Ultimate reality is not bounded by any manifestation, yet actual practice embraces all of them.
– Zen Master
action without awareness is child, action with awareness is adult
stillness with awareness is deep sleep/meditation, stillness without awareness is samadhi
Where is Dao? …shh……
– 南懷瑾老師 (1918-2012)
Buddhist heart, Taoist bones, Confucius persona, compassionately perceive the world;
Skills on hands, abilities in body, thinking via the brain, serenely live life.
– Master Nan-Huai-Chin (1918-2012)
After 26 months of discussion and exploration, we have finally completed our online discussion on the core teachings of the three great classics in Chinese Civilization.
With the focus on personal and spiritual cultivation, we first learnt about the transcendental reality and the way towards it from Laozi’s Daodejing. After understanding our self, and going beyond it, we then learnt the importance of fulfilling our personal, family and social responsibility in the world through practical advises from Confucius’s Analects. Finally, after mastering the world and the reality beyond it, we learnt from the Buddhist Diamond Sutra that all teachings and phenomena, no matter how extraordinary and spectacular, are temporary like dreams and bubble and therefore are not to be attached.
If we can gain a throughout understanding of these three classics, and integrate them into our daily life, then a solid foundation is laid on the roadway of personal and spiritual cultivation. Hopefully these discussions could serve as an opening door and overall guidance for further studies and practice.
This concludes this series of our online classes. As Laozi said, “excessive speeches exhaust our reason, it’s better to stay centered.” The foundation understanding of cultivation has been laid and it is time for practice and integration into our life. If you have further question on the topics mentioned, you may contact me for advice or further discussion. Thank you for your interest and support all along.
Best wishes to you in your life, studies, and practices.
With every beginning this is an end. After 9 months of exploration and discussion, we have finally come to the end of this classic. In this last chapter, the Buddha reiterates the blessings of following and sharing this sutra, and reminds us again that we should not attached to various forms when sharing the wisdom of this Sutra. Why? The Buddha summarizes this into a four-line stanzas:
一切有为法 如梦幻泡影 如露亦如电 应作如是观
All self-based phenomena, are like bubbles and dreams;
like dews and lightening, should perceived as such.
* * *
“Subhuti, if on the one hand, someone gave away in alms (dana) the seven treasures inquantities sufficient to fill all the worlds in uncount-able aeons, and if on the other hand, a virtuous man or woman developed the Bodhi-mind, and received, held (in mind), read and recited even a four-line stanza of this sutra and expounded it to others, the latter’s merit would surpass that of the former.
一切有为法 如梦幻泡影 如露亦如电 应作如是观
“In what manner should it be taught to others? By teaching it without attachment to form with the immutability of the absolute. “Why is it?
“Because: All phenomena are like a dream, an illusion, a bubble and a shadow, Like dew and lightning. Thus should you meditate upon them.”
When the Buddha had finished expounding this sutra, the elder Subhuti, together with bhiksus, bhiksunis, upasakas, upasikas, and all the worlds of devas, men and asuras who had listened to His teaching, were filled with joy and believed received and observed it.
When the Buddha about to conclude this sutra, he tested his student Subuti and asked: “when someone talk of the notions of self, others, living beings, and immortality, does s/he understand what i teach?” Subhuti answered: “no, because these notions too, are merely names and mental conceptualization, are not to be attached, and not to be understood as the ultimate truth from the Buddha.” The Buddha compassionately furthered: “Whoever made the intention of supreme enlightenment, should perceive as such, see as such, understand as such, and do not let teachings develop into fixed notions. And same applies to this conclusion as well.
Once we embark on the journey to truth and spiritual enlightenment, teachers teachings knowledge method pathway technique experience will come. They are all to be treasured, but not to be attached. If we perceive them, see them, believe them, and understand them as this Sutra suggests, we will be walking on solid path.
* * *
“Subhuti, what do you think? If someone says: ‘The Buddha speaks of the view of an ego, a personality, a being and a life,
“Subhuti, does that person understand what I mean?”
“No, World Honoured one, that person does not understand. Why?”
“Because (when) the Tathagata speaks of the view of an ego, a Personality, a being and a life, it is not really, (but) is (expediently) called the view of an ego, a personality a being and a life.”
“Subhuti, he who develops the Supreme Enlightenment Mind, should thus know, see, believe and comprehend (all things); he should not set up the perception of things (dharma-laksana) in his mind.”
“Subhuti, the so-called form of things (dharma-laksana), the Tathagata says is not, but is, (expediently) called the form of things.”
In advanced meditative state, one sees the limitless universe. Is this real? Is it the end? Some arrives there and claim it is so. The Buddha says in this chapter: despite of its magnificence and splendor, it is not the ultimate, as when we attach ourselves with it, we becomes and limits to it. Therefore the Buddha merely describes the state, and discern it as a temporary phenomenon just like names.
Having said so, encountering such phenomenon already indicates some achievement in internal work. We need to remain aware, and keep going in our inner and outer work.
* * *
“Subhuti. what do you think? If a virtuous man or woman reduced to dust all the worlds in the Universe, would those particles of dust many?”
Subhuti replied: “Many, World Honored One. Why?
Because if they really existed, the Buddha would not say they were particles of dust. And why?
Because when the Buddha speaks of particles of dust, they are not, but are (expediently) called, particles of dust.
World Honoured One, when the Tathagata speaks of worlds, they are not,，but are (expediently) called, worlds. Why?
“Because if they really exist, they are just agglomerations.
“The Tathagata speaks of agglomerations which are not, but are (expediently) called, agglomerations.”
“Subhuti, that which is called an agglomeration cannot be spoken of, but the vulgar man has longing for and attachment to this thing.
Tathagata in Chinese is “如来”, which means “as is”, or “as is originally is”. This “original is” is a state prior to all mentalizations and descriptions, and is beyond the descriptions of coming and going, sitting or lying, a he or a she, etc, which are identifications built on the notions of time and space, and on the notion of “self” vs. others. Therefore, whoever say here comes the Tathagata, or the Tathagata is sitting, lying, eating, or even teaching, does not really understand the real meaning of Tathagata.
* * *
“Subhuti, if someone says the Tathagata comes or goes, sits or lies, he does not understand what I mean.
“Why? Because the Tathagata has neither whence (to come) nor whither (to go); therefore, He is called the Tathagata.
There is virtue in practicing charity, which follows the law of karma (law of attraction);
Ordinary people claims the virtue as theirs, which reinforces and continues the “self” and its way of life; Bodhisattva dedicates the virtue for the well-being, fulfillment, growth, transcendence, and liberation of themselves and all beings.
* * *
“Subhuti, if (on the one hand) a Bodhisattva gave in his practice of dana, all the seven treasures in quantities sufficient to fill worlds as many as sand-grains in the Ganges, and (on the other hand) another man comprehended that all dharmas were egoless and thereby achieved perfection of patience (ksanti), the latter’s merit would surpass that of the former. “Why?
“Because, Subhuti, all Bodhisattvas do not receive reward for their merits.”
Subhuti asked the Buddha: “World Honored One, why do Bodhisattvas not receive reward for their merits?”
“Subhuti, Bodhisattvas should have no longing and no attachment when they practise meritorious virtues; therefore, they do not receive a reward.
After expounding that real Buddha is beyond image and sound, the all compassionate Buddha reminds us that real Buddha does not mean no image and no sound either, and that we should not satisfy with just the proper understanding of truth and should diligently practice it in our life.
Why did the Buddha say so? Because our mind likes to attach itself to dualistic opposites: when someone say of something, we immediately follows the “something”; when someone say of nothing, we immediately follows the “nothing”. In reality, we are neither “something” or “nothing”, neither the content or context, neither the teaching or non-teaching, this is the essence of Zen (Chan).
Secondly, after getting the above proper understanding, it is tempting for our mind to declare victory and say that, ok, we have got it now, we have arrive the final destination, and that there is no more work need to be done, nor anyone there to do anything anymore. Is it really so? Only your honest self could tell. What we usually find in the history and even nowadays, is that many students and teachers had fallen into this side track understanding, became an “enlightened” person in understanding, but lack honesty, virtue and diligent to make further progress (if not recline). This is why the Buddha said while perfect appearance doesn’t necessary implies Buddhahood, to claim the lack of it (appearance an virtue) is Buddhahood is wrong either.
In actual practice, there are standard stages of transformation one would go through, which are reported by advanced masters across different traditions and geographical regions. In the Buddhist tradition, a detailed report of truth and roadmap towards it is provided in the Shurangama Sutra (see suggested Buddhist readings).
Therefore, the Shurangama Sutra saids, “理即顿悟, 乘悟并消；事非顿除, 因次第尽” (understanding can be sudden, which sweeps away all mental blockages, practice is not sudden, which get perfected in stages).
* * *
“Subhuti, if you have ( in your mind) this thought: ‘The Tathagata does not rely on His possession of characteristics to obtain supreme Enlightenment,’
“Subhuti, banish that thought.
“Subhuti, if you think it while developing the Perfect Enlightenment Mind, you will advocate the annihilation of all Dharmas.
“Do not have such a thought. Why?
“Because one who develops the Supreme Enlightenment Mind, does not advocate the annihilation (of things).
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