Vajrayana Silas, Part I


Yogi C. M. Chen

Silas and Vinayas have been emphasized by Hinayanists. They are, of course, the most important foundation of Buddhism. Silas of different groups of Buddhists in Hinayana have been translated into English. Westerners might find it easy to learn them from those translations after they get certain ordination on the appropriate Silas.

Silas of Mahayana have been compiled in my Booklet New No. 43. Although they have already been translated by some scholars, I have, with reason, corrected some of the ideas contained therein which were mistaken by ancients and not by translators. I have also distinguished some subtle differentiations between rules from one another. Readers might find them in that booklet. It is said that the Silas of Mahayana may be learned even before the ordination on the related Silas is received.

Regarding the Silas of Vajrayana, I am very sorry to say that the ancients of Tibet and China left something undone and this has now fallen to my lot.

Should the fifty stanzas dealing with how to serve one's Guru pertaining to the lower three Tantras be neglected by those practitioners of Chinese Tantra of the Tung Dynasty and those of its offspring in Japan? Why have both of these groups not gotten this practice? It was only in the 1930's that these stanzas were translated from the Tibetan to Chinese, but without itemization. It is still unknown to the Japanese. Even in Tibetan it is still kept in the style of stanzas so that it is very difficult to recognize the exact number of rules contained in the stanzas.

Should the rules of "Acquiring the Achievements" of the lower three Tantras be kept only within those tantras, without any regulations for practice? Why have they yet not been itemized, systematized, and classified? Some of the rules are found in both the Subhahu and Susiddhikara Tantras but multiplied, seemingly contradictory, and wanting explanation.

Should not the fourteen fallings of Anuttara-Yoga be emphasized and expounded, although these were not learnt by the Tung Dynasty Tantricists of China or her offspring in Japan? Even in Tibet, as far as I know, there has been scarcely any work done in detail on this aspect. Was not Tsongkhapa's work, named Nga-Rim, very well known to the Tibetan Lamas? I could not find from the translations of his work these fourteen fallings.

Should not the practitioner of Vajrayana learn the Vajrayana silas before receiving the initiation of Vajrayana? The answer is definitely "Yes". But so far as I have learnt, many Chinese translations from Tibetan texts of Tantric rituals of initiation mention only the Silas of Hinayana and Mahayana. They do not include a description of these fourteen fallings which should be mentioned on that very occasion of initiation. Hence to me, one who emphasizes the whole system of Buddhism--the three-yanas-in-one-- in which each different Dharma has its certain sequence, it is quite a wonderful thing that the fourteen fallings and eight great sins dealing with Vajra-love should be kept in secret. If they were imparted to the disciples, then this secrecy would be open to them. How can a Guru keep these silas in secret when he has given the initiation itself concerning Vajra-love to the disciple? Why in texts is the third initiation of Vajra-love itself explained and described? Under the sunshine, should a standing bamboo cast no shadow?

Nowadays there are many common Lamas who can repeat the Great-Power-Vajra ritual but who cannot tell us about those fallings. There are sinful lamas and lay Buddhists who have been initiated and who have married and begotten children, but who know nothing about these fallings or who cannot understand the real meaning. Hence a frank explanation is absolutely necessary.

Again, rules which have been set up without order in the sutras need to be itemized for the following reasons:

To be kept in memory item by item, unmixed with introductions and explanations of the sutra.

To make them easy to remember.

To impart them with ease to disciples.

To very conveniently examine them to see if this or that item has been committed to memory or not.

To confess without hesitation if a particular item has been committed to memory or not.

To be able to correctly arrange all rules item by item as are the common rules of national laws.

In short, all the above works of itemization, systematization, classification, and explanation as well as translation, I must do now in this booklet as a spiritual reward to those ancient benefactors and as a Dharma offering to all the Gurus, Yidams, Dakinis and Protectors.

I. Rules of the Lower Three Tantras

A. Rules of How to Serve the Guru

According to some Sutras, these rules were written by the great Bodhisattva Asvaghosa in fifty stanzas. Though they were usually called "The Fifty Stanzas" in Tibet, yet these rules were not actually fifty items. Some multiple items were described in only one stanza, while other single items were described in more than one stanza. Let me first itemize them and then quote the number of the stanza or stanzas which concerned each rule at the end of the item.

1) Do not be disrespectful to the Guru. (Stanzas 9-15)

The translator says: The first eight stanzas deal with the choice of a Guru by a disciple and the disciple by a Guru. Nothing concerns serving the Guru. The ninth through fifteenth stanzas simply emphasize that a disciple should not disrespect his Guru.

2) One must respect his Guru and offer to him whatever he likes and whatever is precious--even a person or thing that one loves. (Stanzas 16-22).

3) Do not tread on the Guru's shadow. For it is a sin equal to destroying Buddha's Pagoda (Stanza 23, first half).

4) The Guru's bed and things that he utilizes must not be crossed (Stanza 23, second half).

5) Do whatever your Guru commands. Ask about whatever concerning his commands you do not understand. (Stanzas 24-25).

6) You must treat the things that the Guru possesses as respectfully as your own life. (Stanza 26, first half).

7) You must treat the family of the Guru as your own family and pay reverence to them as your own parents (Stanza 26, second half).

8) Before the Guru you should neither put on a hat nor spectacles, neither ride a horse nor cross your legs one over another, nor raise your arm highly. When the Guru approaches, if you are sitting, stand up. (Stanza 27; the last sentence is a complement from the fourth stanza).

9) When the Guru commands you to sit, sit perfectly--do not extend your feet. Whenever the Guru stands, you must stand quickly. (Stanza 28).

10) When the Guru strolls, you should not follow him, but stand aside and forbid yourself to blow your nose, spit, talk, whisper, laugh, sing or dance. (Stanzas 29-30).

11 ) When the Guru passes through a dangerous area, get permission from him to walk before him. (Stanza 31, first half).

12) Show not the appearance of fatigue before your Guru and do not make sounds from your finger joints. Recline not against a wall or pillar. Take no bath, and do not wash your feet or clothes. If you want to take a bath or wash your clothes or feet, inform your Guru and then, if he permits, do so in seclusion. (Second half of Stanza 31 and Stanza 32-33).

13) Before your Guru pronounce only one word of his name. (Stanza 34).

14) Forget not what your Guru forbids you to do. (Stanza 35).

15) Before your Guru you should not laugh, cough, or gurgle. If you are forced to do these, cover your mouth. (Stanza 36--first half).

16) While you inquire of anything from your Guru, bow down before him. (Stanza 36, second half).

17) If you are a lady, you should not be proud but modest and behave as a newly married woman, bow down your head with shame and do not be covetous of the clothes or ornaments of the Guru. (Stanza 37-39).

18) You must always regard the value of your Guru but do not look for even the smallest mistake in him, which will harm you. (Stanza 40).

19) When somebody asks you for a meal, Homa or prayer in the mandala, do not do it yourself, but request the Guru to perform it. If he permits you, do so, but whatever offerings you get, offer to your Guru. And if the Guru sends some back, accept with thanks. (Stanzas 41-42).

20) Do not take any disciple of your Guru as your disciple. And you must not receive salutations from any of your own disciples before your Guru. (Stanza 43).

21) When you offer something to the Guru, offer it with both hands, and in receiving blessings from the Guru, receive it with head and hands supporting it. (Stanza 44).

22) During your practice of the Dharma, always remember your Guru. If your school mates do not serve your Guru lawfully, advise them. (Stanza 45)

23) If you are sick and cannot carry out your Guru's commands, you must get permission from him for leave. (Stanza 46).

24) You must always make the Guru happy, and serve him diligently. (Stanza 47).

The translator says: The 48th to 50th stanzas say nothing about the Guru. They only describe the time of impartation of these rules which should be done after taking refuge, before the impartation of the Silas of Fourteen Fallings.

Further, according to my experience in serving Gurus in Shih-Kong for many years, there are some rules which have not been included in these fifty stanzas. I therefore give them as a complement below:

25) When the Guru descends from a ladder or the like, ask his permission to go before him.

26) When there is a Dharma Assembly or gathering of many Gurus and you want to bring something to be blessed by them, you should bring them in order first to the Gurus of lowest seat and then to those of highest one.

B. Rules for Attaining Siddhis of Lower Three Tantras

The rules for attaining Siddhis are taught in the Subhahu and Susiddhikara Tantra. After I itemized and numbered them, I found there was no system of organization among them. So the following rules are arranged under my own classification.

1. First Classification--Character

1) Forbid the ten evils

2) When you do some good, do not do so by the force of a false view or selfish motive which will get an impure result.

3) On every rule, even a layman who does not wear a robe should do nothing against the rules of monks (Bhikkus).

4) Renounce the impure Dharma.

5) Offer flowers, incense, lamps, pennants, streamers, umbrellas and praise the Buddhas.

6) Renounce the eight worldly Dharmas.

The editors say: The eight worldly Dharmas are able to move one's Right view, that is why they are also called eight winds. Their names are gain, loss, defamation, eulogy, praise, ridicule, sorrow and joy.

7) Do not say anything bad to a monk.

8) Do not say any person is good or bad.

9) Do not fight with or bind anybody.

10) Do not make others stupid, mad, dizzy, or put them to shame by charm or spell.

11) Do not administer poison to harm others.

12) Do not hate others.

13) Do not hurt others.

14) Do not make another's nightmare by charm or spell.

15) Without any purpose, do not cut any plant, grass, bush, tree, etc.

16) Do not keep cats or dogs as domestic animals.

17) Do not kill sheep or goats.

18) Do not put a parrot or any other bird inside a cage.

19) Do not tread food which is scattered or fallen on the ground.

20) Do not talk about a king, prince, minister, great officer, robber, prostitute, thief, fighting and war.

21) Do not go into any town, village, or the residence of an outsider (non-Buddhist).

22) Do not praise yourself and rebuke others.

23) For food, furniture, and medicine, always be content.

24) Do not cut hair of the three secret places.

The editor comments: This refers to hair on the private part, breast, and under the armpits. It is a habit in India which fornicators use to lure girls.

25) Confess your bad deeds thrice daily.

2. Second Classification--Dwelling

26) Abide at the place of a Buddha or Bodhisattva.

27) If you cannot get such an auspicious place, then dwell on the bank of a great river or near a small river or on the slope of a mountain, in a place without any wild animals, water animals, or underground animals as moles.

28) Dwell at a place where many good flowers flourish.

29) Do not live near a noisy place and with people.

30) Dwell in a cave where there are no fierce beasts.

31) Do not dwell in such a place where there are thorns, stone chips, bones of dead bodies, ashes, coal, foul mud, holes of ants, or a place of dirt in the ground which has no bottom after digging.

32) Do not let a violent wind come into your room.

33) Do not let fleas and ants stay in your room.

34) Do not let your roof leak.

35) You must have windows on your walls and the inside must be bright and clean.

36) Make no window towards the south direction.

37) The residence should not be too far from the village or town.

38) Do not make a hermitage near a place where there are many persons.

39) The dwelling place should have no outsiders.

40) Do not live with an outsider, a proud person, a rich man or a foolish man. Do not keep company with a hypocrite, a cheat, or one who is always without compassion, who takes things from monks with the mind of a viper and with deciitful lips.

3. Third Classification--Eating

41) Do not drink intoxicating liquors and wine of any kind.

42) Do not take meat of any kind.

The editor comments: In some places in Tibet vegetables or any other herbs are not available. In such areas the ground has many holes in which birds and mice live together and through which horses cannot pass safely. I passed a very large area like this. Being a vegetarian is impossible for people in such a place. In other places, vegetables are available and lamas who live there who practice the yidam of Amitabha or Tara are vegetarian, or at least during the duration of praying to the yidams of the Pureland they take a meatless diet. Needless to say, most Tibetan lamas are not vegetarian because their main production is cows and goats. And as I have already said, the Tibetan Tantra lays more stress on the Anuttara yoga which is not entirely confined to these rules. But the Tang Dynasty Tantra and its off-spring Japanese Tantra holds to vegetarianism very seriously.

43) Whatsoever kind of food you get should be divided into five portions: One is given to hungry pilgrims or passengers, one is given to the sentient beings in the waters, one is given to those on earth, one is given to those parents of one's seven lives in the past, and to ghosts, and the last one, whether enough or not, is kept for yourself.

44) During the time of eating, contemplate the impurities of the food and think that it is only for getting rid of hunger.

45) Do not be greedy for delicious food but visualize it as if you are forced to eat the flesh of your own son.

46) Do not beg food from outsiders for they may give you some ignorant advice.

47) Do not accept almsgiving of meat, wine, spirits, and pungency of the five kinds.

The editor comments: The five pungencies are garlic, three kinds of onions, and leeks. If eaten raw they cause irritability of temper and cooked they act as an aphrodisiac. Moreover, the breath of the eater, while reading the sutras or repeating the incantations, will drive away the good spirits and Gods who come to protect you.

48) When begging do not overlook the place of Candalas.

49) Eyes when begging are better to become filled with sparks and blind, rather than to be ravished by beauties.

50) Beggars should not choose only the rich and leave the poor.

51) Eat not in the afternoon.

52) Do not take too much or too little food, Keep its quantity in equilibrium like its balance.

53) Do not take garlic, onion, shallot, scallion, turnip, linseed and the hoofs of asses and colts.

54) Do not take broken victuals from either a sacrifice or spiritual offering or any kind of offering of monks.

55) Things which may often be taken are the three whites, barley, wheat-cakes, vegetables, roots, fruits and gruel mixed with oil, powder, cream, and juices. Eat these things lawfully according to instructions.

The editor comments: The three whites are milk, butter and cheese.

56) Do not take things which are preferred by Vinayaka.

The editor comments: Vinayaka is a demon with a man's body, but elephant's head. He always places obstacles in the way of enlightenment. He likes to eat things of poison, of bad smell, and meat of all kinds.

57) Take a meal once a day but not twice.

58) You should not take food about which you have doubt.

59) Do not fast.

60) You may sometimes fast for two or three days in order to get rid of the appearance of impurity and to get the siddhi you desired, but not enough to trouble your practice.

The editor comments: The impurity here means the excrements. The 59th item belongs to the instruction of Susiddhikara Sutra while this item pertains to the Subhahu Sutra. A fast is permitted under good conditions and within limitations.

61) Do not take bad food.

62) Do not take cakes made of bean or of linseeds (flax) or any food made in the form of a rolled mass.

63) Do not take food from the back of a leaf.

The editor comments: It is the habit of Indian people to serve their food on a large banana leaf. Certainly the face of the leaf is clean, smooth, without insects and sterilized by the sunshine, but not its back.

4. Fourth Classification--Actions

64) Do not go to a house in which there is a woman or a domestic animal in the process of delivery.

65) Do not go to the theater or any place where music is performed by some male or female singers.

66) Do not go to a brothel, wine-shop or any profligate place.

67) Do not go to a place where there are many boys and girls playing together.

68) Do not join the celebration of a wedding.

69) Do not go to a house in which there is a cur.

70) Do not clap hands, sing songs, or dance.

71) Do not look at a fight among or between human beings or animals.

72) Do not dally or act in a hot tempered manner.

73) Do not gamble on any kind of chance.

74) Do not tread on medicine grass, herbs, stalks, branches and leaves.

75) Do not throw away medicine herbs in a dirty place.

76) Do not play in the water.

77) Do not make water or pass stool near water.

78) After making water or passing stool wash your hands.

79) Before going to a lavatory, you should put on clogs.

80) Do not wipe hands with a hand or wipe feet with a foot.

The editor comments: India is a very warm country where people wipe their hands or feet without using a towel or without letting them dry by themselves. This item does not allow them to do like this.

81) Do not wear clothes of a purple colour.

The editor comments: Artists know that the purple color is a mixed color of black and carnation. Black denotes sin. Confucius said, "I hate the manner in which purple takes away the lustre of Vermilion." Mencius also said, "I hate purple, lest it be confounded with Vermilion". However, Tibetan Lamas either famous or ordinary usually wear robes of a purple color. I have written a long essay in which I asked the Tibetan Lamas to draw a little more attention to the doctrines and silas of the lower three tantras of which they have all the Sutras and I also asked the Japanese to learn Anuttara Tantra from Tibet which the Japanese have not yet received.

82) Before sleeping, one should contemplate on the four boundless-minds and be respectful to the Three Gems and the relic pagoda and confess all the sins they committed during the day and night.

83) Do not sleep in either a narrow or wide bed.

84) Do not sleep with another person.

85) Do not sleep in the following manner: on back, hiding face, and with open eyes.

86) Do not discharge your semen during sleep.

87) Do not put on shoes or ornaments or put up an umbrella.

5. Fifth Classification--Repetition

88) In certain repetitions, one should use beads made of a certain material.

89) When taking the beads, bow down your head and pay respect to the Three Gems, Bodhisattvas, enlightened protectors and their families.

90) Beads should be held in front of your heart, neither high nor low.

91) During repetition, your mind should be concentrated on your yidam, incantation, or mudra.

92) During repetition, your mind should not move as lightening or as a monkey or as a wave.

93) During repetition, if you feel sleepy or tired you should walk around the altar or look in the four directions, or sprinkle some cold water on your face.

94) Do not think of your friends, relatives, or your Guru when you are doing repetitions.

95) Do not talk with outsiders, boys, girls, eunuchs and widows, during repetition.

96) During repetition, sniffling and spitting should be done at a far distance from the altar.

97) The result of Buddha's Enlightenment is accumulated from every merit. Hence after repetition your mind should turn this merit to the final and great Bodhi.

98) You should not receive incense, food, bedding, clothes, gold, silver, carriages or ornaments from a patron as an exchange for your repetition.

99) Repetitions should not be done too fast or too slow and should not be broken off.

100) Do not impart incantations to others with an increase or reduction in the words.

101) Do not write hymns by yourself to praise Buddha, use only the ones already made by the ancient sages.

102) The repeater should not be angry or lustful, or too humble or too proud.

103) If repetition is done without wisdom of sunyata and the repeater asks for siddhi, it will be a seed for a spirit, ghost, or worldly diety to come.

104) If repetition is done in a lustful mind, and the repeaters ask for siddhi, it will be a seed for a Yaksha to come.

105) Whenever an obstacle occurs during your repetition you should start it again and all the earlier repetitions should not be counted.

106) Repetition should not cease even during the four months in which there are particular calamities of weather.

The editor comments: According to the lunar calendar of India, the second month has the wind calamity, the fourth,rain, the eighth, snow and thunder, while the first month has various calamities. However, these are good signs for the attainment of siddhis; the repeater should work on diligently. For the sake of contrast a Chinese poem describing the lazy student is translated below:

Spring is not good for study,
Summer's weather is too hot,
Winter has snow, Autumn gnat,
Wait for the next year to start.

Would the next year's weather not be the same? Hence there will be no good season for those lazy students to study in.

6. Sixth Classification--Practice

107) To practice any kind of Dharma, one should have good companions who are clean, wise, audacious, fearless, of good caste, generous in almsgiving, in offering to the Three Gems and Gurus with gratitude and respectfulness, patient in hunger, thirst, cold, pain and distress, and self-controlled.

108) The boy who lacks some part of his body should not pray for a deity to descend into him.

109) Present oneself often at the great mandala (altar) for ridding oneself of the demon's obstacles.

110) One should develop skill in recognizing the differentiations among Demons and their troubles and should learn how to practice the fierce Kundali incantation to drive them away.

111) Do not kill those Demons and destroy some of their limbs with a fierce fire sacrifice.

112) Do not call those fierce ghosts together and utilize them to hurt others.

113) Do not make contact with those girls or women who are a kind of Yaksha.

The editor comments: In other sources, we read that the characteristics of a female who has the nature of a Yaksha are quarrelsomeness, drunk, and laugh in a loud voice.

114) Do not cure the disease of a child or save those in a calamity or who have been poisoned.

The editor comments: It might seem that the practitioner has no compassion if he keeps this rule. Why? It is because the practitioner has a higher plan to save others in an ultimate way, with the final goal of Full Enlightenment not only of health or wealth. So he should only exert himself to practice the Tantra until his siddhis are attained. Whatever the demons have done to others, he should not interfere in this matter lest he himself might be troubled by the same.

115) Do not strive for victory over others with effective power.

116) Do not take refuge in any God.

117) Do not take refuge in Mahesvara, the Sun God, Moon God, Fire God, and Mara.

118) Do not be angry with those persons who worship those Gods and repeat their incantations.

119) Do not receive any instructions from a dream or the sky and thereby give up the incantation imparted by your Guru.

The editor comments: Dream is a "Guru". This is a proverb which runs from mouth to mouth in Tibet. Inasmuch as their practice includes the Dream-Yoga of Anuttara Tantra, their dreams are qualified to be a Guru. Here all rules are pertaining to the lower three tantras. The practitioner should consider whether the instructions gotten from a dream or some voices in the sky are reasonable and agreeable with the Right Dharmas inparted by the Guru. If the practitioner has no talent to distinguish between them, it is better for him to keep only the instructions or incantations of his Guru.

120) If you feel tired of the Right Dharma, read the Mahayana Sutra.

121) To purify your sins you should make one hundred thousand small pagodas with good vermilion powder and put the Incantation of Causation in each pagoda.

122) Do not exchange your Tantric Dharmas with other's Tantric Dharmas.

123) Do not study astrology, sexology, astronomy, geomancy, and the taming of eagles, horses, and elephants and other arts of non-profit.

124) Do not tread on the lotus or mandala.

125) Do not tread on the ground on which there are pictures of the Dharma wheel, Vajra conch and the like.

126) Punishments should be performed according to the Dharma and not according to one's own temper.

127) Before making a mudra, hands should be rubbed with incense powder. Hands with perspiration should not be made into a mudra.

128) Offerings should not be touched by perspiration.

129) Prayers for Siddhis should not be made with any doubt.

130) While drawing Buddha's images, one should not use glue made from a cow.

131) Do not break the picture or incantation of another or bind another person with a spell or allow others to join into your mandala.

132) Offerings and fire sacrifices or Homas should only use new or fresh things.

133) Do not put a fire out with your mouth.

134) Do not offer those fruits whose smell is stinking, taste is bitter or acrid.

135) Do not offer onions, garlic and scallions.

136) Do not impart the incantation to those who have not got the initiation concerning it.

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