The Real Significance and Meaning of Ullambana
Venerable Shi Ren Xu

(Ullambana, commonly known as “Seventh Lunar Month” or “Hungry Ghost Festival”, is a celebration of Filial Piety. This year, it falls on 17th August. Show gratitude to our parents and ancestors by remembering and paying respects to them.

On the 15th of the seventh lunar month each year, Buddhists participate  in the Ullambana Festival to make offerings to the Sangha of the ten directions. This is done to liberate beings of the three lower realms from suffering, so as to repay the deep kindness of parents.

佛教的盂兰盆节,俗称中元节,其实是孝亲节。今年8月17日是我们庆祝盂兰盆节的日子。这一天,感恩我们的祖先、父母对我们的无私奉献,思念他们的慈悲与关爱。农历七月十五日这天,佛教徒举行「盂兰盆法会」供养十方僧众,济度三恶道苦难,以及报谢父母长养慈爱之恩。)

The Ullambana Sutra is a Mahayana Sutra which consists of a brief discourse given by Lord Buddha Shakyamuni principally to one of his chief disciples, Venerable Maudgalyayana, on the practice of filial piety. The origin Sutra was in Sanskrit, and it means “deliverance from suffering”. The Sutra was later translated into Chinese by Venerable Dharmarakasha.

In this Sutra, the Buddha instructed Venerable Maudgalyayana on how to obtain liberation for his mother, who had been reborn into a lower realm, by making food offerings to the Sangha on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month.

This day is often known as the Buddha’s joyful day and the day of rejoice for monks. This is because when the Buddha was alive, all of his disciples meditated in the forests during the rainy season in summer. Three months later, on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, they would emerge from the forests to celebrate the completion of their meditation and report their progress to the Buddha. The Buddha was pleased because many monks became enlightened during the rain retreat.

Venerable Maudgalyayana was known for having clairvoyant powers. After he attained arhatship, he thought deeply of his parents, and wondered what happened to them. He used his clairvoyance to see where they were reborn and found his father in the heavenly realms. However, his mother had been reborn in the form of a hungry ghost ( preta ) – a sentient being who could not eat due to its highly thin and fragile throat in which no food could pass through, yet it was always hungry because of its huge belly.

The cause for his mother to be reborn in this form was due to her greed. She had been overly attached to the money Venerable Maudgalyayana’s father had left her. Her husband had instructed her to kindly host any Buddhist monks who came her way, but instead she withheld her kindness and the money and did not follow her spouse’s instructions. It was for this reason that she was reborn in the realm of hungry ghosts.

As Venerable Maudgalyayana felt deep pity and sadness for his mother, he filled a bowl with food and went to look for his mother. However, as soon as the food was placed in his mother’s palms, it immediately turned into burning coals which could not be eaten. Disappointed and helpless, Venerable Maudgalyayana approached the Buddha for help and advice.

He asked the Buddha how he could ease his mother’s suffering. The Buddha instructed Venerable Maudgalyayana to place some food on a clean plate, recite a mantra seven times to bless the food, snap his fingers to call out to the deceased and finally tip the food onto clean ground. By doing so, the preta’s hunger would be relieved. Through these merits, his mother was subsequently able to be reborn as a dog under the care of a noble family.

Venerable Maudgalyayana then sought the Buddha’s advice to help his mother gain a human rebirth. The Buddha told Venerable Maudgalyayana to offer food and robes to 500 bhikkhus on the 15th day. Through the merits created, Venerable Maudgalyayana’s mother finally obtained a human rebirth. After that, he asked the Buddha whether other people could also help their departed relatives by offering alms to the Sangha. The Buddha replied that the same method could be used. This is known as “dedication of merit”. The practice of dedicating merit has been an important practice in Buddhist countries.

On the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, Buddhist monasteries follow the Ullambana traditional ritual of reciting scriptures and distributing food. Recent Ullambana ceremonies have tended to mix the event with folk beliefs. In addition to making offerings to monks, the event now includes making offerings to the departed and the deliverance of ghosts.

However, the latter practices arise from the folk understanding of deliverance from suffering and the so-called “Ghost Festival ( 中元节 ).” Traditional folk beliefs maintain that the gates of hell are opened during this month, and that sentient beings from the ghost realm are set free. These folk practices are somewhat contradictory to the Buddhist ideas of compassion, protection of life, and the prohibition against killing, so the meaning behind the Ghost Festival is actually different from the Buddhist Ullambana ceremony.

Why is The Compassionate Samadhi Water Repentance Puja (慈悲三昧水忏) conducted during Ullambana? What is the Puja about?

The purpose of conducting The Compassion Samadhi Water Repentance Puja is to repent one’s unwholesome deeds. These include the karmic actions done in body, speech and mind, comprising the three misdeeds of the body – killing, stealing and sexual misconduct; four misdeeds of the speech – lying, slandering or divisive speech, idle talk and harsh speech; and three misdeeds of the mind – covetousness, malice and wrong views.

Through repentance, we can eliminate the negative strength or influence of these misdeeds in our mind. The Compassion Samadhi Water Repentance Puja can be conducted not just on Ullambana day, but also on any other day of the year.

We participate in the repentance puja and dedicate the merit to all departed ones for them to be reborn in a good realm. For those who were born in the lower realms, how exactly they would benefit might be hard to measure. If during that time, they come to the occasion and rejoice at the puja and feel great joy, they will gain from it.

Could you tell me more about Yogacara Ulka-mukha Puja (瑜伽焰口) ?

The Yogacara Ulka-mukha Puja stems from a story related to Venerable Ananda, another chief disciple of the Buddha. According to the Ulka-mukha Preta Sutra, Venerable Ananda once saw the manifestation of Avalokitesvara or Guan Yin Bodhisattva ( 观音菩萨 ) as Lord of Hungry Ghosts ( 面燃大士 ) while practising meditation in a forest. The Bodhisattva had manifested herself to save all suffering beings in the hungry ghost realm. The Lord of Hungry Ghosts was emaciated in appearance with hideous features. His hair was unkempt; his nails and teeth were long and sharp. His throat was needle-like; its stomach jutted out like a mountain, and flames spurted out of his face.

Venerable Ananda was flabbergasted, and asked about the cause of such frightening rebirth. The Lord told Ananda that he was greedy and miserly while he was alive. Thus upon his death, he descended into the realm of hungry ghosts and transformed into his present form. He further had to endure all kinds of suffering, and year-round starvation.

Moreover, the Lord of Hungry Ghosts informed Ananda that Ananda too would pass away in three days, and would likewise suffer the same destiny. Venerable Ananda was terrified and hurriedly sought the Buddha for help.

Lord Buddha explained The Discourse on the Feeding of Hungry Spirits or Yogacara Ulka-mukha Puja to Ananda and taught him the proper way of bestowing food. If living beings can give food and drink to the infinite number of hungry ghosts and deities, not only will they never descend into the realm of hungry ghosts, they will gain longevity. While being watched over by all spirits and gods, they will have good fortune in every endeavour.

The Yogacara Ulka-mukha Puja ( 放焰口 ) is held in accordance to the Sutra, and lasts for three to four hours. Although the service is performed to eradicate the hollow hunger of the hungry ghosts by bestowing food and drink on them, more importantly, it is performed to deliver these beings from all sufferings through the teachings of Lord Buddha.

By listening to the Dharma, the ghosts will then take refuge in Lord Buddha, receive the precepts, and thus cultivate Right View, which will enable them to refrain from negative deeds and their terrifying consequences. Only then will enlightenment be within their grasp.

The humanistic aspect of this puja is twofold; to cultivate loving compassion amongst the living and to remind them to be faithful and sincere Buddhists and never leave the auspicious boundary of the Buddha and His Teachings.

The Buddhist principle is to be everybody’s friend, not to have any enemy.

— Akong Rinpoche

解脫者之境界
印順法師

        一 解脫即是自由

  解脫,是學佛所仰求到達的,是最高理想的實現。我們是初學,沒有體驗得,至少我沒有到達這一境地,所以不會說,不容易說,說來也不容易聽。如沒有到過盧山,說盧山多少高,山上有什麼建築,有怎樣的森林、雲海,那都是說得空洞,聽得渺茫,與實際相隔很遠的。佛與大菩薩的解脫,體會更難,現在只依憑古德從體驗而來的報告,略為介紹一二。

  解脫,是對系縛而說的。古人稱做解黏釋縛,最為恰當。如囚犯的手足被束縛,受腳鐐手铐所拘禁,什麼都不自由。除去了系縛,便得自由。人(一切眾生)生活在環境裡,被自然,社會,身心所拘縛,所障礙,什麼都不得自由。不自由,就充滿了缺陷與憂苦,悔恨與熱惱。學佛是要從這些拘縛障礙中透脫過來,獲得無拘無滯的大自在。三乘聖者,就是解脫自由的實證者。

  在自然,社會,身心的環境中,也可說有系縛與非系縛的。如磚石亂堆一起,會障礙交通,便是系縛。如合著建屋的法則,用作建築材料,那就可築成遮風避雨,安身藏物的處所,增加了自由。即長江大河,疏導而利用他,可成交通運輸,灌溉農田的好工具。否則,河水泛濫,反而會造成巨大的損害。社會也是如此,身心也如此,不得合理的保養,休息,鍛煉,也會徒增苦痛。

  然而使我們不得自在的系縛力,使我們生死輪回而頭出頭沒的,最根本的系縛力,是對於(自然、社會、身心)環境的染著——愛。內心的染著境界,如膠水的黏物,磁石的吸鐵那樣。由於染著,我們的內心,起顛倒,欲望,發展為貪、瞋、癡等煩惱,這才現生為他所系縛,並由此造業而系縛到將來。我們觸對境界而生起愛瞋、苦樂,不得不苦、不得不樂,這不是別的,只是內心為事物所染著,不由得隨外境的變動而變動。

  學佛的,要得解脫與自由,便是要不受環境所轉動,而轉得一切。這問題,就在消除內心的染著、執著,體現得自在的境地。佛問某比丘:你身上穿的衣服,不留意而被撕破了,你心裡覺得怎樣?比丘說:心裡會感到懊喪。佛又問:你在林中坐禅,樹葉從樹上落下,你感到怎樣?比丘說:沒有什麼感觸。佛告訴比丘說:這因為你於自己的衣服,起我所執而深深染著的關系。樹葉對於你,不以為是我所的,不起染愛,所以才無動於中。佛陀的這一開示,太親切明白了!

  平常的家庭裡多有意見,或者吵鬧,這因為父子、兄弟、夫妻之間,構成密切關系,大家都起著我我所見,所以容易「因愛生瞋」。對於路過的陌生人,便不會如此。我們生活在環境中,只要有了染著,便會失去寧靜,又苦又樂,或貪或恨。從我的身體,我的衣物,到我的家庭,我的國家,凡是自己所關涉到的,無論愛好或瞋恨,都是染著。好象是到處荊棘,到那裡便牽掛到那裡。聽到聲音,心就被音聲鉤住了;看見景色,心便被景色鉤了去。好獵的見獵心喜;好賭的聽見牌響,心裡便有異樣感覺。我們的心,是這樣的為境所轉,自己作不得主。

  求解脫,是要解脫這樣的染著。任何境界,就是老死到來,也不再為境界所拘縛,而能自心作主,寧靜的契入於真理之中。對事物沒有黏著,便是離系縛得解脫了。煩惱染愛,無始以來,一直在系縛我們,所以憂苦無邊,如在火宅。真的把染愛破除了,那時候所得到的解脫法樂,是不可以形容的。好象挑著重擔的,壓得喘不過氣來,一旦放下重擔,便覺得渾身輕快。又如在酷熱的陽光下,曬得頭昏腦脹,渴得喉干舌硬。忽而涼風撲面,甘露潤喉,那是怎樣的愉快!解脫了的,把身心的煩累重壓解消了,身心所受的「離系之樂」,輕安自在,惟有體驗者才能體會出來。總之,解脫不是別的,是大自在的實現,新生活的開始。

  二 解脫的層次

  佛法說有二種解脫:一、心解脫,二、慧解脫。這雖是可以相通的,而也有不同。如畫師畫了一幅美女或一幅羅剎,因為人的認識起了錯誤,以為是真的美女或羅剎,於是生起貪愛或者恐布,甚至在睡夢中也會出現在面前。事實上,那裡有真的美女或羅剎呢!這種貪愛與恐怖等,只要正確的認識他——這不過假的形像,並沒有一點真實性;能這樣的看透他,就不會被畫師筆下的美女與羅剎所迷惑了。

  我們的生死系縛不自在,也是這樣,依無明為本的認識錯誤,起染愛為主的貪瞋等煩惱,憂愁等苦痛。如能以智能勘破無明妄執,便能染著不起,而無憂無怖,離無明,名為慧解脫,是理智的。離愛,名心(定)解脫,是情意的。這二方面都得到離系解脫,才是真解脫。

  佛法的解脫,廓清無明的迷謬,染愛的戀著,所以必須定慧齊修。但外道的修習禅定,也有修得極深的,對五欲等境界,名位等得失,都能不起貪等煩惱。不知真實的,以為他是斷煩惱了,何等自在呀!其實這不是根本解決,如石壓草一樣,定力一旦消失了,煩惱依舊還生。這如剿匪一樣,倘不施予感化,兵力一旦調走,匪會再活動起來。若能施以道德的感化,生活的指導,使成為良民,地方才會真的太平。所以,系縛我們的煩惱,必須用智能去勘破他,而不能專憑定力。佛法重智能而不重禅定,理由就在此。然而,一分佛弟子,僅有一點共凡夫的散動慧解,這對於解脫,不能發生多大力量。有的著重真慧,依少些未到定力,能斷煩惱,了生死,這稱為慧解脫。這樣的解脫,從了生死說,是徹底的;但在現實身心中,還不算圓滿。所以定慧均修,得「俱解脫」,才契合解脫的理想。

  專約慧證的解脫說,人類對於事事物物,處處起執著,處處是障礙,不得自在。要破除執障而實現解脫,在修持的過程上,略可分為三階。

  一、於千差萬別的事相,先求通達(外而世界,內而身心)一切法的絕對真如——法法本性空,法法常寂滅。真如是絕對平等而無差別的,可是我們(一切眾生)從無始以來,一直在無明的蒙蔽中,於一一境界,取執為一一的實性。由此,我見我所見,有見無見,常見斷見,無邊的葛籐絡索,觸處系著。如能從幻相而悟入平等無差別的法性,即能從執障中透出,而入於脫落身心世界的境地。古人說:「見滅得道」,「見空成聖」,「入不二門」,大旨相同。如不能透此一門,一切談玄說妙,說心說性,都不相干。

  二、雖然要悟入空性無差別(或稱法界無差別),而不能偏此空寂,偏了就被呵為「偏真」,「沉空滯寂」,「墮無為坑」。原來,理不礙事,真不壞俗,世界依舊是世界,人類還是人類。對自然,社會,身心,雖於理不迷,而事上還須要陶冶。這要以體悟的境地,從真出俗,不忘不失,在苦樂,得失,毀譽,以及病死的境界中去陶練。換言之,不僅是定心的理境,而要體驗到現實的生活中。

  三、功行純熟,達到動靜一如,事理無礙。醒時、睡時、入定、出定,都無分別,這才是世法與出世法的互融無礙,才能於一切境中得大自在。關於悟入而心得解脫,本有相似的與真實的,淺深種種,不過從理而事,到達事理一致的程序,可作為一般的共同軌轍。

  三 解脫的重點

  解脫,從體悟真性而來。體悟,是要離妄執,離一切分別的。在修行趣證的行程中,合理的分別是必要的。但在臨近悟入的階段,善的與合理的分別,都非離卻不可。經上說:「法尚應捨,何況非法」?論上說:先以福捨罪,次以捨捨福。佛見,法見,涅盤見,都是「順道法愛生」,對於無生的悟入是有礙的。古人所以要「佛來佛斬,魔來魔斬」。所以說:「欲除煩惱重增病,趣向真如亦是邪」。你不見,白雲烏雲,一樣的會遮礙日光?金索鐵索,一樣的會拘縛我們嗎?

  原來,我們所認識的一切,都只是抽象的,幻相的,不是事物的本性。如認識而能接觸到事物本身,那我們想火的時候,心裡應該燒起來了!為了要表達我們的意境,所以用語言文字。所寫的和所說的,更只是假設的符號,並不能表示事物自身。這等於一模一樣的米袋,放在一起,如不在米袋上標出號碼,要使人去取那一袋,就會無從下手,不知取那一袋好。語言,文字,思想,都不是事物本身,所以要真實體悟一切法本性,非遠離這些相──離心緣相,離語言相,離文字相不可。『中論』也說:「心行既息,語言亦滅」。因為如此,法性不但是離名言的,離分別的,離相的,而且惟是自覺的,不由他悟的——「自知不隨他」。

  再說,語言、文字,以及我們的認識,都是相對的——佛法稱之為「二」。如說有,也就表示了不是無;說動,也就簡別了靜;說此,就必有非此的彼。這都落於相對的境界,相對便不是無二的真性。所以我們盡管能說能想,這樣那樣,在絕對的真理前,可說是有眼睛的瞎子,有耳朵的聾子。我們成年累月,生活在這抽象的相對的世界,不但不契真理,而反以為我們所觸到了解的,就是一切事物的本性,看作實在的。

  (從五根)直覺而來的經驗是如此,推比而來的意識知解,也不能完全不如此。對事對理,既這樣的意解為實在性,那末一切的法執、我執,一切貪等煩惱,都由此而雲屯霧聚,滋長蔓延起來。所以如實的體悟,非從勘破這些下手不可,非遠離這些錯覺的實在性不可,非將一切虛妄分別的意解徹底脫落不可!尋根究底,徹底掀翻,到達「一切法不生則般若生」,真覺現前,這才不落抽象的相對界,脫落名言而實現了超越主觀客觀的覺證,這才是如實的現證一切法真性。

  所以,法性是不二的,無差別的。無二無別的平等性,不但生活在相對境界的我們,想象不到,說不明白;就是真實體驗了的,在那自覺的當下,也是「離四句,絕百非」,而沒有一毫可說可表的。

  人類(眾生)有生以來,從來不曾正覺過,一向為無始來的虛妄熏習所熏染,成為生死的妄識。眾生的虛妄心識,可說越來越分化了。感情,意志,認識,使內心無法平衡。有時意志力強,有時感情沖動,有時偏於抽象的認識,使內心分崩離析,互相矛盾,有時成為無政府狀態。就是我們的認識,不但五識的別別認識,形成不同的知識系統;總取分別的意識,受五識的影響而缺乏整全的認識,有時推想起來,又想入非非,不著實際。內心的分化,偏頗,純為虛妄熏染的惡果,佛法要我們息除虛妄分別,離卻妄執,就是要脫落層積的虛妄熏習,掃盡離析對立的心態,而實現內心的一味平等,不離此相對的一切,而並不滯著於一切。

  聖者的正覺,稱為智能,並非世俗的知識,與意志、感情對立的知識。而是在一味渾融中,知情意淨化的統一,渾融的不可說此,不可說彼,而是離去染垢(無漏)的大覺。這與我們專在抽象的概念中,在分裂的心態中過日子,完全是不同的。那正覺現前時,智能與真理,也是無二無別的;活像啞吧吃蜜糖,好處說不出。證見時,沒有能知與所知的對立心境,所以說:「無有如外智,無有智外如」。但這也還是證悟者描寫來形容當時的,正在證悟中,這也是不可說的;在不可說中而假設說明,只可說是平等不二,所以稱為「入不二法門」,或「入一真法界」。由此,解脫必需證悟,而悟入的重點在乎離分別。這是除了般若而外,什麼也是不能實現的。

  佛教中,有一通俗的──返本還源的思想。以為我們的心識,本來是清淨光明的,沒有一毫雜染;因客塵煩惱的蒙蔽,所以迷真而流轉生死。本來如此;我們現在的心體,也還是如此。如能離卻妄染,本來清淨的自心,便會顯露出來。其實,「是心非心,本性淨故」,顯示心性的空寂(淨即空的異名)。本來如此,是說明他的超越時空性,並非落在時間觀念中,想象為從前就是如此。決非先有清淨,後有塵染,而可以解說為「從真起妄,返本歸真」的。

  徹底的說起來,不但不是先真而後妄,在現實中,反而是由於妄想,才能正覺,如低級眾生,也有分別影像,可是不明不利。人的意識力特強,為善為惡,妄想也特別多。他可能墮得極重,也可能生得最高。人類有此虛妄分別,而且是明確了別的意識,才會知道自己的認識錯誤;知道抽象概念,並非事物的本來面目,這是一般眾生所不易做到的。由於人類的虛妄分別,發展到高度(「憶念勝」),才能積極修證,達到超越能所,不落分別的境地。如不解這一點,要遠離分別,當然趨於定門,誰還修習觀慧引發證智的法門呢!

  四 解脫者之心境

  證得諸法真性的境地,是不可以形容的,如從方便去說,那可用三事來表達。

  一、光明:那是明明白白的體驗,沒有一絲的恍惚與暗昧。不但是自覺自證,心光煥發,而且有渾融於大光明的直覺。

  二、空靈:那是直覺得於一切無所礙,沒有一毫可粘滯的。經中比喻為:如手的扪摸虛空,如蓮華的不著塵垢。

  三、喜樂:由於煩惱的濫擔子,通身放下,獲得從來未有的輕安,法樂。這不是一般的喜樂,是離喜離樂,於平等捨中湧出的妙樂。

  這三者,是徹悟真性所必具的。但也有類似的,切莫誤認。如修習禅定,在心力凝定集中而入定時,也有類似的三事。甚至基督徒等祈禱專精時,也有類似的心境現前(他們以為見到神)。佛法的真般若,從摧破無明中來,不可與世俗的定境等混濫。

  得解脫者的心境,與一般人是不同的,現在略說三點:

  一。不憂不悔:聖者是沒有憂慮的,不像一般人的「人生不滿百,常懷千歲憂」。聖者又是不悔的:一般人對於已作的事情,每不免起悔心,特別是作了罪惡所引起的內心不安。有憂悔,就有熱惱;有熱惱,內心就陷入苦痛的深淵。解脫的聖者,已作的不起追悔,未來的不生憂慮,只是行所當行的,受所當受的,說得上真正的「心安理得」。古人有未得徹證的,睡不安枕,食不知味。一旦廓然妙悟,便能「饑來吃飯困來眠」;吃也吃得,睡也睡得。

  二。不疑不惑:證解脫的,由於真性的真知灼見,從內心流露出絕對的自信,無疑無惑,不再為他人的舌頭所轉。不但不為一般所動搖,就是魔王化作佛菩薩來,告訴他「並不如此」,他不會有絲毫的疑念。佛有「四無所畏」,便是這種最高的絕對自信。

  三、不忘不失:體現了解脫的(在過程中可能有忘失),於所悟的不會忘失,如不會忘記自己一樣。在任何情況下,都能直捷而明確地現前。禅宗使用的勘辨方法,或問答,或棒喝,都是不容你擬議的。如一涉思量,便是光影門頭,不是真悟。從前有一故事:某人有了相當的見地,善知識要考驗他是否真實的徹悟,就在他熟睡的時候,把他的喉嚨扼緊,要他道一句來。此人一醒,即沖口而答,這可見親切自證者的不忘不失。

  解脫者的心量與風度,也多少有不同的:

  1,有的得了解脫,在立身處世上,都表現出謹嚴拔俗的風格。這因為他所體驗到的,多少著重於超越一切,所以流露為高尚純潔的超脫,帶點卓立不群,謹嚴不苟的風度,這大抵是聲聞聖者。

  2,有的證悟了,表現出和而不流的風格。內心是純淨而超脫的,可是不嫌棄一般人、事或更能熱忱的勇於為法為人。這由於悟入的理境,是遍於一切、不離一切的,大抵是大乘的聖者。

  這是從悟境而作大類的分別,其實由於無始來的性習不同,聲聞與菩薩,都有不同類型的風格。(此下都指解脫者)如貪行人是混俗和光的;瞋行人是謹嚴不群的;慢行人是勇於負責的(世間聖者,也有「清」,「和」,「任」,「時」等差別)。如約悟境的風格來說,聲聞聖者的悟境,並不徹底,徹底的是世出世間互融無礙的大乘。

  五 解脫者之生活

  在日常的生活方面,解脫了的聲聞聖者,偏重禅味,而漠視外界。他們的生活態度是自足的,「少事少業少希望住」,對於人事,不大關心。簡樸,恬澹,有點近於孤獨。以財物為例,聲聞聖者覺得這是毒蛇般的東西,不可習近,有不如無。如果是大乘聖者,一定是拿財物去供養三寶,濟施貧病,利用他而並不厭惡他。

  傳說:阿育王巡禮聖跡,到薄拘羅尊者的捨利塔時,聽隨從的人說:這位尊者,生平無求於人,也不與人說法。阿育王嫌他與世無益,只以一錢來供養。那知當此一錢供於塔前時,錢即刻飛出。阿育王贊歎說:少欲知足到一錢也不受,真是希有!由此可以想見聲聞聖者淡泊自足的生活。他們的內心是充實的,而外面好象是貧乏清苦。

  大乘聖者的生活態度,是富余豐足,也希望別人如此。功德不嫌多,心胸廣大,氣象萬千;於人,於事,於物,從來不棄捨他,也不厭倦他。凡夫雖也是所求無厭的,但都是為著自己,菩薩是為了一切眾生。所以菩薩的生活態度,不像聲聞聖者的拘謹。在一般人看來,多少有點「不拘小行」。

  無論是聲聞與菩薩,由信慧深入而來的堅定精進,都是非常有力的。一般所看為艱苦的,根本不可能的,而在聖者們,卻能克服他。尤其是菩薩,難行能行,難忍能忍,在寧靜恬悅的心境中,勝過了一切。

  平常說「八風不動」:利、衰、苦、樂、稱、毀、譏、譽,對於解脫的聖者,是不會因此而動心的。就是到了生死關頭,都能保持寧靜而安祥自在的心境,不為死苦所煩擾。經中有「歡喜捨壽」的話,即是最好的例證。一般所說的「預知時至」,凡夫也可以做到的。臨死時身體的不受死苦,在定力深湛的,也不是難事(反而,定力不深的阿羅漢,還是不免身苦)。「坐亡」,「立脫」,那種要死就死,撒手便行的作略,非根除我、我所執的聖者不可。然而,並非每一聖者,都表現這樣的作略。

  經上說:佛入涅盤時,佛弟子中煩惱未斷的,痛哭流涕;而煩惱已盡的解脫者,只有世相無常的感覺,默然而已。依一般的眼光來看,一定要說哭的人對;那無動於中而不哭的,不近人情。其實,真得解脫的,不會為此而哀哭的。如因死而哭,一切眾生不斷的死,哭都來不及了。中國的莊子,一般人都說他達觀。他在妻死的時候,內心的矛盾痛苦,無法舒洩,於是才鼓盆而歌。這便是內心不得解脫自在的證明,如真的解脫,固然不必哭,又何必鼓盆而歌呢?

  六 解脫與究竟解脫

  二乘聖者與菩薩,從證悟而得的解脫,還有不圓滿處。如犯罪的,手足被杻械束縛久了,一旦解脫下來,手足的動作,總有點不自在。二乘聖者,雖斷盡煩惱而證解脫,但煩惱的習氣,還時時發現,這種習氣,雖不礙於生死解脫,不礙於心地自在,而到底還是一種缺點。因為無始來的煩惱,多而且重,深刻影響於身心。所以雖由智能而破除了煩惱,身心仍不免遺剩有過去煩惱的慣習性。這種慣習性,就是習氣。聲聞聖者有這種習氣,事例很多,如阿那律的時常罵人,大迦葉的聞歌起舞等。這些習氣,菩薩已能分分的銷除,但須證得佛果,才能純淨。煩惱與習氣銷盡,才能到達究竟圓滿的解脫境地——佛地。

  佛與大地菩薩,解脫的境地太高。二乘的解脫,與學菩薩行者的少分解脫,已使我們可望而不可及,足夠為佛弟子的贊仰處,而攝引、鼓舞著學佛法者的向前邁進!

From one point of view, personal liberation without freeing others is selfish and unfair, because all sentient beings also have the natural right and desire to be free of suffering. Therefore, it is important for practitioners to engage in the practice of the stages of the path of the highest scope, starting with the generation of bodhichitta, the altruistic aspiration to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. Once one has cultivated bodhichitta, all the meritorious actions that are supported by and complemented with this altruism — even the slightest form of positive action — become causes for the achievement of omniscience.

— His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Whether the self exists or not, or whether this universe has an end or not are big questions, but they do not help us much to live our lives. This question of the self’s existence should be explained in terms of whether it has a positive or negative effect on our lives. No self should not be a philosophical question that absorbs us, but rather a perspective or value in our lives.

For example, the Buddha sometimes debated about vast philosophical questions with scholars of logic from other religious traditions. One time he was asked, “Does the Universe have an end?” and he replied with another question. Suppose, he said, you went into a dark forest where hunters roamed with poisoned arrows. Mistaking you for an animal, they shot a poisoned arrow deep inside you. Would you spend your time thinking, what direction did this come from? East? West? Would you think about what the arrow is made of? Of course not. You would try to save yourself and do something practical like removing the arrow.

The big question about no self is like this—a philosophical question that would be discussed for hundreds of years—and these long exchanges would just give us headaches.

~Karmapa: How to Make Wise Choices
http://the17thkarmapa.blogspot.sg/2016/06/how-to-make-wise-choices.html

tumblr_ob25ya1Eqf1ts074wo1_1280

Clarity versus Emotions
by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche

Everyone knows how important it is to establish a good heart. A good heart is the only thing that is truly worthy, not only of helping others but also of sustaining oneself in a state of happiness, joy and contentment. Yet it often seems there is a conflict inwardly. Though people know the value of a good heart, there is often a tremendous sense of resistance from conflicting thoughts and emotions when one is in the position to develop a good full heart.

On one hand we want to be good — we know what “good” is, and how “good” can benefit ourselves and others. But on the other hand there is a sense of not wanting to be that good, and this inner conflict seems to become our whole life’s struggle.

If it were as clear-cut and simple as just doing what we know is best, I think few people would be suffering as they do. So, in the Dharma there is really no choice other than being very clear about what you know is best and acting upon that. When you cannot do that, then be very honest with yourself. Save your effort for another time when you can try your best to make some progress.

What then is a “good heart?” Most people think it has to do with feelings. We think of a person with a good heart as someone who has feelings of compassion or feelings of kindness. Yes, of course feelings (Tib. tsorwa) of kindness or compassion, or sympathetic joy are positive aspects of one’s good mind or good heart. But, when I actually think of someone who has a good mind or good heart, it is their clarity that strikes me the most strongly — clarity and their faith in that clarity.

Feelings come and go. You can’t just wait around for feelings of kindness to arise. You can’t wait around for compassionate feelings before you act compassionately. Feelings can come and go, and becoming focused on the feelings themselves is to focus only upon half of what we are.

When our feelings are accessible, we can feel very soothed. But when our feelings are not accessible to us we feel troubled, or rather confused about where we stand. This can be very difficult. I think it is one of our biggest problems both in our general relationships with others and particularly in our relation to a spiritual path.

When we feel inspired, or feel a sense of deep devotion and connectedness, we think, “Okay, now this is really good!” But there are other times when those deep feelings are not available, and we think, “What am I doing?!” We generate a lot of self-doubt. This unsteadiness seems to be what causes people to go forward and backward — a step forward and then a step back — without consistently moving ahead or progressing along a spiritual path.

I am not saying that feelings are unimportant. Feelings are very much a production of many causes and conditions, and if those causes and conditions are not present, then those feelings also cannot be there. For example, when you are really tired at the end of the day your mind will be affected, as well as your feelings. So if you want positive feelings to be strongly present to enliven your practice, then perhaps you’ll need to practice when you are not tired.

When you rush through the practice as if you have to catch the next train, beneficial feelings won’t be there either. When we are rushing, we are treating whatever we are doing as insignificant. Your mind is focused on something else or on the next thing. So that is what creates the feeling in whatever you are doing now. If you are rushing through, focused on something else, or even if you are not doing anything but relaxing, this creates a whole different feeling to what you are actually doing. It doesn’t contribute to the feeling you want — with what you are doing now. So, then people feel, “Oh, this is not really working” or, “I’m not so connected.” But this is really due to one’s own mind rushing through the practice, focused on something else, thinking about something else. Through this behavior, feelings are created one way or the other, either positive or negative.

So if all our efforts depend on feelings, we have to know how to create the feelings we want, and then do the practice with this clarity, along with the feelings. Without knowing how to create the feelings, we almost always create the wrong feelings, as I said, from rushing through or being tired or some other cause.

But where you can actually depend on yourself and depend on others more, is in the clarity — which is the depth of wisdom in one’s own mind or in another’s mind. This clarity and wisdom will not be reversible. One must have a sense of confidence in this both for oneself and for others, rather than relying on inconsistent feelings. One day you could feel very touched by somebody, and yet the next day you might be appalled by them.

So my emphasis is, yes, of course strive to have positive feelings to accompany a positive mind. But having a positive mind means having clarity, and clarity here means the Dharma— the points made by the Dharma, and the emphasis the Dharma puts on those points. What are these points in the first place? What are the effects of these points and the results?

For instance, there is the point of “self-centeredness” — that it is something to reduce as much as possible. When someone carries this point very clearly in their mind, I think such a person has a good heart.

Having a wish for others’ happiness and the cause of others’ happiness is another very important point. If somebody keeps that very clearly in mind, with the understanding that it serves others as well as oneself, that person has a good mind and good heart. The same is true of wishing others to be free from suffering and the cause of suffering — as long as somebody gets that very clearly, understanding how it serves on behalf of others and on behalf of oneself.

So if someone does have that kind of mind, and faith in that kind of mind, then that person has a good heart, despite whether positive feelings are always there in abundance or not. They won’t fall backward if they recognize the wisdom of that. Once you know what the truth is, you won’t fall backward into denying that truth. So in this way, feelings become secondary to clarity and wisdom: the wisdom within the clarity, and the faith one has in that.

Is faith itself a “feeling?” A lot of people think faith is a feeling, but to me faith is not just a feeling. Faith has much to do with certainty, with conviction, and the guideposts that keep one from straying off the course of right actions. I think that is what faith is.

When somebody says “I trust,” if it’s just a simple feeling, that feeling could be momentary. It’s there one day, and the next day it might not be there. But does that mean you don’t trust the other person, since that feeling is not there? And if one has to count on that feeling all the time, how can you then be always waiting for the right feelings to come, in order to act upon the right course? If there are no feelings, what are you going to do — not follow the right course of actions, and act upon what you know is right to do?

So I think feelings are supplementary to a positive mind, not the essential part of it. Clarity with wisdom and faith are the essential points of one’s mind. Nonetheless, feelings are supplementary, so the feelings do bring things to greater fulfillment as well.

Possessing a good heart and good mind is to have a lot of clarity and wisdom of the Dharma, with strong conviction in that. To see how that influences one’s life, without confusion and and self-doubt, is at the core of the good mind and the good heart.

True happiness comes from the sense of having inner peace and satisfaction with what we have, which in turn we have to cultivate altruism, love, compassion, and get rid of anger, selfishness, and violence.

— His Holiness Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche