Buddhist Meditation
Systematic and Practical


A Talk by the Buddhist Yogi

Written Down by

First Published in 1967












In answer to a list of questions of general interest presented by the transcriber to Mr. Chen, he said as follows:


Bhiksu Khantipalo, out of compassion for the readers, has given me some questions on their behalf. It is indeed worthwhile to answer them, for the body of this book is a discussion upon the whole three-yanas-in-one system of meditation, with the hope that there are some persons who can follow all of it; on the other hand, these questions are particular points which may be useful for many people who cannot accomplish the aim of our meditationsBuddhahood in this one lifetime. So there will be more benefit from the bhiksu's question than from our whole book.


At this piece of modesty on the yogi's part, the transcriber exclaimed, "No, no!" Said Mr. Chen laughing, "We'll just say something at first to make you happy!" We all laughed.


To answer these twenty questions, I have tried to classify them with the particular sorrow which is their source. We shall find that they may be grouped under three of the Five Sorrows (see Ch. VIII, F). Because none of these questions stem from anger and all of them are concerned with doubt, for their classification only three remain: pride, lust, and ignorance. Under these categories we shall find it easy to review them.


A. Questions Stemming from the Sorrow of Pride


1. What are your instructions for those who desire to meditate but have no guru to guide them? How can they choose suitable meditations? (See Ch. II, A, 3).


Fundamentally, Buddhism is a religion of law. Its philosophy is based on this; it is not a system that encourages the glorification of persons and certainly it actively destroys superstitions.


The Buddha has many times spoken of those Enlightened ones known as pratyekabuddhas (Solitary Illumined Sages). They have achieved their Enlightenment without a guru and in the absence of a Perfect Buddha (Samyaksambuddha). They have worked out their salvation through reflection upon the twelve-fold links of the chain of causation (pratityasamutpada).


Also, we should remember that in Buddhism, there is a wisdom called "non-guru Wisdom"; that is, wisdom not gained by contact with teachers, either human on non-human. If there is a guru, that is very good, and desirable for most people, but even if one is not available then the exoteric meditations may still be practiced.


As to choosing suitable meditations, those in whom wisdom is very highly developed may choose a subject from Chan. After reading many Hua Tou in books on Chan, they may select one for their practice. The question here is not really about the selection of a meditation, but as to how it will be practiced. If a truly wise man takes a Hua Tou but only devotes a short time to it each day, then it will do him no good. A Hua Tou (or Gong An) requires full-time practice coupled with perfect renunciation. If one only reads Chan books and then practices a Hua Tou for one hour a day, even in one's whole life it would not be possible to succeed. It is not bad to start by reading a book or two, but one cannot make progress by continuing in this way. Read a book, get the method, and practice with complete renunciation and with the whole mind—this is the order to follow. Those who take up practice in this way (and very few can do so) have for their guru the Dharmakaya, for Chan is just this. If they practice earnestly and their time of mature comprehension has come—then, a Chan guru will appear to give them personal instruction.


For those of medium wisdom: Recognize the nature of persons and dharmas as voidness. Having recognized this, take a method from our book (see Ch. X, Part One) to make this abstract philosophy into concrete realization. With the perfect renunciation which is demanded by sunyata philosophy, and with earnest faith in the great guru Nagarjuna, begin practice. Faith and heartfelt prayer to him, combined with the clarity and precision of his sunyata teachings applied to one's life, will cause Nagarjuna to appear to the practitioner, as he has done so to many yogis in the past.


Those of low wisdom may safely choose the meditations on Amitabha (see Ch. XI, D) for with faith their obstacles may be cleared away. As many examples testify, Amitabha, Avalokitesvara, and Tara may all be seen in this very life. Meditators then have a good chance to make swift progress to Enlightenment when after death they arise in Sukhavati, Amitabha's Land of Bliss .


"This is the Kali Age, when very few good gurus are to be found." With tears in his eyes, the yogi said: "It is sad indeed that the Dharma has only become established now in the West, now when it is so late. For Westerners, I fear it may be difficult to find accomplished gurus. Still," said Mr. Chen very strongly, "it is for readers first to reduce their pride—then a guru will appear. Then they will be fit to benefit from a wise teacher's personal instructions. They should not indeed think, 'Hinayana is not worthy to be my guru!' Such thoughts are the highest conceit. Everyone new to the Dharma can greatly benefit from Hinayana instructions. If there were no pride among this book's readers, this question would not have been formulated."


To this question may be added another, as many of the points are similar:


2. How can Vajrayana meditations be practiced without a guru and his initiation? Even if the visualization practices are described in outline in this book, without initiation, mudra or mantra, will not these meditations become like the exoteric practices of the Mahayana?


If one has passed through all the foregoing meditations in the Hinayana and Mahayana, then, by the grace of the Buddha and the bodhisattvas and one's own earnest prayers, one might find a guru of the Vajrayana. As mudra, mantra, yantra and dharanis are not the highest doctrines in Vajrayana, if one clearly recognizes the principle of six-element causation and the four voidnesses and blisses, such a sincere and diligent meditator will get a guru, though he may not be a person, but will appear in the light of meditation, or in dreams.


3. To become a Buddhist, is it necessary formally to take the three refuges and five precepts from a teacher (or recite them oneself), before taking up the practices of Buddhist meditation?


The transcriber said that he had asked this question as it was reported that some non-Buddhists had been practicing specifically Buddhist techniques of meditation and it was claimed that good results had been obtained by them even though the meditators had not become Buddhists.


"More pride!" exclaimed Mr. Chen. Bhante broke his usual silence by remarking, "Just as a student wanting to learn mathematics would not see much point in first being converted to the religion of his math teacher (for he can surely learn mathematics without taking such a step), so these people think that one can learn Buddhist meditation without becoming a Buddhist, as though Buddhism and mathematics were on the same level!"


Meditation is not a cold, impersonal physical science. Not at all! We should understand the three refuges properly. To make our meditation succeed, we need the grace of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha; and without taking the Refuges, we have no such help. Meditation is quite difficult enough for most people, so it is important for them to use all available methods which might aid them. The three refuges can help—for has not Buddhist meditation come down from the Buddha's Enlightenment? How ungrateful we should be if we failed to acknowledge the source of our practice! Regarding the Dharma-refuge, Buddhist meditation is both the practice and way of realization of that Dharma. As to the Sangha-refuge, the bhiksus and bodhisattvas are those who have both transmitted and realized the practices of Buddhist meditation.


An ordinary person not practicing meditation may do everything in daily life, providing it is not against the law, and it is fairly easy for many people to control their bodies and speech to this extent. But the meditator has more to do. He has to control the mind, which he soon finds is full of all sorts of impure thoughts and sorrows. Let us take one sorrow as an illustration: suppose anger arises. This is likely to be very difficult to control. At the time of its arising, the meditator has not only destroyed his own meditation, but also stands in danger from other outside sources. Our minds are open books to some gods and spirits and they may be attracted or repelled depending on the state or level of a person's mind. A god of say, the pure abodes, may only approach a meditator when the latter's mind resembles that god's world of purity; on the other hand, demons will approach him if his mind is overcome by anger. Some other bad spirits may be attracted by lust, some by ignorance (as in seances), and so forth.


A meditator still subject to these sorrows is without any sort of defense, and unless he has properly taken Refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, he is at the mercy of these evil hosts. If they can catch his concentrated mind, he is then said by others to be "mad."


This unhappy state often occurs among meditators in Taoism where there are no effective Refuges to guard one, but where they have nevertheless developed quite a number of powerful meditation techniques. They emphasize particularly keeping the whole mind one-pointed, which is of course very good, but it is at this time that one is most prone to attack by these bad spirits, ghosts, demons, and so is most in need of a good strong defense.


I have described the refuges above and the meditational reasons for taking them. When one has done so, at least there will be no trouble from these beings, and one may peacefully make real progress, protected by the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.


Then there are the five precepts. We have already said that the gods are attracted to purity, and they protect more carefully a meditator who keeps the precepts pure. Meditators will soon find that if they do good deeds—that is, keep their precepts—the mind becomes quiet and relatively easy to control. Anyone who hurts and kills, takes what is not given, commits sexually unskillful deeds (such as fornication or adultery), utters false speech, or takes beer, wines, spirits, or drugs and yet tries to meditate, will find out how impossible it is thus to control the mind. This is because one who does not keep the moral precepts has a constantly agitated mind. A person like this loses the protection of the gods, whereas all neophytes need to benefit from every aid to their practice.


Another danger exists in the West: meditation is sometimes spoken of as though it were just a technique or science. This quite divorces it from the faith which is necessary if it is to succeed. No refuges, no firm faith; no faith, little progress but much danger.


Therefore, we may see clearly that not wanting to take the refuges has its source in the sorrow of pride—as though to take them were a shameful thing. Westerners here require a little humility. They must recognize that however much they have progressed in the physical sciences, they really know nothing about the inner world of the mind. If they wish to know about this world and even to have some control over it, then the Buddha, who is the Fully Enlightened One, is their best teacher, the truth of his long-enduring Dharma is their clearest teaching, and the Sangha who point out the best way to follow at any one time are their good guides. They should acknowledge these refuges, and should certainly not be proud, thinking, "This guru does not have enough general knowledge, does not know the sciences, and speaks only poor English. Why should I take the refuges from him?" All this is the sorrow of pride.


If one has no guru and cannot find any bhiksu from whom to take the refuges and precepts, then as an expedient means, one may use an image or picture of the Buddha. Prostrating oneself with reverence and humility, one should recite the formulas in front of this representation of the Buddha. However, this is just temporary. Afterwards, when one meets a Buddhist monk, then one should request him to administer them out of compassion.


This is another way to limit the sorrow of pride and obtain good meditation.


4. Can one progress in Vajrayana or Chan without pure silas? Why do people think that one can progress without moral observance? What, for instance, might be the result (in this life or in the future) of many initiations but broken precepts?


Another question on precepts, and again stemming from pride.


The Mahayana and Vajrayana, besides having as a basis observance of the Hinayana precepts, have sets of silas of their own. It is only foolish people who can ignore both these facts. Throughout the different yanas of Buddhism, morality (silas) is the foundation for meditation. The three trainings (trisiksa) always apply: first sila, then samadhi (in the sense of dhyana), followed by prajna.


Sila is equally important in the Vajrayana where, if after one gets an initiation (abhiseka, wang) and the Tantric silas are then broken, then that initiation has lapsed. One must go to the guru, humbly confess to him, and then ask him to give that wang again: this is absolutely necessary.


Chan, if it is accomplished, includes silas. The four conditions, (see Ch. XIII, Part Two, A, 2, d), given as the silas of Mahamudra, apply also in Chan, and they are indeed hard to keep unless one has realized the Dharmakaya. It is certain that Chan is not a common meditation—on the contrary, it is the highest realization—and it therefore includes silas, samadhi and prajna. In my "Lighthouse in the Ocean of Chan " there are many stories illustrating renunciation and impermanence. If one can attain the heights shown by these stories, then not only will these four conditions be observed naturally, but all the silas will be kept purely.


It is only false Chan gurus who talk of there being no need for morality in Chan. This is quite wrong. Chan silas are not common ones, but include all of them. One may say that it is not only by keeping silas that one attains Chan, but that the special silas of Chan include all silas.


From a "little" mistake about the silas of the highest Vehicles in Buddhism comes a great deal of trouble.


5. Many Westerners do not see the point of prostration before the shrine of a Buddha or in front of one's teacher. Since they are unaccustomed to this, please explain the value of this practice. (See also Appendix II, B.)


In this question we are still concerned with pride. What is the main reason for prostration? To cure the sorrow of pride. You ask for the benefits from this practice, and I give them here in order:


a. To reduce the sorrow of pride.


b. To please one's guru by showing respect for him. This means that a disciple has humility.


c. When he is happy with you, the guru will, from his grace, give you many meditation instructions, particularly in the Tantras. There are many such special, secret instructions which are never imparted even upon the occasion of ordinary wangs, but only when the guru sees in a disciple earnest faith and deep devotion.


When I was with Gangkar Rinpoche, even though we were living in the same monastery, both in the morning time and in the evening, I went to worship him. I never failed to do this. Now, sadly, he has died. My guru, seeing at that time my faith in him, put himself in a very deep concentration and then gave me his bestowal. When I worshipped him, it was always done with deep devotion and very slowly.


The yogi rose from his seat and demonstrated. "Those who are in a hurry or who make prostration out of habit and without deep faith, just do it like this."


Standing, he very rapidly raised his hands to his forehead, slid them down to his chest, dropped down onto his hands and knees, bringing his forehead to the ground. Then he rose without straightening his back, dropped to the ground again; the third time he did it was even more perfunctory. "With real reverence," Mr. Chen then said, "Worship slowly. You saw," he said, addressing the transcriber, "how I made obeisance to Dhardo Rinpoche when he came to my hermitage." The transcriber did indeed see that Mr. Chen's act was one of true devotion, performed slowly and mindfully. His hands were raised above the head (signifying the body), brought to the throat (speech), and then lowered to the chest (mind). In this way, all three parts of the personality are employed in showing one's reverence. The prostration was made slowly. Mr. Chen's arms, from the elbows to the hands, were completely on the ground. This is the "small" type of prostration. Mr. Chen resumed:


I have always done prostrations as though I were in the presence of the Buddha himself and worshipping him. It is certainly my experience that gurus appreciate such a disciple and give their best instructions to him. Thus bestowals do not depend entirely on the merits of the guru, but also upon the disciple's. It depends upon whether or not one goes to him as though he were the Buddha.


There is a story showing the power of devoted prostrations. A pious old woman and her merchant son lived far away in the steppe lands of Northern Tibet . From time to time the son traveled to India bringing Tibetan products and from their sale acquiring Indian wares. Being a Buddhist, he went to Buddha Gaya several times to venerate that holy place. Each time before he set out, his mother implored him to bring back a relic of the Buddha for her to worship, so that she might gain more merits. Every time he returned without one, for such holy relics were not easy to get, and also he would forget his mother's request. On one such journey, the son was nearing his home, when he suddenly remembered. "If I do not have a Buddha-relic this time, she is certain to strike me," he thought.


Then he saw an old jaw-bone of a dog lying by the roadside. Picking it up, he extracted one of the teeth, and went on his way toward his home. His mother first asked him, "Did you get…?" "Yes," he said, "one of the Lord Buddha's teeth." His mother was overjoyed. First she placed it on top of her head and then put it in the family shrine, where she prostrated herself many times. After that, she had it mounted with the finest gold and silver work and placed in a little golden bejeweled stupa (reliquary). Regularly, the old woman worshipped it with great devotion. She gave much of her time to this practice, and the tooth first began to glow and then to radiate a holy light which all could see.


Such is the power of this practice performed with great faith.


d. From this prostration practice, devotion is increased and from this one sheds crudeness and attachment to gross pleasures. In turn, from this renunciation arises the ability to keep one's precepts pure. Thus, a mind of devotion and the performance of these prostrations are conditions also for maintaining unbroken morality. This is emphasized not only in Buddhism, but is recognized in every religion.


e. If one worships with the "great" prostrations, then the secret wheel is easily opened.


For readers who have not seen Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhists performing this strenuous exercise, we give a short description. For regular practice it is best to have thick polished planks of wood made up to the length of one's body plus the length of one's (outstretched) arms. When joined it should be two or three feet wide. It should be raised three or four inches at the head end. The practitioner binds pads on his knees and elbows and uses pieces of cloth for sliding his hands along the boards. One begins as in the "small" practice described above but does not remain on the hands and knees. The hands are slid along the board and the arms extended fully, so that the whole of one's body touches the planks. It is not uncommon to finish 100,000 of such prostrations in three or four months. To complete this basic Vajrayana foundation, one of a group of four practices, (see Biography and App. II, B), one should worship in this way one hundred thousand times.


Said Mr. Chen, laughing:


Why is the secret wheel easy to open after this? Even though the Gelugpas say that it can only be done through the third initiation, these prostrations are also a method. When performing them, one shoots all one's limbs out, thus using the all-pervading energy, and the center of this energy is in the secret wheel.


f. When this center is open and this energy becomes strong, then the outermost knot around the heart-wheel is relaxed, and the heart-wheel itself becomes easy to open.


g. Another benefit is that one gets rid of all sorts of troubles and dangers. Even disease may fail to attack a person whose mind is centered purely upon devotional practice. In a Commentary by Confucius on the Yi Jing, he has written: "If three bad men burst into your room, what will you do? Reverence will give you peace!"


Mr. Chen then smiled very sweetly, clasped his hands together reverentially, and made little bows to his imaginary intruders. "In this way, " he said, "with a meek manner and humble mind, treat them as honored guests. Very much trouble will then be avoided. Even sinful people, if respected, will not give one any trouble."


h. It also gets rid of misdeeds. When the impulse arises to commit some unskillful deed, at that time the five sorrows are uppermost in one's mind. However, when the mind is full of devotion and the body occupied with worship, while words of holy homage appear upon the lips—at that time no precept can be broken, and no evil committed.


i. Devotional practices make the gods happy and so it becomes easy to attain rebirth among them. A good friend of mine was a devoted Buddhist who repeated Amitabha's name thousands of times every day. On the vacant spaces on the walls of his room and on the walls of many others, he wrote the holy name. Every time he met a person, he asked them also to repeat this Buddha's name. In addition, he formed many Pure Land societies for Buddhist laymen. This was his Buddhist practice.


On the other hand, he worshipped the gods of China . One of these, a Taoist deity, is called "Sze-sung-ching-yin" and is always depicted as looking intently downwards.


Mr. Chen sat up straight, clasped his hands in his lap, bent his head down, and knit his brows. "He is like this," he said.


When this god was a human being, he performed many good deeds, but died before his old mother. Instantly achieving a heavenly state as a result of his goodness, he quickly directed his gaze down to earth to see how the elderly lady fared. He is thus beloved of many people who worship him to avert disease and so on.


On one occasion, many village people had gathered to worship this god for a number of days. At the close of the ceremonies, the god's image was to be returned to the temple. Before this was done, my friend made his final prostrations, and while he was doing them, he died peacefully. He had no disease, it seems, and the villagers concluded that the god had taken him to heaven. Of course, this is not a good result for a Buddhist, but I give it here as an example of great devotion to the gods.


At that time I was living in a cave and I dreamed one night that my friend had a shining golden body. At this, I thought, "Perhaps he has gone to heaven." Later, a voice in meditation told me that he had died, and so it was proven. Of course, in achieving his state, he had not been able to go beyond the three worlds (of desire, form, and formlessness), and certainly Taoist philosophy cannot take one beyond these three. As regards his Buddhist practice, although he was very kind, he had not yet realized the truth of sunyata, so he could not go directly to the Pure Land . However, it is true that in heaven one may remember Amitabha and meditate, thus gaining rebirth in Sukhavati.


If, even from the worship of a god, one may experience a blissful death, then what indeed may be the result from venerating a Buddha?


Another example: My guru in the teachings of Confucius, Mr. Liu, was a very humble man. He would never rebuke anyone, but only laughed at his pupils' mistakes. Every day he practiced calligraphy by writing out some of the good words of Confucius. He taught us that when we sat down to write, our bodies should be erect and our minds concentrated, without wandering from our task; our whole attitude should be one of reverence. One Chinese New Year's Day, he had sat down and with his brush written some auspicious message for that occasion. He was still sitting there many hours later, when his family discovered that he was dead. Heaven was no doubt pleased with such a venerable teacher.


j. If one worships Amitabha, then one gains birth in his Pure Land . There are three conditions for this:


i. Complete faith in the saving power of Amitabha's merits.

ii. An intense desire, almost will, to gain birth there.

iii. Practice of the meditations described, conjoined with a realization of sunyata and a development of the bodhicitta. (See Ch. XI, D.)


All three are connected with an inward reverential attitude and an outward worship, in the form, for instance, of prostration.


On the subject of pride and worship, Mr. Chen had some further comments:


Some Theravada bhikkhus have the idea that they alone are the true disciples of the Buddha, and with this pride they do not revere the bhiksus of China and Tibet who are also bodhisattvas and may, moreover, be followers of the Vajrayana. It is true that the robe worn by the monks of the Southern Buddhist tradition more nearly resembles that worn by the Buddha than do the red robes of Tibet or those of China , but this matter seems to be another source of pride for the Theravadins. With the two prides of name and of robe, they sometimes say to the bhiksus who also practice the Great and the Diamond Ways , "I am a pure bhikkhu—you are not!" Even if monks from China or Tibet are senior to them in ordination, the Southern monks do not worship them as they would their own mahasthaviras (Great Elders). Such small-minded but greatly proud bhikkhus must mend their manners and reduce their pride! Even if they try to learn the other yanas, they will never be able to gain a good understanding of them while such conceit is present. To learn, one has to be humble.


Such monks as this in the Theravada should know that other countries have their bhiksus, with equally good ordinations, bowls, and robes, even though these may be a little different in shape and style. Did not that great Indian bhiksu, Bodhidharma, bring with him the bowl and outer robe of Lord Buddha himself to China ? These revered relics are still in the monastery of the Sixth Patriarch of the Chan School . Every monastery has a special bowl and robe that belonged to its founder, as a symbol of the holy transmission. One very good bhiksu is chosen as the custodian of these treasures. Narrow-minded Theravadins should take note of such things.


Even though there were not so many who are so proud, still, if there were only reverence among all Buddhists, I should not have to say this. I do say it because there are now a few bhiksus in England and America , and they may, knowing these facts, avoid narrow sectarianism which only stems from pride.


I hope that all this will make clear that the inward mind of reverence and the outer sign of devotion, such as prostration, strengthen each other, and that from their combination comes truly unshakeable faith in the teachings of the Buddhas.


6. What is the relation between the regular performance of puja and that of meditation? As some Western Buddhists are against "ritualism," please explain how necessary puja is for advance in meditation.


From the last question, appropriately, we pass on to consider puja. We are still dealing with problems arising from the sorrow of pride. Puja is of several kinds and here we may distinguish four.


Outward Puja is that made by a person with some worldly desire: an old woman for long life, a young one for love, a merchant for money, and so on. This is the gross puja.


Finer than this is Inward Puja. This is when, in samatha, one holds a mudra, recites a mantra, intones a puja to the Three Gems, etc. A powerful state of calmness is needed for this, so that the mind will not stray from its concentration. For those who are well-realized, puja can even be performed in samadhi.


The third sort of puja is the "secret" one. Here the puja is held while in union with one's yogic consort in the third initiation. This is a very wonderful vajra-love accomplishment, but is not possible unless one is very well practiced. Suppose that one is performing with a dakini the puja of the Buddha of Long Life. One should then visualize in the female reproductive organ (the lotus), a mandala. In this mandala is seated White Tara, the object of worship. In one's own body in the head-wheel is a mandala with Amitayus, the Buddha of Long Life, at its center. This Buddha pours out from the vessel he holds many streams of nectar which pass down the median nerve to the male organ (in the Tantras called the vajra) and in the action of vajra-love this offering of nectar is sent to White Tara. This secret puja may be performed for the benefit of the yogi and yogini or its merits may be transferred to a patron.


The puja called "most secret" is the fourth. This occurs on the occasion of a meeting between an Enlightened Chan Master and his disciple. At this time, if the disciple sees by the guru's grace the Hua Tou (or Gong An) on which he has been working, then this puja is well-performed. Full Enlightenment is the highest puja here.


Do not think that puja is just like a boy playing, though even the outward puja may be done with a noble purpose while unaccompanied by samatha. The other three kinds are certainly worthy of our attention and respect. If readers have such a question in their minds as this one, then they should know that this is due both to ignorance about puja and to pride. These cause doubt concerning the value of puja. All Buddhists should recognize outward puja as a skillful means initially used to put one in a good frame of mind for meditation.


There are two purposes in meditation: self-Enlightenment and the Enlightenment of others. For both, puja is helpful. Before meditation has become established, do not perform a lengthy puja, as it will only disturb the practice. On the other hand, one should certainly not sit down to meditation without doing any puja at all. When one's meditation is well-established, with deep samatha and a free samapatti, then long pujas may be performed with great benefits. At this time, the samapatti may be directed into the meaning of the puja. We must notice that a Buddhist puja must involve body (mudra, asana, prostration, etc.), speech (mantra, chanting, etc.), and mind (concentration upon the meaning of all that is done and perhaps also visualization).


For the Enlightenment of others, we transfer our merits to them after performing the puja itself. Who can say now that puja is not valuable?


7. Should gods of religions opposed to Buddhist ideals be honored, subdued, or merely ignored? If they should be honored by practicing Buddhists, then how should this be done? (See Ch. VII, A. 1.)


It is true that the Christian God, absolute in conception, is somehow opposed to Buddhist ideas. But readers will soon realize, after they have read some of the Buddhist scriptures, that the Buddha did not deny the existence of gods, that is, of super-human beings in states happier than the one in which we live. He often taught such beings his Dharma, and later countless such gods became protectors of Buddhism, took the refuges and precepts, or entered various stages of noble realization. On the other hand, the Buddha taught that the existence of an absolute creator-God is a delusion, and that any one of the conditioned gods who thought of himself in this way was also gravely deluded.


Gods should be respected even thought they are samsaric beings, because they have only achieved their purified state by acquiring many merits. With these merits one may gain many powers which may be used to help our meditations. The Buddha was once asked by a disciple, "Bhante, how did you acquire so many supernormal powers?" The Enlightened One gave two reasons in his answer: "By the strength of my samadhi and by the help of the gods." Even though the Buddha's powers were primarily the result of Enlightenment, still we find that on many occasions the devas also helped him.


At one time, before he took refuge in the Buddha, the great Kasyapa was in his hermitage with many of his followers and the Blessed One came to visit him. The Lord preached to them all and Indra, a king of the gods with hosts of attendants, came to listen. The whole grove was alight with the radiance of these devas. Kasyapa was very much surprised, though still proud, and it took many mighty wonders performed by the Buddha with Indra's help to finally subdue his pride. At last, becoming humble, he took the Refuges and bhiksu's precepts from the Lord.


Also, we should not forget that after the Bodhisattva (Buddha-to-be) had married, he then renounced all and fled from his palace. According to some accounts, the gods greatly assisted him. They appeared to him as the four great warnings: an aged man, a sick man, a corpse, and a wandering religious man. Gods showed Siddhartha his woman attendants asleep in disgusting and repulsive attitudes, and his servant was a god disguised, another god took on the form of a horse and conveyed him beyond the city, after which the horse's form disappeared and that god arose again to his heaven.


I have gathered from many sources all the occasions when the gods helped the Buddha, and I have written a long hymn on this subject. The question is: Why did they help him? Both as a Buddha and bodhisattva, sakyamuni had far more merits than the gods, yet in every lifetime they served him. It is because many gods feel it is their duty to help one who declares that his aim is nothing less than Full Enlightenment.


So do you think that there is no need for their help? If you think this, you suffer a great loss by your own conceit!


The question talks about "subduing" but this does not apply to gods—only to demons. Gods will obey and help anyone bound for Enlightenment, while demons hinder. Demons' powers are used only to further evil purposes and it may occasionally be necessary to use some method to quell them.


A Buddhist never honors an absolute God but he does revere some of the conditional gods, and for this purpose there are many rituals prescribed in the Vajrayana. Among these gods, the four great kings are very important. As guardians of the four quarters, they truly protect the Dharma and as a result, have their place in the vestibule of every Tibetan temple. It was the great Guru Padmasambhava who recognized their mighty power and established them in this high position.


Even if one has not seen any gods, still this does not mean that they do not exist. Whether we talk in this way or not, the gods see us.


Said Mr. Chen, "They have already seen this book for it appeared in the light of my meditation lying on my shrine to the four great kings (see Ch. VII, Afterword). And you have seen my offerings to them: regularly I offer candles, incense, and flowers."


"Incense seems neglected in Tibetan offerings, whereas in China too much is burned. However, the Tibetan Sakyapa School has some special kinds of incense containing healing medicines. Other incense-sticks contain ingredients to drive away demons or arouse passionate love. But the gods like a little white sandalwood incense. Why is this? Because the gods of the various heavens breathe a scented air and their bodies are always fragrant. If you want them to approach, then make the place of meditation fresh and sweet-smelling; otherwise they cannot bear to come near you." Mr. Chen laughed and said, "I do not know whether the gods like the smell of butter, especially the butter with which some monks in Tibet used to smear themselves—ugh! Chinese temples and monks are usually clean."


This is the last question arising from the sorrow of pride. One should not be conceited and think that no greater beings exist than mankind. That is just pride, just the sorrow of pride.


B. Questions Arising From the Sorrow of Lust


1. Those who are sceptical about the advantages of meditation often ask: What are the benefits to be seen sooner or later from its practice? (Ch. II, A. 2.)


I could point out increase of digestive powers or the ability to overcome small diseases without trouble, but such things should not be sought deliberately, not even the mental joy one may feel.


The first real benefit is that with meditation one can establish a central thought upon the Dharma (see Ch. II, B and Appendix II, A). This is a benefit both of philosophy (which we can then understand better) and practice (which we may perform with more concentration). After all, there are not only benefits to be gained in the physical and psychic aspects but also in the realm of philosophy.


We should have a religion incorporating all these aspects; furthermore, one which also shows how to get out of birth-and-death. Through Hinayana Buddhist meditations we can do this.


But we do not want to save only ourselves—there are all the other sentient beings to be saved, and our ability to do this depends on our practice of the Mahayana meditations.


Our actual rescuing them from the three realms comes with our accomplishment in the Vajrayana.


Persons with the sorrow of lust, or greed, want to get everything for themselves, so to begin with they have to learn to desire only their own salvation—nirvana. When their greed for things is converted to this alone, then they may begin to think about saving others. They should choose the highest view and the distant goal and should not take things too easily. The highest benefit is in the highest goal—Buddhahood. Smaller goals and lesser ideals give lesser benefits.


I should warn meditators that before attaining Enlightenment the benefit of quickly acquiring some supposed signs of progress in practice may easily become a hindrance. After one has gained such signs, they may soon disappear and no amount of practice is able to bring them back. The danger is that after this, feeling discouraged, one gives up practice altogether. This is very bad!


So much for the first question on the lust sorrow.


2. Is it possible, especially at the beginning, to try to do too much meditation, which might result in some mental strain or other trouble?


We may say that there is no need to do too much at the beginning. There are some people who meditate with the greedy desire that within a few days they will reach Buddhahood. They want to get everything quickly, but the practice of the seven-day Great Perfection (see Ch. XIV, B) is the highest meditation and not meant for the neophyte. The beginner should slowly and thoroughly make the preparations we have described in this book, and then he should practice regularly, neither doing too much, nor too little.


A quick person, quick by nature, may pick up this book, read it, practice hastily, get some signs, think that he has realized that meditation, and then stop, which, again, is very bad.


The worst mental trouble is perhaps the discouragement of one who has tried to practice without having made the preparations or having the necessary patience. A person like this may shrug his shoulders and say, "I have tried and got nothing!" If one is too earnest in the beginning, then practice is easily abandoned after a short time.


The right course of action is to practice and progress step by step, from the bottom to the heights. If it is possible, get a good guru who can give sound advice from his own experiences. An accomplished teacher will make one see clearly exactly what the Way is; he will choose suitable meditations and through his grace one will come to see the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and the gods.


Day by day, one may increase one's practice—but not too quickly. The great yogi Milarepa said:


"Practice slowly, gain sambodhi quickly.

Practice singly, gain dakini duly.

Practice basically, gain samadhi loftily."


Confucius also said: "If you desire to reach a place quickly, you will not attain it." Practice slowly, and eventually you may reach even the highest goal.


3. What are the signs which might warn a person of mental-physical breakdown due to wrong practice of meditation or lack of proper preparation?


Warning signs that all is not well from one's practice are: weariness, doing everything hurriedly, being quick-tempered or easily excited, laughing to oneself, talking to oneself, longing for signs of progress in meditation, longing for such signs in dreams, having too much desire to gain supernormal powers, and desiring that others do not progress as much as oneself (even if they are "brothers" in the same mandala and learning under the same guru). All these are bad signs and arise because of the sorrow of lust.


4. Why is it necessary to renounce? Please give a clear guide on the different objects to be renounced and the different levels of renunciation—material, mental, and spiritual.


Renunciation? This is a very hard thing for a Western person to do. Desires have so much increased, since there are so many more objects of desire. Life has become very complex and not only are there many things to get, but so many things to do and places to see. For these reasons it is hard these days to make a perfect renunciation. Step by step, renunciation should be practiced as follows:


a. Renounce half an hour out of one's family life or worldly existence and devote it to the puja and meditation of the Buddha. Just close the door of the puja-room (if one has a separate place for this), or do it in one's own room. So much is surely easy to do. Do not make puja and meditate with other members of the family present who might create a disturbance or arouse the wrong sort of thoughts. One should practice alone, having for that time renounced everything to concentrate upon the puja and upon one's meditation (see also Ch. X, Part Two, B). The time that a meditator is able to give for this purpose depends on his devotion, renunciation, and the strength of meditation.


b. A serious meditator will take advantage of holidays and renounce Sundays and other such days free from work. Notice the real meaning of "holy day." A day cannot be holy without meditation, whereas the common man's idea of using his spare time for picnics, football, and taking pictures, makes a holiday unholy. People think that enjoying themselves and gratifying desires means that they are resting or relaxing. But the real rest or relaxation is in meditation practice, not elsewhere. So many things are wasted in most people's holidays: time, energy, money, and life itself; but the meditative man saves, and stores up incorruptible treasures. Regular practice on days free from work becomes easy to do if one's renunciation is firm and determination to meditate is strong.


c. Use all one's winter and summer vacations as time for meditation. Western persons like to travel everywhere, to see this thing and experience that. All this means so much time and trouble, lost meditation time, and many troubles experienced. Instead of this, devote long holidays to meditation, a profitable use of time and a freedom from troubles. When I was a professor, every holiday in summer and winter was given over to solitary meditation. We can see that there is a good progress in these three steps, renouncing first part of the day, then whole days, and after that weeks and months.


d. When one has progressed that far, even though one still goes out to work, household duties should be renounced. If the wife is the meditator, then she should hand over the cooking, dishwashing, and babies to her husband. If he is the one most interested in practice, let him give over his part of the household work to her. All these things can be done by either man or woman; there is no difference between them in such matters. Women may hold on to babies because they love them too much, while men may be attached to their garden work. A meditator, even while still in the household, has to learn to be like a hermit, living simply. One should be like the great lay bodhisattva Vimalakirti who, although living amid his family, did nothing in that house except practice meditation.


e. Now comes the time to renounce one's work. Whether it is the husband or the wife who goes out to earn money, until now practicing only in spare time, it is proper now to give up one's job. Completely renounce one's family contacts and go away to live in solitude. If one wishes, and if this is possible, one may become a bhiksu (or bhiksuni) or else remain a lay-yogi (or yogini). At any rate, the outer renunciation to family, property, money, and such things must be comparatively complete. So far we have only dealt with the renunciation of outward things.


f. Inwardly, it is now the right time to renounce many things: the desires for good, long sleep, desire for expensive and beautiful clothes, and for all other attractive and artistic objects.


g. Secretly, renounce the signs which sometimes delude people into thinking that they are progressing in meditation. Renounce: lights (nimitta), the quietness of mind (false samatha of drowsiness), some joyful feelings (piti), and such experiences. Give up also views which are false because they are misleading.


h. The fourth of these inward renunciations is the Most Secret. At this stage one should renounce: the supernormal powers, the Hinayana nirvana, the four virtues of nirvana (according to Mahaparinirvana Sutra: permanence, joy, self, and purity) until one succeeds in gaining the Non-abiding nirvana (see Ch. V, C, 6).


When this is attained, renunciation is complete because Enlightenment is complete.


Many stories on the different stages of the subject are given in my "Lighthouse in the Ocean of Chan. " Of course, false Chan masters have deluded many people with their very harmful talk about there being no need to renounce in Chan. They talk quite blithely about practice in daily life and from what they say, it does seem as though nothing need be given up. This is foolishness. Practice of Chan in everyday life is not for ordinary men; it is the highest rank of attainment. Why is this? Because such a meditator has subdued every hindrance arising in his practice during both work and pleasure. Even on occasions when lust would normally arise, he is able to practice Chan. This is the Chan of no desire really experienced only by the Noble Ones, but conceited fools imagine that they too have this ability. While both of them are outwardly in the world, the difference lies inwardly, where the Chan sage is beyond the world. This latter achievement is not possessed by common men, who sometimes think that without renunciation, everything may nevertheless be gained. (See App. II, D.)


On this connection, there is a common mistake made in books on the life of the Buddha. They relate how when he was a bodhisattva, he practiced severe asceticism for six years. Usually the books criticize this, as though it were time wasted, a useless part of his life and having nothing to teach us. Then they tell how the bodhisattva took a cup of milk and from the strength he gained, achieved Enlightenment. Now, wisdom-beings and Enlightened Ones never show an example in vain. This period of asceticism is to emphasize to us that renunciation must be complete before Enlightenment can be attained. Even though we may take many cups of milk a day, still neither we nor they become enlightened thereby! How easy would Enlightenment be if this was all one had to do! But the renunciation comes first—and before his Enlightenment, Gautama had renounced all comforts, even clothing, and had very nearly given up taking any food at all. He took only one or two grains of rice each day, and after such fasting, even a cup of milk has very great powers of nourishment.


Mr. Chen added in a note:


After almost two thousand years after the Buddha's parinirvana, the great Tibetan Milarepa experienced similar results from his long periods of fasting or near fasting, having only nettle soup. When he took a single cup of milk, his median channel was opened. One cup of milk for the common person has not the highest power, but for one who over many years has lacked substantial food, it has a great power to help his meditation. Readers should recognize this point clearly, and not be confused by those who talk disparagingly of these long periods of asceticism.


The six years of suffering should not therefore be criticized like this; they were not useless but show us that the bodhisattva was willing to renounce everything and did give up everything almost to the state of starving himself to death, in order to gain Enlightenment. Is this not complete renunciation? As it was complete, so Full Enlightenment could easily be attained. The fault here lies in thinking that moderation lies before renunciation—it does not, it follows after.


I have also experienced something a little comparable to the effects of that cup of milk. When I was living in a cave in Hu Nan, my food was only a little rice with no good vegetables to accompany it. It was a thin diet, though not as meager as Gautama's or Milarepa's. Then one day a relative of mine sent me a bowl of very good beef. After taking this, I noticed that the power of my meditation was decidedly increased.


We should never make the mistake of thinking that renunciation is unessential—there is always something to give up until one becomes a Buddha. Nor should one imagine that the Middle Way of the Buddhas may be used as an excuse for hanging on to this and that. Renunciation comes first, and then the sorrow of lust or attachment may be controlled.


C. Questions Derived from the Sorrow of Ignorance


1. What effects would be likely to occur from prolonged meditation on the rise and fall of the diaphragm (limiting concentration during sitting practice to this area alone)? Or what effects might be produced from samatha meditation on the center of the body two fingers' widths above the navel?


2. Can insight, vipasyana or samapatti, be obtained by any method where samatha practice is not first accomplished?


These questions arise because one does not recognize clearly the principles and practice of meditation. We have emphasized many times in this book that there can be no samapatti (investigation, insight), without the initial development of samatha (tranquility). (See Ch. VII, C.)


All good samatha techniques teach the gathering of the whole mind upon one point, and this is what is being done in these methods. It is easy to gain calm by practice in the region of the abdomen. In that region of the body is the earth-circle, and this element, having the characteristic of steadfastness, is therefore a suitable base for meditation practice.


Another reason for this practice is that the disturbed mind is caused by too much energy rising up, and concentration above this midpoint of the body may only increase this. On the other hand, one-pointed-ness established lower than the navel may easily stimulate thoughts of lust and even lead to a seminal discharge.


At the middle point, the mind may be safely and usefully concentrated and then held there, a practice known to many religions where the necessity of developing calm is taught.


The practice with the rise and fall of the diaphragm must lead to the development of calm; it cannot be usefully practiced without this. Lacking samatha, no insight is possible. Meditators should learn to discriminate correctly the different types of meditation.


3. What is the importance of transferring merits after one's practice of meditation? How can they be transferred for the benefit of other sentient beings?


If a person asks this question, he has not yet recognized the entity of Dharmakaya. If one recognizes it and does not distinguish individual minds, then one is a sage; that is, one whose mind is linked to all through the Dharmakaya. Hence, as in Enlightenment separate minds are not to be found, separate merits do not exist either. Ordinary persons are only influenced by those around them with whom they have some connections. Even the Buddhas, to save beings, must have some conditional link with them or their saving merits cannot be effective.


Either one can influence beings by one's merits or else one has not realized that all are in the entity of Dharmakaya. One in many; and many in one.


Once when practicing meditation in the company of a number of yogis of the same mandala, one of these "schoolmates" in the Vajrayana asked me a question of this sort. At that time I was studying the Idealist School 's philosophy and so answered him in this way: "The eighth- or store-consciousness is not restricted to individual minds, and does not belong to any 'person'. Common to all sentient beings, it is vast and impersonal. Though belonging to nobody, it is filled with everybody. As this is the case, providing one has come to realize this consciousness through meditation, then merits are easily transferred." He was much pleased with my explanation and praised it to other fellow yogis.


However, we shall not be content with that explanation here. What, then, is to be done so that merits may be truly transferred? Many persons imagine that they are able to give away their merits, while other people do not believe that it is possible to do so at all. What is the explanation? First of all, the meditation practitioner must destroy the self, atman, etc. that is an obstacle to the attainment of the entity of Dharmakaya. This means that one must have practiced thoroughly the Hinayana meditations and have arrived at the stage of sunyata realization in the Mahayana. When one has realized the Dharmakaya, then he is in a position to influence others, since the self-idea has been purified in the Hinayana and transmuted in the voidness of Mahayana meditations.


Without this, little can be done in merit-transference, for common people think of "my merits," "I am transferring merits," "By me other beings are benefiting." All this is because they have not realized sunyata in the Hinayana sense, not to speak of the Mahayana. This matter is therefore very important in true merit-transference.


It is not enough for a person to be kind, generous, and have other beneficent virtues. Such persons cannot transfer merits, since the sunyata realization is lacking while the idea of self is still firmly established.


What this really means is that unless sunyata is realized, there is no possibility of saving others. Two points clearly stand out here: that the self or soul as an ultimate or unchanging "thing" is taught by all other religions outside Buddhism, and that sunyata and the way to its realization are taught nowhere except in Buddhism. One corollary follows from this: The merits of saviors in these religions can only save beings within samsara. They cannot be of help in taking them beyond. Only perfectly Enlightened Ones have the transcendental merits which may aid one in crossing over sentient beings.


Wrong views on merits and salvation are all the results of ignorance of the Dharmakaya and its nature—sunyata.


4. In order to accomplish well the first three paramitas, what practical methods of giving, morality, and patience may be used in everyday life? (See also Ch. X, Part One, C and Appendix III.)


This shows another lack of knowledge of the Vajrayana and its methods. Knowing these techniques, even if one is poor and without money, much may be done to help others, for this is not so much a matter of means as of mind.


When we get up early and put on our shoes, there is a mantra to recite so that insects and other small creatures shall not be killed by us, and if they are, as a result of the mantra they attain birth in the Pure Land . This is an almsgiving of fearlessness (abhaya dana). There are many practices of this sort which in fact constitute a yoga of daily life.


To take another example: when we make water, by using a mantra it can be transformed into nectar. And when we pass stool, the excrement may be converted in the same way into good food. But why bother to do this? In latrines and bathrooms many unhappy ghosts and hungry spirits gather. For them that place is not at all unpleasant, for they see it as full of good food and drink. They try to take this "food" but find out that it is only filthy. To give them the nutriment they so badly need, these mantras are recited. This is a good way of giving (dana) even if one has no money.


In taking food, the belly is visualized as the hearth of a fire-sacrifice and one's chopsticks, or spoon and fork, etc., are seen as the vajra-ladles for offering that sacrifice. In the navel-wheel, the yidam is visualized receiving the food as an offering. This is called "the inner fire sacrifice."


A poor man can still place aside seven rice-grains from his plate and, putting them in water, take them outside so that the ghosts and spirits may then partake of this food and out of gratitude take refuge in the Buddha. There is, in fact, a mantra which is used for the transformation, purification, and multiplication of such gifts and its recitation is necessary to make these available to the ghosts (pretas). Buddhist monks and other devoted followers always put aside food in this spirit of the Mahayana, while using a Vajrayana method, before they take it themselves.


Then one can give food to birds and cattle. This act is easily done. This reminds me of a story: There was once a famous and well-learned scholar monk who could preach very well. Despite this, no one had enough faith in him to become his disciple. He asked his guru, "How is it that monks much less skilled in preaching, and with less learning, have many followers while I have none?" His teacher replied, "In previous lives you failed to give to others. You must have been mean and stingy. Now, quickly, feed as many animals each day as possible, but before giving the food to them, this mantra must be used." And he gave the mantra. Thus, every day that learned monk earnestly fed those animals, giving them food which he converted through his meditation and the mantra into nectar. When they died, these beings were released from their evil condition and came to human birth. Growing up, by their strong karmic connection, they came to that learned monk as his disciples. Within ten or twenty years, he had many devoted disciples to teach.


In the Mahayana too, there are many things practiced to help others, for the central concept in this yana is that of the bodhisattva, one who selflessly and in every way helps everybody. Even small things which no one asks you to do should be performed: when you see a worm crawling across the road, pick it up and put it among the grass, or if you see a banana-skin that a small child might slip on, put it out of the path; and so on. Then the merits of such actions should be turned over to all beings by the alliance of the perfection of wisdom with the first three perfections.


Also, one may earn merits by speech; by saying something agreeable to a person, for instance, or by praising good workmanship. Usually if someone has done something or enjoyed some success, others may be envious—this is common, for envy is hard to destroy. But the bodhisattva will never react like this. He will always have a good word, a sympathetic happiness with others' pleasures, and comes in this way to make others glad and destroy envy in himself.


Even if others should abuse or strike him, the bodhisattva takes no notice.


Mr. Chen poured more water on our Chinese tea and then said by way of illustration, "In Tibetan monasteries they do not make tea like this! Enormous cauldrons of water are boiled and kept boiling, being replenished by buckets of ice-cold snow-water. But so fierce is the heat that the cold water instantly becomes hot and boils with the rest. So it is with a bodhisattva strong in patience. His warmth of compassion is such that no amount of cruel knocks and unkind words can upset him."


There is much inexpensive merit to be gained in this world. An old man may see youngsters dancing and go and dance with them—they may be delighted that he can also enjoy himself in this way. Really such a thing is only a little action and yet there is much merit from it since others are pleased.


Always truly sympathize with others' losses and sufferings. In this way one takes their sufferings from them. Always readily excuse them when they do wrong. Always think, "Others can do better than I can myself," and speak and act with this firm conviction. This is real inward and outward humility. Always wish that they may get grace from the Buddhas and attain Enlightenment before us. Always make one's speech soft and gentle; then, one encourages loving-kindness to develop in others. When others are in some distress or suffering illness, ask after them and pray that they may recover.


The Pure Land School has given many examples of this sort of action. Many are also found in Nagarjuna's Prajnaparamita Sastra. These matters depend on us. If we really have the desire to do them, we may find many things, and certainly there are many examples to stimulate us in Buddhist literature. We may, therefore, correct our ignorance of the practical methods in the three paramitas, if we truly wish to do so.


5. How can one be saved from the effects of unskillful actions by the belief in and praying to a savior? How is the doctrine of karma affected by such a belief?


There are really two questions here and they concern the Buddhist teaching of karma more than meditation. I shall answer them together.


Many people think of causation by karma too narrowly and rigidly, so that the bad must be punished and the good rewarded. This is, of course, quite right, but one's ideas should not be limited to this. In the universe no one person stands alone and unconnected; on the contrary there are many fine interrelations which are not obvious to most people. If karma were merely a mechanical matter—do good, get good; do bad, get bad—then no Buddha or god could give grace or merits to us. But we do recognize that this is possible. Similarly, we speak about the beings in the hells as judged by the ten great and fearful yamas (hell judges), so that it seems that they, and not karma, are bringing about the states of suffering. But really beings would not see the great yamas if they had not committed those crimes. Karma not only influences this mind and body but seems to have its effect on our surroundings, or we may say that it conditions us to see things in a certain way. Besides karma individually experienced, there appears to be another kind. This is where beings have committed similar actions and thus come to reap similar fruit—it is often called a "common" karma. This sense of common karma brings about the experience of the judges of the hells. From these examples, it is evident that we must think of wider principles and should not be too narrow in our ideas on karma.


Why does this question doubt the power of God? Buddhists also hold that such beings exist (though not as stable absolute entities). All the gods, who are nevertheless impermanent whatever their followers hold, have many merits. One cannot doubt that Jesus, whose power of self-sacrifice was like that of a bodhisattva's, also acquired great merits and, with them, the power to help others within the domain of the three worlds. Certainly he may extend his mercy and save those who have committed worldly sins and ensure that they enjoy life in a heaven. But Jesus did not have the realization of sunyata (such is not evident from the Gospels) and thus could have no transcendental merits, as Buddhas or great bodhisattvas have; so his power of salvation is limited to the six realms of samsara, whereas the latter, with the hook of voidness and compassion, draw beings out of samsara. Sins against the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha are naturally more serious than even great worldly transgressions, and Jesus has no power to save those who commit such sins against the Three Jewels.


For heavy karma of this type, there are the thirty-five Buddhas of Confession arranged in a mandala.


One day Mr. Chen had shown the transcriber a board he had made with thirty-five candle holders on it arranged in the pattern of this mandala. This was placed before the mandala itself and a candle lighted in the corresponding position to the Buddha connected with any particular precepts broken. Mr. Chen has examined the names of these Buddhas and determined from their meanings which Buddha is connected with the confession of which offence. He has written verses of confession for each one and performs their puja whenever this is necessary. Respecting the commission of unskillful deeds, Mr. Chen said:


People of the three different times of life should adopt quite different attitudes towards the commission of evils. The young practitioner of meditation should not commit any evil at all, so that the puja of these Buddhas is for him or her unnecessary; one who is old never knows when he or she is going to die and should be diligent in clearing himself or herself of even the slightest fault by performing their puja, while a dying person must not think that he or she has committed any unskillful deeds at all.


Besides this confession, there is also a special Vajrayana mantra of the Buddha Akshobhya, which is especially effective even in the case of heavy sins where an immediate and usually inescapable fruit follows upon the commission of the deed. This Buddha is so merciful as to save beings if they repeat his incantation with deep faith and a concentrated mind. It is indeed worthwhile knowledge to possess.


Again, people forget that they meet this or that god to receive his cruel punishments, or to be received into his bliss, just because there exists a karmic connection between them.


Thus a few points may have been made clear concerning karma and salvation in this question rooted in the Sorrow of Ignorance.


6. What precautions should be taken before meditating in a new place to ensure the sympathy of the gods dwelling there? (See also Ch. IV, F, 2.)


This is a question of not knowing the right thing to do in this situation. When one comes to a new place, first go into the room or house to be used for meditation and just sit there to get the "feel" of it. If anything special comes into the mind to disturb it, this is a bad sign, while it is good if the mind is tranquil and one notices the natural humming noise in one's ears. This is a test for daytime; for the time of darkness, one should arrange to sleep there for one night. Before sleeping, perform a puja and ask the Buddha to show one either a good dream or a bad one. According to the dream—good or bad—one gets, so that place is to be judged.


Once I had a desire to make my hermitage in the cave formerly occupied by one "Mad Lama" as he was known, though actually he was really a sage well-accomplished in Mahamudra. As he had died, his cave was vacant and certainly seemed a favorable place for meditation. Before I established myself there, I asked for a sign to be given in a dream. In my dream I saw a dakini lying down across the entrance of the cave. She said, "You should not build anything here, as this will be a holy place for pilgrims to worship." So I gave up my idea of having my hermitage there.


Another thing to be done in a new place is to ask the local people if there are any stories of ghosts or other wonderful or disturbing things seen or heard there. Find out where are the nearest shrines, temples, and churches, either existing now or just ancient ruins. Notice the presence of large and flourishing trees, and also look for dead trees, specially marked stones, or peculiarly twisted or outstanding rocks. As these things may indicate the presence of tree and earth spirits, offerings should be made to them to start with so that they are pleased. Also offerings should be made to the gods worshipped in the temples, churches, etc., and one should also make sure what the religion locally predominant is. Then, another consideration not to be forgotten is the history of the building—this should be carefully investigated.


If all signs are favorable and one decides to meditate there, then one may make a vow not to go outside certain boundaries. One must ask the gods of the four directions to witness that "This is my northern boundary, etc." When, perhaps after many years of practice, one wants to go outside these boundaries, it is proper to inform these gods first. If one's patron or other visitor comes and wants to enter the boundaries, then it is customary in Tibet for the yogi to leave a white stone outside—as a sign that he has informed the four great kings and then they will also protect the visitor.


This concludes the instructions for meditating in new surroundings.


7. If one waits to accomplish all the many preparations in the meditations of the three yanas listed here, many lives will pass and it is not certain that one will not fall down into the states of suffering before accomplishing any realization. On the other hand, your instructions in this book state quite clearly that firm foundations in all the three yanas are necessary and that one should not start too soon upon either Vajrayana or Chan. What, therefore, is to be done?


8. How can one achieve a state from which there can be no fall at the time of death to rebirth in the realms of suffering? How far has one to go along the path until these unhappy states are automatically closed so that rebirth in them is impossible (unless voluntarily desired)?


9. How is it possible to be able to choose one's rebirth and what attainments in meditation will be necessary before this can be done? (See also Ch. XVII, B, 3.)


These three questions may be rather quickly dealt with together.


First, get a quick renunciation—this means a short course in the Hinayana. Secondly, develop the bodhi-heart quickly, thus shortening one's career in the Mahayana. Thirdly, be reverent, gentle, and humble towards one's guru—this will compress one's practice of the Vajrayana. This is one way of accomplishing the whole system of practice in one lifetime.


Another way: if one wants to practice meditation and at the same time has the idea of gaining a good birth in the next life, one should not deceive oneself. Be quite sure what it is you are aiming to achieve and then ask for a suitable meditation to attain that goal and resolutely practice it. If one's renunciation is thorough and one finds a good guru—and both these conditions must be accomplished—then one may directly take up the Mahayana or Vajrayana meditations.


If one's renunciation is not strong enough, one cannot take instructions of the Pure Land School . Though one has in fact not renounced worldly surroundings, it is very necessary to have made a thorough renunciation in the mind (but be warned: the latter is never easy without the former). One must have renounced one's dependence on worldly mental states to gain the great faith essential if one is to see Amitabha. Although the sutra talks of a short time of practice, only ten repetitions of his name being sufficient, still I do not emphasize this, as the conditions under which those ten must be made are certainly exacting. If one is to gain the Pure Land , both sunyata and bodhicitta are necessary realizations. However, much may be done with the repetition of the Holy Name and this way of practice does ensure a good rebirth.


For those desiring a regulated rebirth, there is the Tantric phowa technique, for which I refer readers to our Chapter XIII, Part Two.


The transcriber does indeed thank Mr. Chen for his clear and painstaking answers. On behalf of all readers too, who may profit from his replies, he gives their thanks. May they, by reading these good instructions and practicing the Buddhas' teachings, come in this life to Perfect Enlightenment!






For readers with some experience in meditation, our great merciful Bhiksu Sangharakshita had given me some problems on topics mentioned in our book, and these I shall now discuss. I was very much encouraged to prepare answers to them and I have done so under three classifications, which we shall deal with one by one.




1. Christ's Teaching is much more than a "heaven-and-man" yana. He claims that he is the only-begotten Son of God and that ultimate salvation can only be gained through faith in him. How can this be a foundation for Buddhism? Surely a Western Buddhist should reject such teaching. If not, why should he become a Buddhist? He will remain a Christian. (See Ch. I, B, 3.)


This is a question of preparation and I have answered it in two parts, the first on the principles of philosophy and the second based on circumstantial reasons.


1. The inconceivable, the Dharmakaya, has a sacred and secret function by which it has skillfully arranged a religion as preparation for the final liberation taught in Buddhism. In all countries, a religion of heaven-and-man yana is found, wherein some aspects of the Truth are taught. By practice of these religions one may gain some insight into small parts of the Truth, leading thereby to an understanding of the complete Truth of the Dharmakaya as taught by the Buddha. Buddhists, in fact, by knowing their own religion well, see that the other faiths—all those in the whole universe, are not incompatible with the Dharma but are bases upon which it may stand and grow.


Readers will remember our definition of a heaven-and-man yana. Such a teaching tells people how to lead a good life here, so as to gain heaven in the next birth and thus avoid the torments of hell. Our book is for the West, and the heaven-and-man yana established there is Christianity, so this religion is the preparation for our Dharma in those lands.


Every religion has its own pride, and each one says, with varying degrees of emphasis, that it is the only way to salvation. The question is whether these religions are ever justified in making such statements. In the past, when communications were difficult and slow between different parts of the world, each religion could make its claims more or less unchallenged by the others. Now the position is very different, and besides this, the study of comparative religion is pursued in many places. In this way we can easily see from unbiased studies that many of the great religions present similar features which justify us calling them as a group, "heaven-and-man" yanas. Of course, just as they do not agree with each other about each one's exclusive claims, so we do not agree with them that any one of them, or all of them together, constitute the way to salvation.


In particular, Christianity's claims of exclusive salvation were originally made in the days when it was establishing itself amidst a host of cults worshipping idols, the forces of nature, and even offering human sacrifice and other such practices harmful to man's spiritual growth.


"For instance," cited Mr. Chen, "there are still in Bhutan some primitive beliefs that by killing men one gains in strength and cunning. Against such practices, is it not correct to say that teachings such as Christ's offer a real spiritual reward? This attitude of exclusiveness, then, is justified in such cases, but would have no point against Buddhadharma which in any case worships no idols and teaches positively non-harming and a noble path of spiritual development."


Jesus confessed (as we noted in Chapter I, B, 4) that he had not taught everything. What he kept back and what his disciples were not prepared to receive were perhaps doctrines along the lines of Buddhism. Neither his disciples then, nor the Christian West until recently, were spiritually mature enough to understand and profit from the teachings of the Buddha. His disciples expected to be told about an almighty God in the tradition of Jehovah, and Western countries up to 100 years ago were still rigidly bound to the dogmas of the Christian churches and could not think of religion apart from such concepts as God the Father, Jesus Christ the Savior, the Holy Ghost, the Trinity, and the "Book of Books"—the Bible. Now horizons are wider and some people feel dissatisfied with the limited teachings of Jesus preserved by the Christian churches.


In the light of this, not only Buddhists, but Christians also should try to re-estimate the value of Christ's religion (as we have suggested in Chapter VII, B). Reassessment of values, of course, alters the status of the absolute God considerably and shows that he is in the same position as the many powerful but transient deities in the various heavens.


Quite different is the position of the Dharmakaya and its relation to this small world, one of many in a celestial group. The all-pervading Dharmakaya is not limited by anything and this planet, for thousands of years known to Buddhist cosmology as minute, is now confirmed by science to be a mere speck of matter. How could there be any part of this tiny mote where the Dharmakaya is not present? One must conclude that the Western continents are not beyond the range of the Dharmakaya, and that this body of the true teachings has also established there foundations for its further growth when conditions become suitable. Such is our philosophy of the relation of Buddhadharma and the heaven-and-man yanas.


2. Regarding facts rather than philosophic principles, what do we find?


In the West four kinds of persons are found:


(a) The first among them doubts all religious teachings. He scoffs at God, Soul, Jesus as Savior, a life after death, as well as at the smattering of ideas he may have of other religions; having no faith, for example, in karma or in transmigration. Some scientists and many who have received the usual secular education hold views of this sort.


(b) Second are those people who are already Christian and do not deny the truth of the Bible, salvation by Jesus, etc., but because they have read many books on other religions, they have some doubts about the completeness of their own faith and feel that they might progress more in the Buddha's Teachings.


(c) Then there are some young people who although they have been born in a Christian family, have never had any deep devotion to that religion and after reading a book or two on Buddhism, decide quite definitely that they are followers of the Enlightened One.


(d) Finally, there are many who know about Christianity but reject it outright. They have the same mind of unbelief as the first type of person but have come into contact with some books on Buddhism like the second group. They have already thrown away such "trifling" matters as the ten commandments, so that when they get acquainted with a little Buddhism, they feel no attraction towards the Buddha's ethical teachings such as the Five Precepts. Repelled from these they are drawn to other things. They like the sound of Chan or Zen, and eagerly endorse views which say it has no doctrine of causation, or that salvation comes naturally. They like to read Chan sayings denying the need of precepts, or any writer who proclaims that in Buddhism there is no soul and no belief in gods. When they read in books on the Tantra of Great Lust and Great Pride, this seems to please them. Finally, they often talk about there being no need of "little" preparations such as renunciation, purification and meditation; for, after all, we are Buddhas already!


This last sort of person is well known among young people, in America especially. I have many friends, some of whom I have met, and some encountered through correspondence, who think and talk in this way.


As there are these four types of persons, I hope we may give them some good guidance:

(a) The first and the third above may be grouped together. They have both left their traditional religion and perhaps feel some animosity for it. To the first group of persons we can say nothing except to invite them to harness their powers of examination and criticisms in a fruitful way in Buddhism. For this they must acquire some faith, or no good will result.


I do not mean that either group must take the Christian teachings as a basis, though the third group would profit spiritually if they did not adopt an attitude of critical hostility to their old religion. Only for protection (if they live in predominantly Christian areas), they may have some faith in Christ and his teachings. Of course, if they live in India , protection there may be sought from the gods of the Hindu religion. The spiritual world is similar to the political one: if one wants protection in any country, then one abides by its laws. Just so with religion: practicing Buddhism in the West, one seeks some protection from the spiritual power there (the Christian God), or in India from the powers there. We are, kindly note, only asking these various gods to protect our meditation, not to give us salvation, which, in the Buddhist sense, they cannot in any case grant. By their help, even if it is only passive, demons will not be able to come and hinder our efforts.


(b) Of the second person, I should say he is a hopeful case. Why? Because when he was Christian, he took all the goodness in that religions and has only come to Buddhism because he is aware that the Bible is lacking in some respects. But we should guide him to make a re-estimation of the Christian religions (as in Chapter VII, B). Certainly, we cannot accept the view that Western religion (or any one sect of it) offers the only way to salvation as it claims—this is not a correct idea, for other religions also have merits equal to or greater than that of Christ's.


The great merit of this type of person is that, having kept the ethical commandments of Christianity, he is easily able to receive and practice the Buddha's five precepts. Already he has some background of doing good and has belief in a happy state after death as a result of this. All we have to do is to guide him and point out that this is a limited teaching and that the spiritual path stretches far beyond the rather narrow limits of Christianity.


Without our book, and such guidance, a person like this may fall into the trap of making false comparison and equations. He may, for instance, equate God with the Dharmakaya, or declare the salvation in all religions is the same. Without putting obstacles in the way of interreligious peace, we should say quite frankly that such a non-discriminating attitude is never encouraged in Buddhism, where instead of turning a blind eye to all the differences which exist between the various faiths, one is encouraged to mature one's wisdom through a proper evaluation of religions.


(c) Correct this one! These people (the fourth group) do not believe in Buddhism at all. They just get hold of a bit of Chan terminology, talk about "living Zen" or practicing Zen in daily life, or again hear something of Tantric vajra-love. They leave aside the precepts and go so far as to deny the Hinayana, calling them "heretics" or "non-Buddhists." Such persons are not Buddhists and they just thoroughly mistake Chan and the Tantras.


"In your country," said the yogi, referring to the listener and transcriber, "it is good, for Hinayana (Pali Canon and Theravada) is established."


Where there is Hinayana, the Vinaya will be observed. This means that the other silas of the lay-people are well kept. And the basic five precepts are, after all, for the good of oneself and others. Such Buddhists will not treat Christians as enemies or vehemently deny the limited truths of Christianity. It is certain that Buddhists like this will not do as the fourth type of person: the latter does not care to know, but the former will have thoroughly investigated and practiced the preparations necessary prior to taking up Vajrayana or Chan.


Then the listener offered an evaluation of the various heaven-and-man yanas to Mr. Chen. He said, "Of all these, Confucianism is perhaps best the basis for Buddhism and Buddhists may accept 95% of its teachings. Notably, animal sacrifice is the only thing we must reject as against the teachings of the Buddha. The emphasis on ethical conduct in this life and the lack of speculation about after-death states are both admirable. Next best among the great religions to act as foundation for Buddhism is Hinduism. Perhaps 50% of its teachings may be acceptable to Buddhists and some of its ideas such as reincarnation and its doctrine of karma, have something in common with Buddhist teachings, though the latter are still in many ways different, being much clearer and more precise. Coming to Christianity regarded as a basis, only 25% of its doctrines could be acclaimed as even approximating to useful truth. So many doctrines have been developed by the Church which are quite opposed to Buddhist principles, and overlie, indeed obscure, some of the original teachings of Jesus which Buddhists can endorse—such as the good Sermon on the Mount. If we consider the case of Islam, almost everything there would be rejected by Buddhists—it would perhaps be the poorest basis for Buddhist growth." (The writer thought that perhaps the one common point might be the emphasis on giving in both these religions. Almsgiving, one of the duties of a good Muslim, is also stressed as the beginning of the way in Buddhadharma, as an easy spiritual means to open the heart, as in the triad preached to lay-people in Buddhist countries: dana, sila, samadhi (in the sense of dhyana).)


2. Could you elaborate further upon the difference between the true or great self of Buddhism and the higher self of Hinduism? After the former has passed through the fires of sunyata, in what sense is there a self at all? (See Ch. X, Part Two, C.)


This is a very important question and has perplexed many in the West who have continually mixed these up. In my long book "Discriminations between Buddhist and Hindu Tantras" I have been particularly concerned to bring out the main differences which result from a fair comparison. We should elaborate upon this matter so that readers may clearly distinguish these two. Even educated readers in Tibet and China are not clear regarding this, not to speak of the confusion existing in the minds of some Westerners, especially those with Theosophical ideas. Our reasons for the difference between these two concepts are:


a. The "higher self" of Hinduism has never passed through the stage of sublimation by sunyata, whereas the question of Self, self, etc., is many times dealt with in Buddhism at different levels of practice. First there is the purification effected by the Hinayana meditations on gross ideas of "I" and "Mine": these two are not allowed as truth in this vehicle. The Vinaya practiced by the bhiksus of all Buddhist schools contains some silas specially directed at the destruction of self-centered ideas, while the sutras taught in the Hinayana are full of injunctions aimed at the destruction of the self. Such are the teachings of non-self in the skandhas or the uprooting of pride-in-self by analysis into the elements.


In all Buddhist schools, there are many treatises (sastras), the contents of which are all directed at the destruction of self. For instance, groups of self-views are frequently given and refuted, not merely as wrong theories, but as basically wrong ideas leading on to wrong practice. In Mahayana, not only are the personal components declared to be without self but the dharmas are shown as void, sunyata in their nature, thus destroying the idea of self in relation to one's surroundings. To make perfectly clear the non-self of dharmas, there are so many lists of different conditions of sunyata, from two aspects of sunyata up to eighteen different kinds.


Purification by analysis in the Hinayana and sunyata sublimation in the Mahayana hit at one point, at only one point—to destroy the self.


It is true that in Hinduism, the lower self is said to be a bad thing, but no theory appears to exist to destroy it and the various philosophies of Hinduism are not fundamental in this respect. Why? Because they still carry a "high" or "pure" self on their backs and make no attempt to root out the self idea completely. It is a well-known law of psychology that from the concept of self held in the mind derive ideas, emotions, and subsequent actions. Even though Hindu doctrine distinguishes such concepts as "high self" and "low self," fundamentally the self-idea still remains. "High" and "low" are just adjectives, relative terms, and as such are only suitable for describing varying degrees of height. The self is still there, whether you call it by this or that name.


However, the Buddha has taught (and we must emphasize again) that no self can be found in persons, and no self in dharmas either; so how can people, unless they are badly deluded, compare the two religions and loudly bray that Buddhism and Hinduism are the same? Particularly in respect of the "great self" occasionally mentioned in the former and the "higher self" of the latter, we, by an account of these processes, understand that these words mean quite different things.


b. The Buddha has only mentioned the "great self" in his teachings in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra (a Sanskrit work, not the Pali sutra of the same name). At that time he was about to disappear from this world, and many of the disciples gathered about him were weeping bitterly. In their minds, he was about to pass away into nirvana, which they took to be space, nothingness; the Buddha as they knew him would, they thought, be gone, finished. Thus the Enlightened One preached, assuring them on the true nature of things, and to correct their bias in thinking of nirvana as annihilation, he preached the mark of great self.


Suppose one completely destroys the twofold self idea and gains the realization of the Dharmakaya. Really one gives a false name to that experience of truth or reality. How is this? Whatever one calls this realization it is a false name, since by the nature of our language and our minds which govern its use, all names are false. There is not a single name for reality, not a single one is true. Even anuttara-samyak-sambodhi (the Unexcelled Perfect Enlightenment of a Buddha) is a false name. Of course, the name "great self" is not excluded from this. It is just a mundane term attempting to describe something of spiritual truth.


This description, great self, is in the position of consequence and is never used in the positions of cause or course. It is very important to understand this. In the yanas of cause and course, it is said that there is no self and one always trains to destroy self-ideas and to realize this.


In Hinduism, there are self-ideas of varying subtlety in all three positions. For instance, in the cause position there are the individual souls (the higher self), in course one practiced yoga to unite with Brahman, while Brahman is in the position of consequence and towards this end all efforts are made with the higher self.


In Buddhism, one never practices with the "great self'; one never seeks it, though it may be used as a relative name for nirvana, as the Buddha skilfully used it. (Readers should see our definitions of nirvana in Chapter V, C, 6; after which they will understand that Hinduism has no such ideas and that it is improper to compare the "higher self" with nirvana.)


c. As we have said, "great self" is used in the sense of Dharmakaya but there is no doctrine of Dharmakaya in Hinduism. There is certainly the theory of an all-pervading self (sutratma) but this is allied with ideas on the creation of the universe. (First Brahman created the universe and then he entered into it.) Buddhadharma never teaches that Gautama Buddha was responsible for such creation—all Buddhists would laugh at this idea! Yet many make mistakes even on this point. Our Dharmakaya is based on the no base of sunyata, but their "higher self" is rooted in the theory of the god Brahman. We do not allow any creator, so there is a great difference here.


As a conclusion, we may say that for the propagation of Buddhism, including Mahayana doctrines, the term "great self," even in the sense of sunyata, should not be used very much, for it results in too much confusion arising in students' minds. Because of this, in my works I have never used this term; and it is not frequent in Buddhist canonical scriptures, being found only in the Sutra of the Great Passing Away. When we are Enlightened (that is, in the position of consequence), we shall know thoroughly the meaning of "great" self as one of the four virtues of nirvana (the others are permanence, happiness, and purity)—until then, we need not worry ourselves over this matter.


Of course, if one engages in debate with a Hindu, he may talk about many things which sound similar to the Dharmakaya. Then one must ask him: "Through what processes have you progressed to destroy the self—which is certainly necessary before one can come to the experience of the Dharmakaya? We can show such stages in Buddhism. Have you effective methods equivalent to them? Please show me your doctrine to accomplish this."


As Hindus always hold to doctrines of a "high self" and such concepts, and never allow the no-self teachings of the Buddha, they will be puzzled to answer such a challenge.


3. How should one deal with people who claim: "No need to practice, already Enlightened"? It may be very difficult to convince them! (See Ch. IV, A.)


This we must carefully explain. What they say is according to Chan doctrine and we cannot say that they are wrong. But they have not recognized the three positions. Their statement is from the position of consequence but made in the position of cause. It is quite correct for Enlightened ones to speak like this, but worldlings who have no renunciation, purification, or sublimation in sunyata—and certainly, therefore, no functions of Buddhahood—cannot speak in this way.


Such people (claiming, as they do, Full Enlightenment), should be questioned thus: "Where is your all-knowing wisdom, your great compassion, the eighteen special dharmas of a Buddha (avenika-dharmas), your thirty-two marks of a great person, or the eighty minor characteristics? Where are your functions of salvation? Come, show these to me!"


But the tongues of those adhering to such "Mouth Chan" are very sharp. They might say, quite unruffled: "Oh! my supernormal powers? To chop wood and bring water!" Then some other questions are needed; "Why are the powers limited to this? Where are your six abhijna (higher powers)? The Buddha Gautama possessed these; is he worse than you?"


Mr. Chen, smiling throughout this imaginary debate, now laughed heartily and said, "They may answer: 'To make water and to pass stool—these are supernormal powers!' One should say to this: 'Even the Buddha's stool had a sweet smell; how is it that yours stinks? '"


All those who want to understand even a little of Chan must know our three C's. With these in mind, one should honestly examine oneself to find out where one is now. Am I really a religious person or do I just deceive myself?


Bhante here interjected, "'Mouth Chan' would say that to distinguish 'religious' from 'not religious' is to 'stink' of Zen." Mr. Chen, again laughing, agreed, "Yes, such persons may deceive themselves with such Gong An as 'Even to speak the word "Buddha" is to utter a bad word.' But they must examine themselves very carefully."


If one really has faith in Chan, one should believe the gurus who have said: "To say that one has realization without having it will result in long and painful existence in the tongue-cutting hell." Again, those interested in practicing Chan will read the biographies of the great Chan Masters and take good note of their ardent practice of the Hinayana, how thorough was their renunciation, how patient they were to destroy the gross poisons, how upright was their observance of the silas, how modestly they hid their supernormal powers, how humble were even the greatest of them, how long they meditated, unshaken by desires for "quick results." If you have such a character, then you are their equal; if not, you are a worldling, a "Mouth Chanist." If, on the other hand, you have already attained Enlightenment and have supernormal powers, we worship you; indeed, we hope that you are what you claim to be. Sincerely, we have no envy for you but only ask you to be faithful to your claims!


During these last few sentences, Mr. Chen was smiling ever so slightly, quite sincere but a little mischievously. He went on:


In Chan, there is a correspondence with the fifth poison, that of doubt. The common poison of doubt relates to worldly matters, while the Great Doubt cultivated in practice with a Hua Tou only concerns the truth itself and does not concern anything else. From Great Doubt upon the truth, one gains some realization (see Ch. XV). Thus we have a connection here with another question:


4. What is the significance of Great Pride, Great Lust, etc.? Have these been explained in the Vajrayana chapters as promised? (See Ch. X, Part Two, E.)


Having already given the meaning of one of these characteristics of Buddhahood, we should now define the other four. But first, what is the sense of this connection of the word "Great"?


a. One's faith in the Tantra must be great and so must be the will to gain Enlightenment. One has great faith in the Tantric methods of transmuting the five poisons in this very life, while one's great vow to save all beings ultimately as a Buddha is the Great Will. Because of these two, we speak of "Great."


b. The poisons have passed through the purification of Hinayana doctrine and so are no longer human poisons, not small and limited, but "Great."


c. Because of sublimation in sunyata, the poisons have become "Great." While the latter are in the consequence position, still they have some affinity with human poisons.


d. One who practices these doctrines has passed through sublimation by sunyata and transmuted the condition of sunyata into bodhicitta. Such a yogi wishes to increase his power to save others, and as his bodhicitta becomes great, thus connecting him with the wisdom-heart of others, so these Poisons have in him also become "Great."


e. The methods of the Vajrayana are in the position of consequence of Buddhahood and are therefore Great Methods; so the poisons are "Great."


These points above all refer to our philosophy; now we should talk about the poisons separately and from the point of view of practice.


1. Great Lust


a. Why is it so called? The pleasure arising from the identification of the four blisses and the four voidnesses is sixteenfold, compared with that of ordinary sexual intercourse, so this is proof that it is "Great."


b. All Great Lust is well-accompanied by the four sunyatas, so it is "Great." Such things are never heard of in human love.


c. The merit of realization through the identification of these two groups of four is the Full Enlightenment of Buddhahood, so the result is "Great." When the pleasure passes from one wheel (cakra) to another in the body, great merits result.


d. To have the company of a dakini is to be with a great and holy person, quite different from a human wife, and so we say "Great Lust."


2. Great Anger


In the sense of tummo, one has a great will to burn all sins through straightening and clearing the median channel. It is said that where human anger exists this channel is never untangled with the "demon channel" and that men who commit many sins have their median channels tied up with sorrow. A straight mind is our temple or mandala and untwists our channels, but a crooked mind tangles them.


Thus, Great Anger is for destroying sins and for vanquishing demons, quite opposite to human anger, which only creates sins. The latter is like a fire which burns down a forest of merits, while Great Anger destroys only demerits. Why are some Buddhas shown in a wrathful manner? This is the Great Anger of Buddhahood destroying the demons who persecute sentient beings—such as those of ignorance (avidya) and self (atman), thus making salvation possible.


3. Great Pride


It seems that sentient beings fall into the round of rebirth by the strength of avidya—they are weak in Buddhahood and never wish to have the nature of a Buddha; they just stick to their old, defiled self. But the highest doctrine has been pointed out: You are a BUDDHA! Few people are really prepared for such teaching. There was the case of old Vairocana, the Translator, at whom Padmasambhava pointed his finger as they met for the first time. Vairocana instantly understood, or, as is said, attained Full Enlightenment. But such men are as rare as their cases are truly amazing. In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha announced that he will predict the Buddhahood of even those persons whose sins are very great. Five hundred Arhats [Note: In the Sutra it is stated that five thousand bhiksus, bhiksunis, upasakas and upasikas], because they had no such faith in the Buddha nature, walked out of the assembly. People like this lack the Pride of Buddhahood, but we must emphasize that Buddha-nature is possessed by everyone and that by the methods of the Vajrayana, this may be recovered. It is people who are not holy enough to hold to such a name. The stress in Vajrayana is that one should have the mind of a Buddha, the will of a Buddha. All one's actions should be like those of a Buddha, and one should keep this Pride of Buddhahood—but not, of course, hold to pride in worldly things. One should have the Great Pride of the Buddha's character of Great Purity, Great Wisdom, and Great Compassion. This is an excellent part of the Buddha's teachings: he encourages you to become a Buddha like himself. The founders of other religions have not said that you should become the equal of themselves or of this or that god whom they worship. Nor indeed have these gods encouraged their followers to gain a position equal to their own, but the Buddha constantly urges us to become Buddhas. If we always hold to this excellent Pride, it will result for us in much happiness. Suppose we meet an enemy and we keep the Pride of Buddhahood, our attitude is naturally to want to save him and not to have hatred for him. So all this is very good.


4. Great Ignorance


Ordinary ignorance means that one is stupid or dull. However stupid such a person may be, he still has some worldly wisdom of discrimination while he is awake. But in sleep, the brain stops much of its functioning and this is a condition of extreme ignorance. In the Vajrayana, there is a method to practice even during sleep, and so gain the light of the Dharmakaya. The degree of ignorance at that time is very high but is transmuted into the Great Light of the Dharmakaya, and for this reason we speak of Great Ignorance.


There are ten occasions when this light may be experienced—such as in deep samatha, drunkenness, swoon, death, and when one has attained the third bliss (the bliss of no bliss). All these are states of Great Ignorance. However, unless one has the necessary initiations and has practiced well, one will not be able to keep this Dharmakaya light. My friend, who was in extreme pain, had to have an emergency operation in the course of which he passed out and experienced a great and brilliant blue light. Not having practiced these meditations, it appeared and quickly vanished without his being able to utilize it.


Mr. Chen concluded: Is the Dharmakaya not great? Is there anything greater than the Dharmakaya?


5. Could you explain in greater detail the "causation by the six elements" in the Vajrayana? How, precisely, does it differ from the causation theories of the other two yanas? (See Ch. XII, B, 3.)


To see how the six elements in the Vajrayana differ from the way they are treated in the other two yanas, it is best to review their position in all three vehicles.


a. In the Hinayana, six elements are mentioned but always with atoms remaining. What is said there about non-self in the body is quite right, but the Hinayana never takes advantage of the six elements, merely classifying urine as belonging to the liquid element, or this and that organ to the earth one. The elements are only treated in relation to analyses, such as: for analysis of the "person" into the five skandhas, for impermanence meditation, for diseases caused by imbalance of four out of the six elements, the first two of the Four Noble Truths (suffering and the arising of suffering), for the fourth (mind and form) and the fifth (the six sense-bases) links of conditioned co-production, or for the analysis into the twelve ayatanas (six sense-bases plus their sense-objects); but all these are only thought about for the purpose of analysis. No Hinayana doctrine really takes the opportunity to utilize the four great elements.


b. In Mahayana, there are two great schools:


i. The Idealists (Vijnanavada), who do not allow any elements outside the mind, for all phenomena are, they say, consciousness.


ii. The Middle Way followers (Madhyamika) who do not say that all the elements are consciousness. In their philosophy of bhutatathata they seem to include all the elements, though again, they do not take advantage of them.


While the Idealist school lays more stress on consciousness, the Middle Way School emphasizes suchness, and both seem to be monistic systems.


c. The Vajrayana philosophy of six element causation, however, is neither monism nor dualism. Here we are not only concerned with consciousness or suchness, but with the whole of the six elements, of which, we should note, all the first five are material, and only the last one is mental. This is the anuttarayoga of Vajrayana: energy (materiality) and mind are identified and no difference can be seen between them. In the lower Tantra in the yoga of the six elements, they are not regarded separately but as six-in-one and one-in-six. In the yogatantra practice there are the dual pagodas of the person and of the reflection (surroundings), and these symbols of the Dharmakaya utilize directly the five material elements and have many correspondences with the sixth one—consciousness (see Ch. XII, E).


Neither mind nor matter is stressed as more important than the other. Both the universe and persons have been gathered from these six elements, and because of this, they are equal to causation and also to sunyata. Neither the first five are the main cause, nor the last one—this is a system of interrelated causation.


As regards practice with the first five material elements, in Vajrayana these have correspondence with the five wisdoms and one never finds the one without the other. Because the five elements have been sublimated in Mahayana sunyata meditations, so one may come to the Vajrayana and there meet some methods in the position of consequence allowing one to take advantage of them.


The five elements also have two powers, positive and negative, male and female, and by using the appropriate methods it is easy to convert the physical body into one composed of holy light. We say in Chinese, "Guang Ming", (Guang: fire, light—this is elemental; and Ming: clarity, wisdom—this mental), but in English it is difficult to get a combination to give this meaning.


It is as though the word "Enlightenment" could be split up to give this meaning "en" (elements) and "light" (wisdom).


By meditations using deep breathing and vajra-love, all the elements are very skillfully employed, so that one may come quickly to Full Enlightenment.


6. Have the various meanings of "Xin" been settled according to context, as promised? (See Ch. III, A, 1.)


I am very sorry; our talks have swept down the main lines of our system, the longitudes of our three-yanas-in-one, laying more stress on these, while the latitudes of individual meditations and information about them have been rather less complete than I should have liked them to be.


There are still some matters not treated fully, and particularly in Chapter III. As the talking is by me and the writing by you, all the latitudes are not so well mapped. We should, then, further explain "Xin" as a supplement to what we have already said. Apart from the worldly meanings given in Chapter III, its definitions for meditation are as follows:


(1) Some minds are dominated by the sorrows—and by the Hinayana meditations one may speak of wanting to cure the "Xin" of sorrow.


(2) In the five meditations of the Idealist school, the eighth consciousness is also called the king of consciousness—another meaning of "Xin."


(3) The concentrated mind in samatha—though this meaning is not given in the Chinese dictionary.


(4) The meditative mind, not taught in Confucianism, of samatha-samapatti.


(5) The mind of tathata.


(6) The mind of tathagatagarbha.


The last two are not the same as mind in the Idealist School , for even though they do not emphasize the five elements, still they are included. These meanings do not have the sense of consciousness-only for the tathagatagarbha includes the material elements. Such meanings as essence, truth and center are found in Mahamudra and Great Perfection. The mentality-materiality of the six elements is the essence of truth.


It is interesting to note here that the two main schools of the Mahayana approach sunyata in different ways. In the Vijnanavada, the elements are only indirectly seen as sunyata since they are said by the Idealist to exist by being dependent on wrong thinking.


Idealist School : element (as the form part of consciousness)—consciousness—sunyata. The position is different in Madhyamika where both elements and consciousness are directly seen to be sunyata:


Middle Way School






As essence itself carries so many meanings, one should read the sutras carefully to determine precisely what is meant.


In addition, a "Xin" of "Xin" occurs in the Great Perfection, meaning a heart in the heart, an essence of the essence, or, we may say, an excellent essence.


(7) Boys-bottle-heart. This is a term of the Great Perfection (see Ch. XIV, B) and it needs a little explanation to understand it. "Boys" refers to non-death; "bottle" is the flask of nectar held by Amitayus and so signifies long life; while "heart" here also means essence or place in the heart. The essence of channels, of energy, and of the secret drops are all gathered in the heart-wheel.


(8) The naturally pure mind, also found in Great Perfection, has the meaning of essence of truth as naturally pure, apart from "mind" or "heart."


(9) The Buddha himself said, "I have a mystic nirvanic mind and this has been transmitted to Mahakasyapa." This is the first and well-known story of Chan and the meaning is again "essence", not heart or mind.


Thus all our definitions of "Xin" with regard to meditation are finished.




1. Do you regard Acarya Nagarjuna and Siddha Nagarjuna as one and the same person? (See Ch. VI, B.)


In China , there are different translations of the name Nagarjuna, one being "Dragon-trees" and the other "Dragon-fierce." Although there are these two translations, we cannot say that there are different persons. In Tibet also, two persons are not distinguished.


In my opinion, even though there were two persons, by their thought they might be made one. Though the records do seem to be of different persons living many years apart, still Nagarjuna by tradition lived a very long time. (Western scholarship usually distinguishes Nagarjuna the philosopher living about 150 C .E. and the Siddha Nagarjuna living about 700-800 years later.) Also Nagarjuna is recorded as having passed away in the moon samadhi which is the symbol of sunyata in Mahayana and of the bodhicitta in Vajrayana. It is also well-known that the first Nagarjuna taught Mahayana sunyata philosophy while the second instructed in the lower Tantras. So we see that the teachings of these two are not opposed but are a progressive course of training. In fact, when we review the philosophy, realization and long life, they seem to belong to one and not to two people, for the scholar and the practical meditator are complementary.


Another reason we might give is that Nagarjuna went to the Palace of the Dragons and got the Avatamsaka Sutra, a canon which is called esoteric-in-exoteric work. We see here the actual marriage of outer and hidden doctrines within a single sutra connected with Nagarjuna's name. It is therefore difficult to say that different Nagarjunas founded the Madhyamika and Vajrayana schools.


We should judge in this matter according to knowledge and doctrine rather than by birth, etc. If we rely only on archaeology to solve this question, then it is a problem concerning history but not religion.


Did not the Buddha give the example of a man wounded by an arrow? A wise man when wounded does not ask whether it came from the East or from the West, or what sort of arrow it is, he only wants to get rid of it. The thing is first to get the arrow out, the arrow of all our troubles.


If there is some difference in this matter—let it be, I cannot decide.


2. What are the interrelations between the four initiations and the four yogas? Are the four initiations practiced separately for the Maha-, Anu- and Ati-yogas?


There are four initiations in anuttarayoga but not in the other three lower yogas. The latter, practiced in the Eastern Vajrayana tradition, have initiations similar to the five small initiations given in the first initiation of anuttarayoga. The difference is that the former are concerned with the five Buddhas in the peaceful dhyana mudra whereas the latter have different subjects (holy water, vajra, crown, bell, and name). The former never have Buddhas in heruka-form.


Tibet has also the tradition of initiations in the lower-three yogas and there is no need to get them from Japan .


Also, within the four initiations of anuttarayoga, there is a distribution of practices. After one has already received all the four initiations, one may practice on three levels, keeping the same yidam but with the different methods taught in mahayoga (in the first initiation), anuyoga (covering the second and third initiations), and Atiyoga (practiced in the fourth initiation). The differences are not explained here since they are not meaningful unless one has practiced to that level.


3. Do you know, personally, any cases of yogis who have practiced the Anuttarayoga meditations, leaving no physical body behind them at the time of death? (See Ch. XII, H.)


I have never seen any myself but I have heard of them from my guru and read of cases in biographies. After all, we have not seen Gautama Buddha but we believe that he lived on this earth.


What I have seen is the body of Orgyan Yeshe, a Nyingmapa lama. After death, his body retracted into a compact mass about one foot in diameter which could easily be held by a disciple in one hand. He was a lama of a sort not easy to find. I cannot say that he was very learned, and certainly very few people knew him or remember him now except in that part of Kham where he lived. If someone brought him tsampa (roasted barley flour), butter or cloth, or anything else, he would immediately divide it and give to his disciples. He never kept anything until the next day.


(Bhante said regarding this, "That is said in the Pali Canon to be the mark of an arhat.) If anyone offered food, or anything, on the next day, he and his disciples would take it, but if nothing was given, they would not be troubled by having nothing.


Besides the high attainments of Nyingmapas in ancient times—rarely seen, also today—there was in quite recent times my guru's teacher. He instructed his servant: "You should not open my door!" For seven days he intended to sit in the torga so that his body might all be transmuted into the light. However, by the sixth day the curiosity of that attendant became too strong and he opened the door. His teacher's body instantly shrank into the ball we described above.


Another great Nyingmapa is said to have closed his door in the same way and when it was opened at the end of the seventh day, only hair and nails remained.


"Why do hairs and nails remain?" asked the transcriber.

Mr. Chen explained:


In hair and nails there are no channels which may be turned into wisdom-channels. They are dead matter and so more difficult to transmute into light.


Contrast this to the Patriarch of Koya whose body still remains intact, having to be shaved every month. If a yogi meditates in seclusion and has a really high attainment, then hair will not even grow on his living body not to speak of still sprouting from a dead one! The great sramana Kasyapa is still meditating in a cave near Rajagriha, so should we suppose that a barber comes regularly to cut his hair? The same applies to another famous monk, Bhavaviveka. He rejected Dharmapala's philosophy and, learning some Tantric ritual, met Guan Yin. He was very doubtful about his attainment but the great bodhisattva assured him that he had the highest one possible. Still doubtful in spite of this, he was told by Guan Yin: "You may go. I give you this mantra. With it fly to the heavens and put your problems before Maitreya." "No, No!" he said, "I shall settle all my problems here." So he is still meditating but it is doubtful whether he was to worry about shaving either!


To make this matter clear, Mr. Chen said:


There can be neither physical nor mental remains unless clinging (upadana) persists. Not more than a thousand years ago, Marpa, at his end, transmuted his body into light. He had nine yogic consorts and these, one by one, were absorbed into the light of his body. Biographies giving facts are very reliable; they are not, you know, novels. All these facts were well kept in memory by the disciples of the various Tantric gurus in India , China , and Tibet , and soon written down. They are not matters we may seriously doubt.


4. What is meant by saying that the lower tantras are "derived from the two great sutras"? (See Ch. XIII, Part One, C.)


As we have already said, Nagarjuna opened the Iron Tower and took out these two sutras. Some say that the Iron Tower is a symbol of his Dharmakaya. Usually we speak of two main sutras, the Mahavairocana Sutra (from which comes the garbhadhatu mandala) and the Vajrasekhara Sutra (which is the basis of the vajradhatu mandala). The rituals and practice associated with these two mandalas may be thought of as developments of the sutras themselves. However, the latter are the philosophical foundations for the yoga we have described as belonging to the Eastern Vajrayana School . Some sutras are connected with other Tantras but none contain doctrines higher than these two.


The listener mentioned that there were Prajnaparamita Tantric sutras in which she is described as the mother of all the Buddhas.


There are other Vajrayana sutras which basically describe each yidam and are included in the Kangyur (Tibetan Tripitaka). These were preached by the Buddha's Sambhogakaya in the Ogmin (Akanistha) Heaven. They have either been found in various parts of the earth (in India and Tibet ) or they have fallen down from the heavens—none of them were actually preached in this world. The Yellow Sect only allowed that the translations from Sanskrit are genuine, disbelieving in these found in the earth of Tibet .


Bhante noted that recently many Nyingmapa Tantras, previously thought to be Tibetan "Discoveries" had been found in Sanskrit manuscripts in Nepal .


Then continued our yogi:


We should distinguish two traditions. The "distant" tradition may be defined in two ways: either as coming down from a school's first patriarch and then being passed from guru to guru, or the tradition from the Buddha up to the time of Padmasambhava—these are called "distant" traditions. The "near" tradition comes either from some patriarch's meditation, or from those sages after the time of Padmasambhava who were inspired by him. If I give you some mantra or mudra which has appeared in the light of my meditation, then this is the "near" tradition from me.


5. For the practice of the six element meditation, must one get the appropriate abhiseka from Japan or will the corresponding Tibetan wang (i.e., of yogatantra) suffice? (See Ch. XII, E.)


All the meditations, mantras and mudras of the third yoga are available from Tibet and there is no need to ask the Japanese for them. But we should remember that more stress is laid on this yoga in Japan , while in Tibet it is neglected. If one can find a learned guru in the Tibetan tradition who has read the Tripitaka, he will know these sutras and the meditation-rituals deriving from them, and will certainly be able to impart their tradition to you. On the other hand, it will be easy to get it from Japan with detailed instructions, and if one is a Chinese, there is the possibility of getting these practices from either tradition.


There was one Tibetan guru, Palpung Khyentse Rinpoche (1890-1946), who emphasized the importance of the Japanese yogatantra practices very much. He established a hermitage for their practice and asked monks to carry them out for the good of all dead persons. They are easily saved with the power of the third yoga by the Buddha Vairocana and for this purpose are given a confession of sins and a ritual for the dead.




1. As to formulating one's own vows: should these refer to one's spiritual practices here and now, or to what one will do after gaining Buddhahood, or both? (See Ch. V, C, 3, a.)


A vow is certainly a dharma in the Position of Cause, because in every person, vows will come first and conduct follows after, so vows are neither in the Position of Course nor of Consequence. The being who was to become the Buddha Amitabha was, ages before, a bhiksu called Fa Zang (Dharmakara). He was very learned and in the presence of his guru he made forty-eight vows. From the merit of observing these, when he gained full Enlightenment he established his Pure Land (Sukhavati) for the good of so many sentient beings. The Buddha Gautama, before his Enlightenment, made four great vows during the time when he was a tenth stage bodhisattva, and this was in the Position of Course.


These are as follows:


a. May I release beings from the bonds of birth, old age, disease, and death, thus coming into the world to rescue them from lust.


b. May I develop the eyes of wisdom and so be able to see every dharma, both inward and outward, as equal, and so to save all the sentient beings from hatred.


c. May I become able to teach sentient beings so that they abandon self-pride and false views and all come to Complete Enlightenment.


d. May I discourse to the five kinds of sentient beings (gods, men, hungry ghosts, animals, and hell-beings), thereby cutting off for them the current of repeated birth by freeing them from ignorance.


Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, and Bhaisajyaguru all made vows when they were in the Position of Cause. Further, there is a sutra, the Karuna Pundarika, in which many vows are gathered, so our readers may first consult this and then get some ideas of suitable subjects for the formation of vows. Nagarjuna has also made his ten vows in Middle Way Sastra (Mulamadhyamaka-shastra). These I have read and appreciate very much.


The four boundless minds are included in every ritual and are a kind of vow; they are:


May all sentient beings gain happiness with its causes,

Be parted from all grief with its causes,

Not become parted from the happiness wherein no grief is,

And dwell in the condition of Equanimity.


Besides these, there are the five common vows which are very important:


Though sentient beings are countless, we vow to save them.

Though sorrows are endless, we vow to cut them off.

Though Dharma-gates are numberless, we vow to learn them all.

Though Bodhi is boundless, we vow to traverse it.

Though Buddhas are infinite in number, we vow to worship them all.


Sometimes the last one is not given and they are then called the "Four Vows." They are also known as the "Bodhicitta Vows" (mentioned in App. III, A, 3, and App, III, E. Conclusion).


It is not enough to want to save every person in one's own time, age, world, family, etc. If one truly wants to be a bodhisattva, one's own vows should be developed to save all, regardless of time and space. One should not always merely follow the common vows.


Why do you think that the Pure Lands of so many Buddhas are different? It is because of the difference in their vows, since the lands they bring into existence are in accordance with these vows. As the vows of the bodhisattvas of the past are not enough for a meditator's own practice, thus it is necessary, once one's own are established, to aid fellow-yogis in formulating their own.


Vows apply to this life


(As the listener said: "May I give so many robes to bhiksus; may I build so many monasteries; may I support so many meditators; etc.")


or to future lives. As you are aiming at Full Enlightenment, vows should not be limited to this life when a meditator may or may not gain Buddhahood. Precisely what one is aiming at is this: from this human body to become a Buddha. This is most important and should never be forgotten. The function of this attainment is the production of a Pure Land . One may vow that it should occur in the far distant future or not, just as one wishes. It may or may not be in this life, though the Vajrayana says that attainment is always in this life. (Which other one could it be in?)


Concluding from the point of view of the three yanas: One should vow to get rid of all sorrow—this is in the Hinayana spirit; and one should vow to help all others—this is a Mahayana vow. Such vows as these must accord with the different yana's doctrines; for instance, it would be un-Buddhist to vow to become a creator God! Thirdly, we must know the functions of Buddhahood and make vows to produce things which we wish to have in our Pure Land , though these must agree with the principles of Vajrayana. Suppose that one wishes: May there be no females in my Pure Land ! This is not according to Vajrayana practice, though even Amitabha's Sukhavati is like this. This is because Sukhavati is produced by the merits of the Nirmanakaya who is always shown in a monk's robes. The Sambhogakaya Amitabha has a Land where in splendour he is attended by sixty-four sisters and on this account is based the "sister samadhi" practiced in Japan . It is not good to make vows excluding women from one's Pure Land . To worship the numberless Buddhas, as one has vowed to do, one might set out from Sukhavati and come to Lands where there were many females—then how would one control the mind if it could not be done in the seclusion of Sukhavati!


I have made nine no-death vows, and this idea is not permissible in the exoteric yanas, being contrary to the teachings of impermanence there. With these vows I aim to get in this life a wisdom-light body in which to accomplish numberless Bodhi-karmas. Whenever it is obtained it will, of course, be in this life.


Now I want to introduce my Ten Fundamental Vows to readers:


(1) May I abide in the highest mystic Buddha stage to reward with gratitude the four benefactors (the guru, the Buddha, parents, and one's patrons—sometimes the last one is all sentient beings).

(2) May I abide in the non-self nature of Dharma to save all the beings in the three evil realms of existence (of hell-beings, animals, and ghosts).

(3) May I gather the victorious and perfect light of the Dharmakaya and thereby attain a body of light like a rainbow.

(4) May I, from life to life, accumulate the voice of dharani of anuttarayoga.

(5) May I, from life to life, accumulate the highest will of Buddhahood.

(6) May I, with my meditative wisdom-light, lure all the demons and non-Buddhists into the Dharma-gate.

(7) Those persons who have no connecting conditions, either good or bad, with past Buddhas—may I establish good connections with them as they are the most difficult to save, and through their connection with me, may I save them. (This is a very special vow.)

(8) May I inherit the merits of the past Buddhas and may this force enable me to discover the Dharmakaya of sentient beings.

(9) May I establish on my ground of wisdom the right Dharma, accumulating the merits and abilities of Buddhahood for universal salvation.

(10) May I, in this lifetime, gather all the realizations of the Vajrayana to have enough experience to teach all followers.


These vows were made at the age of twenty-five. When I made them, I recited them one by one in front of Wei Tuo and then worshipped him, asking him to protect my vows. I was very much inspired by him at this time. Afterwards, I worshipped the Buddha and asked him to witness my aspiration. As there is a statue of the guardian god Wei Tuo in every Chinese temple, so in each one I have asked him for his help.


My guru, Nuo Na Rinpoche, went to Mount Lu and was impressed by the favorable aspect of the place. He saw there eight small mountains like lions, and so instructed that, after his death, his ashes should be brought to that place and a pagoda built there to enshrine them. After a few years he died and Gangkar Rinpoche duly brought the remains and established the pagoda. At this time I had just written out my vows on blue silk with a special red medicine-ink. As my guru's heart remained unburned, a silk pocket was made for it and the heart together with my vows were placed inside and these relics were then enshrined in the center of the pagoda. What a fortunate circumstance that these vows might be preserved with my guru's holy remains! Shortly after this, the Japanese Army came, destroying many things. Many small stupas suffered from their pillaging, but this great pagoda still remained intact. After that, the Communists arrived, but even they, though destroying many Buddhist monuments and temples, have left my guru's reliquary alone.


I am indeed sorry that my vows are still so far from realization. I have made no progress and so also, I have not repaid the kindness of all my gurus.


Every man has his own special ideas regarding vows. My special vows are numbers six and seven. When I read that the Buddhas cannot save those who have no connecting conditions with them, I cried out in sorrow. I thought then: "I must make a vow about this." So many Buddhas have passed and yet they have not been able to save so many unfortunate beings who are without even an evil connecting condition. Even with such a bad condition, people may be saved. There was, for instance, the officer who persecuted Padmasambhava. When that officer died, he was reborn in one of the hells. But because he had established some connection, when Yeshe Tsogyal, Padmasambhava's consort, found out that he was in hell she was able to rescue the unfortunate officer and effect his salvation. A good condition is good, but a bad connecting condition is better than none. An aspiration to save those with no connecting condition is not to be seen among the ancient vows. Certainly there are many things to do as a bodhisattva, but this particularly is my great work.


Vows must always be remembered and never forgotten. If one forgets them, they cease to be vows.


Mr. Chen then told the listener and transcriber: "You have read many books and have a good foundation of Buddhist knowledge, so you can make some vows. You practice Buddhadharma as well, so you, too, must formulate some. Most people cannot make them as they lack the necessary knowledge and neophytes easily make the wrong sort of vows."


2. What are the five signs of a Buddha-body and their significance in Vajrayana ritual and meditation? Are they the same as those described at Ch. XII, F?


Regarding these five signs, we have described them, but we should perhaps say that there are two ways of practicing them. The first is by the foolish monk, who quickly runs through the text and never meditates, even though the instructions are there. He only recites the details of the meditations! He is only a professional chanter doing his pujas for money or food. You may hear him rapidly murmuring some words he does not understand. "Ta…ta ta… ta… voidness!" It is quite common in this way of "practice" to omit whole sentences or even pages!


The second method is that of the earnest meditator secluded in some cave or hermitage. He does not omit anything, but faithfully endeavors to practice whatever instructions are contained in the text.


The yogatantras are, in Tibet , usually treated in the first way and few there practice the proper methods.


3. Some say that Vajrayana corresponds to the tenth bhumi; do you agree? This view would imply that one has first to traverse bhumis one to nine. (See Ch. X, Part Two, J.)


In Ogmin (Akanistha) the bodhisattvas there are at least on the eighth stage and as they listen to the preaching of the Sambhogakaya Buddhas, come directly to the third initiation of anuttarayoga practice. This they can do because they have the Dharma-patience of the Non-born. But, by the Buddha's grace, on this earth the standards have been reduced, and he has set forth the Hinayana and the Mahayana within the Diamond Vehicle.


In the first case, the eighth stage is very hard to realize, and when one has it, this very special patience is one of the accompanying merits. Where there is such complete sublimation, the Vajrayana may very well be studied. Here, we are not in such a heaven, but by the blessings of Gautama Buddha we may practice Vajrayana if we have settled all the preparations in due order, even though we are not eighth-stage bodhisattvas. Of course, we may use the Mahayana sunyata sublimation, but going along in this way will take a very, very long time to complete Perfect Enlightenment. Using the Vajrayana, time will be shortened as our methods are more direct. By mantra, mudra and other Vajrayana devices, we may in this life directly touch the Great Perfection.


Ten stages are recognized in exoteric Buddhism, but above these lie some other special stages in which the four voidnesses and the four blisses are identified. Even though one has not passed the Mahayana stages, but is very wise and diligent in practice, then Full Enlightenment may be won, though every stage may not be seen very clearly. Which way one proceeds depends on experience.


4. Is there any objection to completely closing the eyes while meditating? (See Ch. II, A, 4.)


The Tian Tai School stress very much that the neophyte must close them, but in my opinion this is not certain. If a person's mind is more disturbed than sleepy, then he should close or half-close them, to be rid of disturbance. Again, if a meditator chooses an inside point for his concentration, such as the navel or at the tip of the nose, then he should close his eyes. If the tendency to sleepiness is more than that of disturbance, then open them fully. When sleepiness is so persistent that it is hard to dispel, then stare, stretching the eyes open. When the body is tired the eyes should be half-open. This matter is not fixed, therefore, and the meditator should do whatever is necessary for the good of his samatha-practice.


If one is practicing the samapatti on Mahamudra and one wishes to abide in the Enlightened Entity, then closed eyes are never recommended. Why? Because the inner light, the channels of which are two special channels coming to the eyes; and the outer light of the sun, together with the light of the samapatti of voidness—all these three lights must be identified in voidness. If there is no wind, go outside and sit upon a mountain, opening eyes widely and leaning back a little to gain the maximum light from the blue sky. This is a practice of Mahamudra and Great Perfection, in which open eyes are essential.


Again, there is a Thodgal practice of Mahamudra which resembles the seven-day Great Perfection. It is, however, to be practiced in the darkness of a hermitage. One should put a black stone on the ground and visualize the sunyata light coming from this and then lure it into the body. Before this occurs, the eyes must be open, but once it is inside then they should be closed.


For the seven-day practice, the eyes must also be closed. We see from these examples that this question should be decided according to the purport of the meditation.


In ordinary practice, if one's samatha is very good, then the eyes may be opened. Even in sleep we notice that some have their eyes open. This reminds me of a story:


During the time of the Three Dynasties in China , among the three states one was called "Shu." At the head of the army of Shu was a very learned marshal named "Chang Fei." His brother died, and so in remembrance of him, he wished in his next battle to wear a suit of white armor. Only three days remained for the armor to be made, and so the marshal instructed the blacksmith to finish the work within this time or he would cut his head off. The blacksmith was in great fear, wondering how to make the armor so quickly, and fearing also the loss of his head. Then he thought: "He is threatening to cut off my head, why should I not cut off his first?" So he hired a murderer. That man went at night to the marshal's room. There he saw Chang Fei lying down quite still but with his eyes wide open. He did not, therefore, dare to approach. Waiting, he saw that the marshal did not move so he came a little closer. The marshal did not see him. Then hearing a snore, he knew that he was asleep and quickly cut off his head. Even while dead the eyes continued staring. Sleeping with eyes open is a sign of a man of anger.


It is a bad doctrine where rules are a hard and fast certainty. Students of yoga must distinguish this matter by their own wisdom, and by their own self-examination use whatever is beneficial.


5. Is it correct to say that in the Hinayana, "samadhi" is used in the sense of Mr. Chen's "samatha"? (See Ch. III, B.)


"Samadhi" is a common term applied to a number of meanings, such as dhyana, samatha, and even may be used to describe the meditative states experienced by non-Buddhists. We have already settled for the highest sense of the word (Full Enlightenment).


It is necessary to decide what one means by terms with such a wide range of meanings. The Hinayana, for instance, speaks of all the dhyanas of form and the four of formlessness as being samadhis. Even between these two groups there are considerable differences:




Pure states of samatha

Some samapatti present

Only stopping and never thinking of philosophy

Some visualization and thinking of these spheres



In the Hinayana, these may be called "samadhi," for the Buddha was using the Brahmanical terms which his listeners might understand. Our book, however, is according to the teachings of the Sandhinirmocana Sutra, which has settled all these states and their names in a very good order, though this sutra is predominantly idealist in its exposition. In Maitreya's sastras, the same principle is followed as in the Lord's teachings in this sutra.


6. Are all visualizations of deities in the anuttarayoga connected with the first initiation?


Yes, the main practice of the first initiation of anuttarayoga is visualization, though in the third yoga, visual practices are also found.


In the first initiation, the visualization is "outside"; in the second it is "inside" and may be a dakini but not in the double (heruka) form; while in the third initiation practice, the visualized form is always in yogic union.


There are four main practices in Vajrayana: mantra-repetition, visualization, deep-breathing, and Mahamudra. According to these four, in the first initiation, repeating and visualizing are most important. After practicing this for many years and becoming well matured and realized, it is said that a spiritually great lama may, when going out riding, place his left foot in the stirrup and the growing yoga of the first initiation is finished; swinging his right foot over into the other stirrup, the yoga of perfection (second and third initiation doctrines) is accomplished. So quick may attainment be! But for this, the preparations must have been very well carried out.


In the second initiation, the most important practice is deep breathing, and in the third, one uses this breathing in conjunction with vajra-love. If there is not success in deep breathing, there will be no attainment in vajra-love. In the fourth initiation, most important is the tathata of Mahamudra.


7. How should the yidam be selected? What Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, etc. may function as yidams?


8. What is the relationship between meditation on one's yidam and on some other deity?


9. Does one meditate upon the yidam invariably in a wrathful or invariably in a peaceful form? Does one stick to form of the yidam?


10. Does one keep to one yidam throughout one's practice of all four yogas?


11. Are meditations on the yidam all of the same type, or is there a different type for each Yidam?


Firstly, how to select the yidam.


a. One commonly used method is for the lama to have some dice and by shaking these determine with a book on divination which yidam to select for a disciple. The disciple kneels and takes out the dice and the yidam is decided accordingly. This is the lowest method and similar to those used by non-Buddhists.


b. Another way is for the disciple to be given a stick or flower and then, standing outside the mandala, to throw it inside. This mandala has the Tathagata family at the center, while to the East is vajra-family, in the South, Jewel-, West, Lotus-, and to the North is the Karma-family. All yidams are associated with one of these five families. This method may show which department is suitable for a disciple; for example, a meek person may get a yidam of the Vajra-family, or an angry man one from the Lotus-family. Still, this method is open to several objections. Firstly, each initiation has a special yidam, so the question of yidam is not settled properly. Again, the yidam will not be the same every time, as its selection may be influenced by one's faith; not being settled, this is bound to be rather unsatisfactory. Also, it may create uncertainty in one's mind and thus disturb one's practice.


c. Most Vajrayanists have taken many initiations and therefore many yidams are possible for them. A devoted practitioner may want to choose a definite yidam and he should do this according to what he thinks is suitable for his temperament. I, too, have taken many wangs and after each one I found its meditation suitable for my practice, and therefore I was worried as to which deity to choose as yidam. At last I dreamed of the Karmapa, who instructed me to go to him; otherwise, he would depart for Lhasa . I went to him immediately and with his advice I settled this problem. I told him that I had practiced this and that yidam and got good results with all of them. The Karmapa said, "I shall see what is best for you." The next morning he told me what he had seen. Then in my dreams I saw that deity embracing a boy—and that boy was me. Since then, I have not changed my tutelary god (Yidam).


d. One may ask a guru who has supernormal powers; then he may settle which is the disciple's yidam in a dream or by his meditative light. This last way is the best and highest.


Relationship with the yidam:


Suppose one chooses Tara as yidam, then one must always visualize oneself as Tara when practicing the sadhanas of other deities. Not only this, the relationship between the yidam and other deities must be known so that they may be placed accordingly—for instance, protectors appear below the deity. If both the yidam and the deity to be visualized are in the same family, then they should be seen in their correct positions, as when Avalokitesvara or Amitabha are visualized on the head of Tara .


The consort of Mahakala is Sri Devi, but she is also the protectress of Tara , so she always remains below the Lotus-throne of that yidam. Again, if one practices with Amitabha, while the yidam is White Tara, the two must be seen in heruka-form, White Tara embracing Amitayus.


Four things must be possessed:


a. Lama: the teacher or guru. From among one's teachers one selects a root-guru who should be identified also with a great spiritual teacher such as Tsong-khapa or Padmasambhava.


b. Yidam: tutelary deity. Determine this from the guru, as his yidam is usually selected. Single forms of a yidam will save one from many dangers, but those in union with a dakini should be taken to accomplish Full Enlightenment.


c. Khandroma: consort or dakini. Selected according to one's yidam. All the yidams in anuttarayoga have a dakini embraced in the heruka-form.


d. Dharmapala: In the histories of the various deities preserved in sutra-form, we find recorded the vows of different gods to protect the yidams. The latter may have more than one protector.


Additionally, four things must be known in the Tantra and their importance recognized:


a. Root of Bestowal (initiation, wang, abhiseka): This is the guru.


b. Root of Achievement or Accomplishment: This is the yidam.


c. Root of Sunyata and Bliss: This is the dakini. This is most important—I have always emphasized this! First one should make oneself like the dakini (through visualization) and then the yidam will quickly be attracted. It is the same as among human beings! The dakini, representing prajna, is like the mother of truth (Prajnaparamita herself) and without this quality, how can one realize sunyata? It is therefore very important to know how to make the dakini happy. In my essay on this subject, I have made a special point-by-point worship of her "physical" body. Most hymns only praise her spiritual qualities and heavenly symbolic ornaments but the root of pleasure is in the physical body and sunyata alone can penetrate it. Thus these two factors are very completely balanced. By praising only the spirit, realization may be one-sided on the side of sunyata alone.


d. Root of Karmic Salvation: This is the protector. If one does not possess this, then one has no power to save sentient beings. It was mentioned as important also by the gurus of old.


By these four you may know the status of a guru. First ask a lama: "Who is your yidam, dakini and protector? Then you will know all his Dharma-treasure. If you search earnestly and with right intention to get this treasure from the guru, he will give it. Moreover, one should get the wang of his yidam—it is sure that in these meditations he will be well practiced and be able to give good guidance for one's own practice.


Bhante then said: "We are finding out all your little tricks and secrets!" Replied Mr. Chen: "I do like to offer them to you!"


The Form of the Yidam


Whether a wrathful or a peaceful form of the yidam is selected will be according to one's own choice or that of one's guru; with either form, one may gain Enlightenment in this life. It is not a case of "one good and one bad," as some have misconceived. In case there are many forms of the yidam, as there usually are, one form only may be taken as yidam. That many forms may have the same name does not mean that they are all the same in practice. For instance, of the bodhisattva Tara there are twenty-one forms and each possesses quite a different mantra. Once a peaceful or a wrathful form is chosen as yidam, one must only worship that one as the yidam. One may also practice other forms of the same deity, but these cannot be the yidam.


A meditator may have the same yidam throughout all four initiations of anuttarayoga. In the lower three yogas there is only a method of offering to one particular Buddha (etc.) who is "outside" oneself; this differs from the highest yoga where oneself becomes the yidam.


Although these two may seem similar, in fact, the yidam only appears in the first initiation of the fourth yoga, and Tibetan works never talk about yidam in the lower three yogas where there is just devotion to one particular spiritual figure.


Some of these deities have no heruka-form and such is Green Tara. If she is one's yidam, it is good for the first initiation and she may again be worshiped in single form in the fourth initiation; but in the third, the yidam must be in heruka-form. Of course, there is no reason why Green Tara should not be seen with a partner and if one is really skilled in meditation, she might be seen in this way, though traditionally she is single. In this case another form of Tara may be practiced in the Third Initiation (such as White Tara).


12. What are the signs and characteristics we should look for in a meditation guru in each of the three yanas? How may one tell a true guru from a false one?


Regarding this question, there are no references in ancient sources and so I have composed this reply according to our Buddhist philosophy.


a. The signs of a good Hinayana guru are:


i. He has practiced the twelve dhutagunas (see Ch. VIII, C, 2), and from his conduct we see that his Vinaya is very good.

ii. He does not like to gather many disciples.

iii. He does not collect many worldly objects, even though these may be permitted according to the Vinaya.

iv. Even in his old age, he still lives among mountains or amid forests.

v. He does not like to read books or to give preaching—he always meditates.

vi. The five poisons are reduced in him.

vii. He has the compassionate concern for persons and for Dharma-conditions but not the compassion of the same entity of non-condition.


b. The marks of a Mahayana guru:


i. He has the Great Compassion of the Same Entity.

ii. He has made great vows.

iii. He does every good thing without becoming tired.

iv. He possesses courage and perseverance.

v. He likes to guide disciples.

vi. He is skilled in explaining the Dharma-teaching of sunyata and knows both its nature and conditions.

vii. Also, he has skill in discussion to subdue the outsiders.

viii. He has written some books according to right view and his own experience.

ix. He has carefully and thoroughly read Hinayana and Mahayana sutras and their commentaries (in both Chinese and Tibetan collections).

x. He knows well the facts relating to at least two countries (to enable him to preach the Dharma effectively).


Mr. Chen exclaimed, "You have them all!" At which both listener and transcriber protested.


c. Conditions of a capable Vajrayana guru:


i. He has accumulated the first two yanas' conditions but may not completely maintain them.

ii. He has the initiation and tradition of both the old (Nyingmapa, Sakyapa, etc.) and the new sect (Gelugpa) of Tibet .

iii. He has the great bodhicitta with special knowledge of the fifth bodhicitta.

iv. He has been a hermit for at least ten years—or better twelve.

v. He has seen his own yidam.

vi. He has practiced at least the second initiation and has experienced the signs of opening of the median channel.

vii. At least he has tried to practice the third initiation with a visualized dakini.

viii. He has seen the holy light of the Dharmakaya.

ix. Enough merit has been accumulated by him to develop and maintain certain favorable Dharma-conditions, such as health, long life and wealth—and these enable him to give initiations.

x. He has read and knows well the Tripitaka of Tibet and also knows and speaks Chinese, Pali, Sanskrit, and English. These qualifications are specially important in this age. Without a great effort to learn them, he can speak every language.

xi. He is able to distinguish rightly the characteristics of any Dharma-instrument and what will be suitable for him—which yoga, initiation, etc.

xii. He possesses supernormal powers and has received doctrines directly from the Buddhas, dakinis and protectors.

xiii. He observes a strictly vegetarian diet if he is a guru of the first three yogas. For Amitabha, Avalokitesvara and Tara, even in anuttarayoga, meat is never taken on the days of their pujas or when giving their initiations. For the ritual of other deities, however, it is usual with anuttarayoga practice to take meat.

xiv. He is skilled not only in giving the initiation (wang) but also in conferring the permission to read a text (lung), and most important, in the explanation (tri).


d. A False Guru:


i. One who knows the Hinayana Tipitaka (for instance a monk of the Theravada), but who at the same time rebukes the Mahayana. Such is a kind of false guru and not a Hinayana guru in the sense of our book, not a Hinayana-in-triyana teacher!


ii. Next is one who recognizes both the sutras of the Hinayana and of the Mahayana but criticizes the esoteric Vajrayana. He is also a false guru, according to our whole system.


iii. Following from the last is one who knows the three yanas but speaks harshly about Chan—he is again false.


Mr. Chen then recognized that language difficulties have in the past been responsible for many misunderstandings between different schools. "Now," he said, "there are many translations and this excuse is hardly valid any longer. Despite this, our age has many false gurus of the above three types and it is indeed difficult to find a real one."


iv. The last knows the three yanas and has a knowledge of Chan but his defect is to keep some "Mouth Chan." For lack of realization in this respect, we must also label him a false guru.


e. If such complete conditions are gathered in one person, how is one to get such a guru?


i. First one must get a personal and living guru in a physical body. From him, the mantra and mudra may be obtained, for the tradition of them is still maintained and handed down. Choose a comparatively good guru who is complete in at least some of the above respects, even though he is not perfect in all of them.


ii. From him, get all the instructions and practices. Then the meditator, to achieve the highest goal, should make the guru identified with the yidam, and for the quickest results make the yidam into the guru. After this, practice for a long time and then a real guru will come, to be seen in the practitioner's dream or meditative light (nimitta). The guru will appear in a human body and may appear to fly into the nimitta from India , as happened in the case of many Tibetan sages and about which we may read in their biographies.


Another identification which follows from the above is to have the guru-yidam identified with an ancient Enlightened teacher such as Milarepa. If one succeeds in practicing in this way, then that guru of old will appear as a voice or be seen in a dream and directly give one instructions.


Fundamentally, our guru is Gautama Buddha, who is now abiding in nirvana. If we practice enough to gain a deep sunyata realization and develop compassion—then why should he not appear as our guru?


In the West, a good guru in the flesh is hard to meet, and so one should take an image of Gautama or Milarepa, even if it is only made of paper, and worship it sincerely. As a result of such devotion, images have been known to speak clearly on the subject of meditation, either in the light of one's practice or during dreams.


There was once an Indian teacher who engaged in debate with another. The latter felt certain that he could defeat the teacher. Sure enough, the former met with defeat but prayed earnestly that night to the stone image of Tara . She then instructed him and that image's arms even moved into a teaching mudra. This image is famous and may still be seen in the unusual mudra which it used to teach him the answers. The teacher was victorious the next day, using the methods he had been given to defeat his opponent.


Thus the instructions we receive and the gurus we get depend on our devotion. We should not worry about getting a guru but only about our own merits and meditation. We should ask ourselves whether we are fit for a real guru or not. If we do not gain a good teacher, then it is not his fault, for the grace of ancient gurus is always here. For instance, Padmasambhava, who never died, promised before his departure from this world to come on the tenth of every lunar month wherever he was worshipped. Many times he has appeared in my dreams and given many holy instructions, together with his divine consort Yeshe Tsogyal to aid him on the occasion of a wang (initiation). So, if we continue long without a teacher, we should know that the answer lies within ourselves: we are not yet ready to be able to profit from his presence. What we have to do is clear: not passively to accept this situation, but to strive earnestly to make ourselves fit for practice under a teacher.



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[Related works: The Four Foundations of Tibetan Tantra  Buddhist Problems Answered]