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  • 7/30/2019 Zen and Pure Land Buddhism


    Seminar in Zen and Pure Land

    BuddhismBy Dr. Yutang Lin

    A Lecture Sponsored by the Department of ReligionWashington & Lee University

    Lexington, VirginiaMay 13 and 15, 1991

    The First Meeting

    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

    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.

    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

    with for three to four weeks.

    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


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    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

    visit. So here is Dr. Lin!

    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.

    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

    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.

    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

    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.

    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

    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.

    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."


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    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

    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.

    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

    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.

    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

    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.

    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

    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.

    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:


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    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

    people go into meditative states they have thisexperience.

    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.

    3. The third characteristic is called "NoDuality," i.e., one is free from the dualisticsense of subject versus object antagonism.

    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

    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.

    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

    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.


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    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

    to achieve; many practitioners of meditation have had this experience.As ones meditation goes deeper,