Ultimate reality is not bounded by any manifestation, yet actual practice embraces all of them.
– Zen Master
After 26 months of discussion and exploration, we have finally completed our online discussion on the core teachings of the three great classics in Chinese Civilization.
With the focus on personal and spiritual cultivation, we first learnt about the transcendental reality and the way towards it from Laozi’s Daodejing. After understanding our self, and going beyond it, we then learnt the importance of fulfilling our personal, family and social responsibility in the world through practical advises from Confucius’s Analects. Finally, after mastering the world and the reality beyond it, we learnt from the Buddhist Diamond Sutra that all teachings and phenomena, no matter how extraordinary and spectacular, are temporary like dreams and bubble and therefore are not to be attached.
If we can gain a throughout understanding of these three classics, and integrate them into our daily life, then a solid foundation is laid on the roadway of personal and spiritual cultivation. Hopefully these discussions could serve as an opening door and overall guidance for further studies and practice.
This concludes this series of our online classes. As Laozi said, “excessive speeches exhaust our reason, it’s better to stay centered.” The foundation understanding of cultivation has been laid and it is time for practice and integration into our life. If you have further question on the topics mentioned, you may contact me for advice or further discussion. Thank you for your interest and support all along.
Best wishes to you in your life, studies, and practices.
After expounding that real Buddha is beyond image and sound, the all compassionate Buddha reminds us that real Buddha does not mean no image and no sound either, and that we should not satisfy with just the proper understanding of truth and should diligently practice it in our life.
Why did the Buddha say so? Because our mind likes to attach itself to dualistic opposites: when someone say of something, we immediately follows the “something”; when someone say of nothing, we immediately follows the “nothing”. In reality, we are neither “something” or “nothing”, neither the content or context, neither the teaching or non-teaching, this is the essence of Zen (Chan).
Secondly, after getting the above proper understanding, it is tempting for our mind to declare victory and say that, ok, we have got it now, we have arrive the final destination, and that there is no more work need to be done, nor anyone there to do anything anymore. Is it really so? Only your honest self could tell. What we usually find in the history and even nowadays, is that many students and teachers had fallen into this side track understanding, became an “enlightened” person in understanding, but lack honesty, virtue and diligent to make further progress (if not recline). This is why the Buddha said while perfect appearance doesn’t necessary implies Buddhahood, to claim the lack of it (appearance an virtue) is Buddhahood is wrong either.
In actual practice, there are standard stages of transformation one would go through, which are reported by advanced masters across different traditions and geographical regions. In the Buddhist tradition, a detailed report of truth and roadmap towards it is provided in the Shurangama Sutra (see suggested Buddhist readings).
Therefore, the Shurangama Sutra saids, “理即顿悟, 乘悟并消；事非顿除, 因次第尽” (understanding can be sudden, which sweeps away all mental blockages, practice is not sudden, which get perfected in stages).
* * *
“Subhuti, if you have ( in your mind) this thought: ‘The Tathagata does not rely on His possession of characteristics to obtain supreme Enlightenment,’
“Subhuti, banish that thought.
“Subhuti, if you think it while developing the Perfect Enlightenment Mind, you will advocate the annihilation of all Dharmas.
“Do not have such a thought. Why?
“Because one who develops the Supreme Enlightenment Mind, does not advocate the annihilation (of things).
The Master said, ‘I have talked with Hui [Hui] for a whole day, and he has not made any objection to anything I said;–as if he were stupid. He has retired, and I have examined his conduct when away from me, and found him able to illustrate my teachings. Hui!– He is not stupid.’
-> practice in group and alone
‘The superior man does not, even for the space of a single meal, act contrary to virtue. In moments of haste, he cleaves to it. In seasons of danger, he cleaves to it.’
-> practice moment by moment, even in chaos and dangers.
The Master said, ‘The determined scholar and the man of virtue will not seek to live at the expense of injuring their virtue. They will even sacrifice their lives to preserve their virtue complete.’
-> practice of virtue is more important than one’s own life.
The philosopher Zeng said, ‘The officer may not be without breadth of mind and vigorous endurance. His burden is heavy and his course is long.
‘Perfect virtue is the burden which he considers it is his to sustain;– is it not heavy? Only with death does his course stop;– is it not long?
-> practice is a life-long dedication
Personal and spiritual practice, requires dedication in different times and spaces (including the transcendence of either or both of them). It is to be chosen in front of others and while alone, in good times and bad, and be seen as more important than even one’s own life (including its aversion). How difficult it is! Can you be humble and wise and kind and strong across all situations in life? In front of others and while alone, in good times and bad, and even in life threatening situations? Successful practitioner are therefore real masters, respect to Jesus, Buddha, Confucius, and Laozi!
This is an autobiography of Confucius. There were three stages in Confucius life, first stage begins on learning (age 15) and establishing oneself (age 30) in the world. Second stages consolidates and refine one’s life until there is no internal doubt (age 40) and one knows one’s role in the world (age 50). The results were that Confucius was at peace with the world (age 60), and arrived at internal freedom without crossing the morality line of what is right and wrong (age 70).
-> studying classics, to learn about the laws of the society and the universe.
-> established goal of life, and stood firm on it.
-> about himself and the world.
-> he was clear about what the universe had arranged for him, and could feel and align with by moment.
-> he was able to embrace the world without internally getting irritated.
-> with morality firmly established and practiced within himself, he was able to live life freely without committing wrong.
This chapter brings out the characteristics of a Chinese scholar and practitioner, which requires a life-time of dedication. It took Confucius himself 15 years of learning before he found and established his position in the world; another 10 years before he was sure about his life beyond doubt. After mastering his mind, it took him another 10 years to establish a proper relationship and connection with the universe, and another 10 years before he could embrace all situations in the world. Confucius was truly a hero in personal development, who had dedicated his entire lifetime in the pursue of and practice of knowledge. He represented a role model that had affected practitioners for years to come.
Finally, he brought out the important relationship between freedom and morality: Elementary freedom seeks to live life selfishly without consideration of others, whereas advanced state of freedom is achieved without committing what is wrong for oneself or for the world. The acceptance of yet non-alignment to negativity is a common teachings among all major religions in the world. It would be an error to think that one could do anything to anyone under the name of freedom.
-> what happen upon Dao realization? One becomes a vehicle of it and serve diligently. (see last post how Dao runs in those humble)
-> one needs more observation, evidence, experiment, experience, or realization.
-> one says “you are telling me that my perception is not the reality? you must be crazy!”
-> if Dao can be spoken, understood, reasoned, it is not the ultimate Dao.
-> life goes on despite of the self is obvious, but not realized by the public;
-> when proceed with the Dao, the self is perceived as retreating.
-> towards ultimate peace, one needs to go through bumps and pains in surrendering attachments of and to the self.
-> qualities of pure virtue
-> corners imply a this cornering a that, when one is all, how can there be corners?
-> Qualities of Dao
* * *
Chapter 41 Discussion:
When the self is transcended, Dao takes care of one’s life; when self is being studied and practiced, sometime it dominates, while other times it is subdued; when the self is proclaimed authorship, teachings of non-self is laughed at as non-sense and radicule.
When one has not set the intention to the Dao or to ultimate reality, don’t share teachings of such to them, or you may be laughed at! Keep the teachings to your self, live it, share it only when people ask for it.
Bilingual version of Ch41: http://www.lisiming.net/ddj34-52/
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