002 The realization in Buddhism
The study of Buddhism is not the realization of Buddhism
The education of Buddhism is not the real practice of Buddhism
In the previous unit, we introduced the “relations between three vehicles.” Last time, we also introduced that the goal of practicing and learning Buddhism it to realize the eight vijnanas. The realization of the eight vijnanas covers the whole content of Buddhism. The approach we adopted is the realization method. What is the realization method? It is to find out the eight vijnanas.
In fact, this realization method is applicable to our daily life. For example, there is one fruit called the wax apple, also known as the “black pearl” in Taiwan. Because of its high level of sweetness, it is very popular in Taiwan. If someone wonders how sweet this fruit tastes, the easiest way is to go to the market directly to buy one and taste it. After taking a bite, he will know it. This is what we called the realization method.
Similarly, when talking about the eight vijnanas, we need to find them out directly. In fact, there are methods to find them out. To begin with, we need to stick to the belief that there are eight vijnanas we can realize. Therefore, we need to do the three formulas of refuge (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha) and have merits and virtues, wisdom, and a good level of concentration. Having these conditions is just like having money to buy the “black pearl” in order to realize its level of sweetness. Thus, it seems irrational that one would negate the existence of the “black pearl” simply because he has no money to buy one to taste.
In the eight vijnanas, the eighth vijnana, Tathagatagarbha is just like everyone’s pearl, so it is very precious. Before realizing it, we should be equipped with merits and virtues, wisdom, and a good level of concentration. Once we have all necessary kinds of causes and conditions, we will be able to realize it. For example, we should not learn from some foolish people who don’t believe in the existence of germs just because they can’t see them. To see the germs, one should have a microscope. To see the remote stars or constellations, one should have a telescope. Consequently, we can’t deny the existence of germs and stars just because we don’t have a microscope and a telescope to prove their existence. That is, we need to be equipped with some tools in order to realize the true reality of the dharma-realm. This helps us prove the reality of the dharma-realm. Therefore, to realize Buddhism, we need to use correct methods. This approach is called empirical method.
We may hear someone ask: Why does Buddhism lay so much emphasis on destroying the incorrect teachings and manifesting the correct ones? Why does True Enlightenment Practitioners Association emphasize destroying the incorrect teachings and manifesting the correct ones? It seems that they tend to tell right from wrong,clarifying every dharma. They oppose other groups with harshness. Why can’t they get along with other groups peacefully and harmoniously? In fact, the person, who holds this opinion, misunderstood the realization of Buddhism. It is just like having a kid. When we send the kid to the school, we are worried that he may make bad friends and learn something wrong. Since we are ignorant of what life is, we are supposed to study it. If we are unwilling to study and understand the wisdom and knowledge of life or what we know about it is wrong and does not conform to the reality, how can we obtain liberation?
If one wants to be liberate himself from three realms and attain the Buddhahood, what he learned must conform to the reality of the dharma-realm. He should acquire profound knowledge and wisdom. If not, how can he obtain liberation and further attain the Buddhahood?
In "Increasing-by-One Agama Sutra (Ekottaragama-sutra)", Buddha expounded that he has six dharmas, which He never feels tired of and satisfied with. Among them, the fifth is that He is never tired of and satisfied with protecting sentient beings. That is, Buddha never feels tired of and satisfied with protecting sentient beings from transmigrating in the cycle of births-and-deaths. The sixth dharma which Buddha is never tired of and satisfied with is to pursue the unsurpassed and ultimate wisdom. That is, Buddha is never tired of and satisfied with pursuing the knowledge and wisdom about all dharma-realms. That means, one holds one opinion and the other holds another opinion toward the same thing. Their viewpoints are completely opposite and contradictory to each other. For example, in terms of the controversial issue about the existence of the eighth vijnana, Buddha must make it clear. If Buddha is asked the controversial question regarding whether something exists or not and says that He is completely tolerant of different opinions, it means that Buddha is still ignorant of it. If Buddha still has ignorance, He is unable to attain the Buddhahood. Therefore, Buddha is never tired of and satisfied with pursuing the unsurpassed and ultimate wisdom.
That is, Buddha Sakyamuni can attain the Buddhahood because He is reluctant to make peace with misconceptions (erroneous views). If He can tolerate misconceptions, it means that He himself still has misconceptions and is willing to accept ignorance, thus making him unable to attain the Buddhahood. That is because Buddha has another name called “ total omniscience” which means that He must be the one who totally understands the content of dharma realms. If He is a little uncertain about anything, He is unable to attain the Buddhahood. Buddha Sakyamuni could attain the Buddhahood because He was totally intolerant of any misconceptions. Being unwilling to tolerate misconceptions, Buddha Sakyamuni attained the Buddhahood eventually. Based on this, Buddha hopes all sentient beings will be able to attain the Buddhahood, so He helps sentient beings stay away from misconceptions, saving them from transmigrating to evil paths and further teaching them human vehicle, deva vehicle, sound-hearer vehicle (Sravaka), solitary-realizer vehicle (Pratyeka-buddha) and then the way to the Buddhahood eventually. Therefore, before attaining the Buddhahood, one should have right and universal Knowledge about the reality of the dharma-realm. If he has any misconceptions, he is unable to attain the Buddhahood. This is how Buddha saves and protects sentient beings.
Some may argue that Venerable Pings Xiao doesn’t have a teacher, so who can prove whether he got enlightened or not? This has been a hotly debated issue. Let’s see: What proves Buddha Sakyamuni has attained the Buddhahood? In fact, these two are the same questions. What formally validates Venerable Pings Xiao got enlightened and saw the Buddha-Nature? The answer is the reality of the dharma-realm. Are there eight vijnanas in the dharma-realm? If there are eight vijnanas in the dharma-realm, find them out. That is, reality of the dharma-realm can help to prove our realization. Similarly, after Buddha Sakyamuni attained the Buddhahood 2,500 years ago, non-Buddhists questioned the Buddha by asking Him how he could say that he had attained the Buddhahood.
In "Brahmājala Sutta in the Agama Sutra" , it depicts that in ancient India, there were monastic practitioners and Brahmans practicing the four dhyanas and the eight samadhis and progressively acquiring the five supernatural powers. They could see their previous lives, and even to the extent that they could see countless eons during which they were born and died with many sentient beings. Therefore, these monastic practitioners held a misconception, thinking that the sixth vijnana could be linked to the past lives, and seeing that the physical body existed all the time, so they believed that both the sixth vijnana and the physical body to be eternal. It is true that they could see what had happened during the countless eons. However, how did Buddha Sakyamuni, after attaining the Buddhahood, refuted their wrong conception that the sixth vijnana and the physical body are eternal? In order to refute a wrong conception like this, He helped those who belong to non-Buddhist schools to eliminate misconceptions about the self, making them entitled as arhats. Because they had already practiced the four dhyanas and the eight samadhis, they became arhats right after eliminating their misconceptions about the self. After they became arhats, Buddha gave them the first assurance, assuring that they will not reappear in the three realms after their death. At that time, these monastic practitioners and Brahmans who had mastered the four dhyanas and the eight samadhis checked whether the arhat would reappear in the six paths of rebirth in three realms. Then, they noticed that they couldn’t find the arhat in the three realms. Because of Buddha Sakyamuni’s assurance of what will happen after the arhat’s death, the monastic practitioner of non-Buddhist schools and Brahman couldn’t find the arhat in the three realms, thus making them fully convinced of what Buddha Sakyamuni said and firmly believe that Buddha Sakyamuni has the ability to help them liberate from transmigrating the cycle of births-and-deaths in the three realms. Based on this, Buddha could show people that all sentient beings can liberate from the cycle of births-and-deaths by practicing sound-hearer vehicle. Therefore, the reality of the dharma-realm has validated that Buddha Sakyamuni had attained the Buddhahood. Venerable Pings Xiao is widely believed to have got enlightened and seen the Buddha-Nature because he had helped many followers realize the eighth vijnana and the state of seeing the Buddha-Nature. His sayings correspond to the Buddha’s ultimate teachings in sutras; therefore, we all agree that he has truly got enlightened.
Some say that the Great Vehicle thrived at last, that there was no history of collecting sutras in Great Vehicle and that the sources of Great Vehicle were unknown, so the content of Great Vehicle is unreliable. Regarding the thrive of the Great Vehicle, we discussed and explained in the previous episode. The Great Vehicle which followed the Sectarian Buddhism is actually the second revival. Those who raised such a question, in fact, have no idea how to check the correctness of the sutras. In Travelling and practicing's scripture of The Dīrgha āgama Sutra, Buddha said that the way to check the correctness of the sutras is through the realization method.
For instance, in the four grand teachings in “Travelling and practicing's scripture," Buddha expounded that if someone listens to Buddha’s teaching in person and then the teaching is collected and edited into a sutra, he should not suspect and slander such a sutra. But Buddha added that such a sutra should be compared and checked with other sutras for its consistency. In second teaching, Buddha expounded that if someone listens to a sutra from other monastic groups (Sangha communities) or well-instructed elders who have heard much about Buddha’s teaching, we should not suspect and slander such a sutra. In third teaching, Buddha expounded that if someone listens to a sutra from many Buddhist monks (bhiksu) or Buddhist nuns (bhiksuni), he should not suspect and slander such a sutra. Instead, he should compare and check such a sutra with other sutras for its consistency. In the fourth teaching, Buddha expounded if someone listens to a sutra from a Buddhist monk (bhiksu), he should not suspect and slander such a sutra. Instead, he should compare and check such a sutra with other sutras for its consistency. Therefore, what Buddha means is that any sutras, heard in person from Buddha, from monastic groups, many Buddhist monks, or a Buddhist monk, should be checked and compared with other sutras for its consistency.
As we can see, the Agama Sutra, and Mahayana sutras of three vehicles of Bodhi have consistency because they all talk about the eight vijnanas. (c.f. Please refer to the examples mentioned in the seventh book of “The Correct Meanings of Agama Sutras”). However, if only the criterion of consistency is applied to examine a sutra, the credibility of that sutra is still insufficient. In "Travelling and practicing's scripture in Volume 3 of The Dīrgha āgama Sutra", Buddha expounded that we should radically examine the credibility of all sutras and thoroughly explore their core essence based on disciplines (vinaya) and dharmas of eight vijnanas. That is, these sutras all talk about the eight vijnanas. If a sutra doesn’t talk about the eight vijnanas, it is definitely wrong and it must be a false sutra.
In spite of the fact that a sutra talks about the eight vijnanas, we should also examine whether its content conforms to the reality of the dharma-realm. We should examine its credibility and thoroughly explore its core essence. That is, thoroughly discuss and study its content, whether it talks about the root or about branches, based on the reality of dharma-realm. This is what we call the realization approach. Let me take an example for you. There is a book called “Sarva tathagata dhisthanahrdayaguhyadhatu karanda mudra-dharani?( Dharani of the Seal on the Casket (of the Secret Whole-body Relic of the Essence of All Tathagatas)”, in which it is mentioned that the secret relics (sarira) of Tathagata, also known as the dharma-body of Tathagata are like Sesamum indicum. Sesamum indicum is also known as sesames. The sutra mentions that the dharma-body of Tathagata is like sesames seamlessly overlapping one another. However, if Buddha’s dharma-body is made of sesames, sesames themselves are the root, whereas, the Buddha’s dharma-body is not the root. From the perspective of the reality of dharma-realm or a true enlightened one, the dharma-body does not exist under the causes and conditions. If it is accumulated like sesames, it is formed by causes and conditions. Thus, it will come to an end as soon as the causes and conditions vanish. In this way, the dharma-body itself is destructible and not firm. From the content of this sutra, we can tell that it is a false sutra. Although it speaks of dharma-body, its content of dharma-body is fallacious. After having been thoroughly examined, its content is proved to be wrong. Therefore, besides through the realization approach and the consistency with sutras, we also need to examine its correctness based on the reality of the dharma-realm.
Now, let us tell you why the history of collecting sutras is not needed in Great Vehicle. Because what great vehicle people practice is different from what small vehicle people practice. Their learning content and practice is quite different; therefore, the sutras of small vehicle need to be collected while those of great vehicle do not need to be collected. Because the history of collecting sutras in small vehicle has proved that the sutras of small vehicle are all correct, and proved the existence of the eighth vijnana and the eight vijnanas in the dharma realm. Since the sutras of small vehicle has proved the existence of the eight vijnanas, let alone those of Great Vehicle. Bodhisattvas in Great Vehicle are different from sound-hearers because sound-hearers do not realize the eighth vijnana. In “Samyuktagama sutra volum 12” , Buddha expounded that the arhat in sound-hearer vehicle will not be reborn after terminating the self. It means that he will terminate his five aggregates and eighteen sense-realms, entering the remainderless nirvana after his death. He will never know what the state of the remainderless nirvana is when he accomplishes this non-arising dharma, namely entering the remainderless nirvana after his death. That is because while accomplishing this non-arising dharma, he does not exist in three-realm and without the existence of self, he can not validate this truth. Therefore, the history of collecting sutras is especially needed to assist him in understanding the content of the remainderless nirvana because when he is still alive in human world, he only validates the dharma of arising and ceasing. However, in order to accomplish the non-arising dharma, he needs to terminate his five aggregates. While accomplishing the non-arising dharma, he fails to prove the fact that he has accomplished the non-arising dharma. Therefore, there should be sutras to validate the dharma in small vehicle. That is, they need to stick to what Buddha expounded in the sutras of small vehicle.
On the contrary, Great Vehicle does not need the history of collecting sutras. What Bodhisattvas validate in Great Vehicle is Tathagatagarbha, the eighth vijnana. It is the eternal dharma which means It has already existed since the past and will continue to exist in the future. The Tathagatagarbha that Bodhisattvas have validated in Great Vehicle can be observed and experienced at any moment once you validate it. It is just like going to the market to buy things. We pay and then we get the things we want. Under such circumstances, we don’t need to sign the order contract to prove the trading record.
Similarly, in Chan School, the way to prove one’s realization is to directly show where the eighth vijnana is on the spot to the one who has already got enlightened. In this case, they have mutually validated the existence of the eighth vijnana, so even without the history of collecting sutras, they can prove the sutras in Great Vehicle are correct. Since the sutras in small vehicle has proved that there are eight vijnanas and the history of collecting sutras can prove its correctness, there is no need for Bodhisattvas in Great Vehicle repetitively to collect sutras. The Bodhisattvas in Great Vehicle realize the eighth vijnana and have the ability to observe and experience its existence, so they don’t need the history of collecting sutras.
In this unit, we have introduced that the core method in Buddhism is realization. In the next unit, we will introduce the relations between the three realms and the fruit of liberation.