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...
Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) is the embodied of the Confucian ideal that the manner with which a person organised their inner-being – has a direct co-relation upon how the outer world surrounding that person operates. Why is this correct? It is correct because on the molecular-level, body-cells resonate with a particular frequency. If an individual possesses a mind polluted with greed, hatred and delusion, then his or her body-language will exude these attitudes and his or her behaviour will engineer a physical reality that best represents this inner chaos. In other words, good people will be driven away, and equally bad people will be attracted. Combining these ‘bad’ patterns of behaviour will generate social and cultural structures that emphasis greed, hatred and delusion – and push away or ‘de-emphasis’ any other mode of existence!
This is not to say the mind is literally ‘creating’ physical matter – as the world already pre-exists each individual born into it – but rather a ‘frequency’ of existence is manifested through each mind and body living in the world! An individual’s attitude toward life can influence others into changing their lives for the better. An individual whose inner being is thoroughly corrupt will build a life premised upon this chaos and attract others who feel the same way. On the other hand, if an individual meditates effectively, and disciplines their behaviour, then this sets a very different example – as if the ‘frequency’ of the air molecules surrounding such a being resonate with purity, goodness and inspiration! This reality takes on a ‘foundational’ existence which underlies any other expression of communication.
This is indicative of the ‘type’ of person the individual happens to be, and pre-exists the words they use and the behaviour patterns they exude! A ‘sagely’ person exhibits every character trait and behaviour pattern that guides humanity away from greed, hatred and delusion, and toward the direct perception of the ‘empty mind-ground'. This is an attitude toward existence that is permanent and no longer a matter of choice or forced will-power. A sagely and awe-inspiring deportment becomes as natural as the wind blowing across the face of a mountain! There is no contrivance – only an eternal and resonating ‘presence’ of ‘goodness’ for all to benefit from! Once an individual establishes this reality within and without them – then their words and actions become messengers of this reality that lead all other beings to this ‘frequency’ of being! This is how greed, hatred and delusion are permanently ‘uprooted’ from the mind of humanity and the patterns of behaviour humanity routinely choices to exhibit to the world!
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!
‘What is Maha? It means “Great”. The capacity of the mind is as great as that of space. It is infinite, neither round nor square, neither great nor small, neither green nor yellow, neither red nor white, neither above nor below, neither long nor short, neither angry nor happy, neither right nor wrong, neither good nor evil, neither first nor last. All Buddha Ksetras (lands) are as void as space. Intrinsically our transcendental nature is void and not a single Dharma can be attained. It is the same with the Essence of Mind, which is a state od “Absolute Void” (I.e. the voidness of non-void).
Learned audience, when you hear me talk about the Void, do not at once fall into the idea of vacuity, (because this involves the heresy of the doctrine of annihilation). It is of the utmost importance that we should not fall into this idea, because when a man sits quietly and keeps his mind blank he will abide in a state of Voidness of Indifference.
Learned Audience, the illimitable Void of the universe is capable of holding myriads of things of various shape and form, such as the sun, the moon, stars, mountains, rivers, worlds, springs, rivulets, bushes, woods, good men, bad men, Dharmas pertaining to goodness or badness. Devi planes, hells, great oceans and all the mountains of the Mahameru Space takes in all these, and so does the voidness of our nature. We say that the essence of Mind is great because it embraces all things, since all things are within are nature.
When we see the goodness or the badness of other people we are not attracted by it, nor repelled by it, nor attached to it; so that our attitude of mind is as void as space. In this way, we say our mind is great. Therefore we call it ‘Maha’ (Great).
Wong Mou-Lam, The Sutra of Hui Neng, San Yang, (1929), Pages 28-29
Whereas scientists are not sure where the COVID19 infection came from, the Buddhist response is one of enhanced loving-kindness, compassion and wisdom. The Buddha’s compassion never wavered during his lifetime, regardless of what he experienced. In times of hardship, chaos and disaster, the minds and bodies of ordinary people become infected with a ‘fear’ that permeates every waking moment and is the basis for every action. All is change. Fear comes and fear goes and during these times, we must not become ‘attached’ or ‘polluted’ by this process – this is exactly the same requirement for monastics as it is for the laity as the ‘mind ground’ underlies all evenly. Sit strongly, breathe deeply and return all sensation to its empty essence. Still the mind and expand the awareness as from this all universal love, compassion and wisdom will flow! If you are ill, sit like an iron mountain until you can ‘see through’ the phenomenon of discomfort! The enlightened mind is like a giant (empty) and round mirror (with no limits) that reflects all things!
Shi Da Dao
At 3:03 pm (GMT+8) on February 1, 2020 (the eighth day of the first lunar month), the 93 years old Venerable Master Jing Kong (净空) will hold a non-exclusive (collective) Buddhist Prayer Meeting involving 300 million people world-wide. Anyone can join regardless of where you are. This Buddhist Prayer Meeting will take 3 minutes and involve the ‘good intention’ of generating the inner and outer conditions for personal, community, national and international ‘Peace and Good Health’. This will involve a special section for the people of Wuhan, Hebei province – the epicentre of the recent SARS outbreak.
Old Venerable Master Jing Kong would like to explain that everyone is welcome – atheist or theist, Buddhist or non-Buddhist, religious or non-religious. This is not about religious faith, but rather compassion and loving kindness for the welfare of all beings! The suggested ritual is as follows:
1) Namo Shakyamuni Buddha (chant times 3)
2) Namo Amitabha Buddha (chant times 3)
3) Namo Guanyin (chant times 3)
4) Pray for Wuhan, I wish China good health, May the world be peaceful!
5. Hope you and your family are healthy. Hope the patient recovers and the doctor is safe. I hope the epidemic will clear up.
(Due to the time difference, and the fact that people around the world may not read this straightaway, Master Jing Kong says that anyone can do this at any time to generate the good inner and outer conditions according to their own circumstance).
One-hundred and twenty years ago, in Changan, the ancient capital of China, there was hunger, drought and plagued. Old Master Xu Yun (虚云) prayed for snow in August and it was frozen for thousands of miles. Today after 120 years, the world will change because of your collective efforts!
Original Chinese Language Text:
Mr Wang Ping - pictured above working on his notes for the ICBI - is 80 years old today (having been born in 1939)! He met Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) twice before his Pari-Nirvana in 1959 - and told me that his age (of 120 years) has been verified a number of times through various official and semi-official investigations. Mr Wang Ping is our physical link with Mainland China with the 'ICBI Beijing Office' being wherever Mr Wang Ping establishes his desk.
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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