How We Should Practice
by His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje

In the Jataka Tales, it says:

After studying, make practice the essence.
You will be freed from the stronghold of birth with little difficulty.

Similarly, the Teacher himself said in The Vinaya Scriptures:

There are two things that monastics should do: study through listening and contemplating, and abandon through meditation.

Gampopa said:

Beginners should study earnestly.
After studying the teachings, practice earnestly.

As these explain, one should first listen to and contemplate the Dharma appropriately through scriptures and then make the practice of the meaning one has studied into the essence. This is the general way to uphold the teachings. The Buddha, out of kindness, said not once but over and over that his followers should emphasise practice, and uphold, preserve, and propagate the teachings of realisation properly. Doing this is extremely important.

We can understand this when we read the biographies of Milarepa and Marpa the Translator and see what they did. They didn’t sit around like us, fat, happy, and enjoying themselves. They did such great practice that they meditated until their flesh was worn down to the bone. It is from this emphasis on practice that the name “Practice Lineage” was given, but it is not as if we do not have to do any study and contemplation. We should at the very least listen to and contemplate the lama’s instructions. Even if we cannot read the great philosophical texts, there is no way we can know how to meditate unless we study and contemplate the lama’s instructions thoroughly.

In order to meditate, it is very important to first identify what we are meditating on. If we meditate without identifying that, there is the danger it will become idiot meditation or idiot Dharma. If we do not first fully comprehend through listening and contemplating the meaning of what we are meditating on, how can we practice? Without something to practice or something to meditate on, we might say, “I’m practicing” or “I’m meditating,” but there would be the danger we end up betwixt and between, not anywhere at all. We would be neither in the world nor in the Dharma. We might try to look impressive, but because we are neither in the Dharma nor in the world, there is the danger that it could be said of us that we are caught betwixt and between.

Even if the forefathers of the practice lineage did not study philosophical texts in great detail, they did give their students naked or direct instructions on the experience they realised — the instructions of an old man pointing his finger, or symbolic pointing-out instructions. There is something special that happens when someone who has experience shows a physical expression or makes a slight gesture with their hands. After pointing out experience symbolically, there is a particular way to guide students down the path, which followers of the practice lineage must know. This is also what we call the meaning lineage of realisation. Most of the lamas in the ranks of the Kagyu root and lineage lamas first attained a high level of scholarship before doing meditation practice, although there are some about whom I wonder whether they themselves did such study and contemplation of philosophy.

However, even if one does not have the breadth of study and contemplation, the experience of realisation of the masters of the past can be pointed out nakedly or directly to students, so there is something special that happens. I think that if members of the practice lineage can recognise what the root and lineage masters have passed down and pointed out successively and what their root lama points out through the view of experience when actually instructing them, and then can make that the essence of their practice, they will uphold and preserve the teachings of the practice lineage over time, and they will also be able to help others develop and ripen.

Why is this? With Milarepa, for instance, first his lama Marpa pointed out the experience to him through signs, and he recognised it as it was given to him. Then he practiced whole-heartedly. When we read in his life story how he devoted himself one-pointedly to practice, it makes all of us cry tears of faith and devotion, whether we are members of the Sakya, Geluk, Kagyu, or Nyingma Dharma lineages, without any distinction. In his actions, his words corresponded to the meaning, so it makes us cry and none of us can help but feel faith and devotion. If the words and meaning did not correspond, it would be difficult for it to make us feel faith and devotion. All Sakyas, Gelukpas, Kagyus, and Nyingmas respect Milarepa without any partisan bias, yet there is no history at all of him studying extensively and writing many philosophical texts. However, Lama Milarepa himself said something like, “I have no material offerings to give, but I make this offering of practice to my father and mother lamas for the rest of my life.”

Milarepa recognised the experiential pointing-out instruction that Marpa gave him. After recognising it, he made practice the main thing. That is how he became such a great being, able to benefit sentient beings by being seen, heard, remembered, or touched. When all of us merely hear his name, we feel a special kind of amazement. As a Nyingma lama once said, sometimes when our minds are disturbed and the afflictions are strong, other great texts do not help us, but reading The Way of the Bodhisattva and The Life of Milarepa helps a little bit. That’s how it is, isn’t it?

In any case, the person known as the author of The Life of Milarepa, the Bone Ornament Yogi or Crazy Heruka from Tsang, was a skilled writer. His writing is of extremely high quality. It strikes the heart and has feeling. Beginners can also get their minds around it. He is wonderful at touching us. Thus just by hearing The Life of Milarepa, Milarepa has become a great being who benefits the beings who merely see, hear, think of, or touch him.

In order to develop the view and meditation of the practice lineage or unmistaken meditation, we need to practice an unmistaken view. For that view, there is developing full comprehension of the view of the object, emptiness, as well as the preliminaries and the follow-through practices. The preliminary and follow-through practices are all similar, but the main practice has some distinct aspects. These are a different essence, different focus, different practice techniques, and the different power of the techniques, it is said. There are also two other distinct features of the main practice: different conditions for gaining realisation and different ways of taking the path. According to the Dakpo Kagyu, the different way to develop realisation is that because of the blessings of a lama who has directly realised the truth and the devotion of the student coming together, the student will directly realise the truth of the path of seeing. The different way to take the path is to take direct perception as the path rather than inference.

With the object, emptiness, those who primarily study the emptiness of the mahayana sutras realise it through logical proofs of the dharma nature, such as the king of reasonings, the proof of interdependence, and so forth. For the path and post-meditation as well, they follow the path primarily by way of inferential analysis, it is said. However, these are all only ways to guide disciples with differing natures and inclinations down the path, the great teachers said; there is no contradiction between them.

So we say that we are in the practice lineage, but really we are a bit of a disgrace to the practice lineage, aren’t we? I wonder whether we are going to have anything from our practice to pass on in the lineage.

It is not okay not to have read the lives of the Kagyu forefathers. When we read them, we should be amazed. We need to look at ourselves. When we read the biographies of the forefathers of the practice lineage, we feel, “Oh no!” We call ourselves followers of the great masters of the practice lineage, but when we look at ourselves, forget about being a follower — I think we are just barely not disgracing them. There’s a danger we’ll have to rewrite the verse:

The venerable guru practices like that;
We who want freedom disgrace like that.

So when we read the lives of the gurus, we wonder whether our own behaviour is compatible with the lives and deeds of the lamas. There is no point to being followers of the practice lineage in name only.

Actually, it was for practice that Lama Marpa and others underwent such difficulties and made such great efforts to go to India and receive empowerments and instructions in their entirety from genuine great Indian masters. They brought those back to the dark land of Tibet, translated them, and directly taught them to their students who practiced view, meditation, and conduct, handing them down just as a father gives his wealth to his child. They have given students or followers of our contemporary degenerate times hope and an opportunity to free themselves from the suffering of birth, aging, sickness, and death. Thus from one perspective we need to feel gratitude, and that is extremely important.

If we take Gelukpas as an example, individual monks have pictures of Tsongkhapa and his two main disciples in their rooms, which shows that they remember the kindness of their body, speech, and mind. It seems as if we Kagyupas are basically slowly forgetting about Marpa, Mila, and Gampopa, as I see it. In particular, we seem to think that the words of Milarepa that we recite these days come from the hand of a buddha who awakened to buddhahood in the past and then descended from Akanishta. We don’t think he was someone human like us. The lamas show the form of an ordinary sentient being, undergo difficulties, and make strong efforts to visibly demonstrate liberation for the benefit of the students, and we are throwing this away as if it were meaningless and unhelpful. This is a mistake. At the very least, if we don’t have the chance to practice, we need to be grateful, right?

To talk about it from a broader perspective, it is primarily the outer natural world — the plants, forests, and all the other things made up of the four elements — that supports our lives, makes it possible for us to breathe, gives us good health, and so forth. Any way you look at it, it is very beneficial to us. Thus we need to be grateful to it. Yet without the slightest bit of affection we destroy any plant that sends up a shoot or any slight bump in the ground, laying them waste.

Similarly, if we think about the inhabitants of this world, our food, clothing, beds, possessions, houses — in brief, anything at all that we might need is produced through the effort and difficulties of many sentient beings. It’s not as if our houses, nice clothes, and food are somehow just there from the time we are born. It is clear that all of these occur through one sentient being depending upon another.

From the smallest things on up, even the cup of tea we drank for breakfast depended upon many sentient beings in order to be made. Some of the butter in it may have arisen in dependence upon animals, and some in dependence upon plants. But just having a plant is not enough: there need to be many people to perform the actions of extracting the oil from the plant and pressing it. There are many people who are involved in selling it and bringing it to market. That is how it is: it has to pass through many people’s hands to get here. This is why whenever we drink a cup of tea, we first make a tea offering. It is good to be grateful like that, isn’t it?

If instead we just quickly gulp down a cup of tea without any thought or consideration, I wonder whether we are genuine mahayana practitioners. If we say we practice the mahayana, at the beginning of our meditation on bodhichitta, we remember that all beings have been our mothers. We are grateful. The gratitude of wanting to repay kindness is like the root of our mahayana attitudes and training, right? We should not just be grateful to humans. In brief, the physical environment and all the forests, plants, and everything else that comprise it, are all helpful to us. They sustain us. We should be grateful to them.

So this year the main theme of the Kagyu Monlam is gratitude. Last year the main thing was environmental protection. This year the main theme is gratitude. Thus it is extremely important for us to be grateful.

When we encounter the biographies of the forefathers of the practice lineage here now, we need to remember and keep firmly in mind how they underwent difficulties and gave up wrongdoing for the benefit of their future disciples. We can supplicate them again and again, but actually, we must wholeheartedly practice meditation on the points of their instructions. These two are very close. If we first develop a grateful attitude, then fifty percent has turned out well.

Therefore if we keep a grateful attitude in mind, I think that we will be able to uphold, preserve, and spread the teachings of the practice lineage. Otherwise, we will turn the Dharma into an empty façade. We’ll keep the Dharma from doing what it should and prevent the instructions from working, making the Dharma into even more of a façade. On the outside, it will appear as if we should be called Dharma practitioners, but if that appearance fools and deceives the faithful public, then just as Mao Tse Tung said, the Dharma will be poison. If the Dharma does not work as Dharma, there is a danger of fulfilling the prediction that Dharma will be the cause that throws us back into the lower realms.

Therefore we at least need to make sure that the Dharma doesn’t turn into poison. What we call Dharma is what we have to practice in order to free ourselves from the sufferings of the three realms of samsara. That is the sort of reason we do it. If we put aside liberation from samsara, we’ll be digging ourselves in deeper and deeper. If we mix Dharma with the eight worldly concerns, cling to discipline as paramount, and think too highly of our own view, there is the danger that we will dig ourselves ever more deeply and profoundly into samsara. That’s turning the Dharma inside out and upside down; it is not at all action that is compatible with the Dharma. Therefore, we need to take this to heart.

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If we just enjoy this precious human life for its limited time without bringing back the jewel of the Dharma, we are like an explorer who goes to an island covered with treasure and returns with nothing. The journey will have been useless.

If we just get caught up in the activities of daily life, and neglect the Dharma’s liberating instructions, we will have possessed this precious human existence but gained nothing from it.

— Shechen Gyalsap Rinpoche

在家居士修学佛法的必备资粮
惠空法师

在家居士在修学佛法的历程中,有一些必备的资粮,而首先要具备的,就是皈依三宝。

第一、皈依三宝

皈依三宝不但是我们学佛的始点,也是终点,更是我们在修学佛法上的一条主轴线;也就是说,在学佛的历程中,如果偏离了皈依三宝,所有学佛的内涵都不成立、所有学佛所做的善法、业力都与修学佛道远离!为什么呢?从远处讲,我们修学佛法的目的就是要成就自性的三宝,而且,在整个修学佛法的过程中,如果不以佛为师,而是以外道、以鬼神为师;不以佛的教法为依循,而是以自己的知见、以外教的经典、或是世俗的价值观念做为依循,那不是悖离了正法吗?同样的,修学佛法的人不皈依僧、不以僧团做为领导,而是他自己领导自己、或是由外道领导,最终,他一定会走偏的。

所以,皈依三宝,看起来好像很简单、或是有人觉得它太遥远,其实,它一点也不简单、一点也不遥远,它是这样的基本、这样的实际、这样的浅易明白而却是这么样的重要、根本。所以我们做为佛弟子,要常常反省到──我对佛陀的教法、对世尊,我的本师,是不是有十足的信心?我对佛陀的教法、经典,是不是能理解?有所信仰?有去实践?我对僧团是不是有恭敬?有皈依?如果我们确实地有,那可以说,我们已经具足了做为一个佛弟子学佛的基石了。

第二、对三宝有信心

皈依三宝之后,其次是对三宝要有信心,这是修学佛法的第二个资粮。什么是信心?就是,确信三宝是真实的;确信三宝是清净与庄严的;确信三宝是尊贵的;确信三宝是我苦海的舟航;确信三宝是世间的明灯;确信唯有皈依三宝才是出离生死的一条路;确信唯有实实在在地覆践三宝、追随三宝才是我生命唯一的道路!我们反省一下,有没有这样的信念呢?是不是我认为,我不依靠三宝,我仍然可以走我生命这条路?是不是有怀疑三宝的价值?是不是怀疑三宝的存在?是不是怀疑三宝的清净、庄严与尊贵?这是我们要反省的!因为一旦我们对三宝的存在、对三宝的清净与功德起了一丝一毫的模糊,没有十足的信心,它就会腐蚀我们修学佛法的动力。所以,我们要确立对三宝的十足信心。

第三、确立对三宝的恭敬心

因为没有恭敬心,就不容易升起一种仰慕、珍重的心情,就不会觉得佛法的可贵、不会对它产生渴仰、不会觉得想要很谦卑、很虚心地去向三宝学习。所以,我们要对三宝起一个很真实、很崇敬的恭敬心。如果我们是以我慢心去修学佛法,那么可能我们所修学的佛法,反而变成我们的障碍、我们的毒药。所以我们要对三宝起一个绝对的恭敬心,在恭敬心中,建立起对佛法的实践。

第四、在家居士要修忏悔行

从一个在家人的角度来反省,可以说:因为我们的业障,所以没有善根能早早出家;因为业障,才有家庭牵累;因为有业障,所以不能发起出离的心;因为有业障,所以才现在家相。何况,我们要想到:今天我们在家,表示我们业障深重,这是我们往昔无量无边的恶业牵缠;今天,我们的业障障住我们出家,将来,我们的业障,也必埋藏无穷无尽修道的阻力及轮回的恶业。所以,我们必须深切地从佛法的体验中,体认到在家居士有很多的恶业潜伏在生命中,我们必须尽快地将它消除,而消除恶业最好的方法,就是「忏悔」──勤修忏悔、精进忏悔、诚恳地在佛法的理、事上忏悔;从我们的心念、观照力去忏悔;从日常生活的起心动念处去忏悔;从一切可以依凭的时、事、物当中,发起忏悔的心念,务必使我们现实生命的恶业,因透过忏悔而清净,进而发起善根,让我们顺利起修学佛法──这是在家居士在修学中,所要贮备的资粮,也是修学的重要方法。

自古以来,中国佛教对在家居士「忏悔」的这个意念,可以说非常着重,所以才有许多忏法的施设,如:三昧水忏、梁皇宝忏、焰口、大悲忏、八十八佛大忏悔文等忏法,这虽都是老祖师们自修自行的法门,然而表现出的却是适应这个时代广大在家居士的因缘机感,而这么多好的忏法能消除我们的恶业,我们应该很诚恳、很真诚地依循这些仪轨来忏悔。

第五、在家居士必须学习行菩萨道

菩萨行虽深不可测,但可试学,简单讲就是:布施、持戒、忍辱。因为,布施可以得到广大的功德:布施三宝可以积集修学佛法的善因,布施可以让我们消除很多的噩业、布施可以成就我们修学佛法的资粮,所以我们要修布施行。而持戒,可以免于堕噩道;持戒,就是清净我们身心、庄严我们身心,使我们具有修行解脱的资粮,使我们具有修行种种善法、佛法的工具──我们清净的身心。

还有就是要忍辱。因为不忍辱,就是瞋恨──「一念瞋心起,火烧功德林」,不能够忍,就会犯大过失;不能够忍,就会消大福报。相反的,修忍辱,能够庄严我们的身心,能够免除瞋火破坏我们的善法,避免瞋火做出种种的噩业,所以我们要修忍辱行。也就是说,布施、持戒、忍辱,就是安定我们生命最好的德目!

第六、读诵大乘经典

最后,在家居士要常常读诵大乘经典。没有智慧,就没有办法修行,而获得智慧最快最好的方法,就是直接听闻佛陀的教法──读诵大乘经典、听讲大乘经典、研究大乘经典,使我们的智慧闻熏、发展,为我们将来修菩萨行,种下无量无边智慧的根苗,做为我们真正发起、修行大乘教法的种子。

以上就以皈依三宝、恭敬三宝,对三宝起无上的信心、忏悔业障、修菩萨的布施、持戒、忍辱行、读诵大乘经典,做为我们在家居士修学佛法必备的资粮。

There are many capacities in which we can benefit others. We can undertake activities to alleviate physical suffering, and we can help others to alleviate mental suffering, but ultimately these kinds of activities, even though they definitely benefit others, are common to other traditions as well. They are not unique to the Buddhist tradition.

Mahayana Buddhism does not exclude those kinds of activities that work towards the alleviation of temporary suffering, or towards the provision of temporary happiness for others. These are certainly good. However, in terms of benefitting others in a more fundamental, ultimate sense, according to Mahayana what is really advocated is achieving Buddhahood and helping others to achieve Buddhahood.

— Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro Rinpoche

The Practice of Looking Deeply Using Three Dharma Seals: Impermanence, No-self and Nirvana
by Thich Nhat Hanh

All authentic practices of the Buddha carry within them three essential teachings called the Dharma Seals. These three teachings of the Buddha are: impermanence, no self and nirvana. Just as all-important legal documents have the mark or signature of a witness, all genuine practices of the Buddha bear the mark of these three teachings.

If we look into the first Dharma Seal, impermanence, we see that it doesn’t just mean that everything changes. By looking into the nature of things, we can see that nothing remains the same for even two consecutive moments. Because nothing remains unchanged from moment to moment it therefore has no fixed identity or a permanent self. So in the teaching of impermanence we always see the lack of an unchanging self. We call this “no self,” the second Dharma Seal. It is because things are always transforming and have no self that freedom is possible.

The third Dharma Seal is nirvana. This means solidity and freedom, freedom from all ideas and notions. The word “nirvana” literally means “the extinction of all concepts.” Looking deeply into impermanence leads to the discovery of no self. The discovery of no self leads to nirvana. Nirvana is the Kingdom of God.

IMPERMANENCE

The practice and understanding of impermanence is not just another description of reality. It is a tool that helps us in our transformation, healing and emancipation.

Impermanence means that everything changes and nothing remains the same in any consecutive moment. And although things change every moment, they still cannot be accurately described as the same or as different from what they were a moment ago.

When we bathe in the river today that we bathed in yesterday, is it the same river? Heraclitus said that we couldn’t step into the same river twice. He was right. The water in the river today is completely different from the water we bathed in yesterday. Yet it is the same river. When Confucius was standing on the bank of a river watching it flow by he said, “Oh, it flows like that day and night, never ending.”

The insight of impermanence helps us to go beyond all concepts. It helps us to go beyond same and different, and coming and going. It helps us to see that the river is not the same river but is also not different either. It shows us that the flame we lit on our bedside candle before we went to bed is not the same flame of the next morning. The flame on the table is not two flames, but it is not one flame either.

IMPERMANENCE MAKES EVERYTHING POSSIBLE

We are often sad and suffer a lot when things change, but change and impermanence have a positive side. Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible. Life itself is possible. If a grain of corn is not impermanent, it can never be transformed into a stalk of corn. If the stalk were not impermanent, it could never provide us with the ear of corn we eat. If your daughter is not impermanent, she cannot grow up to become a woman. Then your grandchildren would never manifest. So instead of complaining about impermanence, we should say, “Warm welcome and long live impermanence.” We should be happy. When we can see the miracle of impermanence our sadness and suffering will pass.

Impermanence should also be understood in the light of inter-being. Because all things inter-are, they are constantly influencing each other. It is said a butterfly’s wings flapping on one side of the planet can affect the weather on the other side. Things cannot stay the same because they are influenced by everything else, everything that is not itself.

PRACTICING IMPERMANENCE

All of us can understand impermanence with our intellect, but this is not yet true understanding. Our intellect alone will not lead us to freedom. It will not lead us to enlightenment. When we are solid and we concentrate, we can practice looking deeply. And when we look deeply and see the nature of impermanence, we can then be concentrated on this deep insight. This is how the insight of impermanence becomes part of our being. It becomes our daily experience. We have to maintain the insight of impermanence in order to be able to see and live impermanence all the time. If we can use impermanence as an object of our meditation, we will nourish the understanding of impermanence in such a way that it will live in us every day. With this practice impermanence becomes a key that opens the door of reality.

We also cannot uncover the insight into impermanence for only a moment and then cover it up and see everything as permanent again. Most of the time we behave with our children as though they will always be at home with us. We never think that in three or four years they will leave us to marry and have their own family. Therefore we do not value the moments our child is with us.

I know many parents whose children, when they are eighteen or nineteen years old, leave home and live on their own. The parents lose their children and feel very sorry for themselves. Yet the parents did not value the moments they had with their children. The same is true of husbands and wives. You think that your spouse will be there for the whole of your life but how can you be so sure? We really have no idea where our partner will be in twenty or thirty years, or even tomorrow. It is very important to remember every day the practice of impermanence.

SEEING EMOTIONS THROUGH THE EYES OF IMPERMANENCE

When somebody says something that makes you angry and you wish they would go away, please look deeply with the eyes of impermanence. If he or she were gone, what would you really feel? Would you be happy or would you weep? Practicing this insight can be very helpful. There is a gatha, or poem, we can use to help us:

Angry in the ultimate dimension
I close my eyes and look deeply.
Three hundred years from now
Where will you be and where shall I be?

When we are angry, what do we usually do? We shout, scream, and try to blame someone else for our problems. But looking at anger with the eyes of impermanence, we can stop and breathe. Angry at each other in the ultimate dimension, we close our eyes and look deeply. We try to see three hundred years into the future. What will you be like? What will I be like? Where will you be? Where will I be? We need only to breathe in and out, look at our future and at the other person’s future. We do not need to look as far as three hundred years. It could be fifty or sixty years from now when we have both passed away.

Looking at the future, we see that the other person is very precious to us. When we know we can lose them at any moment, we are no longer angry. We want to embrace her or him and say, “How wonderful, you are still alive. I am so happy. How could I be angry with you? Both of us have to die someday and while we are still alive and together it is foolish to be angry at each other.”

The reason we are foolish enough to make ourselves suffer and make the other person suffer is we forget that we and the other person are impermanent. Someday when we die we will lose all our possessions, our power, our family, everything. Our freedom, peace and joy in the present moment is the most important thing we have. But without an awakened understanding of impermanence it is not possible to be happy.

Some people do not even want to look at a person when they are alive, but when they die they write eloquent obituaries and make offerings of flowers. But at that point the person has died and cannot smell the fragrance of the flowers anymore. If we really understood and remembered that life was impermanent, we would do everything we could to make the other person happy right here and right now. If we spend twenty-four hours being angry at our beloved, it is because we are ignorant of impermanence.

“Angry in the ultimate dimension/I close my eyes.” I close my eyes in order to practice visualisation of my beloved one hundred or three hundred years from now. When you visualise yourself and your beloved in three hundred years’ time, you just feel so happy that you are alive today and that your dearest is alive today. You open your eyes and all your anger has gone. You open your arms to embrace the other person and you practice: “Breathing in you are alive, breathing out I am so happy.” When you close your eyes to visualise yourself and the other person in three hundred years’ time, you are practicing the meditation on impermanence. In the ultimate dimension, anger does not exist.

Hatred is also impermanent. Although we may be consumed with hatred at this moment, if we know that hatred is impermanent we can do something to change it. A practitioner can take resentment and hatred and help it to disappear. Just like with anger, we close our eyes and think: where will we be in three hundred years? With the understanding of hatred in the ultimate dimension, it can evaporate in an instant.

LET IMPERMANENCE NURTURE LOVE

Because we are ignorant and forget about impermanence, we don’t nurture our love properly. When we first married our love was great. We thought that if we did not have each other we would not be able to live one more day. Because we did not know how to practice impermanence, after one or two years our love changed to frustration and anger. Now we wonder how we can survive one more day if we have to remain with the person we once loved so much. We decide there is no alternative: we want a divorce. If we live with the understanding of impermanence we will cultivate and nurture our love. Only then will it last. You have to nourish and look after your love for it to grow.

NO SELF

Impermanence is looking at reality from the point of view of time. No self is looking at reality from the point of view of space. They are two sides of reality. No self is a manifestation of impermanence and impermanence is a manifestation of no self. If things are impermanent they are without a separate self. If things are without a separate self, it means that they are impermanent. Impermanence means being transformed at every moment. This is reality. And since there is nothing unchanging, how can there be a permanent self, a separate self? When we say “self” we mean something that is always itself, unchanging day after day. But nothing is like that. Our body is impermanent, our emotions are impermanent, and our perceptions are impermanent. Our anger, our sadness, our love, our hatred and our consciousness are also impermanent.

So what permanent thing is there which we can call a self? The piece of paper these words are written on does not have a separate self. It can only be present when the clouds, the forest, the sun, the earth, the people who make the paper, and the machines are present. If those things are not present the paper cannot be present. And if we burn the paper, where is the self of paper?

Nothing can exist by itself alone. It has to depend on every other thing. That is called inter-being. To be means to inter-be. The paper inter-is with the sunshine and with the forest. The flower cannot exist by itself alone; it has to inter-be with soil, rain, weeds and insects. There is no being; there is only inter-being.

Looking deeply into a flower we see that the flower is made of non-flower elements. We can describe the flower as being full of everything. There is nothing that is not present in the flower. We see sunshine, we see the rain, we see clouds, we see the earth, and we also see time and space in the flower. A flower, like everything else, is made entirely of non-flower elements. The whole cosmos has come together in order to help the flower manifest herself. The flower is full of everything except one thing: a separate self or a separate identity.

The flower cannot be by herself alone. The flower has to inter-be with the sunshine, the cloud and everything in the cosmos. If we understand being in terms of inter-being, then we are much closer to the truth. Inter-being is not being and it is not non-being. Inter-being means at the same time being empty of a separate identity; empty of a separate self.

No self also means emptiness, a technical term in Buddhism which means the absence of a separate self. We are of the nature of no self, but that does not mean that we are not here. It does not mean that nothing exists. A glass can be empty or full of tea, but in order to be either empty or full the glass has to be there. So emptiness does not mean non-being and does not mean being either. It transcends all concepts. If you touch deeply the nature of impermanence, no self and inter-being, you touch the ultimate dimension, the nature of nirvana.

WHO ARE WE?

We think of our body as our self or belonging to our self. We think of our body as me or mine. But if you look deeply, you see that your body is also the body of your ancestors, of your parents, of your children, and of their children. So it is not a “me”; it is not a “mine.” Your body is full of everything else — limitless non-body elements — except one thing: a separate existence.

Impermanence has to be seen in the light of emptiness, of inter-being, and of non-self. These things are not negative. Emptiness is wonderful. Nagarjuna, the famous Buddhist teacher of the second century, said, “Thanks to emptiness, everything is possible.”

You can see no non-self in impermanence, and impermanence in non-self. You can say that impermanence is no self seen from the angle of time, and non-self is impermanence seen from the angle of space. They are the same thing. That is why impermanence and non-self inter-are. If you do not see impermanence in non-self, that is not non-self. If you do not see non-self in impermanence, that’s not really impermanence.

But that is not all. You have to see nirvana in impermanence and you have to see nirvana in non-self. If I draw a line on one side there will be impermanence and non-self, and on the other side there will be nirvana. That line may be helpful, although it can also be misleading. Nirvana means going beyond all concepts, even the concepts of no self and impermanence. If we have nirvana in no self and in impermanence, it means that we are not caught in no self and impermanence as ideas.

NIRVANA

Impermanence and no self are not rules to follow given to us by the Buddha. They are keys to open the door of reality. The idea of permanence is wrong, so the teaching on impermanence helps us correct our view of permanence. But if we get caught in the idea of impermanence we have not realised nirvana. The idea of self is wrong. So we use the idea of non-self to cure it. But if we are caught in the idea of non-self then that is not good for us either. Impermanence and no self are keys to the practice. They are not absolute truths. We do not die for them or kill for them.

In Buddhism there are no ideas or prejudices that we kill for. We do not kill people simply because they do not accept our religion. The teachings of the Buddha are skillful means; they are not absolute truth. So we have to say that impermanence and no self are skillful means to help us come toward the truth; they are not absolute truth. The Buddha said, “My teachings are a finger pointing to the moon. Do not get caught in thinking that the finger is the moon. It is because of the finger that you can see the moon.”

No self and impermanence are means to understand the truth; they are not the truth itself. They are instruments; they are not the ultimate truth. Impermanence is not a doctrine that you should feel you have to die for. You would never put someone in prison because they contradict you. You are not using one concept against another concept. These means are to lead us to the ultimate truth. Buddhism is a skillful path to help us; it is not a path of fanatics. Buddhists can never go to war, shedding blood and killing thousands of people on behalf of their religion.

Because impermanence contains within itself the nature of nirvana, you are safe from being caught in an idea. When you study and practice this teaching you free yourself from notions and concepts, including the concept of permanence and impermanence. This way, we arrive at freedom from suffering and fear. This is nirvana, the kingdom of God.

EXTINCTION OF CONCEPT

We are scared because of our notions of birth and death, increasing and decreasing, being and non-being. Nirvana means extinction of all notions and ideas. If we can become free from these notions we can touch the peace of our true nature.

There are eight basic concepts that serve to fuel our fear. They are the notions of birth and death, coming and going, the same and different, being and non-being. These notions keep us from being happy. The teaching given to counteract these notions is called “the eight no’s,” which are no birth, no death, no coming, no going, not the same, not different, no being, no non-being.

ENDING NOTIONS OF HAPPINESS

Each of us has a notion of how we can be happy. It would be very helpful if we took the time to reconsider our notions of happiness. We could make a list of what we think we need to be happy: “I can only be happy if…” Write down the things you want and the things you do not want. Where did these ideas come from? Is it reality? Or is it only your notion? If you are committed to a particular notion of happiness you do not have much chance to be happy.

Happiness arrives from many directions. If you have a notion that it comes only from one direction, you will miss all of these other opportunities, because you want happiness to come only from the direction you want. You say, “I would rather die than marry anyone but her. I would rather die than lose my job, my reputation. I cannot be happy if I don’t get that degree or that promotion or that house.” You have put many conditions on your happiness. And then, even if you do have all your conditions met, you still won’t be happy. You will just keep creating new conditions for your happiness. You will still want the higher degree, the better job and the more beautiful house.

A government can also believe that they know the only way to make a nation prosper and be happy. That government and nation may commit itself to that ideology for one hundred years or more. During that time its citizens can suffer so much. Anyone who disagrees or dares to speak against the government’s ideas will be locked up. They might even be considered insane. You can transform your nation into a prison because you are committed to an ideology.

Please remember your notions of happiness may be very dangerous. The Buddha said happiness can only be possible in the here and now, so go back and examine deeply your notions and ideas of happiness. You may recognise that the conditions of happiness that are already there in your life are enough. Then happiness can be instantly yours.

If we grasp at the (five) aggregates, we are grasping at self. If we grasp at self, from that (arises) karma, and from (karma arises) birth. Through these three, without a beginning, middle, or end, revolves the fire-brand circle of samsara by depending on each other as the cause.

— Nāgārjuna

佛教的和平观
学诚法师

一、从释迦世尊正觉缘起谈世界和平

世间一切事物的存在、发展到消亡,都是因缘条件组合、安住与分离的过程。从时间上看,是因果序列、前后相续的必然性;从空间上看,即表现为彼此相即不离、对立统一的因待性;从存在于时空的运动来看,即是刹那不住、无常变异的空寂性。这是佛陀观察宇宙人生所得出的结论。“此有故彼有,此生故彼生”,说明了世间相待而存在的法则。若遵循佛陀揭示的因果法则来理解人类的相依共存,就可以发现世界和平与生活在地球上的每一个生命个体、家庭、民族、社会、国家有着密切的关系。只有尊重生命的平等性、神圣性与不可侵犯性,以慈悲、智慧、宽容的胸襟,化干戈、怨恨、戾气为玉帛、慈爱、祥和,才能维护人类社 会的和平环境,在发展中努力建设无诤无瞋、自他相依、和谐共处、互惠互利的地球共同体。

两千五百多年前的释迦世尊,舍弃了王者的权位、勘破家庭私有制的染著而出家。从解脱自我的束缚中,自觉觉他,自悯悯人,将自己的痛苦与众生的痛苦打成一片,终于在深彻的慧照中,正觉缘起法性而成佛。《增一阿含经·力品》中释尊曾说:“为家忘一人,为村忘一家,为国忘一村,为身忘世间。”这“为身忘世”不是逃避现实,而是忘却我所有的世间,勘破自我,不从自我的立场看世间,才能真正的理解世间,促进世间的和乐善生。

释尊为国际非战主义者,是倡导世界和平的使者。据《长阿含经·游行经》记载:摩竭陀国阿阇世王准备讨伐邻国跋祇族,派遣雨势大臣拜访佛陀,佛陀借此机缘说服并阻止了这场战争。一次,释迦族同邻族克萨喇人因使用灌田的沟渠引起争执,相持不下,几乎酿成灾祸。佛陀得知此事后,即刻前往劝 阻,解决了争端,使两族和睦相处。当琉璃王发动战争攻打迦毗罗卫国的时候,释尊曾安祥地坐在一株没有枝叶覆蔽的舍夷树下,以他大慈无畏的精神感动了琉璃王,从而化解了一场残酷的杀戮。“战胜增怨敌,战败卧不安,胜败两俱舍,卧觉寂静乐。”这是佛陀热爱和平、反对战争的圣训。

二、当今世界的全球一体与恐怖主义

人类闯入二十一世纪的网络时代,世界忽然变得小了起来。科学技术的突飞猛进,使得人类克隆自己成为可能。不满足生活在地球上的人们,开始奢想着 把家安到外太空去。就连南极的企鹅,也可从基因的转化而改变它们的生存环境。由此,科学家们深信自己的发明创造能为人类带来幸福安乐,大多数人也常常错误地认为依靠自然科学的进步能够解决世间的一切问题。

事实上,恐怖主义、霸权主义正在利用现代科技,威胁着人类的生存与发展。汽车炸弹爆炸、自杀性爆炸、纽约世贸中心大楼被炸,以及生物化学武器、核武器等尖端技术的泛滥,必将给人类留下深重的灾难。

随着世界经济的一体化,使得国际社会息息相关,越来越多的国家加入到WTO的游戏规则之中,竞争日趋激烈。瞬息万变的经济指数,在红与绿的升降中风起云涌,痛苦与惘然交织在一起,汇集成现代人类的新版《长恨歌》。贪欲的炽盛,瞋恚的恶毒,愚痴的陷阱,是根源于人类自身的痼疾。经济的悬殊,思想的差异,文化的胜劣,构筑起一道道富足与贫穷、开放与保守、先进与落后的社会鸿沟。发达国家和地区,凭藉着自己的优势,把触角伸向世界各地,攫取与掠夺资源,同时把环境污染、森林破坏、能源枯竭等灾害,转嫁给贫困国家,使那里的人民生活雪上加霜。这种不公平、不合理的国际经济秩序,是整个世界动乱 不安的根本因素。

世界是一个不能分割的整体,部分的过度发达,必将导致重心的偏移。人类内心的嫉妒、怨恨、憍慢等烦恼,从未有止息过的一天。所以在这 缘起相待的世界里,只有各方面均衡地发展,使人类在同存共荣、相互依赖、慈悲平等的生活环境中,从内心的净化开始,真正做到“诸恶莫作,众善奉行”,才能开创人类美好的未来。

三、佛教和平观在今日世界的作用与价值

今日世界是一个文化多元、结构多变、形式多样的缘生体。在和平的环境中谋求人类共同发展,是二十一世纪国际社会普遍关注的主题。佛教能否一如既往地为世界和平而努力,为人类的和乐善生而奉献,关键在于把握时代发展的方向与脉搏,从缘起论的核心思想“诸法无我”中,契应人类社会发展的需要,积极地 开展契理契机的人间佛教,倡导慈悲仁爱、戒杀止暴、净心行善的人类德行,才能化解人类的思想矛盾、斗争冲突、恐怖暴力等行径,实现人类永久的和平与人间净土的圆成。

从佛教缘起论的思想立场来观察世界:和平与战争、恩情与怨仇、善良与暴恶皆源于人心。《说无垢称经·声闻品》云:“心杂染故,有情杂染;心清净故,有情清净。”由此可知,净化人心,提升人的品质,实为世界和平的活水源头。人类无始以来,内心即为贪欲、瞋恚、愚痴、憍慢、狐疑、恶见等蒙蔽,对财物、美色、名闻、权势、地位等产生强烈的自我归属感与无尽的占有欲。《中阿含经》说:“以欲为本故,母共子诤,子共母诤,父子、兄弟、亲族展转共诤。……以欲为本故,王王共诤……民民共诤,国国共诤。彼因斗诤共相憎故,以种种器仗转相加害,或以拳叉石掷,或以杖打刀斫。”这种家族、社会、国际间的争斗,自古以来就在人类世界重复上演,酿造了多少惨祸、屠戮、战争。今日世界的矛盾、对抗、冲突以欲为本故,已转化成航空母舰、洲际导弹等足以毁灭整个地球的高科技武器。总之,古今事本同,只要人类的欲望得不到遏制,内心得不到净化,世界就没有真正的和平。

“勤修戒定慧,息灭贪瞋痴”,这是佛陀对弟子们的教导。戒是人类道德伦理的规范,定是调剂身心平衡的方法,慧是明辨是非邪正的能力。只有提倡道德、净化人心、增进智慧,才能转化瞋恚、忿怒、敌视、仇恨、怨结、残酷等迷妄的心行为正觉的德行。戒定慧三无漏学是佛法的总纲,是转迷成悟的根本。戒能防非止恶,定能降伏散乱,慧能照破痴暗。因此佛教是今日人类世界根除三毒所必须的一剂良药,是维护和平、缓和冲突、化解暴力、制止战争的积极因素。

四、如何落实佛教的和平观于今日世界

人人渴望和平,世界需要和平,但和平并不是从空洞的愿望中得来,也不是从消极的等待中得来,更不是从赔款割地中换来,缺乏理智的和平,反而会招致更为野蛮的战争。真正的和平应以慈悲、智慧、平等、无我为核心和出发点,面对经济全球化的浪潮,不倚强凌弱、以大欺小;面对时时发生的纷争与冲突,不应因情绪高涨而以武力对抗制造祸端,而应通过对话代替对抗、交流代替冲突的方式,维护世界的和平。

和平是由善良、道德、真诚、仁爱等无数个健康的、积极的、向上的条件和因素构成的。所以,缔造和平不是一个人、一个家庭、一个民族、 一个社会、一个国家、一种宗教信仰的事情,而是全世界、全人类的共同事业。但是,我们绝不能把和平的责任推卸给他人,而去等待将来或寄希望于和平女神的安排。一切都要靠我们人类自己,从身边的善事做起,用善行感化他人,哪怕是一句关心的话语、一分微薄的施舍、一次意外的救助、一件谦让的小事、一点爱心的支持……都会凝聚成一条通向和平的阳光大道。

世界和平是以人类的心地和平为基础,是一个止恶、行善、净心的漫长过程。一个佛教徒奉行五戒、十善业道,即是促进人类和平的根本。尊重生命个体的神圣性、平等性,不杀生是第一大戒。珍爱每一个有情生命,包括人类自己以及其他飞禽、走兽、游鱼等动物,在生态平衡的链条中,人与动物是一个不断轮回的过程。从因果法则的整体来看,杀心不除是世界无法和平的要素。有一首戒杀诗说:“千百年来碗里羹,冤深似海恨难平;欲知世上刀兵劫,但听屠门夜半声。”这就是说杀生是战争的因行,只有坚持不杀生,世界才能得到和平。但不杀生决非消极的“不”。譬如有一恶人将要进行恐怖主义活动,使无数有情因此遭受苦迫,如不惩罚这个恶人,无量有情会遭受更大惨祸,那么这个恶人势必咎由自取,他的恶行即应得到制止。偷盗、邪淫、妄语、绮语、两舌、恶口等不正行,使世间混乱不安、诤讼不断;饮酒则能迷心乱性,引发烦恼,造成杀、盗、淫、妄的恶行。所以,五戒是人类和平的基础。

五、内外因缘的净化铸就人类永久和平

古往今来,人类社会一直在聚散离合、忧悲苦恼的流转中徘徊。财富的积聚与消散、名利的角逐与失落、民族的兴旺与衰败、社会的文明与愚昧、国家的和平与战争,这一切都在缘起相对的世界中发生、发展以致消亡。检索人类历史,就会发现世界是苦聚的集合,而这种“苦”是依着人类本身而存在的。在生理方面,人生有生、老、病、死的痛苦;在社会方面,有政治纠纷、社会动乱和战争破坏造成的爱别离与怨憎会的痛苦;在自然方面,有风雨失时、旱涝频仍、谷物不丰等导致的求不得苦。佛陀把世间的一切大苦归结为五蕴炽盛苦。

色、受、想、行、识构成有情生命的自体。在这精神与物质的统一体中,人类直觉认为有个真实的自我。于是,一切以自我为中心,以我所有为半径,勾勒出一幅似乎真实不虚的我相。我见、我爱、我慢、我痴此四大根本烦恼,是世界动乱的根源。由于人类固有的成见、偏见、倒见、邪见等自我意识作祟,自是非他,聚讼纷纭,论诤不休。物质的欲爱、男女的贪爱等使人类自身陷入欲望的深渊,不能自拔。仗着自己的权势、财富、知识、智能等超过别人,而恃己凌他、藐视一切、傲慢无礼、狂妄自大。这见、爱、慢烦恼的深隐处,是人类自我意欲的蒙昧、颠倒、错乱,是人人都直觉有我的痴病。世界正是因为有我,人类才不得安宁。因此我们说:人类最大的敌人就是自己。

人类虽有着自身的缺陷和根本烦恼的迷乱,但并非无药可救,佛陀给世界和平开出了良方。并且呼吁在政治体制上建立一个和平、民主、文明 的良好社会秩序;在经济建设和科学技术等领域,保持财利的均衡、发展的同步、素质的提高;在法制教育等思想领域里一律平等。政治、经济、法制三大体系的平等性、无碍性、统一性,是人类和平的基本条件。若更进一步地寻求最极究竟的和平,那一定得从净化自心、净化众生、净化世界中完成。《般若波罗蜜多心经》告诉我们“照见五蕴皆空,度一切苦厄”,“依般若波罗蜜多故,心无挂碍,无挂碍故,无有恐怖,远离颠倒梦想,究竟涅槃”。涅槃是止、息、寂灭、安稳的意思,究竟涅槃是心地最极清净、最极和平的境界,一切的烦恼、瞋慢、贪欲、执见等皆消归于平等的法性之中,从而实现世界的永久和平。