神教者说有超越于因果关系之外的大神,当然为佛法所不能承认,而予以种种破斥了。

佛法所说的因果法则,还有一个最大的特色,就是因果通于三世的,不同有些学派,只承认有现在,不谈过去未来,或者说有现在与未来的二世因果,而不推论过去,这都不能开显因果的真实性。唯有通于三世的因果,在时间上如环之无端的无始无终,始能究竟的说明因果实相。如以吾人现实生命果报体为中心,这生命报体,是由过去的业力之所招感的,过去的行业或善或恶,影响现在生命的或苦或乐,即此苦乐的果报,又复表现各种行为的活动,创造新业以感未来的生命,未来生命的是好是不好,完全是看现在行为的表现是善是恶,所以吾人现在的一切行为活动,对于未来的新生命,有着很大的关系,不可稍为有点大意,而应积极的努力向善,以求获得美满的新生命!

因为因果通于三世,所以生命循环不息,在循环不息中,要想找个生命的开始,却又是绝对找不到的,所以佛法说为无始生命的狂流。众生于生命不息的奔放中,不能没有它的行为活动,有了行为的活动,就构成业力存在,其存在的业力,必然要感果的,若不感果,必然是造了其他业力混和其问,或者别造其他强有力的业因,使此所造之因应感之果,暂时不得生起。世人不了解这点,或以一时的得失,而疑因果无凭,或以愚迷的看法,以为报应有爽。这都是对于因果信心的不够,假定能够对于因果深信不疑,不但不会生起这样的疑念,而且一定会积极的去创造善因,和集善缘,以期生于善果。因此,在这世间做人,应本现前活泼泼的一念心,自由抉择所当行的善行。

All kinds of variety, lovely flowers in bloom, a golden palace gleaming and delightful, even such as these have no ultimate creator, they are imputed by the power of thought, the whole world is imputed by the power of thought.

— The Buddha, Sūtra Requested by Upāli

A Reign of Goodness
by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

I’ve just finished writing a book called Ruling Your World. Although I drew from ancient texts and teachings, I wanted to write about how we live right now. Speed rules us. Entertainment and consumption have diluted our sense of dignity and decency. Our days and nights are full of distraction. Under such conditions it is easy to be fooled into thinking that life is only about accomplishing short-term goals for short-term satisfaction, based on keeping “me” happy. But when we’re each saving the last piece of pie for ourselves, we are constantly undermining the possibility of true stability and happiness.

Trying to achieve happiness without understanding the cause of happiness is like looking through the wrong end of the binoculars — happiness doesn’t get bigger and closer, it gets smaller and further away. When we are bewildered about the source of happiness, we act in ways that bring more confusion and chaos into our life. Aggression, greed, and fear become our language. Being dragged around by emotions destabilises our mind, our day, our life, and ultimately, the welfare of our planet.

The legendary kingdom of Shambhala arose from the Buddha’s observation that for a society to be truly harmonious, it cannot be based on jealousy, greed, and anger. Beautiful old redwood trees do not come from planting the seeds of a cactus. If we want a productive and peaceful world — one that generates love and happiness — it must be rooted in the freedom of mind and openness of heart that bring genuine stability. Such stability comes from certainty in basic goodness, the awakened nature of our mind that cannot be bought and sold.

Like a crystal, basic goodness is all colours, yet it is no colour. It is profound, without beginning or end. It is fathomless — beyond words, even beyond thought. Basic goodness transcends the concepts of good and bad. That is why it is called basic. It doesn’t wax or wane from one moment to the next. If we’re feeling depressed, basic goodness doesn’t diminish. It is beyond mood or manipulation. To rule our world is to connect with this deep, unshakeable inner strength, the nature of everyone and everything.

We think of rulers as being very concerned with territory. But rulership begins when we see that there is nothing to possess but our own awareness.

We all possess basic goodness already, but we’re not certain about our nobility. Our instability and confusion keep it hidden. Like paupers, we begin to stray from it as soon as we wake up in the morning, looking for the world to make us happy. Our thoughts drag us around by a ring in our nose, as if we were cows in an Indian market. This is how we lose control of our lives. We don’t understand that the origin of happiness is right here in our mind, just waiting to be discovered.

The Buddha is an example of a human being who developed the potential to rule his world. By sitting still and working with his mind, he realised his basic goodness, uncovered essential truths about reality, and developed techniques to help others do the same. Since I’m a Buddhist, he is my role model, but obviously basic goodness is not confined to any one tradition. It is the essence of everyone and everything. Practicing meditation and contemplation is how we purify our mind, just as we polish a crystal ball, so that we can actually see the full display of radiance.

The Shambhala teachings tell us to begin by placing our mind in “the cradle of loving-kindness.” We do this by stabilising our mind on the breath. As we watch our thoughts arise and fall, we begin to see their inherent instability. At the same time, we begin to connect with the space around the thoughts: the strong, clear, and stable energy of mind that is bigger than our mental drama, where we begin to experience moments of freedom from the discursive agitation of “me.” Becoming familiar with this space is how we lay the ground for genuine stability.

Next we practice strengthening our mind by contemplating thoughts that will fortify our understanding of reality. By contemplating karma, suffering, the truth of impermanence and selflessness, and the compassion and wisdom that are true freedom, we continue to expand our view. When our mind has become familiar with thoughts that reflect reality, those truths become the foundation of our life. Seeing the landscape of life clearly, we create the conditions for wisdom and compassion to naturally arise.

Practice means “bring it into experience.” The Shambhala teachings tell us that if we bring the view of formal practice into the nitty-gritty reality of daily life, we will create the conditions for stability and happiness — personal power, harmony with others, strong life force, and prosperity. The energy that arises when we do this is called lungta, windhorse. Lung is wind and ta means horse. You see the image of windhorse printed on the prayer flags that flutter in the breeze all over Tibet. It is ultimate confidence, certainty in basic goodness. On its back windhorse carries a wish-fulfilling jewel, the wisdom and compassion that we need to rule our world. With windhorse, we can accomplish our wishes like a warrior racing across the plains.

The teachings of Shambhala offer all kinds of practices to raise windhorse. The most effective lies in virtuous activity, embodied in the qualities of the mythical tiger, lion, garuda, and dragon. Each time we act with discernment, generate love and compassion, let go of attachment, or relax into the natural vastness of our mind, we are breaking through the stress and confusion that keep us trapped in suffering and instability. The point is to use our worldly lives to create spiritual success. The secret of success is to keep putting the welfare of others before our own. Some may consider this approach unrealistic, but the ruler knows that getting off the “me” plan is the most expedient and practical element in any social or economic system. Life tastes good when we are moving forward, free of self-interest, in tune with the glory of our being.

An economy based on compassion infused with wisdom will not self-destruct. Trying to create stability without the foundation of these qualities will only condemn us to perpetual friction and we will continue to pollute our world with the fumes of self-interest. The wish-fulfilling jewel is the best pollution control, because it brings spaciousness to the mind, which allows windhorse to arise.

We can’t rule the whole world, but when we rule our minds and thus our environment, our peace and power do begin to spread. The effect may be gradual, but even a ten percent effort by a small number of us could enlighten the world sooner than we think. Virtue has the power of a hundred-thousand suns. If even some of us turn our minds toward virtue just ten percent of the time, we will soon be living on a planet illuminated by the power of several billion suns. The Shambhala teachings tell us that when that light shines, the happiness of all sentient beings will be accomplished, and the new golden age will dawn. When we create the right conditions for success, windhorse doesn’t just gallop, it flies.