Foundation Dharma Practices Intro Talk
GoldenCrown Dharma King Dechan Jueren
Smith College - Northampton, MA
June 29, 2002
Dechan Jueren: If you read Chinese history, you will realize, the Tang Dynasty is probably the pinnacle of Chinese history. During that time period, everything happened, everything under the sun. Everything in human relationship - it all happened that. The famous Silk Road was further developed during the Tang Dynasty because Chinese had done a lot of trade with middle Eastern countries, and with Mediterranean countries, too. So I don't know how to paint a picture for you any further, except that then China was considered the # 1 country of the world. So during the Tang dynasty for about 30 or 40 years, there was not even a prison or any jail house left. Everybody was behaving so well, no body was committing any crimes.
But later, this is the page that was really recorded in history, that passed down through the lineage, by recording some chronicles. There was a Taoist master by the name of Lao-Zin. He was very narrow minded, because he felt like he had lost favor with the emperor, ever since the new Buddhist master came to the country, and therefore he began to instigate some problems. Because before the Buddhists ever came, the Chinese only followed the teachings of Confucianism and Taoism. Therefore the courts would have Taoist masters or Confucianist teachers as the national teacher.
After the great Buddhist master came to China, the court awarded the title of national teacher to the Buddhist master. Therefore there were other people who became very jealous of the Buddhist master's position. Therefore, they wanted to find a way to make trouble, in order to pull out the Buddhist masters. But as I say, the three great founders - Subhakarasimha, Vajrabodhi, and Amogavajra - came to China to transmit Buddha Dharma, and they were considered enlightened people, and therefore had a lot of tolerance and patience. They intended, to change people's thinking, make them open up their thinking and change their narrow-mindedness. So after the youngest master, Amogavajra, entered Nirvana, that would be 47 years later, the new emperor was then the great grand son of the first emperor who had welcomed the Buddhist masters. The new emperor had been in power for about 5 years now. So there were some Taoist activists, perhaps you can call them that, they kidnapped the daughter of one of the lords, raped her, dissected the body - you know, chopped the body in pieces - and threw it behind the Buddhist temple. Then they spread the rumors of a premeditated setup, that all these decadent tantric practitioners came to this country, and they begin to rape the lord's daughter.
Who was this lord? He was the uncle of the current emperor. Therefore, the daughter was considered a princess. Of course, all these conspirators had instigated, had said a lot of other things, and ran out the Buddhists, and angered the lord. The lord, his name was Ni-Shan (?) therefore he ordered to have all the monks of this temple killed, and burned the temple down. The lord had such power, he could take action first, then report to the emperor later. Then afterwards, when he wrote the report, he had to justify his actions, he added extra stuff to it to justify his actions. One of the reasons he said he had to take this action immediately was that the esoteric practitioners had such power, they were actually conspiring to overtake the court and start a new dynasty. In the beginning, the first emperors who welcomed the Buddhist masters, and also the first empress of China, both of them, when they passed away, they handed over their royal seals to the Da-Shing San Temple in then the capital city of China. That temple still exists today, and has safe keep under the Buddhist masters. Of course, where the royal seal was discovered by this Taoist master, Lio-Zin who instigated these things in the very beginning. So in the reports to the emperor, the lord indicated that the esoteric Buddhist practitioners, in order to aspire to overtake the court, they first stole the royal seals of the past emperors and empress, and they hid it in the temple. Because before this current emperor, he wasn't even aware where the past emperor and empress' seals were concealed. So it was quite a surprise. The emperor was startled by this fact, that the royal seals were actually in the Buddhist temple. Right away the emperor ordered the troops to surround the temple and search. After they searched through the temples, then it was a fact - two royal seals of the emperor and empress of the Tang dynasty were sitting on the ??? in the temple. Therefore this current emperor felt, perhaps there was some merit in the report that all these Buddhists were conspiring, and they had big plans to overturn his dynasty. So they felt they were spies from India, all these monks were pretenders, and so on. Therefore, the emperor decided he was going to clean this up, and clean away all the Indian Buddhist monks in China. This was a very important period in history, that there were three time periods - this is the one where the emperor extinguished all the Buddhist schools and practices in China. Under the emperor's orders, they killed the monks, burned the temples, and burned the sutras. In China then was actually the most complete collection, translated all from Sanskrit into Chinese. Collection of Buddhist sutras. Because this emperor, he burnt the complete collection of over 27,000 scrolls. Amogavajra had a very famous Chinese disciple. He was also a national teacher of the Tang Dynasty. His name was Hui-Go. Just before this new emperor, Tang-WuZan, (?) just about 7 years before he sent out his orders to extinguish all the Buddhist in China, a Japanese monk - his name was KuKai - came to China to learn, and bowed under Hui-Go, and became Hui-Go's disciple. By the time that emperor made the order to kill all the Buddhists in China, Kukai was in Japan. He was worried about his master Hui-Go. Therefore he went to China, to secretly bring his master to Japan. Hui-Go escaping for his life is a different version from history. What's in the history books is him staying in China. When he left in a hurry, he did not have time to get his collection of sutra and tantra books. And therefore, Amoghavajra passed on all the dharma instruments to a younger disciple, not known in history. His younger disciples' name was Hui-Su. Because Hui-Go's name was much more well known, and he made a scene that he fled China, with Ku-Kai to Japan, that the government was then looking at other trails, rather than looking in China. So then the court felt like Hui-Go already fled China, and they already killed all the living masters, so there was no one left. Of course actually Hui-Su went underground, because he was not so well known, no body knew who this guy really was. He stayed underground throughout all this time, and passed on his lineage. His lineage continued on, with a full complete transmission, until me. I am the 49th successor of the Hanmi lineage. Ever since Hui-Su till my master, this is a one-master to one-student, who in turn becomes the next master. Before my master entered into nirvana, he told me, starting from me, I have to teach dharmas openly to everyone. That's why I transmitted dharma in China to the public. Without my master's command, I would not transmit any dharma. We have to look at each history, understand history. Emperor Tang Wu Zong was after all, still a politician. Even though he had destroyed all the Buddhists in China and Hui-Go fled to Japan, the politician was still a politician. His mind was now pondering another issue. After he extinguished Buddhism in China, he must ponder on the issues of people's sentiment, and international back-lash from other countries, like Middle Asia and India and so on. Therefore, in Xi'an, the capital city of China then, he rebuilt three temples. One temple was for the Pureland practice; one temple was for the open teaching practice; and one temple was for the mudra school. But later, the mudra school also became extinct. Then he re-collected whatever remained of the Buddhist sutra and tantra. There were only 83 scrolls left. Of course, these 83 scrolls were edited into the emperor's version.
So in other words, what I'm saying is that even the modern day Buddhist schools, if they originated from China, no matter who is teaching what, they all originated from those 83 edited versions of the emperor's scrolls. What did the emperor edit out? The sutra is still the sutra - there is nothing changed, except he left out the practice, how many times you chant, what effect, so you can attain to what effects - that he left all out. For example, such as a human being can practice & attain to this accomplished ability, you can make rains any time you want to, stopping a storm, and so on. You can stop a flood, and make the water go away.
All these kind of dharma techniques were all recorded in the sutra and tantra books. They were edited out, left out of the sutra. Each of these three temples, the emperor allowed for 12 monks for each temple. The reason for the 12 monks was so they could take turns, be on a duty roster to take care of the temple. They were real Buddhist monks, but they were only allowed to chant or recite the emperor's butchered sutras. They were not allowed to practice any kind of dharma. That's the politicians thinking, that would continue the transmission of culture. Even though these surviving monks were able to return to the temple, they were still afraid. They did not know when the emperor would change his mind and kill them anyway. Therefore they would say this in every day's morning practice - they would chant and pray to Amitabha Buddha. Why did they continue to repeat and recite the name of Amitabha, Amitabha Buddha, Amitabha Buddha? The purpose was, if they were to die suddenly and unnaturally, and they prayed to Amitabha, hoping they could be born in the Land of Amitabha. Amitabha is the Buddha for every one who passes away, every one who seeks to be born in the Pure Land of Amitabha. Or, they may pray to the Great Compassionate Kuan Yin, or Avalokitesvara. For over 1,200 years now, this has developed into the modern day Buddhist practice. Most Buddhist devotees naturally know they pray to Amitabha or Avalokitesvara. So their training becomes, once they become a devotee, they will greet each other with Amitabha. This is the reason for this past thousand years, that there are so many people learning Buddhism, reciting sutras - but how many can you really count on your fingers here that actually attained to enlightenment? Even though all these later people still practicing Buddhism know the historical fact - Emperor Tang Wu Zong burned the temples, burned the sutras, and killed the monks and so on - but they will not question the version of their sutras. Perhaps it is the edited version of the emperor; they will still want to think that Buddhist teachings exist here today.
I don't know whether anyone here has been exposed to Chinese Buddhism, or any Chinese Buddhist temples. By tradition, most Chinese Buddhist masters, if you took initation with them, and if they begin to teach you traditional Chinese Buddhism, they may request a copy of the sutras that you begin to read first. If you read this sutra, you will realize there are so many things you don't know what they are talking about, and you will ask your master, "Master, I don't understand, I cannot read this." And this master will tell you, "You don't need to understand what's in there, just recite it over and over. If you recite it 100,000 times, or 400,000 times, you will naturally attain enlightenment." Let me say this - I do not believe this is so.
For example, you just bought a new equipment. Here is the instruction manual. If you cannot even read the instruction manual, how are you going to use the equipment? Only when you can understand the instruction manual, and follow the instructions accordingly and actually do it, will you be able to use the equipment efficiently. If I cannot even understand and follow what's in the instruction manual, I can be sitting there in front of the equipment and be there reciting it for 100,000 times -the equipment is not going to move by itself. Please realize this - everything humans have accomplished is by their action. It is not by looking at it and talking about it, it is by doing something that made it happen.
That is why I often say, for a person to attain wisdom does not depend on how long you have been on the spiritual path, or that kind of thing. Wisdom is not accumulated over years. It doesn't happen that way. Wisdom is a sudden realization. In other schools, it requires that you be able to read the sutras, actually understand it, follow the instructions, and do it accordingly. If we are putting Buddhism into practice, we have to realize modern day conditions - economic, political, social, whatever - are very different than over 2,500 years ago in Shakamuni's time. Because of different conditions, especially our thinking - modern people's thinking is completely different from the way the ancients were thinking. If you realize this point, that everybody will follow the instructions in the sutras and do it accordingly, we may still run into difficult obstacles. In the esoteric school, the terminology - we just call this running into obstacles, difficulties - "demons arising." In the esoteric practice, you need to depend on a guru to give you guidance through abhisekas - simply means baptism, besprinklement. In other words, you need to have the blessing from an enlightened one, who can provide you guidance with actual experience to lead you through difficult times. Only when you have a guide, then you will have a safer, an easier way and probably the only way to attain enlightenment. Don't believe such things - if you bow to a Buddha today, you'll be a Buddha tomorrow.
But in modern days, if you think about it, today there are so many sincere seekers, devotees - they bow to Buddhist masters, but they get no where with their practice - they never attain enlightenment. Because this master has not attained enlightenment yet himself as of yet; they have not reached the other shore of wisdom. If this teacher is still practicing himself, is still trying to get there - how can he provide any guidance to the other shore, which he has not seen himself, to his students? Yesterday I mentioned this - if this person has never received any kind of education, and is illiterate, how can he ever teach someone else to become a professor? If this person has never seen a car before, how can he even train someone to become a professional driver? Only when the teacher is truly enlightened, he will be able to do this. Because when he teaches, he guides you through your practice. He will share with you his own experience of attaining enlightenment, his own experience of waking up. And he will teach you according to what he actually experienced, accomplished. And he will provide guidance to you, try to correct you along the way, and keep you on the right path. Just like, if you cannot understand the class materials or your professors, how can you ever get your degree?
To grasp these methods, to learn about these methods, is very easy. They are easy to learn, but once you learn how to do this, putting it into practice and actually doing it, you may run into many difficulties. Especially when you have yet to overcome yourself - and you are habitually limiting yourself. When we view something, our point of view is always ??? by our past experiences and always not what I see and what I feel is so. We habitually see the world with our own biased view. We see the world in our own perspective, not by the conditions of other people. It is our habit that we always believe - what I see and what I hear is the correct view. But people cannot see that their perspective and view is only partial, because our knowledge, what we can learn in one lifetime, is very limited. For your whole life time, how much time do you really have to be exposed to new things out there is also a very limited experience. People cannot see this - that they have very, very limited knowledge, but habitually they always like to apply their limited knowledge to examine this unlimited, boundless culture. Because people continue to pass judgements in error, and that's why they created so many difficulties or obstacles for themselves. The problem is, they do not see - it's their own judgement & error that's causing them all these problems, or bad luck. We have the biggest shortcoming - we will not want to examine ourselves. We prefer to examine others. For example, think about how many times it happens - something happens in this way - because of him, or her, doing this or this or this - you're always blaming it on someone else. Or, that is because she did it in that way - it has nothing to do with me! That's what I am saying to you - if you run into a problem, why not live in the moment, and really examine yourself, and observe what you are thinking and reacting at the moment. If you fail, or run into difficulties, have you examined yourself and see - what's the percentage that you can say is really your own fault? If you observe and examine yourself, perhaps you have not looked at this thing in its completeness - you have only looked at it from one angle. The most difficult thing for people is to really know themselves well. Especially in regards to dharma practice, because we are continually limited by the conditioned environment. Therefore, habitually we are unwilling to surrender our tainted / limited minds. If you don't really learn how to let go, surrender your ego, your tainted thinking, you will never experience that kind of ease. We do not see the point here.
If you really think about human histories, year after year, what are human beings doing to themselves? They are taking revenge on themselves, generation after generation. They try to defend themselves, or rather control others, therefore they try to put a line of defense or a gap, to the point they cannot even cross over. Why is it we must learn about tolerance? Why do we need to have tolerance? Because we still do not see. To give someone else one step of space, you are creating actually 70% of that space for yourself. Forgiving others, in reality, is to forgive yourself. To go easy on yourself is not forgiving yourself. You are actually harming yourself. People are under their own self limitations. If you want to free yourself from these self-limitations, then you must first change yourself. Only when you have truly changed, then you will no longer be limited. If you are unable to change yourself, you will forever be limited by your own ego. Why is it that we now seem to learn before a person just at the moment he is going to die, he has a flash of all his life, then he realizes many things. Because it's your reflection of light. We are a beam of light, and as we pass away and leave this body, this light is kind of reflected back toward the body. For that split moment, time stands still. He will peacefully, quietly reminicse all his past history. At this moment, he is observing with his true heart, he has no more mask on, no more vanity. At this moment of reflection, he is honest. He has no hate, he has no points of views or any bias. Because without any kind of bias or hate, therefore his observation is just. Only at his last moment, he realizes so many things that were actually his own fault. What this life experience is telling us is we, while we are still alive, should make our best efforts now. And we treat this world, or any thing, without any kind of bias. Without any kind of points of views, to simply be there and just watch. You can watch with this kind of innocence, without any pre conceptions, and you will discover many kinds of new knowledge you never realized is right in front of your eyes before. Because you always watch things happen right in front of you with your own preconceptions, your own views. Therefore you are always limiting yourself under your own obstacles of knowledge. Because your own limited knowledge is hindering you. Therefore you have very little receptiveness. You are unable to accept what you are actually seeing, because you are under this kind of limitation. Therefore, how are you going to gather new knowledge?
Let me tell you a story here. Once upon a time, at a temple lived an old abbot. The temple was on a mountain. In the foothills of the mountain was a county. The magistrate of the county often came to the temple to play chess and have tea with the abbot. Especially when the magistrate ran into a difficult problem to solve - he would often tell this to the abbot, and consult with him. One day, the magistrate ran into a problem, so he came and spent the whole afternoon playing chess with the abbot. He had some dilemmas; therefore he asked questions to the abbot. The abbot responded very well for the magistrate. But the magistrate still didn't get it. Then the magistrate, after he finished playing the chess, went down the mountains and went back to the office. As the magistrate and the abbot could see, the magistrate was still pondering on his dilemma. Therefore the abbot told his disciples that the magistrate would return in three days. So three days later, the disciples reported to the abbot - "Master, there are two horses running very fast up the mountain towards us." Then the abbot responded, "He is coming." The abbot told his disciples, once he arrives, invite him to the guest house, offer him some tea, and that's it. Once the magistrate arrived, he was invited by the disciple to go to the guest house. And so the young monk offered the magistrate some tea. So the magistrate came on a fast-running horse; he had some very urgent matters. But he waited, and waited. For a long time, he did not see the abbot come out. But even though he had very urgent matters to speak to the abbot, he must have etiquette. He could not go charging in to speak to the abbot. He had an image to uphold; he was the magistrate of the county. After a long time, finally the abbot came out. He looked at the magistrate standing there, pacing back and forth in anguish. So he invited the magistrate to sit down. And the abbot picked up the tea pot and poured the tea for the magistrate. The abbot continued to pour the tea, filled to the rim, and just held the tea until it overflowed over the top. So the magistrate noticed this, so he said, "Master, stop! The cup is already full! The water is running out." The master just smiled. "So, if it is full, then I cannot add any more water to it!" Just like a person, in your head it is filled completely to the rim with questions. No matter how good the response is to any one of these questions, you will not be able to retain in your head. But by listening to this, the magistrate suddenly had a light bulb come up. He realized now what was wrong. He was overjoyed. He bowed to the master, and got on his horse and left. This story is actually a real story. This magistrate, because of his realization of his attachment to his thinking, and at that moment he realized to surrender. After he returned to his office to get some business, he gave it up, and became a monk himself. What this is telling you is, that every one of us, most of every mundane person, has too many questions, too many doubts. Therefore it's in our hands, these doubting questions. Therefore, habitually when we see things, we are biased. Habitually, we all start new things, new knowledge. Whether this new knowledge is truth, or whether it's really just imagination. Why is it that we do not develop the habit, if you really think about it, to question whether your view is really at all correct. We must differentiate between what is called knowledge, vs. culture. Those who are knowledgeable may not be cultured. Those who are truly cultured may be illiterate. Our knowledge came from our culture. In other words, culture is the mother of knowledge. Buddhist teaching is the mother of philosophy. Same analogy here. So for he who truly knows what culture is, he who is cultured, he draws his references from cultures throughout history to look at things, because cultures view things from vast different angles. Knowledge, by its own property, is only partial - can only be looking at one angle. But the modern people do not see this. We respect knowledgeable people; we respect scholars; this is the right attitude. But more importantly is that we must incorporate knowledge with culture, and we will realize something much greater. What's the method that you may be able to incorporate knowledge with culture? We can say that whatever understanding of knowledge or theories, it must be real, it must be in the same state as what you doing. For example, yesterday a friend asked the question - he raised this question during the lecture yesterday - what's the relationship or the difference between Zen Buddhism and Esoteric Buddhism? My own views on what Zen Buddhism is. What Zen really is, is your knowledge and experience actually aligned together. What you know is really your experience, too. So if you are a Zen practitioner, then first you must grab correct ways of practice. By knowing the correct ways of crucial points of practice, does that mean you know what Zen is? No. As I mentioned earlier, you have to do it accordingly. It has to be real. But if you do it accordingly, according to the method, does that mean you understand or know what Zen is? No. We should say, you only know what real Zen is all about if you were to do it accordingly, attain to that same experience, enter the same state - then you will know what Zen is. Just like once, I gave a lecture at another college. The audience of that lecture I gave, most of them were working on their Masters and PhD degrees. There were a few high school teachers and a few professors. So during that lecture, I said to them - most of you here in the not too distant future will receive your graduation, your diploma, you will earn your diploma finally. Once you are awarded your degree of master, of PhD, does that mean you are a Master? I said, "I don't see it. I can only see that piece of paper is telling you that you have finished the course of Masters and PhD's. When you get in the real world of society and do your work for real, then most of you will know - what you learn in school and what you know in the real world - there is some distance here. But if you work smart, work hard, ten years later what you have learned and what you know will truly incorporate with the culture of real human society. Then because your new experience and actual experience incorporate the real culture, if you would now write an essay or a thesis - and this thesis would live up to that caliber, you could call it a thesis written by a real practitioner of philosophy. In other words, when you receive that paper telling you that you have received your PhD - that only means you have finished a course. You may have finished that course … but that doesn't mean you have the caliber of a real PhD. Through actual experience and doing, not only have you finished your course, but you have now matured and incorporated knowledge and culture, and you can now really call yourself someone. In this present life, there are only a few crucial moments. One of those moments is, incorporating your knowledge and culture. So I have briefly introduced to you about the Hanmi history, and a little bit about how the Hanmi teachings see all this. Any questions?