Question / Answer Session at Fudan University National Study Society


Dharma masters, Venerable Khenpo, all teachers and
students, and Dharma friends, We are very honored
and very pleased to have Khenpo Sodargye from Larung Gar Serthar Buddhist Institute
here today. Larung Gar Serthar Buddhist Institute,
during the past thirty years of the revival and development of Chinese religion,
has been very famous. Everything about Larung Gar that I know
I actually learn from my students. During the 1990s,
they had already been there to study. Then it was
a revolutionary movement by these young people. Among the pioneers of our Buddhist community, Khenpo Sodargye,
as far as I know, has a very high reputation
in the eyes of intellectuals and those working in the field of natural science. Especially in recent years,
Khenpo has been working tirelessly
teaching the Dharma across the country. He has vowed to dedicate his whole life
to making his best efforts to transmit
Buddhist philosophy and Buddhist truth to the society. In addition, Khenpo has also opened dialogues
with intellectuals in academia. Since Buddhism is articulating truth,
it is not afraid of debate or any refutation. Before coming here, Khenpo gave talks at Peking University and Tsinghua University. You may find out what he spoke about
in the book in your hand. Today we are very pleased to have invited Khenpo here.
I think this is a very precious moment for us, because, even though Fudan University
has established its religious studies for 51 years, we have been weak
in research and education on Tibetan Buddhism. Today we have the opportunity to have Khenpo here, and we will treasure every minute
to receive teachings from Khenpo. If anyone has any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask Khenpo. Now let’s welcome Khenpo. Dear Honorable Professor Wang Leiquan,
and other professors, teachers, and students: I am glad that we have the opportunity today
to study and discuss Tibetan Buddhism
and other religions together with some intellectuals
working in the field of Chinese Buddhism. So, let’s take this opportunity to share our views
and discuss them together. I personally like to communicate with
those working in academic circles, religious entities, as well as science enthusiasts. By sharing views with each other,
I find myself improved in every way. I am not
very knowledgeable, have I any profound and subtle realizations, however I do like sharing my views with others. Personally I find,
after years of study, Buddhist doctrines and principles are wonderful and profound. Owing to this, I have gained irreversible and firm faith in Buddhism. This kind of faith
cannot be destroyed by any external thing. This is based on my own experience
acquired through study and practice. I truly hope that
the intellectuals can devote their whole life to seeking
the truth of reality, studying it and putting it into practice. By doing this,
their life can have far-reaching meaning and value. Otherwise, in this materialistic era of
mammonism, our mentality and behavior can be contaminated easily
and therefore fall into the abyss of wrong views. So at this moment, I think that we should keep
a clear mind in pursuit of the truth of reality. When I am seeking the truth of reality,
I realize in my years of study
in Tibetan Buddhism that Tibetan Buddhism has a very complete,
systematic way of studying and practicing. It also includes
the debate tradition on study of Pramana and Madhyamaka, which is very helpful to defeat wrong views
and clear away uncertainty in our mind. If the intellectuals from
universities and colleges may regularly communicate with
the Tibetan Buddhist institutes and monasteries, they will be able to
reveal the mysteries of some profound areas, and therefore reach the transcendent levels, seeing profoundly into the underlying truth,
which is beyond the ordinary awareness. So I think
we can learn from each other today. Instead of saying that I am answering your questions,
I would be happy to share my views with you. We also have many experienced
professors, teachers and students here today, so we can discuss with each other.
Okay, now I stop here and will take your questions. It is said that a person who violates a precept
will be subject to punishment for eons, which time span dwarfs
the history of human existence. May I know how we should understand this?
Is my understanding correct if I say, in order to lead people
to a virtuous life and, finally, liberation, Buddha used metaphors and other skills
in his teachings to direct people to awakening? I think the reason why Buddhism
established precepts is not necessarily
for punishment purposes. It seems to be a burden that we are compelled to shoulder, but in fact,
it provides everybody a path to liberation, a skillful means.
For example, the traffic lights on the road,
which drivers may feel burdensome, in fact provide people a way to safely reach
their respective destinations. In the same way, I think
each precept in Buddhism promotes people’s
wholesome activities and avoids the wrong which in turn may lead them to a path of liberation
and obtain the ultimate enlightenment. This is the purpose of Buddhist precepts. I am a member of the Zen Society
and used to study in the Graduate School of Fudan University. I Now I am a teacher,
and a Buddhist. I know that you have given teachings on
the Standards for Being a Good Student and Child (Di Zi Gui). Some of my friends think that it is unnecessary for those who study Buddhadharma
to spend time on this book, as life is impermanent
and they don’t have much time to study it. They just want to focus on Buddhadharma.
This is my first question. Secondly, may I know the difference
between the Pure Land School in Tibetan Buddhism and that in Chinese Buddhism,
i.e., chanting Amitabha Buddha’s name and rebirth in the Pure Land? My last question is for studying Buddhism,
should we focus on and delve deeply into one method or read enormous numbers of books?
Which way is better? Thank you. To your first question, I think,
for every Buddhist practitioner, it is essential to meditate on
everything is in nature selfless and impermanent. However, in a secular context, the teachings on the code of ethics
are also fundamental. I feel the Standards for Being a Good Student and Child
is excellent. Why? It provides a wholesome foundation for personal behaviors and social life,
from which we will receive great benefit. Nowadays, even in the textbooks
of universities and colleges, the education on social and personal ethics as a whole is greatly neglected. One of people’s excuses is that they have no time to do it. Although keeping talking about
emptiness and impermanence,they always waste
precious life in distractions. So, it is nonsense when they say there’s
no time to read this text. It is simply an excuse.
Actually, I gave teachings on the Standards for Being a Good Student and Child
to many who are interested in it. On the other hand I have translated it into
a Tibetan version. Many Tibetan teachers and students think it is very good. As for your question about the Pure Land School in Han
and Tibetan Buddhism, I believe they share the same ultimate goal,
although each of them has its own specific method of practice. The Tibetan Pure Land lineage
focuses on bodhicitta, reciting Buddha’s name, and accumulating merits. Through these, we will be able to be reborn in the Pure Land,
and the most important way to achieve it is Amitabha’s
forty-eight vows. By relying on two powers, i.e., the push by oneself and the pull from Amitabha Buddha, we may be reborn in the Pure Land.
So is the Chinese Pure Land School. The only difference is that individual lineage masters
may have a different focus in their teachings. To your third question,
which way is better? There is no general answer for this question. For people who have few dualistic thoughts
and are endowed with strong faith, even if they are not able to
read voluminous sutras and treatises, as long as they wholeheartedly
recite Amitabha Buddha’s name or the mantra of Avalokiteshvara by relying on their self aspiration and
the blessing of Buddha, they could gain rebirth in the Pure Land. But can everyone do the same?
No. Some people have doubts about Buddhism,
they may even have an incorrect view. For these people
it is necessary to be well-read. Reading and studying many sutras and treatises
may help to eliminate their hindrances and obstacles to rebirth in the Pure Land. I find that
many great masters in the Pure Land lineage, in order to go along with the needs and capacities of those to be helped,
emphasized “Focusing on one method.” But sometimes,
according to people’s different needs and capacities, they also expound
many sutras and treatises. So if different people could be treated
in the same way, then it was unnecessary for Lord Buddha
to teach 84,000 methods for various types of people; he would only have taught us
to recite Amitabh’s name. But he did not. Buddha,according to the different needs
and capacities of sentient beings, gave various teachings. I am a member of the Zen Society. and working for a local company
within Yum! Brands Inc. I am very glad to have the opportunity to meet you today.
Also I have one question. It is about “self.” I majored in Psychology when I was in college,
which emphasizes realizing or maximizing the potential
of the self. However, in Buddhism, we learned
the dependent origination and emptiness in nature. It appears that the self
is but a composite of five aggregates. It is conditioned
and compounded. Therefore it is by nature impermanent and no-self. Going from the concept of self in psychology to no-self
in Buddhism is really a remarkable breakthrough for me. Before coming here today,
I read some of your articles. I realized that in Tibetan Buddhism
there is a concept named “Tathagatagarbha.” From the viewpoint of “Tathagatagarbha,”
how shall we understand the self? May I know your thought? Thank you! You rushed into my books
for my talk today. I am afraid it may be not easy for you to get
a full understanding on this subject in such a short time. Well, in Buddhism, when speaking on the conventional level,
we recognize the existence of self. We need to accumulate merit for self-liberation. For the sake of gaining enlightenment for oneself and others,
we make a great aspiration, and generating the aspiration of bodhicitta. However, ultimately
the illusory self does not exist. You have to understand and establish this
by using ultimate reasoning on emptiness. On that ultimate level,
whether it is self, others, or any other things and phenomena,
all are emptiness and none of them truly exists. This non-existence is
beyond words and texts. In fact, when we have
received the teachings on emptiness, we will be able to deeply sense and experience that
the self we cling to only exists
on our discriminative thinking level. In reality,
we will find nothing exciting even if we try to find this self,
and check out our body or consciousness. This is the emptiness that Buddha ascertained. Although we can’t find the self on the ultimate level,
yet on the conventional level We still need to accumulate merits, carry out our daily activities,
make money and work. These two are not contradicting each other. Many people today are often confused about no-self on the ultimate level
and the self on the conventional level. It in turn has them
losing the right direction of practice. As for tathagatagarbha, it is impossible to make it clear
in a few words. Understanding it
requires systematic studies. In nutshell, there are two meanings about tathagatagarbha.
One is to explain it as our Buddha nature. On a relative level,
all sentient beings possess Buddha nature, as the alaya-vijnana, which means storehouse consciousness, that can become Buddha
is called tathagatagarbha. The other meaning is,
on the ultimate level, tathagatagarbha is
the original nature of all phenomena. This original nature
is not mere emptiness, nor something not empty.
This state is inconceivable. In the third turning of the Wheel of the Dharma,
Shakyamuni Buddha called it tathagatagarbha. The Tathagatagarbha Sutra and other master pieces have more details and explanations about it. In general,
it has to be understood in both ultimate and relative terms. On the ultimate level, all things and events are emptiness. But this does not mean
they don’t exist on the relative level. Therefore, whatever we should do on the conventional level,
we must still do it. Of course
we shall not commit unwholesome activities. Even though
the relative itself is considered illusory, committing illusory unwholesome activities
will bring immeasurable pain in an illusory way. This is something we must all be aware of. I have one question: News reported that about one hour ago
an earthquake occurred in Japan. The 8.8 magnitude earthquake
triggered a tsunami. There are so many disasters these days. I am wondering, as a Buddhist
how should we deal with them? And also,
how about non-Buddhist people in the cities? How can we
benefit our society and the people in these disasters?
May I know your thoughts? One hour ago! Yes! Now it has triggered the first tsunami wave. The information has been released through the internet. It was initially reported as a 7.9 magnitude,
which has been corrected to 8.8. Some people in Shanghai can feel it. Om Mani Padme Hum… Guru Padmasambhava
gave a teaching saying that
if people frequently commit negative activities, disasters will occur frequently. Although we cannot be sure that
this is due to the ripening of negative karma, as the occurrence of an earthquake
may have complex reasons, we can see that people are committing
far more serious unwholesome activities than before, if compared to the last few centuries. I therefore think that these disasters or personal
unfortunate mishaps must have something to do with negative karma human beings have created.
However, I do not dare to speculate what exactly the causes are that triggered it. The law of causation is very subtle and unpredictable;
only Buddha can thoroughly understand all this. In short, any disaster or tragedy
is linked to the common karma shared by sentient beings and is closely related to
the specific karma shared by the victims. Besides that , it
certainly also involves temporary causes and conditions. So Buddhism does not believe that everything is already pre-determined. It believes that
everything is the product of causes and conditions. Hello! Khenpo
I am a student in the Department of Philosophy at Fudan University. I have a question:
in Tibetan Buddhism the Madhyamaka philosophy
is generally accepted as the ultimate view. Yet, about the topic of emptiness, they
have many debates. May I know the debate on
the emptiness of self and the emptiness of other? What is their respective theory on emptiness? And what are the difference
between them and the focus of the debate? Thank you! It is true in Tibetan Buddhism
there are both lineages about the emptiness of self and the emptiness of other. The Jonang school in Tibetan Buddhism supports the theory of the emptiness of other. Some great masters of Nyingma
and Gelugpa are considered as from the emptiness of self school. In fact, a Nyingma The disciple of omniscient Mipham Rinpoche,
Khenpo Kunzang, says in his Commentary on
the Beacon of Centainty that, in the past, people endlessly debated about
the emptiness of self and the emptiness of other; however, ultimately the
two views are the same. Why?
Because the so-called emptiness of self, which teaching was given by Shakyamuni Buddha
in his second turning of the Wheel of Dhama, is about positing all forms, and even the omniscient wisdom of Buddha,
as emptiness. In other words,
all phenomena are empty of inherent existence and nothing may be asserted as independent or inherently real. For the emptiness of other,
the tathagatagarbha can’t be conceptualized nor an object of consciousness. Therefore it is not negated
by the conceptualizing process and reasoning which itself is not absolutely true. Thus the inherent nature of tathagatagarbha
is a kind of inconceivable true existence. It should not be characterized
in the same way as the emptiness of apparent phenomena. In nature, these two schools
are the same, because the essence of tathagatagarbha
can’t be an object of the conceptualizing process. In fact it is
beyond the four conceptual extremes and eight extremes of conceptual elaboration. So,
each of the emptiness of self and the emptiness of other explains emptiness
from their respective distinguishing aspect of viewpoint. But their essences are the same.
To put it another way, the emptiness of self ascertains the type of emptiness
elucidated in the second turning of the Wheel of Dharma. As for the emptiness of other, it ascertains the tathagatagarbha, the clear light,
according to the teachings of the third turning of the Wheel of Dharma. In fact,
whether for the nature of our mind or all external phenomena,
the clear light is always non-dual and indivisible oneness with emptiness. This state is also called the union of emptiness and appearances. As such, the ultimate meaning of these two,
we believe are not contradictory;
the only difference is what aspect is emphasized more. I am the student at Fudan University.
I come from Thailand. Nowadays various disasters
occur frequently. and we often hear that
they happen due to the common karma. Karma can be
personal and common. As for common karma, we can see many people
suffering in various disasters including earthquakes, flooding, share in the common karma. I am wondering what Tibetan Buddhism
says about common karma? In other words, it seems quite common for us to see
the manifestation of shared common negative karma. What about positive karma?
Does shared common positive karma exist? May I know your thoughts? Very good.
Are you a monk studying in Fudan University? Yes.
A PhD student. Great. In 1999
I went to Thailand. I wrote a book named “Touring Thailand”. Though I stayed there
for only one week, I felt very interested in
Thailand’s traditions. I think Thailand is very devoted to Buddhism.
It is extraordinary. During my visit to several Buddhist universities in Thailand, I spoke with
some Buddhists who studied PhDs, including discussing with
the Deputy Supreme Patriarch of Thailand (Sangharaja). Today in Fudan,
meeting a Dharma master from the Southern Buddhist lineage wearing your nice robe
and studying here, all this makes us feel so great. I hope, in future, we will see Dharma masters from Tibetan Buddhism
studying in Fudan as well. So will Dharma masters from Northern Buddhism.
This would be very harmonious. To your question on
the negative common karma shared by sentient beings, it often manifests as a
disaster in the form of the elements of earth, water, fire and wind. These are instances of common karmic effect. As for positive karma,
for example, one of the Tibetan Buddhist monastics went to Hangzhou
in March or April a few years ago. When he arrived in Hangzhou,
he called me. At that time the Tibetan area
was very cold. He told me on the phone:
“This place is so beautiful. Everywhere you can see flowers blooming.” “This must be the result of their past common virtues,
so that they can enjoy such beautiful environment.” Thus, I recall the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, including those given by my masters
say that when we see a group of beings enjoy happiness,
we can say they are sharing and experiencing the result of their good fortune together,
after their previous wholesome activities ripened. This is emphasized
in many Dharma teachings. Hello, Rinpoche!
I am a physics student at Fudan University. May I ask a question? The Diamond Sutra says that:
“[bodhisattvas] should not abide in dharmas when practicing giving.” I understand it says that we should not dwell in
the two extremes of existence or non-existence, or good or bad. Then, why
do we bother to practice virtue? Well, as I just said, we must distinguish
between ultimate and conventional truth. At the conventional level,
an act of giving is composed of who to give,
what is given, and whom to receive the giving. All three elements are present. However when it is discussed
at the ultimate level of truth, not only
in the Diamond Sutra, but also in Chandrakirti’s Entering the Middle Way where he talks about the state of the first ground of the bodhisattva perfecting the paramita of giving, it is stated that all the three elements, i.e., who to give, what is given and whom to receive the giving
are emptiness, called the emptiness of the three circles. So the appearance of giving at conventional level is inherently empty
in the ultimate context. However, before we
reach this ultimate state, we still need to carry out practice of giving in the conventional world,
rather than giving it up according to the theory of ultimate truth. So, you should understand that the Diamond Sutra
is all about prajñaparamita or emptiness. When talking about the Diamond Sutra,
we must understand that its contents are based on
the perspective of ascertaining emptiness as the ultimate truth; it is not about positing conventional truth.
By contrast, when ascertaining conventional truth, if we practice those virtues, we will gain the corresponding merits. We must distinguish this properly;
otherwise it will be confusing. Hello, Rinpoche.
I am a member of the Zen Society. May I ask a question about practicing? There are many mantras in Buddhism, such as the six syllable mantra,
the hundred syllable mantra of Vajrasattva, and Casket Seal Dharani
from the Secret Whole Bodies Relics of all Buddhas Hearts. For practice purposes, which one should I choose
for my practice? Shakyamuni Buddha said
each of them has tremendous merits
and we should recite them . many thousands of times.
How should I decide to choose mantras
for each stage of my practice? Though I am too busy to spend much time on reciting it,
I have very strong faith in the mantra since my childhood. In Tibet, we have an old saying: “When toddlers are able to pronounce the word ‘mom’,
they already know how to recite the Cherenzig mantra – Om Mani Padme Hum.” Basically,
it is the case for every Tibetan child. However,due to
the influence of economic development, many young Tibetan people
have left their hometown to study or work in other cities, and disappointingly changed themselves. But generally people like us
grew up in mountain areas and have very strong faith in mantras.
The benefit or merits of mantra are articulated by Buddha
in various sutras and also tantras. When making your choice,
you may consider two specific situations. One is, there is a mantra
with which you have a close connection, through your lineage gurus and certain empowerments or practices. Then you can make a commitment and aspire to recite it The other is, based on your situation.
For example, if you have created many negative karmas, and feel the potential negative effect on yourself,
then you can recite Vajrasattva’s hundred syllable mantra or the short Vajrasattva mantra. If you want to grow in wisdom so that you are endowed with wisdom
in your present and all future lives to benefit others, then you can recite the Manjushri mantra. If you want to eliminate all unfavorable conditions, as well as obstacles caused by the maras,
you can recite Guru Rinpoche’s mantra. So it is up to your choice. Whatever mantra you think is important to you,
you can recite it. In the Tibetan area, there are many practitioners
who have strong faith in mantras. A while back, for example,
an old monk at our institute passed away. Throughout his life, he had recited
six hundred millions of mantras. As for my guru, H.H. Jigme Phuntsok,
before he passed into nirvana he consolidated all the mantras
he had recited, from some short mantras with one or two words such as
“AH” and “HUM”, and long mantras
of over ten words. After adding all them up,
there are about nine hundred million mantras. He entered into parinirvana aged 72 years old. Throughout his whole life
he always held prayer beads in his hand, reciting mantras continuously. Usually, practitioners from the Tibetan area
always carry prayer beads with them everywhere, whether they are traveling in a vehicle,
herding yaks, or working at a farm. Today some Tibetan intellectuals
and cadres even bring prayer beads to their office.
If their boss sees them, sometimes they are scolded. But they can use a counting device instead of prayer
beads to count the mantras, which is an expedient. So, they can
keep reciting and counting which is not obvious to their boss.
In fact, the benefit of reciting mantras is enormous. Not only does it bring long-term benefit and merits,
when you are reciting mantras it can temporarily diminish
dualistic thoughts, mental agitation, and sufferings, and settle your mind in a pure and calm state.
Therefore, it is very useful. Hello! Khenpo.
I have another question. Arhats attain liberation
through hearing the Buddha’s teachings, instead of getting enlightened by themselves.
They will teach Dharma to sentient beings. However, the Pratyekabuddhas are quite strange. They attain liberation by themselves without listening to teachings,
and they don’t teach Dharma to others. Why do they not teach the Dharma to others? I did some reading
and think it is probably because their abilities
are slightly different to an arhat’s. I am wondering whether Tibetan Buddhism explains
why Pratyekabuddhas do not teach others. May I know your thoughts? Thanks! The reason is
Pratyekabuddhas appear in the world during the time after
the previous Buddha’s teachings have become extinct and before the next Buddha
comes to the world and gives his teachings. When Pratyekabuddhas come into the world, although they don’t preach the Dharma through words, they emit light from their body
and demonstrate various miraculous powers. By this way,
they “preach Dharma through the body,” and so enable sentient beings
to gain faith in Buddhism and ultimately attain nirvana. Thus in some Buddhist scriptures, it is recorded that,
in the old days, when people saw Pratyekabuddhas demonstrating miraculous powers,
they generated their faith. Buddha said
in the Karma Xia Gatha that ordinary people easily gain confidence in miraculous powers.
Thus, the Pratyekabuddha manifests miraculous powers in front of beings. They feel it is more important than the ability to teach Dharma.
This is also a kind of skilful means. Otherwise, even if we earnestly speak to ordinary beings,
they may not necessarily accept what we say, and some may even create a deviant view of Buddhism. When a Pratyekabuddha
flies in the sky, people gain faith and are lost in admiration, starting to prostrate on the ground
in front of him. In the Han area, we believe that even if beings realize the nature of mind in this life,
they still need to practice for three great eons to eliminate all ignorance before they can gain perfect Buddhahood. However, in Tibetan Buddhism, it is said that we can achieve enlightenment in a single lifetime and perfect. I do not quite understand
the enlightenment and attainment of Buddhahood in a single lifetime. What is the relationship between being enlightened in a single lifetime
and gaining perfect Buddhahood? Regarding attaining Buddhahood in three great eons,
in fact, between Tibetan Buddhism and Chinese Buddhism,
there is no difference. Chinese Buddhism also emphasizes the sudden path of revealing the luminous nature of the mind,
or swiftly achieving enlightenment by revealing the nature of reality. Including “Fayuan ZhuLin”
and the commentaries on the Lotus Sutra in Chinese Buddhism, it is often explained by some eminent masters
about enlightenment within a single lifetime. This view is
in accordance with Tibetan Buddhism. In fact, omniscient Longchenpa
said in his teachings that the said “three great eons” should be understood or established in accordance with the mental disposition
and efforts of sentient beings. Someone who possesses extraordinary effort and sharp mental faculties
can accumulate several eons of merits in a single instant. For example, it says in the Prajñaparamita Sutra
that once the first ground of the bodhisattva is attained, you can attain Buddhahood
in seven days if you wish, although normally two great eons are needed
from the first ground of the bodhisattva until Buddhahood. In some other sutras
it is also briefly mentioned that,
if they would like to, certain bodhisattvas
can attain Buddhahood in seven days. In this matter,i.e., attaining Buddhahood
in a single lifetime and realizing the luminous nature of the mind or accumulating merits in 3 great eons
and ultimately gaining great achievement, I think they are not contradictory.
Many other Buddhist masters also take the similar view that the three great eons are established
on the dualistic thoughts of a sentient being. Otherwise it will be impossible to explain
the story of the Naga King’s daughter in the Lotus Sutra She who attained Buddhahood
in an instant. Thus these profound sutras
shall possess their secret meaning. Master, I want to follow up
on the concept of attaining Buddhahood in a single lifetime. In Han Buddhism, one who has revealed
the nature of the mind and seen the nature of reality attains Buddhahood. In comparison with buddhas, such as
Shakyamuni Buddha, I do not think they are identical, as there is still a long way to go from realizing
one’s own original Buddha nature to becoming a Buddha. Thus I think
what stage he attains is not the same as Amitabha Buddha,
Shakyamuni Buddha and Maitreya Buddha. They are different. Or, in other words, if someone attains Buddhahood
in a single lifetime, what kind of Buddhahood will it be? Well, Some Buddhist masters including Je Tsongkhapa and
others believe that enlightenment
in a single lifetime is truly attaining complete buddhahood. However the appearance of this kind of buddha
may not necessarily be like Amitabha Buddha
or Maitreya Buddha. In this world,there are many people
who realize their Buddha nature and become a Buddha, and then manifest in many different forms
in incalculable Buddha fields. Therefore, we shouldn’t deny this.
This is one kind of view. There is another view saying that
the word “Buddha” in Sanskrit means enlightenment.
In this context, Pratyekabuddha is also called an “intermediate Buddha,”
as he has also achieved a certain stage of enlightenment, which refers to the fruition above
the first group of bodhisattvas mentioned in Chinese Buddhism. In fact, neither does Chinese Buddhism have a clear explanation of this question. For example, when we talk about “revealing the nature of mind and seeing the nature of reality,”
does it mean the complete enlightenment of buddhahood or the enlightenment of a bodhisattva? If it is the realization of a bodhisattva, then does it mean the first ground Bodhisattva,
the second ground Bodhisattva, or the tenth ground Bodhisattva? Is it possible to be such before the first ground of bodhisattva?
It is hard to say. No clear explanation
can be found in Chinese Buddhism either. When you talk about “revealing the nature of mind and seeing the nature of reality,”
which ground of the bodhisattva do you refer to? No answer
in the teachings of Zen School. Without attaining even the first ground,
what kind of achievement has he made? Is he on the path of accumulation or the path of joining?
No clear answer either, except for simply mentioning that he or she
has enlightened. Other than this, there is no detail about whether it is a complete enlightenment of Buddhahood or bodhisattva,
nor, if it is the realization of a bodhisattva, which ground of the bodhisattva? In Han Buddhism
there is no clear explanation either. Hello, Khenpo!
I am the member of the Zen Society. I remember when I read
the Surangama Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha
asked King Prasenajit: if the four great elements are always
in the cycle of formation, abiding, destruction, and being empty, then what is the thing
that is unborn and unceasing? The answer is Buddha nature. Then when I studied
the Vijñapti-mātratā-siddhi Sastra, i.e., the Treatise on the Establishment of the Doctrine of Consciousness-Only, I found
it is said in the Vijñapti-mātratā-siddhi Sastra that everything arises from the dependent nature (paratantra),
including the eighth consciousness. So we shouldn’t grasp on the eighth consciousness,
which is also a form of attachment. In ultimate reality
everything vanishes without trace. The only thing that truly exists
is the appearance that arises due to emptiness. In this regard, I believe that it is just like in
the Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sutra, or the Diamond Cutter Sutra,where it says: “As a star, a visual aberration, a lamp, an illusion, dew, a bubble, a dream,
lightening, and a cloud—view all compounded phenomena like that.” That is to say, ultimately, only Tathātā,
the opposite of the false appearance, exists. It seems to me that Tathātā
is a kind of theory. This is how I understand Tathātā or suchness, literally,
though I haven’t gained experiential understanding of it. I very much hope that Rinpoche can shed light on this for me. I know that the eighth ground bodhisattva has already reached the irreversible stage,
and you have already reached this level. I therefore hope you can compassionately
enlighten me and guide me so that I can likewise gain the irreversible stage
in my practice. Amitabha! Nowadays, many people feel that
it is such a privileged and great thing when others treat them as a tulku. Today, I have been identified not only as a sage,
but also as an eighth ground bodhisattva. However, this remark is truly an exaggeration,
and more than I can handle. Just a joke! This is my understanding that
the Surangama Sutra talks about the ultimate pure dependent nature. All of the Surangama Sutra,
the Vijñapti-mātratā-siddhi Sastra and others such as the Mahāyāna Śraddhotpāda Śāstra,
or the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana, say that the pure dependent nature is
actually the definitive meaning of the ālaya vijñāna, which actually refers to tathagatagarbha, or the Buddha nature. Of course, if we try to figure out
this level of tathagatagarbha with our dualistic mind, this is definitely like a blind man trying to size up an elephant,
i.e., taking a part for the whole. If you think
it is a kind of energy or matter, this is still a product of our dualistic mind,
and not ultimately true. When Buddha posits that all things and events are emptiness,
and as a dream, an illusion, a bubble and a shadow, does that mean
everything doesn’t exist? It is not so. Whether in its true reality or appearance,
the clear light does exist. Ultimately, the subtle relationship
between the clear light and emptiness is still something inconceivable.
This ultimate state, which is transcendental,
is to what the definitive meaning of tathagatagarbha refers. So, not to mention the eighth ground bodhisattva,
I haven’t even entered the path of accumulation. However for those
first ground bodhisattvas or higher, they completely realize the definitive meaning of tathagatagarbha. Within an ordinary person’s realm, appearance is not emptiness,
and emptiness is not appearance; appearance is contradicted by emptiness. In fact, the Vijñapti-mātratā-siddhi Sutra
and other Mahayana scriptures, especially those with respect to Buddha’s third turning of the wheel of Dharma,
posit that only by integrating the clear light
and the emptiness posited in the second turning of the wheel of Dharma can we master its inconceivable
original nature. This therefore requires genuine practice
and study before we can attain it. Respectable Khenpo,
I am the member of Zen Society. I believe many people
misunderstand Tibetan Buddhism. So may I request for your instructions on, for example,the Buddhist view
that all have equal reality? May I know
Tibetan Buddhist view on women’s rights? What is the attitude of Tibetan Buddhism towards women? In the Han area, there are many bhikkhunis. Seems in Tibetan area,
there are not many female monastics. Furthermore, it is assumed that
Tibetan women are from a low social class. Please kindly share your thoughts with us on this. There are actually quite a lot of
female monastics in the Tibetan area. In our Buddhist institute there are about two to three thousand male monastics,
but there are five to six thousand female monastics. When it comes to
gender equality, it is true that there is a lack of
the bhikkhuni transmissions in Tibetan Buddhism. Many prominent masters intended to revive it
in history. Around the end of the twentieth century, some prominent Tibetan masters
both at home and abroad were thinking about importing the bhikkhuni transmissions into the Tibetan area.
However, due to lacking various causes and conditions, they had to suspend this mission. This doesn’t mean that
Tibetan Buddhism discriminates against women. It is only because
it lacks the lineage transmissions. The similar situation
exists outside of Tibet. When I was in Thailand,
I found it is even worse there. Thai men are allowed for temporary ordinations,
while women not. Instead of full ordination as Buddhist nuns, Thai women can only be Buddhist renunciates who abide by the eight precepts.
So they do not have the same right. The problems and drawbacks which women may have
were clearly indicated by Buddha both in Tibetan
and Chinese Buddhist scriptures. However, in the history of Tibetan Buddhism
there are many eminent great masters who are female, such as Dakini Yeshe Tsogyal,
Dakini Machik Labdrön and another dakini named Jomo Menmo According to Buddhist history,
they were devoted practitioners. Jomo Menmo passed away by dissolving into the sky,
along with her two disciples. So in my opinion,
in Tibetan area women are not discriminated.
It is not the case. Only with certain traditional things
are the abilities of women usually not on a par with men’s and
we see the differences. This is true. Okay! Thank you! I am a member of Zen Society. My father doesn’t have a sound body;
he suffers a lot from headache. Someone told
my mother a mantra. So, every morning, she offers
a glass of water in front of the Buddha statue and recites the mantra several times.
Then she gives this water to my father. After my father drinks it, he gets instant relief
from the headache. But I used to read that without an empowerment,
we are not allowed to recite mantras, even if we have received the lineage of Dharma. I am not sure
whether my mother is doing the right thing. If not, how shall she deal with it? Which mantra? The Casket Seal Dharani from the Secret Whole Bodies Relics of all Buddhas Hearts. Well, for any mantra, it is better to
receive the relevant empowerment before reciting it. It will be fine to recite it after that. However, for some reasons
even if we have no chance of receiving the transmission or permission, the mantra’s effect is still there,
and reciting it doesn’t commit a significant fault. Both in the Tibetan or Han area,
there are many people reciting mantras without having received its transmission. But still, by reciting,
they give rise to some effects and blessings. Today many people believe in Buddhism
and do daily practice. They spend a lot of time on it every day. Sometimes,
due to overtime work or other reasons, I can’t finish my daily practice.
This makes me feel upset. Also, I have been consistently doing virtuous deeds
and praying. But I still suffer
health problems. May I ask
your view on my situation? I do not think daily chanting practice
or doing virtuous deeds makes you ill. Instead, your situation looks to me, just like
the Diamond Cutter Sutra says, it is from this treatment your karma from previous lives will be eliminated in this lifetime. Due to past heavy negative karmas,
we have to experience great, serious pains or sufferings. However, by way of reciting mantras,
it is possible that these past heavy negative karmas ripen in some small illness in this life and their effect is eliminated forever. Someone advises me to take it easy
if reciting does not work well on me. However, some others say that, if I do not recite,
I am merely doing theoretical analysis rather than practicing. But I am a practitioner and take it seriously.
I sincerely believe in Buddhism. Well, what they say indicates that
they do not understand you. So, no matter what others say, the most important thing is to follow a
true path towards liberation; therefore, we can keep our virtuous thoughts,
and then are responsive in sympathy and in concord with others. I have read your answers
to the nineteen questions asked by Master Jiqun. I was moved by what you said,
as I think this is the true Dharma. Your answers resonated with my thinking,
and it is what I think the Buddhadharma should be like. It is in harmony and oneness.
One in all, and all in one. However, looking at the history
and the reality, I always see the conflicts between different lineages and schools, and even among some lay groups. They occasionally fight each other. It makes me so distressed. Even in
the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, we can read the well-known story of the contest among different Zen groups.
Although he won the contest, Huineng had to flee for his life as he was traced by a band of pursuers intent on killing him. It is unbelievable. So I really want to know why it happens. May I have your instructions on this? Today, not only
Mahayana Buddhist practitioners like us, but also many countries across the world
which in the 1950s and 1960s used to fight against each other,
such as USA, China and Japan, are moving
in a harmonious direction. Since these countries that haven’t been educated
in the Mahayana teachings also have a growing trend of harmony, then, regardless of whether we follow Chinese or Tibetan Buddhist traditions, all Buddhists
should live in harmony with each other. A concerted effort is necessary for us
to achieve this goal. In fact, there is no conflict
among the Buddhist doctrines, not existing in the past
or today. It is because those Buddhists
who haven’t comprehended “love and compassion” create various conflicts in the Buddhist community,
fighting and arguing with each other. Everyone should do something
to change this situation. For this, all Buddhists
must pull together, united and in harmony with each other. Only through the power of this unity
can we promote the Buddhadharma and benefit many people around us. Of course, it is fine for you to emphasize your own lineage. It is understandable
that you want to maintain your own lineage. However, there is no problem for you
to have a tolerant attitude towards other lineages and other
religions in the world. It is illustrated that the tolerance towards various groups
is rapidly growing in oversea society. In recent years, between Chinese Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism as well as among various Chinese Buddhist lineages and schools,
their relationships have been improving. Although there are occasionally
personal conflicts within the Buddhist community, the situation as a general trend
is gradually improving. Rinpoche,
may I ask you one more question? Milarepa had
a very strict guru who proved a hard task master. The master kept testing Milarepa
to make him do penance for his negative karma accumulated in the past. I am wondering
if this is still the case in Tibetan Buddhist tradition. For example, in the Larung Gar Serthar Buddhist Institute,
what is the relationship between teachers and students like? If you meet someone
who has great potential, how will you teach him? Neither do I have
great achievements as Milarepa’s guru had , nor have I met
any student similar to Milarepa. At that moment,
Milarepa’s guru told him: “I am a unique accomplished being, and you are a disciple with extraordinary
faith and perseverance. I could therefore employ this method to tame you. However in future, when accepting and guiding your own students,
you should not use this harsh method.” This is what Milarepa’s master said. In today’s Buddhist institutes, it is still the case
to differentiate between a master and his disciples. Some scholars believe that disciples should be treated
as equal to their master, which, I think,
is too democratic to be true. Therefore, it is not what we advocate. Although all sentient beings are equal
as generally speaking we all have the buddha nature, we are different
when it comes to specific issues. This difference is also a way
for the disciple to show respect to the master and his teachings, by which
our Institute runs. In fact the tradition in our Institute is quite similar to
the monasteries in the Han area. Each of our classes has a Dharma teacher
expounding the Dharma. After that, the selected Dharma tutors with good moral discipline
give tutorials to students. During this process,
everyone listens to the Dharma with full respect. If students have
some reasonable questions, they can openly discuss them with the tutor. Everybody is entitled to
freely express and discuss his views and opinions and find out the true answers. That is how disciples are being tamed and guided. Thank you very much
for giving us your lecture!

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