Author’s Note: The battle against greed, hatred and delusion in the human mind (and body) is ongoing and eternal. Within Buddhist self-cultivation there must be a rigid and uncompromising ‘honesty’ with yourselves and others. Furthermore, such ‘honesty’ must also be ‘impartial’ and ‘indifferent’. As it is the expected ‘norm’ within the practice of ‘Dhamma’ - it is not considered anything ‘special’ once established and maintained. If a practitioner either mistakenly (or purposely) believes themselves ‘Enlightened’ when still held firmly in the grip of the three taints – then hellish inner and outer karma is not just generated but is magnified through its association with a malfunctioning Dhamma! This form of destructive self-delusion (and pseudo-enlightenment) is exactly what the Buddha and his disciples warned about through their teaching! This means that the empty mind ground only underlies good, bad and neutral conditions when it is directly experienced as doing so – and NOT before. For a person whose mind is still clouded by these three taints – then the empty mind ground is NOT yet known to be a) present and b) underlying all conditioned and non-conditioned states. Without first DIRECTLY experiencing and merging with the empty mind ground – a practitioner cannot claim to be ‘Enlightened’ simply by intellectually ‘knowing’ and ‘understanding’ that the empty mind ground exists in theory behind ALL material states. For a genuine experience of ‘Enlightenment’ to occur, the Dhamma must be properly followed and its fruits of practice gathered in a honest manner. Only strict discipline on the psychological and physical planes will gather enough purified inner energy for a genuine breakthrough in understanding to take place. The Mahasiddhis in the Tantric tradition, for instance, often dedicate their lives to nearly impossible tasks of spiritual discipline and purification that take twelve, twenty-four (or even longer) years to achieve! Many Mahayana practitioners ‘delay’ their entry into Nibbana over many lives in order to ‘rescue’ and ‘sae’ as many beings as possible from suffering! Those of the Theravada Scholl often dedicate decades of their lives quietly sitting in the depths of the forest until their individual minds are cleared of all impurities! Again, ‘honesty’ is the key to progression. ACW (31.8.2021)
As a follower of the Dharma, I see no contradictions in any of three contemporary schools – the Theravada, the Mahayana and Vajra (Tantra)-yana – methods of achieving Enlightenment. The Dhammapada Sutta is a prime example of the Buddha’s early (and over-all) teaching – which sees the conservative Theravada School quote frequently from it (see the Visuddhimagga) - whilst completely ignoring its Mahayana and Vajrayana content – most of which contradicts the central tenants of the ‘Hinayana’ movement! Certainly, this type of ‘Sutta’ preserved in the old Pali Cannon appears to contain the seeds of both Mahayana and Vajrayana practice. This means that these pathways cannot be ‘later’ diversions from the Buddha’s orthodox teachings – but must have been present in his ‘original’ expression of the Dhamma. This suggests that there were other trends or traits of Buddhist teaching that existed side by side with the Theravada and which taught far broader and more comprehensive Dhamma-theories. As these schools did not compete or seek worldly influence and power – and given their practitioners often withdrew for years (or decades) from the world of common interaction – their presence in the historical record did not develop until much later on, when the dialectical conditions within society favoured a more comprehensive definition of the Dhamma and what it means to be ‘Enlightened’.
Although sound academic claims have been made which present the Mahayana and Vajrayana as being ‘corruptions’ of the Buddha’s original teaching – suggesting that Hinduism, Jainism and even Islamic ideas infiltrated the interpretation of the Dhamma – this model does not hold when the Dhammapada Sutta is taken into account. As the Dhammapada Sutta emanates from the ‘Word of the Buddha’, then it is his solemn expression of the Dhamma with no outside influences. Of course, the Theravada ideologues often counter this assertion by stating extracts from ultra-conservative Suttas – with each implying that only monks can achieve enlightenment who live in a forest – and no one else! The problem here, is that much of this material is now proven as being the product of additions, omissions and clever monkish editing to justify the ethos of the Theravada School. The Theravada School could get away with this in a time-period when only Buddhist monastics could read and write and the laity had to take their word for what the Buddha taught. Today, through the science of ‘Philology’, it is clear that the Dhammapada Sutta contains unaltered (ancient) content which has proven to be an embarrassment to the conservatism of the Theravada School! Indeed, evidence suggests that the Dhammapada Sutta was a much more prominent Buddhist text until the laity started using its content to ‘doubt’ the ‘conservativism’ of the Theravada School – whose editors ‘hid’ the Sutta away and started to emphasis more one-sided Dhamma-expressions.
Even at the time of the Buddha’s Parinibbana (all-round and thorough ‘extinction’) - not all the elder monks (or groups of monks) who had learned directly from him - accepted the Theravada School as being entirely correct. This is not to say that the Theravada School is ‘wrong’ - but that its claim to an ‘exclusive’ legitimacy is not fully supported by the known facts. The conservative approach of the Theravada School is suitable for those individuals who require that type of approach to learning the Dhamma. However, it is also true that the Buddha also taught a number of other interpretations of his path – each extending the depth and broadness of the concept of ‘Enlightenment’ and how it is to be applied to the world. All pathways are of equal validity and it is probably the case that most people will at one time or another in their lives – explore all three pathways. For the Theravada School a Buddhist monastic living deep in the forest (away from ALL worldly contact) occupies the ideal situation for Dhamma-study. The six senses are ‘purified’ by ‘breaking’ ALL contact with worldly interaction whilst living in a meditation hut and following the Vinaya Discipline. Overtime, the six senses are thoroughly cleaned-out as the ridge-pole of ignorance is broken through a continuous practice of seated meditation. This is achieved by permanently uprooting greed, hatred and delusion. Once nibbana is attained, no more volitional karma is produced, but the continued existence of the physical body symbolises the accumulative effects of past karma – although after the realisation of ‘Enlightenment’ - all previously bad karma is greatly reduced. When the karmic force that powers each physical existence is exhausted – then the five aggregates (physical matter, sensation, perception, thought formation and consciousness) dissolve and fall away never to ‘re-combine’.
Interestingly, the Theravada model implies that only monks can realise ‘Enlightenment’ even though numerous Pali Suttas clearly state that a number of lay-men and women also realised complete ‘Enlightenment’ during the Buddha’s lifetime. This openly contradicts the Theravada School – which suggests that if an ‘Enlightened’ monk were to return to lay-life – then his ‘Enlightened’ state would regress as his six senses would once again be ‘sullied’ through interaction with the world. The Pali Suttas that the Theravada School preserve contradict most of the accrued dogma that this school preserves. Obviously, men and women can attain ‘Enlightenment’ even if they live within the pollution of everyday society, and according to the Dhammapada Sutta - ‘Enlightenment’ can be attained in places other than a forest – with the realisers not suffering any regression by changing their living conditions. This does not mean that the over-all methodology of the Theravada School is ‘incorrect’ - but rather that as a method it fits into a broader scheme designed by the Buddha. Somewhere along the line a group of monks seeking political (worldly) power established a number of outrageous claims that have gone unchallenged. The Mahayana School (which is a collection of Sects all teaching a variant upon a theme), also states that it might be in the interests of the individual to withdraw from the sensory stimulus of the everyday world to get to grips with the unruly mind. This is not the ‘end’ of the matter by any means – but merely the beginning of an ongoing and arduous process of self-purification. Much of the Mahayana pathway is premised upon ‘Compassion’ for other beings and includes methods of wise and loving modes of behaviour whilst interacting within the ordinary world. This means that even when living within the world of delusion, the Dhamma can be followed in such a manner that benefits others whilst pursuing a much slower path of purification.
As Hui Neng (the Sixth Patriarch of Ch’an) states in his Altar Sutra – once the six senses are thoroughly purged of ALL dualistic and inverted (volitional) karma, then greed, hatred and desire are PERMANENTLY uprooted never to re-appear again regardless of the situations such ‘Enlightened’ individuals are forced to exist within. (Hui Neng had to live in the hills with bandits for sixteen years but only ate the vegetables they cooked alongside their meat). Herein lies a major interpretative difference between the Theravada and Mahayana Schools. Other than this, however, the experience of ‘Enlightenment’ is essentially the same. An ‘Enlightened’ Mahayana practitioner CANNOT regress regardless of circumstances – which he or she merely adjusts themselves to (neither attached to the inner void or hindered by external phenomena). Whereas Chinese Ch’an Masters were often reticent to discuss the post-enlightenment state (to prevent pointless mimicry and ego-boosting) - the Vajrayana School of Tantra explains this process over and over again within the literature associated with the ‘Mahasiddhis’ - or ‘Enlightened’ Indian men and women all from very different backgrounds! Again, the root essence of this can be found in the Dhammapada Sutta where the Buddha explains who and what a ‘monk’ and a ‘Brahmin’ actually are! In reality, there is no difference in the experience of ‘Enlightenment’ as taught in the Theravada, Mahayana and Tantra Schools, as the experience being explained is exactly the same. It is the experience of the underlying and empty mind ground, which is the accumulation of bodily discipline and ‘stilling’ of the mind so that the karmically conditioned taints of greed, hatred and delusion are permanently uprooted.
The differences lie in how each school teaches the path to the attainment of ‘Enlightenment’ and the accumulated dogma that has manifested due to historical conditions many hundreds of years after the passing of the Buddha. The Theravada offers a narrow gate, the Mahayana advocates a wide gate and the Tantrayana states that the ‘gate’ is ‘everywhere’ and ‘wherever’ a practitioner happens to be. This is because the empty mind ground underlies all phenomena and is not limited to a forest. Whereas the Mahayana emphasises the ‘path’ over the ‘destination’ - the Tantrayana offers the ‘destination’ over the ‘path’! However, things are not always this clear in demarcation, as some Theravada teachers offer a distinctly ‘Mahayana’ approach to their conservativism, whilst a number of Mahayana teachers are so strict that they come across as typical of the Theravada School. On occasion, there are Chinese Ch’an Masters who begin with ‘Enlightenment’ (just like the Tantrayana Masters), and will not compromise, negotiate or explain what they are doing. In reality we should study all three schools and make use of their experience and expertise in the matter of freeing humanity from its ongoing and accumulated suffering! A genuine experience of the empty mind ground unleashes an uncommon wisdom which sheds light on all this and demonstrates the genuine way ahead!
Whilst Easterners are too busy modernising too be that bothered with Ch’an lineage transmissions – many Westerners, by way of contrast, attempt to ‘collect’ transmissions as if they are badges denoting rank or promotions signifying success! This is a complete cultural misreading and is usually accomplished by a huge psychological and physical barrier of ‘dishonesty’ which they feel cannot be seen. On the contrary, those trained in authentic Ch’an Buddhism are able to immediately ‘see through’ this disguise the moment it is made apparent. Many such people who have approached me cannot get pass, over or around me – as I sit like a heavy boulder in their path. I am not going anywhere and have no interest in banal conversation – show me your insight or go away. I do not care what you think (or do not think) as it is all a creation in your own head dependent upon your own conditioning in life – come to me when you have cleared it up and attained ‘stillness’ of mind, expansion of mind or integration of ‘form’ and ‘void’.
Other than that, we have nothing to talk about unless I deem it worthwhile and to the benefit of your own development. All this hold doubly-true for those who still decide to follow fake spiritual teachers in the West and support fraudulent lineages after I have explained the genuine Ch’an Dharma to them. This is why it makes no difference if we maintain an ‘open’ transmission as an act of ‘compassion’ on the ICBI site – as it is each individual’s behaviour that either validates or invalidates such an initiative – and the ICBI can withdraw such a fluid transmission if an individual concerned acts in a disrespectful, dishonourable, dishonest or disruptive manner.
Such individuals cannot uphold the ICBI lineage and claim to still support fake teachers and false transmissions! Furthermore, it is not the place of the ICBI to confirm or deny to individuals which lineages are ‘fake’ or ‘fraudulent’ as this is your own responsibility. The ICBI is a spiritual platform with its historical roots in China and it is Chinese culture which defines its everyday functioning. The ICBI colleagues in Beijing chose the UK as its first non-China base as a springboard into the West. As there are no plans for any further expansion – the UK is considered the cradle of genuine Ch’an outside of China. I will guard this gate for my Chinese colleagues for as long as my life will last and I will assist all and sundry to realise the empty mind ground – but for your own sakes – I certainly will not indulge anyone’s ego!
ACW – SDD (13.8.2021)
When the muscles of the arm contract so that a heavy weight held in the hand can be ‘lifted’ - nothing in this process grants any knowledge as to how muscles work, or how movements are controlled by the spine or brain, etc. Similarly, when a gland secretes hormones – none of this process (in and of itself) grants any ‘special’ knowledge into the nature of glands or hormones – and yet, when the brain ‘secretes’ thought – it is assumed that this process of secreting ‘thought’ possesses the ability to ‘see into’ the inherent biological nature of a) the brain, and b) the mind, but is this a reasonable assumption? If the functions of other biological processes give no ‘special’ knowledge about the inner workings of a bodily organ – why should the secretion of ‘thought’ from the brain produce any substantially ‘different’ mode of knowledge?
Of course, the brain is not a ‘normal’ bodily organ despite the fact that it does regulate (together with the spine) virtually all other organs (and biological processes) in the body. The brain does this whilst generating the appearance of the ‘mind’ - from which ‘thoughts’ are believed to emerge. This ‘thought’ capacity has evolved to allow the brain to see its own processes (to a certain extent), whilst also being able to perceive processes in the external environment. With regards the perception of ‘inner’ processes, the capacity of the brain is severely limited, with no amount of contemplative thinking producing the exact size and shape of the brain doing the ‘thinking’. To acquire this knowledge, the physical organ of the brain (usually ‘dead’) would have to examined ‘outside’ of its usual skull-casing by another (living) human-being. In other words, a living brain examines the dead brain of a now ‘non-living’ human-being. A living human-being can observe their own arm lifting a weight in a manner which does not apply to the functioning of their own brain – and herein lies the fundamental difference.
The historical Buddha (in ancient India), for example, described the functioning of the ‘mind’ but never envisioned all this as an operation of the brain. I mention this as monastics within Early Buddhism often sat and meditated in graveyards and burning-ghats – and often contemplated the decaying of bodies left to ‘rot’ in the open by families too poor to afford a proper burning and disposal ceremony. Although the skull is often intact for those who have experienced natural deaths, there was probably cases of severely injured individuals where it was possible for the Buddhist monastics to ‘observe’ the brain. This could not have been very common, and certainly the Buddha does not speak of a ‘brain’ as such, despite linking the ‘sensation’ of the environment to specific sense-organs located within the body. This may be because the Buddha defined the ‘mind’ as a sensory organ which ‘senses’ thought – hence the ‘six senses’ found within Buddhist philosophy. Indian philosophy tends to view human consciousness as being various ‘frequencies’ of ethereal energy (perhaps ‘light’ energy). This gives the impression that the external world is constructed of light-energy that also ‘exists’ inside the body. This leads to the interplay of ‘void’ (consciousness empty of greed, hatred and delusion), and ‘form’, or all material stuff. As the Buddha advocated the psychological and physical ‘exiting’ of the world of sorrow – he had no need to develop a sophisticated anatomy and physiology – although he came very close to doing this by default of his ‘logical’ assessment of perception.
Unless we are exposed to the insides of the human-body in a scientific setting – no amount of inner gazing will produce an accurate picture of the ‘actual’ structures of the inner-body – or ‘how’ these structures fit-together and function in a healthy individual. All of this knowledge would slowly emerge in the various medical systems of the world – and very slowly at that. It is only in the last two-hundred years or so, that a reasonably accurate view of the human-body has been developed and utilised in the healing of humanity. Perhaps the Buddha got as far as any reasonably enlightened human-being could get, and in so doing did develop a ‘science’ of perception that was unusually perceptive for the time. Of course, our education systems allow us to ‘see’ much more in a short space of time, but no amount of this kind of study offers a short-cut to realising the ‘enlightenment’ advocated by the Buddha. Even though general education has moved-on, the Buddha’s enlightenment is still very difficult to realise. A well-balanced path would seem to involve a sound academic education coupled with a regular meditative practice. My view is that modern education is very important, but it doesn’t invalidate the path of the Buddha. If anything, I would suggest that modern education actually serves to ‘alienate’ humanity ever more from a perception of its pure spiritual essence. The Buddha’s enlightenment of compassion, loving kindness and wisdom – coupled with the accomplishments of modern science will produce an all-round human-being and effective Bodhisattva!
The text that requires study is that of the Surangama Sutra as translated by Charles Luk. This should not be confused with the ‘Surangama-Samadhi Sutra’ as translated into English by Etienne Lamotte. The latter is useful but different - as it describes the Early Mahayana and the conversion to following the Dharma by Mara – in the form of a conversion between the Buddha and the Bodhisattva Drdhammati. In both Sutras is the found in-depth discussion of the state of ‘Samadhi’ - or ‘one-pointed’ concentration of the mind achieved through dedicated and focused meditation practice. As this Buddhist practice is considered ‘world-altering’ and ‘heroic’ - both Sutras take the name ‘Surangama’ to indicate the ‘Heroic’ nature of such practitioners. The ‘Concentration’ of the mind facilities the attainment of ALL further states of understanding and enlightenment within the Buddhist tradition regardless of school. Whatever a distinctive Buddhist School might advocate – it cannot be achieved without first mastering ‘Samadhi’. Like the Vimalakirtia Nirdesa Sutra, the Surangama Samadhi Sutra was first translated into the Chinese language by Kumarajiva – the famous Buddhist scholar.
Charles Luk’s translation of the ‘Surangama Sutra’ also includes a shortened commentary by Ch’an Master Han Shan Deqing 1546–1623). This Sutra is much more indicative of the ‘directness’ of the Ch’an Method, and defines ‘Samadhi’ as containing ‘three’ distinct attributes of attainment 1) self-evidencing, 2) perception, and 3) form. Correct training penetrates the alaya – or ‘eighth consciousness’ - and smashes forever the false notion of a permanent ‘self’ or ‘soul’ as favoured by many other religions. The Buddha discusses with various Bodhisattvas the merits of using one or other of the ‘six senses’ advocated within Buddhist thought as a means to ‘breakthrough’ the chaotic surface mind (and thus ‘stilling’ it), as well as transcending the dangerously seductive ‘empty-mind’ (which can often produce a very strong ‘attachment’ and ‘world-denying’ tendency). For ‘form’ and ‘void’ to be understood as ‘identical’ whilst simultaneously representing radically different states of being – both concepts must be fully realised, penetrated and transcended without error, doubt or hesitation.
Whilst the ‘hearing’ facility is presented as the most efficient method of entering the stream of consciousness in a pro-active manner – it is also true that he other ‘five’ senses can also be used with the caveat as each is not as efficient or as easy as the ear. These are the senses of ‘thinking’, seeing’ ‘smelling’, ‘tasting’ and ‘touching’, etc. Together with the hearing capacity – ALL sensory data (regardless of its ‘type’) can be equally ‘turned’ and directed back inward toward its non-perceptual origination (from within the empty mind ground). My experience is that relative enlightenment is the realisation of a ‘still’ mind by successfully return just one bodily-sense back to its empty non-perceptual essence. Although this is considered complete enlightenment in the Hinayana School – this is not so in the Mahayana School.
As the Lankavatara Sutra states – the six senses are like six knots in a length of string – untie one knot and they all untie simultaneously! This means that when the ‘hearing’ is successfully returned – through a period of further disciplined Ch’an training – the other five senses are then realised as returning to exactly the same empty mind ground and the perceptual awareness of the mind is experienced as ‘expanding’ and embracing all things. This is the stage of ‘full’ enlightenment as taught by the Ch’an School and which was confirmed by the Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng in his ‘Altar Sutra’, etc. Certainly, when in a natural state of enlightened repose, the Ch’an practitioner inhabit all six senses simultaneously being a) continuously ‘returned’ to the empty essence, whilst b) continuously radiating wisdom, loving kindness and compassion from the empty mind ground and into the world through the permanently ‘purified’ six senses. This is the Cao Dong Lineage as conveyed by Master Xu Yun (1840-1959)
Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) often advised against a type of ‘False Ch’an’ which must be avoided. Of course, there are many types of ‘false’ states of mind which can be grasped and mistaken as ‘enlightenment’. This is described as being the product of subtle stages of deficient perception and attachment. One example of this (from a position of developed ability) is described as ‘sitting atop of the hundred-foot pole’ - which is the stage of attainment which involves ‘attachment’ to a ‘still’ but as of yet ‘non-expanded’ and ‘non-all-embracing' mind-set. This usually happens after a practitioner achieves the ‘stillness’ of mind attainment which is often associated with the enlightenment of the Hinayana School. It is a definite achievement, yes, but it is not the enlightenment of the Mahayana School. This is the enlightenment of the Arahant and not that of the Bodhisattva. This is the stage achieved by the five-hundred Arahants who walked out during the Lotus Sutra - when the Buddha first explained the enlightenment of the Bodhisattva.
After training for a long time, a dedicated practitioner will eventually ‘still’ the mind so that the ‘chaotic’ mind of the beginner is transcended and a wondrous (but limited) emptiness of mind is penetrated. However, as this limited state can only be preserved by ‘attaching’ one’s awareness to it – there is no transition to the stage of the Bodhisattva enlightenment. The Buddha’s Ch’an is synonymous with the Hinayana School – whilst the Patriarch’s Ch’an equates to that of the Bodhisattva attainment. The Buddha’s Ch’an is the achievement of the a ‘still’ mind (explained in the Sutras) that is as of yet ‘non-expanded’ - whilst the Patriarch’s Ch’an (which is beyond ‘words and sentences’) is the fully expanded enlightenment of the Bodhisattva.
Within the Ch’an School the tradition of using the symbolism of being ‘stuck’ atop a hundred-foot pole originates with the Great Master Zhaoxian (招贤大师 - Zhao Xian Dai Shi) - also known as ‘Jing Cen’ (景岑) - who was from Hunan and lived during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE). His story is recorded in the Chinese-language text entitled ‘Five Lamps Meeting at the Source’ (五灯会元 - Wu Deng Hui Yuan). As these twenty volumes of Ch’an history was compiled in 1252 CE – all the recorded stories happened prior to this date. Great Master Zhaoxian said:
“Sitting ‘still’ upon a hundred-foot pole – is not the ‘true’ attainment. Step-off to make progress. Then, the whole-body will manifest throughout the Ten Directions.’
Chinese Language Reference:
The Sanskrit term ‘विनय’ (vinaya) carries the primary meanings of ‘courtesy’, ‘civility’ and ‘etiquette’, with the secondary meanings (depending upon context), of ‘humility’, ‘sincerity’ and the performing of an ‘act of courtesy’. Within the Chinese language, the Sanskrit term ‘vinaya’ is written using the Chinese ideogram of ‘律’ (lu4). This is comprised of a left-hand (semantic) particle ‘彳’ (chi4) - meaning ‘to walk slowly and carefully - along a path or a road’, and a right-hand (phonetic) particle of ‘聿’ (yu4) - which means to ‘use brush and paper’. When placed together as ‘律’ (lu4), the primary meanings are created of ‘regulation’ and ‘rules of the road’, and the secondary meanings of ‘statute’, ‘principle’ and ‘regulation’. As the ancient Chinese scholars were very careful to a) ‘record’ and b) ‘transmit’ the correct meanings of the then unfamiliar terms associated with Indian Buddhism into the Chinese language, and given that this translation (and understanding) is accepted by Indian scholars as ‘correct’, the Chinese definition of ‘vinaya’ may be taken as a clear indicator of the ‘original’ or ‘intended’ meaning as intended by the Buddha and his disciples. The ‘Vinaya Discipline’ is a set of rules and regulations within Buddhism, which advise upon the correct moral behaviour for the monastic (who must follow ALL the rules without exception), and the lay-practitioner (who must follow a small number of the rules whilst living within ordinary society). Whereas a monastic is ‘celibate’, the lay-person must practice ‘sexual restraint’ (and not ‘celibacy’), so that their behaviour does not cause ‘concern’ or ‘outrage’ within the lay-community. The point of the Vinaya Discipline is to effect ‘behaviour modification’ within the mind and body of the Buddhist practitioner, so that greed, hatred and delusion are permanently ‘uprooted’ from the thought patterns, and NEVER manifest again through ‘behaviour’. In this regard, the Vinaya Discipline is a ‘support’ to both monastic and lay Buddhist practice. Moreover, whereas a Buddhist monk or nun must spend months (and sometimes years) ‘preparing’ to take the Vinaya Vows (227 for men and 311 for women), a lay-Buddhist practitioner may decide to follow the entirety of the Vinaya Discipline on a voluntary basis within the context of his or her worldly life. Nothing is required for this but a firm ‘resolve’ to carry-out such an undertaking. Quite often, this leads to the situation of male and female ‘ascetics’ living in the wilderness throughout Asia, who are revered by the ordinary people for their ‘holiness’, despite never formally training as a Buddhist monastic or having entered a Buddhist monastic training facility! In many ways this reflects the Buddha’s own experiences, as no one ‘ordained’ him, and all his training was a product of self-discipline as an ascetic sat at the foot of a tree! The Vinaya Discipline acts as a ‘support’ for following the ‘Dharma’. The Dharma is the Buddha’s most important central teaching, whereas the Vinaya Discipline are a set of instructionary rules established over-time and designed to enable the following of the Dharma more efficiently. As the Vinaya Discipline is a set of rules that assist in the regulation of the mind and body, Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) was of the firm opinion that there can be no genuine Buddhism without the Vinaya Discipline being a) ‘present’, and b) ‘practiced’. This is why he rejected the Japanese convention of NOT following the Vinaya Discipline. Although anyone can choose to live in isolation as a Buddhist ‘hermit’ or ‘ascetic’, only a man or woman who has been through the official head-shaving ceremony (under a recognised Buddhist master), and who has taken the Vinaya Discipline and the Bodhisattva Vows, is considered a fully ordained ‘monk’ or ‘nun’ within the Chinese Buddhist tradition. This distinction was further enforced by Master Xu Yun in the early 1950s (at the time that he ‘rejected’ the Japanese tradition of NOT upholding the Vinaya Discipline), when he advised the government of China to make it a ‘legal’ requirement for ALL fully ordained Buddhist monks and nuns to follow the Vinaya Discipline properly – or face legal action (similar to ‘breaking a contract’). Master Xu Yun took this action due to the reality of a number of Buddhist monastic communities causing trouble within lay-society through ill-discipline, interference, greed and other forms of corrupt behaviour. A lay-person, however, remains free to ‘access’ or ‘leave’ the Vinaya Discipline at any time, with no criminality attached. A lay-person may follow ALL or only a part of the Vinaya Discipline, as he or she sees fit, or as the circumstances of their life allows. The Vinaya Discipline is a powerful device that if used correctly, can cure any number of psychological, emotional and physical ailments, as well as removing deficiencies, weaknesses and all kinds of barriers or hindrances to pursuing the Dharma! A lay-person may live like a monk (or a nun) without actually entering the establishment of a Buddhist monastery, or undergoing formal ordination. Indeed, within the Chinese Ch’an School, a lay-person is expected to achieve full enlightenment exactly where they are, with the status of a Buddhist monk or nun being lower than that of the poorest lay-person! The Vinaya Discipline belongs to humanity, but over-time certain conventions have become associated with it. When Charles Luk asked Master Xu Yun ‘What is the most important Precept to follow?’ Master Xu Yun replied ‘The ‘Mind’ Precept.’ In other words, simply following an external set of rules is useless if the empty mind-ground is not penetrated and realised here and now, and in all circumstances! The empty mind-ground is exactly the same for a Buddhist monastic as it is for a lay-person! Indeed, in many ways, the life of a lay-person possesses many advantages over that of a Buddhist monastic – the latter of which is merely a beggar in robes (who is not allowed even to ‘beg’ in China)!
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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