Story 5: 陀罗尼：咒语 Dharanis: Incantations
Today we will continue to talk about the Buddhist Story. In the previous discussion, we touched on Dharanis, and there are certain things you have to know about them. So, we will spend more time on them. At the very end, we shall return to the story itself.
As we mentioned before, Dharanis mean to centralize all dharmas and hold all meanings. In other words, they are to help all sentient beings to learn the Buddha Dharma easier, therefore, there are many different kinds of Dharanis. In the Treatise on the Stages of Yogic Practice, four dharanies are mentioned, which are the Bodhisattva’s Dharma Dharani, Bodhisattva’s Meaning Dharani, Bodhisattva’s Forbearance Dharani, and Bodhisattva’s Incantation Dharani. We also mentioned earlier that the original purpose of Dharnis is to help the Buddha followers to learn the Buddha Dharma better. And we can see that in the Incantation Dharanis said by Bodhisattva Maitreya, the power of Bodhisattva Maitreya, as an element, has been added to them in order to save the sentient beings more conveniently. By borrowing the supernatural power of the Bodhisattvas, the sentient beings who chant the sentences and chapters are relieved from the disasters and distress. This happens often in the Bodhisattva Way.
Because of the power of the Bodhisattva’s Incantation Dharanis and some historical reasons, the sentient beings of the later generations became superstitious that the sound of dharanis or a special way of writing the dharanis has some magic power. Some even carve the dharanis on wheels that can spin and call it “transmiting the dharma” when spinning them in attempt to purify the body, mouth and mind. This has been strayed away from the true meaning of Dharanis. Therefore, I would like to say to those whose goal is to practice the true Buddha Dharma, “please bear on your mind that dharanis are to centralize all dharmas and hold all meanings.” The objective to be centralized and held has to be back to the doctrine of Buddhism, which is the Buddha Dharma and the Buddha teachings.
For example, the word “Ah” of the Word Dharani in the Mahaprajna Paramita Sastra means all dharma’s non-arising. If we are going to learn the Word Dharani Ah, we’ll have to find a enlightened mentor. Listen to the teachings of the enlightened mentor, understand the meaning of dharma’s non-arising and know how to observe the state of dharma’s non-arising during walking, standing, sitting, or laying down. All these should be guided by the enlightened mentors. When we understand the doctrines and know how to carry out behavior observation, we may choose the most common word that we use and incorporate it into the corresponding doctrines of Buddha Dharma and cultivating method so that whenever we hear this word, we will be reminded of the doctrines and the practice method. That is the true meaning of Word Dharanis. Therefore, for those who are devoted to cultivating Buddha Dharma, to come up with an effective dharani, one would have to master all the doctrines of Buddha Dharam and then figure out a way to summarize it. Creating an effective Dharani by summarizing it in our own way is an operational way of practicing in the Bodhisattva Path.
If you are committed to practice, I would like to recommend you The Dharani of True Enlightenment again because this Dharani is too good. I would like to recite it to you one more time.
The five aggregates and the eighteen elements,
Nirvana and the Matrix of Buddhahood,
Wisdom of the Ultimate Reality,
And Knowledge of the aspects of paths,
All dharmas are summed up in them.
The first is the most supreme among all,
The second is associated with the first,
The third is images projected by the two above,
The fourth stems from variations in the three above,
The fifth is manifested by the four above,
All phenomena emerge in such order.
These five categories of dharmas,
Comprise the Path to Liberation,
And the Path to Buddhahood.
To benefit oneself and others,
Practitioners seeking true enlightenment,
Should comprehend and realize them all.
Why do we recommend The Dharani of True Enlightenment to everyone? Because this dharani agrees with the Bodhisattva’s Dharma Dharani, Bodhisattva’s Meaning Dharani, Bodhisattva’s Forbearance Dharani, and Bodhisattva’s Incantation Dharani said by Bodhisattva Maitreya, and because it contains all the Buddha Dharma, all the doctrines of the Buddha Dharma and the dharma of true reality that we shall learn. This is why we recommend the dharani to everyone.
In other words, if you’ve made the commitment to practice, please understand the original meaning of the Dharanis. When you start to learn them, make sure you will start with and focus on the doctrine and then refine it and extract the essence. Of course, we can’t deny the fact that many Buddhist learners need Bodhisattvas to help them eliminate disasters or to rescue them from misfortunes. Neither can we deny that many people long for achievements or getting something out of this. Therefore, when someone has this type of need and desire, it is inevitable that he or she will care about whether the incantations or mantras that most worldly people know are effective.
If this is the case, there are a few things that we shall be careful of. First of all, for any kind of the incantations, if its purpose is to hurt the sentient beings, it should never be chanted. Does this kind of incantations really exist? Of course, it does. Speaking of the supernatural effectiveness of the incantation itself, it must come from the sentient being who created it. If it is a dharani that was created and preached by the Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, it must be beneficial to all the sentient beings. However, we can’t rule out the possibility that some of the incantations are created by ghosts and deities. Are these ghosts and deities as purified as the Buddhas or Bodhisattvas? It’s hard to say. Therefore, it is hard to rule out the fact that some incantations might hurt sentient beings. If we already know a specific type of incantation would hut sentient beings, we should never want to chant it.
Next, I would like to expostulate everyone who likes to chant incantations, please do not do it for the sake of pursuing the pleasures of the five senses even if you chant the incantations with a hope to have Bodhisattvas keep you safe. Some people wish to be blessed by Bodhisattvas by chanting the incantation so that they can be getting more of the five desires to enjoy in the mundane world. This is obviously catching the superficial but neglecting the essentials. If someone chants the dharanis created by the Bodhisattvas in this way with a purpose of satisfyingthe five desires of the mundane world, I can tell you right now that this way of chanting is completely fruitless. For those whose purpose of chanting incantations is to eliminate disasters or misfortunes, or to desire for supernatural power or some type of benefit, I’m afraid you are still unaware that the Buddha Dharma is the key to unlock all the mysteries that you are puzzled about. Therefore, I earnestly encourage you to follow the Buddha’s teachings and cultivate yourself diligently and you will have your future under control when you are on this path. Being relived from various distress and misfortune, getting supernatural power or some benefits shall be the natural results of dedicated cultivation of the Buddha Dharma.
Back to the story itself. The Dharani that this person asked for is called Vinaya-Dharani, and it can hurt the others; however, it will hurt the user himself before it gets to the others. Based on what we discussed earlier, the dharanis that are meant to hurt people are definitely evil. In the true Buddhism, no dharanis is meant to hurt people. Therefore, the Vinaya-Dharani doesn’t belong to the Buddhism. Here is a question for you all. Suppose there is adharani, it does not mean to hurt people but only help people to get wealthy or get supernatural power, or achieve certain secular goals. Is this dharani evil? It is hard to say. We have to understand that the power of the dharanis comes from the sentient being who created them. If a sentient being has this power, he may connect with those who chant his dharanis when the dharanis are chanted and help them with certain things.
现在我们想象一个状况，当你在持诵一个咒语的时候，假设这个咒语帮助你解决了一些事情；如果这个咒语真的是佛菩萨所宣说的，那你可以想象得到， 佛菩萨之所以会帮助你解决事情，祂最终的目的都是希望你能够安心的学佛。所以 佛菩萨绝对不会因为帮助你处理完这些事情之后，还对你有所求，唯一的就是希望你好好学佛而已；可是如果宣说这个咒语的并不是真正的佛菩萨，而是其他的鬼神，那我们就要多考虑考虑了。因为如果是鬼神宣说的咒语，只要宣说的有情他本身有所神通的话，那么即便他只是鬼神，也有它的应验的地方；换句话说，这些鬼神所宣说的咒语，只要你持诵得当，它一样会有所神验。
Suppose you are chanting an incantation and this incantation does help you solve some problems. You have to understand that if this incantation is really created and declared by a Bodhisattva, then the reason that the Bodhisattva solves the problem for you is that he wants to bring you peace so that you can cultivate growth in Buddhism. Bodhisattvas would never ask you for anything else. Again, the only thing the Bodhisattvas want from you is seeing you follow the Buddhas and practice their teachings. However, if it is other ghosts and deities who created and declared the incantations, then we will have to be cautious. For the incantations created and declared by ghosts and deities, if the ghosts and deities have supernatural power, the incantations will be efficacious, as long as we chant them in a proper way.
Now, we know that when we chant incantations, we may see the magical power, but the power does not come from the incantations themselves or from the magical way of writing them. It simply comes from the sentient beings who created and declared them. When we chant an incantation, we are inviting the sentient being who created and declared the sentences and chapters to help us solve some problems. If this sentient being himself is not purified, he will ask us for return when he is done with helping us. This is the same case as in the mundane world. People who helped us would probably ask for something in return. At least, he would probably remember how he did us a favor and would expect us to pay him back whenever he needs it. From this example in the mundane world, we can infer that if the mind of the ghosts and deities is not purified, they would probably ask us something in return when we chant the incantation calling for help and are answered. In terms of in what way to pay back, it is hard to speculate.
Again, the evil incantations may be effective and if the ghosts and deities are not in serenity and tranquility, then it is hard to imagine the price in return. So, please be careful what dharanis we want to chant and what we ask for.
We’ve talked a lot about Dharanis. Let’s go back to the story. It says one person asked another for Vinaya-Dharani which was able to hurt another person as well as himself. What indeed is this Vinaya-Dharani in the story? It is actually our hatred. Hatred arises because of our habitual tendency. When hatred arises, we want to revenge. Therefore, the sequence of arising hatred is, first, it is our emotion that is disturbed, and what comes next is to plot a revenge when the emotion is not cleared up. Let’s give a second thought how hatred is brewed mentally. In this story, after this person was slandered, even though the incident happened before, and because of this slandering, this person dwelled in the mentality of hatred. The hatred was brewed, stirred and shuffled and eventually a plan of revenge came into being, and he could not let it go. Wasn’t the hatred inside him actually hurting himself first? Before he took any action, hadn’t he been pondering on it constantly? It is a common sense that any kind of hatred or anger is harmful to our health. I recall a research statistics says that people in Taiwan get angry at least once a week. Let’s not dig into the accuracy of this statistics, but one thing is obvious, which is getting angry is very common among sentient beings. And without exception, hatred will cause harm to our health first. Way before any actions are taken to revenge, the hatred has been brewed inside, which causes all kinds of sickness to both the body and the mind.
From this perspective, we may find hatred a very interesting subject to talk about. Think about it, aren’t all sentient beings selfish? Aren’t they always trying to maximize their profit? But they always get angry, get angry at the sentient beings around them. And once this hatred arises, it always hurts the one who has it first, just like the Vinaya-Dharani in the story. The revenge is not made yet, so, it is always the one who has the anger gets hurt first. All sentient beings are selfish as such, but they don’t even notice that they hurt themselves badly with anger.
Isn’t it a very interesting phenomenon? If we truly care about ourselves and want to treat ourselves well, shouldn’t we never get angry? From this point of view, we know that learning how to manage our hatred is an important part of our practice. The reason that hatred is so bad is because it repeatedly hurts us. And it doesn’t end there; its consequences will extend to lives to come. Why is that? In the sutras, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have repeatedly warned us that hatred is like fire and it burns the forest of virtues. How so? Because hatred will repel all sentient beings, or even cause them harm. As a result, the sentient being who meet with us in the future lives would stay away from us, dislike us, or even feel disgust of us. Under such circumstances, for a Bodhisattva, how are we going to teach or deliver them?
The hatred act can deteriorate the accumulation of virtues and rewards. If there is hatred in us against other sentient beings, there will be a corresponding karmic retribution when we meet with each other in the future. Obviously, it won’t be an adorable one since hatred itself isn’t something people like. Therefore, according to the concept of cause and effect, the consequence will be sickening and repulsive and such consequence will be derogatory to our virtues imperceptibly in the future. This is why the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas keep reminding us to abstain from getting angry. Hatred is a huge dispositional hindrance. Therefore, one of the major goals for practice is to learn how to manage and stop hatred. And this is also the content of forbearance in the six paramitas of Bodhisattva.
We’ve talked about the connotations of forbearance in the previous episodes. The first meaning is the so-called forbearance in the mundane world, for the most part of which is about how to manage hatred. It isn’t easy to manage hatred. We all know that all sentient beings are selfish and they keep having this mental behavior of hatred to hurt themselves. They aren’t willing to change and it’s hard to change, too. So, what it means is it isn’t an easy thing to manage hatred. To manage hatred, there has to be some specific methold. In the paramita of forbearance, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have taught us some methods on how to do it through practice of behavior observation.
For example, about the Sound Dharani, we’ve mentioned that the Buddhas have taught us how to observe our behavior when hearing what we don’t want to hear or false accusations against us. For such teachings, we shall try them and get the first-hand experience. With this, we may even try to come up wtih our own Dharanis, our own Sound Dharanis, with which we may apply the teachings from the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to managing our anger. Obviously, this is just one of the many methods to manage anger. There are many other methods, such as practicing observingthe five aggregates.
What we are trying to explain by telling this story is that the sentient beings would still want to pursue the dharanis that would hurt themselves first before they get to the others. This actually shows the hatred act that most sentient beings would usually have. In order to manage the hatred, we will have to look into the doctrine of original Dharanis. In the paramita of forbearance,there are many expedient methods to deal with hatred. When we learn the paramita of forbearance, we’d better not just listen to the explanation quietly and peacefully and think it stands to reason. If we wish to transform it to an overall summary which is to centralize all dharma and hold all meanings, or a dharani, in another word,not only do we have to understand it, but we also have to apply it. This is what we’ve mentioned before. Understanding the meaning of doctrine is not enough, we will also have to know the method of practicing observing behavior. Once we master the principles of these, we can combine it to create a Dharani. And once the Dharani is formed, it will be effective on managing our hatred.
That’s it for today.