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Buddhadharma : Summer 2006
buddhadharma| 43 |summer 2006 Many people superstitiously or errone- ously believe that after enlightenment, they would have nothing left to do, that prac- tice would be all over with. They think that enlightenment is fantastically wonder- ful, and they also hope that other people can confirm for them that they have seen the nature. But if at the time of supposed enlightenment, no wisdom or compassion arises, if these qualities of bodhi mind do not arise, then this is not actual enlighten- ment. It is a false experience. So, if you have such an experience, you can look into it to see if such qualities have arisen. However, I emphasize that you should still consult a qualified teacher who can recog- nize an enlightenment experience. I have said that seeing the nature is not the same as enlightenment. After see- ing the nature, for several days one will be full of wisdom and compassion, vexa- tions will not arise, and one’s self-cen- teredness will not be so strong. But after some time, vexations will return. How- ever, one’s confidence will be quite strong, and one will develop a strong sense of humility. This humility exists because one realizes that one still has a long way to go to achieve liberation, and an even longer journey to buddhahood. So, one will be very humble, and will not be arrogant about this achievement. From what I have seen, the great prac- titioners in different spiritual systems are all very humble. They all think that they have insufficient practice and insufficient attainment. Although the Chan masters sometimes used methods such as striking, shouting, and scolding, it was not done out of arrogance. These are methods that, when used in the right way, can give a disciple just the right kind of help. The great Tibetan lamas I have met, practitioners of high spiritual attainment, are still quite humble. But there are some practitioners who have had a little expe- rience in samadhi, who have not really seen the nature, yet behave arrogantly. This arrogance is a manifestation of their vexations. Recently I met a great lama, who was the incarnation of Tsongkapa, the great Tibetan teacher. I said to him, “You must be the reincarnation of Tsongkapa, the teacher of the First Dalai Lama. Accord- ing to belief, this also means you are the avatar of Maitreya Buddha.” He said, “Well, you know, that is what people believe. I am just a practitioner. It is just that Tibetans believe that I am the emanation body of Maitreya and the teacher of the First Dalai Lama.” Then I asked him, “Does this mean you are not actually the reincarnation of Tsongkapa?” He replied, “That’s the belief. I can’t deny this belief, either.” I said, “Are you Maitreya?” And he said, “Well, I practice the methods of Maitreya.” So, he wouldn’t affirm that he actually was Maitreya. He just considered himself a practitioner and one who learned from Maitreya. It was the same way with the current Dalai Lama. When I asked him, “Everyone believes that you are an emanation body (nirmanakaya) of Avalokiteshvara Bodhi- sattva. Are you Avalokiteshvara Bodhisat- tva?” He said, “I am a little bhikshu who every day makes many prostrations to the Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva.” So, as we look at people with great spiritual achievements, such as the enlight- ened Chan patriarchs and Chan masters, we can see that most of them were very much like ordinary monks – in fact, more humble than the average monk. They did not go around thinking, “I’m enlightened, so I’m different from everyone else.” They saw themselves as the same as other peo- ple. The difference is that they viewed the world in a different way. They did not impose labels on the world, such as good and evil, or have thoughts such as, “I like this” or, “I don’t like that.” If they saw a sick person, they would try to help the person get treatment; if they saw the hungry, they would try to give food; if there was war, they knew that war was a very cruel thing, and they hoped to avoid war. If a fire broke out, they would try to find a way to extinguish the fire. How- ever, in the midst of all these activities, their minds would not fluctuate. So, they did not have extremes of love and hatred, and they did not have all kinds of fears, anxieties, jealousies, and doubts. They just did whatever was necessary. This is indicative of their wisdom and compas- sion, of their bodhi mind, their bodhicitta. Huineng’s verse continues: Yet this gateway into seeing the nature Cannot be fully comprehended by the ignorant. I have talked a lot about emptiness and wisdom and realization, but at the same time, we can also say there is no real gate- way to such wisdom, to such knowledge of the dharma, because for the enlightened, the dharma of mind is already present before them. When one realizes wisdom, one sees that there was no gate to go through, since one has always been inside the gate. This is why Chan is sometimes called the gateless gate. As for the foolish, they cannot even see the gate, much less go through it. For both the wise and the foolish, this gate is really a doctrine or method to give us a direction; it is a dharma gateway into see- ing the nature. But once we see the nature, we realize there was no gateway to go through. That is the meaning of Huineng’s “gateway.” Some may think that practice is the gate- way to seeing one’s nature, but practice is actually a direct way to see the nature. We just practice dropping the self and phenom- ena, and letting go of all forms. In particu- lar, we have to let go of the unified mind. Many people cling to the stage of unified mind. They feel that since they are unified with the universe, they no longer have a self. While they may no longer have the individ- ual self, they have still taken the universe as their self. There is still an existent self that is at one with a limitless universe. At this stage, they are not yet enlightened and need to abandon this state of mind. In both the huatou and silent illumination methods, our practice may reach the state of unified mind. In huatou, this occurs when the great doubt arises; in silent illumination, it happens when one feels at one with the environment. If it seems like we are speaking of two kinds of unified mind, that is correct. The difference is that in the case of hua- tou, one is not yet in samadhi; one is still grappling with the great doubt. However, both are states of unified mind. There are some who consider uni- fied mind to be enlightenment, and I do not wish to dispute that. However, uni- fied mind is not Buddhist enlightenment, because there is still a notion of self; there is still an “I” who feels at one with the huatou, or with the universe. For a prac- titioner of Chan, unified mind is a stage in the practice, but not yet realization. One needs to go beyond unified mind to where the “self” has been totally left behind, and one experiences no-mind. At this point one may actually realize the dharma of mind. And yes, this can be called enlight- enment. © dharMa druM PuBlications