Monthly Archives: October 2016

Day 5 Faith in Self, Faith in Method, Faith in Dharma – page 224-225

I cannot offer you a mani pearl, nor will I explain it to you. You must come to accept the sudden enlightenment Dharma on your own. It takes confidence. If you have the confidence necessary to practice hard, you will be able to accept Ch’an Dharma, and eventually you will reveal the mani pearl of Buddha’s wisdom.

In truth, however, there is no such thing as a mani pearl. Yung-chia clarifies this in the next stanza. 

They clearly see that there is not a thing,

Neither person nor Buddha.

The numerous worlds in the great chiliocosm are bubbles in the sea,

All sages and saints are like lightning flashes. 

In order to progress on the Buddha path, you must accept the Dharma of the mani pearl. On the other hand, you cannot cling to its existence. In fact, you cannot attach to any dharma. If a person follows this teaching and practices hard, he will attain enlightenment and eventually reach Buddhahood. At the beginning of the Buddha path, there must be an individual who accepts the teachings, and who then practices, eventually realizing Buddhahood. But if the practitioner is attached to his existence and cannot let go of the self, reaching Buddhahood will be impossible; if he is not attached to his self, but clings to the idea of Buddhahood, he will also never become a Buddha.

All phenomena are like bubbles in an ocean. They have no genuine existence. What we think are bubbles is only the movement of water. All the worlds in the universe and all the phenomena in this world are like bubbles in an ocean. Everything, including Samsara and Nirvana and sentient beings and Buddhas, is illusory.

All sages, Bodhisattvas and Buddhas are like flashes of lightning. You can see lightning, just as you can witness the power and functions of Bodhisattvas and Buddhas, but if you try to grasp lightning, or attach to the idea that Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have concrete existence or self-nature, then you are wasting your time.

We accept that there is a mani pearl, but we should not think that the gem has a definite form or appearance. If it did, it would just be an ordinary pearl. It is precisely because the mani pearl has no definite form that it can generate unlimited power and perform innumerable functions.

— The Sword of Wisdom by Master Sheng-Yen (page 224-225)

Day 5 Faith in Self, Faith in Method, Faith in Dharma – page 223-224

The king in Dharma is the most superior;

The realization that countless Tathagatas are all alike.

Now I show you this all-giving pearl;

Believers are all in accord (with Dharma).

The Ch’an tradition, however, has stories which seem to contradict what I have just said. There is the story I previously related about two monks: one practiced diligently while the other slept all day. The first monk reprimanded the sleeping monk, “You should work harder. What’s happened to your practice?”

In reply, the second monk said, “I sleep. What other kind of practice would you have me do?”

You probably also remember the story where Master Pai-chang praised Huang-po, who was asleep in the Ch’an Hall, and scolded another monk, who seemed to be practicing vigorously.

The Sixth Patriarch, too, once said, “When neither hatred nor love disturbs the mind, you can stretch out your legs and rest.”

These anecdotes may seem to suggest that Ch’an practitioners do not have to continue their practice after enlightenment, but that is not the case. These special examples describe highly realized practitioners who have a firm understanding of Buddhadharma. They see the Buddha path clearly, and they proceed steadily. They have no doubts or confusion. Nobody or nothing can steer them off the path or cause their determination to slacken. On the other hand, a practitioner who is not sure what he is doing and is not clear where he is going still needs to practice in the usual fashion.

A fly trying to get out of a house buzzes around and bumps into windows and screens. It is active, but it does not get anywhere. It is similar to the practice of the unenlightened. Deeply enlightened practitioners seem relaxed, even lazy, but they are actually working smoothly and steadily.

Do not feel sorry for the fly. Compared to someone who knows where the door is, the fly looks stupid, but at least it is making an effort to get out. Usually, people are not even as determined as this fly. Sooner or later, it will find an exit. The fly knows that it wants to get out, and it has faith that there is an exit. All it has to do is work hard. Do you have faith in yourself and the method? Are you working hard? Right now during this retreat, you may be like the fly, but after the retreat, will you still put effort into your practice? Probably, as you sit down in the evening to meditate, a friend will call and say, “Let’s go out.” You will go to Radio City Music Hall and meditate on the Rockettes instead of working on your method.

— The Sword of Wisdom by Master Sheng-Yen (page 223-224)

Day 5 Faith in Self, Faith in Method, Faith in Dharma – page 222-223

The king in Dharma is the most superior;

The realization that countless Tathagatas are all alike.

Now I show you this all-giving pearl;

Believers are all in accord (with Dharma).

The line, “Now I show you this all-giving pearl, ” may be interpreted in two ways. In one interpretation, one can say that Yung-chia has revealed his own gem to us ─ he is sharing his wisdom with us; or, one can say that Yung-chia is encouraging us to discover the pearl within ourselves. Both interpretations are helpful for our practice.

The mani pearl represents ultimate wisdom. A Bodhisattva at the eighth bhumi level is free from any obstructions caused by material objects, or physical dharmas. A Bodhisattva at the ninth bhumi level is free from all mental dharmas. The mani pearl, however, is the wisdom of the Buddha, and is free from all material and mental dharmas. Its power is unlimited. However, one must discover it before one can use it.

Imagine a pearl hidden at the bottom of a muddy pond. A person learns that something valuable lies down there, so he probes the muck with a stick. After great effort, he manages to catch a brief glimpse of the pearl, but it is immediately obscured again. He has to make an immense effort to clear away all the mud, to uncover the pearl completely, and to ensure that it will never be hidden again. Only when the pearl is free from all obstructions will it be of any use to him. Actually, however, the mani pearl is not obstructed by anything. It is we who have obstructions which prevent us from revealing and using the pearl.

A person will practice extremely hard once he sees the mani pearl, or experiences genuine enlightenment. He realizes that such a thing exists, and that all he has to do is continue to clear away the muck of vexation. His faith is firm and unwavering. If a practitioner claims to have experienced enlightenment, yet puts little effort into his practice, then the validity of his experience is doubtful.

— The Sword of Wisdom by Master Sheng-Yen (page 222-223)

Day 5 Faith in Self, Faith in Method, Faith in Dharma – page 221-222

The king in Dharma is the most superior;

The realization that countless Tathagatas are all alike.

Now I show you this all-giving pearl;

Believers are all in accord (with Dharma).

When a practitioner of gradual enlightenment reaches the first bhumi position of Bodhisattvahood, he experiences the Dharma that a Bodhisattva on the first bhumi level experiences. He has no idea what Buddhahood is like. If he reaches the arhat position of the Hinayana tradition, then he experiences what an arhat experiences, not what a Buddha experiences. But when one reaches enlightenment through sudden teachings, what one experiences is the same as Buddhahood. At most, great practitioners of outer paths may attain an illusory “no mind” state and the enlightenment of an arhat is a “no mind” state of emptiness. The enlightenment attained through sudden teachings, however, is a “no mind” state that is neither empty nor existent.

Do not misunderstand me. After you become enlightened, it does not mean you become a Buddha. When you attain enlightenment, what you experience is exactly the same as Buddhahood, but you are not a Buddha yet. The wisdom you acquire through the experience is the wisdom of Buddha, but your actions are still the actions of an ordinary sentient being. After you have an enlightenment experience, you must practice even more diligently in order to protect and nurture your holy embryo; it is a Buddha embryo, not a mature Buddha. Usually, after an enlightenment experience, you will have no difficulty practicing with determination, because your faith will deepen. But you are still an ordinary person. If you do not continue to practice, the experience and wisdom will regress and fade. You have to reinforce the practice by experiencing enlightenment again and again.

— The Sword of Wisdom by Master Sheng-Yen (page 221-222)

Day 5 Faith in Self, Faith in Method, Faith in Dharma – page 220-221

The king in Dharma is the most superior;

The realization that countless Tathagatas are all alike.

Now I show you this all-giving pearl;

Believers are all in accord (with Dharma).

There are two special terms in this stanza. One is the king in Dharma, which is a title for the Buddha. Here, it symbolizes ultimate Dharma. This highest Dharma is the sudden enlightenment teaching of the Ch’an tradition. Not only is it far superior to enlightenment experiences of outer path traditions, but it also exceeds the enlightenment attained by sages who follow the Hinayana path. The other term, the all-giving pearl ─ mani pearl ─ is a gem that grants all wishes. It refers to Buddha’s wisdom.

You must experience the highest Dharma in order to reach Buddhahood. The sudden enlightenment Dharma is experienced by all Tathagatas and is shared by all the Tathagatas in the ten directions. It does not require that one spend three great kalpas reaching Buddhahood. The moment one attains sudden enlightenment, one is exactly the same as the Buddha. The Dharma experienced by the Buddha is exactly the same as the Dharma one experiences at the moment of one’s enlightenment.

— The Sword of Wisdom by Master Sheng-Yen (page 220-221)