Zen and Pure Land Buddhism

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<ul><li><p>7/30/2019 Zen and Pure Land Buddhism</p><p> 1/34</p><p>Seminar in Zen and Pure Land</p><p>BuddhismBy Dr. Yutang Lin</p><p>A Lecture Sponsored by the Department of ReligionWashington &amp; Lee University</p><p>Lexington, VirginiaMay 13 and 15, 1991</p><p>The First Meeting</p><p>Professor Rogers: In January 1991, in Kathmandu, the capital of themountain Kingdom of Nepal, we met at a place called the Vajra Hotel.Those of you who have studied Buddhist tradition know that vajrameans a thunderbolt vehicle, which is the third of the great vehicles inBuddhism. The Hinayana, a smaller or lesser vehicle; the Mahayana,the great vehicle; and then either the Vajrayna, the thunderbolt</p><p>vehicle or the Tantra-yana, the Tantric path, which characterizesTibetan Buddhism. Vajrayna also came to China and then to Japan asthe great Shingon, the True Word or Mantra Sect of Buddhism. So, wemet in this Buddhist setting; the hotel run by Tibetan Buddhist.</p><p>Out of the group that traveled to the Buddhist holy sites in Nepal andIndia, there were many interesting people: two physicians, a clinicalpsychologist, an ACLU lawyer, someone who had done a lot of trackingin the Himalayas, an artist and a professor of philosophy. When youmeet a new group of people there is a kind of chemistry that goes on,and you try to figure out how to fit in with the group that you will be</p><p>with for three to four weeks.</p><p>I guess gradually it was Dr. Lin that I was struck by as someone whoreally knew what he was doing. The rest of us knew a little aboutBuddhist tradition and a little about what people do on a pilgrimage;but from the very beginning, Dr. Lin seemed to be very connected,devoted, purposeful, and focused. So, out of a sort of Southernhospitality, I said, "Oh, you have to come to Washington and Lee</p><p>1</p></li><li><p>7/30/2019 Zen and Pure Land Buddhism</p><p> 2/34</p><p>University to see us sometime." That was about it. But after I cameback here I said to myself, "It would be really great if he could come,"and he has come. We will be with him this morning and tomorrownight, his lecture at eight oclock, and again on Wednesday. He hasread all the questions that each one of us put together anticipating his</p><p>visit. So here is Dr. Lin!</p><p>Dr. Lin: I have read your questions and they are very good. You haveso many questions and we have so little time, therefore, I will first givea short talk hoping that some of your questions will be resolved by it.After the talk we will discuss whatever questions you might have then.</p><p>First of all, I would like to emphasize that what Buddha tried to explainto us is not just theory, not just certain views that he tried to persuadeus to have. He tried to convey an experience which was the result ofhis pursuit of how to solve the problems of life, death, sickness, old age</p><p>and suffering in the world. The solution he found was an experience,which was direct and intuitive, but too difficult to express. Therefore, atfirst, he was going to remain silent about it, but then, out of hiscompassion, he began to teach people on the problems of life and theirsolutions.</p><p>Over the years Buddhism has spread to different people in differentlocalities. In order for different people to understand the essence ofBuddhas teachings, it is presented more or less differently in variouslocalities. Consequently, many systems of thoughts have developedwithin Buddhism, and Buddhism has become manifold. It has thus</p><p>become rather difficult for us to get to the quintessence of Buddhasteachings. Nevertheless, I think the easiest way to understandBuddhas teachings is to try to look directly at the experience that hetried to communicate to us. That experience, in simple terms, is hisrealization of his oneness with the whole universe; and it is a Limitless-Oneness.</p><p>People might ask, "How can there be such a Oneness with wars goingon in the world?" Usually I answer this question by offering someexamples of my personal supernatural experiences. Since thequestions raised by this class are far deeper, I will even try to explain</p><p>the very experience that Buddha realized. Although it is not my ownexperience, fortunately, my late teacher, Yogi C. M. Chen, did attainthe experience of Limitless-Oneness and revealed it to me. He also toldabout that experience in his books.</p><p>In that experience, everything, including ones own body, disappears.There is nothing left, except the light of blue sky everywhere. InTibetan Tantric Buddhism this is called "the Dharmakaya Light."</p><p>2</p></li><li><p>7/30/2019 Zen and Pure Land Buddhism</p><p> 3/34</p><p>Dharmakaya Light is the basis of Dharmakaya, the Buddhistterminology for the universe. Nevertheless, the concept ofDharmakaya assumes that all things are basically on the same footing,which goes beyond the distinction of reality and non-reality, while theusual concept of the universe implies the factual existence of things</p><p>and distinguishes between reality and illusion. In Buddhism,Dharmakaya is the collection of all Dharmas, i.e., all things as they are.Hence the chair that I am sitting on, and the thoughts and sensations Ihave, are considered equally as Dharmas. So we cannot replace theterm "Dharmakaya" with the term "universe" at will.</p><p>When can one experience this Dharmakaya Light? According to theTibetan tantric teaching there are several possibilities. One possibilityis that at the moment of sneezing, one might get a glimpse of theDharmakaya Light. The other possibility is at the moment of fainting.Another possibility is at the moment of death. For people without</p><p>preparation for death by practicing Buddhist tantric methods, theDharmakaya Light they experience at the moment of death is fleeting,lasting for less than a second. Nevertheless, the possibilities that Ihave mentioned so far are not situations that we can enter at will, andtherefore cannot be used for practice.</p><p>However, there are other possibilities. For example, during deep andsound sleep one might experience the Dharmakaya Light. One mayalso experience it at the peak of sexual intercourse. Such a peakcannot be reached by ordinary people because they have alreadydischarged before reaching it. Tantric practitioners who have training</p><p>in visualization and breathing to a certain extent will be able to havesexual intercourse without discharge. Thereby they can reach the peakof sexual union and see the Dharmakaya Light. In Tantric Buddhismone goes through many preliminary practices so that one becomesable to use sleep or sex for spiritual advancement.</p><p>Finally, the Dharmakaya Light may be attained through meditation.Chan (Zen) is a kind of Tantric practice that tries to reach theDharmakaya Light through meditationa meditation that engulfs oneswhole being. The experience of the Dharmakaya Light is possible onlyfor very mature practitioners who are able to reach a near-death stage</p><p>through meditation. Naturally the following question arises: Are therecharacteristics of the Dharmakaya Light experience that arerecognizable to practitioners who begin to approach it? Indeed, thereare.</p><p>My late teacher revealed that there are four characteristics of thisexperience that are common to all practitioners who are entering it,and that these four characteristics occur simultaneously:</p><p>3</p></li><li><p>7/30/2019 Zen and Pure Land Buddhism</p><p> 4/34</p><p>1. The first characteristic is called "BrightImage," i.e., all things appear to be brighterthan usual, as if they were seen through acrystal. This particular characteristic occurringalone is not too difficult to attain. Usually when</p><p>people go into meditative states they have thisexperience.</p><p>2. The second characteristic is called "NoThoughts," i.e., while fully awake ones thinkingprocess has stopped; there is not a thought inones awareness. Consequently, one is noteven aware of this "No Thoughts" occurring. Itis only later when one reflects upon onesmeditative experience that one realizes whathappened.</p><p>3. The third characteristic is called "NoDuality," i.e., one is free from the dualisticsense of subject versus object antagonism.</p><p>4. The fourth characteristic is called "CeasedBreathing," i.e., ones breathing becomes everfiner and slowly comes to a halt. There is no airin or out through the nostrils. However, at thismoment ones abdomen begins to expand andcontract in rhythm, and this is called "inner</p><p>breathing" because the air is still moving insidethe body. Our normal breathing, in contrast, iscalled "outer breathing." The characteristic of"Ceased Breathing" means that ones outerbreathing has stopped.</p><p>According to my late teacher, Yogi Chen, when one attains theDharmakaya Light, even the inner breathing has stopped. At this stageeven ones heartbeat has stopped. Such a meditative state is thus veryclose to death. Ordinarily our heartbeats are considered to be beyondour conscious control, and yet practitioners of meditation can slow</p><p>them down or, in rare cases, even stop them completely throughmeditation. When ones inner and outer breathing stops, ones bodywill be completely filled with air, and then this air bag will shatter, i.e.,the boundary between inner and outer air disappears and ones innerair becomes one with the air outside. (This does not mean that ourphysical body will shatter into pieces.) At this point one goes into theDharmakaya Light experience.</p><p>4</p></li><li><p>7/30/2019 Zen and Pure Land Buddhism</p><p> 5/34</p><p>I myself have had experiences of the above-mentioned characteristicsof the Dharmakaya Light experience: Bright Image, No Thoughts, NoDuality and Ceased Breathing. Nevertheless, I have not had theexperience of the Dharmakaya Light because my meditations are notdeep enough. The stopping of the outer breathing is not very difficult</p><p>to achieve; many practitioners of meditation have had this experience.As ones meditation goes deeper, the breathing automatically becomesfiner and slower, and eventually stops by itself. As soon as the outerbreathing stops, the inner breathing begins. It cannot be achieved byintention because as long as one maintains thoughts, the outerbreathing cannot stop.</p><p>Once I had an experience of the outside air pouring into me while I wasdoing "Powa," a Tantric practice to help deceased people enterBuddhas Pure Land. All of a sudden, without my intention orexpectation, the air outside came into me, not through the nostrils but</p><p>from all directions; and then went into the Amitabha Buddha that Ivisualized in front of me.</p><p>I mention all these personal experiences to help you understand thatthose characteristics mentioned above, although they soundincredible, are indeed achievable.</p><p>When Yogi Chen talks about Chan (Zen) in his writings, he is talkingabout this Dharmakaya Light experience and its utilization in allaspects of life. The utilization of this experience is to base our living inthis final realization of Limitless-Oneness.</p><p>When we talk about this Dharmakaya Light experience as theEnlightenment experience, it does not mean that the goal of Buddhismis to practice meditation to such an extent that one is very close todeath and then remains useless. Rather, it is the true beginning ofBuddhas Wisdom and Compassion. The Wisdom based on thisDharmakaya Light experience goes beyond the worldly wisdom that islimited by our normal sensations. The Compassion based on thisDharmakaya Light experience accepts all without reservations. Thewonderful interplay of Wisdom and Compassion results in the infiniteteachings and other salvation activities of all Buddhas and</p><p>Bodhisattvas.</p><p>Based on the degree of realization of Dharmakaya Light, Yogi Chenclassified the Gong-Ans of Chan, i.e., the anecdotes of Chan mastersteachings, into four levels. He wrote a book on this entitled "TheLighthouse in the Ocean of Chan." At the first level, you simply enterthe Dharmakaya Light experience, hence, the first level is called"Entrance." In Chan it is often denoted by the drawing of a big circle.</p><p>5</p></li><li><p>7/30/2019 Zen and Pure Land Buddhism</p><p> 6/34</p><p>Why is a circle used to represent the Dharmakaya Light? In theLimitless-Oneness of the Dharmakaya Light, everywhere can be thecenter and then it is of equal infinite distance to all sides; similarly, thecenter of a circle is of equal distance to all points on its circumference.Of course, the Dharmakaya Light actually has no boundary.</p><p>Although I cannot emphasize the importance of the Dharmakaya Lightexperience enough, it is still not something that we want to haveattachment for. Its significance lies in the fact that, prior to thisexperience, one has never actually been free from the dualisticconceptualization of "me" and "others." As long as there is such adistinction, one cannot truly love others. When there are no difficulties,when we have enough to share, of course, it is easy to love oneanother. At times of shortage or hardship, fighting becomes inevitablefor people with a sense of self. Only people who have experienced theLimitless-Oneness of the Dharmakaya Light can truly love others as</p><p>themselves. It is not because that experience has transformed them;rather, it is because the experience is a vivid manifestation of theirhaving returned to their original purity.</p><p>Furthermore, the motivation to serve others will spontaneously emergefrom the Dharmakaya Light experience because it is a real experienceof being one with all. One then no longer does good because ofbelieving in some conceptual framework of goodness or for rewards inthe future or in Heaven. Rather, it is simply out of a profound sense ofOneness that it has become mandatory to act for the well being of all.</p><p>If one who has had the Dharmakaya Light experience becomesattached to it, then he will stay in it. Thereby he cannot help ordinarysentient beings through direct involvement. This is not the bestpossible way to serve others who are still in the whirlpool of worldlysorrows. Therefore, after one has attained the Dharmakaya Lightexperience and has practiced to the extent that he can enter it at will,he should come out from that meditative state. Yogi Chen pointed outthat such a freedom from attachment to the Dharmakaya Lightexperience is a major step on the path toward completeEnlightenment. In his classification it is the second level, which islabeled "Exit."</p><p>The third level is called "Use." After one has exited from attachment tothe Dharmakaya Light experience, one practices infusing the Limitless-Oneness of Dharmakaya Light experience into all daily activities, andthereby rooting our thoughts and actions in the oneness of all. We areaccustomed to selfish desires and actions, and to self-centeredthoughts and talks. Even when one has purified oneself to the extentthat one has had the Dharmakaya Light experience, it might still be</p><p>6</p></li><li><p>7/30/2019 Zen and Pure Land Buddhism</p><p> 7/34</p><p>just a fleeting moment of awakening. Therefore, one needs to practicepenetration and utilization of the awakening in ones daily life. Whenone has mastered utilization of the awakening in daily activities, thenone may bestow Enlightenment on those who are ready even throughsimple daily encounters. In the history of Chan there are numerous</p><p>such examples. One famous story is the bestowal of Enlightenment ona devoted disciple by the Bird Nes...</p></li></ul>