Thursday, February 20, 2014

Introduction to Buddhism: The Mahayana Schools

Mahayana Buddhism

A Gentle Introduction to the Topic
using web-based resources for further study

Lighting the Chalice:

This sutra is used across the Buddhist tradition:

The Metta Sutra:  The importance of Loving Kindness

This is what should be done
        By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
        Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
        Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
        Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,
        Not proud or demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
        That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
        May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
        Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
        The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
        Those born and to-be-born —
May all beings be at ease!

Let none deceive another,
        Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
        Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
        Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
        Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
        Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
        Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
        Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
        One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
        By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
        Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.

From the website:

Questions or concerns from last time?

History of Mahayana

1st Century CE

Contemporary scholarship is inclined to view the transition of Mahayana as a gradual process hardly noticed by people at the time."

The major doctrinal point that distinguishes Mahayana from Theravada is that of shunyata, or "emptiness." Shunyata is a deepening of the doctrine of anatman, or anatta, which is one of the foundational teachings of all Buddhism. According to this doctrine, there is no "self" in the sense of a permanent, integral, autonomous being within an individual existence.
The Theravada school interprets anatman to mean that an individual's ego or personality is a fetter and delusion. Once freed of this delusion, the individual may enjoy the bliss of Nirvana.
Mahayana teaches that beings and phenomena have no intrinsic existence of their own and take identity only in relation to other beings and phenomena. Shunyata also is an absolute reality that is all things and beings, unmanifested.
The ideal of Mahayana practice is the bodhisattva, "enlightenment being," who works for the enlightenment of all beings.

Important terms for tonight:

Bodhi: enlightened or awake

Bodhisattva: a realized being who stays this side of nirvana to work for the enlightenment of all beings.  best known:  Hotei, Quan-Yin

co-dependent co-arising:  Nothing exists by itself, of itself.  Web of Indra.

Shunyata: emptiness

Anatman/atman: No separate soul or individual self

Upaya: skillful means

Compassion/maitre:  Not pity; the upswell of the heart when viewing the beings caught in the delusions of this world and their minds.

Prajna paramita: Prajnaparamita is the wisdom of directly realizing the non-conceptual simplicity of all phenomena.  10 Perfections of a Bodhisattva

Maitreya:  Buddha of the future...5000 years after the end of the current Buddha’s teachings.

Schools of Buddhism that would fall under the Mahayana Umbrella:
Chinese Buddhism
• Madhyamika (San Lun, Ch.) Based on the Chinese translation of Nagarjuna's (second century) Madhyamika Karika and two other works of uncertain authorship, this lineage emphasized the notion of shunyata (emptiness) and wu (nonbeing). So rigorous was the teaching of this lineage, it declared that the elements constituting perceived objects, when examined, are really no more than mental phenomena and have no true existence.
• Yogacara Founded in the third century by Maitreyanatha and made famous by Asanga and Vasubandhu in the fourth or fifth century, this school held that the source of all ideas is vijñana ("consciousness"), which is seen as the fundamental basis of existence. Ultimate Reality is therefore only perceived but has not real existence.
Indigenous Mahayana Lineages
• T'ien T'ai Named after the mountains on which the founder Zhi Yi (d. 597 C.E.) resided, this lineage is based on a scheme of classification intended to integrate and harmonize the vast array of Buddhist scriptures and doctrines. This scheme of classification is based on the Buddhist doctrine of upaya ("skilful means"). The most important form of Buddhism for this lineage is the Mahayana devotionalism found in the Lotus Sutra.
• Avatamsaka (Hua Yen, Ch.) This lineage takes its name from the Avatamsaka Sutra, its central sacred text, and like the T'ien T'ai school is oriented towards a classification of sutras. Basic to this lineage is the assertion that all particulars are merely manifestations of the absolute mind and are therefore fundamentally the same.
• Pure Land (Amitabha) Based on the Sukhavati Vyuha ("Pure Land Sutra"), this lineage was founded in 402 C.E. by Hui Yuan. The Pure Land lineage held that the spiritual quality of the world has been in decline since its height during the lifetime of the Buddha and taught followers to cultivate through prayer and devotion a sincere intent to be reborn in the heavenly paradise of the Buddha Amitabha.
• Ch'an/Zen Its name is derived from the Sanskrit term dhyana (meditation), this lineage emphasises meditation as the only means to a spiritual awakening beyond words or thought, dispensing almost entirely with the teachings and practices of traditional Buddhism. Ch'an is thought to have been brought to China by the enigmatic South Indian monk Bodhidharma in about the year 500 C.E.
Looking More Closely at Ch’an/Zen
The Traditional Founder of Zen:  Bodhidharma

"I Know Not":

Bodhidharma was invited to visit the Emperor Wu of Liang, who was a great patron of Buddhism. The Emperor had built many monasteries, and he asked Bodhidharma what merit his generosity had earned. "No merit," said Bodhidharma. Startled, the Emperor asked Bodhidharma the supreme truth of the Dharma. "Vast emptiness; nothing holy," replied Bodhidharma. Finally, the Emperor asked, "Who are you?" "I know not," said Bodhidharma.
For other stories of Bodhidharma you can start with:
Zen is the Japanese form of the Sanskrit word dhyana, "meditation," and is a school of Buddhism which has had significant impact in Japan and Europe and America. Founded in China in the 6th century C.E. as the Ch'an school of Mahayana Buddhism, it was exported to Japan in the 12th century C.E. and gradually developed its own unique, indigenous character. The Indian scholar/monk Bodhidharma is traditionally attributed with transferring the tradition from India to China. The essence of Bodhidharma's teachings is that one does not need to study sacred texts, worship deities, or do elaborate religious rituals to achieve enlightenment. Rather, one needs to break through the boundaries of conventional thought using meditation and experience the world as it truly is in the moment. Zen maintains that this was the way the Buddha himself attained enlightenment. Zen teaches that all humans have the capacity to attain enlightenment because we all have an inherent Buddha-nature; indeed, we are all already enlightened beings, but our true potential has been clouded by ignorance. According to some Zen traditions, this ignorance is overcome through a sudden breakthrough — called satori — during meditation in which the true nature of reality, and our experience of it, is revealed. Different Zen sects, of which Rinzai and Soto are the major two, have developed various methods to achieve this enlightenment, including the practice of zazen ("just sitting" meditation). Despite the apparent simplicity of the message of Zen, training is arduous and requires guidance from a master. In Japan Zen became popular among the warrior samurai for its focus on discipline and self-control; Zen also informs the practice of various arts, such as calligraphy, painting, garden design, and archery. Beginning in the 20th century a popularized version of Zen has become spread throughout the world and influenced many in both the United States and Europe, where it has been incorporated into everything from motorcycle maintenance to cooking to professional sports.

Quick Fact Details:
·                         Formed: The roots of Zen are clouded with legend; its origins in Chan (Chinese Buddhism), its transmission to Japan, and its transition to a uniquely Japanese tradition are gradual and not identifiable until the 12th century C.E. and later.
·                         Deity: Zen includes the wide diversity of the Buddhist pantheon, but also teaches that the divine nature is in all things and that the Buddha-nature is shared by everyone. There is no concept of omnipotent, eternal deities.
For a wonderful list of recommended Zen readings follow this link:
1. In Tokyo in the Meiji era there lived two prominent teachers of opposite characteristics. One, Unsho, an instructor in Shingon, kept Buddha's precepts scrupulously. He never drank intoxicants, nor did he eat after eleven o'clock in the morning. The other teacher, Tanzan, a professor of philosophy at the Imperial University, never observed the precepts. Whenever he felt like eating, he ate, and when he felt like sleeping in the daytime he slept.
One day Unsho visited Tanzan, who was drinking wine at the time, not even a drop of which is suppposed to touch the tongue of a Buddhist.
"Hello, brother," Tanzan greeted him. "Won't you have a drink?"
"I never drink!" exclaimed Unsho solemnly.
"One who does not drink is not even human," said Tanzan.
"Do you mean to call me inhuman just because I do not indulge in intoxicating liquids!" exclaimed Unsho in anger. "Then if I am not human, what am I?"
"A Buddha," answered Tanzan.

2. The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbours as one living a pure life.
A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him. Suddenly, without any warning, her parents discovered she was with child.
This made her parents angry. She would not confess who the man was, but after much harassment at last named Hakuin.
In great anger the parent went to the master. "Is that so?" was all he would say.
After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him, but he took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from his neighbours and everything else he needed.
A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth - the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fishmarket.
The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back.
Hakuin was willing. In yielding the child, all he said was: "Is that so?"
For collection of Zen Parables, follow this link:

Koan Study:

1.      Joshu's Dog


A monk asked Joshu, a Chinese Zen master: "Has a dog Buddha-nature or not?"
Joshu answered: "Mu." [Mu is the negative symbol in Chinese, meaning "No thing" or "Nay."]

Mumon's comment: To realize Zen one has to pass through the barrier of the patriarchs. Enlightenment always comes after the road of thinking is blocked. If you do not pass the barrier of the patriarchs or if your thinking road is not blocked, whatever you think, whatever you do, is like a tangling ghost. You may ask: What is a barrier of a patriarch? This one word, Mu, is it.
This is the barrier of Zen. If you pass through it you will see Joshu face to face. Then you can work hand in hand with the whole line of patriarchs. Is this not a pleasant thing to do?
If you want to pass this barrier, you must work through every bone in your body, through every pore of your skin, filled with this question: What is Mu? and carry it day and night. Do not believe it is the common negative symbol meaning nothing. It is not nothingness, the opposite of existence. If you really want to pass this barrier, you should feel like drinking a hot iron ball that you can neither swallow nor spit out.
Then your previous lesser knowledge disappears. As a fruit ripening in season, your subjectivity and objectivity naturally become one. It is like a dumb man who has had a dream. He knows about it but he cannot tell it.
When he enters this condition his ego-shell is crushed and he can shake the heaven and move the earth. He is like a great warrior with a sharp sword. If a Buddha stands in his way, he will cut him down; if a patriarch offers him any obstacle, he will kill him; and he will be free in his way of birth and death. He can enter any world as if it were his own playground. I will tell you how to do this with this koan:
Just concentrate your whole energy into this Mu, and do not allow any discontinuation. When you enter this Mu and there is no discontinuation, your attainment will be as a candle burning and illuminating the whole universe.
Has a dog Buddha-nature?
This is the most serious question of all.
If you say yes or no,
You lose your own Buddha-nature
. is a site filled with the classic Koans of the Zen tradition.
Some of the Formal Arts of Zen include:
Flower arranging:



Tea Ceremonies

Two Classic Mahayana Sutras
Heart Sutra:
Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, meditating deeply on Perfection of Wisdom, saw clearly that the five aspects of human existence are empty*, and so released himself from suffering.  Answering the monk Sariputra, he said this:
Body is nothing more than emptiness, 
emptiness is nothing more than body. 
The body is exactly empty, 
and emptiness is exactly body.
The other four aspects of human existence -- 
feeling, thought, will, and consciousness -- 
are likewise nothing more than emptiness, 
and emptiness nothing more than they.
All things are empty: 
Nothing is born, nothing dies, 
nothing is pure, nothing is stained, 
nothing increases and nothing decreases.
So, in emptiness, there is no body, 
no feeling, no thought, 
no will, no consciousness. 
There are no eyes, no ears, 
no nose, no tongue, 
no body, no mind. 
There is no seeing, no hearing, 
no smelling, no tasting, 
no touching, no imagining. 
There is nothing seen, nor heard, 
nor smelled, nor tasted, 
nor touched, nor imagined.
There is no ignorance, 
and no end to ignorance. 
There is no old age and death, 
and no end to old age and death. 
There is no suffering, no cause of suffering, 
no end to suffering, no path to follow. 
There is no attainment of wisdom, 
and no wisdom to attain.
The Bodhisattvas rely on the Perfection of Wisdom, 
and so with no delusions, 
they feel no fear, 
and have Nirvana here and now.
All the Buddhas, 
past, present, and future, 
rely on the Perfection of Wisdom, 
and live in full enlightenment.
The Perfection of Wisdom is the greatest mantra. 
It is the clearest mantra, 
the highest mantra, 
the mantra that removes all suffering.
This is truth that cannot be doubted. 
Say it so:
Which means...
gone over, 
gone fully over. 
So be it!

From the website:

Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra
Sometimes referred to as the "crown jewel of the Mahayana" and regarded as the main Sutra on non-duality. In the sutra, the layman bodhisattva Vimalakirtu expounds the doctrine of emptiness in depth to the Buddha's main disciples. The sutra is notable for the liveliness of its episodes and frequent touches of humor, rarities in a religious work of this type. Because the sutra centers on a lay person, and because of its enduring literary appeal, it has been particularly popular among lay Buddhists in China, Japan, and the other Asian countries where Mahayana doctrines prevail, and has exercised a marked influence on literature and art.
A Talk On The Vimalakirti Sutra
Hisamatsu Shin'ichi Preface
Vimalakirti's Gate of Nonduality
John Daido Loori, Roshi - Dharma Discourse


Excerpt from the sutra:

Maitreya, you should understand that there are two types of bodhisattvas. What are these two types? The first type loves varied phrases and literary embellishment. The second is not afraid of deeper principles and is able to enter into the true meaning. If there are those who love varied phrases and literary embellishments, you máy be sure that they are beginners in the bodhisattva way. But if there are those who, approaching these extremely profound sutras, with their teachings on nondefilement and nonattachment, are not timid or fearful but can enter into the meaning and, having heard the sutras, with pure minds will accept, uphold, read, and recite them and practice them as the Law directs, you may be sure that they have been practicing the way for a long time.

Étienne Lamotte translates these two as Beginner Bodisattvas, and Veteran Bodhisattvas. Sometimes the beginner just latches on to the surface-layer of a given Sutra, and the Buddhadharma in general; but, like in the Parable of the Sower wherein the bodhi-seeds just remains on the surface, they don’t take root, and something in their life comes along and gobbles them up. The Veteran Bodhisattva, on the other hand, takes great care and relishes in the gnosis of the Buddhadharma—they understand the profound nature of these texts and take great measures to assure that they are promulgated and not defiled in any way, shape, or manner.

“Again, Maitreya, there are two attitudes among those called beginners that prevent them from getting a firm grasp on these extremely profound teachings. What are these two? First is that of persons who, when they hear some profound sutra they have not heard before, are alarmed and timorous and, giving way to doubt, cannot bring themselves to comply with it. In their disbelief they speak slanderously of it, saying, ‘I have never heard this before! Where does it come from?’ Second is that of persons who, though there are those who guard, uphold, understand, and expound profound sutras of this type, are unwilling to associate closely with them, to offer them alms or treat them with respect, but at times may even speak of their faults before others. Where you find these two attitudes, you may be sure the persons are beginners in the bodhisattva way. They do injury to themselves and cannot train their minds to accept the profound teachings.

The beginner, being stupefied over the nature of these texts just shrugs them off…sometimes even speaking slanderously against them. Also, they neglect to show courtesy to those Veteran Bodhisattvas; instead they are disrespectful and oftentimes reap great ridicule and shame upon them. As the sutra states, these beginner-mindsets can bring great harm to aspiring adepts.

“Again, Maitreya, there are two attitudes among the bodhisattvas who, though they believe and understand the profound teachings, yet do injury to themselves and are unable to accept the truth of birthlessness. What are these two? First is that of persons who are contemptuous of beginner bodhisattvas and will not teach or enlighten them. Second is that of persons who, though they understand the profound teachings, seize upon surface appearances and make distinctions. These are the two attitudes.”

On the other side of the bodhi-coin, some of the Veteran Bodhisattvas can become quick-tempered and even contemptuous of the lackadaisical antics and attitudes of the beginning adepts…in so doing, they can reap great harm upon their young and still-developing minds. Also, the Veteran, too, can become lackadaisical—thinking that they have already attained annuttara-samyak-sambodhi, when in fact they are far from it…a good indication of this is when they still make mind-discriminations.

Maitreya assures the Blessed One that he will steer well-clear of these defilements by faithfully and resiliently upholding the Buddhadharma for all future generations. Following his lead, the rest of the bodhisattvas present in the assembly also promise to uphold the Buddhadharma to the best of their abilities. In closing, the Buddha addresses Ānanda and requests that he, too, “accept and up-hold this sutra and propagate it far and wide.” Ānanda says, “Sure-thing—what shall I call it?” and, of course, this sutra traditionally ends with the “naming of the new sutra”; the Blessed One replies that it shall hereafter be named and referred to as, “The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti.” (Thurman)

Poetry/observations from the Chan and  Zen tradition:

Look for Buddha outside your own mind, 
and Buddha becomes the devil. 

Where beauty is, then there is ugliness;
where right is, also there is wrong.
Knowledge and ignorance are interdependent;
delusion and enlightenment condition each other.
Since olden times it has been so.
How could it be otherwise now?
Wanting to get rid of one and grab the other
is merely realizing a scene of stupidity.
Even if you speak of the wonder of it all,
how do you deal with each thing changing?

Nobly, the great priest
deposits his daily stool 
in bleak winter fields 

Hell is not punishment, 
it's training. 
Shunryu Suzuki

 The most important thing is to find out
what is the most important thing. 
Shunryu Suzuki

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. 
The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken. 
Although its light is wide and great, 
The moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. 
The whole moon and the entire sky 
Are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass. 

Those who see worldly life as an obstacle to Dharma
see no Dharma in everyday actions. 
They have not yet discovered that 
there are no everyday actions outside of Dharma.

Spring Rain
Matsuo Basho (c. 1680)
clr gif

Spring rain
leaking through the roof
      dripping from the wasps’ nest.
(trans. Robert Hass)

Spring Air
Matsuo Basho (c. 1680)
clr gif

Spring air —
woven moon
      and plum scent.
(trans. Lucien Stryk)
clr gif
Four Haiku
Matsuo Basho (c. 1680)
clr gif

A hill without a name
Veiled in morning mist.

The beginning of autumn:
Sea and emerald paddy
Both the same green.

The winds of autumn
Blow: yet still green
The chestnut husks.

A flash of lightning:
Into the gloom
Goes the heron’s cry.
(trans. Geoffrey Bownas And Anthony Thwaite)

The above from:

Mindfulness Meditation:  An introduction to just sitting
Take a seat that is tall and relaxed. Be sure your pelvis is in neutral, shoulders back and down.  Hands can rest where they are most comfortable or you can take the cosmic mudra.  Eyes are cast down and open. The practice is simply to remain present to all sensations, bringing yourself back to the present when your mind disengages with thoughts.  Be gentle with yourself; stay alert like a scientist watching over an important experiment.

Chant:  Heart Sutra

Dialogue about the process, what came up

Hands held in the circle

Chalice Extinguished

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