The Buddhadhamma as a Fount of Creative Education
by Nagasena Sraman

The Buddha’s teachings are for the purpose of liberating oneself from the cycle of birth and death. This cannot be achieved through intellectual understanding alone, however, refined. The human predicament is that there is, in everyone, always a conflict between reason on the one hand and emotion on the other; what one knows to be wholesome or unwholesome is one thing, what one actually does is another.

Buddhism suggests that this human predicament is the result of our intrinsic and existential — in the sense of being rooted in human existence itself — inability to see things as they truly are (Pali: yathabhutam). This is due to the inherent mode of operation of our consciousness, which has been conditioned from beginningless time by the negativities succinctly described as greed (raga), hatred (dosa), and delusion (moha). This is the Buddhist view of conditioned human nature.

In traditional Buddhist terms, liberation from this existential predicament cannot be achieved by sheer will, nor through “intelligence” or knowledge. It is possible only through the attainment of panna or prajna, which is often rendered as “spiritual insight.” This is an insight that fully harmonises reason and emotion so that one’s being is perfectly in line with one’s knowing. It frees us from all negative conditioning and indeed all conditioning. It transforms our consciousness from the reactive mode to the creative mode. Then one is empowered to truly “abstain from doing evil, do what is wholesome, and purify one’s mind.” (Sabba-papassa akaranam. Kusalassa upasampada. Sacitta-pariyodapanam. Etam buddhana sasanam)

All this amounts to a fundamental transformation or a revolution of consciousness. For Buddhists, this is not possible through the education system or a philosophy, or even a thorough ethical system. It is only possible through training in the Dhamma. This spiritual system helps a person to grow spiritually, to progressively unfold his human potentialities. This progressive transformation and unfolding of human potential is the closest Buddhism comes to a spiritual anthropology. In this sense, Buddhism is a humanistic religion and we call this system of spiritual transformation “creative education.”

I am reminded of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s remark that modern education should incorporate the development of the heart: “When educating the minds of our youths, we must not forget to educate their hearts.” (The Star) When I refer to creative education, I am thinking of a system of education that is openly aimed at transforming a person psychologically and intellectually. Involving the heart and direct inspiration is important, or the student will at best be a scholar absorbing information without psychological and spiritual change.

As a humanistic religion, Buddhism finds many affinities with several schools of psychology and psychotherapy. Erich Fromm, Carl Rogers, and Abraham Maslow are often respected as the founders of humanistic psychology and psychotherapy. Fromm and Maslow define the term creativity as “productiveness” and “self-actualisation.” Fromm explains productiveness as: “man’s ability to use his powers and to realise the potentialities inherent in him. If we say he must use his powers, we imply that he must be free and not dependent on someone who controls his powers. We imply, furthermore, that he is guided by reason since he can make use of his powers only if he knows what they are, how to use them, and what to use them for. Productiveness means that he experiences himself as the embodiment of his powers and as the “actor;” that he feels himself one with his powers and at the same time that they are not masked and alienated from him.” (Fromm 1947, 84)

To these authors, a creative person is defined as someone able to bring out or manifest good qualities such as kindness, compassion, and love through self-actualisation and productiveness. Modern education provides students with intellectual knowledge, which is primarily geared toward material acquisition. In contrast, Buddhist creative education prioritises the emotional, intellectual, and ethical development of a student from an integrated perspective. Buddhist creative education generally works on the principle of “meta-motivation,” which was firstly coined by Maslow, while “typical” education is governed by materialistic motivations, such as career advancement, financial stability, and professionalisation and industry specialisation.

Buddhism has a long history of maintaining the dynamic interaction between teacher and student. Ideally, the teacher takes full responsibility for imparting knowledge and providing spiritual training to the student. Having absorbed the learning from the teacher, the student lives accordingly, transforming his personality. This transformative efficacy is what distinguishes the Buddha’s teaching as “creative education,” in contrast to ordinary education, where skills are more or less simply accumulated.

The Tripitaka provides many examples of people transformed by the Buddha’s teachings. Patacara was from a prosperous family but lost everyone dearest to her: her two sons, husband, parents, and brothers. She was depressed and mad. She would run through the street without clothes, as people chased after her. Then she entered the Buddha’s grove of Jetavana. When Buddha saw her he called her over, kindly saying, “Sister, be mindful.” After listening to the Buddha’s sermon, she became mindful and realised that she was naked. Somebody from the crowd gave her something to wear. Then the Buddha preached to her the Dhamma and she became a nun. She practised diligently and was able to transform herself from a suffering being into a liberated arahant.

The extraordinary story of Angulimala shows how creative thinking and empathy tame even a dangerous bandit. The Buddha’s advice to Angulimala compelled him to become a monk. The Angulimala Sutta (MN 86) presents an account of his life as a serial killer. He was a bandit who was living in Kosala. The sutta explains the type of person he was:

He is murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, merciless to living beings. Villages, towns, and districts were laid waste by him. He was constantly murdering people and he wore their fingers as a garland. (Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi 1995, 710)

When the Buddha met him, it is said that he was just short of one finger to complete his personal target of collecting 1,000 fingers. Nobody wanted to cross paths with him. However, the Buddha saw with his divine eye that Angulimala had the potential to become an arahant if he heard the Dhamma. Had the Buddha not intervened, he would murder even his own mother, who was on her way to inform him that the king’s army was looking to arrest him. Angulimala was happy to see the Buddha because he could complete his 1,000 fingers (murders). He took his sword and chased after the Buddha. Through supernatural powers, the Buddha made it so that although the bandit was running as fast as he could, he was unable to catch the Buddha even though the Buddha was walking normally.

Angulimala was disappointed and shouted at the Buddha: “Stop, recluse! Stop, recluse!” The Buddha responded, “I have stopped.” Angulimala then addressed the blessed one:

“While you are walking, recluse, you tell me you have stopped;
But now, when I have stopped, you say I have not stopped.
I ask you now, O recluse, about the meaning:
How is it that you have stopped, and I have not?” (Bhikkhu Nanamoli, and Bhikkhu Bodhi 1995, 711)

The Buddha replied:

“Angulimala, I have stopped forever, I abstain from violence toward living beings; But you have no restraint toward things that live: That is why I have stopped and you have not.” (Bhikkhu Nanamoli, and Bhikkhu Bodhi 1995, 711)

The Buddha’s brief teaching immediately touched Angulimala’s heart. The Buddha told him that he was free from unwholesome actions, whereas Angulimala was running after unwholesomeness and performing wicked actions. After realising the Buddha’s teaching, he threw away the sword, worshipped the Buddha, and requested to go forth as a monk. What a transformation! Initially, he had wanted to kill the Buddha and now he worshipped the Buddha out of gratitude for showing him a different path. This episode further encourages us that an evil, harmful, and dangerous person can become good if he receives proper exposure to the Dhamma. He became a monk, found meaning in the Dhamma, and later became an arahant.

The case of Suppabuddhakutthi is another example of personal transformation. He was a beggar and concerned only about food. However, when he encountered the Dhamma during the Buddha’s sermon, Suppabuddhakutthi was inspired by the Buddha and proclaimed to himself: “Whatever is of the nature of arising all that is the nature of ceasing.” (Yam kinci samudayadhammam sabbam tam nirodhadhamman’ti) He realised this profound knowledge through simply processing the Buddha’s speech. He gained insight (panna) and went to see the Buddha as a transformed person.

The Samannaphala Sutta of the Digha-nikaya is about King Ajatasattu. According to the scripture, the king was unhappy and could not sleep well because he was depressed. He had consulted many religious teachers, but their answers had failed to satisfy him. He had committed many atrocities to maintain power, including patricide against his own father, the devout Buddhist king Bimbisara. The text describes him as enduring great psychological torment for these crimes. He visited teachers with the hope of consoling his mind.

Jivaka, who was the Buddha’s personal physician, led the king to the temple where the Buddha was staying. The king became suspicious of everyone. DN Sutta 2 states:

And when the king Ajatasattu came near to the mango grove he felt fear and terror, and his hair stood on end. And feeling this fear and the rising of the hairs, the king said to Jivaka: “Friend Jivaka, you are not deceiving me? You are not tricking me? You are not delivering me up to an enemy? How is it from this great number of twelve hundred and fifty monks not a sneeze, a cough, or a shout is to be heard?”

“Have no fear, your majesty, I would not deceive you or trick you or deliver you up to an enemy. Approach, sire, approach. There are the lights burning in the round pavilion.” (Walshe 1995, 92)

After approaching and worshipping the Buddha, Ajatasattu asked: “Can you, Lord, point to such a reward visible here and now as a fruit of the homeless life?” (Walshe 1995, 93) The Buddha pointed out the visible fruit of a celibate life. The Buddha said that one comes to discipline oneself by following the Dhamma. As the king listened to the Buddha’s teaching, his heart began to shift. He exclaimed that he understood and confessed his transgressions. The Buddha gradually led him to see the benefit and visible fruit of following the Dhamma. The king confessed his faults and asked for forgiveness.

According to the Panna Sutta of the Anguttara-nikaya, a person will change their lifestyle after learning the Dhamma. When they amend their lifestyle they can ease into a daily practice of the Dhamma, with a positive feedback loop between everyday life and mental conditioning. The text says one will have “seclusion” in body and mind. That means one is not going to engage with anything that is in violation of the Dhamma, nor with mental activities that are unwholesome. They further understand that the Dhamma helps to discipline them in body, speech, and mind. When a student can control themselves physically, verbally, and mentally, they will experience fewer problems and control their interior impulsiveness or recklessness.

Creative education mostly focuses on innovative thinking. Students should be trained in skills geared toward problem-solving from new angles, rather than simply training in the old disciplines for economic gain. The challenge to each student is not so much the volume or content of the curriculum, but the methodology in which they must build on to develop originality. Instead of standardising how students approach a problem, different responses are encouraged. As Sulak Sivraksa, one of the fathers of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), states: “Modern education deals almost exclusively with the heads and not the hearts of students; cleverness is recognised and rewarded materially, and generosity or awareness of social evils is not necessary for success. Indeed, it may be an impediment. Students are led to pursue wealth and power, rather than to understand that these do not lead to happiness, especially where, as in modern society, wealth and power rest on mass poverty and ecological destruction. This is indeed the fostering of avijja, ignorance, and moha, delusion, rather than real education.” (Sivraksa 1998, 66)

Creative education means not just throwing information at students, lest it ends up being the same as other education systems. Learning the Dhamma is effective and fruitful only when one puts what has been absorbed into practice, after the aforementioned personal transformation. Indeed, the transformation is not auxiliary but essential to the entire approach. Otherwise, students will remain stuck at the level of intellectual understanding. Professors and lecturers are able to explain the Dhamma logically, but the ineffable nature of the Dhamma goes beyond logical categories and limitations. That is why the Buddha enigmatically described the Dhamma as profound, difficult to see, and difficult to understand.

The difficulty the Buddha spoke of was not an intellectual one, or else it would have been figured out by our formidable brains at one point or another. It is that even the best logic deployed cannot express it properly. Consciousness must first be transformed. Hence, gaining insight or wisdom, not intelligence, is the goal of Buddhist education. That is why Buddhist education is called creative education. It shows us how to deal with our psychological problems and fundamental interior being in the world. The Buddha’s teachings are creative because they are fundamentally aimed at re-creating a person; since the person does not possess a self, no one is rooted in their unskilful habits. The Buddha is the perfect creative teacher who is ideally placed to transform a student. Buddhist teachers, in emulating his example, should strive to understand the mentality of each individual student and tailor their methods according to the kinds of teachings that they need.

Lotus 298.

It would be reasonable to fear something that causes one to suffer, but since emptiness completely eradicates all suffering, why should one fear it? There is nothing to be afraid of. . . . Since there is no self, who is there to be afraid? Fear does not make sense. Therefore we should cast away our faint heartedness and be quick to meditate on emptiness.

— Mipham Rinpoche

Mipham Rinpoche (麦彭仁波切) 19.

三寶有大勢力
懺雲老法師

我們要念佛,就是佛有勢力
念觀音菩薩、地藏菩薩,就是僧有勢力
要是念佛法的理,或者恭敬經典、拜經典,就是法寶有勢力

有人對我說廣欽老和尚過去未來都知道哦﹗有點他心通哦﹗我考驗過就像有,不可思議。我們沒有神通,藉觀世音菩薩、藉地藏菩薩、藉釋迦佛、藥師佛、阿彌陀佛,就有勢力。

有人說他的工廠晚上聽見有聲、有人看見火,又有人聽見腳步聲種種。我們供上佛、在那兒念念佛、大悲咒、念往生咒,沒有了!好了!這就是有勢力。

再是我心裡很難過的時候,憂愁悲觀情緒不佳,怎麼辦呢?一轉、思惟佛法,以佛法理轉心。再不然,佛法理不很明白,我至誠懇切念佛,念念念…念一會兒,好了!最初見山不是山、見水不是水,見著牆壁、見著家裡都發煩、憂愁;至誠懇切念佛念念…好了!雨過天晴﹗看見家、看見門、看見窗、看見人,都那麼好了。就是佛有勢力、法有勢力、僧有勢力。

過去師範大學洪柏松,他被車壓死在底下,爸媽去找、找不到,他晚間托夢告訴爸媽︰壓在車底下,趕快把我救出來。去救,車子還吊不起來,他的老師拿著香說︰「洪柏松﹗洪柏松﹗人家都走了,我們要走,和我們一同下山哦﹗」車吊不起來,在水庫水邊山坡很陡,很不好吊。老師沒辦法點香禱念,那個意思求他︰你趕快給我們想辦法呀﹗我們和你一同走。車就吊起來了。

人和鬼魂都有這種感通,人和佛菩薩沒有感通嗎?媽祖廟、大陸上關公廟、東北種種的廟,並不是迷信,確實有靈感。神都有靈感,在海中航行遇到危險,底下有石礁,船上的人就起來念媽祖、拜媽祖,或是念觀音菩薩,前面就現出燈光,跟著燈走就越過危險區。他到了岸上就趕快去拜。都有事實,並不是迷信。人和鬼如此、人和佛菩薩也如此、人和神如此,人和人也是如此、說是第六感。

最近那位法醫楊日松,他要去調查解剖黃春雄大腿的時候,這個大腿忽然間一動,他以為這是醫院外科手術割下來的大腿,他要去解剖的時候,他看見死屍的腿一動!他馬上體會,不是醫院外科割下來的人腿,這裡頭有冤案,他就去追究,果然是。

像這種事情,太多太多!因為我們處世年淺,或是醉生夢死、爭名奪利去了,也不講這些。處世久久,要去探討這些,太多太多,因為十法界︰佛菩薩、羅漢、人天、鬼神、屈死的冤魂種種,都有這些感通。這個意思,轉過來我們要念佛,就是佛有勢力;念觀音菩薩、地藏菩薩,就是僧有勢力;要是念佛法的理,或者恭敬經典、拜經典,就是法寶有勢力。

Ven Chan Yun (懺雲老法師) 15.

We may think that we are pretty open for some things, but then we are not open for others. Sometimes when we try to practice compassion, we may open to certain beings, but we don’t like to open to them all. In open heart-mind meditation, we really shouldn’t hold that tension, that bias. Just be open to accommodate everything.

— Dza Kilung Rinpoche

Dza Kilung Rinpoche 12.

Haunting the Himalayas: Spirits, Demons, and Gods in Tibetan Buddhism
by Tinley Fynn

Whether by the titanic mountains of the Himalayan range or the weird, lonely, lunar expanse of the plateau itself, it is not unusual to feel overwhelmed by the natural landscape of Tibet. It is small wonder, then, that from the earliest times, the Tibetans populated this imposing topography with a multitude of spirits, demons, and gods.

Foremost amongst them are the many gods and goddesses who are supposed to reside on one or another of the many mountain peaks in Tibet — it can be said that there is scarcely a peak in Tibet that is not regarded as the abode of some god or goddess. These deities are often considered by tradition to be the ancestors of the local population, and the founders of many Tibetan states and clans are generally thought to be the sons or daughters of mountain gods. A famous example of this is the legendary King Gesar of Ling — the revered and fearless hero of one of the longest epic cycles in the world — whose mother dreams of a yellow man who makes love to her, from which tryst she later gives birth to Gesar. The yellow man is in fact the mountain god Anye Machen, who resides on a mountain of the same name in the Kunlun range in present-day Qinghai Province in China. The mountain gods are at the centre of a rich and varied ritual tradition. Rituals and festivals are held to propitiate them in order to secure the health and fertility of the local people and livestock; for protection from epidemics and disasters; and for timely rain and bountiful harvests. Some of the more powerful gods are venerated far from their rocky abodes, and their likeness found in the iconography of Tibetan Buddhism.

While mountain gods and goddesses are the best known, they are only one particular class in the pantheon of gods, demons, and spirits which inhabit the natural world. Such spirits are not restricted to the towering peaks but are also said to haunt the domed hills, icy glaciers, rivers, lakes, and subterranean springs. From the luxuriant forests in eastern Tibet to the desolate plains to the north, there is scarcely a topographical feature of any significance which is not said to be the haunt of some spirit or other.

Among the best-known spirits are the nyen — a race of malevolent beings who are believed to roam the mountains and hills. They are usually found residing in strange or anomalous natural formations such as ditches and rocks. Others haunt the dark depths of the forest or lurk near lakes and rivers. When their territory is disturbed by humans, to whom the nyen are intrinsically hostile, they are said to curse the trespassers with both physical afflictions (such as lameness and the plague) and social ills (like gossip). The rocks and crags of Tibet’s mountains and hills are home to the tsen, powerful red-coloured vampiric spirits who are usually depicted in iconography as mounted knights dressed in finely wrought armour. It is customary to dismount from one’s horse in areas haunted by the tsen, since they are easily offended by those they perceive to be riding haughtily through their domain. Up high in the ether dwell the theu-rang, a race of malign imps that delight in mischief and chaos. They are said to inflict illness upon children and are responsible for hiding or moving household objects, much to the annoyance of the householders.

Beneath the surface of the earth and deep within rivers, lakes, and springs live the lu — serpentine water spirits which have been identified with the nagas of India. The lu can at times be benevolent, rewarding the favoured with trinkets from their subterranean treasure hoards; however, if their abode is polluted, or should they be slighted in some other way, they are thought to bring leprosy and other diseases upon humans and their livestock. The lu shares the subterranean realms with the sadag — spirits who dwell in the depths of the earth and who, according to the Tibetan geomantic tradition, move around according to the cycle of the years, months, days, or hours. The exact position of the sadag needs to be determined before beginning the construction of new buildings as they are known to become enraged if their geomantic space is infringed upon. There are also mamo (demonesses), dre (demons), drib-dag (lords of pollution), and shing-dag, nas-dag, doen, and gegs, to name but a few more.

Many attempts have been made to classify this bewildering profusion of spirits. One of the most common is that of the lha srin de gyad (“eight classes of gods and demons”), the origins of which can be traced back to the Yarlung period (c. 7th–9th century), where the classification of lha lu de gyad (“eights classes of gods and nagas”) is found in manuscripts discovered in the library cave at Dunhuang, in China’s Gansu Province, in the early 20th century. The list of the eight classes has varied over the centuries, and the existence of several lists shows the localized nature of many of the legends and ritual traditions associated with these spirits.

According to tradition, the lha srin de gyad were subjugated by the great tantric adept Padmasambhava (usually known in Tibetan as Guru Rinpoche or Pema Jungne). The sources describing the life of Guru Rinpoche can all be traced back to the terma (hidden treasure) tradition — whereby various religious texts and objects were secreted at the time of Guru Rinpoche to be recovered in later ages by certain tertön (treasure revealers) — which, in the specific case of Guru Rinpoche, started with the great tertön Nyangrel Nyima Ozer. According to these sources, Guru Rinpoche visited Tibet in the 8th century at the invitation of King Trisong Detsen (r. 755–797/804), where he is said to have coerced the local gods and spirits into accepting the power of Buddhism. Hence, elements of the pre-Buddhist religion were incorporated into, or at least made subservient to, the new faith. Thus, the eight categories of gods and demons became the half-willing protectors of the new Buddhist teachings and sangha. However, it is believed that Guru Rinpoche was not able to perform the ritual subjugation of the gods and spirits three times as he had originally intended. This means that the gods and spirits are not completely bound to the power of Buddhism and their subjugation needs to be maintained through continual ritual practice, with Guru Rinpoche’s initial subjugation serving as the ritual archetype. This idea continues to inform Tibetan views of nature, which is seen as a semi-tamed wilderness whose spirit inhabitants must be negotiated within a continuous dialogue between the human and natural world.

Lotus 300.

Whatever medicines are found
In the world — many and varied —
None are equal to the Dharma.
Drink this, monks!
And having drunk
The medicine of the Dharma,
You’ll be untouched by age and death.
Having meditated and seen —
(You’ll be) healed by ceasing to cling.

— The Buddha

Buddha 853.

这才是真正的布施
宽运法师

我们所有的凡夫啊,都是有妄想、分别和执着。我们都有分别心,这个《金刚经》里说了,“一切贤圣皆以无为法而有差别”,这个无为法是什么呢?无念、无住、无修、无证之者,这个才是最究竟之理呀!

因为我们每个人都是起心动念的,我们无念、无住、无修、无证是做不到,人家说“应无所住而生其心”,我们都是有所住,那佛教就说什么才是真正成就了呢?我们连成佛也不执着了,要成佛也不执着,那你才真正是佛啊!那你执着了成佛,那你还不是真正的佛呀。那我们很多的福德、功德也是如此,很多人做福德以为是功德呀,因为没有内心谦下,没有外行于礼呀,见性是功,平等是德呀。一没见性,二没有平等之心。

就好像我们梁武帝啊,大家都知道他和达摩祖师有个对话呀,就问了:“他说朕啊!造寺度僧不可数计,联的功德有多大呀?”达摩祖师回答说了:“毫无功德呀!”那梁武帝问了:“为什么没有功德呀?”达摩祖师就说了:“建寺度僧福德虽大,但这种人天的小果是有漏的福德。净智妙圆,体自空寂,才是真功德。”这里说到了,“体自空寂,净智妙圆”,这个真正的利益所在。那我们执着,那我们就得不到将来究竟的果报。

你看《四十二章经》的十一章说了“施饭转胜”,那佛怎么说的呀?他说“饭恶人百,不如饭一善人。”就是你今天啊,我们一般人都说了,我们施饭给恶人一百,不如供养一个善良的人、修善的人、真正的善人。他说一百恶人不如一个善人好,功德大。他说饭善人千,不如饭一持五戒者。

那你说我们给一般的,有一千人了,布施饭,但不如供养一个持五戒的人。那我们给一个五戒者,给一万,不如饭一须陀洹。须陀洹是初果罗汉啊,他说饭百万须陀洹,不如饭一个斯陀含,斯陀含是二果的。他说饭千万斯陀含,不如饭一阿那含,就是三果的罗汉。他说饭一亿阿那含,不如饭一阿罗汉。阿罗汉啊就已经,刚才说证得了这些什么呢?不生不灭,无修、无证的境界里来了,他已经得到这样的一个境界了。做到无念、无住、无修、无证,这是他呀,当然这是自身的。

但是佛这里说了,一路路的推上去,他说你饭十亿阿罗汉,不如饭一辟支佛。辟支佛呀,虽然是呀,我们说了这是缘觉啊,但是他已经证到果位了。他说不如饭一辟支佛。饭百亿辟支佛,不如饭一三世诸佛。他说饭千亿三世诸佛,不如饭一无念、无住、无修、无证之者。这是什么意思呢?就是他自己啊,你今天还有分别心,那有分别心的,那还是福德。我们佛教讲是功德呀,要什么呢?

饭一个无念、无住、无修、无证之者,我们《心经》里说了:“不生不灭,不垢不净,不增不减”,这个境界啊,才能超越了我们很多的凡夫境界,这是照见五蕴皆空的人,只有照见五蕴皆空的人才能度一切苦厄啊,才能真正做到“揭谛揭谛,波罗揭谛,波罗僧揭谛,菩提萨婆诃。”所以我们今天要布施的时候,要知道“三轮体空”啊!没有布施的自己,也没有布施的中间物,也没有布施的对象。

其实我们都是随缘和合呀,不要有分别心;有了分别心以后,刚才说了,你看供了三世诸佛不如饭一个无念、无住、无修、无证之者,这个才是一个境界呀!所以每一位,今天我们的布施,我们施饭一路路的升华的话,想究竟的话,其实这才是佛啊,让我们去有这样一个布施的心,达到这种境界才是真正的布施了。

Ven Kuan Yun (宽运法师) 5.

May I be a guard for those who are protectorless, a guide for those who journey on the road. For those who wish to go across the water, may I be a boat, a raft, a bridge. May I be an isle for those who yearn for landfall, and a lamp for those who long for light; for those who need a resting place, a bed; for all who need a servant, may I be their slave.

— Shantideva

Shantideva (寂天菩萨) 6..

Success comes from Knowing, Feeling and Doing
by Venerable Shi Fazhao

Success is something that is highly sought after by people throughout the ages. The quest for success is very much part and parcel of the human psyche. The earliest reference to success that I can find in ancient Chinese texts is in the philosophical text Zhong Yong. It describes three ways of gaining knowledge and three motivators which spur a person into action. It concludes that no matter what ways you gain your knowledge if you are successful at it, the knowledge that you gain will all be the same; and regardless of the motivation that makes you decide to do something, if you are successful in your endeavour, the success that you experience will be equal. This text introduces the basic concept of success and guided popular understanding of what constitutes success. Success consists of two aspects – Knowing and Doing. However, would what one knows determine what one does?

A human being is not a machine which runs on a pre-programmed set of operations. His actions are very much under the control of his feelings. For instance, when you have to get something done and you know that in order to accomplish this task you need to seek the help of a certain individual; but you are not doing it. Why is this so? Perhaps you feel reluctant to ask this person for help. And so, in addition to Knowing and Doing, we have to add the element of Feeling as well. If we were to investigate the definition of success from the perspectives of biology, psychology, sociology and scientific history, we will find that their definitions for success basically consist of these three: Knowing, Feeling and Doing. Without any one of these, we would not be able to actualise the full potential of life. And so, these three essential elements for success are also the three essential elements of life. In other words, knowing is like the soil of life; feelings, the nourishment for life; actualisation, the fruits of life.

Einstein said: “A person’s value to society is determined by the extent which his feelings, thinking, and actions can benefit and uplift humanity.” What he said also contained these three elements – Knowing, Feeling and Doing. The defining characteristic of a successful person is such that, in terms of Knowing, they have very unique ideas and understanding about reality; in terms of Feeling, they always have expansive and compassionate ideals; in terms of Doing, they always have exceptional courage and perseverance.

THE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF SUCCESS

As early as over 2,000 years ago, ancient Chinese sages had a very profound understanding of what constitutes success: “The Wise is not confused. The Compassionate is free of worries. The Brave is fearless.” Being wise is Knowing, being compassionate is Feeling, and being brave is Doing. These can be viewed as three types of persons, but it can also be seen as three different aspects of an individual’s character. When all three are present in an individual, they become the distinguishing traits of a successful person. Yang Chen Ning summarised the concept of Success into the three P’s: Preconception (ideas); Persistence (determination) and Power, which originates from an altruistic and compassionate attitude. Basically, what he is talking about still boils down to Knowing, Feeling and Doing. And so, what we call a successful person is a person who is wise in terms of his Knowing, is altruistic and compassionate in terms of his feelings, and is purposeful and dynamic in terms of his doing.

To be successful, you have to be systematic and principled. If you plan out everything you need to do in advance, you won’t feel hurried. If you have clear principles about what you are doing, you won’t feel confused. And in conducting business, always have a budget for what you plan to do. This will prevent any cash flow problems. If you can walk your talk, you will always be a winner. A lot of people try to get recognition and respect from others through gaining power, fame, and authority. They forget the importance of learning the wisdom of life and being kind to others. In the end, they might win the world but lose themselves instead.

The masters of the past frequently said: “What is the Dharma? The principle basis of the Dharma is Compassion, and the door to enter into Dharma practice is skilful means.” The simple sentence aptly summarised the whole of the Buddha’s Teachings. Compassion is in fact love, but why does Buddhism talk about Compassion but not love? This is because, for people in general, the word “love” is coloured by attachment and discrimination, which are the source of problems and unhappiness. And so in Buddhism, we talk about Compassion, which is a rational type of love directed by wisdom. This is the important difference between the former and the latter which we should all know.

A master once said to me: “if you find out what is love, you would have found the secret to life. When your heart is filled with love, life will be a happy one.” If an enlightened being does not have feelings, how could he understand the feelings of sentient beings? And how could he help them? When such a being is born as a human, he possesses the traits and characteristics of being a human, but his qualities transcend that of humans. This is due to the controlling power of his Wisdom over ordinary human feelings and emotions. Just like the lotus in the pond, it grows in the water but rises above it.

There is a poem which reads: “A pond was excavated on a half-acre plot. The moon and clouds love to linger there. Why is its water so clear and pure? It is fed by a lively spring.” The most important element here is the lively spring. Because of the spring, an empty pit becomes a pond surrounded by beautiful greenery. The clouds in the sky are reflected on the water surface during the day. At night, the moon seems to hover within arm’s reach. No matter whether it is day or night, it is so poetic to spend time around the pond, walking, looking, and quietly contemplating. What happens if there is no spring which feeds the pond?

The philosopher Bertrand Russell had said: “Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life; the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.” These are the springs that fed his life. When faced with the future, we can only move forward one step at a time. Ultimately we will reach our goal. This is also the basic philosophy of mountain climbing. When climbing mountains, no matter how convoluted the path is after you’ve reached the top, you will still have to make your way back down following the same path. And so in mountain climbing what matters most is not the final destination, but the process itself. When you climb a high mountain, you need the cooperation of the elements and your teammates, but most importantly, you need to help yourself. When you have the mountain in your heart, your heart will naturally become relaxed and expansive.

LOVE IS A WELL OF WISDOM AND STRENGTH

Love is an inexhaustible well. When used properly, it becomes the source of unbelievable wisdom and strength. Albert Schweitzer, the African saint, is a unique personality in contemporary history. You might even call him an eccentric. Born in France, he was an accomplished musician, philosopher and theologian. He was very well educated and had a good career. At the beginning of his “promising future”, he suddenly decided to abandon all he had accomplished to study medicine in order to go to Africa to offer his service to the Africans. His story illustrates the infinite potential of a person’s wisdom and strength. The powerhouse that drives the development of wisdom and strength, however, is love. If you do not have a love or liking for something, most probably you would not really be driven into action. If you did not make a start in the first place, how can you enjoy the end results then?

The well of love is inexhaustible and infinite. This might seem like a tall claim, but the Enlightened Beings are proof of its validity. The Buddha’s wisdom and powers are infinite beyond human imagination. However, Buddhas originate from ordinary people like us. Spiritual practitioners of the Zen tradition, with its emphasis on transcending normal thoughts and preconceptions, are able to achieve this in one single lifetime.

Most people underestimated themselves and their capabilities. This is due to a lack of ‘love’ in their hearts’ if we are able to ignite the flame of love and let it grow bright and big, attaining Buddha hood can be as simple as plucking a branch off a tree. It is not that we are incorporate of becoming enlightened. The problem lies with our unwillingness to give it a try. “Love” is the well of our wisdom, capabilities and strength. Everyone has an inexhaustible supply of love, why don’t we uncover this deep well of love, cultivate it and put it to good use?

WHAT IS LOVE?

Love is a variegated (consisting of many different types of thing or person) thing. There is tainted love and there is pure love. Some forms of love are possessive, while others are self-sacrificing. What then, is really Love? Love in its negative aspect can be binding and restrictive like a rope or a prison, taking away from us our freedom and peace of mind. It can make us blind to reality and hurtle towards self-destruction.

In its positive aspect, Love is sacrifice, service, encouragement, and compassion. People always long to be loved. There are also individuals who devote their lives to selfless service due to their great love for people. The emotion of love can be dangerous because love and hate are identical twins – one always follows the other. Love turned sour becomes hate. The definition of “Love” that most people have in mind is limited to romantic love. This does not encompass the love for fellow human beings and all sentient beings in general.

LOVE IS THE BASIS OF TRUE LIFE

In the introduction of this article “The Loving Life”, the writer Geng Yun wrote: “On the surface of the sun are dark spots known as Sunspots. Sunspot activity can have a potentially disruptive effect to all life on Earth. Even a quality piece of Jade may contain flaws, marring its pristine beauty. A loving life is often marred by the stain of hatred. This destroys the perfection of life and may even threaten the continued existence of humanity. Love is life-giving and creating, while hatred brings death and destruction. Love symbolises light and warmth, while hatred signifies darkness and coldness. Without hatred, humanity will be free from the threat of self-destruction. Without love, there will be no other power capable of helping humanity to further their evolution. Only a life filled with love can we call a true and full-bodied life.”

A society devoid of love is definitely a morality-degenerated society veering towards self-destruction. History has shown that nations and peoples who are capable of great love are the ones who are passionate and full of vitality, able to overcome all odds and strive for a better life. Darkness itself cannot suppress light. It appears only after clouds cover the face of the sun. Similarly, hatred cannot cover great love. It is only after people become lax in their love and concern for others that emotional distance and lethargy sets in, dampening the spirit and enthusiasm for life.

EXTEND YOUR SCOPE OF LOVE

Love is the creative force of the universe. Through the power of love, life is created on this Earth, through the power of love; life becomes beautiful; the world and the universe are also transformed into places of beauty and peace. A person’s spiritual development is also based on his ability to extend his scope of love. When a person is able to extend his love to encompass all living beings, he will become an extraordinary being. Great beings such as Confucius, Meng Zi, Buddha, and Jesus are all extra-ordinary people who had developed their love into extensive and all-encompassing Altruistic Love and are mover by their Altruistic Love to benefit sentient beings.

Since Love is such a vital component of life, how do we cultivate love? Start from loving yourself and your family – your parents, your wife and children. Then extend your love to your neighbours and countrymen; and finally extend your love to encompass all sentient beings. When you are able to fully extend your love to all beings, you would have achieved the ultimate perfection of life, and you would experience a profound sense of oneness with all things in the universe.

Love can fill a person with boundless passion and endow him with infinite wisdom and courage. Without love, life would lose its vibrancy. This is because emotional apathy can lead to depression and a loss of interest in life itself. Since we are blessed with this human life, we should make it meaningful through love and service. If we were to think about it, we are an integral part of the greater community. Without the support of the community at large, it would be impossible for us to sustain our own continued existence. Everything that we need – our food, our clothes, our houses, and our transport – is all supplied to us by the people in our community. Since society is so kind to us, rationally speaking, shouldn’t we feel thankful for what it has done for us and do our bit for the benefit of society in return?

LOVE WILL LEAD YOU TO SUCCESS

Life exists due to the power of love. If we were to live life following the guidance of love, life will naturally become increasingly better and better. We should start from ourselves. Truly love your work and responsibilities, your studies and your career. Enjoy what you do. What you do should come effortlessly and naturally. If you are able to do this, you will enjoy the happiness that comes from a love-based life. Whatever work you do, as long as it is something proper, you should put your heart and love into it. Be confident that with devotion and focus, your efforts will definitely bear beautiful results one day. A loving person is surely a person who is rich in feelings and has great aspirations. Such a person is capable of accomplishing great things in life. The love in his heart will endow him with patience and determination, and the courage to persevere in achieving his dreams. The path to success might be long and fraught with difficulties. However, the longer it takes the more experience he will gather. The more effort he has to put in and the more difficult the challenges are, the final success when ultimately accomplished is definitely going to be fantastic.

Love brings us happiness and helps us to create the life that we desire. But when we finally taste the fruits of success, beware of becoming proud and complacent. Pride is a dangerous thing – it can undo your success in a single stroke. If you can pour your heart out and love into your goals, and put in the time and effort to do what is required, success will be a natural outcome. It is nothing miraculous. In fact, when you pour your heart and love into what you do, there is no need to worry about success or failure. However, one thing is certain – the highest success and the greatest victory belong to the person who possesses the strongest, most extensive, and most persistent love.

COMPASSION NEED TO BE PAIRED WITH WISDOM

During the Buddha’s time, there was an elder known as Sudatta, who was a philanthropist well known for his generosity towards the poor and destitute. His great kindness won him the name of Anathapindika, which means the one who gives to the needy. One day he met the Buddha. After listening to the Buddha’s teachings and carefully investigating its meanings, he was touched by its profound wisdom and appreciated its value for alleviating the suffering of the world. He was inspired to make the teachings more widely available for all his countrymen and so he offered his wealth to the Triple Gem, building the famous Jetavanna Grove, which became an important venue for the Buddha’s teaching activities. With this act of generosity, he had also created the cause for a happy rebirth in the god realms.

Through his wisdom and keen observations, the elder Sudatta was able to utilise his wealth in the best possible way to benefit the poor and support the Triple Gem. Not only was he able to offer the greatest amount of benefit, his actions also helped him accumulate an immense amount of merit. If we want to give to charity or help the poor, we should first check and make sure that our gifts can really benefit the recipient. If we wish to make offerings to the Triple Gem, we should make sure we do so at places that uphold the genuine teachings and practices of the Buddha. When we give, we should give with sincerity and humility, but this must be accompanied by wisdom. If we can do so, our giving will really benefit sentient beings.

FAITH SHOULD BE GROUNDED IN RIGHT UNDERSTANDING

In terms of my own spiritual practice, I prefer to recite the sutras. The benefits of sutra recitation are many, it helps us to:

  1. Understand the sublime qualities of the Buddha.
  2. Understand the sequence of the teachings.
  3. Maintain purity of speech.
  4. Exercise and unblock the energy of our lungs and chest.
  5. Be fearless amongst the crowd.
  6. Enjoy a long life.

Sutra recitation helps to cultivate wisdom and develop the strength of concentration; both are important elements for spiritual development. It also purifies obstacles and negative karma, helping us to be free of suffering and achieve happiness. In addition, it also helps us to create a positive connection with countless unseen beings. Sutra recitation not only benefits ourselves but also benefits many others as well. The Buddha’s teachings expound the nature of reality. Through reciting the sutras we familiarise ourselves with the wisdom of these teachings. Through constantly reflecting on the meaning of these teachings, we will gradually make changes to our behaviour and thinking. Over an extended period of time, we will naturally possess the wisdom to transmute our delusions and attachment. It is important to note that the Buddha’s level of accomplishment and understanding is beyond our ordinary minds to fathom. And so, a lot of his teachings have to be accepted on faith. However, faith has to be based on correct understanding and not blind faith, misunderstood faith or uncritical faith.

Culture and religion have always been closely connected throughout human history. Without the altruism and morality brought about by religion, cultures will not be able to arise and grow. When the influence of religion gradually fades away, human morality disappears, leading to a prevalence of immoral and anti-social behaviour. Religion is important. Without the presence of a true religion, we will not be able to enjoy a peaceful, harmonious and united society. Without a peaceful and harmonious society, we will not be able to enjoy a happy and harmonious family life. Not only can religion help us to establish a common value system and provide a network for people to support and help one another, it is also capable of unifying the people into a powerful force.

Modern developments in the world have brought humanity to a critical point where humanity’s higher nature and baser qualities vie for supremacy. There is an urgent need for us to insist on maintaining a loving heart and work on helping ourselves and others. We have to overcome our egoistic minds and tame the wild delusions of those drawn to the path of negativity. It is only through taming these uncontrolled delusions that we can maintain the dignity of humanity. The courageous ones who are committed to taming their own delusions are indeed true disciples of the Buddha. Let us learn together the means to pacify our wayward minds. I pray and hope everyone enjoys mental peace and happiness!

Ven Fazhao 1.

If we think of ourselves as cattle with ropes hanging from our noses, Dharma practitioners hold that rope in their own hands, whereas ordinary people are controlled by others.

— Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche

Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche 14.