身心如何安住
玅境老和尚

我们每一个人都希望生活是安乐的,但是如何能够安乐而住呢?可能会有两种态度:

一种是我对生活不满意,希望别人能改善,令我满意,以求得安乐住。第二种是反求诸己,改善自己的行为、思想,而得到安乐住的。

站在佛法的立场看,是主张第二种。孔夫子说:「己所不欲,勿施于人」,这句话,佛法是同意的。我们在日常生活中应该有这种经验,当我们的思想发动为语言、行为触恼到他人了,他人有可能会采取报复的,于是就会引起纠纷,也就不安乐了。所以,必须改善自己的思想、言行,但是这件事做起来可不是一件容易的事,应该经过长时期的学习与训练,才能身心安乐住的。

相信善恶因果

就佛法的态度来说,佛教徒从学习因果的理论,相信善恶果报,受持戒法,不要再作恶事,还要常常多忏悔,使令过去已作的罪业消除,就容易安乐住了。

《大智度论》上说,若是受了戒的人,造了各种罪业,譬如说杀了众生,就有四种罪:

一、遮罪:你在受戒时,传戒和尚问你说:「不杀生戒能持否?」你回答说:「能持!」当时你是随顺佛教,培养慈悲心,不杀害众生,而你现在犯了杀戒,即是违背了佛的教导。

二、性罪:不管受不受戒,只要杀了众生,都是有罪的。

三、障道罪:犯戒以后若不忏悔,修行会有困难。

四、偿命罪:杀了众生,要还他一命的,这是第四种苦恼的事情。

要是我们能够「作法忏」(不是极重罪),诚心忏悔的话,可以把第一条违背佛的教导这条遮罪及第三条障道罪灭除。第二条,犯了性罪,若是极严重的,不只要受到法律的制裁,也必定要到三恶道走一走的,这条罪是不容易灭掉的,必须忏悔到见灭罪相,如见到光明、莲花、佛等等瑞相,才表示你的罪业灭了,不会到三恶道里去受苦。但是欠他一命这一条罪是不能灭的,只要因缘和合具足了,他一定会讨回这条命的,除非那个众生已经相信佛法了,他不要债;或者这位犯罪者他相信了佛法,并且修学圣道得无生法忍;或往生阿弥陀佛国土,随佛学习得了无生法忍,再回到这个世界来。那这个人就是圣人了,他会主动去还债,偿他一命。当他被杀时,是一点苦恼也没有的,因为得无生法忍的人与凡夫不一样,忍力是特别大的,可能也会藉还债的因缘,去度化那个人。

所以我们相信了佛法的人,如果希望自己能够安乐而住,要时常多忏悔,使令过去所造的罪业,在力量潜伏还没有发生作用的时候,用忏悔的方式损害罪业的力量,令它不容易得果报。不要等到病痛来了,果报现前了,再想以忏悔来消业就比较困难。没事时,多拜大悲忏、梁皇忏、水忏、千佛忏,都很好,我们的罪业消除,也就容易安乐住。

学习佛法增长智能

希望生活安乐,但是智慧不足也会引起问题,所以要增长智慧。我们的内心里有很多烦恼在活动:贪、瞋、愚痴、高慢、疑。另外还有一种心理活动就是智慧,如果智慧很高、力量大,就能够调伏烦恼;如果智慧低,烦恼力量大,就无法对治,也就容易触恼他人,引起内心的不安。所以,佛教徒应该多学习佛法,唯有佛法是大智慧境界,无与伦比,学习佛法用功越久的人,对佛法的信心就越牢固不可破坏。常常地学习佛法,会增长更高、更妙的智慧。

从佛法的理论来说,世间上一切的事物都是没有决定性的,可能好,也可能坏,可能成功,也可能失败,事在人为,说我们烦恼很重,也可以叫它逐渐轻微,乃至叫它完全灭除。

我们若有机会参加有几十人或几百人在一起打禅七,其中有的人很快就能适应,我们坐一小时,在他好像五分钟一般,为什么会这样?因为他以前栽培过。从这里我们得到一个消息,我们不会的事情是可以栽培出来的,由无而有,有弱而强,由小而大,可以自己创造的。佛法的理论,是只要你自己愿意去创造,就可以成功。要是我们的烦恼很重,贪烦恼、瞋烦恼来了,就会随它去活动,想要停下来很难,但是不要紧,用佛法的止观方法是可以把它调转过来的。佛法说:「一切众生皆有佛性」,任何人都有希望走向光明自在的圣境,只要肯努力创造,人人都可以成功的。

以戒为基础修学止观

我们如果希望决定享有安乐的生活,则出世间的止观法门是必须修学的。当然,修学止观要有戒的基础。

止有二义:第一义,就是把自己的昏沉、妄想两种过失停下来;第二义,有停留的意思,停在正念上,就是没有昏沉、掉举的清净念。

观也有二意:一因观察而破烦恼;二因观察而见真理。

想要修学止观,刚开始可能是困难一些,所以必须注意一些事情:

一、发愿:学习止观是希望能得圣道,要发这样的愿,因为愿能引导你继续向前进,没有愿很容易遇到困难就退下来。但若有人学习静坐是想要得身体健康,他的愿力很坚强,也是可以成功的。

二、少欲:如果欲的生活多的话,静坐后所得到的好处都会被破坏,所以一定要减轻欲,如能离欲是最好的。

三、修学止观的方法一定要先了解清楚。我介绍几本学习静坐的书:天台智者大师所讲的《释禅波罗蜜》,这本书慧岳老法师重新校订过,能引导你迈出学习静坐的第一步、第二步,乃至高深的圣境。其次就是智者大师的《摩诃止观》,如果佛法的认识不够,读起来难一些,在义理方面是比较深了。另外,《瑜伽师地论》是弥勒菩萨说的,由无著菩萨弘扬出来的。《瑜伽师地论》对于修止修观说得很详细,是应该读的。佛法是一个转凡成圣的法门,能解脱生死得大涅槃,这是何等的大事啊,要多拿出时间来,好好的学习。

圆满的大安乐住

所以我们要想身心安乐住,必须注意改善自己的言行,还得忏悔业障、学习佛法增长智能,谨慎莫放逸,进一步由修学止观,彻底地清净自己的思想,才能获得真实的安乐住,那就是无余涅槃了。

All the sufferings of the lower realms are also to be found among human beings: Assailed by suffering as in the hells, in poverty, they suffer as in the Yama world. And the sufferings of animals too are present whenever the strong use violence and abuse the weak. And all continue unabated, like a river.

— Vasubandhu

The Tibetan Buddhist View of Death and Rebirth
by Robert Thurman

There is a level of subtle energy in the human mind which is not grossly material. It is a subtle pattern of continuity that western scientists have not looked for because they don’t have the instruments to measure it. Eastern science has investigated that subtle energy because they have observed it.

Many people have reported dying and being reborn, and they remember what happened to them. These are not just near-death experience memories; these are people who have died and report from another life that they remember what happened. Such accounts are simply dismissed by Western science, but there is a large body of evidence of living beings who claim and who in fact give very convincing demonstrations of remembering their own experiences from previous lives.

After people die, the subtle mind severs or loses its connection with the body and the gross personality. The identity of the person, the way a person is organised, the coordination of the different senses, the thinking patterns, the language and everything — all of that goes.

On the other hand, the subtle mind, which is almost like a gene, continues. This subtle mind encodes the good and bad abilities of a person — the innermost abilities towards openness and generosity, or on the opposite end, towards egotism and self-centredness. These are the basic patterns of a person which after death enter into a subtle, dream-like embodiment.

After death, after initial ecstatic experiences such as immersion in the clear-light, the subtle mind goes through a type of dream sequence and eventually seeks another body. Unless the person is trained to recognise an alternate transcendent space, they go into some form of embodiment that resembles their previous incarnation.

That is, if they were used to being human, it is likely that they will be attracted to a similar realm. It would be unusual for them to deviate into another realm to an extreme degree, but from the Buddhist point of view it could happen.

The first thing which leads me to believe this scenario is that I observe continuity in all things around me. No one has ever observed anything disappear completely. Wood burns into ash, but then heat goes into the air, and so on. Everything seems to be part of the process of continuity. For the human subjectivity to be the one thing that goes into the radical discontinuity of becoming nothing seems extremely illogical.

On the other hand, the idea of the intact personality going off someplace, or that there is a permanent personality, would contradict our experience in this life that there is tremendous, constant change in the personality. It is like a tree which drops an acorn and that creates the seed of the next tree; there is this kind of continuity.

The second type of evidence is that many people have reported remembering the eight stages of death dissolution that you can find in The Tibetan Book of the Dead. There are many stories which are reported by people who are not getting paid and have no motive to falsify such a thing. Whole communities observe this phenomenon.

Take the story of the young woman who, at the age of four, insisted on being taken to a village in a different province far away which she had never even heard of.

She went up to a house there, recognising everybody in the village by name and the people in the house. She took a little shovel and dug inside an adobe wall, where she recovered a cookie jar with a lot of money in it to give to her relatives.

The people who observed this didn’t have a preconception that it couldn’t happen. So they allowed this girl to speak and they took her where she wanted to be taken. There are innumerable stories like that. These stories constitute some kind of evidence that has to be examined.

Buddhists would see the scientific and Judeo-Christian views as two extreme beliefs. On one hand, there is the idea that the soul is nothing, that you can subjectively become nothing when you die. To say that something becomes nothing is meaningless to us, because something always becomes something else; that’s just common sense.

On the other hand, to say that something becomes absolute or eternal at some point, something that is created from nothing, is also illogical. This tenet posits an unchanging entity involved in a process of change, and then reverting to being unchanging. Buddhism posits more subtle and more gross types of levels of energy; the Judeo-Christian view takes the notion of an unchanging soul as a fixed, identity-bearing entity and projects that into an infinite future. It also rejects that this soul comes from an infinite past, and this unnecessarily injects too many illogical elements.

What Buddhists believe in is being infinitely part of a process, which can be better or worse depending on how you contribute to it. Every deed that you do now will have infinite reverberations and repercussions. It will not be you as a fixed being which will experience those repercussions, but it will be the continuity of you. That seems too strenuous to people, so they invent some haven of either absolute nothingness or an absolute something-ness with which they can console themselves.

In addition, the person who has either of those two outlooks, the scientific and the Judeo-Christian, is actually

less likely to consider the moral implications of every act than the Buddhist who believes that every act is going to have repercussions for them that will be unlimited.

For instance, if I am a materialist who thinks that I won’t be there as soon as I die, then I might be nice just to make this world better, but when there’s pressure or scarcity perhaps the moral impact of my act? will not overcome my concern for the immediate circumstances. Because, after all, I really only have to worry about this life, so I might as well seek my own comfort.

The witness to this is the life of the twentieth century, when materialism has been the dominant ideology. This has been by far the most destructive century in history. There is the definite proof that people who think, “Apres moi le deluge,” may be humanistic and nice when things are good, but care first for themselves when there is a life and death crisis on the horizon.

Similarly, people with soul theories may believe that, no matter how they behave, their permanent soul will be sent into a heaven or pure land as long as they say the right mantra or believe in the right deity. As we note in history, such people who believe in a permanent soul may launch crusades and slaughter people in the name of religion and feel exempt from the consequences by the intervention of their deity. They will let themselves go when they feel they are going to be taken care of by the absolute.

On the other hand, the moral imperative is obviously the most intense on the consequentialist being such as the Buddhist, who feels tied into the continuity of nature at subtle and gross levels. If you think that how you act now is going to influence your future experiences to an endless degree, then you are going to be much more intent on attempting to be better in your deeds rather than worse. The moral imperative is most intense in this case, which is why I think that human beings throughout history have resisted this kind of horizon of infinite causal continuity and connectedness.

When you have subdued an opponent, a thousand more are still to be overcome. Instead, crush your negative emotions, which are the enemies dwelling in your mind.

— Terdak Lingpa

尊重与珍惜
白云老禅师

「尊重与珍惜」,尊重什么?珍惜什么?不知道大家看了这题目,有没有把握它的主题,究竟在说些什么?是不是会直觉联想到「生命的问题」?不晓得各位在佛法上,面对生命的分类,熟不熟悉?可能你们会想,怎么问那么傻的问题,生命的分类,金刚经不是讲得很清楚吗?

这里稍许提一下,通常我们谈生命的分类有三种,第一种是大家最熟悉的有情众生,是指有情感反应,人可以直接体会到的。第二种非情类,「非」是指是非的非,并不是说它没有情感,而是说它的情感反应,是我们没有办法直接感受到的。第三种无情类,也不是说它没有情感,而是人根本感受不到的。

然而,这三种要怎么去分辨?有情类指的是动物,包含了爬虫类、水族类……等等的众生;非情类指的是植物,像树木、花草、蔬果;无情类指的是矿物。可能这三种分类,大家比较陌生,除非多看些经典,否则不容易了解,但是它的名相不像我这种说法,现在我们不探讨这些。

为什么要提出生命有三种分类?因为很多不信佛教的人会提出异议:不杀生,你们讲不杀动物,但植物也是生命啊!为什么可以杀?矿物也有生命,你们同样去毁灭、去破坏;为什么他们会有如此的反应?这是因为我们没有很完整的把佛法表现出来,所以引发很多不信佛教的人,造成误解,而说到:你们的戒条头一个是不杀生,可是你们还是要吃蔬果,还要用花来供佛,不都是杀生吗?

我们晓得,佛像都用玉石……等,甚至以黄金来打造,因此,在这里先要了解、认识生命。佛教谈不杀生,究竟以什么理念建立的,如果只是强调不杀生,就变成是很多佛教徒学佛,因为不杀生,那我们就吃素,不吃猪、鸡、鱼、鸭肉……等,这是错误的观念。

佛法不用这种方式来表达,我们讲不杀生,是依于人的情感,直接可以感受到对方生命的存在,像感觉它的痛苦、喊叫……,这些比较残忍的行为,也因此我们要了解,为什么把不杀生摆在有情之类;其实我们讲不杀生的重点,是培养慈悲心。

佛菩萨是大慈大悲,我们是学佛、学菩萨的人,当然要学他的大慈大悲。所以,我们对佛法,有时只从一些教条,或由比较死板的方式去看佛法,结果让很多人认为,佛法不错、佛教不错,可是我没有办法去接受,为什么呢?要求这个不可以、那个不可以。我们在人世间,已经有太多的不可以,佛法才提出解脱,如果学佛之后,反而增加许许多多的不可以,这个解脱会变成什么呢?硬是以佛的看法,来说解脱,而不是人的看法。其实佛法是对人说的,而不是对佛说的,因我们人有那么多的问题,才需要佛法的帮助。

佛法用比较简单的方式表达,是指的佛陀所说的道理和方法,听起来好像没有错,可是没有抓住它的重点。所谓佛法,先要了解:「佛」是什么?谈到这里,大家会说:你忘了,这是教师学佛营,连「佛」我们都不知道吗?可能你知道,但不一定知道的很详细。因为,一般谈到佛,是指释迦牟尼佛、阿弥陀佛。然而,「佛」在梵文中间,称「Buddha」,翻成中文是觉悟,因此,佛是觉悟的意思,如果把握了这点,就很容易了解,什么叫佛法。

因为人在世间有太多的迷惑、太多的无奈,不能觉悟,才需要佛陀的道理方法帮助我们;而佛陀的道理方法与世间法,有什么不同?我用最简单的方式告诉各位,世间的法或多或少都有缺失,就像以知识经验化解问题,所谈的是智慧的问题。可是,「智慧」两个字,在梵文中间是分开的,梵文中谈智是阇那,指的是知识和经验;般若才谈慧,相互之间有什么关系?

如果世间法谈智,以知识经验去化解问题,总是有很多做不到、或有缺失;「智」除了世间的知识经验之外,也包含释迦牟尼佛的知识经验,可是,佛法不是出世法吗?怎么也说是世间法呢?举个例子,大家就很容易了解,像佛教有部大藏经,我说那是印刷品,不晓得大家怎么想?那是一堆印刷品,里面有知识经验,所以它还是属于「智」,因此,「阇那」就是知识经验,不管是世间的、佛陀的、或其他宗教所说的,都叫做知识经验,都称之为阇那。

佛法里面强调「慧」的问题,它究竟表现什么?它是运用一切的知识经验,发挥到极致,什么样的极致?也就是面对问题的时候,运用你的知识经验,能够完全的化解问题,使它不再有缺失,此时,所显现的力量,才叫慧。所以,我们讲慧是力量,智是发动力量的动力;因此,以慧而言,拥有的知识经验愈多,表现的慧就愈圆满;拥有的知识经验不够,表现的就不够。

可是到达像佛陀一样的智慧,肯定是零缺点,此话怎讲?因世间法都是相对的,像善恶、是非、对错、美丑;事实上,人往往在相对中,选择正面,而舍弃负面,譬如说:善跟恶的问题,一般佛教徒最强调要去恶向善,世间人也是如此。

以佛教徒来讲,释迦牟尼佛不把人分成善人、恶人,而是说人的业,有善有恶,并不表示人拥有的业有善有恶,就可以分类他是善人、恶人,为什么不可以?很简单,人无始以来,造作的业有善有恶,不是完整的善,也不是完整的恶,这时候怎么分辨他是善人、恶人?如以世间人分辨,看他有善行的时候,就是善人;有恶行的时候,就是恶人。

但是,释迦牟尼佛不用此种方式分别,他是谈「业」有善有恶,这种善恶是你过去所做的,不能肯定你现在是善人或恶人,他是用什么方式去看?善、不善。为什么这么说?人的行为有善的时刻,也有不善的时刻,可是这不是一种分别,而是善的行为中间,可能有其不善,不善的行为中间,可能也有其善。

在座的大部分都是老师,我们晓得教学的方法很多,当你教学生,如果用的语言,比较激烈一点,是不是你就是恶呢?虽然,看起来不善,事实上,它的目的是善的。如此将可发现,为什么释迦牟尼佛对人不讲善人、恶人?他在佛法上强调,即使你是个善人,其实也有不善的地方;如果你表现不善的时候,也有善的地方,这是依于世间的知识经验去看问题。

我们晓得佛陀的知识经验,是运用此种知识经验,发挥成比较圆满的方法,才叫慧,从这上面可以发现,佛是觉悟的意思,凭什么觉悟?凭的是智慧的觉悟。所以,我说学佛、修行,是学智慧、培养智慧。如果学佛,只在名相、经文上去念、诵、背、拜,那不叫学智慧,而是以佛教徒的方式所表现的一种行为而已。

可是这种行为并不表示,一天二十四小时、一辈子、或每一时刻都能做到,至少他还要吃饭、穿衣、睡觉,还有很多其他的事要做,在做的时候,脑筋还是会想,此时所想的,难道说都是念经、拜佛吗?能做到这个样,也很了不起,为什么?你已经没有分别心,已经制心一处了!也是我们所说的入三昧境界。事实上,做不到,最起码在吃饭的时候,桌上摆着很多菜,你还是会分别,咸了一点、辣了一些,这甜的东西,可能吃了不太好,还是有很多的想法,不可能不想,因为人必然会想。

什么是智慧?就是怎么运用知识经验化解问题,因此,学佛是学智慧,学了智慧才不会被迷惑,才能得到觉悟,这种行为叫修行。也是刚刚我说的,它包含了经典里面所说的,以此修正身、语、意的行为,或叫身、口、意行为;人会造业,是因为身口意行为有缺失,我们人之所以要修行,是要调整身口意的行为。

人总离不开这三种行为的造作,像句子,一个字一个字写出来,它绝不是单纯的这个意思,它有直接感觉的,或经过迂回须要再去思考的。又譬如遇到一些事情,讲的时候,感觉有点可笑,可是愈想愈好笑,可见人的思想,一直在动。身、语、意在佛法里面,想达到圆满的觉悟境界,需要时时刻刻提起正念。

提起正念做什么?使我们身口意的造作不要有偏差,怎么样才不会有偏差?像戒律、法门……等等的知识经验,运用这些知识经验,帮助我们的身口意不会有偏差,不要去造业,而去行道,这才是佛法的目的。

今天有缘,到这里参加学佛营;谈到「学佛营」,我对「学佛」这个名词,有点异议,以寺院而言,应叫「研习营」比较好,大家一起来研究讨论。

讲到修行,我们学习经典、学习法门,这都是很正当的,可是有个问题,要学什么经典?修什么法门?常常很多佛教徒见了法师,向他问讯,甚至于向他磕头,请法师开示,这点我不赞成;不是磕头的问题,因为,那不是学佛的态度,也不是学佛的方法。

真正参访善知识,应该带着问题去,平常看经典,或修法门,有了问题,要带着问题去问法师,法师帮你分析。可是有一点,大家要特别注意:千万不要听到最后,请法师告诉我,修什么法?或说法师,我很烦恼,能不能告诉我,怎么办?这不是带着问题去。因为,烦恼只是个概念,法师们并不能够说,你有烦恼,给你一个菩提,你就不烦恼了。

同样,大家来到菩提寺,假使有蚊子咬你,你还是会烦恼,菩提寺的「菩提」两个字,不可能让这个环境没有蚊子。所以,为什么说我们要带着问题去,而不要用概念的方式去问;譬如你烦恼,用过各种方法,但还是烦恼;请问法师,该怎么办?法师的回答有两种:

其一:哎!学佛的人,不要烦恼嘛!是不是就不烦恼了?还是烦恼。

其二:那好!我教你一个法门;刚开始教你念佛,天天念、时时刻刻念,烦恼来了就念,开头有效,念上三两天,烦恼还是烦恼;你再去问他,他教你一个咒语,或者你还不能化解,反正他都会告诉你一个方法,到最后你还是烦恼时,会挨一顿骂,「你看你,业障重不重?我什么都教了,你还是烦恼。」这是时下佛教界的现象。

释迦牟尼佛只能告诉我们道理方法,我们要自己去面对烦恼,他绝不会说,你提出烦恼,我给你一个菩提。因此,佛教不是问跟答的问题,偶尔也有选择性的问题存在,但没有问答的问题,因为你提出的问题,即使告诉你一个答案,这答案的本身,还是有问题,绝不是说你提出问题,告诉你答案,你的问题就化解了!

各位做老师的最起码知道,一加一不一定等于二;就像我经常讲的,乘法是倍数,为什么一乘一还是一?为什么一乘二还是二?可是二乘二是四。四乘四是十六,如果再往复杂一点的数目字去思考,这问题就大了!然而,算术、数学都是人为衍化出来的。世间的法,本来就有缺失,并非是零缺点,那么的完美。

佛法是针对世间相对的,去认识它,从相对中去突破,这要怎么做?例如要明辨是非,不参与是非,对于「是」、「非」,你要明了、要辨别,可是不可以参与,是不是麻烦来了?既然要明辨,又不能参与,大家想想这个问题该怎么办?其实很简单,你只要记得,这中间还有一个「我」在!因为人人都有一个我。

假使说我们要明辨是非,涉及到是非,只有两个人,如果自己也要参与,就变成三个「我」了!怎么样能够在自己以外的两个他我,去认识是跟非?学佛最怕的是常常忘了自己的我,就像卖卫生棉的广告,好得不得了,好得忘了那个「我」。

如果以学佛的心态去看问题,要知道,还是自己「我」的问题,不是人家那个我的问题;譬如烦恼,人家讲一句话,可能不是讲你,你会联想到,可能就是在讲我。人最可爱的地方在哪里?他毁谤我,我很难过;既然是毁谤你,为什么要难过?毁谤不是事实嘛!居然还难过;可是,每个人都很可爱,情愿难过,为什么?因为自己的我显现了,可是这个显现,不是去分析对方的毁谤,而是以对方发出来的声音,用自己的感情、自己的方式感受,好像受了伤害。

人有的时候,还有更可爱的地方,譬如在办公室,你要签名或做什么……,可能没有带笔,人家桌上有笔,就顺手拿来写,习惯性地往口袋一放,走了。假使这个人说:「你怎么做小偷?」你不会难过,最多说:「对不起,我以为是自己的。」他已经说,你是小偷了咧!为什么那个时刻不会难过?因为,我们认为这是事实,我真的拿了你的笔。人家毁谤你,不是事实,反而难过;是事实,反而可以道歉、对不起,这是人很不可爱的地方。

释迦牟尼佛讲了很多的道理方法,几乎都是用譬喻的方式,很多的故事,都是世间的东西。唯一不同的地方在哪里?他提出道理、方法使你去认识问题,从相对中间去认识、了解、突破,才是出世间,出离世间什么?出离世间的问题,也就是化解问题。

知识经验人人都有,能不能化解问题?要看本身的知识经验有多少。当然,这要看本身平常的修养,就像「学」这个字,它是指搜集资讯,再加以整理,转变为自己的;简言之,搜集资讯是吸收,吸收而后消化,消化了才属于自己;如果只是别人的,那永远是别人的。

因此,我常说:学佛不要学人,像某某大师、某某长老,不得了,尤其密宗里面的上师、仁波切,甚至于活佛,讲到「活佛」,我常会想到,难道还会有「死佛」吗?如果用这种方式去学佛,那不是学佛,是学人。

在座的都是老师,如果自己不念书,不好好学习,一天到晚拜孔老夫子,你不可能成为贤人、圣人,也不可能成为有智慧的人;所以,一定要了解「学佛」,释迦牟尼佛在入灭之前,于涅盘经中告诉我们,他入灭以后,依法不依人,以法为师。他没有告诉你,要以我「释迦牟尼佛」为榜样、为老师。

像现在寺院里念「南无本师释迦牟尼佛」,「本师」是中国人提倡出来的,他跟我们一样来到这世间,唯一不同的地方,他学习了圆满的智慧,可以化解任何的问题,是显现圆满觉悟的一位成就者。用这种方式去看,就不会像有些非常虔诚的佛教徒,手上慎重的捧着经典,而不好好的研习,难道就懂得它里面的道理方法吗?

你们常看到很多的寺院,把大藏经放在大殿两边漂亮的柜子里,还用一把锁锁上,怕人家偷,假使人家偷了,就没有法宝可拜!可否想到,经典是要去看、去钻研的?这都是怪现象。还有,假使你看到藏经柜没有锁,把玻璃门拉开,还没碰到经书,就有人跑出来说:「不可以」!

我们常常看到所谓的天才儿童;是不是生下来,从来不教他,就那么能干呢?一定是父亲、母亲加上学校的教育,他学习得比别人快,比别人容易理解,才能成为天才儿童;如果从来没有人教他,天底下没有天才儿童。

通常孩子小的时候都很乖巧,几乎你要怎么样,他都可以怎么样,可是到了生理上开始成长变化,慢慢就开始反抗了,反抗到什么时候呢?国中二年级,此时几乎变成了叛逆期,他甚至还会骂父亲、母亲「你好土」,那是为什么?孩子没有变,你的教育没有变,环境也没有变。

我们人一生中有两个生理期,一是成年的生理期,一是进入中年的生理期。其实,我们每个人都是这么走过来的,可是一旦面对问题的时刻,或成长的生理期,或中年进入老年的生理期,你将会发现,人反而忘了自己也是这么走过来的,那是为什么?因为忘了自己的「我」,这时候,一心一意摆在对方「我」的身上。因此,学佛不是叫你去否定这些现实的种种,现实本来就有些问题存在,而是当问题显现时,该怎么去面对?

所以,佛教提出三无漏学:戒、定、慧,为什么要谈这些?因为戒定慧都是些知识经验、道理方法,如果能吸收,消化,转变成为自己的,你就能时时刻刻面对问题,化解问题,对别人可以,对自己当然更是可以了。因为,佛法是讲自利而后利他,自度而后度他。如果说世间法是相对的、有缺失;而像我刚刚说的,佛法完成之后,是零缺点、没有缺失,它是绝对的;我们常看到寺院里面,写着「不二法门」,其实它就是谈「绝对」的意思。

其次,还要提醒各位,刚刚谈到突破的问题,突破在经典里叫出离,什么是出离?一定是面对问题,跟问题打交道,能够突破问题,从中转出来,才叫出离。譬如离苦得乐,不是叫你逃避苦而追求乐,而是从苦的中间去认识、去了解,最后能够突破,你的苦就化解了,得到的结果是乐;不是于苦与乐相对中,叫你选择乐而舍弃苦。

苦、乐是相对法,善、恶也是相对法,从相对中间去认识、去了解,凭什么去认识、了解?那就要学佛,也就是要学觉悟的道理方法,能帮助你觉悟的道理方法,才是佛法,才有出离的机会,突破的机会,这是在概念上先要有所认识的。

再者,还要谈一个名词,学佛的人、或佛教徒都很在意的一个名词:回向、回向功德。我们一般都听说,做功德要回向,回向之后,你的功德变得愈大,好像是魔术师,佛法那里有这种讲法。功德要回向,是不要你执着于功德,这是第一个概念。第二个概念是个重点,功德,功是一种力量,德是一种修养,把修养化成为力量,才叫功德,这里面包括精神的、物质的。

事实上,回向应该怎么解释?我刚刚说的就是重点,用白话讲,大家最容易了解,把你既得的利益,给与更多的人分享,就叫功德,也叫回向,也就是回向功德。即是把你「既得」的利益,是什么?不管是精神的、物质的,本身拥有的知识经验,拥有的财富都在内,自己已经拥有的一切,而且是种利益,不是造成伤害的,给与更多的人分享。

在座的各位,在学校几乎都是在做功德,只是你没有发现做了功德,有没有回向?所谓有没有回向,是不是你执着于功德?可能大家马上产生一个意念,我是不是每天下课,还要做回向呢?其实不是讲「愿以此功德,普及于一切」,这不叫回向,真正的回向,是什么?很简单,你今天教了一天的课,的确学生应该学的,你教了没有?学生理解了多少?如果你发觉还有缺失,第二天自己去弥补那些缺失,这整个过程就是功德回向。

我们回复到佛教本身的做法,我们讲布施,大家都知道,好像布施有三种,财施、法施,另外还有无畏施,是不是有三种?其实,布施只有两种,为什么我说只有两种?物质、精神可以给与人,无畏怎么给与人?拿什么给与?其实是说财施、法施这两种布施的行为,你要具备无畏的精神,要无所畏惧;所以不是三种布施,只有两种。这种无所畏惧是什么?它包含了连续性,没有时间、空间的限制,持续的做下去,因此,一定要了解布施有两种,这两种行为要具备无畏的精神去做。

为什么要谈这个问题?因为刚刚谈功德回向,在座可能有很多受过菩萨戒,当你受完菩萨戒之后,回到家里有没有发觉,很多做不到?这种事特别多。很多人听人家讲受菩萨戒的功德、增上功德,就糊里糊涂去受菩萨戒,受回来后,做不到。有的人跑来问我:「老师父,我怎么办?」我说:「什么怎么办?」「人家说:受菩萨戒很好,我就去受了,可是很多做不到,怎么办?」我告诉他一句话:「谁叫你受菩萨戒,你就去找谁。」做不到,你受它干什么?最后是知法犯法咧!

所以我们谈修行办道一些很平常的事,不注意就会出问题,譬如说皈依三宝之后,马上就去受五戒;通常我只赞成皈依三宝后,先学戒,不要受戒,先去学,认为自己能做得到了,再去受。因为在家修行,三皈五戒里有这种方便,先去学五个戒条,学会一个,你自己就在佛前自受。

自受,是怎么受呢?譬如说不杀生,我能做得到,的确永远都可以做得到,就在佛前说:「从今天起,我开始受不杀生戒」,你就自受了。五个戒条,一个一个都能做到了,然后才到戒坛去受戒。譬如:在家居士参加共修,先学习戒律,回到家,看自己能不能做得到?其实不只是戒律,就像学佛营,大家也是想学一些东西带回去,慢慢再去认识,去修养,你们来这里,只是搜集资讯,带回去消化。

许多事情像发愿,认为这个功德最大,常常有人发此愿,我出家,将来要盖个大寺院,供养很多出家人,让他们修行办道;我说这叫大妄语,你现在根本做不到,是不是妄想呢?发愿是要依于现在的条件,能做得到,表现出来的,才能叫功德。

谈到布施,我讲几句挡财路的话,很多人都会骂我,但你们不会。以前我举例说,要布施、供养,不要听人家说布施得愈多,功德就愈大,不要用这种方式去布施、供养,不是跑到寺院去比谁的钞票多,而是要量力而为。佛法有个大前提,也是它的宗旨,不可以造成彼此的伤害,只要有任何一方造成伤害,这种行为就不可能完成功德;所以我说,不要伤害别人,自己也不要受到伤害。

以布施功德来讲,譬如你是一家之主,赚钱养一家五口,一个月赚五万,这五万块钱,虽然是你一个人赚的,但是不要忘了,其他四个人与你是一体的,这五万块他们都有份。如果你想做功德,明天、后天、或是那一天,要到寺院去做供养,布施五千元,我赞成五个人开个家庭会议:「我提议准备五千元去布施供养,你们有没有意见?」因为这五千元,只有自己赞成,一千元有功德,因为你要做嘛!如果其他四位,有一位说不,你只能做四千元,如果有两位说不,只能做三千元,就这么减,最后大家都不愿意,你只能布施一千元。你不能说:「老子赚钱,爱怎么花就怎么花」,那是不可以的。我想在座都会有这种感受,可能一部分说到你们的心底。

所谓造成彼此的伤害,往往我们想要做功德,说不定功德的目的没有达到,已经先伤害了!我不晓得在座的家庭里面,有没有这种情况?譬如有的信佛教、基督教,天主教,或其他的宗教。假使一个家庭有不同的宗教信仰,你要供养佛法僧,他要捐献上帝,不可能走在一起;即使他们没有其他的信仰,你也不能够一手包办,我下个命令就这么做,那不能完成功德。

虽然我这些话,讲得好像不通人情,都是一家人,何必要这样嘛!但不要忘了,你是学佛的人。释迦牟尼佛强调众生平等,这话人人都能够接受,就像做老师的会劝家长,对你的小孩,有的时候要做老师、父亲,或母亲,可是不要忘了,当某个时刻,你还要做他的朋友。

佛陀说的一句话「众生平等」,佛教里面平常的一些名词,很多人都会念,怎么运用它?怎样把它摆在问题上,去化解问题?包括自己、别人的,这都是我们学佛必须要把握的一些概念,也是一些重点。

明天以讨论问题做总结,以我的经验,通常讨论问题,只有少数的人会提问题,而多数有问题的人,可是不想讲出来,怎么办呢?依我的作风,可以用纸条先写好,明天一开始,先解答口头提出来的问题,然后再解答纸条所提的问题。

难得在一起,在学佛的过程中,难免有些问题,可能你的问题,也是别人的问题,通常听一个人讲是有限的,个人提出实际的问题,然后大家一起研讨,就可达到回向的目的,我们谈所谓的尊重、珍惜,我不想把佛教的一些名词,摆一大堆在这里,归纳为结缘、随缘、惜缘,然后你们大家一起分享。

我介绍佛法,很少用那种方式谈,如果各位看法界卫视,我介绍经典,很少在名相上打转;因为,那都是些知识经验、道理方法,怎样把这些融合在现实生活里,能用得上,才叫佛法;如果用不上,那不叫学佛,最多只能说是一位佛教徒而已。

所以说做个佛教徒要信佛,也要做个学佛的人,才有机会成佛;我们只信不学,那只是依赖,依赖是有限的,唯有自己才能够使你的智慧愈来愈高,你就有觉悟的机会,时时刻刻都可以得到利益。这是我八十余年的学佛过程,以很简单的方式呈现,大家能把握的话,就比较容易悠游法海,今天就介绍到这里,谢谢各位。

The sun, the moon, a lamp, or a lightning flash can illuminate, but they can not remove inner darkness. But bodhicitta, that is praised and taught by the masters, will completely destroy it.

— Khunu Rinpoche

The Path of Foolish Beings
by Mark Unno

One of the implications of the Mahayana Buddhist idea of emptiness is that the important question is not “What does it mean to be a Buddhist?” It is “What does it mean to be a human being?” That’s because emptiness applies to Buddhism itself as much as it does to ordinary objects of attachment. It is only when one has been “emptied” of all preconceived categories, including those of Buddhism, that the deepest reality of being d?human becomes apparent. As the Zen master Dogen states, “To study the buddhadharma is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self.”

In our usual thinking about human nature, we tend to turn toward various specialists. For example, a scientist might consider our ability to stand erect (homo erectus) and use tools with opposable thumbs to be the defining endowments of human nature. A philosopher might regard the ability to think as the distinguishing characteristic of human nature, as the French thinker René Descartes suggested with his statement cogito ergo sum, “I think, therefore I am.” Some point to the human ability to express sublime emotion through poetry and art or to make moral judgements. Others see skilled surgeons, artful ballerinas, basketball stars, moral leaders, and the like as the pinnacles of humanity. Parents hope their children will become mature human beings, making full use of their bodies, minds, and hearts, and will lead lives that are fulfilling for themselves and others.

But does this account for all of human nature? What about failure, loss, separation, and death? What about people who may have talent but do not live up to their promise? For every musician who aspires to a concert career, how many abandon their dreams for lack of opportunity or finances? Of all the young men and women who aspire to play pro basketball, how many succeed? How many are injured or fail to meet the right coach? How many people wish to escape cycles of oppression and violence but are unable to do so?

When we begin to see that failure and shortcomings of all kinds — economic, social, moral, and spiritual — are as commonplace as so-called success, it becomes necessary to revise our definition of human nature. What we had initially conceived of as human nature, our first nature, as it were, turns out to be only half of the story. There is a second nature, what in Shin Buddhism is called bombu, or foolish being, which is just as much a part of our humanity as our first nature.

Shin Buddhism, the largest development of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism, emphasises our foolishness, or karmic shortcomings. Although we may have a desire or impulse to do good, we are often our own greatest stumbling blocks, the victim of our own circumstances. But while we cannot escape the external karmic consequences of our past actions — legal, economic, social, and so on — this does not mean that we should punish ourselves inwardly for things that have happened in the past. Rather, by recognising our foibles and quirks, we open a window into our own karmic nature, without which we cannot realise buddhanature. For it is only when we recognise and take ownership of the full scope of our humanity that we can see ourselves as truly, fully human. This is when our foolish nature, or second nature, becomes second nature. Only then do we see that the mask of success — the social self we present to others and to ourselves — is only part of our story, and we can look at ourselves and others with more humour and gentleness and with a greater sense of awareness and compassion. As Ryokan, the Zen monk who was also steeped in the Shin path, wrote, we may learn to be more like the maple leaf in autumn that bares all without pretence:

Showing front
Showing back
The falling maple leaf
Embracing Our Foolish Being

What we usually regard as failure, loss, and pain may seem negative because we have a limited view of ourselves, based on our preconceptions and attachments to ideas of who we think we are or should be. As the ancient Daoist master Zhuangzi states,

If a man sleeps in a damp place, his back aches and he ends up half paralysed, but is this true of a loach? If he lives in a tree, he is terrified and shakes with fright, but is this true of a monkey? Of these three creatures, then, which one knows the proper place to live?… Men claim that Maoqiang and Lady Li were beautiful, but if fish saw them they would dive to the bottom of the ocean, if birds saw them they would fly away, and if deer saw them they would break into a run. Of these four, which knows how to fix the standard of beauty for the world?

We label things good and bad, desirable and undesirable, based on our limited understanding, but when we become free of our fixed labels, then all things become potentially meaningful and are embraced in the great flow of life.

Consider the case of Dr. Temple Grandin, associate professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University. She has a condition, usually given the label of autism, that makes social interaction very challenging, but she has grown through her struggles — struggles that have led her to her current work. She cannot sense and decode complex human emotions like most people can, but she has an acute awareness of animal emotions, which are generally simpler and purer. She has developed deep empathy with animals such as cows and pigs and has worked to have them treated as humanely as possible. Sensing the fear that animals experience as they enter the slaughterhouse, she has invented a curved entry into the slaughterhouse that keeps each animal from seeing the fate of the one in front it. Now, fully one-third of slaughterhouses in the United States have adopted this curved shoot.

Some might argue that if she really felt empathy for these animals, she would be a vegetarian and work to convince others to be vegetarians. Perhaps this is so. Yet her approach is in some ways close to that of Shinran (1173–1262), the first and foremost teacher of the Shin Buddhist path. In Shinran’s time there were farmers, fishermen, butchers, and grave diggers, many of whom relied on taking the lives of other beings or of benefiting from their deaths for their own livelihood. Recognising how he was implicated in the suffering of the world, Shinran chose to become one with all beings rather than set himself apart from them. In this way, he could share with them the path of Amida Buddha’s compassion, through which each being is also gradually transformed into a vessel of compassion.

Amida Buddha (from the Sanskrit, Amitabha Buddha) means the Awakened One of Infinite Light, but to express its dynamic character, it can be understood as the awakening of infinite light. Shin Buddhism focuses on the practice of intoning the name of Amida Buddha. Namu Amida Butsu means roughly, “I entrust myself to Amida Buddha.”

Turning bad into good, tenmaku jozen, is at the heart of the Pure Land path, in which the limited self of foolish being is transformed into the boundless compassion of Amida. Like Temple Grandin, it may be that ordinary human beings can sometimes be insensitive to the feelings of others, but unlike her, we may not yet be aware of our shortcomings. To the degree that we become aware that we are foolish beings, we are illuminated by boundless compassion. Namu is “foolish being”; Amida Butsu is “boundless compassion.” Amida walks with us step-by-step, as it were, as we discover our foolishness. Namu Amida Butsu is the expression of foolish being coming to be embraced, resolved, and dissolved in the limitless flow of Amida’s primal vow, which is the vow to realise the oneness of ego-self and Amida-self, the oneness of all beings in the ocean of compassion.

CULTIVATING BEGINNER’S MIND, RETURNING TO FOOLISH BEING

It is one thing to understand the working of shinjin, of true entrusting in the primal vow, at an intellectual level and even to have some feeling for the way it unfolds. However, it is difficult to live in the continual awareness of Amida’s compassion. We may gain some understanding by further study, but the continual sense of openness to the limitless possibilities of life is virtually impossible to maintain. As Shunryu Suzuki states,

In Japan we have the phrase shoshin, which means “beginner’s mind.” The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner’s mind. Suppose you recite the Prajnaparamita Sutra only once. It might be a very good recitation. But what would happen to you if you recite it twice, three times, four times, or more? You might easily lose your original attitude toward it. The same thing will happen in your other Zen practices. For a while you will keep your beginner’s mind, but if you continue to practice one, two, three years or more, although you may improve some, you are liable to lose the limitless meaning of original mind….

If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s there are few.

This does not mean that we should forget everything and become raw beginners. Rather, the true expert is the one who makes use of her knowledge without becoming attached to it. Approaching each situation with a fresh and open mind, she can really use her knowledge by becoming attentive and responsive to the ever-changing, actual conditions of the present moment.

Honen, Shinran’s teacher, similarly emphasised the importance of becoming free of any pretence of knowledge, especially with regard to the spiritual path. Shinran quotes his teacher, saying, “The person of the Pure Land path attains birth in the Buddha Land by returning to his foolish self.”

No one was more aware of the difficulty of maintaining beginner’s mind, of truly realising one’s foolish being, than Shinran himself. His follower Yuien asked him about this very point, saying, “Although I say the Name, I rarely experience joyful happiness, nor do I have the desire to immediately go to the Pure Land. What should be done about this?” To which Shinran replied,

I, Shinran, have been having the same question also, and now you, Yuien, have the same thought…. It is the working of blind passion which suppresses the heart that would rejoice and prevents its fullest expression. All this the Buddha already knew and called us foolish beings filled with blind passion; when we realise that the compassionate vow of other-power is for just such a person like myself, the vow becomes even more reliable and dependable.

Normally when we hear about “beginner’s mind” or “foolish being,” we tend not to really listen and instead think that these are ideas about something or someone else. Yet, according to Shinran, there is no time or place that we can realise the meaning of these things apart from the present moment. It is precisely this self in this moment, filled with blind passion and foolishness, and thereby unable to feel the flow of Amida’s vow, that is being called by life itself to join the great flow of boundless compassion. Like a lonely boat afloat on the ocean whose occupant is afraid of sinking, we do not realise that it is actually the ocean itself that keeps us afloat. In fact, when we come to truly trust in the deep currents of life, then we know we should dive right into the ocean of compassion. When we realise that the vow of Amida, the boundless flow of life itself, is waiting for no one else but us, then “the vow becomes even more reliable and dependable.”

This also describes the relationship between self-power, jiriki, and other-power, tariki — between foolish beings and Amida Buddha. There is no other-power apart from self-power. In each moment, by exerting ourselves to the fullest, by diving into life, we are simultaneously shown our foolishness — the limits of self-power — and illuminated by boundless compassion, which is other-power. Thus Shinran describes the two types of deep entrusting that are complementary: deeply entrusting oneself to self-power and deeply entrusting oneself to other-power. Without the one, the other cannot be realised. As the Shin Buddhist teacher and poet Kai Wariko sings,

The voice with which I call Amida Buddha
Is the voice with which Amida Buddha calls to me.
Becoming One with All Beings

As one gradually deepens awareness of the true self, the gentle awareness of foolish being becomes second nature and foolish being merges with boundless compassion. Of course, Amida’s compassion was always there, but for us human beings, the realisation of this oneness takes time, just as a reluctant child learns to swim by first slowly dipping his toes in the water.

As awareness deepens, the spiritual sojourner realises that all beings have always been there in oneness. We can see this by exploring the simple question, who am I? Am I husband, teacher, son, Japanese, American, Japanese-American? Am I made of blood, muscle, and bone, or do I think of myself more in terms of my mind? At one time, I was nothing more than an embryo in my mother’s uterus. Receiving the nourishment that came through the umbilical cord, her body became my body, her dinner mine. But did I not also receive the personality and character of my parents? Of my grandparents?

And what of my life ever since my physical birth? I have received nourishment, both physical and mental. Through experiences with other beings, they have become one with me so that I could live today. Even the hearts and minds of ancient peoples enter into me through words on a page and images in ink and stone. Their legacy includes their accomplishments, yes, but also their failures and sufferings, which become one with mine to teach me about the deep bonds of humanity and all sentient beings. As Thich Nhat Hanh sings,

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile, learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry, in order to fear and to hope,
the rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that is alive….

I am the 12-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving….

Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

The more I reflect, the more difficult it is to draw the line between my life and the life of others: family, friends, dogs, cats, birds, the sky, the moon, and the stars. In each moment, the deep interconnections between my life and that of all other beings come to life. It is only when I look away, hoping to create connections in a world of abstractions, that I lose my way. Seeing this profound web of interdependence, Shinran states,

I, Shinran, have never even once uttered the Name for the sake of my father and mother. The reason is that all beings have been fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, in the timeless process of birth and death. When I attain Buddhahood in the next birth, each and every one will be saved.

In the path of Pure Land, intoning the Name, Namu Amida Butsu, affirms the oneness of all beings and expresses becoming one with them. Since this cannot be realised apart from the present moment, here and now, it is important to recognise that there is no realisation of true compassion apart from each recitation of the sutras, each bow, each utterance of the Name — in fact, each activity throughout the day. Paradoxically, the realisation that “all beings are one with me” moves one to become one with all beings. The Pure Land of oneness is already here, and yet I have not realised it.

EXPERIENCES OF BOUNDLESS COMPASSION

When one tastes deeply the flavor of compassion, one is able to see moments of positive significance in times of difficulty and to see more clearly the web of interdependence as it informs one’s life.

Second World War internee Shinobu Matsuura relates an episode from her husband, Issei’s, life as they lived separated in distant internment camps in the United States. Reverend Issei Matsuura was presiding over the funeral of a friend who had died in the camp. Listening to the simple ceremony in the stark setting of the camp, one of the guards became curious and began to ask him about the Buddhist teachings.

“How does a person gain salvation?” asked the guard.

“Good person, evil person, all beings will be saved,” replied Issei.

“You mean they repent and reform and then they are saved?”

“No. Just be embraced in the Great Compassion, and recite the Name, and one is saved as he is.” “Where does one go?”

“Pure Land.”

“But, if the good and evil ones are saved as they are, won’t they keep on fighting as they did in this world?”

My husband, in his own kind of English, with earnest zeal, explained the universality of the pure taste of water. “Everyone, all beings, become Buddha. It is a boundless teaching.”

The ones under guard, the guard, all forgot their differences. The sun was down already. In the snowy night, they reached the prison in mutual warmth.

Even in such difficult circumstances, the Shin path can provide an opening into the heart of compassion for those who have been defined as enemies by the external world. Mrs. Matsuura also relates her own experience during a period of difficulty. When we become troubled or preoccupied, we often become inattentive to our surroundings, which then reflect our inner state back to us. Mrs. Matsuura describes this relationship in terms of an experience with a plant that she had bought but had neglected due to her own recent struggles:

One day I was agitated about something. I was in low spirits and out of sorts. By chance, my eyes glanced at the plant forgotten in the corner of the room. It had withered and appeared miserable. I can see myself reflected in the plant. When in anger, there is no warmth, no peace, no flexibility, just like this dried up plant. Once in a while, when someone compliments me, I am elated and swell proudly. But one small false step and immediately I shrivel and freeze…. Indeed I am just like the plant.

At once, I put the plant in the sunlight and gave it fresh water. Before my eyes, it glistened, fresh and alive. The pure strength, the growing image, and I, too, became calm, and in joy, I became encouraged…. Around us, immeasurable dharma flows and unbound compassion shines.

When one is steeped in the Buddha’s teaching for one’s whole life, the feeling of compassion overflows to encompass all things, even objects. Ryokan expresses this eloquently in a poem about his begging bowl:

I’ve forgotten
my begging bowl
but no one would steal it
no one would steal it—
how sad for my begging bowl

As Jason Rabbitt-Tomita explains,

Ryokan did not say “How lucky for me, I can keep my bowl!” Rather, his own gain is a cause for sadness for what most consider an “inanimate object.” This is an attitude showing thankfulness for all life. In a strict sense, the compassion he feels for his bowl is not “Ryokan’s” compassion; instead, compassion encompasses him and all beings until Ryokan becomes all beings and all beings become Ryokan. He bows before his bowl; he plays with the children; he suns the lice from his shirt on the windowsill, and then places them back in his shirt. Bowing towards each thing in life, the Name arises of itself. Namu Amida Butsu.

REALISING THE PURE LAND

Shinran makes a distinction between two key moments in the realisation of the Shin path: the moment of shinjin, or true entrusting, in which the foolish being entrusts herself to Amida Buddha as her deepest reality, and the moment of death, when one enters the Pure Land, nirvana, emptiness. The reason that the moment of true entrusting and the entrance into the Pure Land are not completely the same is due to our karmic limitations. The distinction between the two is roughly equivalent to the difference between the historical Buddha Shakyamuni’s attainment of nirvana at the age of thirty-five and his entrance into parinirvana at eighty. The initial nirvana is known as “nirvana with a remainder” because, while he was still in his limited mind and body, negative karmic residue remained. Although he was a great and enlightened teacher, he also fell physically ill, he had disagreements with disciples, and the sangha was beset by political turmoil and split into two. When he left this world and the limitations of his body and mind, he entered complete nirvana, or parinirvana.

Similarly, one attains true entrusting in this life and enters the complete Pure Land in the next. The Pure Land has always been there underfoot, yet we cannot fully see it until we become free of the blind passions that are an inevitable part of life. Though seemingly illogical, this is the reality of life for the Shin Buddhist: the vow to bring all beings into the Pure Land has already been accomplished by Amida Buddha, but we must continue our journey on the path to the Pure Land. In fact, precisely because the path has already been laid out for us, we see that we are not there yet. Deep down, we sense the oneness of the flow of reality, and thereby we are moved to realise it in each moment of life. We say Namu Amida Butsu beginning with ourselves (Namu), but it is Amida Butsu, Amida Buddha, that brings one to the realisation of Namu, one’s foolishness.

BEYOND LIMITED NOTIONS OF LIFE AND DEATH

It is said that what set the Buddha Shakyamuni on his path to seek enlightenment was the sight of old age, sickness, and death. To grow old, become ill, and die is as much a part of our human nature as anything else. In fact, to truly live, we must be able to acknowledge and embrace all of this. If death is truly part of us, then it dwells deep within us, even among those who are in seemingly robust health.

Amida’s compassion, boundless life, is beyond preconceived ideas of life and death. At each step in life, this boundless oneness is always there, and great compassion awaits one at death just as it does at every turn in life. In the depths of the human heart, life and death are as one in the great flow of existence. Aoki Shinmon, a Buddhist mortician, was washing his hands after preparing the corpse of a young mother for burial. As he dumped the water from a bucket into a bamboo grove, he saw a dragonfly whose belly shone with the translucent light of a belly filled with eggs:

As I was doing the coffining surrounded by people crying, no tears came, but when I saw the eggs shining in this dragonfly, tears filled my eyes. This tiny dragonfly dying after just a few weeks has been bearing eggs in unbroken succession to perpetuate its life form from hundreds of millions of years past. As I thought of this, tears started to flow and would not stop.

The name of Amida Buddha leads beyond the usual separation of life and death into oneness of reality.

In the Japanese tea ceremony, there is the expression ichigo ichie, “one time, one meeting.” Although we may see family and friends on a daily basis, if we really think about it, each meeting is the first and last. As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus states, one cannot step in the same river twice. Each time we meet a person, however familiar, they have changed, and we have also changed, so that the encounter is unique, for that time only. When the inexorable force of the vow, of the power of life itself, breaks through our foolish complacency to make us realise the preciousness of each moment, then we are moved to utter the six-syllable Name, Namu Amida Butsu.

This life, wholly unexpected
I receive this moment now.
Unlimited suffering
Boundless compassion
Namu Amida Butsu
Namu Amida Butsu

Lotus 176.

There are many strong and healthy people who die young, while many of the old and sick and feeble live on and on. Not knowing when we’ll die, we need to develop an appreciation and acceptance of what we have, while we have it, rather than continuing to find fault with our experience and constantly seeking to fulfil our desires.

— Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche

净土法门与人间佛教
惟贤法师

一、“做人”是实现净土的前提

说到净土,就与人间佛教分不开。为什么这样讲呢?净土,有西方净土、东方净土,十方上下都有净土。佛降生、修行、成道、说法都在人间,度众生以人为对像,在做好人的基础上走菩提道路,这是宣说、践行人间佛教的一种典型。人间净土实现了,也就同时实现了西方、东方、上下十方的净土。

净土法门所讲的三福业为:“一者,孝养父母,奉事师长,慈心不杀,修十善业;二者,受持三皈,具足众戒,不犯威仪;三者,发菩提心,深信因果,读诵大乘,劝进行者。”第一个福业,讲把人做好;第二个讲解脱,以持戒为中心;第三个讲菩萨行。《阿弥陀经》上讲“不可以少善根福德因缘得生彼国”,“善根福德”与三福业紧密相连,要生彼国必须把人做好,这是前提。第一个福业相当于《菩提道次第广论》中的下士道,第二个福业相当于中士道,第三个福业相当于上士道。

三福业与三士道的精神完全一致,都是讲在做人的基础上修解脱行,发菩提心,直至成佛。故做好一个人是前提,否则谈不上解脱与净土。

二、“做人”是人间佛教的基础

人间佛教是太虚大师20世纪30年代在重庆的缙云山汉藏教理院首先明确提出来的,当时叫人生佛教,其实就是后来的人间佛教。当时我正在那里读书,我亲耳听他讲过“人生佛教、真现实论、真菩萨行、菩萨学处”这些内容。人生佛教,是太虚大师根据印度的佛法和中国传统的佛教,对佛法进行融贯,并结合现代实际做出新的判摄后,提出的适应当今时代发展的伟大佛教思想,为当今学人指出了一条契机契理的修行之路。

太虚大师当时为什么要提倡人生佛教呢?这与当时的时代背景分不开。当时佛教是以这两种方式来流行:一是消极隐遁,躲在深山、岩洞修行,独善其身;二是一说到佛教就给人以神秘感,让人以为就是念点咒、搞点神通等等,带有迷信和神秘色彩。因此形成了佛教内部不振作、外部受压迫的现状。佛教要更广地弘传,必须要避开这两种,不隐遁化,不神秘化。

人间佛教第一步就是说要把人做好。太虚大师有二首偈来说明这个内容,一首:仰止唯佛陀,完成在人格,人成即佛成,是名真现实;另一首:如果发愿学佛,先须立志做人,三皈四维淑世,八德十善严身。这些内容都是提倡把人做好,才能够逐步上升乃至于成佛。这条成佛的路线就是“由人到超人再到超超人”:首先把人格完成,做好一个人,为人天善;继而奉行三皈,严守五戒,做一个超人,为解脱善;在此基础上发菩提心度众生,出世而入世,做一个超超人,为菩萨善。以人乘直接趣入菩萨乘而成佛的道路就是人间佛教修行的中心思想,它有四个阶段,第一人生改善,第二后世增胜,第三生死解脱,第四法界圆明。

我把极乐世界实现在人间,就是要使人间净化,这个与三福业、三士道的精神相合。没有人间佛教,人间没有净化,你的心灵没有得到净化,哪来极乐世界呢?《观无量寿经》上讲念佛以三心“至诚心、深善心、广大回向心”来念佛必定往生,其实就是进行心灵上的净化。

三、人间佛教与净土法门一致

太虚大师倡导实现的人间佛教,与净土是联成一片的。若是能够实现人间佛教,也就实现了人间净土,必定进入弥陀净土,那就是华藏世界了,莲花与莲花相印,连成一片,包括西方世界、东方世界,也包括娑婆世界,上下十方都包括。

太虚大师崇拜弥勒菩萨,一方面从思想系统来说,弥勒菩萨讲《瑜伽师地论》,是慈恩宗的祖师,而太虚大师“教宗弥勒,学绍玄奘”;另外弥勒菩萨将于五十七亿万年以后下生,在龙华树下三会度众生成道,那个时候的人间就完全实现了五戒十善,风调雨顺,国泰民安。把兜率净土化现在人间,是弥勒菩萨的愿望,也是太虚大师提倡人间佛教的真实意义所在。那么,在实际行动上,就必须要修三福业,三福业这条道路就是菩提道。因此,这个人间佛教的思想,与释迦佛、弥陀佛、弥勒菩萨所讲都是一致的。

现在这个世界,倾向物欲,崇拜物质,在五浊中,见浊很浓,处处充满常见、断见,这些都不是佛法的正见,这个业流会把世界引向毁灭。我们作为佛教徒,应该大力践行人间佛教。中国历代祖师,从晋代慧远大师、唐代八宗祖师,一直到近代的印光大师、太虚大师、弘一大师,都是提倡先要把人伦道德搞好,孝顺父母,戒杀放生,明因识果,修十善业。这是人生基础,佛怎么说的,历代祖师也怎样说,都是叫我们在做好人的基础上发菩提心,理论与实践一致,解行并重,这就是一条成佛的康庄大道。

因此,净土法门与人间佛教是紧密相连的,“人成即佛成”是人间佛教的核心思想,人做好了,也就净化了人间,实现了人间净土,这也是净土法门的真正意义所在。

Relax! There is no need to be critical. Whatever arises, whatever occurs, simply don’t cling to it, but immediately let it go. Know the Truth beyond all opposites.

— Niguma