The Buddhist sacred texts state that meditation – that is a deliberate and willed ‘control’ and ‘development’ of the mind – can (and should) occur whilst standing, sitting, lying-down and walking. This practice of turning the attention back to the empty mind ground ‘protects’ each individual from the power of greed, hatred and delusion, and also protects society from behaviours premised upon greed, hatred and delusion. This is the most obvious ‘defence’ that conscious living grants a Ch’an Buddhist practitioner. This is ‘Dharma’ self-cultivation in action and there is no other practice as powerful or effective. The Dharma is the central core of the Budda’s teaching – with the Vinaya (monastic discipline) and Abhidhamma (monastic commentary) being very important but supplementary texts (like the three-legs of a stool). Regardless of the circumstances an individual has to live or exist within, the act of ‘seated meditation’ allows the essence of that circumstance to be actively ‘transformed’ from the inside out, or from the atomic or molecule structure! Although the construction of our surroundings may not be to our liking, we can still operate the principle of ‘non-attachment’ and cognitively and physically ‘distance’ ourselves from the painful sensations that are experienced. With a practice that is long enough and deep enough, bad experiences will eventually give-way to good or neutral conditions. If we can become truly ‘detached’, however, we can remain entirely indifferent to whatever circumstances pass across the senses of the body and traverse the surface of the mind. All of this practice serves to realise the empty mind ground and permanently rectify the ‘inverted’ mind-set that the Buddha pin-pointed as the essence of all human suffering. This is the uprooting of greed, anger and delusion. The conditions surrounding ‘seated meditation’, however, are also sound instructions for avoiding unnecessary social contact and the spreading of diseases throughout society. The Buddha recommends that an individual withdraws into a quiet area that is not too dark, or too light, that is airy but no too windy, that is isolated but not too far away from populations. This withdrawal from direct contact and habitual interaction has the by-product of a) not exposing a practitioner to disease, and b) not exposing other members in society to the spread of disease. This is exactly what is need in this troublesome time!
Although certain modern trends within Asian Buddhism appears to suggest that a Buddhist monastic follows a path that is ‘superior’ to that of the dedicated ‘lay’ Buddhist practitioner – a close and careful reading of the Pali Suttas (and their Sanskrit counter-parts) reveals a very different picture. Yes – obviously a Buddhist monastic leads an infinitely more ‘virtuous’ life than a lay-person who does not follow the Dharma and lives just for sensory stimulation and superficial emotional gratification. This the argument that the ‘morality’ of the monastic is more worthwhile than the ‘hedonism’ of the lay-person. Of course, people are free to reject this analysis and conclusion. The two alternative views are that the ‘hedonist’ is ‘equal’ or at least ‘superior’ to the ‘Monastic’ - but these different interpretations tenable? There is something ‘instinctive’ about the ‘hedonist’ - as if they have not yet evolved the ‘wisdom’ to a) ‘manage’, and b) ‘elevate’ the data received from their sensory-organs to a higher plane of existence!
A ‘hedonist’ is someone who lives in the world of greed, hatred and delusion and see no problem with this natural arrangement. As this is the situation that the Buddha states generates all of humanity’s suffering – he rejects it out of hand. This is the world of the cess-pit of dirty sensationalism that the Buddhist monastic leaves behind and it is in this sense that the lifestyle of the Buddhist monastic is said to be morally and virtuously ‘superior’ to that of the uncontrolled, undisciplined, lazy and selfish ‘hedonist’. Although the human-beings within both categories make use of ‘sensory’ stimulus, the ‘hedonist’ is entrapped by what he or she ‘feels’ and cannot ‘breakout’ of the cycle of pointless repetition – whereas the ‘monastic’ takes exactly the same ‘sensory’ stimulus and uses this data to ‘uproot’ greed, hatred and delusion, and ‘break’ free of the cycle of pointless ‘sensory’ stimulation! This is why it is untenable to suggest that within this context, the ‘hedonist’ (as a lay-person) is the ‘equal’ or ‘superior’ to the Buddhist monastic! From this point of view, it is obvious that the ‘hedonist’ lives an ‘inferior’ lifestyle to that of the Buddhist monastic.
Things are not so clear-cut when devout individuals follow the Dharma with determination and yet still live within the world of everyday concerns. This type of lay-person is very different to the ‘hedonist’ as they apply to their lives the very same Dharma that the Buddhist monastics make use of, with many such lay-people even choosing to voluntarily abide by the Vinaya Discipline to the best of their ability within the circumstances they live within. When Buddhist monastics give Dharma-Talks in China to audiences of robe-clad lay-people, he or she usually takes a humble position as within their ‘cloistered’ life, it far easier to apply the Dharma and to discipline their minds and bodies with the minimum of distractions or cares. For the devout lay-person, however, their life is full of distractions and cares that have nothing to do with the Dharma and often get in the way of its practice! Despite this, these dedicated lay-people persevere with the disciplining of their minds and bodies and apply the Ch’an method within all circumstance, good, bad and indifferent.
Despite these hindrances inherent within everyday life, both male and female lay-practitioners of the Dharma realise full and complete enlightenment! This is even mentioned in the Pali and Sanskrit Buddhist texts, and was a well-known occurrence during the Buddha’s lifetime. Although the worldly use of the senses creates obscuring barriers between the surface mind and the empty mind ground – the lay-person applies the gong-an, hua tou or chanting practice too such a high degree of commitment that the surface mind of obstruction (klesa) is smashed to pieces forever! This suggests that the sheer practice of the committed lay-person became so full of inner potential that it drilled-through the klesic obscuration and achieved full and total comprehension of the empty mind ground! In the Pali Suttas the Buddha clearly states that when the enlightened mind is realised – there is no difference between a lay-person and a monastic.
Although both may occupy very different stations in life that demand certain rules of interaction and polite communication, the essences of each individual’s understanding remain exactly the same! Both the ‘monastic’ and the ‘lay’ person are looking at and integrating with exactly the same empty mind ground so that the only differences in their lives is the social status each occupies. Vimalakirti was a very wealthy Indian who possessed a number of wives and countless children, and yet he ‘saw through’ the obscuring veil if the world and perceived the empty mind ground. Hui Neng – the Sixth Patriotic of Ch’an - was a lay-person when he inherited the Dharma (only ordaining at a later date). The Chinese Ch’an Records record a number of examples of how ordinary men, women and even children achieved full and total enlightenment! As Buddhist monasticism is premised upon humility – many such practitioners believe that the ‘lay’ path to enlightenment is by far the much harder path to take (as everything about it serves to turn away from, and obscure the empty mind ground). This is why many Chinese Buddhist monastics today, habitually place themselves ‘below’ the status of the laity. It may be that such humility contains the inherent power to encourage the ‘hedonist’ to change their lives for the better and follow the Dharma, whilst supporting, empower and ‘lifting-up’ those lay people who are already making good progress in their self-cultivation!
Dear ICBI Members
I experienced this practice and found it sharpens the mind and clears the senses. The incense cones burn at a very high temperature and the searing pain is immense - but also highly localised. Beneath the skin of the scalp is the hard bone of the skull so damage is mostly skin-related, although the pain can continue for some time. Within Chinese medicine, however, moxibustion is very well-known as a method for clearing qi-energy channels and preventing or reducing the chance of infection. These cones are placed along the Governing Vessel and the qi, jing (and developing shen) circulate up the back and over the top of the head before descending down through the centre of the face and into the upper mouth. The tongue connects the upper mouth with the lower mouth so that these congealed energies can freely pass down into the Conception Vessel and into the groinal area (this is the circulation of the microcosmic orbit). I suspect Shi Zhide started this practice in 1288 CE as a means to 'unblock' excessive 'yin' energy (or 'negative' qi) trapped in the head area so that the habitual ignorance of humanity could be more easily 'broken' when the Ch'an meditative method is applied. As I was ordained in a 'fighting' order of Cao Dong monks - this practice was also believed to open the energy channels to such an extent that no incoming power from another's martial blow could cause any damage! As the incoming energy connects with the opened energy channels - it is simply 'absorbed' (like water rushing down the drain) and immediately redistributed throughout the system with no blockages being caused. Whatever the case, the mind must be 'stilled' and 'expanded' and this medical ritual assists this process.
Peace in the Dharma
ICBI UK - Admin
In China, some modern men and women – who have experienced a university education – decide to embrace the hard life of Buddhist monasticism. This is at the point in their lives when they could be embarking upon a ‘paid’ career, earning a salary, falling in-love and travelling the world! This is the time – much the same as in the West – where young people enjoy their lives and find their way through existence. Of course, although the language and culture are very different – modernity brings its own equivalents. Yes – the outer-layer of history, tradition and everyday culture is different in China to that found to the West – but there are certain underlying realities that prove that we are all human! Giving-up their modern clothes and shaving the styled-hair from their heads – these people are entering an entirely different world which is controlled by the strictures of the Vinaya Discipline.
The following of the Vinaya Discipline is not a ‘choice’ (as it is in Japan), but is a ‘legal’ requirement in China. Yes – the Vinaya Discipline has been ‘written’ into China’s ‘Secular Law’ so that it is a ‘Criminal Offence’ for anyone who has left society and embarked upon the Buddhist monastic path – not to follow the Vinaya Discipline (this was decided by Master Xu Yun 1840-1959). From the day of full ordination, a Chinese Buddhist monastic ‘gives-up’ all rights to a paid livelihood, marriage, off-spring and normal social interaction. From this day onwards the desire mechanism is permanently ‘switched-off’ never to be re-activated at any time! (The recipient is only bound to these rules for as long as he or she remains wearing a robe and being a monastic. Should they decide to leave this lifestyle – then they must follow the equally strict ‘disengagement’ rules so that they can ‘legally’ and ‘lawfully’ exit the Vinaya Discipline without fear of prosecution, and return to the condition of ‘lay’ life).
A Buddhist monastic must also take the Bodhisattva Vows which can never be cancelled as they do not require celibacy or living as a monastic as pre-requisites. Bodhisattva Vows exist to include the entirety of a) humanity, and b) all other life, in an all-embracing attitude of wisdom, loving kindness and compassion in all circumstances! The Vinaya Discipline and Bodhisattva Vows do overlap in many of their requirements – particularly in ‘not killing’ or ‘causing to kill’. Perhaps the Vinaya Discipline can be referred to as ‘wisdom’ based leaning toward compassion – whilst the Bodhisattva Vows are premised upon ‘compassion’ leaning more toward wisdom. Within China, Buddhist monastics often undergo a ritual whereby one, two, three, six, nine, or twelve symmetrical dots are ‘burned’ onto the naked, shaven scalp (usually at different times and steady progressing in numbers as more Bodhisattva Vows are taken).
This ritual is unique to Chinese Buddhism and is believed to have started in 1288 CE (during the Yuan Dynasty) – when Shi Zhide (释志德) [(1235-1322] introduced the practice whilst Head Monk of the ‘Tianxi’ (天禧) Temple in Jinling! As the recipient receives and recites the Bodhisattva Vows – burning incense cones are placed on top of the head forming a rectangle or square-shape. This is known as the practice of applying the 'Fragrant Scar' (香疤 - Xiang Ba). The recipient must be ‘detached’ from the pain of burning – whilst understanding that the ‘world is burning’ and that ‘humanity is suffering’! The Buddhist monastic path is dedicated to the permanent uprooting of greed, hatred and delusion from the mind and body of the of the monastic, from the minds and bodies of all living beings, and from the physical environment! As this is such an awesome responsibility – the Chinese Buddhist monastic forfeits all rights to an ordinary existence...
Many people view matter as a solid wall of obscuration that the bodily organs can ‘sense’ but do little else with. Matter can be measured and it can be manipulated, but Buddhist meditation offers another way of ‘seeing’ matter. Quantum Physics explains that matter as a solid wall is an illusion regardless of how powerful this image might at first seem. Matter, we are told, is a non-permanent assemblage of sub-atomic particles. In other words, regardless of how it seems to be, it is not ‘solid’ by any means. The Buddha, for instance, taught that material reality is comprised of atoms which flash in and out of existence at a tremendous speed! To the perceiving mind at its normal rate of frequency, this ‘flashing’ cannot be seen and so reality seems solid and unchanging. Modern science has also proven that human consciousness also flashes on and off tremendously fast – creating the false impression of perceptual permanency. When a practitioner meditates for long periods of time, the operating frequency of the mind is slowly altered and changed so that the perception of reality changes to accommodate a more scientifically correct understanding of reality. This is why the Buddha explains reality as comprising of a simultaneous perception of ‘form’ and ‘void’ - with no contradiction whatsoever! Once the base frequency of the ‘everyday’ mind is dislodged from its dominant position – the perceptual foundation sees reality from a new depth of perception. As the default position that everyone is born with is set to perceive ‘matter’ only – it is the ‘empty’ essence of material reality that needs to be penetrated, understood and normalise. This is not a matter of leaving one state of mind for another, but rather the act of ‘expanding’ the mind so that it can perceive more data per second or mili-second, etc. Matter is just as solid as before - but now its ‘empty’ nature is fully understood. Emptiness is just as pervasive as before – but now its material aspect is better understood. The Buddha never denies the existence of the physical universe – but he does advocate that humanity must develop the mind to realise a different way of ‘perceiving’ reality as it actually is.
An Earnest Dhamma Appeal🙏
Dear Dharma Friend, As requested by a forest monk name as Venerable Suman Jyoti Thero, I am reaching out to you with lot's of Metta for a generous appeal for DONATION for construction of Aryagiri Vipassana Meditation Center. Bhante is not active on social media and he only rarely used it.
It is said that through wisdom can the mind be freed from defilements, but Dana is also a prerequisite for meditation, and Samadhi leads to wisely reflection, and wisely reflection leads (together with the power of Samadhi) to wisdom, and wisdom leads to detachment, and detachment leads to awakening.
The subject of this letter presents just such an opportunity and it is for the most worthy of causes-to support a place of worship and cultivation of mind, at Aryagiri Hill situated near Indo-Bangladesh Border in southern Mizoram, India.
In so doing through your generous support make manifest the words of the most basic Buddhist prayer, to support the teachings of the Vipassana Meditation, the remembrance of the Buddha, and the followers of the Buddha.
Establishment and construction of a Vipassana Meditation Center at this remote areas will serve the diverse spiritual needs of all Micro minority chakma Buddhists and non-Buddhists with warmth and spiritual openness. It will also serve as a center to teach and practice the techniques of meditation for the purpose of spiritual development.
The first phase for construction of Buddha shrine hall and two rooms for the monks have been completed with the generous donations made by various donor's from different countries.
The second phase will have to be built for the meditation hall and it's the second floor of the vihara.
So, Please help Bhante to raise funds to build a Vipassana Meditation Center at Aryagiri Hill. I am really compelled to reaching out to you on behalf of Ven. Suman Jyoti Thera in this meritorious deed, to raise funds required to contribution the main building for the Vipassana center.
Bhante live alone in the hill surrounded by deep jungle in search of the ultimate truth.
The contribution will help and in its entirety go towards a new Vipassana Retreat Meditation Center.
By making a donation to your ability, you are indeed lending a hand to continue this precious effort to spread the lucid word of the Lord Gauthama Buddha.
So please help Venerable Sumanjyoti Bhante with your donations to build the Vipassana Meditation Center at Aryagiri Hill.
Let us share the wonderful and rare gift of Dhamma, learn it, understand it, and live
The plan estimate for construction of second floor of the Ariyagiri Vipassana Meditation Center can be sent if required.
Any amount of donation either big or small is heartily accepted.
All the pious Dharma friends are requested to ask for the bank details to send your donation towards building the Vipassana Retreat Center of Bhante Suman Jyoti of Ariyagiri Hill near Bangladesh Border.
May you all have the blessing by the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.
Your's in the Dhamma,
Fundraiser of The Ultimate Truth Preaching Mission (A registered Buddhist Organization based in Mizoram, India)
Volunteer of Aryagiri Vipassana Foundation.
Lunglei District, Mizoram, India.
Donation can be sent to the following methods:-
Our PayPal Email-- Sudip.email@example.com
Our Bank Transfer method-
Account Name: Sudip Chakma
A/c No: 1463104000036962
Bank Name: IDBI BANK, LUNGLEI BRANCH.
SWIFT CODE: IBKLINBB136
Sabbe Satta Bhavantu Sukhitatta - May all beings be well, may all beings be happy, may all beings be free from suffering _/\_
Richard Hunn (1949-2006) was an expert in the history, philosophy and cultural interpretation of the Yijing (易經) or ‘Change Classic’. This is this the common name for the far earlier ‘Zhouyi’ (周易) ‘Zhou Change’ - as the hexagrams (and probably the trigrams) were laid-down during early part of the Zhou Dynasty of ancient China (1134-256 BCE) - with Confucius (and others later adding explanatory texts affixed to divination judgements. The (broken and straight) lined-structures themselves, arose from the practice of a hot-poker touching the flat (underpart) of a turtle shell (plastron) - or an 'ox scapula' (or shoulder-bone), with cracks forming on the shell from the transferred heat. A question was asked (usually by the King) with a royal minister writing the question on the shell (thus forming legal a record of the consultation). The hot-poker would touch the shell with the resulting ‘steam’ interpreted as the question being transported up into the divine sky as the steam ‘rose’ upwards. The ancient ancestral spirit dwelling in the sky would answer the question by way of sending deliberate ‘cracks’ downwards into the shell – with the diviner interpreting these ‘received’ cracks according to the question asked in relation to the over-all situation being investigated by the King. This divining ‘judgement’ (and other observations) would be etched onto the turtle shell alongside the question and stored away in a special depository of used turtle-shell divinations. Through this process, vast libraries of ‘royal’ divination prognoses were developed, and it is from this array of data that the original ‘Yijing’ was eventually formed into book. As the average number of cracks appeared to be ‘six’ - a ‘hexagram’ was chosen to represent this system of continuous change, together with the resultant judgements, situations and line commentaries, etc. There is a debate as to whether the ‘hexagram’ or ‘pentagram’ (five lined structure) was the original structure due to the complete nature of certain five-lined commentaries (as if the sixth-line is superfluous and added later), just as there is a debate about whether the eight trigrams were in the original Yijing or added during the rise of the Yin-Yang School (C. 300 BCE) with their content projected backwards. Trigrams are not specifically mentioned in the sixty-four chapters of the Yijing, and neither is the ideal of yin and yang (Hexagram 61 mentions ‘yin’ as a ‘shadow’ only). The eight trigrams and the Yin-Yang ideal is contained in the ‘Great Treatise’ (大傳 - Da Zhuan) - which was compiled from a number of disparate texts from around 500 BCE onwards (a process continuing perhaps into the Latter Han Dynasty). This information is either ‘new’ and was cleverly integrated into the Yijing – or it was a clarification of what had already come before. No one knows for sure. Besides all this interesting study, it is said that the sixty-four hexagrams of the Yijing prepare the enlightened Ch’an practitioner to ‘integrated’ the void aspect of the mind into the ‘material’ (form) aspect of the physical world, and exhibit behaviour that is never out of step with the Dao (道).
Note: It is recorded in Chinese language sources that different (but similar) divination manuals existed during the Xia Dynasty (2205 -1766 BCE) and the Shang Dynasty (1783 - 1122 BCE) - and that these evoled into the 'Zhouyi' - but no evidence of these texts has yet been uncovered.
“A man like this will not go where he has no will to go, will not do what he has no mind to do. Though the world might praise him and say he had really found something, he would look unconcerned and never turn his head; though the world might condemn him and say he had lost something, he would look serene and pay no heed. The praise and blame of the world are no loss or gain to him.” Daoist Immortal Zhuangzi
Anyone who penetrates the empty mind ground instantly realises the ‘Dao’ (道) of reality. After-all, this perception of inner ‘void’ will always accompany the enlightened person as they traverse the materiality of the external world. One is neither ‘attached’ to the bliss-like nature of the inner void – and neither are they ‘hindered’ by the attractive nature of the external world! Perception, moment by moment, is a continuous ‘integration’ of form and void so that there is no contradiction or paradox present in everyday experience. This is why chopping wood and fetching water are prime examples of expressing the genuine and true ‘Dao’.
Enlightenment within the Chinese Ch’an School is a living reality. It is not a dead teaching once known but now no longer understood. Chinese scholarship does not adhere to the various trends of interpretation extant in the West (or Japan) - as the Chinese people know their own culture. In my view it is the Cao Dong School that expresses the Chinese Ch’an School with the greatest scientific precision. The other four schools of Ch’an are all excellent in their own ways, and certainly contribute greatly to the reality of the living tradition of ancient Indian Buddhism (Dhyana) as it was transmitted into China. However, from the perspective of integrating the native Confucianism of China with the ‘foreign’ religion of Indian Buddhism – the ‘roundel’ system devised by Master Dong and Master Cao is nothing less than an Ingenious device for explaining the inner mind, the outer body and environment – and how both integrate and operate in the enlightened state!
The Cao Dong School is the personal (and preferred) lineage of Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) - even though he agreed to ‘inherit’ ALL Five Schools of Chinese Ch’an (and did not discriminate in anyway). His root teaching was the Cao Dong School and this is what he passed-on to his personal students and disciples. This is known within China as Master Xu Yun had thousands of such descendants, but it is a reality he seldom discussed in public or talked about in his biography. A Ch’an monastic, for example, must be ‘lower’ than the lowest lay-person – so that he or she can act as a supportive foundation for all lay-Dharma practice! By following the Vinaya Discipline a Ch’an monastic learns to be like the broad earth found in the ‘Classic of Change’ (Yijing), so that the ‘divine sky’ of an expansive consciousness can be correctly cultivated in the sincere Dharma student.
Charles Luk (1898-1978) inherited this Cao Dong teaching from Master Xu Yun and was tasked with transmitting it to the West. Charles Luk taught hundreds of people in the West, and I am sure he transmitted the Dharma to a number of discerning practitioners. However, Charles Luk taught my teacher - Richard Hunn (1949-2006) - who lived in the UK. One of the first instructions Richard Hunn gave me was that I was to spend at least ten years studying the ‘Book of Change’ (Yijing) - reading the profound text daily. I tended to read a single chapter ascribed to each of the 64 hexagrams and continued to repeat this cycle until the thinking (and symbolism) of the Yijing penetrated deep into my being! This is how I developed the inherent understanding of how the Five Ranks of Prince and Minister operates within the Cao Dong School.
The understanding of these five roundels is either misunderstood in the West, or only superficially grasped. Most people simply ignore it due to the influence of the Japanese Soto Master – Dogen – and his emphasis on ‘just sitting’ - but he must have studied and understood this device as a Dharma-Inheritor! By looking into the empty foundation that is beyond perception and non-perception – a Cao Dong practitioner is literally looking into the profound essence of the single roundel that contains all roundels! After-all, what other possible explanation could there be? On top of this, the Cao Dong Masters drew the ‘thunderbolt’ as a means to explain this interconnectivity and how a genuine student tends to experience an unfolding mind as it develops. Some state that this ‘thunderbolt’ may be influenced by the imagery associated with Tibetan Buddhism.
A Western (and Japanese) tendency is to view the five roundels as indicating five ‘ranks’ through which a practitioner traverses – from the lowest to the highest – as if each roundel represents a coloured belt in Judo. This is not the case at all. In the ‘Book of Changes’ there are 64 chapters – but no single chapter is considered ‘superior’ or ‘inferior’ to any other! Each of the 64 chapters exists as part of the other 63 chapters – perfect in its placement, situation and function. This is exactly how the Five Ranks interact with one another. All are contained within each – and there is never an implication that a practitioner moves from one self-contained level to another! Just as consciousness is infinite – the Cao Dong roundels represent an insight into the bottomless nature of human awareness. The Buddha, of course, stated that enlightenment is that conscious awareness which exists just beyond (and behind) the ability to ‘perceive’ (form) and ‘non-perceive’ (void). Chinese Ch’an does not go beyond this.
Adrian Chan-Wyles (釋大道 - Shi Da Dao) is permitted to retain his Buddhist Monastic Dharma-Name within Lay-society by decree of the Government of the People’s Republic of China, and the Chinese Buddhist Association (1992). A Buddhist monastic (and devout lay-practitioner) upholds the highest levels of Vinaya Discipline and Bodhisattva Vows. A Genuine Buddhist ‘Venerates’ the ‘Dao’ (道) as he or she penetrates the ‘Empty Mind-Ground' through meditative insight. A genuine Buddhist is humble, wise and peace-loving – and he or she selflessly serves all in existence in the past, present and the future, and residing within the Ten Directions – whilst retaining a vegetarian- vegan diet. Please be kind to animals!
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