自己要建立一个正知正见的防御机制
大安法师

问:弟子曾向你求教山西某法师歪讲《法华经》并为弟子授记“分证即佛”一事。你给弟子做了详细的解答,解除了弟子心中的疑惑。现在弟子再向你请教,还是和这位法师有关的问题,请你慈悲开示。

他说庐山东林寺内有一块记载佛陀耶舍尊者向初祖慧远大师等人用手变成拳头,拳头变成手的方式传授“一心三藏”大法的石碑。慧远大师等一百二十三人就是在佛陀耶舍传授了“一心三藏”大法后全部都明心见性了念佛才往生的,这个公案记载在东林寺的石碑上。请问大安法师,东林寺有这样的石碑吗?

他说拳头表“空”代表佛,手掌表“有”代表众生。佛陀耶舍拿出一只手握成拳给慧远大师和众人看说:“佛”,然后舒展拳头成掌说:“众生”。这样一连演示了三遍,别人看得丈二和尚摸不着头脑,慧远大师一看就悟出了佛和众生是一不是二。对佛陀耶舍也是前后矛盾,一会儿又说佛陀耶舍是鸠摩罗什的师父,一会儿又说佛陀和耶舍是两个人,是达摩祖师来中国前派他的两个弟子先来中国了解东土众生的根机。因为这两个人汉语讲得不流利所以就用拳头和手来打手势。

大安法师答:哎呀,我真不知道怎么说。这位所谓的法师应该去写科幻小说了,想象力太奇特了,太吊人眼睛了。首先,东林寺没有这样的石碑!完全是捏造。我在东林寺十多年我自己都没有看到这个石碑,他从哪里想到有这个石碑呀?再进一步说,用拳头变手,受变拳头又明心见性念佛往生这个,这不是他瞎说吗?哪有这个事儿呀?拳头就表空吗?就代表佛吗?手掌就表有吗?这个一看都太小儿式了。

尤其是佛陀耶舍。佛陀耶舍跟达摩祖师有什么关系呀?佛陀耶舍是东林十八高贤之一,但是他来东林寺的因缘和鸠摩罗什的关系那是错综复杂的。佛陀耶舍是罽宾国人。跟鸠摩罗什是有来往,也可以说是做过鸠摩罗什的师父,以后鸠摩罗什到了长安之后,鸠摩罗什还向姚兴请求把佛陀耶舍请过来,来帮助他一起改动经典。

他认为佛陀耶舍在教理的辨识上更高明。那么佛陀耶舍是一个人,不是两个人。那佛陀耶舍是东晋时候人,达摩祖师是梁武帝时候的人。那就是说佛陀耶舍是在前面,达摩祖师是在后面。那怎么佛陀耶舍就成了达摩祖师的弟子呢?都相差一百多年了。佛陀耶舍是东晋时期公元五世纪的前叶,梁武帝是在六世纪的中叶,相差了一百多年了。那你不是搞成个关公战秦琼的局面吗?达摩祖师还在后面,你怎么能说佛陀耶舍还是达摩祖师的徒弟呢?所以这个人不是叫他去写科幻小说更好一点吗?这样去讲法那后果太严重了,一派胡言啊。

问:这位法师还说“本师释迦牟尼佛没有在任何一部经典上说念佛能够往生”又说“信愿行三资粮具备即可往生西方极乐世界是净土法门最大最假的冤案。”“念佛人信愿行是多余的,是无聊,是曲解阿弥陀佛”。

他还否定大势至菩萨念佛圆通章,说大势至菩萨的念佛方法是不能成就初学的。文殊菩萨和释迦牟尼佛已经批判过了。又说除了初祖慧远,其它十二位祖师都不是百分之百的往生等等邪知邪见。希望大安法师在净土杂志和东林寺网站发狮子吼驳斥邪见,正本清源。这个人在网上势力很大,有很多追随者。

大安法师答:楞严经说末法时期邪师说法如恒河沙,也是其中一粒沙了。所以学佛的人真的不要乱看,不要乱听。竟然这样的话都能说得出来,那真的他就给自己做了一个悬记了。那这个地狱之门就向他打开了,真有这么严重。释迦牟尼佛一代时教处处讲往生西方极乐世界的法门。他竟然说没有任何一部经典念佛能够往生,这个话怎么能说得出来?

信愿行三资粮具备即可往生西方极乐世界是净土三经一定都在说的。乃至于观经最后说的一个五逆十恶的罪人在临终时蒙善知识介绍阿弥陀佛的威神力量,十声乃至一声感通弥陀的愿力,都能够到西方极乐世界去。无量寿经十八愿里说的“至心信乐,乃至十念,若不生者,不取正觉。”这些经文包括阿弥陀经讲的前面介绍依正庄严启发信愿然后怎么往生呢?

若一日若二日若三日乃至若七日一心不乱,临命终时阿弥陀佛与诸圣众现在其前,接引他往生西方极乐世界。处处都这么说,怎么还否定呢?那他读没读呢?那这个释迦牟尼佛和文殊菩萨批判过念佛圆通章吗?那《楞严经》分明说:都摄六根净念相继得三摩地斯为第一。得定慧等持三摩地,这个念佛法门是第一个法门哪。

而且文殊菩萨选根偈里面是明选观世音菩萨的耳根圆通,暗选大势至菩萨的根大圆通。这两种圆通都是楞严经所特选出来的法门,所以摆在最后两位。所以根本就是水平太低了。水平太低了你就要有自知之明不要去乱说啊,这乱说贻误众生啊,这后果太严重了。那净土宗十三代祖师个个都是往生的。你怎么能说十三代祖师只有慧远大师往生了而其他的都没有往生呢?

印光大师是坐着往生的,正念分明。彻悟大师是观世音菩萨、大势至菩萨、文殊师利菩萨前来说往生的。省庵大师说佛来了就安然往生了。这些个个都有往生的瑞像。所以现在所谓的法师竟敢是这样的、赤裸裸的跟经典去抬杠,污蔑经典。那也真是很稀少啊。他的胆量太大了。

所以我们常常说学佛的人哪。这个时代要我们驳斥邪见,现在邪见太多了。我们今天驳不过来啊,没有时间去理会这个事情啊。所以现在的信众你不要随便看,不要随便听。你就老实的按照佛言祖语去做。你除了古人为师之外,以古人为师比较保险。看现在人的东西,听现在人的东西太危险了,太大胆了。这个十三代祖师的东西就在这里,你好好去看印光法师文钞,好好去看莲池大师、彻悟大师的、省庵大师、蕅益大师的著作,还有净土十要啊。

这些东西就在这里你不好好看就专门听这些东西?你提的这些观点我还真是闻所未闻啊!如果我天天听这些东西……一个人天天听这些邪知邪见那你怎么活啊?所以最好的方式就是屏蔽掉。你不要再在网上东看西看,你能够听这样的法师跟你说这样的东西跟你个人有关系。这个法师也是你心里变现出来的法师。如果你没有这样不好的念头,没有这样不好的业力种子,你怎么会听到这些话?我们为什么就听不到呢?当然今天我也听到了,我也要生惭愧心了。

所以这样的人竟然在网上势力很大,有很多追随者,那很可悲哀啊。连这样一点的分辨能力都没有你怎么去学佛啊?一盲引众盲,相牵入火坑啊。现在我们就看到很多的信众,没有国学的基础,没有佛法基本的法印的基础。三法印啊,小乘三法印,大乘一法印。那净土法门的原理,那种圆教不可思议的印证,这些一概他都没有,就喜欢听这些东西。一旦听进去了,先入为主了。不是五根五力了,而是邪根邪力还很难拔出来。

现在多少的想修点行,一上来就遇到邪见的人。还真的不少。所以这个网络好像是件好事,能接触很多的资讯,能听很多法师讲法。但是当下也是一个极不幸的事情。你提的这些对于没有基本佛教常识的人来说他是没有辨别能力的。一听说释迦牟尼佛说没有在一部经典上说念佛能够往生,他如果听进去了那就完蛋了。他绝对不会去念佛了。

但是这句话你判断一下它对吗?但是很多人他就不去看佛经啊,所以他就来一个短平快—哦,这位法师说的,大概是对的。但一般的有点因果观念佛教常识的人都不敢说这句话,但不排除有个别法师敢说这句话。那你不就完蛋了吗?

所以这个居士还希望是不是中国佛教协会和国家宗教局应该采取措施来防止这种邪见在网络上蔓延。你靠行政的手段还是很难的,还是要靠自己,靠自己建立一个正知正见的防御机制。所以对于有缘人来说这位法师讲的所有的法,写的所有的文章全都屏蔽,不接触。

你让我们东林寺驳斥邪见正本清源我们也是人微言轻,到时候还搞得斗争坚固。当然本人接到这些问题我是直言相告。直言相告比如我讲的这番话也肯定会传到这位法师那里。他肯定对我很仇恨,这也没有办法,为众生故,我也已经得罪不少人了。但是我之所以敢说这个话,实在是为了怜悯众生故。而且本人说的,我对自己的话要负责任。我是觉得他说的是不对的!绝对不正确的!自误误他。

也希望这个法师悬崖勒马,不要到处去讲这些话了,这个后果太严重了。真的像佛所说的,可怜悯者。袈裟底下失人身哪。不是可怜悯者吗?

Ven Da An (大安法师) 23.

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Without discursive thought, it is just dharma practice. Hope together with aim obscures. One does not cut through pride by meditatively cultivating the desire for happiness. If there is hope, even the hope for buddhas, it is a negative force. If there is apprehension, even apprehension about hells, it is a negative force.

— Machig Labdrön

Machig Labdron (马吉拉准) 24.

The Root Guru
by Tai Situ Rinpoche

What exactly Is a “Tsawe-Lama” or “Root-Guru”?

There are several forms of Tsawe-Lama but we need only discuss the two most important ones here. The first form of Tsawe-Lama is the head of the particular school of Tibetan Buddhism that you are considering joining. The heads of that school can be traced right back for many centuries and this is called “The Lineage”. The head of the Karma Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism is His Holiness, Urgyen Trinley, the XVII Gyalwa Karmapa. You could say that the heads of the schools hold a similar position to that of the heads of the Christian orders of the Benedictine or Franciscan monks. The second form is the Lama (who may or may not have the title of Rinpoche) under whose guidance you feel you can learn most and travel furthest. It Is someone for whom you have total respect; the person you turn to in need; someone you can follow without doubt or hesitation – whose words “enter your bones”. It is the person who helps you most to realise the true nature of your mind. This Tsawe-Lama will be your strongest connection with the Dharma.

What does the phrase “true nature of your mind’ mean?

It means your “Buddha-nature”. It Is the essence of the Buddha, the innate goodness, which lies within every sentient being. It is the revelation of the supreme qualities of compassion and wisdom.

What is the difference between a Tsawe-Lama and any other Lama or teacher?

You can learn, or should be able to learn, something from any Lama; indeed from any person and every situation. However, you will learn more from your Tsawe-Lama than from any other. The contact will be deep and will last for the rest of this life. It may have lasted for many lifetimes already and the connection will probably continue for many lifetimes to come. “Tsawe-Lama” is sometimes translated as “spiritual friend” or “spiritual guide” because he or she will be your main guide along the path of Dharma.

Is your Tsawe-Lama the Lama you take Refuge with?

Not necessarily. We call this Lama your “Refuge-Lama”. The Refuge-Lama is the one who opens the door of the Dharma and introduces you. That Lama may become your Tsawe-Lama but only time will tell.

How does someone go about finding their Tsawe-Lama? How do you recognise him or her?

Have patience. Follow the advice of your Refuge-Lama. Practise diligently. Go to teachings when possible and the situation will become clear.

Is it possible to have a woman Tsawe-Lama?

Of course, why not?

Once someone has found their Tsawe-Lama does this mean they should not attend teachings or initiations given by other Lamas?

No, of course not, but a little care should be taken. Each tradition of Buddhism, such as Zen or Theravadin, and each school of Tibetan Buddhism has a different way of presenting things. If you listen to a great variety it is easy to confuse issues without realising you are doing so. It is like a paint box! The red is a nice colour, and those two greens are both clear and bright, and the yellow and that rich purple – all are fine colours but if you mix them all together you get a muddy brown! It is better to stay with teachers of the same lineage as far as you can so that your mind does not become muddy brown! However, a little of one colour added to another can be good. Ask your Refuge Lama or your Tsawe-Lama for advice.

It is said that there is a strong connection between the student and their Tsawe-Lama and that the student should offer uncritical obedience. Is this correct?

Yes, there is a strong connection or bond between the Tsawe-Lama and the student but the student will offer what he or she can. Some students learn more by simple acceptance; others learn more by asking questions. Both are good. This is not the army! The role of the Tsawe Lama is to bring you to know the true nature of your mind to see the truth as it is – not to brainwash you.

If someone learned that their Tsawe-Lama had behaved in a manner contrary to their own moral standards, is it possible for that student to break the bond and find another Tsawe-Lama?

The student should remember that the bond is voluntary and it is possible that that Lama is no longer appropriate. Perhaps it was not their true Tsawe-Lama so in that case, there was no bond to start with. If the Tsawe-Lama should break his own personal Samaya (deep vows) then that dissolves the “contract” with the student and there is no longer a bond to break. If the student is unsure or uneasy then they should try to discuss the issue with their Tsawe- Lama, or with another Lama whom they respect – perhaps their Refuge-Lama. There may be a misunderstanding and an easy explanation. Time and common sense will show the way. If this is not possible, or if the student is still distressed, they should turn to their own Buddha-nature for guidance.

Tai Situ Rinpoche 13.

As we respond with caring and vision to all work, we develop our capacity to respond fully to all of life. Every action generates positive energy which can be shared with others

— Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche

Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche 4.

开发内心快乐的源泉
达照法师

人生所有的境遇,都可以是快乐的,也都可以是痛苦的。古时候,皇宫里面的生活很多人会向往,但是在皇宫里面“侯门深似海,伴君如伴虎”,如果没有什么智慧和能力,在那里也是很受苦的。也有很多人向往出家人的生活,“只要头剃光,不怕天下荒”,认为到了寺庙里面,环境清幽,衣食具足,又能听闻佛法,简直是人间净土。当然如果有三宝作为依靠,生命就有了归宿。

但是很多人出了家以后,依然烦恼痛苦一大堆,有时候心理变得更加脆弱,感觉无依无靠。所以,世间的外在表相,任何一种只要你能列举得出来,它都可以令人痛苦,也都可以令人快乐。其实,快乐只在于我们的内心中,就像颜回,“一箪食,一瓢饮,在陋巷,人不堪其忧,回也不改其乐”。实际上,每个人对痛苦和快乐的感受是有一个基本标准的。人从生下来的那刻开始,承受力就在不停地得到训练。出生在穷苦人家的孩子,满足的标准就放得低一点,他比较容易得到满足,得到快乐。一生下来就很幸福的孩子,标准就定得高一点。尤其是被大人宠坏了的孩子,标准一直放得很高。可是现实人生不是完全随我们的标准来给予的,所以标准高的人就比较不容易满足,不容易得到快乐。

这背后说明一个问题,就是我们快乐的标准虽然有个基准,但常常是随境而转的,转了一大圈,回过头来才发现,标准还是在我们的内心深处。就像有些在农村里的人,总是羡慕城市里的生活;等到了城市里面赚了钱,买了房子,成了家,事业做大了,还是回过头来向往自己小时候住过的农村,那里空气好,环境好,在那里能感觉到一种幸福感、一种快乐。

一个人买福利彩票中奖的时候,那种欣喜和快乐是暂时的,等过了两三个月以后,他的幸福快乐感又回复到了中奖以前。当一个人突然遭到天灾人祸,或者患了什么疾病,或者遭受了什么打击,他的幸福标准可能会降低,他会觉得自己以前是多么幸福;等过了一段时间他自己恢复了,他的幸福标准也会随之回到原来的那个尺度。根据不同的标准,人们对自己人生要求自然就不一样。古人很在意教育,在一个人很小的时候,在他的脑海里、身心当中植入一种幸福的标准。过去的传统教育是:你的心如果安了,你就会幸福;人际关系处理好了,你就会幸福;你要与人为善,要少一些贪欲,多一些关爱,你就会幸福。但是随着物质的发展,许多人把物质的享受当作衡量人生价值的一个重要尺度,导致了现代人外在的生活越来越丰富,内在的精神却越来越空虚,原因是他们的尺度、标准不稳定了。

我们凡夫又常常会执着内心的某一种固化的标准而使自己痛苦。我刚出家的时候,如果看到别人穿漂亮的衣服,我就觉得这个人不是修行人,我不理他,后来想想这简直可笑!有一位老师父还专门批评我说:“我徒弟穿的都是绸缎一样的衣服,很漂亮,你怎么天天穿破衣服呢?看上去讨厌,不好看。”我心里想: “你的徒弟贪图享受,你还说我?”也有人问他徒弟:“出家人穿这么漂亮的衣服干什么?”他徒弟说:“你看佛菩萨,全身都是贴金的,我已经很可怜了,我要向佛学习。”

实际上,外在的表现是假象,我们内心的标准才是最关键的。所以,记住这句话:我看到别人的错误,实际上是我内心有错误的标准。我们觉得那个人是一个坏人,是因为我的内心有恶人、坏人的标准;如果心中没有这种标准,满世界都看不到一个坏人。佛菩萨看到一切众生都是佛,因为他们内心没有错误的标准。如果我们能够像佛菩萨一样,抛弃这些固有的标准,就能够开发内心快乐的源泉,就能够找到生命真正的意义。

Ven Da Zhao (达照法师 ) 18.

If realisation and meditation are like the brain in the human body, a good heart is like the heart. Just as you need a brain and heart to live, you need realisation and meditation as well as a good heart for your spiritual practice to flourish.

— Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche

Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche 24.

Reading Sutras as a Spiritual Practice
by Venerable Sheng Yen

READING SUTRAS TO BENEFIT OURSELVES AND OTHERS

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen of Tibet House. It’s been two years since we last met. I am very pleased to see you here again. Today, I am going to talk about the relationship between sutra reading and Buddhist practice. Just now you were chanting the Heart Sutra together, and that is of course a form of sutra reading. Buddhist sutras are about the Dharma as spoken by the Buddha. Among the Buddhist Tripitaka — the vinaya, the sutras, and the shastras — the vinaya are the precepts stipulated by the Buddha, the moral code regarding our bodily, verbal, and mental actions. The shastras are philosophical commentaries on the Buddha’s teachings as developed by his disciples. The sutras are the direct teachings of the Buddha that help us cultivate concentration and develop wisdom. Therefore Chinese Buddhists are expected to read sutras, regardless of which school or sect they belong to. The Chan School of Buddhism, which I learned and practice myself, is no exception.

You may have heard that Chan is a “transmission outside the teachings, not founded on words and language.” Chan masters of the past would often come up with astonishing remarks regarding the sutras. An ancient Chan master once said, “Buddhist sutras are nothing but pieces of paper for wiping us!” Chan master Yaoshan Weiyan (751 – 834) had a disciple who asked him, “Chan is not established on words and language, so why are you reading the sutras?” Weiyan replied, “I see them as something to cover my eyes.” These subtle remarks actually mean something beyond the mere words. On the surface, these two stories may suggest that the Chan School tends to ignore Buddhist texts, but this is not the case. Indeed, the Chan School places great emphasis on sutras, especially the Lankavatara Sutra and the Diamond Sutra. In addition, the Heart Sutra, the one you were reciting just now, is part of the daily practice in Chan monasteries. The Sixth Patriarch Huineng became enlightened after overhearing a phrase from the Diamond Sutra. So, just reciting the sutra may not make us become immediately enlightened, but it is definitely useful one way or another. Chances are that your reciting the sutra can inspire and trigger someone else’s enlightenment!

There are generally speaking four ways to “read” a sutra: silently, out loud, chanting it, and upholding it. For most people, reading the sutras means to finish reading one and then go on to another. Upholding the sutra is different in that one is required to read or recite a specific sutra over and over again, with patience and perseverance for a prolonged period of time.

REASONS BASED ON WHAT THE BUDDHA TAUGHT

What are the reasons for reading and upholding the sutras according to what the Buddha taught? Maybe you have this question. Let’s analyse this issue from an academic perspective. From the Theravada sutras, the vinaya, and early Buddhist texts, we can see that reading, upholding, and chanting Buddhist sutras are a form of group practice. The 52nd fascicle of the Majjhima Nikaya, twice mentions encouraging the upholding of the sutras, the vinaya, and the abdhidharma. The 4th fascicle of the Ten Recitations Vinaya says, “Those practising asceticism stay together with those practising asceticism, those upholding the vinaya stay together with those upholding the vinaya, those preaching the Dharma stay together with those preaching the Dharma, and those reading the sutra stay together with those reading the sutra.” The third fascicle of the Mahisasakavinaya says, “Those contented with few desires stay together with those contented with few desires, those happy in stillness stay with those happy in stillness, those reciting the sutra stay together with those reciting the sutra, those upholding the precepts stay together with those upholding the precepts, Dharma teachers stay with Dharma teachers… Those practising meditation stay with those practising meditation.” This shows that monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen alike were all required to recite the sutras or the vinaya. Moreover, reading and reciting sutras is one of the three major practices.

Many Mahayana sutras further expound and advocate the merit and function of reading and reciting sutras. For example, the Lotus Sutra speaks of many different methods of practice, but 18 out of its 28 chapters are in praise of the merit of sutra recitation. For example, the chapter on “Merits Obtained by Teachers of the Dharma,” says, “If virtuous men and women can accept and uphold this sutra, read it, recite it, explain and preach it, or transcribe it … with these merits they will be able to adorn their six sense organs, making all of them pure.” By reading sutras we can purify our six sense organs — eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind, and this is stated in the Lotus Sutra. Also, the chapter on “Saraswati,” fascicle seven of the Golden Light Sutra (Sanskrit Suvarnaprabhāsottamasūtrendrarājaḥ Sūtra; Chinese Jin guangming zuisheng wang jing) says, “If there are monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen who can accept and uphold, read and recite, transcribe and spread this wonderful sutra and practice accordingly… they will be able to soon go beyond the ocean of suffering and attain non-regression of bodhi-mind.” With a bodhi-mind that does not regress, one will thus be able to attain the fruit of bodhi that will not regress.

Two sutras promoting Amitabha Buddha’s Pure Land also mention the merit of upholding sutras. For example, the Amitabha Sutra says, “If virtuous men and virtuous women can hear the sutra, accept and uphold the sutra, as well as hear the names of various Buddhas… they can all attain the state of non-regression in anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.” Also, the Sutra of Immeasurable Life says, “One should imagine the great chiliocosm to be engulfed by a huge fire, which one should transcend by hearing this sutra and its teachings, joyfully believing in it, accepting and upholding it, and practising accordingly… one will never regress in the quest of the unsurpassed path. Therefore one should single-mindedly believe in it and accept it, as well as uphold it, recite it, share it, and practice it.”

Some Mahayana sutras also clearly point out that one can recite or chant Mahayana sutras or the vinaya for the purpose of remembering or delivering the dead. For example, the Brahma Net Sutra says, “On the day one’s parent, sibling, spiritual advisor, or Dharma teacher dies, and during 21 to 49 days of their passing away, one should read, recite, explain, and preach Mahayana sutras and precepts, as well as organise vegetarian meal gatherings to transfer the merit to them.”

At that time in India, reading or reciting Buddhist sutras was meant to help one understand their meaning and practice. However, after it spread to China, the practice of reading sutras gradually degenerated into a service for praying or merit transfer, or even worse, a service to pray for rain, ward off disaster, increase the well-being for the country and the people, or eliminate sickness and misfortune. As a result, from the Yuan Dynasty on there have been Buddhist monks making a living solely by chanting the sutras, which is absolutely against the original intention of the Buddha.

WHY READ THE SUTRA?

What is the function of reading, reciting sutras? In this regard, Master Shandao (613–681) compared sutras to a bright mirror we can use to reflect on our own minds. In his Commentary on the Sutra of Contemplation on the Buddha of Infinite Life, Shandao said, “To read or recite a Mahayana sutra is to use the sutra as a bright mirror for reflection, and through repetitive reading and searching, one is able to develop wisdom. By opening one’s wisdom eye, one will loathe suffering and long for true happiness, or nirvana.” So while reading a sutra, we should reflect on our speech, action, and mind, to check if they go against the Buddha’s teachings. If yes, then we should mend our ways soon and cultivate ourselves according to what the sutra teaches.

For reading or reciting as an individual practice, most people prefer upholding a particular sutra. Some uphold the Flower Ornament Scripture, while some the Lotus Sutra. Both sutras can evoke extraordinary spiritual responses. Once, a practitioner upholding and reciting solely the Flower Ornament Scripture evoked a spiritual response of causing a heavenly deity to provide him with offerings, and thus he didn’t need to make alms rounds anymore from then on. Another practitioner, having recited the Lotus Sutra more than a couple thousand times in his life, had a lotus flower form in his mouth when he died. People may wonder, is it just a form of tongue tumour? Aren’t lotus flowers supposed to grow in water? How can it possibly appear in a dead person’s mouth? As much as people may doubt it, this is exactly what is recorded and stated in the biography.

It is a practice for Chinese Buddhists to recite the Mantra of Purifying the Speech and the Sutra Opening Gatha, prior to chanting a sutra. After finishing the recitation of a sutra, you then recite the Mantra to Atone For Mistakes and the Gatha for Merit Transfer. Some people may have wandering thoughts more frequently while reciting the sutra, and so they may want to recite the Mantra to Atone For Mistakes a few more times. In Tibet, they have similar mantras to make up for the faults of not being able to concentrate their mind while reciting.

Before reciting the sutra, you must first wash your hands, rinse your mouth, wear clean and tidy clothing, and maintain decorum. And then prepare an altar with a Buddha image, and make offerings to the Buddha with fresh flowers, light, food, and so on. This is to help you recite with utmost sincerity. As to the posture in reciting sutras, it depends on how long it will take. For shorter time of recitation, you may kneel or stand. In Chinese monasteries, the morning and evening services, which can last two hours, are done standing up. Longer recitation is mostly done sitting, either in a lotus posture or on a chair. In Southern and Tibetan traditions, as well as in Japan, it is mostly done in the cross-legged or sitting-kneeling posture.

There is a way of practice which requires the practitioner to prostrate while reciting. Some Chinese practitioners recite the Lotus Sutra, the Flower Ornament Scripture, or the Diamond Sutra in this way. You must be thoroughly familiar with the sutra before engaging in this practice. You recite the sutra word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, and page by page, and after each word you prostrate and recite a phrase of homage to the bodhisattvas who were in the assembly when the sutra was spoken. Take, for example, the phrase “Thus have I heard.” As you say “Thus,” you make a prostration and at the same time, chant “Hail (Skt. namo), the Lotus Sutra; hail, buddhas and bodhisattvas of the Lotus Sutra assembly.” If it is the Flower Ornament Scripture you are reciting, then you chant “Hail, the Flower Ornament Scripture; hail, buddhas and bodhisattvas of the Flower Ornament Scripture assembly.” I have done this practice myself.

The Japanese Nichiren School bases their teachings solely on two chapters of the Lotus Sutra: “Expedient Means” and “Life-Span of the Tathagata.” They chant and recite the title of the sutra without doing word by word prostration. When prostrating, you must not do it quickly, but with reverence and ease. If using the Chinese text, it takes more than 80 thousand prostrations to finish the Lotus Sutra. One of the four preliminary practices in the Tibetan esoteric Buddhism requires practitioners to do 100,000 prostrations. So in a way, prostrating to the Lotus Sutra word by word also serves as a preliminary practice.

FUNCTIONS OF READING SUTRAS

There are generally speaking six functions in reading sutras. Nevertheless, the Dharma is not fixed, so if any of you here know about another function or other functions, please let us know for discussion.

Sutra reading helps us illuminate our mind.

Reading sutras regularly can be likened to using a bright mirror to reflect, and to illuminate our mind at all times, thereby reducing our affliction and ignorance.

Sutra reading helps us realise its meaning

Every time you read a sutra, you will gain more understanding about the subtle meaning behind the seemingly mysterious language. In the Chinese tradition, the teacher normally just asks you to simply read it without explaining the text to you. When I was a novice I asked my master, “What are those sutras saying?” All he said was, “Just keep reading! By reading them more often you’ll understand. What other people tell you is always limited, but by familiarising yourself with the sutra text, you will gain much more understanding.” At that time I wasn’t quite sure about that, but now I have to say I cannot agree with him more. Now I tell my disciples the same thing, though they may not agree with the idea. Sometimes they will even protest and say, “Why don’t you explain the sutra first? How can it be of any use if we just read it without understanding the meaning?”

Sutra reading helps us cultivate concentration

I teach my disciples to rein in their six sense organs and concentrate their minds on chanting and reciting the sutra while using their ears to listen attentively without thinking about the meaning. When you are alone you have to listen to your own voice, but in group practice, it’s better to listen to other people’s recitation, either to the group chanting in harmony or to a specific person whose chanting is stable and smooth. In this case, it’s not very likely to attain concentration by listening to your own voice, since ordinary people are often attached to their own voice; so it’s better to recite the sutra with a group. I ask you, while chanting the Heart Sutra, were you listening to your own voice, or were you listening to other people’s? Probably both, I guess.

Sutra reading helps us spread the Dharma

As I mentioned in the beginning, the Sixth Patriarch Master Huineng became enlightened on hearing a lay practitioner recite a phrase from the Diamond Sutra: “Abiding nowhere, give rise to mind.” So, it doesn’t really matter if you yourself are not enlightened, since it would be a nice thing if somebody became enlightened by hearing you recite a sutra. So chances are your recitation will help someone who happens to hear it by eliciting their virtuous karmic roots. A friend told me that once while sitting in the cabin during a boat ride, feeling extremely bored and agitated, he heard a lady sitting next to him reciting the sutra, and was thus able to feel calm and settled eventually. So he thought to himself, “I can already benefit so much just by overhearing someone reciting the sutra. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial if I recite the sutra myself?” Thanks to this chance, he started to read sutras, and finally decided to become a Buddhist.

Sutra reading helps us safeguard the Dharma

In many of the Mahayana Buddhist texts it says that when and wherever a person recites and upholds the sutras, it can be regarded as a manifestation of the Buddha in the world, and therefore, buddhas and the Dharma-protecting deities from the ten directions will protect the person and the surrounding area. If we really want to safeguard Buddhadharma, then we should also uphold the sutras; it’s not enough to just have Buddhist sutras lay there.

Sutra reading to deliver the dead and pray for blessings

Buddhists in the Mahayana and the Theravada traditions believe that when people die, their family and friends can help deliver them through the merit of conducting Buddhist ceremonies and rituals, usually by chanting sutras. A Western practitioner at our Chan Meditation Center used to only know about investigating Chan and sitting in meditation. When his friend died he came to ask me, “Shifu, my friend has passed away. What should I do to help him? Can I help by sitting in meditation?” I told him, “You should chant sutras instead!” At that critical moment chanting sutras is a more direct and beneficial way to help, instead of sitting in meditation.

What is the use of chanting sutras for the sake of the deceased? Simply stated, it is to use the Buddha’s power to call back the deceased so that they can listen to the sutras, hear the Dharma, and thus gain liberation. If the deceased has been reborn in a Buddha Land or some other realm, it doesn’t really matter, because by chanting sutras we are actually engaged in practice ourselves, and thus will earn merit; moreover, there will be numerous invisible sentient beings around to listen to our chanting and so they can benefit as a result. Because they benefit, the one who passed away also benefits; after all we chant sutras for their sake. The Brahmajala Sutra says that bodhisattvas should explain the Mahayana sutras and vinaya for the sake of sentient beings. Beginning on the day when one’s parent, sibling, spiritual advisor, or Dharma teacher passes away, one should for the following three to seven weeks, read, recite, and expound the Mahayana sutras and vinaya for their sake. This will benefit the deceased and the invisible sentient beings in terms of the Dharma, enabling them to generate bodhi-mind and achieve Buddhahood in the future.

By chanting sutras, we can help deliver the newly deceased, as well as those who passed away long ago. However, the effect is less significant if they have already been reborn somewhere else and cannot hear the sutra. Nevertheless, by chanting sutras and conducting Buddhist rituals for the sake of the deceased, we can help them form good karmic affinities with other sentient beings, which is always beneficial. In addition, I would like you to bear two things in mind: first of all, we should listen to sutras and hear the Dharma ourselves on a regular basis, seeking blessings for ourselves instead of waiting for someone else to do this for us after we die. Secondly, as often stated in Buddhist sutras, for 21 to 49 days after someone’s death, we should practice generosity, make offerings, chant sutras, and recite the Buddha’s name for their sake, beginning as soon as possible. All in all, by chanting sutras we can benefit both the living and the deceased. All sentient beings, whether heavenly beings, humans, spirits, deities, or even animals, are actually still wandering in the three realms of samsara, and therefore need to read sutras and practice; this is the intention and purpose of my talk today.

Ven Sheng Yen 64.

True compassion is undirected and holds no conceptual focus. That kind of genuine, true compassion is only possible after realising emptiness.

— Tsoknyi Rinpoche

Tsoknyi Rinpoche 18.

初学佛的误区
宽见法师

由于无始以来烦恼业障的染污,人们大多具有各种各样的心理缺失,病态的心理是一个世俗凡夫的正常现象。刚刚接触到佛法的时候,没有经过系统的佛法熏修,或者没有明师的引导,或者受到缺乏正信正见者的误导,或本身对佛法的误解,往往在学佛的过程中形成一些不正确的知见。如果不理清这些知见障碍,就会导致严重的信仰误区,从而误导他人,严重影响正信佛教的形象。下面略举几例初学佛法过程中的知见问题,以期起到举一反三、抛砖引玉的作用。

一、素食主义与学佛

素食主义是大乘佛教倡导的慈悲法门之一,即从不杀生戒延伸为对生命的普遍尊重与关爱,以大悲心及菩提心为基础,对菩萨自利利他情怀的践行,断食众生肉(腥)及对身体有害的葱、蒜、韭、薤等五辛(荤)。由于一般佛教徒大多生活在社会各个阶层,素食主义也有全面禁食荤腥及每逢佛菩萨圣诞等吃素的不同形式。从营养卫生学这个角度来说,断食或少食荤腥非常有利于健康,尤其是现代生产的肉食品里含有大量的激素、防腐剂等各种毒性物质,时刻危害着我们的身体。佛教的素食主义思潮与卫生学、营养学、环保与保健等科学意见一致,逐渐受到人们的重视,一些前卫人士及新贵一族率先成为素食主义者,影响甚为深远。

然而,有些学佛者误解了慈心不杀与爱生护生的素食主义者的本意,误解了学佛的内涵外延,单纯地将吃素等同于学佛,消极地认为学佛就是吃素,吃素就是学佛,以吃不吃素为学不学佛的标准,甚至对他人横加指责,造成不利的影响。

对于刚刚学佛的信徒,应当先受持不杀生戒(包括不自杀、不叫他杀、不为杀业提供因缘等),广泛参与佛教环保、护生及生命关爱等活动,条件具备的可以在佛菩萨圣诞日吃素。如果自己发心成为素食主义者,也只能是个人实践佛法的高雅生活行为,尽量不给家人带来麻烦,不强求别人效仿,更不能歧视没有吃素的人。

二、遁世隐居与学佛

现在人一般误以为佛教是消极的、避世的,甚至有一些初学佛者受到这种风尚的影响,生起强烈的悲观厌世情结,忘记了大乘菩萨道的慈悲济世精神,忽略了佛教是世出世间的圆融。初学佛法时,大事未明,见地不正,依止善知识远离愦闹专心致志地修学佛道,是有必要的;但应知道,放下一切,一心修学,目的是济世度生,而不是逃避现实。经过一段时间的修学,解行相应,知行合一,就应该发广大菩提心、慈悲心,努力做到护持三宝,以弘法为家务,利生为事业,为净化世道人心尽一份力。

因为个人根性或性格的不同,有的人生性好静,喜欢独处闲居,不适合做弘法利生的工作,那么,远离尘嚣的纷扰,作无事逍遥人也无妨。不过,佛教主张自觉觉他、以四摄法自利利他,圆融真俗二谛,效仿普贤菩萨“十大愿王”的精神,是最圆满的修学生活方式。

三、持戒与学佛

释迦牟尼佛在圆寂时,要求弟子们“以戒为师”,即佛教徒依靠戒律生活紧密团结在一起,互相爱护,互相帮助,互相学习,组成身和同住、口和无诤、意和同悦、见和同解、戒和同修、利和同均的理想六和僧团。戒律是伦理道德的基础,也是保障我们身心不受外在侵害、抵御困难的精神力量,更是我们提升人格素养、净化自心的动力。

持戒是一种心灵的自我管理,其表现为止恶防非与进德修善两方面。止恶防非是自我身心的保护,防止一时的过失给自己带来永久的痛苦。进德修善是戒律的积极作用,要求我们以利益众生为宗旨,实践佛教博大精深的无缘大慈、同体大悲精神,广泛开展庄严国土、利乐有情的菩萨事业。

有的初学者不明白戒律的崇高利他精神,落入教条主义的窠臼,说这也不行,那也不行,个性孤僻,行为怪异,甚至发展为偏执的禁欲主义,远离人民大众,以戒律衡量他人,说四众过失等,与佛陀的慈悲教诲相违。

作为佛陀的弟子,应当谦虚谨慎地广泛地学习佛法,实践佛法。在实践佛法的历程中,如何融摄工作与学佛等世出世间法的关系,尤为重要。总之,在修学的过程中,充满希望,充满法喜,充满智慧,说明学佛就有进步。

四、神通感应与学佛

修学佛法的清净善信,有的人会出现一些感应道交的事,这是因为个人的身体或心理素质而导致的自然现象,不可执著。如果因修学出现的神秘境象而生起傲慢之心,炫耀大众,惑乱世人,就容易入于魔道。

虽然佛陀告诉我们修学佛法会得到天眼通、天耳通、神足通、他心通、宿命通、漏尽通等现象,但神通并不能贪求,即使获得了神通,如不是为了弘法利生因缘,也绝不能显现,更不可作为称誉天下的资本,应该平平淡淡地真实面对。如果在人道不说人话,一味谈玄说妙,言神言鬼,则成为世人讥笑的话柄,显然已经偏离了佛道,应该及时纠正。

五、佛油子或泛亚圣主义

一般将学佛中不求胜解,好夸夸其谈而不重实修的人称佛油子。佛油子一般自恃聪明,不愿意下工夫去实证,在理论上持“相似佛法”的见解,乍听起来似乎很圆融,实际见地不清,知见不明。这种浮泛的心理对以后修学佛法会造成很大的障碍。

有些人生性慧黠,善根深厚,但以傲慢心学习佛法,常常自以为是,轻视末学后学,自诩悟境高深,误以为已经证果成圣,常以亚圣自许,这种人就犯了泛亚圣主义的毛病。泛亚圣主义最终是画饼不能充饥。不仅如此,此种未证言证的行为是犯大妄语罪,误人误己,必遭恶报。

六、喜欢赶场的“老修行”

“老修行”喜欢到处赶场子,以广游名山大川,结交高僧大德为能事,炫耀世人,以为这就是修行。但是如此修来修去,却很少有进步。

佛法的修持,关键在于稳定地依止一定的善知识,一门深入地学习;在于从内心去深入理解佛法,从行动去证得佛法。而“老修行”则热衷于以结识许多善知识为荣耀,或以为这里听一耳说法,那里受一次灌顶,而自己无须修持就能学得佛法。其实这种“依”而“不止”的误区,结果是无所依止,学无所成。

在信佛初机中,有可能遇到的问题是相当多的,比如口谈随缘而沦为自然外道,提倡多元文化包容导致鬼神不分,不明了万有因果律产生的机械因果论,为福修善而导致有福少慧的相似善业等,都值得注意。

Ven Kuan Jian (宽见法师) 1.

That which subdues all the enemies, one’s own afflictions, and guards against future existence in the lower realms, is called a ‘treatise’, because it subdues and protects, these two features are not found in other traditions.

— Vasubandhu

Vasubandhu (世親菩萨) 14.

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