Reverently I bow to the compassionate Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and teachers of the three times!
BRIEFLY ANNOTATED SURVEY OF ONE COURSE OF STUDYING THE DHARMA
Fritz Grohmann (Gao Ming-dao)
It you Intend to conduct research on Buddhism you certainly should acquire some basic knowledge of comparative religion, history of civilization, psychology, and the like. But in case you want to study the Dharma, the truth set forth by the Buddha, you have to put it into practice and apply it to your life. This essay will, I sincerely hope, offer you some suggestions useful in the latter respect.
By declaring immeasurable dharma doors, which lead to enlightenment, the Buddha manifested His boundless compassion and wisdom showing living beings appropriate paths to be realized.
As the sentient beings take the law (Dharma) as the starting point to enter the way of cultivation it is called 'door.' This word covers the meaning of 'variety,' too, because the teaching (Dharma) was declared in immeasurable ways. Thus the dharma doors are also compared to an ocean.
Although because of different actions in the past, each sentient being is uniquely endowed with certain conditions and opportunities, there is no one for whom the Dharma does not provide expedient means to finally reach the most noble state of Buddhahood.
I am aware of my extremely restricted scope of insight and capacity for understanding, and of my lack of erudition and practical realization. Nevertheless, in clumsy language I will put down some reflections based on superficial studies. I don't aim at nourishing my haughtiness, for these reflections seem to be to be founded on reason accessible even to shallow-brained people like me. As many In the West have not yet met a spiritual friend, they may be saved from going astray until they have the chance to contact their teacher if they rely on their own understanding and critical examination, applying them also to this essay. Thus is my aspiration when submitting these lines to their investigation.
By frankly admitting my incapability, by no means do I hope to induce an impression of unpretentiousness. The motive for sketching these ideas was to appeal to your reason and to free you from the often met with conviction of the absolute necessity to meet at first some mysterious, superhuman guru. If you can't follow this, please read the Kalama-sutra.
To set out for the royal city of Nirvana is the very core of Dharma practice; indeed, one must commence based on sound fundamentals and cannot simply start from the final realization.
The state of the extinction of bewilderment and the end of misery is compared with a royal city, for it is the dwelling-place of the noble ones. First one should develop confidence in the law of cause and effect, which does not only pertain to the realm of inanimate objects, but also to that of the threefold actions of body, speech, and mind. This confidence is by no means blind faith, but begins with common experience drawn from the intelligibility of causal interdependence. Finally, it will lead one to realizing this law by direct insight.
In connection with confidence in the law of cause and effect there are three considerations which don't represent different stages, but support and develop one another. First is the fact that all conditioned processes are Impermanent, which causes one to abandon laziness and lassitude as one faces the inevitability of one's death and the uncertainty concerning one's span of life. Second is the misery common to all sentient beings, which are subject to the turning wheel of repeated births and deaths by their own actions. Third is the understanding of how rare it is to be born a human being amidst this ocean of unhappier existences and, even more, to have the opportunity to listen to the Dharma. Appreciating these, one intends to make the best use of one's situation. By combining these three considerations one develops the driving force for energetic Dharma cultivation for all sentient beings' sake. Though their number is unlimited, one is determined to bring them to liberation; though the mental and bodily vexations of oneself are Inexhaustible, one is determined to cut them off; and though there are immeasurable Dharma doors, one is determined to study them all and become able to teach them as a Perfectly and Rightly Enlightened One whose realization of Buddhahood is supreme. This aspiration can be summed up by the word 'bodhi-citta.'
Taking confidence in the law of cause and effect as the starting-point and adorning it with the development of the attitude to attain liberation for the sentient beings' sake, one puts it into practice by governing one's conduct by this law. That is to say, one acts with body, speech, and mind, bringing about 'endogenous' ethics which are based on understanding kamma-vipaka, and not coerced by convention.
'Kamma' refers to the actions (or, strictly speaking, to the intention to act) and 'vipaka' to the fruit or result of an action which is experienced by its doer.
This genuine morality agrees, on the most fundamental level, with the fivefold preventing, and adhering to it effects far-reaching results, as it equals the giving of fearlessness.
‘Preventing' (sila) means to prevent unwholesome actions from being carried out and thus misery and painful results are not experienced. It is fivefold: not to kill; not to steal or take by force; not to be sullied by wrong sexual conduct; not to speak falsely; and not to consume intoxicants. The two aspects of the giving (dana) of fearlessness correspond to the two aspects of sila: by passive morality (e.g. not killing) one causes sentient beings not to be afraid, by active morality (e.g. to save the living) one provides refuge for beings.
Thus wisdom and expedient means are equally cultivated.
The short cut to attain perfect and right enlightenment is the two ways of expedient means (upaya) and of wisdom (panna).
Finally, in order to counterpoise the active character of sila and upaya, thus harmonizing the faculties and completing the threefold training, the development of perfect concentration upon a single object, or unification of mind, is necessary. It is possible only if based on morality.
The threefold training comprises morality, concentration (samadhi) and wisdom. 'Faculties' refers to the five faculties (panca indriya), confidence, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom.
It does not simply mean to fix one's mind on one object and then plunge into some extraordinary state of mind, but requires bringing about the four arousings of right mindfulness arid the fourfold right effort.
Contemplation of the body, of feelings, of the mind and of mind-objects is called the foundations of mindfulness. The four right efforts means the efforts to overcome already arisen unwholesome things, to avoid the, arising of not yet arisen unwholesome things, to develop the arising of not yet arisen wholesome things, and to maintain the already arisen wholesome things.
Because the abilities, gifts, and characters of the sentient beings differ, there are various objects for meditative cultivation as well. Which one will be most appropriate and beneficial for one should be decided by an experienced teacher. Having made progress up to this point you will certainly meet him.
By the merit of this may the sentient beings attain perfection and the pure lands be adorned!
PRECEPT PLATFORM COMMENCES JULY 4, 1976.
the 200th anniversary of the independence of the United States' which
marked the beginning of a long-enduring freedom for people to pursue basic
human-rights, the Sino-American Buddhist Association will transmit the
3000 year old Complete Precepts of the Thousand Buddhas, which, have been
the key to a long-enduring freedom from greed, hatred, and stupidity
through insuring purity of body, accuracy of speech, and clarity of mind.
Instruction in the Bodhisattva Precepts will begin on October 4th, 1976, for all four assemblies of disciples (monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen). Laymen taking the precepts should-arrive prior to that date. For further information write:
PRECEPT TRANSMITTING COMMITTEE