001 The relations between the three vehicles of Bodhi


AMITOFO

Today for the first time, the True Enlightenment Education Association introduces the content of Buddhism practice and realization through a video program. We have made a series of programs this time, hoping to explain the profound “three-vehicle Bodhi” to you in simple language. Due to the profound content of three-vehicle Bodhi and the limited time, we sincerely hope that you can watch it with patience and that you can carefully think after watching. We also welcome people from all sectors to discuss it with us. Some may say that Buddhism consists of “five vehicles”. Why do you talk just about three vehicles That is true. Buddhism is truly composed of five vehicles: human vehicle, deva vehicle, sound-hearer (Sravaka) vehicle, solitary-realizer (Pratyeka) vehicle, and Buddha Bodhi vehicle. Other religions and spiritual development groups all teach people how to change their fate. For example, one suffers a hardship and hopes to improve his fate within this lifetime. They teach people how to be reborn to heavens after death, for human world is short of material resources; if one can be born to heavens, where the material resources are profuse, he can live a happy life.

However, regardless of changing fate or reincarnating in heavens, they fail to change the biggest fate: the fate of transmigrating in the cycle of birth and death. The biggest difficulty all sentient beings have is how to avoid the fate of transmigrating in the cycle of births-and-deaths. If we can liberate ourselves from the cycle of births-and-deaths within a lifetime, we can definitely achieve the simple goal of changing fate or being reborn to heavens as well. As we can see, if we obtain the liberation wisdom in Buddhism within this lifetime, we can also accomplish other comparatively simple goals. If one has liberation wisdom, his fate, good or bad, and the place where he was born, the human world or the heavens, will not impede his final liberation. Take sound-hearers for example, if transmigrating between the human world and the heavens seven times after realizing the first fruit, he will obtain the ultimate liberation. No matter where he was born, the human world or the heavens, this will not affect his state of final realization. This is why we will talk only about the content of three vehicles. Because we have limited time, we will not elaborate on the content of human vehicle and deva vehicle. We, True Enlightenment Education Association, have set up many lecturing places throughout the major cities in Taiwan, providing two-year Chan-pure course. If you want to further understand the content of human vehicle and deva vehicle, welcome to the lecturing places to register for the course.

Apart from these five vehicles, there is another especially established Dharma-Gate called “Pure Land Dharma.” Due to the limitation of time, we can not introduce it today. If anyone wants to understand how to be reborn to all Buddhas’pure lands, please refer to the book “Stages in Learning Buddha-Remembrance Samadhi” by Venerable Pings Xiao. This book introduces in detail how to gather merits and virtues of faith, vows, and practice. We also welcome whoever wants to be reborn to pure lands to come to our lecturing places for getting this book free of charge.If all Bodhisvattvas want to have further understanding of the content of five vehicles and pure land dharma, welcome to our lecturing places for study and discussion.

Now, let’s talk about the relations between the three vehicles. Before this, let’s see that Buddha Sakyamuni got enlightened and saw the Buddha-nature under the Bodhi tree, attaining the Buddhahood 2,500 years ago. To begin with, we need to know which vehicle He practiced The answer is obviously the “Buddha Bodhi vehicle". That is, when Buddha Sakyamuni accomplished the Buddhahood under the Bodhi tree, what He had practiced is “Buddha Bodhi vehicle.” “Mahapadana Sutta” in Agama Sutras, we can see that the reason why Buddha Sakyamuni could attain the Buddhahood is becauseHe followed the footsteps of all Buddhas.

The sutra also speaks of Bodhisvattva Vipayin, like Buddha Sakyamuni, who left home and became a monastic monk after observing the sufferings of birth, aging, illness, and death. He practiced the “Bodhisvattva’s way” and then attained the Buddhahood. Obviously, Buddha could attain the Buddhahood because he practiced the “Bodhisvattva’s way.” As we can see, when Buddha Sakyamuni attained the Buddhahood under the Bodhi tree, there already existed the Bodhisvattva’s way of Great-Vehicle. However, some argued that Buddha Sakyamuni, after his attaining the Buddhahood, preached sound-hearer vehicle, solitary realizer vehicle and then Great-Vehicle. Therefore, some think Great Vehicle was created after sound-hearer vehicle and solitary realizer vehicle. Actually, it is completely the opposite. After Buddha Sakyamuni attained the Buddhahood, He observed it is too difficult to accomplish the goal of attaining the Buddhahood in this evil time of five turbidities. Therefore, he set up these five stages, preaching human vehicle, deva vehicle, sound-hearer vehicle, solitary-realizer vehicle and Great vehicle chronologically.

As a result, in Agama Sutra, if Buddha wants to teach a person, He will preach him treatise on giving, treatise on percepts, and treatise on deva. If one can accept these teachings, Buddha will further explain sound-hearer bodhi and solitary-realizer bodhi to him. At last, Buddha will preach him Great Vehicle.Therefore, we can understand that the prime goal for Buddha preached human vehicle, deva vehicle, sound-hearer vehicle and solitary-realizer vehicle is to pave the way for the sentient beings in this evil world of five turbidities to attain the Buddhahood. We can understand that Buddha Bodhi vehicle existed before the so-called human vehicle, deva vehicle, sound-hearer vehicle and solitary-realizer vehicle. Some may think that the sound-hearer vehicle and solitary-realizer vehicle existed before the Great Vehicle. This is a wrong concept! Why This is because the fact that Buddha Sakyamuni was capable of preaching human vehicle, deva vehicle, sound-hearer vehicle, and solitary-realizer vehicle after attaining the Buddhahood means that the Buddha Bodhi Vehicle itself is comprised of the former four vehicles.If the Buddha Bodhi vehicle didn’t consist of the former four vehicles, how could Buddha preach the content of the former four vehicles As we can see, if Buddha has the ability to preach the content of human vehicle, deva vehicle, sound-hearer vehicle and solitary-realizer vehicle,it is because Buddha Bodhi vehicle contains the former four vehicles.As a consequence, we can know that Buddha Bodhi vehicle existed before the other four vehicles. This is the way Buddha paved for us to attain Buddhahood after his attaining the Buddhahood.

Some also argued that Great Vehicle thrived after the split of original Buddhism to different schools. That is, Great Vehicle Buddhism was completed after the Sectarian Buddhism. However, this assumption is fallacious. Let’s think about it! It seems illogical that Buddha Sakyamuni who has already attained the Buddhahood did not preach the way to Buddhahood while Bodhisvattvas who have not attained the Buddhahood preached the way to Buddhahood. It is just like those who have come back from America failed to tell people the ways to go there while those who have not been to America can tell people the ways to go there. This is irrational!The truth is that the Great Vehicle which thrived after the Sectarian Buddhism did not thrive from sound-hearer Sectarian Buddhism; instead, it was revived by the Bodhisvattvas who do not belong to sound-hearer Sectarian Buddhism. Actually, it was not the first time it was revived; actually, it was the second time. The first revival of Great Vehicle was when Buddha Sakyamuni preached the Great Vehicle right after human vehicle, deva vehicle, sound-hearer vehicle and solitary-realizer vehicle. The time after Buddha preached the Great Vehicle became the first prosperity period of the Great Vehicle. The ultimate goal of practicing and learning Buddhism is to attain the Buddhahood. This goal is too far for people to reach. Some people who learned the sound-hearer vehicle and solitary-realizer vehicle did not continue to learn the Great Vehicle due to their narrow mind. Therefore, the Great Vehicle began to wane. At that time, Buddha Sakyamuni noticed this problem; thus, in Great Vehicle sutras, He scolded those who only practiced Small Vehicle.

If people learned and practiced sound-hearer vehicle and solitary-realizer vehicle but stopped and were reluctant to advance to the way to Buddhahood, Buddha as well as Bodhisvattvas would reprimand them and call them “small vehicle people” or “ scorched buds and rotten seeds” which means the buds and seeds for attaining the Buddhahood have already scorched and rotten. This is the reprimand for small vehicle people. If those saints who practice and learn Small Vehicle continue their way to the Buddhahood, they are called the Bodhisvattvas of general teaching school. That is, what they learned consists of Small Vehicle. Because they turn to Great Vehicle, they belong to the Bodhisvattvas of general teaching school. If these Bodhisvattvas learn and practice Buddha Bodhi Vehicle, turning from Small Vehicle to Great Vehicle and further get enlightened and see the Buddha-Nature, they are called the Bodhisvattvas of Buddha's particular or special transmission.Because what he has practiced and realized is different from sound-hearer vehicle and solitary-realizer vehicle. Therefore, we can know that Buddha reprimanded those who only learned sound-hearer vehicle and solitary-realizer vehicle, stopping and refusing to go on as Small Vehicle people.Similarly, if those who learned and practiced human vehicle and deva vehicle, staying at these two stages and refusing to advance to three-vehicle bodhi, they deserve more reprimand than Small Vehicle people.Based on this, we can learn that other four vehicles only exist under the condition of the prior existence of Great Vehicle in Buddhism. As we can see, if Buddha wants us to just liberate from the cycle of births- and-deaths, He, in fact, will not have to preach the solitary-realizer vehicle because sentient beings can liberate themselves from the cycle of births-and-deaths by His teaching of sound-hearer vehicle. Why did Buddha have to preach solitary-realizer vehicle That is because the wisdom that sound-hearer learned is too narrow and their mind is too narrow, too.Therefore, after teaching the practice of sound-hear vehicle, Buddha also taught five monks to practice solitary-realizer vehicle. If Buddha had only hoped people liberate from the cycle of births-and-deaths at that time, He would not have had to teach them solitary- realizer vehicle. The reason that Buddha further preached solitary-realizer vehicle is because it could help sentient beings acquire better wisdom to understand this world, eventually advancing the way to Buddhahood. Consequently, we can know that among the five vehicles, the establishment of human vehicle and deva vehicle is served as a ladder by Buddha to teach people to achieve the final way to Buddhahood.

Based on this, we can learn that other four vehicles only exist under the condition of the prior existence of Great Vehicle. We can also support this from another point of view. After Buddha Sakyamuni attained the Buddhahood and eventually entered nirvana, He did not give his position to the arhats. Instead, He said that Bodhisattva Maitreya will be the next Buddha. This means that He will not assure the future attainment of Buddhahood until Bodhisattva Maitreya attains the Buddhahood.From this, we can know that the realizing state of arhats does not equal to that of Buddhas. In addition, their realizing state is greatly different from that of Buddhas because the former four vehicles comprise only a small part of Buddha Bodhi Vehicle. Thus, we need to know the interrelations between three vehicles and each stage, from the human vehicle to Buddha Bodhi vehicle.

Next, we will go on to discuss one important point: Is there any core essence shared between the three vehicles The answer is absolutely yes. There is a core essence shared between the three vehicles and this core essence is the “eight-Vijnanas". All living beings have these eight vijnanas, namely, eye-vijnana, ear-vijnana, nose-vijnana, tongue-vijnana, body-vijnana, the conscious mind, root of the conscious mind [Manas], and the eighth vijnana, also called Tathagatagarbha or Alayavijnana . For instance, we feel full because we eat. It is impossible for one thing to happen: we eat but others feel full and vice versa.This is the basic and easy relation of cause and effect we can understand. Let’s think about it: we may have many intricate relations with others in the human world. Take killing for example, two people fought during a dark night. One killed the other by shooting a bullet. However, the killer could not recognize the dead by using his six senses. He had no idea who he had killed. Similarly, the dead didn’t know who killed him because he had been dead and his six senses failed to know who the killer was. From this example, we can know that besides the six minds, there should exist other minds so that the cause and effect can come into being. Were there only six minds, the cause and effect of the mundane world could not be formed.There should be other minds except the six minds so that the cause and effect can be explained. Likewise, when we practice and learn the three vehicles, the cause and effect of the transmundane world should conform to this principle. Thus, the eighth vijnana plays an important role in learning and practicing three vehicles and it is the core essence we are going to talk about.

In three vehicles, the eighth vijnana, Tathagatagarbha has many different names. In sound-hearer vehicle, the eighth vijnana is also called the original mind, the basic vijnana, the ultimate origin, the non-arising dharma, the nirvana, or Alayavijnana. In solitary-realizer vehicle, it is also called the embryo-entering vijnana while in Great Vehicle, it is called true mind, true suchness, Alayavijnana, or the Vipaka vijnana.For example, The Heart Sutra, which we are all very familiar with, talks about which mind As a matter of fact, the mind in The Heart Sutra is the true mind, the eighth vijnana , Alayavijnana. As we can see all the sutras in three vehicles all encompass the eight minds. Some may say: What’s the difference between the eight minds and the six minds Because some have proposed that there are only six minds in Buddhism. There existed thediscrepancy which has been hotly debated for a long time. If there are eight minds in all dharma-realms, we should not only understand the six minds. Instead, we should study whether the seventh vijnana, Manas and the eighth vijnana, Tathagatagarbha really exist or not.If the true mind does exist, we should prove its existence. If it does not exist, we should firmly negate its existence and without it, we still can explain the cause and effect of the mundane world or the transmundance world. From the eight vijnanas in Buddhism, we will progressively study the content of theeight vijnanas As for the content of the realization approach, we will elaborate on it in the following programs.

Now, let’s conclude today’s lesson. In this unit, we explained that there are five vehicles in Buddhism. We introduced the five vehicles which are made of “human and deva vehicle”, “sound-hearer and solitary-realizer vehicle” and “Buddha Bodhi Vehicle.” The four vehicles separated from the Great Vehicle. Then in the three vehicles, the shared core essence is the eight minds, which cover the cause and effect of the mundane world and the transmundane world. We sincerely hope you can study and discuss about the eight minds with us. In the next episode, we will introduce “realization in Buddhism.”


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