Zen and Pure Land Buddhism

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7/30/2019 Zen and Pure Land Buddhism http://slidepdf.com/reader/full/zen-and-pure-land-buddhism 1/34  Seminar in Zen and Pure Land Buddhism By Dr. Yutang Lin A Lecture Sponsored by the Department of Religion Washington & Lee University Lexington, Virginia May 13 and 15, 1991   The First Meeting Professor Rogers: In January 1991, in Kathmandu, the capital of the mountain Kingdom of Nepal, we met at a place called the Vajra Hotel.  Those of you who have studied Buddhist tradition know that vajra means a thunderbolt vehicle, which is the third of the great vehicles in Buddhism. The Hinayana, a smaller or lesser vehicle; the Mahayana, the great vehicle; and then either the Vajrayâna, the thunderbolt vehicle or the Tantra-yana, the Tantric path, which characterizes  Tibetan Buddhism. Vajrayâna also came to China and then to Japan as the great Shingon, the True Word or Mantra Sect of Buddhism. So, we met in this Buddhist setting; the hotel run by Tibetan Buddhist. Out of the group that traveled to the Buddhist holy sites in Nepal and India, there were many interesting people: two physicians, a clinical psychologist, an ACLU lawyer, someone who had done a lot of tracking in the Himalayas, an artist and a professor of philosophy. When you meet a new group of people there is a kind of chemistry that goes on, and you try to figure out how to fit in with the group that you will be with for three to four weeks. I guess gradually it was Dr. Lin that I was struck by as someone who really knew what he was doing. The rest of us knew a little about Buddhist tradition and a little about what people do on a pilgrimage; but from the very beginning, Dr. Lin seemed to be very connected, devoted, purposeful, and focused. So, out of a sort of Southern hospitality, I said, "Oh, you have to come to Washington and Lee 1

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Transcript of Zen and Pure Land Buddhism

  • 7/30/2019 Zen and Pure Land Buddhism


    Seminar in Zen and Pure Land

    BuddhismBy Dr. Yutang Lin

    A Lecture Sponsored by the Department of ReligionWashington & Lee University

    Lexington, VirginiaMay 13 and 15, 1991

    The First Meeting

    Professor Rogers: In January 1991, in Kathmandu, the capital of themountain Kingdom of Nepal, we met at a place called the Vajra Hotel.Those of you who have studied Buddhist tradition know that vajrameans a thunderbolt vehicle, which is the third of the great vehicles inBuddhism. The Hinayana, a smaller or lesser vehicle; the Mahayana,the great vehicle; and then either the Vajrayna, the thunderbolt

    vehicle or the Tantra-yana, the Tantric path, which characterizesTibetan Buddhism. Vajrayna also came to China and then to Japan asthe great Shingon, the True Word or Mantra Sect of Buddhism. So, wemet in this Buddhist setting; the hotel run by Tibetan Buddhist.

    Out of the group that traveled to the Buddhist holy sites in Nepal andIndia, there were many interesting people: two physicians, a clinicalpsychologist, an ACLU lawyer, someone who had done a lot of trackingin the Himalayas, an artist and a professor of philosophy. When youmeet a new group of people there is a kind of chemistry that goes on,and you try to figure out how to fit in with the group that you will be

    with for three to four weeks.

    I guess gradually it was Dr. Lin that I was struck by as someone whoreally knew what he was doing. The rest of us knew a little aboutBuddhist tradition and a little about what people do on a pilgrimage;but from the very beginning, Dr. Lin seemed to be very connected,devoted, purposeful, and focused. So, out of a sort of Southernhospitality, I said, "Oh, you have to come to Washington and Lee


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    University to see us sometime." That was about it. But after I cameback here I said to myself, "It would be really great if he could come,"and he has come. We will be with him this morning and tomorrownight, his lecture at eight oclock, and again on Wednesday. He hasread all the questions that each one of us put together anticipating his

    visit. So here is Dr. Lin!

    Dr. Lin: I have read your questions and they are very good. You haveso many questions and we have so little time, therefore, I will first givea short talk hoping that some of your questions will be resolved by it.After the talk we will discuss whatever questions you might have then.

    First of all, I would like to emphasize that what Buddha tried to explainto us is not just theory, not just certain views that he tried to persuadeus to have. He tried to convey an experience which was the result ofhis pursuit of how to solve the problems of life, death, sickness, old age

    and suffering in the world. The solution he found was an experience,which was direct and intuitive, but too difficult to express. Therefore, atfirst, he was going to remain silent about it, but then, out of hiscompassion, he began to teach people on the problems of life and theirsolutions.

    Over the years Buddhism has spread to different people in differentlocalities. In order for different people to understand the essence ofBuddhas teachings, it is presented more or less differently in variouslocalities. Consequently, many systems of thoughts have developedwithin Buddhism, and Buddhism has become manifold. It has thus

    become rather difficult for us to get to the quintessence of Buddhasteachings. Nevertheless, I think the easiest way to understandBuddhas teachings is to try to look directly at the experience that hetried to communicate to us. That experience, in simple terms, is hisrealization of his oneness with the whole universe; and it is a Limitless-Oneness.

    People might ask, "How can there be such a Oneness with wars goingon in the world?" Usually I answer this question by offering someexamples of my personal supernatural experiences. Since thequestions raised by this class are far deeper, I will even try to explain

    the very experience that Buddha realized. Although it is not my ownexperience, fortunately, my late teacher, Yogi C. M. Chen, did attainthe experience of Limitless-Oneness and revealed it to me. He also toldabout that experience in his books.

    In that experience, everything, including ones own body, disappears.There is nothing left, except the light of blue sky everywhere. InTibetan Tantric Buddhism this is called "the Dharmakaya Light."


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    Dharmakaya Light is the basis of Dharmakaya, the Buddhistterminology for the universe. Nevertheless, the concept ofDharmakaya assumes that all things are basically on the same footing,which goes beyond the distinction of reality and non-reality, while theusual concept of the universe implies the factual existence of things

    and distinguishes between reality and illusion. In Buddhism,Dharmakaya is the collection of all Dharmas, i.e., all things as they are.Hence the chair that I am sitting on, and the thoughts and sensations Ihave, are considered equally as Dharmas. So we cannot replace theterm "Dharmakaya" with the term "universe" at will.

    When can one experience this Dharmakaya Light? According to theTibetan tantric teaching there are several possibilities. One possibilityis that at the moment of sneezing, one might get a glimpse of theDharmakaya Light. The other possibility is at the moment of fainting.Another possibility is at the moment of death. For people without

    preparation for death by practicing Buddhist tantric methods, theDharmakaya Light they experience at the moment of death is fleeting,lasting for less than a second. Nevertheless, the possibilities that Ihave mentioned so far are not situations that we can enter at will, andtherefore cannot be used for practice.

    However, there are other possibilities. For example, during deep andsound sleep one might experience the Dharmakaya Light. One mayalso experience it at the peak of sexual intercourse. Such a peakcannot be reached by ordinary people because they have alreadydischarged before reaching it. Tantric practitioners who have training

    in visualization and breathing to a certain extent will be able to havesexual intercourse without discharge. Thereby they can reach the peakof sexual union and see the Dharmakaya Light. In Tantric Buddhismone goes through many preliminary practices so that one becomesable to use sleep or sex for spiritual advancement.

    Finally, the Dharmakaya Light may be attained through meditation.Chan (Zen) is a kind of Tantric practice that tries to reach theDharmakaya Light through meditationa meditation that engulfs oneswhole being. The experience of the Dharmakaya Light is possible onlyfor very mature practitioners who are able to reach a near-death stage

    through meditation. Naturally the following question arises: Are therecharacteristics of the Dharmakaya Light experience that arerecognizable to practitioners who begin to approach it? Indeed, thereare.

    My late teacher revealed that there are four characteristics of thisexperience that are common to all practitioners who are entering it,and that these four characteristics occur simultaneously:


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    1. The first characteristic is called "BrightImage," i.e., all things appear to be brighterthan usual, as if they were seen through acrystal. This particular characteristic occurringalone is not too difficult to attain. Usually when

    people go into meditative states they have thisexperience.

    2. The second characteristic is called "NoThoughts," i.e., while fully awake ones thinkingprocess has stopped; there is not a thought inones awareness. Consequently, one is noteven aware of this "No Thoughts" occurring. Itis only later when one reflects upon onesmeditative experience that one realizes whathappened.

    3. The third characteristic is called "NoDuality," i.e., one is free from the dualisticsense of subject versus object antagonism.

    4. The fourth characteristic is called "CeasedBreathing," i.e., ones breathing becomes everfiner and slowly comes to a halt. There is no airin or out through the nostrils. However, at thismoment ones abdomen begins to expand andcontract in rhythm, and this is called "inner

    breathing" because the air is still moving insidethe body. Our normal breathing, in contrast, iscalled "outer breathing." The characteristic of"Ceased Breathing" means that ones outerbreathing has stopped.

    According to my late teacher, Yogi Chen, when one attains theDharmakaya Light, even the inner breathing has stopped. At this stageeven ones heartbeat has stopped. Such a meditative state is thus veryclose to death. Ordinarily our heartbeats are considered to be beyondour conscious control, and yet practitioners of meditation can slow

    them down or, in rare cases, even stop them completely throughmeditation. When ones inner and outer breathing stops, ones bodywill be completely filled with air, and then this air bag will shatter, i.e.,the boundary between inner and outer air disappears and ones innerair becomes one with the air outside. (This does not mean that ourphysical body will shatter into pieces.) At this point one goes into theDharmakaya Light experience.


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    I myself have had experiences of the above-mentioned characteristicsof the Dharmakaya Light experience: Bright Image, No Thoughts, NoDuality and Ceased Breathing. Nevertheless, I have not had theexperience of the Dharmakaya Light because my meditations are notdeep enough. The stopping of the outer breathing is not very difficult

    to achieve; many practitioners of meditation have had this experience.As ones meditation goes deeper, the breathing automatically becomesfiner and slower, and eventually stops by itself. As soon as the outerbreathing stops, the inner breathing begins. It cannot be achieved byintention because as long as one maintains thoughts, the outerbreathing cannot stop.

    Once I had an experience of the outside air pouring into me while I wasdoing "Powa," a Tantric practice to help deceased people enterBuddhas Pure Land. All of a sudden, without my intention orexpectation, the air outside came into me, not through the nostrils but

    from all directions; and then went into the Amitabha Buddha that Ivisualized in front of me.

    I mention all these personal experiences to help you understand thatthose characteristics mentioned above, although they soundincredible, are indeed achievable.

    When Yogi Chen talks about Chan (Zen) in his writings, he is talkingabout this Dharmakaya Light experience and its utilization in allaspects of life. The utilization of this experience is to base our living inthis final realization of Limitless-Oneness.

    When we talk about this Dharmakaya Light experience as theEnlightenment experience, it does not mean that the goal of Buddhismis to practice meditation to such an extent that one is very close todeath and then remains useless. Rather, it is the true beginning ofBuddhas Wisdom and Compassion. The Wisdom based on thisDharmakaya Light experience goes beyond the worldly wisdom that islimited by our normal sensations. The Compassion based on thisDharmakaya Light experience accepts all without reservations. Thewonderful interplay of Wisdom and Compassion results in the infiniteteachings and other salvation activities of all Buddhas and


    Based on the degree of realization of Dharmakaya Light, Yogi Chenclassified the Gong-Ans of Chan, i.e., the anecdotes of Chan mastersteachings, into four levels. He wrote a book on this entitled "TheLighthouse in the Ocean of Chan." At the first level, you simply enterthe Dharmakaya Light experience, hence, the first level is called"Entrance." In Chan it is often denoted by the drawing of a big circle.


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    Why is a circle used to represent the Dharmakaya Light? In theLimitless-Oneness of the Dharmakaya Light, everywhere can be thecenter and then it is of equal infinite distance to all sides; similarly, thecenter of a circle is of equal distance to all points on its circumference.Of course, the Dharmakaya Light actually has no boundary.

    Although I cannot emphasize the importance of the Dharmakaya Lightexperience enough, it is still not something that we want to haveattachment for. Its significance lies in the fact that, prior to thisexperience, one has never actually been free from the dualisticconceptualization of "me" and "others." As long as there is such adistinction, one cannot truly love others. When there are no difficulties,when we have enough to share, of course, it is easy to love oneanother. At times of shortage or hardship, fighting becomes inevitablefor people with a sense of self. Only people who have experienced theLimitless-Oneness of the Dharmakaya Light can truly love others as

    themselves. It is not because that experience has transformed them;rather, it is because the experience is a vivid manifestation of theirhaving returned to their original purity.

    Furthermore, the motivation to serve others will spontaneously emergefrom the Dharmakaya Light experience because it is a real experienceof being one with all. One then no longer does good because ofbelieving in some conceptual framework of goodness or for rewards inthe future or in Heaven. Rather, it is simply out of a profound sense ofOneness that it has become mandatory to act for the well being of all.

    If one who has had the Dharmakaya Light experience becomesattached to it, then he will stay in it. Thereby he cannot help ordinarysentient beings through direct involvement. This is not the bestpossible way to serve others who are still in the whirlpool of worldlysorrows. Therefore, after one has attained the Dharmakaya Lightexperience and has practiced to the extent that he can enter it at will,he should come out from that meditative state. Yogi Chen pointed outthat such a freedom from attachment to the Dharmakaya Lightexperience is a major step on the path toward completeEnlightenment. In his classification it is the second level, which islabeled "Exit."

    The third level is called "Use." After one has exited from attachment tothe Dharmakaya Light experience, one practices infusing the Limitless-Oneness of Dharmakaya Light experience into all daily activities, andthereby rooting our thoughts and actions in the oneness of all. We areaccustomed to selfish desires and actions, and to self-centeredthoughts and talks. Even when one has purified oneself to the extentthat one has had the Dharmakaya Light experience, it might still be


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    just a fleeting moment of awakening. Therefore, one needs to practicepenetration and utilization of the awakening in ones daily life. Whenone has mastered utilization of the awakening in daily activities, thenone may bestow Enlightenment on those who are ready even throughsimple daily encounters. In the history of Chan there are numerous

    such examples. One famous story is the bestowal of Enlightenment ona devoted disciple by the Bird Nest Master, who simply blew a featherin his own palm.

    Finally, one has become so mature in the utilization of the awakeningexperience that it has become ones nature and there are no traces ofpractice or endeavor. This fourth and final level is therefore entitled"Finish."

    Chan, as I explained above, is the quintessence of Buddhas teachings.All Buddhist teachings are rooted in the Dharmakaya Light experience

    and guide us toward this experience. The above is only a briefexplanation of Chan. For detailed study and guidance on practice,please read Yogi Chens "The Lighthouse in the Ocean of Chan."

    In Buddhism there are many systems with their respective stipulationof stages. Among all these various teachings, Chan is a direct teachingat the ultimate stage. It is not a beginners course; hence most of usneed to start our Buddhist practice with easier methods. Many of thequestions that you have raised are due to a lack of understanding ofthe different stages in Buddhism. For example, some of you consideredmeditations leading to concentration as Chan practices, without

    realizing that such practices are only basic but not intrinsic toBuddhism. Concentration practices are common to Buddhists, Taoists,Hindus, etc.

    The next question ishow to approach Chan, or how to attain Chanthrough practice? There are many traditional approaches that aredeveloped by different masters and marked by their individual styles.They are the so-called Schools of Chan, e.g., Lin-Ji, Cao-Dong, etc. Ofcourse, we need to respect and learn the traditional teachings.However, one should also realize that there is no way which is the onlytrue way to attain Chan. Hence we should not be too attached to the

    individual styles.

    When the masters helped their disciples as recorded in the Gong-Ans,the Chan anecdotes, they did not have preconceived ideas in mind. AChan master simply acts in response to the situation raised by thestudent. It is analogous to a man with eyesight who naturally extends ahelping hand to a falling blind person. The way he helps is in response


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    to the way the blind person is falling. Hence we cannot simply try toimitate his hand movements in order to gain his eyesight.

    The master tried to aim at and destroy the self-centeredness of thestudent at that instant; and when the student was ready, he

    experienced it and got the essence of Buddhas teachings instantly.Later, people tried to record incidents like these to convey theinconceivable teaching; and they called the teachers responses"methods," as if there was a general way or approach. Actually eachresponse was unique to the given situation relative to the student atthat particular moment. As the time and place change, so do thestudent and the teachers response. Hence, we should not just imitatethe actions of Chan masters in order to achieve Enlightenment.

    This is pointed out by the saying: "A Chan practitioner walks the pathof birds." Birds fly in the sky, leaving no traces; similarly, a Chan

    practitioners activities cannot be grasped. If we take a photo of a birdin the sky and think that it is still there in the sky, then we are certainlymistaken. Likewise, if we read a Chan anecdote and think that themasters response is the answer for all times to come then we havebeen misguided. This is precisely what the Chan masters tried to avoidwhen they taught without resorting to the holy teachings as recordedin the Sutras and Sastras. Only with this kind of proper understandingcan we go into the study of Chan anecdotes.

    Let us consider a question raised by one of you: "I used to think thatZen is the same as Buddha Nature. What is the difference?"

    The difference is that "Buddha Nature" is just a concept, while Chan isthe actual realization of Enlightenment. As a conceptual tool, "BuddhaNature" helps to dissolve the boundaries of all our concepts; therebywe may become free from the views and thoughts that we have held.Nevertheless, it is just a concept. If we do not enhance it by actualpractice, we will never experience the freedom from conceptuallimitations.

    Another question from you that is of interest is, "Is sitting meditationreally the way to reach Zen?"

    According to Yogi Chens teaching, in the Chinese Chan tradition, onestarts the sitting meditation only after one has had the Chanexperience. Before one attains the Chan experience, one needs totravel to look for a teacher with real attainment, and then practiceaccording to the teachers instructions. After one has attained theChan experience, at first one has no mastery over that experience andit is just a fleeting glimpse of the Dharmakaya Light happening by


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    chance. Therefore, one needs to practice sitting meditation in solitudein order to stabilize that experience and gain mastery over it. The goalat this stage is simply to become able to enter and exit the Chanexperience at will.

    Only after one has mastery over the entrance and exit of DharmakayaLight can one expand the practice to ordinary daily activities. In theChinese Chan tradition, it is even said that one should not go intoretreat before one has obtained the Chan experience of awakening.One needs to do many good deeds to help sentient beings and visitChan masters until one becomes mature and meets a master who,with one act such as a blow or a shout, breaks up your ego.

    Some even experienced awakening during their pilgrimage frommaster to master: one saw his own image in the water; one heard thesound of a stone hitting a bamboo; while another saw a peach

    blossom; and they instantly awakened. There is simply no one ordefinite way to obtain the awakening experience, and in these cases,the water, the stone and the flower are the masters. This is called "theDirect Transmission of Dharmakaya."

    After one has gained mastery over the entrance and exit of theDharmakaya Light experience, one no longer needs to stay in solitaryretreat. Then one can live on a mountain where there are only a fewpeople, and practice combining the awakening experience with simpledaily activities. One no longer has to stay only in one room, but maywalk around on the mountain of his retreat, a natural environment

    without complex human relations.

    When one becomes quite at ease with this practice in the mountain,then one will go down into the city to practice while mingling withpeople. Hui-Ke, the second Patriarch of the Chinese Chan School, was amonk, and yet for his practice at this stage he went to gamblinghouses and brothels. Ones greed and concern over gain or loss areoperating during those kinds of involvements. The advancedpractitioner is trying to penetrate those fundamental attachments withthe awakening experience and thereby become truly free from them.The complete purity of mind thus obtained has been tested with real

    situations, and is therefore applicable to life. One then devotes oneslife to service based on such purity.

    Before one reaches such purity, the subtle traces of attachments maystill emerge occasionally and this should be taken care of.Consequently, the distinction between the actor and the observer isstill working in ones consciousness, and ones activities are not pureand natural. Furthermore, when good deeds are the result of conscious


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    control, there is no telling when righteousness may yield to desires orimpulses.

    The Chan use of the Dharmakaya Light experience is to spontaneouslysublimate all our self-centered tendencies to their original purity in

    Limitless-Oneness. There is no longer a chance of ones self-centeredness working behind ones activities. One becomes at easewith his desires and impulses because he no longer lives in theirshadows but stays in the openness of the whole universe as one.

    When the second Patriarch went to the prostitutes, people ridiculedhim because he was a monk who was supposed to remain chaste. Thesecond Patriarch simply replied, "I am training my own mind; it is noneof your business." Nevertheless, this kind of training is not forbeginners to take up. It is training at the very last stage. In order to digout the roots of all ones desires, it is necessary to go into situations

    where desires are rampant. The practitioners at this stage will visit orstay in a cemetery at night. At that stage they are already able to seeghosts. They will use the scary sights and sounds to enhance thestability of their Dharmakaya Light, and thereby transcend the ordinaryfear.

    We are not at such an advanced stage, nor have we had theDharmakaya Light experience. Can we still practice-sitting meditationand gain some benefits, or should we start it only after we shall havehad the Dharmakaya Light experience?

    Sitting meditation does not have to be the advanced Chan practice. Itcan be a simple practice of observing ones breathing, or concentratingon one point. To reach the Dharmakaya Light experience, it isnecessary that we have the basic meditational ability to concentrateon one point. Hence, we can still practice-sitting meditation and gainsome benefits. However, even for the very basic sitting meditations, itis very important that one is consistent in ones mind and activities,and not attached to worldly things.

    If we study the Chan anecdotes carefully, we will notice that thoseChan practitioners, in order to obtain awakening, gave up everything

    and went on a quest looking for a Chan master. Such a pilgrimagemight continue for years as they travel from master to master. Howmany of us could do such a thing? How many of us would give upeverything for such a spiritual quest?

    Further, although Chan is un-definable and without a definite methodor answer, still, traditionally there are two methods, which have beenpassed down. One method is to ponder a Hua-Tou, i.e., a question that


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    deeply puzzles one. This pondering should be kept up continuouslywithout a break until one attains the awakening experience. It maytake days, weeks, months or years. This could drive an ordinary personcrazy, and hence it is dangerous unless the practitioner has completelyrenounced worldly life.

    Indeed, the aim of this practice is to break up the hold of onesrationality (but it is not to break up ones rationality). Whenever we areacting within the confines of concepts, we are aware of thesubject/object distinction, and hence we cannot be one with ourimmediate experience. Hence to reach the Limitless-Oneness of theDharmakaya we need to go beyond rationality. An analogy would belike trying to escape from a mental cage by drilling at one point untilthe drill goes through. In the case of Chan awakening, it is not justcreating a hole, it is comparable to the whole cage collapsing.

    How many of us can keep pondering one question all the time? Thatactually requires training in advance. Therefore, the sitting meditationfor concentrating on one point is preparatory for the real Chanpractice.

    People often try to understand Chan, instead of by complete devotionand involvement, by observations made from an on-lookersstandpoint. Consequently, their remarks are apt to be contradicted bysome known Gong-Ans. For example, some would tell us that the Chanpractitioners are practical in the sense that they work daily for theirlivelihood. The First Patriarch Bodhidharma sat in meditation facing a

    wall for nine years waiting for someone mature enough to receive thetransmission of the quintessence. What kind of practical mindednesswas exemplified by the First Patriarch of Chan? Thus we see thatworking daily for livelihood is not essential to Chan.

    Seeing the example set by Bodhidharma, some would tell us thatsitting meditation is the way to attain Chan. Nevertheless, when theSecond Patriarch, Hui-Ke, came to ask for teaching from Bodhidharma,the transmission had nothing to do with instructions on sittingmeditation.

    Hui-Ke was no ordinary man; Prior to going to Bodhidharma, he hadstudied the sutras and realized that he did not have the realattainment. Therefore, he went to Bodhidharma for teaching on thequintessence. He stood outside for three days and nights in the snowwaiting for Bodhidharma to pay attention to him. The snow covered hisfeet up to the knees. Finally Bodhidharma broke the silence and asked,"What do you want?" Hui-Ke replied that he would like to receive theteaching on the essence of the Dharma. Bodhidharma said that the


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    ancients gave up their lives in order to obtain such teachings; hence,such teachings could not be given lightly. To show his determinationand appreciation of the teaching, Hui-Ke cut off his left arm at theelbow and presented it to Bodhidharma.

    Seeing this, Bodhidharma said, "Now that you have sacrificed the well-being of your body for the Dharma, you have thereby shown yourappreciation of the Dharma; nevertheless, the quintessence of theDharma cannot be obtained from others." Hui-ke said, "My mind is notat peace; please pacify it for me!" Bodhidharma said, "Bring me yourmind; then I will pacify it for you." Hui-Ke remained silent for a whileand then said, "I cannot find my mind." Bodhidharma said, "I havepacified it for you." When one realizes that there is no mind to befound, then there are no more disturbances of mind. During thisfamous episode there is no mention of sitting meditation.

    The above shows that there is really no definite way to attainawakening. That is also the reason why a Chan practitioner goes fromone master to another in search of the one who would bestowawakening on him. It is also recorded in the Gong-Ans that some Chanmasters would point out to a visiting student that another master wasthe right teacher for him. They even knew who was a suitable teacherfor whom. Practicing a method is more or less an outward imitation;only the inner realization of a true master and the inner maturity of adevoted disciple can meet and bring about union in the Limitless-Oneness. Hence, for Chan students it is of utmost importance to takerefuge in a true master.

    The other method in the Chinese Chan tradition is the "Running andShock" method. The practitioner runs clockwise in a circle, with his leftshoulder lifted and body leaning a little bit toward the right; his lefthand moves back and forth a lot, and he runs faster and faster.Suddenly the teacher or an attendant makes a loud noise. Uponhearing the noise, the practitioner stops running and stands still. Sucha running and shock practice may sometimes bring about theDharmakaya Light experience.

    We usually take it for granted that air goes through both nostrils. It is

    taught in Tantric Buddhism that practitioners of meditation havelearned that sometimes the air will go by itself through only onenostril. Often the air goes in through the left nostril and comes outthrough the right one. Therefore, the practitioner runs in the particularway described above so as to help more air go into the body. When thebody is full of air, and one runs very fast and suddenly stops inresponse to a shock caused by a loud noise, the conditions may bringabout the extraordinary Dharmakaya Light experience.


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    Rinzai and Soto, the Japanese Chan schools, originated in the Chinesetradition and are named after the Chinese Patriarchs. Last night I heardProfessor Rogers mention that in one of these two schools, I do notrecall now which one it is, the student is not given something to workon; rather the student may come to the teacher when he has questions

    to ask. To me, such an arrangement contains a hidden teaching. Itwould be interesting for you to ponder over why the arrangement issuch that the student goes to the teacher only when he has questions.The hidden teaching in this arrangement is beyond the actualquestioning and answering between the student and the teacher. Inother words, the arrangement contains a Hua-Tou in itself, i.e., apuzzle to ponder. You might want to think about this before our nextmeeting, and then we can talk about it next time.

    Professor Rogers: To think about what?

    Dr. Lin: Why the arrangement is such that the student comes to theteacher only when he has questions. You see, it is not the case that theteacher has something to give to the student. Rather, the teacheroffers an answer only when the student has a question. The teacherseems to be waiting passively. Why is he like that?

    So far I have not answered all the questions that you wrote down forme. Nevertheless, I believe it is better to ask new questions now thatyou have heard my talk, rather than my going through the list ofquestions you previously had.

    Question from a student: When you talked about losing the sense ofsubject and object, is that differentiating between yourself and otherobjects or beings? Could you explain that more?

    Dr. Lin: It is something that one realizes upon reflection only after onehas come out of that state, just as one becomes aware of the degree ofones tension only after becoming relaxed. Furthermore, it is apersonal experience that is almost impossible to communicate topeople who have not had the same experience. Still I can tell yousomething to help you understand it.

    Usually when we sit on a chair we are constantly aware of our bodyresting against the chair; without making any effort we sense theboundary between two objects. However, as a result of mymeditational practice, the sense of boundary between two objectssimply disappears by itself. The sense of a boundary was a naturalsensation which I realized later to be unconsciously maintained byconceptual distinctions.


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    Thus, losing the sense of subject and object distinction is not just aconceptual thing; it is something one can actually experience.

    Right now we can try the following experiment: try to imagine that youare at the center of a ball of air or light, and imagine that the ball is

    getting larger and larger. Since you have not practiced this before,naturally you will sense a limitation to such expansion. Can anyone tellme where you have sensed a boundary? Or, in other words, do yousense some obstacle to your imagined expansion?

    One student: This circle that we are sitting in (referring to the seatingarrangement in the room)

    Dr. Lin: Yes. You are limited by the walls. Whenever we enter a room,our notion of space will be limited by the walls. Only when we try toexpand the space in our minds do we come to realize that we have

    such conceptual boundaries. This does not mean that walls do not existor that we can go through walls. Rather, it simply means that it is notnecessary for our minds to be unconsciously limited by our senses. Theso-called "supernatural" abilities are simply expressions of the mindwhen it is awakened to and freed from the limitations ill-imposed byour normal senses. It takes practice to free our minds from all thesekinds of unconscious presumptions. When we are free fromunconsciously self-imposed mental blocks, we will be able to see a newworld and live our lives differently. That is why we need these kinds ofspiritual practices and that is where the significance of such a spiritualpractice lies.

    The traditional ideals such as "Love thy neighbors; all people under thesky are brothers and sisters..." are not just empty words. It is possiblefor one to attain such spiritual freedom enabling one to truly feel likethat. Physically our growth is limited; spiritually we are all capable ofunlimited growth. Life is an opportunity for such growth that is whereits true significance lies. In comparison, all other things are justtransient. Spiritual growth is an eternal quest for humanity, and it isthe only source of true happiness in our human existence. Whoeverhas enjoyed freedom from the ego will selflessly serve others.

    Another way to reach the presumption-free state is through thepractice of pure or direct experiencing. This is the "Vipassana"practice, also referred to as "insight meditation." There are two kindsof Vipassana practices: One kind is training oneself to think inaccordance with Buddhas teachings (this is not the kind that I amreferring to), and the other kind is training in observation andawareness by simply observing ones sensations, breathing, thoughtsor emotions without involvement or reaction.


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    To people who have not done such practices it would seem to be awaste of time because one simply sits still, becomes introspective, anddoes not react. Nevertheless, it is indeed a training in experiencingthings as they are. We have been so dominated and prejudiced by ourthoughts that most of the time we lose touch with our immediate

    experiences, especially the subtle sensations. We cannot see the worldas it is; and our actions are guided by our limited views. Distortionslead to more distortions and ultimately cause considerable confusion.

    We are constantly under tension because of such distortions andconfusion. We do need to learn to unwind in order to have a clear mindand a happy life. As we pay attention to our experiences as they are,the grip of our conceptual framework gradually loosens. People areusually quite blind as to what is actually going on, and simply pushforward with their plans, desires and views. Pure experiencing has anawakening effect that will refresh our awareness and sensibility. As a

    result we will be more in tune with reality and become more empathicto others situations.

    Pure experiencing will purify our minds thereby freeing us from ourprejudices and attachments. A booklet of mine called "The Practice ofSinging Along" describes a pure-experiencing practice that I haveinvented. The key point is to try to sing along with songs from a tapebeing played, not segment-by-segment, but rather sound after sound.One tries to sing along by intuition, not memory.

    I began my practice by using a French tape because I do not know this

    language. Although we cannot understand a foreign language that wehave not learned, still we should be able to hear every sound as it isspoken. Unfortunately, we tend to mentally close our hearing to foreignlanguages as we have difficulty capturing the spoken sounds. On theone hand, this is our sense of economy working, i.e., we simply ignorewhat would be of no avail to us. On the other hand, such habitualtendencies become automatic mental blocks to our ability to learn orreadjust. That is why language learning is natural to small children, buta tremendous task for many adults.

    When I practice singing along, I try to sing at the same time I hear the

    song; otherwise, it would be from memory rather than a directexperience.

    Question from the class: But you must be a little bit behind it; arentyou?


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    Dr. Lin: Well, it takes practice to achieve that. Right now you thinkthat it certainly takes time for the sound to reach me and for me toimitate it out loud.

    (Dr. Lin made a sound by striking the desk.)

    This sound as it occurred was, in fact, beyond our concepts of whomade it and where it came from. We had an immediate sensation thatinvolved no thinking. As long as we have a sense of this being a soundcoming from a place outside of ourselves, then our faculties are notfunctioning intuitively. The natural functions of our faculties are beinginterfered with by distinctions made on an unconscious level based onculture and personal past experiences. Through practice, all these add-ons will gradually weaken and finally fade away. It is possible to reachthe state in which the sound you hear is felt as yours. The sound is justthere, free from the distinction of being yours or mine. When you can

    experience just pure sounds, then you will be able to sing alongsimultaneously with the song being played.

    The importance of this practice lies in the spiritual freedom it will bring.After I had practiced singing along for one year using the same Frenchtape, gradually I was able to do it. Also, as I sang along, the "BrightImage" that I mentioned earlier would appear.

    Question from the class: Is it the Dharmakaya Light?

    Dr. Lin: No, that is not the Dharmakaya Light. "Bright Image" simply

    refers to the experience of seeing everything brightly.

    When one is singing along closely, one becomes so concentrated thatone cannot cling to anything. Normally, one tends to cling to thesounds one has just heard, and this clinging will prevent one fromhearing the forthcoming sounds properly. Similarly, if one anticipatesanything, then the anticipating attitude will interfere with onesperception. Hence singing along also frees one from anticipation. Itwas my experience that the practice of singing along can bring oneinto meditative states that are free from clinging and anticipation.

    As I entered that meditative state, tears simply rolled down my face; Iintuitively sensed that we are fundamentally the same and that wehave been deceived by superficial differences into making divisionsamong human beings. Differences in culture, country or species do notmatter; as sentient beings we are all the same.

    If I were born as you, then what your mother says would be as dear tome as to you; and that is the reason why children can learn several


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    languages easily. To children, all languages are as natural as theirmother tongue. Adults have made the distinction between native andforeign languages, so they learn through translations. Consequently,the learning process is slow and clumsy. Instead of the natural way ofimmediately responding, we adults are constantly translating or

    checking the grammar when using a second language. In this way welose our natural ability to be direct and simple.

    Once we have purified our minds through such practice, we will realizethe underlying truth of what people are doing when they kill each otherin warsit is the same as killing their own parents. This kind ofrealization is the real benefit of Buddhist study and practice, especiallythe practices. Only through adopting these practices will one see thefundamental truth. It is different from brainwashing by ideologies.Buddhist practices simply clear your minds eye so that you can seethe truth yourself; you will really sense it.

    Question from a student: I am having trouble understanding thedifference between transcending desires such as greed and using it asan excuse to act out ones desires.

    Dr. Lin: First of all, you have to answer to yourself whether you aresincere or not. Only when you practice sincerely and your concern goesbeyond the ordinary limits of yourself, your family, and your country,does the transcendence have real meaning. Ones personal greedbecomes an insignificant thing when one sees the whole picturesomany people are suffering; life is so fragile; there are so many natural

    calamities and yet people are adding on suffering by fighting. Whenones mind is broadened to see and care for all this, then it becomesfree from personal gains and losses.

    As to those people who use ideals as pretexts for promoting their self-centered interests, I think they are indeed suffering a great loss. In thefinal analysis, what can they truly gain by this? They are only fallingdeeper and deeper into the tiny prison that they are building for theirown confinement. I have only sympathy for them. What we need to dois to help them see the vastness and freedom of Limitless-Oneness.

    In this context, the old saying, "Your destiny is really in your hands," isvalid. Our intentions, sincerity, and actions can make a greatdifference, so we ought to be careful. Self-centered people are living inmisery, because even if they can fool others all the time, they cannever fool themselves. In view of the liberation experienced by Chanmasters, selfish people are missing the best opportunity that life has tooffer, and wasting life by rushing into wrong directions. How pitiful!


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    Question: In meditation you reach the point where you lose theconcept of yourself and another, so it is all one. But when you have towithdraw from that meditative state, and it reaches the point whereyou do not see a distinction between yourself and others, do you nothave any concept of self?

    Dr. Lin: Well, by the definition of Buddhahood, that is the case.Nevertheless, it does not mean that the awakening experience willrender one ignorant of worldly ways. The purer one becomes, theclearer one sees the underlying motives of others.

    In practice the main problem is how to apply the Oneness that onerealizes through meditation in daily life. In real life "there are no freelunches." Of course, realization of Oneness does not mean that basedon your realization you will get a "free lunch." The main point is thatone has gained the freedom to see the whole spectrum. Consequently,

    one sees clearly what is at the root of human suffering. There arethings that we can do little about, like natural calamities; however,man-made sufferings can be reduced and even prevented fromhappening by our efforts.

    There are different ways to solve human problems: politically, socially,economically, etc. These ways are limited and more or less superficial.The fundamental solution to human problems is a common awarenessthat we need to be good ourselves and kind to others. The laws arevery limited; it all depends on how they are interpreted, carried out,and to what extent they can apply. Law enforcement can capture only

    some illegal dealings, and sometimes punishes the innocent bymistake. Laws may regulate human affairs, but cannot be a source ofcompassion and goodwill.

    Once we realize the importance of everyone being good and kind, weshould start improving ourselves. This is not self-centered because it isnot out of a sense of trying to be superior, but just the result of seeingthe whole picture and recognizing that this is the foundation for asolution to our problems. Besides, others will follow only after we haveset good examples ourselves. We can improve ourselves throughpractice, and we have control only over our own activities. Others can

    be influenced only when they are willing to listen to us. If we start withcriticizing others, it will simply be a waste of time and energy.

    When you begin to improve yourself, outwardly it seems that you arethe same as before; you still have things in life to take care of.Nevertheless, you are now living with an open and new perspective,and your motives are no longer self-centered. Previously, we tried toget more for ourselves, so we thought and acted in terms of


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    competition. With the new perspective of the oneness of the whole, wework in cooperation for harmony and peace. If the situation involvescompetition, we avoid it by starting on a new route. An old Chinesesaying goes: "One step backward, and the ocean becomes expansiveand the sky spacious." That means when one is all wrapped up in

    worldly entanglements, if one will only yield a little bit, then one willsee that life is in fact not so narrow. Life is full of possibilities; simplyyield and live in peace.

    Question: How does the concept of "no self" come up?

    Dr. Lin: At the level of being a concept, all concepts are just man-made devices. We have been bound by our concept of a self, soBuddha gave the teaching on "no self" in order to free us from theconcept of a self. It is not Buddhas intention to give us anotherconceptual cage; His teaching is not for us to live within the concept of

    "no self," rather it is simply a guide toward experiencing freedom from"self."

    Some people may get the correct message upon hearing the teachingof "no self," while others may be misled into thinking that there is stillsomething to hold onto. Therefore, Chan masters help people get themessage by doing without the traditional teachings of Buddha. Theyconvey directly the experience of awakening, which is essentiallybeyond the reach of concepts and speeches.

    The effectiveness of communication is relative to the understanding of

    the parties involved. Hence, concepts, as tools for communication, arebound to be limited in their range of applications. Once we realize thislimitation, we will be able to use concepts as tools more effectively.

    Professor Rogers: Dr. Lin, in the introductory part of your talk youtalked about the four characteristics like things becoming brighter, etc.I think you referred to that as the real stuff. I feel very uneasy when Ihear that, because that is something very different from where I am,and I am not sure if I desire it; but if I was to get that, I would need todesire it, so it sort of sets up a kind of dualism that makes me feel veryuncomfortable.

    Dr. Lin: Right. That is precisely why my teacher was breaking thetradition when he revealed all these experiences. The tradition of Chanis not to talk about it so as to avoid the problem you have just raised.

    Let us consider the following famous Gong-An: A monk sat inmeditation. Upon seeing this, his teacher began to rub a brick on theground. The monk asked, "What are you doing?" The teacher replied, "I


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    am polishing it into a mirror." The monk retorted," How could yousucceed in that?" The teacher replied, "Likewise, one cannot becomeenlightened through meditation." The basic teaching here is that aslong as you have the idea of attaining Enlightenment then you willnever get it, because the idea itself becomes a block in the path of

    reaching oneness with all.

    Why did my teacher run such a risk and break the traditional silence?Nowadays so many people are talking about Gong-Ans that Chan hasbeen degraded into a mere play of words and wits. Many people thinktheir witty remarks and guesses are "answers" to the Gong-Ans, andthat is all Chan is about. Hence, in order to dispel such errors, myteacher revealed the experiences with the hope that someday someserious practitioners may be able to reach it, and feel reassured byduplicating the experience he revealed to us, even in the absence of aliving master.

    Besides, the Chan practice is never trying to reach this or thatexperience. It simply offers a Gong-An for the practitioner to ponder,and nothing else. So, please forget about the desire to reachsomething. The method is simply to work on a Gong-An.

    Professor Rogers: So, these statements are simply put out there, sothat if we have that kind of experience, then we know that is it; andthere is nothing that we can do about having that experience.

    Dr. Lin: Yes, in a sense, there is nothing you can do about having that

    experience; however, in another sense, there is. Now that you havelearned the principles of Buddhism, you can start trying with somesimple practices. Gradually you will approach it. It is like planting atree: it needs sunshine, fertilizer, and a daily supply of water. At firstyou do not see anything; years later the tree is there. There is nothingyou can do to speed up its growth; just wait patiently. You simply needto keep up with the watering, adding of fertilizer and weeding.Similarly, we simply need to keep up with our daily practice, and thespiritual maturation will gradually take shape.

    Professor Rogers: You are suggesting that there are many practices?

    Dr. Lin: Yes. There are different practices for different people atdifferent stages. Now we can talk about why I recommend chanting. Ofcourse, meditation is good, and concentration practices are good.However, if we study it carefully, we will notice that in the Sutras,before a meditational technique is given, there is a short paragraphthat says, "When this person has realized the futility of worldly


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    endeavors and given them up, then he goes to a secluded place andstarts to practice the following meditation."

    The popular approach nowadays is to adopt the meditationaltechniques and encourage everyone to start practicing them without

    even mentioning the existence of such a preliminary step. Why do weneed to mention this preliminary step? Whoever is so busy with hisdaily life, especially our modern complex life with speedycommunication and mobility, is bound to have a mind full of thoughtsand tensions. Such a person cannot simply sit down and concentrateon one point for, say, thirty minutes.

    If he tries to do that, then the result is that he will be concentrating onthe running around in his mind for thirty minutes. If there is no conflictor worry in his mind, then no harm will be done. Otherwise, the conflictor worry will be magnified through the "meditation" and the prejudice,

    attachment and tension will become even stronger. Consequently, themeditation will produce ill effects; therefore, it is very important thatone first prepares oneself for meditational practice. One needs togradually reduce ones worldly desires and involvements, and build upa sincere desire to obtain the fruits of meditation.

    In comparison, the chanting of "Amitabha" is more suitable forbeginners of Buddhist practice. It is a way to free our minds from ourcustomary views and thoughts and to stop our entanglements withinour thoughts. Since all our worldly thoughts and concepts areconnected in a self-centered way, there is no one ordinary concept that

    we can use without implicitly touching the net of our worldly thoughtsand concerns. "Amitabha" is the name of a Buddha. It is not connectedwith our worldly entanglements. We practice to form a new habit ofchanting such a holy name or a mantra in order for the old habit ofrunning around in a self-centered circle to fade away.

    We build up the length of chanting gradually from, say, five hundredrepetitions a day for months to a thousand a day, just as we graduallyincrease the number of rounds of our daily jogging. We have only somuch energy and we are accustomed to devoting all of it to our self-centered ways. With the gradual development of the habit of chanting,

    our energy finds a new direction and moves away from holding ontopreconceptions and precautions. It is a slow and gradual change andthere will be no abrupt conflict; hence it is safe for everyone to adopt.If we keep up the daily chanting, even though it is a gradual change,some day we will be free from attachments and prejudices.

    Will this new habit become a new prison for us? It will not. The reasonsare as follows: A mantra consists of pure sounds, so it has no meaning


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    and no conceptual boundary. If it is a holy name such as "Amitabha,"what does it mean? "Amitabha" means infinite light and infinite life.Infinite light is limitless in space; and infinite life is limitless in time.The basic structure of our conceptual universe is thereby dismantled.There is nothing for us to hold onto. Thus, it is clear that the chanting

    practice will not form a new prison for us.

    Chanting is also a kind of meditation. It changes us step by step, so itis slow and safe. Other meditational practices, especially the Chanendeavor of pondering constantly on a Hua-Tou, involve directconfrontation with ones self. One attempts to destroy ones self-awareness; it is like a life-or-death battle between ones understandingof no-self and ones habitual self-awareness and self-centeredness.Very few people have the courage to face such a duel, not to mentionthe ability to conduct it well. Hence, we need to know our own level,and then choose a practice that is suitable and therefore profitable for

    us. For most of us who still have worldly involvements and humanrelationships to worry about, chanting is a safe practice.

    If you are from a Christian background, it is not necessary to chant"Amitabha." Within the orthodox Christian tradition there is a practice,which mainly involves the chanting of "the Prayer of Jesus." The shortprayer is like a mantra, and it says: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,have mercy on me, a sinner." The goal of this practice is to repeat it tosuch an extent that, for the rest of ones life, whenever the heart beatsonce, one has recited the prayer once.

    When one is serious about developing this practice, at the beginningone can still go on with ones ordinary daily life, but one chants theprayer whenever one remembers, or at least keeps a regular dailysession for the practice. According to the orthodox Christian literature,in the end the practitioner needs to go into retreat to do this practiceunder the guidance of a master who has had experiences in thispractice. Why does one need the guidance of an experienced master?When one is devoted to a spiritual practice, on the one hand, one isfighting with ones ego to obtain purity; and on the other hand, one willencounter temptations from evil spirits. Hence, the guidance andprotection provided by a master is of great benefit and importance.

    Tomorrow morning I will go to the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Park toperform "Powa," a Tibetan Tantric ritual, for the deceased. The aim ofthis ritual is to transfer the consciousness of the deceased to the PureLand of Buddha so that they will no longer suffer in transmigrations.People who are interested in observing this ritual are welcome to joinme. We will meet at ten oclock at the statue of Stonewall Jackson inthe cemetery. It will last for twenty to twenty-five minutes. The ritual


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    itself is short but I will give a brief explanation to help you understandit prior to the ceremony.

    Professor Rogers: So, this is really part of your practicein anycommunity you visit, you go to the cemetery?

    Dr. Lin: Yes, to pray there for the deceased. My late Guru, Yogi Chen,used to do this, and I am continuing the practice.

    The experience of visiting a cemetery will help you understandtomorrow nights lecture on impermanence. Actually, visitingcemeteries is in itself a practice of impermanence.

    Professor Rogers: So, I do not know whether you demolished ourpractice of sitting ...

    Dr. Lin: No. When you sit in meditation, one way is to try toconcentrate on one point. Chanting "Amitabha" is simply trying toconcentrate on this one point "Amitabha."

    Professor Rogers: Your suggestion to us is that we need to preparefor our meditation. Maybe our class is, in a way, ...

    Dr. Lin: The class can continue to do the sitting practice withoutrunning into the risks I mentioned because you are doing it for onlytwenty to thirty minutes at a time and only three times a week. Theeffect of such a practice is so little that there cannot be a big problem

    resulting from it. Although you are not prepared, you are not going intodeep water to swim. You are only getting your feet wet, so there canbe no danger.

    (The whole class burst into laughter.)

    Question from a student: In Buddhist teachings it is said that allsentient beings and all inanimate things, like grass, stones, etc., areBuddha. Does it mean that ...

    Dr. Lin: All are really one to Buddha, namely, people who have had

    the awakening experience. In that experience Buddha could notdistinguish between animate and inanimate; he could not even point toan object and call it something. He can function only after he has comeout from that experience. For us, we need to first achieve thatexperience in order to realize the truth of Oneness. The teaching is atheory, a conceptual tool; it tells us to start thinking in terms of theLimitless-Oneness. From our ordinary point of view, the teaching isfalse. Nevertheless, if we want to have that experience, we need to


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    follow the teachings and begin to see things from the Oneness point ofview. Only then will we be able to savor Oneness someday.

    How can we be sure that we are not mistaken in following the Buddhistteaching? We do not have the Oneness experience; how do we know

    that it is true or even attainable? The answer is that as we walk on thispath we will grow and have more and more experiences that assure usof its correctness and benefits. Many extraordinary experiences thatoccur are difficult to explain and are even contrary to our commonsense.

    For example, a Buddhist friend Mrs. Young went back to Hong Kong fora short visit. I did not know what she was going to do over there. Onenight in my dream I saw her releasing turtles which is a Buddhistpractice done to save lives. When she came back to the United States,I checked with her and found out that my dream occurred only a few

    hours after she actually did that in Hong Kong. If we take an airplaneflight to get there, we will realize how far away it is, and in comparison,how tiny the sphere of our immediate senses are. How do we explainthis?

    If we follow the teaching, it says all are essentially one; then there isno wonder that we can see things happening afar because all areconnected as one. We simply need to loosen our preconception ofphysical limits, and then extraordinary things will happen.

    Besides, according to my experiences, the messages that we receive

    do not come in a random way. It has always been information that is ofsignificance and relates to me in some way; and only as much as Ineed to know is revealed.

    Another example is as follows: Before I began to plan for mypilgrimage to Bodhgaya where Shakyamuni became enlightened, I hada dream in which I saw that I would go to Nepal before I would returnto Taiwan. Since I knew no one in Nepal, I did not know why I would begoing there. In that dream I also saw a well-dressed Lama givingblessing to people, so I told my wife that I would probably see the DalaiLama over there. I also told Professor Pryor, who was making

    arrangements for the pilgrimage, about this. The dream occurred morethan one year before my pilgrimage took place in 1990.

    Even when we went on the pilgrimage in January 1990, we did notknow that the Dalai Lama would be there. Then in Varanasi ProfessorPryor announced that the Dalai Lama would be in Sarnath the followingday, and that we had been granted an invitation to attend theceremony. So we actually saw him in India. This event becomes not so


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    mysterious when we understand that all are actually one. This examplealso shows that our preconception that the future is unknown to us isnot absolutely true.

    I receive phone calls from people in Taiwan, Malaysia, Canada, Miami,

    New York, Los Angeles, etc., asking me to pray for someone who haspassed away, or someone undergoing surgery, etc. I have hadfeedback from many people testifying that the prayers helped orworked. How do we account for prayers working for total strangers invast distances? If it does not help, why do people keep calling me? Isimply put their names down in a book, set it on the altar before theBuddha, and chant some mantras. That is what I do; and it works. Ifyou do Buddhist practice, someday you may have this kind ofexperience yourself.

    Question from a student: What is the Buddhist view on what is

    called fate, fortune or destiny?

    Dr. Lin: Basically the Buddhist teaching is based on the law of cause-and-effect operating within the context of transmigrations, i.e., beforeEnlightenment all sentient beings go through life after life in the sixrealms of heaven, asura, human, animal, hungry ghost and hell.

    The course of ones present life is partly determined by ones actions inpast lives, and partly determined by ones actions in this life. Onesactions in this life may or may not yield fruits in this life; the fruit ofones actions may become mature in future lives.

    Events that have happened already are determined by previousactions, hence they are fated in that sense. Nevertheless, events thathave not yet happened may be changed, if only we know and work inadvance on the causes for change. Hence, the law of cause-and-effectdoes not mean fatalism. It is precisely because of the law of cause-and-effect, changes are possible, Enlightenment can be work at, andfatalism does not hold.

    Question from a student: I do not know about transmigration; butaccording to Buddhism, is there an origin?

    Dr. Lin: Well, to this kind of question, even if someone gives you ananswer, you will never know if it is true or not; it is purely theoretical.The Buddhists say that the transmigration is from time of nobeginning.

    The emphasis of Buddhas teaching is rather on the reality of sufferingthe speedy arrival of old age, sickness and death, and on how one


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    may be free from all this. Work on these real problems; do not spendtime on those that are not real problems.

    Professor Rogers: But we think it is a problem.

    Dr. Lin: Right. Then the way out is to tell you that it is from time of nobeginning. Anyway, if you like, please check it yourself.

    (The whole class laughed.)

    Professor Rogers: Thank you, Sensei (Japanese for teacher.)

    The Second Meeting

    Professor Rogers: We have placed great emphasis, I think, thanks toDr. Lin, on the importance of practice in how you reach whatever it isthat the Sutras, the scriptures, are talking about. We have our sort ofacademic practice, which is sitting. In reading your journals, I thoughtwe were making good progress; we were not thinking about reachingEnlightenment or any sort of dramatic kind of experience, and I amvery comfortable with that. In a sense, Dr. Lin is speaking from theBuddhist point of view, and this is the first Buddhist we have heardfrom in this class in a formal sense. I think he is raising questions aboutour sitting practice. He is introducing the notion of chanting assomething that may be safer or more appropriate to this sort ofmodern age when we simply are not going to take leave from society.

    We are about to look at Shinran whose personality was shaped byMedieval Japan during a time of chaos when there was the sense thatthere was nothing you could do to affect the stage-by-stage movementtoward something called "Enlightenment." It was uniquely shaped byJapanese culture and the times. So, Shinran not only critiqued zazen(sitting meditation), he would say that chanting with any kind ofpurpose would be ineffectual during such a chaotic time.

    The sitting meditation practice that we have been doing as shaped byProfessor Follo has been very helpful. Dr. Lin, coming from years ofpractice in a very complex Tibetan Buddhist form of practice, is sayingthat the most helpful thing for most of us in this present age is


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    chanting. Now we are going to look at Shinran who advocated the"practice of no practice;" according to him, there is no practice that iseffective.

    So, that is where I am at the momentsomewhat confused, and very

    pleased that Dr. Lin will be with us for the next two hours. We will doour ordinary regular practice during the last half hour.

    Dr. Lin: What I was saying last time was that sitting meditation maynot be appropriate for people who are not well-prepared. It does notmean that you cannot try it. I think it is good for you to have someexperience with it. My emphasis was rather on the point that, if youwant to have serious results, you have to take into account thepreparations for meditation. Otherwise, when you go too deep intomeditation, you might run into problems.

    Of course, it is good for you to try it and gain some experience of aspiritual practice. Most of you have probably never tried to look intoyourself to see what is really going on. You probably did not know thatyou could calm yourself down by watching your own breathing. Thereare things to be learned through meditation practice. Hence, it isbeneficial for you to have some experiences with meditation.

    Your meditation experiences will help you understand that chanting isanother method of meditation. After you have done a lot of chantingyou will notice that the same meditation experiences will occur. TantricBuddhism teaches that the mind and the wind (breathing) are an

    inseparable unity. Since they are one, we can reach calmness of mindthrough breathing. We watch the breathing; when it becomes subtleand even, the mind calms down, too. Vice versa, when we do the one-point concentration practice, as our thoughts fade away and ourattention gradually becomes fixed on the point of concentration, ourbreathing becomes more and more subtle and even, almostunnoticeable and can even stop. It is a two-way street; you can reachany point from either side, and the two approaches complement eachother.

    As to the "practice of no practice," this is saying that, based on the

    Buddhist philosophy, what we are trying to do is to undo. The goal is toreach a state of effortlessness because we are simply learning tounlearn worldly habits and views so that we can return to our originalpurity, which requires no effort whatsoever to maintain. Shinran talkedabout the "practice of no practice," and yet he did practice thechanting of "Amitabha."

    Professor Rogers: Only in thanksgiving, not in order to ...


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    Dr. Lin: Yes, in that kind of mood, but he did the chanting.

    Professor Rogers: Or, the chanting did itself for him; it was effortless.

    Dr. Lin: Well, yes. But that is just to say that ones chanting should be

    so pure that it is going on all by itself, that the one who chants shouldnot maintain the second thought, "I am doing the chanting." It does notmean that the chanting practice stopped.

    Professor Rogers: That is right.

    Dr. Lin: Right. So, actually there is the chanting. When Shinran gavethe teaching he was simply trying to direct the practitioners to avoidthe mistake of attaching to the accumulation of merits, which is againa self-centered thing. It does not mean that one is refraining from thechanting practice. To us, at this moment, the ideal final stage is only a

    theoretical thing; hence we do need to adopt a "practice of nopractice" to move toward Enlightenment.

    When the chanting is pure, there can be no other thoughts. Thus"chanting in thanksgiving" does not mean that one keeps a thought ofthanking Buddha; it is rather a teaching on chanting with a humble andthankful attitude. As the practitioners advance on the path, they willexperience the benefits of this practice, and a sense of gratitude willarise in them. Finally, when they become enlightened through the helpof this practice, they will spread the teaching of chanting to repay thegrace of Buddha; the basic way to teach is by personally continuing the

    chanting practice to set an example for others. Thus chanting inthanksgiving is a never-ending process.

    Now I am going to answer some questions from Leann Foster.

    Leanns first question: Having said that one cannot setEnlightenment up as ones goal (therefore you would never reach it)what can one think of as a goal or objective without impeding onesown progress in Zen?

    Dr. Lin: Actually the answer is contained in what I have just said.

    Nevertheless, in this question it is specific to Zen; and it is the same asyour fourth question which asks, "How do you reachoneness/nothingness?" These various terms all refer to the final stageof Buddhahood. It depends on how you do it and what stage you are in.I think, at your stage and under your present circumstances, chantingis a gradual and safe approach. But you need to be careful so as not tofall into the self-centered sense of "I am doing it" or "I am trying toreach something." Simply develop chanting as a daily exercise and


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    keep it for the rest of your life. If thoughts other than the holy nameyou are chanting arise during chanting, do not be distracted; simplycontinue to chant and let the other thoughts come and go on theirown. If you keep chanting daily for years, you will experience spiritualgrowth and openness yourself.

    As to Zen, you have to give up everything, find someone who has hadreal experiences, and just follow the masters instructions withoutasking questions. Only then will you have a chance to getEnlightenment.

    Leanns second question: How do you set up a goal for practicewhen the philosophy is already understood and accepted?

    Dr. Lin: First, you compare the paths in Buddhism to find out whichone is suitable for you. If you want to do the meditations, that is fine;

    but be aware of the preparations. For example, the Eight-fold NoblePath is given in the order: Right Views, Right Thinking, Right Speech,Right Actions, Right Livelihood, Right Diligence, Right Mindfulness andRight Meditation. One needs to learn Buddhas teachings to obtainRight Views; then one adjusts ones thinking to conform to the RightViews. Ones speech and actions should also conform to Buddhas rulesof conducts. Ones livelihood should be consistent with Buddhasteachings. One should not adopt a profession that is against Buddhasteachings. In short, one needs to be consistent, inside and out, inconforming to Buddhas teachings. Only then can one practicemindfulness and meditation without the risk of ill effects. Meditation

    should be part of a Buddhists daily life; and a Buddhists daily lifeshould be an extension of his meditation practice.

    Leanns third question: How can you reach mindfulness and nothought at the same time?

    Dr. Lin: What is mindfulness? Can you listen to music? Yes. When youlisten to music, do you need any thoughts? No, however, usually whenone is listening to music, thoughts do arise. Mindfulness is simply anatural ability to pay attention to something. When we do themindfulness practice, we try to concentrate without distractions or

    interruptions. For example, when we listen to music, we just listen tothe sounds without having thoughts. Through mindfulness practice, wewill have a chance to reach "no-thought." Usually it is easier to startwith concentration on one point, and as one goes deeper intoconcentration, the thoughts will gradually fade away. After masteringthat, one can try to concentrate on flowing things like music, and stillachieve "no-thought." "No-thought" does not mean that one loses the


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    ability to think forever; it is simply a state of mind when the thinkingprocess becomes unnoticeable.

    In this practice, again we need to be reminded of the importance of aconsistent Buddhist way of life. It would be impossible for a person who

    is holding onto a complicated worldly life to achieve no-thoughtthrough mindfulness practice. That is the reason why the Sutras teachus to give up worldly things before we seriously start a meditationpractice. A very simple life, even in seclusion, with nothing to worryabout, is conducive to achieving "no-thought."

    Nevertheless, it does not mean that one should live in seclusion orfollow a simple life for the rest of ones life. At first we need a simpleenvironment to practice concentration on one-point. After we havemastery over that, we should try to apply the ability to concentrate inever-complicated situations. The object of concentration need not be

    one-point; it will be moving, changing, and ever-complicated. Thewhole process of learning should be gradual and natural. One can stillthink, but there is just one thought at any given time. Usually onethinks and evaluates the current thought simultaneously, or sayssomething while thinking about other things at the same time. Theresult of concentration practice will be such that what one says isexactly what one has in mind at that instant.

    Last time we played the tape of chanting "Amitabha," I could see atonce that you cannot concentrate on just listening. This is due to yourlack of practice of just listening. Before we became complicated

    beings, the ability to just listen was originally natural to us.

    Professor Rogers: How could you tell that we were not listening?

    Dr. Lin: Well, I simply looked at you and I could see.

    Question from a student: Could it have to do with culturaldifferences? If we were accustomed to listening to that musicrepeatedly, could we not attain the state of mind of just listening?

    Dr. Lin: It is independent of what you are listening to. At first, for such

    practice, it is easier to use instrumental music or foreign songs,because if it is something that you can understand, then the meaningswill interfere with your pure listening.

    Since each one of you has a copy of my book "The Buddhist Practice ofChanting Amitabha," there is no need for me to go into acomprehensive discourse in support of the chanting practice. Mypurpose today is to recommend the actual adoption of this practice


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    because that is the only way for you to share its benefits. I will go overthe key points for the actual practice of chanting.

    First, develop it into a daily practice. Set a regular time, and also aminimum amount of repetitions (e.g., five hundred or one thousand

    repetitions of "Amitabha") for your daily practice. A regular scheduleand a set amount will help you form the habit of chanting daily. Withperseverance you will experience the good results of having peace andease.

    Second, do not work on dismissing distractions; simply maintain yourchanting. During chanting, if you notice that your attention has shiftedto other things, or that emotional ups and downs are present, do nottry to push them away or judge them. The more you try to do this, themore you are distracted from concentrating on "Amitabha." Simplyreturn your attention to "Amitabha" and maintain the chanting. This is

    the key point in gradually becoming free from distractions.

    Third, practicing the five-variation chanting of "Amitabha," a melodioussinging of "Amitabha," is very helpful. Singing it will naturally involveour emotions in the chanting practice. We can simply listen to it,especially when we are too tired to chant. The melody has the effect ofembedding the chanting deeply into us. When we simply repeat"Amitabha," the breathing is shallow, and the mind may stay at theintellectual level, but when we sing "Amitabha," the breathing is deep,and our whole being is more likely to become totally involved in it. Theaim of the chanting practice is to renew the whole being, not just at

    the intellectual level. Besides, a song propagates itself in a natural wayamong people; there is no need for us to try to persuade others, wesimply play the tape and people will enjoy listening to it and may evenlearn the chanting by heart.

    Fourth, whenever you learn of someones passing away, chant"Amitabha" as a prayer asking for Buddhas blessing for the deceased.Visit cemeteries and chant "Amitabha" for the deceased there. Staynear a dying person and chant "Amitabha." When we haveimpermanence in mind, our chanting will be pure and we will practicediligently. We will want to make good use of our precious lifetime to

    purify ourselves through the chanting practice. Only when we becomepure in mind can we serve others well.

    Fifth, if you are interested in doing this practice, you can simply keepchanting in your mind anytime, anywhere. For example, when you arewaiting in line, instead of incessantly thinking about yourself, chant"Amitabha." When you are in a traffic jam, play the chanting tape, andthe traffic jam will be easier to take.


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    These are the essential points of the chanting "Amitabha" practice. Ihave some booklets for Professor Rogers, and you are welcome toborrow them or make copies for yourselves. The following is a briefcomment on each booklet:

    1. "The Practice of Singing Along": this is thepractice I talked about.

    2. "A brief Introduction to Setting up a BuddhistAltar": this one is for people who want to chantin front of an image of Buddha. I have postersof Amitabha Buddha for free distribution.

    3. "The Seed of Bodhi": the main point of thisessay is that one should refrain from criticizingothers because our knowledge of others is very

    limited. When we criticize others, they neednot change, and we are simply wasting ourenergy. Instead, we should be aware of ourignorance; thereby we will become innocent.When we become innocent, it is easier for us toadvance on the spiritual path.

    4. "On Chanting Amitabha": this is a shortessay for everyone.

    5. "Pure Land Daily Practice": this is for people

    who, in addition to chanting, want to dorecitation of Sutras, prostrations, chanting ofmantras and dedication of merits. It isstructured around the three Holinesses ofAmitabhas Pure Land. Thus, the practitionermakes prostrations to them, and recites theirsutras and mantras.

    The section at the beginning of this last booklet teaches us how tovisualize during the practice so that the whole universe is involved inthe practice. We should visualize the following: in the sky in front of us,

    all holy beings are present surrounding the Amitabha Buddha, and allsentient beings, friends and foes alike, are surrounding us, all facingthe holy beings and doing the practice with us. The holy beings arepresent to bless us all. If we continue to think in this way, our mindswill broaden and we will approach the Limitless-Oneness.

    The Sutras selected were translated by me. They are "The AmitabhaBuddha Sutra," "The Heart Sutra," and a section of "Shurangama


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    Sutra" on chanting Buddhas name; they are related, respectively, toAmitabha, Avalokitesvara, and Mahasthanapraptanamely, the threeHolinesses of Amitabhas Pure Land.

    This practice will take about thirty minutes, which is quite suitable for

    modern busy people. The practitioner can extend the period of thesession at will by simply chanting more repetitions of "Amitabha."

    In the preface to this booklet I mentioned some English versions of theHeart Sutra that are available. There I also explained some particularpoints in my version of the Heart Sutra which was translated, not fromthe original in Sanskrit, but from the Chinese version that is popular inChina, Japan and Korea.

    For example, in the Sutra, the Chinese word "Kong" is actually anabbreviation for the term "Kong-Xing" which stands for the Sanskrit

    term "Sunyata." In the known versions it is usually translated as"Emptiness" or "empty of inherent existence." Using "Emptiness" maylead to the misunderstanding that nothing exists. "Empty of inherentexistence" is correct, but difficult to understand for people who do nothave a philosophical background. One needs to learn first throughphilosophical discourse the meaning of "inherent existence" in order tounderstand the teaching of no such inherent existence.

    I tried to bypass such a circular and difficult path. Let us avoid theabstruse concept of "inherent existence" altogether and, instead, use adifferent concept that is easier to understand and will still lead us to

    the same spiritual goal. The concept of Empty Essence was alreadycontained in the Yogacara tradition of Buddhism. The idea is tointroduce the notion of an Empty Essence that is common to allphenomena. Since it is common to all, it cannot have anycharacteristics of its own. For example, if the universal essence iswhite, then it cannot show red, only pink. This would be contradictoryto being universal. Thus, it is empty of color, texture, smell, sound,taste and mental characteristic. My innovation is to call it "BlankEssence" instead, so as to avoid the misunderstanding of nothingness,and improve the understanding of this universal concept.

    Why do we need such a concept? We have been accustomed to usingconcepts that have particular characteristics setting boundaries.Consequently our minds are quite limited to certain patterns ofthinking. In order to free us from such conceptual limitations, we usethe concept of "Blank Essence" to unify all things and therebygradually, through practice, diminish their conceptual boundaries.


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    However, this notion of "Blank Essence" is, after all, still just aconceptual tool. Thus, eventually we need to let go of even thisconcept in order to attain non-duality in all our experiences. Therefore,the teaching says that the Blank Essence is nothing other than theparticulars of our experiences. The Blank Essence is everywhere, but

    nowhere to be pointed at because it lacks particular characteristics. Inother words, first you use the concept to erase all conceptualboundaries, and then you also let this remaining concept go. That ishow a practitioner of this approach becomes free from all concepts.

    By using "blank" to describe this universal essence it will be easier forpeople to understand the function of this essence. It is the basis of allphenomena, just as a blank sheet of paper is the basis of all the thingspainted on it, or a blank T.V. screen is the basis of all the things, whichappear on it.

    I will now give a brief explanation of my version of "The Heart Sutra,"and then talk about my Sastra, "The Heart of Sublimation ThroughLimitless-Oneness Compassion Sastra" which runs parallel to "TheHeart Sutra."

    [In July 1991 I gave a detailed talk on this topic in Miami, andsubsequently wrote a refined transcript of it. It has been published as abook entitled "Wisdom and Compassion in Limitless-Oneness." Hence,rather than presenting the remainder of my talk in this book, I list it asa reference at the end of this book.]

    As to the choice of "sublimation" over "perfection" for my translation of"paramita," I have the following remark to add:

    "Paramita" means to reach the other shorefrom this shore ofsuffering in transmigration to the other shore of peace in Nirvana. TheBuddhist liberation from suffering is not an escape from the world, butrather a purification of ones mind to its original purity, therebytranscending self-centered suffering and transforming ones life intoselfless services to others.

    Escaping from suffering is just a reaction; it is not a solution to the

    problem. Purification of the mind enables one to stay in the world andsimultaneously be free from suffering; it is beyond the original level.Since "perfection" may be relative to a given level, I prefer using"sublimation" which indicates transcendence of any given level.