“Avoid all evil, cherish all goodness, keep the mind
pure. This is the teaching of
There are many different paths to Nirvana, but the most important one for
us is the path of Dhyana. Dhyana is
the practice of mind control by which we stop all thinking and seek to realize
Truth in its essence. That is, it
is the practice of “stopping and realizing.” If we cease all discriminative thought
it will keep us from the further accumulation of error, while the practice of
realizing will clear away delusions.
Stopping is a refreshment of the lower consciousness, while realizing
might be compared to a golden spade that opens up a treasure of transcendental
wealth. Stopping is an entrance
into the wonderful silence and peacefulness of potentiality (Dhyana—Samapatti);
while realizing is an entrance into the riches of intuition and transcendental
intelligence (matti—Prajna). As one
advances along this path, he comes into full possession of all means of
enriching himself and benefiting others.
In “The Lotus Sutra” it says:
“Our Lord Buddha forever abides in the permanence of the
Mahayana both as to his attainment of the realization of Truth and as to his
enrichment with supernatural powers of intuition and transcendental
intelligence. With these
qualifications he brings deliverance to all penitent beings.”
We may liken these two powers to the wheels of a chariot
and the wings of an eagle. If a
follower has only one, he is led into an unbalanced life. As the sutra says:
“Those who only practice the goodness and blessings of Samapatti and do not learn wisdom are to be counted ignorant, while those who only practice wisdom and do not learn goodness and sympathy are to be counted as unbalanced.”
Though the errors eventuating from unbalance may differ
from the errors of ignorance, they alike lead a person to the same false
views. This explains clearly that
if one is to attain Supreme Perfect Wisdom in an immediate way, he must hold the
two powers in equal balance: he must be both prepared and ready. The sutra says:
“As intelligence is more especially developed by
Arahants, the true nature of Buddhas is not perceived by them. The Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, by
possessing the ten enlightening factors of permanence, perceived the true nature
of Buddhas, but if they do not perceive it truly it is because of their laying
too much stress on intelligence. It
is only the Buddhas that perceive it perfectly because their powers of Samapatti
and Prajna have been equally developed.”
Hence, in conclusion, are we not right in drawing the
inference that the practice of Dhyana is the true gateway to Supreme Perfect
Enlightenment? Is it not the noble
path that all followers of Buddha must follow? Is not Dhyana the pole star of
all goodness and the Supreme perfect Enlightenment?
If anyone thoroughly understands what has been said here about Dhyana, he will appreciate that its practice is not an easy task. However, for the sake of aiding beginners to clear away their ignorance and hindrances and to guide them toward enlightenment, we will aid them all we can by explaining the practice of Dhyana in as simple words as possible, but at best, its practice will be difficult. It would be absurd to present its profoundness otherwise. It will be explained under ten heads, which will be like the steps of a stairway that leads upward to Enlightenment and Nirvana.
Those who are really seeking Truth, but are more
advanced, should not look upon this book with contempt because it is written
simply and for beginners. They
should be humble and prudent because of the difficulties they will encounter
when they come to its practice. It
is possible that some will be able to digest its teachings with great ease and,
in the twinkle of an eye, their hindrances will be abolished and their
intelligence will be boundlessly developed and so will their supernormal
understanding, also. But if you
just read over the literal meaning and do not enter into its significance, you
will not be able to find your way to enlightenment—the reading will be just a
waste of time. Such a reader will
be likened to a poor man who spends his time counting another man’s treasures
and being no richer for it himself.
The Ten Heads
(1) External conditions (2) Control of sense desires (3)
Abolishment of inner hindrances (4) Regulation and adjustment (5) Expedient
activities of mind (6) Right practice (7) The development and manifestation of
good qualities (8) Evil influences (9) Cure of disease (10) Realization of
Supreme Perfect Enlightenment
These ten headings indicate the stages of correct Dhyana practice. It is imperative, if a follower of the Buddha desires to be successful in the practice that the stages be closely followed and their meaning be put faithfully into practice. If these ten stages are faithfully followed the mind will become tranquil, difficulties will be overcome, powers for concentrating the mind and for gaining insight and understanding will be developed, and in the future Supreme Perfect Enlightenment will be attained.
If a disciple undertakes the practice of Dhyana, and to put the lessons of this book into action, he must be in possession of five external conditions. (1) He must resolve to keep the Precepts (as to killing, stealing, sexual impurity, deceit, and use of intoxicants), as it is said in the sutra that it is in obedience to the Precepts that all intelligence is developed and all suffering is brought to an end. So it is the duty of every disciple to keep the Precepts pure. However, there are three kinds of disciples who observe the Precepts under different conditions. The first kind are those who, before becoming converts, have not committed any of the “five highest offences.” Afterwards, happening to be in personal contact with some learned Master, they are taught the three Holy Refuges and the five fundamental Precepts which are to be observed by every faithful follower of the Lord Buddha.
If there is no hindrance developed after conversion they are next taught to keep the ten additional Precepts of Disciples. Afterwards, as they become Monks or Nuns, they are taught to observe the whole spirit of the Precepts. If after conversion they are able to keep the Precepts pure, both in letter and spirit, they are counted worthy followers of Lord Buddha and will assuredly realize the Buddha Dharma through their faithful practice of Dhyana. It is if their robe was perfectly white and ready for dyeing.
The second kind of followers are those who keep the main Precepts but neglect many of the less important ones, but, because of their practice of Dhyana, are repentant. These are recognized as pure keeps of the Precepts, also, and they can progress in the practice of Dhyana and in the attainment of intelligence: it as if their robe, which had been stained and soiled could be worn again after washing and cleansing.
The third kind of followers are those who have been taught to keep the Precepts but who fail to keep even the important ones and who, on the contrary, are breaking both important and as well as the less important. According to the rites of the Hinayana there is no way provided for removing the stain caused by the Four Main Violations (any kind of killing, theft, lust, and deceit). But in the Mahayana religious services are provided for the purification of such offenses provided there is evidence of sincere penitence and remorse. The Sutra teaches that there are two kinds of “healthy” convert, namely, those who do not admit offences and those who having committed offences are sincerely repentant. The penitent should be in possession of ten indications of his sincerity: (a) a clear understanding and acceptance of the cause and effect of his offence. (b) To be in a state of fear because of it. (c) To feel humiliation. (d) To search for a means for purification, and when he finds them in the Mahayana sutras to be willing to take advantage of them. (e) A frank confession of his guiltiness. (f) To break off the current of his thoughts relating to the offense. (g) To take advantage of the protective courage which the Dharma offers him. (h) To wish for the emancipation of all sentient beings and to renew his vow to help them all. (i) To continually keep in mind the non-existence of both offense and repentance.
If a penitent has these evidences of sincerity, he should prepare an alter with solemn adornments and purity. Then wearing clean, neat clothes, he should offer on this alter before Buddha’s image an offering of flowers and incense. Then he should continue this practice as an evidence of his repentance for a period of one week, or three weeks, or a month, or three months, or even a year, or as long as the conception of guiltiness abides in the mind.
But, you may ask, how will we know that our offense has been cleared away? When we are making wholehearted repentance in agreement with the rites as indicated above, we will experience many different emotions that will bring testimony to our understanding. In the course of our practice of repentance we may feel both our body and our mind to be in a state of briskness and lightness, and in our dreams we will see good visions. Or we shall happen to see wonderful signs of good omen, or feel our thoughts unfolding auspiciously. Or we shall feel our body as if it were a cloud drifting about in the free air, or as if, when we are practicing Dhyana, we were sitting in a shadow cast by our body. Under all these conditions we will gradually come to realize my aspects of Dhyana, or all of a sudden, we may realize enlightenment. We shall then understand the significance of all phenomena, and moreover, will gain a deeper conception of the meaning and the import of the teachings we have heard from the Sutras. There will be no more griefs or worries in our minds as we enter into a deeper enjoyment of the Dharma. We will recognize in all these experiences a manifestation and testimonial of our purification from the violation of the Precepts that has been a hindrance in our practice of Dhyana. Henceforth, keeping close to the Precepts, we can rightly practice Dhyana and it will be noticed by others that we have been purified. It is as if the robe that had been ragged and foul had been cleansed and mended and newly dyed.
If any one, having violated the main
Precepts, feels that it will hinder his successful practice of Dhyana, let him
go before Buddha’s image and in earnest humility make a frank confession of his
violation. This method of
practicing repentance is not in accordance with the way shown in the Sutra,
nevertheless, let him discontinue his recollection of guiltiness and resume his
practice of Dhyana, sitting up straight with determination, recollecting that
his wrong acts have no independent self-nature and keeping in mind the reality
of the Buddhas in all the six regions.
If his thoughts slip away from his practice, let him get up and go before
the Buddhas image and with humble and earnest heart, offer incense, repeat his
confession, recite the Precepts and a Mahayana Sutra. The hindrances to the practice of
Dhyana will be gradually cleared away, the temptation to violate the Precepts
will be overcome, and he will progress in the practice of Dhyana. In “The Wonderful Expedient” Scripture
it is written:
“Should anyone having committed crimes,
come into great agony of spirit, and earnestly desire purification, there is no
better way then the practice of Dhyana.”
He should seek an open and quiet place, sitting up with determined and concentrated mind, reciting Mahayana Sutras. In this way he will gradually get rid of thought of his guiltiness and in time will realize the usual Dhyana and Samádhis.
(2) The second external condition that one must possess if one is to hope for success in the practice of Dhyana, relates to clothing and food. We should consider clothing from three viewpoints. (a) If we have the fortitude to endure exposure we should follow the example of the great masters of the Himalaya Mountains and have but a single garment, just sufficient to cover one’s nakedness. (b) If we move about in the world as itinerant monks, we should follow the example of Maha Kasyapa and limit our garments to three and these old and castoff garments. (c) If we live in cold countries, we are permitted by Buddha to have an extra garment. As for a hundred other things that seem to be necessary, we are permitted to retain only one and be satisfied with that. If we permit our minds to become avaricious for many things, our thoughts will become disturbed and the many things will become a hindrance to gaining enlightenment.
Next, in regard to eating: there are four ways of living. (a) The first way is the way followed by the great masters of the high mountains, who live on herbs and seasonable fruits. (b) The second way is the way followed by the itinerant monks who live by begging their food and who are able to resist the temptation to live by the four wrong ways, namely, working for others for pay, living by astrology foretelling the changes and effects of the heavenly bodies in human affairs, by geomancy and fortune telling, and finally by flattery and dependence upon the rich and the mighty. The danger of these ways of wrong living has been described by Shariputra. (c) The third right way of living is to take up one’s abode in some secluded place and to depend in faith upon the gifts of generous Laymen. (d) The fourth way of right living is to join some brotherhood and participate in their communal life. If we are living in any one of these four ways of living, we are sure of all the food and clothing that is necessary. What does this mean? It means that if we lack any of these good conditions, our minds will not abide in peaceful quietude and that would be an impediment to enlightenment.
(3) The third external condition that one must possess if one is to hope for success in the practice of Dhyana, relates to shelter. A retreat for a follower to be satisfactory must be quiet and free from annoyances and troubles of any kind. There are three kinds of places that are suitable for Dhyana practice: (a) a hermitage in the high and inaccessible mountains. (b) A shack such as would serve a beggar or a homeless monk. These should be at least a mile and a half from a village where even the voice of a cowboy would not reach and where trouble and turmoil would not find it. (c) A bed in a monastery apart from a layman’s house.
(4) The fourth external condition that one must possess if one is to hope for success in the practice of Dhyana, relates to freedom from entanglement in all worldly affairs. (a) It means to withdraw from conditional engagements and social responsibilities. (b) It means to give up all worldly friends, relatives and worldly interests. This means to cut off all social intercourse. (c) It means to give up all worldly business such as busies craftsmen, doctors, clerks, traders, fortune tellers, etc. (d) It means to give up general study even of a seemingly good kind, such as reading, writing lectures or books, attending lectures, etc. For what reason should these things be given up? It is because if we are interested in these things our minds are not quiet and free for the practice of Dhyana and the attainment of enlightenment. Moreover, if our minds are disturbed or weary or not at peace, one can hardly practice Dhyana.
(5) The fifth external condition that one must possess if one is to hope for success in the practice of Dhyana, relates to association with people. We should keep in close relations with three kinds of noble minded people: The first kind are those outside the brotherhood who supply us with our food and clothing, and who are competent in taking good care of us and in protecting us from annoyances and troubles. The second kind of noble-minded people are the members of our Brotherhood with whom we live in intimacy and mutual forbearance and kindness. The third kind are our Teachers and masters who instruct us and guide us in the use of expedient means to meet both external and internal conditions, and to show us how to become interested and to enjoy ourselves in the practice of Dhyana.
This finishes the discussion of the control of external conditions. We now turn to a discussion of internal conditions and how to control them.
(2) Censorship Over Desires
Arising From The Senses
By the desires that should be placed under censorship are meant the kinds of desires that arise from the senses possessed by every living person, namely, the senses of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. If we wish to be successful in the practice of Dhyana we must keep the desires arising from these senses under strict censorship. These five kinds of physical desires may easily lead one into foolishness and illusion and lustful cravings. If we clearly understand that our faults and feelings of guiltiness are but the outcome of these desires, we will no longer cherish them. In order to control these physical desires we must keep close watch over them.
(1) First is the censorship over the desires arising from the use of the eyes, among which we mention as of first importance, sexual desires that arise from seeing crystal eyes, slender brows, crimson lips, snow-white teeth, worldly adornments, garments of beautiful colors—green, yellow, red, white, purple, violet, and so on—all of which will attract a fool’s attention and awaken desires that are evil. It was the mere sight of his paramour’s beauty that lead King Bimbisara to risk his life in the enemy’s country and to stay in the house of Lady Abrahmapara. So it was in the case of the King of Khotan who because of resentment arising from jealousy put many people to death. All such wickedness’s have their rise from desires awakened by sight.
(2) Second is the censorship over the
desires arising from the use of the ears, among which we mention, musical sounds
from harp, twelve-string lute, and instruments using silk, bamboo, metal, stone,
etc., and from the voices of dancing and singing girls, reciting, praising,
etc. No sooner do we,
disciples of Buddha, hear these sweet sounds than our hearts are stained and our
minds entangled and we are led into evil acts. Such was the fact in the case of the
five hundred disciples who lived in a monastery in the Himalayas when they heard
the songs sung by a girl named Chindra.
They lost their devotion to the practice of Dhyana and became delirious
with exciting desires. By all such
causes and conditions may we know that sounds are the source of wickedness and
(3) Third is the censorship over the
desires arising from the use of the sense of smell. By this is meant the scent from sexually
excited bodies, from beverages, from delicious foods, and from the fragrance
from all kinds of smoldering perfumes.
In our foolishness we do not recognize the true nature of smelling so no
sooner do we smell a fragrance then we desire it and are captivated by it. This unlocks the prison door of moral
defilement. Such was the fact in
the case of a certain Bhikkhu. He
was so captivated by the fragrance of lotus blossoms in a pond near his
monastery that he neglected his practice of Dhyana to indulge his passion for
it. The god of the pond rebuked him
severely and said: “Why do you steal my sweet perfume?” Because of our fondness for sweet
fragrances we awaken sleeping desires and fall into moral defilement. By recognizing these causes and
conditions we know that scents are the cause of evil acts.
(4) The fourth is the censorship over the desires arising from the use of the sense of taste, which means all kinds of sweet tastes in eating and drinking, such as bitterness, sourness, sweetness, spiciness, saltiness and freshness. All such pleasing tastes and flowers besides gratifying the tongue lure the heart into excesses and evil. Such was the fact in the case of a Lamaist monk in Tibet who was so fond of cheese, it is said, that at his death he was changed into a cheese maggot. By all such instances we know that the sense of taste is the source of much guiltiness.
(5) Fifth is the censorship over the desires arising from the sense of touch. Our body is very sensitive to softness, smoothness, warmth in winter, coolness in summer, etc. We are so ignorant as to the true nature of these sensations that our minds become upset and foolish by the touch of pleasant things, and our effort to attain enlightenment is obstructed and hindered. Such was the fact in the case of a “one-horned evil spirit” who lost his supernormal powers because of his craving after pleasing tangibles. By al such causes and conditions we see the folly and guiltiness of desiring pleasing tangibles and yielding to their seduction.
The several ways for censoring our desires that have been given above are taken from “The Mahavibhasa Sutra” which, also makes the following observation: “Notwithstanding the annoyances which the gratification of sensual desires brings to us we go on craving for these desires.” As these five sensual desires are gratified by anyone, he only becomes more intensely excited. It is like a burning house, the more fuel is added the hotter the flames become. Or, if these sensual desires are not gratified by anyone and he still clings to them, he is like a dog gnawing at rotten bones. Or, if these intensified desires become competitive, they are like birds fighting over their prey. Or, they burn us as though we were holding a blazing torch in the face of the wind. Or, they harm us as though we were treading on serpents. Or, they are like dreams from which we awake in a fright. Or, they have a life no longer than the sparks from a flint. They are looked upon as enemies, by wise men. Notwithstanding all this we, like deluded fools, go on craving them as long as we live, not realizing that these annoyances and suffering will continue to trouble, after the death of the body, in a following rebirth.
These five kinds of sensual desire were
grasped by animals before us and their baneful effects have come down to
us. We are their slaves and by
reason of their power we may be dragged down into the three lower realms. Even in the sacred moments of
Dhyana and samádhi they close in about us.
What unbelievable enemies they are to us! We should flee from them instantly. “The Dhyana Sutra” speaks of them as
“The continual sufferings of birth and death are due to your sensual desires and lusts. When these, your children, are grown, they become your enemies and all your laborious work has been in vain and after the last breath you are buried in the grave.
How foul is your dead body; how putrid is a dead corpse! Its nine cavities yield stinking fluids, but you, oh fool, cling to it as does a maggot to excrement.
However, you who are wisest, realizing the body’s emptiness and transiency, will not be enslaved by the allurements of its desires but rising free from their fascinations will find your true Nirvana.
You should follow the teaching of the Buddha and, as you sit in Dhyana should count their breathing moment by moment with all your mind and heart. This is the practice of the earnest Bhikkhu.”
(3) Inner Hindrances To Be
There are five kinds of inner
hindrances that must be abolished.
(1) The first kind are the hindrances
of sensual desires that have their origin within the mind itself, because of
memory or imagination. In the
preceding chapter in discussing the external conditions, we referred to the
sensual desires, also, but then we had in mind the bodily desires that had their
origin in the physical contact of the senses with their objects. Now we are to consider the mental notion
of these desires as they arise or linger in the mind itself. A follow of the Buddha may be practicing
Dhyana in a very solemn manner, but his mind may be filled with seductive
notions of these craving sensual desires and their continual activity will
effectually prevent good qualities from germinating. So when we become conscious of the
presence of these sense-desire notions, we must get rid of them at once. For, as in the case of Jubhaga whose
body was consumed by the inner fires of his concupiscence, so we must not be
surprised if the flames of these inner desires consume all our good
qualities. Those who cherish these
inner desires will make little progress on the path that lead to
enlightenment. Why is this so? It is because these inner desires are a
stronghold of vexations that so engross the mind that they crowd out the very
purpose to attain enlightenment. In
the Sutra it is written:
“You that seek enlightenment must be a
man of humility and modesty. You
that hold out the begging bowl that you might give blessings to sentient beings,
how can you indulge in cheap desires for yourself and plunge into the sea of the
How is it that you, who has gotten rid of the external desires, have forsaken all their pleasures and thrown them away without regret, now seek to return to the shadow? Are you a fool who returns to his own spittle?
These notions of sensual desires that
you are hankering for inevitably lead to suffering. If they are gratified there is no
satisfaction, and if they are not satisfied there is annoyance. In either case there is no happiness at
What power do you have to get rid of
these pain producing desire notions?
When you have deeply enjoyed the happiness that arises from the
successful practice of Dhyana, then you will no longer be defrauded by these
(2) The second inner hindrance is the
hindrance of hatred. This is a most
fundamental factor in preventing one from attaining enlightenment. It is both the cause and condition
for our fall into the evil existences. It is the enemy that keeps us from
enjoying the Buddha’s Dharma. It is
the thief that steals away our thoughts of good will toward all sentient
beings. It is the fountain of evil
words that burst out unchecked.
Therefore, in the practice of Dhyana we should treat the mood of hatred
as though it was a personality that was annoying not only yourself, but your
relatives and enemies; and not only in the present but because of memory in both
the past and the future. This makes
nine annoyances, which will keep alive this mood of hatred. Hatred gives rise to grievances and each
added grievance gives rise to more annoyances. Thus hatred goes on disturbing the mind,
and that is why we speak of it as a fundamental hindrance. We should cut it away at the root and
thus keep it from spreading.
Suprapunna asked the Lord Buddha as
“What shall we get rid of if we want
peace and happiness? What shall we do to get rid of sorrow? What is the poison
that devours all our good thoughts?
Kill hatred and you will have peace and
happiness. Kill hatred and you
shall have no more sorrow. It is
hatred that devours all thy goodness.”
Having become fully convinced of the evil of hatred, if one wishes to get rid of it, he must practice both compassion and patience.
(3) The third hindrance is the
hindrance of laziness and sleepiness.
Laziness means that our mind gets dull and inert, while sleepiness means
that our five senses become relaxed, our body becomes immobile, and then we fall
asleep. To attain enlightenment we
need an alert mind and all such causes and conditions are hindrances that
prevent us from experiencing the highest happiness both in our present life and
in future lives, and the joy of the Pure Land, and the inconceivable peace of
Nirvana. This hindrance is perhaps
the most serious of all. Why? Because other hindrances come when we
are awake mentally and we can at least make an effort to overcome them, but the
hindrance of laziness and sleepiness makes effort impossible. In sleepiness, we are like a dead corpse
with no perception and no consciousness.
Even our Lord Buddha and the
Mahasattva-Bodhisattvas have had to combat sleepiness, as it is written in the
“Get up! Do not lie there clasping a decaying
corpse to your bosom. Even though
it passes under the name of man, it is only an aggregation of rubbish. It is as if you had been poisoned by an
arrow; in your pain would you lazily lie down to sleep? It is as if you were tightly bound
because you had murdered someone; in your calamity and fear would you lie down
This thief and kidnapper might well be
our death if you do not repel him forcefully. It is like lying down with a poisonous
snake, or it is like lying down in the midst of battle; under such desperate
conditions how could you think of indulging in sleep?
You should realize that laziness and
sleepiness leaves you in perfect darkness; it robs you of your intelligence, it
dulls wits, it is a drag on your will, it obscures your heart’s true
purpose. How can you lie down to
sleep when suffering such losses?”
It is because of these very serious
causes and conditions that the mind is given its faculty for noticing and
appreciating their danger, and for guarding against and warding off laziness and
sleepiness. If laziness and
sleepiness are the great foe of the practice of Dhyana, strange to say, the
earnest practice of Dhyana is our best weapon against laziness and
(4) The fourth inner hindrance is recklessness and remorse. Recklessness is of three kinds. There is body haste, walking or rambling about with no especial purpose in mind, sports and make-believe and dancing about. Then there is haste and recklessness of lips. The lips seem to find enjoyment in just reciting and singing and disputing and boasting and discussing worldly affairs, all to no purpose, just for the thrill one gets out of it. The third is mind recklessness. This means careless thinking, idle day dreams, the perversion of the minds powers to selfish and acquisitive ends when they should be used for the attainment of enlightenment. Then there is the waste of the mind upon the unnecessary discrimination of external differences and the diversion of it into the enjoyment of worldly writings and artistic pursuits, or the frittering away of it in concentration upon sentimentality and emotionalism, and the absorption of it in contemplation of beautiful sights music, delicacies, fragrance, softness, and the seductive rhythm and cadence of beautiful thoughts.
It is as if a person, who had made up
his mind to strictly control his mind, deliberately forgets his purpose and lets
his mind run along the easiest channel.
What does it mean to be a reckless person? He is no better then an intoxicated
elephant free of its chains, or a wild camel held by the nose. Concerning this hindrance, it is written
in the sutra:
“Oh you, who have become a monk, who have shaved your head and gone begging from door to door, why do you indulge in light and reckless manners, when you know that by such careless conduct and indulgence you will imperil all the benefits of the Dharma that might be yours?”
As soon as we become aware of what we
are risking by such reckless acts and habits we should give them up at once for
all time. Because as soon as we
become aware of our guiltiness and do not give them up then remorse will spring
up and that will intensify the hindrance, where recklessness without remorse
would not be so serious. Why is
this? The reason is this: we may
have reckless habits without thinking much about it and then remorse will not
spring up to disturb the mind. It
is in the quiet of Dhyana practice that remorse with its burden of sadness and
regret and vexation rises to disturb the mind and prevent its
concentration. That is why
recklessness and remorse are so great a hindrance to the practice of
Dhyana. There are two kinds of
remorse, namely, one kind comes after recklessness, as stated above, and the
other kind precedes further recklessness.
It is the fear that always shadows the life of a criminal. It is like an arrow that has penetrated
so deep that it cannot be removed.
As the sutra says:
“Because you do what you ought not to
do, and do not what you ought to do, your life is replete with remorse and
vexation, whereby you will fall at your death into an evil existence.
If you have commuted an offence and
felt remorse for it, and afterwards are able to keep your mind from its
grievance, your heart will be happy and peaceful, but you should be careful not
to reawaken the mind either to the offence or to the remorse.
There are two kinds of remorse in which the foolish man is accustomed to indulge. The first is for things done which ought not to have done; the second is for things, which he ought to have done, but which he did not do.
The reason why both these kinds of
remorse are foolish is because they do not express the true state of the mind,
and because the offence, having occurred, it is too late for you to undo
(5) The fifth inner hindrance is the
hindrance of doubt. If the mind is
clouded with doubt, how can it have any faith in the teaching? And if it has no faith in the teaching,
how can it profit by it? It is as
if one were going up a mountain for treasure but had no hands with which to
bring back any of the treasure.
There are some “honest doubts” which do not entirely hinder the practice
of Dhyana, but there are three kinds of doubt that most effectively hinder the
attainment of Samádhi. The first
kind of doubt that hinders successful Dhyana is doubt of oneself. We may question whether we are the right
one to attempt the Noble Path inasmuch as we are temperamentally gloomy and dull
and our faults and offences are many and serious. If in the very beginning we cherish such
doubts as that, we will never attain any development of Samádhi. So, if we are to practice Dhyana, we
should not be contemptuous of our self.
We should remind ourselves that it is impossible for anyone to fathom the
depth that some root of goodness lies buried in our past lives.
The second kind of doubt is doubt in
our master. We may have been
displeased in his manner or appearance and doubted whether he had attained any
degree of enlightenment and would be able to guide us along the path. If we cherish such doubt or contempt for
our Master (Teacher), it will certainly hinder our attainment of Samádhi. If we wish to get rid of this hindrance,
we should recall the words of the “Mahavibhasa Sutra” in its parable of the
miser who kept his gold in a bag of rubbish. If we love the gold of enlightenment we
too must keep it in our rubbish bag.
Although our master is not perfect as we think he ought to be, we should
honor and trust him because he stands for us in the Buddhas place.
The third kind of doubt is doubt in the
Dharma. Nearly everyone of us no
doubt retains some measure of confidence in his own mental judgment, and
therefore it will be hard for us at first to have faith in the teachings of the
Master when they differ from what we think they ought to be, and it will be hard
at first to put his teachings into practice humbly and faithfully. So long as we cherish doubts of our
Master, we cannot be much influenced by his teachings. This is clearly explained in the
“Just as a man standing where the roads cross and questioning which way he ought to go so are we facing the true nature of things. If we cherish doubts as to our ability to know and to choose the right way, it is not likely that we will put much earnestness or zeal into our search.
If, in our ignorance as we face the
true nature of things, seeing bad and good, mortality and Nirvana, we doubt our
Master, we resign ourselves to the bondage of life and death. We will be like a deer chased by a lion
with no hope of escape.
In your ignorance, facing the true
nature of things obscured by the world’s appearances and changes, you had better
have faith in the good Dharma and follow its teachings with zeal and
confidence. Standing where the ways
of life cross, have faith and courage to choose the right.”
Faith is the only entrance to
Buddhism. Without faith all earnest
study and constant effort will be to no avail. Just as soon as you are convinced that
error always follows doubt, give up all doubt and enter the gateway of
Someone may ask: “There are as many different kinds of error as there are grains of dust, why do you speak of giving up only five doubts? That is true, but these five doubts cover the whole field of greed, hatred and foolishness. Doubt, greed, hatred and foolishness are the bad ways that are fundamental. Beyond the gateway of doubt open all the paths, said to be eighty-four thousand in number, that lead to worldly suffering: if we close the gate of doubt we block the way to all evil.
For these reasons the followers of
Buddha should get rid of the five inner hindrances of greed, anger, hatred,
laziness and sleepiness, recklessness and remorse, and doubt. Getting rid of these five hindrances is
like having a debt remitted, it is like recovering from a painful sickness, it
is passing from a famine stricken country into a land of prosperity; it is like
living in peace and safety in the midst of violence and enmity with no apparent
reason for it. If we have given up
all these hindrances our minds will be fresh and happy and our spirits and
tranquil and peaceful.
Just as the brightness of the sun may
be obscured by smoke, or dust, or clouds, or mist, or Rahula, or the Asuras may
hide its brightness behind their palms, so the pure brightness of our minds may
be obscured by these five hindrances.
(4) Regulating and
When we, the followers of the Buddha,
began to learn the practice of Dhyana, we do so because we wish to put into
practice all of the teachings of all the Buddhas of the ten quarters, past
present and future. We should, at
the very beginning, besides desiring to attain supreme enlightenment, make an
earnest vow to emancipate all sentient beings. Our purpose to do this should be as firm
and unchangeable as is gold or steel; we should be energetic and courageous even
to the sacrifice of our lives; we should never be turned aside or backwards even
after we have attained all the Buddha Dharmas. Having made this vow in ass
sincerity, we may sit up with right thoughts, contemplating the true nature of
all things, merit and demerit, memory and forgetfulness, the false consciousness
that arises from the sense perception of objects, and from the process of the
mind, all kinds of impure out flowings of the mind and evil passions, all the
laws in the triple world of cause and effect, of birth and death, and doing and
not doing, are not within the grasp of the mind. This is written in “The Dasa-bhumika
Sutra” which says:
“There is nothing in the triple world
but the operation of our own minds.
When you realize that there is no personality in your mind then you will
recognize that there is no reality in things as well.”
If our thoughts do not become attached
or influenced by things then action, deeds, birth and death, all cease and never
have been. After recalling all
these things, then began the real practice of Dhyana in accordance with the
orderly stages given here.
Now let us consider the fourth
heading—what is meant by regulating and readjusting? It may be likened to the work of a
potter. Before he can begin to form
a bowl or anything else he must first prepare the clay—it must be neither be too
soft nor to hard. Just as a
Violinist regulates the tension of the different strings—they must be in perfect
tune—before he can produce harmonious music. So it is just the same in our case. Before we can control our mind for the
attainment of enlightenment, we must first regulate and adjust the inner
To be able to secure the right regulation and readjustment of conditions for our practice of Dhyana there are five lessons to be learned. If these lessons are learned and applied, then Samádhi can be easily attained, otherwise a great deal of difficulty will be experienced and our tender root of goodness can hardly sprout.
(1) The first lesson relates to our
habits of eating. Eating is
necessary for the support of the body and mind in its search for enlightenment,
but too much eating would clog the system and cause sickness that would be a
distress and hindrance to our practice.
On the other hand if we take too little food there will be an emaciated
body, the distress of hunger, of feeble and unstable mind, and a weak and
uncertain purpose. Neither of these
two extremes is the right way to attain the fruits of Dhyana. If we eat repulsive food our minds will
be disturbed and our understanding confused and bewildered. If we take improper food we invite
sickness and out strength of purpose fails. For these reason we should be very
careful in our eating. The sutra
“The strength of purpose to attain
enlightenment will vary with the strength of the body. Eating and drinking should be under
restraint; you should keep your mind tranquil by avoiding disturbing
thoughts. When the mind is calm you
will find satisfaction in zealous practice of Dhyana. These are the teachings of all the
(2) The second lesson relates to the
regulation of laziness and sleep.
Sloth is one of the besetting hindrances and no indulgence should be
allowed it. If we give to sleep we
shall be wasting time that might be given to our practice or that might better
be employed in industry. Too much
sleep brings dullness of mind, and drowns our good qualities in deep seas of
gloominess. We should recollect our
impermanence and make good use of the time by restraining our laziness and
sleepiness. By so doing the brain
is refreshed and the thoughts purified, and as we realize Samádhi the heart will
be at rest as in a holy sepulcher.
In the sutra it is written:
“In the evening and after midnight you
will not forget the practice of Dhyana”
Just because it natural to be slothful and sleepy we ought not to spend our lives in idle comfort—such a life is vain and fruitless. We should remember that that conflagration of impermanence is sweeping over the world and we should not yield to sloth and sleepiness in seeking deliverance.
(3) The third, fourth, and fifth lessons relate to the right control of
the body, its physical state, its breathing, and its mental state. They are to be considered as the
beginning, the middle, and the ending of one regulation. In order to concentrate the mind in
Dhyana, we must first regulate the condition and position of the body, then of
its breathing, and finally of its mental states. This means that before we begin Dhyana
we must keep close watch over our physical activities and states, such as
walking, working, standing, sitting, etc.
lest we become over tired or exited and our breathing become rapid and
forced. The mind then will be in no
good condition to begin practice.
It will be disturbed, vexed, clouded, and far from tranquil. We ought to take precautions against
such a state at all times whether we are expecting to practice Dhyana soon or
not, so that our mind will always be fresh and transparent and in good
condition. But especially before
beginning Dhyana, we should take careful thought as to the condition of the
body. We should also take careful
thought as to the place where we are to carry on the practice. We should find a place that will be free
from disturbance and that would not offer any unnecessary difficulties to the
Next we should consider the position of the body. We should cross the feet with the left
foot on the right draw the legs close to the body so that the toes are in line
with the outside of the thighs.
This is the half position.
If you wish to take the full position, simply place the left foots on the
right thigh and the right foot on the left thigh at right angles to each
other. Next we should loosen the
girdle and arrange the garments so that they will not become disarranged during
practice. Next we place our left
palm upon the right hand, and we place the hands on the left foot, which we draw
close to the body. Next we
straighten up the body, swaying it several times to find its center, the
backbone neither too bent nor too straight. Next we straighten our neck so that the
nose is in a perpendicular line with the navel. Next, open the mouth and breath out all
bad air from the lungs slowly and carefully so as not to quicken the
circulation. Then close the mouth
and breath in fresh air through the nose.
If the body is well regulated, once is enough, otherwise, do it two or
Next close the lips with tongue resting against the upper palate. Close the eyes easily simply to shut out unnecessary light. In this position, sit firmly as if you were a foundation stone. Do not let your body, head hands or feet, move about. This is the best way for regulating the body for the practice of Dhyana. Do not be hurried about it nor unduly sluggish.
(4) The fourth lesson relates to the regulation of breathing. Breathing may be divided into four kinds—blowing, panting, audible and silent, only the last of which can be said to be in a regulated adjusted state. By blowing is meant that we feel our breath being forcibly sent through the nose. By panting is meant that our breathing is too hurried and hard. By audible is meant that when sitting we can hear a faint sound of the breath as it passes through the nose. If we were standing or working we would not notice it, but in our practice it is enough to distract the mind. By silent breathing is meant that there is no sound, no compression, no force, simply the slightest feeling of the tranquility of our breathing, which does not disturb the mind but gives to the mind a pleasant feeling of security and peace. Blowing disturbs concentration panting gives it heaviness audible breathing wearies it. We can attain Samádhi only with silent breathing.
This then is the lesson concerning breathing that we are to learn at the beginning of our practice of Dhyana. Wear loose cloths, let the wind blow over and refresh the body; imagine that every pore of the body is participating in the breathing. Let the breathing be neither forceful nor hasty, let it be gentle, natural and deliberate. By doing so the mind will be clear, sickness will be avoided, and there will be enjoyment in the practice and a successful issue from it.
(5) The fifth lesson relates to the regulation and adjustment of the mind. There are three stages of this regulation, in entering Dhyana, in practicing it, and in retiring from it. In entering Dhyana the mind is to be brought into an empty and tranquil state. The uncontrolled and half-unconscious current of confused and vagrant thinking must be brought to a stop. Second, these vagrant thoughts must be prevented from again arising and all bad states of mind, such as discouragement or aimlessness, or lack of control, or too great tension, are to be avoided. Let us speak more at length about these bad mental states that are to be regulated and adjusted. When we are sitting erect and perfectly still the mind very easily falls into drowsiness and becomes inattentive and the head nods. At such moments it is advisable to focus the minds attention on the tip of the nose but still keeping the mind empty and tranquil. This will prevent the mind from sinking into discouragement or aimlessness. Again, when we are sitting erect and perfectly still the mind very easily passes out of control and drifts about. The body becomes lax and all sort of vagrant thoughts and pass away. At such times it is advisable to focus attention on the navel, which tends to unify the mind and prevent confusion. So long as the restless activities of the mind are brought to a standstill there will naturally be tranquility. That is, if our minds are regulated and adjusted there will be neither sinking nor drifting about.
As to the aspect of over strain, by this is meant that, because of our earnest effort to practice concentration we overdo the matter and use wrong means and the brain becomes tired and possibly there are fatigue pains in the head and chest. At such times we should relax our effort slightly and give up trying to forcibly eject the vagrant thoughts, letting them pass away more naturally, which they will do if for a moment we focus the mind on the navel.
As to the aspect of too great looseness of mind control there is likely to be dullness and dispersion of attention, the body will lose its erectness, the mouth will open and the saliva drivel and sleepiness will overcome it. On such occasions we should renew attention and effort toward mind control by which the mind and body will be mutually helpful in attaining success. To attain this success there must be a progressive advance from a state of physical activity to a state of mental tranquility. Just as the breathing is to become gentle and inaudible, so the current of the mind’s activity is to become gentle and unnoticed. Just as we regulate the activities of the body, so are we to regulate and adjust the activities of mind until there is tranquility and peacefulness.
In the second teaching of the fifth lesson—regulating the mind as it abides in Dhyana—we are to employ three kinds of regulation. We are to use our brain to concentrate our mind at every moment of our sitting, and we are to use skillful means for extending the sittings from one hour to two hours, to four hours, to even six hours out of the twenty-four. To be able to do this we must have perfect control over the condition of our bodies, our breathing, and our minds, and must be able to regulate and adjust these conditions so that they will be in the best condition during the whole progress of the sitting. If, during the progress of the sitting, we become conscious that the body has relaxed into a loose or strained state, or a slouching attitude, we should immediately regulate and restore it to its former erect and attentive state. We have to do this again and again. Then, our body may be erect but our breathing may be wrong, constrained, panting, or audible. We must correct this at once, until it is gentle, continuous and silent.
Next, though both body and breathing may be regulated, the mind may be drifting, or sinking, or it may be too lax, or too constrained. As soon as we become conscious of it, we should again bring it in to adjustment as before. For the regulating of these three, body, breathing and mind, there is no fixed order, we should simply regulate and adjust whichever and whenever we notice anyone of them to be in an improper state. As long as we sit in practice we should keep body, breathing and mind in perfect control and harmonious adjustment. If this is done there will be no relapses and no hindrance to the certain attainment of enlightenment.
In the third teaching of the fifth lesson—how to withdraw from
Dhyana—there are three things to be attended to. First, we should gently relax the mind,
open the mouth and exhale the air as though to empty it from every part of the
body and arteries and veins. Then
we should move our body little by little; next our shoulders, hands and neck;
next our feet until they become flexible; then gently rub the body; next rub the
hands until the blood circulates warmly; and not until then should we open our
eyes and rub them with our warm hands.
Finally, sit quietly for a moment or two and then get up quietly and go
away. If we proceed otherwise, if
we break in suddenly upon our meditation and hurry away, the conditions of the
body in Dhyana being different from the conditions of active life there will be
a disharmony, perhaps a feeling of headache or of paralysis in the joints, which
will linger in the mind as a feeling of annoyance and uneasiness that will
prejudice the mind against a following sitting. Therefore, we should be attentive and
careful in retiring from the practice.
As we retire from a state of minimum activity of mind back to maximum
activity of the body we should do it gradually and thoughtfully, carrying over
into our ordinary life the practice of concentration of mind. There is a stanza that refers to
“You shall not only make rules for sitting, but you shall make rules for
the retirement from sitting so that there will be no jolt between the minimum
activity of the mind and the maximum activity of the body. You should be like a good horseman who
has perfect control over his horse.”
It is also written in the “Lotus of The Wonderful Law Sutra:”
“For the sake of the enlightenment of all the Buddhas, the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas assembled here have devoted their lives with zeal and perseverance. They have experienced the hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of Samádhis as they have entered Dhyana, abided in Dhyana and retired from Dhyana. They have attained transcendental powers, have practiced the practice of Brahma for long periods, have studied all the scriptures, for innumerable numbers of thousands of myriads of kotis of aeons.”
(5) Expedient Activities Of
In practicing Dhyana the mind should be possessed by
five expedient activities or states.
The first of these is an activity of wishful-ness or purpose. It is willfulness in the sense of
paramount desire, or preference of directive control. If we are to attain the object of
Dhyana, we should wish and purpose to avoid all false and worldly thoughts and
hindering states of mind and all confused and shifting attention, and should
take the attainment of the object of Dhyana, namely the attainment of
tranquility, of transcendental knowledge and wisdom, the mind’s paramount desire
and purpose. The Lord Buddha
“Of all your good qualities, a wishful purpose is the principle
The second expedient activity of the mind is characterized by an earnest and zestful spirit. It means to keep the Precepts with a persevering earnestness of spirit: it means to give up the five hindrances, and to persevere in our practice with whole-hearted zeal both in the evening and in the early morning. If you were trying to get fire from a twirling stick you would not expect to be successful if you did it intermittently; you must persist with increasing effort until the fire comes. So you must seek enlightenment with the same earnest zeal.
The third expedient activity of the mind is mindfulness and
recollection. It means that we
should always keep in mind the emptiness and deceptive aspect of the world with
all its fraud and suffering, and should always cherish thoughts of the nobility
and value of the enlightenment that comes from the practice of Dhyana. It is noble because it leads to the
highest attainment of realization, and wisdom and compassion. It opens up the capacity of the mind for
the enjoyment of the highest powers of cognition; it gives one an intuition of
the blessedness that follows the extinction of the intoxicants, it enables one
to realize the highest joy when perfect wisdom is devoted to the deliverance of
all sentient beings. This is what
is meant by recollective mindfulness.
The fourth expedient activity of the mind is keenness of insight. We should ponder over a comparison of
the enjoyments of the world with those that come with the practice of
Dhyana. We should think
with penetrating insight as to whether there is a loss or gain, as to whether
the gain from the practice of Dhyana is inconsiderable or of the highest
importance. The delights of the
world are elusive and delusive; one needs keenness of insight to judge them
rightly. The world's fascinations
often obscures it suffering and unreality.
If we consider it carefully and truly we are bound to see that desire for
the world and its illusions is a loss and not a gain.
On the contrary, the same keenness of insight will convince one that the
practice of Dhyana brings one inestimable gain of intuitive realization and
transcendental intelligence that are free from all intoxicants and are
unconditioned. To live in a quiet
and secluded place, to feel free from the bondage of life and death, its
unhappiness and suffering, to sit quietly in Dhyana, is of highest importance
and value. Keenness of insight will
keep these differences clear before the mind and will aid one in the earnest
practice of Dhyana.
The fifth expedient activity of the mind is clearness and
singleness. It means that we should
understand clearly the true nature of the world as being pain producing and
abominable and at the same time, we should know well that the tranquility and
intelligence of the mind brought about by the practice of Dhyana is very
precious and honorable. With
this clearness and singleness of mind we should determine unreservedly to
practice Dhyana with our mind as resistant as gold or diamond, so that we will
be able to resist and cast off all evil influences of Devas, Maras, and
Thirthakas, which might tend to discourage us. Even though we are unconscious of any
marked success in our practice, clearness and singleness of mind will keep us
from neglecting the practice or from turning back. A man before he begins a journey will
have a clear idea as to where and why he is going and then after that, will not
be easily turned aside, so a man in his practice of Dhyana should have a clear
and single mind, if he is to hope for success.
In the practice of Dhyana there are two aspects to be considered. The first relates to the sitting, and the other relates to the circumstances and conditions.
(1) First as the right practice of sitting: Dhyana can be practiced while one is walking, standing, sitting or reclining, but the position of sitting, being the best for its practice, that it considered first. It may be considered under five different headings.
(a) First, in its relation to the many and confused
thoughts that fill the mind at the beginning of the practice. First we should practice stopping of
thoughts in order to bring these many thoughts to a standstill and break off
thinking all together. If we have
difficulty in doing this we should next practice examination of thoughts. That is, to get rid of the many and
confused thoughts that ordinarily crowd the mind at the beginning of Dhyana, we
must practice “stopping and examining.”
We will explain this practice of stopping and examining” in two
ways. (I) As to “stopping.” There are three ways of doing this. It can be done by recalling the
wandering attention to some part of the body as the tip of the nose, or the
navel. By so doing the many and
wandering thoughts drop out of attention and disappear. It says in one of the Sutras:
“You must keep your mind under control without any
relaxation; you should keep it under control as you would a monkey.”
It can be done by bringing attention to only one thought
when the other will pass away, after which the one thought could more easily be
excluded. The sutra says that of
the six senses, the mental process is of the highest importance; if we control
the mind we control the other five senses and the perceptions that spring from
them. Again, it can be done by
recalling the true nature of all objects of thought. We should recall that every object of
thought arises from causes and conditions and therefore has no self-nature of
its own. Recollecting this the mind
will have no reason for grasping it and it will fall away. Referring to this the sutra says:
“There is no substance in phenomena for phenomena are
made up of causes and conditions.
You are called a disciple because you recognize the true nature of all
things and are able to stop your mind from dwelling upon them.”
When we begin to practice meditation, at first our
thoughts continue and ramble about without any cessation. We try to realize their true nature and
to employ different means for stopping them, but the delusive thoughts continue
to flow on. In this case, we should
reflect on the history of the thought that has arisen:
In the past it must have taken some form that has now
been exterminated; and we know that in its present form it has no actual
existence; and in the future it will have no more reality. By this consideration we realize that
the phenomena of thought has no reality by which it can be grasped, either in
the past, present, nor future, and so we exclude it from attention.
Although we may be convinced by our insight that this
continuing stream of thoughts has no substantial existence and we are able in
the main to exclude it from attention, but there still may remain a
consciousness of flickerings of thought springing up occasionally from moment to
moment. In this case we should try
to realize the true nature of consciousness by which we notice these momentary
flickerings of thought.
Consciousness arises when the six external objects of thought are brought
into contact with the six senses and the six internal sense minds react to
them. So long as the six internal
sense minds are not in contact with the six external objects of sense no
consciousness of them will arise.
Applying this to the consciousness of thoughts that we are convinced have
no existence in the past, present, nor future we are forced to recognize that
all such phenomena are mere assumptions of the mind. Being thus convinced as to the rising,
extermination, and future unreality of thoughts, we exclude them from further
attention and the mind becomes tranquil.
As the mind becomes tranquil, we more and more become convinced as to the
unreality of all thought, even the notion of our own existence. This is the ultimate principle of
tranquility and peacefulness that is embodied in the conception of Nirvana where
all thought comes to a natural and final end. In “The Lotus of The Wonderful Law
Sutra” it is said that as soon as the mind becomes diffused we should bring it
back into right mindfulness, and keep it under control of right
mindfulness. This means that it is
not by diffusion and scattering of thought that thought can be brought to a
standstill but it is by concentration and mindfulness. The human mind is not an entity with its
own phenomena that can be grasped and held by continued and forced effort; even
right mindfulness is only an efficient means for controlling its
activities. By this is meant that
at the beginning of our practice of Dhyana we will find difficulty in
controlling and excluding thought which if affected by too much violence might
result in insanity. It is like
becoming proficient in archery—we must take a long time for practice if we are
to become proficient.
(II) Second, as to “stopping and examining,” we will now
consider the control of vagrant thoughts by examining, or observing, or making
insight. One way is by opposing a
bad state of mind with its corresponding good state, as for instance, serving,
or making insight. One way is by
opposing this bad state of mind with its corresponding good state, as for
instance, thoughts of purity as opposing licentious thoughts and desire,
thoughts of kindness as opposing hatred, thoughts of the five grasping
aggregates that make up personality as opposing egoism, and thinking about
breath in controlling too much effort at the beginning, or controlling rising
thoughts during the practice.
Another way is to oppose definite things or thoughts with consideration
of the causes and conditions that make them what they are, namely, empty,
transitory and ego-less. By
doing this, the hold of these passing thoughts upon the attention will be broken
and they will pass away as we note their vanity, and new thoughts will be less
likely to arise. The
discussion of this means of examining is referred to all through this treatise
so we will say no more about it at this time. It is also stated in a sutra:
“All phenomena are impermanent, existing simply in our
own minds, and so, as we see the unsubstantial character of all things, knowing
them simply as objects of sense, you should devote no more thought to
(B) Second is the relation of the practice of Dhyana to such “sicknesses” of the mind as sinking and drifting. Often during the progress of the sitting the mind will become darkened or obscured or inattentive or unconscious or sleepy. On such occasions we should practice a reflecting insight; we should practice “stopping to stop them.” This is a very brief suggestion for the treatment of these sicknesses of the minds sinking and drifting, but in adopting it you should be careful to have the remedy fit the disease for there should be no inappropriateness.
(C) In the relation of the sitting practice of Dhyana we
should take advantage of every means available to secure tranquility of
mind. As has been said, if the mind
is disturbed or over-active or sinking, we should practice stopping and
examining. If the mind does not
become tranquil, then we should practice “stopping to stop” our thoughts: if the
body and mind then become calm and peaceful we have reason to believe that the
remedy was suitable for the disease and we should use it as occasion
demands. If in practicing Dhyana we
feel the mind to be unsteady and not advancing toward tranquility
notwithstanding our practice of “stopping to stop,” then we should try some form
of insight. If, as soon as we
employ insight, we notice that the mind is more serene and pure as well tranquil
and peaceful, then we know that insight was adapted to our need and we should
employ it at once, in order to complete the pacification. This is a brief statement of the way to
use adjustment means in the practice of stopping and reflecting. But all these suggestions should be
followed with care and discrimination if we are to expect the good results of a
tranquil and peaceful mind and the following rewards of successful practice of
(D) The fourth relation of the practice of stopping and
examining to our practice of Dhyana is the treatment of minimum thought in the
concentration of mind. This means
that after using stopping and insight for the suppression of confused and
maximum thinking, we should now use it for the control of minimum thinking. As soon as our confused maximum thinking
is tranquilized we attain a measure of concentration and because of that the
mind enters into a more subtle state.
Because the body and mind are comparatively tranquil and peaceful there
is a feeling of exhilaration in which state it is easy for minimum thoughts of
heretical prejudice to seep in. If
we do not recognize this and do not adopt ways to prevent these false and
deluding thoughts from arising they will easily increase and run into thoughts
of egoism and craving desire. As
soon as the mind begins to crave things it has already forsaken the idea of
emptiness and has reinstated the idea that some things have a real
existence. If we recall to mind the
universal emptiness then these two vexations of sense perception and desire will
be eliminated and the mind will continue tranquil. This is the practice of stopping. But if those thoughts of sensation and
craving continue to arise it proves that the mind is still in bondage and we
must try the other remedy of insight into the nature of these minimum
thoughts. As soon as we recall
there unsubstantial character we will cease to be attached to them; as soon as
we cease desiring them they will quickly pass away being only the vexations of a
moment. This is a brief account of
the remedy of stopping and insight as applied to the minimum thoughts that arise
in the course of our practice of Dhyana.
There is a slight difference between stopping and insight, which must be
kept in mind when we come to passing out of concentration because a mistaken use
of them at that time would be serious.
(E) The fifth relation of the practice of stopping and
examining pertains to the need of establishing an equilibrium between Dhyana and
intelligence. If, in the practice
of Dhyana, we come into concentration of mind, either by the method of stopping
or the method of insight, and have no attainment of intelligence, it is an
ignorant form of concentration and cannot cut away our bonds of mental
habits. Again, we may have attained
a little intelligence but have not enough to develop into full intelligence or
to wholly remove the bonds of defilement.
In such a case we should apply the insight of analysis to our bonds and
defilements, and by so doing would be able to get rid of them and thereafter
would be able to realize concentration with intelligence and thus be able to
employ the right ways for the attainment of enlightenment.
As we are sitting up and practicing Dhyana, especially
by the means of insight, it is possible that all of a sudden we will be
enveloped in a wave of intuition and intelligence, but as our power of
concentration is still weak our minds will be weak and fluctuating like a candle
flame in the wind, so this measure of transcendental intelligence will not be
lasting. Under this condition we
must again go back to the method of stopping all thought. Then by the patient practice of stopping
all thought, the mind will come to be like a candle in a closed room that burns
steadily and brightly. This is a
brief account of the methods of stopping and examining applied to securing
equilibrium between concentration and intelligence, or concentration and
realization. If we practice Dhyana
with the body in right position and make good use of these five means for
securing right conditions of the mind, choosing the one that is most appropriate
at the time, we will soon become competent and be able to make good use of our
(2) We now come to a consideration of the second
division of right practice of Dhyana.
The first division had to do with right sitting and right conditions of
mind control. This division has to
do with the employment of stopping and examining in the circumstances to be
encountered and the conditions to be experienced. It is of first importance that we sit up
in proper position but as the body is under bondage its condition is not always
the same and the circumstances vary.
We should learn to practice stopping and examining under whatever
circumstances we are placed and in whatever condition we find ourselves. Otherwise the practice would be
intermittent, the practicing mind would be checked by reverses, the bonds of
desire and grasping would be renewed, and the defilement of habits would be
intensified. Under these
circumstances how can we expect to advance in our understanding of the Dharma or
in our powers of cognition? But if
we keep our minds steadily under control and constantly employ the best means
for practicing then we will steadily advance in our power of understanding and
Now, let us ask, what is meant by stopping and examining
in relation to conditions and experience?
Under the heading of conditions and experience there are six conditions
and six aspects of experience, making twelve items to be considered.
(A) First as to the condition of acting, (B) while
standing, (C) while sitting, (D) while reclining, (E) while doing things, (F)
while speaking. In these conditions
there are six aspects of behavior, namely, (G) as regards eyes toward sights,
(H) of ears toward sounds, (I) of nose toward smells, (J) of tongue toward
tastes, (K) the body toward tangibles, (L) and the mind toward ideas. We will now explain the relation of
stopping and examining toward these six conditions and six aspects.
When engaged in any activity we should ask this question: for what reason
am I engaged in this activity? If
we are conscious that we are acting from unworthy motive—because of
discouragement, vexation, or some other evil instinct—we should cease the
action. But if we are conscious
that we are acting from some good moment, such as charity or some spiritual
service, then we should go on with the activity. If we go on with the activity we should
concentrate the mind one the pure activity with no ulterior purpose in
mind. If we cease the activity, or
the mind is disturbed by desires, or angry or egotistic thoughts, then we should
stop practicing. What is meant by
this; it means that the mind should be tranquilized by getting rid of the
thoughts, which prompt the action.
Action in itself is unwise as it leads to further multiplicity and
increased confusion and dissatisfaction and suffering. Action is warranted by some good purpose
and when the mind is convinced of this it will be quieted and if there is no
good purpose in mind the activity will cease. The acting mind and all that eventuates
from its activity have no reality that can be taken hold of. When this is fully understood, the
disturbing activity of the mind will cease, and with it the activity of the
body. This is what is meant by
practicing stopping under the conditions of action.
What is meant by practicing examining or insight under
these same conditions? This means
that we should recall that the mind is crowded with impulses to activity, which
have no substance in, themselves and which lead to vexation and disturbances
good and bad. We should reflect
upon this and realize that neither the acting mind or the following action has
any true existence but are alike, empty and vain. This is what is meant by the practice of
examining under the condition of acting.
If we are standing because we are vexed or disturbed or are seeking some
selfish thing, we should cease standing.
But if we are standing for some good purpose, we should remain standing
but with tranquil mind. What is
meant by standing? When a man is
standing, he is neither active nor at rest; he is simply “standing by,” that is,
in a position to begin activity or sit down and relax. What is meant by practicing stopping and
examining under these conditions of “standing by?” If in this condition we recall that by
remaining in it we shall experience all manner of vexation and disturbance, good
and evil, and also recall that our standing by mind and all the arises from it
by its manifestation in activity have no substance that can be grasped then the
deluding thoughts are quieted and activity ceases.
Now what is meant by practicing examining or insight
under the condition of standing by?
It means that the mind, being located in the brain is the cause of all
the following vexations and disturbances both good and bad, which should lead us
to reflect that not only are the vexations and disturbing activities empty of
any substance, but so, also, is the “personality” that seems to initiate the
thoughts of standing by and the thoughts of activity and that all alike are
emptiness and vanity. This explains
the practice of examining.
We have already discussed the problem of the application of stopping and
examining to the condition of sitting in the practice of Dhyana; we will now
only refer to it briefly. First we
should ask ourselves the question: why am I sitting here? If we are sitting because of vexation
and a disturbed mind, we should not do it.
But if it is for some good, unselfish purpose, then we should take our
seat with a concentrated but tranquil mind. What is meant by practicing stopping
under the condition of sitting?
When we are sitting, we should comprehend that by our sitting there will
be all kinds of disturbances and vexations, good and bad, and by so
comprehending we will prove the arising of delusive thoughts. This is the practice of stopping. By the practice of examining at the time
of sitting, we mean, that at the time of encountering the vexations and the
disturbing experiences while we are sitting in practice, we should recall that
it is by our sitting with legs crossed with body in right attitude that we are
encountering these vexations and disturbances, but that they have no substance
and will pass away. And just as we
reflect that the sitting mind has no substance of its own, so the sitting
“personality” has no existence and is nothing but vanity and emptiness. This is the practice of examining as
applied to the condition of sitting.
We should keep in mind the question as to why we are lying down. If it is because we are lazy and
sleeping we ought not to do it, but if it is the regular time for sleep, or
because we truly need rest, then we should do so with tranquil mind. When we lie down we should take the
position the lion takes—on his right side with his feet crossed. What is meant by stopping at this
time? When we are about to rest or
sleep, we should recall that various disturbances and vexations of mind will
follow but that all of them are unsubstantial and unreal and with that
recollection the mind will become tranquil. By this is meant the practice of
stopping at the time of reclining.
What is meant by examining at the time of reclining? We should recall that it is by our hard labor and following weariness that we have become fatigued and our senses dulled. From this will follow many disturbances and vexations but that all of them, good and bad alike, are empty of any self substance and are empty and vain. We should recall also that the reclining “personality” and all that arises from the condition of reclining are nothing but emptiness and vanity. This is the practice of examination under conditions of lying down.
(E) Doing things. When we are prompted to do things we should ask ourselves, why should we do them? If it is an instinctive act, or an evil, selfish act we should not do it. If it is a good act for the welfare of others then we should do it. During the act various vexations and disturbing thoughts will arise both good and bad. To get rid of these thoughts we should practice stopping by means of realizing the emptiness and vanity of all thoughts, by reason of which practice the deluding thoughts will disappear. This is the practice of stopping at the time of doing things.
The practice of examining at the time of the time of doing things means that we should be mindful that we are doing things with our hands and body wholly under command of the mind and that as a result we are experiencing all manner of vexatious and disturbing thoughts. We should reflect upon this and because these thoughts and acts have no substance of their own we should lose confidence in them. We should also recall that the doing “personality” and all that arises from its doings are nothing after all but emptiness and vanity. This is what is meant by the practice of examining and insight under the condition of doing things.
(F) Speaking. While we are speaking we should keep in mind the reason for our speaking. If it is mere arguing, or vexatious discussion, or wild words prompted by instinctive moods, then we should keep silent, but if it is for some good, unselfish purpose, then we may speak. What is meant by practicing of stopping at the time of speaking? If we recall that much vexatious disturbances arises from speaking, be it from good motive or bad motive, and comprehend that the speaking mind and all vexations arising from its activities have no substance that can be grasped, then our delusive thoughts will come to a natural end. This is what is called the practice of stopping at the time of speaking.
What is meant by the practice of examining at the time
of speaking? In the practice of
examining at the time of speaking we are to keep in mind that we are consciously
and willfully giving our thoughts expression by forcing our breath through our
throat, tongue, palate, teeth and lips, and that we have different sounding
voices and different use of words, and that by our speaking we are giving rise
to vexatious and disturbing feelings, both good and bad. We should reflect that the speaking mind
has no visible appearance, and that the speaking personality and all the
disturbances that arise from speaking, are nothing after all but emptiness and
vanity. This is what is meant by
the practice of examining at the time of speaking.
These six different occasions for employing the practice of stopping and examining may arise at any time and we are to use the practice whenever it is called for and in the manner as shown in the preceding five ways.
(G) We are to practice stopping whenever our eyes notice
sights. This means that whenever
our eyes catch sight of any object we are to recall that the apparent object has
no more reality than the moonlight in the pond. So if it is a pleasing sight we are not
to let desire for it arise in the mind, and if it is a repulsive sight we are
not to let a feeling of aversion arise, and if it is an indifferent sight we are
not to let ignorance of its meaning disturb the mind. This is what is meant by the practice of
stopping at the time of catching sights by the eyes.
Now, what is meant by practicing examining in the act of
seeing? We should keep in mind that
whatever we see with our eyes is no more than vanity in emptiness. What do we mean by this? It means that if we are to seek for it,
we could find no differentiated substance either in the internal organs or if
the object, or in space, or in the light.
Our consciousness of this opposed object is a phenomena that is dependent
upon the reaction of the light upon the eye, a variety of other causes and
conditions among which is the mental process that springs up in the mind because
of the reaction by which we make distinctions between the various sights we
see. Thus from the sights we see we
experience all manner of vexations and disturbances, good and bad. We should immediately reflect that our
sight mindful thought has no visible appearance, and we should understand, also,
that the sight seeing personality and all that arises from sight seeing are
nothing after all but vanity and emptiness. This is what is meant by the practice of
examining at the time of catching sights by our eyes.
(H) We are to practice stopping and examining at the
time of hearing sounds by our ears.
That is, just as soon as we are conscious of a sound we are to think of
it as of no more value than an echo.
If it a pleasing sound we are not to let it awaken any craving desire,
and if it is a discordant sound we are not to let it give rise to any fear or
hatred, or if it is an indifferent sound we are not to be curious or
disturbed. This is what is meant by
the practice of stopping under hearing conditions.
What is meant by the practice of examining the
conditions of hearing? We should
immediately recall that every sound is an unreality. A sound is only the reaction of the
hearing apparatus as it comes into contact with its appropriate field of
vibration and the ear mind is stimulated and the mental processes distinguishes
differences. By reason of this we
have all kinds of vexatious and disturbing thoughts, both good and bad. This is what is involved in
hearing. As we reflect that the
hearing mind has no visible appearance we should understand that the hearing
personality and all that arises from hearing are nothing after all but emptiness
and vanity. This is what is meant
by the practice of examining under the conditions of hearing.
(I) We are to practice stopping and examining at the
time of smelling. This is meant,
that, whenever a scent is noticed, we are to think of it immediately as a make
believe bon fire. If it is a
pleasant fragrance we are not to give way to a craving desire for it, if it is a
disagreeable smell, we are not to let a feeling of aversion or dislike spring
up, and, if it is an indifferent odor, any feeling of disturbance. This is what is meant by the practice of
stopping at the time of smelling.
What is meant by the practice of examining at the time
of smelling? We should immediately
recollect that what we are smelling is unreal and deluding. Why? Because it is only a phenomena that is
involved in the concurrence of the nose, by reason of which we perceive a
consciousness of smell and the mind proceeds to differentiate it from other
smells. From this there arises all
manner of thoughts, vexatious and disturbing, both good and bad. As we reflect that our smelling has no
substantial appearance, we should decide that our smelling personality and all
that arises from smelling are nothing after all but emptiness and vanity. This is what is meant by the practice of
examining at the time of smelling.
(J) We are to practice stopping at the time of
tasting. This means that whenever
we taste anything we should immediately think of it as having no more
substantiality than a dream experience.
If it is a pleasing taste we should not crave it; if it is a repulsive
taste we should not be troubled by it; if it is an indifferent taste we should
ignore it. This is the
practice of stopping under the condition of tasting. What is meant is meant by the practice
of examining at the time of tasting?
It means that whenever we experience the sensation of taste we are
immediately to remember that taste is nothing that has any reality about
it. Why has it no reality? Because, although we distinguish six
kinds of taste there is no substantial difference between them, they are all
alike sensations that involve the tongue and its internal apparatus from which a
sense consciousness arises, followed by a consciousness that is dependent upon
the mental processes that notices differences from which arise all manner of
vexatious and disturbing thoughts, both good and bad. As we reflect that out tasting mind has
no substantial appearance we are forced to conclude that our tasting personality
and all that arises from tasting are nothing but emptiness and vanity. This is what is meant by the practice of
examining at the time of tasting.
(K) We are to practice stopping and examining at the
time of touching things. No matter
what the hands or body touches we should think right away that it is unreal and
visionary. If we receive pleasing
sensations from what we touch we are not to become fond of it, and if the
sensations are disagreeable and painful we are not to cherish dislike nor hatred
for it, and if the sensations are indifferent we should not try to make
distinctions nor carry them in memory.
This is what is meant by stopping when in contact with tangibles.
What is meant by the practice of examining at the time
of touching things? We should
remember at once that all such feelings as heaviness and lightness, warmth and
coldness, smoothness and roughness, have no reality except in our thoughts, and
that the six parts of our skeleton are only names. As these sensations are known to be name
and visions, so we must recognize that the things and our body that gives rise
to the sensations are unreal also.
No sooner are causes and conditions blended then there arise sensations,
perceptions and consciousness, and from these arise memory and distinctions and
discriminations of happiness and suffering.
This is what is meant by the sensation of touch. At such times we are to reflect that the
feeling mind has no visible appearance and from that we should know that the
feeling personality and all the arises from tangibles are also empty and
vain. This is what is meant by the
practice of examining under the conditions of contact and the sensation of
(L) We are to practice stopping and examining at all
times when the mind is engaged in thinking, but as this subject has already been
fully discussed at the beginning of this treatise, we will not dwell on it
further. At the time when we are
sitting in Dhyana we may find ourselves hindered by any one of these sense
hindrances and should employ the corresponding means of relief, but as these
have been now fully explained in the foregoing paragraphs we will not repeat
them here. As any one of us becomes
capable of applying these teachings to his practice of Dhyana, whether he is
acting, standing, sitting, reclining, looking, listening, feeling, or
consciousness, he may know that he is practicing Mahayana Dhyana truly. It is said in “The Maha-vagga
“The lord Buddha said to his disciple Sona, if Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas know how to act at the time of their acting, know how to sit at the time of their sitting, or even know how to wear the robe of a disciple at the time of wearing the robe, and how to enter the practice of Dhyana, at the time of entering, and how to retire at the time of retiring, then they may be rightfully called, Maha-Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas.”
If we are able to practice the Mahayana at any time and
place, as stated above, we are worthy to be known as the highest and supreme one
in all the world and that none other is to be compared with us. It is said in “The Mahayana
“To desire the happiness of the gods, you must retire to
the quiet forest, give up all evil ways, free yourself from all lustful desires,
and with tranquil mind practice Dhyana.
Now, you are craving for worldly things, lust, and
riches and ambition, but such things cannot give you peace for there would be no
satisfying of these desires.
But we, the wearers of the mended robes, live in quiet
retirement with minds tranquil and concentrated at all times, whether acting or
standing or sitting, and by so doing, we are enlightening ourselves with wisdom,
observing all things in their true nature.
continue under these conditions, observing all phenomena with equitable and
tranquil minds, our minds will gain serenity and understanding, and insight that
will transcend the possibilities of this triple world.”
The Development and
Manifestation of Good Qualities
As we become competent in the practice of stopping and
insight, we will first come to an understanding of the emptiness and unreality
of phenomena and then we will become able to avoid them as hindrances to our
practice; then both our body and mind will become pure and serene. In this condition many kinds of good
qualities will develop and manifest themselves. We will now briefly describe two
different kinds of development of such good qualities.
The first kind is the development of external good qualities, such as the giving of alms, keeping the Precepts, being filial to parents, respectful to elders, making offerings to images, observing the scriptural teachings, and many other good qualities.
But as these good outward developments may be confused with similar
outward developments of evil qualities, we must be on our guard. The distinction between good external
developments and bad developments will not be considered at this time, but
should be kept in mind. The second
kind is the development of internal good qualities by which we mean the good
qualities that develop and manifest themselves in the course of our Dhyana
practice. There are three groups of
these good qualities:
(1) In the first group there are five of these good
a. The development of good qualities by right breathing: As we become competent in the practice of stopping and examining, both our body and mind will become regulated and adjusted and the delusions of our minds will cease. As our thinking gradually dies down, our minds will become tranquil and concentrated and the development and manifestation of good qualities will go one as far as they can go on under the conditions of this Karma world of action. But it is not until we begin to advance along the ten stages of bodhisattva-hood that our bodies and minds come into a state of perfect tranquility and our Dhyana mind attains a state of safety and abiding peace. At this earlier stage of Dhyana, we do not at first notice any tangible result either of body or mind, but after one sitting or two sittings, or it may not be until one day or two days, or after one month or two months, we will gradually become conscious that we are being forced to keep on with our practice, being convinced that as long as there is no interruption to our practice there will be a gradual gain even if there are no visible signs of gain. Then suddenly, we will become conscious that certain developments are taking place within our bodies and minds by which we are becoming more sensitive in their reactions to conditions. We will notice slight differences of pain and pleasure, heat and cold, heaviness and lightness, smoothness and roughness. At the time of feeling these differences, our bodies as well as our minds will become very peaceful and tranquil, very quiet and happy, very joyous and pure. It may be a very faint feeling at first, and wholly indescribable, but it will be real nevertheless. This is what is meant by the development of good qualities going on with right breathing at the time our practice. It is what makes right breathing of such fundamental importance in our practice of Dhyana. Or, under the same conditions of the Karma world before we have begun to advance along the ten Bodhisattva stages, all of a sudden we become conscious of our breathing and notice its peaceful respiration, its extent, and its transmission to all the pores of the body. We will suddenly see with our mental eyes that within the body are thirty-six good things. It is as if the doors of a granary were opened, and we saw within the riches of sesame seeds and beans. It fills our minds with awe and wonder and gladness, as well as peace and tranquility, and calmness and bliss. Such is the wonderful development and manifestation of good qualities that goes on in our practice of Dhyana coincident with right breathing.
The development and
manifestation of good qualities by an examination of the essential impurity of
that which we most have loved—our bodies.
If, in the state of Dhyana under the conditions of the Karma world,
preceding an entrance along the Bodhisattva stages we reflect upon the emptiness
and transiency of both body and mind, suddenly we will have a vision of bodies
lying dead and becoming swollen and decaying, with puss oozing out and maggots
fattening on them, and scattered all about the bones of other dead bodies. With this horrible vision of the
constitution of the bodies we have loved will come a feeling of sadness and
compassion. This is what is meant
by the development and manifestation of good qualities from insight into the
impurity of all transient and component things.
Or, in the midst of our quiet practice, there will come a recollection of
the purity of our own body: we will seem to see our skeleton suspended before
us. As we realize the significance
of the five sensualities, we are filled with disgust at the thought that we must
submit to the death of the body.
With this thought we will lose all pride and confidence in our ego self
and in the selfhood of others, and will gain a peaceful and quiet mind. This is the way good qualities develop
and are manifested by the dissolving of attachments to things that were beloved,
as we come to realize their impurity.
The same thing is true of attachments to things outside of the body as we
come to note their impurity, also.
As attachments are dissolved, good qualities are developed.
The development and
manifestation of the good quality of compassion: if, in the state of Dhyana,
under the conditions of the Karma world, preceding an entrance upon the
Bodhisattva stages we practice realizing the good qualities of other people,
there will come a feeling of great compassion for all sentient life. In this connection we will have visions
and recollections of our parents, our close kinsmen, our intimate friends, and
our hearts will be filled with inexpressible joy and gratitude. Then there will develop similar visions
of compassion for our common acquaintances, even our enemies, and for all
sentient beings in the five realms of existence. When we rise from the practice of Dhyana
after these experiences, our hearts will be full of joy and happiness and we
will greet whoever we meet with kind and peaceful faces. This is the development and
manifestation of the good quality of compassion. In like manner, we will come to realize
developments and manifestations of other good qualities such as kindness,
sympathetic joy, and equanimity.
d. The development of the
good quality of insight into causes and conditions. Owing to our practice of stopping and
realizing in the state of Dhyana under the conditions of the karma world,
preceding an entrance upon the Bodhisattva stages, with both the body and mind
tranquil there will suddenly come to us a clear insight into the causes and
conditions of our life in the triple aspects of past present and future. At such times we will see clearly that
there is no such thing as an ego personality or an ego nature of things, but
that everything has arisen from the concatenation of causes and conditions of
our own ignorance and activities.
Under the conviction of this clear insight we will give up our
conceptions of phenomena as having some attributes of reality, we will break
away from our old prejudices, and we will attain to a more perfect concentration
of mind with a correspondingly deeper peace and sense of mental security.
Then there will arise within our deepest consciousness a more
comprehensive intelligence, our minds will find a purer joy in the Dharma, we
will cease to be worried about our worldly conditions, we will accept with
patience that our personality is only the five grasping aggregates of form,
sensation, perception, discrimination, and consciousness, we will accept with
patience the fact that our external world is wholly made up of the mental
reactions between our six senses and their corresponding fields of contact, we
will accept with patience the fact that all our physical experience is within
the compass of our physical senses, the objects of sense and our sense
minds. This is what is meant by the
development and manifestation of the good quality of insight into causes and
The development and
manifestation of the good quality of the remembrance of all the Buddhas. In the state of Dhyana, under the
conditions of the Karma world preceding an entrance upon the Bodhisattva stages,
and owing to our practice of stopping and realizing, when our minds and bodies
are quiet and tranquil then all of a sudden there comes into the memory a
recollection of the inconceivable merits and purity of all the Buddhas. We recall their possession of the ten
transcendental powers of the four fearlessnesses and the eighteen characteristic
marks of a Buddha; there attainment of the Samádhis and emancipations, and their
command over all manner of skillful means and powers of transformations, which
they use freely for the benefit of all sentient beings. All such kinds of transcendental powers
and merits are beyond our human comprehension. As soon we are dwelling on such
remembrances of the Buddha’s transcending attainments and merits, we feel
springing up within our Dhyana minds the development of a spirit of respect for
all sentient life and a feeling of fraternity with them; we feel unfolding
powers of Samádhi, and a sense of joy and bliss pervades both body and mind that
wraps us in a feeling of righteousness and safety. At such times we are never disturbed by
the appearance of any bad developments nor evil manifestations. When we retire from our Dhyana practice
our body seems light and active and we feel so confident in the possession of
good qualities that we expect everyone who we meet will respect us and respond
to our good will. This is what is
meant by the development and manifestation of good qualities and powers of
Samádhi by our remembrance of all the Buddhas.
Or, if, on account of our practicing stopping and observing at the time
of our Dhyana practice we attain this purity of serenity of mind and body, then
we will become conscious of the development within our minds of all kinds of
ways of manifesting good qualities in the face of suffering, foolishness, pride,
impurity, the disgusting things of the world, the impurity of food, death and
the desire for survival after the death of the body. We will become conscious of an
increasing love for Buddha, Dharma, and the brotherhood, of respect of the
Precepts, of equanimity of mind, of a sense of awe for the celestial worlds, of
the attainment of the four right viewpoints for our thinking, of the four right
diligencies, of the four right powers of self mastery, of the five factors and
the five faculties, of the Noble Path, of the six Paramitas that lead to
enlightenment, of all wisdoms, and all transcendental powers of transformation,
and we shall have powers of mind to distinguish every one of these things
rightly and use them properly. The
Sutra says that if we know our own mind on any one subject rightly then we can
attain anything we will.
(2) The second conception of the internal developments
relates to the faculty of distinguishing between trueness and falsity. It manifests itself in two ways.
a. The first relates to the development and manifestation of false forms of concentration. There is only one right way of practicing Dhyana but there are many false ways. According to our wrong ways of practicing there will be many different corresponding signs. We may feel a tickling sensation over our bodies, or sometimes a feeling of heaviness, as though our body were under pressure, or sometimes the very contrary, a feeling of lightness as if our body would float away, or sometimes of as though the body were held down by bonds. Sometimes there will be a feeling of unbearable sleepiness, sometimes of coldness, sometimes of heat; sometimes there will be strange changing conditions, now and then the mind will become obscure and again it will be alive with many bad perceptions; or concerned with all kinds of troubles and the complicated affairs of others; or at times we may become lightheaded and optimistic, and at other times very pessimistic; we will be filled with such fright that our hair will stand on end, and then again, there will be times of exciting happiness as though we were intoxicated. All such kinds of false developments may arise during the course of our practice, but we should pay no attention to them. If we become attached to any of these false developments, we will soon pass under the influence of ninety-five devils who will delude us into madness. When the gods or devils or evil spirits notice our susceptibility to these evil developments, they will sometimes give us increased meditating power so as to lead us on into deeper development of these evil manifestations. Sometimes they give one powers of knowledge and eloquence, sometime magical gifts so that we will be able to stir up people all the more. Under these conditions foolish people think he has attained enlightenment and they give him their faith and obedience, but his deluded mind is in a disturbed condition and is really in the service of evil spirits in their efforts to lead the world into turmoil. Alas to him who yields himself to such evil developments and manifestations! He will decline in his practice of Dhyana and after his death will fall into evil existences. But if we, truehearted followers of Buddha, notice that we are having these wrong developments and sham manifestations, then we should reject them forthwith. How may we reject them? Well, if we recognize them to be false and visionary, and take care not to think of them or grasp them or become attached to them, then they will soon vanish away. If we observe them with right insight, they will quickly pass away.
The other way of drawing
distinctions between falsehood and trueness is the discernment by the practice
of development and manifestation of right Dhyana. If we are practicing right Dhyana there
will come into development and manifestation all kinds of meritorious qualities
that will approve themselves to our enlightened consciousness by their benefit
to our Dhyana practice. The body
will become bright and transparent, fresh and pure; our minds will become happy
and joyous, tranquil and serene; hindrances to our practice will disappear and
good thoughts will spring up to help us; our respect for the practice will
increase and our faith in it will deepen; our powers of understanding and wisdom
will become clear and trustworthy; both our body and mind will become sensitive
and flexible; our thought will be less superficial and more profound; our body
will become tranquil; we will feel an instinctive disgust for the world’s
lusts. Under these conditions, our
minds will become unconditioned and desire-less, and both frankness and charm
will characterize our daily life.
This is the true and right development and manifestation that should
follow our practice of Dhyana.
These reactions are similar to the reactions we feel when we are with
people—if we are with bad people, we feel irritated and annoyed, but if we are
with good people, we are mutually benefited and feel at ease. Stopping and observing at the time of
our practice helps us to discern between the wrongness and rightness of the
developments that take place during the practice.
The third conception of
the internal developments relates to making more use, in our practice of Dhyana,
of stopping and observing as a continuing nourishment for these unfolding good
qualities. If we wish to conserve
and develop the good qualities, we must continually resort to the practice of
stopping and observing. Sometimes
it will be the practice of stopping that the situation needs, and at other times
it will be observing that is needed.
We should consider each situation separately by our enlightened insight
and then apply the right remedy.
Beware Of Evil Influences
[The word used in the title of this chapter in the Sanskrit is Mara, which corresponds with the English ‘Satan,’ or ‘Devil.’ In the Chinese language this word has the meaning of ‘killer’ because it robs us of our treasure of merit and kills our life of wisdom. In the old days evil was usually personified as the doings of Mara, the King of Evil and his hosts of demons, but in our day we think of it in impersonal terms of evil influences.] Our Lord Buddha accumulates all his store of merits and wisdom by delivering all sentient beings into Nirvana, while evil influences are always destroying the good qualities of sentient beings and keeping them in the dreary rounds of life and death. If we have patience to follow the Buddha’s Noble Path we will clearly perceive the influence and danger of all evil things. These evil influences may be classified into four groups: (a) vexation; (b) sensuality; (c) cruelty; and (d) “personal” evils. The first three are so common in our daily life and correspond so closely with the thoughts of our own minds that we will not make any further reference to them at present. They are to be driven off and kept off by our right thinking. But the evil influences that originate outside our own minds, which we commonly think of as the doings of devils and goblins, require more attention.
There are three classes of these “personal” devils: (1) the first class
are the evil influences that awaken fear.
There are twelve of these and they seem to come during the different
periods of the day and night. They
make all sorts of transformations so that simple and innocent things take on the
appearance of frightful things, or harmless women or girls appear as witches, or
they are wholly imaginary. In the
early morning from three to five things look like tigers; from five to seven
they take on harmless forms as deer or rabbits but they frighten us just the
same. From seven to nine they are
horrible things like dragons and turtles; from nine to eleven they look like
snakes; from eleven to one they take on the appearance of horses and mules and
camels; from one to three they are sheep; from three to five they are monkeys;
five to seven in the twilight they are vultures and crows; from seven to nine in
the shadows of night they look like dogs and wolves; from nine to eleven they
take on the appearance of pigs and disgusting things; from eleven to one they
are scurrying rats and mice; from one to three they are big cows that frighten
us. When we are tempted by these
goblins or frightful things we must recall the hour of night and the day and
dismiss them from our thoughts.
Just as soon as we see them as they truly are and call them by their
right name, they will vanish away.
(2) The second class are the evil influences that awaken anger. They also employ transformations to gain
their evil ends. They take on the
form of worms and bugs creeping over our face or back and making sharp stings,
or they tickle us, or suddenly they grab us, or make disturbing sounds, or jump
out at us. At such times we should
keep control of our minds and refuse to be annoyed, saying to ourselves, “I know
who you are; you are only the little discomforts of life; you are only the
annoying differences of opinion that try our patience and irritate us. But we are followers of the Buddha, we
keep the Precepts, you cannot make us angry, you cannot disturb us. Sometimes it will be necessary, in order
to keep control of our minds, to repeat a Sutra if we are monks, or repeat the
Precepts if we are laymen. But
these evil influences have no real power; they can only influence us as we let
them. Careful reading of the
scriptures will make this plain to us.
(3) The third class are the evil influences of illusion that bolster up our imaginary egotistic pride and self-complacency. They generally work through the conditions of our five sense objects, for the purpose of disturbing and breaking off our good and right thoughts. Their transformations may be divided into three groups. The first group are transformations of repulsive things, making them appear to be desirable. The second group are transformations of pleasing things, making them to appear as undesirable. The third group are transformations of indifferent things, making them to appear different from what they are and by so doing serving to confuse and bewilder the mind.
All these transformations that serve to confuse and bewilder and deceive
the mind are the work of demons and devils if anything is, because their arrows
are sent against our highest thoughts and sentiments. They do not make a frontal attack, they
attack from behind and underneath; they transform pleasing conditions, such as,
forms for our parents and brothers and friends; the conditions of simple and
quiet living, the beautiful thoughts of Buddha, alluring us into imaginary
conditions that have no substantial basis and which lead to suffering. They transform harmless things into an
appearance of frightful beasts in order to deceive us and frighten us; or they
transform indifferent conditions such as are usual and commonplace, in order to
forestall and disturb our practice of Dhyana. They transform all kinds of pleasing and
repulsive sights, all kinds of agreeable and distressing sounds, all kinds of
fragrant and horrid odors, all kinds of delicious and distasteful flavors, all
kinds of good and evil thoughts and conditions that make up the routine life of
everyone, and thereby delude us and hinder us from following the Noble
These transformations are too numerous to take up in detail, but we will
group them under five heads.
Anything, which serves to transform he five objects of sense and the
thoughts of the mind is the work of Mara’s army of demons and goblins. The purpose of their activities is to
annoy us, to delude us, to destroy our good qualities, to disturb our
equanimity, to raise up hindrances against our practice of Dhyana. This is explained in the sutra:
“Be advised that sensual desires are the first army of your enemy; that
discouragement and sadness are the second army; that hunger and thirst is the
third army; that attachments are the fourth army; that laziness and sleepiness
are the fifth army; that fear and fright are the sixth army; that doubt and
remorse are the seventh army; that hate is the eighth army; that selfish love of
comfort and praise are the ninth army; that egotistic pride and complacency are
the tenth army. All of these armies
of evil beset the follower of the Buddha.
But you will say: ‘I will defeat all of these armies by the power of my
Dhyana practice, and when I have attained enlightenment I will deliver all man
Now that we, the followers of the Buddha, have become aware of all these evil influences, we must resist them with all determination. There are two ways of resisting them: the first way is by the practice of stopping. Just as soon as we become aware of any of these evil influences besetting us, we are to recall that each and every one of them is falsehood and delusion. If we do this, there will be no fear nor sadness, no aversion nor fondness, no discrimination nor rationalizing. If we practice stopping of thoughts the mind will become tranquil and the hosts of Mara will vanish away.
The second way of resisting evil influences is by the practice of insight
and examination. If we constantly
reflect that our perceiving and discriminating mind has no objective existence
and that there is nothing for these evil influences to annoy and delude. If the evil thoughts still linger about,
if we practice insight and right mindfulness we will, at least, not be vexed of
them nor afraid of them. We should
determine to keep the mind tranquil and steady even if we have to sacrifice our
life to do so.
In our practice of right mindfulness we realize that the conception of
Mara as the embodiment of evil and the conception of Buddha as the embodiment of
goodness and truth is really one conception—the conception of manifestation—but
that in ultimate reality they balance each other and there remains only the
conception of Dharmakaya, the Ultimate Essence that abides in emptiness and
silence. In this sense there is no
Mara to resist and no Buddha to take refuge in. But inasmuch as Mara is only the
transformation of the true nature of Dharmakaya, the transformations of Mara
disappear, and the manifestations of the Buddha-Dharma are realized by us, all
in the same moment.
Moreover we need not be troubled if the transformed conditions of Mara do
not vanish away, nor should we be pleased if they do vanish. Why? Because these evil influences that come
to trouble us during our practice of Dhyana are not real wolves and tigers,
neither is Mara a reality. As to
our ignorance and foolishness and delusion by reason of which we become
frightened or fond of unseen things, it is only our mind in state of illusion,
diffusion, non-concentration and dementation. (Insanity) Thus our troubles, which we ascribe to
evil influences, are only due to wrong states of our own minds. Our slowness in attaining enlightenment
is not because of Mara’s doings, but because of our own slackness in the
practice of Dhyana.
Should these disturbing conditions persist through many months, and even
years, we must patiently continue to seek to control the states of our own
minds; we must do so with the determination that knows neither fear nor
pain. Falsehood must sooner or
later yield to truth; the transformations that arise from evil influences must
yield as surely yield to an earnest purpose and steadfast effort.
But we are not to look lightly upon these disturbing influences, because
the deeper they are and the stronger effort we make to uproot them, the greater
will be the danger from them. We
must learn to distinguish them clearly and fight them separately, or they will
drive us mad. These morbid states
of alternate happiness and gloomy discouragement are the cause of sickness and
even death. Every follower of
Buddha should have a competent Master or a wise and noble hearted friend, for
sooner or later he will encounter these evil influences.
Worse than sickness and madness, these besetting influences and
transformed conditions, if not overcome, may change a follower of Buddha into a
heretic and enemy of Buddha. It
sometimes seems as though Mara were training a follower of Buddha to become his
own servant, by leading him into false kinds of concentration, false
intelligence, false intuition, false supernatural powers, and magical spells, so
that he may preach the Dharma with power and win many converts. And then later Mara seems to take
delight in exposing his falsity and ruining his pseudo converts. The whiles of Mara and his hosts are
innumerable and inexplicable. We
have referred only to a few of them in order to warn the followers of Buddha to
be on their guard against them constantly, and especially against this danger of
heresy. The fundamental heresy of
the reality of all phenomena is not of Mara’s doing, that is basic, but all the
rest belong to Mara. The sutra
“As soon as you speculate discursively, you are already caught in Mara’s
net. A follower of Buddha should
neither yield to evil influences nor to the temptation of discursive
discussion. This is the true Mudra
that will protect him from all evil.”
Treatment of Sickness
As sickness rises from wrong conditions or maladjustments of good
conditions, the followers of Buddha, by observing the Precepts, following the
Noble Path and practicing Dhyana, should be largely if not wholly free from
sickness. Wise control of the mind
is the best preventative of sickness and is the best method of cure. If our body, mind and breathing are well
regulated and our circumstances are in harmony with the teachings of Buddha, we
should be able to throw off most sicknesses and heal most wounds. We should do everything we can to keep
well because sickness is a discredit to our enlightenment besides being a
hindrance to our practice of Dhyana.
There are two divisions of this subject that should be kept in mind. First, the nature of the sickness, its
development and its symptoms.
Second, methods of treatment.
Under the first head we should distinguish between sickness caused by
external conditions and sickness caused by irregularities within our own
minds. In either case we should
notice the beginning of sickness and try to prevent its becoming serious by
remedying the conditions both external and internal as early as possible. What are the best remedies? The best remedy is the practice of
stopping and insight. Stopping
means removing dangerous conditions and ending bad habits. Insight means an examination of and
reflection on the emptiness aspect of all phenomena. If we cease to let the mind dwell upon
symptoms and hold it to a reflection upon the unreality of both body and ideas
concerning its state, then the mind will speedily become tranquil and the
symptoms will disappear. The reason
for this is that most of our sicknesses come from irritations within the mind
and if these can be controlled by right mindfulness, then the mind will become
kind and tranquil and the sickness will disappear. Medicines made up of either minerals or
herbs or both may be used if they have some correspondence with the
sickness. The same thing is true,
also, in the application of ways and means for practicing insight—each practice
must have correspondence with its mental sickness.
“In the treatment of sickness by some process of Insight, it is necessary for us to do so in ten ways, if we are to expect good results. The ten ways are:
Faith. We must believe that the remedy is going
to help us.
Application. We must make use of the remedy in the
right way and the right time.
Diligence. It means to apply the remedy
wholeheartedly without relaxation until the sickness is cured.
Permanent conditions. This means that we are to keep the mind
concentrated upon the Dharma.
Expedient means. This means that we are to keep our right
breathing, right practice, and right use of our thoughts in good adjustment and
Long practice. This means that if we are benefited by
the means of practice, we are to continue it faithfully without regard to the
passing of time.
Choice of means. This means that we are to use
observation to note whether a remedy is useful or harmful and be governed as to
its continues use accordingly.
protection. This means that we are
to protect the body by the best use of our mind.
Hindrances. This means that if we are benefited by
our practice of Dhyana we shall not boast of it to others, and if we are
unsuccessful in getting rid of hindrances we must not give rise to doubts and
slanders. If we treat our sickness
in these ways, no doubt we will have good results.
Realization of Supreme
If we, followers of the Buddha, in practicing stopping and insight as
given in the preceding chapters, could see that all phenomena arise from our own
minds, and that causes and conditions are merely Pseudo-Visions, then we would
know, also, that all phenomena are nothing but emptiness. As we see that they are nothing but
emptiness, then it will be impossible for us to retain the common conception of
phenomena. By this new conception
of phenomena as emptiness, it can be said; we have realized “The true viewpoint
of reality.” But from this
viewpoint we are unable to see either the Supreme Perfect Attainment of the
Buddha to whom we are devoted, nor are we able to see any sentient being that we
can emancipate. This means the
insight of emptiness attained by practicing the unreality of all phenomena and
it also means “The Insight of Ultimate Truth” both by the eyes of intelligence
and the heart of realization. But
if we come to a standstill in the practice of insight we soon descend into the
state of a Pratyekabuddha, who is content with his own enlightenment. As is said in the sutra:
“All the Arhats sighed and said: ‘When we listen to the preaching of our
lord Buddha, whether it be about the Pure Land or about our duty toward all
sentient beings, why is it we are not interested and fail to enjoy it?’”
What does this verse signify?
It signifies that to the Arhats all phenomena are nothing but emptiness
and silence, neither birth nor death, neither greatness nor littleness, neither
purity nor unconditionality. As
they fix their minds on these negative conceptions, how can interest and
enjoyment arise? You should clearly
understand that if you attain concentration solely by fixing the mind on the
unconditionality of emptiness, you will never be able to develop the highest
wisdom. It means that your
attainment is one sided, inasmuch as it is leaving out of focus the conception
of Buddha. If the
Mahasattva-Bodhisattvas keep all the Buddha Dharmas in mind and keep them in
mind for the sake of all sentient beings, they will not fall into over fondness
for the unconditionality of emptiness and thus become satisfied with Nirvana for
From the very beginning the Mahasattva-Bodhisattva, beside his practice
of his insight into the emptiness of all phenomena, should also practice insight
into the potentiality that abides in emptiness. If he does this he will realize with
clearness that although the nature of mind is emptiness, as it comes to
relations with suitable causes and conditions, it has the potential to create
all phenomena though they are not real nor permanent. And though they manifest
through different organs of seeing, hearing, perceiving, thinking, etc.
Notwithstanding his knowledge of the essential emptiness and silence of
all phenomena, the Mahasattva-Bodhisattva, by the practice of rightly balanced
insight, may practice all manner of activities in his conception of emptiness as
though he were planting trees in the clouds, and also he may distinguish in
sentient beings all manner of relative qualities. As the desires of our natures are
innumerable, so the ways of our preaching are innumerable, also. As we adapt our various arts of
preaching to their various needs, we will be able to benefit all sentient beings
in the six realms. This is what is
meant by “the viewpoint of expedient adjustment to conditions,” which is our
insight from emptiness into potentiality.
It is also called, “insight of equality,” “the eyes of the Dharma,” and
“the garden of intuitive enlightenment.”
If we make this balanced insight our viewpoint we shall perceive, but
with difficulty and dimly because our powers of intelligence are comparatively
undeveloped, the true nature of Buddha potential in everything.
Although the Mahasattva-Bodhisattva has attained these two ways of
insight, from the viewpoints of emptiness and potentiality, he has still not yet
attained to perfect insight.
Therefore, the sutra says that these two ways of insight are to be used
as expedient means for by them we may enter by a middle way into Supreme
Attainment and therein abide in both conceptions of Ultimate Truth—Perfect
Intelligence and Perfect Realization, Perfect Wisdom and Perfect Love—with our
minds in tranquility and peacefulness.
Then our minds will no longer run in two channels but will cease their
flow in Prajna’s Ocean of Truth.
If the Mahasattva-Bodhisattva wishes to have all Buddha Dharmas embraced
in a single thought, he should practice insight from the viewpoint of “cessation
of the heretical separation of the two extremes;” this will enable him to walk
by right insight along a Middle Way.
What does it mean to practice insight by the middle way? It means to look at the nature of our
minds in a more comprehensive way.
If we do that we will see that the mind is neither true nor false and
from that viewpoint we restrain our dependent thoughts. This is what we mean by the right
practice of insight.
If we are able to reflect upon so profound a conception as the nature of
our mind being neither emptiness nor potentiality, without cutting asunder our
conceptions of emptiness and potentiality, then the true nature of our mind will
be wholly and clearly comprehended as a manifestation of the Truth of the Middle
Way, and we can reflect upon both of these paths of Reality (Intelligence and
Intuitive Realization), with readiness and assurance. If we can see these two aspects of
Reality as the Middle Way in our own mind, then we can see them in all
phenomena. But we do not take these
two aspects of Reality into our reflection of the Middle Way, for we are unable
to find any trace of them in its nature.
This is what is meant by the practice of right insight into the Middle
Way. It is said in “The Madhyamika
“All phenomena which arise from causes and conditions are nothing but
emptiness, but we give them pseudo-names and then think of a Middle Way.”
If we carefully examine the meaning of this stanza, we will see that it
not only embraces all conceptions of the differentiations of the Middle Way but
it also shows the purpose of the two preceding ways of expedient insight. We will also realize that the right
insight of the Middle Way reveals it to be both the all-comprehending wisdom of
Buddha’s Eyes and the all-embracing love of his intuitive heart. If we keep our stand on this right
insight, then our powers of Dhyana and intelligence will be in equality; we will
clearly perceive the true nature of Buddha, we will rest peacefully in the
Mahayana; we will advance with the steadiness and the speed of the wind; and we
will inevitably run into Prajna’s Ocean of Truth.
If we do the deeds of Tathágata (The Ultimate Principle that is what it
is), abide in the Palace of Tathágata, dress in the robe of Tathágata, sit on
the throne of Tathágata, then we will be entering into all the imperial
resources of Tathágata. Then we will regain the purity of our six sense
faculties and will no longer be defiled or become fond of the changing and
passing phenomena of life. We will
enter into the conditions of a Buddha, we will become able to understand all the
Buddha-Dharmas, will attain the Samádhi of reciting the Sacred Name, will enter
into the peaceful continuance of the Supreme Perfect Enlightenment, and will
attain the highest Samádhi of the Transcendental Body. Then we may visit all Buddha Worlds,
preach the Buddha dharmas to all sentient beings everywhere, purify and adorn
all Buddha’s Kshatra, make ambrosial offerings to all Buddha’s everywhere,
receiving and observing all the Dharma Scriptures, of all the Buddhas,
possessing perfect ideals for all activities, and advancing along the
Bodhisattva stages to Mahasattva-Bodhisattva-hood. Then we will be of equal rank and in
intimate friendship with Samantabhadra and Manjushri will be in permanent
possession of Dharma nature. Then
all the Buddhas will praise us and prophesy our attainment of Buddhahood.
This was the progress of our Lord Buddha from his ascent into the glories
of the Tushita Heaven, down to the entrance of his spirit into the womb of his
mother, Queen Maya, to his conversion to Buddhism, to his sitting under the
Bodhi Tree, to his rejection of Mara and his hosts, to his full attainment of
enlightenment, to his preaching of the Dharma, and to his Parinirvana. This means in possession of two bodies,
namely, a True Body and an Appearance Body, which are like a sound and its echo,
a form and its shadow. The True
Body abides in all directions and all times and in all worlds; the Appearance
Body accomplishes all the deeds of a Buddha. This is our mission as
Mahasattva-Bodhisattvas that was begun in our practice of Dhyana.
It is said in the Avatamsaka Sutra that as soon as novice Bodhisattvas
begin their practice of Dhyana that they have already accomplished their full
enlightenment, and have comprehended that the intelligence embodied in the true
nature of all phenomena is to be accomplished in no other way than by full
Enlightenment. In another place the
same Sutra says that new Mahasattva-Bodhisattvas in attaining oneness with
Tathágata really attain innumerable bodies and that each body is a Buddha.
In the Parinibbána Sutra it is said:
“The beginnings as new Mahasattva-Bodhisattvas and the ultimate Buddha
are in distinguishable, but in regard to the responsibilities the new
Mahasattva-Bodhisattva has the heavier burden.”
In the Maha-Vagga the Lord speaking to Sona Kutakanna said: “Sona Kutakanna, there are some Mahasattva-Bodhisattvas who, no sooner have they made their first practice of Dhyana than they are fitted to sit under the Bodhi-Tree.”
We should realize that these
novice Mahasattva-Bodhisattvas are really Buddhas in manifestation. This is signified in “The Wonderful
Lotus Sutra,” also, in the case of the Naga Princess, who was a disciple of
Manjushri and only eight years old, but who presented her priceless jewel to the
Lord Buddha as to an equal.
In all these sutras the new
Mahasattva-Bodhisattvas are represented as being already in possession of all
Buddha-Dharmas. The same meaning is
embodies in the Maha-vagga where it uses the first letter of the Sanskrit
Alphabet—Aum—to represent wholeness.
It is so stated in “The Lotus Sutra,” where the purpose of our lord
Buddha’s appearing in this world is presented as manifesting and emancipating
the Buddha perception and understanding that is inherent in every sentient
being. It is so stated in the
Nirvana Sutra, that as we have received the nature of Buddha, so we ever abide
This is a brief elucidation of the attainment of supreme perfect wisdom
through the practice of Dhyana by novice Mahasattva-Bodhisattvas. We will now refer to the attainment of
Supreme Perfect Wisdom by the Buddhas.
As we cannot see the conditions that surround the perfect minds of
Buddhas, we are limited in our understanding as to how they attain Supreme
Perfect Wisdom to the teachings of the Sutras. In the sutras we find only two ways in
which Buddhas practice Dhyana. In
the “Lotus of the Wonderful Law Sutra” we read these words:
“(All of the highest Mahasattva-Bodhisattvas) sincerely and earnestly and
perseveringly praise the Wisdom of all the Buddhas.”
This is their practice of realization in Dhyana. In their practice of Dhyana they abide
in Samádhi. We get our
understanding of their attainment of Supreme Perfect Wisdom through our own
practice of realization.
In its interpretation of the meaning of Maha-Nirvana, the “Nirvana Sutra”
considers over a hundred phrases referring to the subject of emancipation. It interprets Nirvana as having the
meaning of “Stopping” that is, Buddhas attain Supreme Perfect Wisdom through the
practice of “Stopping”. In this
Sutra, Maha-Nirvana is spoken of as the “Permanent Tranquil Samádhi.” Here Samádhi means “Stopping.”
In “The Lotus of the Wonderful Law Sutra,” though the Supreme Perfect Attainment is explained by deductions from the practice of realization, it is summarized in terms of “Stopping.” It is stated that even the conception of ultimate Nirvana as “Permanent Tranquil Samádhi” amounts to the same thing as “the full” realization of emptiness.
In the “Nirvana Sutra”, although Supreme Perfect Attainment is
interpreted by deductions from “Stopping” it is summarized in terms of
realization, and therefore, takes the three ultimate qualities, Truth-Essence,
Prajna-Potentiality, Blissful-Peace, as its Maha-Nirvana.
Although these two Sutras treat the subject of Ultimate Nirvana
differently they both follow the two ways of “stopping and realization,” and
they both explain Supreme Perfect Attainment in terms of “Stopping and
realizing” which is the same thing as saying that they unite in looking upon
Supreme Perfect Attainment as the common goal of both Intuition and
Intelligence, of both Love and Wisdom.
We, the followers of Buddha, should humbly recognize and patiently accept
the fact that the attainment of Bodhisattva-ship, in the beginning, in the
middle, and in the end, are alike inconceivable. The newly translated Suvana-Prabhasa
Sutra says that the Buddhas of the past are inconceivable potentialities; the
Buddhas of the future will never be destroyed. This is true because all Buddhas arrive
at the Supreme Perfect Wisdom by the two ways of “Stopping and Realizing,” and
these are not two divergent ways but are one Middle Way whose goal is Highest
In conclusion, I sincerely wish that all of you who are devoted to the
practice of Dhyana will quickly get rid of the three poisons—lust, anger, and
foolishness; and the five hindrances—covetousness, fear, ignorance, conceit, and
doubt. As long as the mind is
burdened with these poisons and hindrances, no matter how hard you may try, you
will never be benefited. As it is
said in the Prajna Sutra:
“All the Buddhas attain their emancipation by means of their own minds, which are kept pure and transparent and undefiled, which are always fresh and clean, without strain of color, in all their six sense-fields. You, too, may attain the great Enlightenment.”