Rejoicing is the best
by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

The fourth limb of the seven-limb practice is rejoicing. This is a very important practice and we should do it each day as many times as possible. It is the easiest way to accumulate merit. By doing this practice we can accumulate merit as infinite as space. Rejoicing increases merit, like investing $100 and then constantly receiving interest until we have thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands and then millions of dollars. When we rejoice, the merit increases greatly.

It is said in the teachings that among the virtues, or good karmas, the best one to practice is rejoicing. In other words, if we want to create good luck, rejoicing is the best way. People usually think that luck is something that comes from its own side. That’s completely wrong. It is not that luck suddenly comes from outside, without our having to create it. Luck comes from our mind. If we experience good luck, it’s luck that we have created with our mind. If we are going to experience luck, we have to have created it. There is no way we can experience luck that other people have created or independent luck, which has no creator. We create our own luck by having faith in karma and by knowing how to practice Dharma. With the seven-limb practice, mandala offering, bodhicitta, meditation on emptiness and the various other practices, as well as with Vajrayana practice, we create so much good luck.

Among the virtues, rejoicing is the best, because it is the easiest one to practice. It simply involves our mind thinking, and the merit we accumulate is infinite. If we rejoice in our own merit, we accumulate more merit than we actually accumulated by doing the virtuous action. When we rejoice in the merit of other sentient beings, if their level of mind is lower than ours, we accumulate more merit than they accumulated; but if their level of mind is higher than ours, we get half or a quarter of that merit. If we rejoice in the merit one bodhisattva accumulates in one day, we accumulate half or a quarter of that merit. If we were going to accumulate the merit that one bodhisattva accumulates in one day, it would take us 15,000 years without rejoicing, but by rejoicing we can accumulate in a few seconds the merit that would otherwise have taken us 15,000 years.

Generally in our life we should practice rejoicing as much as possible. We should rejoice whenever we see good things happening to other people. When other people develop their Dharma practice and have realisations, have education, wealth, happy families or many friends, we should always think how wonderful it is. When somebody succeeds in business or any other good thing happens to them, we should always rejoice, thinking, “How good it is! How wonderful it is!” It then becomes the best business for us. Why? Because by rejoicing we are creating the cause for success, success in our Dharma practice, success in benefiting sentient beings and the teachings, and success in even the ordinary activities of this life. By rejoicing, we are creating the best cause for success. But if we feel jealous of other people’s success, which is the opposite of rejoicing, we create obstacles for our own success. It is important to understand this and to practice rejoicing.

We should feel as happy as a beggar who has unexpectedly found a million dollars in the garbage. You can’t believe it. It’s like a dream. There is no way to experience happiness without good karma. That is natural, a dependent arising. Without good karma, there is no way to experience happiness or success at all. All happiness, up to the happiness of enlightenment, comes only from good karma; therefore, it is extremely precious.

With this awareness, we should rejoice. Think, “How wonderful it is that I’ve accumulated so much merit in the past, in the present and in the future.” Think this twenty-one times. Practice it right now.

Then practice rejoicing in the merit of other sentient beings, particularly that of bodhisattvas. I mentioned before the great profit that comes from rejoicing in the merit that one bodhisattva accumulates in one day. Then rejoice in the merits of the three times [past, present and future] of all the buddhas. They create so much merit in the three times, which results in so much happiness, including the achievement of enlightenment. Again think, “How wonderful it is! How wonderful it is! How wonderful it is!” Count your repetitions.

Sentient beings normally create negative karma and it’s very difficult and very rare for them to create good karma, or virtue. We should feel much happiness because it is only through their own practice of good karma that they can have happiness. We should cause them to accumulate merit, but how wonderful it is that they are putting effort from their own side into accumulating merit.

When you rejoice in the merit of other sentient beings, if it is more comfortable for your mind, rejoice first of all in those to the east, then to the south, then west, then north, then up and down. Rejoice in that way if you find it more comfortable.

Then rejoice in all the people in Tibet who have accumulated merit in the three times. After that, rejoice in all the people in Nepal who have accumulated merit in the three times. Then rejoice in all the people in India who have practiced virtue and accumulated merit in the three times. In Dharamsala, where His Holiness the Dalai Lama lives, so many people, both lay and ordained, are practicing Dharma. Then think of all the other Buddhist countries and rejoice in all their merits of the three times. Then think of all the sentient beings in the whole world. You can also be more specific. This makes it even easier to rejoice, because you relate to particular people in each country.

To practice rejoicing is very enjoyable, because when you rejoice your mind is happy. It is easy for your mind to get upset, angry or jealous when you don’t rejoice in your own merit and good things and in other people having good things. If you don’t rejoice, your mind is unhappy; but if you rejoice, you naturally have a happy mind.

Rejoicing is the specific remedy for jealousy, so if you feel a lot of jealousy, you should practice rejoicing. The result of rejoicing is that you achieve a buddha’s holy body, which has no ugliness, only beauty. Rejoicing is something you can practice while you are eating, while you are walking, while you are lying down, while you are working. You can do it even when your body is engaged in doing something else.

It might be good to rejoice in your own merit in one session and then rejoice in the merit of others in the next session. It’s very good to count on a mala. Or in the first session you could rejoice more in your own merit, then rejoice in other’s merit one time at the end; in the second session you could rejoice more in others’ merit, then rejoice one time in your own merit. You can do it in different ways.

Among those [consciousnesses], mentation is twofold. Since it is the support that acts as the immediate condition, the “mentation which is [any] consciousness that has just ceased” is the support for [the arising of] consciousness. The second is the afflicted mind, which is always congruently associated with the four afflictions of the views about a real personality, self-conceit, attachment to the self, and ignorance. This is the support for the afflictedness of consciousness. [Thus,] consciousness is produced by virtue of the first [aspect of mentation] as its support, while the second one makes it afflicted. [mentation] is a consciousness, because it cognises objects. Since it is [both] immediately preceding and self-centered, mentation has two aspects.

— Asanga

持戒念弥陀 安然得解脱
文|西有

佛陀是一切智者,慧心无碍,自觉觉他,欲令一切众生入佛知见,住常乐我净之涅槃城。但是,众生业习固结,任性颇多,起惑造业,无非是堕落之因,轮回之果。因此,佛陀在引导众生学种种法门,修种种妙行,证种种圣果之基础上,先制戒律,规为绳墨,不当为处,如宫廷之禁阙,不可擅近一步;应当行处,如见义而勇为,理应尽心尽力。

善知戒律 端心正意

戒律在佛教体系中,虽然占据基础和根本性的作用,但因为戒条比较枯燥和繁杂,持守起来也有一定的难度和要求。所以,戒律的一些原则性问题容易被忽视和误读,导致很多人想学戒律却不知从何入手,或者听到错误的戒律知见而望戒兴叹,甚至于学习戒律的相似法,南辕北辙,可不哀哉。下文,列举几条戒律的原则性问题,使大众善知戒律之东西南北,从而端心正意,以期亲近戒律,受持戒律。

首先,明晰戒律的重要性和根本性。戒律之所以重要,是因为戒律乃佛教之大根大本,如土地承载一切,没有土地,万物不能生长,一切生命凋零,自性功德的春播秋收也成为了虚空阳焰。所以,学习任何法门都必须学习戒律,没有离开戒律的佛法,更没有不学戒律的行门,且佛魔之差,常常因戒律而判。经典中关于戒律的开示很多,相信大家也看了不少,可谓耳熟能详,本文就不再一一列举,但希望大家一定要发心持戒,哪怕因缘所限,暂时无法圆满地持守,也应该生起殷重、恭敬与期慕之心,发愿有因缘时,一定要好好持戒,绝不轻忽。

其次,戒律具备普遍性和权威性。从初入门的佛弟子学习三皈五戒到圆满的佛陀,都需尊重戒律,如戒之法、如戒之理而行自利利他之法业,《梵网经》云:“佛告诸菩萨言:今半月半月自诵诸佛法戒。”“此十重四十八轻戒,三世诸佛已诵当诵今诵,我今亦如是诵。”因此,无论任何人修学佛法,皆不可凌驾于戒律之上,以此可作为辨别善恶知识之根本(佛菩萨圣人应机示现的游戏神通有深意,并非毁犯戒律,此类示现一般较隐秘,凡夫绝不多见,切勿附会)。戒律的权威性是指唯佛制戒,而菩萨、祖师、大德等只可按照戒律之内外含义,进行原则下的阐述与注解,开显佛陀的本意,指导受戒者如法持守,减少犯戒、破戒的可能。

第三,戒律的必要性和存在性。很多人学佛之后,会产生一种知见:认真学佛,好好做人,把五戒十善落实,就是守戒,不需要刻意去受戒了。这个观点,实际上是严重偏差的。戒律和善法是两个不同的概念,受戒有一整套完整的仪轨,受戒者经过发心、解义、求戒、忏悔、羯磨、发愿、观想、纳戒成体,最后才圆满了完整的受戒过程,得到了最为珍贵的戒体(阿赖耶识中的善种子,自然具备防非止恶的功能,是真实存在的法性力量),与戒法、戒行、戒相合为完整的戒律心行,方可得到持戒的无量功德,指向解脱。而按照五戒十善等戒条的要求去做,没有受戒,那么只是行持善法,所产生的是人天福报,虽然可以回向求生西方,但功德远逊巍巍戒德,不可不知。所以,受戒是持戒的前提和必须,戒体是戒律和善法的根本性差异。

第四,戒律的圆融性和可悔性。 很多人对戒律可谓既爱又怕,一边想好好学戒、守戒,一边呢,觉得自己条件所限,可能会触犯戒律,觉得犯戒是造业,罪很重,因此不敢受戒。其实,这种担忧大可放下。戒律并不是死板和教条的,戒条有开、遮、持、犯及圆融的一面,比如当我们无法一下子全受五戒的时候,可以先选择自己有能力受持的部分先受,再慢慢圆满;比如我们受了不杀生戒,但是无奈的情况下,吃三净肉并不直接犯杀戒;不妄语戒在救度众生的基础上有方便妄语等,当然这些特别的开缘并非鼓励大家去轻慢和毁犯戒律,而是在业力拘缚情况下的两害相权取其轻,当慎重之,明辨之。 同时,持守戒律不清净时,可以忏悔,透过忏悔清净过失或罪业,继续努力,不断进步。凡夫有妄想执著,很难戒如冰雪、纤毫不犯,但守住根本大戒,其他的可以在生活和修学中不断学习,不断完善。就好比孔子七十才不逾矩,我们只要用心,随着自身的努力和三宝的加持,戒律的持守必会慢慢地如法起来,会有云开日朗的一天,应当生起信心和欢喜心。

第五,戒律的自律性和自由性。戒律往往被视为约束性质的内容,很多人认为受持戒律之后,工作、生活和修学会遇到相当多的不允许,不能杀生、不能说脏话、不能欺骗、不能喝酒、不能……种种的不能带来很多痛苦和无奈,因此,不愿意去持戒,觉得不持戒会更自在一些。其实,这个观点是错误的。当我们不持戒的时候,难道杀生、 说脏话、欺骗、喝酒就没有罪过吗?杀生断 人命,脏话惹人烦,欺骗伤人心,喝酒害人身,都会产生不吉祥的恶报,损福折寿,堕落深渊,被业力越缠越紧,得不到身心的自在和欢喜。反之,如果我们持守戒律,行事有度,那么习惯成自然,戒律会成为下意识 的自律标准,不仅避免了造很多业,还能增上智慧福德,得到身心安泰,自在吉祥,生活、工作和修学如空中月,出于云翳,一路顺利。

透过上述五点,我们可以看到戒律是佛教的幢相和生命,戒如明日月,亦如璎珞珠;更可以体会到佛陀制戒的悲心和戒律的重要,当建立正确的知见,端正自己的心行,用仰信心、恭敬心去求解脱法的戒法,并一点一滴地持守,必会得到感应和加持,为自己的佛法修学和解脱资粮加分进德,也为大众做一表率,所谓自利利他是也。

持戒念佛 知行合一

戒律是一切佛法的基础,所以也当然是净土法门的基础,因此持戒念佛,就变成了一个历久弥新的话题,更成为每一个念佛人的必修课程。

首先,从理事、性相、体用、因果而言,持戒是事、是相、是用,戒律是理、是性、是体,形成理事一对,由内而外,给我们行持以规范,破除理事分张之恶,约束身口意三业之习,以此为因,增上念佛之功为果,更是从初机开始,仿效诸佛如来之严谨心行,虽然或不能达到惟妙惟肖,但同样的发心和赤诚的行动,却是我们感通佛力必不可缺的心要。

其次,持戒和念佛有深层次的关联,虽然我们通常情况下,是以持名念佛的方式进行,但实际上,一句佛号,包含了阿弥陀佛之万德,我们念佛的当下,就是了他即自的当下,就是我们接纳阿弥陀佛全体功德的当下,我们内心中本具的佛心佛行就会逐渐显发,而戒者佛身、律者佛行,戒律代表了佛陀的身行规范,具备普世价值,以内心的持戒之心,加之外在的持戒之事,就与佛号功德耦合,如水投水,似空印空,相辅相成,互为增上,成为合力,倍增信愿。

第三,我们的祖师大德也以身垂范,持戒念佛,良好的传统和家风,给我们留下了不少脍炙人口的佳话。如:净土宗初祖慧远大师临终时,弟子们请大师喝一些药酒,大师不喝;又请求喝米汁,还是不喝;最后请喝蜜水。大师令解说戒律的僧人,翻阅律文,看是否能喝,律文未翻完就圆寂了。净土宗二祖善导大师护持戒品,纤毫不犯,且从不举目视女人。净土宗六祖永明大师重视戒律,尤重菩萨戒,并以菩萨戒,为往生重要资粮。净土宗八祖莲池大师以戒律为根本,以净业为指归,整饬清规,精严律制, 并亲自著述,阐发戒律精义,布萨羯磨,举功过,行赏罚,丝毫无错。净土宗九祖蕅益大师目睹当时律学多讹,不重戒律,遂以弘律自任,撰述《重治毗尼事义集要》、《梵 网合注》等。净土宗十一祖省庵大师到普仁寺,见一僧人仆地而死,瞿然悟世无常,修持益加精进。严持戒律,不离衣钵,日止一食,胁不贴席,终生不懈,大师遵莲池大师持戒念佛之遗风,一生以“行在梵网,志 在西方”自励。净土宗十三祖印光大师自述:“至湖北莲华寺,讨一最苦之行单…… 次年四月副寺回去,库头有病,和尚见光诚实,令照应库房。银钱帐算,和尚自了。光初出家,见‘杨岐灯盏明千古,宝寿生姜辣万年’之对,并《沙弥律》,言盗用常住财物之报,心甚凛凛。凡整理糖食,手有粘及气味者,均不敢用口舌舔食,但以纸揩而已。”《文钞》内,印光大师反复叮嘱大众持戒念佛,强调戒为基址,净为归宿。诸位祖师,以身垂范,慈悲至极,无以复加。

再看我们熟悉的寄心净土的高僧,如马鸣菩萨、龙树菩萨、昙鸾大师、道绰大师、 圆照禅师、憨山大师、中峰禅师、楚石大师等都是严持戒律之高僧,乃至《净土圣贤录》、《近代往生随闻录》等著作中提到的往生者大都持戒念佛,清净三业,留下了光辉的榜样力量。

如今,虽然时代不古,持戒念佛的内因和外缘都远不如古时清净与自在,往往业风吹袭,令我们无所 适从,虽有心持戒, 往往感叹力犹不足。 其实,我们应该正视这些问题,不能因此 而因噎废食,自暴自弃,虽然环境的改变给我们持戒带来了这样那样的困难,但戒律在原则上,也有时代性的融通和善巧,比如:交通工具的便捷使受戒变得方便,印刷和媒体的发达使学戒的资料容易获取,通过购买食品避免了自己耕田伤害众生……总而言之,戒律不会因为时代的改变而消失,戒德不会因为时代的 改变而减损,我们通过积极的心态和用心的方式,沿着前贤的足迹,随缘随分、随心随力地认真践行持戒念佛,如法修行,必能得到理想的善果,解脱的希望,克成净业,早证菩提。

佛在世时,以佛为师;佛灭度后,以戒为师。诸佛法戒,蕴含自行化他、乃至阿耨多罗三藐三菩提之资粮,《梵网经》云:“ 佛灭度后于像法中,应当尊敬波罗提木叉。波罗提木叉者即是此戒,持此戒时如暗遇明,如贫得宝,如病者得瘥,如囚系出狱,如远行者得归。当知此则是众等大师,若佛住世无异此也。”《四十二章经》云:“ 佛言:弟子去,离吾数千里,意念吾戒必得道。若在吾侧,意在邪,终不得道。”这些法语都是佛陀慈悲的谆谆叮咛,切切提醒。 古德云:“唯菩提之植种,仰戒律以培根,诚为正法之堤防,永作心宗之城堑。”愿大家皆能正视戒律,持戒念佛,精进修持,海会相期。

Obstacles arise. If you deal with them through kindness – without trying to escape – then you have real freedom.

— Akong Rinpoche

The Importance of Study
by His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje

I would like to simply offer some general suggestions related to the dharma. I think that in what I have to say there will be a few essential points that will be helpful to hear, and if you listen well they will be beneficial to you. For those of us who are gathered here as followers of the Kagyu tradition, it is very important to have a pure motivation in coming here, because we are only able to gather like this for a very short period of time out of each year.

Today, I would like to talk a little bit about study and education. In general, study and education are indispensable elements for everyone. Many reasons are given as to why study is important, and among these are the teachings of the protector Maitreya in his ‘Ornament of Mahayana Sutras’. In this text, Maitreya says that buddhahood is attainable only through studying the five fields of knowledge. Without studying these, he says, there is no way we can attain buddhahood. This is indeed very true. We shouldn’t expect to attain buddhahood and higher understanding without undertaking a process of learning and study.

It is important to work hard and apply diligence to the process of learning. As has been taught by the Buddha, and as can be proven through reasoning, all sentient beings (everyone endowed with a mind) have one thing in common. What is that one thing? Suffering. All beings find suffering undesirable. The Buddha, with his omniscient wisdom, discovered that the ultimate cause for that suffering is ignorance, or not knowing. If we ask what is the antidote for such ignorance or not knowing, we find that the antidote can be found in the opposite of ignorance, which is knowledge and wisdom. Therefore, in order to overcome ignorance, we need to develop our knowledge.

In order to develop our knowledge, we need to understand that all phenomena arise due to causes and that the causes of wisdom and knowledge here are the study of the five fields of knowledge. Without such training, wisdom and knowledge will not arise of themselves. It is not the case, such as is asserted in some spiritual traditions, that wisdom is something handed down to us by a creator god. Therefore, it becomes very important to put a lot of effort into the learning process from our own side. The Buddha himself gathered knowledge and exerted himself very diligently in learning throughout three countless aeons. This process is recorded in great detail in the histories of his previous births. In his final birth the Buddha was Prince Siddhartha, who also studied and thoroughly integrated in his mind all of the fields of knowledge, after which he attained full enlightenment. He did this through great effort and learning, not simply going to Bodhgaya as a fool and then automatically becoming enlightened.

Therefore, we can easily see that buddhahood is not something that arises causelessly; it requires extensive training and learning. In the same way, for we followers of the Drogon Kagyu tradition, it is very important to examine the life stories of the founding masters of the Kagyu lineage and try to follow their examples. We will see that all of the previous great masters of the Kagyu lineage attained perfection in both scholastic and meditative accomplishment. None of them reached their exalted state through simply coasting there easily. The great Indian siddha Tilopa was also a proficient scholar, as was the master Naropa. There are the six ornaments and the two supreme ones, as well as all of those masters in Tibet during the earlier and later phases of the spreading of the teachings. Naropa was one of the renowned nine great scholars of India. We can also examine the life of Marpa Lotsawa. In his songs, he sang of his resolve to travel to India three times. He lived in India for some forty years of his life and there he studied, contemplated and meditated. From among those three activities, it is said in the histories that he primarily focused on study and contemplation.

As for the Jetsun Milarepa, most people hold the view that his path did not involve much study and contemplation. They say that his life story only tells of his practising meditation and attaining buddhahood on the basis of that. That might be how it appears at first glance, but if we really take a good close look at the life story of Milarepa, we will see that his path also involved study and contemplation. It would not have been possible for him to attain buddhahood in one life and one body had he not studied and contemplated. According to the history written by Kunkhyen Pema Karpo, entitled ‘The Sun that Expands the Teachings’, Milarepa in his younger years studied and learned the art of black magic which he used to kill many people. Afterwards, he came to engender remorse towards the negative actions he had committed by killing people. After he had engendered such regret, it took him fifteen years until he was able to meet with Marpa Lotsawa.

From this, we can see that Milarepa had a very firm mind of renunciation from samsara and an earnest desire to practise the dharma. We can also see that he was free from laziness. There is clear indication in such histories that Milarepa always tried his best and was endowed with tremendous exertion towards learning. So even for people like Milarepa, the first stage is hearing and contemplating. Through hearing and contemplating, we remove our exaggerations and denials about the way things are and then finally we are able to practise meditation and generate the wisdom that arises from meditation.

As for Gampopa, or Dakpo Rinpoche, he is considered to be the one who unified the tradition of the Kadampas with the Mahamudra teachings. He is also the founder of our own unequalled Dakpo Kagyu lineage. At the time of Gampopa, the tradition that was strongest in intellectual studies was the Kadampa tradition. Since that was the case, Gampopa studied with many Kadampa masters. Also, from Milarepa, he received key oral instructions in the manner of one vase being poured into another. This was how Gampopa trained – we don’t have any stories here like those of going to Marpa’s house and building and tearing down towers.

In general, Gampopa had many disciples, and from among those disciples, the one with the vastest activity was Phakdru Dorje Gyalpo. If we look at his life story, we can see that he also studied all of the major texts of the Kadampa tradition, and in this way became very learned. Not only that, he even came to take on the role of being a teacher to Palden Sakyapa. Therefore, there is no need to mention he was a great scholar. There is also the lord Dusum Khyenpa who perfected all of the fields of knowledge – including Valid-Cognition, Madhyamika and the treatises of Maitreya – and also attained full meditative accomplishment. In the same way, many other Kagyu masters, such as Drikung Jigten Sumgon, attained perfection in the fields of scholastic learning. It was through their perfection of learning that they eventually gained perfection in meditation. They did not become perfect in the latter regard through simply being ignorant fools. They were both learned scholastically and accomplished meditatively.

Therefore, we can first prove the importance of education and study through scriptures. Then we can prove it through reasoning. Further, we can see through looking at the life stories of the previous masters that there are many important reasons for studying and learning. Some people may wonder about how much I personally study. They may think, “Well, he’s talking a lot about studying, but he’s the Karmapa. He probably has nice food, probably has a nice place to stay, he probably just takes it easy!” Well, even though I don’t have much talent when it comes to excelling in studies, I do try to abide by a daily schedule that includes studying. Nevertheless, my daily schedule is always changing due to various situations, and so I may not always get to study for twenty-four hours a day. Still, despite the frequent busyness in my day-today schedule, I try to maintain diligence and put a lot of energy into my studies, and I always have the wish in mind that I will be able to study in accordance with my abilities. It wouldn’t be helpful for me to provide elaborate details of my daily schedule, but in general it is like that.

So, in brief, whether you go by the scriptures, by reasoning, by the life examples of the previous masters, or by my own opinion, study and education is very important. In terms of what is important to study, this has particular significance for those of us who are Tibetan. This is so because in this world there is only one language in which the entirety of the sutra and mantra teachings of the excellent and precious buddhadharma is completely preserved. That language is Tibetan. Therefore it is extremely important for us all as Tibetans to study our Tibetan language. As a support for our language study, we should study the fields of learning (Tib: Rig.ne). But what is the purpose or goal behind learning Tibetan and the fields of knowledge that accompany it? This is none other than the study of the dharma.

It will be very difficult for us to be relaxed, happy and have favourable conditions for a good livelihood if we do not study the dharma. In the same way, in the long term, if we want to lead a positive, happy life, it is necessary for us to study the dharma. Also, for the happiness of our future lives, as well as the ultimate goal of the abundant state of Buddhahood, it is only the dharma that will bring these results about. Liberation and buddhahood will not come about due to one’s knowledge of the general fields of learning, nor will knowledge of language help in attaining enlightenment. It won’t help to know about science, which these days is accepted by everyone as valid. One will be able to attain buddhahood only through studying the dharma.

The buddhadharma is comprised of the works of the Buddha and the treatises that comment on his teachings. In terms of the words of the Buddha, these are preserved in over one hundred volumes of scriptures that were translated into Tibetan. In the Tengyur, the collection of commentarial works, there are over two hundred volumes. Because of the immensity of these bodies of scripture, it is extremely difficult to study all of these texts. Therefore, one should approach these two categories of teaching in a way that accords with one’s own inclinations and abilities. It is not necessary to study these texts in an elaborate way, but it is also not okay to forgo them altogether. One must study the teachings that accord with one’s own ability and availability, and gain familiarity with the meaning of the teachings in that way. For example, the Buddha taught the 84 000 classes of dharma to students in a way that accords with their propensities and abilities. And so, if from all of these teachings we can understand even one word, this is very excellent. If your intellectual faculties are poor, and you do not have many favourable conditions to study the dharma, you can still learn the teachings about the ten non-virtuous actions and how to abandon them, and the ten virtuous actions and how to practise them. Starting from there, all the way up to the unsurpassable secret mantrayana, it is very important to be diligent in learning and in putting what you have learned into practice, even if you only manage to understand one word.

In terms of learning the dharma, in the Tibetan tradition this learning is done in the most extensive way in the shedras, or monastic colleges. In relation to this, as was said before, all of the previous great Kagyu masters were endowed with both the quality of scholastic learning and the quality of meditative accomplishment. However, in recent times, the qualities of scholasticism and meditative accomplishment have slightly declined in the Kagyu tradition. In particular, the quality of scholasticism has declined, and those possessed of this quality have become very rare. Situ Changchub Gyaltsen, in a letter he wrote shortly before he passed away, said that although previously the great Kagyus were both learned and accomplished, in recent times this has become unbalanced, and because of that the dharma is not fulfilling the objectives of humans. Therefore, Changchub Gyaltsen said that in light of this situation he built the great shedra of Tsegong. Although the dharma of the Kagyu lineage is very profound, it is not acceptable to leave hearing and contemplation behind, because without those one will not be able to approach the teachings with a correct understanding.

Thus if one does not study and contemplate, the dharma will not be fulfilling the objectives of the dharma, and since the people who practise it will be devoid of the qualities of learning, humans will not fulfil the objects of humans. Recently, there has been renewed interest in improving the area of scholasticism in Tibetan Buddhism, and this has been the case for us as Kagyus as well. Therefore, the situation has improved somewhat. There are shedras in some of the monasteries and the students studying in those shedras are exerting themselves well. Nevertheless, these activities are merely a seed for future harvests. We have not arrived at the point where we can be content with what has been established. I feel it is very important for us to continue to improve the area of scholasticism in our lineage.

This emphasis on learning and study also applies to the monastics who specialise in ritual arts. There are many details involved in the ritual arts, such as music, that one must train in. Although monastics who specialise in ritual do not have time to study the great texts of the shedra, still they must be learned with respect to the stages of the rituals they perform: bodhichitta, invitation, creation stage, completion stage, making tormas, and so on. They need to know the meaning of the tormas and their defining characteristics, so that they will be able to explain them to others. It is important for them to be educated about all of these aspects of ritual, especially because they will need to teach these things to Westerners who are studying Buddhism.

In the Kagyu tradition, there are many students who take meditation practice as foremost and there are many who choose to do the traditional three-year retreat. All of these people need to learn the various aspects of their particular practices. In terms of the path of practice in the Kagyu tradition, we mainly have the Six Dharmas of Naropa, the Path of Method, and Mahamudra meditation, the path of liberation. In the context of the Mahamudra path of liberation, emphasis is placed on clarity and emptiness inseparable. The main textual source that teaches on the clarity aspect is the ‘Treatise on Buddha Nature’, or Uttaratantra (Tib: ‘Gyu.lam.ma). It is said that if one is able to realise the intended meaning of Uttaratantra, one will have no choice but to realise the reality of mahamudra.

This is echoed by Gampopa, when he said, “As for our mahamudra, its intention is expressed in the Treatise on Buddha Nature.” Therefore, for this reason, it is very important for us to study this treatise. Then in terms of the emptiness aspect, this is expressed in the texts of the Middle Way, which we also must study. The text that is in very common use these days is the ‘Entrance to the Middle Way’, which I feel is important for us to study. If we do not learn the ‘Treatise on Buddha Nature’, if we do not learn the ‘Entrance to the Middle Way’, then unless we are of very high faculties it will be difficult for us to practise correctly. We definitely must study these texts.

As for the ‘Six Dharmas of Naropa’, which compose the path of method, they are said to be the essence of all of the classes of tantra taught by the perfect Buddha. It is important for us to know the tantras, but if we are not capable of doing that, then still there is the ‘Profound Inner Reality’ of the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, which clearly presents the topics of the prana and nadi practices of the completion stage. This text is absolutely indispensable. Whether we are practising the path of method, the Six Dharmas of Naropa, or the path of liberation – Mahamudra, we need to do so through relying on the creation stage. In the Kagyu tradition, the creation stage is studied using the Hevajra Tantra, which is a teaching of the Buddha himself.

Thus, no matter whether we are practising the path of means of the path of liberation, we must engage in the process of learning. If we do not study, then we may go ahead and sit in the same room for three years, but I wonder how much benefit will come of that? It would be brazen of me to say there would be no benefit, but I wonder if it would be really possible to produce a very strong benefit through meditation without having studied.

All of what I have said today also applies to lay people, not just monastics. After all, aside from clothing and the length of hair, there is really not that much difference between monastics and lay people. From the perspective of the desire for happiness and freedom from suffering, everyone is the same. Therefore, if we want to enjoy happiness and freedom from suffering, everyone is the same. Therefore, if we want to enjoy happiness and be free from suffering, we need to learn the presentations of what to adopt and what to reject. If we think that we want happiness but do not want to learn what positive and negative actions to adopt or reject, this is a misunderstanding of the principle of karma. There is not too much hope that such an approach will actually lead to happiness.

We need to proceed in the proper order. Since the cause comes before the result, we need to practise the proper causes in order to bring about the results we desire. Therefore, we need to accumulate virtue and relinquish negative actions as much as we can. In general, everyone works hard in order to bring about the result of happiness. But it is a distinguishing feature of Buddhism that we work primarily from the side of the cause. We concentrate on the cause in order to bring about the result of happiness. If one proceeds otherwise, simply saying, “I want happiness”, then this will be an aspiration, but it in itself will not actually become a direct cause to bring about the happiness we desire.

Although things are changing slightly these days, we Tibetans often used to talk about the dharma as something that is reserved for lamas and monks, and people were sceptical of lay people – particularly women and also of nuns – if they tried to learn dharma. This of course is a very mistaken attitude. Our teacher – the perfect Buddha – taught the dharma to all beings without bias so that they all could attain liberation and omniscience and cross over the great ocean of samsaric suffering. The Buddha never said that the dharma was something only for lamas and monks.

So therefore, if we come across someone who is trying to refute the validity of anyone’s studying of the dharma, we should know that it is he or she who is mistaken. Whether we are lamas and monks and nuns, or whether we are male or female lay practitioners, we can study the dharma if we are able to study it. If we are not able to study it, then that is a different situation, but in terms of permission, we are always permitted to study the dharma.

This completes an explanation of why it is important to gain knowledge in the fields of learning, speaking from the three perspectives: the way of study, the topics to be studied and the individuals who study.

The Heart Sutra is considered the most profound, the essence of the Buddha’s teachings. It is considered the most supreme of all teachings. Buddha cannot bear to see sentient beings suffer and wants to free them from samsara. He cannot rescue them from their negative deeds. He can only show them the path he has taken.

What leads to liberation? Only by understanding and meditating on emptiness. Since it presents the path, the complete framework, that is why the Heart Sutra is the supreme teaching.

The Buddha did not teach those who are not matured enough or those who are not interested in emptiness. If a person’s primary interest is in this life, there is no need for emptiness. It is not relevant to him. It is relevant to those who think more deeply and go beyond the 5 senses. On a deeper level, as long as you are influenced by mental affliction and karma, if you do not do something about it, then it continues forever. Then emptiness becomes an important subject. Emptiness is the gateway to liberation, to subdue one’s mental afflictions.

— 4th Zong Rinpoche, Tenzin Wangdak

佛教、佛学、佛法
白云老禅师

通常学佛的人,最不容易搞清楚的就是“佛教、佛学、佛法”,几乎把这三者混为一谈。佛教,好像每一个人都懂,事实上佛教包含有佛学、佛法,如果谈佛教,只谈这些仪式、仪轨,谈一些型态上的问题,那只是宗教。但是我们要了解,世界上的宗教,至少在联合国承认的五大宗教,都强调必须要有教义、教堂、教士还要有信徒....这些是宗教的型态,所以五大宗教几乎都具备了这些,可是以五大宗教的佛教来说,我们必须要把握与其它四大宗教最大的不同点在那里?

也有人说:“信教都一样,为什么一定要信佛教?信佛教好象是一种迷信....”问题出在哪里呢?是在于宣扬佛法的教义,这些传道者本身具备的条件不够!以目前能看得出来的,譬如流浪在印度的达赖喇嘛,以前不说他们是佛教,反而称他们为喇嘛教,实际上是没有喇嘛教的,这只是佛教当初分布、流传的方向、地点的不同而已,西藏信的同样是佛教,只是依于他们当地的语言,称呼出家人叫做喇嘛,就好像在华北、华中、华南,称佛教的出家人都叫和尚,事实上以佛教的本身来讲,这些称呼都是偏于地方上的语言而形成的,譬如说和尚这名词,是新疆地区的语言,因为鸠摩罗什是新疆人,他来到华夏地区以后,无形中好像中国的佛教的出家人都叫和尚,其实和尚这个名词,不是汉语所形成的,新疆的土话叫做和尚(ㄏㄡㄒㄧㄤˇ),那是什么意思呢?翻成汉文叫做亲教师,就是可亲近的老师。

根据佛教经典上所说的,出家的统统称之为比丘、比丘尼,或者沙弥、沙弥尼,在家的就是优婆塞、优婆夷,另外还有一种身份叫做式叉摩那,这个名称很少有人去使用它,过去在大陆,五大律宗道场都很少去解释“式叉摩那”是什么?结果就变成一个笼统的名称,好像“式叉摩那”也是学佛女?优婆夷也是学佛女?那就变成好像都是在家的,其实在家优婆夷就是学佛女,这是由于对佛教的经典,尤其在律部所提出的一些名称没有深入认识,以喇嘛来讲,应该也都是比丘、比丘尼,其实称呼什么喇嘛、和尚、甚至尼姑的...这都是一些不正确的名称!尤其尼姑两个字,是梵文跟汉文合并一起的一个名称,尼是女性、姑不也是女性吗?那尼姑不就变成“女女”了?其实经典上关于佛教人员的结构、定位与形成都有明白的记载。

我也顺便告诉各位:比丘、比丘尼、优婆塞、优婆夷以至沙弥尼、沙弥都很容易了解,但“式叉摩那”究竟是一个什么样的人?“式叉摩那”是在两种情况之下而称呼的,她本身显现的是一个出家女性的相,但在未出家之前她已怀孕了,因在不知情的情况下而出家,根据戒律,这时她必须回到俗家把孩子生下来,她这个时候的身份就不能叫沙弥尼或者比丘尼,而是叫做式叉摩那。如果她把孩子生下来以后,再回到僧团,她又恢复原来的面貌,是沙弥尼或者是比丘尼,这是第一种式叉摩那。

第二种式叉摩那呢?律部与经里面也有说明这事,当一个出家的女性,出家之前父亲与母亲健在,可是在父母不需要她照顾的时刻,她可以出家,因为她有兄弟姊妹可以照顾双亲,但是如果出家以后,双亲失去了可以照顾他们的人,这时不管你是比丘尼、或者是沙弥尼,必须要回去照顾父亲母亲,这不是还俗,只是现式叉摩那相,身份还是出家。一直到双亲有人照顾了,不需要她了,她再回到僧团,恢复原来的面目,这也叫式叉摩那。

为什么也有叫做学佛女的呢?因为她返还俗家以后,还是显出家相,但是她又不是出家人,为什么?因为她没有具备沙弥尼跟比丘尼的身份,可是她的表相是出家身份,所以这时候回到世俗,去照顾父母或处理事情,她还是维护她的出家身份,但要受持叫式叉摩那法的戒律,所以通常讲式叉摩那是专门指女性来说的,就是我刚刚讲的两个大前提之下的问题。在台湾也有所谓的律师在戒坛或者他平常的表现,把式叉摩那当成比沙弥尼还高,这是很大的错误!这个没有高低,因为如果她原来是比丘尼,回去处理事情,但是这时候她比丘尼的身份不存在了,就不能说她比沙弥尼大,比比丘尼小,不是这样分别的。

所以关系到佛教中的经、律、论或有关宗教的一些组织、架构,我们常常都会搞错,譬如以寺院来说,如果以原始的佛教,也就是佛陀时代的佛教来说,没有寺院这个名称,通常都是讲“兰若练处”,或者是说“兰若”,也就是现在一般人说的“精舍”,其实中文的意思是“清净的地方”,所以出家人住的地方都称之为清净的地方,什么“寺、院、庵、堂”都是中国人建立起来的!在“寺院”里能发现比较合乎原始佛教的说法,佛入灭了以后才有的“殿”或者“塔”的,这些在经典上的名称。如果谈到佛教,以宗教的大前提来看,当初在印度有十二大学派,佛教事实上是第十二个学派,末期的一个学派,也就是佛陀学派,在佛陀学派之前早就有十一大学派了,所以这第十二大佛教学派,在当时的印度,如果以正面的来说,它是一个改革性的学派,若以负面的来看呢,其它十一大学派都认为佛陀学派是一个叛逆的学派,为什么会造成这种现象?我们知道佛教正式形成是在印度,是在释迦牟尼佛时期,释迦牟尼佛是在什么前提之下成立这个学派呢?因为其它的学派总会有一些不圆满的地方,也就是有缺失,释迦牟尼佛他的思想强调众生平等、解脱自在,其它十一大学派都没有办法达到这种目的,譬如婆罗门讲究一个身份、地位...其它的学派,几乎都离不开身份、地位,所谓贵跟贱的差别,释迦牟尼佛为了改革这个观念,所以他强调众生是平等的,没有贵贱,没有阶级。譬如佛教僧团的组织,于中国而言,有师父、有徒弟,其实在原始佛教里面,并不称为师父、徒弟,只是一个法的传人而已,因为有师父、徒弟就已经不平等了!因此在原始佛教中,我们看僧团里面,只有所谓的“上座”、“上首”,由一位德高望重的领头,这只是在职务上面的差别,实际上在身份上是相同的,而中国建立僧团,跟我们中国的文化、历史、族性有关系,所以无形中会发现有这样的现象:譬如问人家“你是临济宗的第几世?”或“曹洞宗第几世?”这都是中国的特色,在原始佛教里面其实没有这些的。

以前我常说一句话,以我来说,即使是住持或者所谓的方丈,还是比丘!同样只是一个受供养的人,所以在我们中国,过去是如此、现在也是如此,比丘、比丘尼好像依附在自己的门下,有师父、住持或方丈,反而否定了那层受供养的比丘、比丘尼的身份,其实僧团只有比丘、比丘尼、沙弥、沙弥尼,什么师父、徒弟、徒孙,那是中国的风格!所以谈宗教首先要知道它的组织架构以及它的成员,那么是什么时候形成中国的特色呢?就是从百丈怀海禅师建立起“丛林制度”,所谓“十方丛林”的时候开始。

其次再看僧团,刚刚提过原始佛教并没有寺院庵堂这种名称,都是讲“寂静处”,是出家人三个或者四个人聚在一起,在那里修行办道的地方,就是你的寂静处。所以佛陀时代,我们常看佛陀在某一个地方讲经说法,通常在经典中可以看到,譬如讲“灵鹫山”,它只是一座山的名字,我们说“竹林精舍”,其实“精舍”就是根据“寂静处”来的,所以释迦牟尼佛随便找一个树林子,那就是一个说法或举行法会的地方,没有什么寺庙庵堂。如果你们去过印度,去看八大圣地,尤其是度五比丘的地方,很多人以地上还有砖的痕迹及地理基础等,其实并不是如此,它本来就划了一个界线,很庄严的在那里或修行、或说法的一个地方。所以过去大部分称作“坛”,或有些则是休息的地方,你们可以到菩提伽耶去看,那里本来就没有房子,它是用砖做一个界线,表示这个区域是干什么?那个区域是让什么人住的,还有佛陀住什么地方....等等。其实睁开眼睛一看,不过就是一块平地,如果是树林子的话呢?为什么说“头陀行”,要说“树下一宿”,或在坟墓边过日子?如果随便找一片坟墓,那地方也可以称做“精舍”或“法坛”,用来作修行的道场,种种反映了当时的时代背景与经济的环境关系。

到了后期,尤其佛教传到中国之后,你们看看佛教的寺院都是富丽堂皇,大家就会想这些宫殿怎么形成的?如果大家看过华严经,就知道华严经里面说到不同的世界,譬如讲到国土就有国王,或讲刹土就有佛愿的世界....这些情况是说什么呢?都是比照天道的宫殿而来的!所以我们说帝释天、三十三天或说忉利天,它有宫殿而释迦牟尼佛并没有宫殿,我们出家众也没有宫殿,是依据出家了,成为人天师范,怎么还那么贫穷的样子呢?”所以才以天道的宫殿来作为我们僧团的一个环境,就是这么慢慢形成的!不只台湾、大陆,可以说从唐朝以后慢慢形成了中国寺院的特色,有殿堂、有寮房...譬如说一个大丛林,有九殿四十八堂,这都是从百丈怀海禅师建立起丛林制度,才有这一些!以上是说宗教的型态。(未完待续)

那宗教的内涵呢?就是指它的道理方法,也就是我们谈的经、律、论三藏,所以说宗教有它的组织架构、成员及它的经典,所谓的经典一般说是“大藏经”,其实现在的大藏经已经不同于以前了,为什么?现在的大藏经里除了原来的,还有很多“续藏”,那是怎么形成的?就是后期所谓的高僧、大德写的心得,也同样放到藏经里。实际说来,原来只有佛陀所说的经、律才是,至于论呢?都是修养到达了菩萨的境界所表现的心得,这些都称之为“论”。所以“论”不是佛说的,是菩萨们说的,只有“经”跟“律”才是佛说的。

可是到目前为止,我们常常看到,在中国的佛教,至少将近两千年的时间都存在这种现象,好像只有一些人专门去修学经、律,普遍性的都还是依据论来修习,为什么会造成这种现象?因为佛陀说的经含义太深、太广,常说法义甚深微妙,不容易理解,那怎么办呢?就根据这些菩萨们的心得来学习佛法,一直到目前为止,常常看到这种现象,不管是弘法电视也好、佛教的杂志也好,表现出来的几乎都是什么论师说、菩萨说、祖师说,真正佛说的少之又少!为什么?好像从事经典与律部研究的也愈来愈少,反而在论部下功夫的愈多!那就是我刚说的,因为论是菩萨们的心得,心得的表现比较容易抓住,而的确有很多原典,涉及到文字的名相问题,有巴利文、梵文,还有的巴利文、梵文或者中文混合在一起,所表现的名相,常常令人分不清楚。从佛学辞典就可以看出来,很多名相如果弄不清楚就很容易错解,有的是梵文跟中文混合,有的是梵文跟巴利文.....那是关系到“经”的问题,“论”就比较容易了解。所以才会说大乘好像强调菩萨法,其实不可以用这种方式去看经律论,并不能单以“论部”来做为修习的依据或依归,毕竟我们是学佛,所以“论”只能拿来参考,好像读书、写心得报告;为什么在台湾有这种现象,几乎一个问题提出来,去问不同的法师,告诉你的答案都不相同,那是因为他学的是某一些菩萨的论,讲的就是那一些,如果是依据佛陀说的经典,肯定都是一样的!

譬如“布施”与“供养”这个名词,很多人好像理解,布施就是普遍对一般人;供养是对上的,那就会有问题产生,刚刚说过“众生平等”,在家的对出家的所谓“四事供养”,就是讲吃的、穿的、用的,以及医药等的供养,也可以说是一种布施,如果硬要说对出家人是供养的话,那就变成好像出家人比在家人高一等了,就不能够说是众生平等。又很多人把它当成是“布施波罗蜜”,其实不是,施就是付出,要注意“施”不是给予,是付出,为什么有这种差别?因为梵文的意思有这差别。“付出”通常是我自己拥有的,愿意给予更多的人得到同样的利益,但是这种付出不一定是物质的,也包括精神的在内。那“给予”呢?就变成我们一般讲的施舍了,好像把别人看得很可怜 〝啊!某某!我有钱,我给你一点〞,这就不合乎佛法的平等之道。

通常讲佛、法、僧的内涵,除了有佛教的、佛学的以外,还有佛法的,我们怎么去认识与分别?其实“佛教、佛学、佛法”离不开佛、法、僧,而“佛、法、僧”也离不开“戒、定、慧”三学!前面所谈的佛教,就是谈它的架构、人员的组织、以及它的生活方式。我们看,打开一部经典,一开始都是讲:如是我闻,一时佛在什么地方,参与什么,都是跟一些什么人、什么对象,然后呢?大家出去托钵与化缘,回来后吃完饭,就坐下来....这些谈的都是佛教僧团的型态,经典后面才开始有佛说法,所以把经典前面跟后面说法的内容组合起来,就有佛学。此中可以发现一个最大的差别:佛教是一种信仰,你不一定具有这种知识,当然更没有这种修养,那佛学呢?有宗教的样子,可是它讲究知识经验或者道理方法,它只是一些学理、理论,一般人不一定做得到,也不一定去实行,而佛法却包含了佛教与佛学!所以这三者的关系,可以独立。但也可以知道,佛教跟佛学可以成为一体,佛法就包含了佛教与佛学,如果一定要很明显的界说,那么有道理、有方法,是一种知见,在概念上我们叫佛教,在学理上我们叫做佛学,佛法则关系到生死,把佛教与佛学这些内容适时成为可以让人得到解脱、完成涅盘的结果,达到这种境界的才叫做佛法!更简单的说法:能够解脱生死、离苦得乐的才是佛法。我们常常说“纸上谈兵”,那就是指佛学,而佛教是一些组织型态、仪轨这些东西。

可以说得更简单一点,只要你皈依三宝,不管是现在家、出家相都是佛教徒。那成为佛教徒以后,去学习有关的知识经验,就是佛学。知道这些知识经验,然后把它化为修养,显现它的饶益性,那就是佛法!这样能不能理解?因为这三个东西,尤其是佛学、佛法,如果再加上佛教,就会很乱!乱的原因就是没有办法去分辨三者的内涵。禅宗有一句话,说一个人能说善道,叫“知解之徒”,佛学就是知道这些经典文字,也能解释,但能不能去实践?那就关系到佛法了!

我们从经典中可以很容易去把握,所谓“佛教”就是佛法僧的型态组织;“佛学”以经典说就是八万四千法门,提出来一些名词、文句、法相,了解它的意思,好比说“烦恼即菩提”,烦恼是一门学问,菩提也是,可以说出为什么烦恼即菩提的道理来,这很明显就是佛学;如何完成佛法呢?比如“烦恼即菩提”,你能不能够化解烦恼显现菩提?能够化解你的烦恼,显现出菩提来,这才是所谓的佛法!所以我们常看,有所谓的佛学专家,其实“专家”两个字很难说,也许他是个学佛的,在佛学的范畴之内他知道的很多,但能不能把佛学化成为力量?就以“普度众生”来说,要具备什么?“慈悲喜舍、四弘誓愿、六波罗蜜法”....等,把这些条件、知识,统统搬出来,这就是佛学,但能不能够实践?能不能够使它发挥成为力量?所以必须要完成修养才能称之为佛法!可以这么说,从所谓的“一切智”、“道种智”跟“一切种智”来分,“佛学”就是一切智,包含世间的、出世间的学问,也就是世间的道理方法与佛教经典里面的道理方法,这称之为“一切智”。什么是“道种智”呢?那是专业性的,譬如佛学里面有十大学派,是属于道种智,看看十大学派中你偏于哪一个学派?那佛法呢?就包含了“一切智”、“道种智”。“一切智”就是说佛学,“道种智”,是佛学里面的专门性的道理方法,那佛法就包含了“一切智”、“道种智”所完成的“一切种智”!

所以学佛,要能分辨什么是佛教、佛学与佛法。有很多人自认为:我也看经典、也会打坐,甚至还能入定....如果是邪魔外道呢?可能还会说:“喔!我打坐还可以灵光出窍,还可以发光喔!”如果是这么说的话,那连佛学都不是!如果自认为是佛教的话,那也是附佛外道,就是附和在佛教这个宗教的前提之下所行的外道。这许多 “不如法的”,可以说就是佛教里的外道,真正佛教的本身是正信的,强调须“依教如法”,就是要依于佛陀所教的道理以及方法。

很多学佛的人,往往觉得自己学了一辈子的佛,最后根本还不知道该怎么办?看看在台湾最近这些年来佛教的现象,好像每一个人都不知道该怎么办?人家说这个好,一窝蜂就去学这个,最后什么都得不到!人家说那个好,又一窝蜂的去,好像海浪一样的飘过来、飘过去,最后学了一辈子:嗯!我也念佛了、也打坐了,好像也知道要去西方极乐世界,但最后能不能去?不要说信心,根本是迷惑!如果能把“佛教、佛学、佛法”这三个搞清楚,一旦遇着经典上面,譬如谈到佛教的一些型态、架构,有一句话说“处处都是法、处处都是道”,你就必须知道,除了道理方法、还要能去实践!所以我提出两句话:“你所有的起心动念,都要与生死有关、要与道相应”,那才是在修习佛法!否则说的好听一点,你是在佛学上下功夫,说的不好听只是在装模作样,因为得不到它的利益!可见“佛教、佛学、佛法”,真正讲起来,佛陀的思想理念,最后的目标是进入涅盘境界,如果不能入达涅盘世界,可以说学佛是没有用的!

所以不了解“涅盘”的法义的话,会很容易造成误会,以为学佛是要死了才能有个确定?不能这么去看!必须知道“涅盘”本身的含义太多了,譬如说“不生不灭、寂静、解脱”.....这些几乎都叫做涅盘。所以涅盘不是死,解脱也不是死,而是任何一个问题,把它化解了就叫解脱。“涅盘”是把原来的一个事情化解了,而不会再发生了;那“解脱”呢?虽然问题化解了,但是还会再发生,所以我们常常谈解脱,有“究竟解脱”,什么是“究竟解脱”呢?要究竟解脱才能够入涅盘世界,也就是依于你的烦恼或业也好,业清净了、烦恼不会再生起了,那才叫究竟解脱!因为化烦恼、显菩提,那只是一个单一的解脱而已,必须要连烦恼都不生起了,菩提也不需要了,那才是究竟解脱,也就是涅盘境界!

所以我们常常把解脱当成死,把涅盘当成死,那是错误的!尤其,不管是在家、出家的,很多人谈往生,“往生”究竟是什么?念佛可以往生,那不念佛能不能往生?学佛可以往生,不学佛不能往生?想过这个问题没有?这都是不了解“往生”的意思,其实死了要往生到什么地方去?就是“往什么生处”的意思。譬如说还在六道之内的话,会认为“我现在是人道,我业太重,可能往生到畜生道或地狱道....假使你的福德因缘很好,就往生到天道,但是还是在三界六道中轮回,所以往生,并不是一定去西方极乐世界,能不能往生到西方极乐世界呢?那就要看你的道的修养,好比如果要去西方极乐世界,就必须具备“信、愿、行”三大资粮,如果造业太多,以欠债来讲,根本不知道该还给谁好,那一定是往生到畜生界;如果所做的是十恶不赦的业,如犯五逆罪之类的,一定是往生地狱道!所以不要把“往生”两个字认为都是去西方极乐世界。(未完待续)

所以谈佛教并不是一般人想的那么容易,什么拿三根香拜一拜,好像就是一个佛教徒。或者皈依三宝就是佛教徒,其中有一个问题:你拿三根香拜,究竟是在拜什么?你的目的是什么?你想干什么?因为你皈依三宝,总是有所求,如果不考虑种种问题,那连佛教徒都不是!我们看,常常有一些人说:“我皈依三宝了,我有皈依证。”或者说:“我受过菩萨戒,有菩萨戒的证书。”那请问念佛、修西方弥陀净土的,是不是就发给一个西方极乐世界的证书呢?那叫做世间法,佛法可不是这么说的;但是我们是人,所以也不要舍弃这些,因为世间法,人的世界本来就是如此!不可以去否定它!但是也不能去执着它!此中就涉及到佛学、佛法了。

尤其初学佛的人最容易犯的一个毛病,睁开眼睛看到的,竖起耳朵听到的,几乎都是别人的缺点,这些人几乎是标准的佛教徒,他能够看到、听到别人的缺失与错误,可说他连佛学也不懂,因为佛学还要告诉你,看到别人的缺失,须返照自己有没有犯同样的缺失?如果看到别人的缺失,发现自己也有这种缺失,就要想办法去调伏、去修行,以化解这些缺失,那就涉及到佛法了!所以“佛教、佛学与佛法”这三个名词必须真正的搞清楚。只要随便提出经典里面的名词,或是法相的认识、或遇着一个什么问题,都可以从中发现“佛教的、佛学的、佛法的”存在了。

以前我也举一个很简单的例子:“口渴了,最好的办法是什么?”就是喝水,这谁都知道!我也说过:“凡是能止渴的都是对的!”但是这没有涉及到佛法,最多只是佛学的理论而已!如果涉及到佛法的话呢,口渴最好的办法就是要去化解你的渴”。我们知道口渴会不自在、会烦恼,要怎么样让自己能够化解烦恼,不但不烦恼,还能止渴?有一个简单的方法,泡一杯热茶给他喝,这里面就有佛学、也有佛法,你们把这个问题思考一下!想想,这个人正在那里渴得不得了,因而起烦恼,在电视剧中也常看到这样的画面:一个人在外面忙得不得了,回到家里,一打开热水瓶里面没有水,打开冰箱也没有饮料,就会气得摔东西。其实这个时候,最好的方法是泡一杯热茶给他喝,就可以发现有没有修养?为什么?如果那个人怪说:“我口渴的不得了,你还给我热茶喝?”那根本烦恼就不能化解,等于烦恼加烦恼,如果他真正懂得佛学,也懂得佛法的话,拿了这杯热茶,真的能止渴,为什么?因为要是一杯温的或者冰的水,就咕噜咕噜,一口喝下去,可能愈喝愈渴,原先的那个渴的烦恼,还是没有办法消失!因为口渴是一个问题,也是一个缘境,已形成了烦恼,须先使烦恼能够平静下来,才不会口渴得那么厉害,你们去思考一下,如果拿了这杯很烫的热茶,会不会一口就喝下去?不会的!一定是一边吹,慢慢的一点点的喝,边吹边喝....是不是那个烦恼的心念就会不存在了?缘于完全把心念放在想把这杯热茶吹冷,便会心平气和,慢慢的来,那才真正能止渴!能做到这样,才可以谈得上是懂得佛法,不像一般人、渴的不得了,拿杯热茶给他,可能气得连杯子都会摔掉!

所以,什么叫做修养?修养是要有行为,去慢慢完成的哩!是要经过修行,完成某一种知识经验,才叫做修养,可是我们平常总是不知不觉,口渴了、很方便嘛!有矿泉水....甚至什么都没有,也可以打开水龙头喝自来水,但是很少去做佛法所谓“内观”的修养、表现!我前面不是提过吗?“处处都是道,处处都是法”,禅宗说“抓住了是你的!抓不住就当面错过!”这些话你们都很熟,可是能不能用得上?所以我另外有两句话:“在现实生活中,运用思想、发挥智能”!为什么要讲这一些?人有很多的潜力,可以慢慢去累积,如果平常完全不去修行,就不可能有什么潜力,潜力是平常慢慢培养出来的,一旦拥有了,自然就会表现出来。看一个人有没有修行?就是看他平常有没有修正身口意的缺失,有没有去调整自我,改变不好的,使好的更好,那才叫做修行!也就是须完成某一种功德才叫做修养!什么是功德?就是具备了条件,而且可以表现出来!我们常常讲的“德养”,就是功德完成的,这种功德是慢慢从修行中而来!

最后再看看“佛教、佛学、佛法”:佛教包含了佛、法、僧,这一个整体,都叫佛教!佛学呢?是对“佛法、僧”的一些道理方法的认识,这种种的知见与了解都叫做佛学;而后把这一些道理方法表现出来,发挥成为有饶益性的力量,那就是佛法!这样大家能不能够辨别?举一个简单的例子来说:“中药”是中国的药材、药理,有各式各样的药材都叫中药,假设“中药”是佛教,中药里头各式各样的药材,都有它的效用,能治什么病的这些道理方法,就等于佛学;进而你针对病症,拿这些中药的药材,治好别人的的病,就是把他的病化解掉,能完成这种结果,林林总总整个加起来就是佛法!这样容易了解吧!如果以个人来讲呢,你这个人由“地水火风”组织成你的色身,再加上六根、八识、五蕴,最后完成你的心识,或者我们叫做精神的内涵,这都叫佛学;那以一个人来讲,是一个概念就是个宗教;佛法呢?就是发挥你的生命力,能够完成这种饶益性的结果!

再举一个例子:你们坐的这种椅子,整个椅子就象是一个宗教的型态;它的理论是不管你拿的是木头的、金属的或者是石头的,把它怎么组合起来,以至完成这把椅子,这就是佛学;最后这把椅子真正能够用得上,这里面又关系到椅子的学理跟实用性,为什么?因为有的材料很容易坏,有的金属很容易生锈,还有因为环境的不同,它会成为坏相....其中又涉及到许多精神的、物质的现象。像物质的有“成住坏空”;精神的有“生住异灭”,其中就有“教、学、法”。所以,几乎眼目之所及,都可以发现这三者!当然这要具备一些基础,究竟你对佛、法、僧了解多少?以戒定慧来讲,你在修行、用功上,完成的修养有多少?所以,我们常常说:佛法是要能够运用在现实生活中,能够去化解那些缺失,圆满那些问题,绝不是告诉你怎么做,好像烦恼来了,我给你一个菩提,你就可以把那个烦恼打掉?绝对没有这回事!烦恼也是你自己烦恼,如果想显现菩提,就必须去认识、去了解烦恼,而后怎么样去突破它、化解它,这中间必须要能觉悟到什么,最起码你要知道自己为什么烦恼?可不可以不烦恼?这都有道理、有方法,但是要你自己实际去修行,慢慢去体验与发现,才能够完成修养。

以上谈的是“佛教、佛学、佛法”的一些概念,不管你是学佛法十年、二十年、三十年还是五十年,总是离不开这些东西,问题是你能不能发现其中的粗、细、微妙的不同?粗相的很容易把握,进入到细的就很难了,若要达到微妙的境界那就更难了!可是难归难,没有做不到的!只要自己肯修,这个“肯”,头一个就要能“舍我”,千万不要动不动把一个“我”摆在前面,等于“自己出不去、人家也进不来”。学佛最大的障碍就是因为“有我”,所以对于自己的“我”,要能够去调伏它、改正它,从有我到无我,这不是念一念:“唉!不要执着计较起分别嘛!”这并不是你要不要的问题,有时候自己不想要,可是还是会要,为什么?怕自己受到伤害,就会找理由、找方法来保护自己,一切都为了保护那个我,所以为什么要去苦行?为什么要修波罗蜜法?都是为了调理那个“我”,因为每一个人都有一个我,可是你绝不可以,把别人的我当成自己的我,或者把自己的我去代替别人的我,世俗不是有这种话吗?“不要把自己的快乐建筑在别人的痛苦上”,同样的“也不要把自己的痛苦建筑在别人的快乐上”,那你才有调理自我的机会,这就要建立一个空间,要学习“止观”与五蕴调理的道理方法。

Even if through being generous in the past, I am rich in this life, if I give nothing in this life, I’ll be poor in the next.

— Mipham Rinpoche

Buddhism and Ageing: In Praise of Ageing
by Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo

The Lord Buddha described birth, sickness, old age, and death as dukkha, or suffering. If we do not die young, we are all going to experience old age and death. Therefore, ageing is a topic that concerns everyone.

In contemporary society, we find a cult of youth and a denial of the natural course of life towards decay and death. Most people hope to keep looking young and beautiful forever. Indeed, beauty is usually associated with youthfulness. So we find countless books and articles on how to keep old age at a distance and stay young forever. But no matter how many facelifts we undergo or how many exercise and diet regimes we submit to, eventually the body will deteriorate and the likelihood of illness will increase. Deterioration is the nature of all conditioned things. Buddhism faces up to the unpalatable facts of life and death. Buddhism even uses these facts as the path itself, as a means to transcend birth and death.

In more traditional societies, the advent of ageing is seen as natural and is not regarded as something to be avoided or denied for as long as possible. Rather, there is an appreciation that having lived for so long there should likewise be a growth of knowledge and understanding. Old age is often equated with wisdom and experience. The older members of the family are accorded respect and often assume roles as councillors and guides. They have an important role to play in society.

Even in the West, there is the archetypal character of the wise old woman (as well as the witch) and most storybook wizards are elderly. In fact, old wrinkled faces with shining eyes full of love and intelligence often display real beauty.

Unfortunately, even though nowadays women over the age of 50 make up the majority of the population, in the modern social order the elderly are increasingly shunted aside, isolated among their senior contemporaries, and ignored by the world around them. Many feel that their useful days are finished and they have no further contribution to make to society. As a result, old age is something to be dreaded and evaded for as long as possible.

So the question is, how do we deal with our inevitable ageing in a way that makes sense of our life? In traditional Buddhist countries, it is the custom that as our children grow up and leave home, as our professional lives wind down, and as our daily activities become more inwardly directed, we can direct more attention to the Dharma and to setting our lives in order so as to be ready for death and future rebirths.

In traditional Buddhist societies, many older people take the eight precepts and pass their time in meditation or other meritorious activities, such as circumambulating holy objects, making prostrations, chanting, visiting temples, and so on. The Dharma becomes the focus of their lives and they cultivate devotion. In this way, their lives remain meaningful and important, even as the axis of focus shifts.

For women in particular, it often happens that our youth is taken up with acting out the roles that society has determined for us. First, as physical objects of desire we strive to be as attractive and alluring as possible to fulfill male fantasies. Then as wives and mothers, we devote ourselves to nurturing our homes and families. Nowadays, most women also have full-time careers in which they must work hard to keep ahead. Even while enjoying many advantages, women live stress-filled lifestyles designed to meet the expectations of others.

Even in the modern world, however, we are seeing an interesting phenomenon occurring. Many people, especially women, having fulfilled their life’s tasks as wives, mothers, and professionals, are now ready to give their attention to more introspective callings such as the arts, the alternative healing professions, psychology, and the study and practice of spiritual paths. Since these women are often highly educated and motivated, they are able to acquire new skills and extend a positive outreach to the society around them. Rather than spending their declining years merely playing golf or watching TV, their inner spiritual world is now given greater prominence.

Awhile back, I met a group of women living in an affluent small town in Florida who were devoting their later years to sincere spiritual practices and philanthropic activities. These women were benefitting not only their own neighbourhoods, but also reaching out to people in other cultures and lands. They felt very happy and fulfilled to be using their time for the benefit of others as well as themselves.

It seems that the foremost regret expressed by the dying is, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” By contrast, many people I know have remarked that the latter part of their lives has become even more satisfying and meaningful than their earlier years. Now they can discover their own genuine interests rather than merely conforming to societal expectations. Although they accept that their earlier life experience was necessary for what has developed later, like a tree that grows slowly and only in time can reveal its true characteristics, yet they feel that they have finally found their reason for living.

Of course, most of us would prefer a 25-year-old body, but few would choose to return to our 25-year-old mind! So instead of dreading the approach of old age, despite the unavoidable loss of physical and mental flexibility, we can welcome this new stage of life and explore its potential. We have a choice either to view our ageing as the gradual fading of all our dreams or to regard retirement as the start of a new and exciting era.

As we grow older, we see our contemporaries – our friends and family members – succumbing to illnesses and death, so we are forced to recognise these states as natural and inevitable. As Buddhist women, we have an important part to play in demonstrating an alternative lifestyle that is not so dependent on the usual societal roles and can show the way forward to greater freedom and a more meaningful way of living. Even if our old knees ache too much for sitting cross-legged and health issues slow us down physically, our minds can still be bright and clear. Our meditation can deepen and mature.

Now that we have more time for ourselves, we can select a lifestyle that is meaningful and engaging, exploring spiritual pathways and reaching out in social engagement, thus benefitting ourselves and likewise benefitting others. This is a great opportunity to put the skills acquired over our lifetime to good use. We are reborn to a new life without having to discard the old one!

Many people chose to travel or learn new skills, sports, or crafts once their “official” work and responsibilities come to an end. As Buddhists, the question we can ask ourselves is, “Now that my worldly responsibilities are fulfilled, how can I use this life most practically to be of help to myself and others? What needs to be done to make some more advances on the Dharma path?” Our path need not include long retreats or total immersion in Buddhist community work. There are many ways to develop ourselves and tame our mind. Usually as we grow older, the storms of emotional upheavals have quieted, we have some basic self-understanding, and hopefully our formal practice has also deepened over the years. Now we have the time and space to nurture the bodhi saplings of our practice toward fruition and to encourage the bodhi tree of realisation to reach its full potential.

For many ageing Buddhists, there is also the issue of where to live as our faculties decline. As the family nucleus shrinks and no longer offers home facilities, many older people, especially in the West but also increasingly in Asian countries, must face the probability of living their later years in a nursing home. To end up surrounded by people and caregivers who have no interest in spiritual matters can be a very gloomy prospect. Therefore, it is time to start talk about starting retirement homes for senior Buddhists – communities not limited to any particular tradition. The main problem is probably financial, since acquiring suitable land and buildings, plus the subsequent upkeep would require considerable investment. However, it would be a very worthwhile endeavour and surely requires more thought and attention. It is important to make good use of our later years, while our faculties are still functioning, even as our physical vigour declines.

Finally, it is up to us to take the life we have been given and make the most of the opportunity to develop our potential. This precious human body is precious because we can use it to cultivate our mind and advance along the path. We can use our remaining days to create the circumstances to die without regrets.

Sometimes as we age, we can become very ill with life threatening diseases such as cancer or heart problems. This is common. Many people look on the onset of such sicknesses with dread and horror and hope to die quietly in their sleep with no prior warning. However, it is not always an advantage to pass away without any preparation.

When we recognise in advance that our allotted time here is limited, we have the opportunity to make arrangements for leaving this life in an orderly and satisfactory manner. Knowing that we are truly going to die and that time is running out can help us focus the mind wonderfully on what is important and what is not important. People are often transformed as they begin to finally let go of attachments and long-held resentments in readiness to pass on.

Facing death gives us a chance to reconcile our differences, repair broken relationships, and allow those whom we hold dear to know that they are loved and appreciated. In the face of our imminent mortality, we have nothing to lose but our hang-ups.

At the point of death, it is best to focus the mind on our personal practice or object of devotion. At least we can try to concentrate on light and absorb our minds in that. Friends and loved ones surrounding a dying person should remain calm and supportive, not giving way to grief, but perhaps gently chanting something appropriate.

On the whole, if one has led a fairly decent life, and especially if one has made some effort to merge the Dharma with one’s mind, then death holds no fears. The consciousness will follow along its accustomed path. So it is vital to make sure, while we still have some control over our thoughts and emotions, that this will be a pathway we would wish to travel.

As Professor Dumbledore advised young Harry Potter, “For one with a well-organised mind, death is but the next great adventure.”

Whoever realises that the six senses aren’t real, that the five aggregates are fictions, that no such things can be located anywhere in the body, understands the language of Buddhas.

— Bodhidharma