Refuge – the Doorway to Buddhism
by Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche, Thutop Choekyi Wangchuk

TEACHINGS ON REFUGE

Refuge is a complete path of Buddhist. It covers the aspect of Theravada, Mahayana and the highest teachings of Dzogchen and Mahamudra in Vajrayana.

REFUGE – THE VERY FOUNDATION OF BUDDHISM

Refuge is not only an essential foundation stone in Buddhism; it also strengthened all the higher practices as we progress to the more advance stages. That’s why learning refuge properly and thoroughly; knowing it completely and deeply why it’s important, how it’s important, and how one should take refuge and practice refuge with in-depth understanding, will benefit one’s practices tremendously. Then, one would be a very down to earth, authentic and depth practitioner.

When Atisha first came to Tibet, lots of Tibetan practitioners are drifted off-ground … all are preoccupied with deep tantras, high meditation … However, the basic fundamental Dharma was not very strong, yet everybody is talking about very high teachings. Some masters just spread these advance teachings all over … It’s a little like today’s world where everybody is talking about Dzogchen, Mahamudra and high Tantric practices. When very high meditation is being taught, whether those high meditation takers, have completed the basic practice of Buddhism? Very often, they didn’t. But yet they are already up there.

THE ‘REFUGE PANDITA’ – JOWO JE PALDEN ATISHA

When Palden Atisha, the great Indian Buddhist master was invited to Tibet, he sees this extreme confusion about the correct practice in Tibet. Atisha has very high reputation as a learned one, a remarkable master and scholar, yet once again, he made the refuge very important in Tibetan Buddhism. He put so much emphasis on refuge, until he was given a nickname – the ‘Refuge Pandita’. Atisha spent about 17 years in Tibet, translating texts and reintroducing the pure Dharma, which was largely distorted after a period of persecution. His presence in Tibet was instrumental in reinvigorating Buddhism, and bring about the resurrection of another golden age of Dharma in the Land of Snows.

If one does not have the fundamental understanding of refuge, then basically you have missed the main project – building the foundation. It’s as if you are trying to make a very big house, but yet you ignore or neglect the quality and solidity of the groundwork. Even you, apparently seems to be succeeded in building the most magnificent palace, it could never stay for long. A tiny landslide is enough to tumble the entire structure. Similarly, engaging in high tantric practices or meditation without proper preliminaries, will not bring the real long-term benefits of authentic Dharma.

THE MEANINGS OF REFUGE

On the basic level, taking refuge in Buddhism, means we go for refuge in the Three Jewels – the Buddha – the goal of the path; the Dharma – His teachings as the path itself; and the Sangha – the spiritual friends who assist one’s progress towards the goal. They are a true and worthy refuge, as they have the power and methods of deliverance us out of the ocean of samsaric suffering.

What we are seeking in refuge is protection from the samsara itself and all of its sufferings; and under their shelter, we learn and practice the methods follow the path Lord Buddha has laid before us, and attain His realisation. So, we should understand that the nature of this outer refuge is provisional, because when one has realised the absolute nature of reality, then one has obtained the ultimate refuge.

THE NOTIONS OF REFUGE

The notions of refuge vary. In Theravada, the notion of taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, is included in the Mahayana and Vajrayana as well. When we say the Mahayana aspect of refuge, the Bodhicitta, also comes in the Vajrayana. However, the notions or meanings in the Mahayana and Vajrayana, such as Bodhicitta, is not necessarily existed in the Theravada tradition.

THE NOTION OF REFUGE IN THERAVADA

For example, in the Theravada perception, I want to be free from samsara; samsara is full of pain and suffering. The one who could take me or guide me out of this cyclic existence is the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. By taken refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, I can then be free from this miserable samsara. The notion, essentially, is to get away from the painful cyclic existence to nirvana. It is just like when some disasters happened, we naturally want to escape and take refuge in a safer place, far away from the catastrophes, such as the traumatic, distressing, terrifying thunderstorm, earthquake, invasion, etc. Taking refuge in Buddhism is basically to work on establishing oneself to an absolutely secure settlement, from the samsara to nirvana. This is the primary notion of refuge.

THE NOTION OF REFUGE IN MAHAYANA AND VAJRAYANA

The notion of Refuge in Theravada also applied in Mahayana and Vajrayana, i.e.: seeking protection in the Three Jewels from the ever painful samsara. However, Mahayana way of refuge is a step further and deeper.

Taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, is to be like them, because my wish is to help all beings. But without practices, I will not have the capacity to do so. So, I enter into the practices, I wanted to be like you Green Tara, Guru Rinpoche or Lord Buddha, so that I could be equally benefited to all beings. It has a little sense of Bodhicitta; Bodhicitta combined with refuge.

The notion is to help others. Not just I, trying to be free from the samsara. The wish is to be freed from samsara, but the aim is to help all beings. By becoming just like you, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, I will then have more capacities to help. So, the refuge in this context already covered the sense of Bodhicitta. The nature of the refuge is no longer focused on self. But this kind of notion does not exist in the Theravada perspective, where it’s just me who wanted to be freed. This is called ‘So Sor Tagpa’ in Tibetan, means Self Liberating Sutra, i.e.: self-liberation from the samsara.

The Vajrayana and the Mahayana’s notion of Refuge and Bodhicitta is the same. Cause the Vajrayana way of bodhicitta is no other than the Mahayana way. There is nothing that we can go beyond the Six Paramitas. Vajrayana is part of the Mahayana tradition. Within the Mahayana tradition, there is Vajrayana. And their bodhicitta practices and the emptiness perspective is also the same. Nevertheless, when it comes to how to realise emptiness, the method is different in Vajrayana.

THE THREE LEVELS OF REFUGE

THE OUTER REFUGE

The outer refuge means we generate faith and devotion toward the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Taking refuge in Buddha as the teacher, in the Dharma as the path, and in the Sangha as companions. This is the approach of the Basic Vehicle in refuge. Understand that Buddha, he himself has realised the absolute truth or reality. He is teaching us what he has realised, not something that he was told or taught, nor something that he created. His realisation is attained through the path of practice. Just like what Buddha did, we accumulate merits and approach the path, eventually we will realise the truth. That’s why Buddha is being taken as a teacher, as he showed us the path.

Dharma is the path or practices we take to realise the ultimate truth. We walk the path exactly as what Lord Buddha has laid before us through which he attained enlightenment. If we follow His teachings and practice accordingly, will lead to the same fruition.

Sangha is a noble community that sustains and propagates the teachings of Lord Buddha. We rely upon their encouragements and spiritual assistance along the way on our journey to enlightenment.

Every refuge prayer in Vajrayana contains few verses that carry the similar meanings … “may we attain enlightenment for the benefit of all beings” … In this way, the refuge practices cover the Mahayana aspect of Bodhicitta that entails the compassionate wish to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all mother beings and to put that aspiration into action through one’s practices.

THE INNER REFUGE

The Inner Refuge is one step further, that linking it to the inner practices. This exists only in the Vajrayana tradition. Here, one generate the extraordinary devotion to the authentic guru, and engage one’s body, speech and mind, sincerely and purely, in serving the guru and practising the sublime Dharma under his guidance and blessings.

Then, one takes the meditation deities or yidams as support in one’s practices; and the dakinis as one’s companions in the path. One has the notion that the whole existence is the nature of emptiness, and whatever one see is a form of illusion. So, now the sense of understanding refuge is a little deeper. The entire phenomena is the mandala; the form is the deity, and the sound is the mantra. In this aspect, the Guru, Deva, Dakini became the inner refuge.

THE ULTIMATE REFUGE

The highest Secret Mantrayana way of understanding refuge is related to the true nature of mind. Realising the indestructible, unchanging natural state of one’s mind — the inherent co-emergence or primordial wisdom, is the ultimate refuge.

Therefore, a simple word of refuge encompasses the essential practices of Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana, including the highest aspect of the Dzogchen and Mahamudra ways of realising the true nature of mind in ultimate refuge. It covers all aspects of meditation in entirety. So, refuge, in the reality is very deep and profound. It is practically a complete spiritual journey.

TAKING REFUGE

Refuge taking ceremony is part of refuge. After taking refuge, there are commitments and things to be practised, such as not harming deliberately, knowingly. Respecting the Dharma, not abandoning them. Following the teaching of Buddha as much as possible. Remembering the Buddha-Dharma-Sangha often, and relying upon them with faith at all times, good and bad … Then, gradually we learn to rely on our own fate and karma.

Relying on them become an interesting theory later, because we do not believe Buddha is a creator, nor he creates everything. So, Buddha cannot change our fate. Relying on them means we are relying on their teachings, that their teaching’s messages are: “We are responsible for our own self.” Then, we start doing good deeds, abandoning negative actions that brought forth bad karma.

Thus, relying on them does not mean we just make them happy and closed our eyes doing nothing, and expecting everything will be ok. Relying on the is to rely on their teachings, their advises. Basically, their advises is that, “I cannot do anything for you. Your karma is your own karma, so you have to clean your karma. You are responsible for your own fate, and all your experiences are manifested according to your own deeds.”

So, gradually one learned and accepted that not the Three Jewels nor the Three Roots can grant one’s liberation or cure one’s sufferings. Nevertheless, by taking refuge in the Three Jewels, we receive their blessings and guidance to learn and practice the teachings accordingly, clarifying our doubts and pacifying the obstacles along the path. Through the two accumulations, karma purification and the blessings of one’s realised master, enlightenment is the fruition of our practices.

So, if you follow the refuge thoroughly, it is a complete path of Buddhist.

REFUGE AND ITS BASIC COMMITMENTS

Do not harm or do not kill is the first step of Buddhism. Because anger as an emotion, killing is an act resulted from a harming mind. This is the main focus of Buddhist, and that must be abandoned. Evil deeds or negative karma or whatever we called it; among all the emotions, this are the most important aspect that Buddha emphasised. The anger, is the Buddha main focus. Buddha often taught on this. Theravada practice is basically focused on this, not to kill, not to get angry; that’s their main focus or practices.

When you take refuge, that’s the samaya you focus on, not killing, not harming, not to be angry. Then you go one step up in Mahayana, not only not killing, but helping; not only not getting angry, but generating compassion. In order to take the next step, you must first master the first step. You cannot practice compassion without first abandoning the harming mind. Now, you are not just not doing the negative aspect, but you are engaging in the opposite of it. That’s why “Maha” means bigger, greater – bigger heart, greater aspiration. For example, I am not going to kill, but if I have a bigger heart, I am going to save. I want to engage; I want to protect; I can put my life at risk, as long as I can save. If I died, it doesn’t matter, I am ready. For that it required a bigger heart, bigger effort. Therefore, entering into the “Maha” vehicle is said to have taken a higher or further step, where you encompass the welfare of other in your heart.

Logically thinking, without abandoning the first part, the harming mind, how can we engage in helping? So, the primary refuge commitment, is not killing, not harming. As we enter into Mahayana, then, it’s bodhicitta. Helping other, generating bigger heart and greater mind to liberate all beings from samsara; sincerely concern for all beings.

However, Refuge and Bodhicitta do not stand as two separate things. In order to practice bodhicitta, you must first have refuge. Without refuge, you cannot practice bodhicitta. But without bodhicitta, you can practice refuge. In order to practice the higher yana, one must first complete the teachings of the basic yana. That’s why when you intend to follow Vajrayana, you must first go through refuge and bodhicitta before entering into the Tantrayana practices – the generation and completion stages; the transformation of the illusional existence into the mandala; the form as the deity and the sound as the mantra, etc. Whatever higher practice that you do, you cannot abandon Refuge and Bodhicitta, which is the heart and core of all practices.

THE PRACTICES OF REFUGE IN VAJRAYANA

All the teachings expounded by Lord Buddha Shakyamuni comes down to Refuge and Bodhicitta. Thus, it’s worthwhile investing your time and effort in building the correct and in-depth understanding on Refuge and Bodhicitta, which shall form the indestructible solid foundation for all advanced practices in the later stage.

If you do not comprehend the inner meaning of Refuge, you cannot even practice the Hinayana, let alone the Mahayana. If you have no inclination towards Bodhicitta, you are not qualified to enter the path of Mahayana, let alone Vajrayana. Refuge and Bodhicitta are like a perfect pair of wings; that’s capable of freeing oneself and other from the ever painful and tricky samsaric existence.

Refuge and Bodhicitta are completed in the preliminary practice of Vajrayana, called Ngondro – the Fourfold Hundred-Thousand Preliminaries. These practices consolidating one’s foundation, making the solid base for higher practices. In the beginning part of the Ngondro, is a refuge and bodhicitta practice with physical engagement. One verbally recites the refuge verses while physically prostrating and mentally visualising that all beings along with you taking refuge in the sublime objects worthy of refuge in the Refuge Merits Fields, including the Three Jewels and the Three Roots.

Drukpa Choegon Rinpoche 1.

 

Perfectly give up belief in any true existence, there is no other generosity than this. Perfectly give up guile and deceit, there is no other discipline. Perfectly transcend all fear of the true meaning, there is no other patience. Perfectly remain inseparable from the practice, there is no other diligence. Perfectly stay in the natural flow, there is no other concentration. Perfectly realise the natural state, there is no other wisdom. Perfectly practice Dharma in everything you do, there are no other means. Perfectly conquer the four demons, there is no other strength. Perfectly accomplish the twofold aspiration. Recognise the very source of negative emotions, there is no other primal wisdom.

— Milarepa

修道须开般若慧
妙莲老和尚

一、慈悲方便依般若

古德说过:「佛法但论真见地。」意思是说:修学佛法最重要的是开般若智慧。想要有般若智慧,决定要行方便,所以诸佛皆是:「般若以为母,方便以为父」。什么是「方便」呢?就是大悲,悲心救一切苦恼的众生,令他得究竟之乐。当然,不是救了马上就令得无量寿。但是不得究竟之乐,众生怎能够安静下来呢?所以方便要有般若之智;没般若之智,你虽方便、慈悲,不应该慈悲的却慈悲,就变成了滥慈悲;应该责罚的不责罚,就是放纵害了人。

就像某一种病要某一种药来医;若身体虚弱,当然要补;体内有毒,就先要把毒去除,去毒也要有去毒的方法,即所谓「以毒攻毒」。所以在医病上有开刀、打针啦!大疮还得把脓血挤出来,要洗清哪!在这治病的同时,那个病人不怕苦呢?尤其是小孩子最怕痛,一看到医生来就哇哇叫。可是大人、有智慧的人,明知是苦,也要咬紧牙根随医生去挤脓、排血、洗净。

这道理也告诉我们:修行一定要守规则,「不依规矩,不成方圆」嘛!有的树干弯弯曲曲的,你若要造就成器材,就须先用火烧,烧软了再把曲的地方调整直。有的材料本身是直的,但要弯过来,为了要做圈椅背;所以想要成就一种器具,总要用各种方法来调整。我们凡夫身心病态重,要先除病,而后保持健康,健康之后再加以庄严。这些都要一定的程序,而接受这些程序时,必定要经过一番的苦练、磨炼、调教,「玉不琢不成器」嘛!

二、无理磨炼成大器

不是材料的树干,我们将它做成材料;已是材料的树干,为什么还要把它弯曲过来呢?这表示一个道理:「合理的是训练,不合理的是磨炼」。你这人虽然是材料,但你的心地是不是宽大?性情是不是柔和呢?做事情不是光有才华就可以,最大的条件就是要有容人之量,所谓「宰相肚里能撑船」啊!

有的人自以为是块大材料,就不能去做小事;但是在我们佛家的大寺院里,祖师、大和尚要是看中一个人,想让他成为大器材时,就要在他身上做功夫。做什么「功夫」呢?做「没有理」的功夫!对方愈是有智慧、有才干,对他愈是不合理的待遇;就是要磨炼他的性情、增长他的道业,要把他炼得炉火纯青,到这个程度才能做大事。若能坦然接受了,将来就成大器;不能接受、禁不起磨炼、禁不起考验,那就随他自己去吧!那就表示他不是一个能接受磨炼的大材。所以一个人总要能忍受辱骂之毒,还要忍受千锤百炼的喝斥。

一般人以为:「既是一块大材又何必一定要经过这种程序?不是材料的又怎能磨成大材?」有人甚至想:「只有我最有本事,你们一切的人都愚蠢。」像这些人怎能做大事?要知道,人没有万能的,也没有不能的;愚蠢的人有愚蠢之用,就算他是渣滓,渣滓还可以做肥料哩!那有不能的?身为修道人就要发菩提心,不论你是何种器材,总要有为人服务、为常住效劳这些见解,那才能做大事,乃至渐次完成菩萨行。菩萨行者要将人的行为做好,人生的行为做好,菩萨行就能完成,所谓「学佛先从做人起」,诚然。

三、般若智慧无私情

刚才告诉大家要有般若智慧,有了般若智慧做事才不会徇情,但论理、但看事;没般若智慧做事只讲情,不看事与理,那怎么做事?只会做坏了事。其实大至一国小至一家,都是要有这种智慧的人,才能成国、成家;否则弄得国不国、家不家,父不父、子不子,君不君、臣不臣……,那就太惨啦!所以佛法首先叫人要有「般若智慧」。

般若智慧最大的前提,就是要了解「无我」。金刚经不是讲般若空慧吗?般若就如同金刚,金刚能坏一切,而不为一切所坏。若能做到「以无我相、无人相、无众生相、无寿者相修一切善法,即得阿耨多罗三藐三菩提」,就可成无上正等正觉。有我、有人修善法,最多只感得人天果报而已。这地方诸位要开般若慧,分清正、邪,出世、入世等等,以达出世之功行。

我们中国佛教是大乘法,有福慧的人大乘思想一开通,他就能利益一切人,并能忍受一切苦。诸位注意!要能够接受一切苦,把人的本分做好了,才有资格利益人。做好人是最难的,你想做一个好人,就要有忍辱的心行,因为世间的坏人就是专找好人的麻烦,不但会骂你、说你坏话,甚至要害你,害你去见阎罗王呢!这倒不要怕,我们修忍辱,以大慈心看待他们。

在中国许多所谓修「大乘法」的人,有没有依大乘法为社会、为国家?还是只为自己呢?当然这是针对那些世智辩聪、憍慢的人而说的。他们只是小聪明,眼睛长在头顶上;一听到大乘法,只会口说得好听,其实完全是为自己而已。但佛陀的智慧方便还是多着啦!现在虽是末法时代恶人多,然未到末法之末,所以善人、有智慧的人还是不少呢!我们要多接近善人,向他看齐。

四、魔障不退修忍辱

事实上,所谓「道高一尺,魔高一丈」。很多在家信徒常说:「没有学佛还好咧!怎么一想修行,种种不必要的麻烦都来了?」大家要忍喔!你不要想:「哎呀!好麻烦!」要忍耐!要记得:「道高一尺,魔高一丈」,千万不要因为「魔考」而把道业放弃了。要坚固道心!愈是魔障重,就愈要精进、加紧用功,愈要发道心,千万不能退道心,千万不可因噎而废食!

好象我们房子起了大火灾,火愈大,水力就要更多,否则小水怎么灭大火呢?水决定是灭火的,但水小就灭不了火了。修道的忍辱波罗蜜不够,道业难成!修行就是和五欲交战、和冤亲债主交战、和自己的不正知见交战。又好象家里有个外道种,专门和你唱反调,性情不相合,这叫做「怨憎会苦」,这些苦都要忍耐!不忍耐就退道心,忍耐道业即增长,令自他皆安乐。

当然,福慧还是要从难行能行、难忍能忍、难舍能舍中来。一切成功都是要种种因、种种缘嘛!你想要过生活、要吃饭,日子难过也要过,吃饭难也要吃啊!总不能因为生活难,就不生活、不精进、不硬着头皮来闯吧!这难过的生活总是要过,生命总是要保的,我们的法身慧命又怎能舍去不顾?总要功德长养,才能早点出离这个万丈苦海啊!把握啊!受苦得解苦,努力吧!

Two conditions must come together in order for us to realise the unborn nature of all phenomena: the inner and outer lama. When we build a proper foundation and follow an outer lama with devotion, it becomes possible to catch a glimpse of inner wisdom. This inner wisdom becomes a guide for us as well, and it is called the inner lama. In our individualistic Western culture, most people really like the idea of the inner lama! It is important to remember reliance on the outer and inner lamas together. We do not enter the path and then just follow our own intrinsic wisdom, which will likely turn out to be egoic. Without the inner and outer lama, even the practices of Dzogchen will not lead us to realisation quickly.

— Anyen Rinpoche

How can I learn to let go and watch my children make mistakes?
by Venerable Thubten Chodron

Q: How can I learn to let go and watch my children make mistakes? I want to let out of this suffering of worrying and nagging at them. — Concerned Mum

A: Good for you! When you worry and nag at your kids, you just create a lot of disturbances in your relationship with them. The kids won’t want to be around you because every time they are around you, you’re nagging at them, or worrying about them. So how do you let your kids make their own mistakes?

You realise that your job as a parent is to educate your children, teaching them good ethical values. By education, I mean teaching them how to be a good human being, how to be kind etc, and not just on subjects like Maths or English. You teach them how to deal with their frustration in situations where they cannot get what they want. That’s a very important life skill that parents need to teach their kids, because kids are going to experience that at some point in their lives.

So you teach them these skills and then you have to let go. You have to let them learn through their own experience. If we all look at our own lives, we can all see that sometimes we have to make mistakes in order to learn some very important lessons. Look at your own life experience, isn’t that true? Sometimes you had to do really stupid things to learn something very important. Maybe others tried very hard beforehand to tell you that it was a stupid thing to do but you couldn’t understand it. They talked until they were blue in the face, but you didn’t listen.

We all had to go through such experience. Only with that experience did we realise that it was a mistake. As a parent, you may want to protect your children from the suffering of making mistakes but you can’t. That’s not your job. At some point, or at many different points as your children grow up, you have to let them make their own decisions and, through making mistakes, learn that they have to be responsible for their actions.

It is very important that children learn that they are responsible for their actions, that if they do certain things, certain results are going to come – not only karmic results in future lives but results even in this lifetime.

Sometimes your kids just have to make mistakes no matter what you do. You’ve given them the tools, so it’s better sometimes that you just sit back and let them try and develop their own wisdom. Maybe they’ll do well. Maybe they’ll make a mistake, but that’s the way they’ll learn.

Do you still remember how you were as a teenager or young adult? We thought and behaved like we knew everything. When our parents gave us advice, we thought, “Why are they giving me this piece of advice, when they’re not very smart themselves?”

But as we grow older and make mistakes, sometimes we see the wisdom in our parents’ advice. But at that time we couldn’t see it. The only way we learn is by making mistakes. Remember the times when you stopped worrying and nagging at your kids, and they went out and did something very well. You were surprised then how much you could trust your kids. So give your kids some credit and stop worrying about them. Learn to trust them. Have faith in their own wisdom that even if they make a mistake, they’ll learn and it’ll be good in the end. Also they may not necessarily make a mistake. They may do something very wise. So in fact sometimes your advice may not be the best thing for them. You have to give them that kind of space.

Hatred is generally believed to be something that is ignited from external objects or beings. However, it must be understood and realised that we also play a part in causing a hateful situation. If we are in a position to internalise this fact then we won’t place all the blame on others and we can develop a forgiving attitude. This is a substantial step towards cutting through hatred. If you look in a mirror with a green face, for example, then you will see that same green face reflected back at you but if you have a pleasant face then there will be a similar pleasing reflection.

The point here is to realise your own fault and develop forgiveness for the faults of others. This will bring a positive attitude and emotions in your life and it will also have a positive impact on others, even if the other person is at fault. If you develop space to forgive then this quality will help you overcome suffering and develop a loving attitude to all.

— 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje

结夏的意义与功德
惟覺老和尚

(一)
从佛陀时代一直到现在,每一个道场每一年都要举行夏安居,希望大众在结夏安居的时候,尽量利用时间用功,听经闻法、禅修静坐。

  首先要确实了解夏安居的意义,否则不容易得到真实的利益;就像每年的佛诞一样,我们是以什么心情来庆祝佛诞,这非常重要。结夏也有事、有理,在中台禅寺举办夏安居,就是事。

  修行要具足因缘,夏安居也是一样,必须具足因缘,依止中台禅寺,还要结界、遵循种种规定,这样用功才会如法。儒家说:「不以规矩,不能成方圆。」制作器具时,要方、要圆,就必须有规、有矩来量度。想要成就法器、成就大器,也要有一些助道的因缘。

  第一,要有依止的常住。第二,要有人在这里主法。第三,衣食住行不虞匮乏。第四,有人指导、开示。这些都是因缘。结夏期间,除了为三宝事之外,不能出界,要专心用功、精进办道,希望大众珍惜宝贵的结夏因缘。道场建设完成,一切制度也都上轨道了,现在就是靠自己用功,这是很重要的。用什么功呢?就是心地法门。《金刚经》云:「一切贤圣皆以无为法而有差别。」有为法是成就无为法的方便;没有有为法,没有福德、没有方便,要想契悟、证悟无为法也不容易。

  大众平时修了很多方便,广积福慧资粮,事多理少,现在就是要事理一如、事理不二、圆融无碍。这念心有体、有用,无为法就是体。所谓「无为」,就是指这念心。诸位听法的这念心,达到寂灭、不动的境界,就是涅槃;听法这念心,就是我们的灵知灵觉,这就是菩提。禅宗祖师说,每个人心中有一个智慧佛、一个如如佛。智慧佛,是指我们的觉性了了分明,无住生心;如如佛,即无论行住坐卧,这念心不攀缘、不颠倒,打坐的时候,则一念不生。如果修行不知道这个道理,就是走远路、走错路。

  无论是哪一个宗派,都想得解脱、都想生净土、都想成道、都想证菩提和涅槃,这是一个大的目标。但是,必须了解净土究竟在哪里?心清净了,就是净土。所以,在夏安居的时候,要经常检讨、反省这个心有没有过失,有没有邪念,有没有杂念,有没有颠倒,有没有愚痴和无明?经过检讨、反省、改过,这念心清净了,就是智慧佛;这念心达到寂灭的境界,就是如如佛。这样,不论修什么法门、什么宗派,都是一样的。否则,就会认为自己修禅宗,属于心法,别人修净土,要藉佛的力量,矮了自己一截。以密宗来讲,也是一样的。密宗强调「即身成佛」,即什么身呢?身,就是指这念心,清净心、不动心、无为心、菩提心、无住心、广大心、无碍心、慈悲心、平等心、智慧心……即这个心是佛。因此,无论是哪一个宗派,都是一样的。假使不了解这个道理,听到人家说:「你们出了家是不错,但就是不如我这个宗好。」就会产生动摇。

(二)
佛所说的八万四千个法门,都是方便,藉由这些方便,目的是要达到究竟。经云:「佛说一切法,为治一切心;若无一切心,何用一切法。」《金刚经》亦云:「法尚应舍,何况非法?」到最后,烦恼漏尽了,清净心、无住心、寂灭心现前了,所有的法门统统要放下,也不要念佛了,也不要诵经了,也不要持咒了,也不要再修六波罗蜜了。为什么?因为这些都是方便,都是过海的船、渡海的浮囊,已经过海了,还要这些浮囊作什么?不是多此一举吗?所以,到最后一切都要舍掉。佛所说的正法最后都要放下,何况是非法呢?非法、邪法,更不能执着,想都不要想,沾都不要沾。明白这些道理了,依据这个方向来用功、学习、修行,每个人都能到达彼岸。

  什么是彼岸?菩提、涅槃就是彼岸。此岸是众生境界,经过烦恼的中流,彼岸就现前了。烦恼化掉了,此岸、彼岸就是一个。无论是出家、在家,假使不了解这些道理,就不知道方向,也不知道佛在哪里、道在哪里;方向都不知道,如何成道呢?因此,开宗明义跟大众说明,无为法是体,有为法是用。众生的心没有慈悲、没有清净,起贪瞋痴、造杀盗淫,绑票勒索,无法无天,无所不为,这些也是心的作用。这些作用将来的果报,就是地狱、畜生、饿鬼。出家修行也是心的作用,不论是在精舍、常住、佛学院,都是清净的、慈悲的、智慧的用,都是修福报。

  做一件善事,就得一件功德,这也是心的作用。但真实的功德在哪里呢?真实的功德就是体,就是无为法。《金刚经》云:「一切贤圣皆以无为法而有差别。」「凡所有相,皆是虚妄,若见诸相非相,即见如来。」

  无论是大乘、小乘,都是一样的,没有差别。例如,三十七助道品,可帮助我们达到菩提和涅槃的境界。三十七助道品不是道,而是帮助我们净化这个心、对治这个心,是助道的方法,目的是在这里。佛法所说的「法法平等」,就是指每一个法都是对治颠倒的我执、法执,都是对治自己的烦恼、妄想、昏沉的方便。明白了这些道理,就能去除执着,修一切善而不执着一切善。

  有些人偏执一边,认为不执着就是不要,因此连善法也不修。假使不修一切善法,哪里有今天的中台禅寺?没有中台禅寺,我们怎么能自利、利他?佛法就是要在利他当中完成自利,利益自己又能利益众生。所以,一切法门都要学习,不能走错路,否则就是害了自己。

(三)
夏安居,一方面是听闻佛法,二方面就是打坐,这就是夏安居真实的修行、真实的意义。我们这念心,一个是体,一个是用。没有开悟的人,心的用是属于染用、属于恶用、属于糊涂的用,将来就会堕落。无论是出家或在家,起心动念是善念,说的是佛法、是好话,身行的是善事,所修的是戒定慧……这都是清净的功德、清净的用。现在起善用,将来就得善果,或是净土、或是天上、或是人间。

  如果再进一步,认识这念心体,那又不一样了。体是什么?体,就是诸位听法这念心,一念未生之处,无念、无相、无住、无为、无想、无愿。必须靠自己多静坐,才能彻底了解。坐久了,就有功夫;功夫现前了,这念心就会现前。经云:「若人静坐一须臾,胜造恒沙七宝塔,宝塔毕竟化为尘,一念净心成正觉。」净心,就属于无为法;无为法现前了,才能成正觉。无为法,就是指我们静坐的这念心。无念,不起心动念;无想,不想过去、现在、未来;无为,这念心不要执着,看到任何境界,都知道是虚妄不实的;无住,无论是善、是恶,无论是明、是暗,都不要执着,不住在任何一个境界上面,因为一切都是虚妄的。

  修行要找一个最究竟的境界,那就是道、就是无为法。如果认为无为法太困难了,是在唱高调,现在不能修,这就是邪见。为什么?出家就是要得解脱,无为法现前,才能得到解脱;无为法现前了,才有真正的净土。所以,大家要有正知正见。没有无为法,就没有真正的净土,只是自己想出来的;想出来的,就属于五阴境界。《金刚经》云:「若有色、若无色,若有想、若无想、若非有想非无想,我皆令入无余涅槃而灭度之。」无余涅槃就是心之体,就是真正的净土,才能达到菩萨的境界。

  明白了这个道理,在结夏当中,这就是一条修行的道路,这是属于心之体。什么是心之用?有念是用。只起善念,不起恶念,如禅宗祖师所说的,心无善念不起,口无好话不说,身无善事不行。要起心动念,就是善念;要讲话,就是佛法、就是好话;要做事,就是善行、就是净行,这就是心之用。有了这些用,未来虽然还没成道,至少善根不会灭掉,将来所得到的是福报;可是福报用完了,就没有了。那么,什么才是用不完的呢?就是心体。契悟了这念心,就是契悟了道。道,才是真功德。

(四)
道是什么?就是一念不生,无念、无相、无住、无为,始终保持这念心清楚明白,在这个地方来用功,就是心之体。夏安居期间,就要在这念心上来用功。体和用,不是二个,而是一个,所谓「体不碍用,用不离体」。这念心用了以后要归于无想,因此,《四十二章经》云:「念无念念,行无行行,言无言言……。」念了以后,要归于无念;话讲了以后,归于不起心不动念、无言无说那个地方。

  这就是禅宗祖师所说的「返照自心」,哪个是自心?无念、无相、无住、无为,觉性不灭;一般佛经里称之为觉性、菩提心、净土。净土宗强调念佛,阿弥陀佛就是指我们的觉性,无形、无相、无住、无想。阿弥陀佛是无量寿、无量光,这念觉性才是无量寿、无量光,而不是外在的任何形相和境界。

  如果不了解这些道理,这一生修行就对不起自己。假使今生的知见不正,来世可能又成了邪知邪见,又会走错路,又会走远路。所以,体不碍用,用不离体,体用一如,体用不二。明白心体了,就知道体才是道,其他都属于有相的福报、有相的功德。所以,夏安居有事有理,非常重要。

  达磨祖师到中国来,当时是梁武帝在位。梁武帝三次出家,就是为了要建寺庙,为了要度皇族,故意舍身,让他们出钱赎他回去,这些都是菩萨行。梁武帝是个佛心天子,修了很大的福报,对佛教界有很大的贡献,如:梁武帝规定中国佛教僧人吃素,吃素的功德就是从梁武帝开始的。达磨祖师决定先去度化他,告诉他心地法门、无为法,使他明白心之体。

  达磨祖师看到梁武帝发心广大,想度他契悟本心。梁武帝一看到达磨祖师,就问:「我建了几百个道场,度了数万人出家,请问达磨大师,我这些功德有多大呢?」达磨祖师回答:「毫无功德!」梁武帝进一步问:「这些都不是功德,那什么才是真功德?」达磨祖师说:「这些不是真功德,只是人天小果、人天福报而已!」这就是《金刚经》所说:「一切贤圣皆以无为法而有差别」,不是以有为法而有差别。所谓「实际理地一法不立」,无为法就是师父说法、诸位听法的这念心。不管是好的、坏的,这念心里面什么东西都不能存在,「有一些些,还有一些些」,这念心是绝对的。就如同眼睛一样,里面不能有一点点灰尘、渣滓跑进去,就算是世上最珍贵的钻石打成了粉,放到眼睛里,眼睛也会瞎掉。所以,我们的心当中是一法不立,这就是般若,就是《金刚经》所说的「法尚应舍,何况非法」!

  达磨祖师答复梁武帝,说他没有功德,这只是福报,不是功德。梁武帝问:「什么才是真功德?」达磨祖师就为他开示心地法门:「净智妙明,体自空寂,如是功德,不于世求。」「净智妙明」,就是诸位听法的这念觉性,清净的智慧,真空妙有。所谓「明」,心要清清明明、光光明明、念念分明。这念心无形无相,真空无为。「体自空寂」,诸位在这个地方去返照。「如是功德,不于世求」,这就是真功德。想要入道,就必须在这个地方入,要「百尺竿头再进步」,契悟这个道理。

(五)
儒家说:「道也者,不可须臾离也;可离,非道也。」「须臾」,就是一剎那都不能离开我们当下这念心,坚住正念,随顺觉性,念念分明,清明在躬,在这里来用功,这就是「道也者,不可须臾离也」。什么叫作离开呢?忽然一下打了妄想,想是、想非,想东、想西,想南、想北,想美、想丑。无论是世间上的欲爱也好,出世法的道理也好,只要起了一个念头,这念心就跑掉了。

  心之体才是道,心之用也是道,体用一如也是道。所以,夏安居期间,如果自己用功坐不下来、静不下来,就要检讨反省,看看是哪些念头在作怪,自己要知道。无论是听到的也好、见到的也好、心当中打妄想也好,这些念头都是自己的事情,不是外面有个什么东西。无论是世间法、出世间法,所有一切都是自己的妄想,都是自心起用,没有别的。

  明白这些道理了,还要求什么?「狂心顿歇,歇即菩提」,坐下来什么都不要理。一念万年,万年一念,要有这个信心。这一生想要了道、悟道、成道,假使不在这里用功,修任何法门、任何宗派都没办法成就。

  祖师说「万法归宗」,「宗」就是心地,佛法就是心地法门。哪个心?菩提心、涅槃性,就是指这个觉性,念念分明,处处作主,清明在躬。假使这念心作不了主,起了烦恼,看看是哪一种烦恼?是贪的烦恼、瞋的烦恼,还是痴的烦恼?就用不同法门来对治。

  所谓「法门无量誓愿学」,法门是个方便,一个是用来普度众生,一个是对治自己的烦恼。男女之欲爱、色爱就是生死的根本;对治欲爱、色爱,要修不净观。把自己对人的执着看破、放下,用般若来观照、分析:我为什么爱他?人身是臭秽的,毛、发、爪、齿皆是不净之物,怎么还想入非非呢?不是自己颠倒是什么?这些道理,我们一开始就明白,虽然知道,但做不到。为什么?没有修不净观,没有吃这个药!没有吃这个药,这个病怎么会好?绝对好不了。不净观就是对治欲爱、色爱的法门。

  假使检讨起来,自己经常发脾气,就要修「四无量心──慈无量、悲无量、喜无量、舍无量」。怎么修?「但愿众生得离苦,不为自己求安乐」,把整个身心放下,「将此深心奉尘剎,是则名为报佛恩」,心量要广大,要修四无量心,就能对治瞋恚的烦恼。

  什么是痴?看到经文,有很多道理,看也看不懂、听也听不懂,甚至打瞌睡。这个心就像经上所说的「心粗如柱,道细如毛」。听不懂,是痴心太重,就要修析空观。分析内四大空、外四大空,诸法都是因缘和合,毕竟空寂。修空观,就能对治愚痴。

  贪、瞋、痴的烦恼没有了,就坚住正念、随顺觉性。正念是什么?所谓「不起凡夫染污心,即是无上菩提道」,保持自己这念觉性,不是另外还有一个觉性。这些都是修行的一些转折、一些过程,假使连这个过程都搞不清楚,怎么修道、怎么成道呢?

(六)
佛经里讲得非常清楚,人的根器分为利根和钝根。利根的人,一闻千悟,闻一知十,闻十知百,一看佛经,马上就能契悟了达;钝根的人,听什么法门都听不懂,一听就打瞌睡,就算是十遍、一百遍、一千遍、一万遍,可能都不了解。假使自己是钝根的人,不要灰心,所谓利根、钝根,也只是暂时把我们的根机分析一下而已。现在是利根,是过去修来的,没有过去的加功用行,哪有今天这个利根呢?没有的!假使现在属于钝根,代表过去没有修好,如果现在还在等待、还在观望,始终没办法进步。要诵经、持咒、礼忏,要知恩、感恩、报恩,上求佛道、下化众生,这是从事上努力。最后还要通达理,什么理?能所俱空──修善不执着善,归于自心;断恶,无恶法可断,能所俱空。

  佛经里面提到,钝根的人修行有几个层次:先修一切善法。为什么要修善法?就是为了对治自己过去、现在的所有恶法──恶念、恶言、恶行。假使不修善法,怎么对治得了恶法?所以,要修戒定慧、诵经、持咒、打坐、礼忏……什么都要修。等到心中没有贪瞋痴了;口不恶口、两舌、妄言、绮语,口业清净了;身不造杀盗淫,身业清净了,这就是善法成就了。再上一层楼,善法也不执着,把这个法执舍掉,最后归于无念、无相、无住、无为,这就是「先以善摄恶,后以舍摄善」。根机好的人,直截了当,当下就是无念、无相、无为,当下就是寂灭,当下就悟到心之体了。无论是利根、钝根,最后都是一样的。

  一般人的根机都是如孔子所说的「学而知之,困而学之」,不是先知先觉。先觉,只有佛陀一人。第一种人是「学而知之」。第二种人,学也学不会,就是「困而学之」,别人念一遍就会,我必须念一百遍才会;别人念十遍,我要念一千遍。虽然如此,但「人一能之,己百之;人十能之,己千之」,到最后,「及其知之,一也」,到最后统统是一样的。不管是天生的神童,或是一步一脚印慢慢走来的,到最后统统都爬到山顶了,是不是都一样呢?

  如果我们不知道学习,自甘堕落,就始终在原地踏步。所谓「生而知之,学而知之,困而学之」,「生而知之」,就是一生下来就知道;假使一生下来不知道,就必须要学;假使学了也不知道,就要勤能补拙,加紧地学。如果在这方面搞不清楚,到处寻师访道,找外面的人加持,到最后一无所得,就是愈来愈糟糕。

  大家要了解,世间上没有侥幸的存在。如果走了错路、走了远路,就是自己害了自己!每一个人都会老,老了以后,每一个人都会死。到了年纪大了,想要打坐,腿都硬了,坐不下来了;想要背经,脑筋也老化了,看了经典就会忘记。所以,趁着还没有老、没有病,要赶快用功。

(七)
所谓「师父引上门,修行在个人」,心地法门的功夫用上了,就能脱离生老病死。怎么脱离生老病死呢?每个人都是从母亲肚子里生出来的,有生就有死。历史上有没有记载什么人能从过去活到现在的?没有,最多寿命延长一点而已。中国历史上的彭祖活了八百岁,还是觉得自己的寿命太短,还要向上天求寿。就算是活到一千年,还是要死。为什么?有生就必定有死。佛经里讲得很清楚,我们这个身体是地水火风、父精母血,因缘和合而成;因缘散掉,就死掉了。同时,我们这一生是业果循环,来世也是业果循环,造了业,由善业、恶业牵引,非生不可,就是如此的。

  我们现在怎么去了生死?怎么达到不生?心念无生,就能了生死。我们这个心由有念归于无念,这念心不生就不灭,不生就不死,翻过来是手掌,翻过去是手背。生死要从心上来了,这是做得到的!如果不知道这个道理,怎么去了生死?不可能的事!念佛也是一样的,用念佛的方法,一念抵万念,来度我们过去所有的妄想。无论是念佛、诵经、持咒,最后归于无念,能所俱空。无念、无住,这就是「万法归宗」。

  心念不生,生死就了了。但一般人只能维持三分钟、五分钟,过了以后妄念又跑出来了,心当中的烦恼始终是纠缠不清,那就要靠现在的功夫。静坐时这念心清清楚楚、了了分明。进而时间延长,无念、无住、无为、无想,常寂常照,常照常寂,这就是净土,这就是法身。在这个空间里,什么人都找不到你,阎王小鬼找不到你,连佛也找不到你。

  所以,这念心要达到无生的境界,必须要靠自己努力,谁也帮不上忙,解铃还须系铃人。自己的烦恼、执着在自己的八识田中,诸佛菩萨不能把种子从你的八识田中拿掉,另外安一个清净的种子下去。所以,佛法就是转识成智。我们过去是坏人,现在觉悟了,想成贤、成圣,怎么办呢?必须从现在开始,改过自新,检讨反省,观空破执。把过去坏的种子,统统转过来,转识成智,这才是佛法。如果不这样做,就算把身体烧掉也没有用,方向都错误了,这些都是邪见、都是妄想,始终是南辕北辙。修行不能走错路、不能走远路。有法执,就是走了远路、走了错路,心外求佛、心外求法、心外求道。

(八)
希望每一位在夏安居当中,都能朝这个方向努力。道,就是诸位听法这念觉性。《四十二章经》云:「观天地,念非常;观世界,念非常;观灵觉,即菩提。」灵觉,就是诸位这念觉性。觉性不要迷失、不要颠倒,有了过失,要赶快惭愧忏悔、检讨改过,把它净化。如此,才会清楚、才会明白、才会作主,才不会随业流转,就是这么简单。明白了以后,还要细水长流。因为我们的习气太重,执着太多,就像心中有一潭水浑掉了,现在知道这个道理,藉夏安居这个因缘用功来沉淀。

  怎么沉淀呢?第一,这个地方是一个避风港,没有外面的境界风了。第二,虽然没有风,但过去的念头始终没完没了,也不要害怕,本来就是如此的。现在就是不理它、不动,照它、看破它。参禅的人就回光返照:「是谁?谁在起心动念?」「谁」字一提,照它一下,妄想就没有了。照破了以后,又要保持平常心。平常心才是道,平常心就是我们的觉性。这就是一个公式,假使这个公式都不知道,这一生不是走错路,就是走远路。明白这个公式,朝这个方向继续努力,一步一脚印,一步一光明,愈走愈光明,就是如此的。

  无念、无相、无住、无为、无想、无愿,这就是菩提、涅槃。每一尊佛菩萨都是在这里用功,一切都要归于自心。经云:「菩萨清凉月,游于毕竟空,众生心水净,菩提影现中。」要净化心水,没有别的。所以,打坐就是用《楞严经》所说的「狂心顿歇,歇即菩提」这个功夫。静坐就是要忍耐,现在年轻力壮,不知道用功;等年纪大了,双腿、脑袋都老化了,想用功已力不从心;因此,现在正是用功的时候。功夫用好了,这念心时时刻刻都存在,了了分明、清清楚楚、清明在躬,无念、无住、无为,有体、有用,用不离体,体不碍用,体用一如。

  无论修任何法门、任何宗派,假使违背这个道理,都不可能成道。为什么?道不离开这念心!离开这念心,还有什么道?如果离开这念心另外还有一个道,释迦牟尼佛的弟子早就统统成道了,十方诸佛早就把众生统统送到净土里了。为什么佛菩萨不运用神通把众生送到净土呢?为什么不是佛菩萨来摩顶就能成道、开悟呢?因为这是不可能的事情!解铃还须系铃人,必须要靠自己用功。所以,每一年有一个夏安居,这是一个福报,机会难得,要把握这个机会努力用功。

  经云:「不起凡夫染污心,即是无上菩提道。」想要这念心不染污,不是容易的事。既然过去染污了,现在就要对治。对治了以后,无能无所,不作对治之相,归还原处,归还本心。

  希望每一位把握结夏的这一个善缘、这一个净缘、这一个福缘、这一个法缘。因缘到了,自己不把握,就要等到明年。所谓「诸法缘起」,所有一切都是因缘和合。一个是善缘、一个是恶缘,一个是世间缘、一个是出世缘。结夏,是出世缘、是佛缘、是法缘。因缘现前了,大家要把握。祝福大众在夏安居这三个月当中,不会空手来,也不会空手去,要对得起自己。狂心顿歇,歇即菩提!

Ven Wei Jue (惟覺老和尚) 12.

If a person stays in another’s house even for one night and receives food and drinks, he should not even wish evil for the host. Gratitude is what is praised by good persons (sappurisa).

Whenever prudent people have met a good person they don’t give up his friendship, nor do they spoil the service done to themselves. The fools, however, give up the friendship, and they spoil the service done to themselves.

Even if one would offer the whole earth to an ungrateful person, one could not please him.

Even a lot of service towards the fools is reduced to nothing, for fools are merely ungrateful.

A service is hopeless from one who has no gratitude who does not help in return. Is ungrateful and apathetic. His friendship is not won by the clearest good deed. One should hastily shun him with no bitter thought and angry word.

The wise ones indeed don’t give up the friendship, nor do they spoil the service done to themselves. Even a slight service towards themselves is not disowned, for the wise ones are full of gratitude.

— The Buddha

Buddhahood in Three Dimensions
by Thich Nhat Hanh

Chapter 1 of the Lotus Sutra takes us to Vulture Peak, near the city of Rajagriha in the kingdom of Magadha (present-day northeast India), where the Buddha has gathered with a large assembly of disciples, including Kashyapa, Shariputra, Maudgalyayana and Ananda, as well thousands of bhikshus and bhikshunis, including the Buddha’s aunt, Mahaprajapati and his former wife, Yashodhara. In addition, there are tens of thousands of great bodhisattvas in attendance, among them Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, Bhaisajyaraja (Medicine King) and Maitreya. Also present are many thousands of gods, including Indra and the kings of the nagas, kinnaras, ghandharvas, asuras and garudas. The ruler of Magadha, King Ajatashatru, and his royal family and retinue are also in attendance. This vast multitude of many different kinds of beings is present in the assembly when the Buddha is about to deliver the Lotus Sutra.

This not only sets the stage for the delivery of the sutra in the historical dimension, but also reveals the ultimate dimension. The vast numbers of shravakas and bodhisattvas, the presence of gods and mythical beings, give us our first taste of the ultimate dimension and show us that the opportunity to hear the Lotus Sutra delivered by the Buddha is something very special, a great occurrence not to be missed.

First, the Buddha delivered a Mahayana sutra called the Sutra of Immeasurable Meaning, then entered a state of meditative concentration (samadhi). While he was in this concentration, heavenly flowers rained from the sky and the earth quaked. Then the Buddha sent out a ray of light from his ushnisha [crown protrusion on a buddha’s head, symbolising the cosmic openness of an enlightened being], illuminating various cosmic realms. The entire assembly was able to see these worlds appear very clearly, and everyone was most surprised and delighted at the wonderful event that was taking place around them. In all these worlds, buddhas could be seen giving dharma talks to great assemblies of bhikshus, bhikshunis, upasakas and upasikas — exactly like the Buddha’s disciples in this world.

In order to understand the great importance of this teaching, the assembly that had gathered in this historical dimension had to be introduced to the ultimate dimension. In the past, in another cosmic realm, the Buddha Sun and Moon Glow had also given the teaching of the Lotus Sutra. So the miraculous events that were happening that day were only a repetition of something that had already occurred in another dimension of reality — the ultimate dimension, which is unbounded by our ordinary perceptions of time and space.

As far as the historical dimension is concerned, Shakyamuni was the buddha who was giving the dharma talk that day. From this perspective, the Buddha gave teachings for forty years, and then only at the end of his life did he give the teaching of the Lotus Sutra. But in terms of the ultimate dimension, Buddha Shakyamuni and Buddha Sun and Moon Glow are one and the same. In the ultimate dimension, never for a moment has the Buddha ceased to deliver the Lotus Sutra.

So, this opens two doors. The first door is that of history, the events we experience and what we can see and know in our own lifetimes. The second door is that of ultimate reality, which goes beyond time and space. Everything — all phenomena — participates in these two dimensions. When we look at a wave on the surface of the ocean, we can see the form of the wave and we locate the wave in space and time. Looking at a wave from the perspective of the historical dimension, it seems to have a beginning and an end, a birth and a death. A wave can be high or low, long or short — many qualities can be ascribed to the wave. The notions of “birth” and “death,” “high” or “low,” “beginning” and “ending,” “coming” and going,” “being” or “nonbeing” — all of these can be applied to a wave in the historical dimension.

We, too, are subject to these notions. When we look from the historical dimension we see that we are subject to being and nonbeing. We are born but later on we will die. We have a beginning and an end. We have come from somewhere and we will go somewhere — that is the historical dimension. All of us belong to this dimension. Shakyamuni Buddha also has a historical dimension — he was a human being who was born in Kapilavastu and died in Kushinagara, and during his lifetime of eighty years he taught the dharma.

At the same time, all beings and things also belong to the ultimate dimension, the dimension of reality that is not subject to notions of space and time, birth and death, coming and going. A wave is a wave, but at the same time it is water. The wave does not have to die in order to become water; it is already water right in the present moment. We don’t speak of water in terms of being or nonbeing, coming and going — water is always water. To talk about a wave, we need these notions: the wave arises and passes away; it comes from somewhere or has gone somewhere; the wave has a beginning and an end; it is high or low, more or less beautiful than other waves; the wave is subject to birth and death. But none of these distinctions can be applied to the wave in its ultimate dimension as water. In fact, you cannot separate the wave from its ultimate dimension.

Even though we are used to seeing everything in terms of the historical dimension, we can touch the ultimate dimension. So our practice is to become like a wave — while living the life of a wave in the historical dimension, we realise that we are also water and live the life of water. That is the essence of the practice. Because if you know your true nature of no coming, no going, no being, no nonbeing, no birth, no death, then you will have no fear and can dwell in the ultimate dimension, nirvana, right here and now. You don’t have to die in order to reach nirvana. When you dwell in your true nature, you are already dwelling in nirvana. We have our historical dimension but we also have our ultimate dimension, just as the Buddha does.

We also need to establish a third dimension of the Lotus Sutra to reveal its function, its action. How can we help people of the historical dimension get in touch with their ultimate nature so that they can live joyfully in peace and freedom? How can we help those who suffer to open the door of the ultimate dimension so that the suffering brought about by fear, despair and anxiety can be alleviated? I have gathered all of the chapters of the Lotus Sutra on the great bodhisattvas into this third, action dimension, the bodhisattva’s sphere of engaged practice.

Practicing the path and liberating beings from suffering is the action of the bodhisattvas. The Lotus Sutra introduces us to a number of great bodhisattvas, such as Sadaparibhuta (Never Disparaging), Bhaisajyaraja (Medicine King), Gadgadasvara (Wonderful Sound), Avalokiteshvara (Hearer of the Sounds of the World) and Samantabhadra (Universally Worthy). The action taken up by these bodhisattvas is to help living beings in the historical dimension recognise that they are manifestations from the ground of the ultimate. Without this kind of revelation we cannot see our true nature. Following the bodhisattva path, we recognise the ground of our being, our essential nature, in the ultimate dimension of no birth and no death. This is the realm of nirvana — complete liberation, freedom, peace and joy.

In chapter 20 of the Lotus Sutra, we are introduced to a beautiful bodhisattva called Sadaparibhuta, “Never Disparaging.” The name of this bodhisattva can also be translated as “Never Despising.” This bodhisattva never underestimates living beings or doubts their capacity for buddhahood. His message is, “I know you possess buddhanature and you have the capacity to become a buddha,” and this is exactly the message of the Lotus Sutra — you are already a buddha in the ultimate dimension, and you can become a buddha in the historical dimension. Buddhanature, the nature of enlightenment and love, is already within you; all you need do is get in touch with it and manifest it. Never Disparaging Bodhisattva is there to remind us of the essence of our true nature.

This bodhisattva removes the feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem in people. “How can I become a buddha? How can I attain enlightenment? There is nothing in me except suffering, and I don’t know how to get free of my own suffering, much less help others. I am worthless.” Many people have these kinds of feelings, and they suffer more because of them. Never Disparaging Bodhisattva works to encourage and empower people who feel this way, to remind them that they too have buddhanature, they too are a wonder of life, and they too can achieve what a buddha achieves. This is a great message of hope and confidence. This is the practice of a bodhisattva in the action dimension.

Sadaparibhuta was actually Shakyamuni in one of his former lives, appearing as a bodhisattva in the world to perfect his practice of the dharma. But this bodhisattva did not chant the sutras or practice in the usual way — he did not perform prostrations or go on pilgrimages or spend long hours in sitting meditation. Never Disparaging Bodhisattva had a specialty. Whenever he met someone he would address that person very respectfully, saying, “You are someone of great value. You are a future buddha. I see this potential in you.”

There are passages in the Lotus Sutra that suggest that Sadaparibhuta’s message was not always well received. Because they had not yet gotten in touch with the ultimate dimension, many people could not believe what the bodhisattva was telling them about their inherent buddhanature, and they thought he was mocking them. Often he was ridiculed, shouted at and driven away. But even when people did not believe him and drove him away with insults and beatings, Sadaparibhuta did not become angry or abandon them. Standing at a distance he continued to shout out the truth:

I do not hold you in contempt!
You are all treading the path,
And shall all become buddhas!

Sadaparibhuta is very sincere and has great equanimity. He never gives up on us. The meaning of his life, the fruition of his practice, is to bring this message of confidence and hope to everyone. This is the action of this great bodhisattva. We have to learn and practice this action if we want to follow the path of the bodhisattvas. The sutra tells us that when Sadaparibhuta was near the end of his life he suddenly heard the voice of a buddha called King of Imposing Sound (Bhishmagarjitasvararaja) teaching the Lotus Sutra. He could not see that buddha but he clearly heard his voice delivering the sutra, and through the power of the teaching, Never Despising Bodhisattva suddenly found that his six sense organs were completely purified and he was no longer on the verge of death. Understanding deeply the message of the Lotus Sutra, he was able to touch his ultimate dimension and attain deathlessness.

We have already learned about the infinite life span of a buddha in the ultimate dimension. In terms of the historical dimension, a buddha may live one hundred years or a little bit more or less; but in terms of the ultimate dimension a buddha’s life span is limitless. Sadaparibhuta saw that his life span is infinite, just like the life span of a buddha. He saw that every leaf, every pebble, every flower, every cloud has an infinite life span also, because he was able to touch the ultimate dimension in everything. This is one of the essential aspects of the Lotus message. When his sense organs had been purified, he could see very deeply and understand how the six sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind) produce the six kinds of consciousness. When his senses had been purified he was capable of touching reality as it is, the ultimate dimension. There was no more confusion, no more delusion in his perception of things.

This passage describes a kind of transformation that we too can experience. When the ground of our consciousness is prepared, when our sense consciousnesses and our mind consciousness have been purified through the practice of mindfulness and looking deeply into the ultimate nature of reality, we can hear in the sound of the wind in the trees, or in the singing of the birds, the truth of the Lotus Sutra. While lying on the grass or walking in meditation in the garden, we can get in touch with the truth of the dharma that is all around us all the time. We know that we are practicing the Lotus samadhi and our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind are automatically transformed and purified.

Having realised the truth of the ultimate, Bodhisattva Sadaparibhuta continued to live for many millions of years, delivering his message of hope and confidence to countless beings. So we can see that the Lotus Sutra is a kind of medicine for long life. When we take this medicine, we are able to live a very long time in order to be able to preserve and transmit the teachings in the Lotus Sutra to many others. We know that our true nature is unborn and undying, so we no longer fear death. Just like Sadaparibhuta, we always dare to share the wonderful dharma with all living beings. And all those who thought the bodhisattva was only making fun of them finally began to understand. Looking at Sadaparibhuta they were able to see the result of his practice, and so they began to have faith in it and to get in touch with their own ultimate nature. This is the practice of this great bodhisattva — to regard others with a compassionate and wise gaze and hold up to them the insight of their ultimate nature, so that they can see themselves reflected there.

Many people have the idea that they are not good at anything and that they are not able to be as successful as other people. They cannot be happy; they envy the accomplishments and social standing of others while regarding themselves as failures if they do not have the same level of worldly success. We have to try to help those who feel this way. Following the practice of Sadaparibhuta we must come to them and say, “You should not have an inferiority complex. I see in you some very good seeds that can be developed and make you into a great being. If you look more deeply within and get in touch with those wholesome seeds in you, you will be able to overcome your feelings of unworthiness and manifest your true nature.”

The Chinese teacher Master Guishan writes,

We should not look down
on ourselves.
We should not see ourselves as
worthless and always withdraw
into the background.

These words are designed to wake us up. In modern society, psychotherapists report that many people suffer from low self-esteem. They feel that they are worthless and have nothing to offer, and many of them sink into depression and can no longer function well and take care of themselves or their families. Therapists, healers, caregivers, teachers, religious leaders and those who are close to someone who suffers in this way all have the duty to help them see their true nature more clearly so that they can free themselves from the delusion that they are worthless. If we know friends or family members who see themselves as worthless, powerless and incapable of doing anything good or meaningful, and this negative self-image has taken away all their happiness, we have to try to help our friend, our sister or brother, our parent, spouse or partner remove this complex. This is the action of Never Disparaging Bodhisattva.

We also have to practice so as not to add to others’ feelings of worthlessness. In our daily life, when we become impatient or irritated, we might say things that are harsh, judgmental and critical, especially in regard to our children. When they are under a great deal of pressure, working very hard to support and care for their family, parents frequently make the mistake of uttering unkind, punitive or blaming words in moments of stress or irritation. The ground of a child’s consciousness is still very young, still very fresh, so when we sow such negative seeds in our children we are destroying their capacity to be happy. So parents and teachers, siblings and friends all have to be very careful and practice mindfulness in order to avoid sowing negative seeds in the minds of our children, family members, friends and students.

When our students or loved ones have feelings of low self-esteem, we have to find a way to help them transform those feelings so that they can live with greater freedom, peace and joy. We have to practice just like Never Disparaging Bodhisattva, who did not give up on people or lose patience with them, but always continued to hold up to others a mirror of their true buddhanature.

I always try to practice this kind of action. One day there were two young brothers who came to spend the day with me. I took them both to see a new manual printing press I had just gotten. The younger boy was very interested in the machine and while he was playing with it the motor burned out. As I was pressing one button to show the boys how it worked, the little boy pressed another at the same time and it overstressed the machine’s engine. The elder brother said angrily, “Thây, you just wanted to show us the machine. Why did he have to do that? He wrecks whatever he touches.” These were very harsh words from such a young boy. Perhaps hearing his parents or other family members use blaming language like this had influenced him and he was just repeating what he had heard without realising the effect it would have on his little brother.

In order to help mitigate the possible effects of this criticism on the younger boy, I showed the boys another machine, a paper cutting machine, and this time I instructed the younger one on how to use it. His brother warned me, “Thây, don’t let him touch it, he’ll destroy this one too.” Seeing that this was a moment when I could help both boys, I said to the older brother, “Don’t worry, I have faith in him. He is intelligent. We shouldn’t think otherwise.” Then I said to the younger boy, “Here, this is how it works — just push this button. Once you have released this button, then you press that button. Do this very carefully and the machine will work properly.” The younger brother followed my instructions and operated the machine without harming it. He was very happy, and so was his older brother. And I was happy along with them.

Following the example of Sadaparibhuta Bodhisattva, I only needed three or four minutes to remove the complex of the younger brother and teach the older brother to learn to trust in the best of his younger brother and not just see him in terms of his mistakes. In truth, at that moment I was a bit concerned that the young boy would ruin the other machine. But if I had hesitated and not allowed him to try and follow my instructions, believing that he would destroy the machine, I could well have destroyed that little boy. Preserving the health and well-being of the mind of a child is much more important than preserving a machine.

You only need to have faith in the action of Sadaparibhuta and very quickly you can help others overcome their negative self-image. Never Despising Bodhisattva shows everyone that they have the capacity for perfection within themselves, the capacity to become a buddha, a fully enlightened one. The message of the Lotus Sutra is that everyone can and will become a buddha. Sadaparibhuta is the ambassador of the Buddha and of the Lotus Sutra, and sometimes ambassadors are reviled or attacked. Sadaparibhuta was also treated this way. He brought his message to everyone, but not everyone was happy to hear it because they could not believe in their own buddhanature. So when they heard his message they felt they were being scorned or mocked. “Throughout the passage of many years, he was constantly subjected to abuse . . . some in the multitude would beat him with sticks and staves, with tiles and stones.” The mission of a dharma teacher, of a bodhisattva, requires a great deal of love, equanimity and inclusiveness.

Sadaparibhuta represents the action of inclusiveness, or kshanti. One of the six paramitas, kshanti is also translated as “patience,” and we can see this great quality in Sadaparibhuta and in one of Shakyamuni’s disciples, Purna, who is praised by the Buddha in the eighth chapter of the Lotus Sutra. While the Lotus Sutra only mentions Purna in passing, he is the subject of another sutra, the Teaching Given to Maitrayaniputra. In this sutra, after the Buddha had instructed Purna in the practice, he asked him, “Where will you go to share the dharma and form a sangha?” The monk said that he wanted to return to his native region, to the island of Sunaparanta in the Eastern Sea. The Buddha said, “Bhikshu, that is a very difficult place. People there are very rough and violent. Do you think you have the capacity to go there to teach and help?”

“Yes, I think so, my Lord,” replied Purna.

“What if they shout at you and insult you?”

Purna said, “If they only shout at me and insult me I think they are kind enough, because at least they aren’t throwing rocks or rotten vegetables at me. But even if they did, my Lord, I would still think that they are kind enough, because at least they are not using sticks to hit me.”

The Buddha continued, “And if they beat you with sticks?”

“I think they are still kind enough, since they are not using knives and swords to kill me.”

“And if they want to take your life? It’s possible that they would want to destroy you because you will be bringing a new kind of teaching, and they won’t understand at first and may be very suspicious and hostile,” the Buddha warned.

Purna replied, “Well, in that case I am ready to die, because my dying will also be a kind of teaching and I know that this body is not the only manifestation I have. I can manifest myself in many kinds of bodies. I don’t mind if they kill me; I don’t mind becoming the victim of their violence, because I believe that I can help them.”

The Buddha said, “Very good, my friend. I think that you are ready to go and help there.”

So Purna went to that land and he was able to gather a lay sangha of five hundred people practicing the mindfulness trainings, and also to establish a monastic community of around five hundred practitioners. He was successful in his attempt to teach and transform the violent ways of the people in that country. Purna exemplifies the practice of kshanti, or inclusiveness.

Sadaparibhuta may have been a future or a former life of Purna. We are the same. If we know how to practice inclusiveness, then we will also be the future life of this great bodhisattva. We know that Sadaparibhuta’s life span is infinite, and so we can be in touch with his action and aspiration at any moment. And when we follow the practice of inclusiveness of Never Despising Bodhisattva, he is reborn in us right in that very moment. We get in touch with the great faith and insight that everyone is a buddha, the insight that is the very marrow of the Lotus Sutra. Then we can take up the career of the bodhisattva, carrying within our heart the deep confidence we have gained from this insight and sharing that confidence and insight with others.

Therapists and others in the healing professions, dharma teachers, school teachers, parents, family members, colleagues and friends can all learn to practice like Sadaparibhuta. Following the path of faith, confidence and inclusiveness, we can help free many people from the suffering of negative self-image, help them recognize their true buddhanature, and lead them into the ultimate dimension.

Thich Nhat Hanh 82.

The essence of the highest teachings lies within a simple moment of awareness.

— Khandro Rinpoche