Sunday, April 25, 2010

Practising Vajrayana Properly

Nowadays I observe that people who are interested in Tibetan Buddhism just hop, skip and jump their way to practising the Highest Yoga Tantras, without ever doing any ngondros (preliminaries) or realising the Three Principle Aspects of the Path. This is like skipping primary school and secondary (high school) levels and going direct to college/university. It's absurd. They also do not know which initiation to take and just take whatever initiation that happens to come along the way. It is said that it is a lot better to take those initiations associated with your root yidam. This is the second of the three roots I have mentioned. That's why finding your root yidam is also important.

Before we even do self-generating as a deity, we should be able to successfully accomplish the generating on top of the head first. Many people are not even able to visualise the deity clearly on top of the head, and yet they want to proceed to do self-generation. Just what do you mean by "clearly"? It is not commonly explained in the texts. Even when I asked one of my gurus, how clear is "clear"? He just answered, "As clear as you can". However, during one of the sessions, I found out that sometimes I am beginning to feel as if the "someone" is indeed sitting on top of my head. To me that is one of the signs of clarity. When it is clear, I find that I can visualise the light shining from the 4 places to my 4 places is much clearer too. When the lights are clearer, it is said that accomplishments are nearer too. But it is not always clear for me. I am still working on this.

So Buddhists intending to practice tantra must do things properly. Do it step by step. You cannot assume you are a genius and skip the essential "milestones" along the process.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Root Protector

I am really saddened and concerned about the many natural disasters and spate of "bad luck" that we, the inhabitants of Earth, have been facing since early this year. Even places of worship are not spared from destruction. Many monks and nuns perished in Yushu earthquake. And whoever have this thought that they are immuned from these disasters had better perish those thoughts from thier minds. Unless you are someone like Ven. Master Hsuan Hua, or be near someone like him, you will never be safe from earthquakes. When he was alive, it was widely believed that wherever he was, that place will not suffer from Earthquakes. And one of the reasons is because he has many dragons as his disciples.

Those living far from earthquake areas, should be careful of other disasters such as land slides, new illnesses/epidemics and other such possibilities. At such times, it will be advantageous if you have a root protector, for he will protect you to ensure you will continue to be able to practice. Root protector is part of the 3 Roots, i.e. Root Guru, Root Yidam and Root Dakini/Protector. There was a previous blog on this topic in the past. However, ultimately, the nature of your Root Protector is none other than the nature of your own mind. Ultimately you protect yourself by your own conduct and virtues... i.e. by following the teachings of the Dharma. So, even though Vajrayana talks about protectors and such deities, it doesnot stray away from the teachings of the Buddha whereby you are not confused by external protectors and our own inner virtuous conduct. For without inner virtuous conduct, all good protectors will run away. Let this be a reminder to myself!

Friday, April 16, 2010

What is Buddha Nature?

If you search the term "Svabhava" in wikipedia, you will be able to read that in many traditions, including Hinduism, they do mention this word. It means many things to many different traditions. And it is the subject of philosophical debates on which of this definition is the actual meaning of svabhava and whether one actually exists. "Svabhava" or a common English term "Buddha Nature" has been the goal that Buddhists strive to attain. Nagarjuna mentioned it in his Madhayamika texts. It is interesting that in the Abhiddhamma, it is mentioned in wikipedia that the term is also mentioned:

From wikipedia:
"In the post-canonical Abhidhamma literature, sabhāva is used to distinguish an irreducible, interdependent, momentary phenomena (dhamma) from a conventionally constructed object. Thus, a collection of visual and tactile phenomena might be mentally constructed into what is conventionally referred to as a "table"; but, beyond its constituent elements, a construct such as "table" lacks "intrinsic existence" (sabhāva)."

The last sentence there seems to indicate that they have a similar understanding of emptiness as the Gelugpas....but only as far as "constituent elements. The Abhiddhamma scholars however believed that the "dhamma" (momentatry phenomena) does exist. Refer to the wikipedia footnote 9 for this particular reference. In all the Madhayamika schools, however, even phenomena are said to be non-inherently existent. I wonder if this is the reason why in Mahayana tradition, it is said that only when we could see the emptiness of phenomena do we achieve Omniscience. Otherwise, we only achieve liberation if we achieve to see the emptiness of self alone. In other words, even if you are in the Vajrayana tradition, if you only achieve the latter, you are only considered to achieve the Hinayana liberation. In means you have not yet achieve omniscience. In Mahayana, I guess that's why even great Bodhisattvas are just called "bodhisattvas" because they have not yet achieved omniscience.

You should know that even though Nagarjuna mentions that term "Svabhava", it had been the subject of many interpretations of what exactly he meant by it. That's the subject of many debates and that's why within Madhyamika (the Middle Way) school, it is divided into many sub-schools, each with their subtle difference. Even we say "subtle", it does matter at the end, because the end is the answer to "what does the final state of nature is?" It is the answer to what do we achieve when we achieve enlightenment? Many masters of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions from Mipham, Gorampa, Longchenpa, Gampopa, Tsongkhapa, the previous Karmapas, etc including those masters of the Dzogchen and Mahamudra traditions were said to ahve had achieved some state of understanding of what this final nature is. But the thing is (and I mention it because many Buddhists do not yet realise that we are not yet united on what this final "nature" is): that these Buddhists masters came to different and various conclusions. Of course, there are also those who disregard all these differences and tell us that whatever you call it, be it Great Perfection (Dzogchen), Great Seal (mahamudra), Madhyamika, Svabhava, Tathagatagarbha, Suchness, etc etc etc, are all the same.

Ultimately, we ourselves got to seek that final answer for ourselves. The Buddhists scriptures are not that clear in that sense on this particular "Final answer", and I guess there is a valid reason for this. The Buddhas have spoon-fed us throughout the Buddhist path, if they were to spoon-feed us in the final leg of the race, liberation and omniscience will have no meaning. There would have been no determination on our part to seriously understand it and learn it. And to have genuine Bodhicitta, one must strive for liberation of ourselves and others. Without this effort to seek and study and practice, sorry, no genuine Bodhicitta.

For me, I have my own leaning on what the final state is but I do not impose this on others. I will leave it at that. I have had some understanding on my own on what buddhanature is, and much later, I found out a text by one of the Masters above that supports my understanding of it. So, I am happy my understanding is not something I make up. Actually this is important. You must always check if what you have realised is in accord with what the ancient masters and the Buddha have realised. This is what I have written in the past as "spiritual risk management". Check those previous blogs if you have not read those.

Let me end this with a tip from one of the famous Zen koans.

A monk asked Chao-chou:"Does a dog have Buddha-nature or not?" Chao-chou replied: "No."

My remark would be: "Of course, not!" In order to understand that and also many more Zen gestures (such as when the Buddha held up the flower and only Maha Kassapa understood it), at least intellectually as did I, without falling into the extreme views of nihilism and eternalism, you need to study the doctrine of emptiness or Buddha nature or interdependent arising... or whatever it is called. With that understanding, together with the completion of the renunciation and development of Bodhicitta, one's training in the general aspects of the path or preliminaries is considered complete. And one would have been a suitable vessel to enter the tantric path, which is supposed to be the path to quickly develop the genuine wisdom of the Buddha nature. I think it would be wiser to leave you to do your own study on this topic. And I have elaborated enough to the extent that I can with the tips above. Another last tip, read the Madhayamika texts and the commentaries. To check your own understanding of emptiness and attainments, there is no escape from checking with the classicial texts and sutras.

Last but not least, see if you can answer this question:

Does a dog have the potential to realise Buddhahood?

If you answer "No", you'll get beatings with this Zen rod. If you answer "yes", you'll have to explain why your answer is different from Chao-chou's. If you cannot explain, you'll get beatings. If you donot answer me this instant, you'll get beatings too.

So, what's your answer? You have 3 seconds.

Read the question carefully and compare and contrast the questions. Cheers and have a good day! All the best!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Jade Buddha Now Touring the USA

I read that the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace is currently touring around the USA. I hope those people in that region will take the opportunity to go see the wonderful and beautiful Jade Buddha.

If you happen to go there, please let me know if they have included the carving benefactors on the throne. If the names are there, you will see His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama's name on it. Please confirm by a comment, ok? Thanks.

Don't miss it. Take pictures of the Buddha because if you're lucky, sky tigles (or "mandala lights") will also be captured in those photos.

I just pray it will come to Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and elsewhere.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Consequences of holding wrong views

The link above has a story on an old monk who had a wrong view on dharma. Because of that one mistake (albeit on an important point), he was reborn as a fox for 500 lives. Hence, it is important to hold the correct view of dharma on those critical points of dharma such as the one in the story. Another example is never to say that other's wrong actions have nothing to do with us. Their problem is theirs alone. We cannot do anything to help. If you seriously believe in these statements, it will result in serious karmic consequences.

There are some views that we should never hold incorrect views (due to its consequences) but some are less critical and there are less implications even if we hold wrong views. Many Buddhists think that there are no right or wrong views. This is not correct. There are right and wrong views. Views that promote non-virtues are wrong. Views that promote virtues are right. Simple as that. If there is no right or wrong, there would not have been any evil and good. Then why would the Buddha advise that we "Shun all evil, Do all good, Purify the Mind"? Clearly, then there is good and evil, right and wrong.

Friday, April 2, 2010

An Offering to Kuan Yin

Dear Kuan Yin Bodhisattva Mahasattva,

I pray that I will never fall into the Hinayana attitude. May I always know that even though we may actually not be able to help everybody but that it is always important to keep the attitude that indeed we can help everybody. Whether we are Hinayana or Mahayana, it is all in the attitude. As Khenchen Konchog Rinpoche rightly said, bodhicitta is the sole and complete cause of enlightenment. May I never forget that!

May I also not wear coloured glasses to delude myself forever. But that I should from time to time, take off my glasses to see what’s the real colour of this world, i.e. what’s happening in the world and to others. May I never deceive myself by hiding in the world of my own making wearing “glasses” that justify my own misconceptions. In this world, there are too many people who think that they cannot do anything about unethical people. Even though they cannot do everything, they forget that they can still do something or a little thing like reminding their own kids to behave properly.

Even though I cannot help a lot of people, especially those long list of names of people who are sick that need prayers, I never ever thought that I do not need to help at all. Whoever has this thought, I pray that he/she not fall seriously ill, for people will then have this thought “we do not need to help him/her at all”. Not even the doctor will be able to help him/her at that time. People plant tremendously huge bad karma without realizing. How pitiful! How tragic the karma! I hope the protectors of dharma will wake me up (even if rudely) should I ever fall into such an attitude that don’t care about others. Such propositions can never ever be in line with the Mahayana attitude.

Tomorrow I will celebrate your holy birthday with this Mahayana attitude and offer it to you as a present. I hope this offering pleases you. May your bodhisattva deeds be expanded manifold and never give up on us, suffering sentient beings. Even though I am just an ordinary sentient being, I have been fortunate to understand a tiny little bit on this precious attitude. May my Gurus live a long healthy life and their dharma activities increase forever more. May my own dharma activity flourish! Whoever reads my blog, may they gain tremendous blessings and may their dharma practice be fulfilled!

Happy Birthday, my very dearest Bodhisattva Mahasattva Kuan Yin!

Just me - your student,