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Diploma in Theravada Buddhist Studies (DBS) Model Question Paper 2018-19
Filed under: General, Vinaya Pitaka, Sutta Pitaka, Abhidhamma Pitaka, Tipiṭaka
Posted by: site admin @ 7:28 am
Diploma in Theravada Buddhist Studies (DBS)
Model Question Paper
2018-19

1.
It is said Buddhism rejects a creator God, but accepts the existence of
infinite number of gods in different divine planes. Do you find it
contradictory ? If so, how, if no why?
Explain.


THE BUDDHA ON GOD

Buddha, the Founder of Buddhism

Monks,
that sphere should be realized where the eye (vision) stops and the
perception (mental noting) of form fades. That sphere is to be realized
where the ear stops and the perception of sound fades… where the nose
stops and the perception of aroma fades… where the tongue stops and
the perception of flavor fades… where the body stops and the
perception of tactile sensation fades… where the intellect stops and
the perception of idea/phenomenon fades: That sphere should be realized.
— Samyutta Nikaya XXXV.116



Buddhism and belief in god

Buddhism
believes in the existence of neither god nor soul in the theistic
sense. It is essentially a religion of the mind, which advocates present
moment awareness, inner purity, ethical conduct, freedom from the
problem of change, impermanence and suffering, and reliance upon one’s
own experience and discernment on the Eightfold path as the teacher and
guide, rather than an external authority other than the Dhamma. One may
take guidance from a teacher, but insightful awareness and experiential
knowledge of the Dhamma are vital to progress on the path.

Unlike the other major religions of the world, Buddhism is not
centered on the concept of god as the upholder and sum of all or a
universal supreme being, who is responsible for the creation and
dissolution of the world and the existence of sentient beings.

Buddhism
does not even support the idea of an eternal and unchanging soul
residing in the body. According to Buddhism the whole existence is in a
state of flux, and there is nothing that is either permanent or
unchanging. Some things may last longer, but never forever.

The
Buddhist scriptures do confirm the existence of devas or celestial
beings, bodhisattvas or pure beings, heavens and hells and other planes
of existence. They may last for eons.

However, none of them are
permanent entities. They are all subject to change, impermanence and
evolution. It is said that the Buddha either remained silent or
discouraged speculation when he was asked questions about the existence
of god or a Supreme Being.

Buddha’s views on god

The
Buddha did so with a purpose. He wanted his followers to remain focused
upon Nibbana and the permanent resolution of suffering, without
distractions and wasteful discussions. Therefore, he did his best to
keep them focused upon that single and virtuous goal, without becoming
distracted by theological speculation or intellectual disputation, which
was the common preoccupation of many scholars and religious teachers of
his time.

However, his silence does not mean that he was an
agnostic or he favored the notion of god as the ruler and creator of the
worlds and beings. His silence was not an affirmation of the existence
of an eternal creator. The Buddha did not believe in hidden causes but
apparent causes, which made sense to the mind and the intellect and
which were humanly relatable, experiential and explicable.

One may
wonder if it was so, why he accepted kamma and reincarnation as
governing laws, which were in some respects abstract concepts. Kamma was
a hidden process of cause and effect, but with mindfulness practice its
working could be discerned and experienced in the world by one and all.
No supernatural testimony was required to establish its universality or
working. Therefore, he accepted kamma as an operating principle. He
believed in reincarnation because he saw his own past lives (and
probably those of others) in contemplative states and understood their
significance in attaining the Buddhahood. However, he held that the
incarnating entity was not an eternal soul but a temporary formation.

Seven reasons why the existence of god is unacceptable

On
occasions, he expressed his opinions about creation and the role of
god. When Ananthapindika, a wealthy young man, met the Buddha at a
bamboo groove at Rajagaha, the Buddha made a few statements before him
about the existence of god and the real cause behind the creation of
beings in this world. Those views are summarized as below:

1. If god is indeed the creator of all living things, then all things here
should submit to his power unquestioningly. Like the vessels produced by
a potter, they should remain without any individuality of their own. If
that is so, how can there be an opportunity for anyone to practice
virtue?

2. If this world is indeed created by god, then there
should be no sorrow or calamity or evil in this world and no need for
the existence of the principle of kamma since all deeds, both pure and
impure, must come from Him.

3. If it is not so, then there must be
some other cause besides god which is behind him, in which case He
would not be self-existent.

4. It is not convincing that the
Absolute has created us, because that which is absolute cannot be a
cause. All things here arise from different causes. Then can we can say
that the Absolute is the cause of all things alike? If the Absolute is
pervading them, then certainly It is not their creato
r.

5. If we
consider the Self as the maker, why did it not make things pleasant? Why
and how should it create so much sorrow and suffering for itself?

6.
It is neither god nor the self nor some causeless chance which creates
us. It is our deeds which produce both good and bad results according to
the law of causation.

7. We should therefore “abandon the heresy
of worshipping god and of praying to him. We should stop all speculation
and vain talk about such matters and practice good so that good may
result from our good deeds.

For such reasons, the Buddha did not encourage speculation on
the existence of Isvara, (god) among his disciples. He wanted them to
confine themselves to what was within their field of awareness, that is,
to understand the causes of suffering and work for their mitigation.
For the same reason, he discouraged speculation upon the nature of
Nibbana.

He preached that initially each being was a product of
ignorance and illusion and subject to suffering, kamma and
transmigration. Life was full of suffering and it could be resolved only
by overcoming desires and attraction and aversion. The Dhamma served as
the lamp in the darkness of existential suffering. By knowing it and
practicing it one could find a way to escape from the cycle of births
and deaths and from suffering itself.

Therefore, for their final
liberation he urged his disciples to contemplate upon the Four Noble
Truths, practice the Eightfold path and lead a virtuous life by
performing good deeds. He declared that by ending the transient states
of having, becoming, being and changing and removing the defilements of
the mind and body they could resolve suffering and enter the state of
beatitude or Nirvana on a lasting basis. Thus, in Buddhism knowledge of
the Dhamma has far greater significance than idle speculation in
resolving suffering. One may inquire into it and contemplate upon it
since it is experiential, relatable and verifiable, unlike the
speculative subjects such as the nature of god or the existence of god
and soul.

The complex and diverse nature of Buddhism

It is
difficult to categorize Buddhism as atheistic, theistic or agnostic
because it has aspects of them but does not particularly fit well into
any of them. For example, Buddhism may not believe in god and may not be
considered a theistic tradition, but it does believe in the Buddha and
the Buddhahood. Indeed, it not only believes in the Buddha but also in
numerous past and future Buddhas who exist in numerous higher worlds.
Buddhists worship them with devotion and reverence and make them
offerings just as the Hindus worship their gods. Thus, as explained in
the concluding part of this discussion, Buddhism is a diverse religion,
with elements of theistic, atheistic and agnostic beliefs and practices.
However, it cannot conclusively be placed in any of them with enough
justification because of its inherent contradictions.

Although it
was founded by the Buddha and its teachings are more organized, concrete
and systematic, Buddhism, just as Hinduism, is a complex religion. It
underwent further changes after his death, resulting in the formation of
many sects, sub-sects and regional versions, which made it even more
complex. Some of them made a radical departure from the original
teachings of the Buddha to the extent that they stand in their own light
as independent religions.

Were he alive, the Buddha would have
been surprised to witness the emergence of so many traditions that rely
upon his name to mark their teachings and philosophy but show a marked
deviation from his very teachings, doctrinal expositions and stand
points. What mostly binds them to Buddhism and keeps them in its fold is
their adherence to the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.

While
scholars may keep arguing about the essential nature of Buddhism it is
the firm opinion of this writer that according to the teachings of the
Buddha it is difficult to place Buddhism on the same footing as Hinduism
or Christianity and consider it a theistic tradition. It is theistic
only in the sense that some of its sects (especially those of Mahayana)
believe in a deity, the Buddha, who is not god but seem to possess some
attributes of god.

The centrality of Dhamma rather than god

The
Buddha did not ascribe any role to god either in creation or in human
suffering or in the liberation of beings. For the Buddha, the world was a
godless world, a formation or aggregate of objects and living beings,
in which both good and evil were produced by the actions of individual
beings, and their fate was determined by the law of causation (kamma).
While beings which lacked intelligence had no choice until they evolved
through rebirths, human beings and those above them had a unique
opportunity to exercise their discerning intellect (buddhi) and chose
right actions and the principles of right living to escape from the law
of kamma and the cycle of births and deaths.

Therefore, to awaken their minds to the idea of righteous
living and virtuous actions, he taught the world the Four Noble Truths
and the Eightfold Path, ascribing no role to god in either of them and
putting the entire burden of resolving individual suffering upon the
individuals themselves. In Buddhism, there is nothing like the grace of
god which can resolve the kamma of a devotee. An arhant (awakened
master) or a selfless monk may transfer his good karma to a suffering
soul out of compassion, as believed in some sects, but such decisions
are purely personal in which neither god nor Buddha has any role.

While
drawing his conclusions and formulating the principles of Dhamma and
the Code of Conduct (Vinaya) for the monks or in his teachings, the
Buddha assiduously avoided to the extent possible all manners of
speculation about supernatural matters and abstract concepts, keeping
his focus firmly fixed upon the causes as well as solutions to the
problems of human existence within the realm of the mind and its
abilities, and without alluding to anything beyond them.

If he had
any opinions or knowledge about transcendence or eternal realities, he
kept them out of the purview of his discussion and deliberations to
avoid causing confusion and delusion. Even when he was pressed for a
clear answer, he remained silent, knowing that it would be a distraction
for his followers in their quest for Nibbana, and for himself in his
attempts to show them the right way and teach them the right knowledge.
Besides, speculation would not lead to right perception, right
awareness, right understanding and right knowledge.

Belief in gods, Bodhisattvas and Primordial Buddhas

While
Buddhism does not believe in the existence of an all pervading eternal
god who is the cause of the causes and the soul of the souls, it does
believe in the existence of Noble beings or gods of heaven. The Buddhist
texts mention the names of several gods and goddesses, whose names are
similar in many cases to those of the gods and goddesses of Hinduism.

However,
while the deities of Hinduism are immortal, those of Buddhism are not.
They live for longer duration of time, but like all other beings, they
are prone to decay and subject to the cycle of births and deaths. They
may be even humans who evolve into gods through self-effort.

Some
of the gods whose names frequently appear in the Buddhist Pantheon are
Brahma, Indra, Aapo (Varuna), Vayo (Vayu), Tejo (Agni), Surya, Pajapati
(Prajapati), Soma, Yasa, Venhu (Vishnu), Mahadeva (Siva), Vijja
(Saraswati), Usha, Pathavi (Prithvi), Sri (Lakshmi), Yama, Kala, Kuvera
(Kubera), and Garuda.

The texts also refer to the existence of
celestial beings such as yakkhas (Yakshas), gandhabbas (Gandharvas),
Nāgas, and demons such as Bali and his sons, Veroca, etc. Brahma figures
frequently in Pali Canon, which refers to not one but several Brahmas
inhabiting different planes. Brahma is the leader of the heaven.
However, he is not a creator god, and in all the worlds where he
presides he is also subject to change and decay as the other gods.

Apart
from them, Mahayana Buddhism refers to the Bodhisattvas or
compassionate beings and primordial Buddhas who inhabit the higher
heavens and act as the guardians of the world.

The Bodhisattvas
are truth beings, who are fully qualified for Nirvana. However, out of
compassion they decide to postpone their liberation and work for
alleviating the suffering of the sentient beings upon earth.

The
primordial Buddhas such as Samantabhadra, Vajradhara, Vairochana, and
Adi-Buddha among others are personalized embodiments of different
aspects of Buddha Nature. They are pure beings who possess dharmakayas
(bodies of truth).

Hindu gods vs. Buddhist gods

The gods
of Buddhism have greater powers than humans, but unlike the gods of
Hinduism, they do not possess absolute powers. They can have an impact
upon our lives and destinies, but they cannot change or alter the course
of life upon earth beyond a point.

Besides, the gods are not
liberated beings. Their actions have consequences. Hence, just as humans
they too are subject to the law of kamma. If they indulge in wrong
actions, they will fall down from heaven into lower worlds according to
their deeds. However, the same is not true in case of the primordial
Buddhas. They are not only free from decay and the law of kamma but also
endowed with supernatural powers.

According to Buddhism life in
heaven is not a class privilege, which only a few chosen ones are
entitled to enjoy according to the will or at the pleasure of god. The
gods are not created by a supreme god. They are self-made. Their
divinity is the consequences of their good kamma and their personal
choice. Beings evolve through self-effort and good kamma and earn the
right to enter the world of gods. In other words, anyone can be reborn
in the worlds of gods through righteous self-effort and become a
divinity.

Although it is not encouraged, Buddhism does not rule
out the possibility of humans taking birth in the world of gods and
gods, having lost their virtue and due to bad kamma, taking birth in our
world. Since life in heaven is equally conducive to suffering,
Buddhists aim for liberation rather than rebirth in the heavens.

Devotion in Buddhism

The
origin of Buddhism is rooted in the ascetic and monastic traditions of
ancient India. The Buddha did not advise the monks to indulge in ritual
worship or venerate him or other beings with devotion.

However, a
few centuries after his death, a schism in Buddhism led to the formation
of Mahayana sect of Buddhism, which made a radical departure from the
traditional teachings of the Theravada or Hinayana Buddhism and
projected ritual worship of venerable Buddha in his highest and purest
aspect as worthy of worship and devotion.

The Mahayana tradition
supports the worship of Buddha to cultivate virtues, practice love and
compassion and receive enlightenment. The purpose of worship in Buddhism
seems to be to enable the worshippers to form a clear concept of the
ideal of Buddhahood and understand the Buddha nature rather than seeking
his grace or intervention in their personal lives for the alleviation
of their suffering.

Conclusion

Buddhism is primarily a
monastic and ascetic religion, which shares some aspects of theism with
Hinduism and some aspects of atheism with Jainism. Yet, you cannot say
it is a cross between the two. It is a unique tradition in its own
right. It adapted the theistic practices of Hinduism mostly in the
context of its own teachings and for the ultimate purpose of putting the
onus of attaining Nirvana entirely upon individual effort rather than
upon divine intervention or the grace of god.

While in
Hinduism,
the householders may pursue the four chief aims life (Purusharthas)
namely Dharma (the law), Artha (wealth), Kama (pleasure) and Moksha
(liberation) apart from categories of athmas (souls), 1st rate, 2nd, 3rd
and 4th rate souls and the all awakened aboriginal societies the
untouchable as having no souls at all so that they can commit any
atrocities on them. Buddha never believed in any soul. He said all are
equal. In Buddhism the lay followers as well as the monks aim for
only two namely the practice of Dhamma  and the attainment of
Nibbana.

In ancient India, atheists such as the
Lokayatas and Charvakas also believed in the nonexistence of god. At the
same time, they did not believe in the possibility of life after death.
For them, death itself was Nibbana. Hence, they ignored both Dhamma and
Moksha and focused only upon the other two aims namely Artha and Kama.
They considered life a unique opportunity to strive for happiness while
it lasted, since death the end of all. They saw no greater virtue or
justification to suffer here and now for the sake of a better life in
the next birth or enjoyment in a heaven
.

Thus, even in comparison
to atheistic traditions of ancient India, Buddhism retains its distinct
character as a spiritual religion which can be categorized neither as
theistic just as Hinduism nor as atheistic just as the Carvaka or the
Lokayata doctrines. It is a tradition which is uniquely human,
intellectual, practical and which is principally rooted in verifiable,
relatable and perceptual human experience
.


2. What is the motivation underlying the attempt at calling the Buddha as an avatar of Vishnu ?

Buddha is rarely worshipped like Krishna and Rama in Hinduism.
Buddha criticised the Vedic/Astik shastras, rejected the Vedic
religion and the Astik school of thought, and challenged the hegemony of
the Brahmans. Buddha didn’t believe in a Supreme Being or an universal soul.

The late S. Radhakrishnan, former President of India who was also a
Brahman, claimed that the Buddha was actually preaching Hinduism:
“Famous Indian Hindu scholars like the ex-President of India the late S.
Radhakrishnan stated: ‘The Buddha did not feel that he was announcing a
new religion. He was born, grew up, and died a Hindu. He was restating
with a new emphasis the ancient ideals of the Indo-Aryan civilization’”
(2500 Years of Buddhism, 1971, Government of India)

While Babasaheb Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, the Father of the Indian
Constitution and one of the greatest Buddhist personalities of India,
called this belief “sheer madness and false propaganda”.

In Dona Sutta, Gautama Buddha didn’t claim to be God.

On seeing Buddha, Dona went to him and said, “Master, are you a deva?”

“No, brahman, I am not a deva.”

“Are you a gandhabba?”

“No…”

“… a yakkha?”

“No…”

“… a human being?”

“No, brahman, I am not a human being.”

…………..’ Then what sort of being are you?”

“Brahman,
the fermentations by which — if they were not abandoned — I would be a
deva: Those are abandoned by me, their root destroyed, made like a
palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined
for future arising. The fermentations by which — if they were not
abandoned — I would be a gandhabba… a yakkha… a human being: Those
are abandoned by me, their root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump,
deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future
arising.

“Just
like a red, blue, or white lotus — born in the water, grown in the
water, rising up above the water — stands unsmeared by the water, in the
same way I — born in the world, grown in the world, having overcome the
world — live unsmeared by the world. Remember me, brahman, as
‘awakened.’


3. Briefly describe the following:

i. The dream of Queen Mahamaya

http://ariyamagga.net/queen-maha-mayas-dream/

Freedom is not given to us by anyone; we have to cultivate it
ourselves. It is a daily practice… No one can prevent you from being
aware of each step you take or each breath in and breath out. ~Thich
Nhat Hạnh

Queen Siri Mahamaya Devi

The Dream of Queen Siri Mahamaya Devi

More than 2,500 years ago, there was a king called Suddhodana. He
married a beautiful Koliyan princess named Maha Maya. The couple ruled
over the Sakyas, a warrior tribe living next to the Koliya tribe, in the
north of India, in what is now known as Nepal. The capital of the Sakya
country was laid out across the foothills of the Himalayas and called
Kapilavatthu.

Queen Maha Maya was the daughter of King Anjana of the Koliyas. Such
was her beauty that the name Maya, meaning “vision” was given to her.
But it was Maya’s virtues and talents that were her most wonderful
qualities, for she was endowed with the highest gifts of intelligence
and piety. King Suddhodana was indeed worthy of his lovely wife. He
himself was called “King of the Law” because he ruled according to the
law. There was no other man among the Sakyas more honored and respected.
The king was admired by his nobles and courtiers, as well as by the
householders and merchants. Such was the noble family from which the
Buddha was to arise.

One full moon night, sleeping in the palace, the queen had a vivid
dream. She felt herself being carried away by four devas (spirits) to
Lake Anotatta in the Himalayas. After bathing her in the lake, the devas
clothed her in heavenly cloths, anointed her with perfumes, and
bedecked her with divine flowers. Soon after a white elephant, holding a
white lotus flower in its trunk, appeared and went round her three
times, entering her womb through her right side. Finally the elephant
disappeared and the queen awoke, knowing she had been delivered an
important message, as the elephant is a symbol of greatness in Nepal.
The next day, early in the morning, the queen told the king about the
dream. The king was puzzled and sent for some wise men to discover the
meaning of the dream.

The wise men said, “Your Majesty, you are very lucky. The devas have
chosen our queen as the mother of the Purest-One and the child will
become a very great being.” The king and queen were very happy when they
heard this.

They were so pleased that they invited many of the noblemen in the
country to the palace to a feast to tell them the good news. Even the
needy were not forgotten. Food and clothes were given to the poor people
in celebration. The whole kingdom waited eagerly for the birth of the
new prince, and Queen Maya enjoyed a happy and healthy pregnancy, living
a pure life for herself and her unborn child.

Life of the Buddha
Source: BuddhaNet

ii. Birth of Prince Siddharttha

http://ariyamagga.net/birth-future-buddha/

Birth of the future Buddha in the Lumbini Grove

Birth of the future Buddha in the Lumbini Grove

5. Birth of the future Buddha in the Lumbini Grove

Queen Maha-Maya carried the Future Buddha in her womb for ten months;
and on the full moon day in May (Vesak) she said to King Suddhodana—”I
wish, O King, to go to Devadaha, the city of my family”. The King
approved and caused the road from Kapilavatthu to Devadaha to be made
smooth and adorned, and sent her with a great retinue. Between the two
cities there was a pleasure grove of sal trees, called Lumbini Grove.
She entered the grove for a rest. And at this particular time, this
grove was one mass of flowers presenting a very pretty scene. She went
to the foot of a great sal tree and reached out her hand to seize hold
of one of its branches. She was at once shaken with the pains of birth.
Thereupon the people hung a curtain about her, and her delivery took
place while she was standing up. At that moment came four Mahabrahmas
(higher gods) with a golden net; and, receiving the Future Buddha with
it, they placed him before his mother and said, “Rejoice, O Queen! A
mighty son has been born to thee”.

iii. Prince Siddharttha’s proclamation at his birth

https://www.learnreligions.com/the-birth-of-the-buddha-449783

Aspects of the story of Buddha’s birth
may have been borrowed from Hindu texts, such as the account of the
birth of Indra from the Rig Veda. The story may also have Hellenic
influences. For a time after Alexander the Great conquered central Asia
in 334 BCE, there was a considerable intermingling of Buddhism with
Hellenic art and ideas. There also is speculation that the story of the
Buddha’s birth was “improved” after Buddhist traders returned from the
Middle East with stories of the birth of Jesus.

The Traditional Tale of the Buddha’s Birth

Twenty-five centuries ago, King Suddhodana ruled a land near the Himalaya Mountains.

One
day during a midsummer festival, his wife, Queen Maya, retired to her
quarters to rest, and she fell asleep and dreamed a vivid dream, in
which four angels carried her high into white mountain peaks and clothed
her in flowers. A magnificent white bull elephant bearing a white lotus
in its trunk approached Maya and walked around her three times. Then
the elephant struck her on the right side with its trunk and vanished
into her.

When Maya awoke, she told her husband about the dream. The King summoned 64 Brahmans
to come and interpret it. Queen Maya would give birth to a son, the
Brahmans said, and if the son did not leave the household, he would
become a world conqueror. However, if he were to leave the household he
would become a Buddha.

When the time for the birth grew near,
Queen Maya wished to travel from Kapilavatthu, the King’s capital, to
her childhood home, Devadaha, to give birth. With the King’s blessings,
she left Kapilavatthu on a palanquin carried by a thousand courtiers.

On
the way to Devadaha, the procession passed Lumbini Grove, which was
full of blossoming trees. Entranced, the Queen asked her courtiers to
stop, and she left the palanquin and entered the grove. As she reached
up to touch the blossoms, her son was born.

Then the Queen and her
son were showered with perfumed blossoms, and two streams of sparkling
water poured from the sky to bathe them. And the infant stood, and took
seven steps, and proclaimed “I alone am the World-Honored One!

Then
Queen Maya and her son returned to Kapilavatthu. The Queen died seven
days later, and the infant prince was nursed and raised by the Queen’s
sister Pajapati, also married to King Suddhodana.

Symbolism

There is a jumble of symbols presented in this story. The white
elephant was a sacred animal representing fertility and wisdom. The
lotus is a common symbol of enlightenment in Buddhist art. A white
lotus, in particular, represents mental and spiritual purity. The baby Buddha’s seven steps evoke seven directions—north, south, east, west, up, down, and here.

Buddha’s Birthday Celebration

In Asia, Buddha’s birthday is a festive celebration featuring parades
with many flowers and floats of white elephants. Figures of the baby
Buddha pointing up and down are placed in bowls, and sweet tea is poured
over the figures to “wash” the baby.

Buddhist Interpretation

Newcomers to Buddhism tend to dismiss the Buddha birth myth as so
much froth. It sounds like a story about the birth of a god, and the
Buddha was not a god. In particular, the declaration “I alone am the
World-Honored One” is a bit hard to reconcile with Buddhist teachings on
nontheism and anatman.

However, in Mahayana Buddhism,
this is interpreted as the baby Buddha speaking of the Buddha-nature
that is the immutable and eternal nature of all beings. On Buddha’s
birthday, some Mahayana Buddhists wish each other happy birthday,
because the Buddha’s birthday is everyone’s birthday.

iv. What do you understand by this proclamation?

Why did the baby prince do that ?

Describe.


https://tipitaka.fandom.com/wiki/Birth_of_Prince_Siddhartha


4. Write an account of the visit of Sage Asita and his prophecy. Why did he laugh and then cry? Describe the significance of this contradictory scene.

https://dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=Asita

Asita1.jpg

Asita was a hermit ascetic of ancient India
in the 6th century BCE. He is best known for having predicted that
Prince Siddhattha of Kapilavatthu would either become a great king
(chakravartin) or become a supreme religious leader (Buddha).

According to legend, Asita noticed the 32 signs of a great man on the Buddha, which shows that this concept pre-dates Buddhism. (Sutta Nipata 3.11)

Asita, also known as Kanhasiri, was a sage who lived in the
forest in the Sakyan country. He is described as wearing matted hair
(Sn.689). One day he noticed that the gods were wildly celebrating and
he asked them why they were so happy. They replied, ‘A Bodhisattva, an
excellent and incomparable jewel, has been born in the Sakyan town in
Lumbini, for the welfare and happiness of the human world. This is why
we are so happy.’(Sn.683). Anxious to see this child Asita went to
Kapilavastu where Suddhodana welcomed him and gave him the child to
hold. Being accomplished in the art of ‘signs and mantras’ (lakkhana
mantra, Sn.690) he examined the baby and proclaimed that he would
‘attain complete enlightenment’ (Sambodhi), reach the ultimate purified
vision’ (paramavisuddhidassi), and proclaim the Truth ‘out of compassion
of the many’ (bahujamhitanukampii, Sn.693). Then tears welled up into
his eyes. Noticing this and being worried by it, the Sakyans asked Asita
if he had foreseen some misfortune in the boy’s future. He replied that
he was sad because he knew that he would pass away before this all
happened (Sn.694).

The name Asita literally means ‘not clinging’ while Kanhasiri means ‘dark splendour’.

This is the only mention of Asita in the Tipitaka.
According to some scholars the story about him is purely legendary and
it may be. However, there is little in it that is inherently fantastic
or unbelievable. It would have been quite common in ancient India for a
monarch to invite a local holy man to bless and perhaps name his
new-born son. Likewise, it would be normal for the holy man to ‘predict’
that the king’s son would grow up to be a great man.
Later re-tellings of the Asita story, and there are many of them, each
more detailed and elaborate than the earlier ones, often say that Asita
predicted than the baby prince would become either a universal monarch
(cakkavattin) or a fully enlightened sage (Buddha). This ‘either or’
prediction is absent from the Tipitaka story.

Write an essay on Bodhisatta Ideal

https://www.bookrix.com/book.html?bookID=nicomoonen_1407765907.8734900951#1728,432,107226

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The Concept of Bodhisatta

Startpagina





Preface



 



     The Buddha
taught that for a layman it is not a noble monk who should be the example, but
a good layman.
[1] The best
layman who can serve as our example is the Bodhisatta. In Mahāyāna supernatural
powers and some degrees of holiness are attributed to him. But according to the
Theravāda tradition the Bodhisatta belongs still to the worldlings and not yet
to the Ariyasangha, the community of
the Buddhist saints of the first, second, third or fourth level.
 



 



     The Pāli
word Bodhisatta and the Sanskrit word Bodhisattva differ only by a single
letter, yet there is an essential difference between the two concepts. Several
studies have been published that show direct or indirect concern with the
doctrine of the Bodhisatta in Theravāda. A systematic survey of these has not
yet been published, as far as I know. As I have been interested in this topic
for many years, I thought it would be useful to make a compilation of my
research. I was encouraged to do so by Venerable Rassagala Seewali from
Opanayaka, Sri Lanka, whom I met when he was studying in Thailand. He, too, is
very much interested in this topic. A first attempt was made at the beginning
of 2000. However, it turned out that the information available was too limited.
Fortunately, Dr. K.H. Eckert, a good acquaintance of mine, donated more than
1100 of his books about Buddhism to me – May that donation be for his welfare
and happiness for a long time. I had now at my disposal a large library of
invaluable material and for that reason I was able to make a fresh attempt at
presenting an examination of the teachings relating to the Bodhisatta.



 



     In the
Suttas of the Pāli Canon only a little information can be found about the
Bodhisatta where the word is used there to indicate the Buddha Gotama before he
attained Enlightenment. In the Cakkavatti-Sīhanāda
sutta
(Digha Nikaya 26) the name of the next Buddha is mentioned. And in
the Buddhavamsa and the Cariyapitaka there is information about
other future Buddhas. Another source for this topic is the Dasa­bodhisattuppatti­kathā (about the births of the ten
Bodhisattas). The value of these works will be discussed later.



 



     Much has
been written about the Bodhisattas by Venerable Narada Thera and also by
Venerable Ledi Sayadaw. It is a pity that they did not give the sources from
which they derived their information. This has made assessing the value of their
observations quite difficult.



    



     Venerable
Dr. Sangharatana Thero, chief incumbent of Pitaramba Temple, Bentota, Sri
Lanka, advised me – after reading of the first draft – to dwell a little more
on the Mahāyāna. That good advice was accepted thankfully. It was of great
profit for the study of the concept of the Bodhisatta / Bodhisattva.



 



     The English typescript was sent to the Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka. There it is read carefully by
Mr. Dennis Candy and Prof. Handunukanda. They made many suggestions to improve
this study, which suggestions are accepted thankfully.



 



     This study deals mainly with the Bodhisatta
in Theravāda Buddhism. Many works have already been published about the
Bodhisattvas in Mahāyāna. Therefore only a little is written here about
them.  First I try to explain how there
arose a difference in thinking about these matters and what those main
differences were between Theravāda on the one hand and Mahāyāna on the other
hand. Then I describe in brief the concept of the Bodhisattvas in Mahāyāna.
Next follows a discussion of the concept of the Bodhisatta in Theravāda. Then
there is a chapter referring to the Jātakas and another to the Pāramīs as well.
A separate chapter is devoted to the future Buddhas. Finally there is a short
survey and a comparison of the concepts in Theravāda and Mahāyāna.



 



     To get a good understanding of the teaching
of the Buddha, we must try to identify all alien and irrelevant elements that
have accumulated in the course of time. This too is necessary for the doctrine
of the Bodhisatta. I hope that I have succeeded in doing this to some degree.


5. After Sumeda was consecrated as Buddhahood by Buddha Dipankara, how did he contemplate on the prerequisites of Buddhahood,namely, on the thirty Paramis ?

The story of Sumedha

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Four Asankheyyas and one hundred thousand aeons ago, in the city of Amaravati, there lived a very rich and learned man called Sumedha. After the death of his parent, his Treasurer showed him the colossal wealth he had inherited; also the names of his parents and forefathers who were the former owners whose names where written in the record books. The Treasurer replied that all were dead. He then asked why they did not take away their wealth with them. The treasurer told him that the world was such that after death no one could take anything away with them, but must leave all their wealth behind. On hearing this, Sumedha realized the wantonness of Samsara (the cycle of birth and death).

He then went to the king’s palace and asked for permission to distribute his wealth. When he could not finish one warehouse full of gold and precious stones in seven days, he become inpatient and though that he might die at any moment, and he had not yet finished distributing his twelve thousand five hundred warehouse full of treasures. He forthwith took the keys of the warehouses to the middle of the city and signed away all his wealth. He freed his slaves, gave them immense wealth, and advised the people to renounce the world. He himself then entered the jungle and become a hermit.

Sakka the King of the Devas, ordered Vissa-kamma to build a temple for Sumedha and also to provide for the requirement of a hermit. That Deity built the temple and provided Sumedha with the necessary things. After seven days of deep meditation, he attained “Jhana” or divine ecstasy, i.e. Supernatural Powers, etc. At that time Dipankara Buddha was staying at Sudasana Monastery in Amaravati together with four hundred thousand Arahats. People of the neighboring city invited the Lord Buddha and his disciples to their city, where they prepared and built large halls to accommodate Lord Buddha and his disciples. The people built and leveled the road with flags and flowers. They also strewed white sand on the ground. All the workers were eager and happy.

Sumedha the hermit, because he was always in the state of “Jhana”, i.e. ecstasy, did not know that Dipankara Buddha was staying in the city. One day as he was coming out of the jungle in search of food, he was surprised to see so many people working happily, leveling the roads. He flew down and enquired of the reason. They told him that they were preparing the roads for Lord Buddha and his disciples to enter the city, to receive their offering of food, etc. Sumedha thought to himself, “This word “Buddha” is very rare and we seldom hear it”. So he asked them to allow him to help. The people knowing that he had supernatural powers, gave him a deep muddy valley to fill up.

4b50c343a z.jpg 

He could use his supernatural powers, but he knew that he would get no merit for it. So instead of that, he worked very hard carrying basket of sand and trying to fill up the valley. Before that part of the road was complete, Dipankara Buddha and his disciples together with a great procession of followers arrived. Sumedha at once threw himself flat on the ground and asked the Buddha to step on his body in order to cross the muddy valley. By doing this meritorious deed, he knew that he could become an Arahat, but he gave up the idea and aspired to become a Buddha in the presence of the Supreme Buddha. The deities of the ten thousand worlds and other beings knowing that on that day Sumedha would be registered as a Bodhisatta, came down and mingled with human beings.

At that time the people could see the Deities, and heavenly music rank in harmony with earthly music. Dipankara Buddha announce to all the assembly of Deities and men that this Sumedha in the future would become a Buddha like himself. The Buddha then offered eight handfuls of jasmine flowers given by a Novice and the Arahats and Deities did likewise. Sumedha sat on the heap of flowers and meditated on what could be the Pre-requisites of Buddhahood. He then found out that they were : -Dana (Charity), Sila (Observance of precepts), Nekkhamma (Renunciation), Panna (Wisdom), Viriya (Energy), Khanti (Patience), Sacca (Truthfulness), Adhitthana (Determination), Metta (Loving Kindness), and Upekkha (Equanimity). When he realized this, the earth shook and everyone present shouted “Sadhu”, “Sadhu”,

After becoming Bodhisatta a man is free from : -

    Blindness, i.e. he can never be totally blind.

    Deafness, i.e. he is never deaf.

    Madness, i.e. he never is insane.

    Dumbness, i.e. he is never dumb.

    Becoming a cripple, i.e. he will never be one who crawls by means of a chair or bench.

90698 n.jpg 

    Birth in a barbarian country, i.e. he can never be a barbarian.

    Birth in the womb of a slave-girl, i.e. he can never be born a slave.

    Becoming an absolute wrong believer, i.e. he will never have wrong beliefs.

    Become a person of the effeminate sex, i.e. he will always be a male.

    Committing the five deathly crimes, i.e. he will never kill father or mother or any Arahats. He will never create dissention among the Order and he will never injure Lord Buddha.

    Leprosy, i.e. he will never be a leper.

    Birth as a creature smaller that a quail (Vattaka).

    Birth as an animal bigger than an elephant.

    Becoming petas, i.e. he will never born as fire-consuming petas, etc.

    Avici Hell and Lokantarika Hell, i.e. he will never be born in such a kind of hell.

338a48773.jpg 

    Birth in the Celestial world, i.e. he will never be born in the Celestial world

    Becoming Mara.

    Birth in other world, i.e. he will never be born in other worlds.

After Dipankara Buddha, there was no Buddha for one Asankheyya. Then came Kondanna Buddha. During this period, Sumedha the Bohdisat, who was born as a world monarch called Vijitavi, did many meritorious deeds and on Wesak Full Moon Day, aspired to become a Buddha.

At the time of Mangala Buddha, the Bodhisatta was born as a Brahmin called Surici. He renounced the world and aspired to be a Buddha.

During Sumana Buddha’s era, he become Atula the Dragon King. He also aspired to become a Buddha.

At the time of Revata Buddha, he was born as the Brahmin Atideva. He also aspired to become a Buddha.

When Sobhita Buddha was in the world, the Bodhisatta was born as the Brahmin Sujata. He also aspired to be a Buddha.

During Anoma-dassi Buddha’s period, the Bodhisatta, become a great Devil-King called Yakkha. He also aspired to be a Buddha.

At the time of Paduma Buddha, the Bodhisatta who was born as a lion, also aspired to be a Buddha.

33015 n.jpg 

During Narada Buddha’s time, the Bodhisatta became a hermit, attained divine ecstasy and aspired to be a Buddha.

When Padumuttara Buddha was on earth, the Bodhisatta was born as a great man called Jatila. He also made aspirations for Buddhahood.

During Sumedha Buddha’s time, the Bodhisatta was born as a man called Uttara. H also aspired to become a Buddha.

At the time of Sujata Buddha, he became a world monarch also made aspiration to become a Buddha.

In Piya-dassi Buddha’s time, the Bodhisatta was born in a Brahmin family called Kassapa. He also aspired to be a Buddha.

During Atta-dassi Buddha’s period, the Bodhisatta became a powerful hermit called Susima. He also aspired to be a Buddha.

In Dhamma-dassi Buddha’s time, the Bodhisatta who became Sakka Deva Raja, i.e. King of Gods, also aspired to be a Buddha.

When Siddhartha Buddha was in the world, the Bodhisatta became Mangala the hermit. He also made aspiration for Buddhahood.

During the time of Tissa Buddha, the Bodhisatta became King Sujata. He renounced the world, studied the Doctrine, and made aspirations to become a Buddha.

At the time of Phussa Buddha, the Bodhisatta was born as the King Vijitavi. He renounced the world, studied the Doctrine and made aspiration for Buddhahood.

During Vipassi Buddha’s time, the Bodhisatta was born as a Dragon King. He also aspired to be a Buddha.

In Sikhi Buddha’s time, the Bodhisatta was born as King Arindama. He also made aspirations to become a Buddha.

757620 n.jpg 

During the period of Buddha Vessabhu, the Bodhisatta who became King Sudassana also made aspirations for Buddhahood.

At the time of Kaku-sandha Buddha, the Bodhisatta was born as King Khema. He renounced the world and aspired to become a Buddha.

During the era of Konagamana Buddha, the Bodhisatta became King Pabbata. He offered Chinese silk robes, carpets, etc. He also aspired to become a Buddha.

When Kassapa Buddha was on earth, the Bodhisatta was born as a man called Jotipala. He renounced the world and made aspirations to become a Buddha.

During this long period, the Bodhisatta had been practicing the Ten Paramitas or Pre-requisites of Buddhahood,


Diploma in Theravada Buddhist Studies (DBS)
Model Question Paper
2018-19

Question
6. Write clearly an account on Sumedha’s thought concerning each Parami.
http://hsingyun.org/parami-true-success/


Works of Master Hsing Yun

Parami: True Success

“Success,” as it is generally understood, is nothing more than
personal success in the present lifetime, things like fame, wealth, and
power. In the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, “success” means benefiting
living beings, having successful cultivation, and becoming a Buddha or
bodhisattva.

Quite a number of people believe that for Buddhist monastics to
develop from ordinary people into sages they must cut themselves off
from their family and loved ones and hide away in some remote mountain
hermitage. Likewise, there is a saying in Buddhism that “All things are
empty,” though this concept of “emptiness” is often misunderstood to
mean that we should not want or pursue anything. This misapprehension
recasts the Buddhist teaching on “emptiness” into nothing but
meaningless talk about metaphysical ideas. But, according to Buddhism,
success comes as the fruition of karmic causes and conditions. These
instances of karmic fruition are also called paramitas.

Parami is an ancient Sanskirt word which means “to cross
over,” in that one crosses from the shore of suffering over to the other
shore of nirvana, while “ta” is an auxiliary particle
that indicates completion. When the Buddhist sutras were translated from
Sanskrit to Chinese, the choice was made to transliterate the term paramita,
rather than translating its meaning, and most English translations
follow in suit. This was done in order to preserve the concept as close
to the time of the Buddha’s transmission of the Dharma and not to limit
it by a particular translated term.

If we want to cross over affliction, trouble, and the cycle of birth
and death, and transform suffering into happiness, partiality into
universality, and affliction into enlightenment, we must rely upon the
six paramitas. Also known as the “six perfections,” the six paramitas are six methods that enable us to cross over and transcend. The six paramitas are giving, morality, patience, diligence, meditative concentration, and prajna. Each of the paramitas will be explained more fully later.

The four main teachings of the Diamond Sutra are to give
without notions, to liberate with no notion of self, to live without
abiding, and to cultivate without attainment; this way of practicing the
Dharma allows us to cross from this shore to the other shore and to
fulfill our paramitas. To put it more simply, one should use a spirit that transcends the world to do the work of the world.

Human life can be divided into four levels:

  1. Physical life
  2. Community life
  3. Transcendent life
  4. Unending life

“Physical life” refers to the physical body as given to us by our
parents. This human body is hard to come by, so we should take good care
of it. “Community life” means fulfilling one’s role within the larger
life of the group. “Transcendent life” means altruistically contributing
what you can for the sake of others, the larger community, and for all
living beings. “Unending life” refers to what Buddhism calls the “life
of wisdom.” Someone who lives this way is not worried about whether he
lives or dies, having transcended the suffering of life and the fear of
death. This is eternal life where one no longer wanders through the
cycle of birth and death.

Every human life has boundless potential. It is up to the mind of each individual to fulfill the value and success of life.

Reconsidering Value

In her later years, my mother was a patient at Whittier Hospital in
Los Angeles, U.S.A. On May 31, 1996, I received news in Taipei that my
mother’s illness had taken a turn for the worse, and I immediately
boarded a plane for Los Angeles. During the flight I kept reflecting on
the past. In my mind I could see my mother’s tender, smiling face as if
it were before my very eyes. My heart filled with all manner of
emotions, and I silently recited the name of Amitabha Buddha as a
blessing for my mother.

Upon arriving at Los Angeles International Airport, I raced over to
the hospital, but my mother had already passed on. All I could do was go
over to Rose Hills Memorial Park to pay my last respects.

The nursing staff that had been looking after her told me that she
was kind and frugal, and was plain and simple in her daily needs. She
rarely bothered others and was always thinking of other people. My
mother did not even want them to tell me about her worsening condition,
to spare me any alarm or worry. My mother always took everything upon
herself, and kept her feelings of care and loving concern inside. Twenty
minutes before she died, she still left instructions with Venerable Tzu
Chuang, the abbess of Hsi Lai Temple who was attending at her side:

Thank you for reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha on my
behalf. I am leaving now, so, please, under no circumstances are you to
let my son know, thus sparing him any distress. He should busy himself
with the problems of all sentient beings and not be troubled on my
account alone.

In the face of disciples and family members who had hurried to Los
Angeles from various places, I decided to follow my mother’s final
instructions by not disturbing the outside world and keeping everything
simple. In accordance with her wishes, no formal condolences, no
funerary contributions of money and no gifts or flowers were accepted. I
then dictated the following obituary notice to solemnly inform all
those concerned:

My mother, Mrs. Liu Yuying, peacefully passed away at
4:20 a.m. on the 30 of May, 1996, at Whittier Hospital in Los Angeles,
U.S.A, amid the sounds of chanting “Amitofo.” She was ninety-five years
old. Many of her children and grandchildren as well as my disciples were
by her side. Her body was then transferred to Rose Hills that same day.

Four days later, my mother was cremated at Rose Hills. Amid the
sounds of those assembled there chanting sutras and reciting Amitabha
Buddha’s name, I gently pressed the green switch to activate the
cremation process. At that time I composed the following poem in my
mind:

Between this mundane world and the Pure Land,

There remains the unchanging bond between mother and son;

For whether here on earth or there in heaven,

She remains forever my dear mother.

With a burst of fire,

A puff of wind,

And a flash of light,

I bid eternal farewell to my mother.

My mother was twenty-five when she gave birth to my body. Since then
seventy years had slipped away, and my mother has passed on. And so,
with a push of a button, the body of my mother was cremated. Our
physical bodies are like houses that we live in only for a short time.
Time passes and the house becomes leaky and in need of repair. This
temporary residence of ours will surely decay, and there will come a
time when we will be unable to live in it anymore.

Some twenty years earlier, my mother once came to stay for a while at
Fo Guang Shan, and on one occasion during a grand assembly of lay
disciples, I asked whether or not she was willing to meet with them and
say a few words. She agreed, but I was worried that my mother would be
intimidated by stage fright. But to my surprise, she faced the assembled
audience of more than twenty thousand and said with a calm assurance,
“Fo Guang Shan is indeed the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss; a
heaven on earth. We should rely upon the venerable master to be our
guide in the hope that everyone will achieve enlightenment here at Fo
Guang Shan. Everyone has been so kind to me, but this old woman has
nothing to give to you in return. I can only offer my son as a gift to
everyone.”

Her words were met by thunderous applause from the audience. My
mother was illiterate and had never read any sacred literature, nor ever
prepared herself to speak in front of others. But she had experienced
the chaos of the late Qing dynasty, the Revolution of 1911, the
establishment of the Republic of China, the armed occupations of the
warlords, the Sino-Japanese War, the stand-off between the Nationalist
Party and the Chinese Communist Party, and the Great Cultural
Revolution, as well as the changes over time in relations between Taiwan
and Mainland China.

The turmoil of the times had kept her constantly on the move; she
lived through nearly one hundred years of epoch-making change. In her
life, she practiced the Dharma, but she was too busy to let the question
of whether or not she had a firm background in Buddhism bother her. She
had already transcended the scriptural understanding with all its
careful wording to bring fulfillment to her own life.

And yet, through the power of a vow, we have the power to return again to this human world.

Humanistic Buddhism

As Buddhists we acknowledge that the Dharma exists in the world, but what exactly is the Dharma as taught by the Buddha?

The word Buddha means “enlightened one,” for he is one who has
enlightened himself, enlightens others, and has completed his mission
of enlightening others. A Buddha is one who transcends the ignorance of
sentient beings. The quality of his enlightenment is unlike that of the sravaka or pratyekabuddha,
who pursue enlightenment for themselves alone. A Buddha has realized a
state of enlightenment that even a bodhisattva has yet to fully attain.

The founder of Buddhism was originally named Siddhartha, though he is
also called Sakyamuni Buddha, the World-honored One, the Tathagata, and
so on. He was born on the eighth day of the fourth month of the lunar
calendar in Lumbini Garden within the Indian state of Kapilavastu. His
father, King Suddhodana, was head of the Sakya clan. His mother, Queen
Maya, died seven days after his birth.

Sakyamuni Buddha was raised into adulthood by his maternal aunt, Lady
Mahaprajapati. As a prince, Siddhartha was a handsome and intelligent
young man, who was skilled in both the civil and military arts. From
boyhood, he was much beloved by the common people. His father put all
his effort into training him to become a wise ruler. When he was
seventeen, Siddhartha married the beautiful Yasodhara, and the following
year she bore him a son, Prince Rahula.

However, despite his life in the palace with all its comfort and
contentment, and the warm love and affection of his family, Siddhartha
felt a deep void in his heart. He was seeking something more from life
and needed a truer understanding of human existence. So at the age of
twenty-nine, he bid farewell to his family, gave up all his pleasures
and comforts, and left the palace to pursue his spiritual quest. At age
thirty-five, after six years of austere practice, he sat underneath the
bodhi tree, and attained enlightenment while looking up at a bright
star, and said, “Marvelous, marvelous! All sentient beings have the
Tathagata’s wisdom and virtue, but they fail to realize it because they
cling to deluded thoughts and attachments.”

The now enlightened Buddha shared his realization with others,
setting the wheel of Dharma turning, and established the monastic order.
He then taught the Dharma for the liberation of living beings for
forty-nine years, and entered nirvana while lying between two sala trees outside the city of Kusinara in the year 483 bce.

The Buddha was born in this human world, grew up and attained enlightenment in this human world; he passed into nirvana
in this human world, as well. Buddhism has always been concerned with
this human world. The Buddhist sutras which circulate today are a record
of the Buddha’s teachings to liberate living beings, gathered and
organized by his disciples after the Buddha’s final nirvana. From
the time of the Buddha, the Buddhist teachings are meant to
fundamentally address the issues of how we as human beings are to
conduct ourselves, how we are to act and think throughout the course of
our lives, as well as how we can gain liberation. The Dharma quite
naturally serves as a guide to how to live our daily lives. As Buddhism
enters the modern era, we as Buddhists must take an active role in the
world and be diligent.

There are some people who think the Dharma serves as an escape, that
one may “retreat into Buddhist practice,” as if Buddhism is some sort of
pessimistic escape or resignation that does not demand that we
accomplish anything. The Ekottara Agama states:

All the Buddhas and World-honored Ones come from the
human world; their realization is not something attained in the heavenly
realms.

Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch of the Chan School, also said in the Platform Sutra:

The Dharma is within the world, apart from this world there is no awakening. Seeking bodhi apart from the world is like looking for a rabbit’s horn.

If we seek enlightenment by rejecting the world, in doing so we throw
away our potential. This creates a sense of withdrawal and escape in
the mind, and then nothing whatsoever will succeed.

Buddhism is not a religion that belongs only to monastics, nor is it a
body of philosophical texts to be studied by scholars. Buddhism should
be something that benefits all people. Buddhism is not an abstract
theory; it is a religion that brings happiness and well-being into the
world. To learn Buddhism is to learn how to be happy, carefree,
liberated, and attain meditative bliss and Dharma joy. Joy and happiness
are the most precious things in life, and living a happy, blessed, and
carefree life is what Humanistic Buddhism promotes. Humanistic Buddhism
is the practical application of the Buddhist spirit in the world.

One day, the Buddha and his disciples entered the city of Sravasti to
gather alms, and it so happened that they encountered someone who bore a
grudge against the Buddha. This person started to malign, slander, and
shout in a loud voice as the Buddha walked along the street.

Seeing how the Buddha was being insulted in public, one of his
disciples said to the Buddha angrily, “The people here lack any speck of
goodness and do not know how to respect the Triple Gem. Lord Buddha, it
would be better if we left this place and went to a city with
kind-hearted people!”

The Buddha replied, “Suppose we do move to another place but the
people there still do not believe in the Dharma, what would you do
then?”

The disciple said, “We should move to yet another place!”

“When will we ever stop moving if we do so because of external
conditions? This is not the way to ultimately solve the problem! We can
resolve the root of the problem this way: If we are treated with scorn,
we must remain unperturbed and bring an end to slander through patience.
We must not stop guarding our speech and training our minds until we
are no longer treated with scorn.”

The Buddha continued, “An enlightened person remains calm and patient
like the earth. We should not allow our mission to be shaken by either
praise or blame. By contemplating the absence of an independent self, we
will observe how all phenomena are false fabrications. Then the
illusory distinctions of self and others, as well the so-called good and
bad of the world, will become nothing more than froth upon the water
that suddenly appears, and just as suddenly disappears. Can anything
remain constant and unchanging?”

Buddhism such as this is what allows people to experience well-being
and success. It is a religion for people, and one that is concerned with
the development of people. In Buddhism there is a teaching called the
“three Dharma seals,” which are three qualities that certify something
as an authentic teaching. They are all conditioned phenomena are
impermanent, all phenomena are without an independent self, and nirvana
is perfect tranquility. By viewing the world through the teaching on
impermanence, one can come to understand that all conditioned phenomena
are impermanent. Determination and diligence allows us to see that “all
phenomena are without an independent self.” In Buddhism there is a
saying that “there is nothing to attain,” and it is because of this
understanding that all the wonders of existence can arise out of true
emptiness. The last of the three Dharma seals, “nirvana is perfect tranquility” asserts that our potential for success is unlimited.

Wholesome Wealth

There are many people in this world who believe that one of the
standards for measuring success is making a lot of money. In terms of
material wealth, Buddhist monastics live a plain and simple life: they
live with three robes, a bowl, and few small items, such as sutras and a
Buddha statue. There is even a saying in Chinese that, “A monastic’s
rucksack weighs only two and a half pounds.” That being said, even a
skilled housewife cannot prepare a meal without rice, and a poor couple
will suffer hundreds of sorrows. A lay Buddhist must have some monetary
wealth, or else he will be unable to care for his parents and support
his family. Buddhist practice and acts of charity also require a certain
amount of money to support them, let alone the riches required to
engage in various social development programs. Therefore, Humanistic
Buddhism does not disdain money, for wealth that is acquired through
pure and wholesome means can serve as supporting resources.

However, we must also understand that worldly success arises from a
combination of causes and conditions. Consider the example of a single
individual. The process that takes this person from birth as a crying
baby to maturity as an adult is supported by many causes and conditions,
such as the safeguarding by parents, instruction of teachers and
elders, as well as the various trades and professions that supply
clothing, food, housing, transportation and so on. We go to school, find
our place in society, start a family, and begin our careers; and we all
hope we will be successful in these. But success is not building
castles in the sky, nor is it possible to achieve it without hard work.
Having the right conditions in place to support us is to our advantage,
but even then depending upon others too much cannot lead to success
either.

People are often greedy. If they have even a bit of money, they think
of depositing it in the bank where it will accumulate interest. But in
that case, such money cannot be used to launch new enterprises. We bring
no money with us when we are born, and take none of it with us when we
die, and during our lives it is always taken away by fire, flood,
thieves, corrupt officials, and wayward children.1
We can only appreciate the value of money if we do not feel attached to
it, but rather allow our wealth to circulate and accomplish good
things. There is a Buddhist saying that captures this sentiment well:

What comes from all directions

Supports undertakings in all directions;

The generosity of thousands of people

Creates connections for thousands of people.

In this way worldly money can serve both worldly causes, as well as those that transcend this world.

There are some people who have a fixed view that spiritual practice
does not need money and cannot involve money, and expect spiritual
seekers to live in poverty. But poverty cannot guarantee a higher level
of practice. These attitudes come from a fixed sense of self which is
attached to appearing impoverished, that it is the only way to be a
practitioner. This is a question of reality. If you have nothing, how
then can you give something? To liberate living beings and practice
giving, we need the qualities of physical strength, practical talent,
ability, and commitment. Why must monetary wealth be singled out for
disdain and rejection? To varying levels, lacking mental or material
resources will limit our ability to give and liberate others.

The question that is truly worthy of our concern is how to best
utilize the pure, wholesome, and noble wealth that is donated to benefit
living beings. We should not fall into the view that only poverty can
show that one is well cultivated. For a modernized Buddhism, Buddhists
should engage in enterprise so long as such activities are beneficial to
the economy of the country and the lives of its people. This then is
the true meaning of the Buddhists teachings on “non-abiding” and
“non-self.”

Oneness and Coexistence

There is a story recounted in the Samyukta Agama about two
monastics who argue about who is better at chanting. One day the
Buddha’s great disciple Mahakasyapa reported to the Buddha, “Lord
Buddha, there are two monks who are both unyielding in nature; one is
Ananda’s disciple Nantu and the other is Maudgalyayana’s disciple Abifu.
The two of them argue with each other from time to time over who is the
best at chanting, and tomorrow they are going to decide once and for
all who can chant the most sutras and teach the Dharma the best!”

The Buddha sent someone to summon Nantu and Abifu. He then asked
them, “Have you heard my teaching on how to determine the winner and the
loser when two people are arguing with one another?”

“We have never heard of such a teaching concerning winning or losing.”

“The real winner is someone who puts a stop to the confusion caused
by greed, anger, and ignorance; diligently practices the threefold
training of morality, meditative concentration, and wisdom; and can
destroy the thieves of the six sense organs. One who can truly
contemplate how the five aggregates of form, feeling, perceptions,
mental formation, and consciousness are as insubstantial as a plantain
trunk; and can make the Noble Eightfold Path their guide can realize the
bliss and tranquility of great nirvana. You may be able to
recite hundreds of thousands of verses from memory, but if you do not
understand their meaning, then how does that benefit your liberation?”

The Buddha wants us to cultivate right concentration, part of the
Noble Eightfold Path, and stay away from any conflict between ourselves
and others. The Diamond Sutra emphasizes how one should not abide
in anything. In terms of human commercial enterprises, one must not
become attached to a single fixed market. Do not cling to old markets
and old industries, but have the courage instead to open up alternative
avenues, seek out alternative markets, and set up new creative teams. By
implementing strategies like “value reassessment,” “collective
creation,” and “systematic leadership,” one can develop brand new
enterprises and live a life as vast as endless space.

Value Reassessment

In the Diamond Sutra, the Buddha instructs living beings to
not cling to the notion of self, the notion of others, the notion of
sentient beings, or the notion of longevity, nor to allow the
discriminating mind to hinder our practice. If organizations and
commercial enterprises are able to align themselves closely with human
nature, be attentive to the needs of the larger community, and offer
more varied opportunities, then they can create new value.

In the past, hearing Buddhist teachings required a visit to a temple,
but since such temples were located in remote locations with poor
transportation, people often hesitated to go. Even the infrastructure of
the temples failed to meet the needs of those who came to hear the
teachings. Having done their best to visit once or twice, some beginning
Buddhists would give up on their good intention of listening to the
Dharma.

The Lotus Sutra states:

In whatever land where this sutra is received and upheld,
read and recited, explained and copied, and cultivated and practiced as
taught; whether in a place where a volume of scripture is kept, or in a
grove, or in a forest, or under a tree, or in a monastery, or in a
layman’s house, or in a temple hall, or in a mountain valley, or upon an
open plain; in all of these places one should erect a memorial stupa
and make offerings. Why is that? One must know that these places are
temples.

The Vimalakirti Sutra also states:

The upright mind is a temple, the profound mind is a temple, the mind aspiring to bodhi is a temple, generosity is a temple, the three kinds of supernatural knowledge2 are a temple, the knowledge of all phenomena within a single thought is a temple.

That is to say, everywhere in the world can be a place for us to
learn the Dharma and attain enlightenment. In order to spread the Dharma
throughout the world, it should go into homes, schools, factories,
farms, workplaces, and military bases. By upholding the principles of
harmonizing the traditional and the modern, by sharing ownership between
monastics and laypeople, by equally emphasizing both practice and
understanding, and by integrating literature and art with Buddhism, we
will continue to promote Humanistic Buddhism.

Fo Guang Shan and its branch temples all include facilities like
auditoriums, conference rooms, classrooms, lounge areas, reception
areas, and libraries, along with the gradual addition of the Fo Guang
Yuan art galleries, Water Drop teahouses, and so on. Such an approach
allows devotees to come to the temple not only to worship the Buddha,
but also to receive the Dharma instruction that is offered in
auditoriums, conference rooms, and classrooms. In this way Fo Guang Shan
endeavors to combine the worldly with that which transcends the world,
and integrate society with the mountain monastery, so that monastics and
laypeople can practice anytime and anywhere.

With its transcendent spirit and worldly practicality, Buddhism
liberates living beings by bestowing upon them the Buddha’s wisdom and
compassion. The enterprises of the world with their profit motive must
also adapt to changes in external conditions from time to time, so that
they can provide the products and services that are aligned with the
people’s demands in a planned, organized, and efficient manner. That too
is using a spirit that transcends the world to do the work of the
world.

Collective Creation

Organizations and enterprises must create new value, but this is
impossible to accomplish by relying solely on one individual to take
charge of everything and make all the decisions. What is needed is for
everyone to pull together their creative ideas and the will for
collective success.

In its early days, Fo Guang Shan had absolutely nothing. We had
neither modern equipment nor today’s popular management theory, but what
we did have was group planning and effort, and the tacit understanding
we all shared about collective creation. In 1967, the construction of
the temple began, and I brought along the first generation of my
disciples—Hsin Ping, Hsin Ting, Tzu Chuang, Tzu Hui, and Tzu Jung—and
together we began to toil and work. We cleared away each tree and moved
every rock. We drafted the general layout for the temple’s structure in
the Lichee Garden, and came up with our teaching guidelines in the old
Huiming Hall.

At each stage in going from nothing to something, there were perhaps
personal differences over understanding, conceptualization, and
judgment, but once an issue affected the general direction of Fo Guang
Shan, or what was needed to bring success to Buddhism, everyone promptly
came together. There was never any conflict sparked by personal or
selfish motives, for we shared a common determination to overcome any
difficulties and help each other work towards the same goal. This was
the spirit behind the founding of Fo Guang Shan.

“Collective creation” does not mean many people supporting the
dictatorship of one individual; rather, it means that each individual
within the collective participates equally, so we can broadly solicit
views and opinions from all corners. From Fo Guang Shan’s founding to
the present day, nearly every single issue has been decided
democratically. At all of our meetings at every level of the
organization, everyone has an equal opportunity to speak and exercise
their right to vote, regardless of their degree of seniority or the
duties they undertake. At the meetings I chair personally, anybody who
is so inclined is free to sit in and listen at any time. Not only does
this style reduce many of the barriers to getting things done, it also
ensures that members of Fo Guang Shan who attend these meetings can
learn the art of communication. Everyone has an opportunity to grow from
such experiences.

When I think of Fo Guang Shan’s initial building phase, images of how
all of us worked together from morning to night, shouldering loads of
bricks, sand, rock, and cement with sweat streaming down our backs flash
in my mind. After the hired workers had finished their day’s work and
gone home, Fo Guang Shan’s disciples would continue working. In
addition, there are no words to describe the assistance we received from
all of the laypeople who wished to support the Dharma. This is why I
often say, “the success of Fo Guang Shan belongs to everyone.” Fo Guang
Shan is not for any individual. Rather, it belongs to its more than
thirteen hundred monastic disciples, the millions of lay followers
around the world, its many benefactors, as well as people from all walks
of life. Fo Guang Shan was not something that was completed in a day or
a certain period of time; it succeeded, bit by bit, through the
continuous effort due to oneness and coexistence.

Systematic Leadership

Even during the Buddha’s time the monastic community had a well-developed organizational system. The Buddha set up the posadha system, in which monastics met regularly to reflect upon their religious lives and confess their faults, and the karman
system for conducting meetings and adopting resolutions. In these
systems we can see a set of legal procedures that are even more complete
in their details than those of many modern countries. The Buddha’s
management style reflects a deep understanding of human nature and his
system of rules and regulations are skillfully adaptive. The Buddha’s
monastic community could be ranked among the best of the many successful
enterprises we have today.

Never in my life have I worried about my future, and I have not set
my mind on any particular achievement. Things just fell into place
naturally. The year I turned fifty-eight, I relinquished my position as
abbot of Fo Guang Shan, but even then I was merely stepping down in
accordance with the system. I then left Fo Guang Shan and went directly
to Beihai Temple. I wanted to let my successor get on with the job,
which is why I did not want to linger at Fo Guang Shan. In Buddhism
there is a saying that one should “rely on the Dharma rather than an
individual”; organizations and enterprises, likewise, need clearly
defined and implementable system as they pursue success.

The Buddha’s Light International Association, a Buddhist organization
founded to encourage the participation of lay Buddhists, has a
membership now in the millions, while the entire Fo Guang Shan
organization operates harmoniously. We have furthered the work of
spreading the Dharma to all parts of the world, and each of our
successes has been achieved by operating within our system. In this way
the Dharma has been able to break through the barriers of race,
language, and culture, and we have been able to use Buddhist chanting,
calligraphy, writing, publishing, and visual and performing arts to
spread Humanistic Buddhism to every corner of the world.

The success of Fo Guang Buddhists can be seen as an example of
“cultivation without attainment”: in Fo Guang Shan, we have a policy
that glory belongs to the Buddha, and the success belongs to the
community. In this instance these achievements “belong” in the sense
that each person contributes their cultivation without expecting to gain
anything in return. In this way, Fo Guang Buddhists are one with all
living beings, and can coexist together in harmony.

Building One Brick at a Time

In Chinese there is an old saying: “When the eggs are not ready to
hatch, do not crack the shell; when the rice is not fully cooked, do not
lift the lid.” Trying to break open the eggs when they are not ready to
hatch will bring an untimely death to these small creatures, and trying
to lift the lid of the pot before the rice is fully cooked will make it
hard for the rice to be cooked tender.

There is no free lunch in this world. If you want to get something
you must give something. I would suggest that, when a person is young,
he or she should fear neither hardship, nor being at a disadvantage. One
should harden oneself with real experience with no expectation of
compensation. One should increase one’s own knowledge and experience, no
matter if that be through reading books, starting a major undertaking,
or engaging in some sort of work. Do not be eager for success: success
that comes too easily can lead to pride and disdain for others, and with
such irresolute aspirations, one will quickly fail and be laid low. A
lofty tower is built from the ground up: no real success in this world
is achieved all at once. Success does not happen by mere chance, nor is
it a product of instant results. Rather, it is solidly built one brick
at a time. Great minds often develop gradually. Likewise, there is a
saying in Taiwan that goes: “a big rooster takes its time crowing.”

Quick success is not really all that good. Take trees for example:
those that mature in a year are only good for firewood, while those that
mature in three to five years can be made into tables and chairs. Only
trees that take decades and decades to mature can be made into pillars
and beams. That is why we should “cultivate without attainment,” and
free ourselves of that win or lose mentality that leads to hasty work.
We must gradually cultivate and refine ourselves, and wait until the
conditions are right. As it is said, the journey of a thousand miles
begins with the first step; so never get ahead of yourself nor delude
yourself with the idea that chanting Amitabha Buddha’s name for two days
will give you a diamond-like mind capable of overcoming evil.

After Hongren, the Fifth Patriarch of the Chan School, gave the
monastic robe and alms bowl to Huineng, signifying that he was now the
Sixth Patriarch, he escorted Huineng to a riverbank and said to him:

Henceforth, you shall spread the Dharma far and wide. You
should depart now and quickly travel south. Do not start teaching too
quickly because it is difficult to spread the Dharma.

The Fifth Patriarch was telling Huineng not to be too eager to spread
the Dharma publicly. It is important to wait for the right opportunity.
This was why Huineng lived in seclusion among a band of hunters, eating
some vegetables that he added to their pot of meat, as he bided his
time. A favorable opportunity is when all the conditions are right. Any
matter can easily succeed, if it happens at just the right moment when
the causes and conditions are in place.

The Ten Directions and Three Time Periods

People often ask me, “The Fo Guang Shan monastic order is large and
its activities are on an immense scale, how do you manage it all? How do
you keep everyone focused, harmonious, and without contention?”

I always like to reply by sharing an old Buddhist expression:
“Pervade across the ten directions and extend down through the three
time periods.”3

The expression “Pervade across the ten directions and extend down
through the three times periods” describes our own intrinsic Buddha
nature. The size of everything in the world is limited, the only things
large enough to “pervade across the ten directions” are prajna,
our intrinsic nature, and the Dharmakaya. Such things are so large that
nothing is outside them and so small that nothing more can be contained
within; for they pervade everyplace and exist everywhere. In terms of
time, although our physical bodies are born and die and our lives come
to an end, our intrinsic Buddha wisdom can transcend the temporal
limitations of past, present, and future. It neither arises nor ceases
and does not come or go, which is why it “extends down through the three
time periods.”

The year I stepped down as abbot of Fo Guang Shan my successor,
Venerable Hsin Ping, would come and ask me the same question whenever
any major event was about to take place at the monastery. He would ask,
“How should we handle it this year?”

I would always answer, “Look to what was done before.”

Referencing earlier precedents means striving for consistency with
the monastery’s guiding principles, yet as times change, all things
should also undergo some reform and innovation. This is why I said to
look to what was done before, not to follow what was done before.

To build people’s faith in the Dharma I have gone from riding a
bicycle down to the village in my early years to taking automobiles.
Because of this modernized society, instead of walking, I can now fly to
and fro through the sky. I deeply appreciate how these modern forms of
transportation offer many conveniences for teaching the Dharma. However,
an appropriate respect for tradition can allow people to see the true
meaning of Buddhism. For example, beginning in 1988 and continuing every
other year afterwards, Fo Guang Shan has an alms procession, in which
monastics collect donations with their bowls as in the time of the
Buddha. Not only does this activity serve to bring the light of the
Buddha’s compassion to every corner of Taiwan and give Buddhists an
opportunity to make offerings and generate merit, it is a good
experience for the monastics as well. In 1988 I launched a series of
events across Taiwan entitled “Returning to the Buddha’s Time,”
featuring ceremonies, performances, and a Dharma talk. The events used
modern audio-visual multimedia to enable the audience of tens of
thousands to travel back in time and return to the sacred site of
Vulture Peak where the Buddha was teaching twenty-five hundred years ago
and share in the Dharma joy of Buddhist chanting.

The policy of referring to past precedents is a manifestation of
“extending down through the three time periods.” Whenever some
improvement is introduced, it goes through a process of discussion and
coordination and then later becomes widely known to everyone. Meetings
are an indispensable part of this process. There are times when students
ask to attend our meetings, and I do not refuse them.

In the past I served on the monastery staff, and while taking care of
guests I developed a keen awareness as to how all things are connected.
Each moment can be considered as a point that leads to some other
point, together these points make a line, and by observing many of these
lines, one comes to an understanding of the whole. By seeing some
individual matter as part of the whole, then one can tweak its temporal
and spatial qualities in just the right way so that nothing will be left
out.

Buddha nature permeates everywhere, “pervading across the ten
directions and extending down through the three time periods.” Because
of this, in terms of our essence, both the Buddha and I possess the same
Buddha nature. Therefore, I need not submit to force, nor become
beguiled by wealth and honor. I am one with all living beings. Sometimes
I may sit upon a high throne and expound the sublime truths of the
Buddha, while at other times I can toil and work for the benefit of
living beings and contribute through my sacrifice. I can be great or be
small, I can come first or come last, I can do with or do without, I can
handle happiness or suffering, I can expand or contract, and I can bear
being full or being hungry. I was not born with the ability to do
everything, but I am always willing to try.

It is because of the maxim “pervade across the ten directions and
extend down through the three time periods” that we must throw open the
universal gate. There can be no racial barriers or special treatment. We
must be able to lead people from all walks of life, regardless of their
religious and social backgrounds, into sharing equally in the benefits
of the Dharma. This will enable all living beings from different regions
of the world and different stations in life to benefit from the
Dharma’s various positive connections, and bestow them upon society.

Buddhist Success: Paramita

As mentioned previously, paramita is a Sanskrit word that means “success,” “crossing from this shore to the other shore,” and “the perfect tranquility of nirvana.

We know that we must go from this shore of delusion and cross to the
other shore of enlightenment, but can we do this just by thinking about
it from time to time?

The Diamond Sutra says we should “Give rise to a mind that does not abide in anything.
In this instance, “abide” means to be attached to something,
particularly attached to an independent self. When we become too focused
on this sense of an independent self we become attached to the
perceived value of this “self,” and thus cling to certain ideas and
never let them go. When we worry too much about the gains and losses of
this “self” our feelings become deluded by love, hate, sadness, and
happiness. Having a mind that does not abide in anything calls upon us
to live in the world according to the selflessness of prajna, for this is the only way to reach the state of nirvana. Nirvana is:

  • Complete tranquility
  • The highest bliss
  • Everlasting happiness
  • Complete merit and wisdom
  • Total freedom from desire
  • The ultimate state of liberation
  • True reality

Success in Buddhism is transcending this shore with its affliction,
delusion, and suffering, and crossing to the other shore of purity and
tranquility, where no afflictions appear and all suffering has ended.
The specific practice to accomplish this is a group of virtues called
the “six paramitas” or “six perfections.” The six paramitas are:

  1. Giving (dana-paramita)Giving is to take what one has or knows
    and give it to others. Besides the giving of wealth and property, this
    also includes giving the Dharma and confidence or fearlessness to
    others. The paramita of giving can help to eliminate the defilement of greed.
  2. Morality (sila-paramita)The basis of Buddhist morality is the
    five precepts, but it is not enough to think that the five precepts are
    just about not doing this or not doing that. The five precepts should
    be viewed in positive terms, for that is the path to happiness. For
    example, one should go beyond the first precept “not to kill” and in
    addition actively protect life. One can go beyond “not stealing” and
    practice giving. One can go beyond “not committing sexual misconduct”
    and be respectful. One can go beyond “not lying” and give praise. Going
    beyond not killing to protect life leads to a long life; going beyond
    not stealing to practice giving brings riches; going beyond not
    committing sexual misconduct to being respectful leads to a pleasant
    family life; and going beyond not lying to giving praise means that one
    will have a good reputation.
  3. Patience (ksanti-paramita)In Buddhism there are three kinds
    of patience: the patience for life, the patience for phenomena, and the
    patience for non-arising phenomena.4 A bodhisattva is one who patiently endures all the humiliations of life, as well as cold, heat, hunger, thirst, and so on. The paramita of patience can help to eliminate the defilement of anger.
  4. Diligence (virya-paramita)The paramita of diligence
    includes physical diligence and mental diligence. Mental diligence means
    earnestly practicing wholesome teachings while taking care to eliminate
    the roots of unwholesomeness. The paramita of diligence is the antidote for laziness and idleness.
  5. Meditative Concentration (dhyana-paramita)The paramita
    of meditative concentration comes from making one’s mind free of
    distractions such that it does not become confused or deluded by worldly
    matters. The paramita of meditative concentration can remove the defilement of doubt.
  6. Prajna (prajna-paramita)The paramita of prajna is the most important of the paramitas, and the forerunner of the other five. By using prajna wisdom one can eradicate the defilement of ignorance.

I loved playing basketball when I was young, so I often draw my
analogies from basketball: be it spiritual cultivation, academic study,
or interacting with others, they’re all like playing basketball. For
example, when trying to get along with others, you should not go off to
fight your own battles, for it is important to remember team spirit. One
should wait for the right time to act, just as when one has possession
of the ball, one must wait for any opportunity to make a shot. And if
you break the rules, you must admit your fault, just as in raising one’s
hand in a game.

When playing basketball, one must have the spirit of the six paramitas:
you must pass the ball to your teammates to help them to score points
on a basket (giving), you need to play by the rules of the court
(morality), you must show restraint to avoid being bumped by others
during the heat of a match (patience), you must practice your skills if
you want to score (diligence), and, in addition to fundamentals, you
must develop basketball strategy in order to win (prajna).

Why is prajna considered the foremost paramita? The Treatise on the Perfection of Great Wisdom says, “the other five perfections are blind without prajna to guide them.” It is impossible to reach the ultimate goal by relying only upon the other five paramitas and attempting to do without prajna. This is why prajna is described as the foundation of the six paramitas and is also the foundation of the Dharma.

The Lotus Sutra states, “The turmoil of the three realms is
like a burning house.” The three realms of Buddhist cosmology (the
desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm) are like a burning
house. But if we make our minds nice and cool, then the blaze of
suffering that presses upon us will disappear. Only by cultivating prajna without the expectation of gain can we succeed with the six paramitas.

Once the Chan master Caoshan Huixia said to his attendant, “An
enlightened person will be unperturbed by heat, no matter how hot it
gets inside or outside.”

Huixia’s attendant agreed. Huixia then asked, “If it were extremely hot now, where would you go to escape it?”

The attendant answered, “I would seek refuge in a burning-hot cauldron.”

Huixia was puzzled. He asked further, “Nothing is hotter than a cauldron. Why would you seek refuge in such blazing heat?”

Pointing at his heart, the attendant answered, “The great mass of suffering cannot reach me here.”

The Diamond Sutra reveals to us the secret of success: to have a mind that does not abide in anything. This is prajna.
The mind itself is all of wondrous existence, while abiding in nothing
is true emptiness; and there cannot be wondrous existence without true
emptiness. The prajna of the Buddha can make one
understand the mind and body with crystal clarity, like the moon
reflected in water, transporting one from this shore of delusion and
attachment to the other shore that is permanent, blissful, pure, and has
an inherent self. Practitioners are able to turn a world of blazing
heat into a realm that is refreshingly cool, and transform defilement
and affliction into the Pure Land. Such people find no situation in
which they are not content.


1. These are the “five causes of loss”: five things mentioned in the Buddhist sutras that can destroy our wealth. Ed.

2.
The three kinds of supernatural knowledge are knowledge of past,
present, and future lives, heavenly eyes, and the power of ending all
defilement. Ed.

3.
橫遍十方,豎窮三際: The ten directions are the four cardinal directions, the
four intermediate directions, plus above and below, and the three time
periods are the past, present, and future. There is a suggestion in the
Chinese expression that space exists on a horizontal plane and that time
exists on a vertical plane, with the two together encompassing
everything. Ed.

4.
This type of patience comes from the realization that, on a
supramundane level, phenomena do not truly arise or cease, and all
things are simply as they are. Ed.

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