A Brief Commentary on The Sutra Of The Four Practices For Bodhisattvas Spoken By The Buddha(Part III)By Acharya ZhiguangAt Namkha Dzong Retreat Centre in Spain on July 20154. The Main Body of the SutraNext is the second part of the sutra, the main body of the text. Just like Buddhist Practices include Preliminary Practices, Main Practices and Concluding Practices. Now let’s go to the main part.In the main body of the sutra, it says: “At that time, the Lord Buddha said to the Bhikshus, ‘Now that you have attained immeasurable benefits, you should pursue the unsurpassable Buddhahood enlightenment. Why is…
A Brief Commentary on The Sutra Of The Four Practices For Bodhisattvas Spoken By The Buddha
By Acharya Zhiguang
At Namkha Dzong Retreat Centre in Spain on July 2015
4. The Main Body of the Sutra
Next is the second part of the sutra, the main body of the text. Just like Buddhist Practices include Preliminary Practices, Main Practices and Concluding Practices. Now let’s go to the main part.
In the main body of the sutra, it says: “At that time, the Lord Buddha said to the Bhikshus, ‘Now that you have attained immeasurable benefits, you should pursue the unsurpassable Buddhahood enlightenment. Why is that? The Buddhahood is supreme, in both the Worldly and Supermundane Conditions.’”
The Lord Buddha said that all the attending Bhikshus had attained great benefits from the Dharma practices. The benefits from Dharma are enormous. But sometimes it is hard for us to explain them to people because they are so enormous that we don’t know where to start with. It’s just hard to explain in a few words.
The day before yesterday, I delivered a lecture at Council of European Union, titled as “The Secret to Happiness”. There were so many people attending the lecture that there weren’t enough seats for all of them. I figured that the majority of the audience had not known about Dharma before, so I explained to them what Buddha meant and what Dharma was. First I quoted the simple and easily understandable definition of “Buddha” from a book called “A Treatise On The Mind”, written by Master Daoxin who was the Fourth Patriarch of Chinese Chan Buddhism, which said “Being happy and carefree, hence be named Buddha”. Then I explained what Buddha was. It meant a state free of all afflictions. In Chinese, Nirvana was translated as Yuanji (Perfection of stillness). “Perfection” means all the merits are perfect. “Stillness” means all the defects have been overcome and all the afflictions have been eliminated. That’s why Master Daoxin said so, “Being happy and carefree; hence be named Buddha.” What is Dharma? Dharma is the way to make us happy and free of worries. I think that the audience could understand more easily in this way.
The Buddha said to the Bhikshus that you had attained great benefits from Dharma practices; however, you should not be satisfied but should pursue the supreme Buddhahood enlightenment. Among the attendees at the time, many Bhikshus had attained Srāvakayāna and Pratyekabuddha, so they were mostly Arhats. But the Buddha wanted all the practitioners to pursue the supreme Buddhahood enlightenment instead of staying in the state of Arhat.
Then the Buddha said, “Why is that? The great Buddhahood is supreme, in both the Worldly and Supermundane Conditions.” Why should we pursue the supreme enlightenment? Because only the supreme Buddhahood enlightenment is unrivalled and incomparable among anything in both Worldly and Supermundane Conditions. This is why it is called Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, or the supreme perfect enlightenment.
According to The Words Of My Perfect Teacher, the so-called liberation means being free from the ocean of sufferings in Samsara. It’s also said in the book that there’re three types of enlightenment: Sravaka, Pratyeka, and supreme Buddhahood enlightenment. Obtaining any of these three types of enlightenment is called liberation. From the perspective of Mahayana Buddhism, we should pursue the supreme Buddhahood enlightenment. The benefits of liberation are elaborated in the Chapter Benefits of Liberation in the book The Words Of My Perfect Teacher.
The first thing the Buddha mentioned in the main body of this sutra is asking us to set up a proper direction. In Buddhism there is a saying, “If the causal ground is full of deception, the retribution will be filled with suffering.” That is, if the cause is not decent, neither will the result be; if the motivation is wrong, then the outcome can’t be right. So we must have the proper motivation and direction.
It then says in the sutra, “In the future lives, those who vow to pursue the Buddhahood enlightenment should practice the Four Methods.” The Buddha taught this sutra not only to the attendees, but also to the people like us. We share many things in common and one of them is that we have poor memory. We’ll have difficulty in remembering the teachings if they are overly complicated. The Buddha must have foreseen this (Laughs), so he summarized the key practices into four points, known as the Four Methods, making it easier for us to remember.
4.1 First practice: “One should generate the great Bodhichitta, never going back even at the cost of one’s life.”
It then says in the Sutra，"What are the Four Methods? First, one should generate the great Bodhichitta, never going back even at the cost of one’s life." Lord Atisha once said that the difference between Buddhists and non-Buddhists is whether they take refuge in the Three Jewels, and the difference between Hinayana and Mahayana is the generation of Bodhichitta. Because this sutra is aimed at teaching the Mahayana Bodhisattvas, the first key point is generating Bodhichitta. If we don’t have Bodhichitta, we are definitely not Mahayana Buddhists.
But it’s not easy to generate Bodhichitta. I have studied a lot of teachings on Bodhichitta and listened to the teaching on The Words Of My Perfect Teacher for several times, as well as A Guide To Bodhisattva’s Way Of Life by Master Shantideva, The Seven Points Of Developing A Good Heart by Lord Atisha, and also The Eight Verses For Developing A Good Heart by Geshe Langri Tangpa. After having studied the Dharma for so long, I think that it is not easy to generate Bodhichitta.
There was once a Tibetan Buddhist master who encountered a flood. Right when the water was flooding in and getting close to him, he picked up a small rock and made a wish, “If my Bodhichitta is genuine, the flood will stop right here.” Then he put the rock down in front of him. The flood stopped indeed right where the rock was.
We can try this method to test our Bodhichitta if we encounter a flood in the future. But this is a bit risky. (The audience laughed.) You’d better not do so if you are not sure about your Bodhichitta, otherwise you may be carried away by the flood. (The Acharya and the audience laughed.) Just kidding. I am sure all of you must have Bodhichitta. (The Acharya and the audience laughed.)
(a) Brief Introduction of Steps for Developing Bodhichitta in the Preliminaries of Longchen Nyingthig in Tibetan Buddhism.
The method of generating Bodhichitta in The Words Of My Perfect Teacher is very unique. It starts with the practice of the Four Immeasurables. Unlike the common practicing sequence of the Four Immeasurables , it begins with practicing equanimity to treat the aversion in equality with the loved ones, followed with practicing loving-kindness, compassion as well as empathetic joy. This method is the unique essential point in our Nyingma School. After completing the practices of the Four Immeasurables we can start to practice the worldly Bodhichitta, by cultivating firstly the aspirational Bodhichitta then the engaged Bodhichitta. These are well elaborated in The Words Of My Perfect Teacher.
I was very lucky to have listened to some extraordinary teachings of Dzogchen (the Great Perfection) by H.H. Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche at the Larung Five Sciences Buddhist Academy (Larung Gar) when I was studying there initially in 1997. At the time, I hadn’t done any preliminary practices before. H.H. Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche required those who missed the preliminary practices to make them up. So he assigned Khenpo Tsültrim Lodrö to teach us the traditions of the preliminary practices from Longchen Nyingthig. That’s when I started to practice them. At that time, I also practiced a little on generating the Bodhichitta, but I felt very ashamed that it didn’t seem having much outcome. Although I have little Bodhichitta, I am still deeply moved each time when I’m reading the teachings from the Buddhist texts and the lineage Lamas. So sometimes I probably have slightly generated a semblance of Bodhichitta.
(To be continued)
- Different Paths, Same Destination—Interviews and Dialogues Transcending Sectarianism
- A DROP OF GHEE—Twelve Verses from the Lotus Sutra for a Fulfilling and Happy Life
- The Fourfold Path to Buddhahood—A Brief Commentary on the Sutra of the Four Practices of Bodhisattvas Spoken by the Buddha
- Part VII – A Brief Commentary on the Sutra of Four Methods of Practice of Bodhisattvas as Taught by the Buddha
- Part VI – A Brief Commentary on the Sutra of Four Methods of Practice of Bodhisattvas as Taught by the Buddha
- Part V – A Brief Commentary on the Sutra of Four Methods of Practice of Bodhisattvas as Taught by the Buddha
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