A lot of people love to talk about compassion and peace regarding home, foreign and domestic affairs. But did not have the compassion and peace in mind, then how will the true compassion and peace be formed?


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"All that we are is the result of what we have thought." The Buddha. "..Religion without Science is Blind, Science without religion is crippled." Albert Einstein 1879-1955

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Hinayana Buddhism

Hīnayāna (हीनयान) is a Sanskrit and Pāli term literally meaning: "the low vehicle", "the inferior vehicle", or "the deficient vehicle".

The term appeared around the 1st or 2nd century CE. Its use in scholarly publications is controversial. There are differing views on the use and meaning of the term, both among scholars and within Buddhism.

The legitimacy of using the term Hinayana to refer to the early Buddhist schools is disputed while use of Hinayana to refer to the contemporary Theravada is seen as pejorative.. In the Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese languages, the term means small vehicle (小 meaning "small", 乘 meaning "vehicle"), and in the Tibetan language (theg chung) the word means "small" or "lesser" vehicle.

The word Hīnayāna is formed of hīna(हीन): "low", "inferior", "deficient", "defective", and yāna (यान): "vehicle", where "vehicle" means "a way of going to enlightenment".

Hīnayāna has been used by both past and present Mahayanists as a name to refer variously to one or more doctrines, traditions, practitioners or thoughts that are generally concerned with the achievement of Nirvana as an Arahant or a Pratyeka-Buddha, as opposed to the achievement of liberation as a Samyaksambuddha, wherein the Samyaksambuddha (according to Mahayana lore) is deemed to operate from a basis of vowing to effect the spiritual liberation of all beings and creatures from the suffering of samsara (not just himself or a small number of others). Hīnayāna is sometimes said to be corresponding solely to the Early Buddhist Schools, and not to the current Theravada school, while sometimes it is held to be also cognate with the modern Theravada tradition. Many hold that the term was coined to be purposely pejorative, while others do not.

Scholar Isabelle Onians asserts that although "the Mahāyāna . . . very occasionally referred contemptuously to earlier Buddhism as the Hinayāna, the Inferior Way," "the preponderance of this name in the secondary literature is far out of proportion to occurrences in the Indian texts." She notes that the term Śrāvakayāna was "the more politically correct and much more usual" term used by Mahāyānists.

Hīnayāna as doctrine would (from a Mahayana perspective) include the Sutras taught by Buddha that admonish the practitioner to follow the Sravaka path or strive for Paccekabuddhahood. In such teachings there is no emphasis on pledging to emancipate the totality of sentient beings from the pain and bondage of samsara - the focus is more on practice for individual liberation. However, the Buddha did not teach in this manner according to the Pali Canon. In the Pali Canon the Buddha never admonishes his disciples to strive to become a Paccekabuddha, and 'sravaka' just translates as follower or disciple: any disciple of Buddha would be a savaka. There is thus no mention of a 'Savakapath' as 'savaka' refers to all disciples, not to a limited class of disciples.

Hīnayāna as a tradition in general would include those schools who solely follow the sutras of the Pali Canon or the Agamas (being, Pre-sectarian Buddhism and the Early Buddhist Schools). Some recent Mahayanist scholars have also used the name Nikaya Buddhism to refer to these schools. Some of these schools actively rejected the Mahayana sutras during the time of the rise of the Mahayana, around 2,000 years ago.

Hīnayāna as practitioner would be an individual of any school (including Mahayana) who practices to eliminate suffering according to basic Buddhist teachings; if successful, he is called an Arahant. (Similarly, a follower of a bodhisattva path in any school would be Mahayana in this sense.) As a follower of what Mahayana terms "Hinayana", he or she will not strive to become a Buddha, nor will he or she take the Mahayana Bodhisattva-vow of pledging to come back into samsara countless times in the future in order to liberate all other sentient beings from suffering. Also, the 'Pratyeka-Buddha' is regarded by Mahayana as being Hinayanist. Mahayana only considers the ideal of a Samyaksambuddha 'Great'; the other enlightened ideals are considered by Mahayana orthodoxy to be (depending on the translation) either 'inferior', 'degrading', 'base' or 'low'.

Within Buddhism the differing interpretations of Hīnayāna have consequences that are sometimes quite far-reaching. It is primarily the interpretation of Hīnayāna as a tradition that has led to the most concern, especially as many people have seen the term as a slur against Pre-sectarian Buddhism, Theravada and the other Early Buddhist schools (the Nikaya Buddhism–schools). These schools solely follow the sutras that are included in the Pali Canon, and which are aimed at helping to achieve the extinction of suffering, as attained by the Arahants.

Jonathan Silk has argued that the term "Hinayana" was used to refer to whomever one wanted to criticize on any given occasion, and did not refer to any definite grouping of Buddhists.

In the Vajrayana practice tradition of Buddhism the Hinayana is seen as one of the three major yanas (or 'vehicles') of Buddhism, alongside the Mahayana and Vajrayana. According to this view, there were three 'turnings of the wheel of dharma. In the first turning, Shakyamuni Buddha taught the dharma as the Four Noble Truths at Varanasi which led to the Hinayana schools, of which only the Theravada remain today (although they object to the term 'Hinayana'). In the second turning, the 'Perfection of Wisdom' sutras were taught at Vulture's Peak and led to the Mahayana schools. The teachings which constituted the third turning of the wheel of dharma were taught at Shravasti and expounded that all beings have Buddha Nature. This third turning is described as having led to the Vajrayana.

It appears that the distinction between vehicles and paths arises in early Mahayana sutras, such as the Lotus Sutra, where it is stated that there is one path - the path to Nirvana -, but there are different vehicles. The vehicles are described (by Mahayana) as representing the fruit of the two types of Buddha found in the Pali Canon, plus the path of the Arahants.

For instance, in Chapter three of the Lotus Sutra, there is a parable of a father promising three carts to lure sons out of a burning building, where the goat-cart represents the Sravaka-vehicle; the deer-cart, Pratyeka-Buddhahood; and the bullock-cart, Samyaksambuddha-hood. According to early Mahayana (as found in the Lotus sutra), it is the vehicles that are taught as a method for journeying on the path to enlightenment. It is here that we can see the basis for term being used to indicate differences of doctrine. The Lotus Sutra declares that the bullock-cart is "supremely restful", implying that the goat-cart and the deer-cart are inferior to the bullock-cart. This is where we begin to see the terminological origins for the term Hīnayāna: The Sravakayana and the Pratyekabuddhayana as vehicles inferior to the superior bullock-cart of the Mahayana.

The Dharmakshema Mahaparinirvana Sutra also speaks of the inferior nature of the Hinayana when compared to the higher level of the Mahayana. In that sutra the Buddha states:
"Noble son, there are also two groups of people within this great congregation: those who seek the Inferior Way (hīnayāna) and those who seek the Great Way (mahāyāna). In past days I turned the lesser Wheel of the Dharma for the Śrāvakas, but now here in Kuśinagara I turn the great Wheel of the Dharma for Bodhisattvas."

The term first appeared in the Mahayana Prajñāpāramitā literature. Possibly the earliest instance appears in the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines (Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra), believed by scholars to have been composed some time between the 1st century BCE and the 1st century CE. Chapter 11 ("Mara's Deeds") depicts a conversation between Buddha and the Bodhisattva Subhuti, where in Buddha admonishes those Bodhisattvas who disavow this sutra in favor of certain unnamed Buddhist sutras. In the following passage, the term hinayana is translated as "inferior vehicle" (emphasis added). "Subhuti, do these Bodhisattvas appear to be very intelligent who, having obtained and met with the irreversible, the great vehicle, and then again abandon this, turn away from this, and prefer an inferior vehicle [...] this is seen as being done to these Bodhisattvas by Mara."

Mahāyāna Buddhists sometimes refer to all forms of non-Mahāyāna Buddhism, past and present, including the Theravāda school, as members of the Hīnayāna grouping. This term, which literally means "the inferior vehicle", tends to relate to those Buddhists who were deemed by Mahayanists to have rather narrow aspirations: instead of vowing (as the Mahayanists ideally did) to strive for the liberation both of themselves and all other sentient beings from samsara, the "Hinayanists" were viewed as being excessively concerned with their own individual release into Nirvana. The term, "Hinayana", is now widely regarded as derogatory and inaccurate (at least in reference to the Theravada, but also to the other, already non-existent, schools).

In the Mahayana tradition, the label Hinayana is attributed to the Buddha himself (e.g. in the Lotus Sutra). As it is a polemical term and represents a specifically Mahayana point of view, other terms have been suggested to describe the Buddhist schools which chose not to adopted the Mahayana sutras. As noted above, in India Hinayana was not the predominant term used in Mahayana texts for early Buddhist schools, Sravakayana being much more commonly used (with the former used only rarely). Among the terms that have been used as substitutes for "Hīnayāna" are the following:

Śrāvakayāna Buddhism – The term most often historically used Mahāyāna texts to refer to early Buddhist schools. This term refers to the "śrāvakas," meaning disciples, followers, or hearers. They who followed the Buddha and sought solely to eliminate suffering, thus culminating in Arahantship. This term originates (like the term Hinayana) from within Mahāyāna Buddhism, and thus faces some of the same objections as "Hīnayāna", though it is less obviously derogatory. Śrāvakayāna can also refer to a tendency or intention found in an individual; this is, one might be a member of a Mahāyāna school, but be personally following a Śrāvakayāna path. Śrāvakayāna is also contrasted with the term "Bodhisattvayāna".

Early Buddhism - refers to the variations within Buddhism (both Pre-sectarian Buddhism as the Early Buddhist schools) that were current before the Mahayana movement emerged.

Early Buddhist schools – This term properly covers all the schools that existed before the emergence of the Mahāyāna. The arising of the Mahayana school of Buddhism (1st / 2nd century CE) went together with the adoption of new (previously not-existing) sutras, and introduced new (or emphasized old but not very central) philosophies such as the Bodhisattva and having the intention of liberating all sentient beings. Since this constituted a serious break with the previous traditions and customs that the earlier schools had in common, the Mahayana is seen as a 'reformist' or revolutionary movement, and not included in any lists of the early schools. Thus, there is a large correlation between the earlier schools and the label 'Hinayana'. Also the Mahayana itself never groups itself with the previously existing schools. Some of the later 'early schools' might have arisen (meaning: split off) from another, older, early school, and might have come into existence at about the same time as the Mahayana. However, these schools kept to the larger framework and attitude of the earlier schools.

Eighteen Schools (or Twenty Schools) – This term is historically oriented, based on the lists of the various Early Buddhist schools. However, the list itself is numerically inexact since the exact number and the names of the schools differ between the various lists. These were the schools that the emerging Mahayana-movement was familiar with because they were existing at that time. Subsequently, these eighteen schools split up further into a larger number, and the Hinayana label could have also been applied to those later split-offs. Also, the Mahayana writer Bhavya (Bhavaviveka) says in the Tarkajvala that Mahayana is oncluded in the eighteen schools.

Southern Buddhism – This frequently used geographical designation is appropriately applied to the Theravāda, whose centers in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia are located south of the centers of Mahayana (China, Tibet, Japan). In its early period, however, there was significant overlap between the geographical regions of Mahayana and the early schools.

Pāli Buddhism – This term only applies to the Theravāda, whose scriptures (the Pāli canon) are in the Pāli language. The other "Hīnayāna" schools wrote either in Sanskrit, in other Prakrits (notably Gāndhārī) or in Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit, a mixed language with both Sanskrit and Prakrit elements.

Nikāya Buddhism – This recently invented term was intended to cover the same ground as Hīnayāna, referring to the nikāyas or "schools" into which Buddhism was split by the beginning of the Common Era. It could also be interpreted as "Buddhism as taught in the Nikāyas", the five primary divisions of the Tipiṭaka, although this second usage of the term is only used among the Theravāda—other schools used the term Āgamas— so if used in the latter sense "Nikaya Buddhism" would be a misnomer when applied to non-Theravāda early schools such as the Sarvastivada and Sammitiya.

Theravāda – This term properly refers to only one school among many non-Mahāyāna schools that once existed, many of which espoused philosophical notions contrary to those of the Theravādins. It would be altogether inaccurate to refer to such Buddhists as the Sarvāstivādins as Theravādins. Some scholars, such as Dr. Walpola Rahula, have pointed out that there was small contact between early Mahāyānists and Theravādins, and have suggested that the term "Hīnayāna" was never intended to include the Theravāda. Judging by the content of Mahāyāna polemic, it seems certain that other sects of northern India were the primary targets of the "Hīnayāna" critique.

Conservative Buddhism

Mainstream Buddhism: this term might be considered derogatory by Mahayanists, as it seems to suggest they are fringe (when in fact they are the majority)

Sectarian Buddhism

Non-Mahayana Buddhism


Mahakala is a Dharmapala ("protector of dharma") in Vajrayana Buddhism (Tibetan Buddhism and Japanese Shingon Buddhism).

In Japanese Buddhism, Mahakala (大黒天, Daikokuten), belongs to the fourth hierarchy of deities (tenbu).

In Hinduism, Mahakala refers to Shiva the saguna (form) of Para Brahman.


Mahākāla is a Sanskrit bahuvrihi of mahā (महत्; "great") and kāla (कल; "Black"). The literal Tibetan translation is "Nagpo Chenpo" (Wylie: gnag po chen po) though, when referring to this deity, Tibetans usually use the word "Gonpo" (mgon po) [the translation of the Sanskrit word Nāth meaning "lord" or "protector"] instead.

Mahakala (a form of Lord Shiva), as in Tantras, is the almighty that runs the universe with his consort, Kali. According to Kali Tantra, He is the one who is believed to control the Kala or time. He at last swallows the whole creation in the Universe and himself ultimately gets devourest in Kali.


Mahakala is relied upon in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. However, he is depicted in a number of variations, each with distinctly different qualities and aspects. He is also regarded as the emanation of different beings in different cases, namely Avalokiteshvara (Tib: Chenrezig) or Chakrasamvara (Tib: Korlo Demchog, Wylie: ’khor-lo bde-mchog).

Mahakala is typically black in color. Just as all colors are absorbed and dissolved into black, all names and forms are said to melt into those of Mahakala, symbolizing his all-embracing, comprehensive nature. Black can also represent the total absence of color, and again in this case it signifies the nature of Mahakala as ultimate or absolute reality. This principle is known in Sanskrit as "nirguna", beyond all quality and form, and it is typified by both interpretations.

Mahakala is almost always depicted with a crown of five skulls, which represent the transmutation of the five kleshas (negative afflictions) into the five wisdoms.

The most notable variation in Mahakala's manifestations and depictions is in the number of arms, but other details can vary as well. For instance, in some cases there are Mahakalas in white, with multiple heads, without genitals, standing on varying numbers of various things, holding various implements, with alternative adornments, and so on.

Six Arms Mahakala
A Six-Armed Mahakala (Skt: Shad-bhuja Mahakala, Wylie: mGon po phyag drug pa) called Nyingshuk is favored by the Gelug order of Tibetan Buddhism, and in this manifestation is considered to be a fierce and powerful emanation of Avalokiteśvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.

He is adorned with the following symbolic attributes:

The Six Arms signify the successful completion of the six perfections (shad-paramita), which are practiced and brought to perfection by bodhisattvas during the course of their training. Have various implements in each hand and 5 Skull Crown on his head, Nyingshuk came from Khyungpo Naljor, the founder of the Shangpa Kagyu, and spread to all the lineages--Sakya, Nyingma, and Geluk, as well as various Kagyu lineages. There are also Terma lineages of various forms of Six Armed Mahakala. Nyinghsuk, though derived from the Shangpa, is not the major Shangpa one--it's in a dancing posture, rather than standing straight up, and is a very advanced Mahakala practice.

There is also a White Six-Armed Mahakala (Skt: Shad-bhuja Sita Mahakala; Tib. Wylie: mGon po yid bzhin nor bu) popular among Mongolian Gelugpas. In this case, he is a "wealth deity", specifically supporting the comfort and economic well-being of tantric practitioners. As such, his iconography differs in form and symbolism, with his skull bowl containing various jewels rather than the typical mortal remains of his victims, and a crown of jewels instead of skulls. The following description is found in his sadhana: "His body is white. His face is wrathful and he has three eyes. He has six arms. His main right hand holds a wish-fulfilling jewel (cintamani) mounted on a jewel-tipped handle, in front of his chest."

Four-Armed Mahakalas
Various Four-armed Mahakalas (Skt. Chatur-bhuja Mahakala, Tib. Wylie: mGon po phyag bzhi pa) are the primary protectors of the Karma Kagyu and Drikung Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism. A four-armed Mahakala is also found in the Nyingma school, although the primary protector of the Great Perfection (Skt: Mahasandhi, Tib. Dzogchen) teachings which are the pinnacle of the Nyingma system is Ekajati.

The four arms of this manifestation of Mahakala perform one of the following four positive karmas or actions, which are said to be his specific boon to his worshippers:

Pacify sickness, hindrances, and troubles.
Increase life, good qualities and wisdom. Attract whatever Dharma practitioners need and bring people to the Dharma. Destroy confusion, doubt, and ignorance.

Two-Armed Mahakalas
The two-armed Mahakala called Bernakchen (Black Coat) is a protector of the Karma Kagyu school, although he derives from Nyingma terma and was adopted by the Karma Kagyu during the time of 2nd Karmapa, Karma Pakshi. He is often depicted with his consort Rangjung Gyalmo. (He is often thought to be the primary protector, but he is actually the main protector of the Karmapas specifically. Mahakala Chakshipa, a four-armed mahakala, is technically the primary protector. Chakdrupa, a six-armed mahakala, is also common in the Kagyu.)
Panjaranatha Mahakala, 'Lord of Charms" or "Lord of the Pavilion", an emanation of Manjushri is a protector of the Sakya order.

Mahakala in Japan

Mahākāla (known as Daikokuten 大黑天) enjoys an exalted position as a household deity in Japan, as he is one of the Seven Lucky Gods in Japanese folklore. Mahākāla's association with wealth and prosperity gave rise to a strange custom known as Fuku-nusubi.

Daikokuten 大黑天
This custom started with the belief that one who stole divine figures (gods and goddesses) was assured of good fortune, if not caught in the act of stealing. In the course of time stealing of divine images became so common a practice in Japan that the Toshi-no-ichi or the ‘year-end-market’ held in the Asakusa Kannon temple became the main venue of the sale and disposal of such images by the fortune-seekers. Many small stalls were opened where articles including images of Mahakala were sold on the eve of New Year celebrations.

The Japanese also use the symbol of Mahākāla as a monogram. The traditional pilgrims climbing the holy Mount Ontake wear tenugui on white Japanese scarves with the Sanskrit seed syllable of Mahākāla.

In Japan, this deity is variously considered to be the god of wealth, or of the household, particularly the kitchen. He is recognised by his wide face, smile, and a flat black hat, in stark contrast to the fierce imagery portrayed in Tibetan Buddhist art. He is often portrayed holding a golden mallet, otherwise known as a magic money mallet, and is seen seated on bales of rice, with mice nearby (mice signify plentiful food).

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Lek Lai

The words Lek Laï may be translated "Fluid Metal", an allusion to the ability of certain Lek Laï to assume the liquid state. In many tales, one is assured that Lek Laï is not a simple mineral but a kind of metal-animal , capable of "swimming across mountains". One of the foremost powers of Lek Laï is to render its wearer invulnerable, and to prevent any fire arms from going off anywhere near him.

It can just as easily be used as a weapon of attack, at once reverting to the liquid state, flowing toward the victim, invading his body by the nostrils and ears, poisoning his blood and immediately returning to its guardian in its usual state. The consequences of putting Lek Laï into action varying so greatly from one person to another, I insist that clients coming to this site use their intuition and discernment in their resolve to purchaseLek Laï and especially not to employ it as a substitute for medical treatment or putting it to work as a bullet proof vest. Lek Laï is a gift of Nature; one cannot change it, one cannot improve it in some artificial way. Healers report that it lends its power to theirs, thus increasing their efficacy, as well as lending greater strengths to their medicines. One should keep in mind that each kind of Lek Laï has its own special powers and one should NEVER disrespect and put these powers to the test, either bringing about its disappearance or creating a serious "accident" (for example, no way will Lek Laï do its work if its wearer is dumb enough to be shot voluntary). It is urgent to appreciate that a very, very special substance is being discussed here, that it is known to be lived in by a "spirit", capable of making its own choices and to do damage if not shown respect.

The most common types of Lek Laï should be "fed" at least once a week by putting them in contact with honey, preferably in moonlight. The rest of the time they should be kept either in a reliquary worn about the neck or in a wax capsule. If one doesn't bother to take proper care of one's Lek Laï, it will vanish unexpectedly, no matter what obstacles one attempts to put of to thwart its escape. (For instance, forget about closing it up in a strong lock box - it's useless.)

Nowadays there still exist rare masters capable of going about the harvesting of lek lai, among them the Venerable LP Watchara Ekawano (only disciple of the Very Venerable Ajarn Sarmlit) of the Wat Thamfad temple is the most renowned. He is also the only master in this world capable of insertingLek Laï bits under the skin of his disciples' arms for their protection! This venerable is also known for his practice of an unusual sort of exorcism and also his "Blessing of the long wax".

The following information has been translated by a text of the very venerable Acharn Boon, itself, a translation of a fragmentary ancient text. The passages do not always follow a logical sequence and I have done my best to make the text understandable all the while staying faithful to the original - nonetheless I must excuse myself in advance for any error arising due to my ignorance. These writings are not available anywhere else in French and I thank you in advance for not copying and/or pasting them except for private use. It is evident that the prayer texts recorded in these writings are for informational purposes on and IN NO CASE are they to be taken up and used by a person not qualified to undertake the harvesting of Lek Laï himself!

Acharn Boon Distinguishes the Two Major Lek Lai Families:

(1) Using for ingredients the minerals "Plaï Dhum", "Khamin Kaew" and "Mae Perng" (note: these are ancient Thai names for unidentified minerals ), some forest monks can put at work their transcendent powers during special ceremony to purify and commingling these mineral bases, making them become extremely hard, then changing them into a kind of Lek Laï green in color, which will be indestructible, even by the master who brought them forth! (Note: this strongly brings to mind and ancient version describing the technique of making Mekkapat)

2) The ancient Lek Lai, "Kod Lek Lai", which one finds sometimes hanging from cliffs and which those who go deep into the jungle may find and bring back. If the person who finds has much merit and pure heart, he will be able to cut the lek lai from the cliff with an ordinary knife (note: Acharn Boon seems to be speaking here of a plant or at least some sort of organic substance, not mineral). This sort of Lek Lai can change color from black to dark green if one humbly so requests of it, and it will be able to carry and will always protect the one who is carrying it. WARNING: in no case ought the powers of Lek Lai to be put to the test!

Like to know more about Vajrayana, Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism? Just click the word and the link will bring you to the topic. Thank you.

Namo Buddhaya
Namo Dhramaya
Namo Sanghaya

Friday, 20 November 2009

Guan Yin is God?

During this week I have been following the spectacle of violence in the Middle East as Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Muslims, battle for control of their sacred sites. They hate each other for many reasons, and I am not even going to attempt to say who is in the right or who has been more grievously wronged. But it has struck me that one of the things that drive them into a frenzy of hatred is their differing ideas about who God is and what God expects from us. So this sparked the following reflections that I would like to share with you today.

Who is God? What is He like? And what does He want from us? These are the questions that people in our culture often wonder about. These are the questions that strike at the heart of our hopes and our fears. I, at least, grew up wondering about these questions, and now that I have embraced the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, I have found a very different perspective from those I had growing up.

Who is God? Those who grew up in a Judeo-Christian or Islamic environment understand that this is a question about the Creator, the one who brought all of this into existence and who, to one extent or another, directs our lives in fulfillment of His divine plan. I say “He” deliberately by the way, because our culture is still very patriarchal and of course masculinity is considered the privileged, powerful, normative and authoritative sex and these are the qualities that Western theology attributes to God. God, in Judeo-Christian and Islamic cultures is the powerful creator and ruler of the universe, the father of us all. He is the dignified and stern gentleman with the gray beard of wisdom and the spotless toga of the Roman emperors as portrayed on the Sistine Chapel. Now, I will point out here that this is not the God of Thomas Aquinas, Moses Maimonides, or Averrhoes, the greatest theologians of Christianity, Judaeism, and Islam respectively. But it is the image that most people have because it is the image they grew up with since childhood and the one that is reinforced by the arts, TV and the movies. Isn’t this the God whose deep voice bellows at Charleton Heston in the Ten Commandments and whose fiery fingers inscribed the laws of Western civilization in stone?

Now, again, I am not concerned with what the Bible or the theologians actually teach. What I am concerned about here is the God that most people seem to believe in and the God that I grew up believing. This God was a person like my father or grandfather. But unlike my own father, God seemed to be much more stern and aloof. God demanded and expected perfection and the best behavior at all times -- no excuses. He was always ready to forgive, but only providing we were very sorry and would agree to play by the rules and accept the deal that He offered for our salvation. No questions asked and no reading the fine print! To question or have doubts is to show a lack of respect and acceptance of that deal. So this was a God who demanded perfection knowing we could not live up to it, and who expected our unthinking obedience and belief in His religion if we were to be saved. On top of that, this was a God who would only save those who were fortunate enough to be able to believe in the religion that He revealed. Consequently, I spent a good part of my life trying to figure out exactly what God wanted me to believe so that I could get on His good side.

But this image of God is one that I have long since abandoned. It took me a little longer to grow out of this Hollywood and Sunday School image of God, but eventually this God joined Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and other childhood ideas and fantasies. In the meantime, I had embraced the Buddha Dharma -- the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha who had awakened from delusion to the ultimate truth about our lives.

What does Buddhism tell us about God then? What did it tell me about God? Did becoming a Buddhist leave me in a universe without a God? In a way, yes, but in another way not at all. I say yes, because if God is the Creator, then there can not be a God in Buddhism because there is no such thing as a one-time creation or a final apocalyptic end. The universe is an open-ended and interdependent process, and so are our lives. The idea that there are definitive beginnings and endings or absolute boundaries between things or beings is viewed by Buddhism as part of the delusion that reinforces our selfishness and sense of alienation from all that exists. So we can not talk of a supreme creator in Buddhism because there is no creation -- there is only reality just as it is, beyond words or concepts. This reality we must see for ourselves and deal with directly and not through a fog of creation myths or metaphysical speculations.

So is this reality an impersonal absolute? Is it a mystic void? Or perhaps it is like the Force in Star Wars? But these are also speculations and cold abstractions. None of them can describe the living reality which Buddhism helps us to awaken to. I think, however, that the best way of putting it is that while Buddhism does not view the ultimate reality as a person, it nevertheless views it as very personal. In other words, the ultimate reality is not a cosmic grandfather with a flowing beard, a toga and the proper genitalia, but is something that defies any category while still being the source of loving-kindness, compassion, joy and the peace that surpasses understanding. One who awakens to this reality (which is what the word Buddha means: “Awakened One”) awakens to that which is the pure, blissful, eternal and true nature of all life.

This reality becomes known, or makes itself known, through the lives and teachings of the buddhas and bodhisattvas. In other words, those who awaken to this reality realize that they are this reality and they are the ones who embody this reality in a way that allows others to awaken to it. Ultimate reality may be the source of compassion and wisdom, but it only becomes actual compassion and wisdom in the lives of those who awaken to it. Buddhas are the ones who are fully enlightened to this and they invite us to come and learn from them. The bodhisattvas, on the other hand, are the more active aspect of this awakening. Motivated by compassion, the bodhisattvas remain involved in the world over innumerable lifetimes to help lead people to the buddhas and to their own buddhahood.

One of these you have all seen many times -- Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, whose name means Regarder of the Cries of the World. She is the graceful figure I am sure many of you have seen decorating some restaurants or being sold in tourist shops in Chinatown. She is the one who is dressed in simple robes and is either holding a vase or sometimes a child. She almost seems to be the Asian equivalent of the Virgin Mary and in some ways she is. But she is actually more than that. In the 25th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, she is shown to be one of the most exalted of all the bodhisattvas, whose compassion reaches throughout the universe and whose assists all those who call on her name. The 25th chapter also tells us that she is not really a “she” at all, or a “he” either. Kuan Yin is formless but able to take on any form that will best help others. Of the 33 forms that chapter 25 lists, one of those is Isvara, the Indian name for the personal God who is the creator and savior of humankind. The Lotus Sutra is actually saying that God is our perception of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, the Regarder of the Cries of the World.

Now let’s be sure we understand what the sutra is really trying to tell us. It is not saying that God is actually a Chinese goddess or a Buddhist bodhisattva. It is saying that our image or concept of God rests upon a deeper reality, and that deeper reality is compassion and wisdom which is formless but which can take on any form to inspire and assist us. In order to teach us this, the sutra describes Kuan Yin Bodhisattva who personifies the true nature of reality and embodies the compassion which springs from it. This universal and compassionate activity is perceived as the presence of God. In other words, according to Buddhism, what we call the presence of God is actually the universally compassionate activity of the true nature of reality.

The most important thing about the chapter on Kuan Yin Bodhisattva in the Lotus Sutra is that when the other bodhisattvas try to give her offerings she refuses. When she does finally accept, after the Buddha asks her to, she splits the offering between Shakyamuni Buddha and the stupa of Many Treasures Tathagata. This is important because it unequivocally shows that the bodhisattvas, those who embody the compassion of the ultimate reality, do not want us to worship them. The point of their compassion is not to win our praise, but to direct us to the source of compassion and wisdom represented by the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha and the stupa of Many Treasures Tathagata.

So who is God? What is He like? And what does He want? According to my understanding of the Lotus Sutra, God is one way of perceiving the compassionate activity that flows out of the ultimate reality which transcends our images and concepts. This ultimate reality is not a person, but is the very personal source of compassion and wisdom. The whole purpose of our lives is to discover this ultimate reality as the true nature of our lives so that we can join the buddhas and bodhisattvas in embodying its wisdom and compassion for others.

Copyright by Ryuei Michael McCormick. 2000, 2002.

The Basis of the Mantra and Mandala - Lotus Sutra

A brief timeline:

Shakyamuni Buddha: 5th or 6th Century B.C., started Buddhism.

Kumarajiva: 343 or 344 – 413 A.D., China. Good translation of Lotus Sutra from Sanskrit into Chinese. Captured human-potential-affirming spirit of Lotus Sutra.

T’ien-tiai: surnames Chih-i, Chih-k’ai, 531-597 A.D., China. Systematized the teachings implicit in the Lotus Sutra. Created a difficult, time-consuming, cumbersome, yet effective system of meditation for their realization.

Dengyo Daishi (surname Saicho), 767 – 822 A.D., Japan. Brought T’ien-t’ai Buddhism to Japan (Tendai sect). Unfortunately, the Tendai sect eventually allowed itself to be mixed with Pure Land Buddhism (see Hui-Yuan and Honen, next).

Hui-Yuan (334 – 416 A.D.) and Honen (1173-1212 A.D.): founders of Pure Land Buddhism in China and Japan, respectively. Pure Land capsulated Buddhism, making it accessible to ordinary working people. But it taught that happiness in this world was impossible and could be found only in death, thus sapping peoples’ determination, vitality and potential.

Nichiren Daishonin (1222 – 1282 A.D., Japan): Capsulated the Tendai practice, making it accessible to ordinary working people, founding the Nichiren School of Buddhism. Very courageous in his convictions, standing up to religious persecutions. Cared deeply about his followers and all humanity, and did not seek personal gain. Nichiren relentlessly refuted the errors of other Buddhist sects. He wrote the Gosho – letters to his followers – which are now the primary study material for believers. Nichiren fulfilled the purpose of his advent by leaving us with many Gohonzons (the object of worship – a piece of paper or wood with calligraphy on it, representing enlightenment).

(end of timeline)

The Lotus Sutra is Shakyamuni Buddha’s declaration of human dignity and equality. Its essential message is that Buddhahood is inherent in the lives of ordinary common mortals (Hoben Chapter), that the lives of ordinary common mortals are inherent in Buddhahood (Juryo Chapter), and that everyone without exception has the potential for Buddhahood. This bridges the gap between the Buddha and the ordinary person. Buddhas are ordinary people who realize they have Buddhahood at the core of their lives. Common mortals are essentially Buddhas, but they do not yet realize this fact. Buddhas have the lower nine conditions (Hell to Altruism) of common mortals, and common mortals have inherent Buddhahood, whether they are currently manifesting it or not.

Long after Shakyamuni, another Buddhist named Kumarajiva made a particularly good translation of the Lotus Sutra from Sanskrit into Chinese. And still later, a Chinese Buddhist named T’ien-t’ai derived the Theory of 3000 Conditions in a Single Moment of Life from the Lotus Sutra. He also devised a complex, subtle, arduous regimen of mind-observing meditation, which is compiled in his “Great Concentration and Insight” (Maka Shikan). It was practical only for individuals of extraordinary ability who also had lots of free time – mostly monks, clergy, nobility, and wealthy retirees.

In the 13th century A.D. in Japan, Buddhist sages such as Nichiren and Honen came up with abbreviated forms of Buddhist practice more practical for ordinary working men and women. Some modern scholars look down on these systems, characterizing them as “coarse Buddhism” – as if “fine Buddhism” is identified by its abstruseness and difficulty. But many real-world examples show us that the more wisely conceived something is, the more accessible it is to the end user, all other factors equal.

This principle was the basis for developing the Graphical User Interface for personal computers. Suppose Xerox, Apple and Microsoft, and all other software developers, had tried to make the microcomputer as difficult to use as possible?

Conversely, the more superficial or confused something is, the more difficult it is to use. A good metaphor for this is a cat tangled up in a ball of yarn.

At this writing it is the year 2006. Compared to, say, 1976, people in the U.S. and elsewhere now work longer hours, are connected by more real-time communications devices, have more single-parent homes, and - for these and other reasons – now have less free time. According to the Mahayana ideal, sharing Buddhism with others is of paramount importance. One indispensable aspect of sharing it is making it accessible.

The Lotus Sutra uses parables, dramatic imagery, metaphor, verses of praise, affirmations, hyperbole, and other literary devices to convey key principles. This was in accord with the stylistic conventions of ancient Indian society. People in that society didn’t have hundreds of emails every day. In today’s society we must get right to the point, or the point will be missed in our haste.

The point of the Lotus Sutra is, again, that: Buddhahood is inherent in the lives of common mortals, the lives of common mortals are inherent in Buddhahood, and everyone without exception has the potential for Buddhahood.

Two sections of the Lotus Sutra, the Hoben and Juryo chapters, are chanted by believers.

Here are the two Lotus Sutra excerpts, with an English translation.

Hoben Chapter

Myo ho ren ge kyo. Ho ben pon. Dai ni.
Identifies the excerpt to come as the Hoben Chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

Niji seson. Ju sanmai. Anjo ni ki. Go shari-hotsu. Sho-but^chi-e. Jinjin muryo. Go chi-e mon. Nange nannyu. Issai shomon. Hyaku-shi-butsu. Sho fu no chi.At this time the World-Honored One serenely arose from meditation and addressed Shariputra: "The wisdom of all Buddhas is infinitely profound and immeasurable. The portal to this wisdom is difficult to understand and difficult to enter. Neither men of Learning (shomon) nor men of Realization (engaku) are able to comprehend it."

Sho-i sha ga. Butsu zo shingon. Hyaku sen man noku. Mushu sho butsu. Jin gyo sho-butsu. Muryo doho. Yumyo shojin. Myosho fu mon. Joju jinjin. Mi-zo-u ho. Zui gi sho setsu. Ishu nange."The reason is this. A Buddha has carried out countless austerities under many hundred thousand myriads of kotis of Buddhas. He devoted himself to these practices so valiantly and untiringly that his name is universally known. He realized the profound, unparalleled Law and preaches it according to the people's capacity, yet his intention is very difficult to understand."

Shari-hotsu. Go ju jo-butsu irai. Shuju innen. Shuju hiyu. Ko en gonkyo. Mu shu hoben. Indo shujo. Ryo ri sho jaku."Shariputra, ever since I attained Buddhahood, I have widely expounded my teachings through many stories of past relationships and many parables, and by countless means have led the people to renounce all their attachments.

Sho-i sha ga. Nyorai hoben. Chiken hara-mitsu. Kai i gu-soku.The reason for this is that the Tathágata is possessed of both means and perfect wisdom."

Shari-hotsu. Nyorai chiken. Kodai jinnon. Muryo muge. Riki. Mu-sho-i. Zenjo. Gedas.^Sanmai. Jin nyu musai. Joju issai. Mi-zo-u ho.
"Shariputra, the wisdom of the Tathágata is all-encompassing and profound. His mercy is infinite, and his teaching knows no bounds. Endowed with power, fearlessness, concentration, emancipation [from sufferings and desires] and the capacity to meditate, he dwells in the boundless and awakens to the never before-realized Law."

Shari-hotsu. Nyorai no. Shuju fun-betsu. Gyo ses^sho ho. Gonji nyunan. Ekka shushin. Shari-hotsu. Shu yo gon shi. Muryo muhen. Mi-zo-u ho. Bus^shitsu joju. "Shariputra, the Tathágata has the power to perceive which among the various teachings [is suited to his audience], to preach the teachings in a skillful way, and to gladden the hearts of the people with warm and tender words. That is to say, Shariputra, the Buddha has realized the infinite, boundless and unparalleled Law."

Shi shari-hotsu. Fu shu bu setsu.^Sho-i sha ga. Bus^sho joju. Dai ichi ke-u. Nange shi ho.
"Shariputra, I will say no more, because that which the Buddha has achieved is the rarest and most difficult Law to comprehend."

Yui butsu yo butsu. Nai no kujin. Shoho jisso. Sho-i shoho. Nyo ze so. Nyo ze sho. Nyo ze tai. Nyo ze riki. Nyo ze sa. Nyo ze in. Nyo ze en. Nyo ze ka. Nyo ze ho. Nyo ze honmak^kukyo to."The true entity of all phenomena can only be understood and shared between Buddhas. This reality consists of appearance, nature, entity, power, influence, internal cause, relation, latent effect, manifest effect, and their consistency from beginning to end."

Juryo Chapter

Myo ho ren ge kyo. Nyo rai ju ryo hon. Dai ju roku.
Identifies the excerpt to come as the Juryo Chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

Niji butsu go. Sho bo-satsu gyo. Issai daishu. Sho zen-nanshi. Nyoto to shinge. Nyorai jotai shi go. Bu go daishu. Nyoto to shinge. Nyorai jotai shi go. U bu go. Sho daishu, Nyoto to shinge. Nyorai jotai shi go. Zeji bo-satsu daishu. Mi-roku i shu. Gassho byaku butsu gon. Seson. Yui gan ses^shi. Gato to shinju butsu-go. Nyo ze san byaku i. Bu gon. Yui gan ses^shi. Gato to shinju butsu-goAt this time the Buddha addressed the bodhisattvas and all the multitude: "Men of devout faith, believe and understand the true words of the Tathágata" Again the Buddha addressed the people: "Believe and understand the true words of Tathágata."
"At this time the bodhisattvas and the multitude beginning with Miroku, pressed their palms together and said: "World-Honored One, our only wish is that you teach us. Certainly we will believe the Buddhas words. Thus they spoke three times, repeating the words. " Our only wish is that you teach us. Certainly we will believe the Buddha's words.

Niji seson. Chi sho bo-satsu. San sho fu shi. Ni go shi gon. Nyoto tai cho. Nyorai hi-mitsu. Jinzu shi riki.When the World Honored One says that the bodhisattvas repeated their petition three times and more without ceasing he addressed them "Listen well and hear the Tathágata’s secret and his mystic power."

Issai seken. Tennin gyu. Ashura. Kai i kon shaka-muni-butsu. Shus^shaku-shi gu. Ko gayajo. fu on. Za o dojo. Toku a-noku-ta-ra san-myaku sanbodai. Nen zen-nanshi. Ga jitsu jo-butsu irai. Muryo muhen. Hyaku sen man noku. Nayuta ko."All gods, men and asutras of this world believe that after leaving the palace of the Shakyas, Shakyamuni Buddha seated himself at the place of meditation not far from the city of Gaya and attained the supreme enlightenment. However, men of devout faith, the time is limitless and boundless -- a hundred, thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand, nayuta aeons -- since I in fact attained Buddhahood."

Hi nyo go hyaku sen man noku. Nayuta. Asogi. Sanzen dai sen sekai. Ke shi u nin. Matchi mijin. Ka o tobo. Go hyaku sen man noku. Nayuta. Asogi koku. Nai ge ichi-jin. Nyo ze to gyo. Jin ze mijin. Sho zen-nanshi. O i unga. Ze sho sekai. Ka toku shiyui. Kyokei chi go. Shu fu."Suppose there is one who reduces five hundred, thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand, nayuta (1011) asogi (1059) major world systems to particles of dust, and then takes them all toward the east, dropping one particle each time he traverses five hundred, thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand, nayuta, asogi worlds. Suppose that he continues traveling eastward in this way, until he has finished dropping all the particles. Men of devout faith, what is your opinion? Can the total number of all those worlds be imagined or calculated ?"

Mi-roku bo-sat^to. Ku byaku butsu gon. Seson. Ze sho sekai. Muryo muhen. Hi sanju sho chi. Yaku hi shin-riki sho gyu. Issai shomon. Hyaku-shi-butsu. I murochi. Fu no shiyui. Chi go genshu. Gato ju. A-yui-ot-chi-ji. O ze ji chu. Yaku sho fu das^seson. Nyo ze sho sekai. Muryo muhen. Niji butsu go. Dai bosas^shu. Sho zen-nanshi. Konto funmyo. Sengo nyoto. Ze sho sekai. Nyaku jaku mijin. Gyu fu jaku^sha. Jin ni i jin. Ichi-jin ikko. Ga jo-butsu irai. Bu ka o shi. Hyaku sen man noku. Nayuta. Asogi ko.Bodhisattva Miroku and the others said to the Buddha " World Honored One, these worlds are infinite and boundless. They are beyond calculation. They exceed the power of the imagination. Neither men of Learning nor men of Realization even with their illusion-free wisdom could imagine or calculate the number. Although we are now at the stage where we will never backslide in faith we are totally incapable of comprehending this, World-Honored One, these worlds are infinite and boundless." Then the Buddha addressed the great bodhisattvas: "Now, men of devout faith I clearly proclaim to you. Suppose all these worlds, whether they received a particle or not are once more reduced to dust. Let one particle represent one aeon. Then the time which has passed since I attained Buddhahood suppose this by one hundred, thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand, nayuta, asogi aeons."

Ji ju ze rai. Ga jo zai shi. Shaba sekai. Seppo kyoke. Yaku o yosho. Hyaku sen man noku. Nayuta. Asogi koku. Dori shujo."Ever since then I have been constantly in this world expounding the Law and instructing [the people]. Also I have led and benefited the people in one hundred thousand, ten thousand hundred thousand nayuta asogi other worlds."

Sho zen-nanshi. O ze chugen. Ga setsu nen-do-but^to. U bu gon go. Nyu o nehan. Nyo ze kai i Hoben fun-betsu.
"Men of devout faith during this time I taught people about Nento Buddha and others saying that I would end all sufferings and pass away. All this I did through different methods of teaching that were suited to the capacity of the people."

Sho zen-nanshi. Nyaku u shujo. Raishi ga sho. Ga i butsu-gen. Kan go shin to. Sho kon ridon. Zui sho o do. Shosho ji setsu. Myoji fudo. Nenki daisho. Yaku-bu gen gon. To nyu nehan. U i shuju hoben. Setsu mimyo ho. No ryo shujo. Hok^kangi shin."Men of devout faith, when the people came to me, I perceived with the eyes of a Buddha the degree of their faith and other qualities depending upon whether their capacities were keen or dull. I made my appearance teaching in many different worlds using different names, and explaining how long a period my teaching would be efficacious. On other occasions when I made my advent I told the people that I would soon enter nirvana, and employed many methods to expound the wonderful teachings and caused the people to be gladdened their hearts."

Sho zen-nanshi. Nyorai ken sho shujo. Gyo o shobo. Toku hak^ku ju sha. I ze nin setsu. Ga sho shukke. Toku a-noku-ta-ra. San-myaku sanbodai. Nen ga jitsu. Jo-butsu irai. Ku-on nyaku shi. Tan ni hoben. Kyoke shujo. Ryo nyu butsu-do. Sa nyo ze setsu."Men of devout faith, I the Tathágata, observed that the people delighted in inferior teachings and were meager in virtue and weighted down by defilement. Therefore I taught them that I had renounced the world in my youth and later attained enlightenment. But in truth the time since I attained Buddhahood is the tremendously long period I have already revealed. This was only an expedient I used to teach the people and cause them to enter on the path to Buddhahood."

Sho zen-nanshi. Nyorai sho en kyoden Kai i dodas^shujo. Waku sek^koshin. Waku set^tashin. Waku ji koshin. Waku ji tashin. Waku ji koji. Waku ji taji. Sho sho gon-setsu. Kai jitsu fu ko."Men of devout faith the sutras which the Tathágata expounded are all for the purpose of saving people from their sufferings. Sometimes I spoke of myself sometimes of others; sometimes I presented myself, sometimes others; sometimes I showed my own actions sometimes those of others. All my doctrines are true and none are false."

Sho-i sha ga. Nyorai nyojit^chiken. Sangai shi so. Mu u shoji. Nyaku tai nyaku shutsu. Yaku mu zai-se. Gyu metsu-do sha. Hi jitsu hi ko. Hi nyo hi i. Fu nyo sangai. Ken no sangai. Nyo shi shi ji. Nyorai myo ken. Mu u shaku-myo."The reason is that the Tathágata perceives the true aspect of the threefold word exactly as it is. There is no ebb and flow of birth and death nor life in this world and later extinction. It is neither substantial nor empty neither consistent nor diverse. Nor is it what those who dwell in the threefold world perceive it to be. All such things the Tathágata sees clear and without error."

I sho shujo. U shuju sho. Shuju yoku. Shuju gyo. Shuju oku-so. Fun-bek^ko. Yoku ryo sho sho zengon. I nyakkan innen. Hiyu gonji. Shuju seppo. Shosa butsu-ji . Mi zo zan pai ."People have differing natures, differing desires, differing modes of behavior, and differing ideas and outlooks. Therefore out of my desire to plant the seeds of enlightenment in their hearts I have taught the various teachings through stories of past relationships parables and other sayings. This practice proper to a Buddha I have continued unceasingly."

Nyo ze. Ga jo-butsu irai. Jindai ku-on. Jumyo muryo. Asogi ko. Joju fu-metsu. Sho zen-nanshi. Ga hon gyo bo-satsu do. Sho jo jumyo. Kon yu mi jin. Bu bai jo shu. Nen kon hi jitsu metsu-do. Ni ben sho gon. To shu metsu-do. Nyorai i ze hoben. Kyoke shujo."Since I attained Buddhahood an unimaginably long period has passed. The length of my life is infinite aeons. My life has always existed and shall never end. Men of devout faith, once I also practiced the bodhisattva austerities, and the life, which I then acquired, has yet to be exhausted. My life will last yet twice as many aeons from now. Although I never really pass away I predict my own death. With this means, the Tathágata teaches the people."

Sho-i sha ga Nyaku buk-ku-ju o se. Haku-toku shi nin. Fu shu zengon. Bingu gesen. Ton-jaku go-yoku Nyu o oku-so. Moken mo chu. Nyakken nyorai. Jo zai fu-metsu. Ben ki kyoshi. Ni e endai. Fu no sho o. Nanzo shi so. Kugyo shi shin."The reason is this If the Buddha remains in the world too long those people with shallow virtue will not be able to accumulate the good fortune necessary to attain enlightenment. They will fall into poverty and debasement. Greedy with the five desires they will be caught in the snares of deluded thoughts and ideas. By seeing the Tathágata constantly present and undying in this world, they will become arrogant and selfish and will neglect their practice of Buddhism. They will fail to realize how difficult it is to meet the Tathágata and will feel no reverence for him."

Ze ko nyorai. I hoben setsu. Bi-ku to chi. Shobus^shus-se. Nan ka chigu. Sho-i sha ga. Sho haku-toku nin. Ka muryo. Hyaku sen man nok-ko. Waku u ken butsu. Waku fu ken sha. I shiji ko. Ga sa ze gon. Sho bi-ku. Nyorai nan ka tokken. Shi shujo to. Mon nyo ze go. Hit^to sho o. Nanzo shi so. Shin ne renbo. Katsu-go o butsu. Ben shu zengon. Ze ko nyorai. Sui fu jitsu metsu. Ni gon metsu-do."As an expedient, therefore, the Tathágata speaks to the monks, saying, "You should know it is a rare thing to live at a time when a Buddha appears in the world. "The reason is that even after the lapse of infinite hundred thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand aeons, some of the men of little virtue may chance to see a Buddha, but others still may not." Therefore I tell them, "Monks, it is rare that may see the Tathágata" When the people hear these words, they are sure to realize how rare it is to see a Buddha, and then they will yearn and thirst for him. In this way they will plant the cause of enlightenment in their hearts. Therefore the Tathágata announces his own death even though he does not really become extinct."

U zen-nanshi. Sho-butsu nyorai. Ho kai nyo ze. I do shujo. Kai jitsu fu ko."You men of devout faith, any teaching of any Buddha is always like this. Since Buddhas reveal their teachings in order to save people all of them are true and none are false."

Hi nyo ro-i. Chi-e so-datsu. Myo ren ho-yaku. Zen ji shubyo. Go nin ta. sho shi-soku. Nyaku ju niju. Nai-shi hyaku-shu. I u ji-en. On shi yo-koku."Imagine a wise and skilled physician who can compound medicines to cure any disease. He has many sons, perhaps ten, twenty, ore even a hundred. He goes off to a distant land to see some matter."

Sho shi o go. On ta doku-yaku. Yaku hotsu monran. Enden u ji."Later the children drink some kind of poison that makes them wild with pain, and they fall writhing to the ground."

Zeji go bu. Gen rai ki ke. Sho shi on doku Waku shitsu honshin. Waku fu shis^sha. Yo ken go bu. Kai dai kangi. Haiki monjin. Zen nan non ki. Gato guchi. Go buku doku-yaku. Gan ken kuryo. Kyo shi jumyo."At this time the father comes back to his home and finds that his children have drunk poison. Some are out of their minds while others are not. Seeing their father from afar all are filled with joy and kneel down to entreat him saying, "How wonderful that you have returned safely! We were stupid and by mistake drank some poison. We beg you to cure us and let us live longer." "

Bu ken shi to. Kuno nyo ze. E sho kyobo. Gu ko yaku-so. Shiki ko mimi. Kai shitsu gu-soku. Toshi wago. Yo shi ryo buku. Ni sa ze gon. Shi dai ro-yaku. Shiki ko mimi. Kai shitsu gu-soku. Nyoto ka buku. Soku jo kuno. Mu bu shugen."The father seeing his children suffering like this follows various prescriptions. Gathering fine medicinal herbs that are perfect in color fragrance and flavor he grinds sifts and mixes them together. Giving a dose of these to his children he tells them, "This highly beneficial medicine is perfect in color fragrance and flavor. Take it and you will quickly be relieved of your sufferings and will be free of all distress." "

Go sho shi chu. Fu shis^shin ja. Ken shi ro-yaku. Shiki ko gu ko. Soku-ben buku shi. Byo jin jo yu. Yo shis shin ja. Ken go bu rai. Sui yak-kangi. Monjin gu-shaku ji byo. Nen yo go yaku. Ni fu ko buku."Those children who have not lost their senses can see that the beneficial medicine is good in both color and fragrance, so they take it immediately and are completely cured of their sickness. Those who are out of their minds are equally delighted to see their father return and beg him to cure their sickness but when they are given the medicine they refuse to take it."

Sho-i sha ga. Dokke jinnyu. Ship^ponshin ko. O shi ko. Shiki ko yaku. Ni i fu mi. Bu sa ze nen. Shi shi ka min. I doku sho chu. Shin kai tendo. Sui ken ga ki. Gushak^kuryo. Nyo ze ko yaku. Ni fu ko buku. Ga kon to setsu hoben. Ryo buku shi yaku. Soku sa ze gon. Nyoto to chi. Ga kon sui ro. Shi ji i shi. Ze ko ro-yaku. Kon ru zai shi. Nyo ka shu buku. Mot^tsu fu sai. Sa ze kyo i. Bu shi ta-koku. Ken shi gen go. Nyo bu i shi."This is because the poison has penetrated deeply, causing them to lose their minds. Therefore they think that the medicine will not taste good in spit of its fine color and fragrance. Then the father thinks, "My poor children! The poison has attacked them and completely deranged their minds. Although they are happy to see me and ask me to cure them, they refuse to take this fine medicine I offer them. Now I must use some means to get them to take it." So he tells them this: "Children, listen, I am now old and weak. My life is nearing its end. I leave this good medicine here for you now. You should take it and not worry that it will not cure you." So instructing them, he again goes off to another land, where he sends a messenger home to announce: "Your father is dead." "

Zeji sho shi. Mon bu haiso. Shin dai uno. Ni sa ze nen. Nyaku bu zai sha. Jimin gato. No ken kugo. Konja sha ga. On so ta-koku. Ji yui koro. Mu bu jiko. Jo e hikan. Shin zui shogo. Nai chi shi yaku. Shiki ko mimi. Soku shu buku shi. Doku byo kai yu. Go bu mon shi. Shichi toku sai. Jin ben rai ki. Gen shi ken shi."Hearing that their father has deserted them and died, the sons are overcome by anguish and reflect "If our father were alive, he would have pity on us and protect us, but now he has forsaken us and died in some faraway land. We are now mere orphans with no one to rely on." In their incessant grief, they finally awaken. They realize that the medicine actually does possess excellent color, fragrance and favor, and so they take it and are healed of all the effects of the poison."

Sho zen-nanshi. O i unga. Ha u nin no. Sesshi ro-i. Komo zai fu. Hot^cha. Seson. Butsu gon. Ga yaku nyo ze. Jo-butsu irai. Muryo muhen. Hyaku sen man noku. Nayuta. Asogi ko. I shujo ko. I hoben-riki. Gon to metsu-do. Yaku mu u no. Nyo ho setsu ga. Komo ka sha."Now, men of devout faith, what do you think about this? Can anyone say that this excellent physician is guilty of lying?"
"No, World-Honored One"
Then the Buddha spoke, saying: "It is the same with me. The time is limitless? A hundred, thousand ten thousand, hundred thousand, nayuta, asogi aeons ?since I attained Buddhahood. For the sake of the people I have used these expedient means telling of my own passing. But no one can reasonably accuse me of lying."

Niji seson. Yoku ju sen shigi. Ni setsu ge gon.
Ji ga toku bur^rai. Sho kyo sho kosshu. Muryo hyaku sen man. Oku sai asogi. Jo seppo kyoke Mushu oku shujo. Ryo nyu o butsu-do. Nirai muryo ko.
At that time the World-Honored One, desiring to emphasize this teaching once more, spoke in verse.
"Since I attained Buddhahood,
countless aeons have passed,
a hundred, thousand, ten thousand,
hundred thousand, asogi aeons.
I have taught the Law continuously
during these countless aeons
and caused infinite millions
to enter on the road to Buddhahood."

I do shujo ko. Hoben gen nehan. Ni jitsu fu metsu-do. Jo ju shi seppo."I let the people witness my nirvana
as a means to save them,
but in truth I do not die;
I am here always, teaching the Law."

Ga jo ju o shi. I sho jin-zu-riki. Ryo tendo shujo. Sui gon ni fu ken."I am here always,
yet because of my mystic powers
the deluded people cannot see me
even when I am close by."

Shu ken ga metsu-do. Ko kuyo shari. Gen kai e renbo. Ni sho katsu-go shin."When the people witness my passing,
they pay widespread reverence to my relics
All of them harbor thoughts of yearning,
and in their hearts a thirst for me is born."

Shujo ki shin-buku. Shichi-jiki i nyunan. Isshin yok^ken butsu. Fu ji shaku shinmyo. Ji ga gyu shuso. Ku shutsu ryojusen."When they have become truly faithful, honest and upright, gentle in mind, single-mindedly yearning to see the Buddha, not begrudging their lives to do so, then I and the assembly of monks appear together on Eagle Peak."

Ga ji go shujo. Jo zai shi fu-metsu. I hoben-rik^ko. Gen u metsu fu-metsu. Yo-koku u shujo. Kugyo shingyo sha. Ga bu o hi chu. I setsu mujo ho."Then I tell the people
that I am always here never dying,
that l seem at times to live, at times to die,
merely as all expedient means.
If there are those in other worlds who are reverent and sincere in faith,
among them also I teach the highest Law of all."

Nyoto fu mon shi. Tan ni ga metsu-do. Ga ken sho shujo. Motsu-zai o kukai. Ko fu i gen shin. Ryo go sho katsu-go. In go shin renbo. Nai shutsu i seppo."But you refuse to heed my words
and insist upon thinking that I die.
I see the mass of people
drowned in a sea of woe,
and for that reason I do not show myself,
causing them to thirst for me
When their hearts commence to yearn,
I appear to once to teach the Law."

Jin-zu riki nyo ze. O asogi ko. Jo zai ryo jusen. Gyu yo sho jusho. Shujo ken ko jin. Dai ka sho sho ji. Ga shi do annon. Tennin jo juman. Onrin sho do-kaku. Shuju ho Shogon. Hoju ta keka. Shujo sho yu-raku. Soten gyaku tenku. Jo sas^shu gi-gaku. U mandara ke. San butsu gyu daishu. Ga jodo bu ki. Ni shu ken sho jin. Ufu sho kuno. Nyo ze shitsu juman."Such are my mystic powers.
For innumerable kotis of aeons
I have always been on Eagle Peak
and have lived in various other lands
When men witness the end of an aeon
and all is consumed in a great fire,
this, my land, remains safe and unharmed,
constantly filled with gods and men.
The halls and palaces in its gardens and groves
are adorned with all kinds of gems.
Precious trees bear plentiful flowers and fruit,
and the people there are happy and at ease.
The gods strike heavenly drums
making a ceaseless symphony of sound.
A rain of white mandara blossoms
scatters over the Buddha and the people.
My pure land is indestructible yet men see it as consumed in fire,
filled with sorrow fear and woe,
a place of countless troubles."
Ze sho zai shujo. I aku-go innen. Ka asogi ko. Fu mon sanbo myo.
"These people with their various crimes,
because of the effects of their evil deeds,
will never even hear the name of the three treasures,
though countless aeons go by."

Sho u shu ku-doku. Nyuwa shichi-jiki sha. Sokkai ken gashin. Zai shi ni seppo. Waku-ji i shi shu. Setsu butsu-ju muryo. Ku nai ken bussha. I setsu butsu nan chi."But those who follow meritorious ways,
who are gentle, peaceful and upright,
all of them will see me
here in person, teaching the Law.
At times I will teach these people the immeasurable length of the Buddha's life,
and to those who see me only after a long while
I will explain how difficult it is to meet the Buddha."

Ga chi-riki nyo ze. Eko sho muryo. Jumyo mushu ko. Ku shugo sho toku."Such is the power of my wisdom
that it illuminates infinitely far.
This life that endures for countless aeons
I gained as the result of lengthy practice."

Nyoto u chi sha. Mot^to shi sho gi. To dan ryo yo jin. Butsu-go jip^puko. Nyo i zen hoben. I ji o shi ko. Jitsu zai ni gon shi. Mu no sek^komo. Ga yaku i se bu. Ku sho kugen sha.
"You men of wisdom,
rid yourselves of all doubts about this!
Cut them off once and for all.
The Buddhas words are true not false,
He is like the skilled physician
suing some devices to cure his deluded children.
He lives but tells them he has died.
No one can call his teaching false.
I am the father of this world,
saving those who are suffering and afflicted."

I bonbu tendo. Jitsu zai ni gon metsu. I joken ga ko. Ni sho kyoshi shin. Ho-itsu jaku go-yoku. Da o aku-do chu. Ga jo chi shujo. Gyo do fu gyo do. Zui o sho ka do. I ses^shuju ho."Because of the delusions of ordinary people,
I say I have departed though in fact I live,
for if they see me constantly,
arrogance and selfishness arise in their hearts,
Abandoning themselves to the five desires,
they fall into the paths of evil.
I am ever aware of which people practice the Way, and which do not."

Mai ji sa ze nen. I ga ryo shujo. Toku nyu mu-jo do. Soku joju busshin."This is my constant thought:
how I can cause all living beings
to gain entry to the highest Way
and quickly attain Buddhahood."

Vesak Day 2009 ( Lian He Wan Bao)

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Clinging to the Buddha

“Followers of the Way, if you wish to see this Dharma clearly, do not let yourselves be deceived. Whether you turn to the outside or to the inside, whatever you encounter, kill it. If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha; if you meet the patriarchs, kill the patriarchs; if you meet Arhats, kill Arhats; if you meet your parents, kill your parents; if you meet your relatives, kill your relatives; then for the first time you will see clearly. And if you do not depend on things, there is deliverance, there is freedom!” (Zen Teaching of Rinzai, pp. 43-44)
This outrageous statement was made in the 9th century by the Chinese Buddhist teacher Lin-chi. The purpose of this statement was not to encourage homicide, or even worse, parricide or buddhacide. Lin-chi was challenging the complacency and fixations of his disciples. He was challenging them to get past their daydreams of enlightenment and their dependence on custom, ceremony and traditional piety so that they could see the Dharma directly for themselves.It is a strange irony of Buddhism that the Buddha himself is at once the most illuminating and the most obscuring figure there is when it comes to seeing the Dharma. The example of Ananda just before and just after the parinirvana, or passing away, of Shakyamuni Buddha provides a case in point. In the last few months of the Buddha’s life, he and Ananda were travelling together. Three times the Buddha hinted to Ananda that he could use his spiritual powers to extend his life for an age. This is sometimes intepreted to mean that he could live for the maximum lifespan of a human life, roughly 100 years, or that he actually meant he could live for an entire kalpa, the length of time it would take to wear away a mountain by brushing it with a silk cloth every hundred years. In any case, each time Ananda failed to pick up on what the Buddha was suggesting and did not request that he extend his lifespan. A little later, the Buddha announced that he would soon pass away. Startled by this, Ananda begs the Buddha to remain, but it is too late. The Buddha tells Ananda that the time to ask had already passed and he had already determined the time of his death. There would be no turning back. In any case, the Buddha reminds Ananda, all things must pass away, including the buddha. So not only does Ananda take the Buddha for granted, but when it comes time to acknowledge that even the Buddha must die (whether after 80 years, or a hundred, or a kalpa) he does not want to accept it and clings to the Buddha.After the Buddha’s parinirvana, Mahakashyapa prepares to convene the first council wherein the teaching (Dharma) and the monastic rule (Vinaya) would be recited. Ananda is to recite the sutras, but he alone of those who are to attend has not attained enlightenment. Ananda has heard all of the teachings, but never felt the urgency to deeply reflect on their meaning and practice them himself. His close relationship to the Buddha as the Buddha’s attendant and the preserver of the teachings has actually hindered rather than helped him. On the night before the council is to begin, Ananda finally feels a sense of urgency and even shame because he has not yet attained liberation. He spends the night sitting upright in meditation, desperately striving for enlightenment. But in the end, even this desperate grasping for the goal of enlightenment turns out to be futile. Instead of awakening he finally decides to let go of his willful efforts and fall to sleep just before dawn. Before his head hits the pillow he attains the liberation he sought. Finally, free of the Buddha, free of complacency, free of his need to prove himself to the others, free even of willful striving for liberation, he awakens. Shakyamuni Buddha taught that those who truly see him, see the Dharma; and those who see the Dharma see him as he really is. The real Buddha is not a person to be clung to, but the Dharma itself. It is for this reason that the Buddha appears to pass away. He does this so that we can see past the superficial appearance of the Buddha, put the Dharma into practice, and then directly see for ourselves the rare and precious Wonderful Dharma which is the true presence of the Eternal Buddha. In the Lotus Sutra the Buddha explains why he must appear to leave us:
“Good men! The duration of my life, which I obtained by the practice of the Way of Bodhisattvas, has not yet expired. It is twice as long as the length of time as previously stated. Although I shall never enter Nirvana, I say to men of little virtue, ‘I shall pass away’ I teach them with this expedient. Why is that? It is because, if they see me for a long time, they will not plant the roots of good, but become poor and base, and cling to the five desires so much that they will be caught in the net of wrong views. If they think that I am always here, and do not think that I shall pass away, they will become too arrogant and lazy to realize the difficulty of seeing me, and they will not respect me. Therefore I say to them expediently, ‘Bhiksus, know this! It is difficult to see a Buddha who appears in this world.’ Why is that? It is because some men of little virtue cannot see me even during many hundreds of thousands of billions of kalpas while the others can. Therefore, I say to them, ‘Bhiksus! It is difficult to see a Tathagata.’ Those who hear this and know that it is difficult to see me, will adore me, admire me, and plant the roots of good. Therefore, I say to them, ‘I shall pass away,’ although I shall not. (Lotus Sutra, pp. 243-244)
The Buddha has not gone, but we must not cling to him if we are to see him. Only by upholding the Dharma ourselves will we see the real Buddha.
Relevant Passages
‘Ananda, whoever has developed the four roads to power...could undoubtably live out the age or the remainder of one. The Tathagata has developed these powers, and he could, Ananda, undoubtedly live for an age or the remainder of one.’
But the Venerable Ananda, failing to grasp this broad hint, this clear sign, did not beg the Lord: ‘Lord, may the Blessed Lord stay for an age, may the Well-Farer stay for an age for the benefit and happiness of the multitude, out of compassion for the world, for the benefit and happiness of gods and humans’, so much was his mind possessed by Mara. (Mahaparinibbana Sutta 16, 3.3 - 3.4)
‘So now, today, Ananda, at the Capala Shrine, the Tathgata has mindfully and in full awareness renounced the life-principle.’
At this the Venerable Andana said: ‘Lord, may the Blessed Lord stay for an age, may the Well-Farer stay for an age for the benefit and happiness of the multitude, out of compassions for the world, for the benefit and happiness of gods and humans!’
‘Enough, Ananda! Do not beg the Tathagata, it is not the right time for that! Ananda, have I not told you before: All those things that are dear and pleasant to us must suffer change, seperation and alteration? So how could this be possible? What is born, become, compounded, is liable to decay - that it should not decay is impossible. And that has been renounced, given up, rejected, abandoned, forsaken: The Tathagata has said once and for all: “The Tathagata’s final passing will not long be delayed.”' (Mahaparinibbana Sutta 16, 3.37 - 3.48 Abridged)
Meanwhile, the time came when the venerable Ananda thought: “The meeting is tomorrow. It is not seemly for me to go to the meeting place as a mere learner.” He spent much of the night in contemplation of the body. When the night was near dawn, he thought “I shall lie down”; but he kept mindful of the body. Before his head touched the pillow and after his feet left the ground, his heart was in this interval liberated from taints through not clinging. So the venerable Ananda went to the assembly as an Arhat. (Vinaya Cullavagga 11: 1-10)
Copyright by Ryuei Michael McCormick. 2000, 2002.


Due to this merits,
May I soon,
Attain the enlightened state of Guru Buddha,
That I may be able to librate all sentient beings from their suffering.

May the precious bodhi mind, Not yet been born in me, will arise and grow.
May the birth have no decline, and will increase forever more.

Namu Myo Ho Renge Kyo
Namo Buddhaya
Namo Dharmaya
Namo Sanghaya